Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seasonal Work Jackpot for the Attention Deficit Lifestyle

This last place I was living/working, and will undoubtedly live again, is one of the most all-encompassing bubbles I have ever had the pleasure of being sucked into.  The two-month conference season at the Stanford Sierra Conference Center (SSC or Camp) is the seasonal worker’s dream come true.  With a full commitment of only eight weeks one can fully engage everything in this little sub-world, and then gracefully exit just as the initial shine wears off. 

It is not as if after a couple of months the place itself changes.  Nor do my co-workers change.  Eight weeks, or maybe even closer to six weeks, just seems to be MY expiration date, on any one situation.  And I’m sure this holds true for most of my seasonal working peers.  No matter how awesome the situation is, and this one is pretty sweet, mixing it up, frequently, seems to be the schedule I have subconsciously subscribed to.

This short-lived attention span, isn’t isolated to the seasonal work world.  Don’t most things seem to get old after two months?  Jobs, relationships, living situations, new purchases.  The shine really doesn’t last long on much.  Maybe this is a generational thing.  Maybe this is why so many people are on “A.D.D.” medication.  No one can settle on one thing because there is so freaking much to do.  We have access to everything.  The possibilities are literally endless.  How can anyone be expected to or limit themselves to one job, or one living situation, or one relationship for the rest of their lives? 

There really is no need to limit oneself.  Is a deficiet of attention really a disorder?   Or is it just our reality?  Why are people trying to suppress it?  Drugs, while fun and may very well have the desired effect, are completely unnecessary for this character trait.  Everything in our world is catering to the attention deficient.  Why fight it?  Embrace it. Go with it.  Mix it up. (I recommend drugs only for recreational use).     

Given this reality, seasonal work just makes sense.  And it seems natural in our otherwise nature-deficient existence.  While we are not migrating for food or warmth directly, we are doing so for the jobs that will provide these needs.  Effectively, we are getting back to our animal roots and simply blowing in the seasonal winds.  

And of all the wonderful places the seasonal winds have blown me, none is quite like this perfect little spot on Fallen Leaf Lake.  SSC is the attention deficit lifestyle gold.  This place does it right.  Besides the sheer greatness of the location, they know how to treat seasonal employees.  They offer their employees  everything they have, which in turn gets them sporadic bouts of hard work.  But, their expectations are realistic.  It is understood that we are there to have a good time.  Everyone wins. 

As fun as it was, I wouldn’t want to stay one more day.  While some might be fit to hang onto something like this for longer, I am not wired this way.  My attention has a very short timer on it.  For this reason I am so grateful for camp.  I have found nothing more fitting.  It allows us to engage fully, take it for all it is worth, waste nothing, and then leave.  I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.  If this complete two-month life cycle of Camp is even remotely reflective my entire life-cycle, I will die beyond satisfied.  I can’t imagine trying to squeeze any more activity into a single time period.  It was a grand eight weeks!

Facebook Pictures

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer Wrap-Up

Although I know there is plenty more summer weather to come, I have transitioned into the next phase and have left my carefree summer ways behind…yeah right.  Anyway to (semi-)briefly recap the summer: 

On July 1st I woke up to the sound of snow plows.  I was sleeping on top of Loveland Pass, the coldest place along the way, after escaping Denver, which was experiencing uncharacteristic humidity at the time.  It wasn’t powder, but it was fresh and I snowboarded on it, as nearby Arapahoe Basin (ski area I happened to have a pass to) was still open.  I managed to get in a few runs before it got too soft and then passed through Leadville for the night to begin my planned loop. 

Fresh snow on July 1st on Loveland Pass

My only real objective for the summer was to do the famous Four Passes Loop in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, which is in the mountains between Aspen and Crested Butte, Colorado.  Realizing (at the beginning of July) I still needed to give the high country a few weeks to dry out, I planned to keep myself occupied with lower lying trails and exploring the towns of Crested Butte and Aspen

And I did just that.  I ran on a lot of trails.  The first few weeks included hundreds of soggy stream crossings.  My friend and former co-worker Ben (who was also circling Colorado) met me in Crested Butte and joined me for a week and half.  After a couple more scenic and soggy runs and beautiful camping spots, we made our way to Aspen, which required us to drive down out of the high country into the fiery gates of hell for part of a day, reminding us how perfect summer up there is.  In the Aspen area we hit a bunch of popular trails including one leading to the ridiculously, amazing Conundrum hot springs.

Trailhead to Conundrum Hot Springs (near Aspen)

After Ben took off, I headed to the trailhead for the Four Passes Loop, where I parked for a few nights before starting the loop.  The loop is 25ish miles.  I decided to backpack the loop instead of running it in one day.  Although easily doable in one day, I thought I should take two days to go slow and take it all in.  I was happy with that decision and the decision to bring a camera, which I hardly ever do.  Definitely worth the extra weight this time.

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness on the Four Passes Loop (near Aspen)

Next, I spent about a week in the actual town of Aspen.  Aspen was pretty happening after spending weeks out in woods.  I had a good time there.  Two friends, Lilian and Stephen, both of whom I know from working with at the Rainbow Lodge in Northern California, were living in Aspen.  It was great to see both of them and nice to have places to stay in the crazy metropolis of Aspen.  I also found a future live/work spot (where Stephen was living/working), right in downtown Aspen.  After I had enough of all that, I made my way back to the most authentic of mountain towns…Leadville.   

Leadville is a special place.  It was the first placed I lived after leaving the Midwest (about 6 years ago).  I have lived in half a dozen other places and visited hundreds and have never found anything even remotely comparable to Leadville. 

In Leadville, I stay with my friend Wizard.  Aside from cooking and cleaning for Wizard, I spent most of time running on Leadville’s fun and windy eastside singletrack, laying low, and formulating my next move.  While spending a lot of time sitting on Wizard’s porch (that we built while I was there), I realized why I am so picky about weather.  Leadville spoiled me forever.  At 10,200’, the summers are perfection.  I have not found anywhere better…and I have been looking.  Dry and sunny with highs in the mid-seventies…everyday.  Then it completely cools off every night.  Very comfortable.

Wizard and Joe on this deck (that we built one afternoon.  We were both surprised it actually turned out okay.)

During my stay in Leadville, the town was a flutter with elite athletes (and spandex) as I was in there the three weeks leading up to the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike and 100 mile trail running race.  It is definitely inspiring to be around so many people who are there to compete at that level. 

Leadville during the 100 mile mountain bike race.

I then made my way to Denver via the Frasier Valley (where I spent last winter) and spent a few days running and exploring the surrounding high country.  After a final morning run on Berthoud Pass, I flew to Chicago.  This was my first trip home in over a year and a half.  I kept pushing it back, because I knew I would be going for my high school friend, Rocio’s, wedding at the end of August.  The whole trip was awesome.  I had tons of fun with my family, finally got to see Katy and Doug’s house, spent time with my Grandmother, Kali came to visit me from Ohio, and Rocio’s wedding was a great time and something of high school reunion for me.  The whole trip was really fun and really busy.   And the weather was super mild.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit half the people I was planning to, so I’ve decided (almost definitely) to spend the month of December there.     

Rocio at Burger King, right after her wedding ceremony.
(Picture by her husband, Abel)

Back to…Camp!
Just prior to leaving for Chicago, I applied for and got a fall seasonal job in Northern California.  Upon my return to Colorado I had one week to make it out here.  After retrieving Mama in Denver, I quickly made my way back into the hills.

On September 1, I again woke up on Loveland Pass, ready for the next phase.  No snow this time, but nice and blustery up there.  After breakfast with Wizard in Summit County and hitting all the sweet thrift stores in the Vail corridor, I slept on the Colorado/Utah border, before a huge push across Utah and Nevada the next day.  I took a new-for-me route across Nevada (RT. 50 instead of Interstate-80) and made it to Carson City that same night.  The next day I stocked up in Carson City and then made my way up to the incredible Tahoe Basin, where I spent three days running and swimming before moving into my current diggs.

Fallen Leaf Lake

I’m am currently back at the lovely Standford Sierra compound on Fallen Leaf Lake near South Lake Tahoe, California.  Since spending the spring of 2010 here, I knew it was only a matter of time before I made my way back to this special place.  It is an incredibly easy place to be, as work/home/play is all right here.  The hardest part is there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything we have access to.  So, until next time, I’ll be here, trying to do it all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Into A Painting

Me being normal near Crested Butte.
I've spent the last three weeks of summertime bliss in the the high country of Colorado, near Crested Butte and Aspen.  While "regaling you with these wonderfully long-winded boring stories of banal minutia" is tempting, I will resist and let the pictures do (most) of the talking.

Conundrum Creek Trailhead (leads to SWEET hot springs).  Near Aspen.
My friend, Ben, teeing off on the Mt. Crested Butte course.

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, near Aspen

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Same pond.

Maroon Bells

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Hills Are Alive...

(With Bluegrass, Greenness, and Endless Trails)
Near Pagosa Springs, Colorado
After a perfect April in the desert, I spent a few weeks formulating my next move.  The city (Denver) and the snow/mud (Leadville) provided the contrast that pushed me south into uncharted territory (for me). 

I left Leadville in the middle of May with no exact plans, but thought that it would take awhile, possibly weeks, to make it to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, my next race destination.  As I drove through the Arkansas River Valley I considered spending time in Buena Vista and Salida.  Both are perfect spring time spots; low, dry and littered with singletrack.  I had run a race in each of these towns already this year and while both are great spots, my unrelenting pursuit of new terrain led me right past both of them.  Same with the San Luis Valley.  Beautiful, but no urge to stop.  Although I wanted to be on dry trails, I had had enough of dessertyness and yearned for the alpine environment I feel most comfortable in. 

I had no idea what to expect from Pagosa Springs, but was hoping it would be all I was looking for.  Jackpot!  It appeared to be all that and then some.  Alpine, green, drier at the moment, than say, Leadville and new for me.  As I descended the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, I pulled over and put on the Sound of Music soundtrack.  It seemed fitting.  I knew instantly I was in the right place. 

Pagosa Springs has got a lot going for it.  There is small, touristy downtown complete with hotspring resorts, an awesome disc golf course and a whitewater park.  The majority of residents are sprawled out in the surrounding countryside among rolling hills and lakes.  It has some very suburban elements to it, but its greenness at the moment overpowered my usual distaste for these parts.  After walking around and reading flyers and posters, I realized I had come at a great time.  Besides the race that brought me there (four weeks from when I arrived), there seemed to be a fun event every weekend. 
Van down by the Piedra River
The following four weeks turned out to be some of the best yet in my van-dwelling days.  There are many contributing factors to this (possibly for another post), but that month is really when everything I ever wanted out of living outside came to full fruition.  I spent four or five days at a time in the San Juan National Forest outside of town, picking parking spots based on trailhead/hotspring proximity.  After a few, initial stormy days, followed by a few muddy days, the weather and trail conditions were perfect for the rest of my stay.

Pagosa Folk n' Bluegrass
Following my initial decision to go to Pagosa Springs for the race, I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was a small bluegrass festival there the weekend before the race.  Yes, please.  I was able to volunteer and in exchange for five hours of putting up fencing around the stage, I received a free pass to the two-day festival. 
The Campground

The Pagosa Folk n’ Bluegrass Festival took place on Reservoir Hill which is directly adjacent to downtown Pagosa Springs.  Reservoir Hill is a wooded hill, usually serving as a community park complete with a network of trails and a disc golf course.  For the festival is serves as a music venue and campground.  It could not be more perfect for a small festival.  It is spacious and shady, isolated, yet within walking distance to the hotspring resorts and other town amenities.  The festival itself was small (the smallest I have ever been to), chill, and family-oriented.  I hadn’t seen most of the 12 or so bands before.   An overall pleasant weekend. 

I spent the following week close to town, sleeping among and running on the trails the race would be on the following week.  I gained free admission to the Turkey Track Trail Marathon after contacting the race directors and helping out the night before and morning of the race (passing out packets).  I’ve meant to do that in the past, but never got around to it.  It was really nice to be more involved and to meet people.  Then I ran the race.  It was supposed to be a marathon, but turned into an ultramarathon for most of us, as we missed a turn and ran a few extra miles.  Although that definitely threw me off, it could not detract from the overall niceness of the course and event itself.  This crew puts on a great event.

The next morning I woke up early and started heading west.  As soon as I turned off the forest service road onto the highway, I got a flat tire.  Despite my fear of jacking Mama up, I didn’t have phone service, so got all the stuff out and was about to go for it, when two guys pulled over and did it for me.  Overjoyed by their kindness and the quickness of resolving the situation (my coffee was still hot!), I continued down the road feeling extremely happy.  Less than five minutes later, I passed a hitch-hiker and decided I needed to return the kindness.  The hitch-hiker, Jimmy, was just trying to get from his house to a store a few miles down the road.  After two minutes of conversation, it was evident to both of us we had a connection.  He offered to buy me breakfast, which I accepted, then took him back to his house.  After taking advantage of his shower, I was getting ready to head out, when Jimmy asked if he could come with me.  I could think of no reason to refuse him, considering I am constantly trying to recruit people to join me, we clearly had a lot in common and he could split the expenses.  Within the hour we were headed to towards my next destination...Telluride.
Jimmy. Telluride. Waterfall.
It took us few days to get to Telluride.  We spent a whole day at the Ouray Hotsprings soaking, getting a massage, and playing Frisbee.  We arrived in Telluride the night before my scheduled volunteer shifts, which would once again gain me entrance into a pricy event.  I was able to talk our way into a sold-out campground and we set home for the week. 
View from Ouray Hotsprings
Does it get any better?
This was my third pilgrimage to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the last time being five years ago.  Words can’t begin to describe the festival or Telluride itself.  It is perfection.  All my favorite bands.  Green, alpine lushness...  Yeah, I won’t even try.  But, it was extra nice this year because my aunt, Ginny and some of her friends were there.  To say the least...a good time was had by all.
Telluride From the Gondola

So, where to go from here? That is the hardest part. I know…it’s a rough life. I’ve had the most amazing last five or six weeks and summer is just starting. I have no plans. There are lots more races and music festivals, but none I’ve committed to yet. I’m looking forward to getting into the high country. It still might be a few weeks. I want to get into the hills between Leadville, Aspen, and Crested Butte. Working might be a good idea. I guess. But, whatever I end up doing, you can be sure to find me high in hills.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weather Snob

“I feel like I’m cheating at life,” my friend, Ben said to me, as we were about to drop into a steep untracked bowl at A-Basin after a short hike from the top of the lift.  I nearly keeled over in hysterical laughter.  I knew what he meant.  We were standing on the top of ridge, snowy peaks in all directions, hours into an afternoon of snowboarding in surprisingly excellent conditions.  That day we left the dry and dusty Western Slope, where we had been running and biking on luscious, desert trails for three weeks and now we were on top of the world with fresh snow.  It was fairly ridiculous, but cheating at life???  

Since there are no rules, I would disagree that one could cheat at life, but we might be cheating the seasons.  After six years of high country dwelling, this year I was ready and able to snub mud season.  Colorado's diverse landscapes make it easy, once I learned the weather patterns for different regions.  In a very short drive one can go from blizzardy paradise to sunny and 70°.  Having everything I own with me and fully supplied with gas, food and water at all times, allows me to find an awesome spot and then just stay there and take it for all it is worth until I’m over it or run out of something essential (like water or coffee).

Big Papa joins Camp Fancy-Free
This trip was especially luxurious as two friends, that I worked with this winter, joined me in their brand-new-to-them camper.  A kitchen and living room took the lifestyle to a new level of ridiculousness.  One month ago, we met up in Boulder, waited out a storm for a few days, ran on some trails, then caravanned to Moab

“What trails did you ride in Moab?” a hitch-hiker asked, while giving him a short ride.  “Uh, like, all of them,” Ben responded.   We spent about two weeks in the Moab area  and covered a lot of ground.  We slept mostly at trailheads and  would get up run or ride on a new trail, take a break, and then find another one.  Some were way beyond my biking capabilities,  so I would hide my bike behind a rock and then run the rest of it.  It was so fun.  Moab is giant playground.  Of course, we didn’t really ride all the trails, (there seems to be an endless supply) but we got around. 

Moab's Slickrock Trail
While in Moab, I ran a 9-mile race.  I had done the same race last year, when passing through on my way from Denver to South Lake Tahoe (where I spent last mud season).  While doing the same race course usually does not appeal to me, this one was especially fun, so I was excited to do it again and could not pass up the opportunity to do a race when I was there anyways.  The course was so fun (complete with a waist-high creek crossing and super-steep muddy ladder to the finish) that after an hour break Ben and I rode the same course on our bikes.  Running it was way easier for me. 

Tearing ourselves away from Moab was not easy but I was pumped for another race the following weekend in Fruita, Colorado.  Not knowing what to expect from Fruita, I made the couple hour drive eastward two days before the race.  Upon arriving, I instantly was overjoyed by the beauty.  While still deserty, it was a whole other kind of beautiful than Moab.  Less red rock and more green.  Very green with little purple and red flowers popping up before my eyes.  My excitement for the race and Fruita increased ten-fold and I had to hold back from the trails as I wanted to take it easy before the race. 

Finish line of a breathtaking course.
A couple days later I ran a 25-mile race on a spectacular loop.  The course climbed up and down the green, flower-covered hills, teetered on the edge a steep canyon walls, and towered above the Colorado River.  I was happy with my slow, sustained effort and just overjoyed to be running that far on dry trails this time of year.  After the race, I met back up with my cohorts and we found a trailhead to sleep at in preparation for the next days’ adventures. 

My recovery day from the race included a 12-15 mile (?) super-technical hike/run through two canyons that led to second highest concentration of arches outside of Arches National Park.  It was magnificent and exhausting.  We rested the remainder of the day, resupplied the following day, and headed to the North Fruita Desert area. 

The map showed a lot to trails in the area, but I had no idea, we were entering another paradise.  This area is another mountain biking playground, complete with a free campground and well-marked trails…everywhere.  The first trail I rode down, was the most fun trail I have ever rode on.  We stayed there until we ran out of water five days later. 

With no plans except for another race in a couple of weeks, we spent another night near Fruita trying to decide our next move.  Stay in this paradise or head to the high country paradise where it was dumping snow.  When it started raining we decided to head for the hills.  The rain made us realize how lucky we had been with the weather for three weeks.  Virtually perfect.  Warm and mostly overcast the whole time.  When the clouds would go away I realized it would be too hot without them.

After taking advantage of National Parks Week with a free rainy drive through Colorado National Monument, we passed another awesome looking network or trails, making plans for next time.  We spent the rainy afternoon in Grand Junction and then traveled eastward on I-70, stopping to sleep at very scenic rest area.  Sun the next morning was a pleasant surprise and we quickly made it into the high country and got in a few hours of incredible snowboarding before it started snowing again. 

Back in the hills, where we can do something with the precipitation.
We stayed up there, sleeping at spot 5-7 miles away from A-Basin, for a couple days as it continued to dump snow.  Then headed down to Denver via a stop at the dry trails of Matthew Winters Park for a run around the loop.  I’ve now been in Denver for a few days, relaxing and enjoying the greenness that has overtaken the city since I left it a month ago. 

Weather is just another thing to be snobby about.  While I can enjoy whatever conditions I find myself in, I thoroughly enjoy the freedom to mix and match.  I turn my nose up at mud, blazing heat, and above all, humidity.  Why sit around waiting for the rain to stop, when only a short drive away the rain is rideable snow and vice versa?  Weather can be added to the all-encompassing list of things that I am a snob about.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Reemergence into Fancy-Freedom

As I pulled up to the trailhead, I was overjoyed.  It was only 1:00 pm and I had already had a very eventful day.  Hours earlier I had been fired from my job.  Since my place of employment was also my  place of residence, I consequently had to pack up and move out instantaneously.  It took me a few hours to gather my belongings and then I departed Winter Park after a three month stint there.  Now, I was about to go for a run at Matthew Winter’s Park, in the foothills just outside of Denver.  Not only was I completely exhilarated from my newfound freedom, but I had just come way down in elevation and had been running on packed snow for the past three months.  It was going to be a great run.  I was now free as a bird and about to fly around the eight-mile loop.  And that I did.

Nice dusting at  the trailhead (Matthew Winter's Park)
My quick departure from the lodge was not unexpected. I would have been more surprised to have lasted until mid-April, as I had agreed to.  My employment was terminated after a confrontation that was fairly irrelevant, but reflective of bigger issues. I had to confront problems I have been trying to ignore or tolerate, because doing so allowed me to live a lifestyle I was thoroughly enjoying. Although so many things were perfect, I have the luxury to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice. Therefore, I do not have to take shit from anybody.

The moment it was decided, I was elated. This marked my re-entry into my cherished Camp Fancy-Free lifestyle, which I had temporarily traded in for another, not completely disparate lifestyle, but one altogether less open than I have become accustomed to.  The events of the morning and my spontaneous stop for this run had me instantly enjoying the freedom I had sacrificed the last three months.

As I flew around the loop, my thoughts only caused an increase in my pace.  I can go anywhere and do anything.  The unknown is upon me once more and I could not be happier about it.  My running is effortless at this point.  I bound down a steep downhill to the parking lot, catching sight of Mama.  I nearly pee my pants as I ponder the new and exciting adventures that will follow.

After the run, I went to Denver. I spent a few days with my aunt and cleaned and reorganized Mama before heading to Salida, Colorado for a trail marathon. Salida is a super-cool town in the Arkansas River Valley (same as Leadville, a former home of mine). Although dwarfed by snowy peaks, Salida is a much lower elevation than Leadville, and boosts a desert landscape. River sports, climbing, and mountain biking are enjoyed by the masses. Mild winter weather (it was about 65° race day) makes it the perfect trail running destination this time of year.

The race started and ended in the downtown and circumnavigated the adjacent hills on dirt roads and then onto a fairly new network of singletrack.  It was fun course.  Almost snow-free.  Although my current condition did not allow me to be competitive with my own times for this distance I was happy with my first longer effort of the year.  It felt good to get some climbing in (over 4000’) and to be on solid, dry ground after running on packed snow all winter.

San Luis Valley (just south of Salida)
After the race I headed a south to the Valley View Hotsprings.   I’ve been wanting to check these out for years and was surprised to learn I was close by.  They were everything people cracked them up to be and definitely necessary after the run.  I spent the night there, soaked more in the morning, then made my way to Leadville.

Valley View Indeed (from the hotsprings)
I have visited Leadville numerous time since living there.  It always feels like coming home and I have no doubt I will live there again.  I hung there with my friend, Wizard, for three days, enjoying the beautiful weather and then made my way back to Denver.

I initially came down here to spend St. Patrick’s Day with my aunt, Ginny and other relatives, but have now been here for a couple of weeks.  Without looking for it, fun and lucrative work has found me, and I’m trying to take advantage of it as well as all the big city offerings…live music, food, new friends, all-around massive consumption, etc.

It is looking like one more week here, before I start making my way west to the singletrack of the Fruita/Moab area via a couple days skiing, snowboarding and live music in the high country.   With a couple races coming up in that area, and the snow-free desert climate/landscape, it seems like a perfect place to hang this time of year and somewhere I’ve only spent limited time, but have always wanted to explore more.

While I shall continue my quest to always be "fancy-free" psychologically, regardless of my physical circumstances, I recognize how much easier it is when the lifestyle is commensurate with the state of mind.  And how sweet it is to be fancy-free once more. Don’t get me wrong; I had it good where I was. Not only did I have endless amounts of fun activities right out my door, but my restrictive schedule gave some much needed structure to contrast my usual haphazardly spontaneous existence. I like both. But there is nothing like one to remember how much I like the other. Short-term exposure to six-day work weeks, a power-tripping boss, and a more mainstream crowd than I’m used to, give me a greater appreciation for my unconventional and drama-free lifestyle. And, I missed Mama. I slept better in her my first nights back, than I did for three months. Home. Yeah.
Mama is ready to go.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Year in Feet

Although my transitional effort to wear more minimal shoes, could be described as nothing more than half-assed, the results have astounded me.  One year ago, after a few months in Guatemala of envying a friend’s pair and convincing myself, mentally, that they would fix all my problems, I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. 

I donned them around Denver for the month of March between snow storms primarily for dog walking and casual dress.  I continued to run in my bulky Asics road shoes.  It felt awesome to have the Vibrams on.  I instantly felt lighter and more ninja-like.  It seemed passively therapeutic.  My pinkie toe was the only resistance as it has lived under the toe next to it all my life and in the Vibrams is stretched out on its own.  A little seperation anxiety, I guess.

I spent the spring in South Lake Tahoe and again wore them sporadically between snow storms and for some of my housekeeping shifts.  As the weather got nicer they proved perfect for kayaking and paddle boarding. Finally, I started running short distances on the pavement in them, but still primarily wore the old road running shoes.

For my first few runs in the Vibrams I just ran two miles.  It felt unbelievably awesome.  I had been focusing on my posture and bio-mechanics, but with these shoes on it moved from a mental projection to my natural technique.  The road I lived on was windy with steep little rolling hills.  On the downhills my legs turned over so fast to protect my feet, I could hardly believe it.  I felt like a deer. 

I then made that mistake that I’ve heard many have also made.  Feeling so good in them, I over-ambitiously went from running two or three miles to eleven one day.  I was so excited to run on a trail that was finally snow free.  Everything felt incredibly grand until I hit the pavement for the final three miles home.  I tip-toed the last few miles thinking I might have to crawl.  My feet and calves hurt so bad the next few days, I could barely work.  I was starting to worry I had really hurt something, when after two or three days things started loosening up and I could tell everything was just really tight. 

After that episode I was scared to make that mistake again and stuck to a couple of miles at a time.  I then finally replaced my running shoes with a pair of running flats I found at an Addidas Outlet Store nearby that was having a tent sale.  I found exactly what I was hoping for; an extremely minimal running flat.  The only problem was that the only pair I found seemed way to big.  They felt good width-wise, so for $20 I went for it.  They turned out to be perfect.  Although too long, they felt better than any shoe I have ever worn.  I am now convinced I have always worn shoes that are too small (subconsciously trying to hide my jumbo, disproportionate feet).  I wore these shoes the rest of spring, all of summer and most of fall.  Through dozens of 20+ mile efforts, on super technical trails they held together.  They are still in one piece actually, but I got a new pair of Nike Lunarlites, also from outlet store, in the fall, to try a little more shoe.  These have a slightly thicker sole, but are still ultra light. 

It was very early on that I noticed results.  In the spring I stopped feeling lower back pain, an affliction I have suffered for over 14 years (stemming from a fractured tailbone).  This cure may also be attributed to a kidney cleanse I did at the same time, targeted at my lower back.  Unfortunately, I didn’t isolate the two treatments to determine if it was one or both that led to the disappearance of pain, but its gone.  It is the single most noticeable change I have ever created in my body.  And it happened so fast.  I went from having to take a couple days off every three or four weeks because my back would tighten up to not having the slightest feeling of pain in my back.  It gave me the confidence and realization that I can change anything in my body no matter how long it has been the way it is.  At the same time a four-year-old mild, but nagging, foot pain vanished, only to return whenever I put my feet in shoes with arch support.  It is really astonishing.

The other major, noticeable change is that my feet are longer now.  Not really what I was hopping for, but I’m happy to see my toes spreading out from the scruchieness that I subjected them to the last 28 years.  I already wore an 11 in womens.  Now I’m closer to a 12. 

I continued to wear the Vibrams through the summer, but mostly for non-running ventures.  My running became pretty inconsistent through the summer months of festival hopping and traveling.  I would go on a few really far runs a few times a weeks with no running in between.  I didn’t feel comfortable wearing the Vibrams on long runs.  And it became difficult to keep them clean enough to wear when living in the van.  After three of four days in them, I can’t stand how bad they smell and usually take a few days to address the problem. 

I initially thought deciding upon winter in the high country was sentencing the Vibrams to a winter in the closet.  I feared a bio-mechanical backslide as I was going to need to wear boots and more foot protection from the elements.  Luckily, I am able to wear the Vibrams to work in.  Unable to find a more protecting, yet minimal sole shoe for running in the winter, I’ve continued to wear the Lunarlites in the snow.  I just wear super thick polypro socks to keep my feet warm enough. 

My backsliding fears were in vain.  I have been able to continually improve my posture and bio-mechanics through the winter, although hints of my foot problem have resurfaced.  I am attributing that to ski boots, both downhill and cross country, which seem to directly correlate with the pain (more of a slight uncomfortableness).  It turns out I didn’t learn my lesson and again got over-ambitious and ran five miles in the Vibrams on a treadmill one day.  I couldn’t run for a week.  Hopefully, I got it through my thick skull that I need to ease into them, but that remains to be seen.

Overall, this whole process has amazed me.  While I was hoping this would fix some little tweaks I was suffering, I was not excepting this noticeable of a transition.   I have inspired myself.  The dream of perfect bio-mechanics is definitely attainable.  I highly recommend addressing your footwear if you have any bio-mechanical glitches.  Just learn from my mistakes and take it slow.    

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Perpetual Beginner

Being a beginner at anything can be a very humbling experience.  Starting from scratch, scares most off, with good reason.  It can be a lot of work, embarrassing, uncomfortable, frustrating, and time consuming.  Learning to telemark ski has been all of these things for me, in addition to strenuous and painful. However, after a few weeks of awkward spills and burning quads, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Why bother one might, and many do, ask?  I ask "why not bother?" Everywhere I look people are entrenched in the same-old routines day in and day out.  They inspire me.  I don’t want to that.  Non-stop learning seems the only path to avoiding this. 

Although I am a proficient snowboarder, I undoubtedly have room for major improvement and progression in that discipline. Maybe it is my limited attention span, but I’d rather be a beginner every year, than settle into any kind of routine or rut.  Besides, the grass is always greener.

When I’m snowboarding, I watch those skiers get off the lift and just head right down the hill.  No awkward balancing or cold butts while trying to strap in.  I want that.  Or when they hit a flat part and can just pole and skate their way back to the decline.  So jealous.  Now on skis, I remember the days of comfortable snowboarding boots and only schlepping a single object as opposed to four long, awkward pieces of equipment.  Good thing I can switch back tomorrow or the next day or whenever it dumps again. 

I’m slowly getting the muscle memory.  My only limiting factor is my quads.  I can only take two or three runs, before my legs burn so bad and I get sloppy.  In reality, the really sucky part only lasts a few days, if even.  Then progress becomes the biggest motivation. Seeing myself progress, at anything, is extremely encouraging and cyclical. The more I progress, the more I am motivated.  The more I am motivated the more I progress.  And the process is where the fun is.  Growth only comees from practice and time.  It is harly ever spontaneous.  It seems the longer the process, the bigger the reward.  The reward being growth.  And I choose growth over stagnation any day, awkward falls and all.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


As the mercury rises here in Winter Park, Colorado, I begin to thaw from a week a sub-zero temps. More manageable temperatures alllow for extended outside play and I find myself in an enjoyable cycle of snowboarding, telemark skiing, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and running.  Despite the packed schedule, overall, I would describe my winter experience, thus far, as extremely chill.

View from living room.
With the holiday rush behind us, work is also incredibly chill.  Basically just showing up for a few hours in the morning and a few at night gets me my montly salary, ski pass, room and board.  It is easy living.  Perhaps too easy.  While I think the routine is good for me and perfect for getting in shape, I don't know how long I will last.

Mama is just sitting out there in the parking lot, begging me to hop in and go find some adventure.  I'm an addict.  Although this place is everything I want, the unknown is more appealing.  Lack of funds are the only reason I can think of to stay.  And I want to become proficient at telemark skiing before departure.  Other than, please.

I do not yet know, what I'll do.  Stay or go?  Either will be fun.  Like most instances, I probably won't have to take any decisive action.  Something will give.  Until then, I'll be here...chillin'.

...and cleaning toilets.