the Rest of it

Going through phases of life and work feeling like it's a race. Chasing deadlines, rushing through errands, trying to catch up with the world. There's too much to do and never enough time. Stuck in traffic, hurrying to get nowhere, missing out on everything. It's boring being so busy and never feeling like it's enough. This is what is so attractive about racing and even adventure running. Set up some arbitrary goal and once you cross that finish line it feels GOOD. Getting to one peak often brings into view another but it also opens up space to reset and redefine priorities. Distractions which fill up life and make us feel overwhelmed seem a helluva lot less tempting when you've tasted the rewards of reaching a goal. It suddenly becomes obvious to ignore the constantly bombarding peripheral impulses which tend to suffocate by posing as distractions that can insulate you from the demands of having agreed to take on more than you can handle. You run out of time by not taking the time to stop and be. Its not just about doing. Its about breathing. A rhythm without space between the beats is just noise. It takes confidence to stop drowning out insecurities and make room for the quiet spaces.


Twin Peaks Ultras

After flying home from two weeks in Nepal on Wednesday I was hungry to be back in the so cal mountains. I claimed my free entry to Twin Peaks 50 and two days later discovered how tough 50k can be on almost no training. My lungs were burning 1 mile into the climb up Indian Truck Trail out of Corona, following a pack of 5 leaders who were moving effortlessly away. I was already sweating profusely despite it still being dark. Already in survival mode at mile 10 dropping down into Trabuco Canyon getting passed by one then another runner I was forced to let go of what feeble attempts at competition I may have been dreaming of. Climbing the 8 miles (4000+ gain) out of Trabuco canyon towards Santiago peak my legs cramping and powerless. It's a fresh and raw feeling like my first 50k a couple years ago. Gritting my teeth, quads-a-blazing with pain, wondering how I would ever get my failing body to the finish. Then open my eyes and see an amazing view that I would've missed if not for the race. Low clouds rush into a canyon below, the deep orange sun streaking through the pines. After summiting and beginning a rocky descent I grapple with how far I have fallen from the seemingly invincible 100 mile training days a year ago when I was beginning to think 50k shouldn't really be considered an ultra. But ultimately I'm happy to be alive and in the mountains. I'm grateful my house didn't get destroyed in an earthquake. Starting to see that it's not all about being your fittest or racing to win. Sometimes you just step back and enjoy being out there even if you're not in shape. It's great to be a part of the community again, sitting at the finish with fellow sufferers cussing about how difficult the race was, listening to race director Jessica laughing on the radio than proudly announcing the mounting number of people who have succumbed and dropped from her race.

33 miles



Resilience as a State of Being

Several month after two major earthquakes rattled Nepal, the rebuilding has only just begun. Piles of rubble where temples used to be and skeleton-like frames of houses with the walls blown out, reveal how powerful the quakes must have been, from Kathmandu all the way up into the higher elevations. Those living in the hardest hit areas remark how for a month there were numerous aftershocks each day rating up to 5.0 or more. As the process of clearing rubble and trying to start over begins, buildings with cracks in the walls are still braced with long 2 x 4's, a desperate measure to help them hold together. Local Nepali's aren't out complaining or asking for a hand out. They smile and greet every passerby, earnestly recounting tales of those lost in the rubble when prompted, then persuasively returning to the task at hand. First and foremost they need to restore access routes for supplies, goods, and tourists(business). Young and old chip in and help clear trails to remote mountain villages which were cutoff by the many landslides that wiped out access to this steep volatile region. Resilience at it's finest. Women use head straps to carry 20-30lb rocks from the field to a road where groups of men smash the stones into form fitting shapes which they piece into the new cobblestone road. Their strength inspires me.



HOOD to COAST 2015 - Team Relay

Jorge asked me if I wanted to be recommended for a running team at work. I'd heard their stories of spending 24+ hrs in a van during long relay races around California and while Im a bit of a trail snob, preferring to avoid pavement at all costs, it struck me as an adventure I needed to try once in my life. As the team went through its natural cycle of people dropping out with last minute disillusionment or scheduling conflicts a spot opened up and I threw my name in the hat for their next race.

Hood to coast is the biggest relay event in the world. It was established in 1982 with 8 teams of ten runners making their way from Mt. Hood to Seaside, OR. This year 1200 teams consisting of 8-12 people take turns running legs that vary in length from 3-8 miles until they cover the 197 miles. Despite knowing this I wasn't prepared for the scale of this event. From start to finish there was never a stretch of road without several runners strung along it making their way steadily to the coast. And there were truly people of all kinds(speeds, ethnicities, shapes & sizes) out there. Each persons goal (besides running several legs) is to recover from your pervious leg while cramped in the team van heading to the next exchange point where a new runner will be dropped off. We made the mistake once of navigating to the wrong exchange point and having to go back to get our runner who had been waiting there for an hour! Each runner cannot continue for more then their own leg so this was a total waste of time. This means that even when you're not running you need to become a very efficient and conscious team keeping track of what is going on. There's no rest.

What made this year special was the weather. After three weeks of gorgeous summer days Oregon was slated to get a heavy downpour the night of the race. Lightning and rain hit around 9pm as we got through Portland. I was selected for a particularly hilly night leg in the forest on gravel roads. I waited at the starting point with a bright vest they make you wear at night and a bib. Molly cruised in from her run and slapped the race band on my wrist as my team cheered. My inexperience at running these shorter distances was displayed as I red lined out of the gate. After weeks of anticipation and two days of thorough discussion about every aspect of the race the feeling is that of a caged bull waiting to be ridden. I was ready to get the damn thing off my back. Quickly I realized my pace-induced asthma was not going to get me very far. Instead of slowing down I tried to breath deeply and relax my body. The rain kept down the dust from the gravel road somewhat and kept me cool as the steady string of headlamps ahead created a continuous supply of carrots to chase. There ware fern bushes and silhouettes of gigantic pine trees over hanging the winding road as it disappeared into the darkness beyond my light. After sprinting to the finish and handing off to the next runner I jumped in the van and tried to dry off. My legs cramped up as we drove to the next exchange.

It wasn't until the morning as we neared the coast that 50-60 mph winds blew rain and debris like sheets of stinging bees into our faces. Jorge, Lani and Josh had the last three legs which were particularly inhospitable. When we pulled up the exchange the wind was shaking our car as if at any minute it would take flight. Running head first into these winds was like running on a treadmill. The worst part was standing at the checkpoint in the freezing gusts waiting for our runner to show up trying not to get blown over. This pales in comparison to the 3000 volunteers along the course who were posted out in the open assisting all the athletes. They have my complete respect and admiration.

We ran the last 100 yards through cheering crowds to a make-shift finish line in Seaside. The real finish line had blown over along with major portions of scaffolding from the giant after party tents which was cancelled. I was more in need of a shower and sleep than a party so I couldn't have complained. We had our own team gathering and celebrated an epic 200 mile adventure together. Its strange how one night can transform strangers into the most familiar faces... The camaraderie of working together towards a unified goal was something I will savor from this experience.

Jorge handing off to Josh for the final leg

Our team in front of the torn down after party


The Hardest Choice is Often the Right One

The ultra mindset often puts me in a compromising position of wanting to seize every opportunity, feeling like I can do everything and almost being stubborn to accept anything less which would be a form of mediocrity. You find yourself behaving like an addict, suddenly waking up mid run to the glaring reality that you should be resting that swollen ankle before heading to the airport if you plan to continue running the rest of the year! Or like what the hell was I thinking running 10 miles on a stress fractured shin anyway? Denial is the first method of treatment for any injury. Like a pile of dirty clothes building up in the corner. You deeply hope with some jedi optimism that what you choose not to see will magically disappear. If only those invisibility sunglasses were real. The ultimate conflict is that you want to do the training as long as you 'might' do the race. Even if your injury will get worse, prohibiting you from running the race, you feel compelled to keep training for it.


Cautious Optimism

It's easy to write about the crunchy days. Ones full of grit and sweat. Mistakes and perseverance. A story without conflict is a contradiction.

I have these moments, that are easily forgotten, where my fitness, motivation, nutrition, and pace converge into perfection. It's hard to describe these brief periods of time without sounding like some utopian dream or by alluding to a drug induced euphoria.

Usually in the back half of a long trail you slide into these highs and feel invincible, like you could run forever. Not because of physical prowess but because of mental problem solving. Theres a deeper sensation that you are discovering a piece of yourself that was always there waiting to be discovered. To better yourself. To realize the future. You are at once present, aware of the universe, and also removed from the pain and mortal risk of being alone in the wild. It just feels good.

Remembering positive moments is important to balance out the drama that pervades and tends to define our lives which are more realistically mundane and confined in nature. We can usually be grateful things aren't a whole of a lot worse.

The rare blissful moments stand out poignantly in stark contrast to the adrenal fatigue and OTS I was experiencing a year ago. Exhaustion was all I remember. It felt bizarre needing to take a seat after being winded from putting on my shorts and shoes to go for jog. Unable to train except for short bouts here and there made me even more lethargic. I would walk to the trail head then find some grass to lay down on. I was increasingly confused and despondent. Unable to sleep well exacerbated the situation. Eventually as I focused on routine sleep and regular nutrition my underlying energy rose. This is what makes getting back to 'feeling like myself' so amazing.



The hardest decisions in life are not the ones that baffle or escape the mind. They are the choices that lay clearly before us, to which we already know the answer. The ones that lead us against our nature, away from the path of least resistance, towards what we suspect we already knew was the right way. It takes great courage and presence of mind to avoid slipping back at the critical moment. We must rise to the occasion and bring ourselves, despite every impulse within and without, to hear the subtle prodding of our deepest convictions telling us to do the right thing.

The admiration I have for my brother's decision to quit a race after 75 miles is greater than if he had suffered through to the end. He took a difficult situation and handled it with composure deciding not to further damage his knee just for a finishers buckle. Or perhaps more pertinently to avoid a DNF. As he laid there on a cot at 3am trying to decide wether or not to continue, there was a faint panicking voice inside me wanting to pull him back from the edge. The never-quit attitude was at risk and about to take quite a blow. These are the moments. This is what it's all about. This is when we pull together to get him to the finish no matter what. Right? What are we doing out here if not to throw leg and limb at this damn thing? Giving up is probably the last thing I expect from anyone in my family. Had he not appeared so lucid I would have tried to be more of a mental life raft. He seemed completely cognizant of what he was doing and I found it hard to argue with his reluctant determination to make the call.

I hate seeing my brother suffer. It's strange because he's my biggest inspiration when it comes to endurance. He's stoic in the face of extreme mental and physical punishment. Wether it be climbing a mountain in a sub-freezing blizzard or going without food and sleep for several days, his adventuresome resolve is astounding. It's frightening to see weakness in someone you respect. 100 miles has the unique ability unlike anything Ive witnessed to break a man. You will see the toughest fellow weeping in a ball on the side of the trail. Perhaps for this reason it is one of the few sporting activities where quitting is nearly as common as finishing.

Ive always found it difficult to quit even a training run when something doesn't feel right. My brother is just as stubborn if not more so. If you are trying to learn to push through the pain where do you draw the line? We've always been baffled by those that could foster the courage in tough moments to call it a day and enjoy getting back to running without injury sooner. When my brother became one of those people I was humbled. It took more will power and presence of mind to make that choice than it would have been to keep slugging it out.

In a world of losers, everybody gets a trophy. Quitting hasn't all of a sudden become acceptable behavior and everyone shouldn't get a medal for starting the race. Being a 'quitter' and choosing to DNF are different. In life the real challenge is to tackle complex situations by making determined choices. In a race we pit ourselves against heat, sleep dep, and physical exhaustion to see how our brains can cope. My brother took an onslaught of challenges and handled the situation with a composure that I can only aspire to.


Santa Barbara 100k

Most long races at some point disgust you but I savor a special kinda hatred for this barb ridden, rattlesnake snake infested, inhospitably gorgeous backcountry course.

This guy Bryan, a local favorite(he's run sub20 at the born to run 100mile), takes off from the start looking determined and in good shape. I hang back and join a solid chase pack as the sun hits the boulder strewn hills above. I push up this steep single track climb to the first aid station and see Bryan there. More importantly, he sees me. If I can just scare him a little, and meanwhile stay within myself, he'll dig a hole he can't climb out of. I let him take off. Back down and up onto the other side of the canyon the trail is overgrown and unmaintained. Suddenly I spot Bryan a little ways up. I didn't expect to see him this soon and definitely didn't want to take the lead this early but when i pull up beside him and say hi he doesnt respond. Maybe he's the competitive new-school ultra athlete that doesn't understand the camaraderie typical of earlier generations. Or maybe his music is blaring so loud in his headphones that he can't hear me. I hang with him as we wind back down to the canyon floor. When we hit the tarmac he slows. At the aid station he sits down and begins asking his crew for a coke. I cant pass up an opportunity like this so I rush through. The course director passes me in his truck going up a baking dirt road. "You're looking a lot better than Bryan. Nows the time to make a gap." I try not to over-heat on the way out out to the big climb of the race. That's kind of a joke because baking in the direct sun under the inland coastal magnification makes the 95+ degree hot dry wind blowing in your face hard to compete with. The heat reflects off the ground baking from all angles. I'm feeling decent though so I figure that despite all the advice to be cautious and responsible, sometimes in life you should take a chance. The idea is to push yourself and see what happens. If you blow up then hurray, everyone loves fireworks and carnage. Just maybe if you risk it all you will be rewarded.

As we head further into remote backcountry the trail is spotty at best. It hasn't seen any foot traffic since the same race a year ago. It's overgrown for miles with the kinds of needle sharp barbs and hideously armored briers that have a penchant for working their way into and lodging themselves in every nook and cranny of your shoes and socks. Not to mention attacking your bare legs which are by now covered in poison oak. I run out of water on the way up to the turn around point at the top of the escarpment but find that I've got about a 5 minute lead on the chase pack. Bryan looks like he's in bad shape. It's that look in his eyes, he will drop at the aid station. Trying to put as much distance on them as I can I nearly stumble upon the nastiest looking rattlesnake I have ever seen. The tail of a silvery-black mature specimen as thick as my upper arm and about 4 feet in length is sticking out across the trail. I can't see his head and there isn't room to go around because to the right is a steep embankment and to the left a drop down the side of the mountain all covered in brush. The snake hasn't begun fussing so I take a couple steps back, get a running start, and leap past. The last I see of him is his neck coiling up and raising his head to strike. Further down the trail I stop on to wet my head in a pool. I'm hurting bad and out of water again. In this barren, dry, hostile environment there are accents of the most brilliantly colored blue wild flowers and vividly pink bristles. I savor these images while I work my way back to the canyon where the blacktop pavement has been preheating.

The heat is stifling. Just when I'm getting into a rhythm winding in and out of undulating track I am startled by a sudden angry hiss like an overzealous faucet has been opened near my feet. This rattler is even uglier! I see it's black head pointed at me it's neck wound 6 inches off the ground in striking position by the trail. His black split tongue methodically weaving in and out of it's mouth. I look for a rock to chase it away with but the trail has only hard packed sandy clay. I'm already running out of water but with no other option I spray the last of it at the snake and he scuttles off sounding very annoyed. Who's the big tough guy now? My mouth at this point has been increasingly parched and my throat burns. My kidneys throb in my lower back from all the sugar and lack of hydration. As I begin the final climb I plummet. I'm nauseous and faint. A hot wind blows from the furnace below and I'm having trouble walking straight. There's a breeze at the top and a view of the sun beginning to set over the vast surrounding canyons. I descend back towards the finish on beat up legs but still moving smoothly. I enjoy the views and even smile a little making a concerted decision to enjoy the end. If you're going to get snaked in the final stretches of a race, you want it to be done in style. Kevin doesn't disappoint. He comes flying past me out of nowhere and I try to give chase. Im red lining and he's DISAPPEARING down the trail. He put 5 minutes on me in 3 miles. It was an impressive finish. I was in so much pain and had absolutely no response. The only thing that kept me pushing was the fear of getting passed again!

After leading 95% of a race it's humbling and the regret is borderline cliche. I shouldn't have gone out so hard! I should have been more patient more confident! I shouldn't have wasted ten extra seconds at each aid station on the way back! It's the kind of a negative reaction you have from what is basically regarded as one of the worst things that can happen in a race. But Im really proud of my effort. I dug deeper than I ever have to try and keep a good pace through nausea, dehydration, and cramping legs. I never thought Id get close to 12 hours for this race. And even though it seems like the win was mine for the taking, this is a way better story right? If I had won there wouldn't be much to tell about or learn from. As it is theres a number of things to work on and that excites me. If I want to continue to improve I have to see my own weaknesses.

2nd place, 12:19:20

39 registered runners
8 runners didn't start
11 runners didn't finish
20 = official finisher
51% finisher rate

San Pedro National Forest

A friendly looking thistle



If you aren't making things better, then things are going to be whatever they will be. In a sense, change is essential to thriving. The ability to change begins with yourself. Behavioral modification in the present derived from focus on fundamental life values, something I learned about in my visit to the psychiatric hospital. They give you this sheet when you're discharged with 'keys to a healthy life'. A list of things like exercise, sleep, cleanliness, sunshine. It seems so elementary to list these things but when you approach life like something to be managed and mastered there's no room for the noise that invades and distorts the goal--living better. You always return to the basics. If you can champion the basics you can accomplish quite a lot. It is arrogance to ignore this simple truth. You go about attempting to modify neurochemical pathways by performing basic tasks diligently. This is the basis of habit formation. Once you understand and appreciate how simple the process of change is you can apply it to anything. Break down your goal into bite sized actionable tasks that can be absorbed and performed routinely. Once these are mastered others can be taken on building to a more complex pattern of success which was once difficult and all of sudden it's easy. There will be a point in every journey where it becomes perceptibly difficult and usually seems impossible. This is the point where you remember that no-one said it would be easy. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. So you step back, rediscover the basics, and keep going.

The only thing you have in this life, are the choices you make. So live like you mean it.



When stuff like this happens how can you not believe in God? -- Crank the engine. A half hearted response and then silence. Stay calm. You only have 6 deadlines to catch up on and your 30 minutes behind schedule for the day after skipping the morning run, skipping the shower, and skipping breakfast. Priorities. 2 hours necessary to meet your first deadline, 5 hours short on sleep, 7 days straight with no moment to even brush your teeth. Triage. Leave the dead car and take the over-ripe garbage bag to the dumpster. Let the car relax and think about it's actions. Second attempt and the same half-hearted churn before it finally tips over and momentum catches. A million tiny explosions >>> VRRRROOOOM! I'll never take that thunder for granted again. The miles disappear in my rear view mirror. So... the mechanic doing my oil change last week was right, my battery IS dying. Not just the ordinary rue where they make up a myriad of expensive mechanical problems that this clueless dysfunctional urbanite will fall for. Back to the mechanic, buy that new battery. Need us to install it? Nah. How hard can it be to put a battery in a car? I'm done being a helpless city-dweller. Another week slow cranking my car twice a day trying to decide between buying the tools you apparently need to swap out a battery in my car and the humility of going back to the mechanic with my tail between my legs. Wait long enough, the answers come. In the brush next to a parking lot in the forest, while sitting in some shade eating a watermelon with my brother, I luckily spot a discarded wrench in the dirt. The exact wrench I need to change my battery. My brother gapes at me. Yes I still don't believe in God. How ironic. I change my battery and I go on smiling. My life is not the center of the universe. I don't blame the dark side when my car battery dies on the way to the most important day of work and I don't thank the light shown on me by a deity above if I find a wrench in the sand. Bad stuff happens. Then good stuff happens. Repeated since forever. The choice is to make the world a better place even when your own luck won't change. I do see the magic in life. The mystery worth exploring and trying to understand. Something we get glimpses of and can only comprehend temporarily. However, in my observation, the moment we put our finger on this imperceptible truth, label it, start trying to please it, and telling other people how to gain it -- it's lost.



When I realize that I've made a bad decision I can get into a self-propelled cycle that lead's down a road towards making the same bad decisions again. It's important to be aware in those moments and know that it's never too late to plan ahead. To begin taking tiny steps to improve from the moment of realization when a new path is open to you.



IF you prepare the body and mind for performance (P) through training (T)

AND training is a cyclical process that includes breaking down / exercise (E) + building up / recovery (R)

THEN the one who exercises (E) and/or recovers (R) best will win (P)

IF P = T
AND T = E + R
THEN E + R = P

Competitive endurance sports is a Roller Derby-esque, Rhino Charge-like, Darwinian contest of survival. Everyone who wants to push themselves to their absolute maximum potential trains to the brink of their ability, and the one who get's as close as possible without twisting an ankle, pulling a meniscus, or suffering complete endocrine failure by race day will win. The ultra-endurance sport is an interesting one to participate in because the scientific research, let alone the experiential knowledge base, is still in it's infancy. Only now is a spotlight being shown on the physical and emotional toll that extended participation can take. Some of us, given the knowledge of what could happen, would take the risk anyway. Others might think twice and be thankful someone told them it was a bad idea before they got to mile 75 and still had a marathon to go. As many runners have been told be well-meaning friends, "Running 100 miles, that's like the dumbest idea ever." Ultimately realizing that training isn't just about pushing yourself as hard as possible, that it's also about recovering as completely and efficiently as possible, can be rewarding. It's a reminder that being your best doesn't just mean running the fastest race. It also means enjoying life and encouraging others. If we can take our goals and ambitions seriously but not take ourselves too seriously, we are bound to achieve more and pass through the gates of something greater than ourselves.



my mom is the kind of person who sits with you all night if you're too sick to lay down and go to sleep. my earliest memory of her is holding a brownie splattered beater out the window and cooing my name until I came riding around the corner on my tricycle to collect the indisputable treat. she's not only generous but noble and strong. I remember her playing tennis at Parklands sports club the way she so controlled and commanded the ball where to go. It scared me a little the first time I realized she had such force within her. I had never seen this less diminutive side of her unleashed so gracefully. Or maybe it was the fear that I sensed in her opponents! She would allow me and my brothers to be ball boys sprinting across the bright red dirt court or give us a few Kenya shillings to run and get sodas from the bar. I have a lot of memories where I know she was around but wasn't very clear what she was up to. I knew for certain that she was never far away, always ready to come running and rescue me if I broke my wrist or got stung by a bee. Or she'd be busy making sure there was a good meal waiting for us at the end of the day. One time after summiting mt kenya and driving all the way home with my dad and brothers, she was there with a thick chicken noodle soup to greet our wearied bodies. I'll never forget that meal or many of the others that we ate together as family. Home was a warm place for me, as it should be thanks to her. Only now do I realize how rare and special that was. One time while I was being homeschooled we had our morning chai around 10am sitting out on the green grass in the backyard. She was telling me how she would miss living in that house because we needed to move across town. It was a vulnerable moment that I appreciated. I know she was also thinking of me. Like the time we gave our dog away and I cried so my parents went to take it back from the new owner! I always felt that my parents would take care of me even if were driving through a riot or didn't have water and electricity. I never felt nervous. Somehow they would find a way to make everything better. One of the funnest memories I have was a time when my dad took my two older brothers to climb mt kenya and we bought treats from the store and watched movies together. It was great.



In my training log I have a column for notes where after each run I can log injuries, or wildlife sitings, or any other random thing I choose. Mostly I do this because I know how easy it is to forget things. And data is a useful tool in problem solving, especially over the course of a long training period where things like exhaustion and strength build up slowly over consecutive weeks and months. I can look back and see that two or three days before contracting the flu I had a red eye flight, or maybe didn't sleep well because the neighbors tv was too loud. Then I might understand why after missing a couple weeks of training my calf muscle is recovering very poorly from todays run. (*see image below) This confirms the importance of sleep and helps me convince myself to make a priority of it. Very meta I know I know. Or for example I could look back six weeks ago and see that I was only running 5 miles a day. This will help me feel better about getting my ass kicked during the 20 miler I just did and make me understand that I am making progress.

It occured to me that I could log wether or not I take water bottles and how much water i drink. In fact I began to wonder at all the useful data there really is to keep track of. Its not surprising that my next thought was to fantasize about a watch that uses rfid to communicate with my gear so i would know which bottles and shoes I used each time. I would be able to figure out exactly how much water to drink to feel and perform my best and then surly I would become the runner I've always dreamed I could be. Very quickly I was overwhelmed with the compromises bringing such a tech to fruition would involve. The improbability that the myriad of companies which supply my gear would be financially able to add rfid to each product without sacrificing the quality of said products or raising the price is one of the few common hurdles between a creative idea and an actual piece of technology that makes my life better. Not to mention the potential health hazard of swimming around in a personal cloud of electronic signals (like we dont do enough of that already). Even if somehow this gadget made it to market it's hard to imagine it being as seamless a solution as one would hope. The bar for technology, (specifically wearable tech) actually adding something benificial to our lives without robbing us of something in return (usually frustration) is pretty damn low after all, smartphones not withstanding.

All this got me thinking back to a theme from my second 100 mile race. I remember having the sudden, euphoric, nirvana-moment realization that the best way to train for an ultra is to develop and focus on a few fundamental principles and avoid the risk of becoming paralyzed in a sea of data. It's tempting to want to know exactly what I must do to be ready. Thats what we do when we're afraid and we've been educated in a scientifically minded society to deal with challenges this way. I think this healthy reaction is often times misplaced. The most obvious indicator of progress is indeed a number, but the better indicator of progress (in both reliability and confidence building) is the cumulation of subtle changes in strength which you will notice when you're not pouring over a spreadsheet of workout data trying to analyze your ability or wondering why your watch displays altitude in ft instead of meters. It's the same thing with nutrition. Im just as fascinated with the study of food as any health conscious person. Ive read numerous books on the subject and enjoy delving into the characteristics of particular diets. Knowing more about what is in food and how it makes my body work has helped me understand food better but doesn't always make me do the right thing when it comes to eating. Nutrition science is discovering that just because a historically healthy food has 1000mg of calcium per serving in it, doesnt mean taking 1000mg of calcium in a pill will also translate to good health. (*tangent: Proponents of Vitamin companies like to reference Vitamin C curing scurvy on long voyages as proof that exact nutrient science is beneficial but that was just one time when supplements have ever had such a great impact. and when it comes to issues about infant health how can we not be aware that the people telling us what should be in baby formula are the same people trying to sell it). The point is that all the nutritional information in the world is not paramount to eating a healthy diet. In the same way that workout data is not essential to successfully training for your race and actually poses a great risk to achieving your goal if you get lost and lose site of it. What I'm trying to do is to eliminate the complexity which we perceive is keeping us from achieving our highest goals. Always assume that the race(or challenge) will be harder than your hardest training day. So train hard (this does not mean fast). Trust yourself that at the end of each run you will know wether or not you are going to be ready. You have the tools to go the distance, and you don't need reassurance from some website telling you what you did or didn't do(not to mention what your fellow athletes are doing). If you are nervous that the ordinary amount of running you do is not enough, than figure out how to run more and harder! It's not that complicated>>? Also, if you want to ensure that you are going to train enough, make training the easiest thing you can do. If sleeping in running shorts so that you don't have to change first thing in the morning makes it easier... DO IT. If getting rid of your tv so that you don't stay up late watching movies helps... DO IT. If running with people you don't really like helps because it makes it less boring... DO IT. At the beginning of your journey you must tell yourself what the goal is and at each one of these turning points you will have to decide again and remind yourself that you want your goal. That you would rather be an ultra runner rather than another joe shmo who saw every episode of the late night show. We pretend these minor compromises aren't connected to failure but do you want to be the one who never gave it an honest try? or the one who effing get's shit done? (sry I got excited)


You will be on your feet for 20+ hours.
translation: Get used to being on your feet all day

You are going to be moving towards the finish as quickly as possible.
translation: Get fit. How do i do that? Run a lot. How? Run slow.

If you'll be doing it in a race, do it in training.
translation: Run up and down mountains or whatever terrain you will find in the race including gear, fuel, hydration, and weather conditions if reasonably feasible -- but don't go too far out of your way for this last one. Reducing over-all cost (stress, money, and time) of training will increase the likelihood of it's occurrence which is the priority.


Thinking Like a Mountain

The naturalists explanation of anti-fragility...

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world. Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.
Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the ineducable tyro can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them.

My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw a wolf die. We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock.

In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes - something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

image of deer skull: 5kWe all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau's dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.

by Aldo Leopold


thoughts from a morning run

For ultra-endurance running you have to forget about your training. Get in a mindset that allows you to sustain the activity. Instead of getting the most you can out of todays workout by working your hardest to build as much muscle as possible you have to begin thinking about building metabolic efficiency on a cellular level. This will take longer than the mind can cope with. If you focus on your running you will try to improve upon it. It's better to set yourself out for a run everyday and then forget about the exercise part. Only then can you inhabit the present moment which is the key to going far.


Divide and Conquer

Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it. - Descartes

I separate myself into areas of interest. This way I can decide if something I am doing is worthwhile based on whether it benefits some part of me that I would like to see improved. There's exercise, education, work, stress-relief, etc. There's nutrition and cooking which are their own things. In this way it's easy to think of myself as a mechanism like a car or computer. The car has an engine and within the engine are many different parts. As you replace or perfect one the entire mechanism begins to function better. This alludes to some kind of perfection which can be reached where you will be a faster, sexier, smarter, higher performing car than any other. What will you do then? Will you find endless happiness? Of course not, because you are not a car. You are (more like) the mechanic. A problem solver. The joy is in the aim to improve, not in the improvement itself. It's getting your hands dirty trying to figure out how this life-thing works, piece by piece, exploring it.



I might take a nap. I might run 20 miles. I may have a fever and a cough but that won't keep me from climbing a mountain. That bone might be broken or just bruised - it's pretty swollen. But if I take tiny skip-like steps I can progress. I can travel. Carrying this body forward through the wind, into the sun. Climbing up above the city and everyone. If I keep my knees bent I can even run a little. Trotting along slower than a walk. This is my possibility. This is all I have. It is the plank cast off from the shipwreck to which I cling. If I just hang on long enough fate might shine down upon me and bring another piece of wood to which I can fasten the first. Build upon it. What the future holds I do not know. All I know is what I can do. And what I can do is to hold on, hope, and continue.



Moving around nurtures a mindset of reflection. As I look back on thirty years of life I realize that I spend a lot of time questioning the choices I have made, often doubting myself. Analyzing life as if from a comfortable seat on a jumbo jet 35000 feet in the air. I should have studied biology! I should have moved to denver! I should have quit my job long ago, Ive wasted so much time! It's easy to get carried away or lost in the moment of reflection and to forget the realities that surround us. We live in an era where the perception is that we have every option that we could follow whenever we want. This is seen as a positive development but leads to a kind of paralysis, a developmental immaturity. There are many trails you can take from where you are but you never leave because you are too afraid that a little ways up one trail you will be missing something better in another direction. This kind of thinking is useless. It's better to choose a path and make the most of whatever we find on that path than to spend our time wondering what could have been. In the last ten years i chose a path with sacrifices both socially and professionally. It's easy to focus on the price of this path and to forget what it was all about. That I wanted to become an athlete who could run the hardest hundred mile trail races. It may seems arrogant to keep focusing on this accomplishment but I have to remind myself that this is what I made choices for which weren't easy.




Kiss or kill. Besa o mata. Kiss glory or die in the attempt. Losing is death; winning is life. The fight is what decides the victory, the winner. How often have rage and pain made you cry? How often has exhaustion made you lose your memory, voice, common sense? And how often in this state have you exclaimed, with a broad smile on your face, "The final stage! Two more hours! Go, onward, upward! That pain only exists inside your head. Control it, destroy it, eliminate it, and keep on. Make your rivals suffer. Kill them" I am selfish right? Sport is selfish, because you must be selfish to know how to fight on while you suffer, to love solitude and hell. Stopping, coughing, feeling cold, not feeling your legs, feeling sick, vomitting, getting headaches, cuts, bleeding...can you think of anything better?

The secret isn't in your legs, but in your strength of mind. You need to go for a run when it is raining, windy, and snowing, when lightning sets trees on fire as you pass them, when snowflakes or hailstones strike your legs and body in the storm and make you weep, and in order to keep running, you have to wipe away the tears to see the stones, walls, or sky. The strength of mind to say no to hours of partying, to good grades, to a pretty girl, to the bedsheets against your face. To put your soul into it, going out into the rain until your legs bleed from cuts when you slip on the mud and fall to the ground, and then to get back on your feet and continue uphill until your legs cry out, "Enough!" and leave you marooned in a storm on the remotest peaks, until you die.

Leggings soaked by snow, driven on by the wind that sticks to your face and freezes your sweat. Feeling the pressure from your legs, the weight of your body bearing down on the metatarsals in your toes, pressure that can shatter rocks, destroy planets, and move continents. Legs suspended in the air, gliding like an eagle, or running faster than a cheetah. Running downhill, slipping on the snow and mude before driving yourself on anew, and suddenly you are free to fly, to shout out in the heart of the mountain, with only the most intrepid rodents and birds hidden in their nests beneath the rocks as your confessors. Only they know your secrets, your fears. Because losing is death. And you should not die before you have given your all, have wept from the pain and the wounds. And you cannot surrender. You must fight on to the death. Because glory is the greatest, and you can either aspire to glory or fall by the wayside. You cannot simply not fight, not suffer, not die...Now is the time to suffer, the time to fight, the time to win. Kiss or kill.

(from Run or Die by Kilian Jornet)

a race is a life that is born when you get up in the morning and dies when you cross the finish line

a day comes in life when you have to decide which train to take, and once you are aboard, there is no point in thinking what might have happened if you caught a different one. you have to make the most of what you find on your route. we can never know what the other trains have to offer, even though we lie awake many a night dreaming that they are better. in truth, perfection only exists within us, in what we think is perfect. Each track leads us to a different place, but it is our choices that lead us to find moments of happiness on any particular track.

the decisions we make, however small and insignificant they may seem when we make them, can decide our fate


the secret weapon of incessant positivity


(of something regarded as unpleasant) continuing without pause or interruption.


The Beauty of a Rare Thing

I like to think that the extended period of intense training required to run 100 miles is a normal part of my life. That the satisfaction from focused training, the time spent in nature, the lower stress, and the improved daily fitness is what I am truly after. It's more of a lifestyle and something that I would do regardless of the existence of racing in order to reap the myriad of benefits from this tremendous effort. I must admit though that the bodies lined up to run 100 miles on race morning are undoubtedly the fittest they will ever be in life. The event is a celebration of this peak physical condition which one experiences briefly.

As I begin to ramp up my training, building up my body from a basic level of fitness to hopefully run 100 miles in the summer, I am struck with how far I have to climb to get back to where I was at. It is an unavoidable fact that the shape my body was in was a unique occurrence which took months and years of consistent effort to reach. We can aspire to reach these peaks but attempting to stay at them is futile. The beauty of this is that it makes those moments and memories even more special. To look back and say 'how did I do that?' And look back even further to a time when you said 'can I do that?'


Celebrate Good Decisions

The disconnect between decisions we make and the remorse we feel is what causes us to fail. It is the difference between immediate and delayed gratification. The long term positive ramifications of good decisions lie somewhere in the unknown future while the fix we get from bad decisions is tangibly immediate. The remorse I feel about binging on almond butter all day only arrives at 2am while nursing an acidic stomach and is mentally removed from the time I'm standing in the store thinking wether I should buy almond butter because it tastes good and is easy to consume. This is why it is important to celebrate the good decisions you make in the moment. Jump up and down and smile when you leave the store without the box of cookies. Reward yourself mentally.


a clouded life

I couldn't find anyone to talk about this to. So I panicked.

Everyone far away is busy talking on their devices.
Everyone close by is busy talking on their devices.

I want to feel a heartbeat for a moment when we meet.
I want to smell the food from the dinner that we'll eat.
I want to build a house nestled in the trees.
Of all the things I want most to hurt and sweat and bleed.



There two kinds of endurance. Probably more but for the purposes of this they all fit into just two. The first is a rote mechanical defense against stress. Very basically the tensing of a muscle. It is reactionary and instantaneous. It comes naturally and some will fare better than others under a particular stress using this limited form of endurance. Each will eventually break. There is another kind of endurance which I believe is, if not limitless, far superior at coping with stress. This is one that does the opposite of flexing or flinching. It is the relaxation of the body as it navigates obstacles. A balance between control of and flexibility so efficient that the noticeable repercussions from navigating stimulus lie outside our common realm of experience. It grows out of confidence and experience. A calmness that allows you to stay in the moment and let fear and pain pass effortlessly from the mind. Like a person gracefully relaxed while running downhill who stays in an ideal place between complete control of the decent (stopping) and complete release (falling). This is a state where one relaxes and lets the ground come to them and flow past. They don't push off the ground so much as pass over it. They are converting the downward force of gravity into horizontal movement. You reach this form of mastery in any skill when you practice it to the point that the idea of it transcends the mind. You do it without actually thinking it. In endurance it takes a kind of emotion to relax the mind and body. This may come through discipline in training, meditation, or fostering a healthy mental attitude. Perhaps it requires all three. Both types of endurance are beneficial to explore and cultivate. You might call the first form STRENGTH and the second FLEXIBILITY. However they both increase your strength when defined as tools that help you navigate impediments.


back to basics, again and again

100 hundred days ago I ran 100 miles in a day. Two weeks ago I couldnt run 10k without my calves seizing up forcing me to walk bow-legged and panting for breath, wanting to stop and take a nap. I was rested and felt strong until halfway into the run when it seemed like Id never run a mile in my life. I was shocked and embarrassed but not entirely surprised. Ive been dealing with inexplicable energy issues for several months. The last three years of training and racing ultras has finally caught up to me perhaps. It's hard to accept that everything I have learned about myself and what the human body is capable of is a lie which doesn't make sense. Im only just turning thirty and I refuse to go down the just-getting-older road. Too many 40 year old athletes are running competitive ultras to use that excuse. I think it comes down to basic running skills. Something I have taken for granted as I progressed into ultra distances. When I heard people say that a half marathon was all they could do, I felt proud that I didn't have such a limit. When others said that they got injured after just a mile, I started thinking maybe I was immune or something. I guess the superhuman complex got hold of me subtly and it seemed like yea running 100 miles is no big deal, right? But the truth is, pride aside, it doesn't just happen overnight. Not that long ago I was someone who didn't run all the time. Then I was someone who thought 5k was the distance to train for. Then I swore Id never run a second marathon. Then I started running 10 miles a day with back to back 50k's on the weekend but still thinking 100 mile runners were gods. Superhuman at least, not like the rest of us. Until I ran one and found out how much it hurts just to finish and decided it was the sub 24hr people who were really amazing and doing the impossible. Now Ive run just two sub 24hr 100s and it's hard to find something I don't think I can do. Which is a good mindset to have in the ultra world accept that somewhere on my journey I lost sight of what I had at the beginning of all this. A respect for running and doing something that is larger than yourself. I forgot that you can't just go from zero mileage recovery into 6 hour days in the mountains. I forgot that running 100 miles begins by running 1 mile everyday and then progressing. So I've started over and currently I'm doing 5k a day adding a kilometer once or twice a week. It seems painfully pedestrian at times and I've been tempted to go for some bigger more 'satisfying' adventures that would lead me back to zero but I remind myself that I'm building something. If I want to get back to the bigger distances I need to work on the little distances first. Adding 1 mile right now is a bigger jump than adding a mile if you are already doing 10. So I'm playing the percentage game and taking it slooooow. Starting from scratch puts the magic back into running. To be honest it's a relief. Running is hard again. I don't take for granted the miracle of coming back from a tough effort feeling like you accomplished something bigger than yourself.


A History of Defiance

I first learned defiance as a child when I allowed my thoughts and eventually my actions to rebel against the discipline of my parents. I hid and cheated and stole for the thrill of getting away with it. When I left the shelter of their authority I found the same defiance against the ideals of society at large which applied pressure towards the direction of my life. I dropped out of college refusing to read the books everyone was being told to read. I became foolishly defiant against commonly accepted truths regarding the science of sleep and nutrition. I attempted to stay up for many nights and sleep only one day a week. I tried to overcome my hunger and tame my weaknesses by refusing to eat anything cooked, refined, or animal based. Always looking for the boundary and pushing beyond it became something of an uncontrollable habit. Beyond these personal rebellions I adopted even greater defiance towards organizations that functioned to control my actions by telling me lies. I aimed for a life that didn't revolve around commuting 9 - 5 to a job that made me hate myself. All of this to take control of my life. Ultimately because of a lack of trust. Interestingly, I now find my sense of defiance against the chaos of my own natural state in the form of discipline, the ideal I first defied. The ability to defy my own 'weaknesses' which predestine my path towards sloth, disorganization, and what can broadly be described as unhealthy behavior have somehow become a way back to the light. Probably this is the ultimate and most difficult form of control.


swimming back to the surface

on the doorstep of destiny caught, brooding in a storm of thought. momentum imploding. stubborn, broken, restless. my unsettled spirit wanders throughout.