Sunday, June 28, 2009


Haven't written in a couple has been keeping me extremely busy. I was planning to take all of this week off to climb in the DAKS (short for Adirondack Mountains in New York State...near Lake Placid), but feeling guilty about missing too much work has led me to go in on Monday and Tuesday. Nevertheless, I'm hoping to have some great adventures to write about when I return.

In planning for another adventure, I picked up 3 new pairs of shoes from Evolv to get ready for a trip to Colorado at the end of August. I'm getting psyched, but still need to buy the plane tickets. Just call me Mr. Procrastinator. In fact, I should be finishing up my packing for the DAKS trip now.

On Saturday morning, Christine and Pete called to see if I wanted to go climbing. Christine, "Hey Steve, what are you doing?" Me, "Picking up my dry cleaning." Christine laughs and says, "We thought you'd be out on some crazy must have gotten a long run in already this morning." Me, "No, this is what my life has become...picking up dry cleaning on Saturday morning." HAA! After very little nudging, I agreed to meet them at the cliff near my house.

Christine is 9 months pregnant and looks like she is ready to pop. Nevertheless, there she was strapped into her full body climbing harness. Wow! She climbed like a trooper...climbing stuff harder than many people without a baby ready to pop out. We had a good time climbing with Janet and Gary. Gary had surgery on his hip 3 weeks ago and was out climbing already. Hmmm, are we super healthy or super addicted or both? It was a mellow day, and I had fun trying out my new shoes. I climbed well, but didn't get in too much of a workout. Afterwards, Pete and Christine came over to see Jamie and my granddaughter, Maliyah.

Saturday night was a big tango dance at our local dance hall. I saw some climbing friends there. My partner, Alex, said he is going to a tango festival in Chicago instead of going on our annual DAKS trip. Wow! He;s more addicted to tango than climbing. I'm in disbelief. Although, I can understand a bit when I'm out there dancing with a beautiful lady. Still, I gotta climb.

This morning, the Goat and I went for our usual 9.5 mile jaunt at the reservoir. I was thinking that last year we were in taper mode for the Vermont 100 at this point. The race is 3 weeks away. Wow! What a difference one year makes...

Tonight, Tara and I had breakfast burritos on the deck and had a wonderful conversation. The weather was perfect and for once I was not in a rush to go somewhere or do something. She's going to Spain in the Fall for a semester abroad. I'm excited for her, but will miss her terribly.

It was a nice, mellow weekend. Hope you all enjoyed it too.

Have a great week everyone!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast of Fools

To say life has been insane recently is an understatement. I could list all the weirdness that has been happening in my life, but I'm sure you could probably trump me if you tried hard enough. So, let's focus on some good stuff. Shall we?

Despite all the trials and tribulations of life, I really wanted to get out for a good day of climbing this weekend. I connected with one of my favorite partners, Alex, for a day at the Gunks on Saturday.

Alex indicated that he hadn't climbed much over the past couple months, and I haven't climbed much either. The difference is that Alex is almost 10 years younger and is as strong as the Terminator on steroids. I don't know if it's the 12 hour workdays, becoming a Grandpa, or just plain getting old, but my climbing has been a bit off this year. I'm putting my money on the former because I know I was climbing damn well earlier this year before accepting this new job. Gotta think postive, eh?

Anywho0000, the Gunks were increibly muggy Saturday morning as we searched for a warm-up climb. We say Dawn's friend, Steven, at the deli, and then again at the base of the Mac Wall. Steven was climbing with Mike, another Gunks addict. They were pondering Higher Stannard (5.9-), one of my favorite climbs...It's about as thin and bouldery as you can get for the first 20 feet and it takes BIG ONES to just get off the ground. It's my kind of climb. Steven pondered alternate starts while Alex and I eyed up Something Interesting (5.7+) which is a nice warm-up if dry, but today was seeping wet. Alex said, "Let's do it", so I offered him the lead. I have done this climb many times, but was in no mood for leading on wet rock. Alex took his time, and was fine on the lead. In the meantime, I think I probably ticked off Steven by offering unwanted advice, and they opted for MF (5.9+), a harder but more protectable climb.

After we finished our climb, I watched Steven pull the crux on MF, and then we moved on. I wondered why they picked such a hard climb on such a muggy day. I figured we would just take it easy on moderate stuff and get in a lot of climbing. As usual, I was wrong, and it was primarily my doing.

Before I knew it, we were standing at the base of City Streets (5.10a), an easy climb if you are tall, and nearly impossible if you are short. It's a one move wonder that Dawn and I had worked on sometime last year. We managed to fumble our way up it, but it was not exactly free climbing. In theory, I can reach the key hold, and had done so following last year. Unfortunately, I fell several times that day trying to lead it, and stood there thinking, "Perhaps today?" despite being less fit than last year. Nevertheless, we started roping up for the climb.

I worked my way up to the crux move without any issues. I protected the heck out of the thing, but the real protection is an old piton below the roof. After a bit of scoping out the moves, I gave it the old college try, and failed. I was about 3 inches short of the key hold and couldn't reach it. I came close a couple times, and then started losing strength. Alex lowered me off, and then he gave it a try. Alex is tall enough to reach the key hold without much trouble, and then I fumbled my way up it to pull out the gear.

Alex offered me the next lead, since he had pulled off 2 nice leads. I was spent from all that effort of City Streets, so opted for a nice easy climb with great features, Hans Puss (5.7). In the meantime, Alex watched a couple young guns do, Feast of Fools, a hard, pumpy 5.10c rated climb. 5.10 is about our limit for leading, and I shuddered knowing that Alex might want to try it. Dawn had described an epic to me that involved this climb, and it looked damn hard (5.10c is quite a bit harder than 5.10a if you are keeping score). She had led the 2nd pitch on this last year, and I enjoyed following it. It was hard, but didn't look nearly as hard as the first pitch.

After following me up Hans Puss, Alex decided to try Feast of Fools from the ground. Ughh! "I think this is harder than he realizes", I thought to myself. Being a good partner, I did not try to discourage him, and figured he would find a way to get up it. I also wondered how I would get up it. Alex seemed to struggle on this one from the beginning, and belaying him became a full-time job. He had to hang a few times below the first big roof, and I thought we were in for an epic. Nevertheless, he made it through the first crux roof and pressed on after a smart rest. The climbing seemed to get easier, and he moved up the rest of the way without much trouble. Great job Alex! Now it was my turn. Despite being wiped out, I managed to climb the darn thing without falling. I surprised myself completely, but still not sure I would have the guts to try leading it. It is one tough climb.

Now, it was my turn. I stared at the second pitch and wondered if I had enough strength. I was very tired and shaky, but it was my kind of climbing...thin climbing, barely adequate protection, and a clean fall. Despite my better judgment, I found myself leading the pitch. I did a reasonable job of protecting the crux move, but had no gas left in the tank. I worked hard to pull the crux, but kept getting weaker. I was complete spent. After multiple tries, I felt like the real "fool" and let Alex take the lead. He pulled off the move without any trouble, and then I fumbled my way up it. I was truly done for the day.

So, what do I make of all this? Well, I definitely got in a great workout, and learned a lot. Alex has turned into a top notch rock climber, and is starting to realize his abilities. Thanks to Alex, I was able to get on a hard 5.10 and follow it cleanly. I love climbing and trying new routes...time to start climbing hard again.

I also learned that I need to find a new regular climbing partner. Alex informed me that he is moving to Seattle in July to open a new office for his software business. I know he is going to love it there, and I wish him the best of luck. We have a 10 day trip planned for Colorado in August, so it may be one of our last big adventures together. I'm looking forward to it!

For this week, I will leave you with a thought...actually a request. Can I impose on you a bit?

Here is my request:

Try something new this week...push yourself a hair beyond what you might think is possible...even if you fail as I did on Feast of Fools, you will have an adventure and learn something new. Heck, what's the worst that can happen? Think about it! You may not get the results you desire, but you can still feel good about making the effort. It's worth the attempt! Give it a try...

Have a great week everyone!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why I really run...

Sometimes I think I run for the competition....with myself and with others... and sometimes I think I run to socialize with friends. I could also rationalize that I run to enjoy nature. There are many good reasons to run, but today I was reminded of why I really run. I run for health reasons. Sure, many people run to stay healthy and in shape. It makes sense, right? I think my health reasons are specific to a concern I've had for years now, and I was rudely reminded of it today.

Today, unfortunately, after a great 3 hour run at the reservoir with some friends, I was soberingly reminded of why I run when I received a voicemail from my Mom indicating that she was on her way to the hospital with my Dad. He had chest pain and had lost feeling in his arm. After some tests, it was confirmed that he had experienced a heart attack. Fortunately, it was not severe, but the doctors have indicated that there is some muscle damage. The pain and numbness are gone, but he's going through more tests to determine the next steps.

My first reaction was anger. Anger because his father, my grandfather, had several heart attacks and strokes and was paralyzed on one side for the last 10 or so years of his life. I worked at my Dad's shop in those days which was at my grandparents house, so I had lunch with my grandparents on many of those days. It was hard to watch my grandfather struggle and eventually decline. It was hard for everyone involved, and those memories are etched in my mind forever. I decided I didn't want to have the same experience in my life, and I know my Dad didn't want to go through that process either. Unfortunately, I think our approach to dealing with that concern has been very different.

I really started to pay attention to my health and stress level in my early 20's when I would get stressed to the point where it would affect me physically. I knew I was wired like my Dad and his Dad, and I also knew that I needed to get my stress under control before it killed me. So, I started running. I had run in high school, but did not have the discipline, ability, or desire to perform at the highest level on our track team, so I did it more for the socialization. Now, I was running to stay healthy and keep my stress under control. It worked, and I was hooked. I started runing by myself, then with a neighbor. After awhile, I joined some friends at work for lunchtime runs. I was getting faster, and stress-induced physical pains were no longer an issue. I was having fun, letting go of stress, and feeling good about life. It's become part of my regular routine, and my quality of life has been better because of it.

In the late 70's and early 80's people really didn't know all the reasons for heart disease. My grandfather's generation didn't worry about eating healthy or getting exercise. Only recently have we realized that heart disease can be avoided through serious diet and exercise.

Unfortunately, my Dad does not take diet and exercise seriously. Part of him knows the right thing to do for his health, but he also grew up in the generation that thinks there is a pill to cure everything. To make things worse, he's the type of person that cannot be told how to do something.

So, I knew I would be getting that phone call someday. I've dreaded the day I would get the call, and was actually happy that this one was just a warning. I hope and pray that this is a wake up call for my Dad, and this will bring on a lifestyle change for him that will keep him with us longer.

I love my Dad, and will love him regardless of whether I agree with his decisions. I just hope we have more time together. He recently became a great grandfather, and it would be great if he could get to know my granddaughter, Maliyah, and watch her grow.

As for me, I wonder whether there is a life-limited part inside me that has been passed down from generation to generation or whether all my running and diet will help extend my life a few more years. It would be nice to stick around a bit longer, but I will run regardless. Running has improved my health and quality of life. It has enabled me to form bonds with people and accomplish more than I ever imagined.

So, my dear friends, enjoy your run this week or do whatever helps keep you stay in balance, and take a moment to put my Dad in your thoughts and prayers. I appreciate it.

Take Care,