As someone who has managed to make a career out of running around mountains, longevity is crucial. Though I know this career won’t last forever, I at least want to make sure that the inevitable end is on my own terms, and I’m not forced out of competition by my inability to compete any longer. That latter scenario can most often happen through physical or mental burnout. Given my age and lack of injuries, at the immediate time mental burnout is more of a worry, and I protect against it militantly. Fortunately I don’t have any worries right now about burning out – in fact I’m more psyched the ever – but like in a race where I eat the most when I feel good to prevent bonking, just so do I need to stoke the fire most when I’m psyched on mountains. That way I can maintain the stoke indefinitely. Everything is perfect right now, from the weather to my fitness to the sport, so I’m going for it full speed ahead. Here is a breakdown of my immediate plans:
- Bike a long way
- Climb several big peaks (at once), in a state with fewer than one million people
- Step up my technical climbing abilities.
- Networking, baby
- Maintain online credibility (not likely)
- Grow a beard (really not likely)
- Read some good books
- Travel to a foreign land and learn a foreign language
As you can see, I have a lot on my plate right now. And I can’t wait! This is the time to go big and accomplish all those goals that have been laying dormant for months. Having completed Hardrock, I have if anything experienced a surge of enthusiasm for mountain sports. But, once again, by tempering the passion I can prolong it. So I’m going to take a short break from strictly running, focusing instead on bicycling and climbing. In this way, by the time I need to train again for fall racing, the stoke will be there ready to go.
Interestingly, the San Juans seem to have lessened their grip on my heart. They are the mountains in Colorado that introduced me to ultrarunning and have harbored my passion for the past two summers while I trained for Hardrock. The time I have spent running and hiking through that mountain range is unequaled in both time and quality anywhere. Yet the time has come to move to the next goal, and the San Juans just can’t support that new goal. I want to climb big peaks, and while the San Juans are by no means small, their quality of rock is too poor to make them worthwhile. Many an adventure can be had in their depths, but for real alpine climbing I need to look elsewhere. So I’m turning to the Tetons for now. They offer much of what the San Juans have given me – vast landscapes of pristine beauty and extreme topography – but with the added bonus of high quality rock. On their slopes I can take my running fitness to technical climbing and start to expand my boundaries as an athlete. The lines separating each sport are starting to blur, and I intend to be at the forefront of that movement.
The most important thing in the world is to love what you do. As someone who has managed to make a career out of running around mountains, that has the potential to be a problem. But for now I couldn’t be happier, and I see no reason why this should change. Wild places have a healing power that equally builds us up as it breaks us down. Longevity lies in understanding that balance.