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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Devil's Advocate



Recall that riding time in "Klondike" was cut short this year...thanks to a routine drug prescription that couldn't free itself from jaws of ineptitude wrapped in 47 rolls of Bureaucratic "Red Tape." We are home in Lovely Ouray as I write this update, watching it snow, and with much to share. The prescription debacle is resolved, at least till then next time I need to refill it...now 60 days and counting. I've managed only a single bike ride since Klondike (sniff), a long, steep, grunt up Camp Bird Road to its namesake mine.  

The morning after riding up to Camp Bird Mine, we folded ourselves into Suebee for a six hour drive to Denver. Time to visit my older, smarter, and more handsome brother and family in Toledo.  Yes, Toledo...as in Ohio. There is a super-rant brewing for the flight back to Denver, but it will have to wait because I'm busy editing out the overabundance of expletives :)). So, back to the bike ride...



Camp Bird Mine

Mountain biking up Camp Bird Road has evolved into a spring ritual. Last year, thanks to 6 weeks of intensive "training" in Klondike, I was able to push beyond Camp Bird Mine to Yankee Boy Basin; a first, at 11,000 feet, and hopefully, not the "last." Having tried, failed, and tried again and again before making it to Yankee Boy, well, I now feel compelled to reprise it every year. Problem is, on the heels of a winter spent at lower altitudes, then a week spent eating like a Sumo Wrestler in Sea Level Toledo, and, of course, endless spring snow storms that plague Lovely Ouray's forecasts, Yankee Boy has slipped beyond my grasp. 

The ride is grueling, even when in peak form. To take it on when not prepared would be a tad foolish, inviting disappointment...or worse. Alas, there is no way to train for such a ride except to do the ride.  

I love difficult rides (hikes, climbs, etc.) for the focus required to stay upright and complete them. There's no room in the mind nor spare energy in the body to waste on worry or negativity. Only the next stroke of the pedal or the next obstacle to negotiate matters...literally thousands of minor victories in battles that add up to a war won. I'm oft asked when I will back off and "smell the roses." My standard reply is, at my funeral

As opposed to "mental," there is something chemically (organic?) satisfying about setting, then conquering, a "physical" goal. Certainly there is a "high" of pride associated with mental achievements, things like graduating from college, obtaining a Phd...Doctor/Lawyer/Indian Chief. But those types of goals generally have an endpoint, a time when one can say, "it's over; I'm done." Physical goals and/or achievements tend to lure me back to the "trough," so to speak...to do again and again, or commit to something even bigger. 

You don't see too many people going for multiple Phd's, but the physical "pool" is filled with climbers, endurance racers, hikers, bikers, joggers, walkers... people who want to bag the next "peak," marathon, 10K...whatever. I'm one of those people, I guess, organic, more physically motivated than intellectually stimulated by "study." Being the "antsy" type, I got hooked on the high of nature's chemicals...a legal "prescription" that I can refill every single day. What can I say, one man's "drug addiction" is another man's stress relief. 

I'm not sure what I will do when my body finally gives out... refuses to obey orders from head-quarters. Maybe then I'll work on that Phd, study art and music, then go to the gym after class and play wheelchair basketball.

Certainly there are physical benefits to be had...if I can just survive my "insanity." At 66, I'm not ready to give up summiting those 13'ers and 14'ers in our back yard. But I'm not so head-in-the-sand naive that I can't see the future. I feel the wear and tear. The time will come, and it's not that far away, when I will be forced to let up on the "gas." I won't be a happy camper, but I hope I can find something to take the place of "competition," and that it will still be physical. Till then, I am motivated to stay at it, remain active and fit...keep plugging away at Yankee Boy Basin...the hard way

Recently, while in Toledo, I made the mistake taking more than a passing glance in a bathroom mirror. Lord, when did that happen? It's weird how our minds like to promote a false self-image, a 20 year younger version of ourselves. From the inside out (in the absence of mirrors), I don't see or feel any different, that I've aged. There's no baldness, graying, wrinkles, bags, and sagging chin-line, just a little egg yolk from breakfast, stuck at the corner of my mouth. But when I took that good, long look in the mirror, I saw my dad. OMG, I'm now him, next in "line," living on Borrowed Time. It sparked a conversation...

Devil's Advocate: You need to start acting your age.

Me: Why?

Devil's Advocate: People are beginning to think you have a "Death Wish."

Me: So, maybe I do. It's not like anyone gets out of this life alive.

Devil's Advocate: Well it makes people uncomfortable when you keep confronting them with their mortality. 

Me: It's my way of encouraging people to get outside, move, live...the clock tics, you know, and one day it will "toll for thee" and me. 

Devil's Advocate: But you could give yourself a heart attack pedaling up that mountain...or crash on the way down and bleed out.

Me: So I should stay in my recliner, live to be a few years older? I prefer to look at my "hour-glass" as half full, not half empty.

Devil's Advocate: What do you mean?

Me: It's not that I have a death-wish so much as I have this fear of not having lived...you know, free, completely...maybe even a little reckless. If anything, I have a "Life-wish."

Devil's Advocate: And you are ok with the risk involved, that by living "free, completely, and reckless," as you say, you may take yourself out before your "time?" 

Me: It's a hedged bet, but, yes. I've already lived most of my life so it's not like I have a lot to lose. In fact, I believe that the older you get, the more reckless and free you should live. There are no "do-overs." We got one shot to get it all in, no regrets, and the "clock" started the day we were born. 

Devil's Advocate: But what if you were destined to live to be a hundred years old, but you fall off a mountain and die?

Me: Look, life is like a play; it's not the length that matters, it's the performance.

Devil's Advocate: Thirty years of extended life, you'd just throw it in the trash for your chemical buzz?

Me: First of all, the "outdoors" is not a trash can. Besides, life is not a game where "Last Man Standing" wins. I'd rather go out swinging than "ride the bench." Besides, what good is living if you can no longer do the things that brings joy and purpose to your life?

***************
The mind is an extraordinary and powerful organ...sometimes our greatest friend, sometimes our worst enemy—sometimes motivator, sometimes defeater. If we focus on "limits," we will be limited. If we focus on "possibilities," we can push beyond limitations. As Psychiatrist and author of "Roads Less Traveled," M. Scott Peck wrote, "One extends one's limits only by exceeding them."

Hmmm, wonder if I can push beyond Yankee Boy Basin...

FYI: A Super Rant brews regarding Spirit Airlines...so stay tuned. 

Avalanches must be bulldozed every spring








20 comments:

  1. Mark, I have been reading your blog since my time down in Arizona. You roped me in with a title about me and look, here I am loving it! I really relate to what you wrote about the chemical satisfaction of setting physical goals. I never experienced this until I really got into hiking. Before that, I wasn't a very physically motivated or active person at all. Now, the thrill of slowly increasing my mileage and elevation gain is an important part of why hiking is my biggest passion. I'm so jealous, the wildflowers are barely popping here!

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    1. Hi Juliet, it's great to hear from you. We think about you a lot, toughing it out there in the great Pacific Northwest. I appreciate your comment, it means a great deal to me. To be honest, some of those photos on this blog post were from last summer. Our wildflowers are still buried under snow. Nevertheless, I'm glad they cheered you up.

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  2. A "Life-wish"...I like that. Yep, I do!

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    1. Hey Pen Pal, those "roses" you posted on your blog today would smell good at my funeral :).
      mark

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  3. Ok, ok. I'll get up off this couch and go walk. I find myself thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail more and.more. it once was a goal, before life sent out West. You keep writing and who knows, I may just do it.

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  4. Your insight (and humor) about aging are truly wonderful! We can live and participate or sit back and wait to die. Go for it all the way, and at 64 I will do the same. Your words give me inspiration. Ride on and up!

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  5. Quick question. Have you had a chance to try one of the new electric assist mountain bikes yet? It is amazing the boost they give on a ride in rough terrain. Saw and rode one in Amarillo and was impressed. But not for me. List price was $5500 bucks!!!

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    1. Sounds like "cheating" to me :). Like I said, I enjoy the "hard way up." It makes for an easy ride down.
      thanks for the comment...and the temptation, tho.
      mark

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  6. Go for it, Mark! You are lucky to have such beautiful surroundings to hike and bike just outside your door. But just to be safe, maybe you should listen to the devil advocate on the biking down hill speeds.

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  7. This: "If we focus on "limits," we will be limited. If we focus on "possibilities," we can push beyond limitations." Yes.

    I'd rather die doing something that makes me happy than fading away in bed for years on end.

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  8. "Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened"

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    1. And... "a potentially younger person wanting to 'break free.'" :)
      It's the mirrors, Chris. At some point they are useless and should be removed...

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  9. Seems to me the more you try, the more you can and that keeps you in the game longer. Me too on the so much to do as time gets shorter. If I can just not panic about it. Finally got the freedom and see the clock ticking. Not sure who that is in the mirror but I think I'm going to stop looking. It sure isn't "me".

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    1. Alas and alack, Sherry; we've reached the age when our beauty is on the inside :(.
      Damn the "torpedos" and screw the "clocks." Full speed ahead!!!!
      Good to hear of your "freedom." May you guys soar like eagles in the wind...

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  10. Mike said, "I guess this house remodeling project is my stay young, stay healthy, stay fit project." And I guess it is--remodeling two falling down houses is not for the faint of heart! We were on the roof ALL day long today and it about killed both of us--we will see how we are moving tomorrow!

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  11. Always exciting to see the Orange Rocket between the snow drifts up Camp Bird Rd then we know Winter has passed and here comes those beautiful Aspen trees coloring the San Juans from white to lime green.

    Mark I think you have to stop worrying about what happens when the legs give out. You are spoiling the present moment with fearful thoughts about tomorrow, your subconscious mind is going to comply with what every you are feeling about the future, It's going to be what ever you decide to make it and I have no doubt but what you will be doing something challenging at 70 & 75 and beyond.

    Our winter ended yesterday here in Sonoma Co, blue skies and in the 80's in the week ahead. It was a longer winter than normal but oh so welcomed.

    Stay Thirsty My Friend


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    1. Yeah...we are, or "become," what we think. I get that. The only thing "spoiling my present moment" is the blizzard that rages outside my windows and keeps me from hiking and biking. I hope you are right in your prognosis...time will tell :)
      thanks my Sonoma Brothers. Enjoy your end of winter, and send me some photos of what that looks like...
      mark

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  12. So, is the Hot Springs open? How about 550? We're in Cortez. We promise not to knock on your door. At 70 now, I probably can't remember where it's at anyhow.

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    1. ed, the hot springs is still close for renovation... till June, I think. You can bring them up on line for an up to date, date. It has been snowing here...a lot. I'm sure 550 is open but there might be avalanche warning out. Check the highway patrol's assessment, to be safe. New snow on top of old hard-pack snow is a dangerous situation...FYI... and there are several exposed areas on 550.
      mark

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  13. Glad you're not feeling your age yet. Unfortunately I am, but that's the lottery of personal health. It's still great to be as reckless as your body allows in pursuit of your "life-wish" til you sign out!

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