The past few days my thoughts have turned to wide-open spaces. sagebrush valleys, lonely mountain ranges, dark clouds of thunderstorms, tiny shack burger joints, wild horses and coyotes. The open west really. While Colorado is technically the west, we have a lack of these things in the Front Range. It's simply too crowded. That's the big problem with living in the fastest growing area in the country. There are too many of us. We're running out of space to roam, space to breathe.
I've come to realize that the things I like - easy access to mountains, plentiful jobs and a liberal base are things that a whole heck of a lot of other people like too. One salvation - I don't really care so much about being near a metropolitan area. Sure, a good meal and movie is nice, but we could be perfectly content in a cabin at the base of that lonely mountain range, with empty trails to hike and fresh powder to ski and almost no people. And while I'm as liberal as they come, I'm also beginning to find a new tolerance as I grow older. Different strokes for different folks, so long as we respect each other. Truth is, some of the loneliest and most beautiful places are not liberal. At some point the pros of living in a bastion of open thinking is outweighed by the sheer number of people living here. Happy Valley is wonderful, but I doubt this will be our last hurrah.
In the meantime, we live. This summer is a bit of a big exhale before an action packed 2017. We're planning on doing a 100-mile race in Norway in February that no Americans have ever completed, and a 3,000 mile hike on the CDT over the summer. One does not embark on a 3,000-plus mile hike without a lot of preparation. Some of that prep work is logistics for the trip, but some of it is taking care of the essentials. Stuff like going to the dentist and getting that annoying tooth pulled. Getting that physical while health insurance is still a reality. Taking care of the house and prepping it for a long absence. Basically, life. There is a reason many folks take a year off between big thru hikes. You need that year to catch up on life and make money to do it again.
It's not been a bad exhale. One of the highlights has been this nordic training group I signed up for. Roller skiing every Tuesday night. At the first session, I got my ass thoroughly handed to me. Literally left in the dust, stunned by my lack of fitness and suffering from hellacious allergies. It got incrementally better, but the allergies persisted most of the early summer. I'm pretty sure it was allergies because at one practice session it rained, hard. I felt cool and alive. All of the sudden, I felt back to normal, spry, good breathing and quick. The next week it was 98°, dry and brutal, and I was suffering.
Still, I've been working hard to break through. Part of that has been rest. This is the first year in many where I've consciously taken a day off per week. By doing that, I'm better able to train hard when I need to and also have time to plan the week. It's finally starting to pay off. Today training was good. We did intervals today, and a little time trail. There is a guy who has been smoking me all year. Today, for the first time, I was able to keep up with him, bridge gaps and even win a sprint. I'm thankful to have somebody to push me, to make me improve. It's the gift of competition and training groups. We elevate each other.
Tonight, back to my newest project, building these wooden skis. After an hour of fiddling with the spokeshave, I managed to get it just right. My technique is still rudimentary, but I did manage some nice curls. My goal is ten in a row without chatter and losing the curl. It's not easy, but like everything in life, hard work yields results.