Must Have Been Another Earthquake, Kids by Jason Robillard (Book Review)

The first “real life” RVer we ever met and our earliest inspiration for hitting the road was Jason Robillard and his family. We tracked him as he and his wife Shelly quit their jobs in Michigan, moved into an RV with their three young kids, and hit the road full-time.

They made us think that we could do it too–frankly, because we figured: If they can do it with three kids, imagine how much easier it would be for our childless selves!

We were right–it was easier. Over the next three years we eased right into a simplified childless existence. We camped off-the-grid, chased adventures, visited breweries, and wondered how in the hell the Robillard’s were doing it with all those kids…

This book answers all those questions.

If you’re a curious parent who wants to give your children a healthy worldview, you’ll appreciate Jason’s insights. If you’re seriously thinking of taking your family on the road, you’ll pour over Jason’s detailed logistical tips.

What makes this book completely different from all the RV-info books already out there is the rare fact that Jason does NOT in any way sugar-coat the lifestyle. He is brutally honest about the pros and Every. Single. Con.

Although we’ve had a very different experience in our smaller, child-free ride, I found myself nodding in agreement at his candid advice. His personal anecdotes are unique and entertaining.

And if you haven’t had the honor of experiencing Jason’s masterful graphs, you’re in for a treat:

toastAnother favorite is the Q&A section near the end where Jason fields questions from real-life friends and acquaintances.

Check out the Table of Contents HERE.

See the book on Amazon HERE.

And the Kindle version is HERE.

I found this photo in the dictionary under “Accomplished Author”:

Happy reading and don’t forget to leave an Amazon review!

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

10 Overlooked Rights Worth Fighting For

rights worth fighting for

As a Canadian living in the USA, one of the first things I noticed upon moving here was how gung-ho Americans seemed to be about fighting for their rights. Issues like gun control, health care, and other common themes are sure to raise blood pressures and trigger heated debates.

Yet the greatest inhibitions in life are the ones we place on ourselves, and that has certainly been true for me. These past few months I have been attacking the obstacles that have been preventing me from embracing true freedom, and I’ve discovered that these are rights many of us have overlooked. And unlike many major political issues, these things affect us every day, several times a day.

Exercising the following rights has freed me in many ways, and I hope they will also inspire you to live better:

1. I will exercise my right to take my time.

Do you know what the worst part of a minimum wage job is (I’ve had several)? It’s not the crappy hours or the pathetic pay. It’s the 30-minute lunch breaks. Lunch in 30 minutes?! That’s unheard of. I’m a one- to two-hour lunch girl. I’m also a slow eater.

I’m slow at chewing. I’m slow at swallowing. And when I’m done, I’ll probably want dessert. God help you if I make tea—I’ll just sit there sipping until the sun goes down.

When I lived in Mendoza, Argentina, I quickly adapted to their European model of eating lunch. Everyone went home at lunchtime, prepared lunch, took their sweet-ass time eating, and then took long naps. They went back to work at around 3 p.m., and worked until around 7 p.m.. Now there’s a decent life.

The truth is, I’m slow at most things. I’m a slow runner. I’m slow at waking up. And I’m slow at thinking my thoughts and writing them down.

But I like to think that these things are worth the wait. Great things need time to just sit around, like wine or sauerkraut or cheese (more about cheese later). Slowing down also gives me time to make sense of my world, and write posts like these.

Ever since I left the corporate world to bum around the country in an RV, I’ve been less apologetic about taking my time. I’ve exercised my right to move slowly. As a result, I’ve noticed a drastic boost in creativity. I get more and better ideas. My thoughts have time to develop and intertwine. I write better, with more clarity, and I can make better connections.

If you operate in a rushed environment, I strongly encourage you to slow down. I was always afraid to try this, especially at work because everyone around me was moving so fast and I worried I would get left behind. But I wish I had been brave enough to slow down sooner. I would have been better at my job, better at relationships, and better at life.

Practice saying these amazing phrases:

“I need more time.”

“I’m not finished with that yet.”

“Please come back later.”

And every once in a while, take a long lunch. A REALLY long lunch. Make a cup of tea and drink it slowly with a friend. Yes, life is short. But these are the simple pleasures that make life worth it.

2. I will exercise my right to sing and/or dance.

A few weeks ago we were shopping at Trader Joe’s. Shacky was looking for some eggs and I found a little corner where they were giving away cheese samples. CHEEEEESE!! I love cheese, but I’ve been on a mostly-vegan diet since May (plant-based is a more accurate description). It was really good quality cheese though, so I decided to make an exception and try a sample.

I hadn’t eaten cheese in quite a while and it was so freaking good that I wanted to hop up and down and do a little dance. But I didn’t. Cause I was at Trader Joe’s and it was crowded. But I should have.

This wasn’t the first time I suppressed a little dance. I usually feel like singing on the trails, but sometimes Shacky says, “Do you really have to sing This Land is Your Land again??” Still, I don’t want to suppress stuff anymore. If I’m happy, I should do a little jig.

I love cheese.

3. I will exercise my right to make a joke.

When I was trying to be a cool kid back in the age range when being cool was important (Jr. High), Yo Mama jokes were in style. So were any other insult-jokes.

Like this:

  • Yo mama is so stupid that it took her two hours to watch 60 Minutes.
  • What’s the difference between three penises and a joke? Your mom can’t take a joke.
  • Learn from your parents’ mistakes—use birth control.

I loved jokes. I would go to the library to read joke books, but they weren’t insult jokes. My favorite joke of all time was this:

Q: Why was the math book sad?

A: Because it had so many PROBLEMS!!”

HAH. Still a damn fine joke.

But I never got to tell it. Because the exchange below never quite seemed like a natural flow:

Other kid: Yo mama is so fat that when she gets in an elevator, it has to go down.

Me: Why was the math book sad?

As the years passed, I never really grew out of my silly sense of humor. I always had a quirky funny bone, and I would often find myself laughing alone at things that nobody else thought were funny.

I grew up with a sarcastic and teasing sense of humor. In my family, if someone teased you until you cried or until you became raging mad—that meant that they loved you. I have vivid memories of my dad making me cry this way. I can’t say I always enjoyed it, but his sense of humor did seem to rub off on me.

My uncles were the same way. They would torment each other, and that was how they showed love. But at school, they called that bullying.

In Junior High, I had a good friend that I teased in music class one day. I told him that his new haircut made him look like he had cancer. My teacher heard me, and lost his mind. He threw his music stand across the room, screamed at me, and made me leave the class. I was shocked. What did I say?

At that time, my mom was dying of leukemia and it was actually something we joked about at home. Humor was a coping mechanism and I genuinely had no idea that cancer was a sensitive issue.

After that outburst from my music teacher (who I loved and admired), I learned to heavily sensor my humor. Even now, I have a sarcastic, dirty, and hard-hitting funny bone. I still sensor myself a lot.

But I’m learning to let go. To just be who I am, even at the risk of offending others. Yes, I can seem callous and inappropriate. But there’s something to be said about humor as a tool for healing. We are hurting, but it hurts less if we can joke about it. We are starving, but our stomachs can be filled with laughter.

One of my biggest reliefs in life is when I hear someone else make a highly inappropriate joke that I also think is funny. The realization that they have the same sense of humor—and that I can be myself with them—is so liberating.

I can tease others mercilessly, but I can also roll with the hardest of jokes when they are directed at me. The best thing in life is to be able to laugh at yourself. And when someone laughs at me—I still feel loved.

Last month, I took Shacky to meet my uncles in L.A. I was a little worried because I didn’t know how they would act around Shacky. As soon as they opened the door, the first thing they did was tease him about his beard. And they continued to do so for the rest of the night, as new beard jokes occurred to them.

To me, the thought of teasing someone immediately after meeting them, before “feeling them out”, is a huge risk. I think twice. But to see my uncles do it so naturally, I had to smile. They were being themselves.

4. I will exercise my right to look you in the eye.

“EX-CUUUUUSE ME! Do you have a staring problem??!!”

This was said to me by a snarky little black girl in my elementary school class. She scared me a little. But she was right—I had a staring problem. I like to look at people.

What can I say, people are pretty interesting. Faces are cool. But direct eye contact was considered rude.

  • Don’t look at strangers.
  • Don’t stare.
  • Keep your eyes to yourself.

All of these were things I was taught in school and in other social settings. So I stopped looking. Until eye contact seemed weird and uncomfortable. I lost my childlike courage to stare.

But I don’t really believe staring is a problem. I think I have a right to look you in the eye. You left your house this morning. You went out in public. We’re in a public space. So I believe I can look at you quite freely. I can wonder about you or think you’re pretty, or admire your clothes. And who knows, I may even say hello.

I’m tired of averting my eyes. I want to see you and notice details about you, and maybe even recognize you the next time we meet. And if you look back, maybe we can share a smile.

5. I will exercise my right to be silent.

My ex-boyfriend was a talker. I was always more of a listener, so I learned to perfect the art of acknowledgment-noises. Like:





Shacky doesn’t have any acknowledgment noises. So when I tell him something, sometimes he doesn’t reply at all. “Did he hear me?” I wonder. So I tell him again. No response. Again?

Eventually he just says, “I wish you’d be quiet.” And I have to laugh.

He DID hear me. But he exercises his right to be silent, and I’m learning to do the same.

Sometimes when I’m running in a group, I feel pressure to talk. It’s pressure I put on myself, thinking I have to fill every silence or people will realize I’m actually pretty boring to run with.

But silence is awesome, and I have a right to shut the hell up. I don’t have to make shallow, meaningless acknowledgment noises. I don’t have to rack my brain for something to say. I can just listen and talk when I want to.

Silence doesn’t mean that I’m mad. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong, yet often that’s what we assume. We think everything is cool as long as someone is gabbing.

In journalism school, one of my professors gave me a valuable tip that I never forgot. I’ve used it often with tremendous results. It’s this:

When you’re interviewing someone, ask them a question and let them reply. After that, there’s a lull. A short silence. The interviewer’s instinct is to fill this silence with a response, or by asking the next question. But if the interviewer is brave enough to remain silent, the interviewee will start speaking again. They will answer the question a different way. Because they’re out of their standard reply, what they say next is usually genuine, raw, and often the blatant truth. More often than not, they reveal something truly insightful and fascinating in an effort to fill that silence.

My professor was an expert with this technique, sometimes staying silent long enough for the interviewee to provide two or three answers. The key is for the interviewer to be comfortable with silence. They must perfect the ability to look at someone and just smile, knowing that they are waiting for you to say something, but refusing to utter a word.

I have been trying to eliminate wasteful words from my daily life. I want to stick to words that come from the heart and that mean something. Words with intention.

And if I have nothing to say—I will exercise my right to say nothing at all.

6. I will exercise my right to get excited.

Getting excited is never cool, especially when you’re a teenager. As a teenager, I would get excited about most things, so I was a pretty big nerd.

I would get excited about books, about nature, about learning, and even about homework. I would wonder how things were made, and I would get excited about that too. The cool kids were indifferent and unimpressed. That’s what made them cool. They would roll their eyes at me, so eventually I learned to stop showing my excitement.

I still get excited about a lot of things, but I’ll also still catch myself suppressing my excitement (see section above re: cheese dance). It’s a bad habit formed over time that I need to shake off.

I miss getting really excited about stuff. I miss jumping up and down and clapping my hands. I miss high-fives. I miss lingering at a rock formation or a sign, to examine them thoroughly and then get excited about them.

In my mind, I still see the rolling eyes of those judgmental teenagers, even though they’re no longer part of my life. It’s time to exercise my right to excited about dumb stuff.

7. I will exercise my right to experiment.

Jason Robillard has just written a book (to be released soon) on trail and ultrarunning. He calls it a “Guide for Weird Folks” because it contains a plethora of lessons and experiences he has accumulated over years of experimentation and doing the opposite of conventional running wisdom.

As a result, his book is full of tips that you will not find anywhere else. Jason has experimented with various forms of sleep deprivation training, stomach training (how to run on both a full stomach as well as an empty one), and even when it’s best to wear cotton instead of tech clothing. He has done everything from running in a sun hat to duct taping his gonads (sans instructional video). He even covers grooming in the nether regions for endurance runners (hair, no hair, or some hair?). It’s quite a read.

The success of Jason’s blog, and the pending success of his book, is a great example of the power of experimentation. I’m a big fan of guinea-pig-style writing, and I’m strong advocate of experimentation.

It used to be that ultrarunning was such a niche sport that participants HAD to experiment to find what worked for them. These days there is so much written about training and race tips, that you could easily follow conventional wisdom and, in my opinion, miss out on valuable knowledge.

Our society isn’t set up to encourage experimentation. We are consumers of the tried and true. We want someone to tell us what works so we don’t have to try new things. But experimentation is still the best way.

My ultrarunning experience can be summed up by stating that I’ve had great success by doing all the wrong things. I increased my distance too fast. I don’t taper. I almost always try something new on race day, including shoes. One thing that experimentation teaches me is the incredible skill of adaptability.

And really—what is an ultramarathon finish if not a successful adaptation to all the challenges faced throughout the day? Experiment, experiment, experiment. In this sport, there are no rules—same with life.

8. I will exercise my right to do my best.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?… Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you… As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

This is a quote that resonates with me. Often, I seem fearless on the outside. But my deepest fears are rooted in the fact that I’m afraid of what I could become if I did my absolute best.

It all started in elementary. I would do well in class, and get labeled a nerd. So I learned to hold back. I learned to do well, but not too good. I learned to never do my best.

When I started running ultras, I quickly learned that I was pretty good at it. I ran my first sub-6-hour 50K early on in my ultra career. I jumped from the 50K distance straight to 100 miles. I finished 100 miles on my first attempt. And in that same year, I finished four 100s.

Even so—I still hold myself back. During races, if I’m running fast and feeling good, I think:

  • I shouldn’t feel this good. Something must be wrong. I should slow down.
  • I don’t deserve to finish this strong. I should move slower.
  • People with more experience are further behind me. I should slow down.
  • I’m not hurting, but everyone else is walking. I should walk too.
  • I’ve had a really good running year. I should finish this, but not push too hard.

Deep down, I’m afraid of what I could become if I truly did my best. Like that elementary student, I want to do well but not stand out. I’m terrified of my limits. Not because they will hold me back, but because I may discover that I actually have none.

Little by little, I’m conquering those fears. I’m signing up for harder mountain races. I’m starting to expand my training: more core and strength work, with the purpose of getting stronger. I’m experimenting with more uphill running, instead of just power hiking. It’s a slow process, and sometimes I’m still very afraid. But I know that I don’t have to measure myself by anyone else’s standards. I can do my best, and soar to new heights.

And yes—I do deserve it.

9. I will exercise my right to fail.

From an early age, we set up our children for success. We try to give them every advantage, every head start, and the smoothest road possible to an easy and profitable life.

But don’t we learn better from a face full of dirt after a hard fall? From scrapped knees and bloody hands and hot tears? We learn from our failures, and we learn fast.

That’s how I grew up: with the face-full-of-dirt technique. That’s how I learned to ride a bike, to run on trails, to attack life’s challenges. Yes, some things were harder, like fitting in at school, but there was one thing I learned from growing up this way that has brought me great success: I lost my fear of failure.

I’m not sure it’s after your 100th time, or after your 1000th time of failing that you lose the fear of failure, but eventually it does go away. Failure just becomes a way of saying to yourself, “Try again another way.”

I have said before that when I registered for Chimera 100, I knew deep inside that I could not finish it. I embraced the possibility of failure, and started training my ass off. Had I been terrified of failure, I never would have registered. I never would have finished.

You know that feeling right after you register for a race, or take on a huge task where your blood pressure starts to rise and you think, “Dear God, what have I just done??!!” That’s good. That means you’re exercising your right to fail.

At my second 100-mile attempt, I failed. It was Nanny Goat 100. I only made it to 55 miles, and I felt pretty dumb because it was supposed to be an “easy” course. But the course was a 1-mile loop, and after 55 miles, the loops really got to me. I just gave up mentally. I just didn’t care anymore.

I learned so many things from that failure. I tried a few more looped courses, like Across the Years 72-Hours (1-mile loop for 3 days), and confirmed what I learned at Nanny Goat: I’m not really built for these types of courses. Give me mountains. Give me water crossings. Even give me mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and bears. But if you give me a loop where I’m going nowhere, I’ll want to shoot my brains out.

I still love the challenge of looped courses and greatly admire the folks who can buckle up and knock them out, but my failure at Nanny Goat taught me what my strengths were.

Failure is a shortcut to learning. The greater the failure, the stronger the lesson is reinforced. Embrace it.

10. I will exercise my right to dream ridiculously big.

“What the hell are you trying to do, run 100 miles someday??”

The biting words of my ex-boyfriend still ring in my ears. His tone was one of such deep disgust, and I knew he meant for me to be offended at his suggestion. It was right after I had come home from a long run, and he couldn’t understand why on earth I needed (or wanted) to be out running all day.

But I did want to run 100 miles. And how do you even begin to explain that to someone?

In life, I have learned that there are dreamers and there are dream-killers. Associate with dreamers.

Dreamers will not care WHAT your dream is or how ridiculous it sounds. They think you can do it, and will cheer you on.

  • You want to run a 50K on little training, Trisha Reeves? Oh ya, you totally got it.
  • You want to run across the country with no money and no shoes, Patrick Sweeney? Easy peasy. Go for it.
  • You want to backpack across Central America by yourself through dangerous places, Jess Soco? Totally doable.

It doesn’t matter how ridiculous your dreams are, or if they’re even about running. Dreamers will cheer you on. That’s because dreamers know just how possible the impossible really is. And they’re often right.

Despite what others think of your skills, capabilities, or experience: You have a right to dream big. Not just a little big. Ridiculously, that-makes-no-sense, you-must-be-insane big. The kind of big that everyone—except for dreamers—will scoff at.

It’s your right to hold on to your dream. To nurture it, protect it, and grow it.

I threw myself unreasonably into my first 100-miler after only a small handful of 50K finishes. It was senseless and crazy and unheard of. But the dreamers in my life said: “You want to race 100 miles after only a few mediocre 50K finishes? You can do it.”

And so I did.

I have to smile whenever I read ultrarunning how-to articles that caution you on going slow, staying safe, and “never do anything new on race day”-type advice. Of course, this is all very reasonable advice. I cannot deny these tips, and it is your right to follow those wise words.

However, it is also your right to take a huge chance. To be reckless and completely crazy and just dream big. Really really really big.

You can do it.



Seeking Dispersers: A Call to Embrace a Wild Life

East Jesus in Slab City: Finding Community in the Desert

Alaska-Bound and Other Adventures




Are Ultrarunners Narcissistic and Self-Centered?


My friend Jason recently posted a heartfelt and honest article about his journey with ultrarunning. Jason has just started working for UPS, a physically demanding job that has left him embarrassed about the self-centered aspects of his running.

His post brought to light several points that I have tried to make on my own blog over the past few months, so I thought it was worth a reply.

Read Jason’s post about The Narcissism of Running.

Here are my five thoughts on the subject:

1. You can tell who the narcissists are.

People come in all shapes, sizes, and intentions. Yes, there are people who run with a “Look at me!” attitude. But there are others who do it humbly, graciously, and with a giving spirit. It’s easy to pick out the narcissists:

  • A narcissist will tout his own accomplishments. A humble runner will call out the accomplishments of others.
  • A narcissist is all about bragging on social media, and will hijack the posts of others to report their own (irrelevant) mileage. A humble runner will use social media to inspire and encourage others toward their goals.
  • A narcissist will speed by his competitors whenever possible. A humble runner will encourage the people he passes, and motivate them to follow.
  • A narcissist will be eager to offer you advice you didn’t ask for, and assume you are much less accomplished than they are. A humble runner will relate to you on your level.
  • A narcissist will make excuses for their failures. They will blame the course, the volunteers, the RD, or just say they weren’t trying very hard. A humble runner learns from his mistakes.
  • A narcissist says “Look what I did!” A humble runner says, “If I can do it, so can you.”

A few examples:

a) At Ridgecrest 50K this year, my friend Shawna was having a low point when Raul passed her. Raul kept waving her along, gesturing her to follow him, and that’s how they got to the finish line together. Shawna PR’d her 50K that day.

b) Ed Ettinghausen runs countless 100s and is always on hand to wait for and cheer the last runner on the course. Those who have run 100s know how gross and tired you feel after you cross the finish line. All you want to do is change your clothes, take a shower, and pass out. You’re suddenly cold and miserable. Everything hurts. Now imagine sitting around for hours after that, in your own filth and fatigue, waiting for the very last runner to come in. Imagine cheering for them loudly and genuinely, a person you don’t even know. That’s Ed.

c) At the inaugural Mogollon Monster 100 this year, the winner of the race, Jamil Coury, was trotting along when he came across an elderly couple on the side of the road with a flat tire. He stopped running to make sure they were OK, and ended up taking several minutes to change their tire in the middle of the course. The couple was later shocked to learn that he was racing, since he took his time to make sure they were cared for and never complained about the delay.

d) Jesse Haynes was in first place (and went on to win) the San Juan 50K this year when he passed Shelly and me. We were lost and obviously in the wrong place ahead of him. He stopped dead in his tracks to help us and offer directions, not hesitating to break his stride for a couple of clueless runners.

e) At last year’s Ridgecrest 50K, I was crashing in the final miles. I was walking and feeling sorry for myself when Catra Corbett powered past me and yelled, “Let’s go, girl! We got this!” I ran after her. I crossed the finish line right behind her with a new PR, a sub-6 finish. And I got an award for first in my age group.

2. Ultrarunning is a community.

As cheesy as it sounds, we are a family. That’s why for Shacky and I, it’s important to attend races even when we’re not running. This is where volunteering, trail work, and cheering/crewing/pacing play an important role. There’s always work to be done at an ultra, and there are always runners who could use some motivation.

It doesn’t matter if it’s not your race. It’s somebody’s race. So you show up for them. You show up for the race directors who have too much to do. You show up for the volunteers who are tired, cold, and sleep-deprived. You show up for your friends who are running. For the runner whose pacer didn’t show. For the newbie without a crew. You just show up.

Although Shacky and I love to joke about sitting around drinking beer at ultras (and there’s a lot of that too), it’s equally important to me that we jump when there’s work to be done. I was proud at one race when Shacky had to drop out at an aid station, and ended up hanging out there to volunteer, pack up the aid station, and lift all the heavy objects because he noticed the volunteers were older than he was.

When I think about this sport, I imagine the passing of a baton. So many of these older guys have put in their time. They have forged the trails for us (sometimes literally). They have put in the hours of trail work, the volunteer time, and have set a humble example for us. Now we are the ones who are young, able, and on fresh legs. It’s time to get off our asses and make these events happen.

3. It’s not really about the running.

I totally agree with Jason that the running itself is pretty unimpressive and pointless. But it was never really about the running. It’s about the way a runner feels when they finish their first ultra. It’s about that realization when you cross the finish line at a 100-miler, that you actually are capable of anything you set your mind to.

It’s that sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and empowerment that spills over into every other aspect of your life. It makes you hold your head up higher, gives you courage to shed those toxic relationships, inspires you in your career, helps you raise your family better, and motivates you to live healthfully and happily. That’s why I run ultras, and why I encourage others to do so.

The physical act of covering random mileage is indeed senseless. But knowing for a fact that your body and mind are capable of far more than you thought—that is life changing.

4. You’re not as awesome as you think you are.

The runners with the most experience tend to be the most humble. That’s because they know that no matter what, there’s always someone who is faster. Someone who has run further, or who is injured less.

With ultrarunning, you never know who you’re talking to, so never brag about yourself. For all you know, the person you’re talking to runs your weekly mileage in one day. Or they’re a world record-holder. You can never tell by looking at them. So avoid looking like an idiot, and shut your mouth.

5. “I chose this.”

At Javelina Jundred, I came up with the mantra “I chose this,” to express a lot of what Jason is talking about. So many people in this world suffer to support their families. To put food on the table. Just to survive.

Some people suffer aches and pains to give their children a good life. If I suffer aches and pains, it’s because I’m running in the mountains. If I’m sore, it’s because I spent all day doing something I love. I am fortunate beyond belief, and appreciating that is so important. I chose this.

3 RDs to Give Back To

If you want to give back but don’t know where to start, here are three Race Directors who have embraced the humble spirit of ultrarunning, and could use a few extra hands.

1. Steve Harvey: California

Steve is a well-loved and important part of the ultra community in Southern California. He directs Chimera 100, Old Goat 50, and Nanny Goat 100/24Hr/12Hr. If you want to hang out with the best runners and the best volunteers, these are the races to hit up. Don’t worry if you’re a new volunteer. You will learn far more than what you can possibly contribute, and the experience will be rewarding.

Here is my race report from this year’s Chimera 100.

Race website:

2. Matt Gunn: Utah

Matt is the Race Director for Zion 100 and Bryce 100. He is a talented runner, down to earth, and eager to share his love for Utah’s spectacular trails. For jaw-dropping beauty, it’s hard to beat the trails that Matt plays on.

Last year was the inaugural Zion 100 run for Matt, and this year (April 2013) the course is even better. Shacky and I are both registered.

Newer races are always in need of help, so there are countless ways to volunteer for these. One thing Zion 100 was short on last year was pacers. Because so many people were coming from out of town, there was a huge need.

Pacing is single-handedly the most rewarding way to “volunteer”. Truthfully, you get far more out of the experience than you can give back. Zion 100 allows pacers as early as 30 miles, and I’d strongly recommend the pacing experience.

Here is a great article on how to be a good pacer: Part I, Part II

Race websites:

3. Jeremy Dougherty: Arizona

This year, Jeremy launched the inaugural Mogollon Monster 100. We had the privilege of helping out at the race and saw first-hand Jeremy’s passion and work ethic. Jeremy is a younger race director, eager to give of himself to put on an unforgettable event.

Like many new RDs, Jeremy took a financial loss to put on this event. It was a true labor of love. He describes the logistics of Mogollon here—a recommended read.

The Mogollon is a beautiful but brutal course in need of some helping hands. It’s worth getting involved with this one.

Race website:

So What’s the Verdict?

Are we really all just a bunch of attention whores?

Perhaps some of us are.

But in this sport, there is just as much opportunity to be giving, humble, and truly make a difference in someone else’s life.


7 Reasons You Think You Can’t Run an Ultra (When You Can)

3 Things That Rocked the Mogollon Monster 100

Why You Should Stop Rationalizing Running

Why You’re Not an Elite Runner (Yet)

The following is an excerpt of the first draft of my book. The book contains anecdotes and stories about the sport of ultra running, and how it relates to life. I haven’t picked a title yet, but here’s the section I wrote this morning. Enjoy!


When I first picked up Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run, there was one question that I hoped his words would help me answer: What sets an elite apart from the rest of us?

What qualities do they have that we don’t? What kind of drive, talent, training, or motivation drives them to excel? Apart from raw running talent, can this be learned? And most importantly, can I run better?

Read More: Eat & Run Book Review

At San Diego 100 2012, I paced Jay Danek who finished well under 24 hours. Jay had previously finished his first 100 miler in an impressive 19 hours. Although Jay isn’t an elite, watching him power uphill at around mile 80 changed my mind about running.

Struggling to keep up with Jay, I decided that I should start demanding more of myself. That I would start racing ultras, not just entering to finish. I wanted my main competition to be myself. My drive was not to win races, but to run better than I previously could.

Read More: The Turning Point in my Running Career

This morning, I read The New Yorker magazine article by Malcolm Gladwell titled Slackers: Alberto Salazar and the Art of Exhaustion.

If you don’t already know Alberto Salazar, he was “the greatest distance runner in the world” for the first half of the 1980s. Gladwell’s article shines a revealing light on Salazar’s development as a person and a runner, and I was surprised to see some commonalities with Scott Jurek’s own accounts in Eat & Run.

The resounding theme was an acceptance of pain. Not just expecting, but embracing it. Letting it drive you. Running despite it.

Read More: The Art of Exhaustion by Malcolm Gladwell

With a background of barefoot and minimalist running, I was taught over and over again that pain was bad. “Running is not supposed to hurt,” I was told. “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”

While this may be true as far as perfecting your form, it appeared to me that there was a pain threshold that most people dared not cross. And those that did, became elites. Elites had a wiliness to push beyond what they were capable of accomplishing pain-free. And that’s where they found greatness.

I don’t think running is supposed to hurt all the time. But if running never hurts, I wonder if you’re “doing it right”. I wonder if you’re growing. Exploring your limits. Improving.

Read More: Why I’m Rethinking Barefoot Running

Ever since I started running in 2007, I have not had a single injury. I am usually reluctant to state that fact, since I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Running is a sport plagued with injury. With injury being a major topic among runners, can I really consider myself a part of the sport if I don’t have any injury stories to call my own? And most importantly, does this reflect that fact that I have never pushed or explored my limits? That I’m not trying hard enough?

A few months ago, I went on a Movin Shoes training run. Afterwards, we went to a brewery for food and drinks. In the running conversation that ensued, someone suggested that running talent came in many different forms. For some it was speed. For others, endurance. And for others, the ability to not injure.

My ears perked up. Could my talent be an injury-free running career? I hoped so.

Coming home from SD100, I decided to start training. Harder and better.

I cut down on my racing dramatically, and concentrated on focusing my training around specific 100-milers. I planned my runs better. I incorporated speed training. I got help from a coach.

My coach, Jason Robillard, is a sub-24 hour Western States finisher and a 100-mile obsessor. He has been guiding my training for a few weeks now and I have been glad to report some great improvements.

We are focusing on increasing both my running and walking speeds, getting faster at mountain summits, and focusing on Chimera 100 in November 2012 as my “A” race.

Before Jason, I was running most comfortably at a 10-12 min mile pace, averaging around 30-mile weeks. I finished 100 miles in 29 hours, and not easily.

I am now comfortable at a 9-min pace, averaging 45 miles per week. I’m aiming to get faster still and boost my weekly mileage to over 50, on trails and mountain summits.

Read More: Jason Robillard Coaching

My joy is to watch small improvements each week. Last week, I hit a 4:45 min/mile pace for about two seconds. I was thrilled because I have never in my life run that fast for any length of time. I could feel my heart pounding in my throat.

About a month ago, I was proud of the fact that I ran so hard up a mountain that I had to puke twice near the top. Another first.

While I want to run better, I don’t particularly want to be an elite. I don’t think I’d like the attention that comes with it. I simply want to explore my potential, get lost in the mountains, and not be afraid of anything. Not even pain.

At the end of the Gladwell article, Salazar holds his hand over an open flame and says, “I feel that just as much as anyone else.”

Sometimes our conception is that elites run effortlessly. We think they can cover a marathon distance and feel fresh, like they just started. But it seems the opposite may be true: Elites are willing to hurt more than anyone else. They are where they are because they are not afraid of pain.

Today, I try to remember that when I run.

I was never elite material, and I’m still not someone you’d want to place your running bets on. Coming from a nerdy, overweight, and shy childhood, I had zero running experience until 2007 when I put on my shoes and tried to run away from a shitty life. By the time I did outrun it, I had fallen in love with running. So I just kept going.

Read More: 7 Lies You Believe About Ultra Running

 Today when I’m running, I think about that elite push. That willingness to suffer. And one thing I do know, whether I’ve experienced an injury or not, is how to suffer.

I know what it means to hit rock bottom, and still muster up the courage to stand. And not just to stand – to run.

I think we all have a little bit of that in us. Think of a life challenge that you may have overcome. A rough past. A problem at work. A shitty childhood. A dark secret. We are survivors.

We know how to endure. How to stand at a start line with senseless, irrational dreams. How to hope for not just a finish, but a win. With no track record or hope in hell… but somehow still believe that we just might.

We know how to grow wings on a barren trail. Turn no’s into maybe’s. And maybe’s into yes.

Definitely yes.

And so we keep running.

Why I’m Re-thinking Barefoot Running

After finishing my last barefoot trail race with Caity, host of the Run Barefoot Girl podcast, I started to question whether barefoot running was still for me. The experience was so grueling and painful.

I set out to finish a barefoot 50K, but after taking seven painful hours to complete the first 10 miles, I knew I couldn’t finish safely. I put on minimalist shoes to finish the race.

Here is a video I made before the event, with high hopes:

Barefoot 50K Born to Run.m4v from Vanessa Runs on Vimeo.

After the race, I was mentally broken for a few weeks as far as barefoot running. I went to running shoe stores to try on some “tools”, looked online for deals on real trail shoes, and asked my trail running buddies what non-minimalist shoes they wore. I even asked Ginger to write my race report for me, and she wrote a great one.

My take on barefoot running is slowly evolving.

Yesterday I recorded a video blog in response to a Run Barefoot Girl podcast interview with Barefoot Jaime. There were things I needed to express, and it has provoked some enlightening and honest discussion. Below are some links to keep you in the loop.

This is the original podcast interview that inspired my video response: Run Barefoot Girl’s interview with Barefoot Jaime.

And here’s my video rebuttal:

Rebuttal to Run Barefoot Girl Interview With Barefoot Jaime.m4v from Vanessa Runs on Vimeo.

Jason Robillard of Barefoot Running University picked this up on his blog and got some good discussion going there. Here is the link to his post.

For more discussion, feel free to add me on Facebook and read the comments below my video link. Or follow me on vimeo.

This morning, two more of my favorite bloggers touched on the subject. Here are their posts:

Barefoot Angie Bee on Barefoot is a Tool

Trisha Reeves on Building a Better Toolbox

Then one more by Krista Cavender: Barefoot vs Shoes Debate.

All of these are people with some great insights and experience. I’m all for a good old-fashioned debate, and I’ve had a great time following this topic thread.

Feel free to drop a note on one of these links and let me know where you stand. Enjoy!


SD 100: The Turning Point in my Running Career

How to Train Your Human to Run an Ultra

How will Caballo Blanco’s Death Change Ultra Running?

Mount Baldy (Mount San Antonio) Run Report

“Old Mt. Baldy (officially Mount San Antonio) stands as the grandest summit of the San Gabriel Mountains. No other peak in the range rivals its huge mass and lofty splendor… Old Baldy (10,064) stands as the third highest massif in Southern California, behind San Gorgonio Mountain (11,499) and Mount San Jacinto (10,804).” Dan’s Hiking Page

Last weekend, Shacky and I attempted to summit this mountain on Saturday and again on Sunday. We reached the peak on Sunday only.

This climb was both the hardest physically (yes, harder than the Pinos hill due to elevation), as well as the most spectacular in beauty that I have ever experienced.

Reaching the top was an “AHA!” moment, and something I’ll never forget. Such a great sense of accomplishment, an elevation PR for me, and jaw-dropping views.

Here’s what we did:


With the Robillards plus dog in tow, we headed out for the West approach from Mt. Baldy Village to Old Mt. Baldy Trail (aka Bear Canyon Trail, Bear Flat Trial, Mt. Baldy Trail, Baldy Trail). There are four ways to ascent the mountain, and this one has been labeled “The hard way to do Baldy”.

Where we started from.

Starting stats.

Here is a very accurate description:

“The no-nonsense trail begins at Mt. Baldy Village and first treats you to the woodsy charm of Bear Canyon with its gurgling creek and rich canopy of oak, bay, fir, cedar, and pine.

After Bear Flat it then emerges into open chaparral where numerous switchbacks steeply transport you to the ridge and an open conifer forest with expanding views.

You climb the ridge for miles and are treated with varied topography, shade and sun, sweeping vistas, remarkable rock formations, dramatic cliffs, mature forest, wind-swept bareness, and the top-of-the-world feeling as you conquer the highest summit in the San Gabriels.”

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. ” – Hal Borland

This trail is also rich in history:

“John Robison writes that this trail was built in 1889 by Dr. B.H. Fairchild and Fred Dell, who envisioned a great observatory on the summit. Their dream never materialized… With the extension of the road to Manker Flat and the construction of Devils Backbone Trail in 1935-36, Mt. Baldy Trail lost its place as the main route to the summit. But for many today, it is indeed their favorite route to Old Baldy.”

Source: Dan’s Hiking Pages

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
 John Burroughs

“The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.”
Georges Simenon

I was immediately mesmerized by the lush greenery along this trail. Thick, towering trees and hot, humid spots made me feel as though I was far from California and transported to a tropical, forest-like land. It was something I imagined I might see on a lush B.C. Canadian trail.

The trees seemed to envelop me completely with their thick, gnarled branches and curious formations. Instead of mostly rocky ground, there were patches of thick, dark, and rich earth.

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” – 
Martin Luther

“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.”
William Hazlitt

It was the type of ground where if you accidentally drop a seed, it wouldn’t surprise you to see it sprout immediately. I was in heaven and the dog was prancing like she had just come home. She would later throw herself across the creek and roll in the dirt.

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific
accomplishments fade to trivia.”
 – Charles A. Lindbergh

“When preparing to climb a mountain, pack a light heart.” – Dan May

It was mentioned that not many attempt this route, although we saw a fair number of hikers and one runner out there. It is approximately a 13-mile round trip with 5,744 feet of elevation gain. We spoke to one hiker, who described a way we could turn it into a 20-mile run, ascending and descending three difficult peaks. That’s now on our To Do List.

I was surprised at the lack of runners we saw, although at these inclines it was nearly impossible to “run” anything. Still, it’s grueling training for such a short distance, and I was surprised we didn’t see more athletes.

Ginger curious about Jason’s camera.

We saw a ton of these little guys.

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” – 
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I was also surprised at how late the hikers were starting their trek. It seemed that most of them left around 8 a.m. or later. We started running at 7, but it would have been comfortable to start as early as 6 a.m. On Sunday, we started at around 5:30 a.m.

Since it was only about 6 miles to the top, I expected that we’d be finished this run in about 3 hours or less. Two hours later, we had only advanced 3 miles. And I was already feeling like death.

Jason Robillard was cruising on his mountain legs, bouncing along ahead of us and occasionally waiting in the shade for us to catch up. Shacky was next, but started slowing down and feeling nauseous until he was able to eat something.

Jason waiting for us to catch up.

Shacky pushing on…

… and waiting for us to catch up.

I was hiking with Shelly, and my legs felt like lead. I was taking deep breaths, and found it difficult to keep up a conversation. As soon as I’d stop to rest, I felt great and immediately wanted to continue. But five steps later, exhaustion would sweep over me again. I couldn’t believe how hard each step was.

Up, up, up!

Shelly, my faithful “running” buddy.

There was no level ground on this climb. It was up, up, up. In the first mile, I thought it was fairly steep. Then Shacky told us we weren’t at “the steep part” yet. The steep part was indeed an ass-kicker.

With only 2 miles left to the summit, we decided to turn back. I didn’t think I could go on one more step.

The turnaround point. Wiped!

Turnaround stats.

Running downhill was tricky, but insanely fast. I couldn’t believe it has taken hours to get where we were, yet the descent feel like mere minutes.

At the bottom, we decided to drive 5 miles to the waterfall and hike up near the trailhead we would be taking the next day. I was thrilled see snow on this trip, and by the waterfall I played in it with the dog.

Trek to the waterfall.

Ginger’s first experience with snow!


Crazy fun!

It had been over a year since I had seen snow. Back in Canada, I would wonder every winter how awesome it would be to have snow, but not the cold. Now here I was in the hot sun, sweating from a run, playing in the white stuff. It was everything I imagined it would be.


Shacky goes for a dunk in the cool water.

Family walk back to the car.

We finished the day with 10 miles, and completely wiped out. After a good meal, we turned in for an early bedtime and a 4 a.m. wake up call the next morning. Going to bed, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful or rewarding ascent. I would be wrong.

Final data


Shacky and I arrived at the new trailhead, just below the waterfall while it was still dark. Since we didn’t have headlamps, we waited about 20 minutes for it to get lighter, then set off.

We were ascending on the South approach from Manker Flats via Baldy Bowl. It was approximately 8.5 miles round trip, with 3,900 feet of elevation gain. The trail has been referred to as a “glorify use trail”, which means it was developed more by use than deliberately engineered.

The roads and parking lot were abandoned, except for one hiker—an older Asian man who started a few minutes behind us. We quickly ran ahead of him.

The turn off the road onto the trailhead was so obscure and difficult to spot, that we had to measure the exact mileage and squint our eyes to make out a near-invisible “trail” carving its way through the rocky gravel at a very steep incline.

The barely-there “trailhead”

We headed up, not even sure if it was the right way. Soon enough, we could soon see the trail more clearly and spotted a hiker’s log. I wrote down some motivating verses from memory, and we proceeded.

Thanks Trisha.

The trek was incredibly steep right from the start. It didn’t ease into an incline like yesterday’s route—one minute you were standing upright, the next minute you felt like you were scaling a wall. And that’s how it remained for the entire ascent.

“All good things are wild and free.
” – Henry David Thoreau

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” – Edward Abbey

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods; There is rapture on the lonely shore…
I love not man the less, but Nature more.” – Lord Byron

I thought this would be the “easier” run based on mileage, but it basically takes the 6-mile climb from yesterday’s route, and condenses it to 4 miles by making it more steep, more technical, and more insane.

“Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.” -
 John Burroughs

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
 Henry David Thoreau

Dan’s Hiking Pages summarize this route simply by saying: “It’s not for wimps.” Truer words were never spoken. Dan also adds: “Don’t attempt to hike in snow unless you are trained, equipped, and experienced in mountaineering. People die on this mountain.” This would be Shacky’s first running experience in snow.

The trail was much more rocky than yesterday, but equally lush with trees. We saw a green cabin in the distance which served as our 2-mile mark. It was built in 1937 and can be rented out.

Green cabin up ahead.

Just gotta get there…

Our trail instructions said that if guests were renting the cabin, they may invite us to “top off our canteen” with the spring-fed tap flowing directly into the kitchen. There were indeed guest in it, but they went inside and closed the door as we passed. We tried not to disturb their privacy.

Halfway there!

Shacky got there first.

The trail had more water access and small creek crossings than yesterday’s run. We could hear the waterfall below us and fresh, cool water trickled at our feet. The dog drank freely.

Occasionally, we would come across patches of snow. We threw it around with the dog to cool her off, as well as ourselves. I took handfuls of snow and washed my face, neck, and arms. I even let some trickle down my back.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – 
Robert Frost

“Believe one who knows; you will find something greater in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”
 St. Bernard de Clairvaux

After we passed the green cabin, we came upon an incredibly rocky section. We were weaving through boulders, trying to make out the trail. We went off-trail several times, but as long as we kept going up, we were generally on the right track.

Soon, snow covered the ground completely and we were shuffling through it, trying not to slide straight down due to steepness. We lost the trail since all we could see was snow, so we just tried to make the best possible route for ourselves. It didn’t look like many people had been through here. On the entire ascent, we didn’t see a single soul.

Shacky had never run in snow before.

Finally reaching the ridge at over 8,000 feet, we saw a group of hikers packing their bags and getting ready to head down. They were surprised to see us and said we had come up “the hard way”—we didn’t know any better.

It seemed that a few people hiked up, camped at the top, and then hiked down the next day. That’s what these guys were up to.

We stopped at the ridge to eat. My stomach was growling and I was glad I brought a sandwich. We gave Ginger water, and she shared half my sandwich. I also had a Rise bar and Acclimate, a powder that’s supposed to aid in elevation issues. My only real issue was that it was hard as hell. After a few minutes of rest, we headed back out.

“Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” – 
W. C. Fields

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top.
Then you will see how low it was.” – 
Dag Hammarskjold

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Despite the steepness, we hadn’t yet reached “the steep part,” according to our instructions. I rolled my eyes and just couldn’t imagine what that steep part would look like. When we got to it, it was basically bouldering. I scrambled along after Shacky and Ginger, and had to stop a couple of times because my legs were literally shaking. I thought they would collapse right under me.

When it was over, we were so close to the summit, I could taste it. But first, we took a small detour through some deep snow and came upon a breathtaking lookout. The drop was steep and immediate, and I was nervous about Ginger getting too close and slipping off the edge. Shacky sat down and Ginger sat with him. I took their picture.

“The contented person enjoys the scenery of a detour.” – Unknown

Less than a mile to go. Shacky and Ginger went ahead, with me scrambling behind. When I turned around, I spotted the older Asian hiker right on my ass. I couldn’t believe it. How had he made it this far??

I pushed myself to get to the summit before him, where I was greeted by a happy dog and a tired Shacky. I was immediately overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment, and ran to every corner to look at the views. The mountain is called “baldy” because of the lack of trees at the summit.


No words :)

A California boy’s best snow angel attempt.


Pretty freaking proud of us.

Stats at the top

I felt like I was on top of the world. There was nothing higher as far as the eye could see. We celebrated and Shacky attempted a snow angel. By then, the Asian hiker had reached the top and we chatted.

His name was Mr. Kim he had hiked to this summit over 200 times. He told us how he summits every weekend, rain or shine. He never misses a week. My jaw dropped. The dude made us ultra runners look like pansies. I still have no idea how he finished only minutes after us. Well done, Mr. Kim.

Mr. Kim, my hero.

Leaving the summit, I was refreshed and fulfilled. But what would await me was something I did not expect from a trail referred to as “the Devil’s backbone”.

I expected a treacherous and difficult descent. Something devilish. But the backbone was my best interpretation of what heaven must be like. The ground was solid and rich. The trees were immense and lively. The path was narrow and adventurous, with sharp drops if you’re not careful.

“The more civilized man becomes, the more he needs and craves a great background of forest wildness, to which he may return like a contrite prodigal from the husks of an artificial life.” – Ellen Burns Sherman

“Men go back to the mountains… because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did men of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his powers or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out.” – 
Abram T. Collier

If you looked to the right: snow-capped mountain peaks. To the left: postcard-worthy views to take your breath away. I ran fast and tried to understand what I had done to get so damn lucky. I felt insanely blessed.

“Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
” – Walt Whitman

“We simply need that wild country available to us… For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
– Wallace Stegner

It was over all too soon, as we quickly reached the ski lift. We didn’t have money, so weren’t able to buy a beer at the store. We won’t forget our money next time!

It’s also possible to ride the ski lift down to the road, but we opted to run to the bottom instead. There was a shortcut that followed the path of the lift, but it was incredibly steep with tons of loose rocks. However, it was only a 1-mile descent, as opposed to 3 miles down the fireroad. We opted for the rocky trail.

It took a minute to convince Shacky.

Start of the fireroad heading down.

I was scared going down the shortcut. With every step, I was sure it would be my last. Shacky threw caution to the wind and just flew down. I inched my way along.

All we had to do now was follow the road back to the car, another 1/4 mile or so. We finished strong, and it was easily the most memorable run of my life.

Final data

I was incredibly proud of Ginger, who had never run at elevation and had zero issues. We kept an eye on her the whole way, continued feeding and giving her water, and she thrived with every step.

On the rocky sections, Ginger would run back to check on me. If I heard her coming, I’d yell that I was ok. She’d peek around a boulder to make sure, then run back to Shacky.

Sometimes she went off on tangents that were even more steep than anything we climbed, and I couldn’t believe how strong her footing was on these crazy inclines. I had never seen her like this.

Was there ever a happier dog?

Leading the way

Ginger’s secret is out—she’s not a dog at all. She’s a mountain goat. And on this summit, I found my own mountain legs.

Life is better at elevation.

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

– Edward Abbey


Photo Credits: Robert Shackelford, Jason Robillard


Los Pinos Race Report

Getting Lost on the Trail

Please consider this special year-end favor:

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Mine has been very satisfactory and relaxing. I’ve spent the holidays doing what I love: running and eating and reading.

Shacky got me a Kindle so I’ve had my nose stuck in it for the past few days. My sister is also here from Toronto, so we’ve been showing her some of our great San Diego trails and restaurants.

Tomorrow we’re all driving up to Arizona for Across the Years 24 Hour Race. Some of our friends are already there running for 72 hours.

I’m super excited about this race since it will be a distance PR for me, and I also know a lot of the participants. Among them, the Robillards, Ed Ettinghausen and Pat Sweeney. My sister Elizabeth also plans to run her first ultra here.

We start to race on December 31st at 9 a.m. and finish on January 1st at 9 a.m. We will take a break at midnight to pop some champagne and welcome a new year! I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate.

I’m posting today with a special request:

Please take the time to send the runners some motivational notes via Runner Mail HERE.

This race has a great Runner Mail service. You can visit THIS SITE, choose your runner’s name, and type up a motivational note for them. The notes will be delivered to your runner to help them remember that they have people cheering them on. You can do it right now and it will only take a couple of minutes.

Motivation is everything in long races like these, and it’s easy to feel alone. Please take a few minutes to remind someone that they have inspired you. If you don’t know any of the runners, pick a random name and send a note. It can make a huge difference.

You can also view the race through a live webcam HERE.

Thank you all for your kind support throughout this last year and enjoy these last few days of 2011! See you in the New Year!

BOOK REVIEW: The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard

BOOK: The Barefoot Running Book

AUTHOR: Jason Robillard

Review by Buffer Boesch

The main theme of “The Barefoot Running Book” centers around the why and how of running barefoot. The author Jason Robillard comes across as very knowledgeable and experienced on the topic.

The Why

The author begins by covering the current scientific evidence regarding the benefits of running barefoot. I found reading these statistics and studies a little bland. This is probably because I am already a barefoot runner (part-time), and I have already experienced the benefits firsthand. However, if you ever find yourself needing to defend your choice of letting your little piggies free, this book contains some useful facts to support your argument.

Thankfully, the book does mention what I believe to be the most fundamental reason to go barefoot: Because it’s fun. It also does a terrific job touching on the spiritual and emotional pleasure one experiences by being in nature, doing what nature designed you to do.

The How

In this section, the author explains how to start running barefoot correctly. According to him, because most of us have spent years wearing cushioned, “protective” shoes, a transition to barefoot running is not something to be taken lightly. The process is done by following a series of drills and exercises. All are designed to teach proper foot strike, posture, breathing and technique. The chapters are well laid out and take the reader from absolute beginner to an advanced barefoot runner.

Other Topics

The book also tackles many other topics that would be beneficial to any type of runner, such as training plans, nutrition, gear, racing, race reports, etc.


I was skeptical about reading an instructional book about doing something as natural as running barefoot. To me, a book based on how to go barefoot seemed ridiculous. After reading the book, admittedly, I did gain a certain amount of knowledge and I would recommend it to anyone beginning barefoot running. However, if you’re already doing it, your time would be better spent on the trails.

Buffer Boesch is world-travelling runner and adventurer. You can read more about his adventures on his blog at Wicked Lost.

** Jason is now offering his book as a FREE ebook download. You can get it HERE. **

Top 4 Tips for Newbie Barefoot Runners

Happy July everyone!

I know it’s summer because I’m starting to get questions and emails from budding barefoot runners about how to get started. Most people want specific tips and training plans, and a lot of questions around Vibram Five Fingers.

I thought I’d compile some general thoughts and tips to help out:

1. Buy a barefoot book.

I always point people to both Jason Robillard’s Barefoot Book and Ken Bob Saxton’s Barefoot Running Step by Step. Both of these are must-reads for anyone interested in taking up barefoot running. You will also get some valuable information about minimalist shoe running (including Vibrams), and these books say a lot more than what I can possibly cover in this post.

Jason is a barefoot ultra runner who recently finished a 100-mile race in under 24 hours. He’s a great blogger as well – informative and entertaining. I follow him closely as well as his fabulous wife Shelly. He knows his stuff. And best of all, he’s offering his book as a free ebook download HERE. Don’t miss out!

Ken Bob Saxton is like the Santa Claus of barefoot running. He’s some sort of peculiar mix of omniscience and kindness with a twinkle in his eye. He’s got a belly and a beard and his book will tell you if you’ve been bad or good. Everyone in the barefoot running community knows and loves Ken – he’s just as famous as Santa but more likely to respond to your Christmas letters.

2. Forget your goals.

Most people turn to barefoot running with a race goal in mind. Eg) “I want to run a barefoot marathon this fall.”

My advice? Ditch all measurable goals. They’re only going to frustrate and distract you in the beginning.

Come to terms and accept the fact that you might NOT run that race or reach those goals. That doesn’t mean that you won’t, it means that you’re ok if it doesn’t happen. Once you’ve accepted that, you may be surprised to find that you’re actually capable of much more than you had imagined.

3. Let your feet be your guide.

Have a training plan, but don’t marry it. Think of it more like your lover. You keep an eye on it and check in from time to time, but only if your feet are taken care of. If your feet say you can’t run the mileage on your training plan today, then don’t run it. And don’t freak out – you WILL run it another time. Everyone progresses at a different pace, but that doesn’t mean your pace will ALWAYS be slow. Which brings me to the next point…

4. Have patience.

Barefoot running has taught me so much about patience. And I’m not a patient person by nature. I’m very goal-oriented and I like to advance quickly.

The first barefoot pacer I ever had was Shacky at my first marathon, and that was also the first time I had ever run with another minimalist runner. Although we stuck to my planned pace, the shift in mood was significant. I was always GO GO GO!! But Shacky is so chill, sometimes it almost seems like he’s moving backwards. Yet the dude can kick my ass in any distance race, and when we sprint he leaves me in the dust. Sometimes going slower means you can move faster.

I’m lucky enough to have some superstar ultra running friends and when I watch their accomplishments I get all worked up and excited. I want to tag along so bad and sometimes I feel like the baby in the group – trying desperately to waddle along and keep up with the big kids. I know I’ll get there eventually when my damn stubby legs start growing. But in the meantime I get impatient with myself.

So I sing The Patience Song.

I was a kid when I first heard The Patience Song. And I sing it in my head sometimes on my long runs when I start to feel impatient with myself. I still have thoughts that creep up often about how much faster or longer I should be going, ignoring the fact that I’ve made some tremendous strides in a short amount of time.

The key to singing this song while running is to sing it REALLY slowly. And over and over and over. Like The Song that Doesn’t End.

Below is the lovely Miss Sallie with her version of The Patience Song. I hope you remember this the next time you’re out on a barefoot run wondering why your feet are such slow learners.


Have patience

Have patience

Don’t be in such a hurry

When you get


You only start to worry



That God is patient too

And think of all the times when others have to wait for you!

(Direct link HERE)

Remember – barefoot running is about the journey, not the destination. Take your time learning about your body and enjoy every blade of grass, every mud pit, every slab of hot sidewalk. You’re learning and exploring your limits. This is the journey of life. It doesn’t get any better than this.

A challenge to all (minimalist or non) shoe companies

I decided to delay my own blog this morning to re-post something that Jason Robillard put out this morning on his Barefoot Running University blog.

I like following Jason’s blog because I feel he has his finger on the pulse of all things barefoot/minimalist and he presents things in a way that I rarely see in other blogs. He’s easy to read and entertaining, and although our blogs have different focuses I felt this post was important enough to pass along.

Here, Jason presents a call to all shoe companies to be accountable to their consumers and offer up their products for public, independent scrutiny.

I don’t normally delve into the minimalist shoe debate, but I do strongly believe in accountability. The minimalist shoe industry is confusing to me. When I first started running barefoot, I couldn’t understand why as a “barefoot” runner I was expected to spend MORE money on non-shoes in order to run with LESS. When one of the minimalist shoes I tried literally cut my foot open, I was ready to give up for good.

A study like this would be invaluable for people like me, who are just trying to figure things out and don’t have an unlimited stream of income to spend on countless minimalist shoe options for experimentation. It would clear the air.

I hope this is something that moves forward and gains traction. So I’m doing my part to pass it along. I can’t say this any better than Jason did, so HERE is the link to his post.

Happy Running!


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