Sunday, March 4, 2018

....Alone and Scared...

I arrived to the doorstep of the Iditasport Extreme event just less than 3 weeks removed from my Arrowhead 135 effort. I hadn't done anything since the race, but a couple of walks and lots of stretching. I was flowing with optimism though because I was going to be adventuring with my friends and it was going to be an adventure, not a racing environment. I arrived to Anchorage almost a week prior to the event so I didn't feel rushed in getting any additional items and having time to spend with friends. Soon enough it was race brief time and I got to see Naomi, Shawn, Anne, Tony, and Jorge! I spent the rest of the weekend at Shawn and Tony's place, with Naomi. Come early Monday morning on the 19th, we headed off to the start line. That morning I found out that Naomi had a severe case of the flu hit her like a freight train. She was unable to sleep, keep either food or liquids down throughout the whole night. She was determined to still give it a go.

At the start line Naomi and I were prepared to go on one hell of a journey together, even if we were one friend short from our original planned team. As we began working our way to checkpoint 1 we talked and laughed and we were moving well. About 8 miles in Naomi began to labor a bit more and need a rest. We agreed to meet up at Yetna Station at the latest for our first break. I got into CP1, ate, changed socks, and waited for Naomi. As I waited the cutoff time fast approached and I was getting nervous for Naomi, I had left her. I went out to the CP captains and asked if they had heard anything. They said no, but were sending someone out to check on her. They said they would update the next CP on her situation so that when I arrived I would have info. I headed out to Yetna Station with thoughts that the sickness was going to be too much for her to overcome. If it was I was going to be sad for her because I knew how much she wanted this adventure. I made it into Yetna station just before Shawn headed back out for her last 32 miles. I came in and found out that Naomi had to scratch from the race due to illness. I felt lost... I talked to Shawn about this and she posed the question, "You didn't come out here for them (Naomi and Eric) did you?" The one question I didn't want to know the answer to...
     With no beds available at Yetna Station (filled up) I slept for about an hour and a half and then headed out for the long stretch to Skwentna Roadhouse. I left at about 3 am and by about 4... I had my answer to Shawn's question. I had indeed been there for them, not me. I wanted an adventure with friends in such a location and was convinced of it. Now, I was alone and scared in the vastness of Alaska. Not in the fact that I felt alone from others or the organization or scared/fearful for my life. I felt alone because the Team of three was now just me and I was scared because I came to realize that I wasn't there for my own motivations. It left me angry with others and filled my head with questions and doubt. I continued on and just kept moving forward. Thoughts swirled of just going to the 200 mile turnaround point and doing that or continuing on to a location where I could fly out of. I was able to speak this out with my friend Katie for a good bit of the morning and afternoon. One thing she said that before I made a decision was to say what my reason was out loud. When I said, "because my friends aren't here." That just didn't fit the bill for me. I had to continue on and to think of that reason if I was going to make such a decision that did fit the bill for me. Soon enough I arrived to Skwentna Roadhouse, grabbed some food, took a shower, and laid down on a nice bed for some much needed rest.
     I woke up after about 5 hours of sleep, ordered more food, packed and hit the trail again within an hour. My head was still full of doubt, but I kept moving forward. Also, knowing that Anne was at Shell Lake and she may be able to give me some direction with my feelings. My trip to Shell Lake was good and consistent. I still remembered it well from the year prior. I was able to catch up to Martha (first meeting) and the lovely Italian couple of Roberto and Laura. I jogged into Shell and was ecstatic to feel the warm embrace from ANNE!!!! I told her that I don't know why I'm here and she said we all do that, haha. After some food I was able to get a spot in the cabin on a bed and got about 4 more hours of sleep. Upon waking up I had some breakfast with my thoughts for switching to the 200 mile event. I would wait until I got to that intersection and make a decision then.
     I headed out of Shell Lake Lodge with a decision to be made and man did that intersection come fast. Soon enough I just blew past it and continued onto the path to Finger Lake, I could always get a flight from there or Puntilla if I wanted. I soon caught up to Martha again and spent some miles with her. This would soon be our ritual for the rest of the journey to McGrath. On the way into Finger Lake the was just a special Sunset that was happening right before us. I began to become more present. I stayed in the CP for a couple of hours, which would become the least at a least, to dry some clothes/socks/shoes, eat, and nap if possible. Soon enough I was the only one there so I headed out into the night. I moved continuously up and down the steep hills and soon enough I passed a good group of people bivouacking along the trail. I walked until the Z's hit me hard so I found a spot on a lake and crashed in the wee hours of the morning (around 4-430 am). It was nice out which makes bivouacking so much easier. When I woke up Jan and Jorge were walking by. Also, in that moment I saw the mountains... The Mountains Gandalf! Mountains! In that exact moment I knew why I was there and why I do what I do. I was in love.

At that moment from thereon I was moving with complete and utter joy! I was living in the moment and was so appreciative for what I was doing. I even had moments of having the nostalgia of being on the PCT again. Smiles were bright and wide! I began to B-bop on down the trail with no worries to be had. I rolled into Puntilla feeling good and ready for a bit of a rest before heading into the Rainy Pass range.
     I headed out just before sunset but could already tell things would be different. It was hard to find the trail and the winds were just crazy. Most likely around 30 mph and just whipping that snow around. Night fell and the hill kept rising with no relief from the wind. I reached the intersection in hopes that the trail conditions and wind would change... In fact they got worse, haha! The trail went down, flat, and then a never ending side slant uphill that left me dragging Havanna (sled) from the side. Soon there was no trail to follow and the markers were hard to find. Post holing became the norm and I did not bring snowshoes. Being I did make a conscious decision to not do such I accepted what came to me. Although I did find that if you crawl on hand and knees it can prevent you from post holing๐Ÿ˜! Once I finally completed the hill I was just mentally shot and wanted to find a spot out of the wind. After about an hour or so of contemplating possible locations and holding out with hopes for a better one I finally accepted that that may never come. I found a spot and dug a bit into the snow and proper my equipment bag up to assist in blocking the wind as I slept. Now, during this sleep I had a vivid dream like out of a Jedi scene teaching his young apprentice that it is ok to breathe in his sleeping bag and help move the moisture away by using a wax on, wax off method while him constantly telling me it would be ok. It was weird but I woke up warm and rested to push to the next station. I woke up to find someone had bivyed next to me which turned out to be Martha! I headed out to Styx Camp while the sun began to kiss the mountains and it was great! The next section was a long one, just over 35 miles, so I had decided to get a good nights rest and head out in the early morning with Martha. That night two bikers returned from down river with reports of a lot of overflow. This concerned me a good bit, but knowing that most of the footers were going to be together eased this a bit.
     Waking early with Martha and now Jan and Jorge we headed out for the long haul. I stayed close to Jan and Jorge with Martha just behind and Scott bringing up the rear. We had reached the overflow area but came into luck that a good part had began refreeze and Billy (RD) had also rerouted us away from the bad areas. After a long day on the trail we had reached Rohn, marking the other side of the Mountain range. With another good night of rest I headed out early again and began making my way to Tin Creek Tent (AKA Baumgartner's). The trail was fairly soft so I felt like I was breaking a bit of trail for everyone following. Jorge would go on to thank me for that, with a smile. Got into Baumgartner's tent early and was greeted with smiles, two hamburgers, two hot dogs, and a beer...
Who could ask for much more?! Soon enough everyone else rolled in and the tent was filling up. I laid down in the rest tent while things dried and grabbed a couple of Zzz's. Soon enough I was up after the others had left and headed out to Bear Cabin Safety Shelter. This became a very long and slow movement. I began to become very frustrated with the trail because it was soft and slow, but I kept moving while frequently taking breaks. My feet were also just tired from being wet and soft. After a long 8+ hour push I had made it there with the other 6 people and 2 more on the way. I found a place and laid out just feeling exhausted after a 40+ mile day. I could definitely tell I was the rookie as everyone had grabbed stick and branches on the way in to provide for the fire in the cabin, I felt bad about not doing my part. Next time.

 In the morning it was just complete chaos!!! Everyone was up around the same time trying to eat and warm water up for the trip to Nikolai. Soon enough there was like 8 MSR burners going and bodies all around. Mine began to die down so I gave it some pumps which ended up throwing excess fuel out and dropping to the table and BAM! Two stoves were on fire. I was able to shut mine off and it stopped burning but Jorge's would not go out. After a bit of time Scott
stepped in with the fire extinguisher and shut it down. Now, that left for one hell of a mess to clean up and most of it sadly was all over Jorge's stuff. I felt so bad. I began to clean up as much as I could and once that was complete I just laid back down. There was no sense in pushing to get back out there when I could just wait a couple of more minutes and do it safely. Once most were gone I picked back up where I left off and was only like an hour or two from the others. The trail was super soft, it was crazy windy, and snowing... This was going to be a long trip. I caught up to Scott and Martha fairly quickly until they put on their snowshoes and they were off never to be seen again until Nikolai. Soon enough I was full exposed to the elements, no trail, and markers getting harder and harder to find. It became just a grueling slog like I've never experience. Post holing was the only method. It just varied from either calf to thigh high. I had multiple moments of cussing up a storm to falling to my knees and asking why (so dramatic I was) to beating up snow with my trekking pole ๐Ÿ™ˆ. Yes, this is all true. I would just continue on with this grudge deep in my until I found some semblance of a trail and I became thankful for those moments, very appreciative from thereafter. I stumbled into the school just so thankful to have that section done and a warm place to rest. From here we had approximately 50 miles left to McGrath. I dried my clothes in the dryer and went to sleep for about 6 hours. Upon waking up we heard there was still no trail due to the high winds and continuous snow. The staff at the school were just awesome and had made food for us throughout the day and allowing us to open some big canned fruits, so delicious! As we sat and waited for word we finally got it that Billy had paid some locals to cut a trail for us all the way from McGrath and should be done in a couple of hours. I laid back down and would wait until then.

     After a couple of hours Tyler came in and telling us that the trail was clear. It's best to wait a couple of hours to let the trail set a bit with the incoming colder temperatures so that the trail is more predictable/consistent. I continued to get ready, but with no urgency. I headed out with Sean and Martha just ahead and the 3 Nome guys staying for another night of good rest. I headed out with a clear view of the stars and a bright moon shining down on me with very little wind. Life on the trail was good again. The trail was a bit soft and slower to move without snowshoes, but I was thankful to no longer be post holing. Oh yeah, one of my trekking pole broke on the way there, haha! At this point I had no worries with less than 40 miles to McGrath. I rolled into the last CP feeling wide awake a vibrant. I crawled into the tent with Billy and Martha while we chatted for a bit about the journey so far. It was good and then we slept for a few hours. When we woke up we were in no hurry as we had breakfast made for us by Billy (breakfast burrito with bacon) and some coffee. I was just jonesing to

get out and finish it up with some good ☀️! Martha and I would take turns leading down the trail which would allow one of us to just zone out on the others sled as we went along. This trail was very nice and we were moving well. Towards the end we were ready to be done though. We hit the final road where it was paved and that was the marker we were searching for signaling about 5 miles to the finish. She began running on the nice road and I pulled up beside her. I figured it might put us in a mode to where we would push each other to the finish. I initially only thought it would be for a few minutes or maybe a mile or two, but I would soon come to accept that were were going to go all of the way. We were running with good consistency and flow all awhile trying to avoid having to put on headlamps. Once we almost got ran over by someone backing out of their driveway we found it best to just stop and put them on. It was a nice little break too! As we continued down into town we heard a bunch of dogs howling and barking, people driving by and cheering us on, and telling us we are almost there. What felt like forever (we had been running for over 5 miles at this point) we had finally arrived and were greeted by smiling faces! They led us into to Iditarod Cafe and I collapsed on the floor and ripped off my shoes. I knew my feet got a couple of extra wounds from the running, but I knew I was done. With a time of 9 days, 8 hours, and 9 minutes Martha and I had completed our adventure from Willow, AK to McGrath, AK. Our first meal was pizza and beer could not ask for a better ending.
     In the end, I can say I made it to McGrath for myself even though I showed up not for my own reasons. I would highly recommend never to do this. I think I was able to because I had the support of others from afar and I am just stubborn as fuck and hate even the thought of quitting on non-legit reasons. Thank you Naomi for convincing me to join in your adventure, without you I wouldn't have been here in the first place. Maybe someday I'll repay the favor. Your support your sent after your scratch kept me in the game, thanks. Also, when someone who has done the trail many of times and says, "you're not bringing snowshoes?" You might want to bring them, ๐Ÿ˜‚. I'm not sure if many others would have the thinking like I did, "you did this to yourself for not bringing them." Many thanks to all of those for following and supporting from afar. You all felt very near in my heart, Thanks.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Loops for the soul.

     Across the Years. 6 days. 1.05 mile loop. Reverse direction every 4 hours. Mom, "not sure how much fun that would be... To each their own." I smiled at the notion knowing I wanted this challenge. Something I've never done before that was gonna challenge me, not just physically but in the upstairs. My goals were as usual, get some smiles and miles in, be myself, run/walk my own race, and most importantly... Be HAPPY!!
     Day 1 started out with great vibes and feelings. I immediately linked in with Daro Ferrara at the start, but only for a short bit. We were moving at different paces at that moment and figured we had some time over the next couple of days that we would lock speeds up together. I felt great moving along in my Lunas. I had never gone past 22 miles in them at one moment but knew I wanted to get my first Ultra in them. I had intentions of using the first couple of days to set in the conditioning of the feet, body recovery, and mind for the long haul so I wasn't going to push until the last two days at most.

     I was cruising along the first day and was able to meet some legends in the 6 day events, Ed Ettinghausen, Yolanda Holder, the Terminator Martina Hausmann, John Geesler, Liz Bauer, Andy Noise, etc... I was well into 20 miles and linked in with Yolanda for a couple of laps. Now this lady can hold a fast walking pace like no other. It was great to get to know her and take in some advice. Right away she said you gotta do your own pace. At that moment I was at her pace which put unneeded stress on my stride and feet. I knew I couldn't maintain that pace cause I could feel hot spots creeping up super fast. I ended up breaking off and moving at my own pace, but the damage had been done. I took a break for a couple of hours in hopes that my feet would calm down but they did not. I got back out on the track after that and logged in some night miles. I finished up the first day with 67 mile. Body wasn't stressed. Mind felt good. Blisters were on the rise and grown fast though.

     Day 2 was a bust. I moved early through the day to mid afternoon but feet were getting rough. I stopped in with the medics and they suggested that I kick the feet up for a bit and hopefully the blisters will go down. My right foot looked like I had a flat tire and was growing two new toes on the sides of my foot. I awoke 16 hours later into the next morning. Hobbled to the medics tent with shoes in hand to get work done. They couldn't do anything about my right foot blood blister so I just cut holes into them. They didn't hurt so I just let them be. The patched up my left foot and I headed back out onto the track. I finished up day 2 at a total of 84 mile. I was way off my high aspirations but still had 4 days to move.

     Day 3 wasn't much better than the last as in tracking miles. I put the rough movement aside to drink some beers, watch a movie on the phone (Despicable Me 1 and 2), and have a good time regardless. I can't quite recall my mileage that day but it was definitely nothing to write home about, haha. I got some more big rest that day and woke early at 630ish AM and began moving again. I was bound to believe that things would turn around. It's hard walking past your home every mile knowing you can stop and rest at anytime that you shall choose to do. Things will get better as in the low moments of life... They always get better.

     Day 4. I came into the day with thoughts that the end of the Year and the beginning of a new one would be better than the last two days. With a huge start of new runners beginning their race into the new year I felt inspiration to be out on the track with them. I moved along with the acceptance of my feet situation and smiled. It was good to see Katie Graff move along at her nice consistent pace with a smile. She seemed determined and on a mission. She would have to deal with the elements though and find her lane along the loop as it was full of puddles from the night rain. The same went for Jonathan Hart. He was on the mission of completing 100 miles in under the 24hr marker. He was also moving smoothly around the loop with good consistency and well ahead of schedule. I moved along and the laps passed by. I took breaks as needed and even watched a movie I believe and had some beers. Soon darkness was falling and I had at least moved about 30 miles by then for the day. I was planning to save some energy for the night time to try and accompany Katie and Jonathan through the night hours. I headed out onto the track and told myself I would run as much as I could with Katie or Jonathan as they passed by.

     I quickly ran into Katie as she was still moving swiftly. To that point we hadn't really spoken so we chatted for a bit. Told her that I'd keep her company from time to time. She was kind enough to share her race goal with me and it was a hard one. I don't think she'd have it any other way. With a tough goal seconds become very precious and doing your own work in the AS you can sure lose some of those precious seconds. I some what offered some assistance by grabbing some extra water bottles that I would fill up for her when I saw one empty so that could cut some time down. After about an hour with thoughts  in my head I just had the feeling that I should help out a friend. I figured what better way to end the year and bring in the new. I've never crewed for someone and on top of that someone who I barely knew. I think if I knew her better I would be able to know how to get better reactions from her as in how to push her past the hard times and bad thoughts. I would help fill her water, get some laps in, and support as best I could. As goo as my intentions were to try and lift some of the weight off of her, I felt like I was falling short. Before I knew it most of the runners gathered up and rang in the New Year together. This has probable been the first in a while since I was actually up and with others. We did a traditional first miles of the year, generally in a group. Soon there after was the first beer mile of the year and better yet run in your undies. It was fun to see but I was getting a bit sleepy and still assisting Katie, but I could see she was fading and fighting the bad thoughts. Then with the weather taking a turn for the worse that sure doesn't help someone trying to pull through a rough spot. She came into the tent around 2, maybe a bit prior, and just looked defeated. She was feeling aches that she was not used to ever getting during races. I tried to help and push but didn't know the right buttons. This is where I feel each race represents it's own challenge. One could be the terrain, another bad thoughts, injuries in another, blisters, etc.... She hit the wall and was ready to call it. She was unable to take fuel in and couldn't sleep just for even a bit. With her hovering over the heater she said, "I'm gonna head back to the car and sleep a bit." Yet she stood there and didn't move. I wrapped her up in my jacket to warm her up in hopes that that would get her to rest quickly and get back out on the track. I told her I was gonna get a couple of hours of rest in the van (house) and hope to see her out there when I'm up. As I made it to the van I happened to turnaround and there she was running with my jacket on and with her smile on... That made me so happy. She is one tough lady and just wish I could be half as strong. I woke up with daybreak I believe and saw her in the tent. She had passed the 100 mile marker already and about two hours left. She was down but still super competitive looking at her competition and how many laps she had to go to be in top three. With her being tied with another she mustered up the courage, as I mustered up some umbrellas for us, and headed out for a lap to break that tie. We chatted along the loop and felt so lucky to spend that time with such a strong lady. I found out during the night that things turned for the worst for Jonathan and he cut his race short of 100 miles. Super happy that he achieved a new PR though out on the loop. I ended day four with a shower (much needed might I add), 157 total miles, and on the way to the van for some rest.

     Day 5 was here and the clock continued to tick down and the end was in sight. I hit the loop and looked deep down inside and said, "it's time to set a goal (high) and suffer." Something that is achievable but by golly you are going to have to work for it. With about 44 hrs left I set the goal of 400K, I was at about 252K. The only way to get there is to be out on the track. As Ed told me as we walked around the track, "even if you are doing 22 minute miles you are getting miles and they all add up. The only miles that get left on the track are the ones when you are not on the track." Knowledge dropped. My demeanor had changed and I was now fixated on my goal. Gotta move more and rest less. I finished up the day at about 192 miles.

     Day 6 was gonna be rough. I had 24 hours to complete 90K. I just had to break it down into sections to make it easier and more manageable. I find it good to see progress. Things were moving along and it soon felt like the clock was on crack. I was in the medics tent getting some work done and then received troubling news... A childhood friend's mom had just passed away... Age 53... I was fixed up and hit the loop again. Then. It. Hit. Me. My childhood at their place just played on repeat through my mind. I was breaking down on the track. I was moving with purpose but man was I crying along the way. It's hard to imagine why for I haven't seen them in about 12 or so years. I no longer was doing this for myself, this was for Rhonda and the Zajicek Family... And I was gonna suffer. I continued to process all of this and move towards 400K. Something like that makes you realize how precious this life that we have is. I am well aware of my mortality and often accept death along my adventures up mountains. I just hope if I were to pass doing something of that sort that everyone would know I lived my life and was doing what I loved to do. Yet I see most and don't get that feeling from them. We need to wake up as a society and realize that things won't bring you eternal happiness. Loving yourself, being compassionate, pursuing your passion, walking through your fears... I believe those things can bring on lasting happiness. Stop saying tomorrow because tomorrow never comes. Well I need to get off of my box, back to the program. I hit 350K and 12 hours to go to reach 400K. I broke it down to my pace and time and knew it was gonna be close. I could probably only have about a 2 hour rest period. I continued to press forward and suffer every bit that I could. I was able to walk around with Andy into his 300th mile in the wee hours of the morning, just simply impressive that man is. Things were looking good and looked like I could finish with about and hour and a half to spare and then... This crazy blister came out of no where right on the ball of my left foot and the pain was sharp with every step. I hobbled into the medical tent just feeling broken and defeated. All I wanted to do was just rest for at least an hour but knew time was not on my side. I had 15K to go, just under 4 hours remaining and knew my foot would take about 30-45 minutes to patch up... I was about to call it but just at that moment my friend Daro saw me and sat in with me. Got me food and liquids. I'm sure he saw me on the struggle. Foot patched up and we walked around the track what felt like a measly pace, yet still happened to be under 20 minute miles. We hobbled around together without say much of anything to each other. I was happy to accompany Daro across his 300th mile, goal achieved for him. I still had 5 more laps to go and fully expected him to stop once he got there, but he did not. He stuck by me all the way to 400K. That's just what friends do for each other.

     My race struggle was with blisters, that's a true first. I've had blister before but never this many that affected me that much. I'll be excited to see what next year's ATY brings on. This time I'll be more prepared and possibly a bit more focused and a prior goal in mind... Currently thinking 300. Maybe more who knows, I might get froggy with it! It was a total pleasure of mine to meet every out on the loop over those 6 days, Barefoot Jake, Barefoot Alex, Sean, Sweeney, Andy, Ed, Colby, Martina, Yolanda, Kimberley, Jonathan, Katie, and good friend Daro. Also a big thanks to Roy and Virginia Roberts for stopping by, giving me company, and food (Subs and Chinese), everyone was jealous of the Lo mien. I may have only known your for 6 day but sure feels like I've known you all a lifetime. Until next time my friends.

     This was for you Rhonda. I would keep running/walking and suffering for the Zajicek Family if it would change things, but it would not. Thanks for the memories and being a good person.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Misogi Challenge, Misogi, and Ikigai

First trip to the lowest natural point in the Western Hemisphere, Badwater.
      Misogi. It's a term suggested by a mutual friend at my latest Ultra 100 attempt at the Javelina Jundred, which I DNF. After the race, Brian explained to me that Misogi Challenge is a practice where one attempts to accomplish something that likely has more than a fifty percent chance of failure. After hearing this, I wanted to research it further. This practice is designed to help you focus on the process to accomplish the task. If you are to accomplish a Misogi Challenge, you accept the feeling that anything is possible in the life that we live. Despite failing to accomplish my goal, I now realize that I am still able to grow and begin to see my limits expand.
     Subsequently, I was curious to get Eric's interpretation of Misogi, and he suggested another word to explore, which is Ikigai. His view of Misogi is a moment in everyday life that makes you realize you are living in the present. No thinking. No distraction. Just being. Ikigai... What is your purpose in life? What gets you up in the morning? What is your role in this Universe? What brings joy to your life? Who are you... Truly? These words, concepts, and challenges have now made me question my accomplishment. So I would have to separate them into three categories: Misogi Challenge, Misogi, and Ikigai. So let's dive into each of these for me.

     Looking back at recent moments, I certainly have attempted some Misogi Challenges. After leaving the Army and facing the unknown, I decided to live in a van and travel around the country, experiencing new adventures, and attempting more Ultra races. Despite being nervous to leave, I wanted to find happiness and not be discouraged by fear. So I went forth hoping for the best but ready to accept whatever came my way, and I've never been happier since. I challenged myself to attempt two 200 mile races. Is that possible? Am I capable of going 200 miles over various lands, on foot, in a specified time frame? I've only gone 100 miles before and that was hard and riddled with thoughts of failure. Through doubt, challenging moments, emotional highs and lows, and time, I came to realize that I was more than capable of completing such tasks. In fact, after completing those events, I had the euphoria that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. Through time and a positive attitude, I feel I can accomplish anything that I have a passion and desire for.
     After the Tahoe 200, I took some time off from running, and did some volunteering to view things from the other side of the table. With only a few hikes and small runs, I decided to sign up for some races that I had thought of attempting, Javelina Jundred, ATY 6-Day, and Coldwater Rumble 100. Even with having just completed two 200 mile events within a month, I immediately began to get nervous and thought of "Can I do this? Can I still complete such an event?" First up was the Javelina Jundred, and the temperatures in Fountain Hills, AZ. were very hot when I arrived. With temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, I was surely out of my element. I was told by a friend, "You know bears don't belong in the desert!" My intent was to run a good hard first lap and then cool things off during the heat of the day and play it by ear. It felt good to get out and run again. This was going to be the first race that I was going to incorporate my Luna Sandals and begin to make that transition. My plan was to run a lap in them and then the next in Altra Lone Peak 3.0, and then back to the Lunas if I felt good about it. The first lap was fun but definitely different. There were so many runners that I had to constantly attend to people coming up from behind in order to pass, preventing me from just totally zoning out. I was able to run alongside Catra about halfway through the first lap for a couple of miles. We spoke about recent and previous races, and the PCT adventure that I am planning for May 2017. The lap went smooth as the temperatures rose just as fast as the sun. I strode into the start/finish line with a good time and feeling great. I chilled for about 30 minutes between the AS and van in order to change shoes and play with Azimuth, my dog. I headed out for my reverse lap and realized early on that I would need to adjust my work output to keep my body from over-heating. Along this entire course there is no shade but only the AS tents. With this awareness, I began to do a 1 minute run to 4 minute purposeful walk routine. I was able to cruise through this lap with a 15-minute mile pace. I was taking in plenty of fluids but was not urinating a good color. This heat was working my body hard. At the Jackass AS, I grabbed up a scoop of ice, put it in my cap, put it on my head, and took a seat. I felt the need to get control of my body heat. I still wasn't cooling off and then remembered that my palms are a good heat control point. I quickly grabbed a couple cubes and held them in my hands. Within 30 seconds I had this huge chill race through my body. "Ok, this is what I gotta do at each station!" I bused on down the trail to the next AS with the same routine and feeling good about it. When I arrived at the AS, what do you know... "We are out of ice..." Ok... No worries, it's only 4 miles back to the Jeadquarters and they've got to have ice at the Start/Finish line so I strode off with a calm mind. I came in having completed two laps (42 miles) in ten hours. There I met Eric's parents (Virinia and Roy). We chatted as I went to grab up some food to bring back to the van and relax a bit and oh yeah, some ice to cool down. "We're out of ice."... You've gotta be kidding me... Oh well we'll just lay down in the van, sunset is coming up, and things will cool off. We made it through the hard part of the day. Virginia and Roy helped out tremendously by bringing fruit and beer. They also happened to have a little bit of ice which was good enough to cool me down fast. With a quick clean up of the feet, good eats, and hydration I headed back out onto the trail after about an hour. I continued to move in my Altras and steadily into the first AS. Sunset was fast upon me and headlamp on. The next stretch was 6.5 miles over rocky terrain, not bad. As I progressed along the trail I began to realize my right foot was hurting. It wasn't just the regular foot aching... It was sharp pain through the side of it. Ok, you'll be fine cause the trail gets better after this section. Hmmmmm... People are shining their lights into the bush... What's up? There's a snake!!! Oh HELL to the NOsssss (as you can tell I am not a friend of the snake)! We cautiously moved past as it continued to move away from the trail. I came into Jackass AS (midpoint of loop) hobbling on my feet. I took a seat into what I thought was the medical section, but didn't find the medical personnel I needed. I sat down, took my shoes off, and began to massage them. Man did it hurt. I laid down for a bit and would walk around, then massaged my foot, bit it wasn't getting any better. Is it really worth sacrificing my future adventures or hobbling the next 48 miles and possibly seriously injuring myself? I just couldn't find any valid reason to continue so I decided to end this 100 mile fun run in the desert.
     I woke the next morning and walked very gingerly around. I didn't feel good about my DNF but I also wasn't down about it. I knew I made the right decision. That morning I chatted with Justin, Brian, and Heather as we anxiously waited for Jerrod to finish up his last lap. He was able to make it in before tit really heated up again. It was joyous to see so many runners continue to push through to the finish line. If you ever want to go to a good Halloween Party where good spirits are all around, Javelina Jundred can be one hell of a party for those not running.

     Misogi and Ikigai. More often than not I have at least one moment in each day where I am completely and utterly present. Lately, it has occurred while I walk Azimuth at night under the stars. The stars are just spectacular here in the desert. There's just something special about them. When I go through my practice on the mat I always tell myself to be a more present and compassionate person. This is a process that I strive for each and every day in order to be the best version of myself. Through my travels, I've continued to receive such tremendous support from everyone and how I inspire them. All I'm doing is traveling, living in a van, and running. Somehow this act is reaching out to people as they wish they could live freely as I do. I find their support encourages me to continue what I am doing. I feel we are helping each other along this journey of mine. Even though I don't know how long I'll do this. I'm sure the Universe will let me know when it's time to head in a different direction. I just hope it doesn't deviate too much from this life I've cultivated for myself at the present moment. Maybe this is my purpose in life. It makes me happy.

     I hope some of these thoughts stir up a conversation within yourself and your life's journey. Until next time, Be Good, Be Happy, Be You.

First Beer Mile... Crushed it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

With a calm mind...

     With the bad memories (hard times) of the Bigfoot 200 behind me I was now focusing on the Tahoe 200 beginning on September 9-12th. That gave me just over 3 weeks to recover. I wasn't sure if my feet would recover in that period but only time would tell. My mind went from freaking out during the Bigfoot 200 about doing the Tahoe 200 to just being calm. I now knew it was possible for me to complete such a task. Now I definitely still had the nerves but just more along the lines of anxiousness. I spent the time in between the two races to visit with friends and family that I haven't seen in many years and one's that I just raced with. It was a good feeling to know that all I had to do was recover and do short little runs/hikes in between the races. There would be nothing that I could do to better myself but get my feet into a healthy state again.
     I began my journey to the Tahoe 200 in Seattle to visit the Luna Sandals company. There hospitality and excitement for my journey was infectious.

After picking up a couple of Sandals I began my southern progress to Toledo, WA to visit with my older brothers close friend Jeremy Veigel and his family. They were very hospitable and spent some time down along the river to cool off from the hot days. From there I went on to hit the Oregon coastline starting in Astoria with a short visit with Tom and Peggy's family. Azimuth quickly settled herself into their place. I think she definitely loved the extra attention that she received at their place from the kids. I was able to get my first post Bigfoot run in with Tom and Peggy in my new Lunas. Many of us enablers were also able to convince Tom for doing an impromptu sign up of the Tahoe 200. We were getting close to two weeks out and the race was fast approaching. Onto the Bay area I had to go!
     It had been about 6-7 years since I was last in the San Fran area and was happy to be back in wine country! I was fortunate enough to meet Mama Love and Randy from my good friends Adam and Tasha. They took me in gracefully and made me feel right at home. I had initial intentions of only staying through the weekend but the very quickly came and gone! Randy took me out to a Giants baseball game, the driving range, had a pool party and was able to see Ricky and his family. All good times were had. I was able to sneak in a few more Luna Sandal runs along the Bay. With just about a week to go before gameday on the second 200 I headed out to South Lake Tahoe to assist in some course marking and anything else I could be of assistance with.

     I was able to get a good short trail marking section of about 13 miles in and I knew I was good to go until the race six days out from that point. I helped drive the crews around the rest of the time, helped to some set up, and on Wednesday I stepped away to get my mind right. Thursday came and gone and I was able to catch the football season opener with Tom at a pizza place for one last meal until race day. With morning here I was not jittery or anything... Just calm and ready for the task ahead. It was a beautiful day to start out this nice long event with so many unknowns but ready for whatever came my way. My intent was to have fun, be kind to others, and run my own race.

     Man that first hill was harder than I thought it would be. Even had to dig out the poles quickly. No sense in using more energy than I need to to look strong. I'm all about the second half of races. Once at the top of Ellis Peak the views just opened up! I knew I couldn't wait to return to get some pics of that section. I cruised in and out of the first couple of aid stations with no hurry but also no lolly gaggin around. My main focus for each aid station was to swap out socks and take care of my feet (they got beat up pretty bad during Bigfoot 200). I noticed early that I was having trouble eating on the trail but was confident that that would pass, hopefully sooner than later. The trails were super dusty so I often had a Buff over my nose and mouth if I was behind others or I would jump ahead of them if I felt that I could maintain a higher, comfortable pace. Things moved along and began to see regular people at aid stations like Amy, Bill, Mark, Tom, Rick, Catra, I'm sure I'm missing others. Still feeling good going into the first night a small group lead out of Wright's Lake AS which turned out to be fortunate for that section was messed with by some outsiders. A couple of people had the GPS tracker to the proper path. Eventually we ended up splitting up a bit on the last big hill where I was just sucking but put myself in a dark place and pushed hard because at this point I knew I was only a couple more miles away from Sierra Tahoe AS and I hadn't eaten much. I rolled into the AS feeling weak and just not right... My thoughts were affirmed by Tom and Todd saying I just didn't look good. I was like I'm gonna go lay down for about 2-3 hours and hit that reset button. Sure enough it wasn't the greatest of naps but I was off of my feet and when I awoke Todd said I looked a lot better. I put down a whole plate of hash browns, grapes, pickles, some soda and was like... Let's get back out there! Feeling better and on the section that I course marked I had a new found energy. I still wasn't feeling good about eating on the trail so I put it in my head to eat as much as I could at the AS and start taking in liquid calories for the trail (Gatorade or watered down soda or juice). I burst right into the Housewife Hill AS and saw Holly. She whipped up some mashed potatoes and put that run goo on my back per Vito's request (he saw how bad my back was at Bigfoot haha). I had purchased a smaller UD backpack so there was a lot less rubbing. I started to find my groove at each AS, sit down, take socks off, let feet dry, change socks, eat as much as I could during the process, then move on. 
     Over the next session it was fairly warm. I was getting tired so ended up sleeping off of the trail a couple of times just to make it into Armstrong's Pass. Once in there I saw Tom again and he looked a bit rough to say the least. He said he was getting ready to head out soon to Heavenly and I had planned to rest a bit. He headed out at about 4:20 pm and I rested and left around 5:45. I ended up catching up to him along the route about 3 miles up the trail and he was not doing well. He was able to collect his thoughts a bit and was going to head back down to Armstrong's Pass and get some rest in hopes that he would feel better. He wasn't moving that fast and once I left him I was like, "if I make it to that tree and he still hasn't left... I'm bringing him down myself." He was up and moving. I continued to make my way up the long switchback with him on my mind in hopes that he'll be well. I began to roll again once I hit the summit and cruised into Heavenly AS about at 11PM. Candice, "would you like some pizza?" Me, "hell yeah I would!" With all sleeping tents full I decided to not stay long. I ate, called Eric, slept on the pavement for about 30-45 mins, got up, ate again, and rolled out on this next very long section. I intended on doing this one at night so all was looking good.
     I was out of Heavenly AS all alone... I love that feeling for some reason. I cruised along the route and got surprised by Scott Rokis (Photographer of the Race) with some flashes out of the woods. This dude was out there in a boot just getting it! He was gonna do anything to get the right pictures taken, much props to that.
 I continued to move onto Tunnel Creek through the day. It was just filled with some absolutely breathtaking views. I wasn't moving the best during this section but with the mind set at an unrelenting forward progress attitude. I was just happy to be out there. I ended up catching Amy at Tunnel Creek AS and chatted it up a bit. I did my regular routine, had a change of clothes waiting for me, and even better... They had tacos at this station. I ate about 7 of them including a ton of other foods and drinks. I knew the next section had the "dreaded" power-line Hill with 1,500ft of climb over 1.2 miles I think. I was able to catch up to Amy prior to the hill and she gave me some thoughts on it for she lives in the area. I stood at the base with the sunset fast approaching, just how I wanted it. This hill didn't scare me in the slightest... It reminded me of many power-line chutes that I've done back in AK. I put on some Blue Suede, "I can't stop this feeling", put that smile on.... And 'PICKED IT UP' Gosh it felt great to just suffer at that exact moment. I just flew up that hill passing many others. This hill ain't gonna go no where just standing around. I got to the top in under 30 mins I believe. Turned that headlamp on towards the top and began to cruise down. I ended up stepping into a puddle that just wet my feet. I calmly found a rock to chill on, changed socks, and pushed on. With a huge burst in energy I was just flying past people, loved the hills from that point on. I was looking at the watch and was like ok... I should arrive around 10PM into Brockway B&B AS. Then I ran into a fellow runner who was in a bad way... No cell service... Just us runners who can only help each other. I quickly made the decision to stick by this guy until the next AS, which was about 6 miles out. He had troubles breathing and going up hill. He recalled going through this section in last year's race and just kept questioning why. Goes to show how you can't treat each race the same way. Things can always be different. We got into the AS safely at midnight. I became more mentally exhausted than physically and decided to shut it down for a bit. I was gonna lay down until 3AM and hopefully roll by 4. I got into the sleep tent that felt breezy, air mattress half filled and only a wool blanket. I fell asleep in no time with dreams that I was on a tropical island. That they had brought big heaters into the tent and... And I felt so warm until.... My 3 AM wake up call. Holy shit was it cold outside. I was freezing! I need to hurry up and get dressed and get to the heaters by the food. I sat there just rocking back and forth contemplating on getting up. Thoughts: you know you're going to warm up if you just get back on the trail and start moving. I spoke with Howie for a bit to where I said, "you look comfortable in that sleeping bag." He was like, "I dreamed about this on the trail while I was taking little trail naps." Within about 30 seconds he fell asleep in the chair, curled up in his sleeping bag next to the camp heater. I thought to myself... This is where dreams come true...
     I got up and said "20 out.) I put on some John Mayer 'Where the Light is' album and Jack Johnson 'Live in Paris' to follow and began to move down into the darkness. After about a couple of hours the sun had arisen and I was just in an awesome flow along the trail. I was running and in just a pure euphoria. Realizing I am the lucky one to be doing this. I cruised down into the next AS, went through my process, joked around with everyone there while being a goof ball myself with funny photos.

I was quickly out with intents to catch some folks ahead like MeepMeep. I was off with the music turned up and up beat. I felt unstoppable with only like 30 miles left to go and an ambition to not see another night. Could I finish in under 84 hours? I sure as hell was gonna try dammit!
     I continued to move lightly on my feet, up and down the hills. I rolled past fellow runners taking naps on the sides of the trail or just suffering up them. I rolled into the last AS with Tom there awaiting me and ready to help. I was going through my AS routine, asking about other runners up ahead (Daro), could I catch them, where's MeepMeep, I passed him? How? I didn't see him? After about 45 mins he came in looking rough and wanting to quit. Man he was rough. Hey lay down, I'll let you use my cold weather jacket (Tom to MeepMeep), you're good man. I knew with about 16 miles to go and less than 5 hours to do so I had to roll if I wanted to make my under 84 hr cutoff. Also... Maybe I can hit the sunset at Ellis Peak... That would make for some good photos that I could take, gotta go! 
     I swiftly moved on with my mind on one thing... Under 84, under 84. But man Candice sure didn't make that last leg easy... Rough terrain to climb up on that last big climb. Why Candice, Why!!! I just kept feeling like I wasn't going to make the 84... Sunset. Get to the sunset if anything. Still no sight of Daro. Finally... I've made it to the return of the original out and back. I know where I am. Only about two miles to the Ellis Peak area and we'll rest there and capture pictures. Through the trees and into the open I see it. Wait! I see movement! It's gotta be Daro! Oh I'm gonna catch him. New energy burst! As I rolled along I now noticed that it wasn't Daro but Scott Rokis and two others taking photos and video. Well shit... I've gotta give them something to use. Damn this sunset is beautiful. Give them something! I kept moving and began to pick it up as the sun crested beyond the mountains. It was all down hill from there but still pushing the 84 hr time limit I had put on myself. I ran. I ran harder and faster. Gotta get it. Onto the face of the first hill I was knowing it was going to be close but I'm moving fast. Eeeerrrrrr!!!! A shot station!! Tequila, Fireball, or PBR... Your choice with 1 mile to go! Fireball it is! It hurt a bit but I knew I was there. The finish was right there. 83:38 hr:min I believe. More that 14 hours better than my time at Bigfoot 200, crazy. It was a crazy fun race and what made it even better was the fact that I had a blast the whole way with no negative thoughts. My 2 200 mile races were now completed. Us humans can do some amazing things so never doubt yourself. Shit look at me... I'm not your typical ultra runner body. We are capable of doing so much more than we think we can. So I urge each of us to get out there and explore yourself. We never know when our time will come so we might as well live while we can.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stepping into Madness...

     On the morning on August 12th I was at the bottom of Mount St. Helens awaiting the beginning of my biggest challenge to date, a 205 mile adventure through the rugged terrain of the cascades. I had purposely not looked at any checkpoint descriptions or terrain analysis. I just wanted to go out there and be myself and not overwhelm myself with the details. I was pleased to know some of the other runners that would be tempting this treacherous course. Some that I had just met a couple weeks ago and one that I met back at Cowles Lake checkpoint at the Susitna 100 winter ultra race, Sarah Duffy. I was able to track her down prior to the gun going off and snapped a quick photo not knowing if I'd see her along the trail again.
     The countdown clock was on crack and before I knew it our 105 hr cutoff time was getting closer. It was a hot day and from racers in the past year having said the first 30+ miles were pretty shadeless I was intent on keeping my cool, body temp style. I was going to move intently but not so much to over exert myself so early in the race. Moving was easy and exhilarating filled with good conversation all along the trail, across boulders, and lava rocks all the way to the first checkpoint. Feeling good and happy. After some quick eats and drinks I set out onto the trail once again but this time alongside Sarah. The runners were beginning to spread out along the trail. We cruised along through the desolate blowout areas of Mt. Saint Helens wondering if we had somehow ended up in the desert of Arizona. I was in search of Cactus to prove my theory that we were. We kept up a good pace but with the heat heating up... Soon we were running really low on water and knew we still had some miles to track before the next checkpoint. I guess it would've been good to check and see if there was a clean water spot along the route, oh well. Oh look there seems to be a hang up of runners up there... I wonder whats going on??? Oasis!!!I drank a quick half gallon or so of water before I even knew what was going on. Hands in water, kicked off shoes, cooled down. With new found hydration and refilled bottles we hit the trail again with purpose. On this leg we happen to run into a couple that looked like the gentleman was having a rough time. He was overheating and vomiting... Not good to be happening only 25 or so miles in. We passed with hopes that things would turn around for him with the sunset coming upon us withing the next couple hours. The couple would happen to be the team of Sara and Jared (we see them throughout the rest of the course). Now imagine for a brief second that while you are hiking somewhere and you see these crazy routes that get steep and high quickly and another that can get you to the same location but nice and easy. Well on Candace Burt's courses you will always find yourself on the steep badass section cause they make for greater views and stories, haha. At checkpoint two I get my traditional leg cramps (usually between 30-40 miles in) as usual which makes for a hell of a time putting shoes back on when you want to get moving again. With two short legs coming up and the sun setting Sarah and me head back onto the course in good spirits. From here on out I'm just going to refer to Sarah and me as we. I think little did we know that we would spend the rest of the time on the Bigfoot 200 course by each others side, me leading, Sarah leading, or just minutes separating us at most on the course when one was feeling good or wanted some own time.
     We kept moving briskly all the way to the fourth checkpoint where we were going to make a decision to get a bit of sleep prior to a big leg with lots of climbing. We got less sleep than I would have preferred but its always good to head out into the darkness with a thunder buddy. While at Coldwater CP I met Sarah's crew composed of the hilarious, good spirited, ever helpful Billy and the tenacious, story filled Anne. These two would become essential into our success out on the trail by either pacing, crewing, or recharging our spirits with huge smiles and support. We head out at like 1 am through Norway pass, one of the harder ones. We wanted to do a lot of the climbing in the dark and a lot of climbing there was. Anne was pacing us while I was barely hanging onto the back. My thoughts were negative at this point in time. I wanted to quit so badly, twist an ankle, give me reason to be pulled by a medic, something!! We stopped briefly on the side of and open ridge area and I just curled up into a little ball and tried to get some semblance of a nap to hopefully dream myself out of this nightmare I had gotten myself into. Damn... I signed up for the Tahoe 200, which was only a few weeks after this race, also.... Stupid! Maybe I can volunteer my time instead to Candace and she can roll me into next years Race if I'm up to it, yeah. Before I could think 25 minutes had passed and I was shivering to no end, down and out but with Sarah and Anne saying we are going to move and you're coming with. Well the macho inside wasn't going to be left behind so we moved. Up and up we went through the wee hours of the morning, through the pass overlooking Spirit Lake and some other one. We sat atop Margaret Mountain looking back at all that we had traveled but I had no desire to take it in. I loathed the trail at that point. Hitting the high point of the course meant we were going to head down. It was slow until Sarah took a cat nap and then blazed past us! I soon enough was able to grease up the ole joints and get them moving very graciously down to the next checkpoint.
     Into the next checkpoint we went, got some breakfast burritos, drinks, refills, restroom, against my want to get some rest we hit the trail again with heavy chaffing beginning to settle in after 65 miles and feet taking a pounding. Each take off from here on out would become a gradual movement to work everything into a comfortable sense and let the body send chemicals to mask up the pains. Norway to Elk was slow moving and terrible trail with big riveted trail from bikers but we both kept pushing. At Elk we both laid down for a bit, even though it wasn't a sleep station. I got about and hour and Sarah about an hour and a half. We were intent on reaching over 100 miles before the end of day two. We were in better spirits after some shut eye and renewed energy and a change of clothes for me at the next aid station, yay! With a quick arrival and realizing we had about 20+ miles to the next actual sleep station we got a quick nap in at the mile 90 CP and hit the trail with Billy up to Spencer Butte CP. It was easy going but ended up being a lot more climbing than we had thought. We saw a lot of bear scat along the trail and when Sarah and I had pushed hard forward Billy ended up having an encounter with the bear that was leaving these markings. Thankfully nothing happened to Billy for this was not his first rodeo with a bear! At Spencer we met up with Todd, Head Medic, and he began to do his magic on our feet. I got worked on first as we both ate a ton of food, rehydrated, and prepped for the next leg. When Sarah was getting worked on I felt like a moment like that shouldn't be squandered on a good cat nap in the chair. If the Military taught me one thing... Its sleep when you can. They tried to play games with me saying I'd slept for an hour but i knew better. With bellies full, spirits high, past the 100 mile maker, we pushed onto Lewis CP. A good part of it was downhill with a couple of hills but nothing serious. Along the river there were beautiful sight of multiple waterfalls and we took in the views. We both discussed how at any other time we would've pulled up a chair, some beer, and just sat along the river. Into the checkpoint 111 mile marker at just over two days in we went and got some much needed rest, about two hours I think. We woke up feeling hot from the sun, at least I did, and moved to refuel and move out. We all left with notes from the CP that were meant to be opened in a time of when we were at our worst (I don't believe we ever ended up opening them).
     With this next big leg Anne set the pace and it was hard (for me). Soon enough I was just overheating, sweating profusely, and needed to draw it back. Anne and Sarah pushed forward as I moved at a pace comfortable for me. A step forward is a step towards the finish. We moved along to a point where all of a sudden I was leading a leisurely pace and Sarah was getting some personal time. At one point Anne was like, "I can tell you a story or I can leave you to your thoughts?" My response was classic I'd have to say, "there is nothing going on up here (as I pointed my trekking poles to my head). Go ahead with your story!" I was still moving ruggedly along the trail all through the wonderful story of how she met her husband. Soon after I put on my first tunes of the race, 'hooked on a feeling" by Blue Suede and man did that turn things around for this guy. Before I knew it we were tracking other runners down and cruising along feeling anew. We just curiously happen to run into Council Bluffs CP way earlier than any of us had thought. That CP was on point with experimental food and very active volunteers and oh man... a seat by the fire! With energy flowing through the both of us we only stayed a bit and hit the trail again. When you feel good you gotta keep going with it until you lose it. I continued the music and conversation with Anne as we cruised into the Chain of Lakes CP. I passed by more runners and even got one that was just by the wayside in a bad way. Was able to get him up and going knowing we only had about a mile or so to the CP. I rolled in before Sarah at about 1 am and wanted to sleep until about 4 am but told Billy to wake me up whenever Sarah had desired. I was woken up at about 330 am I believe. I was slow moving so I told Sarah to go on without me and hopefully I'll see here down the line. I left about 20 mins after her. I caught up to her after about an hour or so but I moved on past being I was feeling good. I felt all alone for a while but she and I were never more than a few minutes apart. Through this morning knowing we only had about 60 or so miles left I began to feel emotional. Was thinking of Azimuth at the finish. Thinking I can't believe I'm still here moving.Just everything was compounding and soon I was holding back tears. It was all just overwhelming for unknown reasons. This section of the trail was hard with a nice long climb up to Elk peak. I went up it a couple weeks prior with Tom so I knew what I was looking for but there were so many false summits and the sun was out to play. Kept plugging away and cursed my way all the way to the top and back down Elk peak, thanks Candace. Oh Klickitat.... Oh Klickitat CP, thank you. Who would've thought that I would get a good clean up with a foot/calf wash and massage! Feet retaped, plenty of food, dry clothes, ready to take on the last really hard section. We left feeling as good as one could feel after 157 miles and a little less than 50 to go. We moved good until about two or so hours in and then it became looking at one another and agreeing to take trail naps. "Put us on the clock Sarah!" After multiple ones Sarah began to question if the race was even going on any more. I began to question the same. After about two more hours of that I stopped us and was like, "lets get some solid food in us, get off of our feet. Once we get up lets put on our own music, and we need to pick it up." Sarah, "pick it all up." We both laughed and then it began. We were just moving along and I was looking for any sign of the trail that I knew. Darkness fell upon us and I found myself on a familiar part of the trail. "I know Where I AM!" I waited for Sarah to catch back up and told her we were less than 2 miles out, I'll run forward and have food ready once you arrive. I took off like no other as if I had just hit the trail. Twin Sisters CP is here as were we. I was so elated to be there for I knew the next section of the trail and we only had 28 more miles until we would be done.
     Laying down for some much needed rest was just awesome. We were in the rest stop with Jared and Sara. I got woken up by George slipping into the tent and we chatted a bit. All was good and we continued to check in with each other along the route to make sure we were all good. Wake up time always happens sooner than later out on the trail but we only had a bit more to go so it was a good feeling. Lots of hot coco does the body good in a cold morning. We were up with Jared and Sara but unfortunately Someone had taken Jared's shoes. He had the absolutely best outlook on it saying that there is nothing he can do about it until his shoes get returned so they ended up getting an extra couple of hours of rest. Just awesome. We hit the trail with some spunk and moved. We took a short breath at the top of Pompey Peak. Shut off the headlamps, gazed at the stars, looked at the other headlamps and car light all around. It was all downhill from that point with a big section of tree blowdowns. We ended up getting separated and Sarah got lost for a bit. I got out of the woods at around 530-40ish. I laid down with feet elevated and waited for Sarah to come out. Before I knew it she stumbled out around 630 am. She had tripped over some logs, got turned around but thankfully out ok. Man... last long stretch of about 5-6 miles to next station with a slight decline the whole way. We picked up the pace again as Sarah was having illusions of bears. I cruised on down to the checkpoint passing Billy and Todd along the way. Always so good to see familiar faces along the way. We only were at Owens Creek CP for a bit for only a half marathon awaited us until we would be done.
     The next 13 miles were on gravel and paved roads. A big 3-4 miles downhill and then flat from there on out. This was it! We were going to actually do this thing! We ran until we couldn't, walked up little hills, run again, run two light poles and walk one all the way to the end. We had arrived to the finish together having completed about 192 of 205 miles together. Biggest accomplishment so far to date for myself. Along the trail we had discussed how we had no desire to ever do such a race again. Beer, food, naps in the merchandise isle are things that filled the rest of the day all the way until the last finished finished with about 20 minutes remaining until cutoff. So surreal to have actually completed such a feat. I went to bed that night with thoughts of swearing off such an adventure again.
     I woke up the next morning moving decently well. I helped pack up the finish line area  and loaded up the trailer. Soon thoughts of sickness overcame me... "I can do better next time." Just the notion of taking steps forward one can achieve anything and when you have a passion for running you will find yourself stepping towards what others would consider madness but for this community... It's bliss. It's those moments that we are able to pull ourselves out of the darkness and test the human spirit that we crave. What a crazy ride it was and I will most likely return at somepoint but up next is the Tahoe 200 and I'm feeling good about it and excited to see/meet new friends there.

"Poor decisions.... Make for better stories"

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Contemplation and knowledge gained with new appreciation

     Azimuth and myself continued to work my way down to Randle, WA, where the Bigfoot 200 ends, and the race start date is getting closer and closer. If there's one thing I'm sure of it's that time is ever passing us. I am feeling pretty good about the race (still nerves) and excited for the opportunity to really suffer again. With a couple of days until the volunteer trail maintenance party for the weekend I am lucky enough to have a friend, Geoff Maggay, put me up for a night and reset before I hit the road. It felt so great to take a shower after two weeks of multiple runs, river and lake washes, and just plain old wash cloth sessions. I am truly grateful to know many good human beings such as Geoff who are willing to help me out along this journey. So fair warning, if I get an open invitation to stop by if I am in the area... I'll probably take you up on it. I headed out after having dinner with him and headed to Randle to set up shop for the next two days of trail work.
     The next morning I met a very jovial, like minded group of people who were eager to get to work on the trails. Amongst this group was Matt, Ned, Carl, Tom, Garrett, Candice, Jesse, Amy, Becky, Josh, 4 dogs, and myself (if I missed you I apologize). Our goal was to cleanup as much of the trail as we could from the Owens Creek Checkpoint to the Twin Sisters CP. There were lots of blowouts along the trail and trimming of the vegetation all around. We all worked hard and fast clearing a good portion until we replenished our fuel supply with a late lunch break. Having cleared a good portion of what we explored (which ended up only being 2 of 15 miles) we decide to just take a small group (Candice, Matt, Hank, River, Azimuth, and myself) consisting of 3 humans and 3 dogs with a bow saw, small hand saw, and a machete and make our way from Owens Creek to Twin Sisters. The rest of the group drove to twin sisters cp and began to work backwards on the trail and set up for the evening meal, vegan chili (delicious)! The small group was working furiously along the trail just hacking and sawing at anything insight. This was working good until we lost accountability of ole Hank and he jumped over and under downed trees and got in the way of a downward swing of the machete!!!! With the swing coming down to a yelp from Hank... We all froze and looked at Hank as he ran off, turned around, and looked at us. I will inform you that Hank is a chihuahua (maybe a mix with another). We all huddled around him as he acted as if nothing had happened to him. He was bleeding from the top of his head with about a 1/4 inch cut on the top of his head. We had to create an improvised bandage over his head, put him in Candice's backpack and began moving forward a lot faster, for we knew we had a long ways to go before we got to Twin Sisters. The hacking and sawing continued and taking note of locations to bring the chainsaws out to. The views along the way were just breath taking but we still felt a sense of urgency to keep moving. As the sun was falling out of the sky, so did the temps but gave us an unforgettable sunset through the valley. Up and around the bend we hear the calls coming from the camp and we finally know we are close. Side note, if you are ever traveling with one Candice Burt... Don't trust the distance of how much is left. Always add to be safe, haha (all in kind heart Candice). It  was great to get off the feet, eat some delicious chili with cornbread and have so chocolate chip cookies as we sipped beer into the night.
     Sitting there in a circle, around the imaginable fire, we conversed out so many things from religion to politics then to which basically came down to our contemplation of our existence and our purpose. Each person has their own purposeful role in the  realm of Earth, whether it be good or bad. Take Candice for example, she inexplicably is fulfilling peoples dreams by putting on events such as the Bigfoot 200/Tahoe 200. That's a very powerful thing/responsibility that she has taken on. Garrett if a full time volunteer coordinator for Candice, Tom is a principal, Carl is a federal agent, Jesse a computer engineer, I live in a van and somehow people we amazed to just meet someone who does that and get my perspective on things and my purpose. It was great conversation with an even great view of the stars. Man I can just gaze at the stars endlessly and still me amazed. I hadn't looked up at them in so long for some reason. They still give me the feeling of being so tiny in this great big universe. I saw over a handful of shooting stars and I still continue to wish for good in the world.
     The next day was much of the same as I assisted a team out to the big blowout area of the trail and let Jesse and Garrett go to town on the trees and making a more clear path for the future hikers and runners of the trail. At the end of the day we gathered up for some such needed grub in Randle called Mt. Adams Cafe. The next thing on the menu was planning out the travel plans for marking the course now. Having hiked almost 30 miles over the weekend the race within two weeks I said I'm good to drive but gonna calm down on the miles until the race. The next morning they, Garrett and Candice, were prepping their backpacks with markers, post, hammer, stapler, staples, water, food, clothing, etc.... Their bags coming out to over 40 lbs and both of them going to be traveling over 100 miles each most likely. Crazy. My eyes have been opened to the humongous undertaking that they have ahead of them and just how much Race Directors/Coordinators go through. I can truly say that I am thankful that she is my RD for the next two races. I have an even more appreciation for all the RD out there who are putting on such events, thank you.
     I was so happy to come out and volunteer (give back) to the trail and learn so much. To converse with other like minded individuals, even though they probably do most of the talking until I get a few beers in me. I am going to have to seek out more volunteer opportunities for cleaning, marking, and aid stations for other/future races. Be a pacer for someone! Just simply help more. About a week and a half out from the Bigfoot 200... I'm ready for one hell of a ride in the mountains!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Mountains

     I've managed to travel from Fairbanks, AK to Bellingham, WA in just under two weeks. I did all of this travel while spending some time in Whitehorse, YT and Squamish, BC. I have been asked if I like living in a van by the many I have known and met on the road and trails. First, I always preface the excitement about living in a van with, "it may just all seem surreal right now to me but time will tell." Secondly, I often respond by saying, "I wonder why I hadn't done it earlier." I find myself questioning everything I've done and why I have lived in excess my whole life. Always feeling like I needed the next best thing. Now I just look at what do I need to get through the day? What type of fuel would I like to refuel my next run? Where are the hardest local trails? Must see spots? My life feels simplified and the best I could have imagined.
     The last two weeks that I've spent traveling and being in the Mountains!! I spent a couple days in Whitehorse where I went up Mount Lorne, Grey mountain, Mount White, Golden Horn, and Frog Lake Trail. All of them had beautiful views from the top. Mount Lorne was the longest of them all but truly had that journey of the mountains because I was shrouded in whisking clouds. Along the ridge lines at times I could only see 10 meters in front of me. I really enjoy the mixture of running and scrambling to the top with no trail to be seen. From there I spent the next two days on the road and into Squamish, BC. I had originally planned on Whistler/Pemberton but there was a scheduled Ironman event going on that weekend and it was just crazy packed, no thanks. I somehow ended up at the Elfin lakes trailhead, which was recommended to me by a friend, without even noticing that was the trail he had recommended. Crazy coincidence I thought. I met some mountain bikers that were up there from Bellingham. They told me of some places to check out while down here. They were a good group of people to interact with and the loved Azimuth of course. I was a little perturbed to find out that most of the Squamish trails don't allow dogs on the trails so I had to leave her behind with the MTB guys while I hit the trail.  The sweeping views of the mountains and lakes are... Words cannot explain and pictures can only say so much about that moment. After that I moved on down to Bellingham, WA. I came into town, found a coffee shop with WiFi and scouted out the area for the next days adventures. I realized I would have to visit the Mt. Baker recreational area to find what I was looking for. I found a nice little pullover area so that the next morning I could purchase a one-day pass to the NFS area. I was looking for elevation gain and views. I settled on Church Mountain and Goat Mountain trails as the goals for the day. The original totals looked like 8.5 miles and 3,800ft vert gain for Church mountain and 6.4 miles and 2,900 vert gain for Goat mountain. Church Mt. was a great trail, very clean and gave me a good sweat. Met some families from S. Korea on the trail and a strong tandem of ladies on the trail that I was able to share the summit with. In the early afternoon I found my way to the base of Goat Mt. trail. As posted by the board and my interpretation of trails that state Mountain it means that I should arrive to a summit at some point. I came to realize that after I had already passed the 3.2 stated miles and looking up to at least another 1k plus of vert gain left to just reach the top that I had been fooled. Ground springs can be a life savior when plans change because I was going to reach the summit some way, some how. I was able to navigate my way to an older trail that led to the top and traversing some snow made the journey much more worth it.
Mt. Baker
     Arriving to the top of any mountain just brings this huge rush of pride and gratefulness for being there. At the base of each on I have thoughts of doubt on making it to the top. "Will I have enough to get there today. Will thoughts creep in that will discourage me to turn back. Will obstacle appear that 'allow' me to turn back." Things like this go through my head almost all the time but with each passing moment I continue to get stronger and my danger/risk tolerance is growing as do my abilities.
     Van life. I have loved it so far even though it comes with its moments. The moments more or less come with my interaction with Azimuth, dog. From when she wants to come up to me while I'm driving and just lay all over the phone, camera, drinks, etc... To when she wants to come out and I'm trying to leash her up and she just knocks over her food. Her food seems to get knocked over on a daily basis. Overall though I am enjoying my time on the road and in the wilderness. Better than I could have ever imagined. Until next time may you find happy trails in your life!