“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
In the few years I’ve been into endurance sports, one line I’ve never understood (and still don’t) is: “This is my B (or C, heck maybe even D) race”. Ahhh yes, the classic nonchalant attitude, that, in my opinion, serves as an excuse. 5k or 50 miler, I don’t understand why one would pay to register for a half-hearted effort. “B Race, tune up, fun run…” Whichever way it’s framed, I just don’t get it. I think every race should be an “A race”. No matter what.
Isn’t the point of a race to be a culmination of your training? Or at least an implication or where you’re headed? I understand people sign up for shorter distance races prior to long ones. There’s a variety of reasons: motivation, gauge fitness levels, go with friends. With that being the case, I believe every race should be an A race. Running is the ultimate mind-body, in-the-moment connection. The best way to embrace that moment is to extract as much from it as you possibly can. To me, that means to absolutely go for it. Sore, tired or fatigued, I think we’re selling ourselves short when we decide to hold back.
We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, the next day, or next month. That eventual “A race” way down the line, might never happen. The possibilities of life interfering with the opportunity to stand at the starting line are endless. Standing at the starting line of a race should be a celebration. The best way to celebrate is have no regard for failure and let it rip.
Six-time Olympic medalist, Bode Miller exemplifies this killer instinct. He ignored the noise around him. Everybody hammered him to go 80%, that way, he could at least finish a race. That didn’t align with his most sacred belief: “You gotta send it. Other people’s perspectives, while valuable, shouldn’t supersede your own”.
In the World Cup Slalom, Miller went two complete seasons without finishing. That’s right, zero finishes. It’s a record! Skiing is his job. It’s results-driven and for two years, the results were nil. He certainly had the speed to win, but he wasn’t going to let the temptation of slowing down triumph over letting it rip. He knew he would keep crashing; however, once he figured it out, he would start winning. Sure enough, that happened. The next year Miller won 4 races in one season. Win or lose, it was Miller’s dogged confidence that was the greatest result of all.
Below is a video of Miller crashing 5 days after DNFing at another event. You gotta love his fortitude!
I believe that this “letting it rip, no regard for failure” attitude can produce a ripple effect in our lives. If and when we do screw up, this frame of mind allows us to acknowledge a mistake, own it and keep charging. It takes some chutzpah, but not holding back allows us to create the life we want, with no room for regret. The discomfort felt when we let it rip pales in comparison to the strong and long-lasting feelings produced by regret. Miller’s explanation is spot on: “The one person you have to answer to is yourself anyways”.
Succulent: juicy, ripe, choice, appetizing, tasty and delicious.
IVEY is the name. Sunshiny riffs + luscious lyrics are the game. This young – ages 15 through 19 (like really young)– Gold Coast-based foursome generates a giddy sound accompanied by a raw voice. It’s Kate Nash meets The Whitest Boy Alive. Their easygoing demeanor transports you to salty air, bare feet and smiles. It’s like a morning beachside stroll accompanied by good friends and a strong cup of java! If “pep in your step” was a genre, they would fit the bill. With youth on their side, it will be exciting to see what IVEY does in the future. I can hardly wait!
Al Bairre. Yes, it sounds like Al Bear. They hail from Cape Town, South Africa and pack an energetic punch. Their fast tempo reminds me of Vampire Weekend, but even more vibrant. Consisting of a couple of dudes and a pair of twins, they bring a full-bodied, unique style that stands on its own. Violin, keys, percussion, ukulele, bass, guitar and more, all paired with spunky lyrics keep the feet tapping and body swaying. I get hyped just thinking about their new album. Actually listening to it is next-level gnarly. Their new album “Experience the Al Bairre Show with Al Bairre Experience”is loaded w/ all sorts of rhythmic goodies that will be sure to keep the juices flowing.
As much as I like sports and outdoor activities, discovering music satiates a different type of curiosity that rejuvenates the soul. Music has the ability to tap deep within. It arouses certain feelings. Music energizes, soothes and, most importantly, it connects. Music transcends time and space, yet connects us to a time and place; a specific memory. It stupefies me. Music, if not for the sake of comparison, can eclipse a mere description. You feel it or you don’t. Maybe it grows on you. Maybe it doesn’t. That’s it. That’s all.
I think it’s cool to share with others what you’re passionate about. It could open a door for somebody, inspire them to chase the lion or, at least, pave the way for riveting conversation. Anyways, I’m gonna list off artists that I’ve had on repeat since being introduced to them within the last year or so. Here’s the first group. Pure platinum:
Drumkit smashing, keyboard flowing, vulnerable yet vivacious, smooth yet chaotic, this combination of brother and sister-Georgia and Caleb Nott-have created a unique sound of their own. They caught fire after signing with Lorde’s producer at the end of 2013. Her voice packs a punch of bashful, bold, serene and forceful. Combine Nott’s haunting voice with the prowess of her brother on the drum kit and you have a special sound. A sound distinct from Lorde or other New Zealand groups that might overshadow the up and comers. Their new album Evergreen, song by song, has grown on me the last couple of months. Here’s a couple of my favorite tunes from them:
In preparation for a running race, one spends plenty of time slogging miles alone. Typically, those miles are squeezed in around the rest of one’s life. Work, Family and other extracurricular activities do not take a break so that you can conveniently ‘get a run in’. Furthermore, this puts an impetus on how special it is to hit the trails with friends.
Living in California, I am fortunate enough to have the full spectrum of outdoor activities at my dispense. The opportunity for adventure is innumerable. Each venture out is different from any of previous ones. It’s fun. It’s addicting. Also, I’d like to think each experience sharpens me as a whole, makes me a better person. Even if just a little bit. I’ve learned that the best part of of these treks is having friends that value those same experiences and challenges. Onward and upward. Positive Energy given and received. It’s a constant cycle. It never stops. It’s a never-ending stoke.
Much like a surfer chasing waves, a climber searching for colossal rock slabs or trail runners intrigued to climb new mountains, part of the outdoor experience is the venture into the new, the unknown. Being able to experience something or somewhere for the first time strengthens one’s curiosity. Doing so with a friend, makes it that much better. More often than not, one has “put in time” alone, in order to maintain adequacy. That’s part of it. But, when friends are exuberantly waiting in the wee hours of the morning, it’s a pleasant reminder of why we do what we do. Running in the Kings Canyon last summer brought me back to that revitalizing feeling: pure, unrelenting stoke. It makes the experience more enriching, more satisfying and more valuable.
After spending the majority of my summer on solo jaunts, I was psyched to hit the trails with grizzled trail veterans. Josh, Randy and myself loaded up the truck from Visalia and jammed towards Cedar Grove to camp. We were about to embark on a 41 mile quest. This loop is known as Rae Lakes. It climbs from 5035’ feet to 11978’ feet at Glen Pass. Due to part of it linking with the John Muir Trail, means there are plenty of others out and about. The peaks, valleys and everything in between set the stage for an extraordinary day. We carried everything we needed and left the trailhead at 5:00 AM.
Elevation was a real fiend. The consistent climb towards Glen Pass had me doubting that I would survive this day. Doubt would creep in, but Josh and Randy kept dishing the positivity. If it wasn’t them doing it, it was all the randoms we ran into throughout the day. Literally, we said “What’s up” to almost everybody we came into contact with. We even saw a chick jamming on a flute next to one of the lakes. You know, stuff that totally happens every day.
We reached Glen Pass. Josh gave me a Red Bull. I’m not too keen on energy drinks, but energy levels were low. Simple solution. And it worked. Big Time. Admiring the well-earned view, we chatted with plenty of thru-hikers and other runners. Everybody was amped, eagerly sharing in conversation!
Slowly descending, we cruised the rest of the way. The views were unreal. As each hour passed, the sun slowly faded into dusk, while one mountain was passed for another. The only way to truly soak it all in was stay in the moment. That’s a cliche I’ve heard throughout my entire life. No need to get anxious or look back. Just Be. Right…. This being my first Rae Lakes’ experience, I felt as though I was literally breathing in each new sight without the slightest sense of urgency. When we finished, we each jumped into the Kings River. It was frigid and I was thrashed, but wow, did I feel alive. AWESOME!!!!
The neatest takeaway from this stroll was the extreme lack of social barriers. There were none. Everybody, and I mean everybody, acknowledged each other with either a salutation, compliment or a quick chat. Out with placing prudence on false pretensions, preconceived notions or any other forms of social fencing that separate us. The unabashed enthusiasm on the trail was on par with the beauty of the Kings Canyon. Whether people were hiking, running or camping, everybody was stoked to cross paths with another through the entirety of the day. There was no need to impress. From the early morning darkness to the hot, afternoon sun, my sense of curiosity perpetuated . The overall vibe from that day has me wishing to carry that same spirit of freedom, open-mindedness and unadulterated zest with me every single day, whether I’m on the trails or not. It’s a feeling of being completely alive. All five senses totally immersed in the moment. It’s infectious. It’s pure. It’s a feeling that I never want to lose.
4:00 AM: Alarm goes off. Not much sleep, considering I’m without a tent and under a tree. Oh yeah, not to mention the nervous energy. I throw on a headlight and quickly make an avo sandwich. Gingerly, I grab my gear and head to the school bus filled many who look as though this is not their first rodeo. Can we please just start? I double-check all of my stuff to make sure I’m ready to go. I see the starting line about 75 yards away. All of a sudden, the runners take off and the few, brave, spectators lined up at 6:00 AM on an obscure mountain road begin to take loads of photos. It’s a moment filled with all sort of optimistic racket. I’m a tad bit frazzled, but I laugh, realizing I’ll have 24 or so hours to to get into a groove. Let’s get it on!!!
The climbing begins. We hit a jeep road and some single track. It’s going to be about 10 miles (2000 ft to 6500 ft). The sun’s out and the stoke is alive. In my head, I’m trying to grasp that this is really happening!!! We finally descend and hit the Mile 15 aid station at O’brien Creek and I dip my hat and bandana into a bucket filled with ice water. The heat is starting to bear down, so keeping the hat wet is a much needed perk.
We continue to groove down jeep roads and pass through another aid station. I repeat my cooling process, pony up and carry on. Finally, after cruising through some more single track, I hear tunes being blasted and realize I’m about to descend into the Mile 28 aid station-Seattle Bar. I see my Pops and Kadalak. We exchange high-fives and encouragement. I enter the aid station to a plethora of people cheering, along with a grip of attentive volunteers. I hop on a scale and am six pounds below my starting weight. Not really sure what that means, I go straight for the watermelon, orange slices and a frosty popsicle. The volunteers warned me that the next seven mile climb to Stein Butte will have lots of exposure and a severe incline. Buzzing with optimism, I smile and savor my popsicle.
The climb to Stein Butte is more shaded than I was warned, so that’s a plus. I end up meeting two dudes, each named Alex. I decide to jam up the mountain with them. It was here that I witnessed an awesome act. We ran into the third-placed gal, who ran out of electrolytes and water. She looked a bit disoriented. Each Alex offered her some encouraging words, water and S caps. We then trudged forth. As we walked into the Stein Butte (Mile 33), Alex P. belted out, “We’re not even going to act like we’re running”. It was a much needed laugh, after such a long climb. Eat. Drink. Rinse. Repeat. Carry on.
The next couple of miles consisted of lots of downhill. Alex P., Alex C. and I met with a couple others and jammed out for quite some time. We rolled up to the next aid station posted in front of a pristine lake (Miles 39-41: Squaw Lake). The heat was definitely evident, as runners would take off their gear and hop in for a refreshing soak. Being used to the heat, I did not want to get too comfortable at this juncture of the event. This is the last time I would see my Pops and Kadalak. They provided a salty V8 and plenty of encouragement. The timing was clutch. Pops told me that the hard part was over. I nodded and smiled. This was only the beginning. Haha.
It was about 4:00 PM and the next couple of miles were runnable. It was the perfect time to blast some jollies on the iPod and feel the flow. I arrived at the next aid station-Kilgore Gulch. It was just past the 50 mile mark. I was officially entering new territory. At this station, we had to climb a mile, grab a diaper at the top and return it to the aid station. It was, at this point, I saw a dude laying on the road, puking. Things are getting real!!!
The next fifteen miles were going to be vicious. While climbing, I linked up with two dudes from the Bay area. One of the dude’s names was Taylor. I cannot for the life of me remember the other guy’s name. Forgive me for having a dodgy memory; it was a long day. Anyways, we had all sorts of discussions ranging from beers to traveling to politics. It was a nice distraction from the intensity of the climb. The sun set down on us, meaning it was now time to throw the head lamps on.
Taylor and Friend pushed ahead of me. Coming out of the aid station, the beastly, five mile climb towards Dutchman Peak (Mile 67) was glaring down at us. I gradually began slowing down. I started to dig both hands into my quads, hoping to make the climb easier. My feet were hurting like never before. Dutchman Peak represented the starting point for pacers and access for cars to help out and crew. This meant that cars shared the narrow, jeep road with us. I started to fade. Quickly. My head was bobbing, mind wandering and eyes flickering. All that sounded decent was a nice sleep. The fire in my shoes would not subside. I could hear the music blasting from the top of Dutchman, but still felt lightyears away. Fatigue, doubt and negativity infiltrated my mind. I found a nice rock to sit on. A group of three cars passed me and the last vehicle stopped.
The passenger asked me, “Are you running in the Race?”
Her: “Well, you missed your turnoff 3/4 mile ago. You need to turnaround and you’ll see it veering left.”
Not sure what to say, I replied, “Thanks.”
To my dismay and frustration, I turned around. I thought I had officially hit my brink. It was 10:00 PM and I was pissed off. My body was destroyed and my mind was drained. I started to feel sorry for myself, thinking how convenient it would be to drop out. Since nobody was near me, I fired a few expletives at myself and threw on the iPod. I thought of all the people back home who were so encouraging. This can’t be it. There is no way. This was my wake up call. I blasted “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men, and jammed back towards the turnoff that I had previously missed. Finally! I crawled into Dutchman Peak, worn thin and weary.
I arrived at Dutchman feeling like a deer in the headlights. Constructing a sentence was difficult, so I decided to take a seat. Beware the chair! I couldn’t let myself get too comfortable. Seizing up didn’t sound very fun. The volunteers informed me that my friend had dropped from the race. I was angry at myself for missing that turnoff because, otherwise, I might have been able to encourage him. I was crushed and confused. They gave me soup broth, V8 juice, light food and my Red Bull from the drop bag. The energy at Dutchman Peak was surreal. The volunteers were absolute rockstars. My only goal at this point was to harness the positive energy with me until the next aid station.
Descending from Dutchman, I saw my buddy and explained how I was bummed for him and he told me to go and finish it. It wasn’t his day. He made no excuses and I’ve got nothing but mad respect for him. He is a way better runner than I’ll ever be. Anybody who knows anything about endurance sports, knows that there are have good days and bad days. I was overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions. It was out of my control. It was time to push forward into the night.
The night was pitch black. I looked around and didn’t see anybody in front of me or behind me. I felt as though the forest could engulf me at any time it wanted to. It was actually a seemingly pleasant thought. I rolled into the next Aid Station (Long John Saddle: Mile 72 ish) and saw the wear and tear on the looks of a few that marked being on mountain trails for 18+ hours. Long John Saddle was loaded with carnage. Time to press on.
I don’t remember much after that, other than ethereal darkness and jeep roads. I met Otis and Kenny. Two positive dudes who had been going together since the start of the race! I linked up with them and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Miles 81-86 ended up being the final climb of the race. They were absolutely grueling. I got to the top with Alex P. At the top, we had to grab a sprinkler flag emblazoned with the P2P logo and carry it to the 2060 Road (Mile 90 Aid Station). The difficult part was getting to those blasted flags. In order to grab a flag, one must scale a rock face. The hard part wasn’t climbing up the rocks, it was getting down them. Every part of my lower body was screaming “NO!!!!!”. I gingerly eased my way down the rock face. It felt like two minutes, but probably took ten. Such is ultra running.
After the flag grab, I decided to roll with Kenny and Otis to the 2060 Aid Station. These dudes were legends! They were allocating the optimism!!! This section was during the last two hours of darkness. After ten hours of concentrating on the little LED-lit piece of trail, shedding the head lamps was a massive reprieve. We were hoping the sunrise would set our bodies back into a rhythm, seeing that it’s a new day.
It certainly did. We arrived at mile 90!!! Sun’s out. Headlamp’s down. The stoke factor was high. The boys were saying that it was now time to bring it home. The hay was officially in the barn. The realization of finishing was starting to become evident.
Due to the final ten miles being downhill, I decided to slog them out. In the middle of this stretch, a wave of emotion crashed over me. I starting welling up. I didn’t even bother fighting it because it was such an intense feeling. Pure, raw emotion. Powerful stuff.
I finally reached pavement. The road and its sharp decline had my feet going from numb to pure fire. I saw my Dad, Kadalak and Matt waiting for me with a half mile left. I nonchalantly chatted with them and made my way down. I turned back to see if they were going to catch me in the car, but, instead, I saw another runner and his pacer charging hard! No Way!! You’ve got to be kidding me! With a half mile left, I had to get the legs churning and lungs burning. If not, I would get passed. It was slow, but I turned the final corner and saw the purple sign that marked the finish line.
I crossed the finish 26 hours and 42 minutes after starting. I could stop thinking about the next aid station. I could stop trying to ignore the pain inflicted on the lower half of my body. I could stop focusing on getting over that next mountain. Literally, I could finally just stop!. I sat down and immediately took of my shoes. I relished in the relief of that moment. Exhausted, I finally got have a look at what was left of my now, Baggins-esque feet. Cankles and all, it was totalIy worth it. I walked in the finisher’s room and received a chocolate milk and IPA from Hal (Race Director and Trail Running Legend). Two of my favorite beverages. You bet! I piled in the car, knocked out a quick shower and hit the road back to California. What a day!
I’m writing this 48 hours after crossing the finish line and I still can’t really process the entire experience. What I do know, is that it is way beyond the physical. There are parts I don’t even remember. I am not sure if that is due to exhaustion, pain, perceived pain, mind tricks or a combination of all of them. The ebbs and flows of being on the trail for 100 miles are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. One minute, all is well. The next, fit hits the shan. You teeter-totter back and forth from the pain cave to the zen den. One must embrace both parts, or the negativity will take over. While climbing Dutchman Peak, I slowly unraveled. After being told that I missed a turnoff 3/4 earlier, I thought I had hit my breaking point. Finished. Done. It was demoralizing. I was verbally and emotionally assaulting myself. But, again, that next aid station was right there. With that aid station, came so much encouragement from the volunteers. In turn, the stoke levels exponentially rose. I am already stoked the next adventure, whatever that may be!
Extra tidbits, lessons and goodies:
If you really are the average of the five people you hang out with most. Why not surround yourself with incredible humans? There are electrifying, inspiring people out there. Just be yourself and you’ll meet them.
First things first, I was privileged to have had my Dad and his great friend, Kadalak, haul me to Ashland and back in Kadalak’s awesome Motorhome. My buddy Matt also came along. After he dropped, he decided to stay and wait at the finish line until I arrived. What a Champ! I got nothing but respect for such a commendable action. Those three were clutch. Without their encouragement and selfless support, the weekend wouldn’t have been nearly as special.
Kudos to the countless volunteers that give up a full weekend. Phenomenal job by all hands involved. It goes beyond filling water bottles. The positive vibes exuded at each aid station were rejuvenating. I got so juiced after leaving aid stations. Numerous strangers kept the mojo rolling. Massive shout out to all of those that volunteer. They made the experience first-rate.
A quick note to anybody that signed up for the race. Whether, you finished or not, I commend anybody willing to take on such a task. I met so many cool peeps on the trail. I hope to run into many of them again. The consistent encouragement and understated attitudes of many was awe-inspiring. Heading into my first 100 mile race, I had no idea I would leave with such gratitude. The sense of community definitely outweighed any sense of competition or completion. There is no way I could have finished it without my friends and family, the volunteers and, of course, the others taking on the challenge. What an incredible time! To me, being able to get outside of the comfort zone and share an incredible experience with others is what makes life so enriching.
A quote that is on the wall at my place: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Strenuous Life.
A positive attitude is infectious I am a huge believer in the power of positive energy. High Fives are just as awesome as they were when I was a boy. Despite the pain, this was an incredibly positive experience. Everybody was keeping the stoke alive. Yes. Everybody. I loved it.
I’ll forever be impacted by this experience. Literally, right now, my sleep schedule is still way off, adrenaline levels are all-time and and my palate is ravenous. Hal put on a terrific event loaded with incredible humans. I can’t reiterate how radical the people were. I hope to run into many in the future on a trail somewhere. Also, I’m thrilled to meet more. As for right now, I am looking forward to channeling my energy into other parts of my life. Onward and Forward. Cheers!
Playlist: Everything from Ice Cube to Colbie Caillat.
Nutrition: Tailwind. Lots of it. Watermelon, oranges, occasional V8 tomato juice, salty broth, S Caps, Electrolyte caps, Red Bull, a little 7up, a PB & J and some pretzels.