24 April 2009

The Running Kind

I love to run. I love its simplicity: a pair of decent shoes for my feet and some music for my head. That's about it. Maybe a hat to soak up sweat, sunglasses, some lightweight clothes. It's a nice balance to the constant on and off again world of skis, skins, gloves, layers of clothing, and heaps of survival gear. And frozen water isn't a necessary component.

I'm not a good runner. My torso is long and broad, my giant thighs are better suited for slow, steep climbs. Though my balance is good I'm not especially nimble. I'm prone to injuries because I have problematic feet. I think the situation is made worse because I prefer to scurry up rocky trails rather than amble along flat, smooth surfaces. I'll never run a marathon.

But I love it and in addition to locating the high peaks and guessing the tree and snow line the first thing I do upon moving to a new place is to determine where and to what degree I will be able to run. I had a nice course in Kazakhstan through some apple groves and up into the foothills. In Santiago, I could leave from the house and spend as long as I wanted on cattle and motorcycle trails. Mexico was a terrible place to run. You were never too far from too much traffic and, inevitably, you were forced to run through or over or around too much trash. The dirt roads of Idaho and Northeast Nevada are paradise. Washington, DC--in every aspect--is a hot, humid, swampy shithole.

Happy to report that I've found my outlet. There is quick and easy access around the neighborhood but other than short sections down by some streams most of the available area is paved pathways that outline the nearby crop fields in long, straight, and flat lines. A tad dull. A short ten-minute drive, though, takes you to the Jura Mountains and miles and miles (and kilometers and kilometers) of dirt roads through hardwood and evergreen forests. A real treat, especially in the morning light.

More Blue Ridge than Rocky, the Jura Mountains is a low altitude, thickly forested range whose north end begins in the Alsace and southern tip drops into the Savoie near Chambéry. Those industrious Swiss have exploited its resources since the 18th century thus providing me with all the well-worn running paths my heart legs can handle.

Industrious, yes, but the Swiss also seem to enjoy their quiet time. So while they have plowed roads into the hillsides for several hundred years now, they also like to take the time to reflect on their surroundings and the picture perfect landscape they create for themselves.

Running around the mountains with nathin' to do, it's easy to reflect on lifetime experiences and various situations that may or may not have anything to do with your current experience and life situation. The last time I was able to run through forested mountains I was living just outside of Ketchum, Idaho, the summer of 2004. The year Hank was born. Before that were the monumental summers of 1996 and 1994 when I would run the fire and logging roads above my beloved Priest Lake.

Recently, through my pounding chest and spinning head, I thought about the differences between the Swiss logging operations and those I encountered in North Idaho. Then I ran by some of the Swiss logging operations. A far cry from my experience at the lake.

I think you could--yes, I'm certain that you could--safely and peacefully eat off those landings and log piles. Then I ran by a two person thinning crew working in one of the plots and I knew for sure I was a long way from home.

Our Idaho Department of Lands crew truck wasn't quite as aerodynamic as theirs, our ground clearance a little higher, our paint not so shiny. Our Husky saws were bigger.

Yep, running is a time for meditation, no matter how dizzy I am or how much my legs hurt or how hard my heart knocks my rib cage. Wendy has borrowed my little music machine a couple times for her own workouts only to return home to ask how I could possibly keep running with all the slow songs I have loaded on the player. I guess I haven't thought about it too much but maybe it's the contrast of the burning body and the input of the mellow music that puts my mind at ease and encourages it to keep up with my heart. Regular intense activity, whether it's running, skiing, or thinning tree plots with a Fire Crew, is the one thing I can count on to keep me spinning just slightly slower than the world around me. Therein lies the balance.

I like my fast music, too. Especially when running downhill and listening to a mad Argentine singer who belts out indecipherable Spanish to crazy beats. The experience of the run can quickly turn hypnotic.

Not much snow left in the Jura and now that I've switched hemispheres back toward the north my ski season will end sometime soon. As long as my feet hold out I should be fine.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve! Send Me an email.