Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Favorite Things

i love to ski Solitude. love it. years ago, my introduction to skiing in Utah was at Alta and Snowbird. i was a high school kid on vacation with my family and we were checking out where my brother and i would go to University. 30 minute drive up the canyon to go skiing. yeah; i can go to school here. actually, the first time i saw Alf's High Rustler from the highway with my mom and brother, i remember we turned the car around and went back down to Snowbird, which seemed a little tamer.

i worked at Alta on the ski school in the 90s after taking a ski instructor course through the University of Utah. as the years went on, Alta became more popular and seems to be more crowded everyday. locals tell me that there are still "stashes" of powder, but honestly, they are harder to come by.

i started telemark skiing in the late 90s to give my self a new challenge, access the backcountry (to find those harder to come by powder stashes), impress a boy or two, and partially to piss off my bosses at the ski school. i think i was successful in all aspects.

i've stuck with telemark skiing, but pretty much given up on Alta, sadly. it does not hold the charm that it once had for me. the slow double lifts, cash only for tickets, long lonely hikes to steep unpopulated lines are a thing of the past.

sorry, Alta, but i've moved on. Solitude offers not only stellar in-area terrain, but accessible backcountry as well. i don't think i'm letting out any secrets here. the people who ski it know well enough. the people who are stubborn enough to stay at Alta can have it.

it's probably only a matter of time before Solitude becomes overly populated and skied out as Alta has over the years. but until that day comes, i'm stickin' with it. Solitude. if you only knew.

photo credit: Matt Hart

i should comment that i did ski Alta a couple of weeks ago and had a really great time. but skiing at Alta for me these days is like when you take a photo of a really great time in a really great place, and then you return years later, and it's not the place you remembered. still great, just not the same.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ready for the hunnie?

the hunnie--the hundred, that is. the Wasatch 100. never thought i'd say it, but i'm signed up to run it (again). after two unsuccessful attempts, i'm hoping the third time will be the charm. my attitude has changed a lot since the last attempt in 2003--i'd like to think for the better.

i met a lot of great people running last year and my energy for the sport of ultrarunning was renewed. ultrarunning has changed a lot over the past 12 years. i started running with karl meltzer in 1998, pacing him at wasatch to a 20:08 victory, and a course record at the time. now karl is too fast for me to keep up with, and after several years of feeling like running was a part-time job, i lost my passion for it.

then came 2009. passion renewed. great friends and new events, volunteering for races and just being a part of the smiling ultra crowd. two great dogs who love to hit the trails at a moment's notice. i could travel all across this wide world of ours, and still come home to where i feel the most at home--the Wasatch. i paced a friend for the last 25 miles of Wasatch last year, and swore to myself and aloud that the next time i saw that last 25 miles of the course, i would be finishing the race--for me.

i don't have a lot of plans for this summer so far. my only solid plans are to run at Pocatello in May and the Wasatch in September. in between, i want to log a lot of miles, eat well, drink good beer, and just keep smiling.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pirate Eye on Jack's Mtn

my neighbor Kate moved in next door not quite a year ago. i don't know if you've ever had a house sell next door to you and had that sinking feeling of not knowing who or what you were going to get for a new neighbor. i was not quite sure what to think when the "for sale" sign went up on the neighbor's house and it sold several weeks later. Kate was following on the heels of two incessantly barking neighbor dogs. so in one way, i was glad to see the old neighbors go (it's hard to be in grad school writing papers with two barking dogs interrupting your thought process every 1-2 minutes) and i was hopeful that my new neighbor would be a pleasant one.

a lot of people try intentionally not to become friends with their neighbors. i've heard this many times. "a good neighbor is one you never see." or "the best neighbor is the one you never think is home." but having Kate for a neighbor couldn't be farther off from these statements. you can't help but want to be a part of her spirit and her energy. she is the best neighbor you could ever wish for. when you've had a rough day, she invites you over for a cocktail and a pep-talk. she comes over to say hi to the dogs when you are stuck at work. she gives you fresh eggs from her backyard chickens. she waves and smiles (and sometimes flashes) through the living room window just to make you laugh. she is more than my neighbor (the best neighbor ever), she is my friend.

two weeks ago, Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer. it really sucks. a lot. it's hit her like a ton of bricks, but she continues to smile through all of the doctor appointments and stress. her life has been turned upside down, but she still has a pep-talk for me when i have a rough day at work (but let me tell you, my rough day at work doesn't seem so bad when i think of the alternatives). she keeps her sense of humor and says to everyone, "don't you dare give me cancer eye!" (that longing look of sadness and pity that people often give someone with cancer). so instead, we give Kate pirate eye. this is the look of strength and determination, and yes, after a hearty "aaarrrgh!" it typically brings some laughs too.

today, i walked up Jack's Mountain with the dogs. Jack was a little boy who died of leukemia several years ago, and his parents and the community named the mountain after him. there is a mailbox at the top where you can write notes in a journal. i like to think that little Jackie Jack is watching over us when we have friends in need. i like to think that because he had cancer, he will protect my friend and keep her strong throughout her battle. i left Kate a little note in the journal up on Jack's Mountain today. Aaaargh! stay strong, Kate!