On the trail: How I tried to kill my mother
September 15, 2008
ASPEN ” A few weekends ago, I called home and my dad picked up.
In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that my mom had decided to walk a marathon to celebrate her 60th birthday. (For the record, my father celebrated his 60th by skiing an entire day in a rainstorm. Self-flagellation runs in the family.)
“She’s doing what?” I asked. “Why didn’t she tell me?”
“Whoops,” said my father.
My mom called the next day and explained that she hadn’t wanted to tell anyone until she was far enough along in the training to know she had a chance at finishing.
But during her visit to the Roaring Fork Valley, would I mind doing a long walk with her? she wondered.
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Determined to help mom with her training, I went into marathon mode. Hearing that she was training with one, 12-ounce water bottle, I bought her a Camelbak. When she arrived, I flooded her with advice: Was she cross-training? Was she stretching enough? And I pored over the map to figure out where to go ” deciding on the Lead King Loop in Marble, a 25-kilometer loop. Perfect.
I guess, when I think back, I kind of realized that mom had done all of her training on bicycle paths in the city ” but at the time I just didn’t consider the Lead King Loop that different.
And I guess, intellectually, I knew that San Jose, Calif., is as flat as a pancake. But surely she could handle a few hills?
And as far as the altitude ” really, I just forgot that the Lead King Loop starts at 8,000 feet and that she lives at sea level.
So when we started up the first hill and she was breathing hard, I started to worry a little. But she was determined to keep going, and I thought ” How steep could this be? We’re just circumnavigating a mountain.
Turns out, it’s really steep. That is if instead of hiking around Sheep Mountain you hike to the top, even though there is a really big sign and even though you have spent four years of your life as an off-trail hiking guide and laughing at any student who would dare make such a mistake.
I guess it’s a testament to mom that even though we spent the entire time climbing to the top of a mountain on a hike I had sold as “pretty flat” ” and even though she could hardly breathe at 11,500 feet because she insisted on hiking at her sea-level pace, and even though the entire time I kept offering her the chance to turn around ” she was not once going to take me up on it.
I’ve decided I’m not too worried about whether she’ll finish the marathon.