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.

 

Trail Run Tempo

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Trail running can be hard.

In Utah, where 99.9% of all trails head directly UP, and switchbacks are scarce, getting into trail running can be, well, exhausting. If you’re hard-pressed to find a moderate trail to begin on, is it even worth “running” at all if you spend the majority of the time speed-hiking?

When I talk to people about venturing into the world of dirt and scraped knees, the most common, and almost immediate, response is this:

I don’t think I can run the whole thing.

My dear, sweet friends, I have good news for you!

The majority of trail runners walk the uphills.

You read that right! When I first started trail running I had no idea that even the elitest of the elites will hike the uphills and run the downhills (granted their uphills are literal mountains, but still).

So when we’re talking about how fast or slow you should be trail running, the best answer I can find is to do what feels right for YOU and YOUR BODY. It’s easy to get so caught up in what we think we should or shouldn’t be doing, that we make it impossible for ourselves to even start. That’s a nasty trap to get caught in.

In Salt Lake, there are some great, moderate trails for beginners. The Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon, and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near the Avenues and the University, are both great options. And as you move on from there, give yourself grace, and a high-five for getting out in the first place.

The outdoors can be intimidating, I know from experience. It’s even more intimidating when you live in a place that professional athletes use as their training ground. However, I suggest we use that as motivation to get out and get after it.

Who knows? After a few years of training you could be running laps around the Wasatch.

 

The Chasm Between Social Media and Real Life

A few years ago, NPR aired a story about the rise of our discontentment as it relates to the rise of social media. My generation isn’t numb to these effects, in fact, we are arguably the most affected by it.

The rise of social media outlets and our obsession with, and dedication to them, has shown us just how much is possible for our lives. We’re well past the days where word of first ascents came a month later in the American Alpine Journal.

If you’re a woman who wants to be a CEO or a man who wants to be a homemaker, you can find at least one other person who’s done what you’re setting out to do, and find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.

Literally, anything is possible.

For this, I am so thankful for Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other sites like them. I can figure out who came before me and what they did to get there. I can hop on Instagram, search a hashtag, and find a burst of inspiration to get my butt in the gym.

Along with the good, however, comes the bad.

Like how many times I feel shitty about myself because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I have a job and other things I love to do and I’m not out climbing or skiing or running everyday. And the problem with Instagram is it makes it seem like everybody else is.

So many accounts, my own included, display an ongoing stream of outdoor photos, and it’s time to confess: that’s not my whole life.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish it was, and I hope someday it will be. I hope someday I can make enough to set out with my husband and our future dog in tow. But until then, I think it’s important to be honest.

So I decided that going forward I’m going to be real.

For example:

I binge watch The Great British Baking Show.

I scroll through Facebook until my eyeballs hurt.

I rarely read a novel through the first time.

Sometimes I literally groan as I enter the gym.

I get scared when I’m lead climbing.

I get even more scared on multi-pitches.

I love to cook.

Sometimes I take four hour naps on sunny days.

I’m still overcoming my irrational fear of bears.

Some days I feel sad and overwhelmed by my dreams.

I often feel lost.

I consistently question my ability to write or climb or ski.

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

I am the definition of a work in progress.

What I’m trying to say is this, before you put yourself up against everyone else on Instagram and Facebook, give yourself some credit for being human, and then some more for all that you’re doing already.

It’s weird and beautiful to be human, and it’s important to recognize that in ourselves and everyone around us.

 

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.

When You Realize Your Life Will Be Different Than You Imagined

When I was a little girl I often dreamt about the future. I pictured myself as an astronaut, a worldwide traveler, a writer. As I grew up I pictured different scenarios for myself, as a wife, a professor, maybe an editor at some big-time New York magazine. And when I got into college I pictured myself in libraries, researching, studying, spending long hours in front of my computer.

I thought of the future in common terms. As much as I didn’t want to be consumed in the 9-5 fold, I started drifting in that direction, accepting the fact that maybe doing the job I loved would mean structure and repetitive rigidity.

I never imagined myself as an adventurer. I never imagined a strong pull towards the mountains, a draw to push my physical boundaries, the desire to bag peaks and traverse ridgelines. I always played it safe.

What happens when your life begins to turn in a direction you always wanted, but never expected?

Fear has dictated the majority of my choices. I defined limits for myself to prevent dicey situations. I wanted to be “outdoorsy,” and explore more, but it didn’t seem feasible. I continually shut myself down and made excuses when opportunities to climb or tour or run came up.

In this last year all of that changed. I started controlling my fear. I began building confidence and competence in the outdoors. I asked questions, lead my first trad pitch, climbed a 5.12. I took an AIARE 1 course, toured by myself, and began planning trips that I wanted to take. And all of that is exciting and consuming and exhilarating and completely opposite of what I thought my life would be.

I assumed my life would line up pretty similarly to the way I was raised. It’s a classic issue between what we know and what we don’t know. I know that I would be comfortable and happy pursuing a stable career and a traditional life, because I know so many people who have. My parents, my friends, my friend’s parents, and parent’s friends. I assumed my life would play out a similar course.

But when I started getting out into the mountains, and exploring the Wasatch, and discovering I’m physically capable of far more than I’d imagined, I realized my goals were heading in a different direction.

It scares me in the way the unknown always does. In the way that I have no idea what this life will look like because pursuing anything physical long-term was never on the agenda for me. I’m book smart, and a repeat offender of apathy towards physical work.

It feels a lot like closure. All these ideas and expectations I didn’t realize I was holding onto are now showing themselves in the smallest ways. And, as almost all of us know, releasing expectations is a hard, tricky experience.

I’m choosing the path of most resistance, my friends, and I’ll be honest, as exciting as it is to re-imagine your life, it’s also kind-of a pain in the ass.

Cheers to semi-new beginnings and embracing what gives you joy!

Have you ever re-evaluated your life and realized it’s direction was different than you’d assumed it would be? Give me your tips!

*image courtesy of unsplash