Tuesday, August 19, 2014


 My birthday is this week. It's my 35th. This also marks three and a half years of living in California; both numbers baffle me. It's not that I feel young — I've been more of an "old soul" ever since I was actually young — but I just can't believe that half of a decade has passed since I climbed on top of Mount McGinnis to embrace my thirties. "It's such a cliche but it's true that once you hit 30, the years really start slipping away," I told my friend Leah as we headed out to Big Basin for a ride on Saturday. She reminded me that I've filled these California years with adventures, which is one of the reasons they've gone by so fast. I actually think routine is what really makes our perception of time speed up, because days that are filled with sameness are the ones that tend to disappear. I have plenty of habits, but also a sense of curiosity that injects sparks of wonder into even the mundane days. Wonder is what keeps me young. It's certainly not my skin, because 35 years around the sun has not been kind to that.

We enjoyed a fantastic ride on Saturday. It's been a while since I coaxed Leah out to the Peninsula, but I had a fun idea for a loop through Big Basin — descending the steep and narrow spine of McCreary Ridge, rolling along the coast, and climbing Gazos Creek fire road. I thought if any trails around here had even the faintest hint of tackiness left, those sheltered by sixty-foot redwoods would. I couldn't have been more wrong. I don't think it's rained around here since sometime before my last birthday, and the parched ground has been stirred up to a chunder that resembles granola mixed with powdered sugar. Leah is back in training for cross season and I told her that she'd probably be fine with her cross bike, but the McCreary Ridge descent was loose and sketchy. There were a few instances of chunder-surfing with a locked rear wheel, some downhill hike-a-bikes, and blasting through curtains of cob webs and moss dust on a baked-mulch descent to the coast. I don't think McCreary Ridge sees much use, by anyone.

It was a beautiful afternoon at Waddell Beach. We still had to make our way up Gazos Creek on a steep dusty road ripped up by logging truck traffic, the kind of surface that keeps you close to red-lined even in granny gear — but if it wasn't for that obligation I probably could have relaxed here for a few more hours. This is probably something I'll do more frequently someday if I have the privilege to get really old — sit on a beach and stare at the ocean.

I'm wrapping up some final training runs before we head to Europe for Beat's third year of PTL, which starts next Monday. Today I headed up Black Mountain to hike the steeper pitches with my trekking poles. I haven't done much trekking pole training recently, but I don't think that matters. I use them frequently and juggle them well when I'm running; I've had a lot of practice yet. I've been trying out the Hoka Stinson trail shoe; put about a hundred miles on them so far. This is my first venture into a different model of Hokas since I found the Mafate 1 in 2010 (I like to joke that I'm not a Hoka convert — more like a native born, since I ventured into running while using Hokas.) I like the Stinsons but I'm worried the durability may be lacking; I've already torn the tongue twice and fear for the mesh outers on rocky Alps trails. I have one more new pair of Mafate 2s and may break those in for Tor des Geants. My older pair of Mafate 2s has nearly 950 miles. I was going to try to push them to 1,000, but the now-bald soles are beginning to separate so I may have to accept their early demise.

I planned a longer run today and assumed it would be tedious so I downloaded some new music and settled in for a grind. But what I found was this cool, almost autumn-like breeze wafting along the ridge, a cape of sea fog draped over the mountains, and rich evening sunlight that reflected off the golden hillsides with a mesmerizing shimmer. I shuffled along with my trekking poles and cackled at Weird Al's new album, which I downloaded because until recently I didn't even realize Weird Al was still making new music, but he was one of my favorites when I was 12 and listening to Weird Al makes me feel young. As it turns out, his parody of Imagine Dragon's "Radioactive" makes a great running song, even if it's about being "Really Inactive."

"I'm giving up. My energy is shot. I'm never moving from this spot."

Singing and clicking my poles and just like that, 17.5 miles with 4,100 feet of climbing was done. Maybe it's true that once you hit 35, even the miles start slipping away before you notice. 


  1. Happy birthday. From the outside it does appear you have a great life. I wentt the other way...secure job but routine. And I often envy you.

  2. Hi Jill,
    I'll take a break from hassling you about writing a book about biking Europe
    First off, Happy Birthday. Any birthday above ground is a good one. I'm almost 58, and have walked the road you're headed down. It's 40 where things change. Things start to break-down quicker, recovery takes longer, it doesn't feel good as long.
    I'm a man so my perspective is different. I want to meet my maker, limping in, looking like Keith Richards. Even in today's society an ugly man can still end up with a beauty-go figure. So be kind to your skin and your body in general. Extreme is a bullshit, over used term.
    All things in moderation-moderation can be somewhat flexible-including moderation.
    I hope you live as long as you want, never want as long as you live, and that you're in heaven for 30 minutes before the devil finds out you're dead.
    Be safe out there, start thinking of quality and not quantity when it comes to food, drink, work, sex and yes, adventure.
    You'll end up happier, and less broken down and tired for it.

  3. That was FUN. Happy birthday, lady.

  4. Happy Birthday Jill. Sorry I won't be back in the Bay Area before you guys head to Europe. Have a great time!

  5. Jill,

    Will be looking forward to hearing what you think of the Stinsons. Just bought a pair, my first Hokas and my first trail running shoes (well, first running shoes at all, but I am going to start out walking in them). Couldn't abide the laces they came with - too hard to get my feet in, was afraid I was going to tear something, and too hard to adjust for comfort on top but not allowing heel to lift inside. I cut that lace out and replaced with the regular laces that came in the box and laced them straight across (no Xs) to relieve pressure on top of foot. Way better.

    Jill J.

  6. PS. Happy Birthday.

  7. Happy B day Jill. It is after 50 when you have to slow down. Just remember not to burn all your matches before that. Enjoy the Alps and Aosta Valley.

  8. Happy Birthday, Jill! Keep having those adventures.
    Corrine and Eric

  9. Happy birthday Jill,
    Such silly talk about time slipping by, getting older. 35 to 50 is prime of life, and after 50 is not too bad either. I've followed your blog since you were in Juneau, but haven't commented before, just wanted to wish you a happy birthday and say thanks for letting us follow your adventures. Good luck and have fun at TDG.

  10. Happy birthday! Thanks for blogging all these years. I am not sure why some thing you are pushing your body too hard. Your running and biking mix is similar to what my Dad has done for decades and at 75 has barely slowed down. Some luck is involved but also cross training, a sensible diet, and knowing when to back off, things you seem to have a handle on. Best wishes to you.

  11. Happy birthday Jill!

    Another long-term reader and rare commenter (from the UK): I really enjoy how you share your exploits - your evocative writing, your beautiful photos, your thoughtful perspectives, your honesty & questing [is that a word?!] spirit.

    Today I particularly loved: "This is probably something I'll do more frequently someday if I have the privilege to get really old — sit on a beach and stare at the ocean."

    Exactly that.

    Wishing you many happy days and years of adventuring.

  12. Happy Birthday Jill! I have read all your books, Loved your newest one 8000 miles across alaska excellent! Please keep blogging and writing!

  13. I wouldn't worry too much about turning 35, in a few more years when you get Alzheimers you won't even remember your 35th birthday !.

  14. Have you tried the Altra Olympus? They have a lot of cushion, like the Hoka.


Feedback is always appreciated!