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The answer to the question is a little more involved than a simple place, and I will try to answer it as concisely as I can, but before I do, I want to say a quick “Thank You,” to those of you who have read this blog in the past.  A few of you have even asked me whether I was abandoning the blog altogether.  Rest assured, I have no intentions of abandoning this blog!  I really enjoy working on it, but I must admit, during the months of February and March I bit off far more than I was comfortable chewing.  Which brings me to my answer. . . 

Where have I been hiding?  In plain sight!  I have just been sitting back and watching life, watching family, watching friends, watching the world, and reflecting deeply upon the things that I was seeing.

I have been spending months working on a show, both on stage and back stage, learning more about the delicate blend of chemistry that is necessary for success in any endeavor that involves wonderful, passionate, creative people. That goes for businesses, sports teams and families as well as for theater groups.

I have been camping with my younger son, watching him face some of his fears, and learning that he can conquer them (with a little help from friends).  

I have been riding and running in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains and along the roads of my home town.

I have smiled in the midst of unpredictable winter storms and smiled some more when they blew themselves out and ushered in a beautiful mountain spring.

I have been resting.

And now that I am rested, recharged and rejuvenated, I am also ready to begin again!

Welcome to a new beginning.

 

TJW

First of the November snow

Growing up in Minnesota has imbued me with two distinctly unusual traits.  One is my love for the Vikings, regardless of their ability to make it into a championship game.  The other is my live of snow.

One of my earliest memories of snow is helping my mom and dad shovel our driveway after the first real snowstorm of the year. I think I was 5, and I use the term “help” in the loosest possible way. I think I fell down and made more snow angels than move shovels full of snow, but in my mind at the time shoveling snow with my parents seemed somehow to be a grand adventure.

Adults tend to equate snow with work, pain, futilety and frustration. It slows down our travel and postpones projects and activities that require milder temperatures.  But children see the white fluffy stuff entriely differently. 

I’m thinking of all these things because, as I sit looking out the window, I am seeing the first snowfall for the year.  And while I am decades into adulthood, I have to admit that I am smiling and looking forward to the beginning if the snowy season.

I may change my mind somewhere along February,but  right now, I am enjoying the first of the November snow.

Reflections on Vegas Ragnar

It’s been a few weeks since we concluded running the Ragnar Las Vegas relay, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the event, and what it has meant to me as a person, as an adventure seeker and as a father.  Truthfully, all of these are somewhat interconnected, but they are also somewhat separate as well.

There were a lot of wonderful moments for me, personally, during the event.  one of the highlights was the night run on let 14, along the outskirts of Henderson.  It was quiet, warm and the trail that I ran along gave me a feeling of being all alone.  The views of Vegas lighting up the desert at night were amazing, and when the city was blocked sufficiently from my view, the stars in the sky were breathtaking.  I also remember, with some mixed feelings, my final leg.  That one, run in the early morning hours, was cold, windy and desolate.  It was also up a significant hill, gaining nearly 1000 feet in less than 2 miles and then losing thatt same elevation in less than 1.5.  It was a challenge, one that took everything I had to complete.  but complete it I did, and in a time faster than my support van thought I would.  It felt good to dig deep and run better than i thought I was capable of running.  Mind you, I wasn’t what could be described as fast, just faster than I had planned.  

Frankly, even if I wasn’t fast, I would have thought the event worth participating in.  Like all of the Ragnar events, in order to complete the ordeal I had to push mental and physical limits, working on little sleep and with somewhat compromised nutrition.  (For me, a person with diabetes, that can be a significant challenge).  But that pushing of limits is one of the hallmarks of adventure.  

Adventures always cause us to do something more than we are used to doing.  They can be mental or physical; the best adventures always involve just a little of both.  And while running a Ragnar relay isn’t the same as climbing a significant peak or completing a round the world sailing cruise, it is an event which is at once approachable and intimidating.  

Ultimately, the goal of adventuring for me is to have some wonderful memories and to have stretched my base of what I believe is possible for my life.

And that is why doing this event with my daughter was so critical for me.  The same daughter that was on my knee on her first birthday learning the word adventure was running Ragnar with me, celebrating her 18th birthday.  And to tell the truth, she ran better than I did!  But most importantly to me, we ran it together, with my wife along as the designated driver for our team.  We did it together.  and that memory will, hopefully, help bind us together for the future, as we face3 new and different challenges.

If you haven’t run an adventure relay, run one.  It will renew your vision of who you are and of what you are capable of doing.  And if you can, take family along!  It makes an adventure of a lifetime an adventure that can change all your lives at the same time.

Trail Shoes

Earlier this year I signed up for a race in the mountains, the Bairgutsman.  It is a grueling 12 mile run up Francis peak in the Wasatch mountains of Utah.   When I started training I accidentally made one of the smartest purchases of could have made … I bought trail shoes!

At the time, I didn’t think much of it.  I looked at the different shoes on sale (always looking for a bargain) and narrowed it down to two pair.  One was a traditional running shoe while the other was a trail shoe.  I picked the trail shoes because they felt like they supported my arch a little better that the other

Thank heaven for that decision.

The outsole of a trail shoe seems to be less squishy than the traditional shoe, providing better support throughout the race and long training miles.   Additionally, the tread pattern gave greater grip and stability in the uncertain retain of the backcountry. 

While slightly heavier than the road shoe, my trail shoe was still noticeably lighter than even my lightweight hikers and provided me with tremendous agility by comparison. All in all they proved to be a wonderful purchase.

And now, with the fall and winter fast approaching, I find my trail shoes superb at handling leaves made wet and slick by cooling temperatures.

I’m not planning to abandon road shoes altogether.  In fact, I’m searching for a new pair right now.  But I think trail shoes will be a permanent part of my gear in the future.  What do you think?

Watching my sons

A while ago I wrote a post about dropping my daughter off at school.  High school to be specific.  It was one of those bitter sweet kind of moments, the kind you prepare for and prepare for and still find that you are totally unprepared for it when it arrives. 

I have replayed that moment over and over in my mind since then, wondering what else I could have done to make the experience better.  Nothing has ever come to mind.

Today I thought I wound up reliving that expeience to some extent .  Today I drove not just my daughter to high school, but also my two oldest sons.  Twins, different but so much alike, I have often wondered what this day would be like.  And while the experience of dropping off my daughter prepared me in some ways, in others it was totally unique.

Boys are different. I know that is stating the obvious, but it is also powerful.  With boys, we hope to prepare them to embrace the uncertainty of adventure with relish and gusto.  We hope to give them a sense of strength and self reliance that empowers them for these kinds of moments.

Last night and into this morning I’ve been wondering if I did well enough.

I’ve camped with my boys.  We’ve braved mountain peaks and cold windy nights together.  We’ve sat in icy waterfalls together, in a time honored display of machismo, joining the polar bear club.  We’ve ridden our bikes through beautiful country in northern Utah and shot air-soft guns off the back porch late into the night together.

But high school is different.  Would they know how to handle the social instability of urban teenage relationships?  What about the cliqueishness and pettiness that seems to be so much a reaction to the tech and image heavy environment we live in, would they be ready to recognize those aspects and handle them with confidence and kindness?

Had I done enough to prepare them for this adventure?

All these thoughts swirled round my head as I got ready and drove them to school.

They said thanks for the ride and laughingly made their way into the school with all the bravado of teenagers who feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof.  Of course I know that that kind of bravado doesn’t last long.  But then, it doesn’t need to.

It just needs to last long enough to get them over the threshold, like a bungie jumper getting up just enough courage to step off the platform.

Ans really, it isn’t them doing the jumping.

It’s me.

And today, I think we all did just fine. We started a new adventure together and I can’t wait to see how this one turns out!

For those of you who have never heard of the Bairgutsman, let me sum it up for you. . . nearly a half marathon up a mountain and back down in the Wasatch range of Utah, approximately 5000 feet of elevation gain, and all the obstacles and beauty of the wilderness as part of the excitement!  The shirt this year (yes, they give out shirts!) read “No false bravado.  You’re going to bleed!”  And for those of you who know about the event, you can atest I’m being gentle!

The actual event began at 6:00 am on August 6th, and I lined up with one of my good friends from high school, Scott, and nearly 300 other crazy people just before dawn.  The pre-race briefing included the director saying “There are about a million ways to get hurt up there.  Don’t hurt each other!”

We strapped our chips to our shoes, adjusted out hydration packs (only one aid station, and that one was at the halfway point of the race) and set off in the pre-dawn gloom.  It was incredible, watching all of us as we ran up the paved road just to get to the trail where we would run up the mountain just to run back down again.  It was also inspiring to see people who had come out of their houses to cheer us on.  What a treat!

The run was brutal.  It was less a run (for me) and more an aggressive hike!  Moving as quickly as we could, we got to our marking points a little ahead of schedule. . . but we paid for it.  Branches and bushes slapped and poked and scraped at our ankles, our shins, our arms and bodies.  The logo on the shirt, about bleeding?  It was certainly true in my case.

The journey to the top took 3 1/2 hours for me.  It was fairly close to my estimation of our time, but then we had the entire distance to go back down.

I could fill several posts with the various sections of the course, and the lessons I learned at each one, and maybe I will.  After all, Death Row itself is deserving of some time and elaboration.  I could also use this space for some of the story of the aftermath of the event, complete with the inability to walk down stairs like a human being for almost three days.  Instead, I will leave you with this one thought, a thought that began forming during some of the training for the event, and was solidified during the event itself, as Scott and i accompanied some other runners off the mountain who were struggling a little.

I’ve been asked before, and since, why I do these kinds of things.  even some of my adventuring buddies shake their collective heads when I tell them about the event.  Why?  Why put yourself through something like this?  Why make a difficult challenge that much more difficult by introducing things like timing chips and other racers, and all of the potential difficulties that accompany an event like that.

I found it partly in the motto of the race, “Conquer Thyself.”  This wasn’t about me conquering the mountain, after all, it is still there, as indefatigable as ever, and no worse the wear t=for me having thrown myself against it with everything I had.  I didn’t even come close to winning the race. . . the guy who won it finished before I even got to the halfway point.  But the objective for me was about digging deep, about touching that part of myself that empowers me to do difficult things, and reminding myself that i can find a way to get through things that are daunting and scary and challenging.

I believe that the more I become acquainted with that part of me that can handle and overcome and soldier on through really challenging things, the easier the daily hassles of life become.  The more I challenge myself physically, the more clearly I see what truly matters in life, and the better I am able to move past the distractions of our world and stay centered and grounded in things that truly matter.

I survived the Bairgutsman!   I’m even thinking about doing it again next year.  And it isn’t because I have anything to prove, nor is it because I have a masochistic streak a mile wide and I like the scrapes and cuts and bruises that come with it. I’m thinking about it because I like the person I am after these types of events.

 

Something Borrowed

Note: this post is a continuation from a series of posts.  It may be valuable to read the others, but not necessary.

This morning, I got up somewhat groggily and made my way to the kitchen and saw my old suitcase.  It was packed to bulging, filled with everything necessary for a twelve day trip to Alaska.  

But the tag was not to be mine.   It was my daughter’s.

That’s right.  My little girl is off on her first solo adventure.  Well, not quite solo.  She is traveling with a friend of hers and that friend’s parents.  But still, I’m not there, so that qualifies.

Her trip is one I have dreamed of taking myself.  Often I  have thought of spending time in the land of the midnight sun, learning about native ways and exploring trails and towns alike.   I have wanted to fish in the steams and rivers and the Arctic sea, and I have dreamed of looking up at Denali and spending some time in quiet reflection at the base of that giant testament to all creation.

But my daughter will borrow my luggage and take the journey for both of us.

And when she returns, she will share pictures and stories and souvenirs and tell us about the experiences that she had without us, and we will borrow her renewed perspective and direction and apply it to our own lives, getting almost as much out of the experience as we would if we went with her. 

We adventurers have a tendency to regard borrowed adventures as somehow beneath us, as somehow substandard and a little useless.  But I think it is good for me to remember that we all borrow from each other from time to time.  We borrow inspiration from the stories and adventures of others, we borrow from their wisdom when we plan and prepare, and we sometimes borrow their gear when our own just isn’t up to the challenge.

I hope my borrowed luggage performs well, and I can’t wait to hear her stories, so I can borrow some wonder on her return.