Living Elevated: A Return to a More Normal Summer

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This is already shaping up to be a very different summer.

For the past few weeks, my family and I, have been living and working in Crested Butte, Colorado, a small mountain town about four hours southwest of Denver. We are here for approximately a month and a half, though the weeks keep flying by.

Working with familiar Lifelines friends and new college student friends from around the country, our days and hours have been filled with community building, service opportunities and various outdoor adventures (some indoor ones, too).

This is my fifth summer of this kind, and I have always enjoyed the location—the quintessential mountain town is surrounded by Switzerland-style peaks, and is carpeted with wildflowers in the prime of summer. I have a lot of history with this place, from ski vacations with my family, to attending college here for a year—even a skimo race a few years ago.

In many ways, my life feels much more normal this summer, especially compared to 2016. As I gaze out my condo balcony at Redstone Peak, standing stately and silent with its jagged flanks and a snow-filled bowl, it’s hard to believe that any of the past year actually happened.

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A view from our condo for the summer.

I feel happy just being here again, but little things like adjusting to the altitude is always a rude awakening. I’ve often come into these summers in peak condition, but this year probably the opposite. The trails right outside our door come with the stiff penalty of lung and sweat equity, but I still can’t help playing in them. It doesn’t help that the preventive drugs I’m on restrict my aerobic capacity.

I was reading an article lately about just how long altitude acclimitization takes, and something stood out: for competitive athletes in places this high, it can take up to a full year of acclimatization to perform at peak level.  I get that it takes time to adjust to altitude, but a full year? That was surprising. I know from experience you can trick your body temporarily with hiking peaks but eventually the altitude wears you down.

The same article mentioned how cross country runners from Western State College in Gunnison (just 28 miles south of here), mandatorily redshirt first year runners to allow  time for this adjustment. And wisely so. My sister-in-law, who ran for WSC, can attest to just how hard it is to compete at this altitude.

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Which gets me thinking, after the hell of my last year, I can trick myself into coming here and acting “normal,” but as I enter back into life, it is going to take a lot more than one good summer—or even 5 weeks for that matter—for me to feel good again. And even if I do find that normal again, it will most likely be a new normal. There’s a bit of reality for me to swallow.

Yet this dose of truth doesn’t take away from the fact that I am loving being here. The sunshine, the mountains, familiar friends and work in a familiar place, and especially an ever-present God who is with me. The following Scripture has been especially meaningful: “Return to rest, oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you (Psalm 116:7 NIV).”

Indeed, this has been true for me. I am looking forward to the next several weeks in Crested Butte with my family as we enjoy this beautifully elevated place.

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Summer is a great time for exploration. Case in point: our daughter’s first snow cone.

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Part two of our daughter’s trying new things.

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I’ve enjoyed several mountain bike outings, including this old CB classic, Snodgrass.

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