Semi-Charmed Life

3Nov/110

Vulcan’s Fury

 Two weeks ago (right on my birthday, actually) I took part in what was my first trail race ever.

Short description from the website:

Your friends at aR have designed one of the most technical and scenic courses possible in a location that was once brimming with fire...yes...'Pawtuck' was once a volcanic site.  We think the race’s namesake – the Roman God of Fire – would be proud of a course that will have you traversing a massive boulder field, tearing through dense forest, hammering down single-track switchbacks, jumping streams, crossing bridges and heading up a rocky slope appropriately named the Devil’s Staircase.  The lava making up the park has long cooled, but your legs will be burning.  This particular area of Pawtuckaway has gone unraced for too long so join us in what will be one of the most talked about trail races of the 2011 season.

This is a rugged trail race who's distance and elevation profile combine for a very challenging test even for the fittest endurance athlete. Make no mistake about it, the course travels along hiking trails with sections that must be negotiated very carefully. Run at the peak of NH foliage make sure to steal a peek or two at the highest elevations...it'll be worth the effort.

It was an 11 mile run, which I figured would not be too bad. In typical fashion though, I underestimated the challenge and thought it would be "not too bad." This, coming from a person who up until that day had his longest run clocking in at 6 miles.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was that nearly everyone there were serious runners. My friend's coworker was the one that drove us up, and he and his friends run marathons for vacation. Zero exaggeration. We had met a guy who had finished back to back marathons (Saturday and Sunday) the weekend prior.

And there we were, three schmucks who decided to tag along with the big boys because we fancied ourselves rugged weekend warriors.

The actual run itself was way harder than I imagined. My chief obstacle was the terrain because I had made the grave mistake of deciding to wear Vibram shoes, which meant I felt every rock and branch on the trail. It HURT. I slowed into a run-a-little-walk-a-lot rhythm towards the last 4 miles of the race because my feet could not take the pain of running any longer.

Out of 118 competitors, I finished 105th. Dismal, but at least I have this deceptively glorious photo to show for it:

Vulcan's Fury

11Feb/092

Just Do It

I was talking to a friend and telling him how I wish I was able to appreciate fine art. He told me that once he started taking art classes, he realized what skill it took to do things such as being able to blend the right colors and what not. He said after trying to paint his own paintings, he had a finer appreciation for the subtle intracies of art that never occurred to him before.

Although it never ocurred to me to try painting in order to develop a better sense of appreciation for fine art, I've always felt that a person never fully develops an appreciation for something until he gets his hands dirty in it. One of the reasons why I decided to jump in and give brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing a try was because I was really into mma at the time. I didn't want to be just like every other idiot fanboy on youtube or those mma forums who talked like they knew it all though, so I figured what better way to learn than to do. I'm not so much into the mma scene anymore though, with the exception of a handful of fighters whose careers I follow. After I started training, I realized how ignorant most people sounded when they talked about the sport.

In other things such as football and photography, I would never have appreciated either if I had not started doing it. I never understood what football was about and always thought it was a confusing mass of men on a playing field whenever I saw it on television. I had a friend in college who was patient enough to teach me the basics of the game, such as catching (which I still suck at), tackling, angle of pursuit, what to do on offensive and defensive line, etc. I'm not a football fanatic, but I do enjoy playing now as well as watching, although I doubt I'll ever care for professional football as much as some of my friends do. Following the season is too much work, and even moreso if you have a fantasy league. Not my idea of fun, but at least I can appreciate a beautiful diving one handed catch or a hard hitting helmet ripping tackle.

As for photography, I don't think I've ever had an appreciation for a good photograph until I started getting into it as a hobby (although I'm a very lazy hobbyist). I began to develop an eye for what a good picture looked like to me, and began to appreciate good photography, which is a mix of patience, creativity, and trial and error. This has made facebook a lot harder to deal with because it becomes obvious that 99% of people taking pictures haphazardly point their camera and snap without ever giving a thought to how a simple change in angle or  perhaps shifting over a few spots to the right or left would create a much more pleasing picture. The ubiquity of the digital camera has turned the art of photography into something mundane and probably regarded as an after-thought.

Just like I wrote in the sidebar: "Life is not a spectator sport." All the reading and watching in the world will only amount to so much. Nothing compares to the actual experience of doing something. So who knows? One day I might take a stab at painting. Fine art still eludes me, but then again so do many other things. I can't appreciate jazz no matter how much I've tried and I'd be hard-pressed to tell you if a wine I had was good, although if I had an inkling that you spent a pretty penny on it I'd be inclined to tell you it was good.