Dreams

Absence can grow appreciation.

It does not always. Sometimes, absence grows grudges. Occasionally, it lessens the stings of emotional trauma. But my main experience with absence is a growth in appreciation of that which is no longer, or never has been, there.

In this case, I’m speaking of mountains.

For most of my life, mountains only existed as an idea. I would see them in photos and on vacations, but I didn’t live with them. They would arise in my dreams as far off places to conquer and beauties to behold. And I while I loved the idea of them, I lived my life pleasantly enough without their figures in the sky.

But then, I left my home for a while. I lacked any feeling of homesickness, but did not necessarily revel at all times in the unfamiliar. I gravitated toward the only things that had a suitable familiarity: my dreams. But this time, my dreams were in front of me. All around me. My dreams were in the sand dunes and the salt flats and the mountains holding waterfalls. My dreams were in the laughter and the decadence of shared food after a long days run. And at some point, I realized that my dreams were my reality.

I returned home and it didn’t feel the same. There was something missing in the place that had stayed the same. My home now felt empty. I lived there again, but it was no longer my home. It was a waiting room. A city reduced to a snapshot of who I used to be. An interesting reflection, but a museum nonetheless.

I moved. For good this time. To a new home where dreams were filled with the permanence of reality. Mountain shadows spread across the valley floor and made their presence known. I spent days exploring the nuances of the land outside my front door. In fact, I’m still spending days exploring and discovering my new reality. As I come across an Abert's squirrel—one of the black, furry ones that are relatively rare—I wonder if I would have the same longing to explore if I had not dreamed about this place for years. I wonder if I would have the appreciation that comes with being away from something beloved for an extended period. I can’t know the real answer, but I think the answer is a delicate yes.

There must be two different ways to love the mountains. The first occurs when you were born in the mountains. Your parents took you out every weekend and taught you about the rocks and the trees and the bears who come to steal food from your trash at night. You come to love the environment because it is home. It reminds you of the people you love and the thrills of growing up.

The other, is like me: you learn the mountains because they are so foreign. My eyes are amazed by the smallest of hills, no matter how many mountains I have seen. It is the nature of growing up and being able to see for miles in any direction. I come to the mountains with a worshipful attitude. I look at these high altitude beings and think mystically. How can I not when to me they used to be ephemeral images in dreams and on screens. I don’t know the names of many things, I have to learn them. I become a kid again.

And being a kid gets difficult as age creeps up. Opinions are hardened and possibilities float away. If I didn't have this new playground, I'm quite sure I would become an adult. And I'm not quite prepared for that yet.

Loneliness

Loneliness is an emotion which I have ignored. I’ve refused to believe that I deal with it. But over the course of the last few weeks, I have been struck with the unexpected confirmation that loneliness is a strong driving factor in my life.

Due to the fault of no one and without realizing what was happening, I have become lonely. I have become comfortable with the constant companion which is loneliness. In some ways, this is good for a writer. I am capable of sitting in my thoughts and mulling them over without feeling drawn to distract myself with other activities or people. I am reminded of a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

In many ways, the loneliness makes sense for a long distance runner. For a while now I have attempted to understand why exactly I chose to run. The closest explanation I have come to reasons it as some sort of kismet. I dreamt of adventure and the barrier to entry in running was quite low compared to others. Running allows the uninitiated to arrive on mountain peaks and get lost in dense woodland zones and receive the peak emotional bliss typically reserved for climbers and mystics. So loneliness never struck me as a reason. I never thought of this hidden, blocked out emotion as a reason for why I ran. Perhaps I recognized that it lingered in the outskirts of my mind, but I never felt it drove me to accomplish or achieve anything.

But then, of course, I think about what has offered me the most fulfillment in running. And, by and large, it has been when my goals have been achieved side-by-side with others. The antithesis of loneliness. This is a reason why I find social media, when it comes to running, so dangerous and powerful: the modicum of pleasure I receive when a Strava activity receives kudos is strong enough to convince me that I am not lonely, but it only acts as a band-aid. I’ve been feeling empty for a while with my running, and it likely has to do with my lack of sharing physical experiences. I have let the false sense of connectedness replace the real camaraderie that I receive when physically sharing an experience with another.

When I think about my favorite moments in running, I think about my first stage race. I don’t think about in what place or in what time I finished. I think about the lifelong friend I made after running with him for almost the totality of the 155 miles. Amazing how close you can become to someone while sharing those miles. I experienced intense hunger, cramps, complete muscle breakdown, anger, and occasional joy (usually at the end of a day) and yet I never felt one thing: loneliness. Never.

I think about meeting up with another friend and traveling through Patagonia with him. Choosing crazy runs---for me at the time---and bouncing up and down mountains while winds buffeted us at unnatural speeds. Feeling lost in the middle of the snow while not being dressed properly. I felt as if my hands were going to freeze off. But again, there was no such thing as loneliness that existed.

I’m not saying that I chose running to confront loneliness. I don’t think I consciously or unconsciously did that. I chose running because of the possible adventure and the desire to push myself to the limits and quite frankly beyond the limits of anything I had ever experienced before. And yet, through running I have slowly realized that I have a more intimate relationship with loneliness than I ever realized before. I won’t say that there was a certain point at mile 90-whatever when I had a “come to Jesus” moment and realized this. It has been an evolution of my self knowledge that would have possibly taken years longer to realize: largely because of the inordinate amount of time that I have spent alone over the past 2 years. And largely because of the non-traditional way of making friends that comes with the sport.

All that to say that I am blessed to be a part of this sport. I currently have a new team in SWAP with my coach David Roche. I am surrounded by a ton of wonderful runners in Boulder. I am beginning to realize what is important. Cheers to learning more through running in 2018. I’m thankful that the sport has already taught me so much.

The Long Term


I've been wrestling with the concept of time recently. No, not in the "here let me blow your mind with how time works" way. There are people who have written about that better than I ever could. I've been thinking of it in terms of taking on big projects and connecting those with a grander life vision.

It’s hard for me. Having a grand life vision and taking on long term commitments require a certain kind of a person. The kind who can settle into a life of relative normality and routine. Unfortunately, I am the certain kind of person who has always rebelled again routine and the normal. There is something that I find inherently evil in living the same life every day, over and over, until death. I find that it doesn’t capture the assertive beauty of life in the most complete way. And so, I have tried to live my life in a way that dances away from the routine and yet, to me, everything I do still reeks of routine.

I find that no matter what I do in my day to day life, the routine grows. I lean into habits which I have gained—good and bad. I tend to wake up at the same time, spend too much time looking at my phone, and go to the same cafe to work most days. Barring injury, I like to spend a least a few hours each morning exploring the front range. Living a half mile from the mountains provides me this opportunity more than many other places could. I love this part of my life. But at my core, I feel normalcy creeping in. I tend to go to the same places in the front range and have the american disposition that feels as though there is not enough time to do everything. I live with people who live quite traditional lives with responsibilities and careers and as much as I internally know that those kinds of constructs aren’t for me, I can’t help but look at them and perceive (possibly falsely) how comfortable and happy they are in their routine.

The issue stems from the fact that I am now having to decide exactly what my life is going to look like for the next 60 years. Back when I wasn’t concerned about looking after myself or the money that is associated with that I was fully committed to living what could be considered a “dirtbag” lifestyle. The reality of living more on the edge resonates a lot with a kid with no worries about the actual world and what that entails.

whichway.jpg

And so, I am at a crossroads between two different places. If I go left, I can live what I would call a semi-normal life. I could get some sort of job. I could travel when I get the off time. I could make friends at work. Or I could go right: on that path there is everything and nothing. My dream of waking up under the stars and spending time with strangers who become acquaintances, friends, and then best friends in the course of a couple weeks. Climbing mountains which hold mystical excitement. Relying on my own power for livelihood. This clearly sounds like the better option for me. I don’t value security much, although I value it more than I care to admit. So living in this way wouldn’t be an issue. So what is it? What stops me from doing what I know is the best thing?

I wasn’t sure until I walked in on my roommate watching the movie Jim & Andy. The movie is sort of an analysis and inquisition of individuality and fame and purpose. The rest of the movie notwithstanding, there is one relatively heartbreaking scene where Jim Carrey is talking about his father. His father was apparently a great saxophonist, but when he moved to the United States from Canada, he was scared of supporting a family on that skill. Instead, he got a job as an accountant. A job which his father lost at age 51. Right there, Jim says something to the effect of, “I learned then that it was possible to fail at something you don’t care about. So if that is possible, why not fail at something you truly want to succeed at.” It is a simple idea that I have given thought to before, but was reaffirmed in an unexpected way, which is likely why it struck me so much.

The point of all this being, that I sure as hell don’t want to take the road to the left. And yet for a bit I have been questioning in my life which way to go: left with the general inertia of life or right which is full of active decisions and constant challenge and ultimately more (possible) joy?

The choice remains difficult because the road right is a dream, and dreams are easier to imagine than to achieve. They permit my escape into a world where everything is perfect and I have realized the exact life I always desired. But, if I start trying to live my dreams and life doesn’t work as planned or I completely fail, then I no longer have that dream. My bastion of peace is gone and left in its stead is a feeling of incompetence. In the moment, that is often the thought that leads me away from active choice and leads me toward the inertia of nothingness.

Of course, when I take a step back and take a bird’s eye view, I can see what else the dream will turn into. In time, if I do not attempt to accomplish my dream, then it will cease to be a dream. At some point, it will become a failure. And in the place of a bastion of peace, I will be left with the same feeling of incompetence and failure. When I realize this, the message is clear: try and attempt the dream, because trying and failing is much better than not trying and being left with regret.

The Journal is Difficult/2018 Race Schedule

I find myself struggling to stay motivated to write weekly updates that are glorified summaries of my training. Although it is beneficial for me to personally recap the week, I feel the journal serves as an unnecessary step in recounting my training for a couple reasons:

  1. I can see all my training data on Strava and via my Garmin. The data I tend to put on here is imprecise at best and, at worst, paints an inaccurate picture of each day. I don't put in the effort to talk about whether or not the vertical gain was via rolling hills or one continuous uphill push---I could write about this in the description below, but honestly that seems tedious when I have two separate applications which compile that data for me automatically. In addition, while I am (obviously) interested by data, I would prefer that it doesn't consume my every waking moment.
  2. I already recount my training days in a note to my coach, David Roche. While those aren't always super in depth and are usually filled with sentence fragments and exclamation points, it gets the job done. Recapping it for a third time seems like overkill.
  3. There are only so many ways I can say, "The sun was beautiful" without sounding like a pretentious ass while I write. Trying actively to keep that to a minimum.

Because of all this, I have honestly no clue what the future of this journal will hold. Most likely random thoughts. Perhaps a bit of everything. I have a few goals in mind, but none of them are fully formed and quite honestly there are currently more important things in my life than keeping up a blog that, at this point, is only mildly interesting to anyone reading. My hope is to create something that is at least moderately interesting, but I'm not setting the bar that high yet.

If you care enough about my training, you should be able to see it all on the main homepage. And now, *drumroll please* I will present to you a fairly preliminary 2018 Race Schedule!

 

February 17: Red Hot Moab 55k. 

April 14: Rattler Trail Race 25k

April 28: Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race 50k

June 15-17: Broken Arrow Sky Race 52k.

July 22: Kendall Mountain Run

July 28-29: Audi Power of Four 25k.

August 31-September 2: The Rut 50k

October 6-7: Flagstaff Sky Race 55k.

 

Music/Video of the Week:

Well, it is officially Christmas season.

10/9-10/15

Monday: Rest day

Tuesday: 8.3 miles (1:24) 1528'

The day after a freak snow. I walk outside around at noon to hear the sound of rapidly melting snow coming off tree branches in clumps and melting into large pools of water beneath. The temperature is approaching 60, but the breeze coming off of the still remaining snow reduces this temperature to somewhere around 50. I start running with my long sleeve merino wool top on. This is dumb. I know from experience that I will take this off within minutes. I run uphill on the sidewalk for the first mile until the trail. Instead of taking my normal route around the flatter regions, I decide to continue uphill to connect a loop around the foothills.

There is snow falling all around me as I encounter more and more slush on the way up. The temperature drops, but I have taken off my merino wool top and am now running shirtless and only vaguely aware of the temperature change. I continue uphill and come to an abrupt cliff wall. Without realizing it I had missed my turn along the foothills and had inadvertently climbed toward Bear Peak. Wanting to see the peak but knowing that my legs would prefer a bit flatter terrain, I turned back from the alluring mountain and quickly found the turnoff I had missed.

It is no wonder that I missed the turnoff. No tracks. I was the first one to break trail today. My legs mushed through slush and straight puddles as I avoided the bombardment of snow crashing down from above me. The trail began to angle downwards instead of up and I watched my footing as there was still some threatening ice in the more shaded areas of the trail. Smiling, I hit the downhill switchbacks and rejoined my common path. The way had turned more to mud and less to anything resembling snow at this point. In the distance, I could see the dusting of snow that is normally visible after a cold dewy morning on a dry December, but nothing of the inches that fell the day before. 

I rapidly ascended a bit through one of the many open grazing areas and back onto pavement for my final descent toward home. A good recovery run. 

Wednesday: 6 miles (:50) 554'

These are my boring runs. The routine ones that aid your body, but don't feed you spiritually or emotionally in any way. These runs are like doing the dishes: a thing you do begrudgingly because you enjoy the feeling of having done it. Normally, these runs do offer a bit of satisfaction during the run. But they are too short to have ample time to appreciate your surroundings. At least for me. It takes a while to settle into your breath and the run and forget time. 

On the other hand, these runs prepare me physically for the longer trips. I can't say that I am always at odds with these short bursts of energy, but I can't say I am in love with them either.

Strangely, I am feeling the problem in my left leg again. Retrospectively, I can tell that it is an IT Band problem. The unfortunate part of this is that I have never had IT issues. Hoping for the best.

Thursday: 8 miles (1:08) 551'

A bit longer run around mostly the same terrain as yesterday. I can feel the IT problem but don't even want to bring it up with my coach. The problem seems like such a little thing to complain about, and there are times where I feel that I am always "injured". Which is to say, not 100% healthy. I am still attempting to find that balance on when being injured is a call for rest and when it is a call for battle; to push through the pain.

Friday: 6.1 miles (:51) 515'

Same route. Most exciting thing about the run today is that I ran with clean shorts(!) for the first time in a few days. 

Other than that, kind of struggling in my first weeks of getting my new "business" off the ground. I hesitate to say business, as I am---for all intents and purposes---working as an online retailer through an already existing website. It doesn't feel like a real business. But the money is real. The possible losses and profits are real. I suppose that makes it as bonafide as it can be.

Saturday: 0

Struggling with the IT band. No clue what to do.

Instead of running, I spent my day working and I did manage to get through more of The Pale King, which I cannot necessarily say I enjoy, but is assuredly an evocative read. Much more than being about the plot, the book swims in the realm of the plot being a throwaway piece to a book that is a thinly veiled introspection into human emotions and motivations. In other words, not something I would recommend to everyone, but highly intriguing and oddly gripping.

Sunday: 1.5 miles (:14) 173'

YOWCH. Hardly worth recognizing that I ran today. The plan was to run much more than this, but when I am struggling with my IT problems and out of nowhere end up feeling the band even while doing beginning stretches, I know something isn't quite right. Would love to get this solved. The "injury" is zapping my enthusiasm as I sit on the couch instead of putting in the work.

 

Music/Video of the Week: