Photograph by Annie Pokorny.

Field Notes from the Aerobic Playground: Finding Type I Fun in a Type II Lifestyle

Words by Annie Pokorny.

I cross-country ski professionally. If you are unfamiliar with what that entails, all you really need to know is that I don’t make much money, I exercise pretty much all the time (have you ever tried skiing uphill), and I and continue to do both due to a wildly masochistic but ultimately fulfilling passion for my sport and my community.

Let me explain…

Type I Fun is the kind of fun during which we feel great the moment it happens (i.e. a cold beer on a hot day, diving into a pool or having a dance party). Type II Fun doesn’t feel fun until it’s over – it can be miserable in the moment but quite rewarding after completion. Type II Fun comes in the form of sundry uncomfortable situations, including (but not limited to) dangerous adventures or grueling workouts. It’s the type of fun that makes up most of my training lifestyle, which coincidentally brought me to the mountain west.

I moved to Idaho to train for skiing, to push my body to new altitudes, limits and strengths. I saw the rugged reputation of the high mountain desert and felt it matched my aspirations as an athlete. After my first weekend training in these mountains, I’ve found myself to be a little softer than I’d envisioned, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Out here, among all the intensity and epic-ness of the Type II lifestyle, comes a great deal of Type I pleasure and I think I’m all the better for it.

To finish off a “volume block” (a week long period during which you try to exercise for as many hours as your body allows), my teammate and I decided to adventure in the Boulder, White Cloud and Sawtooth mountain ranges north of our home base in Ketchum, Idaho. What follows are our field notes and observations on the many forms of type I and II fun out there. We mountain biked, climbed, ran, hiked, scrambled, swam, slept under the stars and re-fueled on the occasional breakfast burrito. Are you ready to join us next time?

Splashing along through the first section of Fisher Creek.

Stop 1: Mountain Biking Fisher Creek

Located at the base of the White Clouds, this 17.8 mile loop offers everything from dirt roads to single track, flowing descents to pounding climbs, and a few decent views of the surrounding mountains.

Fisher Creek Type II Fun: Pushing through lactic acid flooded legs to climb a final steep pitch of dirt road before hitting the single track. Wondering why I’m here, where my water went and how my friend got so good at mountain biking. Trying, and failing, to lean into a banked turn. Falling into, rather than over, my handlebars.

Fisher Creek Type I Fun: Reaching the top of that lactic-acid flooded climb and seeing nothing but flowing, downhill single track. Descending through a newly burned forest woven together by sprouting wildflowers. A moment on the descent where I break out of the trees to see the Sawtooth mountain peaks across the valley. Splashing through puddles.  A celebratory breakfast burrito.

Climbing the crag

Stop 2: Climbing up Yankee Fork crag

Going North past Stanley, slip left up a canyon and follow the rushing river to a precarious pull off to find this handful of moderate climbing routes that most climbers would consider a “rest day.” I, not a climber, found them challenging but doable, and have the scabbed knees to prove it.

Yankee Crag Type II Fun: First day outdoor climbing of the year entails bloodied knuckles, scraped knees, climbing shoes that squeeze a little too much, and more than one janky equipment check. Sometimes climbing feels like a continuous close call, but that’s mostly my sore forearms talking.

Yankee Crag Type I Fun: The immense release of making it to the top of a hard fought route, when you release your muscles and lean backwards to descend the pitch. Safely belaying your friends though successful climbs. Nibbling on leftover cinnamon rolls while watching others exercise.

Enjoying a cool dip after long hours in the mountains.

Stop 3: Camping at Alturas Lake

Camping seems pretty straight forward, until you send two overconfident, underprepared liberal arts students into the woods with a tent. It took a few tries, but we found a nice little spot right at the edge of the water and drifted into a gentle slumber to the sounds of lapping water, swirling mosquitos and the shouts and whispers of fellow campers.

Alturas Camp Type II Fun: Battling with high mountain mosquitos over a bowl of tepid curry, traipsing from packed campsite to packed campsite wishing I’d made a reservation, listening to the calls distressed toddlers/lost dogs well into the early morning.

Alturas Camp Type I Fun: The joint relief of finding a vacant campsite on a Saturday night and dipping your sore feet into chilly the lake. Peaking at the stars through your tent flap, waking up a little frosty but somehow still warm. Seeing those toddlers and dogs in the morning, neither distressed nor lost, but rather content to watch the sunrise over the misty water.

Pointing out Lorenzo, deciding how many more hours our legs can handle on the Boulder Crest Traverse.

Stop 3: Boulder Crest Traverse

The Boulder Crest Traverse is one of those not-trail-trails that follows a ridgeline for seven to ten miles at around 11,000 feet elevation. After a big day in the mountains, a short night camping, and a tense drive with a too-low-for-comfort tank of gas, we weren’t altogether sure that we would encounter any kind of fun other than Type III (neither fun when it happens, nor after it’s finished, except perhaps for onlookers with sick senses of humor). Luckily, we were wrong.

BCT Type II Fun: Run/hiking for four to five hours, hitting four to five peaks (Pk. 10,941; Cerro Ciento; Easley Peak; Pk. 10,900; Lorenzo) with more than four thousand feet of climbing with twice as much direct sun as there is available oxygen.

BCT Type I Fun: The victorious feeling of bagging peak after peak. The taste of peanut butter and jelly heightened by the backcountry and slight dehydration. The runner’s high that results from the mixture of altitude with that dehydration. Dipping in the Big Wood River to wash the dirt, sweat and blood off your tired body.

Days like these are why I live here. By the end of our weekend, bodies worn and tired, we had accomplished all of our goals. We’d gone out, chased big workouts, seen huge views, learned a few things, and had quite a bit of fun.