Friday, August 22, 2014

Home is where the trail goes: 3 days fastpacking on the Tahoe 200 course

I always think I'm just about there, that's why I keep going. 

To give the world your very best you cannot just give selflessly, rather you must pursue your passion all the while giving selflessly. 

I want to live somewhere I can just go into the backcountry on any whim. 

A few of the many thoughts I had at the beginning of my get-away-from-the-craziness-of-the-Tahoe -200-prep-by-fastpacking-trip.  I took 3 days, just me and my pack on the trails. I turned off my phone and turned on the world. It's like taking a crayon and coloring in the picture of your life. That's what the trails and mountains mean to me. I averaged about 30 miles a day and camped along the way on the bare ground. it was cold and dirty, but it was real and I felt alive. I loved the ache in my legs the pain of thirst and hunger and it's subsequent satisfaction. I have been so heavily involved in my race directing work that I am beginning to really crave simple experiences. To just go a month without making any lists. For now, that will have to wait until after my directing races season, basically after the Cle Elum Ridge 50k Sept. 27.

Here are some photos from my trip, including the supplies/gear I used.

In hindsight I brought waaaay too much packed seafood. Bletch. I finished the trail mix and regretted not including more snack foods. 

This was the only mountain lion I saw the entire way!

I expertly taped my ankle so as to not sprain it since I no longer have the ligaments to hold it in place adequately.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sometimes things happen in 3's

Sometimes things happen in 3's

At the grocery store buying beer
Grabbed the Fresh Squeezed IPA
Next stop, pinot noir in the wine isle
I was reaching for the bottle
When three beers fell right though the case,
Shattering on the waxed
Grocery store floor.

Not to be slowed by acts of God
I went right back to Fresh Squeezed
This time with hand under 6 pack
Grabbed the Pinot Noir without incident
Bought the two, hunched over & coughing

Sometimes things happen in 3's:
It's been more than 3 months
My foot aching only when I run.
Like that foot was trying to tell me
to slow the fuck down. 
Each month like each beer, 
shattering on the floor.  

3 months turned into a walking boot
A walking boot turned into a cough
My cough turned into a broken rib
My broken rib finally slowed me down
Enough to write this poem.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

What Makes Ultra Runners So Damn Crazy

Here I am sitting at my desk thinking about the title to this article, which is really all I have so far when I realize looking around my office that the answers are all around me. Clearly ultra runners are passionate about running, the outdoors, and masochism but how exactly can I prove that we are in fact (as many onlookers have whispered or yelled at our backs) completely nuts? I will attempt to prove my thesis with what I think is some pretty irrefutable evidence. Please note that I think crazy = awesomeness.

We think 100 miles is not that far. A quote made famous by ultra runner Karl Melter who has the most 100 mile wins ever at 35, or is it 36 now?! He is the unofficial King of Crazy (a new tag line I think he should adopt) leading an entire army of ultra runners down the rabbit hole of what is "far"? With the recent addition of my Tahoe 200 mile Endurance Run, 200 milers are popping up like blisters on Kassie Enman's feet during the 2014 Speedgoat 50k. Will 200 milers become the ultimate ultra running test of endurance much like 100s are now?
Karl Meltzer, from Ultraspire's website.
We post pictures of our feet on social media. This is actually the biggest reason why I think we are crazy. What other social group posts disgusting pictures of their feet? In fact I think I will use this opportunity to post a couple of disgusting pictures of my feet that clearly prove how badass (crazy) I am.
Obtained in the 2012 TRT100. I actually extracted my own toenail that was hanging on by a few "threads" but had to get cut out. The toenail was popped out by a large blister underneath it. 
2014 HURT 100 nastiness
And since we brought up Kasie Enman's blisters, here's her feet post Speedgoat 50k:
From Paul Nelson Photography
We run when we should be doing other shit: prime example is me sitting here in a walking boot doing the same thing I'd do if I could run (procrastinating), only I'm writing a ridiculous blog post instead of working on all my race directing work (see pic). I think we actually differ from most shorter distance runners in this way. After all, our long training runs can last all day.
There's so much paper in my office I have to be careful not to start a wild fire. 
We have an ever growing collection of toys that are unidentifiable to most the population. Case in point, show the picture I've included below to your non-running, non-exercise obsessed friend and see if s/he can identify any of the toys. For ultra runners toys also come in the form of expensive GPS watches, clothing, shoes, running vests, hydration packs, powders and gels, and so much more. We love claiming that ultra running is cheap, but we seem to be proving otherwise with our gear obsessed approach.

We only wear running shoes or boots. Or better stated, we wear running shoes until we must wear a boot. Some of you are too careful and dare I say smart (?) to make this mistake, but for the truly crazy, we often don't realize we're doing too much or need a break until we literally break.
Please note that one of my friends signed my boot with "FINALLY" since it took me several months to actually stop running on my very injured ankle.
We think that beer is a post run recovery drink. More accurately, we think that 4 beers are a post run recovery drink. One beer is probably a pretty good recovery drink, but more than that and we're just trying to numb our body so that we can forget how we now feel like 90 year old post 50 mile race.
Eric Schranz from Ultra Runner Podcast gets excited about some beer, in this case, it looks like during a race. Photo from:
 We run 100 miles for a belt buckle. That's what it looks like to most people anyway. I often get the question from non-ultra runners, "What do you get for running 100 miles?" My answer.... "uuuuuuhhh, ummm, a belt buckle?" I paced a friend at HURT 100 several years ago and he literally got through the last 2 twenty mile loops by chanting "belt buckle, belt buckle ..." as he stumbled and hobbled to the finish. Ultra runners know that we run long distances because they peel us down to our essential layers (much like a blister), they change us, connect us with a community of incredible athletes, and they give us a perspective we cannot easily gain from banal daily living. Ok, ok, ok, we're addicted. I'll stop the philosophical BS.
My 100 mile "winnings"
We enter lotteries so that we can pay for and run the most difficult and dangerous races in the world. Most people enter lotteries to win millions of dollars. We enter lotteries to run long distance races. The Hardrock 100 Endurance Run with 33,000 + feet of climbing, an average elevation of 11,000 feet and very real dangers of lightening, hypothermia, exposure, and getting lost. These dangers and challenges barely phase the 2,000+ lottery applicants who enter Hardrock each year all hoping to get one of only 140 spots in one of the toughest 100's in the US. See also the Tahoe 200, Barkey Marathons, and Badwater, all difficult and some would say potentially dangerous races that are equally difficult to get into.

Comments: What do you think makes ultra runners so crazy? 

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Notes from a Crazy Runner: Fastpacking the Tahoe 200 in 4 days

I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And, see what there is to see
---Jack Johnson, Breakdown

4 Days, 
200 Miles, 
40,000 feet of Climbing
The Tahoe 200

A little book of notecards was my makeshift journal for the trip. I'd packed quite a lot of food thinking that I'd be able to make it the entire way unsupported. This was no FKT, not a race either but rather it was part of my job. As race director for the Tahoe 200 mile Endurance Run I felt that it was important for me to pre-run the course. There were a few sections with reports of downed trees and another short segment that I needed to find a connector trail on. 

I had 4 days, well 5 really, but I wanted to finish it in 4. That's what I do: I make myself a goal, then I purposefully make it harder just so I won't know if I can do it. I don't want to know how the story ends until I'm there. Looking through my journal notes, I realize I didn't gather too much practical information. It's actually some sort of stressed out vent. It's a map of the mental space that comes from pushing oneself in the mountains. 

For more about what supplies I used for the fastpack read this post: All I Need Isn't Love, It's on my Back

Notecard Journal 
Day 1
Drank out of Buck Island Lake AND Loon Lake. Not a good source (camping, 4x4, stagnant) but went 8 miles without water and felt very thirsty. 

Remember: trails are always fucking shitty going through fucking campgrounds. It took 2 hours to find where the trail left the campground. Going to be a long day. Made Cairns for other hikers to follow.

Day 2
That section was totally unexpected. Got off course and snapped my ankle really bad yesterday. Fuck that. I'm not done yet. A 15 inch piece of duct tape as a ankle brace. Glad I wrapped a bunch around my UD bottle before setting off. Ankle swollen and very sore. Met a girl who is road tripping to Santa Cruz to work at farmer's market. She gave me more duct tape. 

I'm back stepping here but I highly recommend gaiters for runners of the Tahoe 200. Should've worn gaiters. HIGHLY!

On another note, I burned off a blister on my leg thinking it was a tick. I guess I squished a mosquito into the blister and that's why I thought it was a tick??

I hate mosquitos!!!!!!!!

Bug spray would've been really really really really awesome. Really awesome. What was I thinking? (Point to be considered at later date)
Sprained ankle + heat blisters+ burned leg from fake tick removal
Day 3: 
It's really incredible how I wake up in the morning and feel so much better. Last night I was feverish. Very hot and chilled at the same time. Both nights I've slept without a sleeping pad surprisingly well. Yes, it's uncomfortable but not as much as you'd expect when you're completely exhausted and sore. 

Ate 5 Lara bars in one sitting. Really want more plantain chips. 

Feeling rather lonely and sad.

My feet hurt and my ankle is huge, swollen, painful but I have accepted the pain. Every step hurts. Shoulder hurts. Ok everything hurts.

Almost fell in river while walking across a log, caught myself as I planked onto a log next to it. 
Almost got wet here!
Remember to get money back from phone company. 

I think I need to organize a business employee vacation trip.

I like to keep my face clean. Legs that are dirty are a badge of honor.

Stopped at Tunnel Creek Cafe and Gas Station to resupply food. Smoothie was amazing. 

This may be the hardest adventure I've ever done for sheer length. For that I feel changed. View from above Incline Village on mountain was incredible. Camped there and heard many loud animal noises.

Day 4:
This trip is defining in part because of the people I have met. Also, when you're travelling with just a pack and your two legs propelling you, you must rely on the kindness of strangers- from time to time. I think I have more courage and strength than I had previously thought. As I get deeper and deeper into this trip I find myself slowing down to talk to other people along the way. Met a hiker who is an amputee on dialyses. Inspired conversation. Enjoyed a coke I forgot I'd packed the last 20 miles!!

In a race, everything is so much more simple. Here, it's me or it's nothing. 

Every last stretch of trail each day felt like an eternity. On the last leg I actually felt like I might be going crazy, just circling the same 1/2 mile without knowing it so I drew two lines in the trail and determined that if I passed over them again, I was in fact crazy and might need to ask for help. 

Turns out I was not going in circles. Maybe it was just my mind doing a headstand?

How do people build trails that never end? Is this trail called "Groundhog Day Trail"? I could put a fucking 24 hour race out here on Groundhog Trail. 

Remember to write essay on what makes ultra runners crazy. 

Be sure to warn hikers going the opposite way that the trail never ends and it will bring hopelessness to your soul, destroy your spirit and in general make you thirsty. 
Blister and pain management

Literally taping ankle

My Garmin 64st navigated me beautifully the entire way!!

Recovering after the fastpack.

Left ankle and shin swollen.
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