December 31, 2018

AMORE Runners!

saddleback horizon

2018 Started out with such promise! But as the days and weeks and months wore on, I simply wore out. I think my ambition got the better of me. It’s not that I didn’t embrace the idea of running several big audacious ultra’s - Hard Rock, Bighorn and Rocky Raccoon to name a few - because I loved the idea of it. It’s just that, well, the idea is all I could muster. It was when the idea needed to transition into reality that I kind of hesitated, stumbled. The old “I’ll start my training next week” syndrome started rearing its head. This lead to “I’ll skip this race and focus on that one” which pretty much is an apathy spiral which, I believe, plagues even the most ardent runners (admit it folks).

But so what? So I took the year off from formal “racing” and kind of chilled out. No big deal. Instead, I had some great hikes up Mt. Whitney and San Gorgonio. I did some camping, some philosophising, and even some tree analysis, among other things. All in all a good year!

Looking back I’m pretty sure I forgot the basic rule of running which contributed to the spiral. I’ll describe that rule here as AMORE!, which is Italian for love. If you are thinking I’m using AMORE in the context of love running, or the love of running, you’re on the right track. But there is more here than meets the eye. To me AMORE means more than love. It is an acronym about running that always proves to be true. The rule is it’s better to slow down and go easy on yourself. Not push the pace all the time. Because when you do this, you: 

A - Avoid burnout, stay fresh

M - Minimize injury, stay healthy

O - Observe your surroundings, get outside of your head 

R - Run longer, wear down your prey 

E - Enjoy the darn sport!!

Keep if real runners!

December 17, 2018

The Calm and the Quiet

Her Buddha  (1 of 1).jpg

Equanimity, defined as an evenness of mind, especially under stress. A few years ago I wrote about it. I’d been struck by the sight of two “monkish” people sitting, ever-so-calmly, in the middle of New York City’s Central park, meditating. They appeared like living statues in quiet   defiance, keepers of calm in a chaotic world swirling around them. I felt a tug of attraction to their solitude.

A few halfhearted attempts to seek equanimity through meditation followed. Then there was the clobbering. The realization that developing a ritual of this sort isn’t going to just happen from my on-again-off-again curiosity. Some meditation books and a few teachings followed. But that is where it stopped.

This is a running blog. Which is why I’m writing about meditation. Because, from my perspective, the two are intertwined. Running is meditation. Just not the sitting part. Awaken. 

More to come on this topic in the new year…

December 3, 2018

The Mountains Are Calling

Mt. San Gorgonio 11,503

Looks like it will be something new for me in 2019. After throwing my proverbial hat in the Hard Rock 100 keep-the-newbies-out lottery system, I’m setting my sights on something different - 200 miles on the Tahoe Rim Trial.  

The absurdity of this aside, I’m actually looking forward to the extra miles for several reasons. First, it’s something I’ve never attempted let alone completed before, which keeps me on my toes more than logging yet another 100 miler. Second, I’m anxious to reevaluate my training approach by logging lots of exploratory miles in the mountains with some overnight thru-running. It’s kind of strange, but recently I’ve been intrigued by the idea of trekking overnight distances that require real gear to shelter from the elements. I guess it’s time I put this intrigue into practice. Third, after taking a year off from ultra events, I’m coming around to the realization that it’s really not the event that matters in the end, its the experiences we encounter along the way to get there. Experiences that, well, kind of keep things real in the surreal world we live in today. 

To borrow a phrase from a fellow blogger/adventurer…the mountains are calling.

November 24, 2018

Finding Your Dopamine

“The way I train is based on my feelings, that is, on my desire to climb a mountain or to discover a valley.”

Kilian Jornet

If I didn’t know better, I’d say these words were from some new-age hippie prepping for the John Muir trail, not the best ultra runner on the world stage. It is an interesting twist to us runners, me included, that training should be based on the whimsical – feelings and desires – not the more austere discipline and commitment.

I’m not surprised, however, given what little I know about Kilian. Like the fact that ultra running is just one of his athletic pursuits, the other being skiing, which he focuses on exclusively in the winter months. Or the fact that in a typical week of ultra training he climbs between 30,000 and 65,000 feet, training for some 30 hours. (that is just his climbing, not his descending). In a typical year he trains everyday and gets in 1,000 hours.

Why this doesn’t surprise me comes down to something very basic. There is no way in hell he could do what he does – the massive training, racing, and winning year after year – if he didn’t love what he does! No way!

Here’s another quote from this endurance guru…

Enjoy every day and every outing. Training should not be an "obligation", just a way to improve. Training should be spending time doing something you love.

What does this have to do with the dopamine? Let me explain. Kilian talks of mountains and valleys. He talks about running in the mountains is not really running. He calls it “a 5-sense experience.” He calls for enjoying the scenery, smelling the earth and feeling the wind.

Ok, dopamine is neurotransmitter, a chemical that transmits signals between the brain’s nerve cells (neurons). Turns out, the brain neurons that produce dopamine become activated when something good happens, like seeing an amazing sunset, or when we come across something novel, like finding a new trail or discovering a new summit. It’s all about chemicals. Turns out, dopamine is also produced when something negative that is happening to you (pain from grinding up a mountain trail) ceases to happen.

So, it appears to me, Kilian Jornet, the most accomplished ultra runner in the sport, has tapped into the most natural formula for training motivation – dopamine production – by keeping things fun and enjoyable.

I think it is time time to modify my training!

November 11, 2018

Life In a Center of Influence


His voice breaks through, and from the background comes a softer, female one that subtly follows the highs and lows. They move through the song with elusive grace, tying notes together from varying octaves, like a cat and mouse.

Ever since listening to a certain album in 5th grade, music has been a HUGE influence on me;  from Neil Young’s edgy Rust Never Sleeps, to the Clash’s political classic Sandinista, to New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies. Surprisingly, I’ve even embraced Bruce Springsteen, who I despised early as a west coast punker, but who’s lyrics cannot be denied by anyone who seeks authenticity in people, and in life.

That said, the last time I listened to music during a race was at the Bishop High Sierra 100k five years ago. I concluded then that I would never listen to music during a race again. I fell so many times I think I lost more blood than a visit to the Red Cross ;-/

November 4, 2018

Hardrock 100 - Who Will Be Chosen this Time?


I’m keeping my fingers crossed. My application is in (again) for the Hardrock 100 mile endurance run lottery. That’s right, another 100 mile race lottery, which seems to be an annual ritual for me as I head into the holidays. Seems like yesterday when I was at my daughters swim meet 10 years ago checking my phone for updates on the Western States Lottery.

That one I remember, because I got in. It was my first 100 mile race, and I got in! Everything changed for me because of it. My training, my commitment to running, my dedication to make it to the finish line. Lotteries are weird like that. It’s kind of like throwing the dice and seeing what happens. If you come up a winner in a lottery, you feel chosen. Chosen over others who didn’t get selected. Chosen to step up. Chosen to go the distance.

It’s not the same to sign up for a race without a lottery. Heck, I’ve signed up for many a race and not made it to the starting line. It comes down to being distracted, lacking motivation, or just letting life get in the way. It can happen to all of us. Life is complicated!

I’ve never failed to show up for a race after getting accepted through a lottery. How could I? 

I’m looking forward to the odds of being chosen at the Hardrock 100 lottery on December 1.

Fingers crossed!

October 24, 2018

Into the Mist


It started out as just another run. El Moro state park to Nix center and back. What emerged was surreal - a marine layer of clouds nestled in every canyon along the coast and across Irvine valley.

October 14, 2018

October 1, 2018

Where Continents Collide | Mt. Whitney

Ranked up there with the best hikes in the world, including Salkantay Trek in Peru (Machu Piccu), and the Narrows in Utah, is the Whitney trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It’s a hike to the summit of the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. I had the good fortune, thanks to my friend Jinii K, to hike this challenging trail with three friends last Friday.
Morning Moon - Sierra Nevada.
The Whitney trail requires a bit of planning and logistics. Carrying enough food, water and proper clothing is important to make it to the summit and back safely. If the 22 mile round trip and 6,000’ vertical gain doesn’t get the best of you, the 14,505’ elevation at the summit of Mt. Whitney most certainly will. At that altitude the air contains a mere 57% of the oxygen at sea level, which changes everything.
Rob M
Rob M and Scott M beginning the switchbacks
Rob M and Scott M beginning the switchbacks
With Dennis G and Scott M
With Dennis G and Scott M
We began our trek just before 6 am under a virtual full moon. The weather at the summit was expected to be mild (low 40s) so I packed light, stowing a windbreaker, gloves and a beanie for the summit. I also brought my water pump/filter to take water from the streams which allowed me to carry less than 40 oz of water at the start.
The Whitney trail approaches the summit of Mt. Whitney from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is here where you find the jagged, granite cliffs that rise thousands of feet into the sky, a stark contrast to the western slope which is a more gentile approach up to the snow capped summits of the range. As I read about the history of these mountains and how they were formed, the visions I captured on this trek began to meld into a tapestry of geologic wonder. I say wonder because I’m struggling to find the words to describe the setting.
Keeler Needle from the west
These mountains were created essentially by two pieces of the earth’s crust colliding. The North American Plate and the Pacific Plate, one moving north and the other south. What remains is the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, a massive, tilted block of the earth’s crust angling to the sky. Looking at Keeler Needle from the western side you get a sense of the tectonic scope of this place, where literally the crust of the earth points to the sky.
Approaching the summit plateau
Whitney Summit on the left
In all we spent around 9.5 hours on this hike not including roughly 40 minutes on the summit. The weather was perfect, as we avoided the big winds that were coming the next day and the snow and ice that will befall this trail in several weeks. The hardest part? Easily the altitude, especially from Sierra crest to the summit, which is 2.5 miles of climbing above 13,000’. Everything slowed down here which wasn’t so bad. It gave me more time to enjoy the views!
Dennis G and I at the Summit
Dennis G and I at the Summit
Shuffleboard at Lone Pine’s Finest - Jakes Saloon
Shuffleboard at Lone Pine’s Finest - Jakes Saloon

September 24, 2018

The Religion of Solitude

Please click here to subscribe to my new blog and read my new posts, including my latest "The Religion of Solitude."  

September 9, 2018

Until Now...

To read this post, click here. Also please update your blog and link to my new site at Thanks for stopping by! 

August 12, 2018

Sorry Folks, Park's Closed!

See post at my new sight located at:

Runlonger.blogspot is no longer an active address. Please click on link above to go to new site address for An Ultra Runner's Blog.

If you are following me on blogger, you will need to go to the new site and click on Follow and subscribe there.

Thanks for following!

May 20, 2018

Our Bio-Rivers of Serotonin

Have you ever been focused on a goal? A specific, measurable, time sensitive goal? One that is aligned with your plans to accomplish something big in life? If you are a runner, my guess is, yes, you have. If you are not a runner, my guess is, yes, you still have. As members of a “can do” American culture, like it or not, I believe, we are nurtured to think we are more worthy if we win, succeed, achieve, perform, or accomplish. From this neurosis, we grow extra hormone reserves, or little bio-rivers of serotonin. These rivers keep the process alive.

Stay with me people, this is you, too!

I started this post with the concept of chromosomes and DNA, thinking that we are somehow born with this neurosis. This need to succeed, for others. Then I quickly corrected myself.

Running ultra’s, like anything difficult in life, is all about motivation. You either have it, or you don’t. You either feel it, or you don’t. You either cross the finish line, or you don’t. And it all comes back to this one simple thing. Motivation.

Which leads me to the next question. Where does it come from? This thing called motivation? Is it really from the bio-rivers of serotonin in our own head? Or is it from somewhere else? Is it in our DNA?

I don’t have the answer. But I do have an insight that lends itself to what might be a way of thinking. It is from Lao Tzu himself, uttered centuries ago. It is simply this:

“Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.”

May 11, 2018

Just Stillness

When we came around a bend in the trail, I could see them in the distance, frozen in their tracks.  I reached for my camera. Would they move? Run away? I just keep reaching until I grabbed the camera and positioned it for the shot. Still, no movement. Just stillness. Click. 

Running in the mountains. Is there anything better?

I haven't found it.        

April 27, 2018

Like a Sharp Knife Into the Back of My Leg

Running In the Red Zone - Heart Race at Xterra race

Being a runner has its advantages. You can pretty much do it anywhere. City streets, mountain ridges, country roads. You can even do it on a cruise ship.

Then there are the disadvantages. One being the lingering tendency toward obsessive compulsive disorder. Like the need to monitor everything possible under the sun. You know, like distance run, elevation gained, resting heart rate, max heart rate, calories, hydration, cadence, weight, pace and sleep, among other meaningless metrics.

A couple weeks ago I kind of threw all this in the toilet and went out a ran in a 15k (9.3 mile) Xterra race in San Diego. I was supposed to do a 50 mile race on the east coast the same weekend but cancelled on account of a snow storm in the forecast. As I was driving to the race I started to think about how fast I could run it, given I only needed to run 18.6% of the 50 mile distance I was supposed to run. Fast I remember thinking.

I started in the front of the pack and quickly found myself running at a pace I haven’t run since...uhm….high school? But it felt so awesome! I was flying down this single track trail with all these young speedsters. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins like nitro glycerin into a dragster. Sparks were surely flying behind me. Then I glanced at heart rate. 178 bpm!

I don’t think I’ve run over 170 bpm in several years, the last time being when I injured my Achilles tendon and spent months on the road to recovery. But this was different, I thought, as I pounded down the trail. This was a race! So after a couple of miles battling it out with other runners I simply stopped looking at my heart rate.

Around mile 6 and 7 things were going amazing and I started passing other runners. Then it happened. It was like a knife going into the back of my leg. Sharp, sudden and serious. I immediately started walking, preying it was just a simple cramp.

No such luck. Oh, well, I thought as I walked the next two miles. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Especially when being a bonehead.  

April 22, 2018

Running Through the Ups and Downs - Repost

(Original post March 2012. Still 100% relevant) 

The last couple weeks I stumbled upon a certain realization about running, maybe even about life. Whether you are a runner or not, take heart, because you might see some parallels in your own world.

There are days when I feel invincible. The miles, the hours, the hills I put in week after week, make me feel strong. They build me up, encourage me to push the envelope a little further. They give me the confidence to reach a little higher.

And there are days when I feel beaten down. The miles, the hours and hills, they cut right through my strength, they make me feel weak. They break me down, entice me to give up. They take away my passion to persevere through the challenges I face.

It’s not like this is a big epiphany. Maybe the opposite, kind of an unwritten rule that we store in the back of our mind and don’t pay attention to. A rule that says don’t get too comfortable when you feel you’re on top of the world, because it won’t be long until you will feel the world on your shoulders.

I suppose it’s as simple as the yin and yang. Opposing states, like any contrary forces in the natural world, are not only interdependent, they need each other to exist. Hot and cold, fire and water, female and male. Strong and weak. Can I feel strong if I have not felt weak? Can I be strong if I am never weak?

Training is a big part of being a runner. At its core training breaks you down, then it builds you back up, stronger than before. Week after week, month after month. The cycle continues. Some people naturally wonder, why submit yourself to such a rigor? Isn’t there more to life? Sometimes I ask myself that question, usually when I feel broken down.

In writing this I’m reminded of a lecture Master Kan gave his young disciple in the television series Kung Fu. Addressing the young student, the master explains the purpose of the hardship the student must endure to be a Shaolin priest.

Master Kan:

"You must prepare yourself for what lies ahead
in your chosen role as priest.
The nature of wind, and fire, and ice.
The frailty of the human condition in hunger, and thirst and fatigue.
The predatory instincts of living things.
The greed and vanity buried in the hearts of men.
You must be prepared to survive through all of this.
These graceful movements you now perform,
along with all the rigors and disciplines your masters impose upon you,
will help you develop the inner strength, that which we call Chi.
And when you come to meet your greatest test, your highest challenges,
when you call upon your chi, it will not desert you."

The more I learn, the more I’ve come to realize that running through the ups and downs is, in itself, the ultimate test of endurance, the real challenge that stands between me and inner strength.

April 6, 2018

Fair Weather Runner

Ok. I'm putting it out there. For the first time I chose NOT to run a race due to forecasted weather conditions. I admit it. I'm falling on my sword now...and feeling its sharp edge puncture my weakened resolve...yet kind of enjoying it.

I was signed up for the Bull Run Run this weekend in Virginia of all places. Plane tickets were purchased, rental car booked. But as the day fast approached, I wasn't feeling it. Then I looked at the weather forecast. 20 to 30 degrees, rain and snow on race day. Wait, isn't it spring time? There was a time when the thought of flying across the country to run in the rain and snow would have had some appeal. Not anymore. I've done my fair share of races in rain and snow, and I have to say it kind of sucks to run in either. This would be a perspective firmly solidified after last years Bighorn 100, UTMB, or even final assault.

Experience has its benefits. 

March 27, 2018

Overcoming Monotony

Runners, beware, you are about to enter the twilight zone.  This is the dimension that exposes long-held beliefs that cause of chronic burn-out. It is a journey into a wondrous land that defies dogma and disposes of the monotonous. A place where mindless, boring exercise goes to die.

Running can be boring. Especially when you do it a lot, and for a long time. There are days when I can’t bring myself to go for a run. Ever have one of those? You know, when the thought of going for a run makes you want to clean the kitchen, take out the trash or work on a project, like any project? It’s a quandary, especially if you’re trying to prepare for something like a half-marathon, an ultra marathon or whatever.

The solution? Try this out: reading. That’s right. Reading while training. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s really not. Read on.

I’ve been putting a healthy amount of my weekly training in while reading the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times and the New York Times. I’m even adding in a regular dose of the Weekly Standard, Backpacker Magazine and an occasional book (usually non-fiction). I’m in the middle of Getting to US, a profile of some of the greatest coaches in sports by Seth Davis, and What Unites Us, reflections on patriotism by ousted CBS anchor Dan Rather.

The question of course is how is it possible to read and run at the same time. It isn’t. I don’t run while I read. And I don’t have to because I incorporate a lot of cross training into my schedule. The elliptical machine is one of my favorites, as is hiking at a steep grade on the treadmill wearing a 10 lbs weight vest. Another is simply riding a stationary bike. Each of these workouts can get my heart rate to an aerobic level. They also give my body a chance to rebuild after long and/or difficult workouts, all while catching up with what’s happening in DC, Pyongyang or Pennsylvania’s 18th district.

I’ve come to look forward to my reads during training. In fact, I truly believe I would have given up running ultras a long time ago if I hadn’t started incorporating reading into my training regimen several years back. What’s more is I’m usually blasting my thumbprint radio on Pandora while I’m checking the sports page or the latest Op-Ed. Did you note the juxtaposition of the WSJ NY Times? (Trying to stay balanced my friends).

In addition to rewarding my neurons, reading while training forces me to stay in a recovery zone. That is because pushing into the red zone makes it impossible to focus - on text, paragraphs or even titles. Everything becomes a blur.  Staying in my recovery zone allows me to build a solid base of fitness, the foundation for running strong at any distance.

Keep it real runners!

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.