Kendall Mtn Run

Holy hell, I just signed up to run a 12 mile race, beginning in Silverton Colorado at 9,318 feet, and heading straight up into the clouds to a halfway point at 13,066 (top of Kendall Mountain), turning around and retracing the path back down to Silverton.  It’s an old race with an awesome, small mining town history, but has been added to the new USA Skyrunner Series.  If I still lived in Colorado, this would not be such a big deal to me but I live at sea level.  However, I think that since I will have a month living at 10,200 and training out my back door up Mosquito Pass and down the road up the two biggest mountains in Colorado (Elbert and Massive), I might sort of be ready?  I foresee much weight training in the coming months.  And lots and lots of trail hills on my Old Songdo mountain loop (post and pics coming soon).  Must not freak out.  Must train smart.  And keep “cranky butt” at bay.

I’m looking for other small, off-the-radar trail races in the Colorado mountains for the summer.  Let me know if you’ve heard of something good.  I am not interested in being lower than 8,000 feet as it’s hotter than hell in July and August, and I’m not interested in pavement.  All qualifying forms of foot race, please apply.

Here’s the link for Kendall if you’re interested and want to consider running it too?  If it’s any consolation, all the people in the race photos are smiling:  Kendall Mountain Run.

Life Changer

When I was in second grade, one book changed my life.  It was Charlotte’s Web and it so profoundly affected me that from that moment on, I went from being a kid who didn’t care one bit about school and books, to an avid reader and voracious book consumer.

I’ve finally met my second life changer:

A book so good that when I finished, I navigated back to the beginning on my trusty little Kindle and re-read the book, just in case I missed something the first time when I was so excited I might have skipped over some precious nugget of information–and just because I didn’t want it to be over.  And when I finished the second time…….just kidding, but I did skim over and re-read my favorite parts.  This is serious for someone who currently has about 800 unread books sitting on her Kindle and an insatiable need to read them all.  To not immediately begin a new book–uncharted territory, my friends.

A little background info about your humble narrator:

I discovered running the summer before my freshman year of high school and it (and running cross country on a successful, close-knit team), more than any other experience has really defined me and set the tone for the rest of my life.  Ever since high school and a short stint of collegiate track and cross country, running is something that has always been in my life.  It comes and goes in waves mostly defined by the seasons, my location, and to what degree of injury I’m currently experiencing.  But it has remained a constant, and I love running, deeply.  I’ve not found any other thing I can do that can match the sense of elation I can attain trail running–except for skiing in perfect powder and that just doesn’t happen often.  Running is a sure thing.  But I have had moments (months/years) where I treated it like something I had to do, or something I needed to do to stay skinny, or something that is going to be painful that I’ve just got to muster through.

A few years back, I tried to train for a marathon, but instead I contracted a staggering and game-ending case of IT Band Syndrome.  Over the course of the years since, I have rehabilitated this injury and continue to prevent it and treat minor flare-ups.  But I’ve been too scared to try marathon training again. When I was originally getting this injury diagnosed, the prevailing message from sports doctors was to stop running.  Running is bad for you.  Even complete strangers feel compelled to tell me I’m going to need knee replacement surgery because I keep running.  Even in Boulder, ultra-running mecca of the USA, every sports doc told me to take up cycling instead.  I just simply could not believe this to be true.  And I hate biking.  I love running.  I should be able to run.

This book changed my life because it has changed my knowledge about and my attitude towards running.  It taught me how to find the joy in running again.  And now, rather than waiting around for another injury to crop up, or enduring a 30 minute run so I can eat chocolate cake, I am embracing the sheer exultation and artistry of running that made me fall in love in the first place.  I am treating running like a holistic part of my life rather than something I do on the side.

The book has generated A LOT of press and misconceptions (but it’s also changed hundreds–maybe thousands of lives too).  Yes, the book makes the case for barefoot running and aggressive vegetarianism, but that is not the point or what it’s about.  Probably one of the most exciting pieces for me is the evolutionary link that is made.  We evolved to run long distances together in order to run down our food.  He reiterates the point:  what other species on this planet has the urge to gather by the tens of thousands to run 26 miles together?  We were made for running, not cycling, you silly Boulderite docs.  The link is also made that because we were persistence hunters and trackers, we also had to develop the need to be empathetic, make connections, think hypothetical thoughts, and make future predictions.  And thus you have technology and science and the reason why humans have advanced the way we have.  It’s exciting to consider.  We are the running people.  I loved one quote from the dude in his 90’s still running that Dipsea race in California, “you don’t stop running because you get old.  You get old because you stop running.” Consider me inspired!

I guess really the important lessons are that you have to correct your technique (which is where the barefoot stuff comes in), build strength, and work on your eating habits (in other words fix a lot of things in your running life) in order to run with joy injury-free.  And if everyone in the world were to realize all this and reconnect to their running roots, like they were born to do–like they evolved to do, you’d a have a happy, healthy, crime-free world.  Because like I learned in high school, running makes you a better person in your heart and soul, too.

American Culture

Disclaimer:  This post was a long time in the thinking and writing and will be very long and boring.  It’s okay if you quit reading.  I won’t be offended.  I just needed to unload ideas that have been swimming around in my noggin. 

Growing up, I thought that “culture” was the traditional dress, art, and spicy food that people wore, made and ate in exotic places.  There was no such thing as American culture, because America is a “melting pot.”  We don’t have people in the mountains wearing swirly brightly colored skirts and top hats.  Though we do have mountain people making damn fine music on the banjo! America was the norm and everything else was “other.”  We eat Italian, Thai, and Mexican food.  I suppose it’s obvious then that I grew up in a very small town.  But even when I left and moved to Boulder and met different kinds of people and experienced cities and even traveled outside of the country, the word “culture” was still not at the front of my mind.  What we did and thought and ate was just what we did.

In graduate school we did a lot of talking about “multi-culturalism” and diversity and how to bring these things into the classroom because they are so valuable.  We talked about how culture is more than different holidays and foods.  It is also attitudes and values and thought that is influenced by language.  But I still could not internalize what the real difference was between us and them.  I could not see ourselves objectively because I was only looking at “them” and trying to understand “them” in a vacuum unaffected by own beliefs and values.

It took living in several different countries, working there, and interacting with parents and students to really be able to “see” and recognize and put my index finger on exactly what American culture is (and I’m still working on it).  Here, in the most different and “other” place I’ve ever lived, I find myself thinking about these concepts a lot because being in a place so opposite has given me the most insight into my own attitudes, values, and thought processes.

For example, I think most people know that Eastern cultures are Collectivist.  Before I lived here, I took that to mean that everyone looks out for each other, caring more about the group than the individual, and that relationships are more important than “getting things done.”  But collectivism really pervades many ways of thinking, sometimes in completely frustrating ways for the hapless American teacher.  One example is parent beliefs about how classes function.  Say we have a little darling named Johnny.  Little Johnny, in the eyes of the American teacher, has been showing a bad attitude and has been irresponsible about turning in homework.  In the eyes of Little Johnny’s mom, Johnny is in a bad class.  The class has a bad attitude because the group is bad and Johnny will do much better if you just put him in the advanced math class where he belongs.  This sort of thing makes me crazy on a daily basis, but only because it does not reflect my American values:  individualism, self-determination, personal responsibility.  All those things sound really good to you, too, right?  But maybe I’m wrong and those are not valuable things.  Or maybe, we’re both right, which waxes my noodle even more.  In the end, I win because mom put Johnny in the school to get a Western education so that he will be prepared for college in the States.  But they are not happy about it and still looking for ways to get him in advanced math instead of (my interpretation) being self-aware and personally responsible in setting time management goals or self-reflecting on attitudes projected and how that might influence other students around little Johnny.

Collectivism among children also means that bullying is easy because all you have to do is exclude someone.  You all ignore a peer and it’s the most devastating thing you can do to a kid here.  Here is where the self-determination in Americans comes in again.  This kind of bullying doesn’t work for us (as much), because we shrug and say we can do it better ourselves anyway, and so Americans must be much more violent and forceful to communicate their hate in a palpable way.  Which is worse?  I don’t know.

These behaviors and values follow every hobby, job, and public behavior in silent yet obvious ways.  I’m going to save the observations in climbing and safety for my husband to reflect upon.  Because I didn’t really mean to get into what I think collectivism is in reality.  I meant to talk about American culture.

Because school is the great training ground–the place where you acquire all cultural capital you don’t get from your parents, it is an interesting comparison.  The leaders of today and yesterday, the States and Europe, all educate their children to be leaders, analytical thinkers, creative doers, capable team workers, and independent researchers.  This is American or Western culture.  In the developing world and the leaders of tomorrow (Asia), the public schools are still teaching memorization and copying.  The parents who understand and see this–probably those who went to international schools themselves–then send their children to us, knowing that the way forward is innovation and creativity.  Not copying.  But we still have to fight to break the mode of thinking that teachers should just be the deliverers of knowledge while students are the quiet receptacles.

And then there’s American food.  Earlier, I said we eat all kinds of food and so we don’t have culturally specific food.  But we do!  I mean, there are foods that are totally American, like collard greens, cheese fries and deep-fried turkey.  But if you think about all the options you have around you in your very own town or city, then you’ve hit the nail on the head.  You probably have at least one Chinese restaurant, a Mexican place or two (or more), Italian options, noodle places, Tapas places, seafood restaurants, and sushi places, BBQ pits, Greek restaurants, diners, hippie pizza joints, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, and probably a whole handful of places that you don’t really know what category they fit into.  But they have good food.   Americans crave and value variety.  What makes good American food is the most unique  flavor combinations one can possibly create and still have the meal taste great.  It’s the mark of a great chef to be able to take a hundred ingredients and create some new fusion dish that no one has made before.  What’s valued in Italian and French food?  A few high quality ingredients well cooked in the same way it’s always been done.  Obviously, I’m generalizing, but you get the idea.  Have you ever been in a grocery store outside the States, then gone back shopping in the States?  The sheer number of options for even just Pringle flavors is staggering.  And have you seen the size of the cereal isle?  Do you know what everyone else in the world wants to eat?  Their own food.  The difference between this Turkish kofte place and that one is this one uses fresher ingredients.  Sure they taste the same to us, but not to the Turks.  Everywhere we have been, people want their own nationality’s food and that’s all (yes maybe once in a while they want some pasta).  Interesting difference, isn’t it?  I guess it’s because America was originally made up of so many different cultures, but not anymore.  This variety has become quintessentially American.

And thus concludes my current ramblings about Americans.  Being away has taught me who I am and where I really came from, according to me, of course.  I wonder what I’ll learn about myself tomorrow?

Busy Summer!

What a whirlwind!  5 weeks to see everyone you know is not enough time!

We’ve been soaking up the good times with friends and family in North Carolina and Colorado.  We’ve been hiking, trail running and climbing.  We’ve been eating the food we crave (BBQ, good Mexican, variety) and drinking up the good beers.  Since we’ve been gone, New Belgium of Fat Tire fame has developed a stunning IPA, named Ranger, that really makes me happy. I highly recommend it!

This week I return to NC and we have a mere 2 weekends left until we leave for Korea.  Tim bought a couple guidebooks for us so we’re already looking for places to go–like North Korea!  It’s true, you can take a guided tour of the mysterious north. I know my sister in law will want to join for that one!

While I’m not quite ready to get back to work, I am excited to get settled into our new place and establish some routines.  It is hard to live out of bags.  Bali has been enjoying staying with her grandparents and we’re working on her paperwork to get her into Korea with us.  No, there’s no quarantine period.

I’m off now to happy hour with more friends we’ve not seen in two years.  It is so good to be home….