trail |trāl| camping |ˈkampiNG|

walk into the wilderness, sleep on ground

I bought this backpack a while ago hoping to do some hike-in camping. My failure to actually do so for the past several years always went something like this...

Somewhere between packing up gear, driving to the trailhead and hiking to a campsite decide that it would be more enjoyable to either run and then sleep in my own bed or drive to a campsite with fire wood and toilets. This weekend started out in a similar state of indecision. I was halfway up icehouse canyon trail wearing my full camping pack still telling myself that I probably would just go home. The excuses are endless: better rest in your own bed, better food in your own kitchen, better fun in front of the tv. Clearly none of these reasons out-weigh spending a night in the wild. And unfortunately for my weak side I have ample amounts of practical tenacity for every possible inconvenience of camping. You forgot a flashlight - if you stop taking pictures with your phone it will provide enough light. I didn't bring enough food - you are a fatadapted ultra runner and will survive till morning. I only have 48ounces of water - drink, fill up at the spring on the way, conserve. I pride myself in trail efficiency and this was a good time to test my abilities. The biggest problem was that the sun was setting. I didn't reach Cucamonga peak until the last orange hues in the sky were slipping over the horizon. The only thing that kept me trekking up there despite my doubts about actually wanting to camp was that I have for so long had this specific trail camping experience in the back of my mind. If I didn't do it now, would it ever happen? I told myself that I could always get to the peak and turn around. I'd been down icehouse in the dark several times before. And things were looking good. The moon which was less then a half sliver was actually casting shadows. Enough so that I set up my tent without the use of any artificial light. Well none except the sea of lights from the inland empire that can be viewed from the peak. Stretching all the way from the coastline to the west, towards the desert in the east. Like shimmering water it fills every level expanse, it's sparkling tentecles jutting into canyons circumnavigating dark spaces where mountains sleep. I chilled quickly as the wind whipping 5000' up the escarpment ceaselessly stole any body heat I could produce despite wearing everything I had brought. I enjoyed it for a time then crawled in for the night. To make a very long and uncomfortable story short, especially if you've ever camped before, it was a long night. But come the dawn did and with the first light I was up packing my things. I finished just as the sun rose and oh a thousand words cannot describe this sunrise perched above the empire looking out with the wilderness waking up around me.

This was the exclusive experience I had bought. A five billion star, exclusive sunrise membership that trumps any 5 star first class establishment hands down. Despite a clear discovery that I'm not a fan of hiking with heavy packs, a completely unnatural state, it was worth every step.


opportunity creates doubt

Old men aren't plagued with indecision. They aren't bothered that some great and new thing will elude them. They KNOW what they want from years of experience and so do just what they like. The biggest decisions of their life have already passed. Dreams come and gone. I envy the calmness in such a state. As a young man today life is full of potential regret. Every option is perceivably at our fingertips both large and small. There are a multitude of choices one must navigate just to get through the day much less what to do with careers and relationships. Access to information abounds, more products than anyone needs or wants are battling for attention, and the mobility of our lives is unmatched in the history of the world. From the food we eat to the technology we use, we can essentially live the same life almost anywhere in the world. In such an environment it takes extreme conviction to block out the noise and move purposefully in a direction. Failure to do so results in a kind of paralysis, wandering aimlessly like a blind horse through the field. Without choice, you don't question yourself. Without money you don't worry that you will waste it. Without access to endless info-tainment you focus with more clarity on what surrounds you. The path traveled through life then constitutes a more natural, almost 'excusable' existence. This is the great fallacy of our current society. Not to say that mankind was better off living in caves thinking only of his next meal, but is it not so out of the question?

It is the availability of excess that causes subconscious anxiety. We are biologically hard-wired to find and take advantage of opportunity, a characteristic that has become completely useless in the condition of abundance which mass production has allowed. Freedom lacks a certain kind of gravity and we are left with the terrible decision of how to define ourselves, or in which way our lives should flow. It has been impressed upon us, under the guise of raising up individual freedom no less, that each of us is a blank slate ‘free’ of gender, ethnicity, class and anything that separates or otherwise hinders us. ‘Free’ of the very things that define us ‘free’ of our differences and ‘free’ of our individuality. The directions to go from here are vast. We find ourselves in a hallway of seemingly endless half-open doors. Behind each one is a trail that leads to a different peak. The desire to choose so overwhelming that, in my opinion, many of us never leave. Or have at the very least never climbed a mountain, having turned back partway after realizing that it might be better to spend our efforts on some different endeavor while time lasts. This resembles stagnation rather than progress. Again, it is not my view that we are worse off now than in the past or that a young wealthy student has a harder life than someone more disadvantaged. Rather, it is my view that we find ourselves in an increasingly paramount position of responsibility. That if we are to be fulfilled by the changes or so called 'advancements' of our species we must be intentional and thoughtfully motivated in our actions and choices. We risk not only purposelessness but slavery to the entities that recruit education and technology to take advantage of this mass state of indecision. The battle for control has always been. You must understand this if you are to truly chase your own freedom.


Chimera 100

Like all good ultra marathon stories it begins at mile 75, in the middle of the night on the side of a mountain. A volunteer was helping me refill my water bottle inside a warm tent perched high on the ridge of the Saddleback mountains overlooking the twinkling lights of Orange county to the west and lake Elsinore to the east. I drank a cup of hot broth preparing for the next grueling 7 mile descent to the desert floor below, before turning around to climb back up. Grueling because after 15,000' of climbing and descending over rocky, tumbling, crunchiness this was going to hurt.

As soon as I got my bottle and grabbed a few snacks for the trip I took off like any fool-hardy ultra runner would... I ran till I couldn't run, then I ran some more. I had to keep up a consistent pace downhill in order to make up the time it would inevitably take to get back up. I broke up the endless spiraling dirt road with occasional songs. Even though it seems endless at times, the distance is fixed and every step is getting you closer, you must simply keep going and eventually you will get there. Don't worry if it's around the next corner or on the other side of a mountain.

(( The Corona aid station at the bottom of the hill is the last place to see your crew and/or pick up a pacer. I wasn't going to be getting either because I had told them at mile 50 to go get some rest. Back then I was just beginning to feel the deep muscle ache, more a feeling of heaviness then pain, that comes halfway through a 100mile ultra, as the slow boiling physical pain subtly fatigues the mind, my brother asked if I wanted him to pace me in. I refused him, belying my building anxiety of getting through what lay ahead. Despite the increasingly attractive idea of having something to look forward to later in the night, i told him that i wasn't going to expect anyone until the finish. It was pertinent at that moment to have an unambiguous plan and not open the door to subconscious anticipation, potential disappointment or doubt, and other wasteful expenditures of mental energy. After all, the only person that can get your legs to the finish is you. ))



As I neared the bottom, the idea of climbing back up this monster had become less than appealing accept for the fact that I would rather have done anything besides more downhill at that point. So I made a quick turn around and began the trudge back up. To say I ran would be a lie. I walked. And as I walked, another runner walked past me. I was reminded of a moment on my training run over the 7 summits of baldy when I was standing at the bottom of the sixth peak feeling totally incapable of continuing. I let my feet take a step without deciding what to do and then continued doing so until I reached the the top. It's profound what happens psychologically to your belief after getting to the other side of impossible. As I marched up towards the ridge I knew that the other side existed and wanted to go there. I tried to run, or at least look like I was running when other runners came down the hill. I planned on having a snack to break up the climb but when I took inventory and realized that there was only 4 almonds left to eat I knew things were only going to get worse before they got better. I shuffled and grunted and counted out my steps until at last I was back on the ridge road.

The volunteers told me it was now 3:15 in the morning. Less than 3 hours left to cover the remaining 8 miles over rough terrain and get back to blue Jay if I wanted a silver and gold belt buckle reading 'Chimera 100 - 24 hours', instead of 'Chimera 100 - 30 hours'. The ridge road traverses across hideously rock invested dusty roads that four wheel drives find difficult to navigate. A place I have trained many times leading up to the race where every steep climb and quad-trashing, ankle-rolling downhill is followed by another and another.

I pictured every turn of the course ahead. I pictured the finish with my family and the race director. I pictured a 24 hour belt buckle. Then I pushed all of these thoughts out of my head and focused on the stars in the sky, the lights of the city shimmering up through the fog below. I asked myself over and over, "how bad do you want that buckle?" And the answer was always the same -- another step. Then ten more steps. Then suddenly I was moving across the mountain running through the night. It doesn't take strength, it doesn't take speed, all it takes is stubbornness. I refused to let go. The wind careening up the slopes violently whipped up dust storms blinding me momentarily pushing me back. I yelled into the air, BRING. IT. OOOOON!

Descending towards Blue Jay campground at last I took deep breaths to make sure I had enough to push all the way to the finish. I imagined missing the 24 hours by a minute. I imagined regretting not giving everything I could at the finish. And I ran from the heart. I hit the tarmac and felt like collapsing but pushed the thought out of my mind with the relief that the Chimera 100 would soon be over. After a year of planning, moving to the area to train on the course, and 9 weeks of focused build up this was the victory lap I felt light and swift being carried towards home. I entered the trees below the campsite and soon saw the lights of the finish. I howled and my family waiting for me howled back. I wanted to enjoy it, to laugh and weep at the same time. Such immense relief.

I told Steve Harvey the race director that I wanted the 24 hour buckle so bad. "well now you got it" he said.

(23:24) 20k' gain






RISK - definition of black swans and anti-frgility

The cost of insuring against B is too small compared to the potential risk.

B. A cataclysmic event taking place(e.g. earthquake destroying home)

The risks of doing A is too great compared to the potential gain.

A. Something to avoid perceived vulnerability (e.g. taking medication for headache)



I have always felt that missing things is pointless. Pointless because it has no effect on our tangible experience. But I miss you. I miss the light that was there in the absence of everything. It was like a dream then. It's like a dream now.



On my run today I thought about information and how we acquire it. How it takes years of learning to master a particular subject or school of thought. Not just through mote repetition and memorization of facts but by exposure to this data from multiple perspectives. At first like shining a dim light in the dark we recognize outlines and familiar shapes. An edge here a corner there. The next time we are exposed each line becomes more clear and familiar. Some of the shapes join together to form an image. Then we may overhear someone speaking about the topic or read an article about something different that somehow relates. This begins to add color to the image like painting over a sketch. The new information gives the image form and dimension. We continue like this gaining knowledge and linking it as the picture evolves. Some might say that in this analogy it naturally follows that eventually the image would become an indistinguishable mess of color and shapes like a modern work of art. But in truth at this point the real mastery has occurred. To the uninitiated eye it may seem like a meaningless blur but to the artist who created it the layers of information from the very first details are all recognizable still. It is effectively without thought that the mind now reflects. It is more of a feeling that contains the subtleties of that particular topic within it. This frees the mind to work more efficiently and solve other deeper more complex questions.

Extreme endurance training is about forming a relationship with yourself. It sounds a little strange. What does it mean to trust yourself? When the body is tested to exhaustion and experiencing pain beyond anything it has previously encountered, the way you 'interact' with yourself is paramount to the reactions you make and the ability to calmly push forward in such situations. The purpose then of training is to build confidence in your own abilities. When you get back from a run, or more aptly after a couple days to weeks of training, you should look back at the more difficult moments that you got through as moments of truth. These tangible 'tests' allow you to gauge wether you have it in yourself to get through the difficult race or adventure you are preparing for. Not only does it help build confidence in knowing how strong you are, but on the easy days when you allow your body to recover you begin to have confidence in the goals you have set out. As you begin to trust the decisions you are making, there is a calm manner of respect about you. If you make rash decisions like never going easy how can you trust yourself to train properly and arrive on game day prepared? Your development both mental and physical will reflect this and you will be defeated long before the starting line. It takes confidence to both push when you need to push and to back off when it is appropriate. Knowing when to do this is just another aspect of trust that must be fostered within yourself.

The body is extremely adaptable, but there are some us that want to know what it can do under prime conditions. Dare to take yourself seriously, so that you can capitalize on the advantage you already have. Celebrate good choices. Only you have the control over your own decisions.

When you look at places in your life that you could improve. Be it more sleep, more exercise, less stress, etc. It's important to know why you want to change. It will help to frame this change from the correct perspective. And this begins with what you call it. My brother talks about getting up earlier in the morning with regret. He wishes he could get in the habit of running before work, eating healthier meals throughout the day, and incorporating cross training into his race prep. Year after year he doesn't accomplish these things. He repeatedly tells me he thinks he should 'be more disciplined about it'. That he should be 'more disciplined' like I am. But the thing is, I don't see my focus on doing these things as a discipline. A discipline in my view is something you do regardless of why it's done but purely out of, well, discipline. To create a habit or make your existence more efficient. The closest I get to a discipline is that everyday when I wake up the first thing I do is put on running shorts. Even if I don't plan to go running. Why? Because it puts my mind in the right place so that every decision I make throughout the day is structured around improving my running experience. Once I'm in this mindset eating healthy, running early, sleeping a ton and everything else I do to benefit my training comes as naturally as waking up. The mind functions well on repetition and habit after all. If I were to call it anything it would be diligence rather than discipline. Diligence means you are taking care and being intentional about your decisions because you know the outcome will be affected.