The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.

I Only Go Up To Go Down

After years of living in athletic towns like Vail and Boulder, Colorado as well as Jackson, Wyoming, I have noticed two distinct camps of athletes which I have affectionately named “cardio freaks” and “adrenaline junkies”. In case you’re new to this blog, I belong in the later category.

“Cardio freaks” were often on the triathlon team in college. These heart-rate-monitor wearing, leg-shaving guys and gals get their high from breathing hard and harder. Drugs of choice include road bikes with impossibly skinny tires, any running race with a “K” on the end, and little itty-bitty skinny skate-skis. Often eschewing motorized travel in favor of their own two legs, this rare breed of mammal appears to actually enjoy discomfort and is loathe to long days on the couch.

“Adrenaline junkies” breathe hard for one reason- it gets us somewhere cool. We skin up the mountain ridge because we get to ski untracked snow on the way down. We peddle up the gigantic hill because the single track on the other side is oh-so-sweet. In truth, I have the most fun mountain biking when I’m on the edge of crashing. I know there is a science behind all of this, but I’ve experimented enough on myself to know that I respond very favorable to adrenaline. It’s either my chemistry or practice, but in an emergency situation such as swimming Class V whitewater (read: very, very big swirly water), I am calm. Sound is suppressed and I have the mental space to think through my current situation and respond accordingly. The trick is not getting addicted to my calm (or finding other ways to access it), like Dean Potter in this photo.

Dean Potter solo at Taft Point, Yosemite.

Dean Potter solo at Taft Point, Yosemite.

There are some athletes who take the adrenaline too far, most of which I have encountered in the climbing community. Often running from a divorce, death or other significant life event, these athletes become addicted to the singular focus that high-intensity athletic endeavors demand. When life is quite literally on the line (pun intended), there is no space in ones mind for the nasty breakup last month, unpaid bills or where dinner is going to come from. Body and mind have a singular purpose, and that is perpetuating life. As athletic skill increases, these situations must get more severe to have the same consequence, hence Mr. Potter slack-lining (tight-rope walking), leashless high above the Yosemite valley floor. As with everything in life, moderation would appear to be key once again.

Word of the Day: Flibbertigibbet –  a silly, flighty, or excessively talkative person. Use it in a sentence.

Leave a Reply