Undertaking a challenge to do something—anything—every day for 365 days straight means that you get to enjoy amazing opportunities that you may never have embraced before, but that at other times, you’ll need to buckle down and grunt out some truly difficult efforts. This maxim is no less true with the Outside 365 Challenge.

Some days, my daily time moving outside is spent walking along a beach in perfect weather—the waves crashing on the shore warm against my feet, the breeze cool against my face. And other times, I have to ask myself, “why am I doing this again?”

One of the latter took place on the morning of a travel day in which I was headed to warmer climes, but as I slapped my alarm into quietness at 5am, well before the sun arose, I looked out the window and realized that not only was it well before dawn, pitch black and cold, but Central Colorado had been consumed by a snowstorm.

I added extra layers and a thick pair of boots to my planned attire, strapped on my headlamp, and headed out into the depths of the early morning hours. 

With the snow whipping into my face, the light of my headlamp bounced back into my eyes, blinding me with light instead of darkness. The only thing I could see was the blank snow in front of me. As I walked a route that I’ve walked dozens of times during this challenge, I navigated the few curves in the road almost by feel, turning around at a place that I’d predetermined as one of my minimum destinations.

Thankfully on the return I had my tracks to follow, but I initially had planned to spend my walk sipping coffee and waking up for the day. Now, having one hand (sans glove) out of my pocket holding my coffee mug turned out to be the complete opposite of relaxing. Almost no part of this experience was redeemable. 

And yet.

And yet I was out walking in a snowstorm at 5am, and the absolute peace and quiet and utter solitude, even in my own neighborhood, was magnificent. Choosing to get out and move turned out to be well-worth it after all.

It always is.

Outside Day 173

Today was my first day of skiing in two years!! In addition to two surgeries, I’ve spent months and months in physical therapy and thousands of dollars on medical bills as I’ve prepared for today. 

Is it OK to be honest when our outdoor experiences aren’t actually amazing? Hope so, because here goes nuthin'.

While it was an absolutely gorgeous day to be out in the mountains and the views from the Continental Divide were to die for, I can’t help but be terrified of adding a fourth or fifth year onto this absolute mess of ACL surgeries and subsequent recoveries. Despite wearing a brand new knee brace, I could still feel the weakness in my knee during every single turn I made. 

Was it just pain from my patellar tendon that’s still ornery a full year after the most recent surgery? Was it my ACL groaning under the strain? Ultimately, does it even matter what the root cause is?

It’s no exaggeration to say that downhill skiing has been one of the most important and defining aspects of my life, but when is enough enough? Do I keep working on strengthening, struggling slowly forward? Or do I raise the white flag?

If yesterday clarified one thing to me, it’s that I can easily head up into the high alpine and enjoy the beauty of the snowy mountains from the seat of my bike. We have so many different types of adventure available to us here in Colorado, that I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice what modicum of health I do have on the altar of powder skiing.

I don’t have any answers yet about what the future holds. But maybe it’s time to finally buy a snowboard.

Outside Day 163.