March 11, 2018

Six Cities Run (in the rain)

Six Cities Run
It wasn't until mile 3 or 4 when decided what I was doing. And even then I really didn't know. It was starting to rain and the trails near my house were turning to mud, so I decided to hit the roads for a longer run. As I started to run, I kept thinking, how can I make this interesting? After all, outside of avoiding life threatening vehicular traffic, running on the roads for more than a couple of hours can be quite humdrum, even (sorry road runners) boring. 

So I tried to come up with something to keep things interesting. Nothing came to mind, except running to a particular destination, then catching a Lift back home. I've done this a couple times before with decent luck. Once I did a solo run to Swallows Bar and a couple of group runs to Cooks Corner for birthday celebrations. I started thinking about how many cities I could possibly run through on one run. I started with seven, but soon realized that was more than I could chew. I settled for six.

So there you have it. Starting in Newport Beach, I proceeded to Irvine, Tustin, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and finished up in Huntington Beach. Twenty one miles of pure bliss. LOL.

Ok, not the most glamorous of journeys, but still a good day at the office.

Keep it real runners.

March 5, 2018

It’s All in the Head - A Tribute To Roger Bannister

To achieve a personal record at something you’ve put your heart and soul into is, as any runner will tell you, an incredible feeling. To achieve something that no other human being has ever achieved is, well, monumental. Roger Bannister did this in 1954 when he broke, for the very first time, the 4 minute mile. Roger Bannister died March 3. He was 88 years old.

What makes Bannister’s feat monumental in the running world and the world at large is the wide held belief in those days that it was impossible for a human to run a mile in under 4 minutes. But Bannister did it. And others followed. And they followed in droves. Over 500 US runners alone have broken the 4 minute barrier,  and many weren’t out of high school when they did it.

The question that must be asked is how many of these runners would have run sub 4 minutes if no one had ever done it before them? My point is this: what we think is impossible might be impossible only in our heads, but very possible outside of our heads.

What are you capable of that is impossible? Here’s a clue. There is only one way to find out.

February 22, 2018

Do it. Because Life is Too Boring (and Short) Not To

It’s a dark night.  It’s pouring rain. I’m on my back sliding head first down the side of a mountain. I can’t see anything. I can’t stop myself. I surrender to gravity. And then to my fate.

What crosses my mind are two thoughts. The first, my body is traveling on a safe path and will eventually come to a gentle stop. Then I will crawl back to my feet and head to the finish line some 40 miles away. Second, my body is on a collision course with a protruding slab of granite, and my head is about to be the first point of contact. I don’t get back to my feet.

There are moments like these. They stick in my brain. Moments that make me wonder, sometimes, why a grown man over the age of 50 would put himself in these situations. Moments that are so vivid and consequential that they make the routine of life seem mundane, ordinary. Moments that make me feel lucky to just be on a mountain in the midst of a journey, any journey, that brings memorable challenges.

My advice to you runners and non runners out there. Look for opportunities. Take your mind and body out of their comfort zone. Find a challenge and go toward it. Why? Life is too boring and short not to!

February 18, 2018

Intoxicating the World Over

Intoxicating The World Over

If I were a tree in another life, I think I would be a Western Juniper. Known for their ability to survive nature's most extreme conditions, these endurance junkies produce a berry used by distillers to make one of my least favorite alcoholic beverages - Gin.

I just think there is something pretty awesome about a species that can survive with little to no water, freezing temperatures, high altitudes, incessant wind, all the while producing a little berry that flavors a beverage that has intoxicated the world over.

Usually thriving in the presence of more grandiose competitors like the Jeffery and Ponderosa Pines, the Western Juniper sometimes grows into a gnarled shrub with the aesthetic beauty of a rouge weed on steroids, and other times into a majestic evergreen that stands toe to toe with its biggest rivals. Predictable? Hell no. Bad ass? Well, you get the point.

California Juniper

February 11, 2018

Happy Birthday C. McCandless. The Sage of Solitude

Today was a good day. On Los Pinos trail. From hot springs with 2,000’ of ups. There were a few minutes on a perch overlooking Hot Springs Canyon. Contrails overhead, and a red tail hawk soaring below. Memorable for sure. It's not often that one looks down from were they stand to watch a hawk soaring. The best of all? For several hours there was not another human soul to be seen.

It reminded me of a scene with Alexander Supertramp, aka Christopher McCandless, from the movie Into the Wild. Randomly, he looked into the sky to observe a airplane passing overhead. In the movie everything goes silent for a few seconds as you watch this jet move across the sky. The contrail forming behind it. Why do they show this? There is no explanation. Maybe it is a silent protest of the fact that no matter where we are on this planet, we can’t escape human fingerprints. They are everywhere.

McCandless tried to escape from the fingerprints. He went to the farthest end of the earth, walked among grizzlies, ate wild berries and shot wild game. He was born 50 years ago tomorrow. He escaped the hands of society to travel the country, to find his refuge in a place a long way from the maddening crowd. A place with no lines. No malls. No traffic. No hordes. I wish he were still alive today. To share with us what motivated him to push the boundaries. To move "into" the wild. To shun what so many of us grasp onto.

Happy Birthday Christopher McCandless. You are the sage of solitude. Thank you for reminding us how important it is to go it alone.

February 4, 2018

Striking Out and Not Giving a $#@T

I shouldn't complain. That I signed up for three race lotteries, including Western States, Hardrock and Wasatch, and struck out in all of them is, well, probably what the therapist would've ordered anyway. Last week I was ranting about leaving "the cage" and "stepping into the unknown" to experience the "fun and mystery" and "magic" of what might occur. I'm embarrassed to admit I signed up for these races even though I've already run two of them, including one three times. Ok, its hard to escape the cage people.  It's so comfortable in there!

Time to really drop some sandbags and move on from the outworn memories. 

My heart still yearns for fun and mystery of Hardrock.  I'll leave the cage for that one!


January 24, 2018

The Routine Cage


Be careful my friends. Of comfort. Of routine. 

I’ve embraced all of these - lately. Now I’m paying the price.

We sat, quietly, for a little while, until someone asked the question, then each of us spoke up. There were four or five of us, I don’t remember the exact number, but I remember I could detect that all of us were feeling the nervous energy. The kind that accompanies runners before a race. This race happened to be the London Marathon, and the question posed was “where are you from?”

I was the only American among us, which made me smile inside, because it felt really cool at that moment to be riding a train through England to the start of a marathon with people from all around Europe that I had never met, and probably would never see again. That was the moment that prompted me to look for more. The moment I chose to run ultras.

Deepak Chopra wrote “relinquish your attachment to the known, step into the unknown, and experience all the fun, mystery, and magic of what may occur in the field of all possibilities.” As Chopra describes in the law of detachment, we have a tendency to return to the known, to that which we find familiar. To the people, places, events, activities and even thoughts, we call the known. This goes to the old cliché that we don’t like change, and we are all creatures of habit.

Chopra says freedom from the state of attachment to what we are familiar with, including our own past, comes from the wisdom of uncertainty. The not knowing.  Not knowing what is going to happen next. Not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if we will succeed or fail, in whatever we seek to do.

I once met a girl at a party that told me she found it really helpful to throw sandbags over the side of a hot air balloon. I think, or at least I hope, she was speaking metaphorically.  Letting go of her past (sandbags) so her balloon (life) could rise to new heights. Was she seeking uncertainty? Not sure, I just remember nodding my head and sipping my beer.

Are we all just creatures of habit, unwilling to leave the cage we call routine?  Chopra says without uncertainty, life is just the repetition of outworn memories. This leads to stagnation, entropy, and decay. Not high on anyone’s bucket list. But why do so many of us follow this path?

The answer? It’s our ego my friends. According to Chopra, we stick to the comfortable and the familiar and the past and the boring because, well, it is safe. And the ego loves safe, because the ego clutches violently to fear and insecurity. Why risk “failing” at something you’ve never done and know nothing about when you can “succeed” at something you’re familiar with? Afraid to speak in public? Blame the ego. Start a new job? It’s the ego. Start a new business? The ego. Enter the routine cage. And lock the door behind you on your way in.

But how do we escape from this cage? How do we access Chopra’s freedom of uncertainty? The answer isn’t so simple. Per Chopra, when we stand apart from our ego, we are who we really are. Detached, floating, unfettered by what others think of us. Unshackled from the bondage of our peers, colleagues, friends, even our families, all of whom are co-conspirators with our ego.

The key here is to detach. Detach from the outcomes we seek. Find something we know nothing about, and dive in. Find an event, a race, a sport we’ve never done. And go. Then sit back and enjoy journey.

I’m working on this…stay tuned.

January 13, 2018

Bell View to Los Pinos

Los Pinos Peak
It was my third attempt to get to this place. Not knowing the actual distance or elevation gain, I kept heading back to Bell View trail after failing to go the distance, probably to address my separation anxiety from solitude and emerging go-it-alone-on-any-desolate-trail yearning. Today the only sighting of civilization came in the form of two rounders (mt. bikers) just when I was about to reach the summit of Los Pinos, and just after spotting an empty beer can of the IPA sort. I grabbed the can on the way back, as my legs started to remind me I'd been climbing over two hours. It was only 6.5 miles from A to B, but B was 3,400 feet higher than A. So by the time I turned around at B, getting back to A wasn't so easy. In total a 4.5 hour, zero calorie day. 

December 30, 2017

Solitary Sought. Solitary Found.

Bell Canyon Trail with Santiago Pk 
There is, I believe, a fundamental need that lurks in many of us. It's something that we don't usually talk about because, um, well, we've been trained not to talk about stuff that might make us seem odd, or different, from everyone else.

I'll call this, simply, the need to be alone. Or more specifically, the need to be away from people, at least some of the time. Not just away from the assholes, or the obnoxious ones, just people. Yes, many of us, some more than others, just need to be alone and, frankly, away from people. At least for a period of time. Away from their voices. Away from their attitudes. Away from their beliefs. Just away. Far away. Far enough away so that we cannot hear or see any trace of them. 

This is not a new concept, this need to spend time alone. Its been around for millennia.  Christian monks (along with devout Buddhists, Hindus and Taoist, to name a few) have lived eremitic (secluded) lives long before any of us starting seeking solitude from the holiday shopping hordes. As soul seekers, they no doubt found this to be a cleansing experience.       

I don't know, but maybe there is some connection here to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, that the need (according to Maslow) for social belonging ultimately gives way to the need for self-actualization and even self-transcendence as we develop and grow. Is this why when we think of hermits we picture old crotchety men? These must be the guys, alone, at the top of Maslow's ladder.     

When I got in my Jeep this morning and began to drive, I chose not to decide where to go. I was headed out for a run, but hadn't decided where. So I just started driving. As I drove, many trails and potential places to run began flashing through mind. I took inventory of each one, and I tried to weigh the good and the bad of each. But all I could think about was one thing - the solitude of each place (or lack of solitude, actually).

The next thing I knew I was pulling up to one of my favorite (and most solitary) trails. I made it nearly four hours before I saw a single person!

Ok, I'm not crawling under a rock any time soon, but it felt good to cleanse. 

December 17, 2017

The Land of Painted Plateaus

Every so often I find myself stopping to appreciate something unusual.  And beautiful.

This time I was in a rental car – a Subaru Legacy in fact – that was hurling me across the plateau known as the Big Horn basin. As I drove along the highway I couldn’t stop stealing peeks in each direction. It felt like the sky and the landscape around me were colluding somehow to get me closer to them.

The next thing I knew I was rumbling down a dirt road, heading in the direction of a hill that stood between an expansive view that I knew was waiting for me. The Subaru – bless its little wheels – was taking a beating. I weaved the innocent little car around large puddles and punishing ruts, many of which in all my haste I couldn’t avoid.

When I finally reached the hill’s crest, I pulled over and just started walking. I walked toward a rock formation and wondered what it would be like to just lay down there forever. Under this sky and in this slow meadow of grass and wild flowers.

I’m heading back to Wyoming. To the land of painted plateau’s and inspired skies. This time, I hope I can catch a little less rain on race day.

December 10, 2017

Paddling Into It

There was a time when I pulled the trigger without really knowing why. I went with the feeling, the emotion. A wave would rise up from underneath me and rather than try to analyze what was happening, I just decided to turn and paddle into it. The rides were, well, something I wont forget.

Today I paddled in again. I’m looking forward to sharing this ride with all of you.

Stay real people. Keep playing. Life is too short not to.

December 9, 2017

The Beginners Mind - Repost

The Beginner's Mind (original post October 30, 2011)

Since posting this over six years ago, I keep searching for more possibilities...I hope I can still find some....   

I recently posted that wisdom is not a flower to be plucked. It is a mountain, and it must be climbed. The idea here is that it takes time, years even, to gain an awareness of the trail that you tread on.

I still believe this.  However I think there is more to this story. Yes, wisdom is gathered from real life experiences. And there is no substitute for experience. But I also think wisdom can be overrated. I dare say that for everything we gain from wisdom, we also lose something precious from it. Let me explain...

As I lace up my shoes for my very first ultra, my nerves are tense. My heart beats rapidly. Everything around me appears larger than life. The other runners. The glow of the rising sun. Before the race everything is ominous, every little detail surreal. I pin the number on my shorts, I drink a cup of coffee. I fill my water bottles. All these things, so monumental. Then I step to the line. More than anything, with a fresh mind, I think about the unknown...and the possibilities yet to come...  

Fast forward now. I lace up my shoes for my 15th ultra, my nerves are still tense. Again my heart beats rapidly. Yet everything around me has an air of familiarity. I chat with my fellow ultra runners. I glance at the rising sun. My thoughts are more focused, more disciplined. I check my fluid and salt supplies. I review my nutrition for the day. I know now what is to come. I remind myself of the mountain I’ve climbed to get here.

Zen master Shunryu Suzuke once said that in the beginners mind, there are always possibilities. But in the experts mind, there are few.

November 30, 2017

Cold Air Greets Me

Wooded Trail Washington DC

It’s not often when living in So Cal that a breath of cold air greets me before a run. This week offered me just that as I strolled onto a wooded trail that was blanketed with colorful autumn leaves in the politically effervescent city of Washington, DC.

Washington DC National Cathedral

I made my way up to Wisconsin avenue and then circled one of my favorite buildings, the National Cathedral, a gothic-clad megalith I used to explore to impress girls in college. Once I snuck myself and another through the back door and up a hidden staircase. We found our way onto an obscure balcony where we stood, solemnly, peering down on a choir performing a classic choral hymn.

It was just one of those moments that has stuck with me for a long time. 

November 18, 2017

The Dark Side of Commitment

Commitment. The word has been lingering in my head all day.

What does commitment really mean, anyway?

Now, here I sit, swinging from self-reflection to out-of-shape-neurosis, trying to come up with a blog post that most of you at least consider unique and most of all not boring. I see this massive Webster’s unabridged International Dictionary just sitting on the shelf. The book is huge! It beckons me to pick it up and open it. I turn to the last page, number 2662. This thing has 450,000 words in it!

I turn to the word Commitment.

“The act, obligation or pledge to carry out some action or policy or to give support to some policy or person” seemed quite logical and commonplace. But when I read another definition, I began to feel a bit deceived, if not betrayed. Odd, it would seem, to feel betrayed by the word commitment, a word most of us associate with positive things like strength, resolve or even loyalty. But when I read “the act of committing or sentencing to confinement (as in a prison or mental institution)” I had to pause. As I read further, positive notions of strength and resolve gave way to “the state of being obligated or bound (as by intellectual conviction or emotional ties).”

A couple of weeks back I signed up for a 100 mile race. Now I’m having second thoughts about running it. Which started me on this commitment crusade. Am I a committed runner? Or am I becoming a lazy sloth? Should I remain in the state of being “obligated or bound?” Am I really just sentencing myself to my own mental confinement?

I say there is a time for commitment. It's a powerful force. It can get us to the starting line. Yet there is a dark side to it. When it binds and confines, it makes us prisoners in our own self-made institutions.

Keep it real runners.

November 1, 2017

Hardrock 100 Mile Lottery - I'm All In!

Looking to defy the odds by getting into one of the most difficult ultra marathons anywhere. 34,800' cumulative ascent, highest elevation on the course 14,050'. May the running gods be with me. 

October 29, 2017

The Running Thread

Moi, John D and John W on the PCT

The stories just kept coming this weekend. There was the one about Brian cat getting thrown into a rag doll like cartwheel on the buss ride back from the St. George marathon. Still wearing his marathon medal, the post race beer garden had taken its toll on his sense of balance.

Then there was “Big Gulp” Karl. Karl rode his Gold Wing motorcycle through a traffic light one evening.  Oblivious to the dead end just ahead, he launched himself Evel Knievel style into the air. He walked away from it. “Big Gulp” was for showing up to a trail run with two 7-11 big gulp cups to meet his hydration needs.

Some of the stories have taken on a life of their own.

Like the one when John W and I were each smoking a cigar in my hot tub one evening. I looked over and saw a gargantuan sized cockroach on the cinder block wall some ten feet from us. We just laughed and joked and continued smoking. Then, a few minutes later, John W experienced something that belongs only in your worst nightmare. He took a puff from his cigar but didn’t realize the roach was sitting on the tip of it. By the time he realized what was happening, the roach was in his mouth running around! It was not a small roach. It was a gargantuan roach.

We runners share a common thread that we use to stitch our lives together. I call it the running thread. I hope to keep stitching for some time to come. How about you? 

October 23, 2017

Your Seed

What if I were to tell you that you and your thoughts are controlled? That the desires and feelings you have are being directed by something – or someone – other than you? Seem absurd? Maybe, but then again, reality does have a way of disappointing us. Which is why most of us live in our own altered form of it.

Think about it this way. What if your thoughts were a tree that grew atop an open field? Would they be free from the elements? Would wind, rain, drought or fire have any influence on them? Most importantly, if you were a tree, would it matter where your seed was buried?

Still with me? If you are, you’re probably having a hard time imagining a tree, let alone how your thoughts could have anything to do with one. This is why I included the picture. Do you think this tree would be shaped differently if it were protected from the wind? If it were not in an open field? Do you think your thoughts would be different if you changed your daily routine? Changed what you read and listen to?

We are nothing more than our thoughts, which control our actions. So shouldn’t we want to understand our thoughts? Or better yet, regain control of them?

If I handed you a seed, and that seed was to grow into a large tree representing your thoughts and ideas, where would you plant it? Would it be in front of a television and computer? Inside a novel or music hall? Would you want it to be around other plants that were green and growing? Or ripe and rotting?

What we read, watch, listen to, discuss, learn and ponder are what we eventually come to believe. Who we become to be.

Where is your seed buried?

October 15, 2017

Run for Our Little Roses - And Then Some

Starting Line - In front of Mutt Lynch's

This weekend I entered the Run for Our Little Roses half marathon. This was a true fund raiser event for a very worthy cause, that being to provide a full-time residential home for abused, abandoned and neglected girls in Honduras. The organization behind the event is dedicated to transforming broken lives into productive, joyful young women.

Our Little Roses provides a home for young girls that come from abject poverty, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment and oppression. They are infants, toddlers, young girls and teenagers. According to Our Little Roses, these girls have endured extreme neglect, abandonment, and abuse. They often are left alone to fend for themselves --unable to care for or protect themselves.

Here are some pictures from what turned out to be a fun and worthy event in Newport and Huntington Beach, CA. What followed the run was a bit of a crawl...though Newport's finest dive bars.

Pre Race Strategy Meeting - Mutt Lynch's

The Elvis Mobile 

Aid Station Mile 11ish 

Scotty's Finest Moment 

Scotty Back to Reality

Sunset On Balboa Ferry (w/Cracker, Jeff P and Scotty) 

Jeff P 

Haunted House - Balboa Island 

" said 5 minutes a half hour ago"

October 1, 2017

Giving Back Sets Ultra Running Apart

I finally submitted my service form to be signed for volunteering at Hardrock 100 in July. Yes, it took me a while, but with several lottery applications coming due in early November, I thought I'd "get ahead of the curve" and get that box checked off sooner than later.

Gone are the days of nonchalantly deciding to enter a race and sending an application in a couple weeks before the event. This approach only leads to frustration and angst. And you can forget worrying about training, because that's the easy part. With the advent of lotteries and the requirement to do volunteer service, getting into a 100 mile race takes real planning!

Actually, I'm really happy I chose to go to Hardrock to volunteer this year. I didn't go because I had to, I just wanted to immerse myself in the race culture. It was worth every minute. I learned some important intel about how to run that course. It was also a lot of fun. In fact, I don't think I've had a bad experience volunteering at a race or doing trail work. Whether swinging a McLoed on the PCT or the Angeles Crest Trail, cooking breakfast burritos at the HR finish line, or handing medals out at the finish of a marathon, there is something special about giving back to the sport.

I think the service requirement is a huge plus for ultra running. It weeds out the less than serious, and contributes to multiple good causes - be it staging races, supporting runners, maintaining trails and the like.

The requirement to give back, to volunteer at a local race or help maintain the trails, is something special about this sport. I believe it is what sets ultra running apart from the highly charged, spandex  burdened endurance crowd.       

Keep it real runners!

September 28, 2017

A Random Walk Through Ireland...

A few shots from a recent trip to Ireland...some running, but lots, lots more. One of my favorite quotes from the prolific Irish wit, poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde - "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

St. Stephens Green, Dublin

The Long Room, Trinity University, Dublin
Oscar Wilde Exhibit - Dublin Writers Museum 

Doheny and Nesbitt Pub, Dublin 

County Galway, Near Ashford Castle

Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Ireland's School of Falconry

Spirit of Place Project - About Fishers of Men, Cong, Ireland 

Cliffs of Moher