Mountaineering Training | Finding the Balance Between Training and Life
RMI Guide Adam Knoff originally wrote this for the training blog a few years ago. As we have all been more or less stuck in our homes, with life looming front and center for many, Adam's message again seemed apropos.
Today I was surprisingly asked a question that, as far as I can tell, is as old as human curiosity, parental affection and plain ol’ sibling rivalry. This may seem strange because I only have one child, and my somewhat unhinged three wingnut dogs can’t speak and honestly don’t care about the answer as long as they are fed and played with. As you may have guessed, the question so abruptly put on me this morning was: “daddy, who’s your favorite?” Harder to guess was, who asked it?
Things started normally enough; I made breakfast for my kiddo before packing him up and carting him off to preschool. I fed my dogs and chickens, cleaned the kitchen, and prepared for a day of light recreating before my afternoon duties began. It was when I entered the garage, home to my all important man cave and location of all my beloved fly fishing and climbing gear that things took a bizarre turn. Standing in front of me (I kid you not!) side by side, with puppy dog eyes looking up, stood my 12’6” Echo spey rod and my carbon fiber, oh so beautiful, Cobra ice tools. These sorts of things don’t just happen so I double checked my reality button. Dreaming? No I don’t think so. I have been up for three hours, had my coffee, and still felt the throb in my left big toe where I slammed it into the chest at the side of my bed. Ok, I’m awake. Drugged? No, I quit taking hallucinogens in high school and my wife, I think, genuinely cares about me. Then what? My two favorite activities in life, swinging flies for big trout with my spey rod and ice climbing, which is now doable in Bozeman, Montana, have come to a head. With a few free hours, my fishing rod and ice tools came alive and wanted me to pick favorites. Sheeesh! What’s a guy to do?
As time stood still, I began to reflect on the week long steelhead fishing trip I took just two weeks prior to the Grand Rhond, Clearwater, and Snake rivers. Ohhh, the joy of that trip made me quiver. It made me want to reach out, grab my spey rod child and declare my love for him. 28 inch ocean run rainbows on the swing, the thrill of the next hook up, not wearing a heavy pack; the reasons almost overwhelmed me. Yes, yes, you will always be my favorite!!! Then I saw my ice tools. Hyalite Canyon is in! I can’t wait for the thrill of running it out on newly formed thin ice over a stubby ice screw, waking up before the sun, and realizing this day was bound to hold everything but the predictable. Ohh, ice tools, you are my favorite, “let’s go climb something!” I think you understand my dilemma.
Parenting has taught me much in the five years that I’ve been at it. Love, patience and compassion are always at the forefront of dealing with children. Frustrations always arise. Liam spills my wine on the new rug, my spey rod whips bullets at the back of my head leaving welts the size of cheese curds on my scalp, ice tools rip out unexpectedly and send waves of sudden panic through me that make me want to puke. All part of the landscape I guess. So how did I answer the question, “who is your favorite”? Here I leaned on the invaluable lessons gleaned from seven years of blissful marriage. I compromised.
That day I took the ice tools out for their first climb of the season. I packed them up with the rest of my climbing gear all the while psyched I had just promised my fishing rod we would get out tomorrow. It’s a difficult web we weave, balancing work and play. I honestly felt troubled that I had to recreate two days in a row, climbing then fishing, but then again parenting is also about sacrifice.
As readers of the RMI Blog, most of you are probably cracking a smile but are also curious how this story is relevant to the mission of mountain climbing, training, and/or preparing for an upcoming goal. Here is how I connect the dots: Fishing for me is the yin to my climbing yang. It is a glorious mental escape which allows me to shelve my daily stresses and exist purely in the moment. Everyone needs this periodic meditation to reset and clear the mind. For many, exercise accomplishes the same release but regular exercise does not necessarily constitute “training”. The expectations I put on myself when climbing on my own are very high and the specific training schedule I follow can at times be demanding, painful, and sometimes unpleasant. Here is where we tie in sacrifice. Everyone’s life is managed by time. Somewhere on that big round clock is time you can utilize for yourself. If you have a goal of climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or bench pressing a Ford truck, you need to prioritize and then commit! Finding enjoyment and purpose in life comes when these commitments are made. Being a husband and father keep me grounded. Being a passionate climber and guide keep me psyched and motivated, and the hunt for big fish calms me down. In the big picture I think I have found some balance. Remember it takes the black and the white, the yin and the yang, to complete the circle. The web you weave and balance you seek are your own, but seek it with conviction and purpose and you will be just fine.
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April 13, 2020