Zen On Dirt


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Leaving Tucson

It always feels like we have to escape from Tucson in the spring. It never seems to be a ‘Oh look, here comes a five-day forecast with 90+ degrees, we should probably head north.’ Instead, there always (and I’m using a very, very small data set here) seems to be something that keeps us in the area for longer than we want.

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This time around, it was a set of packages that we were waiting on. We generally try hard to not mail order anything, mostly because it’s a pain in the ass to figure out where to ship it, and then have to go pick it up, and there’s the whole ‘support your local businesses’, but Scott needed something specific and I had an on-line coupon and the need for a new pair of running shoes.

I guess we could have stayed at Parker Canyon Lake. It was a lot cooler there, but as it was, we were pretty much out of food, and there’s nothing that drives us back to civilization quite as fast as being out of food. Especially of the snack variety.

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With hindsight 20/20, we should have just driven the 20 miles to Sonoita, got a few days worth of gas station food, and gone back out to Parker, but the draw of heading north was strong, and we found ourselves back in Tucson.

And it was hot.

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Scott went down to the Huachuca Mountains to do some trail layout work on the AZT, I spent the better part of three days hiding from the sun, getting up early to ride, and wondering how I’d ever liked the heat. (I also needed a map of the Paria Canyon, a new case for my phone, to ship something, Bronner’s dish soap, you know, adulting things had to be done that are a lot easier to do in the Big City.) As it turns out, when you have a cool house to retreat to, heat is pretty awesome. When there’s no way to get out of it…heat is a bummer.

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I may have to turn in my Desert Rat membership card, and I may have been excessively grumpy about having to stay in town. But my shift towards wanting cooler temperatures is pretty interesting.

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But here’s the good thing. Even though I may have gotten a little mad at Tucson in my final couple of days, I still think it’s really neat. I’m still excited to come back next spring and eat Seis burritos, to drink Presta coffee when it’s cold, to eat/drink/slurp raspados when it’s hot. I’m excited to spend more time exploring the Catalinas, I’d like to spend more time birding. It’s really nice to be in a city where you can buy 99% of everything you need without having to mail-order.

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As we rolled out with the setting sun for another night traversal of PHX, I waved good-bye to the Big City. Once we made it through PHX that night, we wouldn’t see another city of any appreciable size for a long time. And that’s pretty cool too.

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The AZTR Startline

I love the start of the AZTR.

Mostly because I’m not racing it. One magical run in 2013 was plenty, thank you very much.

But it’s still one of the few times of year when all of my friends come to me, and with the increased number of people who seem to camp before the start these days, it almost qualified as a party.

This year it definitely qualified as a party, because it was Schilling’s birthday and there was cake involved. And puppies. And a camp fire. Really, it was my favorite AZTR start to date.

There had been a lot of stressors in Scott’s life leading up to the race. Fires on Mount Lemmon on the AZT. Massive amounts of snow up north and unplowed roads. People signing up for SPOT rentals the day before the race. I guess the night before the start signals that everything has been set in motion and the option of calling off the whole thing is no longer a choice. At least not an easy one.

It’s like when you’re a racer. When it comes to the night before the event, all the work and training and planning has been done, now it’s time to reap the rewards and enjoy the ride.

We headed up to Parker Canyon Lake Wednesday night to see off the ITT racers who were opting to start a day early. Scott had encouraged as many as possible to start Thursday to help keep numbers down for the mass start and to help people avoid the junk show called Reddington Road on a Saturday Morning.

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Jerry and Wendi were ready to go Thursday morning before we even had coffee ready. They are known early birds. Scott and I are not.

Since we were Scamped just off of the AZT, we were hoping to run into some thru-hikers. We called the first set of four over just as Wendi and Jerry were rolling out.

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As it turned out, it was Southern and Data, two hikers who we’d met on the CDT a few summers ago. It took all of us a few minutes to piece together who we each were. Southern didn’t have his kilt on, that’s what I’m blaming it on. We fed the four of them a cup of coffee and sent them on their way. We’d been meaning to set up the Scamp somewhere on the AZT and be trail angels for a bit this spring, but like so many of our other plans, it never quite happened. Time is limited. Time is precious.

Next year.

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Sol was the next to roll out. I was impressed by his Star Wars helmet setup. He had the weight of it calculated and had deemed that it was better than the wide brim helmet covers that are so popular among Tucson riders.

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Martin and Pascal were the next to roll out. Martin used to live in Tucson but had since moved up to Seattle. He hosted us for a night during our PNW trip two summers ago and took us riding on some slippery and wet Seattle roots, which brought out the famous Scott quote of, ‘Does anyone actually enjoy riding wet roots?’

Scott hates wet roots.

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Evan and Mark showed up mid-day. Evan and I had ridden together during a Death Valley bikepacking trip a few springs back. He’s working on a Trans-California route that’ll hopefully be part of a bike version of the Pacific Crest Trail. Mark is crazy. He’s finished the AZT 750 five times and is the only double Triple Crowner of bikepacking. That’s a glutton for punishment right there, and it makes me tired just thinking about it.

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Wendi, while planning on riding to Sonoita with Jerry, slashed a sidewall five miles into the Canelos (that trail eats tires like nothing else) and blew out her tube, so she took a leisurely walk back to the trailhead. After taking her to go retrieve her car, I managed to talk her into a little mini run. More of a systems test for my foot than anything else. The foot passed the test. Woohoo!

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By the time we got back, people were really starting to show up. Homegrown shuttles was making things easy by picking people up at the 300 finish, or the PHX airport, or from wherever and driving them down to both the 300 and 750 starts.

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And then the Hansen’s showed up. With one-week old border collie puppies.

Earlier in the day, I had been trying to pawn off a pair of running shoes that I didn’t really use on Wendi. Scott had (jokingly) said, ‘If you get rid of a pair of running shoes, you can get a puppy.’

Me wanting a puppy, and asking for a puppy, is somewhat of a daily joke for us.

The shoes ended up fitting Wendi and I did a little happy dance for getting them a new home. And then the puppies show up. And of course, I reminded Scott that just two hours prior, he’d said I could have one.

I’m not getting a puppy, but they sure were cute.

The Hansen’s really killed it for start line awesomeness. They brought Scott and I burritos from Seis, then they had a laser physical therapy magic thing that they lasered my foot with, and then they gave me an electroshock therapy thing to put on my foot to help it get better. They also brought cake for Schilling’s birthday and donuts and empanadas for the morning.

But the puppies were the best!

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Race morning was lots of fun. So much puttering. So much nervous energy. I kept waiting for that desire to race to come up…but it never did. I think this is a great sign for my growth and change as a human being.

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One of the best parts of the evening/morning was getting to hang out with Alexis. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t been gone from AZ for more than two weeks at a time…even though she lives at the other end of another state. She’s definitely done more laps around the Tucson Mountain Park Big Loop this winter than I ever have in a season. She’d go on to win the 300 through some pretty miserable conditions on Day 2. I’m super-duper proud of her.

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The 750 riders started filtering through soon after the 300 riders took off. Some blasted through, encouraged by a cowbell and general heckling. Some stopped to chat. It’s a long stinking race. This was Brett’s second time back, I believe. We had ended up carpooling up to Banff together for Tour Divide in 2012, he was one of the Wisconsin boys that we’d picked up in Whitefish to join our traveling circus. I hadn’t made the connection that one of them was Brett until this year when he reminded me. That was a funny trip…

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Kaitlyn came through at some point. We made her hold the puppy, because puppies are awesome. If I were her, I would have hopped on my bike right there and then and rode off with that puppy.

Eventually, all of the riders came through…some with a higher level of hilarity than others. Some not knowing where the start was for the 750 and bushwacking along the border fence, some not knowing which track to follow on their GPS, some dropping their GPS within the first mile and having to come all the way back to the start to find it (someone had brought it back for them). There was much giggling involved.

Then, with the same swiftness that the circus had descended on Parker Canyon Lake, it disappeared, leaving Scott and I to watch the sunset from the quiet of the camp.

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We watched the dots move along the track, knowing that everyone was out there having a pretty special adventure. It’s a pretty amazing thing that Scott puts together each year. Friendships are formed, memories are made, limits are pushed.

I’m just glad I get to be a small part of it.


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Impermanence, joy, and birds

Note: I wrote this about a week ago when we were up in Madera Canyon bird watching. I couldn’t decide if I liked it, so I got busy with life and forgot about it. But I reread it. And I thought it was okay. So here it is. Along with bird pictures.

It was a hard week for the cycling community.

First, Mike Hall was killed by a car in the final 24 hours of the Indian Pacific Race down in Australia. MH was the best of the best in the long races. Tour Divide. Trans Am. His dots were amazing to watch going down and across the continent.

Then this morning, news of Steve Tilford’s death in a car accident came across the FB. Aside from all of his cycling accolades, he was evangelical about ridding cycling of doping, and I often found myself cheering when reading his rants about cheats in the sport.

I didn’t know either of them personally, but it was gut-wrenching to hear about their deaths.

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The Broadbill Bully. Small but mighty.

Of course, whenever we’re affected by death, especially death that’s sudden and unexpected, there’s the realization that none of us are going to live forever, and we never know when our time is up.

It sets off a flurry of activity and life motivation. Make the most of each day! Carpe Diem!

Which is all well and good, and generally I attack my goal of carping the diem by going on an adventure which takes me to beautiful places and leaves me thoroughly exhausted and satisfied.

Except this week, I’ve pretty much sat on my ass, even though every cell in my body has be screaming to go do something big.

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El Magnifico. aka The Lunk

You see, I’ve come down with a self-diagnosed case of Ouchie Foot, which started from Ouchie Shin, which was a result of Ouchie Calf, which pre-dates even that 50k that I ran back in January. In summary, I’ve been dealing with some level of pain running pretty much since we got back from New Zealand when I, once again, over estimated my running abilities and over did it. Most of the pain wasn’t really bad enough to cause a full system shut down, but it also wasn’t going away, especially this last iteration of Ouchie Foot.

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The Lunk and the Bully

So I grounded myself for a week to try to let things get better. And then Mike was killed and I was reminded that I’ll never get this week back. And who knows if I’ll get one after it.

But you know what? It’s been a good week. I’ve been reading The Book of Joy about a meeting between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu (excellent, I highly recommend it) where they spend a week talking about joy, what it is, what leads to it, how to maintain it in the face of sadness, adversity, struggle, and strife. There’s much talk about how joy comes not from our external situation, but how we react to it. Cup half empty or cup half full. Searching for the silver lining. Do we agonize over what we can’t do, or celebrate what we can?

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I’m a sucker for a good looking turkey

Sure. I was hurt and was trying to stay off my feet. But that didn’t mean that we couldn’t go down to the humming bird feeders in Madera Canyon and watch birds go by. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t spend the time reading my endlessly growing book list. It didn’t mean that Scott and I couldn’t start rewatching Breaking Bad, starting from Season 1. It didn’t mean that breakfasts couldn’t take extra long, lingering with Scott over the last sips of coffee before even turning phones on to see what had happened in the outside world overnight. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t spend extra time working so that when I was better, I could spend less time working. It didn’t mean that the sky was any less beautifully blue, that our new 2-inch memory foam was any less comfortable, or that we couldn’t go out snipe hunting in Patagonia Lake State Park.

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Osprey with dinner (Photo from Scott)

So I say screw carpe diem. That puts way too much pressure on to do “something” with a day. I say carpe joy. Whatever that happens to be that day. Maybe it’s going out to do something big and noteworthy. Maybe it’s laying in our reclining chair under an oak tree, enjoying the breeze and listening to Fred the cooper’s hawk that lives near our favorite campsite outside of Patagonia chortle and laugh to his hearts content (we think there’s a baby Fred in the tree across the wash! We hear it call when it gets hungry).

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Soaring vulture

I’m still sad about Mike and Steve. But I’m glad they even existed in the first place. I’m glad that all of the people in my life exist, and I’m okay with the fact that none of us will be here forever. And I’ll keep working on finding joy, regardless of what life throws my way.


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A Trans Catalinas Running Adventure

I’ve always had a fascination with skylines. When I was into backcountry skiing while living in Boulder, I was working on a project of skiing the peaks of the Continental Divide skyline above town. In Boulder, the classic skyline run (which I still haven’t done) is the Sanitas/Flagstaff/Green/Bear/South Boulder Peak traverse. There was the Tucson Mountain Traverse I did last year. Let’s not even get me thinking or talking about the Nolan’s 14 skyline traverse here.

And then there were the Catalinas that tower over Tucson. Ever since I started running, I wanted to do a traverse of the “front range” of the massive mound of mountains starting at Pima Canyon on the west, hitting up Mt Kimball, Ventana Peak, cruising over the top of Sabino Canyon, dropping into Molino Basin, and ending with a descent down Milligrosa on the east. It would be about 35 miles of not fast moving terrain and a good bit of vert.

Not really into death marches these days, I shortened the route to end in Molino Basin, which was a convenient pickup spot on the Mt Lemmon Highway, with a bailout drop down Esperero Canyon in Sabino.

And then I invited a bunch of my running girlfriends to join me in the adventure. And this could be considered pretty out of character for a version of me that existed in the past. I’m fully aware that my best chances of success on something like this involves going solo, the whole minimize the variables you can’t control thing. I’m not the type of person who needs external motivation to do something or finish something, I used to love solo adventures (and I still do, just not as many of them).

But when I looked at the Catalinas Traverse and the adventure that would be involved, I wanted to do it with others. Something about life and beauty being best when shared. And I needed Scott to run the shuttle for me.

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In the end, I had two takers. Holly, who I’d met in Sedona last fall and gone on a run with after she and Josh camped next to us and then run into again at the Oracle 50k this winter, and Danielle, who was an old friend from Boulder and had recently moved to PHX.

Both were down for an adventure and didn’t ask for many details about the route. I made some mentions about sections of trail that no one ever spoke positively of and bushwacking. There would most likely be bushwacking. And that I hadn’t seen the majority of the route, so there would be some element of the blind leading the blind.

Adventure!

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We cruised happily up Pima Canyon in the morning shadows, thankful that the sun was still well hidden behind the towering walls. We were exceptionally thankful of this once we got to Pima Spring and found it mostly dry. As a water source that I was relying on to top of water stores for the next many miles, this was greatly disappointing. It was flowing the whole way down the canyon a month ago!

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We soldiered on with a slightly more conscious effort to not guzzle water. I knew we’d be able to find some water in Esperero Canyon if needed, but that would commit us to the shorter version of the route. Maybe we’d find some high on the ridge? (I know, good joke, right?)

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Trail navigation went surprisingly smoothly considering the un-use of the trail and soon we intersected the main trail that heads up to Mt Kimball. Never pass up beautiful summit perch for lunch is my general philosophy, so we headed over to enjoy the big views of the Mt Lemmon summit, the Oracle Valley, Antelope Peak in the distance, and all the mountains to the north that I really don’t have a sense of.

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Onwards. Once off the main trail that comes up Finger Rock canyon, we were back to overgrown, rocky, Catalina goodness. I worried that if this trail was in such sub-par shape, what would the trail past Ventana Peak, the trail that everyone speaks of with such dislike, be like?

We passed the time chit-chatting about anything and everything. Fun times back in Boulder. The PHX running community. Arizona living in general. Eating-weirdness among women endurance athletes. Relationships that end without being a failure. Girl stuff, really. The hours passed quickly until Lunch #2 at Ventana. The giant arch overlooking Tucson is pretty neat, and we could see the transition in the part of Tucson we were looking at. We were headed west, making good time, and having a ball.

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The trail did get rough after Ventana, but no worse that it had been on the traverse over from Mt Kimball. We found a small water seep that would have filled our water stores if we were willing to dig out a little hole and wait for 24 hours, or more. Seeps can be frustrating. There’s water! And moss! But not enough to make a difference.

And water was getting low.

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We entertained the idea of trying to complete the entire route, gambling on the idea that Sabino Creek would be flowing 3 miles up the trail, but I couldn’t guarantee it, and if we’d gambled and lost, all three of us would have been in a world of hurt. We even made it a quarter mile up Cathedral Rocks trail before we came to our senses and halted the potential death march in its tracks.

There’s bottomless horchata just six miles down the trail. Plus water at some point in Esperero Canyon. We were all still having fun at the time, but we could all see that another 10 miles could definitely turn a fun day into the mountains in to a slog back to the car.

We did a quick about-face and headed down. There was no debate to be had.

Bridal Veil falls was flowing nicely, cold and fresh. Water in the desert is absolutely fascinating and beautiful to me. Especially when it’s in the form of a waterfall that you can stand under. When you’ve been rationing water for the past 5 hours, it’s even better.

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True to Catalina form, the trail down was rough, rocky, and rugged. And slow. I texted Scott that we were three miles out so that he’d know where and when to come get us. It took us well over an hour to get down, picking our way through endless rocks that pummeled our (my?) already sore feet.

I was pretty happy to see the pavement and to be re-immersed in the pavement walking crowd that is found on Sabino Canyon road on a sunny Sunday afternoon. After having seen two people near the top of Mt Kimball and four people on top of Ventana, we hadn’t seen a single sign of another human until the final descent down.

For a route that involved massive views of Tucson for most of it, it felt (and was!) amazingly remote and untraveled.

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I wasn’t even slightly concerned that we’d finished at Sabino instead of Molino Basin. I don’t think Holly or Danielle were either. I guess in the end, it must have never been about completing a route or reaching a goal for me, and what a change that is from what used to be my goal-oriented personality.

Five years ago, I would have gone out and done the thing on my own.

I daresay, sharing the route and the time with friends led to a far more fulfilling experience.

And that’s pretty cool.


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Run to the hills!

A few Saturdays ago, I literally (semi-literally?) lost my cool with Tucson.

It had been a few hot days that we’d spent outside riding during our impromptu Camp Alexis. We’d had the Scamp parked in town, which is amazingly convenient, but loud, for almost a week and were at our wits end after several sub-optimal nights of sleep. And I was melting. For someone who used to love the heat, I was suffering at mid 80s. And the weather forecast for the next week and a half was in the mid 90s for Tucson. Definitely unseasonably warm.

‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ I cried. ‘I’ll turn in my Desert Rats membership card. I can’t do this heat anymore.’ I may have been a little melodramatic about the whole thing, but I didn’t move into a 60 square food Scamp in order to roast in the heat (or to freeze in the cold, for that matter).

What were we doing trying to stay out of the sun when it was too hot to do anything fun anyhow (even if you got up early! which is pretty much goes against all of my morals) when we had the freedom to pick up and leave? People weren’t going to come visit us in Tucson to play. It was too stinking hot.

‘Prescott, we’ve got to go to Prescott!’ I declared. Even Sedona was looking too hot for comfortable #Scamplife. So at 4pm on Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the Scamp and pointed north to the little semi-mountain town of Prescott, fully expecting the campgrounds on the east end of town to be open.

They weren’t. It was still almost winter there. There was snow in the hills!

We ended up in Kurt and Kaitlyn’s driveway after a 9:57 text, ‘Could we stay the night in your driveway?’

The one night ended up being four.

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Days were filled with riding bikes. Nights were filled with good food, friends, and laughter.

Eventually, attempting to not outstay our welcome, we towed the Scamp down to White Spar Campground. Many sites were available. None of the spigots for water were turned on. Thus, camping was only $10 a night. Score! $10 for a picnic table, bathroom, trails 20 feet from the campsite, and easy access to town is totes worth it in my book.

Apparently it was worth it in Scott’s book too because we ended up staying seven nights.

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Go ride. Stop at knee-deep swimming hole. Them’s the rules.

Three of those days we went riding with Craig Stappler and two nights he even camped with us. Craig raced the Tour Divide in 2012 with me. Of course, I never saw him because he and Ollie Whalley took off down the road faster than I could ever dream of pedaling. Craig ended up second after an ill-timed pedal breakdown in Grants, just a day’s pedal from the Mexican border and the end.

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All that to say  that he’s a real fast bike rider. And one of the best bike handlers I’ve gotten to watch pedal a bike.

On one ride, we paired his motivation to never stop during a ride with John Schilling, who had a day pass to escape the PHX heat and pedal. Anyone who’d ridden with John knows that picnic breaks are an essential part of any ride with him. Eventually, after a bit of teasing, we even got Craig to sit down to eat during the mid-ride picnic.

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Standard Schilling ride. Kaitlyn recommended the trail to us, so we can’t actually blame him.

We stocked up on post-ride food at the Safeway on the way back. Craig decided to stock his cooler with ice at the same time and carried a 10lb block back to camp, along with several days worth of food. The speed wobbles were terrifying to watch, and he still dropped me on the hill on the way back.

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Post beers and eating, Schilling headed back to PHX. Craig took off the following morning. We called up Caroline, ‘Want to go for another run?’

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Caroline was also in the 2012 Divide, racing on Babe the Blue Tandem. It sounded miserable. Whenever I need to counter a Scott Bad Idea with an even worse idea, I mention racing Tour Divide on a tandem together. She’s also won the race riding a single-person bike. She’s a bad-ass. And she’s a runner. And she lives in Prescott.

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All good things. Plus she seems to maintain a similar life philosophy as us: Go running, go eating.

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On our first run, we got some delicious Thai food afterwards. On this one, we went Bill’s Grill afterwards, which has good beer on Happy Hour all day on Mondays. How have I not known about this place!?

We got in one more ride near Granite Mountain the next day before it was time to bid our little end-of-the-cul-de-sac campsite goodbye. Temperatures were dropping in Prescott. There were rumors of snow in the forecast. Tucson started to seem a lot more welcoming.

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Scott forgot his camera and carried mine for much of the ride. Thus, I got some pictures of myself. 

Sometimes, when we hang out in Tucson too long, I get a little down on the Scamp. The whole, ‘We could rent a place here for <$400 a month, have unlimited internet, not have to worry about power, and be able to take showers whenever we wanted, and not be so vulnerable to the weather’ concept.

But then we turn on the Motivators and get out of town for a bit, and I remember why we do this. Because when we get out there and go to the places we love, we inevitably end up spending time with amazing human beings who make life interesting and awesome. Let us never give up this pursuit of friendship and adventure.

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And when it gets cold everywhere else, that’s when I fall back in love with Tucson.


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Screw Serious

I had a bit of an epiphany last night. That may not be the right word, a realization. One of those things that you know all along, at least on some level, but it takes actually saying it out loud, or at least in complete sentences in my head.

I need to stop taking this little space on the Internet so seriously. Sort of in the same way that sometimes I start to take my life too seriously, and then I have to laugh, because we are just farts in geologic time and the petty shit that we deal with on a day-to-day basis matters exactly zero.

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Billion year old rock in Aravaipa Canyon

Here’s the thing. After the writing binge called Let’s Spend Nine Amazing Weeks in New Zealand where I wrote nearly every day, I came back and make the proclamation of: I’m going to write something worth reading!

And thus, I wrote a couple of blog posts that I felt pretty good about. Post-trip depression is near and dear to my heart. We’d pulled off a year of living in a Scamp, that was rad. And again, the tried and true, I’m thinking about racing again discussion.

Last night I opened up the computer to see that I had three different starts to blog posts going, all of which made it about 300 words before I said, Meh. Not worthwhile.

I apparently was vewwy vewwy serious about trying to produce something…ummm…deep? The whole, I’m going to do something meaningful with my life! I’m going to change the world.

Instead of just writing for fun. Instead of just living and enjoying this vacation on earth that we get to take as humans.

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Horsecamp Canyon in Aravaipa. The ranger thought we were crazy for going in for a 24-hour overnighter after getting permits two days before. Most people plan better than we do.

And I thought of all the things in my life that I just did for fun, instead of because I was seeking deep fulfillment, enlightenment, and growth, like: (Insert list of every cool thing I’ve ever done.

I didn’t race Tour Divide because I wanted to inspire people, I did it because I wanted to see the country and ride my bike a long ways.

I didn’t slog out my first Colorado Trail Race over the course of six days of rain because I wanted to know my inner self better, I just didn’t want to go back to work.

I didn’t move into the Scamp because I wanted to preach about simple living or because I wanted to be part of #vanlife but couldn’t actually afford a van, I did it because I can’t seem to make up my mind of where I want to live.

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Nothing worthwhile that I’ve ever done has been approached with an excessive level of seriousness. (Back when I was trying to be a “serious” athlete, I asked Lynda, coach extraordinaire, how I could go fast at 24-Hour World Championships. “Decide you’re going to do it a week out and just show up” was her answer. There was a large amount of truth to that observation) In fact, the things that I’m most proud of were approached with zero illusion of being anything worthwhile in the traditional sense of the word, I just wanted to do something that I thought was interesting.

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Life should be filled with bikes, friends, and puppies.

So with regards to writing here: Screw serious, life-changing, and deep. Or at least screw worrying about it. Because in the end, if I write nothing, then I’m definitely never going to write anything worthwhile. And if I reach my death bed and can’t say that I’ve written much worth reading, at least I’ll have had a good time writing it.

And the same goes for living.


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Fits of Athletic Motivation

After running the Oracle 50k about a month ago and finishing in what I considered a fairly respectable time, I had a fit of what can only be described as Athletic Motivation. I was going to be a ultra runner! I’d learn how to actually descend efficiently and quickly, I’d run hills, I’d figure out how to run a mile faster than eight minutes. I started researching races in the area.

Let’s be a racer again!

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Picking our way down Picketpost Mountain. My yearly scramble to see how my membership to Team Vertigo is going.

I have these fits of Motivation occasionally. I find myself wondering if it’s worth focusing on one thing and trying to do it really well and sacrificing in other areas of my life. Or if I’m better off bumbling along as I am now, taking up opportunities as they arise and being fairly to semi-competent at a bunch of things.

At least twice a year, I tell Scott, ‘I’m thinking about doing Tour Divide again,’ and he responds, ‘You just go ahead and keep thinking about it’ knowing full-on well that given 20 minutes, I’ll talk myself out of it.

I’m still in love with the romantic idea of Tour Divide. Less so with the actual nuts and bolts of making a fast ride across the country happen. I think of the prep time that goes into it. I think of the 2-3 weeks out on the route. I think of the recovery afterwards. Plus, those cold mornings. I hate cold mornings. I just hate cold, now that I think of it.

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Desert rats in the Superstitions

But back to running…

I found a whole bunch of events that looked fun to do, mostly in the Phoenix area, which is fairly accessible for us. I wrote them down in my Google Calendar, checked registration pages to see how many spots were still available, pondered elevation profiles.

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Off the beaten path in the Superstitions. Our “run” was maybe 13% running , 20% scrambling, 15% photos, and the rest hiking. 

And then I turned around to talk to Scott.

‘Hey, when are we going to go down to Patagonia to look at birds?’

‘Can we go to the Chiracahaus to go see those really cool rock formations?’

‘I’d really like to get up to Sedona soon to ride some red rocks and see friends.’

‘Alexis is coming to town in two weeks, we need to be in Tucson then.’

‘I need to set a date to do my Trans-Catalina Running Traverse.’

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Route finding on slickrock, high in the Superstitions

And then I turned back around to look at my Google calendar. As of this writing, we have five or so more weeks left in Southern Arizona. I looked at the list of races I had written down, factored in the several days of rest needed before them and the several days of recovery needed after them, and then I look back at my bucket list of adventures I wanted to have with friends and realized that for all practical purposes, there was no having my cake and eating it too.

In the same way that I look at Tour Divide and instead of seeing an opportunity to race my bike down the spine of the continent, I see a summer of missed adventure opportunities, I looked at my calendar of running races in Arizona and saw only missed chances to do fun things with friends during the best months of the year in Tucson.

My Athletic Motivation balloon immediately deflated. I closed the windows with the race registrations.

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The Flatiron overlooking Lost Dutchman State Park. Setting up a car shuttle for Scott leads to running from some neat trailheads

And I felt a little bad. Maybe I lack the commitment to focus on anything worthwhile anymore, you know, the whole, ‘If it’s easy, it’s not worth doing’ thing.

But I don’t think so. The whole ‘Be the best you can be’ approach to life just doesn’t work for me any more. I’ll take the ‘be 75% of the best you can be and keep the fun meter pegged at high.’

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And if signing up for a race factors into the plan at some point in time, that could be fun too. And I’ll probably finish the race and say, ‘Now if I trained, I could get faster from here.’

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I hadn’t seen Danielle since living in Boulder. Such fun to get to reunite in the Arizona desert.

And 20 minutes later, I’ll lose motivation and call a friend up to go adventure running with me.