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:
Taking You There
More to Come in the Near Future. Cheers!
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:
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.
As the San Diego Rock N’ Roll is past, I’ve done some thinking that I have begun to effectuate on. A handful of “epiphanies” have made me aware that this road race in was much more than an accumulation of mileage directed towards accomplishing a goal. My uncontained eagerness has me asking what’s next. Last weekend’s race was not just a gathering of endorphin junkies that happen to control the roads, all with the hope of crossing the finish line in the desired time. Okay, maybe it is. Anyways, what this race, and so many other races across the globe represent, are the ultimate hodgepodge of people and, of course, stories. Beach bums, doctors, students, soccer moms, professional runners and everybody in between, all toe the starting line for a multitude of reasons. There is an unspoken respect amongst those participating in almost any race. Almost all have persevered gritty training runs, more than few times, in order to solidify the thought that one might achieve a race-day goal. Thus, resulting in a spectacular post-race environment. The post-race phantasmagorical feeling of euphoria, exhaustion and a much-desired IPA,
First off, arriving in San Diego a couple of days before was absolutely ideal. Surfboards loaded and a charged GoPro ready, we were fully prepared to embrace our advantageous proximity to Mission Beach. Our “routine” consisted of: killer breakfast and coffee overlooking Mission Bay, ocean, lunch, stretch, espresso beans and more ocean followed by dinner. Needless to say, I could get used to that type of schedule.
Finally, race day arrived. It was very dark and very early. We arrived on time, took care of the anticipatory bathroom stop and lined up in our coral. After a poignant moment of silence for those in Boston followed by a powerful National Anthem, we were ready. The intensified mood under the June gloom meant that it was time. It’s always amusing to watch so many people hammer down the first few miles out of the gate. It’s hard not to rev it up and keep up, but I have made that mistake before. You pay for it later. It sucks. Sans Garmin, I found a rhythm early on and cruised the first half in the desired time. Between miles 16-20, the goal was to maintain the groove and stay patient. The gradual climb up the 168 (miles 21-22) wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t the sharp stomachache that stuck like needles in my side. Anyways, that’s part of the race. Find a groove, experience an inevitable problem (major or minor), embrace the issue at hand and move on. My pain subsided quickly after what I witnessed while grimacing up a hill at mile 23. A wheelchair participant was having trouble gathering enough momentum to reach the peak was almost stalled before the top. Without even saying anything, a marathon runner caught the wheelchair participant, and proceeded to push him 100 or so yards up the hill. Mind you, this is mile 23. Marathoners are typically always wary of the clock so that they can meet their desired goal. This individual understood that helping the man up the hill was much more significant than his result. It was extremely humbling to witness such an unselfish act that I will not forget. The crowds grew larger at each turn along with my excitement. I saw the finish near Petco Park and fed off the crowd noise to finish strong. I crossed the finish line and met up with the crew after various failed attempts at trying to find a comfortable position, whether it be sitting or standing.
We were all stoked beyond belief because the race was the perfect cap to an outstanding weekend. Rob, Brit, Erica, Cat and Huddy all crushed it! The positivity was overflowing. The excitement of being there with this crew was inspiring. The post-race pizza and IPA in Ocean Beach was the perfect recovery fuel. Hahaha.
As we cruised the gloomy coastline back to the S.L.O., the thrill of excitement remained a constant until we arrived back, ragged and stoked, and crashed out. After a week’s reflection upon the past weekend’s experience, I appreciate these endurance events because they are indicative of so much more than just a race. No matter the distance, each race embodies some degree of self-discipline, sacrifice, progression, positivity, intensity, gratitude and a zeal for living life. Enough said. It is beyond inspiring being around so many enthusiastic and driven individuals. It is a constant reminder that we should appreciate the fact that we are able to live a healthy and active lifestyle with others. When we embrace that lifestyle, we will be progressing with like-minded, enthusiastic people. I consider that to be optimal living. Onward and upward we march into the future.
Song of the week: Ewert and the Two Dragons – Good Man Down. Catchy jam.
Chaos. Anguish. Panic. Those are not the first three words that typically come to mind when describing the finish line of a marathon. However, on Monday, tragically, those words portrayed the mayhem during Monday’s running of the Boston Marathon. Initially, I felt shock, then anger, all under an umbrella of sorrow. As a runner, the Boston Marathon is known as the mecca of all marathons. It’s rich history is filled with inspirational stories of many a runner who put in the discipline, commitment, and passion that it takes to qualify for such a race. Those grimacing faces of fatigue peering towards the finish line are what inspire so many onlookers who go to cheer and support.
The culture of running is so pure. So Powerful. So Positive. Runners and others, cheering one another on, whether it be at the start, during, or after the race. In endurance events, there is a “we are all in this together” mentality. The shared feeling of a conquered goal with fellow runners is memorable. However, on Monday, that was all ripped away. Temporarily. Monday was much bigger than running. Monday illustrated man’s mistreatment and senselessness towards fellow man. Due to the unconscionable acts of a couple of people, innocent lives were harmed, and even lost. I can’t really conjure up anything coherent to write. I am disgusted, angry, and enraged. However, as an American, and a runner, I know that our country will press on. This act of cowardice will not split us, but rather unite us. As we carry on and march forward, let’s all remember to be sure and say a prayer for those in Boston.