9 Ultrarunning Norms You Can Break


I love this girl. If you don’t know Ash, you may want to give her a follow. In the meantime, be an out-of-the-box runner and start with this list. ESPECIALLY #4 and #8. Trails and ultrarunning are a personal journey. That means you can choose your own route and do it your own way.

Personally, I love signing up for races that are way over my head and risking a DNF each time I tow the line. When I don’t finish, I learn a LOT in a very short time span. When I do finish, I’m riding that high for years.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid to set your own pace. Enjoy!

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Originally posted on AshRuns100s:

I have always been a rebel. It’s in my DNA. Always has been, always will be. This personality trait is evident in every area of my life. I like to think for myself, and refuse to accept societal norms. Seeing as running is a huge part of my life, it should come as no surprise that I shattered a few running standards there. Here are a few examples of how I made running work better for me:

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What’s it Like to Quit Your Job and Travel?


Two things happened recently to inspire this post:

  1. Shacky and I just hit our 50,000-mile mark of full-time travel and dirtbagging North America in our little RV.
  1. I stumbled across a Quora question about what it feels like to quit your job, throw caution to the wind, and travel.

No two journeys are exactly the same and as expected, I found that my experience was different from many of the commenters. Here’s what it’s been like for me:

  1. Social

More than any other time in my life, I am social. For years I’ve identified as an introvert and although I still do, I have fond myself easily slipping into some of the benefits of extroversion. You know like, real friends. A tribe. Actually wanting to sit around chatting with people. It was a little confusing until I realized that I don’t actually need to label myself as intro/extro. I can just do what I do and be who I am.

This is the opposite of what some other travelers reported in the Quora question (loneliness, isolation). I feel this is because we have focused a lot of our travels on people. Instead of only bucketlisting destinations, we made lists of people to meet, mostly Facebook friends we felt a connection with. I copied down the names of everyone who invited us to their homes, and plotted our route to see as many people as we could. Then we met their friends and families and soon an entire network opened up across the country that we never would have uncovered from our cozy little home in California.

  1. Scary

As easy as it is to sugarcoat the glamour of our lifestyle, in reality it can be pretty scary. Pre-dirtbag days, it was hard to remember the last time I had really been afraid. My life was very routine and there was nothing to really there to trigger fear. Now I’m averaging about one fearful incident every couple of weeks. It’s not always life-threatening of course, but rather those little situations that force you outside your comfort zone and there’s some problem solving involved.

The most common culprit that elicits fear for me is weather. In the RV, you can hear and fear almost ever aspect of the elements. Sometimes being in the RV is scarier than being outside. The winds feel strong (we’re tipping!), the hail sounds louder (it’s cracking the windows!), and the heat feels deadly (the cat is panting!). Adaptation and problem solving are keys we can’t afford to travel without.

We have also learned not to turn on each other, as people tend to do when they’re stressed or hot or hungry. We are a team and our only hope of ever solving anything is to put our heads together and push in the same direction.

  1. Easy

Chores take no time at all. When we go camping, we sit around and watch our friends set up their tents, haul out their luggage, set up their little camp stoves. We don’t have to do any of that. We are where we are and what’s in the RV… that’s all we have in the world. I can clean our “house” in ten minutes, tops. We have two bowls, two plates, two sets of silverware. Sometimes a little extra for a guest. There’s no planning ahead for groceries (who knows where we’ll be?) and certainly no buying in bulk (who has the space?). This is a very liberating feeling. There’s no fluff. No time-filling details. No busywork.

  1. Focused

Another benefit of the lack of busywork is that there’s more focused, fulfilling work. Real work. The kind of work that produces results, like published books (my particular chosen focus) or music or artwork. Imagine having all the time in the world to create something. No pushing papers, no filing the day with meetings, no chipping away at emails. It’s just you and a blank canvas and all the freedom in the world. It’s every bit as glorious as it sounds.

  1. Flustered

The downside to all this freedom is that sometimes the options seem limitless. At any given time, there are one hundred things I want to do. I have learned to focus them into seasons and years. I can do anything, but I can’t do everything at once. I can’t be on every trail and I can’t run every race. Instead, I create challenges for myself, like climbing the four highest peaks in the Continental USA in three weeks, or writing a book. Upcoming challenges include thruhiking several longer trails and writing a second book. If I’m not intentional in my goals and planning, it’s easy to get flustered and lose track.

What is dirtbagging NOT like?

For us, it has never been boring.

It has never left us in need.

We have never been unloved.

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How a Road Runner Learned to Stop Fearing Snakes and Embrace Joy on the Trails

gordoncoverBy Gordon Harvey

August in Alabama. The heat is unrelenting and the humidity unbearable. I was being dragged through the Talladega National Forest along the Pinhoti Trail near my home in East central Alabama and I felt like I was going to die.

I was not a trail runner. The road was my domain. I considered trail runners to be a special kind of nuts. Why in God’s name would anyone want to run on dirt, over stumps, past snakes, and through spider webs? What kind of warped idea of fun was this?

I was then in the early stages of my weight loss journey and beginning to reclaim my health. In 2007 the doctors discovered that extremely high blood pressure had afflicted my 5’8″, 262-pound frame: I was a stroke waiting to happen.

Fear took the first ten pounds off of me. Running and eating healthy did the rest. I started a podcast and a blog to share my journey to running my first marathon in 2009 at Disney.

By the time I ran with Mark, I was still over 210 pounds but healthier than I had been in a while. Now I’m 100 pounds lighter and no longer take blood pressure meds. I have a level of good health that the bigger me thought impossible to ever attain.

Mark was a trail runner, had run several 50Ks, and was training for a 50 miler. He was a friend and a listener of my podcast. Mark wanted some time on the Pinhoti and convinced me to come along.

I thought I was going to die. The climbs, the humidity, the total concentration on the trail, the spider webs… it was killing me. After we finished, we shared a meal, I said goodbye to Mark, and I decided I’d likely never set foot on that trail—or any trail—again.

A year later I found myself pacing a friend at Burning River 100. Part of a crew, my segments on the trail with him was only six miles at most, but I found myself running at night though the Cuyahoga National Forest. I loved it. I enjoyed the traveling caravan atmosphere of the crews as we went from aid station to aid station along the course. This was exciting and alluring, but I never considered myself a trail runner. Six miles on a trail does not a trail runner make. I was a marathoner helping a friend: the roads were my home.

From November 2010 through December 2012, I raced six marathons, two half marathons, a 70.3 triathlon, and a bunch of shorter distances. I grew as a runner, but was mentally wasted.  My mind was mush from the never-ending, self-inflicted pressure to get faster with each training cycle. I needed a break.

So I signed up for the Mt. Cheaha 50K. I figured, “Hey, I can run a marathon easy now, so a 50K should be no biggie, right?”

Yeah, right…

I hit the same trail that Mark dragged me along to four years earlier. I bought new gear and shoes. Trail running was so different than anything I expected.

Mind. Blown.

The 2009 experience was such a blur that I couldn’t process it, nor did I choose to remember much of it, but spending hours on the Pinhoti Trail system and running ultramarathons has taught me a few things about trail running, about being a runner, and about the way I have to approach life.

First, it’s all about time.  

I learned not to stress over how many miles I did or did not get, but to appreciate time on my feet, time on the trails, time away from civilization.  After my first big training run on the Pinhoti, I struggled to come to terms that I had been on the trail for three hours but had barely covered 14 miles. Geez, I can run a marathon in not much more time than that. I freaked.

I was used to accumulating tons of miles in short period of time. What was wrong with me? I had to learn that when I am on the trail, time is my friend—not miles. Time away from everyday life and the bustle that it has become. Time for peace.

Second, trail running is a journey to a different world and an experience of body and mind.  

On the road I can zone out, listen to music and let everything fade away. The trail has stumps, rocks, snakes, and bears. It also has tremendous beauty and an otherworldly atmosphere.

I have to stay alert so I didn’t face plant every ten steps, or step on a snake (more about snakes later), but I also let my mind soak in what is tantamount to crack for the senses: the sound of water rushing through a stream, the birds chirping in the trees, the crack of a limb as it comes underfoot, the crunch of fallen leaves as I run, the way the snow creaks under my feet.

Third, I learned to embrace being me on the trail.

Marathoners can compare themselves to other marathoners. Most courses are not terribly different. They have pavement; they have aid stations. Oh, sure, there may be some hills here and there, but it’s easy to make comparisons.

Trail is different. No two trails are alike. I have friends in Northern California who run on soft dirt paths with not a lot of technical terrain. Here, we run on sharp rocks and small round rocks that move as you step on them. We climb a mile straight up on our hands and knees.

It is futile and not a bit smart to compare myself to others, even in the same race. I have learned to appreciate who and what I am as a runner at that given moment. Races are more fun that way. Life is more fun that way.

Fourth, trail runners feel like family.

There’s something fundamentally different about trail events compared to road races and triathlon. The former seems so collegial, so welcoming to all runners no matter if they run fast like Rob Krar’s beard or slow like my bald head. Before races, we all gather together at the start with no elite corrals, no waves. Just us. Waiting to run.

At the finish, we all commiserate over that blasted hill at mile 28 or complain about the sadistic nature of the race director who is there laughing along with us. It’s like being with family. I love that I can interact with trail running elites on Facebook or through their blogs. I love that they’re so accessible and accommodating to people like me. That’s a far cry from road racing elites who have one-sided conversations with us, primarily to sell us something or thank a sponsor.

Don’t get me wrong, trail elites have sponsors and do need to earn their ride, but they talk to us. They say hi to us. And we don’t have to win a contest or buy their shoe for them to do acknowledge us. I love that.

Fifth, I learned to embrace the fact (still dealing with this a bit) that snakes are more afraid of me than I of them.

While I don’t always believe this, I am internalizing it more and more. Snakes. Yes, I know there are creatures on the trails that are imminently more dangerous and aggressive than snakes. Bears and crazy redneck hunters are the biggest danger around here. Nothing gives you a little pucker more than seeing a bear warning sign as you get to a trailhead, or to hear a nearby shotgun blast during hunting season. But for some reason I’ve fixated on snakes. Maybe it’s all the images of rattlers that trail runners post on Facebook? I guess if I saw more bear selfies, I’d fear them more.

I’ve learned that if I pay attention and don’t treat every stump as a venomous aggressive snake-monster whose sole mission in life is to kill me, then I will be OK. I’m still working on this. That’s one of the advantages of being a slow trail runner: all the leaders have cleared the spider webs and scared the snakes away from the trail.

It’s funny. In 2007 I told my brother-in-law that I would never run a marathon. Shorter races were fine by me. “I’m a 5K guy,” I’d declared.

Since then, I’ve run 10 marathons and three 50Ks and am about to do my first stage trail race, a few more 50Ks, and a 50-miler in March. My mind has already started to mull over something I swore I’d never in a million years think of doing: a 100.

Why? I think it has to do with the unknown. The adventure. The question of how much can I accomplish. Moving to the uncharted territory of my running life and then going a little farther in mind and body and distance. I figure if I can lose a hundred pounds, I can run a hundred miles? No matter the distance, the trails are calling.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, trail running is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gong to get. But boy, does it taste good.

Follow Gordon Harvey at thisrunninglife.net

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RACE SPOTLIGHT: Running Wild – The Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill

Polar Bear Seal River Lodge

 Photos and story by Birgit-Cathrin Duval

Minus 41C wind chill (-41.8F) and a polar bear alert.

Most ultrarunners worry about hitting the wall. If you’re running the Polar Bear Marathon you will face an even bigger fear: running into a polar bear.

So how’s that for a challenge? Running in cold arctic air with wind chill factor up to minus 40 Celsius through pristine polar bear country?

Churchill is a tiny town located at the edge of the arctic in northern Manitoba, Canada. It’s a truly Arctic community and it’s only accessible by air (approx. two hours from Winnipeg) or by train, which takes about 36 hours—often more.

Every year in October and November hundreds of polar bears begin their move from their summer habitat to the Hudson Bay where they eagerly wait for the ice to form. Once the bay freezes the polar bear will have a feast and go hunting for ring seals.

It’s the time of the year when Churchill gets busy. All hotels and B&B are booked and tourists from all over the world come to Churchill to see the polar bears.

You can book a day tour on a tundra buggy or stay at a remote lodge outside town or book a couple of days in the Tundra Buggy Lodge which is located in the midst of the tundra with nothing but polar bears around.

On November 22, 2014 you can run with the polar bears. There will be an Ultra Marathon (50 km), a Marathon (42,195 km) a half Marathon (21 km).

The course is set amid rugged wilderness along the flat icy coast of Hudson Bay. Local volunteers will drive beside the runners, carrying food, water, extra clothing, and of course, guns.

The first Polar Bear Marathon took place in November 2012. I was coming back from Seal River Lodge where I was on assignment writing and photographing a story on polar bears. I decided to stay a few extra days in town to document the first Polar Bear Marathon in history.

In the early morning on November 20, 2012, 14 runners from Canada, USA and Germany gathered in front of Gypsies, the local coffee place. A shot from a bear gun was the signal for the start and off they went.

One of the runners from the US, Mike Pierce of San Diego who calls himself “Antarctic Mike” after running a marathon in Antarctica, has a unique way of preparing for the run: he trains in a commercial freezer.

Eric Alexander of Vail, Colorado is an experienced mountaineer who escorted the first blind mountain climber to the summit of Mount Everest. It was Eric’s first attempt at a full marathon.

Albert Martens, 67, of Steinbach, Manitoba is the organizer of the Polar Bear Marathon. He is a veteran of 50 marathons and more than 10 ultramarathons, including the 217 km Badwater Ultra in Death Valley, California, which is known as one of the toughest footraces on earth.

Martens, who crossed the finish line in just over six hours in his first Polar Bear Marathon adventure, says that bear attacks don’t worry him. “We rely on the locals to keep an eye out for us,” he says.

Though the first Polar Bear Marathon started in mild conditions, the Arctic soon bared its teeth, bringing snow, strong winds and numbing cold

Late in the afternoon, Eric Alexander and Gary Koop of Steinbach became the first to cross the finish line. Neither of them had encountered a polar bear, but they were out there. We had several reports of locals that encountered polar bears on the road. In fact, one bear threatened the race. An armed volunteer scared it off by firing a noisy “cracker” shell. When the bear heard the explosion, it ran.

But it’s not all about adventure and polar bears. Albert Martens’ intent is to use running to connect with others and to raise support for charity. With the Polar Bear run the runners will be supporting the Native (First Nations people of Canada’s North) ministry of Athletes in Action (AIA) Baseball camps. To find out more about their work go to Albert Martens’ website at www.albertmartens.com.

Last year’s marathon was won by Sven Henkes of Germany. The race took place in minus 20 C and a wind chill factor of minus 41 C. All runners received a soapstone carving from a local First Nations artist.

Here’s a video about the Polar Bear Marathon.

Direct YouTube Link HERE

For more information about the Polar Bear Marathon contact Albert Martens, www.albertmartens.com

For more information on Churchill: www.everythingchurchill.com

For more information on Manitoba: http://www.travelmanitoba.com

Birgit-Cathrin Duval is a freelance journalist and photographer from the Black Forest in Germany. Having travelled to all the provinces and territories in Canada, which still draw her continuously back she has fallen in love with the arctic and the polar bears. Her work is published in a variety of newspapers and magazines in Germany and Switzerland.

Self Portrait 2.06.2010In 2013, her story on the polar bears at Seal River Lodge in Churchill has won the GoMedia award for best international print and online story, in 2014 she won the GoMedia Keep Exploring Award of Excellence for her outstanding work of travel stories on Canada. When she is not travelling in Canada, you will find Birgit exploring the trails and mountains of her native Black Forest. She works for newspapers and tourism organisations always on the search for new stories to be told. Presently she is working on a book about the Black Forest.

Birgit-Cathrin’s website: www.takkiwrites.com

Twitter: @takkiwrites

Facebook: Birgit-Cathrin Duval / Birgit-Cathrin Duval Photography

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Two Women Beat All Teams at TransRockies Run


We need more female role models in sports, and it looks like Magdalena Boulet and Caitlin Smith have stepped up to the plate. Together, they won the Women’s Open Division at the PepsiCo TransRockies Run yesterday.

They won each of the six stages of the TransRockies, and took first in the overall teams and the women’s division with a cumulative time of 18:47:32 for 120 miles and more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain. They beat every single team, every single day!

The race course included a mix of single-track and forest road through the heart of the White River and San Isabel National Forests, reaching altitudes of over 12,500 feet.

Magdalena Boulet is a 2008 Olympic marathon competitor, ultra marathoner and GU Energy VP of Innovation, Research & Development.

Caitlin Smith is a 2012 Olympic marathon trial qualifier and holds 42 first-place ultra marathon finishes and 26 course records.

Congrats, ladies!

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Whitney Weekend Run Report: High on Life


Summit: Sunday, July 27, 2014

Elevation: 14,505 feet (highest point in the lower 48)

Distance: 22 miles

Time: 12 hours

Summit Buddy: Robert Shackelford

Prep and Training

A few months ago our friends the Hassetts secured a few Mount Whitney permits and invited us to summit with them along with 20 other friends. We immediately accepted and began doing training climbs. We spent a week at Mount Baldy doing repeat summits, one Mount Gorgonio summit, and another week or so going up and down Noble Canyon. My first few peaks felt sluggish and I wasn’t sure I would be ready by the end of July. As time progressed, I grew more confident and our last summit of Mount Gorgonio the week before Whitney left me feeling strong and excited.

In retrospect, although those other summits were fun, they did very little to actually prepare for Whitney. Life above 12,000 feet is a completely different experience and until you climb that high, you really don’t know how your body will react. All those other summits were like running a bunch of 5Ks to train for a marathon. Of course, that’s the best training most of us have in the SoCal area.

I attribute some valuable conditioning to switching to a standing desk. I do a lot of writing and I work from a laptop. For the past several months I have done all my work with my laptop sitting on a box on our tiny RV cupboard. Between writing and running, I was on my feet sometimes for 12 hours a day. I felt a huge physical change. It was challenging the first week (my legs felt wiped out, as if I had raced a marathon), and then I got used to it. Now I only sit while driving or eating. I truly believe this helped immensely on Mt. Whitney where I was on my feet for 12 hours.

Before Whitney, I had only been above 12,000 feet once: at Hope’s Pass in Colorado as part of Transrockies 2012. I didn’t have any elevation issues and other than a slow climb, I felt wonderful. I was able to bomb the downhill although I was gasping for breath at the exertion.

For Whitney, I planned to take it a little easier, but I still wanted to test my limits and do my best.


On Friday morning we dropped Ginger off at the doggie kennel, a sad event we must endure if Shacky and I ever want to run together. (She had surgery a few months ago to repair a torn CCL ligament and she can’t run until October.) Ginger was distraught and so was I, but I knew it would be worth this epic weekend. Shacky later told me that sometimes people got in trouble for tying their dogs up at the top of the 99 Whitney switchbacks (at the National Park border) and continuing to summit Whitney without them (dogs are not allowed in the final 2 miles). WTF?? That’s a terrible place for a dog with very volatile weather that can change fast. Disgusting.

Mama Kitty stayed in the RV as a bear-guard (or was it bear-bait??). In any case, she made the trip with us. Mama Cat sat by the window and enjoyed the views all the way up to Horseshoe Meadows where we camped on Friday night. It was a long and hot road, and we had to stop a few times to let the RV cool. Much like Shacky, our little Rialta doesn’t do well in extremely hot temps like, say… around Death Valley in July. We had to drive most of the climb without any AC to keep the RV as cool as possible and we were all glad to finally see Paul Hassett waving us down at the Horseshoe Meadows campground.

We hung out with our friends for a bit while they set up camp. We went for a short walk, played some cribbage, then shared a dinner of hot dogs and salad and cherries. After that we played some Cards Against Humanity and went to bed.

We were camping and sleeping at about 10,000 feet to help us acclimate and I found that the elevation didn’t seem to really bother me. I attributed it to spending time on Gorgonio just a few days ago. I could jog normally on anything flat or downhill, though uphills still left me winded.

Poor kitty didn’t know what was going on. She continued her regularly scheduled exercise regimen of running insanely fast laps around the RV and over our sleeping bodies at around 2am, but after one lap she would have to stop and gasp for breath for a few minutes. When she recovered, she’d start again. Run, gasp. Run, gasp. It was a good demonstration of what we would be doing on Sunday.


The next morning, we drove to Whitney Portal bright and early to try and get a walk-in campground at the Family Camp. We ran into the camp host Lee at around 8am and he was extremely helpful and accommodating. We had about 15 people and one RV (ours), and we wanted to camp together if possible. Lee somehow worked his magic and we ended up sharing a site with Bill and Christine.

As soon as we got settled, Shacky and I emptied all our food into the bear locker, which was quite a feat since the RV is our home and we carry a lot more food than normal camping folk. We had dog food, cat food, cat litter, a million little scented things… We almost took up an entire enormous bear locker. On the bright side, it was a great inventory of what we had and we ended up giving away a lot of edibles we didn’t really need.

I was still really nervous about bears because I was sure there was still some sort of scent in the RV. Kitty bats her food around all over the place and there’s always some crumb. I cleaned up as best I could and crossed my fingers

As soon as the food was up, Shacky and I jogged / hiked to Lone Pine Lake. The views were so spectacular I got caught up in taking photos and running and aweing at everything. I was having a blast. The lake was breathtaking (literally). The hike did a great job of testing my lungs. I jogged some uphill, let myself get winded, and pushed my elevation potential to get an idea of what my limits were. I got back from the hike wanting more and I was confident I could do well on Sunday.

We went to bed right after an awesome group dinner of carne asada tacos. I filled my belly knowing I wouldn’t be hungry at our 2:30am wake-up and went to sleep with the sun.

Sunday (Summit Day!)

Many in our group had trouble sleeping at elevation but I had zero issues. I fell asleep quickly and on Whitney-eve I got a solid six hours. I shot up when the alarm went off at 2:30 am, excited to start the day.

After getting dressed, I emptied the kitty’s cat bowl while she slept. She would have to make do with no food until we were finished hiking (I couldn’t leave any cat food in the RV due to bear break-ins). It would be a long day and she’s not used to waiting for her meals, so I was a little worried about what she’d do when I failed to feed her in a timely manner.

Our friends were slow getting around, so we waited for them and got to the Whitney trailhead at around 3:30am. Our entire group except for three people had already left. I was with Shacky and our friend Jon. After they used the bathroom, we began a steady climb in the pitch dark.

I decided not to force myself to eat or poop in the morning, which is the opposite of what most people do. I knew I wouldn’t be at all hungry or needing to go that early and I really wanted to eat by feel. I had no idea how my body would react up there, but if I tried to stuff myself with food, I knew it for sure it wouldn’t do well.

Not pooping in the morning was a bit of a risk since Whitney has a pack-it-out rule. If I got the urge to poop on the trail, I would have to carry my poop with me the entire day in a special poop-bag. My hope was that I just wouldn’t feel like pooping at all.

About a mile into the trail, my handheld light started going dim. I had forgotten to swap out the batteries. I fell into pace in between Shacky and Jon who both had really strong headlamps and mooched off their light. Soon we passed Bill and Christine, then sometime later Rachel and the rest of the girls. Elizabeth was with them and she hopped on to our train. We hiked along with Elizabeth, Jon, Shacky and myself. Paul and Allen stayed ahead of us.

At Lone Pine Lake I started getting hungry and Shacky wanted to eat as well, so we stopped and I pulled out my sandwich. I was sad we were missing so many awesome views in the dark, but I knew we’d catch them on the way down. I ate my sandwich plus a Salted Caramel gel and felt much better. I was carrying a 3L Camelback bladder in my UltrAspire Omega pack as well as an extra handheld stuffed in my bag. I was drinking a lot of water, to thirst.

I didn’t hydrate well the night before. I meant to, but then I had a Lime-arita instead. When I peed in the morning, it wasn’t that clear. It was pretty warm in the morning as well, so I expected it would be a scorching day. I was drinking like crazy.

After our snack stop, we continued into uncharted territory. Everything after this, you needed a permit to hike. We all had our permits on our packs and we could vaguely start making out the outlines of the rocks and lakes as it got lighter and lighter. The sun never fully came out. It got light, but overcast. I was glad for the cloud cover.

The views, as we started to see them, were amazing. We weren’t stopping much to rest either, keeping a steady pace uphill, sometimes chatting and sometimes just walking. We passed several hiking groups and I was really pleased with our progress. Jon and Elizabeth were awesome company and all was fun and games until we got to the Trail Camp right at the foot of the 99 switchbacks.

I had never been to Whitney before, but I had heard of the 99 switchbacks. At first, I was confused about why people would count 99 switchbacks on one particular spot, when there were clearly switchbacks before and after as well. It was more obvious when I saw what they looked like: just one relentless straight-up climb.

Elizabeth started counting the switchbacks, which was helpful because I didn’t want to count them myself, but I wanted to know where we were. A few of the turns were tricky and it was hard to tell what counted as a switchback. Elizabeth kept us motivated to calling out the milestone crossings.

“30 switchbacks! … 50 switchbacks!”

We had to stop twice on the way up to catch our breath and drink water (it was hard to swallow and breathe at the same time). I was the only one with a GPS so I watched our elevation climb and called out our milestones.

“Twelve thousand feet! … Thirteen thousand feet!”

I later learned that the elevation was hitting Shacky hard and he was struggling not to doze off. He got really sleepy and said later it helped him that Jon was leading.

Jon did a great job. He was walking slowly which was about as fast as we could handle, stopped for two short breaks, and then pushed on ahead. Elizabeth called 95 switchbacks and I thought, “OK! We got this! Only four more!”

Except that 96th switchback felt about a mile long, and it started getting steeper. We stopped for the third time after only about five minutes of walking, recovered, then found the trail crest. We had made it!

We had miscounted the switchbacks: we were already at the end of them. What a pleasant surprise! I was hoping if we had miscounted it would end up this way instead of the other way around: counting to 99, then realizing you still had a few more to go.

At the trail crest we saw the sign for Sequoia National Park and it was mostly a scramble after that. We were near-bouldering up and down rocks until we got to the 1.9-mile sign. Less than two miles to go!

I knew those last two miles would take us about an hour, but I didn’t expect them to be the hardest two miles of the day. There was no real trail – it was mostly a bed of loose rocks strewn with larger boulders. We scrambled and climbed and scrambled and climbed. So near yet so far….

We stopped a lot to wait for Jon and Elizabeth to catch up. They both had their cameras and were taking some awesome shots. Our camera had broken in the first mile, but we were planning to steal their photos so we were glad to wait for them. We kept seeing people way off in the distance and it felt like we would never get there… until all of a sudden I spotted the cabin. We made it!!

We found Paul and Allen waiting at the top. They had been waiting for two hours and Paul would wait until Rachel and the girls made it to the top.

The summit was windy and cold, but when you lay on the rocks and the sun peeked out, it was glorious. Lots of photos were taken and we took our time to chat and eat. We saw Carlos and Leslie summit, then Bill and Christine.

Finally, we decided it was time to head back down. Jon and Elizabeth followed us on the gnarly descent. We ran into Rachel and the other ladies. They looked the way that we had felt going up, but we assured them they didn’t have far to go.

I was in great spirits on the descent. Finally some downhill! After we left the girls, it started to hail. At first it was just a little bit and it didn’t bother us at all. Then it got harder and harder until it was just pelting us. I put my hand up to my face to stop the hail from slapping my cheek and that’s when I spotted Deborah. She was the last in our group still heading for the summit, and she had been waiting for the storm to pass, trying to decide whether or not to push on. It was tough to chat with the hail-attack, so she hoped behind Shacky and I and started following us down.

The hail seemed to get worse. I wrapped my extra buff around my face and turned off the trial to try and find shelter. There was none. Shacky got in front of me and we both knew our only choice was to haul ass (safely) downhill. We got to the 99 switchbacks and the hail was still pelting. It stung my skin as it hit my wet jacket and it now covered the trail like fresh snowfall, only it was mostly ice-slush.

The wet rocks were extremely slick and soon the switchbacks had turned into a mini-river. Snow, water, and hail were gushing and flowing down the trail, racing us down. I was uncomfortable, but not particularly cold. As long as I kept moving, my core temps stayed high and the adrenaline kept me descending fast. We passed almost everyone we saw, even managing to run on some of the less-slippery spots.

We lost Jon and Elizabeth somewhere, but didn’t want to wait in the hailstorm. It turned out they had hung back with Deb and descended together.

Shacky and I forged on past the trail camp and over more rocks. We were doing the fastest hike/jog we dared on the slippery, soaking trail. Although we each slipped a few times, no falls were had and I was impressed with our descent considering the weather. Shacky had never run in hail before as it doesn’t rain much in San Diego, but he stuck right by me. I had experience with both and I actually preferred this to the boiling heat I had been expecting.

It was awesome to take in the views we had missed in the dark and my spirits were high. I stopped to eat, but the hail forced me to keep moving. Thankfully, I found my ability to chew and breathe at the same time had greatly improved. I ate an avocado and turkey sandwich as well as a pack of shot blocks while ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the views. I was so thankful for the downhill. It felt like gravity was doing all the work while we just cruised.

The hail turned into rain and then just a drizzle. While a lot of hikers were still trying to keep their feet dry, we charged through the creek crossings and soaked ourselves to the bone. As long as we were pushing the pace, I stayed warm. I was having a blast.

Before we knew it, we were at Lone Pine Lake again. My legs were starting to get tired, but it was only 2.5 miles to the finish. We started talking about what we would eat at the Whitney Portal Store (they serve awesome burgers and a kickass breakfast). Shacky decided he’d have a burger and I wanted an ice cream bar. We chatted and jog / hiked all the way down. I was high from this awesome experience, absolutely in the zone. I was so proud of us.

A few yards from the finish we saw a couple walking two dogs and I stopped to pet them. They had questions about the summit, so we chatted with them for a bit. We started seeing people with zero supplies just going for a stroll, so we knew we were super close. And then we were done!

Big high five! We weighed our packs at the finish. I had started with 13lbs and I was down to six. I didn’t finish all the water I had brought, though I did eat most of my food.

(Thanks to Jon and Elizabeth for all the following photos!)

Everything was wet back at camp. Shacky and I had been trying to outrun the rainy spots, assuming it was due to elevation, but it had apparently rained everywhere.

Shacky got a burger and a beer at the camp store, and I got ice cream with an iced tea. After enjoying our food, we made the half-mile trail trek back to the campground and Shacky went right to sleep.

The first thing I did was feed kitty. She was indignant, but didn’t appear to have visibly lost any weight.

I peeled off my wet clothes, gave myself my regular hobo bath (full body cleaning with no running water), and then ate some watermelon. I felt refreshed and energized. I couldn’t settle down. If someone had offered to take me for another run, I would have gone in a heartbeat. I was buzzed from our summit and I couldn’t wait for the others to finish. What an epic day. I was completely in my element. I always knew I preferred mountains and elevation, but this really sealed the deal for me.

Other than feeling breathless when I tried to run / speed hike uphill (which happens even in non-elevation), I had zero issues. No headaches, no nausea, no sickness of any kind. At one point I felt a slight throbbing my temples, like feeling your heartbeat in your head, but it didn’t hurt or bother me.

I can’t take credit for any of this—I didn’t do anything special as far as training or acclimation. I feel like I’m built to be in the mountains. My body wants to play there, forever scrambling summits at altitude. I’m learning that it’s a big part of who I am and where I belong, not just what I can do.


Recovery was flawless. I slept well, ate well, and my hydration levels are back to where they should be. I am so, so thankful for this body, not forgetting for one second how blessed I am to enjoy these physical freedoms and what feels like limitless potential.

I weighed myself today and I only lost one pound. That makes me confident that my decision to eat by feel was a good one. I ate much less on this summit than I normally do in a 12-hour stretch, but it felt right, and I’m glad I went with my “gut” (haha). I didn’t end up pooping on the trail, but all is back to normal on that front as well.

We left camp early to have breakfast and pick up Ginger as soon as possible. She was thrilled to see us, but she had a cut on her nose from constantly nudging her food away. Ugh. We both get separation anxiety…

I had to scold the cat today who had come to believe that Ginger’s bed now belonged to her, so therefore it was okay to attack Ginger upon her return. She’s sitting in her box right now, sulking at this unforeseen turn of events.

Next Up

We’re driving to Huntington Beach today to pick up our friend Pat Sweeney and his beer. Then we’re taking all of us to Colorado where I plan to get my butt on more mountains. The plan is… no real plan at all, except to thru-hike the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier in Washington at the end of this August.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll just wake up one morning and my whole body will have gone to shit and I won’t be able to do any of this awesome stuff anymore. But it appears that today is not that day… so I might as well go climb something.

Happy trails!


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Caballo Blanco Documentary Run Free: A Call for Support

A documentary about Caballo Blanco, his race, and his legend is in the works. We now have a chance to be a part of it.

This is a story about the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon race through the eyes of its founder Micah True (Caballo Blanco). Because Micah has since passed, this is the only footage of Micah telling his own story in his own words. The footage has been filmed over the course of five years, but we need help finishing it.

From Kickstarter:


So far we’ve made three trips overland into the canyons and four flights across the USA which resulted in more than 60 hours of interviews and race footage. All of the footage has been logged and digitized. We’ve created a rough cut and our movie is now in the final editing stage. We’ve done everything on our own up until this point but we can’t continue without your help. We are looking for funds that will enable us to pay our crew, equipment rental, graphics, titles, music licensing, audio post production, color correction and distributing the movie through a website and film festivals.

Please consider supporting our fundraising campaign through Kickstarter and remember – if we don’t hit our goal we will receive NOTHING!



  • FIELD PRODUCTION 15% – Crew, equipment and travel
  • POSTPRODUCTION 60% – Personnel, Edit Suite Rental, Graphics, Color Correction, Music Licensing, Sound Mix.
  • MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION 15% – Photography, Film Festivals, Website, Online Distribution
  • Kickstarter Fees 10%


Sometimes great stories are missed or overlooked because there isn’t a budget for them. We only have one month left to raise the necessary funds on Kickstarter. Help us tell Caballo Blanco’s story.

Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

Thanks in advance for your support.


Run Free Movie Trailer from Noren Films on Vimeo.


Direct YouTube Link HERE


Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

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Man vs Horse Race Entry Giveaway

man vs horse
Think you could you outrun a horse? Here’s your chance to find out!

Throw your name in for a free entry to the Man vs Horse race in Inyokern, CA on October 11, 2014.

Choose from a 10 mile, marathon, or 50K distance (no horses in the 50K).

Participants will be rewarded with an ice cold beverage of their choice; made on-site and served in a Man vs Horse souvenir pint glass. Choose from an Indian Wells Brewing Co micro-brewed beer, locally crafted Rocket Fizz soda, or delicious spring water from local artesian wells.

Participants will also receive lunch after the race and a custom t-shirt. All finishers will be adorned with a custom crafted finishers medal to commemorate their experience.

The trail consists primarily of fire roads and Jeep trails.

For the marathon distance, 1st through 3rd in each age/gender division will receive a buckle and all finishers will receive finishers medals.

Dogs are welcome in the 10 miler and will be provided with aid.

Runners: Your time stops when you cross the finish line.
Riders: Your time stops when your horses pulse rate is 60 bpm at the finish line.

Learn more:

UltraSignUp: http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=26098

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manvshorse

Race Website: http://www.desertdonkeys.com/


For a free entry, leave a comment below answering the following question:

What was one of your lowest or most difficult points in a race that you are proud to have overcome?

For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else online. Each additional share = one extra entry. For example, if you comment below as well as share on Facebook and Twitter, that’s 3 entries. Remember to mention where you shared in the comments below.

The winner will be chosen at random on July 1st and contacted directly.

Good luck!

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San Diego 100 Race Report: Will Run for Ramen

newbannerphoto1398380360sd100Out of all the 100s I’ve run, I was the least confident going into the San Diego 100, and rightly so—I was vastly undertrained. Probably not as undertrained as my first 100 miler, but close to it.

We entered the SD100 lottery on a whim while we were wintering in Pennsylvania, and got in. I was excited to start training, but was soon disheartened by the Pennsylvania winter that prevented us from moving any faster than a 20+-minute mile pace through deep snow.

I regrouped and took up some long hiking instead. We’d go out for seven or eight hour days on the mountain, bundled up like eskimos, and trudged slowly through the snow and ice. It was a beautiful, challenging, and sometimes frustrating experience. The extreme weather tested my willpower and mental limits, but I chalked it all up to good SD100 training.

When spring hit, the plan was to beeline to San Diego and get in some course training before the race, but RV repairs delayed us significantly and by race day we had only done two short hikes on the course.

What’s worse, we discovered that our winter hiking translated poorly into San Diego training. The heat and elevation were frying our brains and our bodies. It was hard to keep a running gait after so much hiking. And to my horror, we discovered that we had both gained 15 lbs of winter weight.

Although I had been active, I had compromised my nutrition on the east coast to include much more junk food than I normally eat, and under the winter layers I hadn’t noticed the extra pounds. By the time we got to warm weather, my running clothes weren’t fitting right and my body wasn’t moving the way I was used to. We did manage to lose some weight before the race (nine lbs down for me), but still not quite my ideal race weight.

I was negative about my ability to finish until a couple of days before the race. I kept telling people I would start but probably not finish, and I even told my pacer not to come, convinced that I wouldn’t make it to mile 50. I felt like I was running in a body that wasn’t even mine.

Paul Hassett, Shacky’s pacer, called us out on our negativity and a few days before the race and I realized I need to snap myself into the right frame of mind: I WAS going to finish! I could do this. I had done it before. Sure, it would hurt a little more… but I could finish. I WOULD finish.

I adopted Robert Frost’s Canis Major as my personal mantra:

The great Overdog
That heavenly beast
With a star in one eye
Gives a leap in the east.
He dances upright
All the way to the west
And never once drops
On his forefeet to rest.
I’m a poor underdog,
But to-night I will bark
With the great Overdog
That romps through the dark.

At the start line, I was excited to spend an entire day on the trails. I was poorly prepared—no crew, no pacers, only a tiny drop bag with a change of clothes and a headlamp at mile 56—but I was sure it would be a good day.

The vibe of the race was infectious. So many of our friends that we had missed were there, either as runners or volunteers. This was my element! I was right where I belonged.

At the start line, I chatted with Colleen Zato and warned her that I would be trying to tag along at her pace for the first 30 miles, but that she shouldn’t wait for me. I was a little worried about getting lost since I didn’t know the course very well, but I had also packed the turn-by-turn directions. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to consult them for the first 30 miles and could instead get away with mostly following Colleen. I knew she would keep a slow and steady pace.

Then we were off! For the first few miles, the trails were clogged and in some sections we were conga-line walking. The runners ahead of me would kick up dust (as I was doing for those behind me) and it was hard to breathe. When the crowd spread out, I let a lot of people pass me as I settled into a comfortable slog. I had already lost Colleen.

I ran for a while with Rob Distante and leapfrogged with Antonio Rios, and before I knew it we were at the first aid station. I grabbed some more water, a couple of orange slices, and left in under a minute. After that, we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing.

Me with Antonio. he went on to finish his first 100-mile race!

Me with Antonio. He went on to finish his first 100-mile race!


I was loving the climb! I’m a stronger hiker than I am a runner, and I managed to catch up to Colleen again. I was feeling great. We stuck together and took pictures and chatted until we ran into the next aid station (all the photos on here are hers). I saw Shacky coming out of the aid station as I was going in, and he looked like he was doing just fine. At the aid station I grabbed some watermelon, more electrolyte drink, and was off again. Colleen was seconds ahead, so I jogged to catch up.

Pirate's Cove

Pirate’s Cove aid station! Aaaarg!



The next stretch was lovely and effortless. We ran into Sunrise 1 together and I was surprised to find Shacky sitting in a chair looking rather miserable. He was holding a bottle with a powder mix, and a wet powder blob was stuck in his beard. “I don’t think I can do this,” he told me.

“SURE YOU CAN!” I practically yelled. “Just grab your stuff and we’ll walk the next section.” It was seven miles to the 50K mark and we had plenty of time to make the cutoff, even if it was a slog.

Me trying to talk Shacky into leaving the aid station

Me trying to talk Shacky into leaving the aid station


It was getting warm, but I figured it was just my lack of heat training (I later learned it had actually hit 120F+ in some sections). David Lopez helped me soak my head in ice water, we posed for (another) picture with Colleen, and then we were off.

I tried to keep up with Colleen, but she was way faster than Shacky so I decided to lag behind a bit. I walked a lot and kept looking behind me to see if Shacky was following. At first he was… until he wasn’t. I walked slower… but no Shacky. I stopped for a few minutes and let a few people pass me. Two gentlemen I had been leapfrogging slipped by, Corina Smith, and Jeff Coon. Still no Shacky. Hm.

I knew I still had time to make the cutoff… should I go back for him? I started taking a few steps back, and immediately stopped. WTF WAS I DOING?? I’M GOING BACKWARDS! Never go backwards. I lingered for another minute or so, and still no sign of Shacky. Crap.

Leaving Sunrise

Leaving Sunrise aid station with a reluctant Shacky


“What should I do??” I wondered.

I’m sure this sounds like a stupid dilemma, but for me it was a big deal. Everything in my girlfriend-nature wanted to go back for my dude. But every part of the runner in me thought that was absolutely ridiculous. I had already lost time… whose race was I running, anyway? MY race. I wasn’t a pacer. I knew that Shacky would hate for me to wait for him, but that didn’t matter. I felt—somehow—that it was my job to go back.

My internal dilemma only lasted for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. My mind wandered to the last song I learned to play on the ukulele: Jesse Ruben’s We Can.

Do not hesitate when people bring you down

Do not settle, Do not wait


You’re almost there…

I swear, I swear it’s yours

Fuck it. I started running and didn’t stop until I got to Pioneer Mail 1, the 50K mark. It was now 94F.

At Pioneer Mail, I soaked my head and stuck a bandage on a hot spot on my foot. I was feeling strong and got out of there in under two minutes. It was four miles to Penny Pines 1, and I ran it in. I was well ahead of cut-offs.

I caught up to Jeff in the next stretch and we jogged into Todd’s Cabin together. Jeff was having a hard time with cramping, something he had never experienced before. We chatted and passed the time until we got to aid. At Todd’s cabin I soaked my head again and grabbed some food. I was still feeling great, even though the heat was starting to annoy me. I got out of there as fast as possible and walk/jogged alone for a while. I was slowing down.

Corina caught up to me and we jogged into mile 44 together. Corina went to get foot aid while Regina Peters greeted me like crew. She said Elizabeth would be picking me up at Meadows, and Paul Hassett would bring me home. Insta-pacers!

“Um.. ok,” I said. But Paul was Shacky’s pacer!

“Did Shacky drop?” I asked her.

“Shacky dropped,” she informed me. “But he’s totally fine with it—he’s eating a huge burger right now.”

“THAT RAT BASTARD!” I exclaimed, “I’ll kick his ass when I see him!”

Regina laughed and I took off with some watermelon down the trail.

Starting to feel the miles

Starting to feel the miles


At this point I was starting to feel more hot spots in both feet. I had never had blisters before, and they weren’t hurting… just mildly annoying. I figured I’d ignore them until I got to Elizabeth at Meadows and let her help me deal with my feet.

I left Meadows feeling great, but somewhere in those next few miles every negative feeling hit me all at once, out of nowhere. It was suddenly too hot. I was starving. The rocks were too sharp. And OMG, my hot spots hurt. They must be blisters?

I considered stopping to take a look, but I was afraid to. What if they were terrible? I wouldn’t know how to fix them alone. I figured my best bet was to get to Meadows and have my feet looked at. I would also sit down and eat something hot. The sun was already starting to set.

Thankfully, I had packed an extra handheld light and carried it for the entire 44 miles… just in case I got hopelessly lost and had to spend a cold and scary night on the trail. I only had one drop bag at mile 56 with my headlamp and somehow thought I would make it there before dark. I was about 10 miles off.

All of a sudden I felt a POP in my right foot. My hotspot, which was apparently a huge blister, had popped. Then it started stinging in the most terrible way. Believe it or not, this had never happened to me in all my previous races. Another little known fact: I’m a huge blister wuss.

Every step after that felt like knives in my heel. I was able to walk quickly mostly on my tiptoes (to stay off my heel), but I knew I was compensating my stride with other muscles and I would soon wear out.

“I can’t be far…” I told myself. “Just get to Meadows! Then you can fix your feet and eat soup.”

All of a sudden it was extremely important to me that I have some soup.

“What if they don’t have soup there??” I tortured myself with this possibility. “I MUST HAVE SOUP!!”

The pain grew so bad that I started counting my steps just to keep my mind off my sucky situation. It was now pitch black and I was basically limping. I dug into my pack and grabbed my handheld light. I heard someone coming up behind me… it was Corina. She wasn’t looking too well, but she was still moving faster than I was.

“I’m dropping at the next aid station,” Corina told me. “I’m done.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll get out of there before the cutoff…” I sighed. It would take me a few minutes to eat and fix my blisters, and I was already going SO. SLOW.

I told Corina to go ahead. “I’m limping this one in.”

In retrospect, I probably should have sucked it up and jogged my way in. It’s not like the pain was getting any worse. But I was way too busy feeling sorry for myself and quickly losing my motivation to give a crap.

By the time I got to Meadows, my stomach was growling, I was feeling weepy, and I hated life. Paul Hassett, Jon Sanregret, and Elizabeth Kocek ran up to me.

“She’s here! She’s here!” one of them yelled.

“You have four minutes to get out of here!!” They barked. “Just check in and check out!!”

“But…. IS THERE ANY SOUP??” was my brilliant reply.

Corina was puking in the corner.

It took about one second for the three of them to decide that they would get me a quesadilla, hot soup (TO GO!) but I had to check out immediately. They would stop further up the trail to fix my feet, but they couldn’t stay in the aid station.

I was too tired to argue. Those bastards! I had planned to drop here!

They grabbed all my stuff, found me a log, and tore off my shoes. OUCH!! My blisters were pretty big. I tried not to look at them. I just stuck my foot up and munched on my quesadilla while Elizabeth cleaned my feet.

I insisted on popping them myself because, if you’ll recall, I’m a big wuss. And I took my sweet time popping them. Some fluid came out and then it started stinging some more. I pulled out my tape, but my insta-crew agreed that my tape sucked.

Jon ran back to his car to get some crazy bandages I had never seen before. They patched me up while I finished my quesadilla. I chewed slowly and wondered if I stalled enough, they might let me drop. No such luck.

By this time the aid station captain had found us and walked over to see if we were leaving anytime soon. He made sure I had a pacer. My insta-crew assured him I was fine and I would make it. I just looked at him with a blank stare on my face.

Finally, I got up and it was time to go.

“Oh…. your soup spilled,” said Elizabeth. She handed me an empty styrofoam cup with a lone, limp noodle dangling from it. It was still hot.


There was no time to cry. The aid station was closed and we were off.

I limped a few steps, then walked, then started jogging. YES! I could run without pain again! I was gonna make it! My mood had already improved.

I had run for several yards, starting to feel pretty awesome, when I had the sinking feeling that something was wrong.

“What’s wrong… what’s wrong…” I wondered. Then it hit me. HOLY SHIT! WHERE’S MY LIGHT??

Elizabeth was ahead of me with her headlamp and I was following her… no light in my hand.

“My light! My light!” I yelled to Elizabeth.


“I had a handheld light!”

“Oh yeah… you did.”

We both knew we couldn’t go back.

“I’ll text them and see if they have it….” Elizabeth suggested as she pulled out her phone. Turns out nobody knew where it was.

“It must be by the log,” I moaned. I must have dropped it in all the commotion, god-knows-where.

It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was also my favorite light! I felt myself slipping back into my grumpy state. All of a sudden, I was scared of falling. I couldn’t run anymore. Where’s the trail??

I asked Elizabeth to run behind me so I could use the light off her headlamp, but all that did was cast an enormous shadow of my own fat head in my path. I still couldn’t see anything.

“Do you think if I used your light and you ran right behind me, you could see too??” I was sure I had just come up with a brilliant solution, not realizing that we had just been doing that (with me behind Elizabeth) and it hadn’t worked.

Still, Elizabeth graciously gave up her light and I started jogging.

“Can you see?” I asked her.

“Um…. I think I have a light on my phone!”

Of course she couldn’t see. STUPID!

But I was jogging and that seemed to make Elizabeth happy.

A few minutes later Elizabeth had to pee. I went on ahead of her, but then I wanted to pee too. Then there was a hill I had to walk. And then… it seemed hopeless.

“We’re not gonna make it…” I moaned.

Elizabeth was a beacon of positivity. She was certain we would make the next cutoff.

A few yards away, we saw two more lights. What?? People behind us??

Elizabeth warned me not to let them catch up, but I was quickly losing my ability to care. I did try to stay ahead… but they caught up. They were moving so fast!!

“Hi!” They greeted us. “We’re the sweepers!”


They assured us that we were doing great, and we’d probably make it. They said it would be mostly downhill in the final stretch. I continued pushing… and I starting thinking I had a good chance. There was another runner up ahead of me, and I passed him. That got the sweepers off our tail, and I kept jogging/walking.

I had no idea how far it was or how fast we were going, but I did try to push. Every once in a while, I’d feel a wave of defeat and Elizabeth would have to reassure me. I was also hungry again.

We started talking about what I needed at the aid station. More water and hot soup. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HOT SOUP.

I also had a drop bag there with a change of clothes, but Elizabeth said there was not time for that. She’d just grab my jacket and an extra layer since it was getting colder, as well as my headlamp.

We saw someone standing on the side of the trail and he said we only had 0.2 miles to go. Elizabeth ran ahead to fill my bottles and told me to not slow down. I didn’t.

When I got there, I found Elizabeth arguing with the aid station captain. They were pulling us from the course.

“That’s ok… that’s ok….” I waved at them. “I’m ready to stop.”

I asked the aid station caption by how much we had missed the cutoff. She told me I was 15 minutes late. That was a lot… maybe I never had a chance. The drop bags were already packed up and with them, my headlamp. What’s worse, the aid station had shut down completely. No hot soup for me.

My day had come to the end at 56 miles, but I felt satisfied. I had spend the whole day running and suddenly the prospect of a warm bed and shower sounded too good to pass up.

I thanked Elizabeth profusely for pacing me, and enjoyed a bumpy ride back to the Start.

I found Shacky fast asleep in the RV, bloated from a bacon burger. Kitty stirred from her slumber and sneezed in my face. And all was right in the world.

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Reading to Cats, Playing the Ukulele, and Turning 32

A few weeks ago someone asked me what my long-term life goals were. In the past, I have been vocal about not really setting any, about the value of spontaneity and adventure, and the importance of getting lost sometimes.

Still, I thought seriously about the question and it took me a few minutes to realize that all of my “wildest dream” goals, I have already accomplished. I always dreamed about writing a book and running 100 miles. I wanted to travel and live off my art.

I am 32 today and I am so proud of the way my life has turned out. In the past 12 months, I have traveled more places than my first 31 years combined. I’m thrilled to be doing exactly what I want, exactly how I want it.

It’s time to set some new ambitions and explore new limits. How exciting!

Here are some “lifetime” goals I came up with in answer to my friend’s question. They seem far off and distant right now, but who knows… maybe in a few years I’ll be checking this list off and adding more?


  • write more books, maybe 10-15+
  • set some OKTs (Only Known Times… being the first to do crazy stuff)
  • remain nomadic (as long as I care to)
  • remain independent (not in a position of needing to rely financially on another)
  • travel internationally
  • learn to play 5+ instruments over my lifetime + sing
  • at some point, travel alone and get comfortable with it
  • thru hike the Colorado Trail. Pacific Crest Trail, Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, among others
  • train for and finish the Mogollon Monster 100
  • learn a martial art
  • read at least 100 books/year every year
  • play every day of my life (never all work)
  • Run Across El Salvador
  • learn one new word every day (vocab)
  • learn the art of farming
  • recite various poetry/song/stories from memory
  • learn 5+ languages in my lifetime
  • volunteer everywhere and all the time
  • continue to maintain and develop relationships with my family

In the immediate future:

  1. We will be working at a turkey farm in Colorado this August.
  2. We will be setting a date for a Run Across El Savador in the next couple of weeks. The plans have been in the works for most of this year and we’re looking at February 2015. It’s about 160 miles across the country! It will be a stage race.
  3. Traveling into Mexico next year (Copper Canyons, here we come!)
  4. 20 hours of volunteer work this month so far (at races). I tried a gig volunteering at an animal shelter and it was terrible because I wasn’t allowed to adopt every single thing. I heard there was a position for reading to cats though… To Kill a Mockingbird, anyone?
  5. I am on my four chapter of my next book. It’s about females and endurance. I’ll do a post about this later – there’s too much to tell. I also plan on writing something about all our travels (book #3?).
  6. I am learning the ukulele (banjo next).
  7. I am practicing and improving my Spanish (French next).

Thank you all for your birthday wishes and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for being part of my life. You are all so special to me.

This is gonna be a good year.


You May Also Enjoy:

Happy Hoboversary! Stats From One Year Later

Ontario, Canada: Finding Home Right Where It Always Was

Seeking Dispensers: A Call to Embrace a Wild Life


Check out my book: The Summit Seeker


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