Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beauty

This past summer was just one amazing landscape and adventure after another. I kept waiting for a disappointing weekend- where I saw nothing interesting, nothing beautiful. In fact, I was so concerned with keeping up my streak of going to these breathtaking places, that I actually became fearful to stay in Denver on the weekend. Mid August, I remember trying to think of when I last spent a full weekend at my apartment in the city. After stalking through my own photo albums on Facebook, I guesstimated it was sometime in November 2011.

This realization almost paralyzed me with a fear of normalcy. What would happen if I actually stayed home on the weekend? Do other Denver-ites actually stay in one place..for extended periods of time? It can't be true. Surely one would die from lack of...lack of...amazingness? Of Excitement? Boredom?

Towards the end of the summer, panic set it. Work would be starting and surely my week long trips would cease. I was cramming in trips like a college student crams in a whole semesters worth of notes the day (night...) before the final. My last hoorah was a camping trip to Lake City. I tired with all my might to draw out the days. I wanted to notice everything. I wanted to take time to observe the few Aspen leaves that were already beginning to change colors. I hiked slowly, thinking that the slower I went, the more I could see and the longer I would postpone "reality." I sat on the summit of Wetterhorn for a good 20 minutes. Turning myself, like a rotisserie, to take a mental panorama snapshot that I would be able to take with me, to keep in a safe place to pull out on a dull weekend in Denver.
Wetterhorn summit register.

Eventually, I had to leave Lake City and subsequently, my adventurous trips behind. My work week came and went and for once, I had no plans for the weekend, except for staying at home. Most of my Saturday mornings were spent rising before the sun did, only to greet it mid way up a mountain. But in Denver, I woke up later and eased into my morning with several piping hot cups of black tea. I piddled around my house in my pajamas for an awful long time. Watered my brownish pathetic looking "plants" which I severely neglected. I was a stranger in my own house and had no idea how to occupy myself. I needed a distraction and a plan. A friend and a run.

The run wasn't anything to write home about. No one comes to Colorado to run on the Highline Canal. Casual conversation, talking about past trips and future plans. But as we turned west off of the trail to head back to my apartment, I saw the Rockies far off in the distance. The sight took me by surprise. Their substantial size seemed to put the smallness of human life into perspective. Even from afar, I could feel their magnitude and see their beauty. The Denver skyline, illuminated by the sun, occupied the foreground, but it didn't disturb the mountains. Without even thinking, I turned to my friend and essentially proclaimed how amazingly lucky we were to live in such a beautiful place. 
Kelly and I in Grand Lake
Tally hos after Pikes summit
An uneventful run on the flat gravel paths of lowly East, East...Denver managed to bring me more enlightenment than all time spent in the mountains over the summer. That single run opened my eyes and allowed me to see that there is beauty in all places, you just have to notice it. For me, the beauty of Denver isn't as prominent as the obvious beauty of a sunrise on an alpine lake, but it is there. I realized that sometimes beauty isn't a landscape or a particular place at all. It's a run with a friend or making dinner with someone. It's catching up over tea or listening to someone else's adventure stories. It is appreciating the people in your life and your surroundings. It comes in small packages or in packages the size of a mountain range. You just have to know where to look.


Tally Hos in Crested Butte
"But there is much beauty here, because there is much beauty everywhere." - Rilke
The Fam in WA. Not on a mountain.
"If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life; it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth."- Mitsugi Saotome

Tessa and I, Longs Peak

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Art of Pacing: Timing is Everything


I have been staring at this screen each night for the past few nights trying to express in words what I'm thinking. And each night I write a few sentences, delete them and continue staring at a blank screen. Most of my time is spent refilling my mug with tea and staring..staring a blank screen. A constant and glaring reminder that I have writers block. I thought a run would inspire me. It has worked in the past, but no matter how long I run, I come back and no gems of wisdom pour from my fingertips. Tea is the only thing being poured here.

Today, day four of this, I somewhat snapped. Which is ironic, considering that I am hoping to write about timing, pacing and patience. Something that at the present eludes me. I want nothing more than to get how I am feeling down in words and I want to do it now. Actually, I wanted to do it four days ago.

It all started at the last cross country meet. I was attempting (more like stumbling over my words) to explain to my team the idea behind pacing yourself during a race. I feel as though I did a horrible job of explaining it. It is a bit of an obscure subject due to it's intangible nature. So, I want a do over. Maybe I can do a little better the second time around:

The Art of Pacing: Timing is Everything

ME: Many of you have just started racing this year, so I'm going to share some wisdom. I am the coach which means I'm always right and extremely insightful, so put the phones away, stop tweeting and listen up. It has come to my attention that some of you take off like a rocket for the first few minutes only to suffer gravely for it shortly thereafter. Others kick like a twelve gauge shotgun in the last 200 meters. Yes, at the start it is fine to start out fast to ensure that you get ahead of the pack. But the key is to not get swept up in the moment and the crowd. You need to find you own pace and rhythm. Don't run someone else's race. Have patience. The race is not won in the first 400 meters. There are still more miles to go and hills to climb. Too much too soon is the plight of any runner. Find your pace. Don't be intimidated by the reputations of the people in front of or behind you.

ME: Now, I can't forget to talk about the next few miles. The middle is where the drama is. It's where reality sets in. Or rather, fatigue. Here, it is easy to become complacent and settle into a slower pace. Keep your wits about you. Indeed, your legs might feel a twinge lethargic, but thats normal. Accept that it is going to happen and move on. If you are feeling good, roll with it, its likely to change. If you are feeling bad, again- just roll with it, that feeling, too, will pass. Don't look back, ever. You cannot control whats going on back there. Keep your eyes ahead of you, but don't fret about how much further you have to go. Take each moment as it comes. Plan for the future, but don't flip out when your plans change. And they will.

Athlete 1: Hey, Coach? Are you still talking about racing?
Me: Of course I am [Athlete 1's name]. What else would I possibly be eluding to? And how dare you interrupt my fictitious monolog. Now, don't ask anymore stupid questions. Back to what I was saying..

[Athletes grumble, make comments that no questions are stupid...]

Me: Where were we? See what I did there? I said 'we' rather than 'I' so I sound mildly selfless and more like a team player. Oh yes yes.. The middle. So far you have gone through the excitement of the start. Flawlessly settled into your pace where you have kept your head on straight, stayed true to course and if you have timed it right, you've scored some negative splits. Now let's pretend you are through the second mile. Here, don't get bored or dismayed by what you are feeling. Timing is key at this point. Some people will start to pick up their pace greatly, others wait till the last hundred meters. Go with what feels natural to you. If you think you can pick up your pace and sustain it, go with it. If you want to wait a bit longer, do that. Just have patience- you'll know when the time is right. The end of a race- that's where you lay it all on the line. If you finish and are so exhausted that someone with more upper body strength than me has to scrape you up off of the ground, thats fine. Just leave the race with no regrets, knowing that you tried your hardest. If you do that, you ran the race well.

And actually, the whole concept of pacing is something that you acquire through experience. You find out through trial and error how to run a race. Maybe the first time you ran this course, you totally blew the hell up after you split a 5:04 the first mile and a 8:57 second mile. Learn from that. Next time, curb your enthusiasm. Or maybe you got to mile 2.98, realized that you had been lollygagging and suddenly took off at mach speed. It's a learning process. You can't have a good race without having some really..confusing.. races. Just learn from your mistakes, give it your all, have fun and above all- love what you do.. Because you'd never race again if you didn't love doing it. Or if I didn't force you..

Athlete 2: Love... racing?
Me: Of course...and Jesus, are you taking pictures of your food on Instagram again? THISISMYLIFE!!


Yes, that is how all of my cross country discussions sound....in my head.



"It is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case." Rilke