Monthly Archives: November 2013

Getting What I Want

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Me getting my first turns of the season.

My friend Jesse and I have recently been talking a lot about visualizing living the the life we imagine — and achieving it. Seems like a huge topic, and indeed it is, but when I really think about it, it’s not such a daunting thought. The only things that makes it seem huge and overwhelming are the self imposed roadblocks we sometimes put up for ourselves. Allowing myself to be truthful (and realistic) about what I want out of life has been an amazing and enlightening exercise. Like the title of my blog claims, I’m “Livin’ the Dream” (at least my own dream)!

As this conversation with Jesse has unfolded, I’ve thought about some silly and benign things from the recent past that now seem relatively relevant, at least as they relate to visualizing what we want from life.

Back in the summer a group of us went to Fruita to spend a weekend mountain biking — always fun and always challenging. Three of us were riding a particularly sandy and technical trail when one of our little posse rounded a corner and took a digger after her tyre dug into some loose sand. As we were sorting out the bike and scrapes, Adam very lovingly said to our riding partner who had crashed (we’ll call her Karen for this story), “I totally saw you look at the exact spot where you were going to crash“. It was certainly only a friendly little jab said in jest, but what he said was 100% spot on. Instead of visualizing the whole technical section of trail were were riding, Karen in all likelihood lost focus of the big picture, saw the obstacle and put to much focus on that. I’m certainly not picking on Karen because I ‘m totally guilty of it too, as we all are at times.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out riding here near my house and without really thinking about it in the context of me and Jesse’s conversation about “life visualization“, I decided I would try and ride my bike along 100-150 meters of trail with my eyes closed, just to see if I could do it. The first 10-20 meters went pretty well but my mind was consumed with what could go wrong…what WAS going to go wrong! Sure enough, I lost my focus of the overall goal and ran off the trail and crashed. When I dusted myself off, I looked back and was disappointed that that I’d probably only made it about a quarter of what I originally wanted. For some reason, the whole thing really bugged me, a lot. Right then I remembered what Adam had said, and I also put it into the context of me and Jesse’s ongoing conversation. I had done exactly the very thing we’d talked about having to avoid in all aspect of life…losing our focus.

Before I had even started physically pedaling on my first go, I had closed my eyes and rode the entire section in my mind. I saw every bump and bend and I saw myself being successful. The very second I pushed off and clipped into my pedals, I thought of every imaginable thing that could go wrong and I immediately lost my way. What if I run off the trail? Where am I? Of sh#$%, this is really stupid! Turn right, TURN LEFT…..aaaaaaand then I crashed.

I love this stuff.

Undeterred, I hopped on my bike and rode back to where I started, looked at the trail again and decided that what I needed to do was only focus on the positives, the path, the place I wanted to be and not break away from that. That didn’t mean that the obstacles weren’t there and I should consider them, I just needed to contain them, manage them and deal with them…and not let them stand in my way of achieving what I wanted to achieve. Once again, I looked down the trail, then shut my eyes and visualized a clean ride. I opened once more and confirmed the physical trail, shut my eyes again, visualized it again, and pushed off.

This time I forced myself to feel how fast I was going and visualize where I was on the trail — not where I going to crash. I could remember the subtleties of the trail and the one slight bend. Most of all,  I visualized 100% that I was going to do this. When I stopped and opened my eyes, I was about 5 meters short of where I thought I was, but I hadn’t run off the trail and I hadn’t crashed!  Most importantly of all, I hadn’t let negativity get in the way of what I wanted.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and this past weekend Adam and I went up to Keystone for our first day of pre-dawn skinning and skiing of the season. The first day of climbing on skis is always an experience. The ski legs usually have acquired a thick layer of dust on them from non-use over the summer season. And regardless of how much we mountain bike, hike or climb during the summer, it’s just a different muscle group being called into action and something we learn to embrace with love each and every year. Much to my surprise, this year wasn’t horribly painful but still, you’re climbing steeply for close to 1,000 vertical meters in just a couple of miles (with skis on—at altitude) so it’ll still get your attention. Anyhow, we quickly climbed up to the summit in about an hour and fifteen minutes and though I was a little worked, we had a world class resort all to ourselves and life was good.

As I was stripping the skins off my skis, I knew the five alarm quadricep fire was going to commence once I dropped those first few tele turns. Again, I don’t care how much you train, those first couple of days of the season on teles are downright painful. Nevertheless, I was excited to get going. Adam dropped in and  true to form, was at mach speed ripping long, beautiful arcing turns down the wide open trails. He would never admit it, but that dude can totally rip it on skis. Holy crap! I followed (well behind) and true to my expectations, my quads were ablaze after the first six or eight long, deep telemark turns. It wouldn’t have mattered if we’d ridden the lift to the summit instead of climbing, those first few turns are always like heaven and hell…oftentimes more to the hell side. Still, we had the place to ourselves so I took nice, long turns without ever a fear of being plowed over by another skier. Just sit back, drop the hammer and enjoy the ride.

About half way down, I admit I was forced to stop and let the lactic acid drain from my quads. While I was standing there (massaging my quads, truth be told), I looked below me and saw a long, beautifully rolling, fairly gentle trail falling away below me. I know Adam will cringe (and laugh a little) when I say this, but for me, making telemark turns is something you feel and experience, not just something you do. When you link turn after turn together, it’s like dancing and flying all at the same time. It was right then when I decided I would make six turns with my eyes completely shut. Just like I did on my bike, I’d visualize the path in front of me and 100% commit to it. I visualized the rhythmic turns I would make and the concise arcs I would carve in the untracked snow. Most of all, I visualized success.

Without much ado, I shut my eyes and made those six turns without once opening my eyes. I stopped exactly where I had envisioned. When I looked back up the hill, I could see that my turns were uniform and exactly along the path I had imagined. I never once thought about failure, only about doing what I love and making it exactly what I wanted it to be.

I’m usually pretty good about visualizing exactly what I want from life and letting that be my guide. That’s certainly not to say that I fly through life with my eyes closed! It would be naive to think that obstacles won’t come my way from time to time in everything I do. But what I’ve become so incredibly aware of is that just like Adam mentioned to Karen, like what I proved out on my bike a couple of weeks ago, and like I demonstrated to myself on skis that past weekend, I have to keep my focus dialed in on what I want out of life for it to go off the way I want it to. Take on the obstacles and bumps which will inevitably come, but never, ever lose focus of what I want.

The only thing I truly want from this life if to be happy and share that happiness with those who I care about. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.

Last Minute Road Trip: Land of Enchiladas

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We were a little bummed last week when we found out our friends had a family emergency and we would have to cancel our trip down to Santa Fe for the weekend. Since we’d already scheduled time off from work for that Friday, we started thinking about alternative things to do or places to go.

With a clean slate, pretty much everything was in play. I scoured the internet travel sites looking for cheap airfare to places like Portland, Phoenix, Spokane, Boise and a couple of others but nothing popped out as a screamer deal. We considered staying put and getting some early season skiing here in Colorado since the some of the resorts have opened their “white ribbon of death” (one trail open with hundreds of people jamming it) but that held about as much appeal as it does every season. Moab sounded pretty good too until we found out that some kind of testosterone laden motorhead event was going on so that was quickly crossed off the list. We also thought about Jackson Hole but it was pretty cold and windy up there and we could easily get that down here.

After a couple of days of thinking about it, we finally decided we’d just do a mini road trip to Taos. We hadn’t done a trip down there in a while, it was close at only about 4.5 hours away, we could ride mountain bikes on warm, uncrowded trails, it was a ‘tweener season so the town wouldn’t be jammed with people working themselves into a turquoise buying frenzy and we could get our fill of New Mexican fare, which we were really looking forward to in our original plan. We thought we definitely had a winner!

We thought about camping but came to the conclusion we wanted “not cold”. We called around looking for cheap places to stay and discovered that because it was in fact the ‘tweener season, some of the places we’ve stayed in the past were closed. Then the idea of staying at the Taos Inn hit us. We’ve had an embarrassing number of margaritas in the Adobe Bar and heard countless bands there over the years, but only now realized we’d never actually stayed in a room there. Fortunately there were plenty of discounted rooms available so we booked a couple of nights, loaded the bikes and readied our GI systems for a weekend in the Land of Enchiladas.

The majority of the drive down to New Mexico from the Boulder Valley is pretty dull. First you have to fight your way through Denver, then there is the Indianapolis 500-esque, free-for-all stretch of highway between Denver and the Springs followed by the 100-year highway construction projects in the Springs proper. From the Springs on down to Walsenberg, where we turn west to take the back roads into Taos, it is pancake flat, barren and always windy…always, always windy. We had all day to get there so we decided from the start to kick back, dial up the iPod, drive in the slow lane and let the relaxing commence from the time we backed out of our driveway.

Let me clarify that the relaxing part actually started once we left REI where I had to buy a new lockset for our bike rack. I guess the last time I took my bike rack off, I laid the hitch mount’s lockset on my bumper and forgot about it. I’m sure it fell off somewhere along my route to work one morning and now it’s lost forever. I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but I can’t.

Once we got off of I-25 in Walsenburg and headed due west, we were immediately reminded why we love escaping to the desert from time to time. The sun was starting its final descent for the day and the colours of the desert, normally muted in the harsh midday sun, started to explode and the optical kaleidoscope commenced. It’s always a toss-up whether the sunsets or the food is the biggest allure of road tripping to New Mexico. Instead of debating that question for very long, we feasted solely on the sunset for the next hour knowing that the food and beverage part was not too far away.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the first thing we ate that evening was an appetizer of rattlesnake and rabbit sausage with a chipotle sultana sauce! Dee-freakin-licious. This of course was washed down with what Doc Martin’s Restaurant calls their “Perfect Margarita”…and it was. We won’t mention how many we had, but I will say they were all indeed “perfect”. Great food, great live music, great company…great day all around.

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I’m always stunned by the lack of people on hiking or mountain biking trails in New Mexico. I’ve ridden down there many, many times and seldom have I ever seen more than two or three people during a full day’s ride. It’s not like the riding is terrible either…it’s actually AMAZING. Maybe people are too interested in buying cheap turquoise trinkets to hop on a bike and explore the landscape? People certainly aren’t shy about packing the ski areas, but hiking and biking trails go pretty much unnoticed. I’m definitely not complaining here.

As we figured, there were only two other cars at the trailhead when we showed up at 10:30 a.m. This was late for us but we’d been busy stuffing our yaps with delicious huevos rancheros at the Bent Street Café while we waited for the temps to warm up. Keeping with our “just relax” theme for the weekend, we took our time getting our things ready knowing there was no need to beat the rush or worry about fighting through the throngs of other bikers on the trails. Also, before we left Colorado, I had realized that this ride would be my 100th ride of the season and I couldn’t think of a better way or place to commemorate it.

I love desert riding in and around Taos. Typically there are no long, protracted, painful, high altitude climbs like here in the Central Rockies. It’s still usually fairly warm during the day and even as people are skiing just a few miles away, I can generally still ride in shorts and a light jacket. And unlike riding in the desert around Moab and Fruita (which I love), riding around Taos and Santa Fe isn’t generally overly rocky, which can turn a half day on the trails into an exhaustion-fest. I’m not saying there aren’t some techy areas where you need to be on your game, but a lot of the trails out west of town are pretty straightforward, low stress riding.

We wound up only riding about 12 or so miles in and around the Taos Overlook Trail System. The Rift Trail, rated easy to moderate, pretty much encircles the entire area, with various other trails intertwined within it. I’d never ridden there specifically so was pretty excited to check it out. While riding we saw a grand total of one mountain biker (cool local guy named Roland), two hikers, one cute dog (named Moxxy), one bighorn sheep, one tarantula, a Redtail hawk, some mutant-sized crows, an ocean of sage, an epic view of the snowcapped Sangre de Cristos to the east, mind-blowing views into the Rio Grande Gorge and a bluebird blue sky that was immense beyond comprehension. It’s just crazy how places like this aren’t jam packed with mountain bikers and hikers, especially on such a typically beautiful New Mexico day. Again, no complaints whatsoever.

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For us, there is no outdoor activity in Taos complete without a stop at Orlando’s New Mexican Café afterward. We’ve been to Taos more times than we can count and eaten at tons of places, but Orlando’s is by far our favourite — bar none, hands down. Orlando’s has a genuinely friendly staff, consistently amazing home style, authentic, non-froofy food and a relaxed atmosphere perfect for reliving a day on the bike or skis. You may have to wait a few minutes for a table since it’s a small place with limited seating, but you can always grab a beer and sit out by the fire pit while you relax and make a new friend or two.

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We love New Mexico but it’s always good to get back home to Colorado. Although we didn’t get to see our friends, this little unexpected mini road trip turned out to be exactly what we needed to shake clean the Etcho-Sketch of daily life. Slow pace, no plans, no timetables, no stress, fun mountain biking, plenty of green chiles, tasty margaritas and a little touch of the funkiness of Taos.  Adios por ahora Nueva Mexico, pero nos vemos pronto.

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Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.