Zen On Dirt

Playing, not training

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Once I gave up on racing the Ouray 100, my life became much happier.

Gone was the countdown to race day. Gone was the feeling that I had to run a certain number of miles a week, or to do a certain amount of vertical, or try to spend as much time up high as I could so that I could prod my body into building red blood cells, or try to figure out how to run downhill with some semblance of efficiency. Seriously. I feel like a dying moose when going downhill.

It felt like I’d freed myself from some self-imposed prison of training.

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Honey Badger don’t give a shit

Now, you might be thinking that I’m a little bit crazy for getting so worked up over “training” for a race. And you’re probably a little bit right.

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Momma Osprey don’t care either

But I have a complex relationship with training and racing. I raced my bike for a lot of years with absolutely zero structure, and I got pretty darn fast at it. At least fast enough to hold my own in the budding world of 100-mile racing and bikepacking.

But then I wanted to get faster. I wanted to be “pro” (whatever that means for women ultra-endurance racers, who are pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as sponsorship consideration went at the time). So I worked with a coach, I did all sorts of crazy things with my diet, and I got even faster. I won some cool races. Set some records that I’m pretty proud of.

And after a few years, I got injured, my body gave up and landed me real sick-like, and I lost my desire to train and race and to a point, even to ride bikes.

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Ptarmigan definitely doesn’t care.

When I picked up running, I swore that I wasn’t going to race, because I didn’t want to go down the road of becoming a racer again. Been there, done that. I wanted to keep running as anxiety-free as I could. I never wanted to lose the joy of the activity.

But then racing opportunities arose, so I took them, and had fun, and then found myself heading down the road, mentally, that I didn’t want to.

And with my incredibly high level of maturity, instead of working on self-improvement and repairing my relationship with competition, I just decided that I didn’t want to deal with it at all.

So I made the bold declaration that Ouray 100 was out, stopped thinking about training, and started thinking about playing instead.

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Luckily, I managed to hook up with Meghan for a long run in the high peaks while she worked on building red blood cells for a big line run later this summer. This woman carries more joy for being up high than most, and she’ll hike/run as fast as possible, even if it means that she ends up doubled over her poles gasping for breath at high altitudes.

It was pretty funny to watch. I may have laughed a little bit. Not that I was doing any better.

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We talked a lot about Nolan’s 14, a line through the mountains that has been a niggling obsession of mine for quite a few years now. Meghan finished the 60-hour challenge last summer, so there may have been a bit of fan-girl behavior from me. ‘What was it like? What was the crux? How much faster do you think you could go?’

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I must not have embarrassed myself too badly that day, either with my fan-girl-dom or my downhill running skills (seriously, I am baffled at how people move so fleet-footed-like down hill), because when I suggested an equally long day over La Plata Peak and back to the Twin Lakes valley via Hope Pass, Meghan was in.

Well, she was in on one condition: that we could get ice cream at the Twin Lakes store when we were done.

Deal.

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With a questionable weather forecast and knowing that we had a second high pass to get over before the storms hit, we left early. Early is rough.

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We ended up on a 14’er summit with 17 women! No dudes. I’m all about rad women doing rad things in the mountains, and hanging out up high with all these women made me real happy.

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We dropped off the backside of La Plata, took a few delightful miles of CDT over to Hope Pass, and proceeded to slog our way up it. I still can’t believe that I hauled a bike up that trail during our CDT bike trip. It’s steep!

I was much tougher back then.

Or maybe just more motivated.

Nah. If I had a good reason, I’d do it again.

We finished the day with ice cream sandwiches and stoop sitting at the Twin Lakes store where Hikertrash from both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail congregate and get resupplies. A beer offered by a thru-hiker led to a long afternoon of lounging, chatting, and burger eating. Pretty much the perfect way to spend a lovely day in the mountains, if you ask me.

Somewhere in between those two runs, Scott and I went out for a ‘Start high, stay high’ outing starting at Indy Pass. When you get to start 12k+ feet, you don’t have to put a lot of effort into gaining elevation, which is great for lazy people like us.

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Our goal was Independence Mountain, a 12k peak that receives so little attention, there isn’t even a SummitPost.com page for it.

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Probably for good reason. We got turned around by a ridge made up of rock so loose that it felt like it would collapse under our weight.

No worries. Turn back and follow the goats to higher pastures.

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We found a huge herd of them up on a hill side. Lots of babies. Lots of big males.

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They are such amazing animals.

Not wanting to disturb them, we opted our exit via a big snowfield. Scott hates traveling on snow. I think his discomfort is hilarious.

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It’s one of the few surfaces that I can actually move faster that he can. I’m all about the glissade/ski combo. Scott is about the controlled descent. I just sat at the bottom and laughed (to myself).

To add icing to an already delicious cake of a week, Colleen and Montana showed up in the Shark on their way home to PA, Colleen fresh off of finishing Tour Divide on a single speed. We’d been following the adventures of the Shark for a while, it was great to finally get to see it in person.

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Want to talk about bad-ass women? Right there. There’s one.

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Their purchase of the Shark a few years back as their full-time residence was definitely inspiration for the Scamp. The whole ‘you don’t need a lot, and you definitely don’t need a Sprinter van, to be happy and go on adventures’ approach to life.

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Do a lot with a little. Be stoked. Tell good stories. Drink too much whisky. These are my type of people.

There was a lot of joy in the week. Good people. Good runs. Good rides. Good camping neighbors. And absolutely zero worry about racing.

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And then the thought occurred to me: I wouldn’t know any of these people if it wasn’t for racing, on foot or bikepacking or whatever the drunken debauchery that single-speed events are. There’s something to be said for events that bring like-minded people together and give them the opportunity to interact.

And that thought made me pause. I still had no intention of training or thinking about training, but maybe racing itself wasn’t entirely as evil as I had it out to be in my head.

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One thought on “Playing, not training

  1. Yay Can’t wait to play in Ouray! So glad you decided to come!!

    Melissa Beaury

    >

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