The Darkroom. Everyone knows it, even if they don’t know it by that name. It’s the pits. The low point during an activity. The point at which you want to give up, go home and cower. It’s playing the pain game.
And it’s required.
You can’t have a great time in the mountains or on the trail without getting into the Darkroom once or twice. Inevitably, at one point during your ride, you’ll ask yourself: “Why the hell am I doing this? I’m miserable. My lungs burn. I can taste blood. I’m sucking wind and everyone is going faster than me.”
You’ve just entered the Darkroom.
It’s a dangerous place, this Darkroom. It can make you quit. It HAS made you quit. It’s full of hoodoos and demons and all sorts of doubt. It engulfs you and shakes you up. You can’t focus on anything but stopping and turning around. It hurts.
There are those souls out there who intentionally put themselves in the Darkroom. Society calls them masochists, I typically call them some of my more hardcore friends. My buddy EFreson calls it “Type A Fun”. Putting yourself out there, knowing you’ll soon be in an extremely uncomfortable environment takes a certain type. Admittedly, I’ve opened the door to the Darkroom on purpose from time to time. I get inside and wonder what I was thinking when I turned the knob.
“Ouch!” I say, “Why did I want to do this?! My legs burn!” as I make my way up a silly steep boot pack.
“What were we thinking when we thought of this?” I’ll moan as we bushwhack down an increasingly narrow runoff canyon.
“You thought this was going to be fun?!?” I’ll lament in the midst of a 70mph gust on a snowy, exposed ridge.
Luckily, most Darkroom experiences are with other people. You may be in the Darkroom, but at least you’re with other people. They can bring you up, unlock the door and get you out of there. It’s lonely in the Darkroom, and it’s valuable to have partners who know how to rescue you from the depths.
But I’m glad there’s a Darkroom. Cliche, yes, but how can we appreciate the good without the bad? Being positive and happy in the mountains all day long is not realistic. It just doesn’t happen that way all day. The Darkroom has a way of teaching you appreciation and giving you perspective.
When you get into your Darkroom, how do you get out? What helps? When have you willing entered?
I’ve got a few good days in recently, but the weather had a bad habit of thwarting my big plans for multiple 14ers. Rather than risk it, I decided to stay local for the week and tackled some of the backyard terrain.
I took a run up to the Snack Bar again, this time with dark clouds and threatening skys. I never got more than a drizzle but moved a bit faster due to the approaching lightning. My time up and back is getting faster and faster.
I ran up Mt. Crested Butte over the weekend as well. I hadn’t been up to the top since EFreson and I took Sunset Ridge to the summit (a story for another post). It’s an awesome mountain and I decided I’ll have to sink money into a pass this year. I love it up there. At the top, most of the tourists were pretty confused when I told them I started at the bottom rather than riding the chair. Yes, people around here do that kind of thing. Welcome.
And I spent Sunday dodging rain at Hartman Rocks. The trails were strange: really buff and nice in some sections, deep sand and washed out in others. Regardless, I had an awesome ride. A couple crashes kept my attention. The cloud cover made it nice and cool all day. I hardly saw anyone.
The Gunnison valley is pretty magical, really.
I don’t know the story behind this sign, but I love it:
It sits at 8,500′ on the top of Signal Peak, just behind the Western State College of Colorado campus.
My gal Friday and I decided it would be a good afternoon jaunt. I wanted to hike Mt. Crested Butte but wasn’t sure the weather would hold, so rather than risk a potentially fruitless trip, we stayed local. I carried a full day pack to help in my training efforts. Gotta get used to the weight on my shoulders!
The round trip (according to BLM’s site) is about 10 miles with nearly 1,000′ of elevation gain and took just over two hours. Guess what? This being my first try on this run, I set a personal record. Yup.
The weather was perfect. Cloud cover provided a much needed reprieve from the typical afternoon heat. We encountered very few people out on the trail and enjoyed a nice snack at the top.
As I made my way down, I noticed some awesome colors behind Tenderfoot Mountain. Unfortunately, I only had my BlackBerry with me, but I captured this picture:
Following my run, I decided to try a technique that JCarr has often told me about. My house is a five minute walk to the river. I went straight there and sat down in it, shoes, shorts and all. It was freezing. And glorious. I’m no scientist, but apparently the cold water constricts your muscles and helps flush out the lactic acid and other nasty soreness inducing buggers. I sat for 10 minutes or so and stood up with a new pair of legs. It felt fantastic.
It was another great day in an even greater place. I love calling Gunnison home.