The need for speed

Every October, the need to recreate takes on a certain sense of urgency among Durangoans. With daylight savings time looming, the after-work warriors among us know our days are numbered. As a result, we feel the need to make every last waning minute of sunshine count. We rush home from work, toss off the shackles of officewear, grab the first piece of sporting equipment we see and make a mad rush for the door. And with the sunset growing a minute closer each day, we continue this frenetic pace - riding, running, climbing or doing whatever it is we do - knowing that once that last weekend of the month rolls around we're doomed. Sure, I know there are some out there who actually celebrate this time of year for the bonus (and often serendipitous) hour of bar time it brings. But even this is fleeting consolation. Come the next morning, all you're left with is that much more of a hangover and the knowledge that come quittin' time, darkness will have reclaimed the land, relegating you to the joys of an indoor, mechanized workout or couch surfing.

So, much in the same way bears feast on nuts and berries in anticipation of hibernation, we gorge ourselves on summer sports, knowing we'll need to get our fill to last till spring. And for some reason, we think the faster we do it, the better and longer lasting the effect. Of course, some of us are faster than others.

On a certain day last week, as I pedaled along the local trails at what I thought was I respectable clip in order to beat sundown, I was passed by several riders. I wondered briefly if I had inadvertently stumbled into the middle of a race. But, alas, I came to the sorry conclusion that they were on the same mission I was - just in much better shape. The realization was humbling, and on a few occasions, I was foolhardy enough to humor my overtakers by ratcheting out of my granny gear in an attempt to keep pace. Unfortunately, my legs and lungs gave out before my pride, leaving me a quivering, panting fool, and in the end I still got dropped.

The next evening, in lieu of the shellacking I had taken the day before, I decided to leave the bike at home. Perhaps I was getting burned out, I told myself. Maybe a run was what I needed. I could go at my own pace, and getting passed by a biker was perfectly acceptable. But as I laced up my shoes I couldn't help but have lingering feelings of anxiety and inadequacy over the previous day. I surveyed the low, dark clouds looming to the north and tried to get my husband to tell me it was OK not to go.

"It looks really dark out there, like it might rain," I said, hoping he would pick up on the subliminal clue.

"It's looked like that all day, and it hasn't rained yet," he replied, oblivious to my ulterior motive. "Just go, you know you'll feel better if you do."

Out of excuses, I headed out the door and east toward Horse Gulch. Strangely enough, no one else had heeded the bad advice of his or her spouse, and I found I had the entire place to myself. And just as I was basking in my solitude and good fortune, it began to rain. It was just light drops at first, each one punctuated by the otherwise heavy silence. I looked up to see that the dark cloud I had observed earlier was directly overhead. There was a flash of lightning, thunder rumbled through the valley, and the slow, methodical rain began to pick up, making a syncopated rhythm on the dried oak leaves. My first reaction was to curse my husband and hightail it out of there. Yet, as I turned back to the west to head home, I noticed there was a break in the clouds and a sliver of sun was peaking out along the western horizon. The oblique rays lit up the entire valley, bouncing off the thin veil of rain and backlighting the entire place in a surrealistic palette of reds, golds, pinks and blues. I glanced over my shoulder, back up the valley, to take it all in. And I realized it was the first time in a long time I had done so. It was a strangely bittersweet moment. I had never felt so lucky, to be in the right place at the right time, to be able to witness such an amazing spectacle of nature. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder, what with the inevitable march of growth, development and time, not to mention my own hectic life, how many more of these I would ever see again. And for once - with the rain pelting me and the sun quickly sinking to the west - instead of speeding up, I slowed down.

- Missy Votel




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