December 30, 2014

Hey Runners - Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all you bad ass runners out there! I hope the road you are on will take you to where you want to be in 2015. Time to close the book on 2014!

December 22, 2014

Stepping Out of Solitary

It was a last minute thing. A text from a friend Friday night. A 7 am start time. A trail I had never run before. Runners I had not met before.

My legs were still recovering from 42 miles the weekend before. What the hell? Isn’t this what ultra running is all about? Diving into the pit with the hope of crawling out without any serious wounds.  

What an awesome day! Turned out to be nine of us - a good mix of OC and San Diego runners. We started at the bottom of San Juan Trail and climbed and climbed up the mighty Los Pinos Trail. I’ve heard so much about this trail but never set foot on it. I’m so glad I did. We returned via Blue Jay campground for water refills and onto the San Juan trail. What an amazing run with a really cool group of runners!     

I think it was Satre who said if you are lonely when you are alone, you’re in bad company. No argument here, as I've got my fair share of solitary training. But sometimes I forget how good it is to train with a posse.

Thanks for the reminder guys! 

December 21, 2014

Adidas Heart Rate Technology - A Step Ahead?

Have you ever strapped on a heart rate monitor, started your watch, only to see a heart rate reading that would indicate cardiac arrest? Or, a reading that just isn’t there? There is a solution.

I recently tried a new heart rate system from adidas which offers runners a heart rate sensor that are embedded directly in custom garment tops. The tops are made from a “smart fabric” technology that incorporates special heart rate sensing fiber electrodes woven directly into material. The heart rate monitor sensors work with your body's perspiration to maintain a connection. The sensors will typically activate within the first few minutes of exercise.
What is really cool is that adidas bras, racer tanks, and adidas training shirts are compatible with multi “snap in” transmitters, including Polar WearLink, NuMetrex, adidas miCoach, Garmin strap, and Zephyr HxM. Transmitters will synch with sports watches, Bluetooth Smart® enabled phones, iPod Touch, and cardio equipment. 

The system uses Bluetooth compatibility to support smartphone users. I used the adidas gear on my Iphone with only a few complications. I downloaded the adidas miCoach mobile app which set me up with a Bluetooth Smart-ready connection to the heart rate monitor. The app tracks both personal training data and connects individuals with the miCoach online community, providing access to thousands of professional training tips and programs. The only downside to using my phone for a heart rate monitor is I had to carry it in my hand to see where my reading was, which isn’t ideal for long runs and/or racing. 

All in all, this adidas product is an advanced heart rate monitor system that incorporates some innovative technology for those looking to shed the strap and have fewer false readings. 

December 1, 2014

November 27, 2014

Back to Dunceville

Dabbling in delusion. Want to join?
Sometimes I think I'm taller than I really am. And younger. And stronger. And better. It's a bit of a delusion, this so called existence. But hey, who doesn't dabble in delusion once in a while?

My legs are now filled with this nasty stuff called cortisol. It's the stress hormone. I mimicked the fight or flight response the other night in a workout. Problem was I thought I was flying. But I was actually sinking. Right into a shallow grave that I dug there for myself whilst thinking I'm taller than I really am. And faster. And younger.

It's happened many times to me before. Usually when I line up on the track with faster runners, and let it all hang out. My heart was right there, doing the difficult work, namely lugging my ego along as my leg (hamstring) began to disintegrate into a hunk of fused membrane. A siren was sounding. Danger! Danger Will Robinson. Pull the rip cord! Pull the rip cord!

The good news is I pulled it, and the parachute came out, but I was only 300 feet from hitting the ground. I slowed the momentous plummet into Dunceville, but the fact is I still landed down there, just not as hard as I could have, or should have.

Sometimes I think I'm better than I really am. Oh well....    

November 16, 2014

Does Running Keep You Young?

Yesterday was a good day. I completed my first “longish” run since the Grand Slam.   

My heart beat 34,020 times. Not a big deal given the average human heart beats around 2.5 billion times in a lifetime, plus or minus. I did the math...I used about .00136% of my total lifetime beats doing this run. (4 hours and 12 minutes with a recorded average heart hate of 135 beats per minute, or 252 minutes x 135 bpm = 34,020/2.5 billion=.00136%).

Which begs the question. Was the run worth it? Was it worth using .00135% of my lifetime beats? Or, more specifically to the doubters out there, is running in general really worth it? The answers, my friends, are rather elementary. 

First there is the empirically based answer, supported by facts and figures, which is best used for non-runners, AKA the doubters. This is the type of answer given when the question is cloaked in the belief that running damages the knees and causes arthritis, among other things. But to get to an empirically based answer, you have to start with an empirically based question, like does running keep you young and/or prolong life? 
What’s noteworthy here is the science. A few studies that touch on the topic include the Stanford Study on Runners and Aging and this article on The Science of Running, to name just two. But the fact is there are dozens on the topic. All pretty much saying the same thing – that running keeps you young, by slowing down the aging process.

We all know the obvious benefits of running – that it builds a stronger heart, improves our cardio vascular system and helps with weight management. But how does running slow the aging process? Turns out that the benefits of running extend all the way down to the cellular level. Down to the telomeres, which are the protective caps on our DNA. Telomeres tend to shrink with age, which causes a downward spiral in ability to reproduce cells that keep our bodies going.

Running slows this process. Studies show that there was no significant difference in the length of telomeres between people age 55 to 72 who have exercised their entire lives and younger people. Conversely, sedentary people in the same age group showed significantly shorter telomeres compared to younger people. What does this mean? Running equals DNA health and longevity.

If running keeps you young, does it prolong life? The Stanford Study states that “the effect of running on delaying death has also been more dramatic than the scientists expected. Not surprisingly, running has slowed cardiovascular deaths. However, it has also been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.”

Then there is the reality based answer supported by your own experience as a runner. Which, when asked if running is really worth it, goes something like “if you understand, no words are needed. If you don’t, there are not enough words to explain. Thanks for asking though." 

Keep it real runners!

November 7, 2014

Seeing Equanimity

It was just a short jog around Central Park in New York City. I was minding my own business, kind of enjoying the orange and yellow hue against the green grass. I turned my head and noticed two people in a meditative repose, emanating stillness in the middle of one of the most chaotic cities I know. Awesome.

I seek it. I see it. Now I just need to, well, find it. This isn't going to be easy. Might be a lifetime goal in the making... 

November 4, 2014

Seeking Equanimity

The room is dark. I’m on my knees. I feel my legs. They seem stiff. Connected, yet detached….


My thoughts wonder. Away from the small light. Then back to it.


I feel a stillness. Inside my body. I hear a sound. I try to let it go. It stays.


It is a baby crying. I hear the sound inside my mind, but I’m outside. Connected, yet disconnected, at the same time.  Somewhere in between.


I feel the stillness. Encompassing my body. It is much deeper now.


Why am I writing about this here? I’m not totally sure, but it might be because I think I might have found a small form of equanimity in my running, and I would like to figure out how to do the same in my everyday life. I emphasize might and small form because I’m really not sure what I have found. It could be connected to the experience of riding the 100 mile roller coaster. Being on my feet day and night while facing the highs and the lows that come with running for 20+ hours. To recognize the inevitable peaks and valleys for what they are - temporary. And not let them control me.

A couple of years ago I attended a Zen Meditation workshop. It was a brief stint, and I only attended a couple of sessions. But I have not forgotten the experience. In fact the above scene is taken directly from my experience there. Is it odd that I can I can remember these few minutes like they happened an hour ago? I’m beginning to wonder how much more I would be able to appreciate things if I was really present, like right there, not judging or thinking. Just being, right there.

Beginning today, I’m embarking on a quest to find equanimity. This would be the place where mental calmness, composure, evenness of temper, prevail. It’s also a place where anger, judgment, and angst can be overcome. I’m just tired of being jerked around by my emotions and biases. I’m not out to extinguish feelings, for that would be unplugging from life itself. On the contrary, I will seek new intimacy in them, but try to learn to recognize and acknowledge them without letting them control me.

October 23, 2014

Find Your Adrenaline

The sound was unmistakable. Snaap! I knew it well.  Well enough to know there was no reversing what just happened. So we ran. And we ran hard. We were just a couple college kids on a mission - to find something many of us search for our entire lives.

That night we learned a little lesson. Kind of an obvious one looking back, but hell we were only freshmen. That being when the music of a live band abruptly stops at a raging party, people want to know why. Especially when the host of the party is a big-time college fraternity trying impress young co-eds.

Fact is, when we flipped that frat house’s main switch off, we didn’t expect to be seen, let alone chased. But there we were, two dopes standing in an alley next to the main power supply. We were caught in the moment. Hearing the sound of loud rock and roll music fade to silence, then to angry voices. But it wasn't until we heard the sound of footsteps closing in on us that we knew we found exactly what we were searching for.

I can see the dark figures to this day. The drunk mob running down the side of the house at full sprint. What happens next is a little fuzzy, but somewhere were neatly parked BMWs, a brick wall and refuge in the dark city streets. And adrenaline. Lots of adrenaline.  

I don't care if you are running from drunk mobs in college or demons in your closet, I say just keep running. Follow your instinct. Find your adrenaline.

It is the search that is the destiny.     

October 17, 2014

Gravity. In Second Person No Less

The mystery. The timeless mystery. You think about it, but even you don’t have the answer. Until it hits you. And when it does, you remember…that you always knew. You just didn’t bother to remind yourself.

You lean over to tie your shoe. It’s something you do a lot these days. The thought crosses your mind. Is it to escape? Maybe. To feel good about yourself? Could be. You move on. Down the bike path. Onto the dirt trail.  You’ve run here before. Along the river bed. Its getting dark now, because you left work after 5 pm. The animals start to emerge.

Gravity. It’s a strange force. The larger the object, the stronger it becomes. This is a law of physics just as much as it is a law of living life. The sun and earth. The challenges that you seek. The attraction isn’t just random. You know this. You know this because you’ve been to that place before. That place where you can see through all the bullshit that life throws at you. Where pain can easily bleed into pleasure, and back within a few breaths. A place where, you’re beginning to realize, no one really cares much about. Except you. It’s a selfish place. And that is not a bad thing.

When you cross the bridge, you can see down the canal. The steely blue color of the water is nestled in the reflection of the autumn sky. You are the only person in the world in this moment who sees this. You stop and feel your heart beating. The sweat drips down the bridge of your nose, and onto the edge of your lips. The salt on your tongue tastes good, like it always does.

Does it really matter whether a challenge is self made or falls, regrettably, right in your lap? Whether it is grimacing through mile 96 or grappling with a difficult situation in life? What really matters is that when you make it through a challenge, you are stronger because of it. That is just the way life is, in spite of all of its bullshit. It’s easy to forget this, and get caught in the smelly dung of it all. Challenge. Yes, it really, really does build character.


October 8, 2014

When Is It Time to Say Goodbye?

Published In UltraRunning Magazine (10/6/14)

Don’t know why I’m struggling with this one. I need to get a grip. Remind myself. It’s not like I’m putting the family cat down. And how would I know what that’s like anyway? We don’t even have a cat. I’m talking about a pair of shoes here. And wondering, when is it time to say goodbye?

It’s a little weird. To even be writing this. But I need to write it. I’m not sure why. Is it because I’m feeling really vulnerable right now, without a plan or a clue about to what to do? Or is it because I’m not ready to say goodbye, and looking for a reason not to?

Today, when I pulled my last pair Hoka Stinsons (original) out of a drop bag, I took a closer look at them. My trusted ones. I could see the ad hoc upholstery thread tightly clinched and holding the nylon upper to the thick rubber sole. Thankfully, the day before the Leadville 100, the owner of the house I rented gave me a cobbler style sewing kit equipped with this thread and a few massive, curved needles. I quickly went to work, sewing the upper section of the shoe back onto the rubber. I broke at least one of the needles as I dug deep into and out of the rubber.

I know. You’re wondering, why is he doing this? Yea, it’s a little out there. Most people with half a brain would just buy a new pair of shoes. Out with the old, and in with the new, right? If only life were that easy. What if this particular pair of shoes were the only ones I could trust? What if I’ve run seven 100 mile races in these shoes? What if I finally broke down to buy a new pair, but learned to my disgust the manufacturer stopped making them two years ago?

I rolled the dice at Vermont. My trusted ones were literally falling apart at the seems. So I started the race with the new “generation” of Stinsons, called the EVO. It was a painful experience. My toes were screaming like long tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Thankfully I had stashed my trusted ones in my drop bag around mile 48. The change couldn’t have come soon enough. It was like unleashing a dozen masseurs upon my feet. All I could do was smile.

The sewing had worked wonders. My trusted ones made it through Leadville, and looked to be primed for Wasatch. That was when I noticed the tread peeling off the bottom of the sole. I applied industrial bonding glue and stacked phone books on them. Unorthodox for sure, but would they hold up? I made it to mile 50, noticed some more peeling, and reached to snap off the small section from the shoe. What snapped off was a little more than I bargained for. The good news? Hokas work pretty well with no tread.

I don’t know why I’m struggling with this one.

October 3, 2014


It’s not something I lose sleep over, but as the days sneak up on me so does the inclination to think about what’s next. Then I catch myself. Not so fast. It’s time to reflect. Enjoy the fall. Observe the changing leaves (yes we have a few of them in California). Hang out with all my girls. 

I figured it would be good to put a lid on this Grand Slam thing. I’ve written some 13 posts about the Slam this year. Why not one more! Gosh folks, what would a blog about ultra running be without excess?

Since this blog borders on excess, I figured it might be appropriate to say something here about, well, my excesses. Or maybe the better term is compulsions. Ok, superstitions?

Like, when I’m traveling, I always keep my hotel key card with me until I make it back home. For safe passage of course. I’ve got dozens of these laying around the house. I know this to be a real benefit because the last time I traveled without my key card I was on my way back from Seattle after running the Capitol Peak 50 mile. The hotel had real, old-fashion metal keys! So I couldn’t take one with me. I was pulled over for speeding on my way to the airport (warning only). And the plane had to make an emergency landing in Portland. I’ve taken to carrying these cards with me during my 100 mile races if I’m not returning to the hotel, like at Western States.

Or, like, when I race these days. I always wear the same pair of underwear. Green. Ex officio. Yes, washed.  And the same shirt. Same visor. Same hydration pack. Same shorts. Although I changed shorts this year after racing in the same pair since 2011 (it was a big step). Or when I put my shoes and socks on. Always the right foot first. Drop bags? Lets not go there. 

People ask me what’s that the Grand Slam is over. I think it’s time to see a therapist.

September 13, 2014

Wasatch Front 2014 - Giving Everything But Up

I stood at the starting line of the Wasatch 100 mile endurance run, and questions of doubt kept pinging my brain. Can I do this? Will I make it to the finish line? I knew Wasatch would take me longer to finish than any other race I had done before. I estimated 30 hours. I didn't have much choice in the matter. With over 26,000 feet of cumulative climbing in the mountains, this was going to be (by far) the most difficult race I had ever done.

It turns out that getting to sleep the night before the most difficult race I’ve ever done was, well, not the easiest thing. After tossing and turning for hours, I finally looked at the clock. I shook my head. I still hadn’t dozed off and my alarm was set to go off in 45 minutes. What the hell, I thought, why not just get up and start getting dressed now? It must have been at that moment - when I finally stopped trying to fall asleep - that I finally did. For all of thirty minutes. This would be the only sleep I would get for 51 hours.

Wasatch Front is in a league of its own. Heat, cold, elevation, vertical gain, technical trails, it has it all. In the first 10 miles runners must climb more than 4,000 vertical feet, from 4,900’ elevation to 9,150’. It is here where the infamous "Chinscraper" summit presents itself and forces runners to get down on all fours to scale its peak. But this is just the first 10 miles. To go the distance, runners must climb and descend more than 26,000 cumulative feet over this 100 mile course, much of which is in the high country of Utah between 8,000 and 10,500 feet.

I don’t know if it was due to the lack of sleep, the difficulty of the course, or the fact that this was my fourth hundred miler of the summer (maybe all of the above?), but my energy levels were unusually low during the first half of Wasatch. I kept wondering if I would be able to make it through 51 hours with no sleep. I began to think about taking a brief nap at some point, something I have never done during a 100 mile race. Instead, I just continued running, hiking, eating and drinking. I consumed my standard cuisine of Vespa with turkey and cheese sandwich pieces heavy on the mayonnaise, with a handful of Jolly Ranchers thrown in for some quick energy on the climbs.  

I’ve written that getting through the ups and downs is one of the greatest challenges of ultra running. There are times when I feel invincible. The miles, the hours and the mountains, they make me feel strong. Then there are times when I feel beaten down. These same miles, hours and mountains cut right through my strength. What I’m learning is there are times during 100 mile races when I have to have a conversation with myself. Not the rambling schizophrenic type, I’m talking a real dialogue between my mind and body. These conversations can make or break me out there.  

During the first half of Wasatch I watched lots of runners pass me. It was frustrating because I was losing ground. If you don’t know me by now, you should know I don’t like losing ground. I hate losing ground. But I had the conversation. I asked my body. Can I stay with them, by running a little faster, by expending a little more energy? I waited for the answer. I didn’t have to wait long. We can go when we are ready, my body told me. And right now we are not ready. Be patient, it told me. There are many more miles to run, and more mountains to climb. I could hear my ego in the background, trying to find its voice. But I knew it was the last voice I should listen to. I continued at my own pace.

Complicating things was my decision to run Wasatch (and all four Grand Slam events) with no crew and no pacers. For those unfamiliar with 100 mile events, a crew provides 100 mile runners with special food, drink, and motivational support on the long course. Pacers run alongside runners in the later stages of the race, usually at night for safety reasons, but also to keep runners focused and motivated to get to the finish line. Most 100 mile runners run with a crew and pacers.

Drop Bags...Essential with No Crew
I don’t care how fast or slow you are, when running 100 miles all hours through the day and night, the shadows of pain and doubt eventually take their toll on you. The strength that you start out with and need to rely on – your energy, your focus, and especially your motivation, all these things begin to fade. I’ve run with the assistance of a crew and pacers many times, and they can help you stay in front of these shadows. But on this day, on this quest to conquer Wasatch and the Grand Slam, I chose a different path. I needed to confront these shadows on my own.

When I looked up at mile 75 in the middle of the night, all I could see was the distinct outline of a mountain ridge, and the slow-moving, distant lights of runners making their way to the summit. The scene was illuminated by a brilliant moon, a waxing gibbons, high in the night’s sky. It was my final climb and it would take me to 10,500 feet, above the ski resort of Brighton, Utah.

There is something about moving through darkness, by yourself, under a cold night sky, that just feels alive. The bright moon, and bright stars, they simply pull you along, through fatigue, over doubt, into the unknown. Every step, every breath, difficult, but forward. As I began to hike to this final summit, I knew I was approaching the last segment of a very long journey. A 400 mile journey. The cold wind, the thin air, the steep climb, they all began to fade into the background. Into the forefront came something pretty special. Something I didn’t expect. Something I hope I can hang onto for a long time.

How does one describe the feeling of finishing one, let alone four 100 mile races? As I made my way down the mountain, I could feel the invisible pull of the Wasatch finish line. I could see it in the distance, and it seemed with every stride that moved me closer, I moved a little faster. Images of all my races began to flood my mind. Then, like that, after 400 miles, 93 hours and 30 minutes, I raised my arms and took my last step, across the final finish line, and out of an amazing chapter in my life.

Buckle, Number, Plaque and Certificate - it's official

To climb a mountain. To run 100 miles, four times in four months. To climb a total of 74,000 feet. To embrace 32 days of training and racing in solitude. Away from my family. To sit down while climbing a mountain knowing I have nothing more to give. To get back up knowing I can’t give up. To simply remember why I’m out here. To confront this beast. So others might see how families affected by a certain disease called Tuberous Sclerosis suffer, in obscurity, but who are willing to give everything but up.

That, I now know, is pleasure. Something I hope I can hang onto for a long time. 

September 4, 2014

Wasatch Front 100 Live Race Coverage

Tomorrow I will embark on my fourth and final 100 miler of the Ultra Running Grand Slam of 2014. To follow the race on line, click here. My number is 116. 

August 24, 2014

Leadville 100 - My Reptilian Brain

A young lady asked me a question the other day. “What was it like to run the Leadville 100?” It was a simple question. But when I started to answer I caught myself. How do I compress 23 hours into one or two sentences? I thought a better question would be to ask her how much time she had...

There is nothing more primitive than the reptilian brain. We all have one. It’s what makes us breathe, sweat, shiver. It controls more of us than you are probably aware – our urge for food and water.  For safety. For sex. Oh, I forgot. We don’t want to be associated with lizards or animals. We are human. Right?

There are always moments. Those that we don’t forget. Certain drops of reality that become lodged in our memory. What causes these moments to be captured I do not know. But they are there.

I captured one of these moments on the backside of Sugarloaf Mountain. Around mile 82, after hiking, sweating, gasping, hydrating and running for 18 straight hours. My feet were rubbed raw and I could feel the skin slowly disintegrating between my toes. But at this moment I ran alone. Under a cold night sky filled with brilliant stars. Above the trees was a crescent moon, gleaming.

Wrapped tightly around our reptilian brain is the more celebrated limbic brain which gives us emotions, values and judgments. Further removed is the neocortex, a blessing and a curse for us humans and the part of the brain that gives us abstract thought. Advanced as these uniquely human sections of the brain might be, they are also the nurturing ground for some of the baggage we tend to carry, like anxiety, frustration and doubt.

My eyes surveyed the ground with each stride, finding the space to step between every stone, every rut. At that moment I could just as well have been a passenger rolling through that Colorado forest. I glanced down, and then all around me, seeing each rock, then letting it disappear beneath me. Every tree, then feeling it pass above me. I moved over the ground without a passing thought or the baggage that thoughts might bring.

What was it like to run Leadville this year? Let me just say this. It was primitive. It hurt. It felt amazing. It was animalistic. It was connection. With the forest beneath me, and the star studded sky above me. It was disconnection. From my limbic and neocortex, and my baggage.

More than I’m probably aware.

PS: I finished a little less than one minute faster than last year (23:43), which was about where I wanted to be with two previous 100s this summer and another 100 miler in three weeks. Not too fast. Not too slow...said the neocortex. 

August 15, 2014

August 14, 2014

Janji - Run for Another

Hey runners, did you know that you can help people by buying clothes…for yourself? That’s right. Part of every dollar you spend will go to help people around the world that are suffering. Yes. Every dollar. To those suffering.

It goes like this. Not every company that makes apparel has to feed shareholders’ never ending need for profit. Some companies actually put profit behind other objectives. Like helping people who need help. One of these companies is Janji.

The word janji means promise in Malay. The company Janji means run for another. The company Janji was founded by two runners, Mike and Dave, who recognized a global water crises. They saw this scourge that is afflicting so many countries around the world, and set out to do something about it. They formed Janji.

They focus on places like Haiti, where 40% of the people lack access to clean water. And Kenya, where 17 million people lack access to proper sanitation. Or Rwanda, where women walk 7 miles a day to fetch unsanitary water. And even the United States, where certain Native American tribes are 67x more likely to live without running water or a toilet.

How can you help? Just buy their clothes and your money will help pay for clean water to those around the world who need it. You can even direct which country you want it to go to. It works like this:

Every piece of apparel you buy will:

pay for a full year supply of water for a person in Haiti, or
provide for a year supply of water to a local Kenyan community, or
supply four months of water to a family in Peru, or 
provide one year of clean drinking water to a person in Rwanda, or
pay for a one year supply to a person in Tanzania (one piece of outwear provides three years); or
pay for one week of water to a family in the United States.

So, please put these guys on your shopping list. Buy their clothes, wear their clothes, sweat in their clothes, and help others while you are doing it!! 

August 10, 2014

Climbing My First 14er

I climbed my first 14er today, Quandary Peak, elevation 14,265 feet, located in the Ten Mile Range in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Quandary Peak is one of fifty-three peaks in Colorado that rise above 14,000 feet (14ers). Although the 13th highest, it is considered one of the easier 14ers to hike. I wonder if that is why it felt like a shopping mall at the peak? Total distance was 6.5 miles with a 3,500 foot elevation gain. 

 Crowds or not, it is pretty amazing to stand on top of a 14,000 foot mountain and just look out over the horizon. I’ve read some banter about which mountain range is sweeter, the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada. I don’t think it is really a debate because they are so different. The one thing to me that separates them is the sheer size. The Rockies span 3,000 miles from New Mexico into Canada. By comparison, the Sierra range is only 400 miles in length, but is home to the highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney at 14,505 feet, as well as the world famous Yosemite National Park.

Oh yea, another cool thing about today’s hike was being able to hang out with the local mountain goats!