Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Climbing the unknown mountain
It's not that I'm ungrateful for my opportunities and freedom to pursue creative goals. It's just the opposite — I'm scared that I'm squandering this opportunity. I set specific specific goals, benchmarks for myself. Like the minutes passing in the TRT100, these have mainly served to reveal that I'm falling short. I admit I fear the looming DNF.
My dad and I were driving home from Zion on Friday evening when Beat called me with fantastic news. He had finished Le Defi de l'Oisans — The Challenge of the Oisans — a 180-kilometer mountain run in the French Alps. For 59 hours he battled steep and exposed trails across the loose shale and mud-slicked slopes, often in heavy rain. Mile for mile, Beat said it was the toughest race he had ever encountered — much more rugged and steep than the Hardrock 100 and even the Tor des Geants, and more daunting and dangerous than the Susitna 100 and White Mountains 100. His biggest challenge wasn't fatigue or foot pain or effort. It was fear — fear of falling — and several times it was all he could do not to retreat from the slippery shale that offered no margin for error. Needless to say I had been worried about him, and I was very relieved and proud that he finished. But Beat — who has already completed five 100-plus-mile races this year amid injuries, lots of bike riding and surprisingly little non-race running — has a unique way of making things like this seem like no big deal. And I know now, really understand, that traveling 100 miles on foot in one solid effort is significantly harder than it looks.
But as I looked down at the icy water in the basin below, I felt a rush of disappointment.
"Oh, that's not Lower Red Pine Lake."
"You're going to the Pfeifferhorn from here?" I said incredulously. "Where did you start?"
"Early this morning at the Snowbird Tram," he replied.
"Snowbird, huh. How far was that?"
"We figure this is about halfway," he said. "But on the way here we hit a couple sections that were definitely Class Five. Ahead looks like there may be more of the same. So we're debating right now."
"Eek," I said sympathetically. "Well, that's way too much for me. I guess I'll have to be happy with Red Baldy today."
And as I followed the hiker and his partner across the summit ridge, I realized that the quiet vistas of the unknown mountain really were enough. Goals don't always work out as planned, but they usually work out beautifully all the same.
Sometimes I need to go to the mountains to reflect on where I've been. But even more than that, I need to come back to California, to Beat, my home, to realize where I'm going. The possibilities are still endless.