Monday, June 29, 2009

New photos from Geissler!

Yay! The amazing and talented Mike Pritchard sent these pics from our last adventure on Geissler peak! How awesome! To see full sized pics, visit Mikes truly inspiring Flicker site here.

Click on a photo to see a larger size!


Mike Pritchard waiting to ski the chutes



Kurt shows us just how steep the chutes are!



Kurt skis one of the Blue Chutes across from Geissler Peak.



Kate skiing down one of the Blue Chutes. Perfect corn, beautiful fun!



Kate and Kurt on the summit of Geissler. Time to ski!


Kate, feeling SO much better today! Skinning up Geissler.



Kate and Kurt on the summit of Geissler Peak.



The Chutes across from Geissler Peak. We skied the fat one on looker's right. Pretty steep!

Spring rain and flowers.

Ethan and Bodhi decorate mom!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Skier's Edge QS5 Upgrade is IN!


All New QS5 machine

The new QS5 Upgrade came! I wasn't sure how this upgrade would affect the machine, my though, honestly was, its already such a smooth ride, how big of a difference can it really make? Consiquently, I didn't install the upgrade until this weekend... and it's awesome!

The ride is smoother, quieter, and, most importantly, the minute muscular adjustments that you do that "transfer to the ski" are now transferring to the platform, just like having a really excellent binding system. It feels like there is significantly less delay in energy transmission from the feet and legs to the machine, and therefore, it feels EVEN MORE like skiing on really high end equipment!

Let me just say thank goodness for this machine again, its been a crazy two weeks, and I've only gotten outside to exercise three times, with only one really good training hike. If it wasn't for this machine, I'd be loosing muscle mass and impetus on my training program at an alarming rate, but because this thing is sitting in the playroom, I don't feel like I've fallen out of training at all!

Here's the official verbage on the upgrade from the Skier's Edge company:

The QS5 is one of the most significant advancements in the 20-year history of the Skier’s Edge.

The QS5 was a design challenge with 2 objectives. Create the smoothest and quietest Skier’s Edge ever, and make it so earlier machines could be upgraded to this state-of-the-art performance. It’s an engineering masterpiece!


The QS5 feels like skiing 5 inches of new powder on a corduroy base, so quiet you can hear your heartbeat, so smooth you won’t want to stop. Dramatically improve your skiing in just one season and get into great, year-round shape with your Skier’s Edge. You can do it - this season!

The QS5 is available for all three frame heights. The Classic Series, Big Mountain Series and the World Cup Plyometric Power Series.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!



I spent the day with Tom's dad and Tom and the boys, it was a beautiful, low key day. Ethan and Bodhi drew pictures for Tom, and of course, the stunt show on the front lawn was a great present for dad, who also tried riding on the obstacles.

I'm grateful to Tom that through all we are going through, remaining a family is his first priority. The kids seem happy, confident and okay, even though we are divorcing, and that's due to a lot of hard work from both of us to be supportive and kind to each other.

It didn't have to go that way, it could have gone very thoroughly the other way, as most divorces do, but Tom is plugged into the kids and plugged into the family, and because of that commitment, we all feel safe. That is a huge gift, and the mark of a truly remarkable father, and I'm grateful.

Happy Father's Day, Tom!! Thanks for all you do for all of us.

I am Ethan, the Daredevil Kid!

Ethan decided today that he wants to go off jumps on his bike. Not sure where that came from, maybe its from watching this:



But here he is, riding off his very first jump. First, we put the board down in the grass so he could practice riding the length of it in the middle without falling off. Once he could do that, he knew he could stay in the center of the jump.



I went off it first, and it was scary! But he knew he needed to take it with speed, and he did, riding off it clean three times. Now they are building a bigger jump.



As he was dragging the other tire ramp across the lawn, he said, "I am Ethan! Dare Devil Kid!"



I love it! And I love the ultimate focus on his face. Very nice!

Playing for Change

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What the BLEEP does any of this have to do with skiing?

When I decided to try to go for the D team, in March of 2007, and Tom agreed that the family would be behind me (although that turned out to be harder than either of us expected), I decided that if they were going to believe in me, I needed to show my gratitude for all the extra effort it was going to take by doing the best I could to achieve my goal so their extra effort wouldn't be wasted.

I made a performance plan, just like I make for my clients,and I decided I was going to stick to it as close to the letter as I could. Now, because of that, its easy for me to hike in the rain. But its also hard to accept that some weeks, I'll only get out once a week. And that's just how it was that week. Just the next time you can, get out.

Part of the performance plan listed possible impediments to my goal, so that I could make a plan for removing each one of the impediments systematically until the path to my goal was clear.

One of the impediments was self sabotage right before success. I've had the opportunity to do it quite a few times already in my short 2 1/2 year career in skiing. So with only three years left, I decided I'd better look back into the mind part of the equation. I need to make sure that part of me is as well trained as my body can possibly be, so it doesn't hold me back.

So I re-entered therapy, with an eye on reconciling with anything first that was related to my ability to believe in myself until the end. Hence, the post below, and the myriad of "deep thought" postings. :-) Thanks for your indulgence.

K

Wherever you are right now is perfect. This story ends with a tattoo.



I was walking in to my treatment the other day at Tamara’s new space, and there is a sign outside that says “The Still Point”. As I walked by it, I smiled, because I recently was reading about this concept in Myofascial Release, and I love it.

The Still Point.

I walked on.

The Dead Point.

I walked on.

The moment.

Suddenly, things started plugging in for me, I walked down the stairs into Tamara’s office.

“How are you?” She asked. I smiled at her and held up my hand.

“Hang on, I’m having an epiphany…”

“Oh, okay!” She said and headed into the room to prep.

I thought about the Still Point in MFR…
“The therapist, using the myofascial unwinding process, acts as a facilitator, following the body’s inherent motions. When a significant position is attained, the craniosacral rhythm will shut down to a still point. During the still point, a reversible amnesia surfaces, replaying all of the emotional states that occurred during a past traumatic event.” (For the full article, click here.)

I love this concept that things can only come out when you gently and patiently achieve a still point.

I thought about the Dead Point in climbing…
The dead point is when, for instance in a dynamic move in climbing, your body has stopped going up and has yet to begin traveling down. This is the optimal time to close your hand around the hold. In this way, your body continually travels up, without shocking or loading the tendon, the grasp occurring just at the moment when all is still or dead…

I thought about the present moment, the moment in meditation when your mind is miraculously still and all is quiet, time slows down because there is no time, just this moment, and the next, ultimately present, you experience your world in a vivid and extra real way.

This felt like the beginning of some sort of thought that I needed to follow, this felt like a sign post to me, little connections about the still point, about things happening when you stop trying to make them happen, but allow or facilitate the unwinding, the opening, the movement, and sometimes, stillness, the lack of movement, being in this moment is what you are looking for. Trying to rush ahead to the conclusion, we so often miss whats going on, the possibilities of the now…

This wasn’t new, again, I feel like I stumble across permutations of this concept every couple of weeks, and I realize, oh, its that same thing…

But then again, the things I struggle with are often the “same thing” just on another level of understanding. I’m struggling right now with ideas of being alone, what it means to truly sever. To be single, but to let go of everything and not need a new string to hold on to, just to be, in the still point.

I’m struggling quite a bit with it, and because of that, related issues that affect my ultimate goal, keeping focus on training my body so it can perform to its potential in 1046 days at Tryouts, are flaring up.

My relationship with food has been challenging to say the least since the season ended in April. I’ve gained and lost 10 pounds in May and again in June. (And we are only half way through June.) Along with that journey comes a lot of fear, a lot of sabotage and a lot of judgment.

I have finally found that I am able to not crucify myself when my life gets so crazy that I can’t stay on a strict training program. I have finally found some grace for myself there, and I feel today like I’m inching toward a new understating, everything I’ve been hung up on seems to be unwinding since this crazy epiphany began it all.

Let me back up a bit. The morning of this day, Thursday, started out with me being very tired, having for some reason not slept well the night before. I backed the Bronco into the pasture fence and broke the tailgate and exploded the rear window. I was running late, so I drove into town and parked under a tree hoping it wouldn’t rain in the truck.

I went in to a long counseling session, in which my amazing therapist challenged me to examine some things that I’ve been looking at, but not really looking at deeply enough. She held me accountable on some tough stuff, which shook the foundation. This is a good thing. This is the point of therapy, this is the way I like therapy. No bull, to the point, face the issue, then, sit with it, look at it, and see where it leads you. Usually it leads you through fear and into the sunlight, but sometimes the fear is very dark, and all your coping mechanisms scream at you when you head that way. That’s usually a cue for me that I’m doing the right thing…

So here I am, leaving counseling and realizing that I’m in crisis. It’s a quiet crisis, but its there nonetheless. I feel alone right now. I feel afraid to look at what is going on in my life, at the opportunities to practice being okay with being alone, to truly experience being completely, totally on my own. Alone.

Looking at that, I realize that this is my oldest, most frightening “bad place”, I recognize all the coping that has hung on needing to feel NOT alone, not abandoned, not spinning through space… and I’ve healed, I’ve come so so so very far in the last five years since I recognized the major source of trauma in my life, and asked him politely to leave.

And now, here I am, a calmer, stronger, more sure person, who has shed so much coping. I feel comfortable in my skin. I’ve learned to spend time alone, but not to feel alone and be okay with it… does that make any sense?

Alright. So here we are again, its Thursday, the next thing after counseling was a two hour Myofascial tutoring session, in which I was the body being worked on. We did lots of deep but gentle techniques, diaphragm unwindings and such, and now that's over, and I travel to Tamara's new space, and we are in the body work session, and Tamara, of course, immediately picks up that there is stuff going on.

I missed my massage session last week, and my body has been hurting in a way that medication can't touch.

She works myofascialy. I refuse to let go for the first time that we’ve worked together. I’m pushing, I’m asking myself to let go. My body hurts, and I want to let go and feel better.

I’m demanding, I’m frustrated, I’m breathing, my body hurts and I can’t seem to relax and let the work happen. Tamara stays grounded and slows down. I let go of the idea of being able to let go and identify what the fuck is going on with me today, write it off to being premenstrual, and resign myself to the fact that I’m an over sensitive, ridiculous person.

I tell Tamara “I feel very alone.”

She tells me, “I know. But remember that we are never truly alone.” Internally, I roll my eyes at her. That’s not what I wanted to hear. I wanted her to tell me that one day, I will be able to stay connected in a vital way, that I won’t scare away the person I love with my lack of fear about feeling, experiencing and giving love. I want her to tell me its going to be okay.

She tells me that its okay to feel fear, because that’s what I’m feeling right now.

Sigh.

I tell her that where I am is scary. She tells me to remember that wherever we are in our life is perfect in that moment.

I roll my eyes internally at her again. I’ve heard her say this before, and sometimes I can wrap my mind around it, and sometimes I can’t. Today, it feels like a load of crap, because where I am does not feel perfect. It feels dangerous and scary to my soul. Because it feels alone and unknown. We used to call this place “the big bad”. And when I approached the Big Bad, I’d tell Tom, and he’d make sure that I didn’t feel alone. He’d triage it, STAT. Because that’s what I thought I needed.

Keep me from feeling the scary thing.

But today, I was feeling alone, because no one was saving me. The people I trust who mentor me were not pushing me, but not towing me to safely either. I was left floating in it, just as I needed to be.

Because in this moment, I was feeling whatever I needed to feel. Where I was was perfect. I just wasn’t seeing it.

Something shifted suddenly, I had resigned myself to feeling scared, which I guess means I’d unknowingly accepted where I was. I was overwhelmed with what I felt coming, and rather than just letting go, as I’d been able to do in the past, I clamped down and held it in as much as possible. I was not. Going. To. Cry.

After the session, Tamara left, and I fell apart. Cried all over her table. Frustrated, scared. Felt stupid for not letting it go in session, felt greedy about processing my shit during body work, felt needy, felt lacking for feeling scared. Felt angry for not being okay being alone. Felt angry at my past for setting me up to be scared of being truly alone.

Do these things sound judgmental to you? They sure do to me!

I wandered out all puffy eyed and looked at Tamara. She smiled at me, like I was normal. I smiled a watery smile back at her.

Then, I headed to my space to give a massage. I was worried on my way over there what in the world I could possibly do for the person I was going to work on. I felt exhausted, but oddly at peace, like something was shifting, like there was some new understanding surfacing. I looked at the sign on my way to my truck. The still point, it said.

I went through the ritual of preparing my room for my client, warming the space with candles, incense, the hot packs, the towels, the tea made, the music on, a few moments of meditation, just feeling the breath, sitting on the old creaky oak floor, just getting out of my scared monkey mind and into the present, this moment where a body would lay on my table and I would connect to it, feel, and facilitate, just as Tamara had for me.

It didn't matter that all THAT had just happened, and was happening inside, that was one part of this present moment. The other part was that life was going on all around me. Other people were hurting. Other people were happy. The stylists were doing hair, Amanda was on the phone, there was a kid sitting on a skateboard. It was time for my client's massage.

I left my doubt behind and went into my session, and just lived under my hands for ninety minutes. It was a good session.

Acceptance for where I am seems to be compassion toward myself, and it gives me just enough space to be able to extend compassion to the person I am with.

After the session, I headed over to Third Chapter Tattoo in Bozeman, to meet with Chad for the third time. It was time to get a new tattoo.

I half hoped he’d have something come up, and wouldn't be able to do it. I wasn’t sure I was in a place where I could make a permanent decision about my body. I wasn’t sure which tattoo I was going to get, (Chad has designs for six more pieces I want to do.) and I was scared that I’d get pushed into a sad place and then have no one to commiserate with me, no one to celebrate with...

I was bouncing back to that scary, alone place, but at the same time that sort of pinball feeling felt quieter, like echos of an old pattern.

I went in, Chad was ready to do the arm piece. I’d been thinking of two I want on my feet, they seem less… obvious, less scary, less committed.

He sat down and started finishing off the piece for my arm. Fuck it. I let go again. Lets get the one I’ve been wanting for the last two years. Lets get the big deal.

Aequinemitas. Patience through Peace of Mind.

The word with a swirl underneath it. Tom designed it for me years ago, it was meant to look like a drop of essential oil sinking into hot water. If you are present enough to watch, the oil unwinds as it infuses the water, the scent unwinds into the vapor, the body unwinds as it accepts the heat, the mind unwinds as it accepts the scent...

Today, it reminds me of Myofascial work, because it looks like what my hands feel when they are working, and it has to happen with patience and presence, you can't push or force, you just connect, and wait, and follow, and the tissue heats, accepts, and lets go, unwinding...

But Patience. I’ve been practicing patience as my main focus since I got pregnant with Ethan 8 years ago.

“You’re on baby time, now, Kate.” The voice of Nkem, my beautiful Midwife, the woman who set me on my healing journey.

“If you can have THIS much patience, it makes turning that much easier.” Squatty, trying to help me ski bumps effortlessly.

“Kate, be patient, that part will come, but we are doing this now. Patience, Grasshopper.” Andy, helping me enjoy this without worrying or wondering about the possibility of that.

“You need to think about walking at a steady pace that you can maintain all the way to the top so you don’t have to stop. Better to keep going, and go slow, than to go balls out and then have to stop over and over.” Kurt, teaching me, of all things, how to walk. How to walk up a mountain.

I’ve spent the last year training at a break neck speed to pass the Three, trying to absorb all the information that I can about skiing, feeling voracious, but for the first time, feeling patient. Hungry, but patient. Feeling information going in, unwinding, understanding dawning, smoothing out the wrinkles and creating deeper understanding through questions, reading, and practice, and then more patience…

I took a sharpie at the end of the season last year, and wrote “Aequinemitas” on each ski. My little sister, Liat, who is a graduate in classic languages found this word for me when I told her I was looking for a word for patience.

I’ve needed patience in friendships, patience in relationships, patience with self…

I needed patience to get this tattoo, I’ve been here three times and it just hasn’t worked out.

I sit in the chair, we go through it, I get excited, I get nervous, then I let it go, because it doesn’t really matter how I feel, its going to happen. Its going to happen now.

I lay down on the table, and the gun begins to vibrate, the smell of rubbing alcohol, the ritual of preparation again, plastic down, Vaseline on the table, on the glove, on the ink cups, color in the cups, my first color tattoo, they have all been black till now…

Greg puts on some blues music, it make me think of hanging on to what I can’t have, it make me feel that alone-ness acutely, and suddenly, it occurs to me that I am getting a tattoo by myself for the first time. Fifth tattoo. First time alone.

Suddenly, its perfect. I had taken a pic, I was going to live blog it, but now, suddenly, this moment is perfect. This is an opportunity to practice being alone, doing it alone. Doing it only for me. Being patient to share, being present in this moment.

I lay down, its cold in the shop. The gun goes into my arm, stinging, buzzing, the flesh there is so tender, it hurts so much more than I remember, so much more than I thought it would. I know I’m going to be here for hours, I leave my phone on the floor in the other room and listen to the music and look at Chad’s tattoo’d head, this man I barely know inscribing the most meaningful thing, inscribing this moment.

Marking this moment in time, this moment when I decide that its okay to be alone, that we aren’t truly ever alone, that I’m enough for me, that this moment, wherever I am IS perfect, because it is what it is. It’s a time to practice being alone.

I feel a peace, a bliss all over my body, I focus on the scratching the pain the sensation of the gun abrading my skin, for two and a half hours, Chad is pressing down on me, making art in his own world, I’m in mine, in bliss.

He gets close to the armpit, and I feel it through my breast, in my ribs, down my arm. I think of the bracelet that I gave my mom two Christmases ago. It said, “While Alive, Live.” on it. I gave it to her hoping it would give her courage to care for herself. She gave it back to me this Christmas, hoping I would have the courage to do the same.

This tattoo is like that bracelet. This tattoo is marking the moment. In this moment, I understand the word Aequinemitas in a new way.

Feeling, but also living patience, because my mind is peaceful, because I’ve accepted that wherever I am is perfect. I am alone. Because that is where I need to be in order to become.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thundering in the Valley

Glad i chose to go to Baldy rather than heather lake, its pouring and thundering over there!

The High Meadow on the way to Baldy

Charles Trenet keeps me company through the high meadows. think i'M gonna take ethan back packing next weekend.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Find Me on Facebook!

Facebook has finally made it easy. Click HERE to find me. No search needed! Yay!

(http://www.facebook.com/kate.howe)

Update on Health Issues

Trigger points are marked by an x, pain refferal is the red pattern.

So a quick update on whats going on with health issues. For the last eight months or so, I've been not sure about whats going on with pretty severe pain in my left breast. It streaks into my armpit and down into my ribs when its bad. We found a lump twice, but both times, it dissolved.

At first we were thinking it was a mastitis, because it feels really similar to that. (Which I was fortunate enough to experience several times while nursing my kids for six and a half years straight!!)

Finally, after several different treatments and exams, I went in for a diagnostic mammogram. Pain is very rarely a symptom of breast cancer, but we just were stumped, so in I went.

The mammograms came out clean, so there are no signs of cancer at all, which is very relieving and exciting. Whatever the source of the pain is, its not cancer.

Now the question comes, is it a trigger point? Is it just soft tissue pain, like I'm experiencing all over my body?

So, since my accident, I've been in a lot of pain, all over my body, and its intensified in the last three months since ski season ended and I'm sort of allowing myself to feel whatever it was I had blocked out all winter long to make it through the three.

I definitely have a personal bias against complaining about how I feel, because I don't hear other people complaining, and I was raised in a very strong SUCK IT UP tradition. However, there are times its appropriate to suck it up (you are three days out in the back country and your blisters hurt, what are you going to do about it? SUCK IT UP and get out. Deal with the owie part of the injury when you get home. And here, I tend to add (in the privacy of the bathroom so no one can hear you.) which may not be the healthiest choice.

But your body knows the difference between good pain and bad pain. And if you are not in a situation where you need to suck it up, you should examine whats going on in your body so that you can help let go of pain you are holding, and work towards health.

So my body hurts, all over, all the time. Exercise makes it much better, massage makes it much better, soaking in hot water makes it leagues better, and eating well helps. Water helps a lot. I have a nest of trigger points all over my body that constantly refer pain down my legs, down my arms, across my back, into my head, everywhere. I have had a headache since October 8.

SO, my massage therapist and some of my teachers at school have looked at these symptoms and are leaning toward a diagnosis of Post Trauma Induced Fibromyalgia. Which doesn't really matter, if it is labeled or not, because there is no cure for Fibro, and it doesn't change my life at all, except maybe for me to focus on the necessity of making SURE I get exercise, massage and soaking in, and that I'm a bit more focused on my food and water because I see the correlation to pain management.

So that's where we are right now. I'll keep you posted if this gets any clearer than mud!

Friday, June 12, 2009

hanging out in the back yard in the sun. Bonfire tonight!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pinning down the Self

I had an epiphany on the way to school! So I'm studying Chinese Medicine right now, and its fascinating. I did a thorough intake on myself and on Tom, working on character type diagnoses.

My character types are split, as are most people. I'm Wood and Fire. Tom is very strongly Water. Now, the actual experience of going through the questionnaires and discerning the predominant characteristic is not really that important, I could have been looking at an astrological chart, or taking a quiz in Glamour magazine, a Scientology Personality Quiz, or any such thing. So for the purposes of this Epiphany, please know that its not about the Chinese labels, but more that we can use them to walk through this thought process. Bear with me... it might make sense at the end.

I've been ruminating over the fact that I come out strongly as Wood, I'm balanced in that category between Physical and Physiological characteristics. In Fire, I'm 100% of the Psychological, and 8 of the Physical. My Chinese Medicine teacher tells me that this indicates to her that I am more strongly a Wood Type, who is going through a Firey Period in life.

I'm okay with this, although I feel much more strongly identified with Fire. When I asked Tom to read through the questions, I told him the same thing that my teacher had told me, don't answer the questions as who you want to be, or who you think you are, or how you would have answered them in the last six months. This is how you would answer them in the last two weeks. Because your Psychological Self can change quickly, it adapts faster than your Physiological Body.

In Chinese Medicine, there is an idea that the physical is a manifestation of the Psychological, Energy tends to lead your Corporeal self.

So I'm driving to school today, and I'm looking at the spring wave of clouds that hugs the Bridgers from the Livingston side, rolling over it like a bundle of cotton batting, looking at the sun on the new wheat, bright green and vibrant in spite of the recent snow, and I'm thinking through the Chinese Character Types.

Here is the thought process. I'm Balanced in Wood. I'm also a Fire type. To put it in numerical terms, I'm 29 in Wood (split 15 and 14) and I'm 28 in Fire, (split 20 and 8). I'm thinking to myself, I'm trying to excavate myself, to discover me, to find myself, to know myself, so I can more accurately see pieces that are manifestations of ego, and let them go, and continue to grow.

I was troubled by a possible "inaccuracy" in looking at the types because I'm going through a Firey time, or things are shifting from Wood to Fire. So how can I know who I am? How can I pin me down and know just who I am so I can look at it?

Here's the epiphany. I've been looking and looking to find the static true me. But life isn't static. I'm not static. None of us are. We carry with us the culmination of life's experience and that can and does inform the way we move through the world in the now. But we are also learning, adapting, and letting go. We can filter that old information and let it either inform and rule our behavior today, or we can filter that old information and see it as a layer, like a lens of glass through which we view the present. If we can see the lens, if we know we are viewing through it, we can choose to remove it, intensify it, scrutinize its impact on today's decisions.

That concept, too, was not new. But the confluence of the two ideas, the self as ever changing and muting, the awareness of lens, led me to see that digging for the nugget of who I am, trying to pin down the self so I can excavate and understand, is a fruitless endeavor, because that self I would pin is different in this moment than in the moment that just passed.

Again, I need to let go, let go of concept, let go of ego, let go of definition of self, so that I can rest comfortably in the self that exists in the now, knowing its okay that that person was different in the past, will be different in the future, letting life's experiences flow through me, like a porous rock.

The label of "I am Wood" tries to freeze the self, the moment, and, like any label, detracts from the true self by putting rigid, static rules on it. While its important, for processing information, to be able to momentarily recognize and categorize things, its equally important to think of those labels like putting a post-it note that says "blue car" on a car that's driving slowly by. Yes, its a car, a blue car, you recognize it, gleam from it what information you can, and let it drive on. The next car that comes by may be a red one. Be open to seeing that, lest you just sit on the curb wondering about every quality of the car that's driven by.

Essentially, I think its another lesson in what is Ego, and how do I let go of it? I had a friend once who was defined by her illness. She never left her house, except at 3:30 in the morning, she'd come out on her porch and smoke a clove. I met her through her husband, who was a composer. I did some voice over work for him, his studio was in his home, and I met his beautiful, luminescent, willowy wife. We became great friends, but she was only around at night.

"Why don't you want to meet me at the Cafe?" I asked one day.

"Oh! Because I'm an introvert." she said cheerfully. She had developed agoraphobia, and with her diagnosis, knowing who she was, having defined herself carefully, she stayed inside. Her past said she was introverted, depressed and agoraphobic, and so, clinging to that diagnosis as a "read out" of her Ego: who she was, she followed the rules of being that person.

What if it didn't matter who you were yesterday, or who you'd be tomorrow? What if, in the now, you were whoever you are in this moment, free, flowing, like water over rock, present, and accepting.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Welcome to the Team, Weems!


I'm honored to say that Weems has agreed to "officially" join my team. There is really no way to introduce those of you who don't know this man, I call him Guruji, as do many people, but you know, Guruji has a sick, twisted and very strange sense of humor. As he says, The Cosmic Giggle is my religion.

Here he is in his own words:


Weems Westfeldt is…

* An ancient ski pro from the Stone Age when skis were chiseled out of very long rocks
* A fanatic skier who loves to teach
* A traveler who has taught skiing in Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, New Hampshire, and New Zealand for 40 years
* An examiner for Professional Ski Instructors of America
* The former Director of Operations for Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass

Weems has been in the ski teaching world for more than 50 seasons. He has taught and managed in ski schools all over the nation and the world. In 1986, he settled in Aspen Snowmass as an instructor, manager, and trainer.

Furthermore, he has been a member of the Alpine Demonstration Team of the national instructor’s organization – PSIA, and has been a frequent contributor to popular ski publications.

Weems is clearly a ski bum and has never held a real, year-round job. Weems has been livin’ the dream!

Thanks for joining, Weems!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nothing like a hike to clear your head.

Jonathan Rice, a triathlete I work with on performance and goal setting and I hiked up Kirk hill the other day. This doesn't seem momentus, however, I've been staring longingly at that hill for about a month, and wondering if the snow was still up there on the fire road or not. I haven't got the impetus to go up there and check it out, not wanting to do a short loop, not willing to commit to the fire road without the promise of being able to loop around to Leverich Canyon and make it a good long hike.

Jonathan came over for some coaching, we ate a nice breakfast of waffles and fruit with the boys and their sleepover friend, and then we decided to take a chance, go for a nice hike in the snow, and we shuttled cars to Leverich Canyon and Kirk Hill. The path was relatively dry, the snow was falling for the whole two hours, and we walked, talked, and processed.

It was a great first trip up there, the wildflowers were heavy and bent under the snow, the eagles that are usually circling above the drainage were no where to be found. Once we got up to the top of the loop proper, we didn't see another human until we came back to the cars at Kirk Hill.

Both of us were feeling slightly bent, confused about life choices and slightly cranky and hurt. Its amazing what making a healthy decision, like going for a hike even though its snowing, can do to clear your mind.

The snowflakes were falling slowly, melting when they hit the path, accumulating up to about three inches on the trees on either side. The wind was still, the cloud was enveloping us, there was the stillness of the snow, the muffled silence, but the color of spring as the bright yellow and purple flowers submitted to the weight of the snow. In a word? Bliss.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Don't Eat the Marshmallow ROUND TWO!



These kids are really enjoying torturing themselves! We did the experiment again, and man oh man was it hard!

video


The kids each got 1/2 a rice krispy treat. They sat at the table with their backs to each other so they couldn't influence each other. They were each allowed one toy, and they could touch the treat, but they could not lick it or eat it in any way.



Of course, the experiment is skewed a bit because they've all seen the TED talk, and they asked me what success meant, but I'm excited to see that the idea of self discipline meaning success was enough of a reward that they all were on board. My guess is that if they'd been in different rooms, without peer support and pressure, (even though they weren't supposed to talk) three out of four would have eaten the treat or part of it.



Bodhi had the hardest time with it, squirming, tearing it apart, and falling out of his chair, then asking if he could have a different treat, asking if everyone could stop, if everyone could eat, I'm sure if he was in a room by himself, he would have eaten it. He was doing okay, actually, until about 12 minutes in (the timer was hidden from them), when Tom came in the room, cut a big fat slice of treat, and ate it in front of the kids with a big satisfied grin in his face.



Ethan started smelling the plate and almost ate it, Caroline was moaning, Bodhi started crying, Julia was rolling her head all over the table...

But they all survived, and had a double slice! Fascinating!

video

DONT eat the Marshmallow!

When I was in Aspen, Mike Pritchard shared this great Ted Talk with us:



And I just now showed it to Ethan and Bodhi, and their friends Caroline and Julia. Ethan is 7 1/2, Bodhi is 5 1/2, Julia is 7, and Caroline is 10. They watched the video and then decided as a group that they wanted to try the experiment themselves. We put three chocolate chips in a dish for each of them, and I showed them what six chocolate chips looked like.

They each picked a room in the house and went into that room, the rules were they couldn't talk to anyone or ask how much time had passed. If they didn't eat their chocolate chips, they could have three more, for a total of six when the timer went off.

Bodhi, who has his mom's issues with instant gratification (sorry, kid), sat RIGHT next to his bowl and sang songs to himself while looking longingly into the bowl. When he had to go potty half way through the experiment, he was relieved to have an excuse to get away from the chips. Unfortunately for him, I carried them into the bathroom and put them on the counter where he could see them.

Bodhi did not eat his chips, but reported that it was VERY hard, and that he thought about them the whole time and wanted to eat them.

Julia put hers up on a high shelf and played with transformers. She kept her back to the chips the whole time, and eventually moved across the room to get away from them. She reported that she knew they were there the whole time, but it wasn't that hard to stay away from them.



Ethan sat in his bedroom, put the bowl across the room, got a book off the shelf, sat on the step and read the book. He reported knowing the chips were there, but that it was easy to keep himself distracted.

Caroline was in the pantry, and she put the chips up on a table away from her, but she walked over to look at them a few times. She built elaborate structures out of the food on the shelves to keep herself distracted.

All the kids succeeded in not eating the chips. As soon as the extra chips were given out, the kids went to the table (because they were waiting for the rice crispy treats that had been cooling while we tried this experiment), and Bodhi downed his chocolate chips in about two seconds. The other three kids waited for their rice crispy treats and decorated them with the chocolate chips, and when Bodhi saw that, he wished he'd waited.

Caroline and Ethan both offered Bodhi a chocolate chip for decoration from their bowl.

Julia suggested that we try the experiment again, but with another rice crispy treat, and that we make the rules harder, where the treat has to be in front of you, and you can turn in your chair, but you can't play with anything or get up and walk away.

I told them we'd give it a try after they run off the sugar from this last experiment!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Round Two on Geissler Peak, Co

Me at the top of Geissler Peak, feeling MUCH better today! Testing out the Duo LS Crew shirt by Cloudveil, now my favorite baselayer for spring skiing! I also tested out the Stash Creek Hooded Jacket, much lighter weight than the Zorro, which was perfect for the weather, just enough to protect from the wind, not enough to make me sweat.

And so the NEXT day... Actually, I neglected to mention that that night, after I woke up from my super duper sleep of doooom, we headed out to the ice rink where Kurt was playing in his final hockey game of the season. For real.

Can you imagine? I sat in the stands and watched the puck, really freaking glad that I didn't have to play... although its awesome, the last two times I've visited Aspen, I've gotten in my skates, which is not something I ever thought Id do again.

Last time, we were out at the ARC, and I put on my figure skates and immediately wanted to start jumping, so I took them off after about 20 min, this time, I went to stick and puck practice and it took almost 40 minutes for me to feel comfortable in my skates. I went down hard a few times... Also, yes, I used to coach the hockey team for stroking practice, but MAN do I suck at puck handling!

Maybe this coming year I'll join a hockey league... because I need more things to do...

Alright, so I had a day off in Aspen which I spent walking all over town looking at housing situations, and visiting with Georgie (my new boss) at Aspen Mountain, and having a wonderful and delicious coffee with Cindy Lou that turned into a two hour therapy session (thanks, Cindy!).

That evening, we went over to hang with Mike and Laura (who camped almost in the rain the week previous), and Bob called, Lou had been back up on the pass the day before, and he was going again tomorrow, did we want to go skiing?

The unanimous decision was to drink less mojito than originally planned, and get to bed at a reasonable hour and go ski Geissler ONE MORE TIME!

The next morning I woke up psyched and refreshed, and we rolled outa Dodge, making a stop for 50 cent coffee. When we got to the pass, there were four or five cars there, and the crew was already heading up. We knew we'd never catch them, they had to be at least a half an hour ahead of us.

Mike Pritchard gets ready to ski

Once again we shouldered our skis and headed off into the wet marshy wilderness, today, only two days later, the dirt was showing through on the bottom 2/3 of the snowline, and little glacier lilies were poking through the mud. I was so tempted to eat some, because Angela had shown me the year before at Bridger how yummy they were, but I wasn't sure I had the right plant, so...

The snow was suncupped today, no more Buffo Deluxe. I felt SO much better, we got to the snow line, I clicked in and skinned away. I started at a moderate pace, and kept it all the way, I didn't have to stop except to change the risers on my skis, and made it up to the boot pack with no trouble at all.

I scrambled up the boot pack, going at an appropriate moderate pace for me, and while Kurt and Mike were ahead, it wasn't awful. I felt like I was representing my fitness well. At one point on the bootpack, just after the 5th class scrambling, I started breaking through up to my hip, even though I was trying to be mindful of every step, stepping carefully and quietly, just POP, right through.

The problem with that situation is that it slows you down terribly as you extricate yourself, there is a high likelihood that loading the boot that DIDN'T punch through in order to climb out will MAKE it punch through, and that leads to you being sunk up to the hips on BOTH legs, which has happened to me once before on Blackmoore with Joe Krakker, and let me tell you, that's an exciting and rather scary situation to be in!

So I was postholing every three steps or so, and it's fairly exhausting to haul yourself out of the hole, so I decided to just commando crawl on my splayed out legs and elbows up to the ridge so I wouldn't sink in anymore, and that worked out just fine. I felt happy, light, free and full of energy, no headache, no worries, just out scrambling around on the rocks and in the snow.

We got up to the top and saw the rest of the crew, all 12 of them, skinning up the peak to the North East of us (lest see if I figured that out right, I'm working on tuning my internal compass). We had a great run on snow that hadn't quite set up, it must not have totally frozen the night before... and the top six turns or so were powerful and edgy, and then the snow changed and something very very cool happened!!

I thought to myself, the second turn into the new mankier, breakable snow, ooh, how do I ski this? And then I felt what I was doing, what my body instinctively was doing, and I yelled out BOBBY BARNES!

I was flexing or retracting through the edge change and extending into the apex! My body remembered how and when to do it before my mind did! I was so excited to have this turn in my toolbox, I made as many little turns as I could all the way down, just observing my body doing this complex set of movements and being so grateful that it could!

Towards the bottom, Kurt started straight lining, trying to get as much distance across the flats as possible, as we were planning to ski one of the steep Couloirs across the valley.

Once again, I was nervous about going fast and straight on the flats, the thought of how much it would hurt if I were to catch an edge and fall on the flat is always present. I decided not to worry about it and matched my straight line to Kurts, trusting his speed judgment more than my own.

We made a quick change over, and I skinned out toward Perl and Lou, who were already heading up the Couloir.

Mike and Kurt caught me in no time, I still felt good, strong, happy, ready to go! Mike had his ski crampons on, and he headed straight up into the pitch, Kurt and I started switch-backing up the thing. It got very steep, and the snow was still very firm, not quite corn, and eventually, we took our skis off and started boot packing.

There was one section of about 20 feet that was probably the steepest thing I've bootpacked up yet, the rest of it was about as steep as The Great One off Sacajawea peak in the Bridger Range.

Mike Pritchard explores the ridge of Geissler

I decided to stop at the bottom of the Avi debris, my headache suddenly came back, and now that I had decided that my difficulty from the other day was most likely altitude realted, as much as I wanted to scramble up after Kurt, where it was getting steeper and steeper, I knew it just wasn't that important.

Mike and I sat on one of the rocks in the sunshine and talked about near death experiences, always something fun to do when you are on an exposed steep pitch sitting in a scree field... we heard Kurt and Perl calling back and forth to each other, Perl was in the next shot over.

After about 15 minutes or so, Kurt came skiing down, playful as always hopping around the avi debris. Mike and I were geared up and ready to go, I needed his help in some strategy for getting skis on in the middle of a pitch that steep, and he had me break a little bench with my ski boot, get my downhill foot way downhill so I could hold onto my ski and not have it run away.

It was our turn to ski, Mike took off and sailed out of sight, the snow looked amazing... then he called up, he was clear, it was my turn and I dove in, heading around onto the side wall of the couloir, it was like skiing one side of a half pipe, diving turn, climbing turn, diving turn, climbing turn, the snow was perfect perfect ego snow, so very playful.

Kurt came down with a huge grin on his face and told us that right where we had stopped was where the snow changed, it was breakable crust up above, not nearly as fun... We tried to stay high and milk that side of the range for every turn we could get... then we headed across the flats and back into the "snirt" as Lou calls it, the gully from the day before was brown and sticky, the run on the way down was slowmo and melted, the walk to the car a bit further.

But when we got down there, there was Lou and his wife, Lisa, Dave and his girlfriend, Bob and a bunch of other folks all barbequing out of the back of Lou and Lisa's truck. I got my ski boots off, peeled my blister protector off and ripped off a huge chunk of skin, and cracked open a Tecate to dull the pain.

It was bliss, it reminded me of skiing with the Lost Boys in the Beartooths, good friends, good times, good beer, good food...

It was over far too soon, and down into town we headed, because I needed to shower and change pronto... I had two massages to give that afternoon in order to earn enough gas money to get home! I had planned on driving home that night, but I was a bit tired, so I stayed on one more night and hit the road in the morning (after yet another adventure wherein the Bronco would not start...)

I pulled into my driveway at about 12:45 in the morning, put the toys I'd picked up for the kids in the hallway so they'd find them in the morning, kissed the boys, told Tom I was home, and got to sleep around 2.

The boys crawled into bed with me in the morning, snuggles galore, we were all late for school, but it was so very worth it!!

Next ski adventure... Jackson Hole for the weekend?? Cross your fingers!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Trip Report: Skiing Geissler Peak, CO

Bob and Lou skin off toward Geissler.

I took my skis down to Aspen just HOPING HOPING that we'd get some skiing in, but there was a huge dust storm at the end of the winter, and the dirt in the snow and the high temps has been making the snow melt fast, it hasn't been freezing and setting up, so the skiing has been icky. While I love icky skiing, because its skiing, its sometimes hard to get people to ski it with me.

On Thursday, we got the call from Bob Pearlmutter, "It froze last night, you guys wanna go skiing?" Are you KIDDING ME? You BET!

That night I hauled my ski stuff out of the car, I haven't made turns in a month, but getting everything together only took a few minutes, I realized as I checked my gear that I am finally FINALLY reaching some level of competency and familiarity with the gear. It used to take me hours to get ready, and quite a bit of anxiety over having everything ready, and having everything layered in the order that I'd probably need it in my pack... and then I proceeded not to sleep. At all.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, I fell asleep at 4:45 or so...

We got up at 6, powered down the oatmeal, I stumbled around, pulling on my ski pants and putting on my beacon, turning it on, hearing the satisfying beep beep battery check that means an adventure is about to begin. The apartment complex was silent, the sounds of Kurt making tea filtering through my fuzzy brain as I hunted for Gu to put in my ski pants just in case. Fill the CamelBak, gratefully accept the tea that appeared in front of my confused face, and wander out to the car when Pearl pulled up a moment later.

We drove up the pass out of town, the boys chatting in the front about different favorite skis they've done. I sat, listening and wondering about where we were going. I've never skied off the pass before, and Kurt had assured me that I needn't worry, where we were going was very mellow and laid back.

As we wound our way along the road, the sun began to melt the frost in the field below, and Kurt pointed out little patches of ice on the river. "That's a good sign!" he said, beginning to be excited. We got a bit higher up on the road, and Bob and Kurt simultaneously exclaimed with glee at the ice patch on the shady curve. "Icy Patch! Another good sign!" Their excitement was infectious, and it was nice to once again be learning more about back country skiing, the signs you look for along the way, like ski condition detectives...

We pulled up into the turn out and there was another car there, two guys were waiting for us. Apparently, my sleep-addled brain had neglected to hear that we'd be skiing with other folks today.

I got out of the car and was introduced to Lou Dawson. Now, this was a landmark event for two reasons, first of all, this is the first time ever that I've been introduced to someone that everyone else in the skiing world seems to know and I actually KNEW who he was (Yay, my education is catching up! sllloooowwwly...), and second, because, Lou is the author of Wild Snow, writes the blog WildSnow.com, and I knew him because he's in my favorite movie of all time, Steep! Coolio!

Of course, I had no idea until Weems told me a few days later that Lou was the first guy to ski all the 14ers in Colorado. Oh. Well, there's that. You know, there are 54 of them. So, he's fit. Lou's ski partner for the day was Dave, luckily for me, a patient rippin skier from down valley.

Can you find Kurt rock climbing with his skis on his back? Multi Sport!

We geared up and headed across the soggy marsh up into the white, the mountains had gotten a dusting in the last few days, so there were no signs of the red dirt that we had seen from the top of Aspen Mountain a few days before. We shouldered our skis and tromped through the manzanita, and almost immediately, I thought... uh, oh.

I've had terrible nights sleeps before big skis in the past, and usually, I don't really feel it until we are done and I'm just pooped. But this time, something just felt... off.

We popped into our skis, and having not been out in the back country at ALL this year, I forgot how mine worked for a minute... oh yeah, lock your breaks down, touring mode... right... at least I remembered to dress for hiking and leave my helmet off till I got up there... hiking in a helmet is hot work!

We skinned away, Lou and Bob in the lead, sprinting away like lost playground playmates, Dave and I in the middle, and Kurt in the rear. We started off at a good clip, and Kurt soon overtook us when he saw that Dave and I would be okay hanging together, and he sprinted up to join Lou and Bob about 300 yards ahead of us. As soon as the pitch changed, it hit me.

I'm not sure what IT was, but the fatigue in my body was instant, intense and surprising. I had to stop every 30 yards or so, which was baffling, and I kept thinking, go at your pace, at a pace you don't have to stop, keep going no matter what, just go slowly... all the things I'd been training for the last 2 summers... but it was no use, I had to stop. Dave was amazing and patient, lovely and understanding, and he hung with me for quite a while, but I was moving at such a snail's pace that finally he joined the boys at the top of the skin track and made the switch over to bootpacking while I struggled up the last of the track.

Here is where I get to say THANK GOD FOR DAVE! While I felt terrible about making him go so so slow, and I wanted with every stop to say, "No, really, I'm in much better shape than this! I promise!" He just smiled and hung out and chatted with me. "I'm not in a hurry, I don't like to sprint. When you stop, I have a good excuse to rest. Don't worry." Thanks, Dave. You are awesome!

I reiterated to them to take off and that I'd follow the bootpack, I didn't want anyone to get fewer laps than they wanted to or to miss the corn, which is in such a small 30 minute window... but Lou was great, he said not to worry about it, he wanted us all together on the boot pack because there are several sections of scrambling where you can get suckered into going the wrong way.

I felt great on the bootpack, much better than skinning, and I though about all the long workouts on the Skiers Edge machine, I was grateful that my legs weren't tired or sore at all. This is the first time that I've done any scrambling on rocks in my ski boots, that was on the thrilling side, but my hands are strong from massage, and I feel comfortable moving on rock because of all the years in the climbing gym, so I picked my way up to the top and crunched happily over peak after peak until we got to the top of Geissler Peak.

The snow was just corning up, and I switched over to ski mode, happy that my pack turned over efficiently, all my gear layered in the order I'd need it. Kurt handed me a peanut butter sandwich and I sat there quietly marveling at the fact that this was my life.

Kurt joins Bob, Lou and Dave on the summit of Geissler Peak.

The sky was blue blue blue, puffy clouds just beginning to form, and a field of wild peaks stretched out in front of me. I was standing at 13,294 feet eating a sandwich in the sun with my friends. I felt strong, healthy, happy. Sweaty. Alive. Alone, but with friends. The boys were chatting about this and that, the hum of the summit, and I bustled quietly about checking my gear. This is the first trip where I have felt quietly competent, I've so far always had this nagging fear that I was forgetting something, or about to make some terrible goobery gaper mistake, or even worse, some knuckle head decision that was actually dangerous.

Don't get me wrong, I have lightyears worth of stuff to learn about skiing in general and skiing in the back country in particular, but I finally have some of the basics together, there is some ritual and routine that is finally finally built in.

We clicked in, I was testing out some new Cloudveil gear on this trip, and the first piece was the Zorro lightweight / breathable shell, I brought this piece along because while it was getting hot out, it had also been raining cats and dogs for the last few days, and I did not feel like getting pelted by sleet. The fit of this piece was terrific, wearing a pack over it didn't make it bind in the pits and pull up at the wrists as is so often the case, and the nice long pit zips let in enough air that I didn't feel like I was trapped in a plastic rain coat!

Now, a brief note on first turns for Kate after long hikes: those of you who have been following along with the Backcountry posts (and if you haven't you can search by label under Backcountry), you will be familiar with the ridiculous predicament that I so often face: hiking arduous terrain with very fit, excellent skiers, only for the first six turns to absolutely suck, sometimes leading to an embarrassing boot-out. (not something one wants to do on a questionable snowpack to begin with...)

Some of that has to do with the physical transition from walking to skiing, some from the physical stamina issue of having rubber legs from postholing up the bootpack and then trying to have a light touch in variable snow, some from just not knowing how to ski steep terrain very well, some from days or weeks since my last run so my legs forget what turning feels like...

Dave, Kurt, Lou and Bob have lunch at 13,294 feet...

Lets take just one more moment to say YAY for the Skier's Edge Machine!! So I made a rule for myself that I can't walk by it without getting on it for 60 turns. That takes about 36 seconds. So I'm on it about 12-18 times a day, I figure, and I usually go for about 2 and a half minutes, now. I am fairly certain that the major change in my back country skiing is highly attributable to this awesome dryland training tool, because NOT ONLY were my legs not absolutely dying after the bootpack (which, gentle reader, you will remember included some rock climbing), but I felt strong and ready for the ski. AND THEN, right off the bat, turn number one, strong and clean!

The snow was "Buffo Deluxe" as Kurt likes to call it, and we all hooted and hollered as we ripped up the perfect corn. Incredible. It was like a wild mountain groomer at 13,000 feet. It was wild to be back in AT boots and skis, they are so light and flexible that I felt WAY too far forward at some points, but I was just thrilled to look to my right and see Kurt playing against the blue sky, the corn snow spraying from his turns as he slid effortlessly down the hill, and Pearl below me, pulling up out of a huge GS turn with a giant shit eating grin on his face, Lou on my left, shooting photos, "KEEP GOING, KATE!", and Dave following down, and Lou hopping in right after him...

I was amazed at the power in the group, all four of these guys ski really well, they are strong and graceful, moving through the backcountry with ease and joy. It was thrilling to be with them, and I was happy to have skied just fine right off the top. I couldn't remember what I'd been working on at Academy, and I didn't care, I had thoughts like "Wow, I'm with my gear!" and "Whee, I can't believe I can make a turn like this out of bounds!"

The only hint that there was some extra fatigue happening was when I pulled out my camera to shoot Lou as he skied down, and my hands were shaking so hard that putting them on my ski poles did nothing to stabilize them.

If you could take a six year old to the top of a mountain like this, this is what he would look like just before you handed him his shiny skis. The indomitable Mr. Pearl, ready to ride.

There was a brief conference about where to ski next, and Lou decided that since I'd never been to the top of Geissler 2, where we can have a true summit, we'd ski that rather than one of the couloirs across the way. We started off across the flats, and the minute that the gliding stopped and the skinning started, I knew I was in trouble.

Suddenly, I moved about ten steps and had to stop. I didn't feel out of breath, my heart and lungs didn't hurt, but my legs felt like they were full of lactic acid and fatigued, I had a headache, and I was not tired or exhausted, but simply out of energy. I was a bit taken aback by this, nothing like this has ever happened to me except in Nepal after passing 12,000 feet. It occurred to me that this was probably altitude related, and as long as it was just weariness from altitude and not more, I decided to push on without worrying too much about it. Kurt, Bob and Lou were far ahead, Bob and Lou already cutting a skin track up the steep section. Kurt had stopped at the break to wait for me, and Dave and I were slowly slogging across the low angle stuff.

It got harder with every step, my body was absolutely failing me, and I was getting frustrated. I was grateful that it didn't hurt, I've felt that incredible searing pain in my lungs and felt that big boom beat of the heart that feels like its going to explode, and that wasn't happening, but I would just suddenly be out of breath and out of energy. When we reached Kurt, Dave continued on up, and Kurt slid in behind me. I knew that I must be frustrating the hell out of them, because I was moving so slow they'd get two laps in instead of three or four, but I couldn't do anything about it. I couldn't focus on that, or I'd feel just terrible and move even slower, I had to focus everything I had on taking just one more step, please. Try not to stop. Kurt had me practice some kick turns before I got on the high steeps, and I had to re-learn to lift my downhill leg and bring it in close to the standing boot before kicking the free ski so the tip rises. It was nice to have something else to focus on, and my mind relaxed a little.

My headache was getting intense, and I was now dizzy and increasingly nauseous, but we were only about 150 ft from the top. I could see Pearl wandering over, and I looked up at him and smiled. "Its getting hot up here, Kate!" he called out. I couldn't help it, I had to stop again. A wave of dizzy washed over me followed by the powerful urge to hork up my lunch. Not gonna happen, I hate hate hate throwing up. Kurt had moved past me, and when I caught up with him as he took off his skis, I told him I was trying to decide whether to give into the nausea and just puke and get it over with or keep it all in. He grinned at me, shouldered his skis, and walked out over the rocks. I took my skis off and had to stay down for a few minutes as the nausea made me break out in a gnarly sweat (not to be confused with the sweat from the sun high up in the sky cooking our perfect corn while I farted around with my gear). I stood up slowly, decided that passing out on top of a mountain with the group on the other side of the rocks would be a bad idea, leaned over, picked up my skis, shouldered them, took two steps, and puked into the rock pile. Bleh.

Lou at home in his playground.

But much better. I rinsed quick with water and started over the rocks, grateful that they'd left me behind to deal with that on my own. I instantly felt much better, I rubbed some clean snow on my forehead as I walked on, feeling glad that I was going to do this all the way on my own, carying my own gear, hauling my own pack, dealing with my own issues. I want to be able to be self sufficient like this, because I want to be able to climb bigger mountains than this, I want to be able to be part of a ski expedition one day, I want to be a reliable strong member of the party. A gentle breeze hit my sweaty skin, and I smiled to myself, proud of working through feeling like crap, and walked on. Kurt appeared over the knoll without his skis, and walked up and took mine. My face fell, but I tried to stay positive.

"Well, that's just humiliating." I said, trying to keep it light. I wanted to let him know that I knew why he did it, I was grateful he did it, but I wished it wasn't necessary.

He looked at me. "Its about time, Kate. Its a matter of time." and he marched off with my skis. And that's the point, isn't it? The snow was turning, we weren't in wet slide danger yet, but we were in the mountains, and time is important. Never mind that the corn was slushing, it was just time to move, and I understand this.

I walked somewhat sheepishly back up to the group, mumbled my thanks, and Lou graciously told me that they had just been remarking that they would just be leaving now to ski anyway, so I hadn't really slowed them down (yeah, right), Kurt handed me half a sandwich, which I began to wolf down, and then realized that would probably start another round of yacking. I had a quick and efficient gear changeover that I did myself, and was ready to ski quickly.

My legs felt strong, and the nausea was gone, I followed Lou down the first grade and made about a dozen turns on some more beautiful corn.

I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that its always worth it. Always. No matter how hard the hike is, the summit is always spectacular, and the skiing, the feeling of falling, flying toward the valley below, the effortless speed in this wild place, that filled up any doubt and hardship that had been there.

Its always worth it.

I pulled up alongside Lou, who wanted me to push off around the horn to a neat terrain feature, a wind lip we could play on. The act of attempting to glide my now waxless skis across the hill took every last ounce of energy I had. I didn't want to loose elevation because I wasn't sure where the feature was and Pearl was above me, so I was trying to sidestep my way and glide at the same time, but I just had nothing. It was like someone had sucked all the energy out of my body. I wasn't nauseous anymore, but the headache was back, and the thought "Go down now" was repeating itself in my head. Lou skied past me below, and I realized I could go down further, so I let go, let it glide, and saw the lip.

I wanted to play on it, to ski it like a curtain, hopping from one side to the other, but I had nothing, no mental faculty to make judgments, so I decided to just make playful turns in the clean corn next to it, and enjoy taking it easy. I got to the bottom and turned around to see Bob and Kurt hopping on the lip, getting little playful airs and calling back and forth to each other.

They came down, talking and laughing, and we took off into the flats, it was all down hill from here, and man was I happy about that!! We skied into a gully, still corn, and I skied up a little ramp, thinking about my friends Justin and Oliver from Academy, thinking about Alex at Bridger, and I did a little uphill 270 in honor of those awesome ski partners, all of whom I miss.

The rest of the ski was like a high speed low angle bump run on buffo corn snow. Through some bushes, over a creek, playing while sliding, making quick decisions and having a blast. Suddenly, we were at the dirt, time to shoulder the skis, I put them on my arm and took a step. Wham. Fatigue.

Pearl loving the corn.

I stumbled through the brush, thinking about the summits, about the beautiful experience of standing up there, of seeing the endless peaks of the rocky mountains, of feeling my body so acutely alive and capable, of having such distinguished company to play with, all of whom were gracious and friendly, just another day of skiing...

Never mind that three years ago I was at least sixty pounds heavier and winded walking up Kirk Hill (1.5 miles in my back yard), and barely could ski... Never mind that three years ago I thought my life as an athlete was over, never mind that I thought I was dead, that I'd given up my me-ness without realizing I'd signed up for that.

Here I was, squelching through the mud in my ski boots, a brand new blister burning on my heel, soaked in good sweat, two runs on a big mountain under my belt. Still in my mind, the thought tromps on "HAPE, HACE, Go down now, go down now..." And I take off my skis and rinse them in the creek, rinse off my boots, take off my gear, my discipline is slipping away, all I want to do is lay down in the cool dirt next to the car and sleep.

Kurt takes some cold chocolate milk out of his bag and passes it around, the cold milk is refreshing, the sugar is immediately welcome. My headache bangs with a vengeance behind my eye, the nausea returns in waves, and I need to get in the car and keep it together till we are down the pass. I have to go sign papers at the Aspen Club in an hour, I need to shower first and not look like I'm going to puke.

I crawl in the back seat with Kurts chocolate milk next to me and the thought goes in cadence with the pounding in my eye and head, go down now, go down now. We pull out and Pearl navigates the pass with the ease of someone who travels this road several times a day sometimes, we pass the turn out for climbing and I have the insane thought that its nice enough out that I wish we could go make some laps on the wall...

We get out of the canyon and the insane desire to get down eases suddenly, we drive through town and now its time to unload the car, sort the gear, clean and dry everything, I can't think anymore, I can't think about what to do, I don't know where my skins are or what gear is mine, I start mindlessly ferrying gear to the stoop, now the thought has changed to "lay down now, lay down now..." the nausea is back and bed is so close all I want to do is climb in in all my sweaty gross clothes and close my eyes for ten minutes so the world will stop spinning in such a sickening way.


Kurt and Pearl play on the windlip all the way down.

I drag my gear to my truck and load it into the back, Kurt is taking my liners out of my boots, he finds my skins and hangs them to try, puts my gloves up for me and god knows what else, I finally stumble down the stairs, and decide to head into the shower. The water on my blister, which is about an inch and a half across, sends me into unexpected shocking pain and I have to shower off with my foot up on the wall as high as I can get it so no water runs in.

Come on, Kate. Its a blister. Suck it up and get it clean, I think. And then I think, screw it, I need to get clean and lay down. So I take the pride hit for being a baby, keep my foot out of the water, get rinsed off and stumble into bed where I fall into a deep sleep for about a half an hour. Time to get up and go sign papers at the club. I still have a fierce headache, but the half hour of rest has made me feel much better. I wake up feeling confused and out of it, but I get my butt to the club, get the papers, and get out of there.

I fall back into bed and sleep again as soon as I get back and wake feeling like the whole thing was a strange and delirious dream.

That I managed to get in on what might be the ONE good day of skiing this season has left me feeling psyched and greedy for more. Lucky me, Bob calls the next day. Lou was up there again, the snow is still good, wanna go skiing tomorrow?

You bet!

Wherein all my dreams come true... except housing!

Wow, what a week its been! I was walking around Aspen this afternoon in a bubble of bliss, just completely humbled and grateful and rawther blown away by everything coming to fruition. What a year of hard work! By SO many people! And it all led up to this.

Okay. On Friday, I drove to Salt Lake City, and my friend Kurt caught a ride with Mike and Laura and met me out there. We explored the Spiral Jetty, a beautiful earthwork by Robert Smithson (1970). It's one of my favorite pieces of art, and I was excited to share it with Kurt. It was funny to see his reaction, folks who don't spend a lot of time in the art world are sometimes baffled by works like this, and we had an interesting discussion about this piece, and art in general, in seeing beauty in things you wouldn't think are beautiful... it was an interesting afternoon, and I have lots of pics of the jetty and the surrounding ruins, which I think are amazing. There were a few dead pelicans, and the salt had begun to encrust them, speaking of unusually beautiful things...

After the Jetty, we walked out on the ruins, the water has receded really far, so the Jetty is completely exposed and black again, last time I was there, it was white and surrounded by ruby red water. Its been fun to see it in several permutations, and interesting to think about the preservation conversations, as the body of the Jetty is eroding away into the lake bed. I hope they don't try to add stuff to it and preserve it, Smithson was particularly interested in entropy, and I think it would destroy the piece to try to preserve it. Let the lake claim it again, eventually, there will be just little points of the basalt sticking up in a spiral, and then nothing, it will still be there, but under the sand.

After the Spiral jetty, we drove back towards the tiny town of Corrinne, Utah, where we went and visited the ATK test launch site! Just follow the signs for "Rocket Display", and you can see the incredibly scary propulsion vehicles that this massive defense conglomerate makes! They also make the boosters for the Shuttle for NASA.

For more information on just how scary ATK is, visit their website here! And, if you'd like to go feel the ground tremble, visit Corrinne, Utah on August 25, when they will be test firing the new Shuttle Booster!

We decided to drive out to Ogden and see what Outside Magazines Top 10 Town was like, and then made our way up to Snowbowl, a truly beautiful mountain tucked in the Wasatch. Driving up the canyon, we passed all kinds of little houses, they reminded me of Sierra Madre, CA, tiny little artsy hippie houses all along the river. The drive flattened out at this huge reservoir, where the houses became decidedly more McMansion, suburban sprawl all over the lush valley, and then we wended our way up to Snowbasin, which was recently redone for the Salt Lake winter Olympics.

The lodges were beautiful! The high speed quads were incredible! The main lift was about 10 feet off the deck of the children's ski school building. We checked out the maps, and Snowbasin has some amazing lift served mountain biking, which we are going to have to go and explore. In order to get that done, looks like I'm gonna have to learn how to RIDE MY BIKE for heaven's sake!! Rachel Bauer, can I trade you massage for "how not to be a total pussy on your mountain bike" lessons?

The next day, we wandered around Historic Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake in the rain, it was a beautiful day, and great to get out and have some exercise. I'd never seen the fountains and buildings, and I have to say, I am fascinated by the Mormon culture, the incredible industry of this group of people is truly astonishing.

That afternoon, we drove off through Park City (and neglected to stop and visit with the worlds most wonderful bootfitter, Mr. Brent Amsbury, who may never forgive me... and, ironically enough, my feet decided to punish me severely for that neglect the VERY next time I put ski boots on... see, that's what I get...)

We drove through Dinosaur National Monument, where Mike and Laura had camped the night before (here is one of the amazing photos of that area that Mike took), and we stopped in Vernal to check out a legendary bike shop.

Heading on towards Aspen, we cracked open a first edition first printing of Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle, and kept ourselves amused by Sir Edgar Rice Burrough's adventure stories imagined in 1928. We headed into an enormous thunder cell, and, a bit worried about Mike and Laura (who were snuggled on high ground in a good tent somewhere out there), and hydroplaned our way into town.

The next day, I went for a hike up Aspen Mountain with Kurt, and it struck me again just how much MORE this place is than I always think it is. Its steeper, further, longer, and higher than I remember every time I come. The hike up Aspen Mountain is a couple of miles, should be relatively easy, but once again, the altitude kicks my butt, and the in-shapetitude of my hiking partner sets my own recreational fitness level off in spectacular style!

The hike was beautiful, we managed to do it in between rain bouts, found a pile of hula hoops at the top, and while gazing out at the majesty of the maroon bells, hula'd our way to happiness. Little known talent of Mr. Fehrenbach: he has a mean way with the hula! Why isn't THAT on his resume?? I thought about my friend Leah, this beautiful, blissful girl I go to Health Works with, and re dedicated myself to trading her rock climbing lessons for hula lessons. She is "that girl": you know the one, the one that can dance at a festival with about three hula hoops going all at once? Yup.

That morning, I had had my first interview for a massage job at The Aspen Club and Spa, I was very nervous for some reason, but excited. I wasn't sure where I was going to work when I move at the end of August, and the pressure of getting a job, and getting the right job, and getting a job that pays enough... getting a job in town was important to me, because I don't want to have to ride the bus or drive a car.

This year is an opportunity to live my life on foot and reduce my carbon impact on the planet, and I really wanted to do everything I could to get in town and stay there. I have been fortunate enough to get hired on Aspen Mountain for the winter (WOOO HOOO!), and now... drum roll, please, I've managed to get hired at The Aspen Club AND at the St. Regis Remede spa as a massage therapist.

I am now officially gainfully employed with THREE awesome dream jobs in town in Aspen all walking distance from each other.

Full Stop.

After my interviews, I was lucky enough to hook up with Weems for breakfast (Which he unexpectedly had to buy because I was unexpectedly more broke than I thought... this must change. Too bad it costs money to take a class on managing money.)

Weems and I had a blissful morning in the sunshine talking family and skiing and life, and then we took his loverly dog Merlin for a walk about town. Talking through the decision to move to Aspen ahead of the kids with Weems was amazing, he has such gentle insight, and it felt good to hear that he thinks its a strong decision (showing leverage in the reality corner!). I felt calmer with the decision after that, and even better after getting back and talking through it more with Tom and the boys. Looks like we are all on the same page, and all looking forward to this as a positive change that we are taking at the right pace.

All that's left is to find an apartment I can afford that's as close to the Gondola as possible, finish school, take the national exam, and make the move!