Back in late April I sat down with a legal pad and wrote down every weekend from then until the end of August. Then I filled all but one of them with a trip of one kind or another. The year’s goals was to get out as much as possible, in as many local and semi-local places as possible.

It’s been an interesting year. 2012 and 2011 were overshadowed by the Wilderness Classic, and 2010 was occupied with finishing grad school, moving, and fighting off a case of achilles inflammation (from bad shoes during a trip which changed my life). In 2009 I was in grad school, but still managed to sneak in another defining trip, and in 2008 and before we were in Arizona doing other things.

So 2013 has been the first year I’ve been in Montana and just focused on getting out, with few complications.

IMG_1207I didn’t put them there.

A few things stand out.  First, that I’ve learned an enormous amount about the backcountry in the last four years.  I can barely overstate the trepidation I had going into that 2009 trip with Kevin.  Today, the unknowns of a comparable backpack would be small, and controllable.  That such a big difference can be made in a short time is almost unbelievable.

IMG_1194Little river giant.  This one bodychecked three of his peers and caught 5 inches of air just to get hooked.

The other thing which stands out is that I’ve been slow all summer.  The practical effect of using every weekend for full experience is that my fitness plateaued in early May, and has been largely unaltered since.  I haven’t done any intensity training this year.  Since May, I’ve barely done anything outside during the week at all.  Between recovering from the last weekend, work, and all the other things I care about (like this thing you’re reading), I decided to not have time for that.IMG_1201I’d been pondering Surly Open Bars since they came out, but it took them being discontinued to put me over the edge and buy one.  I like them, and missed the ride feel they give.  Performance of alt bars v. traditional <10 degree risers needs its own post.

This doesn’t need to be significant.  It’s a pointless mental game, but I nonetheless wouldn’t trade this summer for any other.  Being slower doesn’t affect my enjoyment of hiking too much.  At the same time, a certain amount of speed and power makes things safer, and more possible on a real human’s schedule.  I realized a number of years ago that in terms of raw aerobic ability I’m well into the bottom half of humanity, somewhere in the low 20s percentile-wise would be my guess.  If I want to do something which requires extraordinary fitness, I’ll need to specifically target it and put in a lot of time.  Inevitably, that sort of semi-structured training will conflict with maximum fun.

IMG_1209I haven’t had to fix a broken chain in years.  I was in the small ring cornering hard, and think it half jumped the tooth when it went under load. 

Some time next year, I haven’t decided when or what, I’ll have a goal which requires more than a slightly-above-base level of fitness.  I’ve had to shelve things I had planned for this August because I just can’t do the miles-per-day this year.  The combination of no intensity training and the weekend to weekend cycles of just not enough recovery has seen to that.  I know, especially from two years ago, that hill repeats and some strategic restraint will get me where I want to be.  But doing so requires sacrifices.  And with the world as big as it is today, that is not a choice to take lightly.