Weekly Round-Up #11

I love a good, relevant climbing article, and the guys over at TensionClimbing, nailed it. With a keyboard and blank screen, they set out to write “The Rules” of climbing with the intention of making us all better climbers. My favorite, by far, is #6, mostly because I need to constantly be reminded of it (even if it really is a high-gravity day…)

RULE #6: Stop complaining. You’re too short. You’re too tall. Your hands aren’t big enough for that pinch. Your fingers are too big for that crimp. Stop it. Take a look around. We all have our own unique proportions that come with different advantages and disadvantages. We can all see that you can’t span the move that the 6ft tall guy doesn’t even have to think about. We can all see that you can only fit 3 fingers on the hold that the 10 year old girl can shake out on. We get it. Now figure it out…or quit. Quitting is always an option, but it is the process of “figuring it out” that is valuable, whether you send or not.

Why climb the Grand Teton once when you can climb it twice? In one day? And then, why climb it twice, when you can climb it three times? IN ONE DAY! Ryan Burke thinks “it’s an insult to the people who came before me to not take it a little farther.” Which is why he’s also going to pursue a South-to-North speed traverse of the Wind River Mountains. Personally, I’m thankful people like him are pushing the sport so people like me don’t have to.

In my short lifetime we’ve gone from breastfeeding being taboo, to women taking pictures breastfeeding atop Mount Yotei in Hokkaido, Japan. What a time to be alive. In this incisive and perspective-widening article, Leah Story speaks about being a new mom and breastfeeding in the backcountry. “Being a breastfeeding mom in the mountains isn’t a superhuman feat,” she explains, and being in the backcountry is about preparation. Breastfeeding is merely an extension of that.

Tinder, Bumble, and now Strava? The app meant for tracking vert, mileage, and activity is quickly turning into an arena for matchmaking, competition, and friendship. With Strava, you can post where you ran, how it felt, and pictures for accompaniment. You can also see what others post, like their posts, and so on. Zoë Rom at Trail Runner Magazine set out to define Strava etiquette for this new virtual world we live in.

 

 

Conquistadors of the Useless, or Pursuers of Passion?

 

“Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”

––Growing Up, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Millennials get a lot of flack.

We’re dubbed lazy, entitled, useless.

Our work ethic is questioned, our desire to live in vans reviled, and our love for the outdoors?

Useless.

But is it?

I’ve wrestled with this question late at night with wine in hand, mile 7 of a trail run, and over countless cups of coffee. It’s clear that our society, so centrically created around capitalism, values what we produce. In fact, so often, our value is determined solely on what we create.

In terms of money, it’s easy to define. As a society, we value wealth, and those of us who choose to claw our way up the corporate ladder will, usually, be rewarded for our time and dedication to the man. Whoever he is.

This idea is something I understand well. Working my way through secondary and higher education, I knew following a specific path would ensure my success. I knew how to do exactly what I was told to do.

I soon realized, though, like many of us do, that continuing to pursue that life would be empty. While the security of money is nice, and up to a certain threshold ($75,000 to be exact), can actually make you happier, sacrificing happiness to get to that point isn’t necessarily worth it.

So, when I chose to study creative writing in college, I knew I was setting myself up for societal failure.

 

When I decided I wanted to focus my efforts on writing in the outdoor industry, I laughed at my silly masochistic self.

Because if writing isn’t enough to sustain yourself, or prove your worth in society, playing outdoors is even worse.

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Desert trail and sandstone towers in Moab, UT

My feelings of uselessness increased the more time I spent outside. Days passed without a single thing to show. I hadn’t written anything. I hadn’t changed anyone’s life. I certainly hadn’t made any money.

But I felt so much happier.

What came next was an energy for preserving our wild and beautiful places. This energy evolved into passion, which included writing to government officials and advocating for public land.

It still made me wonder if spending all this time outside––climbing, skiing, running, and whatever else––was actually worthwhile.

As it appears, rock climbing is useless. And despite various attempts to justify the sport, many people continue to agree that nothing good comes from climbing rocks.

It might be true for some people. Maybe there is an entire branch of the climbing community that doesn’t see the value of public lands, refuses to attend crag clean-ups, and will go on their merry way never giving back to the community.

Beneath their inability and lack of desire to give back, however, lay the seeds of passion.

Although I don’t know many (if any) people in the climbing community who do not care about anything and anyone besides themselves, there is something within them that draws them to the sport. This passion, I believe, is exactly what the world needs.

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Anger, resentment, jealousy––these emotions often stem from an experience in our lives that told us we couldn’t. Whether it was society, our parents, our significant other, or a complete stranger. At some (or many) points, we decided to let someone see the fragile, brilliant dream inside of us, and they laughed, or doubted, or overran us with their sarcasm.

Along the way, so much of our passion died because of doubt.

What I love about the climbing community is that “no” isn’t a reasonable answer, and we continually rise to a challenge. We spend our summers waking before the sun, and our autumns climbing in headlamps, because we just want the thing to go. We spend days, weeks, months, sometimes years, climbing the same damn route because we’re too stubborn to admit defeat. We suffer flesh wounds, centipede bites, rock fall, numb toes, tendonitis, rolled ankles, broken ankles, whippers, and thirty-foot run-outs.

In climbing, we shape our character, we define what is and isn’t possible, and we refuse to back down.

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Red Rocks, NV

The same is true of any sport. It’s in the face of adversity that character and resiliency grow. So maybe, on the surface, climbing seems useless.

After all, we’re spending years of our lives hanging off the side of cliffs.

But when you look into the benefits the sport creates, and how the fissures splay throughout our society––the activists it creates, the stories of endurance and the human spirit it tells, the passion it inspires––it’s hard to say the sport is futile.

 

Reflections on a Marathon

There are plenty of things I thought I might never do. Running a marathon was one of them.

For at least ten years I’ve put “run a marathon” on my bucket list, or my one-year list, or any other goal-oriented list I made. I can recount my goals for 24, 25, and 26, and all include running a marathon.

I finally got around to it.

The thing about running a marathon is this: if you want to do it, you can. Not to put off the years of hard work and effort that elite runners put into it—I’m speaking to the first timers, the wannabe’s, and the slightly interested.

If you want to run a marathon, just do it.

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On my 26th birthday I registered for my first marathon. I was tired of putting it off until the next year, because eventually I would be 80 and wishing I had done this thing I had spent so many years wishing I had done. There’s a quote I rely on, etched into my journal, that reads, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” I realized, on the celebration of my 26th year on earth, that I’d spent a lot of days (9,490 to be exact) waiting to do something, to be somebody, to finally cross things off my bucket list.

26 would be the year I stopped wanting and started becoming.

As I sat in a coffee shop with a good friend of mine, I found a marathon, I registered, I downloaded a training plan, and I set my mind to it.

It really was as easy as that.

For ten weeks or so I ran four days a week. In that time, I traveled to Mexico, had a fluke knee accident, came down with a cold that left me in bed for four days, and never ran farther than 10 miles.

I don’t recommend it.

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If you’re going to run a marathon, train for it. Give yourself enough time to develop your athletic base, endurance, and most importantly, your mental fortitude. Fortunately for me, climbing strengthened my mental muscles and, it turns out, I’m mentally stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

Leading up to the marathon, when I felt I hadn’t had enough training due to circumstance, I told my friends my mental game would get me through. After all, nearly everything is 90% mental, 10% physical, right? For a marathon, however, I’d cut it down to 60/40.

I leaned on examples of extraordinary individuals. Like the young women who runs half-marathons despite frequent seizures. Or the man with no limbs who climbs mountains. Or any other individual who disregards the resounding “you can’t,” and shows them they can.

We drove up to the start line around 6:30am. I finished off a cup of water, went to the bathroom, and did a few jumping jacks to warm up. My husband and brother-in-law were running together, and I was prepared, and excited to run the race solo.

I headed to the start with my running vest equipped with some extra GU’s, a bottle of water, my phone, and headphones.

When the gun went off, I was elated.

Part of me never expected to make it to the start line.

Even a week before the event I thought about calling in and switching my registration to the half-marathon. I’d only run 10 miles. I didn’t want to disappoint myself. I didn’t want to disappoint my husband. I didn’t want to fail, and have to tell people I hadn’t met my goal. Before I started that marathon, I still believed that having not tried might be better than failing.

I started out slowly, treating the first mile as a warm-up. I began near the back of the group, with maybe ten people behind me. But it felt comfortable. I didn’t need to go out with guns-ablazing. My number one goal was to run the entire race. My number two was finishing with an average 12 minute mile (5:24:00).

Running had never felt so good.

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Before I knew it I was coming up on mile 8.

Then mile 9.

When I passed mile 10, I was in unchartered territory. From then on, every mile was a new record, the official furthest I’d ever run.

Mentally, I was prepared. I knew I could get to mile 20, because I knew I could run 10 miles. Once I got to 20 I knew I could run 6 miles. That was my mental game plan.

It worked.

 

The miles kept passing, and I kept running. Until mile 22, I never felt the need to distract myself.

Those last four miles, though. Damn.

It took a lot to run the last four miles. My legs were aching, knees wanted to buckle, and my hips were so stiff. But I’d run so far, I couldn’t quit.

When I passed the mile 26 marker, I kicked it into high gear.

My last mile was my fastest.

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I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes. The volunteer handing out finisher shirts and metals asked if I was alright. I replied, “I’m just so happy!”

I don’t know what else competes for that moment. Never had I felt so accomplished, so tired, and so elated at one time. It was euphoric.

Running a marathon redefined my limits, and what’s possible for me to achieve. I’m no longer sure of the validity of “I can’t,” because can’t is a misnomer. It confuses what’s possible for you now, for what’s possible for you in the future.

You can, it just might take some time.

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To-Do List

I’ve learned in my life that if I don’t write things down they are soon forgotten in the no man’s land of my brain. If this goes for simple tasks like taking a package to the post office, or sending in official forms, won’t it transfer over to bigger, loftier goals I have?

I decided I don’t want to chance it. So here is the beginning of my to-do list. When I started thinking about everything I want to do it quickly became overwhelming, so instead of frantically searching the Google to find everything that should be on my “bucket list,” I left it where it’s add and will add to it as ideas come to me.

  • Run a marathon
  • Climb in Yosemite
  • Climb a big wall
  • Climb 5.13
  • Finish the John Muir Trail
  • Write a book
  • Write an ebook
  • Skydive
  • Learn to climb splitter cracks
  • Run the Leadville Ultramarathon
  • Run the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Link-up
  • Live out of a car
  • Make the switch to Veganism
  • Donate my time and money to organizations I believe in
  • Become a successful freelance writer
  • Write an article for National Geographic
  • Climb the Getu arch in China
  • Climb in Patagonia
  • Ski in Denali
  • Backcountry hut trip through the Uinta’s
  • Uinta Highline Trail
  • Antelope Island 50k
  • Ski Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • Climb in El Potrero Chico
  • Climb in Kalymnos
  • Trail run in Iceland
  • Visit (and climb in) Squamish
  • Ski (and climb) the Grand in Teton National Park
  • Climb Squawsatch in Provo
  • Get Yoga Teacher Training Cert
  • Complete WFR, SPI, and AIARE 2
  • Become a columnist at a major magazine
  • Become proficient in Trad climbing
  • Ski Mt. Hood
  • Climb at RRG, Hueco Tanks, Joshua Tree, Wild Iris, Tensleep, Rifle, Indian Creek, Cochise Stronghold, the Gunks, and everywhere in between.
  • Participate in Horseshoe Hell
  • Attend Burning Man

What do you want to accomplish in this one precious life?

Midweek Round-Up #3

Shorter work weeks may cut our CO2 emissions in half, reduce our stress, curb accidents, promote gender equality, and reduce unemployment. I’m in! Read the full thought-provoking article on the TED website.

The EPIC May 2017 edition of Outside came out with a crew of badass woman dominating it’s cover with the headline: The Future of Adventure is Female.

Spring and summer are upon us, and so are the much needed reminders to Leave No Trace. This article is a great reminder about what is acceptable trail etiquette and what’s…not so much. Check it out and decide for yourself if you’re an asset or detriment to the outdoors.

Brendan Leonard’s website, Semi-Rad, is where my inspiration for a midweek round up came from. He posts insightful, and often hilarious articles. He’s also just completed his second book, The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, which is currently on it’s way to me.

And an awesome quote from Hunter Drew:

“This is something I’d like you to recognize and truly wrap your mind around. Everyone makes an excuse as to why they can’t do the things they need and want to do. Only a very select few people out there are making excuses to do the things they need to do.

People have become so comfortable that they’d rather suffer a mediocre existence than put in the slightest effort required for improvement.

Instead of complaining about the problems that you have in your life, start working to solve them. Stop being so comfortable sitting around talking about how the world is holding you down. You are holding you down—GET UP! Stand up and start doing.

Stop being so goddamn comfortable all the time. Implement some intentional discomfort into your life.”

What They Don’t Tell You About Running

Around 5am every morning you can hear the low hum of complaint as angry runners rise from their comfy beds to get 30 minutes in before the day is underway. They grumble as they lace up their running shoes, grunt as they pull on their compression socks, and whimper as they step out into the cold, unforgiving world. They force their way through three unpleasant miles, and kiss the door as they return, so absolutely thankful that running is out of the way, and they don’t have to go through the process for another 24 hours.

Fun, right?

And then they go to work and complain to their coworkers about how much they hate running, but they have to do it. They do it for the carbs, or for the abs, but never because they want to. We love the camaraderie of misery.

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I used to be a spiteful runner. I ran in spite of what I wanted, and for that I was proud. I made myself run today, wasn’t I a rockstar? I didn’t give in to my primal desire to lay in bed all day, feasting on Cheetos and binging on Netflix. No, I went out and I ran.

It was awful.

All that time I spent angry about my feet hitting the pavement was a lot of wasted energy. If running is something you do for thirty minutes a day, four times a week, that’s over 100 angry hours every year. Four entire days of negativity. Sounds exhausting.

Especially because something wonderful happens when you embrace the choice to run. Your body finds it’s rhythm. You start to feel like a gazelle. You start to build confidence and mental endurance. You begin to believe you were made to run. And guess what, you were.

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Our ancestors were persistence hunters, chasing down their prey before the invention of bows, arrows, and rifles. We ran to protect ourselves from predators, and as early as 1829 B.C. we were running for sport in ancient Greece. Our body mechanics, from our glutes, to our sturdy trunk, are huge proponents in our choice to continue moving forward. Running is natural.

Let’s stop buying into the negative narrative about running. In our everything-is-easy-and-accessible world, we shy away from hard things at a rapid pace. While I have a newfound perspective on running, I don’t neglect the fact that running is hard. When I’m running uphill and my lungs are on fire and I feel like I’m going to collapse, I curse the hill, but I keep moving forward. When my arms start to tingle around mile 6, and the sun is beating down on my shoulders, and sweat is burning my eyes, I am thankful to be moving.

Let’s change the narrative and embrace the run.

A Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Touring

Breaking into backcountry touring is exciting, sometimes scary, and full of unknowns. You may have spent twenty years on the slopes, but gracefully making your way up a skintrack is not necessarily a natural skill. With the uptick of users on social media and the repetitive pow shots put up by pro-skiers and pro-recreationalists alike, it’s hard to not load up the van (or in my case the badass go-anywhere Prius), and do whatever it takes (including post-holing in high avy-danger territory) to get those “sick pow shots, brah.”

But please, show some restraint, and just don’t.

First things first: Get the Right Gear

There’s a lot that goes into backcountry travel, including the massive investment in the right gear. While you can use snowshoes for the ascent and your skinny skis from the 90s for the descent, the whole fat skis, tech bindings, alpine boots, and skins can run you a pretty penny. At full retail, the whole outfit can easily surpass the $2,000 mark. Add to that the beacon, probe, and shovel and you’re looking at the price of a smaller used car with relatively low mileage. Best advice on gear? Set yourself up with pro-deals or learn to religiously scour your local thrift stores, Craigslist, or Ebay.

Then Get Educated:

IMG_6811Once you’ve got your set-up I highly recommend attending a Know Before You Go class. I’m fortunate enough to live in Salt Lake where we have one of the best avalanche forecasting centers in the nation. The Utah Avalanche Center puts on classes and regularly partners with REI to provide brief, information packed sessions to educate backcountry users on the dangers of avalanche terrain. If you’re in a more remote location there are tons of resources online. BCA has an entire series on YouTube about backcountry terrain, companion rescue, and how to read and dig a snowpit.

If you’ve done all of the above, have toured some low-consequence areas and want to expand your knowledge, you can sign-up for an AIARE 1 course which is an introduction to safe snow travel, how to dig a pit and asses on a basic level, and how to identify terrain traps.

Do Your Research:

15275664_1726509364343445_188834417626578944_nThankfully we live in a time where information is a click away. Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington/Oregon, Canada, and Idaho all have avalanche forecasting centers that provide daily, and sometimes twice daily, avalanche condition updates. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s important to keep track of storms and snowpack conditions. This might mean digging more snowpits than someone in the Wasatch, but if you treat it like a workout you’ll keep a better attitude and possibly save your life.

Find Good Company:

In Utah there are a handful of tours you can take on your own due to the low angle of the area’s slopes. But let’s be real. Touring is way more fun when you have someone to enjoy it with. Through social media and groups on Facebook I’ve found a solid group of people to tour with. So get out there, charge, and then get home safely.