Life After Leadville

A week has passed since I crossed the finish line in Leadville, completing my first hundred mile race. And although I wish I could relive that moment forever, life, like the stubborn ultrarunner, moves relentlessly onward.

My sleeping pattern has returned to normal, my body has recovered (except for a pesky, swollen left anterior tibialis), even my ravenous appetite has waned. I still need to procure a new belt though…

The fruit of my labor.

Immediately after the race, I spent a night at my dad’s house in Colorado Springs before embarking early Monday morning on my next adventure: life and a new job in Durango. The transition has gone rather smoothly (like Nutella), due not only to the fact that I have no pressing obligation to log mileage, but primarily because I simply can’t run until this pesky left foot heals up — despite how great the rest of me feels.

My recovery sustainance. (Credit: Flickr user janineomg)

So what have I been up to? Well, Wednesday was my first day with Ecos Consulting, where so far I’ve been assisting our lab guy Philip dismantle some plasma TVs. I’ll admit, as an avid television dissident, I get a kick out of it. But it’s nothing like whipping through a thick stand of old-growth aspen on a pristene, late summer morning in the Colorado high-country. I’ve tried some light hiking, yoga, climbing, but so far the only activity that doesn’t aggravate the tendon is cycling — to which I’ve resigned myself for now. Trips to the high-country might have to wait a little longer.

Foot bridge over the Animas -- part of my 15 minute walk to work.

The view from my new office window -- this train never gets old!

On the bright side, no running has freed up my schedule to do some well-deserved reading, writing, lounging on the banks of the Animas, and exploring every square inch of Durango by bicycle. Ever since I left my childhood home in Woodland Park (pop. ~8000) for school in Seattle (pop. millions), I’ve been scaling down the community around me, desperately seeking a sweet spot where I can comfortably settle. Cities and crowds stress me out.

Seattle: an awesome city -- but I felt trapped and claustraphobic.

Even Boulder (pop. 100,000), with it’s incredible trails, picturesque setting, and endless opportunities, overwhelmed me. I loved meeting so many like-minded runners, but therein lied the problem. I always felt nameless and powerless, unable to establish a unique identity. I was small fry in a sea of far bigger fish. Quite frankly, Boulder intimidated me.

So far, Durango feels right. I’ve already bumped into the same folks at multiple times and places. There’s good political balance — hicks and hippies manage a peaceful coexistence but don’t force on eachother a particular way of life. I can walk or bike anywhere in minutes — no need for a car. I don’t find myself overwhelmed by a thousand fancy bistros and bars — meet me at Carver’s. Mountains to the north, mesas to the east, deserts to the south, canyons to the west. And very fresh green chiles! 🙂

Mmm... chiles.

As summer fades to fall and the days grow short and the air brisk, I don’t foresee myself running with any real purpose or intensity through the end of the year. I have a few fun runs planned: the Zion traverse, a Grand Canyon crossing, maybe a repeat across the Sandias — but I’d also like to involve myself in some new activities, like climbing and yoga. I’ve tried each before but never given either a real chance. Plus, like any ultrarunner pushing high mileage, my strength has been compromised (read: my arms look like toothpicks), and I wouldn’t mind getting a bit of it back during the offseason.

Durango's X-Rock, where I'd like to spend some quality climbing time.

Ultra-wise, Leadville left me psyched for next season. I plan to really go after it in 2012, taking full advantage of both my location and lack of obligations. I have a burning desire to find out what I’m capable of when I apply myself 100%, especially given my experience gained this year. You’re only young once, and quite honestly I have no idea how long my body will put up with the abuse of ultrarunning. But I’d rather pour my heart into it now than wait and regret not having done so several years down the line.

As far as specific races are concerned, I’m going to keep those thoughts veiled for the time being. The truth is I have no firm idea, but I’m pretty sure I’ll limit my focus to three serious races — at least one of them being a 100-miler — with some others thrown in for training purposes.

Will the Hardrock beckon?

In summary, I couldn’t be much more pleased with the way I raced this year. Initially, I set out with three objective races: Jemez Mountain 50, San Juan Solstice 50, and Leadville Trail 100. I exceeded my goals for each, finishing 2nd (9:38), 4th (9:38) and 11th (20:08) respectively. Now I get to sift through my extensive race notes and training journal, pondering how I might alter my approach next year.

That being said, I’ve got a lot to keep me occupied right now. For example, on Saturday I attended the San Juan Brewfest where I tasted no fewer than a dozen southwest craft beers (my favorite being Pagosa Brewing Co’s cream ale), and next weekend I have a very important Labor Day camping obligation to fulfill. 🙂

Beer and sunshine at the San Juan Brewfest this past weekend.

I’m excited to relax a little, and enjoy another seasonal change. Oh and September and October in Colorado? It can’t be beat.

Autumn foliage in the Gore range -- photo taken last year.