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!