Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Athletes of another order

I’ve been mulling over in my mind what to write about this week and my thoughts go back to my most recent vacation. Some wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation but it is one of my favorite things to do. My dad and I went backpacking for 8 days in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado on the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT runs for nearly 100 miles through this wilderness area crossing only one remote dirt road near the end and stays above 10,500 feet in elevation the entire time. Physical fitness is a must as covering that kind of mileage in eight days at that elevation with a 40lb pack is no small task. Adding to the physical challenges are the mental aspects of putting one foot in front of the other and making that slow, steady progress. The scenery provided rewards at every turn and the ultimate reward was reaching our goal at the end.

While challenging for us, it’s a walk in the park compared to some of the seemingly super human accomplishments I’ve seen and read about recently. I’m not referring to Jeff Gordon or Carl Edwards roughing it for a few hours in triple degree heat during a Sprint Cup race. I’m talking about someone like Dean Karnazes otherwise known as The Ultramarathon Man ( Karnazes recently completed 50 marathons, in 50 consecutive days, in 50 states. Not impressed? How about running without stopping for about 80 hours and covering 350 miles in the process? Now we’re getting somewhere! The guy obviously has it together physically and mentally. It makes me wonder what exactly is the physical limit for running non stop above 350 miles.

Another name that comes to mind: Ed Viesturs ( Viesturs is a mountaineer of mountaineers. Among his many great mountaineering feats, he has climbed Everest six times and has topped out on all of the world’s 14 highest peaks (all above 8000 meters). Then you have the more recent and better known names like Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps who are head-and-shoulders above their peers. And what about a name like “Flyin’ Brian” Robinson – first known person to hike the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails within a single calendar year logging 7,000+ miles in the process.

So you may not find these names on the ESPN top 100 athlete list, but from an endurance standpoint, they are most likely in better shape than most on that list and just about anyone we see playing a major sport on television these days. They are athletes of another order.


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