Sometimes it all makes sense.

Sudden news this morning: Niels Albert is retiring, at the age of 28.

Why would you care? Albert has been, for the past 3 or 4 years, the second best cyclocross racer on earth. Cross is rather like speed skating, in that it’s popularity (and by extension $$) in one country so far outstrips all others that it’s hardly more than a national sport. The pool of potential second-best crossers, or speed skaters, is quite small. Albert is retiring at what would likely be the beginning of the apex of his career (Nys has to get old eventually) due to a heart condition. If he continues racing, he might self-induce a heart attack and die. All of which goes to show, though not prove, that a lot of our supposedly healthy physical activities might not be, if you take them to the extent that I assume many readers of this blog do.

A number of surveys tell us that running and a number of other fitness activities are the most popular outdoor sport/pursuits/whathaveyou. As most practice it, running is probably pretty healthy. By those same terms, namely 30-90 minutes at a stretch, 2-4 days a week, it is probably quite healthy. And quite boring. The more interesting, I’d argue fulfilling, and spiritually uplifting version of running or any other outdoor activity fully embraces the potential for obsession. And 20-30 hours a week is not healthy, in the narrow sense.

Neither, oddly enough, is living the dream, be it in Yosemite or anywhere. Familiarity breeds contempt, laziness, and I’lldoittomorrowness. It does breed appreciation, leisure, and a sustainable, lifelong pace (if you take it easy on the weed), so maybe it’s healthy after all.

One thing that is not healthy is dying. The Muir Wall rescue discussed at the end of the video is, I have compelling reason to believe, Mason Robison, a friend of friends whom I’d met over beers on a few occasions. The unthinking nature of the dying-doing-what-he-loved (and it is almost always he) justification often rings hollow, as there are many other things which would probably be just as satisfying. But most of them are likely also dangerous, which is something to think about.

So think about health as something a little more multi-dimensional than medical models would suggest. Hopefully you’ll learn something.