Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On Turning 40

I was feeling a bit of angst about turning 40 so I did what any smart educator would do. After celebrating the Big Day with my wife and three kids at home I took off with 30 sixteen year-olds for three days of camping in the Sawtooth Mountains. I figured that perhaps some of their youthful exuberance would rub off on me. Or, at least, I could get out of the office and into the mountains for a little while.

Of course, the purpose of my being on the trip was to chaperone the kids but the true joy came during the three runs I was able to squeeze in during the trip. For those of you who don’t know it should be said that the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho are seriously beautiful. The crisp air of late-September makes them even more so and the changing colors of the Aspen leaves make them downright breathtaking. So, in this context it was easy to see that I was going to get in some great running.

As luck would have it the kids were scheduled to go climbing on “the slabs” on the day after my 40th. Getting there for the kids and guides required a 10-mile boat ride followed by a 3-mile hike. I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to run there and back making it a clean 26-mile day (or approximately 40K in honor of the day!).

In short, I had one of those runs that made me feel like I was 20 rather than 40. Starting with a 1200-foot climb to the top of a ridge I enjoyed unencumbered views of Redfish Lake before plummeting down 1000 feet to the lakeshore. From there, it was into the wilderness area and three miles uphill to the climbing location. I hiked around the rocks and arrived in time to meet the kids at the top of their climb and after having lunch and hiking back to the boat dock together I got in the second part of my birthday run as the sun was setting over the Sawtooths.

Certainly, there are times when getting in the miles is a slog. Times when the heart and the mind are battling with the body to just do something else. Then, there are days when you feel like you can run forever. I had one of those days after turning 40. That must be a good thing.

So now, I am preparing for my first race as a “Master.” With admittedly weary legs from three 100 milers over the summer I am excitedly getting ready for the Javelina Jundred on my old training ground in Arizona. It’s funny, even after the summer I’ve had, I am now re-energized to get out to the track a couple times a week and to strap on the headlamp every morning at 5AM to get in the miles. I am not sure if this growing older thing is worth it but on this beautiful day in early October it certainly feels pretty OK. I’ll keep you posted.


Hart said...

happy birthday ajw! i think you have shown you are in your ultrarunning prime- good luck at javelina!

Bob Gentile said...

whats up u old fart :-) the big Four Zero!!

Welcome to Masters Land, I am sure that made other Masters really happy --LOL

Happy B-Day ajw!! 40's not so bad I turned 41 in May..whew that was bad-haha

Have a great JJ race!

Anonymous said...

What a great post about the type of unexpected runs that make us remember why we fell in love with trail running to begin with.

I ran in the Sawtooth unexpectedly myself, back in Fall, 1997, on a trip with my wife to attend a friend's wedding in Sun Valley. I just headed up into the mountains with no other goal than to see some sights and stay away from the pre-wedding brunches, bridal showers, etc. I caught a glimpse of the beauty you describe and it has stayed in my memory for over 10 years now. Most runs I forget the day after - not that one.

Best of luck at Javelina, try for sub-15!

Sam said...


Happy Birthday Andy! You seemed to have celebrated it with youthful vigor. Welcome to the Masters, phase two of your youth.


Addy said...

A belated happy birthday on the new age :) Sounds like is a great one to be at, with the run you were able to have. It seems like it was an absolutely beautiful run in a great place. It seems like with your personality and additude, you'll never hit any barriers in gaining another year. Good luck at JJ!

andyb said...

Happy birthday and great post. Funny how things can coalesce to provide a great experience. Good luck at Javelina, and give them masters there some hell!!! :-)

Jean Pommier said...

Ouch, so here you are, Andy, getting in our own competitive age group... Like you were not good enough to stay with the competitive "kids"! ;-) You are going to kill us and surely set many new age-group course records. But welcome, anyway! I never felt so young as when turning 40, I'm sure you'll experience and enjoy the same.

See you on the trails (well at the start of races at least),

Jean (aka Farther Faster).

Anonymous said...

"I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to run there and back making it a clean 26-mile day"

and this left the kids with the unanimous impression that you were on this trip for yourself not to get to know them. Clearly poor judgment from an incompetent "educator" and it's been downhill ever since.

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