Sunday, February 6

Breath, feel, live…

There is something fundamental about the psychological effects of rhythmic breathing brought on by sustained aerobic activity.  It sooths. It cleanses.  The process has the added virtue of removing the constant self-talk and chatter that goes on day in, day out within our minds.  Once free of the ‘noise’ our mind is left to wander about.  Thoughts come and go, ebb and flow and thus leave our conscious self unfettered by things other than ‘here and now’.   I don’t get to that Zen place every time I run, bike, ski, etc, but when I do it is magical.  Like yesterday.

As my last several postings show,  I’ve been suffering from fatigue and nagged by cramps of late and it has really gotten me down.  Desperate for change and wanting to go enjoy the excellent snow conditions, but suffering the guilt just from the thought of skipping a workout.  I know that to add more activity on top of the grueling schedule will only make the problem worse.   So what am I to do? 

My good friend Mandy said  “Steve. Go skiing. It won't hurt IMLP or Boston.”.  She was right and so I did.  Conditions couldn’t have been better.  Overnight temps were in the single digits but warmed to the mid teens by 10 AM as I prepped to go.  The cold overnight meant the snow texture would be at it’s best and I could use a colder wax  than if it hadn’t been.  As I headed towards the Bangor City Forest I contemplated my route and decided I would follow the Caribou Bog trail towards Old Town as a scouting mission for the upcoming race in 2 weeks. 

Not sure how far I’d go, I started out from the Tripp Lane parking lot (which was full at 10:30) and headed down the East Trail en-route to the Orono-Veazie railroad grade.  From there I headed north easterly along the rail bed towards Stillwater.  This part was a snowmobile trail but skiing was OK - mostly.  About a mile down on the left, the Great Caribou Bog Trail turned off into the forest.  One or two others had been there to brake trail and did a nice job.  Sure was good to be in a ski track instead of snowmobile trail.  Pretty soon I came to Outer Forest Ave and had to remove my skis to cross.  A car was parked along the road on the far side – obviously a skier. 

The first thing I noticed on the east side was the trail was machine groomed and in pristine condition.  I looked at my GPS to see I had come 3.5 miles to this point and was thinking I’d go another few miles before turning around to make a 12 mile day.  A mile or so later, I emerged from the forest out onto Caribou Bog – I was transfixed by it’s beauty!  That’s when it hit me,  “This is why I love to ski!”  

The sky was crystal clear and the deepest azure blue above the brilliant white blanket of snow.  Hardy spruce trees growing slow and sparse dotted the scene with their meager crowns and spindly trunks.  There may have been a breeze but I didn’t notice it.  I was too taken by the warmth of the noon day sun and the stark beauty of the landscape I was immersed in.  Yes, I do love to ski and this is one of the reasons.  This was a Zen moment.  Time stood still, skis flowed effortlessly, I was at peace.  The sounds of my breath mingled with the hushed glide of my skis on the snow.  It was like I just woke up and I was ‘Here now’, completely in the moment, taking it in like that was my only purpose in life.  The separation between mind, body, and place became blurred – I was one with my universe.  I did not feel tired, hungry, thirsty or wanting.  For that moment – maybe 10 minutes in all – I was completely immersed in total euphoria…. Complete bliss…… Yes, this is why I love to ski, run, hike…..

 As I skied along I passed others enjoying the day.  Some were out for leisure, others were clearly getting a workout.  Me, I was going for a long ski.  Not fast, but always maintaining a steady pace.  I stopped to chat with a couple at a trail junction hoping to learn which trail the race followed but they were less informed than I.  The one thing they did tell me was which way to Newman Hill and that was where I headed. 

On the way up the 1st climb (only 200’) I could hear another skier approaching from behind.  He was really grinding it hard – burning lots of matches along the way.  The guy passed me before the top and I realized he was probably 10 years my senior! Ouch!  Wasn’t long before I lost sight of him…. Decent down the other side was nice but made me realize I’d come a long way and was time to turn around.  GPS said I’d gone 8 miles so far, meaning I had 8 more to go.

The trip back was equally rewarding.  The big difference was I stopped to take pictures and video along the way.  Something I didn’t allow myself on the first half.  On one quick little decent, I was zipping along taking video and up ahead was a couple working their way up the hill.  As I approached they stepped aside to let me pass but gave me odd looks – I had both polls in 1 hand and a camera in the other.   Must have seemed odd…. "Hey, that skier dude thinks he’s cool…."

The last 3 or 4 miles were fine although I did have a hot-spot on the top of 1 toe.  I was in the groove and moving along on auto pilot.  Mindlessly striding, following a comfortable rhythm while slower than before, chews up miles with little effort till I reach the City Forest.  Back at the City Forest, there had been so many walkers, skiers, snowshoeers, and dogs that the snow conditions were marginal and the ski track blurred.  Now my mind was on one thing – finishing. 

Just over 4 hours of skiing, 1000’ vertical change (rolling hills), and 16 miles total.  I was mentally rejuvenated, physically drained and hungry.  Not once on the trip did I feel any cramps or tightness in my calf.  I did wrap it before hand but I am happy to say that even a day later and partially recovered, my calf still feels fine. 

Now the question is... can I get back to SBR training or do I need to continue to feed my soul?



Caratunk Girl said...

Well, I totally LOVED this post Steve. Great pictures. Aww, thanks for the mention! :)

I think feeding your soul will feed your SBR training - there has got to be balance in everythign, right?

You are like me - you need to get outside and do "stuff" or else you are not fulfilled. Good luck deciding!!! :)

TreeMapper said...

Thank you for making me do it. I have been on a roll since. Everyting is clicking in now. No more calf pain - even after 10 miles tonight and 7 miles and an hour on the bike last night.

Thank you my friend!