Turn to the Sky/Losing a Whole Year/F*** You, Heather

I’m reading Steve House’s book about the mountains. Not about training for alpinism, but the one about his adventures. And I notice that all those tempestuous storm clouds have turned pink. The sun is setting and I go outside and walk up to the top of the hill and I’m basking in the glow, then suddenly I sink down to my knees. My tears are so hot it feels like I have a sunburn. It’s cold outside. It almost feels like winter. I forget that leadville is like this. I’m not done thinking about this year but the weather feels like it’s wrapping up too fast. Im not sure I know yet exactly who I am.

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So why did I choose running? This wasn’t the first time I learned this lesson and I was all set to choose climbing, I had gone down that road so far I was about to make a career in it, and the certifications I worked so hard to get were certainly not cheap. Then I threw it all away at the last minute, for running? For that smug bitch Heather!? [You’ll meet Heather later. This is called foreshadowing, and it’s making you more likely to read on, apparently. Maybe.] The reasons that I’m not a better climber pile up: they are the Himalayas of excuses. My chest feels tight. Love is physical. So is fear.

 

My first trip to the Tetons was with my friend Chris. I remember we went up one night to the lower saddle of the Grand, or almost up there. On the way down, we sat on the talus and looked at Irene’s Arete. It was and maybe still is the most aesthetic line I’ve ever seen. I had never felt that way about a rock climb before, it doesn’t even lead to the summit of anything! [However, it is one of the many aretes of everyone’s favorite Teton, Disappointment Peak!] That thing is the dramatic, smooth prow of the coolest, most badass pirate ship that you want to be on. It was the first time I had ever looked at just a rock climb, not a mountain, and thought, “I want to climb that.”

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

I haven’t. I’ve been back to the Tetons three times after that and I have not climbed Irene’s Arete. Why? I don’t know. Rock climbing scares me. You know what happens when something scares you and you neither do it nor face your fear? It gets fucking worse. You know what else scares me? People. Trusting new people, getting to know them. I looked through Mtn Proj a bit when I was in the Tetons this year for partners, and just said, “Nope.”

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0830.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0830.

So I was reading this trendy self help book, because they’re like Pringles, and the girl said to think about your hero, then imagine what they would do when faced with the same decisions. Once you start, the fun don’t stop. So I thought about my heroes. Mike Libecki is the first name that comes to mind, don’t even need to think about that. Brette Harrington is the second. Of course I thought about Kilian, also Jessie Diggs, Andy Anderson, and Nick Elson, sometimes Steve House. So the thing about this list of people is, and I don’t know them personally, but I don’t think a single one of them would say they’re primarily a runner. Some of them are runners. But I don’t think even Kilian would say, “I’m a runner.” if you asked him what he does. I think for a moment, what if I had made all of my decisions thinking, WWMLD, What Would Mike Libecki Do? Put on an animal mask and said, “Why ration passion?” And I laugh, why indeed?

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I pulled this photo off the internet so you could see what I mean, pc Mike Libecki 

I can remember the first time I felt like I knew I was risking my life. It was physical. I don’t have a very good memory. Actually, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I can tell from other people’s reactions over the course of my life that they think my memory leaves a lot to be desired. I can’t remember what we’re fighting about if it goes on for more than one day. I forget dates, like birthdays. I forget if ive told a particular person a particular story (although, you can tell me your stories over and over because I probably won’t remember them after a certain amount of time). I forget what happens in books and movies so I can watch the same ones over and over and not even realize it sometimes. Anyway, I have a physical memories that are so visceral that I will never forget them [who can forget being charged by a bear? Really.].

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summit of South Teton

I remember the first time I climbed a mountain and I thought, “I would die for this.” it was South Teton, and I was alone. You’re always unproportionately scared when you’re alone. But as I scrambled up this loose and snow filled gully, it wasn’t the first time I assumed risk and did something dangerous. It was the moment I realized the level of risk I was assuming and I said, yes. I will. It was a great relief, like a low pressure system moved in and the sky itself put less pressure on my body.

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I remember what it felt like the first time Chris and I climbed Middle Teton, gained the ridge to the north and suddenly stood face to face with the Grand Teton, it was like I could open my ribs up like Hanuman and anyone could see my heart beating for it. I remember standing on the summit of Harvard, and being able to see the entire Nolan’s line in both directions and finally understanding the aesthetic of that line, each summit lighting up like the Plinko board and it was as if I could feel the routes and the summits and all the miles I’d spend on them cumulatively, it was like my heart grew outside of my body and wrapped itself around this mountain range like a bubble. I remember falling into a crevasse on Rainier (like it was yesterday!) I could feel the blackness yawning beneath me, and of course the melting relief of getting down safely, every cell in my body vibrating with joy, nearly exploding like tiny fireworks when we got back to the parking lot and sang “We didn’t die! We didn’t die!”

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

I’ve had some good ones running, too. This isn’t anything against just running in general, it’s against Heather. Don’t forget. I remember the first time I ran up something so hard that when I summited and stopped moving, it felt like my whole body evaporated into the air, and I swear I could feel wind pass through me, gravity clearly not being strong enough to hold my cells together. I remember coming down Elbert so fast, my toes barely brushing the ground and I felt like I was flying. I can only vaguely remember any of the races I’ve done, the most memorable things being, of course, the vomiting and the pain.

me on elbert

I’ve stood up, walked back to the truck, and laid down in the back, on my belly, on top of the sleeping bag. I have Steve House’s book open before me [actually, it’s on a Kindle, if you’re really trying to picture this, and I’ve got a forkful of eclair that’s hanging precariously in the air] and I’ve just read “Now that I’ve finished it, I am afraid I may have failed. Failed to answer questions such as why I take deadly risks, why I leave home for months at a time, and why I routinely spend my savings on air tickets to remote lands. But I see success in degrees, and failure provides valuable lessons. The depth of any story is proportionate to the protagonist’s commitment to their goal, the complexity of the problem, and the grace of the solution. Success must never be assured.”

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My chest gets tight, which, not being something I feel very often at all, is immediately uncomfortable. It feels like my ribs are closing in on my heart and lungs. I read on, “When I stood on the greatest summit I’ve ever achieved, success vaporized. The moment we think we have atained the goal, we lose it. Success is empty. The sum of all our luck, judgments, lessons learned and heeded, elevation gained and lost, our fitness and skill is zero.” the forkful of eclair continues to be suspended in midair, so near my dumbfounded mouth, but so far.

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The universe puts things in your way when you need them. I would’ve read this book ages ago but I didn’t know he’d written such a thing. I’m cried out, I guess, probably too dehydrated for more tears as the altitude is ravaging my body once again. I’m always thirsty. It’s clear now in that one word, success. My mind is waging a war of ideals, and this year, success won. It buried what I wanted to do, it asked me to bleed for it. But mountain running is an honest sport. I’ve given the same advice to several people regarding their first ultra, “You need to know what you’re fighting for, because when you really start to suffer, your mind will do anything to make you stop, and if you have nothing to fight for, you will.” the values or ideals I had around success asked me to lay my body down for it. And I didn’t.

sunset elbert

 

I mean, I didn’t stop, I finished the damn thing. I’ve thought a lot about what the most important value is to me, and I know it’s Never Give Up. That’s the thing I aspire to be, and when I am that, it’s what I’m the most proud of. I’ve now spent a lot of time thinking about what happened in that race. Didn’t I give up? I described it afterwards as, “I blew it, and I knew I was blowing it, and I didn’t care.” It took some suffering to really polish up my underlying motives and see what I was up against. There I was, asking my body for something that I wanted, SUCCESS, but that I also knew I didn’t really want at all. Gosh it’s hard to explain, and certainly I’m writing all of this because it’s helping me work through it more than you care to know this much about the inner workings of my warped, forgetful, prideful, obsessive, but at least devoted brain. I finally eat the eclair.

 

[Let’s give the-values-or-ideals-I-had-around-success-and-pride a name, and that smug bitch shall be called Heather, not because of anyone I know personally named Heather, but because I recently watched Heathers.]

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When Heather asked me to destroy my body for her, I didn’t. My mind struggled with this a bit, and mind you, at this point I was what? 6,000ft of climbing and somewhere around 17 miles in? I thought, if I don’t pull it together now, I’m going to be a failure, I’m going to be humiliated. Like I’m suddenly the center of the universe and anyone cares about the nonsense I get up to! Heather asked me, “But what about your dreams!?” and I thought, THIS? Heather, is this my dreams? I have a big long list of dreams and “climb a long Jeep road to nowhere as fast as you can because if you’re better at it than other people, you’ll get some kind of recognition for being strong.” is nowhere on the fucking list. Actually, when I think of the list, I’m ashamed, because I didn’t do a single fucking thing on it this year and instead I wasted all my time on …. Ugh, we’re back here again. No, I don’t regret it, because I had to know. Now I know. [Fuck you, Heather!]

 

I hope I go back through and edit this before I post it and somehow make it funnier. I’m not sure how, but I aspire to do that. Although, Steve House is basically never funny, so if I thought right now, WWSHD? It wouldn’t be, go back through and make your writing funnier. Ugh but if I thought, WWMLD? It totally WOULD be, lighten this up a little. Why my heroes got to be conflicting me like that? I’m not sure how, but this is all Heather’s fault.

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No, actually, you know what? Heather, that asshole, wanted me to fight for something that is not in line with my values, but is moreso culturally ingrained in me. But I stood up to her, despite that it meant I’d have to walk away with nothing, whether anyone else cared about it or not. And muddled in there with the moping and failure and waste and feelings of nothingness, also the identity crisis and the crushing lack of confidence, I actually am proud of that.

harvard summit photo

I went climbing a couple times this week. It was hard. Some of the time I felt strong, some of the time I felt weak, some of the time I felt frustrated, some of the time I felt inspired. It’s just like anything else that’s worth doing, I suppose. Heather showed up on one pitch, and I wondered if I’d always be fighting her, trying to trick her or slap her or pull her hair and hoping she’ll leave me alone to pursue what I actually want. This was certainly not our first fight, but at least I know her style better now. I’m starting to learn her weaknesses. I climbed a new mountain the other day, during a linkup of other mountains I’d climbed before. It was like, 13,9-something which means that it has no trail and never gets climbed, despite being less than 100 feet off of being a coveted 14er. I looked out at the inifinite mountains, over the Sawatch, towards the Elks. I closed my eyes and I could feel the pull of the space between earth and sky; the groundedness in my feet on the summit’s talus, the lift of my heart to the sun. I get this feeling a lot, but it’s still my favorite. I think, “This. I will do anything for this.”G0031035.JPG

[And there’s no sign of Heather anywhere]

you guys, don’t forget to check out my Threadless store for graphics for mtn fohttps://stokedalpine.threadless.com/designs/ks

MOTHER NATURE (and how I learned about expectations

Mother Nature exposed and made light of my weaknesses by dumping foot after foot after foot of fresh snow on my mountains; they that were so near to being clear.

When it started snowing on Wednesday I was annoyed. When it continued snowing on Thursday I was already pissed. I thought after work I would run all day. I adjusted said plan to spend the afternoon swimming laps instead, but when I arrived at the pool the sun was coming out and I cut my swim short to run Ptarmigan…only to find the sun immediately replaced by another snowstorm. And how it stormed. Friday I woke up to a full foot of new snow, and to put this in perspective that’s enough snow that I couldn’t open the back door to let Lu out in the morning. I shoveled the foot of snow off of my car and went to work, only to return to another FOOT OF SNOW in the afternoon; so much snow you couldn’t even see the dent in the driveway from the foot of snow I took with me in the morning (I totally got stuck in my street). Saturday it snowed, and Sunday it was occasionally sunny but it also snowed.

You may remember that I was recently thrilled about the amount of exposed trail up here, and the impending spring and summer when I would get to run on the ground again. I can’t even dredge up hope for that dream anymore, and here’s why:

So yesterday I looked at conditions reports on the southern Sawatch, and as recently as 8 days ago someone was on Mt Yale reporting that the first couple MILES were dirt, and there wasn’t enough snow anywhere to ski. The weather was reporting 50’s and sunny in Buena Vista, so I thought good enough, let’s go. Lu and I drove to BV in the mid-morning, coffee-in-hand, and arrived at the Denny Creek TH parking lot that had been thoroughly plowed and sunned and was perfectly empty at 10am. It was sunny and relatively warm. I did Yale towards the end of last summer but I was racking my brain trying to remember where the TH actually was from the parking lot, and boy I wish I had taken a picture because it was comical when I realized that it was so thoroughly buried with snow that you couldn’t see the sign, and there were no tracks to speak of.

I’ve gotten used to this common mountain scenario since I’ve moved here: there’s a baselayer of snow, someone makes tracks on it, when it snows again you still have the packed snow beneath it. Well. This was much different. There was no baselayer and no previous tracks, just the dirt trail. Like this was the first snow there ever was. And it was three. fucking. feet.

I dug out my snowshoes and sighed.

Luna doesn't care if she's buried or not

Luna doesn’t care if she’s buried or not

An hour later, we had lost the trail and the sun and it had begun to snow. We arrived at a river crossing and I nearly fell in. Each sluggish step in the wet snow dragging each snowshoe miserably. Yeah, I was totally angry. I know it’s not right, but I’m just done with winter and I’m so mad it snowed again [and hey, guess what! This is the usual for the high Rockies. Silver Lake, Colorado holds TWO U.S. records for snowfall-the most snow in 24hours (76”) and the biggest continuous snowfall (100” in 85hours) and it was a late April storm]. The reality is, our snowfall was really light this year and we NEEDED this huge storm so we have water this summer; okay, I totally get it! But it doesn’t make me feel better about the current state of dragging ass in the cold woods [especially when I tasted summer in that glorious weekend I spent running the front range]

this water.  was delicious.  and the coldest water that exists in the world.

this water. was delicious. and the coldest water that exists in the world.

It gave me a lot to think about. When I was still teaching yoga full time I did a 5-week series about expectations. How and why we have them and their effects on our lives and well being. Others expectations of us. What it boils down to is something we all already know-expectations set us up for disappointment. I’ve been dreaming so hard of summer and the weather was good so I expected it to stay that way and get better. It took moving up here to realize that you can never rely on anything when it comes to weather. I know, I know, in your part of the country the weather is CRAZY and unpredictable and you can have all four seasons in the same day (are you realizing for the first time that you’ve totally said that, because EVERYBODY thinks that about where they live? Is your mind blown!?)

But here’s the thing about the high country. It goes from 50 and sunny to 0 and storming in less than five minutes, and I’m not exaggerating for effect. I counted (for the first time) and it went from sunny/clear/warm to FULL ON SNOWSTORM and back 7 times today. SEVEN. It might be 60 degrees and sunny for two weeks, then it drops the biggest storm of the year on you and pummels you for days with January temperatures. It’s also not unusual for this to happen once summer is in full swing; in fact, it’s likely to happen several times this summer that we get sudden snowstorms. Plus, at high altitude (I’m at 10,200) the sun feels hotter and it warms us (people, land, air, whatever) up faster, and the thin air doesn’t hold heat very well, so the temperature swings can be truly incredible.

My weakness this past week has been my expectations. But I’m not going to get anywhere training for Nolan’s holding a grudge or staying inside to avoid snow because I was ready for summer. I could let every step be wretched, feeding the anger and frustration. Or every step fuels the fire that burns out my weaknesses. Self discipline through austerity-and once that garbage is burned off I won’t even notice the snow, excepting the lightness of burdens being lifted.

fresh tracks

fresh tracks

Winter Blues (over it.)

So I had a solid, pretty fun run today on S. Elbert despite the impending storm (and let me be clear-we’re on day SEVEN of constant snowstorms). At first I was frustrated for a bunch of reasons. I thought the weather looked better finally, but when I got to the TH it was already snowing and I somehow drove all the way to Twin Lakes without emergency gear.

this is Twin Lakes, but clearly not on the day I'm describing.  On that day there was no view, just cloudy crap.

this is Twin Lakes, but clearly not on the day I’m describing. On that day there was no view, just cloudy crap.

I resigned myself not to go further than 4 miles out from my car for safety reasons and set out. The first section had good pack from crosscountry skiers and I optimistically put on microspikes. A half mile in, there was not another sign of human existence and things went from optimism to bummertown.

Luna looks out on the ridge by Mt. Elbert

Luna looks out on the ridge by Mt. Elbert

On we went, though. Determined to get 8 miles in, at least. And something shifted. Is it possible I hadn’t realized how much I considered the snow to be a barrier. To my speed. To my training in general. To my well being. I started to flow in a slidey, crazy kind of way. Along with the snow. Finally free to be with the snow, and I hadn’t realized how hard I had been fighting it until that moment. All of the extra work dragging myself through fresh powder and wet, heavy slush. The frantic sliding and painful postholing. And all of the falls.

storms.

storms.

It all suddenly felt like all of those things were silly extra parts of winter running. No longer obstacles, it was even exciting. Did that magical feeling last forever? Oh god no. It wasn’t even half of my mileage that I was working with the snow, by the end of my run I was furious with the snow again (as per usual) but it was the first time I felt even a momentary freedom from the snow-devil-burden. That little bit of relief was more than enough to give me hope.

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SNOW (and so I’ve had my mountains all to myself)

I’ve basically spent the entire winter dreaming of winter being over. Do I like winter sports? Yeah, of course I do. But whoa mg all of this snow is cold and wet and it gets in the way.

You know what I’m so tired of?? Post holing. It was so bad one time and my shins were so swollen and bruised that I felt like I had stress fractures all over again (you road runners know what this feels like).

if you cannot tell, this is up to my waist.  MY WAIST.  I call this snowwimming

if you cannot tell, this is up to my waist. MY WAIST. I call this snowwimming

Anyway, the point is that there was a two-part happening that’s made me realized why the snow is secretly good (it’s a theme this winter-something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about). I went down to the Front Range to visit a friend and had two days of most excellent summer trail running. It was more than magnificent. It was fast and wild and rolling and hard and FINALLY I was tired from fast elevation gain and not from dragging in the snow. We burned up Bear Peak, stood in the river and drank from waterfalls, raced mountain bikers. We also dodged all sorts of people, answered questions, listened to their small talk, and actually ran into some friends.

from Bear Peak

from Bear Peak

So then I came home to the mountains, where it was actually snowing (of course) but it didn’t stick. So we went up to Half Moon Creek. And get this-they’ve opened the road! It’s not passable yet but MORE THAN HALF was clear of snow.

LOOK!  It's the ground!

LOOK! It’s the ground!

I had to carry my microspikes for the 4 miles in to the TH because there wasn’t enough snow to wear them! But, here’s what I realized is the problem with such magic. When the snow is all melted off of Half Moon Creek road, you’ll be able to drive right up to the TH (imagine that!) and even camp along it! When the trails are clear of snow, it will be downright easy to summit my mountains…which is fantastic, until I think about the piles upon piles of fair weather Coloradans that will come out when it’s easy again. The snow: it makes me cold and wet, it exhausts me and causes me to carry all kinds of different equipment, it bruises my shins and knees and other things when I fall dramatically on my face. And the snow: it’s the exact reason why I’ve spent an entire winter almost completely alone in my beautiful mountains in perfect quite and solitude.

Just me and Luna, enjoying the summit of Quandary ALONE for the 7th time this winter or so

Just me and Luna, enjoying the summit of Quandary ALONE for the 7th time this winter or so

Someone told me after I moved here that the other long distance runners in town do road miles and skate ski on the groomed paths around town, but they most certainly don’t run trails in the winter. Like it’s dirty and wrong! Which is why I’m probably the only one filling out those Mt.Massive Wilderness use permits.

welcome to mt. massive wilderness

welcome to mt. massive wilderness

As much as I’ve enjoyed running with my feet on the ground, I’m going to continue loving my peace and alone time while I have it.

on the way back in n. 10 mile trail north of Frisco

on the way back in n. 10 mile trail north of Frisco

...and me looking awkward, just for good measure.  By the river on the way up Mt. Yale

…and me looking awkward, just for good measure. By the river on the way up Mt. Yale

Mt Lindsey (will I EVER finish the 28?)

Decisions made in the mountains are so different than in the real world. There’s also something to be said from beginning any endeavor with a “it’s in the bag” mentality.

from the meadow just after the TH

from the meadow just after the TH

After the Capitol attempt, I felt really good about the 28…basically like that chapter was almost closed, and it was just a matter of finalizing it. I knew I wouldn’t head back to the Elks again until I do Av training and buy an ice axe, so I estimated that the official 28th would be Mt. Lindsey. I put it off a couple weeks so that I could go with Mark, and celebrate proper. The day before, we were texting things like “finally finishing the 28th!” “28 is in the bag!” the weather was forecasted to be clear, sunny, high of 42, 10mph winds. Not bad, not bad at all. The round trip was 8.25, all class 2, and aside from some snow and ice it was in pretty good condition.

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We even didn’t plan to leave until 6:30a because we weren’t worried about getting an early start. And we went to Slohi, where the people are very sweet but it takes a very long time for them to make your drinks (do they realize how funny that is?) It was a four hour drive from Denver, there’s a long network of forest service access roads that will be totally impassible come winter. We started off at the TH at like 11am. The hike in was nice. We got mildly lost when the snow blocked a twist in the trail, but we found it again. Arriving at the saddle, the wind picked up. The route seemed obvious, we took a dip down from the ridge on the snowy side and it was a little tricky with the ice but definitely okay. When we got to the point where we could see the gully we’d be ascending, it was very icy and long. We chose to ascend early, climbing the rocks in a rockier, less snowy part and heading to the ridge. I knew there was a ridge route so I thought we’d be able to summit from the ridge. I was route finding.

from the saddle

from the saddle

On the ridge, things were definitely a little dicey. Lu was okay, but I was getting a little worried about her. The wind was picking up quickly, making the climbing feel unsteady. I saw what was ahead and stopped suddenly. Mark caught up and said “I don’t know about this” and I was strangely optimistic. I kicked my foot out on a ledge to the left to see better, and saw what was below me (nothing). It was like a mini version of the knife edge. And on the other side was the crux wall of the ridge route. I was enamored by it, but I couldn’t think of any safe way to get Lu to the other side. The wind was whipping at this point, throwing bits of ice into our eyes (10mph my ass). We decided to head back, and almost immediately regretted taking the ridge back, trying to down climb on the ice. Lu couldn’t find the way that we got down one part and she spent the better part of 5 minutes pacing back and forth and whining, freaking out. She could get down fine, but she just didn’t see the way down. It was terrible, poor girl.

Mark, descending the ridge.  Things were too gnarly to stop and take pictures before now!

Mark, descending the ridge. Things were too gnarly to stop and take pictures before now!

We found a way down from the ridge back to the trail, and headed back out towards the saddle. Arriving at the saddle, we estimated if we should go back and try the route the way we were supposed to, going up the gully. The wind I’d estimate was nearing 50mph, as I could lean into it 45 degrees and be held up. We agreed to call it and headed down the saddle as fast as possible (by that I mean we glissaded on the ice! Or rather, I did). It wouldn’t have been that hard or taken that long to finish it. I’m not actually sure why we gave up and headed back.

Mark and I, over the icy river

Mark and I, over the icy river

It was a nice trip back. I didn’t feel that bad about not summiting, it was a gorgeous day in the mountains. I would like to finish the 28. It’s been an epic journey and now that I’ve done 98% of TWO 28 attempts, it’s going to be nice to call it closed. I’ve talked a lot before about how good I feel in the mountains, how I want to be a better person. How just existing there is enough. Then we go back to the city…it’s enough to make me move out there…

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In other news, I’ve been training for the next adventure. I’m about ready to make it official.

la plata (also updates-hitting it hard, and sarah starts using brackets all the time)

With another Wednesday almost all the way off, I elected to get up at 3:30a to do La Plata Peak (14,336ft, 9.25mi) before the storms rolled in at 1 (something like 90% chance…and they started as we were pulling out). The TH was hard to find, you park off the main road then walk in like a mile, but it’s not marked well plus it’s unusual to walk in on a road without the TH in site. Naturally, I drove into the forest on a very bad service dirt service road and wasted about an hour, looking for the TH and only finding a bunch of obscure signs and random, unmarked roads. By the time I rolled back out to the main road where the TH parking is, I was super frustrated. So frustrated that I was about ready to head home (whoa nelly, Sarah, calm your shit down). I parked and got out, just in time to meet up with a couple that were walking around in confusion as well. We walked in on the road together and found the TH and I departed from them pretty quickly, ready to burn up the mountain fast and dirty (with all that extra vigor for getting so annoyed about nothing). [fun fact: the couple had only eaten chocolate frosted donuts for breakfast-I abstained from telling them how well *that* works out]

Mama nature, you stop it with your damn epic views.  I'm so tired of hiking with gorgeous backdrops all the time! #nofilter

Mama nature, you stop it with your damn epic views. I’m so tired of hiking with gorgeous backdrops all the time! #nofilter

Once you get out of the forest, the views get amazing and you hit the brutal switchbacks that are the worst part of the route. I passed two decent-sized groups that were split up over the switchbacks. Several of the poor dears were carrying gallon jugs in one hand and a couple of the girls were wearing purses [wondering what happens to them? I’ll see them later]. They loved/hated Luna, exasperatedly commenting about how epic she is and WHY DOESN’T THE ELEVATION EFFECT HER?! Business as usual.

The switchbacks were over before we knew it, and we continued through the meadow eating PB&J without stopping. The ascent up the ridge was grueling and somewhat terrible because the whole time it looks like you have so much more to go. The first couple I saw descending told me that it’s not as far as it looks. I disregarded this information, thinking “oh. really. it looks fucking far.” Then it turned out, maybe 5 minutes later we hit the saddle and you could see there was only one last little bit of talus hopping to the summit. [Here’s an aside for you: when I suddenly got interested in mountaineering, I was mildly annoyed at the constant use of talus and scree in trip reports and route directions. I gleaned a basic understanding, that both were referring to broken rock bits. I assumed there were solid definitions of each, but it turns out NOT. They both refer to broken rock bits, or a formation made of broken rock bits. Neither is specific to size. Scree comes from skrioa, Norse for landslide. Talus comes from the same word in French, meaning slope or embankment. Now, you can refer to talus and scree with pride and look very cool. You’re welcome.]

Luna sizes up some rocks.  See?  How hard was that?  Just call it like it is.

Luna sizes up some rocks. See? How hard was that? Just call it like it is.

While scree-hopping (see what I did there?), we came across a whole group of teenage girls that I was initially annoyed by (SO. LOUD.) but that quickly spent 15 minutes petting and fawning over Lu. So I cut them some slack. Evidently, Colorado summer camps take field trips to hike fourteeners. I was pretty impressed with these girls, as there were plenty of grownups still heading up the switchbacks and crying about it.

Me giving you a thumbs up on the summit.  Because I'm cool like that.

Me giving you a thumbs up on the summit. Because I’m cool like that.

We took some time to hang out on the summit, but with my later-than planned start and what I assumed were impending storms, we headed back down pretty quickly. [MORE BRACKETS. There was a family of 3 on the summit eating Subway sandwiches…it was like 10am, so they must have purchased them the night before? This bothered me and I spent more time than I should’ve thinking about it]

The gorgeous Ellingwood Ridge, named for the first person who climbed it in the 20'sish.

The gorgeous Ellingwood Ridge, named for the first person who climbed it in the 20’sish.

On the way down the main ascent, we stopped to tell our fellow travelers that it’s not as far as it looks and they gave me skeptical looks. I ran into both groups of newbies, one about to tackle the ridge with fear in their eyes, and the others lunching in the meadow with resignation. Both stopped me to talk, and I tried to give them an accurate assessment of what was coming next, but it turned out they were uninterested in my guesstimates of time to the summit, or in my warnings of the coming storms. They wanted to talk about Lu, quel surprise.

because Lu is the shit, obv

because Lu is the shit, obv

The hike down was uneventful, which was good, because the storms didn’t hit until I was all the way to the car and on 24, headed back to Denver. And hit they did, hopefully everyone that was up there made it up/down safely. When everything was said and done, I was home by 3p! Definitely a successful trip.

Getting ready for collegiates, I put in a whole lot of time running:
Friday 4mi Matty Winters
Sunday 7mi city
Monday 8mi Mesa Trail (this is the infamous bear run)
Tuesday 7mi Dinosaur Ridge
Wednesday 4mi Matty Winters

Things got filthy dirt on dinosaur ridge

Things got filthy dirt on dinosaur ridge

I’ve shaped somewhat of a plan for the Collegiates: one day is Oxford/Belford/Missouri and the other will be Huron/Harvard/Columbia. I’m getting pumped, TWO WHOLE DAYS in the woods?! Shit’s about to get all kinds of rad.

Stay tuned for delicious raw energy ball recipe and updates on the Collegiates trip coming up fast!

xo

Training for greatness (how to schedule all of your free time)

Don’t get me wrong, I love laying face down on the floor of my apartment watching Awkward, drinking Coke, and eating junk. But those things are fun in the moment, and not even a little bit epic.

I grew up hoping to wake up before my dad left for work, at like 6 o’clock in the morning, to kiss him goodbye, and I can remember like it was yesterday my dad sitting on the stair by the side door putting his shoes on. To ride his bike 6.3 miles to work (and that’s one way, I just looked it up). Rain or shine, and all winter long (and we lived in Michigan…). Epic. He helped me move to Colorado…and rode his bike home (TO MICHIGAN). He’s been doing this his whole life.

So now you know where I get it.

Every day it seems like there are more amazing things I want to do. I’m not going to lie, I dove face first into climbing, I’ve been at the gym every single day. Contrary to breakdancing and ashtanga, I’m actually getting so much better and more comfortable with all of this practice. Everything has sort of overlapped, at the moment I’m just rocking as hard as possible running and putting miles in the saddle. I need to make a sched…yikes! My yoga schedule is finally calming down, luckily, so this is getting more possible.

With all the madness, here’s what I’m currently working on:

Running: mainly, training to be able to run 14ers. I’m planning next week to knock out the four collegiate peaks in two days, which means I’m going to need to run some to get the mileage done in time. I’ve considered doing one more race before the season’s over…but I’m unsure if racing is something I want to do again. Such a different mindset.

Climbing: mainly, just trying to get better, stronger, more comfortable so I can get back out on the real rock before the weather goes. I love it so much, but I quickly realized that I have A LOT of strength to gain before I can get serious outdoors.

Hiking: 28 14ers before 10/3/14. That’s pretty self explanatory, right? I’m thinking on 10/3, my birthday, we’ll do Capitol Peak…my biggest, hardest climb yet and one that makes me tremble a little, it is on the list of the top 5 most difficult Colorado 14ers…and barely misses the cut for top 4 most deadly. See you at the Knife Edge?

Riding: So I’ve just been gifted a new bike (A NEW BIKE. I KNOW.) Which means I can finally race if I want to…looking at the Steamboat Springs Stage Race over Labor Day weekend…and I am terrified, just considering it as a possibility. I mean. Holy shit, right?! Cyclists are fancy mf. Scared of this for so many reasons. …but…maybe?

Ashtanga: relegated to once a week. I know. Better than not at all? My regular practice has to be a compliment to all of my wild training in other directions.

Gosh, is there anything I’m forgetting? I’m going to try abandoning my regular diet (and by diet I mean the food I normally eat-I don’t do “diets”) and subscribe to Alicia Silverstone’s vegan macrobiotic cookbook (I’m already vegan…but I eat a lot of bread and pasta. and sugar). There’s millet porridge in my fridge…is this going to work? We don’t know. In the meantime, I’ll share the raw energy balls recipe I just made in another post (and let me tell you, they are f***ing amazing).

xoxo love you, internet!

Mt. of the Holy Cross (hiking alone)

Important things that you think about on long solo hikes: we say depth instead of deepness…but steepness instead of stepth. WHY!?!? I could probably find out why now that I’m home and have access to the internet, but I spent hours considering this serious problem on the trail.

This was actually at the end of the hike, looking cool

This was actually at the end of the hike, looking cool

I do love hiking with friends; people I knew before and some that I meet along the way. Casual conversation helps ease the steepness, helps you keep pace, pass the time, and especially not lose hope when the going gets rough (like miles of snowmelt flooded willows as you’re losing light). But there is something special about facing all of it alone from time to time.

The Mt. of the Holy Cross (elevation 14,003ft) starts off with a good amount of gain pretty quickly, in fact you hit treeline before you make it to Half Moon Pass in the first couple miles. At the top of the pass, two things happen: sweeping, epic views of MTOTHC, and now the trail heads steeply down (and loses not only all of the elevation you gained, but maybe even a little more).

The view of MtOTHC from Half Moon Pass

The view of MtOTHC from Half Moon Pass

At this point, the weather was pretty ominous. I was getting a later start than I planned (hit the TH at 8a) and I heard it was a good thing-it rained and hailed until about 7a, maybe a little later than that on the summit. It was still looking pretty dark up there as I descended Half Moon Pass and headed for the river crossing that would lead me to the ascent.

A big descent early in the hike is a bummer for so many reasons-you lose what you’ve already gained, you realize you’re going to have to gain it all back again (and then a lot more), and most importantly, the out-hike is going to have a long ascent on it when you’re already exhausted. And we all know, the main rule of hiking is, the way out always feels much, much longer than it actually is.

The main ascent was what I’d like to call arduous. I was in a hit-it-and-quit-it mood because of the weather, and because I had to be back in Denver by 5p to teach class at 6. So I burned up that mountain like a…I’ll have to come back and insert a clever simile here. Anyway, there weren’t a whole lot of hikers out, I came across two heading town that gave me weather reports from the summit (hail) but optimism as well-“the clouds are moving quick”. In total I think I saw 7 people (even though there were at least 20 cars at the TH-where were they??).

At the top of the ridge that leads to the final, the trail evens out for a bit, providing a break (although the trail is all small, loose rock, so is it really a break?) I had a good view of the final and the summit for a while (good news: the weather cleared, bad news: I thought it looked far and rough-with no conversation to distract you, that’s a fun mental game). Starting to attack the trail quickly gets lost and things get technical and scrambly very quickly. Luna was rock hopping, as usual (and, as usual, I think all 7 people on that mountain commented on her epic capabilities, grace, stamina, agility…), and I really wasn’t fairing poorly. I was rocking my trail shoes instead of boots, which has become my norm for summer hikes, and I passed a group of 3 older gentlemen who were shocked to see someone in tennis shoes (they don’t even UNDERSTAND about trail shoes, yo) and assumed my feet were pretty torn up. I told them not to worry about it, this is my 9th summit this year in these shoes and my feet feel great 😉

Rock Hopper

Rock Hopper

Because of all the losing-the-trail confusion (made even more fun by the cairn game-found a cairn, but where’s the trail?) and rock hopping fun, I hit the summit in no time at all and was shocked to realize that was it. The clouds had even broken and we had a few sunny minutes on the summit before I decided to roll.

Luna #caninebadass enjoying the summit sweetness

Luna #caninebadass enjoying the summit sweetness

The descent was fast and dirty. We even ran part of it, trying to get out as quick as possible. Well, I ran part of it. Lu ran the whole thing and then some. I made a mental note about getting Lu sponsored as a #caninebadass endurance athlete.

Do you see that mid-jump!?

Do you see that mid-jump!?

The clouds rolled back in as we were approaching that hellish up-hill back to Half Moon Pass, and it started to rain. NBD, we were already safely into the woods. McDonald’s fries and Coke for fuel down! Back in Denver just in time to teach my 6pm class and head to the climbing gym for 3 hours! (fun new fact about climbing: climbers are not only super friendly, but pretty lazy. Initially I was only lasting about 45 minutes at the gym because I just climbed non-stop…until I found out that protocol is this: you climb a route, you sit down with the other climbers, and everyone talks about it for 5 minutes. Then someone else climbs a route, sits back down, and everyone talks about it for 5 minutes. It’s awesome! Definitely the most welcoming community to any sport I’ve become a part of.)

Training (and psychology or something, probably)

You guys know I’ve been up to a lot of business lately. And by business, I mean activities. As I’ve been planning my upcoming amazing trips, I’ve realized that there’s a couple doozies coming up fast and in addition to the things I’m already training for, I have some areas to step up. It’s got me to thinking about the difference between working out (for the sake of working out), training for competition, and training to do epic shit.

I’ve been involved in competitive sports for basically ever, with maybe a 2 year reprieve after I stopped racing (road running) after college and before I picked up roller derby. Training for competitive sports is a discipline and an obligation. Sometimes, it’s awesome. As long as I’ve had something to work for, I’m able to train (even if I don’t always like it). But, like I say all the time, I road run to support my trail racing habit. And it’s exactly that. Most of my training for running is on the road, and it sucks. I would never be like “I’m going to crush 10 miles on the ROAD!” it’s more like oh dear god, 10 miles. 10 monotonous, repetitive motion injury, joint shaking miles that make me question my commitment to long distance running in general (more on this later). But I still do it.

I’ve never been one for working out. When I’m at the height of intense training for something, I can really crush a work out. And yeah, I like it, and it feels good. I’m never going to question the amazing effects of endorphins, et al. But I can not bring myself to work out for the sake of working out. Plenty of people do, it’s awesome, because exercise is really important for your health and not every human is willing and able to commit their lives to physical endeavors. I teach a spin class once a week and the beautiful souls who attend that class, I tip my hat to them. No music in the world would make me work that hard just to be healthy.

What!?  So many miles!

What!? So many miles!

So I’ve been keeping track of my bicycle commuting mileage on a calendar all month, without doing anything with it (like adding it up) and when I realized the other day that I MUST start training for my bike tours, I added it up. I ride 70-100 miles a week, and that’s mainly getting to classes. I don’t think I entered in when I ride to a restaurant for dinner or something, and I usually walk to the store. I was pretty impressed. Although with the Mt Evans trip (50 miles by bicycle, from Denver to Echo Lake, then summit Mt. Evans, then ride the 50 back) looming, I need to increase mileage by a lot. Something about planning and committing to this training feels very different. I rode an extra 30 miles yesterday, and it felt amazing. I haven’t been riding much outside of commuting lately, so that was probably part of it. But it was more than that. It wasn’t an obligation. It was a commitment to become stronger so I could live a stronger life. There’s been a tone of falsity in my race training lately, and that’s what it is. I consider that training obligatory so I can race hard and obtain a good time and all the glory that comes with competition. Whereas, training to walk and ride mountains; that feels very authentic and like I’m working to be better.

Yeah, this is how I ride training miles...get better sunglasses, Sarah.  And wear a MF helmet!

Yeah, this is how I ride training miles…get better sunglasses, Sarah. And wear a MF helmet!

How do I bring this into my race training?

Updates and coming up:
Monday Long’s (this should be 3/20 and my last winter ascent of the season, I hear the conditions up there are actually still WINTER)
6/11 Mt. Evans
July 2-6 Wanderlust Festival in Aspen
July & August Nolan’s Fourteeners 100 miles backpacking, bicycle tour to Estes via Peak to Peak Highway
Breakdancing: still working on the same two moves but they’re getting better!
Ashtanga: finally getting back on track

Long distance running & Ashtanga (DISCIPLINE)(I don’t have it)

Here are some ways to find out you have no self discipline:

1. You finally choose to pack for your trip instead of getting in the last 9 mile run before
2. The moment you start on a long run, you start justifying why you’ve cut your run short
3. When you get texts, you stop running to respond to them immediately (because, obv, you did not turn your ringer off)
4. You clean your house instead of doing ashtanga primary series. Then, you create yourself a hulu account so you can watch tv instead of doing ashtanga primary series (because you canceled your Netflix account so you’d stop watching tv)
5. When you’re doing ashtanga primary series, you somehow end up working on handstands. This is like if a mouse eats a cookie. Then, you start working on handstand transitions and pretty soon you’re trying to figure out how to footlessly transition out of astavakrasana and you’ve forgotten that you were ever doing primary series in the first place.

Needless to say, I’ve been struggling on both counts. In fact, I haven’t been on a run since I went to Vermont (more on adventures in Vermont to come!), nor have I practice ashtanga primary series. So. Now we get back on the horse.

How do we conquer lack of self discipline? Friends help. I’ve also imposed a new post rule: 1 bagel for every 3 miles. The third bagel really makes the difference between 7 and 9 miles. Actually, this system isn’t a bad idea. Any suggestions on ideas for a post-primary series bribe? I’m going for a long run. With a friend. And bagels!