Trail Therapy: Why Movement Outdoors is a Game-Changer

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By Gigi Griffis

About a year ago, I was having a full-on meltdown about my finances. I’d been scammed out of $350 and the whole thing sent me into a spiral of anger and panic and general gloom.

I couldn’t work. I couldn’t relax.

So I did the only thing I could do: I strapped on my day-pack, harnessed the dog, and walked onto one of the steepest hiking trails near my house, focusing on working my body and letting my upset mind focus on something else (like, you know, breathing, and putting one foot in front of the other).

It took less than an hour for my angry, whirling thoughts to settle as the noises of town faded away and I moved farther and farther into solitude.

And as my thoughts settled, I realized something profound.

I was upset about the $350 because it made me feel trapped. Because for the past few years, I work really, really hard, build up my savings a bit, and then—suddenly and unexpectedly—the expenses roll in. An unexpected medical bill. A series of vet visits. Or, in this case, a scam.

I kept thinking “I just can’t get ahead.”

That’s what caused my panicked spiral that morning.

But as I made my way quickly uphill (not quite running, but reducing a 1.5 hour hike to just under an hour), I realized that it was equally true to look at the situation from the opposite perspective:

“I’ve always had exactly what I needed.”

Sure, I wasn’t constantly watching my bank balance swing upward, but I also had never been destitute. I didn’t have to take a job I hated. I wasn’t living on my parents’ couch.

No, I was okay.

And so by the end of my hike, I was calm. Still not thrilled about the scam situation, but not railing or screaming or pulling out my hair in frustration. Just calm.

I’ve hit a lot of spirals like that. They’re usually around money or love or loss. Or losing friendships. Or wishing that my freelance business would (gosh-darn-it) succeed faster and in a bigger way.

But what I’ve noticed this year—a year that I’ve been lucky enough to get a visa to live in the Swiss Alps, with my apartment backing up to at least four challenging hiking trails and two easy ones—is that movement and nature are a deep, gratifying, and surprisingly instant kind of therapy.

It’s as if when I move up these mountains, pushing myself to go a little farther or a little faster than last time, I’m burning away all the negative, dark, and heartbreaking thoughts.

Because, in between telling myself that I can make it up the hill, noticing the perfect way the rocks spill over the hillsides, and moving away from the source of the trouble, even for just a few hours, there’s no room for those negative thoughts anymore. There’s no room to think that I just can’t ahead or that I’m not lovable or that I should give up.

After all, in that moment, I am getting ahead (quite literally). I am doing something just for me (which is the kind of thing that can’t help but make you feel loved). And I’m not giving up on the mountain, which makes me just a little more certain that I can conquer the less tangible things in my life as well.

And so I’ve begun to understand life a little differently this year.

On days that I’m frustrated, angry, or upset, I lace up my trail running shoes and run along the valley floor or wind my way, hiking, along the cliffs and up into the high alps.

When I noticed that I was feeling unmotivated in the mornings, I instituted a new routine, waking up at 7 a.m., loading business podcasts up in my iPod, and power-walking out of town in the brisk September air.

When I need a fresh perspective or just to be too exhausted to dwell on the tough stuff, I grab my jacket and I move. Up a mountain. Across a valley. Through town. It doesn’t really matter where. It’s the motion that clears my head, calms my heart, and reminds me that I can trust myself—body, mind, heart, and all.

14996296397_fe71042753_cGigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch named Luna.

These days, she’s hanging out in Switzerland, planning epic European adventures, and promoting her newly launched unconventional travel guides: ITALY: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, and How to Fit In and the smaller city guides for Paris, Barcelona, and Prague.

You can find more musings, travel stories, travel tips, and books at gigigriffis.com.

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

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About these ads

Funny Running Shirts Giveaway

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You know that favorite shirt you love so much that you wear all day, then to bed, then again the next day… for weeks on end without washing? No?… That’s just me, you say?

Well anyway, I have a new favorite tank.

Here is your chance to also be the proud owner of my favorite tank… or another shirt of your choosing with the potential to be your favorite.

Enter Funny Running Shirts.

Made with a tri-blend fabric, they are extremely soft to the touch and super light. As in, I feel like I’m topless when I wear it. Yay, topless!

The ink is dyed into the fabric of the shirt so it doesn’t feel like bumper sticker on your chest, and mine sports a clever fact: Running Sucks. (Oh but we still love it, don’t we….)

These shirts are all hand printed by the company’s creator Matt Perret in his garage in New Orleans. They are made 100% in the USA and a portion of all profits is donated to the Good Goes Around Fund.

Here is a video with a little more info:

i Am – Not Your Average Shirt from i Am Brand on Vimeo.

FUNNY RUNNING SHIRTS GIVEAWAY

Enter for your chance to win a free shirt. Any shirt, any design from Funny Running Shirts.

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling me about a time when running really sucked for you. We all have those miles, or days, or weeks….

The winner will be chose at random on October 20th and contacted directly. If you can’t wait that long for your  shirt, use the coupon code VANESSARUNS for a 20% discount on your purchase at Funny Running Shirts.

Good luck!

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

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Your Dirtbag Hospitality Guide

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Are you passionate about supporting your local dirtbags, but aren’t sure what exactly they need (other than a shower, obviously)?

Worry no more!

After three years of dirtbagging experience, I have compiled this handy list of what your dirtbag needs but may be too polite to ask for.

  1. Shower

Let’s start with the glaringly obvious. You can’t go wrong with this offer since a stand-up shower to a dirtbag can be as rare an ultramarathon race director in it for the money. The two things your dirtbag will appreciate the most: a little privacy and hot water. When you’re used to freezing creeks and public nudity, a hot shower is like bathing in a unicorn’s tears of joy. PS: Ignore any sobbing you hear behind the shower curtain—probably just chaffing.

  1. Wifi

Free wifi that isn’t from McDonald’s is pretty freaking luxurious. For a dirtbag, it feels like that time you got your very first email in your brand new email account that wasn’t a welcome email from Hotmail. If you really want to spoil your dirtbag, offer up wifi that’s strong enough to stream Netflix: a true gem. Please remind them to shoot an email to their poor, worried mothers who feel like they’ve somehow failed.

  1. Laundry facilities

There is only one thing that stinks worse than a dirtbag: their dirtbag of laundry. Keep in mind: these were clothes that were rejected by the dirtbag as being too dirty on their scale of extremely low standards. If you are fortunate enough to have a washer and dryer in your home (oh, the lappin’ luxury!), do the universe a favor and lend them out to the dirtbag cause. CAUTION: Do NOT attempt to load the washer for your dirtbag. They have been training for months to withstand the force of this smell. You’ll need a gas mask and/or resuscitation.

  1. Home-cooked meal

Dirbags eat. A lot. And rarely—oh so very rarely—do they get to enjoy the goodness of a home-cooked meal. If your dirtbag turns down a free meal shared amongst friends, they’re simply not a real dirtbag. Go ahead and cook up a storm. It doesn’t have to be the least bit fancy or even all that good. Oops—did the salt slip? Did you use the wrong spice? It’s already way better than your dirtbag’s last meal of cold Poptarts and GU.

  1. Leftovers

You’ve done the home-cooked meal. You’ve nailed the showers and the wifi and the laundry. Easy peasy. Now, if you really want to make a dirtbag love you, insist they take some leftovers for the road. It can be as simple as a sandwich or as easy as that old lasagna that’s been sitting in the back of your fridge for three weeks. A dirtbag will respond with enthusiastic glee. Legend has it that some dirtbags have even been offered take-home beer, otherwise known as Dirtbag Nirvana.

Remember: Dirtbags can be shy and solitary creatures. They will most likely never ask outright for any of the above luxuries, but with only a few friendly offers you may easily find yourself with a new (or slightly used) dirtbag friend for life (DFFL!).

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

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Whitney Weekend Run Report: High on Life

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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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

Monday

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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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

 

 

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:

WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP

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!

LUIS ESCOBAR PHOTO GALLERY

HOW THE FUNDS WILL BE USED

  • 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%

FROM CABALLO BLANCO’S PAST

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

Run Free Movie Trailer from Noren Films on Vimeo.

VIDEO FOOTAGE OF 2009 RACE START

Direct YouTube Link HERE

BEHIND THE SCENES MOVIE PRODUCTION

Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

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/

TO ENTER

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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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Reading to Cats, Playing the Ukulele, and Turning 32

cat-reading-newspaper
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?

MY LIFETIME GOALS

  • 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).
  8. I am READING ALL THE THINGS!

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.

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Welcome to Your Tribe: Born to Run Ultramarathons

SONY DSC
When I first started running ultras, I was lucky enough to meet the Mas Locos crew. For a while, I thought that all ultra runners were like this. After traveling around the country, I learned that no… nobody else is like this, and there are no other races like Born to Run.

Born to Run is more than just a race–it’s a running festival, mesmerizing for both runner and spectator alike. Here you’ll find hippies, cowboys, Mariachi heavy metal bands, guitars, archery, costumes, beer mile races, campfires, hula hoops, homemade burritos, and more.

Distances include 10 miles, 30 miles, 60 miles, and 100 miles, but be warned that if you run anything longer than 30 miles, you may miss some of the shenaniganza (Pat Sweeney’s made-up word for this event). Every time you pass through the start/finish, you’ll be cheered by a tribe of dancing runners.

Appropriately, the race course map is shaped like boobies.

If you get lost, it's your own damn fault.

If you get lost, it’s your own damn fault.

 
A few days ago race director Luis Escobar wrote the following about this event:

The Born To Run Ultra Marathon Extravaganza cannot be described on the static pages of a magazine. There is no adequate podcast, YouTube video or Facebook post. Until you have made the trek to the ranch in Los Olivos and spent the night under the stars and until you have literally danced in the California dirt and sang the songs and drank water from the well and until you have run through the oak groves and across the dusky ridges you will not fully appreciate the experience.

Born To Run is trail running at its finest and much, much more. We created this event as an experiment. What would happen if we invited running friends from across the country and beyond? What would happen if more than seven hundred happy people showed up and spent three days and two nights behind the closed gate of a private cattle ranch, with no amenities? As corny as it may sound, the answer is, love.

At first glance, the Born To Run Ultra Marathon is a 10 mile, 50km, 100km and 100 mile trail run. But after a few minutes on the ranch you quickly realize that something deeper and very special is happening here. The words Woodstock, Grateful Dead Show and Burning Man immediately come to mind.

Personally, I would describe it as Summer Camp for Running Hippies. Three days of camping, running games, bola races, beer miles, live music, dancing, archery, arts, tattoos, guitars, cowboy hats, rattlesnakes, shotguns, piñatas, food, drink, socializing, Tarahumara Indians and running – lots and lots of running.

In addition to all of that, there is more because Born To Run has become the icon of running harmony and the celebration of good things between all running cultures. As our Tarahumara friends have taught us, “When you run on the earth, and with the earth, you can run forever.”

Some photo highlights:

REGISTRATION FOR 2015 OPENED TODAY!

It will sell out this year.

Next event of equal awesomeness: New Mexico Running Retreat

Don’t miss out!

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Is Commercialization a Threat to the Purity of Trail Running?

mcafeeknobwintersnowPhoto: roanokeoutside.wordpress.com

Last month I set foot on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia for the first time since I took up running in 2007. For six years I had been purchasing books about the AT and accumulating hiking, fast-packing, and running gear. I completed my miles that day with Nathan handhelds, INKnBURN clothing, an UltrAspire pack, and Montrail shoes.

I can’t say how much money I have spent over the years on the sport of trail running, but I do know that as I ran along that famous trail, the last thing on my mind was what to buy next. And yet trail business is booming.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s annual report from 2010, the outdoor recreation industry boasts $289 billion in retail sales and services as well as 6.5 million jobs in America.

To argue that this bad-wolf commercialization is a perversion of the purity of our sport is in some ways ironic. Think about how you first heard or this sport. How many of us would be running trails if we hadn’t read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, Dean Kanazes’ Ultramarathon Man or watched JB Benna’s Unbreakable?

According to a study by Gary C. David and Nick Lehecka, the book Born to Run not only increased the visibility of trail and ultra running, but completely revolutionized the shoe industry. Their study quotes The Economist in 2011: “Ever since Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run hit the bestseller lists in 2009, Zappos, an online shoe retailer, has struggled to keep up with demand for minimalist footwear.” Similarly, Vibram saw sales jump from $470,000 in 2006 to $50m in 2010.

If you have:

  • read Born to Run
  • recommended running books to others
  • read or written shoe reviews
  • accepted free gear or nutrition in exchange for a review
  • listened to a sponsored running podcast
  • paid for a race entry
  • accepted a goodie bag from a race
  • accepted a cash prize from a trail event
  • clicked on a targeted Facebook or Google ad related to the outdoors
  • bought running gear on sale
  • supported race directors making a living from well-run, well-respected events
  • worn a promotional buff
  • supported or cheered for a company-sponsored team
  • become an ambassador for a company you believe in
  • recommended a product to a friend
  • bought or read a running magazine
  • become a sponsored athlete
  • entered a running-related giveaway
  • attended a book signing
  • added a promotional badge to your blog

… then you have already participated in the commercialization of this sport. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Does commercialization prevent us from enjoying the Olympics? The Superbowl? Perhaps it does. Or perhaps we wait for the commercials with anticipation, record them, analyze them, and share them on social media.

According to ultra168.com, commercialization may have more benefits than drawbacks. “Take one look at how well the North Face 100 is doing and what it has done for Australian trail and ultra running. It has attracted the likes of Kilian and Ryan Sandes to our shores and put us on the map as a destination to come and visit. Sure the companies behind this have deep-rooted motivations to sell more gear, but should we begrudge them that if we benefit too?”

It’s trendy to speak out against commercialization but the truth is that most of us are not mountain hermits. We live in a society of mass consumerism and eagerly participate in that system. We love swag. We’ll take free stuff even if we don’t need it. Can we really compartmentalize our sport so it never touches our morning Starbucks, Mac laptops, or Amazon accounts?

As avid trail runners, our job is not to keep the money out, but to keep this sport honest. So far we’re doing a good job.

When Leadville 100 crossed the line from a respected race to a greedy money-grab, we strongly objected. Hardrock 100 removed Leadville as a qualifier for its event, accusing the race of failures in “environmental responsibility, support of the hosting community, and having a positive impact on the health of our sport”.

The popular site run100s.com removed any and all mention of Leadville 100, stating that “They’re no longer a part of the sport of ultrarunning, but simply a business venture.”

Instead of hunting down prize money, our top athletes care about and defend our sport. In a Runner’s World article, Karl Meltzer said about the new Leadville: “Life Time is in it for the money. This company is road runner, gym-based folks that do it purely to make a profit.” The gatekeepers of our trails are loyal and effective.

Another point to make is one of perspective. Although our sport has grown by leaps and bounds, it is still comparatively low-key compared to the commercialization around activities like Cross-fit or obstacle racing in the recent years. With the exception of a small handful of races, we don’t see anywhere near the bonanza of sponsors that invest in other booming events.

Still, it is not a low budget that makes our sport pure. It is the care we put into our trails. It is our willingness to move across nature with old friends and new friends, suffering when we don’t have to. Our sport’s purity lies in the value we place on resilience, determination, and giving back. We are trail runners whether we pay hundreds of dollars for gear or just head out with homemade car-tire sandals.

When I motivate people to get on trails, I know full well that my encouragement is directly contributing to a commercialization of the sport. But the payoff is worth it when I see someone finish their first ultra, win their first trail race, or grow monstrous quads.

When the crowds do get overwhelming, I can simply retreat to my backyard mountains and enjoy miles of commercial-free solitude. In a few more years, when my Montrails are completely disintegrated with gaping holes and paper-thin soles, I’ll finally descend from the mountain and buy a new pair of shoes.

 Appalachian-Trail-SignPhoto: appalachianwoman.com

 

This article is part of the April 2014 Trail Runner Blog Symposium. This month’s topic was: Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

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How Taking a GPS is Like Taking a Lover

mount baldy

In my mind, I am running fast and free in my short-shorts, thunder thighs and glorious glutes. My dreads are flowing behind me in the crisp mountain air and my mind is free of mileage estimations.

I am rocking California’s Mount Baldy summit, a favorite of Southern California’s elite trail runners and the grandest summit of the San Gabriel Mountains. Old Baldy (10,064 ft) stands as the third highest massif in SoCal, behind San Gorgonio Mountain (11,499 ft) and Mount San Jacinto (10,804 ft).

Dr. B.H. Fairchild and Fred Dell built this particular trail in 1889. The men had visions of a great observatory at the summit—a dream that never materialized. The Devil’s Backbone Trail came along later in 1935 and took its well-earned place as the main route to the summit.

In my mind, this is child’s play—a jungle gym of sweeping vistas and stunning rock formations. The smells of oak, bay, fir, cedar, and pine are intoxicatingly inspiring.

In reality, I am slogging, hands-on-knees, and yelling up ahead for my boyfriend to tell me how much further we have to go. He’s the one wearing the GPS and I desperately need him to feed me some data. And how is he walking so damn fast??

baldy summit

Technology is complicated. So is love. I don’t claim to fully understand either, but after thousands of trail running miles all across North America, I’ve collected some general guidelines about each. They are surprisingly similar.

Taking a tech device out on the trial is similar to taking a lover: The idea seems great in theory but there’s a chance you’ll end up miserable.

A good GPS is like a good romance: reliable but not promoting obsession, motivating but not overly demanding, and consistent while still allowing for spontaneity.

A bad tech device is a bad lover: screaming at random times for no particular reason, making you feel terrible about yourself and your abilities, and confusing you with incomprehensible buttons and triggers.

As enamored as we are with the ideal image of that powerful and gadget-less trail runner bounding nearly-nude over mountains with his beard flowing three feet behind him, chances are we have more in common with the huffing mid-packer trying to decide which hills to walk and glancing nervously at his beeping GPS while he scarfs down yet another gel.

A tech device can only take away from our transcendent trail experiences if we allow it to. Our tools should propel us forward, not hold us back.

Running technology should worry about the details so we don’t have to, clearing our minds to drink in the scenery and stay in the moment. It should help us share a particularly beautiful route with friends and help us plot our next adventure together. It should teach us to be more aware of our bodies and motivate us to do our best.

If your tech device does none of these things, it’s time to consider a new relationship. Kick it to the curb and run away without ever looking back.

If you are lucky enough to have a healthy relationship…. err, GPS…. then you already understand that these things are not surgically attached to you. Every once in a while, let out your hair and go alone. Take a day where adventure trumps athleticism and speed bows to solitude.

I don’t care what your projected pace is—there’s always a day to watch the sunrise, turn over a rock, and forget what time it is.

mt baldy

This article was selected as Editor’s Choice for the February 2014 Trail Runner Blog Symposium. You can view it HERE at trailrunnermag.com.

This month’s topic was: Are tech gadgets more help or hindrance on the trail?

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