Grace in Adventure

British Columbia, Canada

After years in sports, I know that showing up is not enough.  In fact the physical is the easy part, it is the mental, the mental management of the physical that is the key to it all, to performance, endurance and enjoyment.

And I had the pleasure of spending some time adventuring in the Canadian pacific northwest late this spring and was reminded that in back country sports, with a longer outlook, showing up with a combination of strength and grace is key.  I could not gut out these sports with my usual burst of energy, and use recovery days for sore muscles.  Rather on a paddling camp trip, on days after biking and hiking days, I needed to find a place in inner calm and really settle into each stroke, and be in the moment.  My impatience would not serve me. 

Instead it was a lesson in finding beauty in the moment and just being there in each paddle stroke, not considering the next one, or recalling the last.  If I worried or wondered too much, I would frustrate myself and burn energy. 

It was literally spatially constrained meditation, and was it stunning once I found the zen in it.  Soaring pine forested mountains, topped by retreating snows high over salty fjord waters lapped with kitten paw waves whipped up by the sunset breezes. One night we watched the shifting palette of sunset mark time passing and distance gained across the fjord, as we slowly paddled towards the fading light and camp.

And skiing in 75' weather high above the chilly Pacific winding through the waterways between the islands and the Straight of Georgia, well, it was heaven, let's be perfectly clear.  But it also again took a mental calm combined with cardio, to work through the heat and the excitement I felt about all the beauty to pace myself, in terms of energy, enthusiasm, and even hydration.  I couldn't "blow out my hip-flexors" as people tend to do, if I wanted to come back for many runs over many days of earning my turns, skinning laps. 

And in order to bring energy to the downhill I brought joy to the uphill, loving the duality of the work up and then flow down, which only make turns, and beers in between that much cooler and sweeter.  I am hooked on this mode of skiing, meditation muscle and flow!

And in a bigger sense, with my genetic gifted migraines picking up significantly under the load of my mothers illness these last few years, I am intensely reminded of the joy, and blessing, of a healthy able body, the feeling of sweat pouring down my back, my lungs working in concert with my legs, my core and my back straining in balance, as my arms swing in cadence with my feet, and pulling me up a mountain, across a sound, or (god help me) up and down a mountain bike trail. 

These are gifts not to be taken for granted, and the ability to play in the great outdoors is by no means a given.  So even when I get cramps on a run and settle into the fact that the aches and pains are the good kind, the healthy and alive kind, man, do I want to do this kind of fully alive living every day, every hour. 

Our physicality is the ultimate escape, and the great outdoors the best playground we will ever find!  So until next time, body - and by that, I mean tomorrow...

10 Life Lessons I learned Skiing

As someone who was on skis before she was out of diapers, skied every winter for 33 years, and raced on the D1 collegiate circuit, before relearning recreational enjoyment, I'd say I grew up on skis.  (Oh and my middle name is literally snow.)

And was the mountains are one hell of a school to attend.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I still remember the awe of my first double black, accomplished by the old school parenting, “you can do it” shouted as my Dad sailed away, and so I did. Hail storms, lighting storms, blinding snow storms.  Milestone victories I can still feel residual joy from and wrecks I was afraid pick myself up from.  I even fell into a lake once, but that’s another story. 

But to me skiing is mostly joy and camaraderie, absolute freedom in nature, arcing through whistling crystal blue silence, feeling muscles and metal carve through snow.

Distilled, here are hard won lessons learned in the mountains, but which serve me daily creating a meaningful life on and off the snow.

Ten Life lessons I learned skiing :

1. The first turn is always the hardest. Life is a head game, make that turn, and the rest will link up.

2. Check in and adjust as you go.  Be open to even the small opportunities for improvement.  In skiing, ironically, tweaking your hand position is often an easy fix for all sorts of big picture problems.  Never discount these chances to improve.

3. Be independent and enjoy the ride, but look to friends, in the tough times and in the good times, too.

4. Look past the obstacles, never straight at them, in order to sail right past. (Hello, tree skiing.)  I cannot state the importance of this lesson enough-mountain or life.  You will go wherever your focus on.

5. 90% of what actually happens on the mountain is about preparation. The hard work you do in land training and mental preparedness shape what happens on the slopes.

6. Be focused, but have don't forget to smile and enjoy— play your tunes, have munchies in your pocket, and take in the beauty you get to see on your courageous journey.  You are in your one precious life after all, this is not a training run!

7. Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you.

8. When you land on your face, assess, and then allow yourself a good laugh.  You are human and allowed to make mistakes, falling with style is a good reminder of this.  (For added points, stick the landing with some flair for the judges.)

9. Never be afraid to ask for advice.  You will learn so much, make friends, and you truly never know who you will meet (in the lift line of life!) and what adventures will follow a simple conversation.

10. Whoop it up whenever you are feeling it.  Squash any thoughts of being mature and holding it back – you’re alive, your rocking your life and you are blessed.   Love it and celebrate it!

Big Sky daze

I never have particularly good film or shots of skiing as I simply am engrossed in, well skiing.  The silence, beauty, physicality, challenges to overcome, thrills and camaraderie.  Skiing to me is a sort of coming home, and skiing in Montana is the best sort.  This is a poor mans homage to that but a bit of fun at least.

The lunch yurt in the back off of Shedhorn is always a lovely break and I was thrilled have a healthy enough year to start getting into the Headwaters in Moonlight.  Daunting and awesome!

Skijoring Bozeman

Not for the faint of heart the Duckworth Montana Classic run by the Gallatin Valley Skijoring Association in Bozeman on Saturday was an awesome festival of horses, cowboys and cowgirl, nutty ex ski racers, dogs, fun, stupidity, speed, beer, fun and friends.  I was in heaven!

Each categories the riders and skiers got faster and bolder with the Pro racers competing for big money.  The horses flew by at a full on gallop, rider pushing them faster, as their skier slalomed through gates, over three significant jumps-landing on teeth jarring flats, while grabbing the three rings - any faults caused an addition of 5 seconds to the teams finishing time.  In true ski racer form (and rodeo style, I imagine, I have less experience in this area) after the teams showed their serious skills down the track, they then showed their party skills on the return, juggling beers in the saddle or while ski skating or being towed.  And yes, Montanans' included, we were pretty damned impressed.

I mean really, what could be more perfect than a combination of all the best things in life - skiing, horses, Montana, snow, friends and a bit of alcohol on a gorgeous winter saturday afternoon.