Saturday, January 15, 2011

The difference of a day

Thursday night hike to the University Beacon with Bill, Norman and Josh. We slogged through slush, climbed up the wind-blasted ridge and made futile efforts to balance on the wind crust as tiny shards of ice whipped up around us. During the descent, Bill accidentally stepped off a snow shelf and hyperextended his knee. Suddenly, a simple Thursday night hike became a half-rescue effort. With no police officers in sight, we had to fashion walking aids out of sticks and walk with a pain-stricken Bill as he picked his way down the mountain. At the slower pace, sweat and fingers started to freeze. A reminder that even casual outings have a sharp edge during the winter.

Friday on a jet coasting over the Pacific Ocean for hours, too many hours, landing in the strange and alien land of O'ahu. Beat, being the jet-setting ultrarunner that he is, was signed up for the HURT 100 and let me tag along for a regrettably short weekend trip in Hawaii. I am here to serve the role as crew/pacer. We were up at 4 a.m. to get to the race start. I saw him off in the inky blackness of a low-latitude dawn, and now I'm prepping to spend the day shuttling between checkpoints to help with the race. After 12 or so hours of wending through Honolulu traffic and subsisting on bagels and coffee, I'm going take a quick evening nap if I can manage, then don my own running gear and - if all goes well - join Beat on lap 4. That's at least 20 miles of muddy technical running in heat (at least relative to what I'm used to, 75-80 degrees) and humidity, beginning after midnight and continuing into another inky black dawn.

As I sleepily make my way through Waikiki, I see people sprawled on beach chairs, swimming in clear warm water and bobbing in the gentle surf beneath blue skies. I recognize these scenes as opportunities that I'm squandering, but I no longer view it that way. One of the best parts of getting older has been a real acceptance that I'm not a product of the images and culture I was fed throughout my youth. I don't have to aspire to an MTV bikini body and an idle life of leisure with a glut of useless consumer products. I can travel all the way to Hawaii for three measly days to stay up all night, eat crappy race food and run technical trails in the mud and rain, and maybe not even touch a grain of white beach sand, and not feel bad about it. In fact, I feel pretty good about it. This is my vacation in paradise, and I'm going to live it up.