ICE MOUNTAIN (what doesn’t break both your legs makes you stronger)

I realized today what it means to find comfort in discomfort (and it only took me 29 years to understand). I was climbing Mt. Elbert from the south, and after 2 hours of mind- and foot-numbing post holing, I was above treeline where intense wind and below 0 temps made a usually mellow mountain into a harrowing summit bid, which is the best time to think about my life. And I remembered the miserable day I spent on Ice Mountain probably two months ago.

It was one of those days where I was ready to give up mountaining and get a real job, but it started out lovely; clear, sunny skies, even decently warm. First you drive nearly to the middle of nowhere on a Jeep road, then you park in an empty TH parking lot and run a handful of miles. You scramble up this very long and unstable talus field (and hope nothing worse happens than a few rolled ankles and smashed fingers and toes as the rocks you’re putting your weight on slip and slide and rock disturbingly beneath you) then begin ascending a gully.

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Ice Mountain is one of the three Apostles (in the middle above). Three beautiful, jagged, sheer, and rocky peaks all rated class 3 and with only one logical route to ascend any of them. I’ve never been told this by someone who’s done it, but I had thought for quite some time that it sounded like a fun day of scrambling and I finally managed a day to do it before the weather turned [into winter]. I began the ascent to the gully, which was supposedly the crux of the route, and thought it was iffy at best. I actually felt a little silly for being annoyed with the instability of the talus field before it, because this gully defied logic. Had I not been sure I was on the route (there is no alternative, just sheer rock faces and this one gully) I would have been sure that there just was no safe route up this mountain. It was extremely steep, and mostly comprised of loose, slippery clay topped with smatterings of pebbles and frequently featuring loose boulders that threatened to dislodge themselves at any moment.

Ascending terrain like this sucks, but more importantly on anything so unstable is HOW THE FUCK WILL I GET DOWN? About halfway up I was suddenly pissed, because I felt insecure about my situation, and I wanted to blame it on everyone who’s ever climbed this mountain (which is the kind of excellent logic of a girl who knows she’s about to get injured, deep in the middle of nowhere). Meanwhile, the weather took a sudden turn and the dark sky looked like it might break all hell loose upon the Apostles any moment.

So why did I keep going? I was thinking about that a lot today. What makes anybody keep going when they want to turn around? I’ve finally realized the things that make me miserable (for example: snowshoe running, unstable gullies, climbing at night) aren’t inherently bad. To be home in the mountains, you have to be supremely comfortable, up, down and sideways. I’m just not that comfortable with all of it yet. It doesn’t seem mindblowing, but it blew my mind.

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Today, on Elbert, I discovered that there’s horrible, excruciating pain on the other side of numbness (and I wondered if it was the early stages of frostbite). It was so bad that I thought all the bones in my feet were simultaneously breaking. But I kept going. The wind became so harsh above the first false that I sometimes had to bear down so it didn’t push me back down the mountain, and meanwhile my eyes were starting to freeze shut (is it a thing to wear goggles when it’s this cold? I feel like I should, but I’d feel silly kind of). But I kept going. It only barely occurred to me that I maybe should turn around and come back when the weather was better.

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I kept going because I don’t want to be comfortable all the time. People who never face fear (in all of its manifestations-especially pain, misery, doubt) are so afraid that it controls their lives. I don’t want to climb unstable gullies because I’m afraid of [the very real possibility of] rock slides. If I had turned around that day, then I wouldn’t have made it safely up and down, thereby gaining a new [small] shred of comfort. There’s more than just our big fears to face, there’s dozens of smaller discomforts that we can’t keep avoiding. Discomfort is not the reason to turn around (or to stay home, as Dan’s mom famously said on our snowy Capitol attempt last year). That’s what it means to find comfort in discomfort: you experience discomfort, you own it, you accept it…it would be easy to turn away or avoid it but you don’t. You spend time is discomfort. You face all of its sides and angles. You sit in it (and climb and run and go about your business in it). Once you surpass fear, then you’re at home in the mountains.

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!

WEEK 2: Running (the week before a race) & Slaughterhouse Five (thoughts)

So in March I was injured for basically the whole month with a sprained ankle from snowboarding. And by snowboarding injury, what I really mean is that I fell off the chair lift before I actually started snowboarding. So. My point is that I wasn’t running for at least 3 weeks, wasn’t even walking for a good chunk of that. Then when I did start running it took a lot of easing in to be able to rock mileage again. I had planned on racing at the Greenland Trail Race series (5/3) a while back, then after I was injured I thought well, I guess it’s out. But for some reason, I was like NOPE. STILL ROCKING IT. So this Saturday I’m going to Larkspur to crush 8 miles of trails. I imagine I won’t get anywhere near my goal (which was under an hour) but I hope to make a good showing/run the whole time at least.

I’ve (obviously) been thinking a lot about how we prepare for racing (or other competitive events).
On Saturday I did 8 consecutive miles for the first time since before I was injured. While I was running, I thought the whole time about my pre-race training for the next week and how I was going to eat so well and this and that.

Here was my EPIC plan:
Sunday 4 mile recovery run
Monday (2) 4.5 mile tempo runs at 8 mile pace
Tuesday burn out thighs in a sculpt class since I couldn’t do trails for my Monday training. Bike recovery.
Wednesday 6 mile recovery run
Thursday 4 mile gentle run
Friday 1-2 miles gentle run

Keeping in mind that I still planned to do my normal yoga schedule, and to bicycle commute which for me is 15-20 miles a day of riding.

Here is what actually happened:
Sunday 3 mile walk with Luna
Monday (2) 4.5 mile tempo runs, one at 8 mile pace and one at 9 mile pace (hey, I won this one)
Tuesday burned out thighs in sculpt class
Wednesday 30 minute walk (didn’t have runkeeper on to track mileage) with Lu
Thursday it’s mid-day and I’ve already done 20+ miles on the bike…and haven’t run yet.

How have I been eating? Well, Sunday and Monday I had rice and lentils and veggies and it was all very healthy and lovely. Then after that, it turned into: pasta. tater tots. coconut milk ice cream. more pasta. chocolate covered graham crackers. white bread! What happened?! I haven’t eaten this poorly since my sister came to visit months ago.

My point is: even the best laid plans dissolve. What can you do? Keep going. I’m excited about the race, I haven’t stopped being excited.

I finished Slaughterhouse Five a couple days ago. I never read with the intention of analyzing or thinking really hard about concepts. I just read the whole thing then at the end I’m like “I liked it!” Which, I loved this book. The most memorable part for me was when they had a report about American prisoners of war and how to deal with them, and they talked about how Americans have no love for themselves, so they have no brotherhood, no compassion, no understanding. It was a huge concept to deal with for me. And I can’t help but see that, in our community. It’s made me think a lot about how to foster self love in my classes and in my relationships with people in this community. Now I’m working on Walden. I imagine I’m going to have a boatload to say about that 🙂

Updates:

Ashtanga: this has really gone down the drain. The last time I did all of primary series was Monday :/ MUST GET BACK ON TRACK! I’ve been so busy this week and it hasn’t been a priority, which my yoga practice needs to be a priority. I’ve really been feeling my lack of practicing in general this week; being busy makes important things seem less important. My practice is epically important and it’s not only what makes me a strong teacher and allows me to teach so much, but it keeps me healthy, sane, and protects my body so I can continue riding 20 miles a day and training for races and working with kids.

Yoga first and last thing: yikes I haven’t been doing this either

Drinking more water: winning!

Walking Lu: every damn day, most of the time 30-40 minutes. Plus we hiked in Evergreen on Tuesday!

Why I failed so hard this week at everything except running:
Running takes a long damn time. And it makes you tired. 😉
I auditioned at a new yoga studio AND GOT HIRED
I taught a big special event restorative class after a race in Cherry Creek on behalf of PrAna. It was awesome.
I did two Inspiration Day workshops for high school kids.

See? It’s not because I spent all my spare time in the bath eating ice cream all week. I didn’t even take one bath (because I found a spider in the tub…twill be a long while before I take a bath again).

Week 1: Breakdancing (is fun)

So as much as I knew this was going to be funny, I did not film my first day of learning how to breakdance. In my apartment, watching youtube videos. Because I’m definitely not confident enough to go to a class. Yet.

There are really a decent amount of learn-to-breakdance videos on the internet, I found this guy Vincani (http://www.youtube.com/user/VincaniTV) that I liked the most. Very clear playlists for different levels that go step by step, clear instruction. I did have to go back and watch his breakdowns over and over. Aside from a million beginner, intermediate, and advanced breakdance instruction videos, there’s also other forms of dance, martial arts, beat boxing, and other tutorials. You know, for when I’m basically a professional breakdancer and it’s time to learn more things.

I wrote down some of what I said out loud (in my one bedroom apartment by myself):
“but wait-”
“what?! how is he staying in one place!?”
*sustained, pitiful laughter*
“oh wow…bandhas”

By the third video, I’ve decided Vincani and I are friends and I’ve begun addressing him directly:
“oh really, Vincani, just like that”
“can you do it slow again?”
“where is your left foot!?!”
“it’s not that easy, man”

I asked the internet about breakdancing. It originated in 1970’s NYC. Pioneers site James Brown and Bruce Lee movies as sources of inspiration…it’s very clear that there are also gymnastic elements, and I’ve been able to see obvious elements of yoga in some of the moves where they hold (don’t worry, I’ll eventually do a post on this specifically). Oh- and people who breakdance apparently don’t call it breakdancing. It’s bboying or breaking. The internet is clear about this.

“B-boy… that’s what it is, that’s why when the public changed it to ‘break-dancing’ they were just giving a professional name to it, but b-boy was the original name for it and whoever wants to keep it real would keep calling it b-boy.” -Santiago “Jo Jo” Torres

santiago

There are four basic moves: toprock, downrock, power moves, and freezes. So basically, I can do two moves (I’m not implying I can do them “well”) called “6-step” and “CC”. Quite unsure, but those two must be toprock or downrock because I definitely wouldn’t say my beginner footwork is a power move.

I think it speaks to how “cool” I am (not) that my breaking research started on Wikipedia, and ended up listening to an episode of All Things Considered on NPR’s website, “The Return of Breakdancing” (this title shows how uncool NPR is, too). You can find it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1144040

While it is physically demanding, I think that, like yoga, it’s really accessible. I learned the moves quickly even though I’m highly uncoordinated…it will just take a lot of practice for me to get faster and cleaner!

If you’d like to follow along, here’s the videos I learned today:

Updates:
drinking more water? yes!
FIRST TRAIL RACE OF THE SEASON: THIS SATURDAY 5/4 Greenland 8 mile. I was unsure if I’m ready to race yet after a snowboarding injury kept me off training for several weeks…but here we go!
*Almost* done with Slaughterhouse Five to meet my one book a week goal. Also going to tackle Walden this week.
This week or next: first sewing project, BOLSTER for restorative yoga in my own house!!
Biked 80 miles over the week commuting. Just need to get out on a day trip to get consecutive miles in.
Must improve getting up ten minutes early to do yoga in the morning before I leave to bike to class…this didn’t even happen once.

Week 1: Ashtanga (is hard), Running (which I’m crushing), Slaughterhouse Five (is awesome)

Welcome to my first update, internet and friends! Since I started on Monday, I think it’s safe to say that the bit of progress I made is a win.

So I ran 5 (road) miles on Monday and it was so, so boring (I road run to support my trail running habit). But then, I had a big breakthrough. In the form of a flat tire, which I got on my bike on my way home on Monday night. This meant I had to run to my 8am class on Tuesday morning, which is 3 miles up to the Highlands (soooo muuuch uuuphiiillll). Important discovery: when you run to work, once you leave you have to keep truckin’ and maintain a good pace or else you’re not going to be on time. Then you get a break, then bam! Only half the run to go and you’ve got to do it in order to get home. I love this new method of running, I think it’s going to be very successful for increasing my road mileage when I can’t get on the trails.  I’m also planning my next attempt on Pike’s Peak, hopefully in the next week or two.

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really cool picture of my foot. Because I guess it proves that I was running? Got my running shoes on…

 

My book this week is Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut).  I’ve read it before but it’s been a while, I’m a big Vonnegut fan.  I’ve made a dent in it, I’ve been listening to Into the Wild on audible before I go to bed instead of regular reading, so now that I finished that yesterday I can get back to real life books!

 

I also managed to do Ashtanga Primary Series on Monday and Tuesday. What I learned: it’s been a while since I’ve committed to primary series, and that shit is hard. I had kind of forgotten what it feels like to practice with discipline. It’s going to be crazy good for me, but the first time was a struggle. I knew it was going to be, so I filmed it. It starts off great, then quickly deteriorates.  Here are the picture highlights (you’re welcome):

ashtanga 1 montage

Then, after a lot of confusion and humility:

savasana
Coming up on Saturday:  breakdancing?  sewing?  am I drinking enough water?!

 

DO EPIC SHIT: goal setting

So I’ve been meaning to get my shit together and be a little more disciplined, but that’s hard and I’ve been failing a lot lately. Particularly since a few of these were new year’s resolutions…for last year. Once (upon a time) when I got peer pressured to do something called the TOTAL BODY CHALLENGE I had to blog every single day about how well I followed the rules. It was grueling but it seriously kept me on track. The thing about being awesome is, if you’re having trouble being motivated, the idea of having to tell the internet about how successful (or NOT successful) you were makes an important difference.

That’s the story of how I started writing this blog. Just now.

Here’s the part where I talk about what I want to do with my life that I have to stay accountable for: My goals are going to be highly overzealous, as good goals should be. Then I’m going to stick with it. Apparently. Because I have to tell you about it, internet.

1. Learn to breakdance. I like that this is implied to be my number one goal.
2. Ashtanga Primary Series-5 days a week (oof, that one’s a doozy)(I’m totally doing it. Thanks for the support, internet!)
3. 20 fourteeners
4. Drink more water
5. Do 10 minutes of yoga first and last thing of the day, no matter when you do your 60 of ashtanga
6. Walk Luna 20 minutes at the very least every single day
7. Sew some stuff. Maybe lots of stuff. Yeah…like curtains and clothes and stuff.
8. Get out of debt, then save a bunch of money.
9. Peak to Peak Highway and Lookout Mountain
10. Leadville Heavy Half and at least one more trail race. The implication is, I have to then train. :/
11. Stop eating cookie dough
12. Read a whole book every week

Do you have twelve ambitious goals to work on? Maybe we can do this together! I’ll be here every M/W/Sa posting on my awesome progress.

Here’s me and my multi tool. Ready for action.

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