Friday, May 3, 2013

A Love Note to the Seasons

Several days ago, one of my coworkers came back from a sultry lunchtime run, panting, drenched in sweat, and said, No more lunchtime runs for me. It’s no longer the season, I guess, now that noon here on a sunny day generally sees temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s.

In contrast, last summer in Washington, after a long mountain run in the middle of a cool, cloudy day of what I recall to be July-ish, my good friend Tim proclaimed, “Today was awesome! You know you must be a real runner when you’re grateful that it’s overcast so often in Seattle!”

And indeed, for all my years in mild Seattle, I was far too busy being giddy about having escaped Midwest summer humidity and bitterly cold winters to consider what I might be missing. Yet, now that I’m living in place that once again has very distinct seasons, I feel grateful for them—despite dreading summer temperatures forcing me to give up the lunchtime runs I've so been enjoying this past month.

And ... random snowfall on May 1 = not cool, Colorado! Forgiven, only, by the fact that it was sunny and all melted by 3 p.m.
Perhaps it’s once again a case of cognitive dissonance, of my trying to see the best in whatever situation I find myself in, but watching Colorado transition from winter to spring to what feels like summer (at least on days like today) has been pretty darn mesmerizing.

When we moved here, Redstone was silent, semi-deserted, muted by the snow:

Now, it looks like this:

Slowly, seasonal residents have returned, tourists have come to visit, and the town feels as though it’s come alive. Across the street, the Crystal Club CafĂ©—all shuttered up in the winter—opened for business for the season today. Tonight, there are lights and voices and laughter outside … children playing corn hole, bikes flying down the street, music playing, the happy clink of pint glasses.

Trails are (finally!) opening up for running. 

I’d been lamenting the fact that the only places I’d run here yet were all dusty, exposed desert trails, scattered with twisted juniper trees and sage bushes—beautiful, no doubt—but not like the deep, lush, fern-and-moss-laden forests of Washington that I love. Last weekend, though, I ran the Avalanche Creek Trail out here for the first time, and was amazed to find myself running under a canopy of tall pines that felt far more Washingtonian than Coloradoan. 

There are still snowy patches here and there, but soon enough, it’ll be a spectacular 24-mile out-and-back to a series of alpine lakes … and with a trailhead just five minutes away from home.

The Crystal River has risen tremendously in the past few warm weeks, as snow has melted off up high and transformed the Crystal from a trickling creek into a roaring river. 

Taking a short break on a run near the "Meatgrinder" Class V rapids
We can hear the river now from our living room windows. Earlier this week, our beloved hot springs down the road disappeared for the summer, as the river level has risen and rushed right over the top of it—but it feels okay; it will come back when the water falls again for autumn.

Seasons are soothing in this way. They’re predictable, but not so much that they’re lacking the delight of small surprises—the sound of birds in the spring, the first summer night that permits a nighttime stroll in a T-shirt, the turning of the leaves in autumn. Seasons are an antidote to stagnancy; they promise forward movement, without threatening irrevocable change. No matter how drastic the season is, you can be sure that it, too, shall pass.

It’s different from the kind of changes we experience in our lives, which are indeed often both unpredictable and irrevocable—for better or worse.

2012 saw more changes in my life than any other year recently. Not counting miscellaneous freelance projects I juggled, I went through three different jobs—four, if you count the new one I started in January 2013. I experienced the end of a 3.5-year relationship and the beginning of a new one. My income fluctuated wildly. I went from having run one ultramarathon a year in 2010 and 2011 to running more than a dozen in 2012. I moved to a new apartment last summer, then six months later, moved halfway across the country. Needless to say, by the time I got to Colorado, I was a little tuckered out, and ready for some steadiness.

And very quickly, I cultivated just that—living in a quiet town in the mountains, going to work five days a week, doing all my runs on pretty the same couple of snow-free trails, settling into a peaceful evening routine at home of cooking and crossword-ing with Steve.

While much comfort can be derived from this kind of stability, the flipside is that it can also feel awfully scary. Even if you enjoy your routine, you might wonder, So … is this the way my life is going to be forever? Given that I’ve struggled a good deal in the past few months with homesickness for Seattle, wondering if I’ll be able to make the same kind of friends out here that I had there, the prospect of nothing ever changing again hasn’t exactly been a thrilling one.

We need change to continue thriving. The seasons are reminding me of this. I feel fortunate to have Steve in my life, to feel the warmth of an amazing support network of friends even from hundreds or thousands of miles away, to have the kind of job I’ve dreamt for years about having...

Tough day at the office last week! Our gear guide photo shoot, part I at Mt. Garfield
Gear guide photo shoot, part II, Grand Junction, CO have a home I love coming back to at the end of the day … even yes, I feel lucky to have a hungry kitty who, without fail, paws me awake at 5 a.m. every morning for breakfast.

Gratuitous Chloe photo
What I’m learning out here is that I can have these big rocks in my life that anchor me, while still pursuing growth. I can be stable without being stagnant. 

In closing, I’d like to state that while I still believe Seattle is the best place on Earth to be a long-distance runner, I am eager to see what Colorado's got in store for the summer. It's a tall order to compete with Seattle, where there are hundreds of miles of amazing singletrack in the city or within 30 minutes of it, that stay mostly snow-free and runnable year-round. Trails don’t get shut down for eight months a year to help preserve elk herds. It never gets hot enough in the summer to make midday runs uncomfortable. It never gets cold or snowy or icy enough in the winter to make runs unbearable. And as for all the rain … personally, I always feel like a million bucks when I go running in the rain—like my own personal sprinkler cooling me off every step.

However. I’ll admit that the sunshine out here has wooed me—and I move forward with an open mind. Come on, Colorado … I’m here, I'm optimistic, I’m ready to love you, too … show me whatcha got.

Chair Peak, Crystal River run-off in the foreground, as seen from Redstone this evening


  1. This is great, and happy to get a shoutout! Life sounds really different, but still pretty darn good! Enjoy Colorado now that it's the sunny season!

  2. Love it Yitka! I'm sure running in Colorado this summer will prove to be another dream come true.

  3. -as well as not to mention how much altitude training you are getting. Lucky you!