Monday, August 31, 2009
Just in case.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, hon. kthxbai.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I started drinking beer at 4:oo--having waited a whole hour and a half.
Beer and birthday cake.
I'm wearing a bad Hawaiian Shirt, baggy khaki shorts and baggy boxers.
Did I mention they were baggy, even roomy or airy?
Very unlike my garb this morning.
72 miles of cycling in the liquid air on the coast: four hours, 18 mph average, balls hot, average heart rate of 148, intervals above 20 mph.
Did I mention "balls hot?"
A perfect end to a week with twelve and a half hours of training.
Three swims totalling 7000 meters.
Three runs and a brick including a 10.4 mile run with a heroic negative split.
Six hours on the bike.
I am so not ready for Ironman yet. Not even a pedestrian "just finish" effort.
But I think I can see it from here. Bring it on Coach Kris.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, "How much money is enough?"
His reply, illustrating the potential poison of material greed, was, "Just a little bit more."
At the risk of sounding like Gordon Gekko, I discovered something about greed this week. In triathlon, a little greed is good--at least with regard to the amount of effort you're willing to put out.
You see, I have a bad habit when I workout--especially in the dog days of summer. My mind is always doing the numbers. I know precisely when I get 1/5 or 20% of the way through the workout. I know when I am 1/3 or 33.33% of the way through the workout. I know when I am 2/5 or 40% through the workout, 1/2 or 50%, 2/3 or 66.67% . . . . .
You get the picture.
And at some point past 2/3, when the workout starts to get hard, I get to a point called "good enough." At that point, the intensity can sometimes wane, and the completion of the time or distance becomes a pedestrian affair of merely completing task--kind of like a felon whose sentence is coming to a close. I have perfect attendance, but it's no real credit to me.
And it happens in races too.
But I've discovered a secret this week. Maybe its because I still have thickened blood from Colorado. Maybe its because I am comfortable with higher heart rates after living in a place where I reached Zone 5 rolling out of bed at 9000 feet above sea level. Maybe its because Ironman is less than 100 days away. There is something about 140.6 miles that focuses the mind. But whatever it is, here's the secret.
When I reach the point called "good enough," my mind often thinks, "I've got x minutes or miles or meters left in this workout. This level of effort is really uncomfortable. I cannot sustain this level of effort for x more minutes or miles or meters. This is 'good enough.' Ease off the gas pedal."
But if you want to get that 90% of improvement that comes in the last 10% of the workout you have to push past "good enough." But pushing past "good enough" is not a matter of lasting until the end of the workout. That's too big of a bite to chew. Think about that bit and you'll choke.
But you only need to take a wee little bite. It's only a matter of lasting "just a little bit more." You can nearly always keep going for "one more song" on the ipod, or "one more light pole" on the course, or "one more length" in the pool without pulling the plug. And if you go "just a little bit more" you can find that rhythm that allows you to keep going further still. You find the turn that lets you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
You find the ability to finish the 4th and 5th of 5x300 at pace. You find the heart to negative split a 10 mile run by almost 7 minutes in heat that would choke an jungle cat.
It's not a matter of either pushing to the end or giving up. It's only a matter of pushing "a little bit more" past "good enough."
It works for triathlon training. It probably works for law and jobs and relationships too, I'm thinking.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Eeeez Wendesday, so eez day for st-r-r-r-r-rength training mit Miki.
"You know, my shoulder was kind of achy this morning in my swim workout. Way down inside, it feels kinda sore and stiff."
"Oh, we be car-r-r-r-reful, den."
"So do you think I should skip the workout?"
"No. No skip. In Amer-r-r-r-eekah, dee bourgeois gym r-r-r-rats, day no t-r-r-rain when eez leeetle bit uncomforTAHbull. But in Soviet R-r-r-russia, vee must to train de pain away."
"Sooooo, how exactly do we do that?"
"Today, dair eeez no pr-r-r-ressing ovah head. No heavy bench pr-r-r-r-esss. Vee use body weight. Vee vork mit rubber bands. Vee vork Swiss ball and planking. Vee vork core bahdee shtr-r-r-rength. Vee vork shoulder shtabileetee. Vee make shoulder varm, und stable, und flexible, und shtr-r-r-r-rong."
"You don't think maybe a rest would be a good idea?"
"Nyet. How you get better if you no vork?"
"Nyet. No rest. Vee vork. Den Vee shtr-r-r-r-retch you goot."
Apparently, inactivity is the opiate of the masses. Soviet shoulder feel better.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
So, Coach Kris wanted me to channel my inner Simon Lessing this morning and "go hard or go home." In order to fit in the 90 minute brick before the day job that pays for all this, I prepared all my gear and nutrition the night before, rolled from the rack at 0350, on the road by 0415 so as to arrive at Memorial Park and be wheels down by 0500.
Under normal circumstances, Memorial Park is an easy place to work out, filled with cars driven by regular runners and cyclists who know how to drive courteously and look for runners and cyclists. But when the whether is "non cold," i.e., too F-ING HOT To WORK OUT, the newbies come out in force. Herein, a few modest suggestions in the spirit of "share and share alike."
First, dear-invisible-stealth-mountain-bike-guy-wearing-all-black-and-riding-with-no-lights-no-helmet-and-no-speed at 0515 in the a.m.: I almost hit you on my bike. There's no way the automobiles could see you. When you get ironed out, it will be your fault, and then your default will rub off on me if I ever have an incident: "I didn't see him. He swerved in front of me. He came out of nowhere. He wasn't obeying the law." If you'll wear some lights and a helmet, I'll promise not to be "that guy." You know the one: the holier-than-thou elitist who screams by you on a $10,000 TT bike with race wheels and screams "on your left" before lecturing you about blinky lights and the lore of cycling. Just think "Christmas Tree" or "Highway Emergency Beacon" and you'll start to understand what you ought to look like when riding in the dark.
How 'bout that?
Second, all you internal combustion junkies who were u-turning in front of me and backing into parking spaces on the wrong side of the road in order to avoid walking an extra 30 yards prior to your "workout," how 'bout you just park a little further away, obey the rules of the road, and don't endanger my life in order to serve your personal convenience and laziness of epic proportions. If you do, I'll promise that I won't judge you out loud or get blood all over your fancy car WHEN MY HEAD EXPLODES.
Awesome. Have a great day. Thanks and come again.
Monday, August 24, 2009
We were told that Friday's thunderstorms would give way to drier and cooler air -- a decent weekend for outdoor training.
A cruel hoax, that was.
It was almost 80 when the sun came up on Saturday. Mold spores were heard to complain about the mugginess of the conditions. By the end of the day it was in the 100s.
Sunday was even warmer and even more humid. I went for a wee bit of a run and nearly killed two Austinites who were foolhardy enough to attempt a long run in our fair city.
I have lived here for 15 years now, and this is the worst I have ever seen it. You can't even escape the swelter by becoming a vampire and training completely in the dark. You need F-ING GILLS and a respirator to filter oxygen from this putrid, pollution-choked, butylene/toluene/ethylene/xylene-infested, particulate-laden liquid atmosphere.
Except if the escalator is not moving, in which case rather than climb one flight of air conditioned stairs we stare dumbfounded and blink three times before waddling our air conditioned arses to the freight elevator.
I need a hug.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
If you watch American television, and if you're an American the chances are very high that you watch A LOT of American television, you've doubtless seen the Sprint "direct connect" commercials about "what if delivery people ran the world," or "what if lumberjacks ran the world," etc. The object is to sell "direct connect" cell phones by applying the problem solving ethos of a certain profession like lumberjacks to problems outside lumberjacking such as family court.
I want to ask a different question, and that question is:
I'm going to apply this question to the issue of health care financing and reform. The purpose, beyond being to entertain, is to point out questions and issues that should be front and center in any discussion about health care, and which neither the agents of reform nor the opponents of reform are adequately addressing.
First, if we know anything, we know that triathletes are the science geeks of the athletic world. We are, after all, the folks who brought heart rate monitors, power meters, aero bars wetsuits and aero helmets to the mainstream endurance sports. Thus, if Dave Scott or Mark Allen were tasked with overhauling health care, they would first take note of certain laws of economics and policy that are as immutable as Newton's laws of motion. Keep these laws in mind throughout the rest of the rant, because just as physical laws of the universe affect how you move through space, these laws affect whether any policy idea is a good idea. The laws are two:
1. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH.
2. YOU GET MORE OF WHAT YOU SUBSIDIZE AND LESS OF WHAT YOU TAX.
Taking the first "law": there is no free lunch. This is really just the law on which all of economic theory rests. Economic choices are merely the result of individuals or groups with unlimited desires deciding how to prioritize those desires consistent with their limited resources. The point of this next part of the rant is just to get you to put down the electric Kool-aid. What I hope you conclude is this: we have to carefully and wisely marshal very limited resources to handle a very expensive problem.
Electoral politics is the art of persuading individuals and populations that this "no free lunch" law does not exist: you can have everything you want and there will be no consequences and and it will not cost you anything. It has taken numerous forms over the decades regardless of party:
Reagan: the promise to eliminate the deficit by cutting waste and fraud in government.
Bush 41: "Read my lips: no new taxes."
Clinton: Promising consequence-free FHA home loans to low income families -- who are now in default at astounding rates to the detriment of the world economy.
Bush 43: American troops will be greeted as liberators in a short, clean Iraqi campaign.
And not to pick on the Messiah or anything, but the campaign statements on health care are full of this sort of thing: We will cover everyone and it won't really cost anything because we'll pay for it by eliminating (i.e., Ronald Reagan) waste and fraud in Medicare and (i.e., Bill Clinton raising taxes on "The Rich."
No one should have believed the "free lunch" promises from any of this President's predecessors, and one should not believe the current variety now. The plain fact of the matter is that you could confiscate all the income of everyone making over $250,000 and not pay for the current federal budget without the expense of health care. Moreover, Medicare reimbursement rates are already so low that medical students wishing to make a living no longer pursue gerontology as a specialty. As a result, the average gerontologist in America is himself rapidly approaching retirement age.
A scientific triathlete, therefore, upon hearing such nonsense would immediately conclude that someone had just attempted to repeal the laws of gravity by the power of his own voice or told him he could expect to do an 8 hour Ironman without significant training. He or she would conclude that rather than count on this coming true, we must take for granted that "there is no free lunch." Again, the conclusion: we have to carefully and wisely marshal very limited resources to handle a very expensive problem.
So, how do we spend currently our health care resources in this country? The answer is fairly clear: we spend an astounding amount of money on lifestyle-induced chronic diseases--expensive, life-long illnesses we acquire by our own choices.
Let's take just one example: Type II Diabetes. According to one source I heard this week (and I'm sure it depends upon how one counts), 40% of all of our health care expenditures are related to treating this one condition and all of its complications. There are an estimated 23.6 million people in the U.S. (7.8% of the population) with diabetes with 17.9 million being diagnosed, 90% of whom are type 2. With prevalence rates doubling between 1990 and 2005, CDC has characterized the increase as an epidemic.
It's no mystery where Type II diabetes comes from.
Type II diabetes is the type you choose--the type you earn through lifestyle, diet, and obesity. If (as is reported) health care is 20% of our Gross Domestic Product, this means we spend approximately 8% of our entire gross domestic problem on this one aspect of being lazy fat arses.
65% of American adults are overweight or obest. That's nearly two thirds, people. This means it is normal to be unhealthy. The flip side is that it is abnormal to be a healthy weight. In fact, only one state (God bless you Colorado) has an obesity rate lower than 1 in 5:
You can click here to see how the obesity rates have exploded over time. During that time, Type II diabetes, long thought to be a disease of adulthood, has appeared with alarming frequency in children as childhood obesity rates have risen.
And this is just one example of one lifestyle-induced chronic disease. Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are also related to osteoarthritis, cancer, heart disease, depression, disability insurance claims, blah blah blah. It's no secret how to prevent any number of conditions of this type:
Healthy habits and choices--often times with lots of outside support and intervention because this is admittedly hard work. This brings us to the second law, which works on opposition to making hard but good choices. We not only fail to enable the making of good choices, we are actually paying people to make bad choices.
If someone else pays for the financial consequences of your bad lifestyle choices, you are insulated from the costs. You have less incentive to choose wisely. Even worse, if the government is paying those costs with other people's money--healthy people's money--the government has instituted a policy of taxing health and subsidizing chronic disease. (This same phenomenon was reflected in the problems behind the fee for service system: the doctor gets paid more for doing more, whether or not it is truly necessary, and the patient does not care because the costs were largely born by his employer and his insurer.) This will not "bend the curve" of health care inflation. To the contrary, it will keep it on the rise. And back to "no free lunch," at one point, it has to be paid for.
So, if Triathletes ran the world, what would they do? They would turn these laws to work on the problem. If poor lifestyle choices were directly reflected in the cost of one's health care, you would be get less of what you tax. If it were expensive to be fat--instead of the government paying for your electric scooter or your insulin--people would get skinny. If your coach and your masseuse and your physio were fully paid for, you'd get more of what you subsidized.
Mark Allen or Dave Scott might well make your diabetes coverage contingent upon inspecting your training log and food diary. But an insurer (government or private) might well make your health premiums increase as your BMI increases, or might have higher deductibles for all lifestyle diseases. (Our current insurance plan already charges me an exhorbitant deductible for Mrs. Greyhound's home injectibles for a non-lifestyle disease because it is trying to make insulin injections more expensive.)
"How dare they," some of you are saying. "It's none of the government's business how much I weigh or what I eat or what my cholesterol numbers are." Ah, but there's the rub, my friend. This is the flip side of taking the government's money: if Uncle Sam pays the piper, Uncle Sam gets to call the tune. And the closer we move to a single-payor system, the more Uncle Sam will call the tune. Indeed, it is actuarially sound for any insurer, government or otherwise, to charge high risk individuals higher premium. It would be morally hazardous and financially foolish to institute a system that failed to do so. That's why teenagers and habitual speeders pay more for auto insurance and why it costs more to insure a house on the coast or on a fault line. Duh.
The other half of you are asking, "Why don't we do that already? Why should I pay for the health care costs of some fat arse with a smoking habit?" Why? Because it is currently illegal to do make individual risk assessments in group health insurance.
Because of the historical accident of wage and price controls during WWII, most Americans get their health insurance through their employment. (Employers of the era dcould not give raises, but they had to compete for scarce labor while the men were off in Europe, and so they began offering health care coverage. We never broke the habit). Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and other federal laws that regulate employee welfare benefits, the insured groupr can only be determined by those who are "active at work" when they sign up for benefits, and risk analysis is illegal. Oh, and all that talk about "pre-existing conditions," such exclusions are already illegal under the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPPA) for employee health insurance. (I don't recall the President pointing that out in selling insurance reform to town halls full of people who mostly get their insurance from private employers.)
Ever heard anyone on either side of the debate talk about ERISA or HIPPA or the moral hazard or lifestyle chronic disease. I didn't think so. As long as they don't, we are courting a system that is primed for demographic and actuarial and political melt down.
Most people in this economy do produce and are reasonably satisfied with their health care. (Granted, many are unaware of the problems baked into the system and have given it very little thought). Among the people in this system are a whole gaggle of baby boomers who are getting older and largely fatter and sicker by the day (except for those baby boomers who can and do regularly kick my slow skinny arse at the races). In the big picture, we are contemplating taking money from people who produce (and from people who don't need health care, for that is the nature of insurance and risk spreading) in partial subsidy of people who don't produce and who, in the final analysis choose to be sick. The solution is not to fail to provide health coverage at all, for "there is no free lunch" and those costs will be born in some fashion. But "free health care for everyone" is not an option either.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Massive thunderheads tower over Southeast Texas tonight--beautiful, dangerous, unavoidable. They formed giant pockets of black boiling danger offset against other sections of sky that were clear, blue and free of drama. This happens when things change, when hot moist air filled with energy shoots skyward upon meeting cold dry air sweeping in from elsewhere. The change and the difference creates noise and electricity and energy, and sometimes even destruction.
The opposite of these storms is a dome of high pressure that remains static while air and weather rotates around it. In the spring time, it can be warm, mild and pleasant. In summer, it is stale and oppressive, baked with pollution and heat and suffering.
I love a good thunderstorm to clear all that away, but I found myself wishing tonight for some stagnation and stasis. I was wishing that things could just stay the same.
I don't like the role reversal that is happening between my father and me. I don't like being the protector or the adviser for the man I used to think was the toughest dad amongst all my friends' dads. (I was wrong, of course. He is small and slight of stature just like me.)
It is uncomfortable to watch him decrease and need my help, to see him stumble on a leg that no longer obeys him, to have him seek after my approval as if I were the parent.
We went to the gym this morning. It should have been fun, but it was weird. We've never really recreated to any great extent together. He only did yard work when I was living at home. And it would have been unfamiliar enough this morning if we had got on as equals, for we've never really done that either.
It's not some power trip or ego thing. It's just that since I left home in 1985, we've not spent much time together and have never since lived in the same city. I did my best to be pleasant (and I succeeded) but the dynamic was clearly of me being the dominant partner, and he seeking my approval. And I did not like the reversal at all.
And tonight, quite the opposite. After a very pleasant dinner out with both his sons and their families, I could tell it hurt his feelings when I so casually paid for dinner rather than allow him to buy as he would have twenty years ago. I wasn't a pig about it, but I just make it a practice to get the check if I let Superpounce order King Crab legs and desert. It still hurt his feelings.
Thirty years ago, it seemed that nothing would ever change. Grandmother and grandaddy went to the office every day until some time in July or August. We, cousins all, got in their van every summer and drove off on the Great American Road Trip to Yellowstone or New Mexico or some such place. Five generations of family would gather around the table for every birthday and holiday--FIVE generations of which I was the last.
Now it is gone. They are gone. And more of it disappears every day. Even the ones still here are not the same people. Great grandparents become a more and more distant memory. Grandmother and grandaddy are more vivid, but all that is left are pictures. I have parents who I scarcely recognize as having raised me. And they do not know who I've become or what enervates me. I am the father to my daughter and now to my father as well. And I can feel seeds of my own returning dependence--the exhaustion at day's end, the arthritic pain in my hands and wrists, the faltering steps when climbing out of bed before dawn.
Massive thunderheads tower over Southeast Texas tonight--beautiful, dangerous, unavoidable.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The power was out today in the Pennzoil building where my gym is located.
In Amer-r-r-r-reeeKAh, vee must to haff Car-r-r-r-r-rbon footpreent to exercise. Dis iz why vee stand in lobby and looook up at gym on second floor when dair iz no electric powah.
But I t-r-r-r-rain mit Miki, who iz from
In Soviet Russia, vee do not need elevators to get to gym. In Soviet Russia, vee take stairz.
In Amer-r-r-r-reeeKAh, gym no work without electr-r-r-r-ricity. Vee must to haff zee bourgeois r-r-r-r-ock musik. Vee must to haff tr-r-r-r-readmills with individual television screens with bourgeois TV r-r-r-r-r-eality shows und zee MTV videos. Where to plug bourgeois headphones if dair is no electr-r-r-r-ricity?
But in Soviet Russia, gym still work without electr-r-r-r-r-ricity. Gravity still work. Kettlebells still work. Free weights still work. Stairs still work.
Gr-r-r-r-reyhound still work.
Clean und snatch.
Russian twist (of course).
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Her biggest concern right now is to make sure her dog, Asher, is getting enough exercise. Her face and jaw are in the early healing stages, and she has been advised to stay completely out of the sun so that the scar tissue doesn't get discolored. She's also still on some heavy meds, so should not be walking a HUGE dog around. While her local friends have been getting out to her place to walk Asher 2-3 times a day, it's not easy for many to do that during the week.
Coach Tammy in Austin is in contact with a dog walking service that will be able to take Asher to the dog park and supplement what AJ’s local friends are able to do.
It would also be nice to have a professional house cleaner go to AJ’s place and make it squeaky clean, especially since so many people are coming and going. If nothing else, it is doubtful she'll feel up to cleaning for a while, so this would take that off her mind.
Tammy is going ahead to arrange these services on faith that many people will respond. If you can send $5-15 or whatever is within your means, please do so we can help AJ get through this horrible incident. Tammy will buy a card and put everyone's name on it. Send checks payable to:
PO Box 7463
Austin, TX 78713
Keep AJ in your thoughts and prayers. She's healing great, but concerned about how she will look and how well she will heal. It's too early to tell her it's going to all be alright... but it will.
Yesterday: got up but was greeted with an unexpected rest day on Training Peaks.
Got up at 0400: Check.
Swim workout in hand: Check.
Psyched myself up for 2800m of short, hard, smack down intervals that would be hard to maintain: Check.
Business attire packed: Check.
Swim equipment packed: Check.
Out the door at 0445: Check.
But why are all those people standing around outside L.A. FATness? Why are we not going inside?
Prolly 'cause the employee who has to hold down two jobs to make ends meet did not (perhaps could not) get up at 0400 to get the club opened on time.
SON OF A . . .
If I don't work out soon, my head's going to explode.
Monday, August 17, 2009
But Coach Kris has taken recovery to a new level. I have even less training this week than last.
C'mon, Coach. **tap** **tap** **tap**
Is this thing on? After three weeks of living above 9000 feet, I feel like a super hero with my freakish extra red blood cells. I'm ready to pour it on. Let's DO this Ironman thingy.
MORE recovery? Only 5 and a half hours of training this week? I ought to be doing that on Saturday alone. It's less than 15 weeks away now. Shouldn't I be smashing myself?
OK, yeah, so I had 19 and a half hours in one week in Colorado. I rode about 300 miles in a couple weeks and climbed 15,000 feet on the bike and scaled a Fourteener.
But . . . but . . . BUT . . .
I'm sure Coach Kris has an evil plan and is ever so much more expert than I am, . . . .
BUT . . . .
Put me in, Coach. I'm ready to play.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
My base fitness is good, but I am not in race shape. I'm not hard and lean and hungry. So, it's accountability time. Time to get focus and honesty and intensity back into the workouts after some Summer doldrums. Time to get control of the fuel system. Drop the nonessentials and the alcohol and the stubborn soft spots. There will be time for leisure and waste and softness and idleness and slack in December. Now it is time to get all parts of life organized around getting myself across the line as quickly as I can--while keeping the home fires burning at the same time.
So, watch this space. You are my accountability partners in this venture, and although it will not make for thrilling reading necessarily, I intend to post honestly what I'm doing and failing to do, not because my training is impressive. There are many who do more and faster than I do. I will post it here because I want someone looking over my shoulder.
Character is what you do when nobody is watching. I don't want to risk any failure due to lack of character. I'd rather be watched so I don't have to find out what I'm necessarily made of. So, if you don't mind, watch and hold me to account.
This week? Coach Kris prescribed some recovery from the Colorado Trip on which much epic cycling, hiking and trail running occurred. Fewer hours this week but some pretty good intensity in the medium distance ride and run this weekend.
Total Training Time: 9 hours this week.
3 swims for a total of 7600 meters.
3 runs for a total of 17 miles.
3 bikes for a total of 64 miles.
In the next 15 weeks we have to get from half-iron fitness to full-iron sharpness. C'mon, Coach Kris. Pour it on and let's get busy.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
As I start this, I am on my way down from the height of Breckenridge, Colorado, back to sea level in Houston, Texas. I am truly in between.
Part of me wants to stay up here or near hear forever. Sure, its understandable to want to stay on vacation, but I mean more than that. I’d like my life and work to be in the mountains. I’d like my view to be far and vertical rather than restricted by my own yard fence or the roof line of the neighbor’s McMansion.
And yet I wonder if it is even possible to bring my life and work to the mountains, or if I’d really want to. There’s something about being in the high country that does not tolerate normalcy and work-a-day stuff.
If you are cycling a mountain pass, or running a trail at 10,000 feet, or riding 100 miles through a valley and into a canyon or especially if you are climbing a “Fourteener,” it seems like certain things melt away. Sure, you can distract yourself with the fun of biking and running and taking pretty pictures, but there seems to be more than that.
Certain concerns strangle for lack of oxygen. Certain modern pollutants and whirlygigs are choked out by the sharp purity of human powered locomotion, subsumed in footsteps and pedal strokes and energy created by life rather than by burning former life. Some anxieties cannot compete for attention when more important things to decide--things like where your next footstep goes in the next millisecond whilst suspended in mid-air running a trail or how strong to push off in order to maintain an aerobic burn rate. Divided focus is not a luxury you can afford at times like those. And in the end some nonessential things are just too heavy to be carried when the grade is steep enough and the challenge high enough.
But then again, some of those things you forget or leave behind while climbing are not disposable. My main job is not leisure athlete. My real job is dad and husband. I perform my daily tasks as appellate law nerd to fund those dad/husband responsibilities, and I have not yet mastered the art of providing home and hearth in a manner that is consistent with abandoning the sultry flatlands of Houston. There is some chance I could master that balance if I put my mind to it, but therein is difficulty and much inertia.
Houston is easy and familiar and cheap, if hot a miserable four months a year. There is a big house and a big yard and a new public school and a good job. If I consulted a headhunter, I could doubtless find some type of acceptable position suitable for an uber law nerd to keep us clothed and fed and comfortable in Boulder or Denver. But how much smaller would the house be? Would the schools be as good? How much more time or how much less money or how much more hassle would a new job be? How fair to ask Superpounce to uproot from a good group of friends at age 12? And to be fair, I have friends too. I am reluctant to leave them, even with Colorado in the balance.
The consensus for a move is not there as of now, and though I could probably force the issue economically, I don’t want the weight of such a unilateral decision when (as inevitably occurs with any move) the pack opines, “I wish we were back home.”
And so I wait and wonder. Can it occur? Will it occur? Am I “balancing” or copping out?
All the while the mountains are there. They beckon and wait and they will be there whenever I return. They’ll still be there. They’re always there.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
Mother Nature can be a dangerous bitch in Texas, but only once every few years when there is a tornado or a hurricane or if you forget to hide inside from her during the summer months.
In Colorado, her beauty and her danger are both in full flower--every day. In large part, this is because the ground forgets to stay "down." It tips up at dizzying angles as forces in the earth collide and bang the mountain plates together, thrusting them skyward.
Because ground is "up" instead of "down" sometimes, you can't see the thunderstorm, hiding behind the peaks. White fluffy clouds sneak over, barely scraping the tops of the mountains and looking for all the world like innocent cotton swabs. But in an instant the wind changes and the cotton swabs give way to cold blankets of coal-colored water, spewing rain and hail and even snow in July.
And you try to escape, but you can't. Although you had dressed for a cold ride, it is not enough. You are clammy with sweat and overheated after climbing 4 thousand feet from the valley floor at Dillon over Swan Mountain Road and thence to the Continental Divide at almost 12 thousand feet.
But at the top of the pass, there is no shelter from the wind, which is now blowing at 30 miles per hour, air temperature 40 degrees, cutting right through to the sweat congealing on your chest. You snap a couple of pictures and try to dive back to Keystone and the warmth of the Starbucks store.
But on the way down, your tires are getting wet and you dare not bank fully through the turns, lest your tires slide out from under you and gravity takes its toll. And the slower you go the longer you will be in the cold. But the faster you go, the colder you are. And your front tire is shaking at 35 miles per hour because you cannot stop shivering.
And you always do these climbs, because descending is not "real" if some bored teenager rents you a townie or mountain bike with a comfort seat and drives you to the top of a pass. And riding just isn't the same where the horizon and mother nature are predictable. It is the risk of not overcoming that gives the avoidance of failure some taste. And it tastes good. Not sweet. More complicated than that. But good.
You can see opportunity for more taste all around. Turn up the valley and head toward Breckenridge and you cannot help but see a rocky monolith towering over the peaks making op the ski area. That, pictured above, is Quandary Peak.
Quandary gives you over 14 thousand feet of gravity to play with. It is the tallest point in the Ten Mile Range in Summit County, Colorado. And without all that oxygen weighing you down, thoughts are clear. Not terribly lucid, but clear. At least at the time.
Tomorrow morning, at first light, three Ironman finishers will go out to play. Why do we do all that training and nonsense? Put this down as one of the reasons.