Hey. This is a long write up for a long run. Before I share a some moments from my first Hardrock experience, I thought I’d share the lessons I learned along the way. In the off-chance you got here without knowledge of the Hardrock 100, you might want to read up on it first.
Lesson 1: Go Faster
I’m cautious. 100 miles is a big day. Given the mix of alpine conditions and altitude, I trained hard and arrived to altitude early. I guarded my reserves. This last bit was unnecessary. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm sure I've got a middle gear.
The comment I received leaving Maggie Gulch made that crystal clear. "You look too fresh. You should have run it faster."
Lesson 2: Go Scree Skiing
I panic. Panic attacks usually happen while walking to the bus stop or out on mellow, farm trails when everything is fine but the air is a little cool. I've learned to mange it. The hestitation that comes when staring down a long couloir or a steep, scree hill is different. It's an intellectual alarm focused purely on technique. It's been drilled into my head by well-meaning, rope-wielding climbers. But familiarity with the task converts the mental delibration into focus. If you can do it in the sand, and you can do it in the Cascades, it will go in the San Juans. Just go.
Lesson 3: Get Nerdy
I left my rain pants at Telluride. I didn't notice until Maggies. That's a problem of organization. I've never been stoked on planning, spreadsheets or checklists. If I had been, I would have notice the pants. If I had noticed the pants, I would have been in a better mental position to make a second attempt on Buffalo Boy Ridge after the electrical storm. I'm working on it. Hard.
Lesson 4: Hard has a Long Tail
Hardrock is an order of magnitude more challenging than anything I've ever seen. Given the ultrarunner's capacity for suffering and wildly manic-ecstatic episodes running technical downhill, this fact is not always apparent. But details matter. Context matters. I did a lot more homework than I normally do for this race and it made all the difference. I also haven't looked at ultrarunning the same way since. I guess that's the definition of a Sophmore.
So. Those are my take aways. If you’ve run the race, I’d love to hear yours. If you haven’t, maybe you’d like a little more context? In any case, please read on.
Moment: Grant Swamp Pass
Nina and I ran up to Island Lake earlier in the week, so the unfolding segments of the climb were familiar. The final climb up to the pass was surpsingly steep, requiring careful footing. My biggest concern was not kicking down rocks - or myself - on the person below me. There was quite a crowd on the saddle. The path dropped sharply into Swamp Creek below. After a few extremely steep feet of dirt, the scree strated. My concern at the time was falling head-over-heels and tumbling down the scree. I slid on my butt for a long while before an older runner appeared on my right. His prickly white beard raised into a grin as he quickly shuffled down the scree.
It took a long while of scooting before I realized what had happened. Scree goes like snow! After a couple of falls I managed to properly sail down the last bit. I looked back at the wall of scree, and forward at the long trail down the basin and laughed.
Moment: Kroger's Kanteen
I thought I had learned the lesson of steepness. The long approach towards Virginius Pass switched from a steep haul on excellent trail to an exposed traverse on loose shale. I was nervous and breathing hard, and somehow was getting overtaken again by my friend with the white beard. I scrambled up to the Kroger's just after him and took a seat on a sleeping pad in what felt like a narrow cave. It was clear from the red carpet that the bearded fellow was Hardrock royalty, which was amusing to see.
After a shot of mezcal, I was guided to a fixed line and instructed to rappel by holding the rope in the small of my back. I pulled out the teal, Black Diamond gloves they gave me at checkin and got into position. Rope around my right side. Arrest position with my right hand in the small of my back. A funny thing happened. You see, every bit of training on a rope I've had was in the context of climbing, and every single alarm was going off in my head. I began having a conversation in my head. The grade wasn't terribly steep, but I was both very fatigued and really amped up on adreneline.
Near the top, the rope was heavy, making adjustments uncertain. I soon realized that both my rational and panicked selves were conversing aloud, with my docent up waiting to ring the bell answering in place of myself. I was embarrased but stuck in debate until I heard a voice off to the right.
"Is that Sean?"
It was my friend Adam. He had a helmet on and was picking his way up the pass with poles. With in a few moments the conversation folded and I made it down the backside.
I laughed again. There is no way to train for this race. This is a lifestyle.
Moment: Camp Bird Mine Road
Have you ever seen a deer prance? I did just before pulling into the Governor Basin. Night fell while the volunteers refilled my bottles. Talking with those folks sparked an overwhelming joy in me that accelerated into a zen psycosis as I hammered the eight miles down the dirt road. Conditions for running were perfect and nobody was around. At least until the far outskirts of Ouray. Here I ran into a scene you could only find in the San Juans: A club of tricked out FJ Cruisers was carvaning up the road. Each had its own lighting schema and sound effects. I ducked to the side of the road when an electric whistle sounded. The leader peeled off. Five seconds later, another whistle, and the second sped up the hill. Five seconds later, the next. By this point I was running pass the line, and was blinded by massively refracting headlights in the dust storm.
Afterwards. Darkness. Silence. And a gentle jog as the organize lights of town started to appear on the left.
Moment: Bear Creek Trail
Quoth the trail description: "Once on this trail, it is almost impossible to get off of it for the next 4 miles." Brutal facts. It was dark for Nina and I, but my friend Rob who I had been yo-yoing with reappeared with his pacer. They ran ahead and did us the service of illuminating the canyon as they ran by. This trail really is built right into the side of a cliff. A ton of trail work had gone into opening this section of the course, and it was clear. We were lucky to cross dry creekbeds and back it out of exposed territory without a thought.
Moment: Running Down Handies
After a twenty-minute nap behind the Grouse Gulch tent, Frank and I marched up towards American-Grouse Pass at a faster pace than our last visit earlier in the week. The sun was shining and the air was plesant. We conversed happily with the hordes of civilians also hiking up the well-laid trail. We caught up with Gordon near the Summit. We took some photos, whistled at a marmot and bombed the backside. The (mostly) slow but steady pace was paying off. More than 24 hours in and I felt great. We really thought it was going to go.
Moment: Maggie Gulch
One hundred miles is a long way to run. As I write this, I'm even more surprised by the diversity of rock, of features, of mountain passes and basins we saw along the way. It was equally as surprising to find civilization between passes, but when we arrived at Pole Creek, it was clear we were in the middle of nowhere. The afternoon skies had darkened with clouds and lightning was firing in the distance. Finally. We hadn't seen any all week. The double-size tarp aid station - massive by any other races' standard - felt like a tiny refuge. We ducked under, donned our jackets and waited for the worst of the rain to pass by.
Another short climb dropped us over Maggie-Pole Pass. We ran into a civilian who had climbed up from Maggie Gulch and pitched a tent. He was as relieved as we were that the storm had moved off, and he probably had the best view of the late afternoon turning into evening of anyone in the San Juans.
Towards Buffalo Boy Ridge
The climb out of Maggie was steep and the trail was faint. The sky was growing dark, but it wasn’t yet sunset. When we got to the saddle, it was clear that the lightning storm from Pole creek had turned and was coming straight for us. Crash! Nine seconds. I looked at Frank. We hesitated. Frank is an experienced mountaineer, but apparently had neither been in a lightning storm, nor had any desire to be in one. Same for me. I didn't know this stretch of trail, but it was clear there were a few exposed sections left. Crash! Eight seconds. The lightning was purple. We retreated back to a grassy boulder field and took shelter underneath an overhanging rock. Other people had done the same. Some took out their safety blankets. Frank discovered that his jacket and spare layers had been soaked by a bladder accident near Cataract Lake. He didn’t know that he had safety blankets in his first aid kit. Crash! four seconds. Crash! five seconds. I pulled out my mylar emergency bivy, put my fleece layer under my rain jacket and waited. Frank was not yet keen on sharing the bivy. We waited for what seemed like an hour, but it was probably ten minutes. This was a big storm.
Crash! Three seconds.
“Fuck this!” a woman yelled as she took off flying down the hill. (For the record, she had gotten the blessing of her runner, and gave him her extra layers before heading down! And her runner did finish just fine!) I turned to Frank. We agreed and chased her down as fast as we could. Bivy in hand, we flew down the steep slope. It was pouring rain. The sun had set. We had lights, but I couldn’t see the trail. Frank feel twice. Somehow we didn’t sprain anything. Crash! two seconds. Frank jumped backwards at me. That one struck what might have been Galena Mountain upslope to the right. It was powerful.
As the meadow grew less steep I was finding it difficult to keep up with the others, both pacers. We were literally running for our lives and it wasn’t until the last hundred meters that I saw the trail that led back to the aid station.
Once under the tarp we laughed. We rapped with James, who wisely didn’t even both heading up. We had made it!
They hustled us into a heated, walled tent were we one-by-one succumbed to hypothermia. James, Frank, Gordon, and a few other folks I just met somehow found blankets and hot drinks. I thought about going back out. It was dark. The grass was knee high climbing back up out of Maggie. It was cold now. Without rain pants, it was a difficult proposition. Suddenly, a sleeping bag thrown over one of the cots rumbled. Out burst Mark Tanaka! “Did the rain stop? Yeah? Alright let’s go!” He was psyched. It was that final burst that did me in.
I could feel the familiar collapse of consciousness and energy that comes at the end of such big efforts. I vaguely remember James’ crew arriving to collect him, and somehow Nina had met Cory Feign and drove together out (to this no-drop aid station!) to collect us. We sat in the foldout seats in the back while I began falling asleep on what was apparently a pretty terrifying drive home.
Graduation the next day was bittersweet, but I was very happy to see those in our cohort who had made it up the saddle before us had gotten down safely. At Virginius I already knew I was going to try my damnedest to come back. At Pole Creek I felt like this race was in the bag. My first 100M DNF. I’m just glad I got that experience out of the way on my first lap around the San Juans.
Squak Mountain Revival
Finally! After days moping around with a head and chest cold, I was able to crawl outside to get a few miles in.
Given that I’ve started my Ticklist From Town project, it seemed natural to start with an easy run from downtown Issaquah. Rather than try the Full Loop, I aimed for the Southeast “Peak” of Squak Mountain.
I have a long history of getting lost in the Issaquah Alps, and today’s run was in that style.
I parked near Sunset and Front, enjoyed a coffee, and reviewed the map. It took a while, but I negotiated the odd collection of trails and asphalt that eventually led to the gravel access trail to Squak Mountain Regional Park. The last bit before crossing the road is presently signed off as “closed”, but only in the outbound direction. While the trail seemed moderately eroded and possibly only hazardous for “civilians”, there might - might - be a concern about mudslides. Hard to say. In any case, that section was only about five meters long.
It’s about a mile from town to the “real” trailhead. Once there, it was leaf armageddon. I noted the rocks and an occasional metal stake, and so kept the running slow and easy.
Less than another mile in, a small tree had fallen and broken up along the trail. Together with the carpet of big maple leaves, the direction was unclear for at least a few meters. I tagged the location on Gaia, danced over the logs and continued along the trail which traversed a steep embankment.
Eventually the trail wrapped along the East Ridge of Squak Mountain, climbing abruptly. The canopy opened slightly to the left, leading to the confusing feeling that I was somehow going east (giving the incorrect sensation that downtown Issaquah was in view) instead of south. Eventually I could make out the high school and West Tiger. False alarm. I continued south, up the East Ridge trail towards the high plateau of Squak.
Not a quarter mile up the climb I felt a sharp, burning pain in my left ankle. I looked down and kicked some leaves and caught a glimpse of some sort of Hymenoptera abdomen fly off into the trail.
In the off chance I was near some late blooming ground wasp nest, I jogged up a bit, put on a jacket and pulled down my sock.
No stinger. No blood. Just a clean, tiny red dot. Poor little one probably got sucked up in the shuffle of leaves.
My ankle offered no serious reaction otherwise, so I continued up into the alternating fog and sunshine. This is a really good training climb!
At the top of the main climb, the trail continues up, but was blocked off by a fallen branch. There were no signs. The trail was clear to the right, heading west towards the Central Peak. I stupidly ignored the proper path and sauntered along the main trail which eventually led to signage.
I got up to about 1700 feet - about 200 ft above my target for the day. Very wrong. I pulled out Gaia and found that I was much farther west that I had anticipated. Oops.
I stopped to collect myself and promptly started shivering. I looked at my watch. I’d been out for two hours.
I pulled on my tights and a fleece, and crammed a gel and a waffle. I tried to backtrack and explore a little bit, but I was a little too disorientated and kept wandering down the wrong path. Stupid.
These little hills have such a complex web of trails! I always get lost out here.
Having hit my elevation goal for the day, I decided to simply follow my track back to where I could be certain about my location. I landed back on the East Ridge trail and started shuffling down.
Ankle still burning, but core temperature back up, the decent was uneventful and pleasant. Both the fog and the sun had been replaced by the more familiar PNW grey.
No more bees. Lots of leaves. A few hidden rocks. I pulled back into Issaquah with the crunch of gravel under my slow moving feet. Only nine miles down and I remembered what it feels like to miss a week’s worth of proper training.
Back in Town
I made it to the car, traded tights for a pants and walked half a block to get a beer at the Brewhouse.
By no means a perfect day, but it’s just another start to another season.
Snoqualmie Valley Circus I
While training for my first ultra at beacon rock, I launched my serious training program with a bunch of high points in Snoqualmie Valley. I called it “the circus”, and have subsequently tried to get around the valley as much as possible in one weekend. This week’s attempt was something of a snoozer by comparison, but I’m still trying to ramp back up to stout cumulative vertical. That all said, my PTSD around getting hypothermia is still showing.
1. Night is coming quickly these days;
2. It’s brisk out. There is a nonlinear relationship between elevation and comfort.
3. The rains haven’t even started yet.
Let’s see what happened.
This little jaunt is always pleasant, just off the Iron Horse. It’s extra nice because it’s a mysterious little knob you can see from the freeway that you might otherwise forget about. I was shocked this summer to see more than five others on this trail at the same time. Generically, though, the whole area is under appreciate by folks without bikes.
There are plenty of trails around this area that get virtually no love, and there are plenty of no hunting signs.
Take the left fork to get the direct - and steep - run up to Saddle Junction. From there the climb is steady to the summit.
Stay left as you return to Saddle junction to see the old blowout site. Here Boxley Creek flooded in 1918 or so, and smashed through a shoddy earthen dam to wipe out an entire town. The Seattle PI reported that a night watchman noticed the pending disaster and raised the alarm, saving everyone’s life.
You run past the site before smashing back through the forest and on to the Iron Horse trail. The leaves have left us, so on your return a rightwards glance will reveal Christmas Lake - a marshy area fed by Boxley - which was apparently named for this December 23 disaster.
I realize this won’t get out in any large capacity, so I’ll go ahed and say it. I prefer to park at the Iron Horse trailhead because it’s always half empty. Mostly, it suspect, because folks don't know it’s there. I also suspect they don’t have the required Discover Pass.
I ran through the parking lots and towards the road that leads to the standard trail up to the ledge.
It was getting dark. The hordes were descending. I put my nose down and just climbed. Dark. Uneventful. Red.
The last stretch of trail get dark particularly early. It’s the nicest stretch by far, but can also be a little spooky after having access to all the light on from the ridge. My real here is picking up too much speed and crashing into a tardy hiker without a headlamp.
Sunday on Uncle Si’s Mountain
I really didn’t want to go running. Nina, Sharon, Calista, Kari, Luke and I were out late at the Sea Monster. Cubano and Funk night. I wasn’t feeling great come morning.
I started around 2pm. Nobody else running. No daylight to spare. No matter. I wanted a few thousand feet and I needed a known trail. Nothing feels more familiar than Si.
With a strong sense of dread, I took off running. I had gotten pretty chilly the previous day, so I packed the same bag, but with a stronger fleece.
The parking lot was filled the the gills, but I found an open spot in near the front. My feet were numb from the moment I put on my shoes. My fingers were aching almost immediately. It wasn’t terribly cold; my body just had no business being out there.
From the start, I vowed two things. First, I would eat every half hour to stave off the chills. Second, I would start out easy. Running Si is almost always a matter starting out too fast and hanging on.
Things got weird immediately. I started with another fellow who lumbered uphill with a bright red beanie. While just walking - lurching, really - he kept pace with my running all the way to the Talus Loop turn off.
I ducked into the isolation of the Talus Loop trail. It’s a much more scenic, much more varied, much softer variation of the main Si trail. It gets almost no traffic. It’s always a little colder at the bottom half, but after climbing up to a switch that connects to the Teneriffe trail, it climbs steeply into the late (2:30p!) afternoon sunlight.
I put on an extra layer just above the Talus, and carried on to rejoin the trail at Snag Flats.
Almost immediately I saw dozens of people descending. Lucky everybody! It’s probably one of the last nice weekends before the rains come. I crossed the puncheon at 41 minutes, almost 12 minutes behind my typical pace. I take a GU.
Onward. Upward. Steeply. This third mile climbs out of the flats pretty aggressively. One mile and 20 minute later, I run into my colleague with the red beanie. He is coming downhill! Still lumbering. Polite. Otherwise quiet. Damn.
As the climb progresses, fewer and fewer people are found descending. It gets noticeably colder at the last main switch up. Almost immediately I feel the wetness of my wool base layer on my skin and start to shiver. I put an insulating fleece between my two layers and cram another GU.
Two long, dark switchbacks later and I’m on the final stretch. There’s a large boulder on the trail just before the final rock chute. It’s probably a quarter mile, but with the skies darkening it’s a struggle to keep from turning back.
Summit basin! A man in a cotton hoodie is hunched over on a rock with his dog standing hear. There’s a fellow goofing around on the rocks nearby. The sky is dark grey. My quads were shot, so I figured it would make sense to rest and take in food.
I had waited too long. Moments after I started down I was shivering uncontrollably - with three jackets on! I cried out, stopped and slipped a pair of rain pants over my tights and added another fleece. I kept running down, trying to avoid a panic, but I just wasn’t warming up.
I wondered if those two folks above me would take the “old” trail down, or follow me on the standard descent. It’s hard to be comfortable when cold until you put yourself between other people and the finish.
A mile passed before I started to feel normal again. I considered removing the fleece, but given that Snag Flats was still a mile away, it seemed premature.
I finally started passing people on the way down. With each party behind me and each hundred meters of vertical down I removed another layer. I passed the flats and drank the rest of my water. Finally! I was feeling normal again.
Another mile or so and I passed the bottom fork to the Talus loop. By this point I was comfortably down to a single wool shirt. The light was all but gone, as had all the energy in my legs. If anything, each step down hit sharply, like a muffled sting, suggesting that I had gone just a little too far in the past two days. Ridiculous!
Cougar Hold Back
This is a short short about training and being coached.
When the skies are this clear and the snow level is still high, its hard to keep yourself from driving deep into the mountains and throwing an entire weekend to alpine ascents.
I tagged three summits today, but they were all knobs on Cougar Mountain. The instructions were brief: sixty minutes, followed by six, ten second, all out sprints uphill.
The Redtown Trailhead is a favorite of mine for hill sprints. The parking lot opens to an old coal mine and dam access trail, replete with ballpark. You can run either into Bellevue via Factoria, or all the way into Issaquah.
It’s about three ultramonkey miles to Wilderness Peak, so I planned to run out there and back. It’s been a while since I’ve spent copious amounts of time on that end of Squak Valley, so I stupidly elected to return via Long View Peak.
Well it’s not entirely stupid, it was gorgeous and nearly devoid of people. It did double my requested time on feet.
I dropped my pack on the picnic table at the trailhead, gave myself 5 seconds to get up to speed and ran up the gravel Cave Hole trail at full bore. I walked back down, headphones in, uncharacteristically avoiding eye contact with the dozens of civilians exploring our shared Big Backyard.
“How far does this path, umm… go, back there?” asked a very stern man with a child strapped to his chest. The two young hikers with matching backpacks smiled but couldn’t answer. “I don’ know,” said one, “far!” said the other.
I wouldn’t know how to answer that either. You could hike it over the Cascades and all the way to Idaho if you wanted to.
Twenty Minute Push
A little more than a decade ago, I boldly announced I was becoming and athlete and everyone around me at the time rolled their eyes. I have trouble with external self awareness, so it’s difficult for me to assess how appropriate the responses of my colleagues was. What I can say is that I made that happen.
I’ve accomplished a lot, but nothing outsized by the standards of my new peers. I’ve finished a couple of hundos, I’ve run a lot of long races, I can throw down 30 miles with a slow pace on reasonable terrain from the couch.
For whatever reason, this new plateau isn’t good enough. I want to push harder.
A similar event happened this weekend. This time I announced that I wanted to become an “elite” athlete. Whatever that is. I got the same response. The funny thing, I feel the same way about that announcement as I did a decade ago. It’s going to happen. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like. But I know that it’s going to happen.
So we start with the small things.
I wanted to get out of the house early. There was some sort of morning breakfast that I got talked into. We figured I would be there for an hour. But of course, my car’s battery died. So I was at the mercy of another’s plans.
Needless to say, I rolled up on my planned 90 minute run at 3pm, with a sunset around 4:30. Perfect timing.
The jaunt of up Little Si was about as good as you can ask for. It’s a simple trail with the familiar Snoqualmie Valley RhinoLite choss scattered all over the ground. It’s not a clean trail. We came. We ran. We hit the knob at sunset and came back down.
On the way down, I hauled ass up the Boulder Garden loop for a several hundred feet. Korey, my coach, had given me plenty of speed and anaerobic work for the weekend, and so I was trying my best to accommodate it into my need for trail miles.
Success. It was a lovely trip.
At this point, I’m not entirely sure how to proceed. I have faith in the coaching, and am moving forward with general fitness from cycling, weights and climbing, I’m still looking to push myself forward. Some of the things I can probably part with are my perpetual fear of being cold and my apparently inability to get on trail midweek.
I think I can force both, although it might mean considerably less time frantically planning an entrance into a bolder community of athletes.
Intermezzo on Salt Spring
I used to be a better vagrant. I’ve hitched and Craigslisted to make my way between Ohio, Texas, California and Seattle for almost a decade. It’s only been a year or so that I’ve had my own car, and this is the second time since then that the battery has died from sitting idle.
I’ve slept in dubious places, and more recently I’ve lived in that car. While that is generically summer behavior, I do feel it slipping away. Fall is such an existentialish time.
These feelings were churning in that back of my mind as we made our way up to Canada’s Gulf Islands for the Thanksgiving weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I wasn’t particularly excited. I had booked a B&B for chrissakes!
Dave and the Island
It’s not clear to me how we settled on Salt Spring Island, but almost immediately I was glad that we did.
It took me a while to realize that my buddy Dave grew up there, who still runs a race series there, who does serious work on the trails there, and who happened to be in town to show us around for the weekend.
Dave, who back in April spotted me in Erica’s random photograph in a bar near Phoenix at an Aravaipa Group Run afterparty that I just happened to be at after missing the group run by mere seconds for the second time in two years. The same Erica who convinced me to run the Whiskey Basin 55k on a whim the weekend before Yakima Skyline 50k (at which I subsequently earned my first DNF). That 55k, incidentally, I took out way too fast with a bunch of 19 year old kids who all DNF’ed (sans one who I caught and finished with). That same 55k whose first major descent had me feeling so full of myself that I ended up flat on my stomach with a bruised rib and torn skin and blood dripping from every limb, not five minutes before Jamil came running up with his camera. But it was that same 55k after which I met and drank beers with Gordon Hardman and his wife and his dog and rapped about Hardrock so it was more than worth it. (Some weird foreshadowing to be sure.)
Incidentally, that next week at my doomed attempt at the Yakima Skyline race I saw the same Dave running at an extremely competitive clip in a` sheer pink dress until he apparently tripped and slammed into the ground and also bruised his rib - probably in a much more painful manner - before I saw him climbing up the backside on the way back. So I guess that’s karma. Or at least we’ll always have those bruised ribs to share. Or something.
Oh. Right. But it’s the same Dave who saved my bacon at this year’s Hardrock by putting colorful zip ties into what remained of my zippers on my pack, and who’s place I ended up taking at the Finlayson Arm 100k halfway aid station because he was too busy fighting fires and otherwise saving the day up north.
Yeah that Dave. What a cool guy. And he totally showed us around his home island. For free!
It gets dark at 4; we’re up north! Our first outing was up to Mt. Maxwell. The run was billed as a 6 or 7k jaunt, but it had almost as much vertical. The trails were in great shape and well marked, but between the fallen leaves and the sheer number of forks, there was no way we would have gotten out of there without hypothermia without a guide.
The views from the top were stunning in a typical San Juan / Gulf Island sort of way. It was chilly, and there was rock - apparently just stable enough to entertain a few sport routes. We ran down into the darkness and eventually to a beer at Moby’s.
On Sunday we slept in and stalled and otherwise lolligagged until about 3:30 wheceforth we set off to run a lap around Ruckle Provincal Park. Here too was a simple 6 or 7k that had an impressive amount of vertical, technicality and running in the dark. We started out In the rain at the beach, and run way out until we found a turkey farm.
Before long we were deep in a forest, sun setting, on trails that would be barely visible beneath the fallen leaves and underbrush on a sunny day. It was an adventure that couldn’t be photographed because of sheer lighting constraints.
Dave ran ahead into the darkness while Nina - whose night vision isn’t - moved cautiously amongst the rocks and roots and steep descents that brought us out to the coast. Even I had a couple of surprise twigs in the eye.
Absolutely. Completely. 100 percent my kind of fun. Salt Spring Island is a beautiful, gnarly place.
Be it laziness or darkness or some other manifestation of fun, we ended up back at the car in the last bit of twilight with barely enough time to a run for the ferry.
BC Ferries are exorbitant and oversized and modern and all the things that Washington State Ferries are happily not. But they do have a mean dinner buffet which Dave treated us to, and I haven’t eaten like that since the college dorm commons Sunday brunch.
I went island hopping in Canada and it was a lovely and my friends on Victoria were miffed by the instagram photos since we didn’t tell those folks on the “big island” that we’d be there. Next time, folks! Promise.
Trail Family Reunion
Often the time between races is filled with busy work, too little training and a lot of sitting in traffic. I’m a little horrified to admit that, because I go out of my way to avoid that as much as possible. That might be reflected some in how long life has felt in the passage from May to December.
Much had happened to so many folks. Sure we’d seen the Victorians recently, but not also with the Okanagans and the Hill-Billies and the Montana-Olympians and the folks from the Methow. At least not in a while. Even Boise rolled in! I even swept again with my friend Sean.
I’m grateful for the awareness that has spaced out my life in the past six months. Much of that comes from doing much, I suspect. The more spaces you can take in, the more people you can collide with, the more memories your brain lays down.
Every single time I ride into a new neighborhood at night, the experience is universal. It feels like I’m driving in a tunnel, as if there were a tree canopy over my head. Exactly like orange sodium lights and otherwise dark streets of home.
But upon waking the next morning, I find an entirely new place to discover. I first became cognizant of this phenomena while visiting Santa Barbara for graduate school. Without seeing everything around you, there is no reason to lay down new memories, yet. But with the sun! Oh!
Everything appears new. It’s not quite like the process of falling down a snow slope - but its close. Lots of slow thinking. Lots of awareness.
I worry about drowning in fast thinking, since that’s where much of life gets wasted being computer screens or daily commutes.
Can we agree to make 2019 the year of celebrating brain plasticity, to steal a phrase?