Saturday, March 19, 2011


You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.  ~Paul Sweeney

I love books. These volumes of bounded, crisp, magical paper are precious, soothing, haunting, opening worlds beyond worlds. Some books speak louder to me than others and those I place on my shelf to revisit and share with others.

When I was younger, a feisty Miss Pippi Longstocking engulfed my world from the very moment I plucked her book from the library shelf. My mother reminds me how I would chatter on to anyone who would listen, or to simply no one at all, all about the daily fiascos Pippi would get herself into. I spoke of her as if she was my very best friend in the whole wide world. She was unconventional, assertive, strong, rebellious, independent, silly, had a horse on her porch (which she could lift with one hand) and a monkey on her shoulder.

Since Pippi, I have discovered a heap of books that have somehow made their way into my life and influenced it:

"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker
"Since Strangling Isn't An Option" by Sandra Crowe
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
"The Handmaids Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

Just to name a small few.

I have learned, while advancing into my slightly wiser years, to thoroughly enjoy/learn from the words of others but to also realize that many things written are often slanted by the opinions of the writer. Opinions which are too often presented to us as facts then pushed under our noses just to earn a buck. These days I find myself more and more suspicious of what I read. If you are looking for a way to prove a point, a mere stroke of a key will unearth whatever you are looking for; fact, fiction, or just plain garbage.

I just finished reading Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run".

It was a fantastic read. I took away several different things from this book.

1. I enjoyed losing myself in his words and quotes describing how the body acts while running. The spiritual side of the thoughts, euphoric inner peace, and animalistic motions he paints with his words sums up a great portion of why I run without flaw. It is poetic at times. I suggest anyone who enjoys running read this book. If you're not a runner, but have someone in your life that is, you might just pick up this book to read in order to understand their obsession. Heck, it might even nudge you a little towards running yourself.

2. The Tarahumara Indians are fascinating and inspiring- both their running and their way of life. What is not to like about the Tarahumara? They smile while cranking out miles on hard-ass trails all while nearly barefoot.

3. McDougall delves into quite a bit of running history including the progression of the running man (did you know that the Neanderthal and modern man are of different species?), the impact of shoe companies on our bodies, and the microscopic analysis of the barefoot runner.  He had me glued to the book through all this. Was this real? I did some fact checking throughout and it appears he did his homework.

4. On the down side, I did feel McDougall steered a bit too much into trying to sell the "we are born to run barefoot" theory. I agree, we are a running species, we do it very well (especially long distances), and it all makes a fabulous story, especially for us runners. It made me nod a lot throughout the book: This is me. I am a runner. I am simply enjoying what I was born to do, so foo on all you who think I'm crazy. However, I also don't feel that everyone has a natural gift of fleet footed-ness or if you aren't a runner then you aren't contributing to society/living up to your full potential. Not everyone enjoys running nor finds it an easy task to accomplish (which is why we have bikers, hikers, swimmers, kayakers, etc). I know when I blog about running "a little run of 6 or 12 miles" that it may be fun and satisfying to me but to another that same feat is viewed as nearly impossible, painful, or even "why would one even want to do something like that" insanity?

5. I am not 100% pushed towards barefoot or semi-barefoot running yet. Do the Vibram Five Fingers intrigue me? Oh heck yeah. The whole idea of running in bare feet would be great. I grew up in the country running around barefoot 75% of the time and nearly despised shoes. I even snuck outside in the winter and ran around barefoot just to see what it was like.  However, just last week I pulled a huge roofing nail out of the sole of my sneaker after a trail run. How it got on the trail, I have no idea, but I am sure glad I was wearing my sneakers and not VFF or barefoot. That would have been a nasty trip to the docs with a tetanus shot, that is after I managed a painful and bloody hobble several miles out of the wilderness to my car. All that said, I might look into getting a pair of VFF to build up my feet and leg muscles (SLOWLY) but I am not jumping on the wagon quite yet...right now I am happy doing a half to full mile barefoot on my treadmill.

6. In summary, Christopher McDougall makes a great point over the entire barefoot vs. shoe debate that I have seen over the past year or so:

"...the debate isn't about Bare Soles vs. Shoes. It's about learning to run gently. Master that, and you can wear — or not wear — anything you please."

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.  ~Christopher Morley

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fun at Altitude

This past weekend I met up with my friends Stephanie (New Hampshire), Tracey, and Scott (both from North Carolina) in Keystone. I arrived late on Friday in time to lounge around in front of the condo's fireplace and catch up on old times. We tucked in with plans for a good long snowshoe in the morning on a nearby trail. When I asked where we were going to go, the girls told me about a trail near Keystone that "only charged $11 per person for their groomed trails." What?! Let's regroup on this, I said, nobody pays to snowshoe.


Unless you're from out of state and don't know any better...

I unfolded my newly purchased map of the area and together we scoped out a new trail. I had no intention of ever paying to hike back country, that was just ridiculous to me. Our first few picks were on the "overzealous" meter. All of us were huge endurance athletes- or pain pushers. A great quote from a book I'm in the midst of:

"It wasn't just the racing they loved; it was the thrill of exploring the brave new world of their own bodies"- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

In one odd way or another each of us girls met the other outside of the US while running a multi-day endurance race (Scott was the newbie, a friend of Tracey's yet proved to be just as cool as us girls). Eventually the three of us met up for a 50 mile run in the Grand Canyon last year (Rim2Rim2Rim),

and now, here in the mountains of Colorado, we were together again. It was great. I've seriously never met more hard-core kick ass yet hilariously fun girls than these two.

After choosing a few trails that were 16 miles+ each I had to remind all that although I was always up for the challenge, the "average" snowshoer tends to hike about a mile and hour. Add our complete and utter awesomeness into the equation and we probably could do 2 maaaybe 3 mph. Subtract the fact that three out of the four individuals were near sea-levelers and not used to the altitude.

We finally chose a trail just west of Keystone that appeared to be about a 10ish mile loop that connected to the Colorado Trail. A good deal of elevation but we packed well with extra layers, food, and water. The one thing we all forgot: a GPS or a compass. Knocked into the realization of how much I rely on my GPS, I was humbled and slightly humiliated that I was not a better orienteer. I have done a few adventure races and felt very proficient with the orienteering part, although that has been a few years back and my skills were dusty. Confident that at least if one of us gets lost we would have great company, we decided to forge ahead and just play it somewhat smart. 

We hit the trailhead and I called Cowboy to give him the general area we were snowshoeing at and about how long we should be out. I normally call or text coordinates but this time it was just vague trailhead names and directions. We headed out in great spirits. It was a little chilly to start but within a quarter of a mile we were all stripping off layers and goofing around.

Then we started to climb...a big climb and we were breaking brand new trail.

I had quite the advantage with my MSR Lightening Ascent shoes. The others had rentals (Atlas and another brand) that were running snowshoes- short and narrow. I floated on top of the snow (for the most part) where my friends struggled a bit, falling into the waist deep snow frequently.
no, she isn't kneeling


 Luckily all got a good laugh out of the fiasco instead of getting frustrated, although I blame the good mood on the amazing peanut butter and honey on toasted english muffins that Tracey put together that morning. Scott had thrown in some sliced sausage and cheeses in a baggie to munch on too. Yum! That powered us up the hill.

We plowed, huffed, and puffed our way to the top and then decided to turn around and descend before we got lost. A few more giggles:

We only missed the "trail" once at the very end but headed over to a ridge to look down trying to locate the car. We saw it down below and had the bright idea to "just head down the ridge and create our own path!" Three steps off the ridge and we all started sinking down to our chests in snow. It was hilariously slow and fun- we all agreed we laughed the most on that small stretch just to get to the stinkin' car.

Steph had fallen almost chest deep into the snow. Scott was trying to pull her out when you can see him all of a sudden fall through. Then Tracey slides in and down behind him. It was a mess.

We made it back, piled in and cranked on the heat. What a great adventure with some awesome buddies. We estimated between 8-10 miles hiked over 5hrs. We noshed well that night and headed to bed early!

"...this ninety-five-year-old man came hiking twenty-five miles over the mountain. Know why he could do it? Because no one every told him he couldn’t. No one ever told him he oughta be off dying somewhere in an old age home. You live up to your own expectations..." Born To Run by Christopher McDougall