Mountain descent: Not all that easy
You can judge how nutty an activity is by how many people jump at the chance to do it with you.
Since I find myself slip-sliding alone down the side of a mountain in the blazing sun, I begin to suspect this might be considered by many to be slightly odd.
But then most adventures worth embracing are a bit nutty. And, really, walking up a ski hill is the tough choice. How hard can going down be?
Plenty, as it turns out.
We were in Mont Tremblant, Que., an upscale ski town in the Laurentians that boasts four-season appeal. Mountains, lakes, hiking trails, biking paths, zip lines. It dares you to get outside and embrace nature.
Which is why I find myself ruining a perfectly good pair of running shoes as I pick my way down the dusty, four kilometre-long trail that leads to the base of the hill. I was only 10 minutes into the trek and already my quads were burning.
I wonder at my choice but know that there is only one dignified way out of this — to keep going under my own steam. I don’t want some out-of-season ski patroller to have to rescue me. Unless he’s cute.
Walking down was nutty but not insane. Insanity would have been trying to walk up it, which was what I had really wanted to do. But with temperatures reaching above 30 C and with the trail in full sun, that would have been rash. Foolhardy, even.
How I had yearned to do it.
Instead, I took the gondola up to the summit with my husband, daughter and friends, a perfectly civilized way to travel. But after a relaxing picnic lunch, I announced I was heading down on foot.
They weren’t surprised. They had seen the glint in my eye and besides, I had whined all the way up the hill about how great it would be to hike it. Those comments had been met with blank stares and uncomfortable silences.
As I head further down the hill, the terrain gradually changes from very steep and rocky to a more gentle, grassy incline and then, finally, a tiny trail cut through the trees, complete with rickety wooden stairs.
Forty-five minutes after starting, I walk on rubbery legs into the quaint ski village at the bottom. Tired, dusty and hot, I find my family and join them for a cooling dip in the pool.
Judging by the number of people in the water, this is an acceptable activity. Not the slightest bit nutty.
When my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. the next morning, my tired quads instantly remind me of my little adventure. No matter. The beauty of the place calls and I head out for a 10-kilometre run on wobbly legs, determined to embrace a normal activity.
With the lake on my right and cabins and condos on my left, I head to the next town, mesmerized by the beauty of the place. Swarms of cyclists and groups of runners are out in force, serious-looking athletes no doubt training for the Ironman Mont-Tremblant held every year in August.
A blue stripe painted down the middle of one lane signifies the route the triathletes will follow and as I run along it, I am seized by the desire to one day return to race it. Now there’s a socially acceptable adventure in exercising. Heck, triathlon is even an Olympic sport. Nothing nutty about that.
As my imagination runs wild with thoughts of triathlons and mountain hikes, a figure rounds a bend and crosses the road just ahead of me. A buff runner with the lean look of a serious competitor, he moves with quick and powerful strides, no doubt a triathlete out for some morning training.
He is running barefoot and I can’t help but stare at his fluid motion and seemingly effortless ability. Oh, and he’s wearing nothing but a teeny, tiny black Speedo.
Since he’s alone, I can’t help by wonder if his training buddies consider this to be odd behaviour, maybe slightly nutty.
After all, not even I would run that way. No sir. Even I draw the line at barefoot.
Deborah Wiles, an editor for The Chronicle Herald, also writes a column for Canadian Running magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CurlyGirlRuns.