I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Thursday, June 28, 2018

June.

Magic happens when you don’t give up even though you want to. The Universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart. – JmStorm

Well, it's sort of nearly July 1st, and the go-time is almost here. I made it through. In about a week, I am off to Colorado, attempting to live my dream of the year. I will text Larry from the points I have cell reception at, and I will let him choose the way to share (or not) my whereabouts. He's got my plan, and so do couple of Coloradoan friends, just in case. I do not anticipate danger to myself, just hard work, beautiful vistas, and a lot of solitude. 

The dream was subjected to a lot of fears though, and not even logical fears of not being able to complete the trail in the time I allocated for myself (which is constantly and legitimately on my mind as there is this strong feeling that this time I am biting more than I can chew). Colorado had their second driest winter/spring season in many years, and the fires started early, by June raging and closing parts of forest/mountains/trail combination. On June 10 the last 90 miles (4 sections of Colorado Trail, all of San Juan Wilderness, including the exit point of Durango) was shut down for weeks (and subject to longer and wider-spread closures). A week later one of those 4 got re-opened. All that still meant possible detours, shortening of a hike by a good 75 miles, hitching rides, doing bunch of things I refused to think about. No matter what, it was out of my control. I developed a couple of contingency plans and breathed. (As a side note, Larry's plans to backpack some of San Juan trails with his son Harrison hung under re-consideration same way mine did). All I/we could do is to pray for monsoons to come earlier and heavier, do the rain dance, and get to the start. Best handling is learning to deal with things as they come my way. Common, worst case, if it stays as is, I will end up in Silverton, reuniting with beloved Hardrock crowd! While not the goal I set, not a bad way to end. "Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~Wayne Dyer


No matter what alternatives I might have to take, where I will end up, and what happens during my 18 days on the trails, the important part is - I will be in the mountains. I know that when I begin something, I aim to finish. The notion of accomplishing something is never quite the same without hardship. Going into any adventure is not about the challenge or accomplishment, but it happens anyway. The brain is rarely if ever free during our daily lives. As a normal human, I tend to seek coping mechanisms and comforts even in challenges. Much of backpacking in the wilderness is about deprivation of luxuries, and the gained appreciation of simple things like clean water from a spigot, toilet, refrigeration, heat and air conditioning… Those, though, are just pleasures, not happiness - which is, as Aristotle put it, "internal experiences of contentment". I believe happiness can be experienced only in a quiet growth (Yeats said it first). May be that's why our biggest happy memories are from childhood. When I am in the wilderness, alone, self-reliant, there are calm, clarity and peacefulness I don't get to live through fully otherwise. The emotions are bare: fear, joy, love, sadness – and all are welcome. The physical fatigue, pain, exhaustion are all necessary parts of sharpening the level of those feelings. This calm empty peace is simply the way it is. Simplicity invites serenity. 

Hugging my backpack while sitting in the house, I think to myself: in it are my self-contained belongings and a freedom to walk anywhere. In a pursuit of happiness sort of way:) (another Aristotle's quote, by the way, who knew?) Notice, a pursuit, not the happiness itself. It's an active thing (just as "love" is a verb, not a noun). A lot of hardships, pain, and even misery… all self-inflicted. I might be getting myself way over my head. And that, in a way, is, too, a freedom in its own right. "All of us can do incredible things, but the more incredible the thing in question, the more we will simultaneously want to not do it, out of a craving for comfort and certainty."

Funny how “solitude” and “loneliness” mean essentially the same thing, yet have very different connotations. Sort of like "pleasure" and "happiness". In order to reclaim my contentment, there is a need to reclaim capacity for solitude. Solitude isn't just "being alone"; it is a sense of "self". To go on a journey in solitude, one might emerge a changed person, or not… the outcome is not through conscientious, goal oriented direction. The magic is that the only goal needs to be is to walk from "here to there", with an open mind to absorb as much as possible, and the rest takes care of itself, subconsciously. A shift in values and outlook on life doesn’t take place as a deliberate decision, but as result of experience… may as well be on a trail. I know that activities which add meaning, purpose and significance to our lives are our relationships, our accomplishments, and our experiences. This is where the true value of life resides.

“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Exploring the nature's outdoors is a blessing and a curse, because the more you do, the more you realize there is so much out there - and not enough lifetime. The beauty, though, is in not ever "owing" the knowledge of it all. I always like the results that come from experience on a trail. May be it's simply to find out that I am not missing anything at all in my “real life”, after all. I have nothing to prove through walking… it’s just walking. So I go.


The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
The mountains are calling and I must go.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir

The month of a grind.

The month of final push was all about "go through the week and repeat": train, food prep, train, food prep, work, knit, food prep, get some sleep.

The working part is self-explanatory: I am swamped (bless my job and my clients), and luckily so - with an upcoming trip, I will miss 3 weeks of getting paid. Head down, and get 'er done. Ahead - 3 weeks of NOT massaging anyone!!!
What's a girl to do when she lives in flat-land of Austin at zero altitude? The training was about growing repeats (as short as they were) and miles and strength, and getting it all while balancing a fine line of overtraining. As soon as June began, I was reminded of how it felt to be at the end of a training cycle for a goal 100 mile race. I knew what I am doing on an almost primate level based on years behind, I am doing it without putting much serious dwelling. The weather is full-on "Texas summer". Having had a long Spring (God bless), May ended up being hottest month on history, and June started with 100F. Usually, these numbers don't appear until July, but the "seasons" (or whatever you call it here) got back at us all for the nice March-April with so many cold fronts. Or, may be, it is just to prove the point - 1 year to leave this "hot humid hell" countdown is ticking, and our last summer is "treating" us with full flavor. Every workout outside ended with an hour of "hundred miles stare" - it was so oppressive, that my body was red-lining with training. Somehow, in a weird magical way, my paces (a.k.a. the times for each set route on each day of the week) stayed the same, despite growing heaviness in legs and temperature/humidity numbers. It was within seconds from week to week, and I was bewildered - and grateful. My body locked into the effort and held on. Every morning I got out the door - I praised myself for having the "3 D": discipline, determination, dedication. Will power is not a given thing, and I hate when some folks think it's easy for me "Oh, you are so ...whatever word". I struggle with it. Daily. I make a choice. Or, rather, I don't allow myself to have choices. One choice. Get your ass out. I, literally, shut my mind down and go.
And so it went. I raveled in my backpack workouts as I could loose myself in a heavy sweaty breathing, picturing hunkering uphill in the mountains. I put my head down in my early morning road runs, sticking with routes without deviation, so I don't get a chance to shorten. And the gym workouts by now were legs, all legs and back.

The "tired" grew along with growing repeats and weights and temperatures. I battled, I carefully consumed protein powder after each hard workout daily, I drank more water, I even added electrolyte mix - something I haven't done in 5 years. I practiced yoga and mindfulness. It was all about perseverance - and dreaming big. I, quite literally, ran my shoes into the ground - and was lucky to get a few pairs of Hokas from Meredith to finish up this training (she also supplied me with a fresh pair of Drymax socks). 

Final shake-down with a fully loaded pack and carrying poles (I train without, to add difficulty) was the last week of June, in full moon for giggles. Ouch, ha! The biggest load, is, of course, food - as I intend to not resupply off the trail, and it's a long time before I get a store on the way. The reality hit, as it does, always, once packed - it's a lot of weight to carry on my shoulders, and in this case, literally. Why do I do this to myself? The only good thing, if there is one - looking forward to lightening the load every day. :) Walk myself into shape, eat myself into lighter pack. Simple life, yet again...
June is also the month I get bouts of darker mood swings. Mind you, I don't have chemical/medical depression, just cycling through normal life's stages. As an extreme introvert, my biggest downside is feeling lonely, the rest of the stuff we all have in life are simply sort of layering in, spurred by furnace of Texas summer. Almost "normal" occurrence if I think about it. What important to me is to always identify that it's coming, and, literally, write down the causes. This June there was an add-on of making a decision to not go see my kids (as I had done forever this month) and postpone it to the Fall. I miss them badly. Somehow my body "knew" something's off before my mind registered it. Plus, I didn't get to go back to the city where I left a piece of my heart - Portland. So, I battled in the best way I could - routine.
I got re-inspired into knitting creatively, thankfully, though it lasted only couple of weeks. As the training peaked high, knitting stalled. I was hardly picking through my co-worker's order for 12 alpaca hats and a vest. And that, too, was part of normal life's cycle.
Speaking of hats, we met with Liza Howard to give her those 30 red-white-blue hats for Veteran's running camp. That was a (super-brief) social moment of the month, along with a lunch with one girlfriend, a coffee with another, a visit to my Russian friend's house - and, of course, Sunday coffee dates with Larry, as well as finally making a visit to a new Russian (Uzbek) restaurant right in the neighborhood! Food tasted like home!

A very "nose to the ground" kind of month. I took stock of my 10-month journey that started back on September 1st with adjusting my body to a better physical state, and I am pleased with the progress. Almost 12% body fat are gone. No gimmicks, no personal trainer or a coach, just one advice of a friend-nutritionist: "You are old(er), your metabolism is slow, your exercise is your base level. Eat less!" With a load of training in June exploding I found myself sneaking in extra food/calories at the end of the day, which was ok with me. I managed to maintain the body composition, but once I am back from my backpacking, I need to re-think where I would like to stay for the longer haul. Hopefully, the hunger will also subside as I will "normalize" workouts to a more regular sustainable load. Probably, somewhere in-between is a healthy medium, so it was an experiment worthy making happen. “If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~Jack Dixon

This is it, not much more to add. I survived the Final Push, the Steam of 50 miles weeks (biggest miles in a long time). I made through 25 weeks of continuous training (that's 5+ months, people!) - legitimate training, for the first time that long and consistent since my body was hit with "running death" back in 2013. By the Grace of God, it all fell together just when I needed it most. And since the training went "for real", I get to use a real taper! Doing almost nothing for a week and fattening up!

Up ahead now - 18 days, 485 miles (God willing), High Country of Colorado Mountains. I am scared. Yet I feel an incredibly strong pull to go. So I must go.
“People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.” Thich Nhat Hahn

"And into the forest I go, to loose my mind and find my soul"...


Miles from nowhere 
I guess I'll take my time 
Oh yeah, to reach there 
Look up at the mountain 
I have to climb 
Oh yeah, to reach there. 
I creep through the valleys 
And I grope through the woods 
'Cause I know when I find it my honey 
It's gonna make me feel good, yes
I love everything 
So don't it make you feel sad 
'Cause I'll drink to you, my baby 
I'll think to that, I'll think to that. 
Miles from nowhere 
Not a soul in sight 
Oh yeah, but it's alright 
I have my freedom 
I can make my own rules 
Oh yes, the ones that I choose 
Lord my body has been a good friend 
But I won't need it when I reach the end 

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