Saturday, July 4, 2020

Nolan's 14: Third Attempt and Failure

For the third time I attempted Nolan's 14 and failed. First was in 2014 unsupported, the second was supported in 2016, and then again supported starting July 1st. Well, a few hours before my running partner M and I started, Joey Campanelli started going South to North as well, and he smashed the record by about 5.5 hours, taking it down to just over 41 hours. I knew it was possible, and now someone did it. Funny that we started within hours of him, I mean, between the full moon, the summer solstice and the good weather, it was a good day to try.

I'm not actually that disappointed about this failure at the moment. When we were on Princeton and falling behind my idealistic schedule I debated stopping. But one of the thoughts I had was, 'if I stop now, on my third attempt, will I ever do it?' Now, two days later as I limp around my apartment with a clearly injured left lower leg I realize how ridiculous that thought is. I enjoy those mountains so much, that I could easily end up attempting Nolan's 14 every year for the next two decades.

We started up Shavano right at daybreak so that we didn't have to take headlamps. From there over to Antero and then down to the town of Alpine it was seven hours to the minute. I was pretty happy because it felt easy and that's 45 minutes faster than on the training run we had a few weeks ago. Joey did that section in 5:40.

Princeton was not as smooth. It's a loose mountain. Coming down I fell three times, one of those times I stood on about a one ton rock, that was resting on another one ton rock, and they both moved so I fell in an upside down way. When everything stopped my feet were uphill of my body and my butt is still sore from hitting first, which I am thankful for because it's a somewhat padded part of my body.

When we reached the Colorado trail we began running again, and it was delightful! All the negative thoughts went away and I felt confident we were going to do the whole route. We had some pizza thanks to W our crew when we hit the valley and at dusk started up Yale. The exact route we did I have not done, so it was a little disorienting. We weren't moving too fast, in particular I wasn't moving too fast. At 12:45 AM when we finally made the summit M was tired and my leg was not so happy, so we decided to hike down to the the trail and sleep. Unsaid was, 'this is probably going to be calling it quits'. The descent was painful on my lower left leg, and then my shoes appear to be a half size too small, so my toes were hating me on the steep off trail descent down Yale. As we hiked the 1.5 or so miles out on the trail we passed two groups of two starting up Columbia via the normal trail. It was so strange to have been out all day, that the next day's hikers were starting.

We slept for three hours, on the hope that I (we) would feel good enough to go back out there, but it was not to happen. We lounged around by the trailhead and bathroom for a bit then went into Buena Vista and had lunch and drove back to Denver. I don't know exactly what happened to my left ankle/lower leg but it's still swollen two days after finishing and I'm limping around when I walk.

Colorado mountains are a great playground. What I mean is they are big enough to take effort to get up and down, but they are small enough that the risk is generally quite small. Meaning, in Asia the mountains are so big that you can't really afford to make mistakes or you will get hurt badly, but making a mistake on a 14er or a 13er is usually something that is somewhat easy to recover from. Of course on technical routes it doesn't matter if it's 40 feet tall or 4000 feet tall if you fall and hit your head.

What's next? I have four official 14ers and six if you count the unofficial ones left to do and I think there is a very good chance I finish them up in July.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Good Days

If you ever have the opportunity to break two bones and partially tear two ligaments in your ankle, politely decline the opportunity. I really don't recommend it. I ran a 20:55 5k, on a track, two weeks ago. Almost anytime 2009 through 2017 I would have lapped myself twice.

Saturday I ran over three 14ers, Shavano, Tabeguche, and Antero... and I felt so good my climbing partner M and I started up Princeton before thunder at treeline turned us around. It was clearly the best I have felt in the mountains in three years. The feeling was beautiful. While I was working hard, at all times I had the capacity to push the pace more than I was. That's how I want to feel in the mountains.

After our retreat I drove back to the awesome city of Longmont where I live. During the day I saw a total of nine rainbows, ten if you count a double rainbow as two, most on the drive back to Denver. As I walked up the stairs to my third floor apartment, after 10,004 feet of vertical hiking on 14ers, I was exhausted and ready for bed. It was a full day with a couple of my friends. As I get older I realize how precious days like this are, even if we get snowed and rained on like we did, we had some laughs out there, and S and M are two good friends I look forward to more time with.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

When I see a Rainbow

The other day, actually a few weeks ago now, I bicycled up Flagstaff Mountain on the edge of Boulder. At the top, waiting for my friend, I was sipping and gurgling water and coughing, making everyone else nervous in this pandemic I suppose. As I would take a sip of water and spit it out, a small rainbow would appear in the spray at 6:45 PM as the sun set through some light clouds. Long enough I could definitely see it, but not long enough to be a normal rainbow, let alone a double or triple rainbow.

In Genesis God says that a rainbow will be the sign that he will never again destroy the world like he did in the flood. (Yes, I realize for non Christians, talking about the flood is blasphemy because if the flood really happened, than a lot of other stuff in the Bible most likely happened too.) Personally I take it one step further when I see a rainbow, even, or maybe especially, when it's in the spit that comes from my coughing mouth in a pandemic as I go through a breakup. I see it as a sign that God loves me.

The last time I spent time with my most recent ex we saw a double rainbow. We were no longer dating at the time, it was the first time since we broke up that we physically spent any time together. For me it was a test to see if I could tolerate being around her, and fortunately I could. We still laughed. As I drove back down from the mountains after rock climbing in a snow storm (not exaggerating) without working windshield wipers in the rain (again not exaggerating) we saw a double rainbow, and I realized it would be okay. God loves me. I don't have much of a clue what that means or what he has in store for me, and after a pulmonary embolism and torn ankle ligaments to deal with the last 27 months, I'm very ready for a little pleasant resolution. But the point remains, God, the big man up there calling the shots when he wants to (and not calling the shots sometimes), is looking out for me. He's not going to spare me pain, just read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but the events in my life are ultimately all for His good plan, whatever that is.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Monday I Cried

I learned last weekend that a friend of mine for over eight years has never cried in front of his fiancé, or me. Might have to dive into that another time. I cried Monday on the drive to work listening to NPR about the protests the night before. Just a few tears. The average cry session is eight minutes and my commute during the pandemic is just over 20 minutes, but this session was only three minutes or so.

I only have a few African American friends. I actually have more friends that are born and raised Africans than African American. In other words, most of my friends are white, Hispanic, or Asian, so I have trouble relating to the experience of people of color in the USA. Yet I've heard the stories of different encounters some of them have had that simply blow my mind, because I don't have those kind of encounters. For example, I haven't been pulled over by the police while driving at all since I went through a yellow light back in 2011.

I haven't watched the 9:31 minute long video of George Floyd being suffocated... because we've seen this before, Philando Castile and Terence Crutcher were the two videos I watched in 2016 that changed me. I just cannot imagine myself ever being in those two situations and getting killed. One challenge is, I know police officers, they don't set out to get into those situations, at all. We live in a world where everything is video taped now, people are going to be held accountable for things that they would not have been even 10 years ago let alone 25. I kind of come at this from a quality control and Six Sigma perspective (hope that's not cold...) meaning as a society we keep trying to get better. However, as the overall quality improves, getting down into the nitty gritty corner cases actually poses harder deeper questions. It's like commercial airline safety, two pilots, basically all instrument flight rules, maintenance is meticulous, certification of the aircraft type is meticulous (737-Max excepted...), and so when there are incidents like the 737-Max crashes or George Floyd's death, it can be hard to overcome, because we've already tried the easy options.

Today I briefly attended the Boulder Black Lives Matter protest. It was mostly on accident, and the crowd was so big I didn't stay long because we are still in a pandemic and I don't want to get sick. I don't know what change looks like, because I already have equality with basically everyone else I want equality with, but obviously many people don't have the opportunities I have had. So I cried.

Point being, Jesus love you. He love me and everyone else too regardless of the sinful things we can change about ourselves but repeatedly fail to change or the things we can't change about ourselves.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Patience and the Blah

We're in a pandemic. We're also in minimum a recession, perhaps a depression. On top of all that I'm processing a breakup, a pay-cut and turning 34. Thankfully I started therapy back in February.
View from my balcony this morning.
I took vacation this past week, and I spent some of the time basically in a state of "blah" like my mind wasn't really actively working that hard. I just completed my portion of a big project at work that we've spent months working on, and I needed a break. But a break can be uncomfortable.

Meaning, when I go to sleep at night I am alone, and when I wake up I am alone. I spent four days this week in the mountains, attempted four mountains and summitted three, all alone. When I think about work, I know I'm at a startup, and I'm super happy we've made it as far as we have. The progress we have made in the last year is tremendous! Yet when we have a pay-cut because there is uncertainty about having enough money to support operations, I'm worried about the next hard conversation, will there be layoffs or even worse? Most likely not, we have such great talent that getting aquihired seems to me the worst case scenario. Of course, that doesn't include any effects from the pandemic. And on the dating side we've now been broken up longer than we actually dated. The whole relationship kind of blindsided me. Yes it was mostly what I was looking for but now that it ended, I again ask God, "What are you trying to teach me?! What is your plan for my life?! I'm 34!"

Point being, this is a time, in my life, and many other's I suppose, where I'm being required to have patience, more that I care to have. With all of the restrictions, I can't just go out to a bar with a friend and hang out and talk and empathize, so I'm spending time in a blah state of mind, not processing things as quickly as I used to pre-pandemic. But it's 57F and sunny with no wind right now and I'm very thankful to live in this expensive apartment with a great view and plenty of space as I spend so much time home alone. It will be very interesting to see how the world is in a few years, will we all be more patient and caring towards each other, or fearful and mistrusting? I suppose some will go one way and others the other way. Years ago my dad talking about people that lived through the Great Depression tended to fall into two groups financially speaking, those with lots of fear for the future who pinched pennies, and those that lived for today. I think we'll see the same, financial independence will probably become more popular, and so will partying like it's the last party you will ever get to go to. I don't know. But those that survive the pandemic will get to find out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What's the value in one ounce?

I'm in the market for a set of hiking poles. I have adjustable ski poles, which work great, but they aren't super light or very compact, measuring about 2.5 feet long when collapsed. Comparing non-adjustable poles there is a set of the aluminum poles at 12.5 ounces for $75, and essentially the same pair in carbon fiber at 10 ounces for $128. Over $50 to save 2.5 ounces!? There is a saying in bicycling that the cheapest pound to save is the pound around your midsection. Meaning, most of us could put in a few weeks of moderate workouts and eat a few salads to lose a single pound instead of spend another $1000 on carbon fiber bicycle accessories.

Back to the trekking pole discussion, the vast majority of the time, I don't see a need for trekking poles. In general I do for heavy packs or long easy snow stretches, where the slope is too low for an ice axe but you want something to keep balance and distribute the weight. However, in my ankle recovery, I've found I'm a bit more wobbly in some other scenarios too, in particular crossing logs over creeks. I've seen people fall in before and the past year I've had a few missteps and gotten a foot full of water more than once. As I learned on my recently little trek into the Chicago basin, especially with early season conditions, where you are wearing running or approach shoes, but spending a lot of time on snow, having some poles can be very nice.

I ended up buying the aluminum ones. You'll probably see them in a picture eventually. They haven't shipped yet.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

How to Cope when Life Feels Hopeless

Well, one friend had a bit of a suicidal moment a few weeks ago, many have been laid off or furloughed and many, like myself now, have had pay cuts. Strangely I don't personally know anyone that has the Covid-19 coronavirus, but friends of friends do, and even some people that have some say over me financially.  So I was asked not long ago how do I cope, how have I coped with difficult times. Let me tell you, my life hasn't been all roses, but I have lots of strategies, although not all are available to everyone.
  • Take a walk. It's simple and even in this pandemic you can probably find a place to do it while avoiding other people. I recommend finding the most expensive neighborhood you can around you and walking around their streets or sidewalks. The houses are usually so spaced out, and police often cruise through those neighborhoods that you're likely to be alone.
  • Go for a run or a bicycle ride. When I hit the lowest point in October 2010, living in my parents basement, on a $500 a month bail out fund, massively in debt, exercise was one of the main ways that I kept myself motivated. It paid off as I had a good spring racing season in 2011.
  • Talk about it with someone. I currently am seeing a therapist weekly for video chats. Also, family and friends works too. It's nice to articulate your particular stresses with others, misery loves company, and no one is alone in this.
  • Don't talk about it. To be honest, sometimes you just won't want to talk about it or think about it, and that's okay too. Moderation is good.
  • Play some video games. I have an old Play Station 1 from like 1996, I won it in a contest and I didn't even know what it was at the time. In the fall of 2010 I spent dozens of hours playing Command and Conquer. In the winter of 2010 when I lived with some friends I played Call of Duty and Forza while my three roommates worked and after I had applied for all of the new jobs every morning.
  • Watch some movies. For me Forrest Gump is my go to cry movie, and sometimes you just need a good cry. Or maybe Star Wars or Indian Jones or Back to the Future are the kind of out there adventures you need to transport you away from not knowing if you will be able to pay all of your bills in June. 
  • Apply for a job. When I was unemployed, simply applying for a job, any job, gave me a little boost of energy that maybe this would be the one. Maybe this would be what got me back on my feet financially, and give me a purpose. 
  • Read about the Great Depression or the Plague in the 1300s or other terrible historical event. For all of those difficult times, your ancestors survived and you are here now. Both Kohler and Railway Motors during the Great Depression had so little work but such commitment to their employees that they reduced the assembly line workers down to one day a week, that's a 80% pay cut from working a standard five days a week, let alone overtime on weekends. Yet, for many people or families that might be enough to keep a roof over their heads or some food on the table. Speaking for myself, I could survive on an 80% pay cut. I'd definitely need to find a cheaper place to live, and cut out lots of spending and saving, but it's possible. I just ran the numbers, I could take about a 50% pay cut and still live where I live. But when you think about a 50% pay cut, you can save a lot of jobs with that kind of drastic cut. Plus, some people might go find work elsewhere to return to their normal salaries, which further reduces a company's expenses.
  • Save money like next month you will end up out of work for a year. If you haven't been doing this the last ten years then you kind of missed the boat, but assuming you survive the pandemic, you'll get another shot at it. For myself, the last nine years I've saved a lot of money. Not as much as I could have, because I went to Mt. Everest twice, just bought a BMW, have gone skiing plenty, have a carbon fiber road bicycle, and spent plenty on smaller climbing trips. However, as I wrote in my recent Emergency Fund (Advanced Edition) I've been building up little pockets of financial resources for the scenario that I get laid off next week, every week for the last nine years. I think this whole pandemic is going to drive my generation to try and achieve financial independence even faster than the Great Recession did. I'm definitely not financially independent, but I'm in such a strong position compared to 2010 that if my life would revert to 2010, things got really bad in this country.
  • Get a $4 coffee. For me coffee shops are one of the luxuries in my life. It used to be going to the coffee shop and doing something on my laptop for an hour or two, but now it's just to pick up the coffee (and maybe sit in one of the outside chairs actually). This process or act did a number of things for me. It tastes good! And it costs a fraction of the cost of going to a fancy restaurant. It gave me a place to blog or apply for jobs, where as sometimes at home I can get distracted by TV or movies. Paying that little bit of money helps me feel like a contributing member of society. I'm helping keep that barista employed. Finally it's a little routine out of the house. When I was unemployed, just like during stay at home orders in this pandemic, I had nowhere to go, and going out for a $4 coffee gave me a little place to go that I could mostly afford. 
  • Work on a side project. You know what I'm talking about, that business idea that will probably never go anywhere, or that home improvement project or car repair you've been delaying. It will give you something productive to work on, and you'll feel better about making progress after it's done. In fact, I was doing a little mentoring, and Janzen Gear might not be dead after all...
Okay, that's all I have for today, I'm going to go bicycle a bit.