April 3, 2022

Feeling at Home


It's been a couple years since I've been out running on the trails consistently. It's good to be back out there...to see the raven, and the hawk, and of course the road runner. I hope I never take these guys for granted. They make me feel at home.    



     

February 21, 2022

Beyond the Chatter


I recently signed up for a mindfulness based stress reduction class. The concept, based on a meditation method developed by a microbiologist named John Cabot-Zinn, is to be able to reduce stress by practicing formal mindfulness meditation.  Zinn said that most people don't realize that the mind constantly chatters. And yet, that chatter winds up being the force that drives us much of the day in terms of what we do, what we react to, and how we feel. Good, bad and ugly. 

The problem with mind chatter is it usually robs us of being present. It floods us with thoughts that have nothing to do with what we are doing at that moment, and instead zaps us with thoughts about what we did or didn't do yesterday, or what we have to do tomorrow etc.  

Zinn states that mindfulness mediation is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally." For this class we are supposed to practice mindfulness mediation daily for 45 minutes (a long time with little or no training) AND write in a journal positive and negative experiences we have during the day. 

I'm hereby confess I have not been a compliant student. I've made it trough exactly zero 45 minute sessions and written down nothing. 

What I have noticed from this class, however, is that I can apply much of the concepts to running. Let me explain. 

When I went for a run today, I made a point of paying attention to the present moment by noticing what my body was experiencing or what was going on around me. When mind chatter picked up, I simply tried to bring it back to these two things. When I was able to do this, I knew I was present.  

Would I have noticed the things I can now recall if I wasn't present? Not a chance. 

Like the man walking his dog on the bluff wearing headphones and looking at his phone. Seeing he was clueless about what was going on around him, I steered clear as I ran up behind him and noticed the dog startled as I ran by. Or the yellow commercial planes that took off from John Wayne airport, one as I was heading out on trail and another while heading back. I tried to get a picture of the last one but instead got a shot of the clouds. 

Or the dead bird laying in the middle of the path that I had to pass four times on an out-and-back part of my run. And of course the black crow perched on the side of road that could have been a raven but I'm pretty sure it was a crow. It didn't fly away as I ran by it which was nice of him/her. Then, when I heard the screech of a bird way ahead of me I assumed it was an Osprey which I'd seen perched many times in the past on this part of the run. But the screech was the sound of a Red Tail Hawk, which I believe now to be the likely species because I ran under him/her perched up on a tree and got a closer look some 30 mins later. Then there were the white pelicans which seem to have made this one area home for themselves in the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

When I made it to the half way point of the run, I knew I would be running into the wind on the way back, requiring a little more effort for the remaining 7 miles. But my cadence was locked in at a very steady 180 steps per minute during the entire time, making the effort less of a struggle than I expected. The cool wind felt good against my body, and my legs felt responsive to the end despite this being the longest run I've done in several months.

Running in the moment. A memorable way to avoid the chatter. 
 

January 23, 2022

Available Now

"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now." Nhat Han







 

July 9, 2021

Buried Deep In All of Us

Perhaps it is the hunter gatherer genes that are buried deep in all of us, but the need to be outside is something I believe cannot be taken for granted by us homo sapiens. After all, if our ancestors survived by roaming large spaces in the great outdoors to survive, natural selection would suggest that there is something in our DNA that predisposes us to be outdoors and to move around when we are out there.

I suppose it’s no wonder that studies prove time and again that spending time outdoors and exercising combat anxiety, depression, anger and other negative states of mind while contributing to a positive state of mind. We are, in my humble view, not meant to be cooped up indoors for extended periods.

It has been a while since I immersed myself in the hunter-gatherer mode and set out on a long trek in nature. I chose the South fork trail to San Gorgonio via Dry Lake and Dollar Lake loop – a total of 21.7 miles. What was most satisfying on reflection 24 hours later was the feeling of simply moving forward in the elements for the 8 hours I was out there.

Motivation comes in varying forms and from varying places. On this day it came from somewhere inside. Somewhere, I think, that precedes me and will long endure beyond me.

November 23, 2020

Running and Therapy

It has been said that running (exercise in general) is therapy for the mind as much as it is the body. I can’t think of a year other than this year that this would ring  more true. I would be in a much darker place during this time of isolation if I wasn’t doing my short but potent 3 to 4 mile runs around my neighborhood several times per week. Thank you running...for keeping me on the sane side of neurosis.  


September 27, 2020

Above the Clouds

 


Been a while since I've been out running on the mountain (one year?). I don't know how or why I've let this essential activity slip away for so long. I was reminded of how much I miss it after climbing with Kevin S above the clouds. We were shrouded in marine layer until we punched through the ceiling to see blue sky and sun about 1'000 up. Chalk today up to a spiritual re-awakening...time to return to the temple.


  

September 15, 2020

Reach Out and Touch the Pepper Tree

If you are ever in need of a reminder of why getting out of the house to go for a run is better than staying inside and grinding a peloton or treadmill, try running under a pepper tree. When you do, reach up and grab a handful of leaves with berries. But don’t pull them off the branch. Rather just rub them around in your hand. You should be able to do this w/out breaking your stride - just half a second is all you need. 

Once you do this with the leaves and berries, bring your hand to your nose and smell the peppery aroma. It always gives me a lift when I can get a little taste of nature in this increasingly virtual world. 






July 31, 2020

Getting What I Need

Today's Run - Low Tide

It's strange, this pandemic thing, especially what it has done to the sport of ultra running. All those races cancelled. It's enlightening as well, this pandemic thing. No races, no obsessive training, no blogging ;-). But really, I'm a new believer in running just to run, vs running to train for a big 50 or 100 mile race that takes over your life and your family's life.

My new routine is to lace up a pair of hoka Clifton road shoes and just go out for a 4 to 6 mile run. That's right. 4 to 6 miles. In fact I rarely go over 5 miles. But here is the deal. This gets me everything I need -- Solitude. Tranquility. Wisdom. Clairity. Fitness. Energy. 

Need I say more? 

Get out there people. 

And keep it real! 


May 23, 2020

Good Bye Hard Rock - Time to Just Run Again

Start of the 2017 Hard Rock 100

          "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

                                                                                         Winston Churchill 


There comes a time when one should change paths. That time, for me, is now.

After following a certain path blindly for four straight years, I'm opening my eyes to search anew.

It was late July 2016 when, like a dope, I discovered the race I had just completed - the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 (TRT 100) - was NOT a qualifier for the Hard Rock 100. Why I didn't just look at the list of Hard Rock qualifiers before entering the TRT is, well, part of the dope designation. Maybe I wasn't really considering Hard Rock until after I ran TRT, or maybe I just assumed that TRT was a qualifier. Whatever. That was 4 years ago and I just don't remember the details.

But then I became obsessed. Probably because running Hard Rock is, in the ultra running world anyway, considered a right-of-passage. Why this is the case I'm not totally sure but it probably has something to do with 30,000 feet of climbing in the San Juan Mountains, altitudes that surpass 14,000, and a tradition of difficulty. The race makes the Leadville 100 look like high school cross country course.

Fast forward to 2017 when, unlike my inner dope, I did my homework on which races were qualifiers for Hard Rock and signed up for Bighorn 100. Notwithstanding the nightmarish conditions of that race, I finished it and promptly sent in my application to the 2018 Hard Rock lottery. The odds weren't in my favor. I recall something like 1 in 1000.

No dice.

So in early 2018 I started to prep for another Big Horn to qualify for the 2019 Hard Rock lottery. But, just as my training miles began to ramp up, I stumbled onto a nuance about Hard Rock qualifiers  -- they are eligible for two years. I promptly cancelled my plans (and training) to race Big Horn and entered the 2019 Hard Rock lottery. Again, no dice. Like a robot, I then set my sights on finding another qualifier in 2019. But then the 2019 Hard Rock was cancelled due to excessive snow. All 2019 runners were granted entry to the 2020 Hard Rock, which meant the earliest I could run this elusive race would be 2021, assuming I qualified.

So last year I signed up for the Tahoe 200 miler, thinking why not? If you're going to go long, why not go really, really long. Unlike the TRT 100, the Tahoe 200 is a Hard Rock qualifier. As the race approached, I was out on a training run high in the San Bernardino Mountains. From the corner of my eye I spotted a shadow on the mountain road. Only there were no trees or anything that could create a shadow. I stopped to look around. When I looked up I saw the silhouette of a hawk hovering between me and the sun high in the sky. The shadow seemed to be tracking me for several minutes along that mountain road. Surreal.

When I returned from that run I had a vision, and it didn't include running the Tahoe 200 mile. It took me instead to the Mogollon Monster 100, a beast of a run in the mountains of Arizona. This one turned out to be my worst performance in my less than stellar ultra running career. I finished, but it took me 30 hours. Yes, the course was absurdly difficult with more technical terrain than I've ever encountered, but it really had me questioning why. Why am I doing this? Why am I out on these trails, crawling up near vertical terrain when I could be actually running on a trail?

I finished the wretched Mogollon Monster and, once again, qualified for the Hard Rock 100, to be held in 2021. Then Covid hit, pushing the 2021 date to 2022.

I think it is time to change paths, find a new trail. One that doesn't involve toiling up and down mountains and always seeking vertical in training, just to get shut down by a lottery. Maybe it is time to just run again.

May 3, 2020

April 20, 2020

A Positive From a Negative


When I started my run today I was replete with anxiety. Being held up in the house for days and dealing with this "new normal" was getting to me. As I ran along I started to think about some of the positive things that have come from the current shut-down. For the first time I ran with a mask, through some pretty dense shrub where pollen was floating in heavy doses around me. It was then I realized I was protected from this airborne nuisance, so often an allergic trigger for me. No more wheezing! Would I have ever thought to wear, let alone run with a mask before? I’ll mark this one down as a positive from a negative. 

April 11, 2020

The New Normal


Now that major races are, or are soon to be, shutting down due to the Corona virus, its high time we appreciate things beyond running. I'm adapting quite well to this new normal. Just looking at the sky does wonders to the psyche. Try it, I think you'll like it.
  

March 22, 2020

Impermanence


"No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it's not the same river, and he's not the same man."

― Heraclitus

March 1, 2020

Pause, and Concentrate

  

Sometimes the most routine trails reveal the most interesting things. All you have to do is pause, and concentrate on what's right in front of you. It's amazing what appears. That's life, really.

February 9, 2020

Proof of Presence


Buddha is often quoted on the topic of being "present." He, by all accounts, wasn't one to dwell on the past, saying poignantly that "there's only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment." In other words, forget about the past, and just focus on being present in this moment.

My concern with this is that I have too many memories of being "present" in the past that remind me of how important it is to be present.

I remember, for example, pacing a friend during a 100 mile race. It was late at night, and it was starting to get pretty cold as we climbed toward the top of a mountain. I saw a glimpse of another runner's light above us. As I looked up, I noticed snowflakes falling gently from the sky. Yet, there were no clouds, just snowflakes. I remember being very present in that moment.

There was another time, during Western States 100, when I came into the Forest Hill aid station. I was really beat up, wondering how I was going to finish with 40 miles to go. Then I saw my family and crew, and my youngest daughter took my hand and walked with me for a while. I'll never forget that moment. Precious.

Yes, living in the present is indeed the best way to be "present." But remembering moments of clarity in the past, those precious seconds etched so vividly in our minds, are proof of presence, and not to be forgotten.