We leave for India, more specifically Stok Kangri, in just under 4 weeks and it’s time to stop. Time to stop reading other people’s blogs and trip reviews.
You know you’ve read too many over the top accounts of bad weather, deep snow and almost vertical walls when you find yourself repeatedly googling whether the steepest gradient is really 40 degrees (according to the one and only detailed trekking guide I’ve found) or 75 degrees (according to anecdotal accounts by multiple trekkers at varying levels of inexperience). The next clue you’ve gone too far in internet research is when you start googling all the mountains you’ve previously climbed for comparison purposes to see where they rank in this doubtless highly imaginary world of guessing gradients to try to determine if that will give you a clue as to whether you can do this. And that is followed by a good dose of wondering just how good your training can actually be when you live in Florida and a feeing you better rapidly add even more stairs to the stair climb in the office, not to mention increase the distance of your runs.
I guess fear can be a great motivator – for a bit. But I think I’ve hit the point where reading more about this trek/climb is about to backfire. I need to spend these few last weeks getting my head ready to focus on the present moment and the here and now. That’s what it’s going to take get up that mountain. One foot in front of the other; one at a time.
It’s the opposite of the planning and strategizing and analyzing I have to do in my day job lawyering. Sure, there are the logistics – the gear check, travel arrangements, picking out your GU selections – those are fine. But trying to psych out the mountain beyond a certain point – that’s no good. On a trek, typically the guides will not even tell you what the next day holds until the evening before. I’ve figured out the reason for that. You need to focus on where you are and what you’re doing – not where you’re going to be and whether you can make it.
Right now should be a yoga practice. I need to take the space created on the mat…and let that sense of the present be my guide for these last three weeks. And not read any more first hand versions of “how I survived Stok Kangri.” Namaste.
Since the cancellation of my 4 pm Saturday Bikram class, my Saturday training has turned into a five mile run with the present goal of picking up speed. The last run was a break through – all five under 12 minutes and mile 3 was 11:01. Not much for you real runners out there but for me – something to be proud of.
But occupying one’s mind is a huge part of running, at least for me. And as I pushed along on this glorious blue sky day in Central Florida – here are some miscellaneous thoughts.
Uber is becoming a huge deal here, with pro and con views circulated in the local paper, facebook and all other sorts of places. I was devoutly glad of Uber last night, however, when daughter number 2, home for the holidays, and her friends all wanted to go downtown at about 11 pm. The husband and I had arrived back from a colleague’s party only to find six or so cars parked in front of our house, together with two large SUVs double parked with two men outside talking on their cell phones, waiting to transport the various and sundry party goers at our house into downtown. But the daughter and friends weren’t driving themselves – and for that I was glad!
And somehow Uber makes me think of Airbnb. It’s really the same concept – rent your spare room, avoid hotel taxes and regulations – and why shouldn’t you? In fact, I look at my own house with its private entrance to the guest suite, and I would have a perfect set up. So why shouldn’t I?
I get the pros and cons and I understand all the arguments about requiring cabs to service poor neighborhoods etc. But aren’t Uber and Airbnb really stemming from the same mentality? The do it yourself, organically home grown business model? (I guess that would be true, except for the fact Uber, at least, is a multi million dollar company.) And at its heart, isn’t that the same drive that’s caused me to plant my own vegetables and herbs and has made the husband brew his own beer?
As residents of the tail end of the baby boom – born in 1961 – it’s interesting to observe some commonalities with the millenials. Don’t they say everything skips a generation? Now I just need to retire so I can finally get my own chicken coop.
Mountains do not rise up from the earth like isosceles triangles. And most things in life don’t have that perfect equilibrium either. Like this week – everything just a little off.
It started when I unpacked a gigantic box containing a keyboard that had belonged to an uncle and now had wended its way to Central Florida. In reaching down into the thousands of styrofoam peanuts that surrounded said keyboard in order to ensure we had located all its bits and pieces, the husband pulled out a carefully wrapped plastic package. I cut it open, expecting a plug or some similar piece of equipment, only to find – a string of pearls! A visit to the jeweler the next day confirmed they weren’t real, but now I still face the task of contacting UPS to see if they there is any report of missing pearls in peanuts.
That set the tone for the rest of the week.
One of our elderly Westies continues to be profoundly deaf and is proving not very capable of learning sign language. His brother has decided he can only eat dry dog food if scattered on the floor outside of his bowl. And the ancient cat continues to believe he is a mountain lion and to attack dogs.
My dearly beloved ten year old car blew the same fuse for the second time in six weeks. Who knew the same fuse that controls the radio controls the ignition. But combined with a very leaky convertible top, the prospect of having to change fuses on the side of the interstate while driving to an out of town meeting on Monday was enough to cause us to finally buy a new car.
At least events of tomorrow should determine my schedule sufficiently that we can actually book our Cotopaxi trip. At yoga last Wednesday night the moon was full but for a slice off one side, teetering against the black sky. I’m hoping that this next week – with the next summit firmly chosen and set – restores equipoise.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. Certainly, when I have been training for various climbs and treks, adding cardio to my work out was an essential component of success. But much of climbing or trekking is the sheer grit of simply keeping on going even when every part of you is saying stop right now. And that’s where yoga has made all the difference – and here’s a shout out to my many, many yoga instructors over the years, whose voices were in my head on so many of these hikes. Elbrus on the long slushy slog on the way down. Mt. Hood, where the 60 mile an hour winds were blowing me into the mountain and I couldn’t see because the blinding snow had totally occluded all vision.
I remember my first Bikram yoga class in 2007 or so. At that time, Bikram Yoga Orlando was located next to an elevated expressway in an small old strip center (and I mean old – circa 1960s) next to a pet grooming place. That’s the reason I had seen it – I had dropped off the dogs (who are now 14!) and picked up a schedule from the pile outside the door. I’d been doing yoga for a long time and had heard of Bikram, but had never tried it. But I was then working long hours on an arbitration – the precise contours of which have long escaped me – and I thought, maybe this is just what I need as a break.
Bikram is supposed to be practiced at 105 degrees and 40% humidity – and at the new studio it is. But at that old place down on South Street I swear you could see clouds forming overhead and I am sure there were a couple of times rain drops actually came down.
After my first class – and I didn’t leave the room nor did I lie down, despite the heat – I thought – Ok, I’ll try this every other week. But the next week I was back. And, although I’ve kept “regular” Wednesday and Sunday yoga classes, pretty much every week I’m also at Bikram. For someone whose job is comprised of making decisions, to be in an environment where there is no decision except the one to go on is an incredible luxury. I follow what the instructors say; I know the dialogue; and each class I feel my body respond and become stronger. And there is a particular moment where listening to the dialogue and your own physical presence merge and become one – and for once, you can be in the present – no decisions to make except for the one to keep going.
And I don’t want to dismiss my so-called “regular” yoga classes either. Where else have I learned the ability to literally stretch my body into shapes and places it wouldn’t normally go. The beauty of Bikram is that it’s the same every week – but the beauty of the other yoga is that I’m challenged to see where I can move my body in space and create that extra last dimension around me and fill it with movement.
So why does this relate to summits? I’ve learned to control my breathing. On the mountain, I think – breathe normally, in slowly and out even longer. On Elbrus I recited the Bikram dialogue in my head. I went into that quiet place of the present that allows you to take those last few steps that lead to the summit – and just as importantly – that allow you to descend.