The early bird catches the storm

About midday i drove up to santa barbara with my tent, running shorts, and a bag of snacks. I arrived at a ranch in the backcountry of the san ynes mountains as the sun was dipping over the surrounding hillsides. I pitched my tent in a sequestered edge of the group campground over some deer tracks. I ate a red pepper stuffed with baby kale an orange a banana and some almonds while trying to ignore the horse shit smell that appropriately permiated the equestrian ranch. I then took a walk up the hill to see if i could find a view(i did) of the surrounding peaks. I watched the shadows slowly creep up the inclines across the valley. Beautifully rugged rocky, and covered in brush. As the crisp raw air seeps into my blood a primordial wildness begins to well up inside me. Its as if the water has found its resting place, the balance has been restored, and the animal is in it's element. I smiled and imagined that i will have seen quite enough of these mountains by the time i get back tomorrow. If i get back. But at the moment, i couldnt wait. Back at camp i made some tea and ate some grapes then fell asleep listening to an owl hooting over head and worrying about the infected blister on my toe. It had been swollen and too sore to wear shoes today but with any luck and a good nights sleep i was hoping it would be fine in the morning.
Around 5 am the buzz around camp is audible. I try to sleep a little longer but the chill just before dawn finds its way into my sleeping bag. I gather my gear and pack up everything but the tent. My toe feels like there's an ice pick in it when i jam it into my shoe. By the time i am ready to go the race briefing had finished and i can hear the race start 200 meters away. I throw on my pack, jog over and catch the back of the runners near the trailhead. The pack im wearing is heavy because there are up to 10 miles between aid stations. I turn on my headlamp and scurry past the walkers. I relax and enjoy the conservative atmosphere at the back. These folks know that its a long day ahead and hurrying now is only gonna make it worse. Eventually i catch up to a midpack string that is going at a good steady pace. About six of us running along the dipping, swirving, climbing single track as the sun rises. The dude i am behind has an ironman tatoo on his ankle. I wonder how tough he is and how tough he will be in 40 miles. No matter how well trained you feel it is a mystery how the day will treat each one of us. We drop down to a paved park road that winds through a canyon much like jurassic park. The group splits apart. Ironman dude takes off. The rest of us yoyo for a while. Some are quicker on the uphills, some on the flats. Most everyone walks the really steep stuff. Accept me and an old dude who I chat with for a while. he ran the jfk 50 mile just a week ago! We run at the same speed as another guy who is speed walking. They slow at the first aid station and i head out with another runner. I find out hes from san diego and has never run a 50 mile before. We pass an old mine building that has train tracks, rail carts and everything. If it werent for the rust and caved in roof you could almost imagine a couple ruffneck miners working out here back when mountain lions roamed these parts. Actually they still do. San Diego slows when we begin climbing into a vertical gorge that leads right up the mountainside out of the backcountry. I push steadily past pools of blue water with bright yellow star shaped oak leaves scattered around to the top where the second aid station is. Its like running through a painting. On the other side a rocky ankle breaking trail drops towards a gorgeous view of santa barbara 3000 feet below. A swishing layer of fog is being pushed out to sea where the channel islands rise far below. On the way down i catch a runner who is moving delicately. Im surprised to find carnage from the lead group this early as he steps aside to let me pass. Near the sulphur springs i run into the iron man dude who cant find the trail. We get lost for half a click and then retrace our steps. He recognizes me from a mt baldy race where we met before. His name is matt. He says that he is in third place. I didnt think i would catch up to the leaders this quickly but i know that i wont be able to chase them through the second half of the race unless i continue to take it easy and let them blow up. We reach the turnaround point at mile 25 after seeing the two guys still in the lead heading back up the trail. They look pretty beat up. in 2nd is chris who i met in a big bear race. This is his first 50 but hes a strong runner. My plan was to run 5 hours for the first half and then push as much as i could on the way back. Everything is going smoothly. It is a severe climb back up to the ridge top fully exposed to the sun. 3000 feet of gain in 5 miles. I hike and speculate with matt about reeling in the front runners. Others still on the way down cheer us on and say that we look far fresher then the two up front. Its encouraging but i know its not a race to the top of this climb. Its a matter of managing hydration and fuel and not locking up over the next four hours. My stomach starts to cramp in the heat. I chew on dates and take salt tabs. Matt starts to run but i cant keep up. When i get to the top of the ridge i am relieved to head back into the gorge away from the sun. The guy who had been in the lead is sitting at the aid station. i can see in his eyes that hes demolished. I cruise down nervously hoping that someone feeling even fresher than i am isnt creeping up behind. My quads are starting to cramp but i am able to move steadily. At the bottom i begin the long series of climbs and descents leading to the reservoir where the last aid station is. I remember each section of the trail as i retrace all those steps in the same day. Although some parts i hardly recognize. When i stop my calves almost sieze up in cramp but they stay loose enough while im moving. Where earlier in the day i was constantly reminding myself to give only an easy effort, now i have to remind myself to keep giving an effort at all. I drink water, eat dates, drink water, eat up the trail, and drink more water despite losing interest in it and beginning to feel nausous. I can sense my immune response dropping as the complex endocrine system tries to manage the continous stress. Its no longer a tired sensation but rather a feverish throbbing throughout the body. At one point i see matt way ahead on the trail chasing chris. I know they are out of reach and i am happy to give up on them. But i worry. As soon as you let yourself relax someone catches you. Thats why its hard to push when you're running alone. As i round a bend i look back and am shocked to see a runner and his pacer progressing well a kilometer back. I panic. The last 10 miles is not a sprint. it will take a constant hard effort to keep ahead. i relax and decide to run everything thats runnable and keep constantly pushing forward. I know that for them to catch me they will need to run everything i do...even faster. So if i can just keep focused at least i will make them work for it. As it cools off i wind back down to the paved park road through the canyon and then back up through the winding single track. It really is gorgeous and rugged out here. I am moving slow but working relentlessy. One tiny step after the other, I just want to get this thing over with. experience keeps my head in the game because i know now that embracing the pain and the ten feet of trail in front of you is what gets you to the finish. Just as i round a bend i see on the opposite incline chris cresting the hill. I didnt expect to see him again and i begin to push. then as i start the final big climb to where he had been i know its pointless. Im completely shot. Just as i reach the top i hear voices echo up from the trail behind and panic again. I can see the ranch down on the otherside of the valley. I run 4 minute kilometers down an endless fireroad and connect to the rocky single track that rolls back to camp. It has little rolling climbs but at this point im running it all. No way im gonna be caught now. Just as the last climb starts i see chris at the top. Hes walking pretty stiffly motioning for me to catch up. I reach him at the top of the hill and we both start running. I recognize the trail end and tell him this is it. But hes in no mood to race. Hes done. I coast down into camp to a communal building where a bunch of folks are cheering. Inside i have to do a shot of whisky and ring a bell to stop the clock(naturally). Chris runs in behind me and does his. Matt congratulates me on getting second. Our strategy actually paid off! Its a great feeling but I am immediately loopy and sick. I run into the old dude who ran jfk 50 last week and the speed walker who we kept pace with in those early miles. they had both dropped out at the 25 mile turnaround but were excited to see that i caught the leaders and came 2nd. A couple minutes later the chaser came in fourth and awhile after that the lead female finished in a flurry. As i sorely packed my tent to drive back to la i smiled as the relief settled in and i began to appreciate everything id learned. Going out easy really does pay off. I listened to an npr broadcast about earnest shackleton on the way home. He always focused on what could be done in a tough situation, never wasting energy on what was already lost.


DPRK - The Juche Idea

The trip to north korea was a unique one for sure. I'm still trying to understand everything that I saw and experienced. I tried to go in with an open mind. To experience a place for what it was and make my conclusions about it layer. While there were things i found extremely human and admirable about the culture, such as their principle of self-discipline(a concept known as juche, literally meaning master of the body/self) and the simplicity of a utilitarian lifestyle, i also found some things contradictory and greatly troubling. there is a pervasive adoption of disillusionment imbued by the government and embraced by the population. There is an adolescent almost embarrassing adoration of these lies and the leadership who publish them through magazines and books. the bookstores we visited contained volumes upon volumes of books on or by Kim Jung Il and Kim Il Sung plus some books on the country and that was it. A magazine we read on the plane was outlandish in it's praise of the accomplishments of the system. From blatant lies about South Korean military movements to supposed technological progress the country had made and shared with the world. While there is unyielding potential when the human conjures up all focus and being towards a singular goal, it is frighteningly and fundamentally corrupt when the ultimate goal(which historically was to defeat the Japanese colonial power) has already been achieved or is gone or lost. Its as if the whole country is frozen in time. While the electric rail bus systems and steam powered trucks break down on the horribly inefficient concrete highway system, monolithic structures with no purpose except to exude an imposing aura of domination and symbol of success stand empty and pointless. All the withering hotels are decorated in lavish 70s design with colossal interior hallways like austere soviet airports. Our guides' main job was to keep us from wandering off anywhere we werent supposed to go and to make sure we saw only the best of what they had to offer. they were at times personal and connected on a human level while at other times strict and even derisive. One of the three, Mr Kim, took me jogging one morning because we shared the joy of being avid amateur athletes. He talked about his soon to be born daughter and how he would like her to be a doctor but doesnt want to force her to choose because his parents tried to force him into a military career that he did not like. But when i asked him to speak to me on camera about koreas social structure he gave me coy excuses and never opened up. We even talked about the free housing, free healthcare, free education, and subsidized food openly, but i think he didnt want to risk getting in trouble later and losing a chance to move up in the ranks. The higher you get in the society the more easy and comfortable your life is. The geography of the country is farmed 90% from what i saw. Only the rockiest slopes are left un tilled. We drove all the way from Pyongyang to the coast and there was rice patties, persimmon tree vineyards, and fish farms all the way. The whole population apparently spends time out there aiding the farmers in harvest. The capital city and each major township are similarly comprised of industrial factories which produce power and mammoth sized, drab, dilapidated apartment buildings that have fluctuating power and water. It paints a dark but atypical picture of a communist country that one could imagine in a movie about the soviet union or the novel 1984. I guess the remarkable part about going to a real place where it is actually happening is the human factor. Getting to see firsthand people getting married, soldiers doing their duty by stopping you from taking photos making you delete the photos then asking where you are from and smiling, or the farmers with speaker boxes in their homes connected to the capital hours away. These are just people within a system who are trying to make a go of it. There are no planes flying overhead, there are no billboards with advertisements, there are no city council buildings. There are signs all over the countryside and on every building but they are all white with bright red letters shouting slogans about the socialist party. They literally had exclamation points at the end. Every other korean is in the army. Building monuments, wiring the highway to be blown if south korea invades, and practicing routines for the next national exhibition parade. Its a country that believes its still at war or at risk of going to war. The government uses this to further its own pursuits. On the tv there are lengthy docu-musical pieces that portray navy ships launching missiles (fade-to) flower blowing in the wind (fade-to) machine gun carting soldiers taking the hill (fade-to) shimmering water all played to an operatic symphony with pro regime message. footage of the latest weaponry and arms of course was filmed in the 70s. One day they took us to see a US spy ship they had captured 20 years ago as a symbol of the victory over the 'imperialists'. what is supposed to come across as bragging rights of some kind was more like a desperate attempt to symbolize strength and progress. it was strange. Its a country that has been so isolated and brainwashed by propaganda that i can only imagine solutions in the 21st century, the age of communication. Where cell phones are more prominent one can only imagine it becoming increasingly more open. But as african nations have exemplified for a long time, authorities can manipulate a people willing to be manipulated. It is definitely a long difficult road ahead for North Korea.


A day in Beijing

Arrows flash. Elevator never comes. Take the stairs. Exit in the alley next to the hotel. Circle the block. Street names repeat. Futong, fu'an, guangshun. Extend the perimeter. Withdrawal refused. Stuck. Wander till new bank appears. Success. Buy ticket, ride subway. Crowded. Change lines. More crowded. Wangfujing, dongshishitiao, and gongyixiqiao stations. Old trains. Teens lost in iPad games. Racing, football, dreamin. Rise to the surface. All directions ambiguous. Follow curiosity. Landmark spotted. Monolithic train station. Join the ebb and swell. Taipingqiao, taipingqiaocun, liuliqiao. Slum-like side street. Pedestrian bent over sick. Rain, garbage, music. One more street just for kicks. Street vendors form farmers market with produce on bicycle carts. Cross the street a courtyard labyrinth. Halls, rooms, boxes. Tables, kettles, cups. Puerh-er, liu cha, oo-long tie guan yin. Old man in tiny shop. Shelves packed to the ceiling. Gestures, grunts, nods. Brews a cup with effortless care. Its more then the tea we share. Passing a shop with ladies sorting stems. Irresistibly inviting they welcome me in. Try more, buy more, leave. Dont leave. What is she saying? What does she want? Aggressively motions me follow. To the street, to the apartment. Meet family. Help daughter with english homework. Student posing as teacher. ni hau, xie xie, zai jian. Drink tea. Snack. More tea. Have dinner. Mooore tea. Take gifts, exchange numbers. Mother worried. Its raining. Take an umbrella. Are you lost? Yes. But its ok. Its good.



Words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly -- yes. He preferred the suffering and worries of love to happiness and joy without thr boy. The river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and that there is only the peesent time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future. Soft is stronger than hard, water is stronger than rocks, love stronger than force. Most people are like falling leaves, i am like a star. He came to understand them, he understood and shared their life, which was not guided by thoughts and insights, but solely by urges and wishes. He saw then for their sake suffering infinitely much, bearing infinitely much... He comes to realize that they lacked nothing except one little thing, the conscious thought of the oneness of life. And he even wondered if this thought might not also perhaps be a childish idea too! Sitting next to people on the plane who cannot sit still or wait. They are forever burdened by demons which they are too agraid to face. But... To be calm within yourself, to have patience and not be arrested by worry is the ultimate joy. A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. Dead to himself, not to be a self any more, to find tranquility with an emptied heard, to be open to miracles in unselfish thoughts, that was his goal. Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once ever desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great secret. To obey like this, not to an external command, only to the voice, to be ready like this, this was good, this was necassary, nothing else was necassary.


no substitute

in the arrogance that accompanies the discipline of sobriety, a restrictive diet, and a remorseless training regime I realize that my running is just a different drug. another escape from the everyday ordinary torture of an average life. It is just as necessary for me as before.


angeles crest 100... 28:20:11

...this is a journey, a discovery. a search for something, for everything, for ourselves. it begins with curiosity. what is out there? who am I and what am I capable of? it is pure because it is simple. how far can I go on my two feet? how deep can I dig? ... we sit on a rock overlooking Los Angeles as the sun comes up over the mountains behind us. ordinarily this is a great time to be up in the foothills meeting the first golden rays on a rocky trail just 15 minutes from my apartment in the valley below. But today it all seems wrong. with just 10 miles left to complete a run that began two sunrises ago i had hoped to be finished by now. i know this course to be one of the toughest 100 mile races in the country but apparently didn't factor in the cumulative effect of the heat, my swollen ankle, and blisters from the 19,000 ft of climbing and 24,000 ft of descent(equivalent to climbing kilimanjaro from sea level). Steve, who paced me through the night is next to me. I don't know who starts it but pretty soon we are both chuckling. it's a laugh of humility in the face of these mountains. It is a way of admitting the ridiculous amount of pain we are still going to put ourselves through to finish. After coming so far it would be unreasonable not to. Wrightwood, CA 24 hours earlier... it's dark at 4:00 am, 1 hour before the race begins. I'm sitting in the kitchen of our little rental cabin eating some fruit and walnuts looking out a window into the darkness. mom and dad and steve are catching a few extra minutes of rest. its starting to dawn on me that we drove two hours through the mountains to get here, and I will be returning to Pasadena on foot. My anticipation for this moment exhausted having looked forward to this day for months now I no longer care which shoes I should wear or what pace I should hit or if it's even possible to make it. I just want the journey to finally begin! As we line up in the cold to start a foot race that will end 33 hours later an awareness descends that the start is eminent. It doesn't occur to me until the roar of the small crowd fades into the rhythmic pattering and swishing of a herd of runners that it is still dark. Luckily 1 out of every 3 runners has a headlamp and as the human train spreads out like a string of christmas lights, I have no trouble seeing the road climbing up to the trail above town. The first climb (2150') is runnable and it takes constant restraint to relax and conserve energy for the rest of the course. peppered conversations from veterans of the race warn those around them that it's a long day ahead, especially if you get over-ambitious. the sun comes up as we reach the ridge above San Bernadino heading towards inspiration point, the first place the fam/crew will meet up. our intricate hydration plan has us swapping bottles and spending minimal time in the chaos of aid stations while the legs are fresh. I can see a threatening peak rising out of the ravine to the east which is part of the course. I'm still working out some worrisome aches in my left foot as we pass the half marathon point and begin climbing up Mt. Baden-Powell. Steep switchbacks wind us up to 9200 ft just below the peak. then after a long descent to the next aid station(Islip Saddle 40k) it is already warming up significantly. I feel exhausted and realize that maybe I haven't slept as well as I thought leading up to today. at the weigh-in I am 3 lbs under weight though I have been drinking as much as I can. It's once again a huge emotional boost to see mom and dad and steve who pull me over to some shade and give me an ice bandana to keep cool as the course heads up mt. Williamson. Its a beautiful rocky climb and I try to take strength from my surroundings. it's fully exposed and hot but the wind at the top is cool where 1000+ year old trees mark an inspiring view. on the other-side I meet up with the crew again before a course detour along a grueling highway due to forest fire recovery. then it rejoins the trail down into a suffocatingly hot canyon with black flies who seem seriously ticked-off to find you resisting their advances. the heat makes them disturbingly aggressive but I can hardly be bothered as i concentrate on climbing out of this oven faster then the temp does. back up at 7000ft I take my first seat in a chair and get more ice. my legs cramp from de-hydration and I can feel the sun searing a headache into the top of my head. mom tells me I'm 30 minutes off 24 hour pace which is ok in these conditions. Fresh fruit and electrolytes get me moving again and Steve warns me not to race the heat. You don't have to beat the other runners, just let the course work on them. I'm grateful that there is so much support that makes this run possible. Dad gives me a sweet potato with salt at Three-Points aid station before I head into another hot canyon that connects to a short section of asphalt road. I can tell im getting some sort of blister when a runner catches up to me and says, "when I told Hal(race director) that I hadn't trained at altitude or in the heat he said I wasn't going to finish. I told him I wouldn't stop unless they made me". at the next aid station (Mt Hillyer) he sat down and took off his shoes to inspect his blisters. I moved on and later found out he dropped at Chilao. Chilao aid station is halfway home at 52miles. from here the trails start to become even more familiar. I have done some sections in training that are brutal runs by themselves, let alone stringing together the second half of a 100 miler on them. mom tells me I'm now an hour outside 24hr pace. I eat home made banana bread which gives me a boost and I push on to try and make up time. it's another hot dusty section through trails lined with Poodle Dog Bush (poisonous plant native to the San Gabriel mtns) which leads to shortcut saddle aid station where Steve joins me as a pacer. ...we will not go softly into this night... It's refreshing to have someone to talk to after spending most of the day 'alone'. I tell too many stories and have to remember to conserve my energy and breath. he tells me runners are getting beat up from the heat. that if I'm still moving I'm in good shape. although ive gained a few minutes back and it's hard to let go, im slowly loosing grip on the 24 hour finish as the sun sets and we coast down into a massive ravine to begin climbing up the other side. it doesn't cool down much unless there's a wind and I am starting to get nauseous from being de-hydrated. we try to run as long as we can in the fading twilight as bats come out to feed. at the top of the ridge there is another aid station (edison) where I have chicken noodle soup. it's kinda like a 100 mile buffet where you run, eat, then run some more, then eat some more until you swear you'll never eat at another buffet again! for the first time we can see the gridded Los Angeles basin all lit up beyond the farside. we follow a trail which drops towards Chantry Flats aid station(mile 75) there we will see mom and dad for the last time before the finish. I am so nauseous that I can't imagine eating anything although I know that i must. muscles are shot and need any calories they can get. my arms begin throbbing from holding a bottle all day and now as i hold a flashlight through spider webs and river crossings. the final weigh-in at chantry has me just 1.5 lbs below my starting weight. it seems spelion a perfect idea to stop here and go home and get in bed. it would be a well spent day, but a failure. we eat potatoes while mom and dad fill our hydration packs. after sitting for ten minutes I can hardly move. my legs have completely stiffened. I walk like I don't have knees on the way out to continue this damned endeavor. unsure of how i will get myself across the 2 mountains between us and the finish. the body is an amazing machine. pretty soon it warms up and I can move a bit smoother although the pain does not ease up. From mile 75 the course climbs 3100' up mt Wilson (5600ft elev.) then drops into another canyon, climbs 1960' to a saddle before dropping down to Millard camp just 7k from the finish. it is slow going. I'm ashamed to be this beat up and forced to go so slow but I take the pill because I want to finish. sometimes it feels like walking is cheating. this is supposed to be a race! Steve says every step is getting us closer. This is the stuff. I know what he means but in my exhaustion I feel awful dragging mom and dad around all day and now needing to be dragged by Steve up this poison oak lined mountain in a headlamp tunnel-vision. By the time we reach the top and get down to the next aid station (Idlehour 135k) not only physically exhausted I am struggling mentally. The other runners we arrived with get a snack and move on while i find a chair and a volunteer who I know from another race rolls my leg muscles to get the blood flowing. He says that in two minutes I'm hitting the trail and he won't let me stay any longer. I hate him for not letting me rest, I thank him for kicking me outa there. ...the only way out is through... on the way down to the canyon where the final big climb begins i feel my left ankle give. after working it all day on the relentless downhills it finally had enough. every step I feel a nerve pinch and shoot fire up my shin. at the river crossings in the canyon I splash ice cold water on it to reduce the swelling. By now I wish I had quit at chantry. I hate myself for not letting me give up. We push on stopping to rest whenever the pain becomes too much. Resting in the dark on a mountainside in the middle of the night, it's hard not to admire the apparent apathy with which this wilderness regards our endeavor. There are lights which look like headlamps bundling along the distant ridge but Steve tells me they are actually stars and thus stationary objects in the sky, which confounds me. My nose begins to bleed on the climb up to Sam Merrill saddle where the aid station volunteers are dressed up as doctors and nurses in halloween costumes. Appropriate humor at mile 85 although I didn't catch the complete irony until this writing. The next section of trail is a steep technical rocky descent which I am looking forward to. It's a beautiful single track I train on regularly and it is already light enough to see without headlamps. I repeatedly clear my throat from the blood now draining out of my sinuses, drink water, grunt from pain and keep going... remembering all these people that helped me get here. People that have inspired me, friends I haven't seen in months because of training, grandpa left alone for the weekend so mom and dad can be here, people that didn't understand at all but wished me luck anyways... we all struggle everyday to keep up the good fight. And that's what this is, a struggle. All i can do is to keep suffering just a little bit more. then a little bit more. Even though this suffering is by choice it teaches me that the best way to overcome hardship is by changing how you think about it. ...only when we decide to look up do we stop looking down... We're halfway down when I realize that either the blisters on both feet have apex-ed or someone filled my shoes with nails. At a trail junction we sit on a rock and I dump the imaginary nails from my shoes. Both pads on my feet are completely bubbled. I joke that I've evolved Nike airs to cushion my steps. It is here that we chuckle looking out over Los Angeles then slowly we grunt and begin moving again with sleepless silly smiles. You can do this, Steve says. Every step. Stay strong. This is the stuff. I don't have the energy to respond but I silently hope he keeps up the positivity. I'm starting to think that some pain isn't just mental. That there are 'walls' too big. That sometimes the sacrifice outweighs the achievement. We are getting down into the neighborhood trails and Sunday morning joggers/hikers watch us go by. I imagine their baffled faces but don't have the strength to make eye contact. "Did you run a marathon?" someone asks. "100 mile" I mutter without pause. It feels good to let someone know that we have been out struggling all night and that we refuse to give up. I hear their silent but obvious question... why? As we move out of the last aid station and climb another big hill before hitting a gorge with vicious little rolling climbs and descents it suddenly hits me that every step is actually getting us closer to the finish. We've been saying it all day but now the end of our adventure really seems within reach. Soon we break out of the gorge onto a fire road that goes past JPL and up to the surface streets that take us to the finish. These trails connect all the way to my home past the Rose Bowl stadium. I have trained here many times imagining this moment and wondering if I would ever get here. I always said that if I could make it this far there would be no doubt about finishing. ...it took everything you had, and you gave it... Dad stands on the sidewalk at the edge of the park whistling. His familiar voice and silhouette nearly break me into exhausted grateful sobs right there. I see him waving to mom that we are on the way. I'm so lucky to have them here. For the last time I tell myself to save my strength, with 100 meters to go. When I cross the finish line Hal shakes my hand and says, "it took everything you had, and you gave it." i am relieved but i can hardly believe we made it. i doubted so many times that we would even get here that now it seems illusary. having come so far there is no sudden revelation as I might have expected. No great relief to speak of. In fact, physically I hurt more when I lay down then during those last few miles. Yes I tear up. Yes I cannot believe we made it. Yes I have never been so happy to be with my parents and brother, and yes the tea tastes a little bit sweeter then it did yesterday. But I'm somewhat shocked to find myself feeling... disappointed? Can it be? Although I didn't make it in 24 hours like I had hoped I know I will forever be ecstatic to have accomplished my first 100 miler on this difficult course. After weeks of reflection and slowly regaining both mental and physical strength I am still trying to understand it. I've had these moments before in my life, and I know that the greatest highs don't last. They are often followed by an inevitable low as the mind recovers and readjusts to the 'everyday' world. But the greatest feeling of happiness didn't come where I had expected, at the end of the race. It happened the day before in the excitement and anticipation of the event. Although I tend to focus so much attention on the elation of breaking the tape, I'm learning that the finish line is really just the end of a celebration that begins at the gun. It is the starting line where a path that determined so much of my life up until the moment I crossed it ends. As I get back out onto the trails everyday I realize that the race was a celebration of the is constant struggle and effort to answer the obvious question. Why? Surprisingly it's great to know that I still have long ways to go...


2 types of people

There are two types of people in the world... those who can fit everything they own in a backpack, and those who can't. I am the latter. Not even the bags I own would fit into a single backpack. But I do have a bag that sits packed and ready to go at all times. I like to think that i could leave everything else behind.


Telephones - David James Duncan

Telephones are, without question, useful devices. But they are also, it seems to me, the verbal equivalent of houses without toilets. Telephones allow minds to communicate with minds in clarity or turkoil, in semisomnolence or drunkeness, in lust, joy, hysteria, stupefaction or any other state that fails to render a human physically incapable of holding up a quarter-pound chink of perforated plastic -- which is most every state there is. That telephones can connect us in seconds to any creature on earth foolhardy enough to lift its own chunk of plastic is wonderful. But its also terrible, gven what a lot of people think and feel about each other. Thats why, until theyre equipped with some sort of flush or filter or waste-disposal system for the billions of words that ought not to be spoken, ill not trust the things.

- Posted from the Road


Bishop 100k

it's a somber mood at 85k of a 100k race. where much earlier in the day approaching other runners would warrant a howl or an excited exchange of encouragement, after some 9 hours on the trail a mere smile or thumbs up before returning to grimaced focus will suffice. The festival atmosphere has given way to something more like a funeral procession or death march. While the sun has beat down tirelessly on our aching bodies all day we have made our constant forward progress in this high dessert shadowed by the snow drizzled peaks of the eastern sierra mountains. We started out before the sun rose on sandy planes of sage brush hoping that some muscle strain or ineffective method of training would not keep us from our goal of running the entire distance. After climbing up near the rocky peaks and back down then up and down again seemingly endlessly, we must pull on every ounce of desire to keep one foot moving in front of the other towards the end. It is phenomenal now how many aches we are willingly ignoring and pushing through for just one more step. It takes great willpower to let the mind focus on movement and not collapse into despair or waste energy laughing hysterically. It was so easy at the beginning to do everything in an ideal manner: breath deep, step light, drink and eat, focus, relax, conserve. But on the final climb and descent of the day when it feels as though you are wading through cement after contracting malaria, it's a struggle to remember to smile and enjoy the aw inspiring scenery all around. In those first kilometers glancing over my shoulder to see the sun rising, immersed in the sound of a hundred footsteps, it is unnatural to stop running and be separated from the unity of the herd which has communally accepted this challenge without hesitation; but then as I glance over my shoulder to see the sun dropping towards the western range hoping for a brief respite behind some clouds the only thing that is unnatural is to keep moving. The only sound I now hear over the ringing fatigue is that ever looming mystery that plagues mankind and urges us to answer ... WHY?

The beautiful thing about this event is that it takes a bit of madness to sign yourself up for such a thing and it takes even more to get yourself through it. To feel pain, real pain, and yet still command the body to act. To have sensations one has never experienced and yet remain true to yourself. To reach the remote undiscovered boundaries of what you think you are capable of and refuse to let doubt creep in. This is what makes such a masochistic effort possibly wonderful. The idea that you are winning as long as you are moving forward no matter how deep and dark the struggle has become has fantastic implications for life. That's why at 85k when you see another runner you still nod, smile, or move your arm slightly so that they know and you know - it's worth it.


sitting quietly doing nothing...

I panic. Not intentionally, it just happens. On reflection I think that I am afraid I will forget to do something important. That some item on my list of the lists I'm going to make will be ignored or forgotten altogether! Or that some email, or message, or phone call will go unanswered. Ultimately maybe I'm afraid that stopping is dying, and to continue answering every beckoning task will be the end! After a few minutes in silence the urgency fades and soon I am just looking at a bee which is steadily making it's way around the blossoms. 'Busy as a bee' has come to be an admirable attribute today. In wanted ads they ask for 'ability to multitask' or 'ability to work in a fast paced environment'. We're encouraged to constantly check our multiple technologies, while overworking our short term memory on multiple tasks and projects both personal, and job related. While watching this bee in a calm state however I'm more transfixed by it's focus. Yes it seems to be in a slight hurry, but it is not working on more than one task at a time. Vigorously focused it seems almost relaxed going about it's busy-ness. Soon I realize that having this quiet moment each day allows my brain to be clearer, not constantly distracted or looking for the next productive thing I can accomplish to stay on top of it all. Sometimes, instead of watching tv while I eat (which causes me to gulp down large bites of food and then feel like I didn't eat anything when my stomach tells me I'm stuffed) if I eat in silence I am aware of the food I am consuming. I think about it and it leaves me very satisfied. I think about the taste and enjoy it more. I chew each bite completely. I notice that the sun is setting and I start to feel physically that the day is winding up. Most importantly, after these brief periods of 'stillness' I find that the world is still here and I am still alive. The calmness is priceless, and it doesn't cost anything.


weakness and compromise

Unless you’re willing to go all in—run six miles a day and eat only fish and broccoli—you’ll never have those sculpted abs you see in the magazines. But neither will you have the unabashed joy of scarfing double-frosted chocolate cake. Instead you nibble away at half a piece, your enjoyment negated by your guilt that you couldn’t refuse it altogether. The person with the least worry over the compromises he must make is, of course, the person who doesn't compromise.


the ultimate conceptualization

if i could say it in a word, there would be no need for this. for the tangle of thoughts erupting desperately, each one dancing to a drum played in the forest which no one has heard. this is not to suggest that the idea is complex. far from it. as with most things which are simple and are understood by feeling and not words, rendering attempts to communicate such experience futile. even further, if I were to assemble the ideal palette of hues and tones mixing them dramatically over canvas in a distracting but motivating way it would only give the wrong impression. simply capturing the singularity of a thing that takes an infinite number to express. with each brush stroke or each letter assembled hides an entire universe which is but a link in the long chain of universes that must be explored. when dream becomes reality and the water is drinking you in, when the bodies many parts become many bodies, when the tree grows legs and the vine has eyes then the minds eye will see always and forever. or shall it begin with a question?


Beyond the Pain

When the unnoticeably light hum of dull pain pulsing through your muscles slowly becomes louder until suddenly you realize it has drowned out all the other noise, then you have passed through the gates. The body will adapt with proper rest so that next time you will run in silence for longer.



POSITIVITY You can be cold/hot, sore, tired and miserable or you can just be cold/hot, sore, and tired. It's up to you. CURIOSITY Going out everyday with no pre-conceived notions about what you are capable of. SIMPLICITY Just you and the trail.


The Way of the White Clouds

it is our consciousness which by its selective faculties of perception and co-ordination determines the type of world in which we live. it is our higher aspirations and our ultimate aim that make us immortal - not the permanence of an immutable separate soul, whose very sameness would exclude us from life and growth and from the infinite adventure of the spirit and condemn us for ever to the prison of our own limitations. only a man who is capable of great passions is capable of great deeds and great accomplishments in the realm of the spirit. only a man who had gone through the fire of suffering and despair could have accomplished the highest aim within a lifetime. the juxtaposition of the sublime and the the ridiculous seems to deepen the sense of reality, in which the highest and the lowest have their place and condition each other, thus giving perspective and proportion to our conception of the world and of ourselves.


true freedom

In spite of the feeling of smallness in the vastness and grandeur of the mountain landscape, in spite of the knowledge of human limitations and dependance on the whims of wind and weather, water and grazing-grounds, food and fuel and other material circumstances, I had never felt a sense of greater freedom and independence. I realized more than ever how narrow and circumscribed our so-called life is, how much we pay for the security of a sheltered life by way of freedom and real independence of thought and action. When every detail of our life is planned and regulated, every fraction of time determined beforehand, then the last trace of our boundless and timeless being, in which the freedom of our soul exists, will be suffocated. This freedom does not consist in being able 'to do what we want', it is neither arbitrariness nor waywardness, nor the thirst for adventures, but the capacity to accept the unexpected, the unthought-of situations of life, good as well as bad, with an open mind; it is the capacity to adapt oneself to the infinite variety of conditions without losing confidence in the deeper connections between the inner and the outer world. It is the spontaneous certainty of being neither bound by space nor by time, the ability to experience the fulness of both without clinging to any of their aspects, without trying to take possession of them by way of arbitrary fragmentation. The machine-made time of modern man has not made him the master but the slave of time; the more he tries to 'save' time, the less he possesses it. It is like trying to catch a river in a bucket. It is the flow, the continuity of its movement, that makes the river; and it is the same with time. Only he who accepts it in its fulness, in its eternal and life-giving rhythm, in which its continuity consists, can master it and make it his own. By accepting time in this way, by not-resisting its flow, it loses its power over us and we are carried by it like on the crest of a wave, without being submerged and without losing sight of our essential timelessness.