Select Page

This Week: 23

This Year: 1934

An underwhelming week that started with a bit of frustration, and never seemed to get back on track mileage-wise. I drove up to Hall Ranch on Monday morning, but the freezing rain was creating some really bad footing on the smooth sections of trail. I wasn’t comfortable with the conditions, so I ended up cutting the run really short. I HATE turning around and bailing on a run, but I know sometimes it’s the right decision – even if it takes me a little while to reach it.

It seems that getting to the right conclusion often seems to happen per a script. Case in point this particular run:

Act I:

I have a strong suspicion during the first few minutes that the conditions aren’t going to let me do the run I want, and that “toughing it out” wouldn’t have a good risk/reward ratio.

Still, I push on a little further, ignoring the unmistakeable signs around me. The first little slip happens less than a mile from the trailhead. The second happens less than twenty yards after that. I stop and bend down to run my glove over the shiny trail. But it’s not wet – it’s coated in thin but bullet hard ice.

So I whisper to myself:

Forget what you just felt… pretend it didn’t happen….

Act II:

But I really can’t forget it, as my gait automatically shortens, and I’m now looking down at my feet as I run, watching almost every step.

I make it through the rockiest section of the Bitterbrush trail, and figure the next downhill will be the real test. I’ve probably run farther into the park than I should have, and now I’ve really got to decide how big of a risk I’m going to be today. Unfortunately, the trail up here is worse… I can actually do a little shuffle glide (you know… that thing you can’t help but do on slick wood floors while you’re wearing thick wool socks…).

That small, underutilized and often forgotten part of my brain – the one that’s wholly rational and logical – finally speaks loud enough that I can’t ignore it any longer:

The park is empty today. If you fall and get hurt it’s really gonna suck. Turn around now – don’t think about it anymore or try to find excuses to keep going. Turn around right now. Don’t worry about whether you’re ‘tough’ – focus on being ‘smart.’

Act III:

The instant I turn around I’m relieved, like I’d been holding my breath the entire time and now can finally breathe. The trail continues to get worse, but somehow I’m feeling a little better about the run, even though it’s a bust. Maybe I’m just happy that I was able to finally come to the right conclusion.

Once back to the car I think about times I’ve faced similar situations while rock climbing: seeing storms start to build while being just a pitch up a long route; or just having reached the base of a smaller crag after a long hike in and not wanting to bail without climbing at least a little bit; or trying to convince myself “oh, it sounds like that thunder is still quite a long ways from here, you probably have enough time to climb.”

I’ve certainly made a few bad decisions about whether to press on and “tough it out,” but looking back I think I’ve made more good decisions than bad. I just wish I could remember that fact a little more quickly when I’m actually out on the trail.