Ass Crack Hour Before Dawn

I currently started waking up at 3:55am twice a week. Why the hell would you do that? You ask? Well, the YMCA in my town opens at 5am and I hold the key to turn on the lights and treadmills at 4:30am. It’s cold and foggy and nothing but 7-11 is open that early, or late, depending on how you look at it.  In the past if I was awake at 3:55am it’s because I had yet to go to bed, now I’m responsible for the opening shift twice a week! Coffee makes me less of a zombie, people watching keeps me going until noon every Monday and Wednesday.

I have been living in the Pacific North West for just over two months now. When I arrived I was in awe at all of the beautiful people here. Young, thirty-ish couples and families buying organic food at the Co-op, older people hiking further than me in the park, kids biking and walking to school with out complaint. This part of the country is just healthier than the east coast and the mid west.

Working at the Y has opened my eyes to the true effect of the PSW or at least the attitude of the people here. First I’ll describe my job after I turn on the lights and the machines at the ungodly hour of 4:30. I then unlock the doors at 5 and let the masses in! And by masses I mean the 60+ year olds waiting outside in the dark. The majority of people waiting for my turn of the key are retired men and women that are used to being up at the ass crack hour BEFORE dawn. These people greet me with my name, a smile and the weather report and then go on their way through the door to swim, lift and elipt the morning away before the sun peaks his head above the mountains.

I’m forced to think about my family back in the eastern part of the country while I’m meeting all these people out west. I see elderly men and women the same age or older than my grandparents looking young and sprightly! Up early, being social and active. I compare and contrast the 50 some things to my parents who are both active, but live further east. My mother in the Midwest with stresses of Yacht Club meetings, Christmas parties and her marketing job; working out and being outside become low man on the totem pole when life gets thrown at her. My Dad who is a recent Colorado resident has stresses of a new job, moving, meeting people; he’s bombarded all day and going for a hike isn’t high up on priorities.

As the morning carries on the age group varies to young high school boys, to 40 some business people, to octogenarians that resemble people my parent’s age! There’s a woman that comes every time I work and when she scans her membership card I have to double check every time, her age claims she’s 94—she looks about 62, a 62 year old that looks good!

I scare myself some times. As I’m sitting at the desk trying to keep my eyes open and brain active beautiful men and women come in and I play a game with myself. The game is ‘guess their age!’ Most of time I find myself oddly attracted to the men that look 30 but are actually 45 year olds that just look so youthful, (don’t worry Mother, I’m not going there.)

I can only attribute this amazing beauty and youthful look to the air, the mountains and the amazingly active lifestyle people in the PNW maintain all their lives. I think people here in Oregon make vitamin D intake precedence. Sunshine is not a luxury but a necessity in their daily lives.

Seeing these people and constantly being surprised by their age is inspiring me to explore, constantly push myself physically, mentally and hope that when I’m 34 I’ll look 24, when I’m 64 I’ll look 56, when I’m 86 I’ll look 72! We can only hope, right?

Adventurer in Training

This past weekend I was surrounded by amazing athletes. I was able to volunteer for the Equinox Trek in Ohiopyle, PA… (I’m a little obsessed with this town, I love it, everyone should love it.) The race was a 48 hour adventure race where teams of 4, 3, 2 or solo adventurers are set out into the wild to hike, bike, navigate and paddle for anywhere between 160-200 miles.

Volunteering consisted of a lot of sitting around, hanging out until 3 in the morning for racers to come in to different checkpoints, chillin’ in my hammock, taking pictures…etc. Not only were the racers amazing people, the volunteers and race producers where amazing too! Many having raced themselves, others medical rescuers there to help and provide medical attention, these races are a huge deal to put on and it takes a lot of help to have a successful one.

Wait, this race sounds a lot like a race I got myself signed up for… NEXT WEEKEND! I was given the opportunity to do an Adventure Race with a friend of mine, it’s a bit shorter than The Equinox Trek, 75-100 miles in just 24 hours. So my weekend was not only to volunteer but I took the opportunity to pick the brains of the racers and other volunteers to help me prepare for this race. I also was able to get back on the mountain bike, get myself supremely lost (I will NOT be navigating this coming weekend) and enjoy the class 3 rapids The Lower Yough has to offer—all while sleeping in my car and enjoying the Falls Pub each night!

Overall, I’ve decided that I want to become one of those bad ass racers. These people are average men and women that do extraordinary things on the weekends. After asking many racers (both at the race and through email, I have met a few in the past and have kept in touch) the biggest piece of advice they gave me was COMMUNICATION.

 

I will obviously report back on my race next week—but I wanted to venture out and ask for YOUR advice. Anyone out there done some long race (adventure or not) and want to give me some tips?

 

Don’t Flip

I love discovering new things, (duh, who doesn’t!?) But this past week I was able to rediscover a new part of a great State Park here in Maryland, Patapsco State Parkis way bigger than I realized. Last summer and fall I had only been trail running and hiking in one section of it, this week I went across the river and found myself wandering in a completely different section of the park.

Deer

Not only did I discover a new part of the park, but I discovered it two ways and had a completely different experience each time. If you’ve read this blog in the past you have by now realized that I have zero sense of direction, which I’m okay with for the most part, I just have to remind myself of that from time to time and make sure I have the time to be lost.

 

My first venture at the new Patapsco entrance was a hike. As I was hiking all I could think about was how great this area would be for trail running, (I’m again not running due to my stressed out sacrum) then the further I hiked my mind continued to wander from running, to nature to:  what am I doing with my life? To what am I doing tomorrow? To holy shit these squirrels are NOT afraid to get close to me!

Hiking alone brings forth a lot of thoughts and feelings, I’m unable to let go and just be in the woods. My mind races and I get really distracted by the thought bubbles floating above my head. So distracted in fact that this particular hike I totally forgot what color I was supposed to be following (Blue? Orange? Green? oh man, I’m lost!) My brain shifted to a bit of panic mode of not knowing where I was, knowing that I should leave the park by a certain time and the fact that my water bottle was running low, I had no food and the mercury had already climbed to 98 before I got on the trail.

 

Then reality came back and I realized that I really didn’t HAVE to be anywhere, so I tired enjoying being lost. I wandered, (not all those who wander are lost.) I eventually found my way to the road and walked the two miles back to my car on the safety of no chance of getting more lost along the river and out of the woods. Over all it was a great hike, I didn’t solve any of my life’s problems but I did have a great afternoon wandering and discovering myself.

 

Yesterday I was able to enjoy the same park a different way. In preparation for an adventure race I’m doing in 9 days (The crazy race I got myself signed up for) I’m trying my legs at mountain biking—if you remember, I went once when I was out in Oregon visiting my brother, so this time I went out at it alone and for a few more miles. The trails at Patapsco are narrower than in OR, the hills were shorter and steeper, the roots seemed more daunting and the potential of me flipping over my handlebars far greater.

I didn’t flip over, I think this has something to do with me being a big baby and super wimpy. I’m slow. I think really hard when riding. Unlike cycling, where I can zone out and ride for hours, mountain biking forced me to focus and use my brainpower fully. I kept my eyes where I wanted the bike to go, not where I DIDN’T want it to go, like over a cliff or into a tree. The second my brain wanted to shift to ‘life-talk’ I’d hit a rock, or go the wrong way into a stump, so my mind stayed focused on what was directly ahead of me—forgot what I had passed, I wasn’t worried about a mile or two down the trail, on the mountain bike I am where I am. If not, I’ll surely crash.

 

I’m going to let you figure out the life lesson I learned on the trail both days. No need for explanation.