At a surprise party for a good friend this weekend, we chatted with a younger guy who has small children and heard his story about a road biking accident that side-lined him for a year due to a messed up shoulder. He told us that, before the crash, he had been pretty intense in his riding, getting up at 3:30 to bike 60 miles before work while his infant daughter was still waking up every two hours in the night. He recognizes now that he had been pretty dumb. Training loses much of its effectiveness if you’re not getting enough rest, and I’m guessing the rate of injury also goes up significantly.
I wondered why he felt compelled to ride in the middle of the night on no sleep with a baby girl at home. He is a software engineer, not a professional road biker. What is it that made him decide that a twenty mile ride after work wasn’t enough? Then I thought of a group of mountain bikers my hubby and I encountered on a dusty road outside of Vail a few weeks ago. They were fighting up the hill, some doing better than others, but these were not elite athletes. The couple in the back looked miserable, angry and ready to keel over. What made them think this was a good thing to be doing? We have plenty of good trails around here that are better suited to their ability level. I’m noticing a trend not just in our Happy Valley, but in other parts of the country: people pushing themselves in activities beyond the point of rationality.
I admire people for testing their limits and living life to the fullest, but it feels like a lot of folks have taken it just a bit too far. Have the cocaine addicts of the 80’s raised a generation of adrenalin junkies? Have we become such a competitive society that working out in the gym just isn’t good enough, and instead it has to be cross-fit intense six days a week?
It used to be that the average population participated in biking, hiking, climbing and other sport endeavors as fun activities. This was a way to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy our world. Every so often, someone would become a “mountain climber” rather than a mere hiker, and they would scale the more difficult routes up 14er’s with crampons and pick axes. The more adventurous few within that group went on to climb Everest. Today, hiking has been taken to new extremes. It’s not enough to scale all of Colorado’s highest peaks over a summer. They climb four of them in two days, running up the rocky slopes.
For runners, it’s no longer a sufficient challenge to run a marathon. Now it has to be an “ultra” marathon of 100 miles. Through the mountains. At night.
Alpine skiing is not just a fun day on the slopes. People brag about skiing every extreme hill in the resort three times in one day. Or hitting it hard, rope-drop to sun-down, skinning up from the bottom each run rather than riding the chair lift. Yeeeeaaahhh Baaabbbyyy! Or they head for the back country where the terrain is more “intense” and they risk their lives with increased avalanche danger.
People want to be Ninja Warriors, Cross Fitters and Mud Runners.
Live on the edge or don’t live at all. Go extreme or go home. Really? Raising an athlete in this environment is a challenge. We try to teach him to respect his body and its limits while pursuing excellence. We find that our parents’ adages just don’t cut it. “If Jenny jumped off a cliff, would you follow her?” Here in the Vail Valley, the response is generally, “Hell, yes!” Hmmmmm. Let’s try that again. . . .