Monday, October 7, 2013

Across Blue Skies: 2013 Blue Sky Trail Marathon

(photo courtesy of Ultrasignup)

Since moving to Colorado, my desire to run races had pretty much dried up. It wasn't that I didn't want to run, quite the contrary, but rather that the notion of trying to put in hard efforts seemed to contradict peacefully absorbing the beauty of the mid west. In August, I once again attempted (and failed) at the Leadville 100, only to find it was a horribly managed event, and from the perspective of personal gratification, it wasn't even enjoyable. An epic train wreck, plain and simple. The whole experience left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, and after a dreadful year of running, I really wanted to just be able to run slow and happy on my terms.

But, I had a change of heart when several friends of mine signed up for the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. The entry was cheap, it supported the local community, and it was practically in my back yard. I was already familiar with most of the course and knew it would offer a good challenge and the low key kind of running I wanted. In many ways, it is races like this that got me into running trails and ultras, and definitely not the big productions full of pomp and circumstance.

The event itself was everything I had hoped for. The course typically has 3,300 feet of vertical gain, but a last minute re-route brought the total to 3,700. The re-route, which organizers initially thought shortened the course by 0.3 miles actually made it a tad longer than the original 26.5 route. Various GPS's at the finish recorded anything from 26.7 to an even 27 miles. The course offered a great mix of steep climbs, rolling terrain, and technical rock gardens. In the history of the race, nobody has ever qualified for Boston, and it probably takes most runners at least an hour longer (if not a lot more) than their typical road marathon times.

I found this race to be very well organized and friendly. There was water and food pretty much guaranteed every 4-5 miles. I couldn't have asked for better weather either with a starting temperature of around 39 degrees and rising to mid 60's at noon. In fitting fashion the skies were also crystal clear blue, which certainly added to the appropriate nature of running along the Blue Sky trail. Nick Clark and the Gnar Runners put on a quality event.

As far as my race, I can't complain. I started off pretty slow and finished strong. It was my slowest marathon time ever, but considering the nature of the course, I was fairly pleased with the effort. Running is starting to be fun again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Unreachable Treasures

As a child, I used to build cities. They were great big cities forged by the creative capacity that only a child could conjure. My sister and I would gather every chair, blanket, and table in the house until we had the entire living room covered with our giant “city”. Back then, I didn’t have to place parenthesis around the word “city”, because in our little minds it was as real as we made it. We weren’t living in someone else’s world, but rather living in a world we designed by our own mechanations.

Then, we grew up.

Somehow over the years, after the classroom educations, I found myself glittered in business casual, sipping starbucks coffee, and sitting in the fumes of beltway traffic. I’d ride out the congestion, and if I was lucky, I’d catch a glimpse of the sunrise peeking through the city’s smoggy haze. Then, for the next eight to ten hours, my day was spent in a windowless office gazing at a computer screen so intently that my vision would blur if I pulled my stare away for even a moment. In the winter I would leave for work as the sun was just cresting the morning skyline, and when I exited my office I would be greeted by a chilly nightscape of high rises and construction. Every day, I knew I was not built, designed, or destined for this limited existence called “life”. I was now a mere subject in someone else’s world.

One day opportunity knocked and the mountains called. After several years of setbacks and hesitation, I finally answered.

I’ve been in Colorado for just over two months now, and I can honestly say I have done more in that period of time than many people who have spent their entire lives here. It seems that there are places wild enough in their own nature that it mimics the untame aspects within myself. I have climbed 14,000 foot mountains, hiked precarious cliff side trails, and traversed snowy passes in the alpine wilderness. There is something quite fulfilling about feeding into our more primal state. We were not meant to sit for hours on end staring at computer monitors. When I peer into the chasms of wondrous mountain lakes and arĂȘtes, part of me is happy to acknowledge that this was what I was designed for. Man was meant to explore and venture the great sweeping landscapes of our country.

The many hours of hiking, some solitary, and some filled with jovial banter, have none the less given me great moments of introspection and reflection on life’s matters. I’ve never been a fan of material objects, and while I sometimes hypocritically accept more mundane luxuries, I can’t say I have ever desired a “luxurious lifestyle”. I have no want, or need for an expensive car, expensive clothes, or a monstrosity of a home that I couldn’t singularly maintain. At some point material items are just a means of spending excess income and finding instant, but short lasting gratification. Before you know it your items become to own you and they become nothing more than a metaphor for how you wish to be perceived. All things will become dust.

I consider myself a rich man, but where does my wealth come from? In my 32 years of life, I have seen and experienced things that many people never will. Some corporate fat cats, with all their money and possessions, will never see some of the places I have seen, nor be able to say they have done what I have done. No flood, nor flames can ever destroy my treasures because they are truly stored in a place where nothing can ever touch them. Life’s most valuable things will always be the intangibles, and yet it’s so amazing how often people misplace their interests in the ephemeral. When people wonder why I hike and run the distances and elevations I do, I simply consider that very moment when I reach a summit. In that brief instance I have access to a view and experience that money can literally not buy. Priceless, and yet there I am.