Monday, August 17, 2009

Growing Wings

Watching your children find their center in nature is a wonderful, no, overwhelmingly rewarding privilege. Maya (5 yrs old this month) has been exposed to some magnificent vistas, has been shown the merits of expelling uncomfortable physical effort towards some distant point in the challenging landscape, been privy to such rich and varied aural and culinary experiences that many adults I know seldom take the time to enjoy, and is coming to understand the significance of it all. Watching my 4 month old boy, Rowan, open his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to his environment and his hands and skin take in all of the fascinating textures in our world is only surpassed by watching his cognitive powers explode in their growing capacity like ever increasingly powerful super novas.

OK, maybe I'm romanticizing a bit about the abilities of my children, but the feeling I get watching them develop and respond so positively to nature's gifts is nothing short of pure joy. If humanity could simply focus their meditative efforts onto children for half the time they spend fretting about the bottom line our collective intellectual and spiritual trajectories would surely far surpass our limited imaginations.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day of Firsts

I'd like to hear about a memorable "Day of Firsts" that you've had. Share with us a day when you surpassed your expectations and what it felt like.

Here's one to start things off:

I wasn't intending on sending hard at the local sport crag yesterday, I simply wanted to just get out and get a few choice routes done, metering out my efforts so as not to negatively affect my scheduled 18 mile run later in the day. But my plan started to fall apart shortly after the warm up route. I intended to simply put the draws up on a pseudo-project of mine, Advanced Birding, 5.12b, so as to work out the moves for some other day's Red Point attempt. After needing to hang at the lock off crux I realized my upper body strength has diminished recently due to the demanding volume of running and lack of protracted climbing sessions of the summer. However, after that hang's recovery period I went on to finish the route clean meaning, perhaps, if all went well and with a bit of luck, I might be able to actually go for the Red Point next try rather than next week.

So, after some recovery belaying Ruben on another route, and some refueling, I retied in and began climbing the project. A nice rest for 2 minutes before the meat of the climb allowed me to clear my head and then something wonderful happened. My belayer, then several on-lookers, unknown to me, started shouting up words of encouragement. A young climbing enthusiast named Jack, maybe 9 and sending 10's that day, started shouting up "come on, Shawn! Come on!" Something about the unsolicited encouragement from a complete stranger, especially a youngster, provided me the little extra sustaining power I needed to clear that demanding lock off, bring my lower extremities up and over that first roof pull, then through the second and to the chains, thereby completing my first lead of a sport 5.12b. My exhaling relief was apparently audible 50 feet lower and under the two roofs by Katie and her comment about its wonderful quality, one of deep satisfaction, was rewarding as well.

I then moved on to one of my favorite 5.1o trad routes (No Whippin' Boys) and one of my favorite sport 5.11b/c's (Doctor Limit) and sent both without too much effort sealing off a wonderful, albeit somewhat abbreviated, day at Red Wing.

The day's rewards were not too soon over. After a bit of refueling back home, the Asics road running shoes were tied on and water bottles filled and off I went for the longest proposed continuous run I've done. Suffice it to say, that after the day's climbing my legs were a bit fatigued from the get-go and my reserves were pretty drawn down. All but maybe 2 miles of the 18 that I then ran were fought for. Even at mile 5 I was beginning to think that maybe 18, after climbing, was too ambitious. Part way through the run I had an opportunity to bow out and take another bridge across the river and back home, thereby cutting the run to 13 miles, but, regardless of the doubt of completion and the prospect of unknown quantities of assured suffering, I decided to forgo that bridge and pressed on. I made it to the midway point, the intended bridge, and crossed the river. Its viewshed provided my a glimpse into the next 4-5 miles of running back towards home and my heart sank at the distance knowing that there was another 4-5 to do even after that seemingly endless, visible distance. From that point on, every half mile felt heavy, slow and too much like a drudgery. The negative voices started flowing in earnest. I heard myself beginning a vocalized dialogue against the voices around mile 12 and wondered how long I had been talking out loud and how many passers-by heard me. In the end, I completed the full 18 miles through the suffering and negative voices to accomplish my longest run to-date. Most often, after I do this, there is some elation and sense of joy, even a longing for the next run. This time, it was nowhere to be found.

Regardless, I learned plenty about what I can overcome yesterday. I learned, again, that one's initial assessment of ability in the face of challenge, pain, suffering, or fear is almost never 100% accurate. In both my climbing day and my running experience that day I remember saying to myself that the challenge was not going to be met on that occasion; that I would need to simply get a day's worth of practice in and then come back and do it again when I'm fit enough. In both instances, I was far off the mark. Sometimes, it's great to be wrong.