The last time I spent Christmas with my family was 2004. Six years ago. Distance in Alaska and jobs in the newspaper industry created an insurmountable barrier to traveling home for the holidays ever since, so I was extra excited for the opportunity to head back to Utah for a long weekend this year — even though it meant coaxing Geo on yet another thousand-mile I-15 trip through intermittent whiteouts and nearly getting stranded on an onramp near the Continental Divide during my late-night trip south.
A lot has changed in my life in six years. But as it turns out, nothing has changed about Christmas. My large extended family still gathers in the primary room of an LDS church to eat Fourth-of-July picnic food (fried chicken, potato salad and ice cream), play silly games and sing off-key. My immediate family still exchanges the same gifts (Old Spice and Twizzlers for my dad, "normal" (non-outdoor) clothing for me), eats individual game hens for dinner even though no one, not even me, can finish one, and pops "A Christmas Story" in the DVD player even if it's already after midnight because all of the other Christmas Eve activities took so long. Ah, tradition.
This year I also conned Beat into flying into Utah for the holiday by telling him the running was great in Salt Lake County. Actually, he seemed genuinely excited to meet my family, and the meeting went well. We did get out for a couple runs in the Corner Canyon area even though family visits dominated the weekend by a large margin. The weather was warm and dry although foggy on Christmas Eve. We ran for three hours only to have clouds cut us off from the viewpoints on the south side of the Lone Peak ridgeline.
Christmas Day I only had an hour to spare for a run before heading to Ogden for more family stuff. It only seemed fair to give Beat a break or at least spare him from full submersion into my very large Mormon family right out of the gate, so he planned a longer run with snowshoeing in the higher elevations. Temperatures were in the low 40s with full sunshine. We ran fast up the dry trails, soaking in the most summer-like weather I have felt since September. After a half hour Beat continued up the Ghost Falls loop and I turned around, dropping to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail so I could run a wee bit longer in the full-sun exposure of the open mountainside. My legs moved with rare fluidity down the hard-packed singletrack. I was dripping sweat and completely blissed out. I wouldn't have minded having eight hours to spend in that perfect space, moving with purpose among the dirt and snow and sunlight. But I was happy to have a chance to see my fam before returning to the great white northland.
Beat continued up to 8,000 feet through heavy breakable crust (should have warned him about that south-facing slope) but for his hard efforts he did get to enjoy all the views of the Wasatch Mountains and Utah Valley that we missed on Friday.
Beat and I drove together back to Missoula, and the first thing we did after stumbling in from yet another 10-hour stomach-clenching Geo epic was put his Fatback together. It's a truly beautiful bike — aluminum with a nickel finish, fat carbon fork, Speedway rims, one Larry and one Endomorph tire, and pogies from Dogwood Designs. I can't help but be filled with envy even though this bike currently lives with me. We're planning to take Pugsley and the Fatback on a night ride tonight, and I'm filled with excitement. One great thing about diversifying my outdoor activities is that the cycling excursions have become truly special, almost indulgent. Yeah for bikes.
P.S. Beat wrote a sweet commentary about my first 50K on his blog. Link here.