Chatting with TK over a cup of tea at Trident, I’m having a hard time motivating to run back home up the hill. I’m tempted to further delay my departure with some browsing, as I’ve developed a recent liking for fiction and Tony is a fine connoisseur of the genre. I decide against staying and the second pot of infused greens, willing myself out of the door onto cold, blustery Pearl street to make my way up the canyon. Temperatures this morning hit a low of -17F. It’s closer to 0 now, but feels unusually humid. I’ve decided to take a longer route home, running up Boulder Canyon, to Four Mile, then up Logan Mill to Sugarloaf, where I’ll stop by Geoff’s before taking the Switzerland trail back to Gold Hill. I take a while to warm up, shuffling through town on a mix of snow and icy pavement. The bike path through the Canyon isn’t much better and I don’t really hit my stride until reaching the bottom of Logan Mill. I enjoy running this dirt road a lot. It’s reasonably steep, with a sustained grade nearly the whole way up. The burned trees from the 2010 fire contrast with the snow adding a dramatic tension to the environment and offering sweeping views of the surrounding hills. If ran too hard, the climb can be relentless at the top only letting up for a short mile before reaching Sugarloaf road. Today’s lingering fatigue in my legs helps me pace my effort more evenly, not getting carried away on the lower stretches. When I reach Geoff’s I sit on his couch coughing from the dry, cold air for several minutes as he prepares himself to accompany me for a few miles. From his house Sugarloaf road, kicks up steeply for a half mile- not the kindest warm up to any nearby dweller. We reach the saddle which leads us on to the Switzerland trail and Geoff accompanies me down for a short while. The wind can be vicious here, but is subdued today. The track is well packed from weekend skiers and for a moment I think I might get away with an easy, ten mile finish to my house. As soon as Geoff leaves me, the trail takes a sharp angle North and is covered in deep, drifted snow. The light is strange, the sun a mix of purplish, red through the now overcast sky. The tones, match my mood as I slip into a struggling, bonky waddle through the snow. I’m hungry, but wait until Sunset to suck down my only gel, accompanied by a handful of snow. It perks me up momentarily, before deeper powder just adds to my struggle as I backstroke up to Gold Hill road. I sit for a good 15 minutes at home at my kitchen table, staring into space with that devilish, exhausted grin only induced by a good afternoon on the hill.
I woke up tired from yesterday, nearly texting Cam to cancel our ski in Allenspark, but decided to go along anyway. I’m glad I did. We broke trail up the hill, surprised at how much snow had come down in the past few days and that was continuing to fall. For each of our 3 laps, our tracks were covered again in several inches of snow, demanding more work from us each time to earn an extra couple thousand feet of powder turns through the trees. I had one of those rare days of boundless energy, where I never felt like I could climb hard enough to tire myself out. Constrained by time, we returned home after 4 fantastic hours of skiing, although I felt as if I could have kept going indefinitely.
Conrad Anker, posted the following post on his Facebook page recently, that caught my attention: “Organized sports need temporal and spatial boundaries with rules to sort out the best. In this sense sport climbing and ice climbing would make fine Olympic events. It is the experience that the individual seeks with friends that defines alpine climbing. And the mountains are far too capricious for games. It is "survival" as my friend Dave Hahn notes.” Interestingly, this quote well defines the dichotomy I experience in running. On the one hand, running is very linear with racing providing the competitive setting to sort out the best, under a given set of rules and boundaries. While I enjoy and am interested in this part of the sport, it only encompasses a small part of the reason I run. The experience sought with friends, the search for a pure, kinetic practice in wild spaces, characterizes my intent and purpose in the pursuit much more deeply and accurately.
I was back in the climbing gym this evening. I looked over to the this young boy, maybe 6 years old, struggling with a move slightly beyond his reach. I turn my attention to his mom who is belaying him and smile. “He’s doing great,” I say. She smiles back at me, but says nothing. The kid calls down for his mom to take and asks if it’s OK for him to use foot holds that aren’t taped for his specific route. Mom shouts back, clearly frustrated, “ Use any feet you want, it’s a 5.8 for Christ sake!” The kid resumes his climb, and somehow flails his way up the rest of the route, to hero encouragements from mom. I awkwardly turn my back to her and focus again on belaying Tony. I guess that’s how you learn to climb hard in Boulder... I end the day with an easy hour, night run around the neighborhood. It’s snowing heavily making for a peaceful and relaxing jaunt.
Slow start to the weekend. Deanne and I both wake up tired. She’s got a head cold coming on and we’re both finding it difficult to get anything done for the day. I head out for an easy snowshoe with dog up at Brainard Lake, where I spent more time shooting pics and plowing a track through deep powder than putting any sort of real concerted effort into the outing. It’s a nice setting to reflect on quietness, tranquility, themes tied in to an earlier conversation Deanne and I were having over breakfast. Deanne has been studying Marx for one of her sociological theory classes and the topic came up of how we define success and productivity in society. In this one particular passage Marx was suggesting that by doing a realm of different productive activities throughout the day we can fulfill any need we have for creativity. Yet what value does creativity have in society when not defined in a quantitative measure? What value does the artist have in society? Is a day spent composing poetry as valuable as a day spend producing food? Who should do what and should we do both? Questions one could easily link and I often do to training or even just running in general. Perhaps, Winnie the Pooh offers a good starting point in trying to answer such questions: “Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just listening to all the things you can't hear and not bothering.”
I’m running Moab Red Hot 55k on Saturday. I should probably rest today, to freshen up the legs a bit from all the hard training and to kick the beginning of a head cold Deanne has passed on to me. It’s tough to rest though, particularly when I’m treating this race more as a hard long run in preparation for UTMF. I have an addictive personality. TK disagrees that this is a personality trait, thinking rather addiction is only applicable to specific areas. For instance, he’s without doubt addicted to running and getting up mountains, yet feels this trait isn’t present in other areas of his life. I, of course, share similar addictions, but would argue that this behavioral trait bleeds over into other areas of my life. When I’m taken by something, whether a hobby, a book, an idea, it’s difficult for me to not obsessively focus on it. I actually consciously need to set boundaries for myself so I don’t fall into patterns of excess. Today, for instance, despite the obvious need for rest, I went snowshoeing for a few hours with dog early morning, worked for the rest of the day, then decided to run into Boulder, simply because it was a clear, beautiful night and I could catch a ride back up the hill with Deanne after her class ends at 10pm. Thinking about these addictive tendencies on my way down Sunshine canyon, I came to the conclusion that more so than the need to run, I have a need for motion. Movement, full body expression, when intentional yet free of thought and calculation, is an incredibly blissful way to interact with the world. Beyond the scope of training, tapering and other such pieces to the fitness paradigm are basic human needs of motion, of locomotion, of moving through and into this world. I cannot deny the necessity for me of this daily interaction.
Less rest today, more ski laps on the hill with Cam. A stunning early morning session, where even in fatigue, I find my thirst for the natural experience met. Bringing a thermos of tea for après-ski is one of the kindest things one can do for oneself.
TK and I drove out to Clear Creek for an early morning ice climb. I haven’t swung the tools much in the past couple of years so the possibility to top rope a couple pitches of easy, near vertical ice was a welcome opportunity. Tony climbed in his skimo boots which after a little adjustment of the crampons proved to be an effective option for such terrain. The ice was in decent shape, but we got a good soaking from consistent running water on our 35 foot pitch. We did several laps each testing different tools and getting quickly pumped by our general lack of upper body strength. A couple older, chatty gents rolled up to the crag. Pete, who was probably in his 70s we guessed was from Northern England and learned to climb in the Lake District. I told him I was born in Oxford, to which he replied, “You’re no southerner with hair like that, you’re a viking.” That’s indeed an accurate observation of my heritage and a good reminder for me to look deeper into this lineage, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. All in a all, a good day of learning and a further refinement of my growing climbing partnership with Tony.