Showing posts from September, 2014

Winter dreams

Being laid up with an injury isn't so bad, especially after the persistent soreness finally goes away. This end of pain seems to coincide with the end of excess energy, leading to a constant loop of directionless inner dialogue: "I feel fine. Should I try to ride a hill today? But the doctor said to do nothing for six weeks. Beat wouldn't approve and will give no sympathy if I re-tear something. Maybe I could still hike across the Grand Canyon. Then again my knee is still too weak to walk a half mile the movie theater without stiffening up. I'm finally making good progress on my book now that I'm not so distracted. Maybe I should do nothing at all. Eh, feeling lazy today anyway. Doctor's orders."

One thing that does quiet this useless mental meandering is dreaming about winter adventures. The day after I hurt my knee, when I was feeling most bummed out about the prospect of long-term injury and scratching from TDG, my friend Danni sent me a sympathetic n…

Flailing and awkward, still

My name is Jill, and I’m an endorphinaholic. It’s been fifteen days since my last run.

 I figured I wouldn’t have much to post on my outdoors blog for a while, but I do like to record a post-mortem about race attempts, especially unsuccessful ones. The dreaded “what went wrong.” What went wrong? I fell down in an embarrassingly ungraceful way and hurt my knee. Why? Likely a number of factors — first, there’s the obvious fatigue; then lack of specific training on technical terrain; another likely candidate would be poorly developed core strength; yet another possibility might be a real and potentially unworkable problem with balance.

 It’s that last possibility that makes me feel uneasy. A friend was recently diagnosed with Ménière's disease. He and I have clung to the same exposed rock outcroppings and shared the similar rushes of vertigo at inopportune times. I’m not saying I suspect I have Ménière's or any other balance disorder. It only led me to realize that such issues c…

Living in color, part three

In endurance racing and in life, few moments are more satisfying than those first glimmers of light after clawing one's way out of a dark hole. I tossed and turned quite a bit in Cogne but managed some decent rest and, more importantly, a full plate of pasta that stayed down. As I marched out of town, I passed a table set up by a local cafe, giving away shots of espresso. It was after midnight and the women had no affiliation with the Tor des Geants — just good old Italian hospitality. Have I mentioned before that I love the Aosta Valley? "This is the best thing ever," I exclaimed while hammering back a couple of shots. I took off jogging down the cobbled streets and continued running on the gravel river path, passing others who were still staggering drunkenly through the haze of our too-short sleeps.

I crossed a bridge back to the main paved road, turning off my headlight to jog beneath the ochre glow of street lamps. Bright flashes frequently filled the sky — the mute…

Living in color, part two

The night was was warm and calm, and the nearly full moon saturated the forest in silver light, rendering an outer glow around silhouettes of trees. The scene was reminiscent of 1940s film noir, perhaps a murder mystery set in World War II-era Italy. There were even stone ruins and twisted wire fences to complete the eerie setting. Often I let my imagination run recklessly wild in these places, when I'm tired and susceptible to weakness and vulnerability amid lurking unknowns. But not on this night — my energy was boundless. I felt strong enough outrun the wolves that stalk my waking dreams, and so I had little reason to fear.

I caught up with Beat at rifugio Chalet de l'Epee. He had already made some new friends, a runner from Cyprus named Devrim and a Dutch runner, Eric. The three were sitting down at a table so I joined them after asking for coffee. There was no coffee, and instead of expressing this fact, the volunteer filled my collapsible cup with a strange sweet tea th…

Living in color, part one

If I were to try to distill individual life into a trite analogy, it would be this — life is a mural, painted in moments. Our experiences are the conglomeration of colors; we smear them on the canvas of ourselves inevitably, but also deliberately. We refine our moments into memories, shaped by personal values and perspectives. We’re all artists, and we all interpret our world in different ways, different colors. But, like many, I have a tendency to lapse into easy patterns — the Bob Ross formula of simple smudges yielding blandly pleasant landscapes. And, like many, I also have on my palette a primal streak of passion, a desire to slash bold red lines across the wispy pastels. Then I stand back, astonished, as crimson paint bleeds all over my happy little trees and fluffy clouds. And I think to myself, “Now that is beautiful.”

This might be why I keep finding myself back in these places — the places with majestic mountains and charming cabins rendered in idyllic perfection — clutchin…

I walked, cause you walked, but I probably won't get very far

I just wanted to visit the glacier ... to stand at the edge of a high frozen plain with my face to the wind until the chill whisked away the circulation in my fingers and toes and the throbbing soreness in my left knee, until I felt numb or at least something else besides raw disappointment. The cable car, under heavy construction, stopped about a hundred meters below the ice. There was a path, as steep and rocky as anything else in the Alps, winding up to the rifugio, so I followed it.

"Are you okay?" asked a Pakistani man behind me. "You do not walk very well."

"I'm okay," I replied. "I never walk very well."

"But you like to climb to the mountain?"

"Oh yes, very much so."

The man grinned through his wheezing — later he would tell me he was a heavy smoker — "Me too."

We continued chatting as we limped and wheezed to the edge of the ice, and he apologized for bothering me.

"No," I said, "It'…