Like most Americans we had big plans for Memorial Day Weekend. Elizabeth and I and our daughter headed to my family’s lake cabin in Northern Minnesota, not too far from Itasca State Park. True to form, it did rain a bit during Saturday and Sunday–we always marvel how the weather is always somewhat rainy during this weekend each year, even if it was sunny all week.
As usual, it was great weekend with family (14 of us total) which included a lot of boating, game playing and hanging out. Curiously we did not watch any war movies.
The big hiccup for me happened on Monday, the actual holiday. We were due to head back to Sioux Falls and I started having some nasty pain that eventually resulted in me taking an ambulance ride once we returned home. My wife wrote a great post about this here. I highly recommend following her blog, too. She’s a great writer!
This misshap was quite unpredictable and I hope the story, which is still going, has a good ending. Time will tell.
I have been ruminating on the following phrase from the book of James the past several weeks: “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position (James 1:9b NIV).”
The phrase, in context, is speaking about Christians who were financially poor with very little material means. The author, James, calls this humble place a “high position,” or actually a place of blessing. In God’s economy, somehow being low meant that you were high—that possessing less was actually a place where a person possessed more—much more.
This elevation is not often how I think about humility.
Though the context of this passage points to financial means, Bible scholars also apply the same principles to people in other types of “humble circumstances.”
When I think about a low position, I think about my life being out of control and scary. Humility seems to be the place where order breaks down into chaos and we have to admit that we are not in control and that there are many unknowns in our life—that there re bigger things at play then just our desires.
Walking this cancer journey has been very much a humble path. It’s not that I feel I have unlocked some secret to this virtue, but rather this disease has literally put me in an inescapable position, hoping the Lord intervenes. There are a lot of things in my life that are now uncertain—namely my future. Within this broad category lie important subcategories like my physical health, career, relationships with family, my service to God—all of these have been affected and could be altered even more.
Take for example my physical health. Several months ago, I was in peak physical condition, including competing in several triathlons. I placed in the top three of my age group in each race, which friends said would be very difficult to do in Boulder County, considering the influx of fit people and pro athletes. At 36 years old, I seemed to be getting fitter instead of declining.
Then came cancer. This low position brought me into a complete reversal of my health. It has kept me from exercising regularly—something I enjoy that helps clear my mind as well as keep me healthy. Paradoxically, I have exercised the least amount of my life the past 6 months.
In addition, the disease has caused back pain, miserable muscle spasms, fatigue and many other symptoms. There have been several times where I’ve needed to ride in a wheelchair. But even worse for me was having to rely on my wife to carry things like our suitcases, infant car seat, etc. I have loved serving my wife tirelessly by carrying the bulk of heavy things and doing physical house chores. But not so much these days.
These setbacks have been somewhat minor individually, but when you add them up they are incredibly painful for me.
No triathlons, but plenty of good views. We’ve enjoyed visiting the Sioux Falls this spring, when the river flow is highest. I still think it is a shame to have so much whitewater and nothing fun to do with it. Build a kayak park anyone??
Yet, somehow James calls me blessed in this state. For one thing, health is nice, financial security is nice, but they aren’t always there when I want them. In fact, the more I ponder life, the more I know that my relationship with God is the greatest thing I have going for me. This is greatly illustrated in the story of Abraham. Rather than riches or fighting men being his greatest good, God himself was his reward (Genesis 15:1 NIV).
Uncertainty and poverty help remind me that I am not in control. And while this might feel like the most terrifying place imaginable, to be held up by the “Everlasting Arms” should give me far more comfort and joy then I give it credit for. I soon find in God an ever present help, a fortress, a deliverer. I may not feel in control of my life, but I gain a closeness with God that is so much more than I ever lost.
I pray that I can remember these truths. They are often difficult to see from the misty barrenness of the low position I find myself in.
Lord, give me strength to remember that you are my “shield, (my) very great reward (Genesis 15:1b).” In this new life of living low, help me to find the greatest gain in you. I pray you wouldn’t just be a consolation prize in my life, but that you would be the prize. I pray for this in Jesus name, Amen.
I finished my second round of chemotherapy this week.
Up until now, the thought of the c-word conjured images of drinking a nasty concoction akin to weed killer. How else would you explain the array of side effects? I mean, I might as well go buy some Miracle Grow and ingest that—at least I could drink the poison in my own time rather than go through the rigmarole at the hospital.
If it’s not clear, chemotherapy is the part of my cancer journey that I have least wanted to face. In reality, I have feared it. It seemed to make my cancer so “official.” Up until now, people have often told me, “Wow, you don’t look sick.” I liked that and wasn’t ready to give it up.
But, sooner or later I knew I would have to face chemo.
That’s how I found myself at the Avera Infusion Center on a Thursday afternoon. I pictured all of the patients organized in neat rows in a large room, like a bingo parlor. But here there are no prizes to win, though at Avera, each patient does get their own room, complete with a reclining chair and flat screen TV. I was thankful for the privacy and comfort.
Rather than having to drink chemo, they actually infuse it through an IV.
First they start with a liquid bag of anti nausea stuff, then saline, and finally the cisplatin (chemo.) Surprisingly, I could not taste or feel the solution. Yet after a few hours of the infusion, I began to feel bloated and uncomfortable. But not sick.
That came the next day. It started around noon. My stomach began feeling a bit unsettled and by dinnertime, I had absolutely no appetite and I felt like throwing up. Nausea is this heavy feeling that takes over your body, though directed through your stomach. You feel tired and unsettled and it can be accompanied by a bad taste in your mouth. The thought of food is revolting. The only way to feel better, other than for time to pass, is to lie down.
And once lying down, TV proved a nice distraction. Lucky for me there was a channel playing back-to-back James Bond movies. In between fitful naps, I watched parts of movies, including the The Spy Who Loved Me, where Bond skis through a beautiful Austrian powder field, only to be chased by several Soviet soldiers on skis.
There were plenty of other movies, too, including the classic, Goldfinger, whose villain is obsessed with all things gold. In my suffering slumber, sometimes it was difficult to differentiate between the movie and reality.
“Ah Mr. Lawrence, I too have a new toy,” says Goldfinger. “You are looking at an industrial laser. It can locate a spot on the moon, or at closer range, cut through solid metal.”
Tied to a chair, the laser began to inch its way toward my crotch, while I sat there sweating.
“Ok Goldfinger, you’ve made your point,” I say.
“Careful,” Goldfinger says. “Your next witty remark could be your last.”
Of course, I find a way to narrowly escape, and do away with Goldfinger. And thus goes the famous scene.
Unfortunately my nauseous haze continued for another day or two—long enough for me to catch more bits and pieces of Bond movies. In all, I watched saw four different actors playing the famous British agent— Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and Sean Connery (my favorite). Though, by now I was getting rather bored of TV and kept hoping I’d feel better.
It turns out my sickness could have been avoided in part. I later found out I was taking too low a dose of Zofran, an anti nausea drug. I certainly paid a high price! The next week during my second round of chemo I got the Zofran dosage right and felt much better—good enough to even go watch one of my niece’s soccer games and go out for dinner.
And so maybe chemo is not quite as bad as I thought. If I stay on top of my meds, the nausea can be significantly reduced. And, as far as other side effects, my doctor said I probably won’t lose much hair (if any). I’m sure there could be other side effects, but none that I’ve noticed thus far.
Then again, we will see what happens when they add the other two parts of chemo, which includes immunotherapy.
Following my Double O Seven Binge, I took a break from TV for the next several days. Though, the movies did make an impression. I realized I was quoting a lot of lines, some obscure and some well known. When my wife asked me if I wanted some ice water to drink, I quipped: “Sure…but shaken, not stirred.”
Even without logging the view time I did, she easily caught the reference.
It’s now mid May, and though Colorado’s resort ski season has wound down, the backcountry skiing in the high peaks couldn’t be more prime. What’s crazy is that I haven’t even been skiing once since December, making this the least amount of skiing I’ve done since I lived in Florida.
This was not how I saw the winter going. I planned for Backcountry Beacon to be filled with tales of ski adventures from winter 2015/2016, including many skimo races. Skimo, or ski mountaineering racing, is a fast growing endurance sport in mountain states where athletes race uphill on skins and fly downhill on super light weight gear. Not for the faint of heart, the sport is one of the most aerobically challenging workouts I have ever done. I have dabbled in skimo the past few years, but this season I wanted to compete in more races, including the Grand Traverse, and at the race division level (in the past I’ve stuck to the recreational division). Of course, I would be balancing this with my already busy life—helping lead an outdoor ministry in Colorado along with being a husband and dad.
These were my plans for the winter, yet three circumstances quickly derailed them, including a lost ski, a minor back injury, and some interesting health news.
Here’s the story.
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Though my ski days were few and far between this year, I did manage to have a few worthwhile outings, like this December powder day at Butler Fork.
The lost ski happened on a Monday in early November. A buddy of mine and I decided to ski at Jone’s Pass, which had received a few feet of snow in the recent weeks. Early season skiing is always a little dicey because of the high potential to hit rocks and tree stumps that would normally be buried. I often wait until at least December to ski, but my stoke factor was unusually high this year because of my desire to race. In fact, as early as September and October, I was already thinking a lot about the season and training for it.
After skinning to the top of the top of the pass, my buddy skied first down the moderately sloped face. Then it was my turn. After about 10 decent turns, I tagged a rock and my right ski popped off, sending me tumbling. About 2-3 feet in depth, the snowpack easily cushioned my fall. I stood up, unhurt, and started searching for my ski. After 20 minutes without any luck, I grew I annoyed. After searching for two hours, I grew desperate. What had happened to my ski? It was maddening. Did it get wedged under a rock? Had it shot down hill (my skis had brakes but no leashes)? I felt like a conspiracy theorist trying to pin down the latest hair-brained JFK theory.
Eventually, I gave up looking. Leaving without my ski was extremely defeating, to say the least.
I wasn’t about to give up. I returned the next day, but this time with a metal detector, upon the suggestion of a buddy who heard about the idea on Teton Gravity Research. I hoped that technology might help, but the three-hour search proved fruitless. After 10 seasons of backcountry skiing, losing a ski in such a shallow snowpack was an ironic twist.
I began to wonder if there were forces at work trying to keep me from skiing—at least that’s the way it felt. I considered searching one more time at Jone’s Pass, but then a snowstorm dropped 16 inches of powder in the mountains, thus ending any hope of finding the ski until summer.
Also, a new injury also threatened my racing plans. A seemingly minor back sprain from late October grew much worse. After skiing on a frigid day at Berthoud Pass (wind chill of -21 degrees F) in late December, my lower back muscles tightened and eventually spasmed, which was crazy painful and ended the ski day early.
Physical therapists puzzled over the cause but assured me the injury would heal on its own in a few weeks. As the weeks passed into January and February, the injury kept getting worse. Frustrated, I insisted that my doctor give me an MRI. He was reluctant, but I kept persisting. What they discovered made my ski troubles seem suddenly insignificant.
I will never forget that phone call on Monday, March 21. The doctor told me the cause of my pain was not the result of a mere sports injury, but from a tumor in my spine. Even worse, the tumor seemed like it was spreading from somewhere else in my body. He recommended I see an oncologist, ASAP.
My wife and I were devastated, not to mention scared.
Things moved quickly from there. After being unimpressed with the oncology care in Longmont, my family suggested we travel to my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Midwestern city boasts surprisingly top-notch health care and we knew that we would need the support of family.
Elizabeth and I and our daughter took a direct flight from Denver to Sioux Falls. Meanwhile, my brother and a family friend drove our Subaru from Longmont to Sioux Falls. By Monday, we met with several doctors and took tests to try and figure out answers to some critical questions: what type of cancer did I have? How serious is it? What is the next step?
The next few weeks were a blur of tests and medical appointments (more on the results in a future post). All I can say is that I did not choose this journey, but I am grateful for the Lord’s provision along the way. Though we have felt a bit like refugees being displaced from our happy life in Longmont, the care and support we have received in Sioux Falls has proven pivotal for us.
In the end, I would have much preferred a more typical winter. Anything sounds more enjoyable than cancer and chemotherapy. But here we are. God has my family and I on a much different path then I would have chosen, but I trust his plan and leading in this.
In light of this new journey, the content of Backcountry Beacon will be changing a bit from my original intent. Obviously cancer is a very different challenge than skiing a steep backcountry couloir. Instead of chronicling my latest outdoor adventure, this blog will focus for now on my cancer journey.
That doesn’t mean the essence of this blog will change. I intentionally chose to keep using this blog, rather than creating a new one. Even though I might not be getting outside as much as I’d like to for awhile, I certainly still value it. I am still a semi-serious/recreational outdoor athlete who loves adventuring in God’s Creation. Whether with cancer or cancer free, those values won’t change!
I want Backcountry Beacon to reflect that. I look forward to bringing you along with me on this journey.
My wife, Elizabeth, had envisioned creating a snowbird like this for quite some time, in honor of the “Littlest Bird” in our nest. A March snowstorm provided the perfect conditions to make it happen. We used Lindor chocolates for the eyes and fallen tree branches for the nest.
When I think of the name High Lonesome, images of cowboys and the southwest come to mind. I also learned that is an epic trail run near Nederland, Colorado, and my buddy and I gave it a go recently.
I heard about this 16-mile run last summer, and that it is the kind that often inspires one to get much more involved in mountain running. In fact, Trail Run Project (similar to Mountain Project, but for runners), rates it the #4 best trail run in Colorado. That’s saying something, considering the depth of stellar trails in the state.
I originally heard this run called Devil’s Thumb Loop, though I much prefer the latter name, which conjures a rugged and intrepid landscape with maybe even a few tumbleweeds. It turns out, there actually is a “High Lonesome” Western movie from the 1950s, though it has nothing to do with mountain running (watch it here).
It was almost the trail run that did not happen. Discussing our options that late morning, Kelly and I considered climbing in Eldorado Canyon (a deceptively hard traversing trad route called Rosy Crucifixion). Instead we opted for the long, scenic trail run. Scary sandbag in Eldo, next time.
We set off from the Hessie Trailhead around high noon, and I felt like we needed a branding iron to round up all of the stray Boulderite hikers out for an afternoon stroll. But the crowds soon thinned out once we continued for a few miles in the trees. The weather was fantastic, with mild/medium winds and sun and temperatures in the 60s.
We took the first several miles pretty slow, which I was thankful for. I ascended the Incline in Colorado Springs the day before after attending a work conference, and I was feeling a little sluggish.
After a few more miles, we ran above treeline. After 5.5 miles, we approached King Lake, a turqoise-colored body of water, with some rolling mountains as a backdrop. We kept climbing and eventually ascended to High Lonesome trail, which traverses a 2.5 mile open expanse on the ridgeline of the peaks. From here, we could see great views of Winter Park as we were on top of the Continental Divide.
The loop climbs steadily but never a crazy amount: 3,353 feet of elevation gain total. That was a bonus for someone who hasn’t spent much time running in the mountains lately. P.S. For me trail “running” in the mountains often involves a fair amount of brisk walking.
After the traverse, we kept running and dropping gels and until we hit the turn off for Devil’s Thumb Trail. Then we started ascending to another lake, where we saw the large rock band indicating the thumb namesake. Pretty cool looking rock actually.
We kept descending into the meadows, hardly seeing many people. This is the point where the run starts to feel LONG. The last 2-3 miles always seems to take forever, even it was just a 6 mile run. After enduring the closing miles, and made it back to the car without much ado, in about 4.5 hours.
This was a great foray into mountain running for me, especially with my sights set on the upcoming skimo season. On that subject, I was able to pick up a light pair of PDG skis, at a fraction of the price of new gear from a local sale (thanks Wes). I look forward to breaking them out soon.
Here’s to more mountain running until the snow flies.
It seems Facebook is always showcasing the next attention-grabbing list, so perhaps it’s time I clog cyberspace with my own (sans sketchy ads at the bottom). With summer fleeting—September 22 being the last day—I wanted to look back over some of my favorite adventures of the season. Getting out was a lot more scarce than previous summers (see my post on fatherhood), which made the few times I did emerge that much sweeter. Here are my Top 7 Outings of the Summer:
7. The Young and the Rackless. I couldn’t resist this cleverly titled, multipitch sport climb in Boulder Canyon. If you don’t get the reference, just think of those cheesy soaps from the 80s and 90s. And then think of climbers who have yet to acquire a set of stoppers and camming devices.
I ascended this 4-pitch climb with a buddy who lives in Boulder. At 5-9 and way more bolts then necessary, this climb was mellow fun with just a little zest to keep it interesting. I’ve done better climbs, but it was pretty dang fun for two hours of effort.
6. A trail run up Pikes Peak in June. Yep, I was shooting for the illustrious 13.1-mile ascent (without having to pay for the official race), though I underestimated the amount of snow for mid June. I didn’t make the summit—not even close (see my previous post “Saturday Barr Run”)—but I did make it to Barr Camp and gorged on the free pancakes. I still ended up with the 13 miles of running mileage and change, but without the elevation gain and donuts on the summit. Next time.
5. Triathlon Trifecta. With a baby on the way, I was looking to stay closer to home, yet still stay motivated and train. Fortunately, Boulder County seems to offer at least a few triathlon races every week. While some seem about as overpriced as an iPhone 6 without a contract, they certainly deliver with a big field of competitors and ridiculously sized medals for placing (about the size of one of grandma’s oversized Monster Cookies)—makes me feel like 3rd place in your age group is a BIG deal. Haha. Ironically, the one race I did earn first place in my age group, they didn’t even hand out medals.
4. Centennial Cone. One of my buddies who works for Specialized invited me to go on a mountain bike ride with him and his coworkers. The 17.3-mile ride is one of the best in the state—#40 according to Mountain Bike Project. Which is saying a lot, considering the plethora of options in Colorado.
As the five of us started riding from the sweltering trailhead near Golden, our speed began to hasten sharply. Like a pack of hounds just catching a whiff of the coon in the big hunt, our pack began to move at breakneck speeds. The pace didn’t relent the entire two hours—which I actually enjoyed, but their plush Specialized rides made me wish I had a full suspension bike to help me keep up!
The guys are definitely a motivating group to adventure with. They also gave me crash course in the art of using aps to help you train. “If you don’t post it to Strava, then it didn’t happen,” they told me. This was kind of a mental mindblow because I usually only log about half of all my runs or rides on Nike Running or Strava! Haha. The next week, I further proved my Strava rookie-ness when I posted a run with average speeds of 4.5 minutes per mile. I received at least one incredulous text. Note: This is what happens when you forget to switch the run mode to bike mode.
3. Failure on the Prow, Success on Humboldt. My time was definitely scarce getting into the high country this summer, so when an opportunity arose, I took it. My buddy Daron and I tried a shot at the Prow on Kit Carson, a Exum Direct style route, that includes 6-7 pitches of rock climbing near the top of the climb. Unfortunately, the weather turned for the worse when we arrived at the base of the climb and we were forced to turn back. The next weekend, while my wife was at a baby shower, I hiked Humboldt solo. I loved the opportunity to return to the Sangre de Cristos, my favorite mountain range in the state, and actually stand on top of one of the summits again.
2. Skyscraper Lake. When I heard about running the Devil’s Thumb King Lake Loop in Indian Peaks, I was intrigued. So I set out to do just that after church one Sunday. About 4 miles in, I wasn’t feeling so prime. So a loop run turned into a walk/run 10 mile out-and-back to Skyscraper Lake. I was able to see some of the same mountain cirques one would see from the loop, which was inspiring. The mountains reminded me of the Uintas in Utah, or perhaps even the Bitterroots in Montana. I hope to do the full loop next summer.
1. Adventuring with the Pip. As you recall, my wife and I had a daughter this summer in late June. And I’m proud to say that my favorite adventure of the summer has been with her! Specifically, the three of us hiked up Mount Cutler in Colorado Springs, she in an ergo carrier. At a whopping 1 mile ascent, the not-so-arduous-but-still-scenic hike near Colorado Springs was an accomplishment—proof that maybe our little family might still be able to get in the mountains sometimes after all.
Indeed, Pip does seem to like being outside. There have been several times of fussiness cured the moment we took her on a short walk outside the house.
Not only that, whether in the mountains or just staying at home, life with Pip is a constant adventure. Every day is new and unique when you have a cute little one to watch over and be entertained by. Just when I get tired of the less than perfect nights of sleep, she hits a new phase, like smiling and cooing, and I am transfixed.
For my wife and I, this has been the summer of Pip. And it’s been a blast.
Here’s to the next week going slow as to wring as much summer out of the days as possible! Happy Summer 2015.
I was giddy as I huffed up the steep mountainside on the way to the climbing crag. Soon I would be at Jurassic Park.
At nearly 10,000 feet, there is no better scenic climbing crag in Colorado. The the views of Rocky Mountain National Park and Longs Peak are epic, and the rock climbs are enjoyable and varied. The Edge of Time is one of my go to favorites.
Mind you, this place has nothing to do with T-Rexes and overly redundant movie sequels (spoiler alert: the dinosaurs go crazy and start eating people and shut down the park—again).
I decided to go climbing here on a weekday in July. It had been awhile since I had been out (see my previous post “The Life of an Adventure Dad”) and I was eager to see some old friends who were in town.
We chose a Monday morning at 8 a.m., in hopes of skirting the crowds. Though, the thought seemed paranoid considering I’ve usually had the place to myself. But like anything good in the outdoors in Colorado, it is only a matter of time before it gets discovered. As the saying goes, “nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.”
As we arrived at Index Toe and Middle Toe climbs to warm up, I could hear voices from farther up the path. As we listened closer, the cacophony of voices sounded more like an entire village than a small group.
We hiked farther for a closer look: a group of 20. In a short time, another group of 15 showed up, too.
But then two more guys came up. Then another three. Then three guys from Illinois. Then a couple with three kids—all wanting to climb. At least 50 people filled the small crag. Pretty soon I felt I was climbing in Movement Climbing Gym in Boulder.
It reminded me of the movie Three Amigos, when all the towns people dress up in costumes to resemble the three sequined heroes. “There’s too many of them El Guapo!” the bad guys said. “Now they are over here, too!”
There were Just. So. Many. People. How did this place get so crowded??
For one thing, when temperatures spike to nearly 100 degrees in Denver, Jurassic hits maybe be 80, though, the high altitude also makes it susceptible to thunderstorms. For another, The Edge of Time is an incredibly aesthetic climb that graces the cover of at least one popular guidebook. At 5-9, it is doable for most mortals (though it feels stiff for the grade to me) and people flock to it like moths to an incandescent.
Also note the proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a zoo in the summer.
The longer I have lived in the Front Range of Colorado, the more I feel it rapidly changing. Maybe something approaching—eeeeek, I hate to say it—California? The roads buzz with traffic, even during off-peak times. Climbing crags teem with people like Yosemite, even on weekdays. The costs of housing skyrockets exponentially, not to mention the demand and scarcity. Google is even moving an office here. Hmmm…
It’s on days like this when I want to rename the state: Colofornia, or even Calarado. Consider these stats: In 2014, Colorado was the 4th fastest growing state, adding 83,780 residents, according to the U.S. Census. Not only that, in 2013, 64.6 million tourists visited the state—an all time record. And the population growth continues to explode this year.
And can you blame people? Colorado is a great state, though, I wish it were as densely populated as Wyoming. Keep in mind my grid is growing up in one of the least populated states in the country; I also went to college in Montana. I remember Missoula, at 90,000 people, feeling crowded.
Back to my climbing day at Jurassic, it would have been easy to be annoyed with the crowds. But I didn’t care. Considering I’ve spent the past 3-4 weeks answering to a crying baby (don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter and I would never go back to life without her!) getting out for a change was REALLY nice. I felt so free. When my friends balked at leading a climb, I quickly jumped on the sharp end. “Eh, someone needs to set this up before more people come, so I might as well…” I got on The Edge, along with two other climbs and along with a gymnastic 5-10. All in all, a pretty good day.
And while I am sometimes annoyed by my state’s Coloforniacation, in reality, it has a LONG way to go before it becomes a California. In the end, I am very thankful to be in Colorado. After all, places like Jurassic are only a mere 55 minutes from my house!
When the day comes when thing do get too crazy here, there is always Montana. Or maybe even Alaska. I often remind my Colorado-native wife of this fact.
Me climbing on a far less crowded day a few years ago. Photo: Ted Wilcox.
I got a serious life upgrade recently: Fatherhood.
Add the titles of “Dad” and “Father” to husband, writer, adventurer, guide, etc.—but this one casts me into a completely different category fresh and fraught with life changes. I say, bring it on.
Pippa was born at 4:54 p.m. on Tuesday June 30, a fast and furious entrance into the world. My wife got a haircut at noon, came home at 2:30, and by 3:30 I rushed her to the hospital, where they quickly admitted us to a room. Considering Pippa wasn’t supposed to come until July 12, it was a bit of a shock. I hated seeing my wife in that much pain (there was no time for pain meds), but she was a champ and the joy afterward has now overshadowed those terrible hours.
Pippa weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces when she was born. My wife and I named her after re-reading Pippi Longstocking, the story of the fiery red-headed girl that seems so full of spirit and fun. We imagined that our little Pip would be like that in some ways, and so we chose the British counterpart, “Pippa.” The name is uncommon in the U.S. but is a little bit more common in the U.K.
Back to my title upgrade, technically, I’m already a dad to my stillborn son, Elliott, who died 7 months along last summer. But, certainly fatherhood feels a little more real when the baby cries and wakes you up in the middle of the night.
Now with Pippa here, I’d like to add a more specific title to my list: “Adventure Dad,” for, I hope to be the type of father who takes her on adventures. Especially since Elizabeth and I live in Colorado and already enjoy it so much, I see this as somewhat of an inevitability.
Lately, I have been a lot more aware when I have seen dads with daughters. For I knew I soon would enter that world. I remember hiking Mount Senitas near Boulder, watching dads with toddlers in backpacks or dads hiking with their teenage daughters on the way up. I wanted in on that world, and now it is finally here.
I know it may be awhile before Pippa will be ready for adventures, other than being schlepped in a backpack for awhile. But having a lifetime of that to look forward to is very fun.
To be fair, I don’t know how much she will like the outdoors. I hope she will at least like skiing and rock climbing a little—for her old man’s sake 🙂 I look forward to getting know who she is and find out what this little girl likes.
There is an obvious paradox of the outdoor lifestyle as it relates to kids. Children take up time and so do outdoor sports—obviously one will have to give. But that is a sacrifice I am willing to make and have thought a lot about. I can’t imagine a much better use of my time and life than being a good dad to Pippa.
Of course, last night’s crying murdered my sleep. But my perspective has changed from just, “I” had a bad night to Pip had a good night (she actually fed well and slept decent), so in reality my night was pretty good, too.
My days are even better as I have so much to look forward to with her in my life.
Here we go Fatherhood. What an incredible life upgrade.
P.S. I snuck in a sprint triathlon on Sunday: The Boulder Sunrise. Had I known Pip was coming just 2 days later, I might have held off—though it may be awhile before I return to such pursuits.
P.P.S. This post was written on July 2. Not sure why it keeps saying July 3.
I awoke early on Father’s Day for an ascent of the Incline. This steep hiking trail, near Manitou Springs, gains more than 2,000 feet in about a mile up wooden steps and railroad ties. Think of one huge massive set of stairs that rises to the sky. Also think of a set of stairs that is littered with trains of people—especially in the summer.
Even starting at about 7:10 a.m., I was amazed at the crowds—probably a good 200 or so people. Not to mention the summer heat, as this hike faces east and gets the sun very early.
Several years ago, I would never have believed it if you had me how popular this trail would be today. People from all walks of life hike it, from Olympic athletes to tourists from Kansas. There is a whole nerdy record side to it, including who has logged the fastest time, etc. There is even one guy who hiked it 22 times in a row, gaining more than 44,000 feet in the outing—not to mention some really sore knees.
I appreciate the vibe of people motivating others to work out and keep challenging themselves. When Elizabeth and I lived in Colorado Springs, I would try to hike this at least once per month.
However, popularity certainly has a downside, including the difficulty of finding a parking place (you can take a shuttle, but it will add at least an extra 45 minutes on to your outing).
On most summer days, you probably have a better chance of finding a “snipe” or buying a house in Boulder County than you do finding a parking space. Though, this Father’s Day morning I found one in only a few minutes in the $5 section. “Wow, you got really lucky,” a girl told me when I got out of my car.
“I know,” I said.
Dealing with crowds on the way up has its own sets of challenges, especially if you are going for a PR. I’ve probably hiked this thing 20 times, and here are some categories for what I have experienced:
Never See Em Agains. People hike at different speeds on the Incline and of course there are some crazy fast people out there that will pass you so quickly you feel like a Mack truck just blew by you at 70 MPH, leaving you shaking and unsettled. You will not see them again most likely, because by the time you arrive at the top they will be on their way down. At least you can thank them for the small breeze they kicked up, albeit often smelly.
Step to the Siders Some people politely step to the side when you hike up near them to let you pass. This is a very courteous and friendly gesture, but unnecessary as the burden of passing should be on the passer.
Flash in the Panners These are hikers who have stopped to take a break, but when they see you barreling toward them, they quickly step in front of you to keep hiking. Forgetting why they took the break in the first place, they try to keep a pace that is unsustainable and eventually resume the previous position.
Tailgators/Pursuers These hikers, when passed, have their competitiveness incited and put on overdrive and chase you like a mad hornet, occasionally all the way to top of the incline! Though, more often than not, their fate is that of Flash of the Panners and they burn out and fade away quickly like the 90s band Third Eye Blind. Though sometimes entertaining, these hikers can be a real nuisance.
Early Shifters (No See Ums) Wisely, many of the fastest and record-setting Incliners hike in the morning. As I found out today, even 7 a.m. is not early enough for a cool ascent because of the east facing aspect of the hike. You did not see these Spartan athletes, and maybe you never will.
Step Step Panters The Incline is hard. It has never felt easy for me, not even once. And the same is true for a lot of people, who fall into the rhythm of a high altitude mountaineer’s pace, step, step, pant…pant…pant. step, step….pant, pant, pant. While this may seem unnecessary, remember that not everyone who hikes the Incline attempts many athletic endeavors, besides the occasional ascent of the Incline.
On a more serious note, this morning I was thinking a lot about Father’s Day. I am grateful for my dad, as well as my two grandpas (who are both still alive amazingly). My dad’s dad is 93 and does not take any medication! If I am fortunate to have his genes, I could be around for awhile! I also want to say more about my Dad, who is such a great man and a great guy. I would not be half the person I am today without his wisdom, guidance and love. I also am thankful for my brother, who is such a great dad to his daughter and son. I really admire him for that.
This morning, I also thought a lot about my son, Elliott. My wife and I lost him last summer in early July. He was only 7 months old, and was unexpectedly stillborn. I have felt his loss profoundly the past year.
I must admit, I felt a deep sadness for him this morning on Father’s Day. I miss Elliott so much. By now, he would have been nearly a year old and probably would have been hiking the Incline with me (in a baby backpack). He would, no doubt, be making that transition from needy baby to toddler, which seems like such a fun stage when their little personalities become more clear and you can interact with them a lot. I don’t know this by experience, but from what people have told me and the little I have observed with others.
I will be writing more about my son in future posts, as I was so looking forward to being his dad and taking him on adventures.
Regardless, I am so grateful to have been Elliott’s dad. He has helped me understand more about fatherhood, even though it was a brief brush with it for me. Though, here we go again, as my wife is now expecting another baby this summer, too. This time it is a daughter.
Happy Father’s Day everyone. May you honor your dad, grandpas, brothers and sons today. And hopefully you can get out and do some adventures together.
P.S. I did not beat my PR today 🙁
On top of the Incline, still feeling the suffering of the final push to the top.
Last weekend my wife and I headed to Colorado Springs, so I decided to go for a Saturday morning adventure up Pike’s Peak.
While I’ve hiked it before, my goal this time was to run it. The night before, I discovered that there is an abundance of snow past the halfway point on Barr Trail (named after Fred Barr, the guy who built in the early 1900s), which would mean a 13-mile trail run gaining 7,500 feet of elevation with a bonus of postholing through huge drifts of snow for the upper half.
I opted for the suffer-lite version of running a bit beyond the halfway point and then back down—which seemed wise in light of the conditions.
The first 3 miles were a steep and mentally taxing way to begin the day. Two other notes of interest: the crowds thin dramatically after you pass the turn for the Incline, and also sometimes Barr Camp will give runners free leftover pancakes 🙂 The run down was a mixed affair—I was grateful to not be climbing uphill but then moments of knee pounding made me reconsider. All in all, it was a good outing.
I am inspired to return. A few friends of mine have done the Ascent Race, and while it definitely sounds like Type 2 Fun, I can’t help but be intrigued. This little venture definitely gave me a taste of what it will be like. See you sometime soon Pike’s Peak, when the snow melts out, my wife has our baby, and I get a little stronger.