Zen On Dirt

Old Friends: The Hills of BoCo

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My initial excuse to come back to Boulder in early October was to get some warm weather training and to race some ‘cross.  That quickly evolved into wanting to go back to school and then true reasons came out: I needed to roto-root my connection to the Universe, and to do that, I retreated to the one place that will always be a safe-haven for me.  Home.


Places filled with love.

I don’t know what I was looking for, I just knew that the happiest I’d ever been was the summer I was living in Boulder, teaching, attending copious numbers of yoga classes each week, eating salads with my mom, and riding in the Boulder County hills.  I know that I can’t recreate the past, nor do I want to, but when everything went to shit, I reverted back to my base level: Do what you love.  Do what inspires you.  Go to the places that you hold dear to your heart. So I’ve spent the past three months climbing, descending, and climbing all the hills, that like good friends, have shaped me into who I am.  They’ve made me strong in the past, they’ll make me strong again.


Always one fast ascent away from an amazing dinner.

They’re the good friends who won’t sugarcoat life for you and they hold memories of fast rides with friends, of death marches, of social rides sharing the latest gossip, of solo missions where the sole purpose was to drop the demons that chase.  Hills that held memories of boys who’d offered to take me to the Flagstaff House if I could beat them up them, memories of escort rides for the women of Lazy-Z, memories of Y-Riders taking us up the backside of Old Stage, and at 11 years old, having to stop and rest multiple times on the way up.  It’s been comforting to come back to these places and see them unchanged, the pothole on Lefthand that once left me with a double flat in sub-freezing temperatures is still there, Flagstaff hasn’t gotten any less steep, and Old Stage still isn’t easy, even with the tailwind that I was blessed with yesterday.


I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes more times than I’ll admit on that last corner.

I was doing a set of intervals on Lefthand yesterday when I noticed a shift in my psyche.  Instead of thinking about the countless times I’ve ridden up that canyon in the past, I found myself thinking about the things that riding up the canyon, there and then, would allow me to do in the future. Each repeat was a step in a direction that I was excited about headed in.  Each gasping-for-breath, fighting-off-cramps, cross-eyed recovery was a reminder that showing up to each interval and giving it everything I had would ultimately lead to good.


Nearly 20 years after my first ascent, it still strikes fear into my heart.

The past month has been all about looking forward, planning, plotting, scheming, all while being very presently rooted in the here and now, building the foundation, both mental and physical, that I hope will ultimately lead to great, beautiful things.

I piddle-peddled home over Old Stage when I was done, knowing that these hills will always be there for me, whether I need to spend some time pondering life, celebrating life, or very simply cranking out a set of intervals.  Some people climb mountains to be closer to the heavens, I climb them to be closer to myself.


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