A deeper exhaustion was setting in, the kind that seems to trickle through my veins like chain lube on a cold morning. Even simple tasks lagged beneath a slow drip of energy. Tiredness like this doesn't happen in an explosive burnout; rather, it seeps in through the cracks, the bike racing and the hiking, the sleep deprivation and the shivering, the calorie deficits and traveling, always moving. Bill, Mo and I didn't arrive in Draper until late Tuesday evening, and then there was lots to do — laundry and unpacking, hanging up wet camping gear, shower and important e-mails, dinner in there somewhere. My dad pointed to a pair of snowshoes and poles he had borrowed from his friend. "We can go hiking in the morning, if you want," he said.
I stayed up way too late writing a blog entry, which, like a diary, I use as an outlet for images and thoughts that I sometimes just have to get out of my system before I can sleep. But 8 a.m. came awful early. Maybe I haven't adjusted to Mountain Time yet. Then I remembered, Daylight Savings Time already took care of that. The extra hour hardly helped my cause; I was either racing a bike or vomiting. Either way, that hour took place a long time ago, or at least felt that way, and time's slow trickle only added to my feelings of sluggishness. But cutting tracks up the snow-blanketed Wasatch Mountains is just not something I can do anytime I please, especially with my dad. I loaded the borrowed gear into his truck. We drove to the Red Pine trailhead, which was completely empty despite the bluebird morning, and started hiking through a foot of fresh powder. Dumped by a big weekend storm, it was the first major snowfall of the winter. We were tromping down the season's base.
The air was a brisk 25 degrees or so, but the reflections of the sun and muscle burn of powder stomping soon brought my energy levels back to normal. I've long believed that all it takes for me to snap out of slug mode is a good, hard climb — at least until the endorphins wear off. Regardless, I was really enjoying myself. My dad, who is about to enter his first full season of winter hiking, only recently discovered the joys of the snow slog. Breaking trail in deep snow requires the effort of three to four miles to travel one — of this I am convinced — and no other numbers really matter. Two and a half hours of hard stomping brought us four miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain to the frozen shoreline of Upper Red Pine Lake — altitude 10,200.
"Wow, feels high up here," I said to my dad, although the moderate altitude really just seemed like an convenient excuse. I felt tired as would if I had run twelve or sixteen miles, although I acknowledge that my tiredness was more cumulative than a reflection of the difficulty of the hike. After all, my dad felt fine. We examined the route to the upper ridge and debated climbing there. Excitement prevailed, and I really wanted to go. However, the conditions on the upper slope were discouraging. There was too little snow over the boulders to travel with the snowshoes, but too much to simply hike and not risk a bad ankle or knee injury. We agreed that Upper Red Pine Lake was a great final destination, and loped back down the trail as my exhaustion settled in like a peaceful blanket.
I vowed to rest over the next two days, but I think anyone who as been part of a close relative's wedding understands how that didn't really happen. I started to wonder if I had dug a hole I wouldn't be able to crawl out of before Nepal, but in the same breath, I wasn't really that concerned. There was no acute strain, and no pain — just peaceful, almost blissful fatigue. Evolution gave us all the ability to walk for five days straight, and modern culture gave us the ability to choose not to. The more I experiment with endurance sports, the more I believe endurance is a matter of choices more than physical abilities or exceptional talent. I decided to choose to not be tired, and hauled some more heavy boxes across the parking lot while wearing a bridesmaid dress and stiff shoes. Here I am with my sister, Lisa, who is a full-time, swing-shift nurse and the mother of an extremely active 20-month-old. Compared to her, my own claims to tiredness are pathetic excuses.
And it was a fantastic experience to see my sister Sara and her new husband Spencer so happy. It was also fun to visit with people who I haven't seen in 15 years. Now my baby sister's all growed up, sniff. And yes, I will purposefully rest as much as I can in the week I have remaining before Racing the Planet Nepal begins. My three Utah adventures and being a part of Sara's wedding were more than worth the withdrawals I had to make from my energy bank, and the deficit won't last long. I'm back in Cali now, meeting Beat's new hexapod robot (yeah, there's a funny story; boys and their toys). I'm also unpacking, packing, back to running (six miles today, felt great), nervous, excited, loving the adventure of life.