Life is Going to Kill You

Whenever a new study comes out that links running to heart disease, bone loss, death, or whatever else may generate headlines and web traffic, people email them to me, or tell me with a concerned tilt of the head and a hushed tone, “you know, running a lot is bad for you.” I’m sure these people mean well, and I appreciate the concern, but I’m not planning on changing anything.

The first time I read one of these studies, I was worried. Like most who initially lace up running shoes, I hoped that running would lead to a longer, healthier life. One where my wife and I would lie in separate bathtubs at the edge of a lake, watch the sun go down and wait for the drugs to kick in (what’s so bad about a 4 hour erection, anyway?). Of course, as soon as a negative study is published, articles appear that challenge and discredit the research. I can’t remember if the counter-argument claimed too small a sample size, or if there was a bias against running, or if the data was misinterpreted. I just remember finding some research to back up my beliefs, and everything was fine again. Time to get some big miles in.

After a few more of these studies appeared that linked heavy training to heart problems later in life, I’m not sure I can just ignore the results any longer, but to be honest, I don’t plan on cutting out any trail time.

Being healthy is way down on the list of reasons why I run, maybe 8th or 9th. Here are a few of the things that come ahead of staying healthy:

  1. So I don’t break things or yell at people.
  2. To try to arrange a regular morning run and end up with endless text messages questioning sexuality, toughness, masturbation, hotness of various spouses, etc.
  3. To be able to wear runderwear in public places.
  4. To be able to run on the most beautiful trails in the world, and to go to the bathroom on them.
  5. To learn Hebrew swear words.
  6. To do a bunch of hill repeats, then walk around with the good kind of soreness for a couple of days.
  7. To spend time with friends.
  8. To create a plan, follow it, and see the transformation and the payoff from the hard work.

Last Saturday night I was ready to break something. It’s not a feeling that comes very often, and I’m not sure what triggers it, but when I feel it, I know that I just need to be alone. I need to be away from my family, away from noise, and be able to lay down and shut everything out in a quiet place. It’s a scary feeling, a combination of a lack of control and feeling the edge getting closer.

I told my wife I was going to bed, and she looked at the clock, and rolled her eyes. 7:30? Seriously? I don’t think I said anything, and after asking if I was all right, and if she did anything, she just left me alone. I didn't sleep very well. I was planning a long run, 4 hours or so, the next day. There was a group running Noble Canyon, in the mountains east of San Diego, and I really didn't want to make the drive, and had planned on staying local and putting in my four hours on less exciting, but closer trails. I woke up at 4 AM, and couldn't go back to sleep. I just sat there in bed, and finally said screw it, I’m going to the mountains.

The run was beautiful, as it usually is in the mountains, but there was something special about that day, something that made everything right. I felt light on the hills, and spent some time talking and running with Scotty Mills, who always has some wise words, and you can’t run with him without picking up some great advice, or catching some of his contagious love of the trails.

After the run, I had to rush home and arrived just in time to coach my son’s soccer game, and I couldn't have been happier. Not every run is like this. Some are absolutely awful, some are just painful, and some are boring. The average runs are far more common, but those few days where everything just flows more than make up for all the others.

Recently, my wife spent some time volunteering for hospice and she would come home and tell me stories about these people who were close to death. Most of them had saved for a long retirement, and had grand plans to travel the world. They had sacrificed their whole lives to spend their golden years doing what they loved to do. Then they got cancer. Some had never touched a drop of alcohol, smoked a cigarette, and most did what they could to ensure a healthy, long life, and now they had weeks or days to live, and their biggest regret was planning for a future while neglecting the present.

(Photo: Jason Smith)
I went on a run last week, just a regular weekday morning run in a long line of 6:30 AM runs with a few running partners that have become some of my best friends. We picked a hilly route, one we hadn't done in a while, and set off, conversation coming easy, shit-talking coming easier. We talked about the things we always do while we run…work, family, world conflicts, and which of us has the most supple ass. This run was different, though. A few of the guys are moving, so we know that our group will change, and I had this feeling of gratitude for these people, some of whom I've know for just a couple of years.

I don’t know of another activity that brings people together as close as running does (well, maybe one other activity). The time spent on the trails, hours and hours of conversations, bonding through the physical struggles, and the pain all serve to strengthen those friendships. Those meaningful relationships are what makes life worth living, and aside from family, a lot of my most meaningful relationships have been formed on the trails.

I don’t know if running will lead to an early death, and I don’t know if the hours I’m spending on the trails are doing more harm than good, but I do know that I’m not getting out alive. Death wins. I also know what makes me happy, what calms me, and gives me peace, and it’s such a simple thing; just putting one foot in front of the other, preferably with others on a trail under the trees. It connects me to the land and others who share this passion, and it’s the only way I can live my life.

The Top One Thing Every Amazing Runner Does Before 8 AM (Number One Blew My Mind, But You'll Never Guess What Happened Next)

I can't resist clicking on those links, the new era of self-help articles via the short, bullet point list of The Top Ten Things [insert something successful and idealistic here] Does Every Day. I read them even though I know in advance that there won't be a lot of substance. We have distilled our advice to junk food bullet points with no emotion; glossy-sounding tips created in someone's sterile life-lab, stripped from any real experience. I clicked on one about the top ten things successful people do, and realized that, wow, I occasionally multitask, act rashly, and sometimes even dwell on the past. Kiss any notion of success goodbye.

I don't want to be accused of click-baiting, so there is this running tip that has been working for me lately, and while I'm sure it has been said before, it just struck me as so obvious and simple, that I wanted to share it. I figure I owe at least one bullet point based on the obnoxious headline.

  • Fake it.

When you're out there running, struggling, tired, and the hill is winning, your body will reflect it. Your head will be bowed as if that section 3 inches in front of your feet holds the keys to the Universe's most pressing question (which, by the way, is "Kim Kardashian?"), your shoulders are so hunched that Quasimodo would offer some advice on posture, and your two feet are engaged in a battle over which one can take the smallest step.

I know, because I've been there. I was there last week on a steep climb, the second time up a mile and a quarter hill repeat. I pushed too hard on the first one, and didn't have much energy for the second, but I vowed to myself that I wouldn't walk it, so I trudged along, letting the win. Then I saw my shadow, hunched over, head hung low, and shuffling along, and it hit me...that person in the shadow hates what he is doing. What would I look like if I actually enjoyed running? What would I look like if I was on one of those elusive perfect runs, the kind where everything feels easy, and perfect form comes effortlessly? I pulled my head up, pushed my chest out, pulled my shoulders back, and increased my stride (just a little bit, because I was still hurting pretty bad), but it worked. I faked it, and immediately felt better. I was still hurting, just not as much. Good form leads to efficient running and energy savings, so fake it, just run like someone who loves to run. It can make your bad days a little more bearable.

Channel your inner Ethiopian

If you have kids that play video games, you probably know about Minecraft. It's probably the most visually boring game ever, and I played Pong on my Atari. My son loves it. He plays it whenever he has a chance, which is usually after his homework and chores are done. I'll watch him play it, and what, to me, is the most boring video game in the world with graphics straight from 1982, to him, is his own world that he created and controls, so there are some creativity, engineering, and organizational skills that are being nurtured, or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Do you know what I dislike more than Minecraft? Listening to my son tell me the intricate details of the world he is building in Minecraft. But, I do it anyway, with a smile on my face, an occasional nod, and some well-timed "wows," "that's neat," "you did what?" and "I can't believe your character slept for 8 straight hours...that's amazing." I fake it. Sometimes, I even see it as a challenge; exactly how much feigned interest can I show without actually figuring out what a "Zombie-Pigman" is. I don't need any self-help bullet points to tell me that while I may not care about Minecraft, I love my son, and if I want to be happy, I'll turn off the computer, or put the phone away and try my hardest to pretend that Minecraft is the coolest thing that I have ever seen.

Double Peak Repeats

San Diego is known for a lot of things (nice beaches, staying classy, handsy politicians, apathetic sports fans), but bad weather isn't one of them, so last week, when the most recent MegaSuperStorm of the century rolled in and dumped some rain on us, I was ready to log some muddy trail time.

The day started with that Cadillac commercial, the one where the guy is walking around a house talking about how lazy people are, and how they take the whole month of August off in France, and the difference between taking a month off and a couple of weeks off is a shiny new Cadillac. I decided to take the rest of the day off.

My wife and I saw the pre-noon showing of Non-Stop, the Liam Neeson movie. The one where he kicks copious amounts of ass, and eventually saves everyone (Spoiler Alert!). We weren't planning on seeing this movie, but the Key & Peele sketchvertisement put us over the edge. More advertising should be like this.

By the time we returned home, the rain and winds had really picked up, and you can't just sit still after watching a Liam Neesons movie, you just can't.

I don't want to dramatize our storm too much, but we're used to a spectrum of weather that ranges between "mostly sunny" to "clear with a chance of you might need to wear a shirt with sleeves" weather and 10 degree swings from 65 to 75 degrees year-round. So, when the wind picks up and the water starts falling from the sky, we kind of freak out here.

The workout for the day was hill repeats, and my hill is called Double Peak, which is one of the highest points in the county and has a view that encompasses Palomar Mountain, the San Bernardino Mountains, Tijuana, and the Pacific Ocean from La Jolla to Catalina Island. The wind was screaming off the Pacific, unhindered and helped to push me up the initial climb to "The Secret Trail," which is secret in name only as there is a big sign there that reads "Secret Trail."

My workout called for three hill repeats, three loops starting with the one mile-ish, rolling Secret trail to the back side of Double Peak, which is one of those hands on the knees climbs. If I can run half of the climb, I am happy. It's about 5 minutes to the top, then a quick, technical descent back to the Secret trail.

The first repeat was fueled by Liam Neeson vengeance (which is the name of my new performance your doctor if your erection lasts longer than 3 hours, or if you get the urge to beat up vaguely Middle Eastern terrorist/human trafficking organizations with nothing but your bare hands and your 3 hour erection). By the second repeat, the movie theater popcorn had hit and had the opposite effect of Liam Neeson vengeance. I struggled to reach the rock formation that is about halfway up the climb without walking, and tried to keep my heart from trying to free itself from the confines of my rib cage.

At the top of the second loop, I saw a dad with two little boys in wind jackets. The younger boy was clearly scared, holding tight to his dad's hand and trying to turn away from the wind. I smiled at him and yelled, "THIS IS LIVING," which probably didn't help calm him down at all.

I fought the wind on the narrow and steep trail down the front of the hill, pushing against the wind, but trying to brake as I slipped down the muddy trail with wind in my ears and rain stinging my eyes. I hit the Secret trail, where the hill offered protection from the wind, then turned up for my last repeat, pushing as hard as I could, but not going much faster than the previous repeat, hitting the telescope at the top of the peak in just under 5 minutes.

The unimpeded wind had picked up at the top. I sat on a bench, and watched people who had driven up to watch the storm roll in try to open their car doors against the wind, then giving up and driving home. I sat there alone and leaned my head back and as the wind rushed over me and the rain soaked me, I took long, deep, tired breaths.

The next day, when the wind picked up and the clouds started to roll in, I grabbed my two youngest kids and drove to the top of Double Peak, briefly stopping to yell at James and Maggie as they glided down the hill. I wanted to rush up there before the howling winds died down, because it's not very often we get a chance to feel what it's like to fly.

On Inconsistency

My wife used to be an amazing runner.

She made it to state at Mesa College, then went on to run at track and cross country at UCSD. When we were first dating, I would go watch her run at track meets. I would sit on the stone steps of the stadium, and wait for hours before she would run, bored out of my mind as she hung out with her team, and I would force a smile every time she looked up at me from the track where she spent what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, stretching, running short sprints, stretching again, jogging, then stretching again, then taking off her warm-up clothes and bouncing around a little bit, then stretching again. When the gun went off for her event, which was the 5000 Meters (which is something like 1,476 times around the track), and I watched intently as she suffered in the heat, running lap after lap, not in the front pack, somewhere in the middle, where the cheers weren't as loud, but I could see how focused and driven she was. In my eyes, she flew around that track, and at the finish, 17 or 18 minutes later, she put her hands on her knees and would look up to where I was sitting, cheering for her, and smile.

She talks a lot about those days, not in the glory days, we could have won state, "bet I can throw a football over them mountains" kind of way, but in a "it was so much fun to run hard every day, and to be fast" kind of way.

I get frustrated with her every time we run together, because I saw how fast she used to be, and how much potential she has. She talks about running consistently again, getting back into a routine, getting fast, not college days fast, but 45-minute 10K fast, and I always tell her the same thing, "if you trained with any kind of consistency, you could be so fast, so strong, but you never string together a long training cycle."

We went running on Valentine's Day together, and I was kind of being a dick (which is something I'm pretty consistent at), and as she was struggling to run up a trail, I was telling her to push harder, to not take so many walk breaks, and I was about to go into my "you need to train more consistently" speech, but I stopped.

It's hard for her to be consistent. We have three kids, so she took some long breaks from running during pregnancies, and also when the kids were little. We now have the luxury of a built-in babysitter, but now my wife has decided to become a nurse and is in school full-time, some days leaving at 4:30 AM for clinicals and coming home at 5:30 PM. She still makes dinner for the family most nights, and packs the kids' school lunches before she leaves in the morning. Even after all of this, she runs with some friends, occasionally, inconsistently waking up at 5:00 AM to get a run in before class. Sometimes, on her days off, she plans to run in the mornings, but instead she sleeps in, just too tired to wake up, and taking advantage of the sweet luxury of turning off the alarm and going back to sleep until the daylight wakes her.

My wife is an inconsistent runner, but no matter how many times she stops training, she has never completely given up running. So, I stopped myself on our run together, and told her that I was proud that she is still running, that she keeps coming back to it, and that she has never really quit. Life has gotten in the way, and she has taken some long breaks, but she always comes back to it, and that is what is important, not a 45 minute 10K or a 100-day running streak. Her inconsistency is amazing to me, because all this time she has been an inconsistent runner, she has been a consistent wife and mother, and I love her for it.

There are very few people that can run or work out consistently for years at a time. Injuries, kids, work, and just the stuff of life can get in the way. Part of being inconsistent is starting up again. Even when there are so many other things going on, obligations, fear of how much fitness we have lost, and how much it is going to hurt, we still get out there and take those first painful steps, and enjoy a few minutes of freedom. And, no matter how many times we stop, it feels good to start again.

50K Training Plan

tl;dr version: go straight to the plan.

I started off 2014 with no real running direction. I was seriously considering the Tahoe 200, but the $800+ price tag turned me off. I put in for the Tahoe Rim Trail Lottery (for the 50 mile race), and wasn't selected. I have aspirations of running the Wonderland Trail in Washington, but that's still a blurry image in my mind that time and desire hasn't quite put into focus. My plan for the year was just to run, to enjoy running, to not run for time or distance. No need for a coach or a training plan; I just wanted to get out and run 3 or 4 days a week and then see what happened, to see where my feet would take me. Well, what happened was that I learned that I'm not wired like that.

I realized that I needed a plan. I needed something in the future, something clear and sharp in my mind to train for. Maybe someday I'll be one of those purists that can just run for miles and miles with no destination in sight, no plan, no watch, and no purpose except for running itself, but right now I need direction.

My last race...about 8 months ago.

That direction wasn't chosen by me. It was dropped into my lap by Chris (who actually is one of those aforementioned purists). Chris gave me an entry to Leona Divide 50K. He won the entry at a silent auction (thanks to Keira Henninger for the donation), and for some reason, maybe realizing that I was a lost running soul who just needed a swift kick to the ass, Chris gave me the entry. I tried to give it back to him, but he wouldn't take it. I think Chris only runs 100 milers with 30,000+ feet of gain.

I put off creating a training plan for a couple of months, because I just wasn't that motivated to train, and I figured that I could handle a 50K pretty easily.

I actually slapped myself right after I wrote that last part. Seriously. My right cheek is red, because that's such a dumb and lazy thing to say. If I'm planning to go to a race, I might as well train hard for it, and even though I could probably be lazy about the training, and show up to Leona and hike, prancercise, jog and lollygag the 31 miles, that's not really the point of a race for me. I want to train and see how fast I can cover the distance.

I didn't want to get stuck in that "it's only a 50K" attitude. I'm kind of tired of the distance trumping everything, and the fetishization of the 100 mile distance. One of the hardest things I did last year was train for and race a 10K. I thought I was going to black out near the finish. I had tunnel vision, and tasted the iron in my blood. The same taste that I had before I passed out in 4th grade after running the mile. It's what you put into a race that counts, and whether it be a 10K or a 100 miler, there comes a point in the race where you are uncomfortable, and I measure my personal success in any race by the decision to push past that point, or to back off and stay in a comfortable place. My goal for the Leona Divide is to train hard enough in the next 3 months to be able to run as close to the 5 hour mark as I can. It will hurt, and it's not going to be a lot of fun, but just having that goal, and creating a plan to help me accomplish it has given me motivation, drive, and a level of enjoyment of running that has been missing since I got off the John Muir Trail last year.

There aren't a lot of 50K training plans out there, so I decided to share mine in hopes that it will help others develop their own.

In creating this plan, I was heavily influenced by The Dream Season article by Ian Torrence. There is a lot of good advice on setting up a plan in that article, and for this 14-week training cycle I am going to be focusing on strength and mobility, hillwork, and increasing my endurance.

Strength and Mobility

I have found that while running is a big part of any training plan, as I get older, the other stuff gets more and more important, especially strength and mobility work and good nutrition. I like to keep it very simple and rely mostly on bodyweight core exercises. For this plan, I have incorporated the MYRTL routine 3-4 times per week. I am also mixing in a strength circuit from Mario Fraioli once a week, and adding in my own kettle bell swing progression, and single-legged jump rope. I'm religiously using the stick and the Trigger Point  roller every night before bed on my calves, IT bands, quads, and hamstrings. When I take the time to roll out all the tightness at night, it's much easier to get out of bed the next morning and I don't look like I'm method acting for Bad Grandpa 2 (I prefer method acting for Bad Santa 2).

Long, and recovery runs

About 90% of the running I do is on trails in the hills around my house, so even the easy runs incorporate hills; I just try to hold back on the pace during easy, long runs and recovery runs.


I'm going heavy on the hills for this training cycle because the Leona Divide course is pretty hilly with 4,900 feet of elevation gain and some extended 1,000+ foot climbs. I have a few favorite hills that I use for hill repeats. I think everyone needs to develop a special relationship with their hills. Mine are like psycho girlfriends. I have names for them, and I get excited thinking about them, but also kind of sick in a bad way. These are the kind of hills that are real good for a short amount of time, but I don't want to hang out for too long afterwards (I guess I'm still talking about hills). One is super steep, short hill, the kind of hill that is staring you in the face as you climb it. The climb lasts a couple minutes and if I'm doing repeats, there is no way that I'm running all of them, so it also helps me practice some powerhiking. Another is about a mile up with about 600 feet of gain. It's a long, uninterrupted climb that, if I'm in good shape and keep a steady pace, I can run up 2 or 3 times without stopping. Another one of my favorite hill workouts is from Lucho and is a hill fartlek run. It's basically one of my regular 6-ish mile hilly routes, but I push the pace on the uphills harder than normal and take the downhills and flats easier than normal to recover.

The Plan

If you're looking to copy this plan, you should know that I'm starting from a solid base of about 3-4 1-hour runs per week with the occasional 1 1/2- to 2-hour run thrown in on the weekends. These are all hilly trail runs, and while I feel out of shape, that is relative, as I'm not starting from the couch. I weigh 177 pounds right now, and I feel best and fastest when I'm in the 165-170 range, so I'm looking to gradually drop about 10 pounds.

This is my 50K plan. If you're semi out of shape, 40, bearded, not too fast, but not too slow, and running a hilly, but not very technical 50K, this is for you. If not, you may want to make some changes. The plan is in Google doc format, so you can download it and change it to suit your needs.

Let me know if you used the plan and how it worked for you. Thanks for reading.

6th Annual "No Puking on the Trail" New Year's Day Run

The Payoff (pic courtesy of Paul Jesse)

The climb isn't super steep or crazy long, it's just a grind. It's a climb that I can do without taking a walk break, but only if I don't push too hard at the bottom. It's my favorite climb, and I know every turn by now, I know there will be some shade at the bottom, and I know that the initial steep section lasts a quarter of a mile. It flattens out a little bit, then the rocky switchbacks start and there is no more shade and it gets steep again. I know where the two false tops are and even though I know they are there and that there is still some climbing to be done, I still have this faint glimmer of hope that the false top that I have crossed hundreds of times is the real top, as stupid as that sounds, and there is still some disappointment when I turn the corner and see more hill. I've started the past six years with this climb, and I am lucky enough to share it with friends and family in what started out as just a couple of us attempting to hold down the food and drink consumed during the previous night of New Year's Eve partying and sweat out the poisons with the most amazing hangover cure of replacing suffering with greater suffering. The rolling trails after the initial climb as well as the views at the top with frequent re-grouping stops along the way are just icing on the cake.

The New Year's Day run is always one of my favorite runs of the year and I get to re-connect with people that I have shared trails with in the past and run with those that I am lucky enough to run with on a regular basis. My favorite part of this run is the variety of people that it draws. This year my family made up a large contingent of the group and it was so amazing to see my nieces, nephews, and the rest of my family make the climb to start off the new year.

Some came and hiked, some road runners training for their next Boston qualifiers and sporting marathon times in the mid-2 hour range braved the rocks, roots, twists and turns of the trails, and couldn't quite figure out why the rest of us kept stopping. There were a few that started a couple hours early to get more than the 6-8 miles in, and some that hiked up half a mile, then looped back to the cool waters of the creek, but everyone from the elite ultrarunners to the youngest kids shared the same joy of being outside, taking part in the struggle, the views at the top, and the friendships that are renewed and solidified on the trails, and I can't think of a better way to start the year.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year.

Do Steep Things

I can't believe how short my 7-year-old daughter's legs are, and they still continue to push, up and over the rocky obstacles on this steep trail. She looks up, determined, and asks when we will be at the "P."

I'm tired, dragging with each step and I look back at my wife and our other two kids, with one hand holding the dog's leash and my other clasped around my youngest daughter, trying to control both, and mention that we seem to always seek out steep trails for our family hikes.

This hike isn't especially long, and it's not as steep as the one we all did in Hawaii, where we had to cling to a chain and pass a couple of "if you value your life, you will turn around right now" signs and I questioned my judgment as a protector of the family as my wife and I took turns holding tightly to our kids as we made the final climb up the unnamed trail to the radio tower overlooking Waimea Canyon.

Every time we leave our house, we can see the giant "P" on the hill and the kids have asked to hike up there for years. It's not a long hike, but it was steeper than it looked, and when we finally made it to the white rocks that make the "P," my kids didn't realize that we were even standing on it.

I couldn't sleep last night because of this tightness in my chest. It happens a lot and I have a hard time controlling it. Meditation helps, some other things help, but it doesn't go away for good. I'm nervous for my kids. I want them to always be safe. My mind jumps from that to people that I may have hurt. I mentally catalog the shit-talking I have done lately, the sarcasm that seems funny at the time, but should be filtered. There are other things I think about that aren't quite as important, but they still occupy my thoughts in the middle of the night. This is the time of year when I plan adventures for the upcoming year, and there are a few things I want to do that really scare me. Races that I don't think I can finish, and routes that I know will test the limits of my endurance.

There have been some amazing sunsets over the last couple of weeks, and every chance I get, I try to recruit my family into driving up to the tallest hill in the area, and I drive fast in order to beat the sun before it slips into the ocean. My son is the most eager to go. He's not that into sunsets, but he loves climbing up and down this really steep trail from the children's playground to this tree at the viewing area. The trail scares me because if he fell, or slipped, it is steep enough that he wouldn't be able to stop himself until he hit the bottom which would be a painful, but not life-threatening slide of about 30 feet. I try not to watch as he makes excuses to take the trail down to the playground, then back up. I can see other parents looking at me, looks of disapproval, or maybe envy. He won't sit still until the sun actually sets, and only with the promise of the legendary green flash, will he watch the sun dip into the water.

I let him run down from the parking lot to the bottom of the hill, where I meet him with the car. It's dark, it's steep, and he loves it. He runs so fast, and with such abandon, that I usually don't have to wait longer than about a minute as he makes the 1/2 mile run. I worry that he'll slip and fall in the dark, and I mostly worry that my wife will say "I told you so" because it is something that she would never let him do, and she makes a point of telling me that as he breathlessly recounts his adventures to her and my oldest daughter when we get home. I don't tell them how I waited at the bottom of the hill, nervously squinting my eyes in the dark, hoping to see my son turn that last corner and run into my arms.

It's not like I teach him this shit. We do steep things, and I don't even encourage it. They wear me down, until I eventually say yes, let's make the climb, or yes, you can run down the hill in the dark, but I say yes and I think it's a good decision and I think it's the right decision (mainly because nobody has gotten seriously hurt, yet), and when I see that determination in my daughter's face, and her pride at the top when she realizes that the painted white rocks covered with graffiti laying in what seems to be haphazard piles actually make up the giant "P" that they see whenever they drive anywhere within five miles from our house. We will continue to do steep things against better judgement, and fighting back my own fears and reservations, because my kids need to know that we can do steep things. It doesn't matter if they are young, or their legs are short, or they are thirsty and hungry, or they are girls. They can do steep things.

Sometimes the steepest thing is getting out of bed, after a night of no sleep, and putting on a happy face as the kids show me what trouble the Elf on the Shelf got into, and not really knowing what is wrong. On days like today, climbing up a mountain with my family, is the least steep thing I can think of doing.

Thanks for reading.

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