Monday, February 06, 2012

In between adventures

I am, at my core, a lazy person. I often tell people that the reason I aim for big expedition-style races is to establish an iron-clad excuse to pursue hours of adventure training. But sometimes I realize that the opposite is also true — I "train" so I can justify big adventures. Remove the adventure factor — either adventure as training, or training for adventure — and I start to display disconcerting impassivity for the hobbies I claim as passions.

I'm beginning to realize that adventure might just be my only motivation for exercise. Physical fitness? Small improvements in my mediocre athletic abilities? Better overall health? Looking good in a pair of jeans? Boring. Okay, I'm only joking about the boring part, and lying if I try to pretend that I don't care about these things at all. The truth is, adventure only motivates me on that superficial psychological level; biologically, I'm so addicted to endorphins that I'd happily run up and down the same flight of stairs at an airport before I gave up more than a couple days of exercise. But the promise of adventure is what drives me up and down those stairs. Without it, the more boring aspects of exercise likely would have crushed my spirit long ago, and I would have succumbed to my lazy side.

I have been looking for reasons why I've been in a bit of a funk this weekend. I think part of it sparked when Beat and I talked about a trip to Yosemite that couldn't happen for various reasons. I was fine with it because I'm already set for another trip to Alaska in two weeks, and I have all of these exciting adventures planned — endurance sled dragging, visiting friends and climbing mountains, watching Beat start the ITI, snow biking. Why feel disappointed about a little trip to Yosemite? I've been spoiled by jet-setting adventures for months now, and yet, and yet ...

Beat wanted to go mountain biking on Saturday. I wasn't sure why, and didn't admit it to him because I had no good reasons, but I didn't really feel like riding. Angelo the miracle worker massage therapist had realigned my wonky knee on Friday. Where the joint felt weak and rubbery on Thursday, it felt stronger and better tuned after the massage. The thought of being "fixed" filled me with optimism, and I had a great ride later that afternoon on my singlespeed — cranking hard up 2,700 feet to Black Mountain and feeling great on what should be a knee-crushing bike. But when the weekend came around, laziness crept back in. With just two weeks until the Susitna 100, there's not a lot I can do now to physically improve my chances in that race. So fitness training is in a period of limbo. At the same time, it was a beautiful clear day, and so warm that Beat's friend Liehann asked if we had any sunscreen. What was wrong with me that I couldn't get more excited about four-plus hours of care-free mountain biking? Beat suggested that I ride the Fatback. "That's right!" I said. "It's about time I start training for the White Mountains 100." Motivation found.

Our home trails are pleasant and enjoyable, but admittedly not the adventure they used to be. I did experience small shots of adventure when the rear Endomorph tire nearly washed out on the loose rocks of a few hairpin turns. But those particular rushes of adrenaline don't count as the good kind of adventure given it's so close Su100, and also not really enough scary fun to justify pedaling that beast of a bike on a ride with close to 4,000 feet of climbing. Still, I did enjoy myself once I got my lazy butt out the door, even if the ride did involve four hours of chasing two boys who were constantly locked in an unspoken race with each other.

Even though the mountain bike ride was awesome, Sunday only renewed my battle of motivation with an afternoon trail run. Beautiful sunny day, narrow trails, wending through the woods and emerging on a rolling ridge. Boring. Okay, I really am just joking about that. I am a lucky person; I just need to remind my lazy side of this fact from time to time.

I could learn a thing or two from my cat, who spends all of her time in a small apartment. And still, she can get herself worked up in the most enviable frenzies from a rustling of leaves on the porch, a noise in the hall, or nothing at all. Sometimes I think it would be nice not to have to travel to farther corners of the world, seeking increasingly more challenging endeavors, just to renew that rush of excitement. But if I could somehow feel that way just hanging around my house, I would miss out on so much life.  


  1. Your post, especially the last line, really struck a chord with me. After all, until a couple of years ago, I was a kayak ranger in Alaska, a firefighter, and before that I moved every six months. Sometimes now I think, all I did today was errands!? It is sort of a struggle, but I try to think that, yes, those times just hanging out in front of the woodstove are life too. I just have to work on balancing those with adventures. Luckily you have a partner who likes to do your type of adventures. That makes it much easier. You make your own adventures, I am finding. They can be small or they can be big.

  2. Without fail, I hit a funk around this time each year. No idea why.

    I agree with Mary. Balance is key. It might not make for exciting blogging, but it's important to stay home sometimes and enjoy simple things in life that are often rushed through to get to the outdoor adventures (cooking a big dinner at home, snuggling while watching a movie, etc). I'm sure your kitty would love it too. :)

  3. Well, there is some middle ground between globe trotting and hanging around your house. Farmiliar with the concept of "scaling" ( Zoom in or out by factors of ten. At any level, whether looking at a mountain range, a drop of pond water, or a cell, there is just as much complexity, just as much to see, just depends on what scale you're focusing on. Kinda why now, in my old age, I take pleasure in more local adventures without all the stress and prep and cost, can still zoom in on appropriate level and see worlds within worlds, all a short distance from home.

  4. Maybe drive a little to go to some new places? Sierra azul and Henry Coe for Mnt biking. They can be challenging and beautiful. Maybe San Bruno Mnt or Sweeney ridge for running.

  5. Gotta love a man who hugs cats. You're a lucky woman, Jill. Good luck in Alaska!

  6. Of course you all are right. There is much more yet to explore and enjoy in my own back yard. And Karen, I think you're on to something there. Nearly every year I have a February funk that I tend to blame on pre-race jitters, because nearly every year since 2006 I've had a big, scary race planned for late February.

    Mary, I think you and I are very similar in that we wrestle with wistful yearnings for our youthful vagabond lifestyles against a deeper desire for the rich relationships and opportunities that permanence brings. I do consider myself incredibly fortunate in my life right now, and am glad that my choices and a little bit of luck have brought me to this point.

    Getspoked — Thank you! It's true, there aren't a lot of men out there who love cats, and Beat is genuinely one of those guys. Yup, lucky me. :)

  7. I just finished reading your first book and now I am halfway through the 2nd one. Of course, they are amazing and I haven't wanted to put them down. But, sadly, that 2nd one will come to an end and I will not have anything to read soon. So I need you to keep doing more adventures so you can write more books that I can read. :-)

    Your latest post is just one more reason why I think your blog is one of the best examples of moving writing I have ever come upon.
    Your blog is how I get my own "adventure training". Although I can't travel the way you can, I get to live vicariously through your cool experiences and the events you complete. And just when I think you are some sort of super woman, you go and post something like admitting you are lazy. Which just makes your experiences that much cooler because it makes me think that there is hope to do one of those kinds of things one day. You've already inspired me to do a few events this year that I wouldn't otherwise think I could do. And when I even think of complaining about how cold it is, I think of your first book and realize I am just a wussy. Good luck in your next adventure.

  8. Enjoyed the reflection, and MUST say that I LOVE this photo of Beat and your cat! All the best on your adventures this year; they are great fun to follow and also serve as excellent inspiration.


Feedback is always appreciated!