Solo

Must be the end of my day, the sun has made its way to the top and was beating down so hot I could not touch the rock. So I took one last rappel and sat in the shade for a spell resting my head and my swell and soon started to sleep for well until the day grew cooler and appeared more lunar. 
As my eyes flickered shut I laid my head on a stump under the shade of a juniper tree. I glimpsed the last trail of my own shadow disappear as if passed behind a mirror reflecting the juniper's shadow off the red sandy stone floor. No I couldn't ask for more, it was peaceful and restful laying on that rock no shoes no sock and no talk. Just quiet. Time passes. After I stirred I observed how the juniper's shadow had swerved when the sun grew lower stretching out all the shadows below her. But where was mine? I held up my hand and sat up to stand and my shadow was gone. I looked all about and counted everything out: harness, rope, draws and shoes, cams and nuts, runners and carabiners, even my helmet but no shadow was cast by my body now up like a mast. Quite a problem I've never had, though I don't know if it's actually bad to be missing a shadow, did it go back home to Colorado?

I heave a sigh and looked up and to my surprise I was struck. It was there all along climbing the wall this whole time while I had sleep on my mind. Weighing no weight at all it moved with such skill, climbing backwards and upside down I would have been ill. But as I saw it descend one more time to the end of our favorite pitch it appeared unhappy, I'd say it even frowned and looked down. What could be so wrong you've been so free to climb with no troubles it seems. Then my shadow came closer  until we stood feet to feet and I realized something. To climb without inhibition, with full freedom and skill, to climb the extent of your will with no danger is still little thrill unless you're there with another who can give you some cover and share in your ware and care for your ...hair. Climbing is best when shared with another. So next time you think it, take the time to invite, with others you'll have a much better hike and climbs will be sweeter, when you descend and she's there for you to greet her.

Starting

Starting is always the hardest part. It's OK to start really really small. I'm talking small, like try just standing up at first, then take 10 steps toward that bike or treadmill, then step on and give it 3 minutes, just 3. And after that you might finally feel like you can keep going so give it 3 more then 3 more then go pick up some weights and do only 3 reps. By now you're probably feeling a little better and if you can keep moving, pretty soon an hour will have gone by and you'll feel amazing. And someday you might be like this guy who rides a monster unicycle up a mountain and passes me during a bike race.

Keeping it Clean

What does the rock care if it is broken or chiseled or drilled, or painted or marked or scarred - it's just a rock. When you look at a cliff face or mountain what do you see? Just a pile of rocks? Let me tell you what I see, because I can hear you all so earnestly asking...

I see a landscape that has been meticulously crafted and constructed by a passionate and devoted artist. An artist who masterfully works in oils, water, sand, wind and colors and angles so precisely to reflect light and create shadows perfectly at any angle. More valuable than the greatest oil paintings, ornate silk Persian rugs or magnificent tapestries. To me a landscape of cliffs, rocks and mountains is a priceless work of art. But unlike the paintings, sculptures, and silk rugs that are forbidden to be touched, felt or walked on this, the ultimate work of art, is made to be experienced by every possible sense.

I feel a simple peace in natural landscapes. A peace that otherwise only comes in the most special of man made structures. I feel drawn to live outside and feel the raw earth in my hands. It is a search for balance and priorities that must be skewed that keeps me indoors so often. Why do I have a desk job?

For me climbing is one of the activities that allows me to feel closest to that beautiful work of art. Probably since it is literally inches from my face most of the time. While climbing there is a focus where everything else seems to naturally fade away, like in silent meditation but it isn't forced, my mind is just... clear. When else in life do you get to experience that?

Sometimes, especially when leading a climb I am not so aware of the rope or gear being placed in the cracks, but all my senses are trying to pour through my hands and feel every surface of rock, every break, every smooth varnish, until I find a hold and begin the search again. Ok, sometimes I am very aware that I am really high up and the ground is really hard and far away.

I realize that this probably sounds like a hyper romanticized expression of what rock climbing actually is, and that it might be just hindsight that provides this sense of expression. The point is that I have a strong love for this Earth and its landscapes and feel that these are gifts given to us, and that we are obligated to use them to help us explore ourselves. Since I hold nature in such high regard, I have strong feelings about how we are charged to care for this work of art.

Royal Robbins, one of the early pioneers of rock climbing, especially the big walls of Yosemite has also spoken poetically of this experience, "We’re at the base of a three-hundred-foot arch. We must pass it. That means surmounting an overhang beetling with convolutions and jutting corners. In other words, a crag. And we are cragsmen! Much better to be a cragsman than a mere rockclimber. A crag still has an air of adventure about it. A rockclimb is mostly technique nowadays. So we go crag climbing. First it’s back and foot, then bridging in a shallow groove. Loose rock is treated gingerly and the key is a slotted nut at the lip of the overhang. The door opens and it’s a new world—firm rock, cracks, hollows, spikes, and knobs. Joy comes in a rush as the muscles work swinging upward in balance past an occasional runner. The easy going is interspersed with bits of questioning calling for quirky answers. A hand jammed and the opposite foot set high in a hole and move up in one fluid motion pivoting and changing the jam to a lieback and reaching for the next spike above. When you do it right, it feels right."

Royal is also known for his advocacy of 'clean climbing' meaning to climb in a way that leaves no trace, a way that does not require drilling the rock or defacing it in any way. What does the rock care? Well, the rock doesn't but I sure do. After all for me, this is not just rock, it's an experience. I would want everyone to have the same natural experience that I have had. Do nothing that might detract from the work of art, keep it clean. As serious as this all might sound, you've also got to have fun. If challenging myself is the first reason to climb, having fun is a very close second.

Mostly I think this post is a reminder to me that I need to get outside more. Hopefully you can also get something out of it, if not, lets go climbing and maybe I can show you what I mean.





Airplane Philosopher

Flying south from Seattle, you must always sit on the left side of the plane so you can watch the amazing Mt. Rainier float by below you, and see the rugged snowy mountains and deep green forests slowly give way to dry hills then flat lands patched together with crops of grain and the irrigation channels off the Columbia river. Seeing all that on a clear day in the spring is quite a gift. Seeing the massive prominence of Rainier from below at Ft Lewis then high above from the plane distorts one's perspective of it. Something about flying on an airplane always makes me get philosophical, it probably has to do with seeing everything from a different point of view.

Having to travel vs. getting to travel for work. It feels so good to leave a site on Friday knowing you don't have to go back. At least not for this project any more, for now all the problems that were once yours are now the customers and you can feel good that somehow you convinced them to sign off on the system officially completing the contract and earning enough money to do it all over again later to someone else. Beginning the trip on Monday usually brings some excitement and anticipation for the opportunity to experience variety, to see something new even if it is just another hotel and mid class sedan rental car. Sometimes you have time after working at the site to go for a run or drive around and find interesting places to see: a beach, the forest, mountains, cities, museums and the occasional movie your family wouldn't want to watch anyway. Not this week though, after a few 13 hour days you might stop caring about variety and just want to sit and stare at the wall.

What does it mean to have confidence in the things you do and create? What does it mean to take pride in your work? Not the kind of pride that comes from thinking you and your stuff is better than everyone else but the pride that comes from knowing that because of your work, other people will get to feel a little better about their work, or be impacted in another positive way, and the confidence that what you produce will continue to deliver for a long time.  I really want to feel that kind of pride and confidence. That is what motivates me to get better, to train and practice and study, that is why I feel so frustrated and angry when I don't achieve it.

Why do we ever deliver anything less than what we want? Maybe what we want isn't actually what we say it is. We might say that what we want is to feel pride and confidence, but our actions might say we only want to appear to others to be very busy and capable and successful by making lots of money. Is that really what we want? Do we really care more about how others perceive us than delivering our best quality? Ok, you've got me on money, yes I want that.

What do you want? I have learned that the price to pay for wanting to appear very smart and capable and do a lot of different things at the same time is internal frustration and anger. So if you're ok with that then congratulations, you know how get what you want and are willing to pay for it. You have arrived. But the things we want change. Sometimes I want a sandwich and sometimes I want tacos.

What is the price for feeling pride and confidence in your work? I'm not 100% sure but I have a feeling that a big part of it is time. I don't know how much time but it is a lot. Way more time than we think it is. How much time during a day do we spend working toward a single objective?

Perspectives change, sometimes you see the mountain from far below and other times from high above and so what we want also changes. Today I want that sandwich, and to feel pride and confidence in my work. Hopefully this perspective lasts. I can usually go a few months before it changes again. I should probably try to think about ways to keep it longer but eventually I have always lost it and can only get it back when the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

I feel good about figuring out what I want for myself but I believe that if we have a team, a team that also wants what I want then we will be able to get back some of the time cost, it's like a 15% team discount and the Success Store.

Everything has a cost. You won't figure out what the cost is until you try a few different things. You won't figure out what you want unless you try a few things either. Today I want to feel that pride and confidence in what I do but maybe I'm settling for airplane peanuts. Actually this flight is a pretty rough one, doesn't look like I'll get those peanuts after all.

Grand Canyon Trail "Run"

The Grand Canyon -  just a few pictures and a video from our trail "run". Only about half of it was actual running for me, the downhill half. I decided to film some of it with my chest mounted Go Pro. If you can take 25 minutes of camera shaking you might be able to see some beautiful views, if not here are some of my pictures. In the words of John Westley Powell "The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, not by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combine must fail." And as much can be said about an attempt to hike up the rims.
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnwesley187489.html
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnwesley187489.html
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnwesley187489.html
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_wesley_powell.html
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_wesley_powell.html
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_wesley_powell.html
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_wesley_powell.html











Kaibab Trail river crossing

Skeleton Point



 

Triathlon Season


How much fun is it to wake up at 4:30 in the morning? It's so great that I'd prefer to stay up all night just to avoid the mostly dead feeling when my FitBit buzzes and my phone's alarm is on the third round of snoozing. But mostly dead is still slightly alive, and so somehow we manage to stand up and do stuff even when our bodies don't want to - and then we start to feel more alive, and if you make it to see the sunrise by a lake shore on a cool morning then that alive feeling just keeps getting better, and if on that morning you happen to be competing in a triathlon and are about to dive into that 68 degree lake, and you're with a ton of other people who are super excited and nervous... you get where I'm going with this. It feels great to get up early.
First Tri of the year was the BBSC RAGE and this story starts with wind. It is the windy season in southern Nevada. It's getting pretty warm but not quite like the blow drier wind that will come later. Saturday's wind was cool, with gusts well over 20mph it threatened to turn this one into a duathlon. But with a swim course change that kept us closer to shore we got started early enough that the waves were only intimidating instead of frightening as they became later. I made the mistake of not getting submerged completely before my swim wave started and so as I dove forward to start, the cold water took my breath away. Focus "Left, right, left, breathe, right, left, right, breathe, left, right, left, breathe" quickly becomes "right, breathe, left, right, breathe, left, right breath, ooh that was water not air cough that up and try again." I Turned my head to breath after a couple strokes and I was met with a wave and mouth of water. The waves were so high that I lost sight of the second buoy and had stop several times to make sure I was on the right track. I made it out and as always, when it was over it was hard to believe that I had just done it.




The Washing Machine

I always feel much better on my bicycle, giving my arms a rest and some time to catch my breath. The cool wind reminded me how wet my tri suit was as I turned right and headed into it but I quickly went to work finding the next person to pass. Competing forces my mind to focus, another of the many reasons to do it. Even though your body doesn't want to, you are driven to achieve a goal and can't think about all the other junk that creeps in during a normal day. All I could think about was, "push the pedal down hard, look forward, make a pass, repeat." After being passed by so many swimmers the bike is my turn to do the passing, and it feels good. Sometimes I come across another athlete who doesn't like the idea of being passed and a game of leapfrog begins, which is even more motivating.

There is an interesting dance that happens at the end of the bike segment, it is a combination of trying to be fast right up to the dismount point and getting both feet out in time to not fall over. Until I get some smoother transition bike shoes I'll probably continue to almost fall over every time. "Ok, loosen the left, pedal once, slip your heel out, loosen the right, pedal once, take your left foot out and as soon as it hits the ground pull your right foot out leaving your shoes clipped in so you can run barefoot through transition," but it usually doesn't happen that way. "Fine this time keep your shoes on, just unclip and clomp your way to your spot."

I call this look, the tri nerd. Just wait till the nerd rage comes out.
I have been running more recently. Earlier this year I started to actually practice swimming and running. Not consistently enough to have an amazing finish yet but at least enough to feel a difference. There was even a point during the run that I thought, "this is a pretty good pace but I bet I can go faster," and I did, and when I started hearing footsteps behind me I found my focus, "sorry not passing me this time."

It was a good feeling to be done with the water, wind, dust and heat. So good that I might just get up at 4:30 again and do it all over... next month in St. George.

Mental Exercise

My body does not enjoy running. It is painful, not painful because of any injury but because my body really wants to just sit on the couch and eat a sandwich. But I choose to run anyway, there are many reasons: fitness, stress relief, fresh air, making friends, enjoying nature etc. but as I ran this evening I thought about another reason that is probably more important than the others I listed - the mental exercise.

Since my body does not want to run, there is part of my brain that says to stop. Sometimes that part is really loud and makes a big fuss, but there is another part that wants to run, it wants to jump around and ride a bike and swim. These two parts of me are in constant battle while I'm running or doing anything really difficult. Everyone knows that exercise will strengthen your body, but this mental battle can also strengthen our minds. If you are looking for a greater ability to cope with stress, or if you need to get better at controlling your temper and emotions - try exercise. Not just because physical activity is a natural stress reliever but because the mental battle will also condition that other part of your brain, the one who has it all together.

I have said many times before, make it hurt now so it hurts less later. Mental conditioning is critical to improving your lifestyle. With a strong mind you are more capable of channeling that anger you feel into something productive, you can  even gain the power to choose how you feel. So get out and run, or bike or swim or whatever. Just do something hard until you hear that voice in your head that wants you to stop, then tell that voice to shut up and keep going.


More than just cycling...

Yes we all know that cycling is a part of my life, for many reasons: exercise, stress relief, fresh air, competition, friendship, and pain (make it hurt now so it hurts less later etc.). But there is another significant part of my life that I want to share with everyone. While cycling is an outlet that helps me deal with almost anything there is another outlet that is even more effective and longer lasting - my faith. So with this motivation I'm sort of changing the purpose of my blog to focus on everything that helps me get motivated, including cycling. I had the opportunity to speak to the congregation at my church a few weeks ago. This posts contains the remarks I had prepared, I share them with you in hopes that someone else will find them helpful and motivating.

In 1988 a young athlete named John Maclean was training for an upcoming triathlon by cycling along a long country road near his hometown in Australia. John had overcome a challenging childhood and learned at a young age to find solace through athletic competition. John was a strong rugby player who had recently begun his career in triathlons and showed potential to become one of Australia’s greatest athletes. Tragically while cycling along the road that day the driver of an 8 ton truck made an unfortunate mistake and struck John from behind causing a terrible accident. An accident that left John paralyzed from the waist down. From his perspective after a very long hospital stay, his life, his plans and future initially looked very bleak. Being accustomed to running or cycling for many hours every day, then having that ability taken away, caused pain so great that for a time John lost even his desire to continue living.

During times of great trial it is understandable that many questions about the purpose of life are asked. One question in particular seems to stand out over all others. A question whose answer can be more elusive than any; why? Why did this tragic thing have to happen? Why was it not prevented? Why were those unfortunate decisions made? Why now? Why me?

Whenever we find ourselves in challenging circumstances, we have the opportunity to make decisions that shape our character.

Rather than dwell on the tragedy, John Maclean eventually decided to not be defined by the wheelchair that he was now confined to. He continued to train and pursue an athletic career, and in 1995 John Maclean became the first paraplegic athlete to complete the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon course. The Ironman distance triathlon consists of swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles then running a marathon, 26.2 miles without stopping; which means that after swimming 2.4 miles with just his arms, John then used his arms to spin the wheels of his chair for another 138.2 miles in oppressive heat, wind and elevation changes so steep that he sometimes struggled to keep his front wheels on the ground, and that was just the beginning. John went on to finish the same race on two more occasions; he also competed in the Paralympics in various events and swam the English Channel. The list of John's athletic accomplishments is long, but most important of all is that instead of allowing his tragic circumstances to control his attitude, John chose to act, and that decision was probably even more challenging than the last mile of every race he has since competed in. John Maclean is now a source of positive inspiration to thousands of people.

The decision to act positively is not one that is made only once, but many times, even many times a day, especially when we are in the middle of a difficult situation.

For some of us, the greatest challenge might not be completing a 140.2 mile race. Instead of swimming, cycling and running our triathlon might consist of getting on our knees to pray, reading the scriptures and attending church. Being active in the gospel of Jesus Christ is a challenge perceived very differently in the eyes of the world but a victory in that challenge is far greater than any Ironman has ever received.

We all frequently have reminders of our own mortality and sometimes it will be our turn to ask, why? There are answers to every question, even this one; and they are readily available to us if we diligently seek them.

President Uchtdorf has told of one such occasion, during his training to become a fighter pilot he explained, "As I was running I began to notice something that, frankly, troubled me. Time and again I was being passed by men who smoked, drank, and did all manner of things that were contrary to the gospel and, in particular, to the Word of Wisdom. I remember thinking, “Wait a minute! Aren’t I supposed to be able to run and not be weary?” But I was weary, and I was overtaken by people who were definitely not following the Word of Wisdom. I confess, it troubled me at the time. I asked myself, was the promise true or was it not? The answer didn’t come immediately. But eventually I learned that God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways."

All of our challenges whether physical or spiritual remind us of the true extent of the fall of man and the nature of our purpose in this life.

In this life we are supposed to be subject to all the frailties and imperfections of mortality, we are supposed to be subject to consequences, not only the consequences of our decisions but also the consequences of the decisions of others. Our bodies have imperfections, sometimes through no fault of our own our cells begin to function improperly and we develop things like cancer or disease, sometimes our bodies get sick, and eventually our bodies die, that is what it means to be mortal.

I like the language In 2nd Corinthians 5:4 as it explains mortality, it says "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."
We cannot always determine what will happen to us, but we can always choose how we react. That is what it means to have agency. When we choose how to act we are also choosing who we will become. That is how we learn and grow. And growth is exciting; it feels good to have knowledge. And it gets even better; none of us has to go through this learning process alone.  Each of us has a father and a mother, grandparents, great grandparents, some of us have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins - we have families. Heavenly Father planned it this way. We know that families are designed by God because he has revealed this to his prophets, who have taught it to us. In 1995 the prophet Gordon B Hinckley read this proclamation during a General Relief Society meeting, he said "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

I have been blessed with a father who honors his priesthood, and a mother who has an endless capacity to love and serve and who has done more for me than I can ever begin to explain. Imagine what the world could be like if everyone had parents who honored their marital vows and understood their divine responsibility. Things like war and poverty would cease to exist. Families founded on the teaching of Jesus Christ are the answer to even the worst problems in the world.

Having parents who do not make good choices is a trial that many will have to face in this life. Not everyone will be born of goodly parents, but those children are not forgotten, no one has to go through this life alone.

In addition to families, we have this church. This church of Jesus Christ is another example of the help that our Heavenly Father sends us and all are welcome here. In this church everyone can come and feel the love of a father and mother, sisters and brothers. There is a long list of support organizations that are part of this church that do incredible things, the relief society, the youth program, the primary, we have social services including family counseling, addiction recovery programs, seminary, institute, universities, home and visiting teaching, the perpetual education fund, fast offerings that support a welfare program and we have the priesthood. We have everything a person could possibly need to overcome any trial right here. No part of this church exists because of chance, all of this, is part of a divine design. It is all part of what we call the plan of salvation.

Our Heavenly Father created our spirits and gave us our agency before the earth was formed; we learn this in many scriptures such as when the Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” 

Abraham 3: 23-25 says: “And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;”

I don’t know if we could comprehend the nature of the challenges that each of us would face during our mortal life. John Maclean might not have known that there would be a time when he would lose the use of his legs. But there is one thing we did know, that a Savior would be provided for us; a Savior that would overcome everything, every injustice, every physical imperfection, every mistake and all the pain that we feel, a Savior that would create a way for us to return to our heavenly home. And every person who was and will be born on this Earth chose to follow him.

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” – That was 1st Corinthians chapter 15: 53-55.

Our victory is provided through Jesus Christ. Our victory comes during the resurrection. “Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.” 2nd Nephi chapter 3 verse 8.

It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we can find the answer to the question, why? Through my own trials and decisions I have come to learn the answer for myself. It is a very personal thing. That answer continues to influence many of the decisions I make every day. That answer grows and becomes more powerful as my understanding of the gospel grows.

I encourage each of you to seek the answers to your own questions, and if you find that you are struggling with a challenge, please know that you do not have to face it alone. Use the plan of salvation, the plan of happiness, the gospel and this church is all part of it, they are gifts that has been given to us, use the organizations within the Church and most importantly, use the atonement. If you are unsure about how to use any of these precious tools in your life, you can start by coming to the church, ask our teachers and leaders. Use the plan that God has given to us, and you will be able to understand why, and in the Lord’s time you will be able to overcome every trial.