The Zwift and the Dead

Long story short, I broke my back sledding with the kids on Christmas break.

Wait, it’s not actually that bad. My initial terror was “oh my god, I’m going to be paralyzed for the rest of my life!” and that turns out to not be true, so trust me that anything else is not so bad. A few months of convalescence while things heal… could be a lot worse!

Vertebrae don’t break like regular bones, they crush. Given time and sufficient rest, it will heal, but I will never regain that 3 mm of height. In the meantime, 2-3 months of no lifting anything, no bending, no twisting, no impacts. Any sort of compressive shock to the spine right now would be extremely bad and could restart my recovery (at best) to lead to something much much worse. No running, no skiing, no anything with a risk of falling. Oh great.

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2022 Adventure Roundup

2022 is nearly in the books, so it’s time once again to look over what made the year so fun and adventurous. The big focus this year was running around in the mountains training all spring and summer for and a big 100 km ultramarathon to celebrate my impending birthday. But there were lots of other non-running adventures to spice things up. Here are some of the smaller adventures throughout the year!

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Along for the ride

I was in a vulnerable spot this August, having recently given up ultrarunning, actively casting about for something to take its place in the outdoor obsession department. This isn’t where I expected it to go, but that’s life for you.

Do you want to be a coach on the team?

Maybe… does it require any actual mountain biking skills?

None at all, just be able to ride along with the kids and help out at races. We’ll pay for your training. Step right this way. What size jersey are you?

And that is how I ended up coaching a high school mountain bike team.

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The wheels go round

Like most outdoor hobbies, I’ve become obsessed with, and subsequently given up, mountain biking at least once already. After a memorable trip to Moab and some messing around on more local trails for a few years, I decided it was too hard and I was tired of falling into cacti. The early-2000s era bike went into the back of the garage except for occasional cruises around town, trips the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, or messing around with the kids as they grew up. I switched more to road biking and even built myself a gravel grinder frankenbike.

Fast forward to 2020 and kid #1 is finally outgrowing the last of the kid-sized bikes and is ready to move into an adult-sized frame. Spouse made a surprise suggestion that instead of just buying one new bike, we get me one as well. It was the start of the Pandemic and we had a lot of time on our hands. Why not? We obtained a pair of entry-level-decent bikes (Specialized Rockhopper hardtails) and the latest era of mountain biking began.

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Fulford Cave Recon

Twenty years ago, I spent a lot of time underground. After a few memorable newby trips in Kentucky, I moved to Maryland and rapidly progressed to marathon survey trips in the Virginias. It was awesome! It ticked both my exploration and climbing boxes as well as being a bit weird.

But then I stopped. I was moving from Baltimore (which is near the world-class caves of WV and VA) to Colorado which has world-famous mountains. It’s not that Colorado doesn’t have caves (or West Virginia not having mountains), it’s just that I felt like I should take advantage of the greatest local resource. My caving gear went into a bin and sat on the shelf for 19 years.

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Never Summer 100k: Changing the Rules

I have a birthday ending in a zero in a few months and it’s no longer possible to pretend I’m not middle-aged. Things could be a lot worse. I can look back on a half-century and not find too many things I regret doing or not doing. Nevertheless, aging gives you Thoughts and I have a lot of topics on my mind. Who am I? Where am I going? Who do I want to be?

My identity as defined by my passions has always been pretty fluid and laissez faire. In more direct words, I dabble in a lot of different things without being particularly good at any of them. I’ve spent a few years at a time obsessing about various forms of cycling, climbing, skiing, backpacking, kayaking, caving, woodworking, mountaineering, photography, beer brewing…. Sometimes these obsessions come around for a second or even third round! It means my garage is full of lots of specialized gear which I don’t use very often.

However, the one constant over my 30s and 40s has been running. I started trail running on a whim in my early 30s as something to keep me in shape for mountaineering and it has lasted me far longer than anything else. Even amongst my other fascinations, running has been my #1 hobby and everything else has been secondary. Much as it seems weird to my vestigial teenage self, I now absolutely define myself as a trail runner. In particular, I identify as the ultra-marathoner sub-species typified as someone with more endurance than speed and a 3-sigma tolerance for voluntary pain and extended outdoor suffering. “Type-II fun”, we call it, proudly: i.e., only fun when reminiscing about how much it sucked at the time.

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Summer Training

In about a week, I’ll be running a Big Scary trail race with lots of distance, both horizontal and vertical. Yes, I’ve done big scary races before, but it’s been a long time. As part of the training, I’ve been trying to get in a big mountain run each weekend in preparation for it. I’m following a 24-week training plan (so my ultra is at the end of Week 24). Continuing from this spring’s training, here are the highlights.

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Ultras in the time of Covid

After 26 months of artful dodging, The Virus finally got me.

Whoa, back up.

So I ran an ultra.

Nope, farther back.

I’m turning an-age-that-ends-in-zero this year so I’m coping in my usual fashion: signing up for a big stupid scary race and training my increasingly-aged-ass off. But this isn’t about that race (yet). This is about the 30+ mile training run before the big run to see test out my various racing strategies before the big day. And if you’re going to do a training run for a long race, it might as well be a shorter race so you can have the benefit of aid stations, finish line tacos, and a nice t-shirt for the collection.

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Spring Training

I have a “significant” birthday coming up and, predictably, I’m coping with it by training for a significant race. It was made clear to me that trying to run another 100 miler would come with serious repercussions, so I’m tackling the somewhat saner Never Summer 100k at the end of July.

It’s nice to be training again. Once again, I’m following a plan based on one in Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell, somewhat tailored to this particular race. It calls for regular runs during the week followed by long runs on the weekends. So I thought it would be fun to go back and look at all the weekend “long” runs I’ve managed since starting the plan in early February. As usual, Life has gotten in the way of some of them and I haven’t always gotten in the prescribed miles, but I’ve managed something respectable most of the time.

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2022 Ski Roundup

It was not a fantastic ski year, especially after last year’s surprisingly good season. It started and ended memorably and there were some good times in between. But mostly the snow wasn’t great, we were distracted by other things, and there just wasn’t that much skiing.

The season started out well enough with an early season storm that allowed me, for the first time ever, to do some laps on my late-October birthday (Kudos to A Basin for opening their White Ribbon of Death in time for me to get in ten runs!). Unfortunately, I never made it back to ski anything other than High Noon. It ended well, with a gonzo uphill ski race benefit in costume at Eldora, finishing at the base of an even-sketchier-than-usual West Ridge.

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