Zen On Dirt

Mt Elbert, for the confidence of it

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I was pretty shambalized after my little outing on Mt Massive. I used to be a fairly to mostly competent mountain traveler. Maybe not so much in the summer time, but damn, in the winter/spring, I’ve climbed and skied some pretty scary lines. Well, scary by my standards. I, for the most part, felt competent in assessing risk, danger, routes, and feeling good about my decisions. I was calm, collected, and rational. And maybe it’s memory painting over the ugly parts, but for the most part, I rarely had breakdowns. Except for near the top of Teocalli in CB one spring morning. I had a breakdown there that I remember very clearly.

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We were in a primo location to watch storms roll in over the Divide.

On Massive, I had a breakdown. Not in the sense that I was stuck and couldn’t function, but my mental state went so far south that there was nothing I could do to rescue it. Here’s the first big goal I’ve had in a long time in the form of scouting and potentially attempting Nolans 14, and all I could do was try not to trip over the rocks on the way down while I held back tears.

Where the hell was the tough and confident Ez I used to know?

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Storms over Twin Lakes

But I also know that tough and confident came from experience. And practice. I didn’t jump straight into Tour Divide, I race on the road for a few years, did some cross, raced some XC mountain bikes, 50 milers, 100 milers, and only then did I jump into bikepacking. I could bikepack not because I was a brave and strong person, but because riding a bike was so second-nature, that I could put my full focus on the other aspects of the task at hand. Managing fueling, managing weather, sleep, and gear.

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Fred. Our camp squirrel.

Hell, picking my way down the rocky trail on Massive, and then sitting on the rock with a bloody knee, made me realize that running, especially in the mountains, is still very much not second nature to me.

Why should it be? I’m new to this.

So I went about taking steps to add to my hour count of mountain running. With something relatively easy and safe, Mt Elbert, the highest point in CO. One of the most frequently climbed mountains in the state.

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I could focus purely on the running (and the view) because there was no way I was going to get lost. There were no route decisions to make. And the weather forecast looked beautiful.

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My and two dozen of my friends at the top of Elbert.

The trail, for the most part, was straightforward, especially above tree line.

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Flowers were off the hook.

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And it was a completely drama-free outing. Run from camp. Hike up the trail. Enjoy a snack at the top. Run down the trail. No bloody knees. No tears. No uncertainty.

I even ran into Anna and Gary who were camped at the top trailhead and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking gin and tonics in the shade of trees while we watched hikers in various levels of distress walk down.

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From there, it was a mere 3 mile run down the road back to camp, where Scott had assumed I’d gone on a big epic run, based on how long I was gone.

‘Nope, just drinking gin and tonics.’

I was still sore the next day. But I wasn’t scared. And that’s the biggest step forward that I can think of.

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