“Thirty-seven.” That was his answer to my question as to when he thought he had reached his top form, and after which he first noticed his speed, stamina and general physical condition begin to deteriorate– in other words, when things started going downhill. I didn’t think it to be an inconsiderate question at the time. I was genuinely curious. But I later realized that to ask a guy 13 years my senior and with a near lifetime more experience in the mountains than I had, was a bit disrespectful. It implied that he had peaked, that he was over the hill, and my innocent curiosity put him in the uncomfortable position of having to actually nail down the exact start of his decline. I was asking him to admit that he was getting old.
But as certain as time may be, Neal still refuses to surrender to age, and he wasn’t going to let me get away with forcing it on him. That would explain his answer, because I was thirty-seven, and it was the obvious, easy comeback to my unintentional call out. As in, “I may be getting older, but you’re right there with me, pal.”
Which, of course, is true. Nice one, Neal.
So the week before my 38th birthday, he started joking that I only had a few days left before I’d be past my prime. We decided to get out every day right up to my birthday because, well, it’ll be all downhill from there.
And coincidentally, Neal, the guy who refuses to slow down, yet who at age 50 told me (with a slight smirk), that my outdoor career would likely be in rapid decline from a much earlier age of 38, has an itch to get back into the 100-mile running scene. Having paced me twice at Hardrock, he wants to kiss the rock himself but first he has to qualify, and for that he signed up for the Bear 100 in late September.
So together, to get it in before my potential physical demise and to train for Neal’s more certain 100 miler, we made an effort to get out everyday. The week-long schedule for what we dubbed Ted’s Excellent Adventure Camp went like this:
- Day 1- Road bike (w/ Steve Parziale), Independence Pass, 40 miles, 1:45 up.
- Day 2- Trail run, Hunter Creek, distance unknown.
- Day 3- Trail run, Conundrum Hot Springs, 18 miles, 4 hours RT.
- Day 4- Road bike, 22 miles- Maroon Bells, rock climb- Ptarmigan Creek.
- Day 5- Mountain bike, 30 miles- Ashcroft- Express Creek- Taylor Pass- Richmond Ridge- Sundeck- Little Annies- Castle Creek- Aspen.
- Day 6- Trail run (with Christy), 13 miles, Upper Lost Man, Lost Man Pass, South Fork Pass, Williams Ridge, Scotts’ Lake, Lower Lost Man.
- Day 7- Pyramid Peak, <2 hours up, 1:15 down.
And so on Day 7, my actual birthday and the day Neal joked it would be all over, we cruised Pyramid pretty fast, up in just under 2 hours and down to the car in 1:15. So he was right, at least from one perspective–
Things went downhill fast, but only with regard to how quickly we got down to the car. It was a fun week to end a fun year. Hopefully, there are more to come.