Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shoe Review: Total Trail Domination!

My evolution as a runner over the last few years has come in many forms.  Evolution of my body, mind, and spirit.  At 41, ultrarunning and trail running have put me in the best shape of my life.  But, this is not a post about all the Zen and peace running has brought to my life.  This one is all about one badass trail shoe!

Picture of the Grand dominating the horizon I took from my balcony.

Back in April I was presented an opportunity to move to Idaho to work and play in the Teton Mountains with my friend and world-class ultrarunner and human condition warrior, Lisa Smith-Batchen.  The universe conspired to give me what I wanted yet again.  So within 4 days, I condensed everything I needed for the next 5 months plus into 2 duffel bags, a back pack, and shipped my bike to Idaho

Lisa and Sister Mary Beth.  Talk about dominating dedication to a cause.

This is where my fellow anti-perimeter thinker Patton Gleason at comes in.  I could extol on the greatness that is Patton for the next several thousand words.  If you have had the good fortune to meet Patton you know what I am talking about.  If not, check out all the joy and goodness about running and life he shares on his website and HERE as well.  Patton just gets it.

(caption left blank intentionally-no words for this type of domination.)

Allow me to introduce to you the Inov8 Bare-Grip 200.  This shoe had me at hello.  Everything about it screams trail and domination.  This shoe came into my consciousness at the most fortuitous moment as I was packing for this Grand Teton adventure.  I wanted, no desperately NEEDED, a trail shoe that was up to the test that I was going to take on in the mountains.

Let’s start with the lugging.  The pattern and depth remind me of a baseball shoe at first glance.  It may be 102 in Texas right now, but at 6,200 ft in the Teton Valley we had snow on the ground just a few days ago.  Most of the trails at 9,000-10,000 feet elevation are still packed with feet and feet of snow.  Lower sections are muddy and running streams of snow melt coming down the mountain.  Most trail shoes do not sport the aggressive lugging of this bad boy AND they tend to retain mud to the point that you feel as if you are running in moon boots minus the zero gravity(quite the opposite actually).

Snowshoes?  Psshaw!  Who needs 'em!

From my first steps on the snow-pack, I had complete confidence in every step going up the trail.  Who needs crampons with these strapped on?  Fast descents on packed snow were a blast in this shoe.  I could take all the speed the mountain would allow me.  The real fun began when I hit the muddy sections and mountain streams.  This shoe shreds and sheds mud almost simultaneously.  Not once did I end up with clumpy chunks of mushy mud mired in the crevices of this shoe. 

This shoe is a complete and total ZERO.  As in zero-drop platform that is.  My inner-Sasquatch loves how in touch with the ground my feet feel in this shoe.  Rocky trail.  Muddy trail.  Snow-packed trail.  Rushing stream trail.  On all these surface conditions I always felt like the shoe was giving me just enough protection, but allowing me to take in all the sensory feedback of every nuance of the ground (and water!) below me.

This shoe makes you want to seek out water and mud!

Let’s talk uppers for a moment.  The overall fit and feel of this shoe is delicious.  Yes, I used the word delicious to describe how a trail shoe fits.  Try it and tell me I am wrong.  With very few inner seams, I have taken to running in this shoe completely naked.  Barefoot to be more specific, not bare-ass.  Although I have done that a time or two as well.  (Google “supernatural” running.  Try it you’ll like it.)  This shoe also evacuates water extremely well.  Within a step or so after a water crossing all the H2O is adios!


As Inov8’s most minimal trail shoe to-date, this baby has no midsole whatsoever.  This puts your foot right on top of the outsole and gives you that gnarly, flexible feel.  This performs well in drier conditions as well.  Loose and/or soft terrain is its sweet spot.  This shoe would be bit of overkill in hard-packed, sun-baked dirt though.  

9 out of 10 feet surveyed at Grumpy's Goat Shack gave this shoe a thumbs up!

The final verdict:  If you are looking for a no-holds-barred trail shoe that will allow you to let it all hang out and take dominance to a new level, look no further.  Stay thirsty my friends. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fifty Nine!

A week ago today I had the honor and privilege to run with my new friend Bill Frye as he commemorated the 10th anniversary of the unexpected passing of his father, Sheldon Frye.  It all began a year ago on April 19th.  Bill was feeling pretty low and thinking about all the time he had lost with his dad over the past 9 years.  They both shared a huge passion for Dallas sports.  They were regular fixtures at Mavericks and Stars games. 
This past year he decided to do something about the sad feelings he experienced around this date.  He decided to run in honor of his father.  Bill set his sights high.  As a very once-in-a while runner he had never done much more that a casual 5k.  Bill declared to the world that he was going to run 59 miles on April 19, 2011.  59 is how old his father was when he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.

From the very beginning many of his friends were concerned about Bill jumping so far out there.  Bill’s mom was especially worried about his health and the potential danger of taking on something like this.  Bill undertook a full physical from his doctor as he began hi s running regiment.  Throughout 2011 he worked on his running.  A major milestone for him was completing the White Rock Half Marathon in December.  Granted 13 miles is a long way from 59, but Bill was committed to the cause and still had over 4 months to keep training.  To create additional accountability he began telling all his friends and co-workers about this quest.  He also decided to raise money for the American Heart Association along the way and set another lofty goal of raising $15,000. 

Bill grew up with a very tight group of close friends in Jr. High and High School.  Among these is a guy by the name of Michael Durkin of Durkin’s Pizza fame.  A long time veteran of the restaurant business he makes the best pizza in all of Collin County and beyond.  Besides making a great pizza he is one of those great all around guys.  He makes the young kids that work for him post their grades and my kids think he is one cool cat. 

Durkin is the reason I had the opportunity to get involved with Bill.  Durkin knows about my er, uh, running habit.  Many times I will come off a long session on the trails and go straight to Durkin’s to devour one of his tasty pies.  One day in January he told me about his friend Bill.  He emailed me the link to his fundraising page (you can still donate HERE) and gave me his contact info.  Durkin knows me pretty well and though I would help Bill in his final push to get ready for his run in April.  Anyone who knows me a little bit knows that I would jump at the chance to help someone in this type of epic venture.

A few days later Bill and I met over a cup of coffee.  Immediately I knew this guys heart and soul was in it and he would not be denied.  With time pretty short to go from 13 to 59 miles we get right to work.  I built him a running schedule emphasizing time on his feet.  Speed will matter not in this situation.  He will have all day to get this done.  Our first together is 16 miles on the trail.  Much different than all the pavement he has been pounding AND it is also a new longest run ever for him. 

Over the next month or so we stay in contact and made some adjustments to his long runs as he battled some knee issues.  The weeks roll by, he puts in the work, and the miles start to stack up.  A few weeks  before the big effort I have him peak with a 5 hour effort on Saturday followed by another 5 hours on his feet on Sunday.  He came through in pretty good shape. 

Despite all this preparation and commitment by him, I remind him that it will be painful, uncomfortable, and there will be adversity to overcome the day he does the 59 miles.  There is always discomfort, but it is always up to you if you are miserable when this occurs.  When this moment arrives I am confident Bill will answer the bell and press on.

We plan a nice 5-mile loop that is flat, has a fair amount of shade, and provides good access for his friends and family to join him throughout his effort.  The days leading up to the run I encourage him to stay off his feet as much as he can, hydrate, and keep his energy reserves topped-off with some good, clean healthy meals. 
One of the really cool aspects of this entire scenario is the way Bill’s friends, family, and co-worker’s have rallied around him and this cause.  Most of Bill’s family, including his Dad’s brothers and sisters, have not all been together since the funeral 10 years ago.  Bill has almost 20 family members coming in for this.  Bill has already accomplished something quite wonderful.  He has turned the memory of the man his Dad was into a celebration that brings their entire family together! 

Bill and I decided to start the run at midnight.  The plan was to get as many miles in before the sun comes up.    It was an energizing send-off that buoyed our spirits.  Personally, my sole mission that day was to help Bill regulate his effort, keep moving, and do everything right he can to maximize his chances of completing the entire 59 miles.  Seeing his family there in the middle of the night only hardened my determination to make the day a huge success for Bill and his family.

We aggressively walked the first 5-mile loop on purpose to really ease into the effort and get everything warmed up really well.  Our walking pace was about 14-min per mile.  This is no casual walk in the park I assure you.  As we complete the first of 12 loops there is another crowd at our impromptu aid station.  A group of 6 of Durkin’s young employees are there to run with us.  They are all around 20 years old and chomping at the bit to run.  I lead the group to temper the pace and keep the young stallions at bay.  They friendly chatter and banter back and forth is a welcome distraction that helps the nighttime miles slip by effortlessly.  We run loop 2 in 58 minutes and loop 3 in 63 minutes. 

The young guns leave after running 10 miles with us and we pick up a few friends from his office for loop 4.  The plan is to work some good aggressive walking back into this loop.  Halfway through the loop Bill begins running again and I hang back with one of his co-workers to make sure she can find her way around the course in the dark.  We arrive back at camp a short while later.  20 miles done!  1/3 of the way  there.
Each time around I encourage Bill to take in calories each hour and really stay on top of his hydration and electrolytes.  I have him drinking two 24 ounce bottles each loop plus a few salt tabs.  He is really steady at this point and I encourage him to keep a really simple, efficient effort with as much walking as he needs during this next 20 miles.  He is starting to visualize how this effort may unfold for him at this point.  Get to 40 miles without exerting too much effort and then regroup to knock out the last 4 loops.

With the sun now up, the second 20-miles go by rather uneventfully.  Bill has lots of friends and family joining him on each loop.  He is walking more than running at this point, but covering lots of ground by maintaining an aggressive walking posture and not dawdling too long at the aid stations.  The local news was there as we complete one of the next loops.  They get shots of us coming in and out of the aid station and do a brief interview with Bill.  Spirits are very high as we finish the 8th loop and complete 40 miles. 

This is way beyond anything Bill has done before.  At this point we have been on our feet for over 12 hours.  Our loop we are running is entirely pavement.  12 hours just standing on pavement can be painful.  Running and walking during that time will certainly take its toll.  I believe walking on the pavement is much more taxing on your feet that running properly on pavement.  When you walk more of your foot comes in contact with the ground for a longer amount of time generating much more friction than if one was running with a proper, natural running form.  Bill has some pretty good hot spots on the balls of his feet at this point.  Even my feet are barking at me pretty good from the pavement. 

 So far today the plan has gone off even better than we expected.  We still have a lot of to cover before we  get to 59 and as is true in any ultra-distance, anything can happen…..

The dramatic conclusion of Bill’s epic day will be posted in a day or so.  (More photos as well as some video) Follow my blog to get updates when new posts hit.  Peruse the archives while you are here for more goodness.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I believe my metamorphosis is finally complete.  I have finally adapted into a pretty significant tweak I was working on with my running form.  It was not always easy and at times was quite painful.  Like anything else ingrained in our lives’ daily habits, change can often be difficult.  I had to remind myself to be patient, I remembered to listen to my body along the way, and I remained flexible to altering my path as necessary.

Before finding my natural running form.

A few years ago I made a major change to my running form by moving from a heel striker to a proper natural running form utilizing a fore-foot strike.  I will not get on my soap box here right now about why running with a heel strike is so horribly, biomechanically incorrect for every upright walking bi-ped on the planet.  The photo above is the result of trying to run 100 miles on very rugged terrain with very improper form. 

I pounded these shoes all year and they gave me nothing but love back.

It took me about 2-3 months of thinking about where my foot was striking the ground with every step I took.  One day while enjoying a jaunt on the trail it just clicked.  Last year I ran almost 4,000 miles in the shoes above completely injury-free thanks to my corrected form.  At an average of 1,000 steps for mile this means that I logged 4,000,000 steps in these shoes.

No drop here people!
There is only one problem with this.  As good as these shoes were to me last year they have a major design flaw in my opinion:  They have an almost 12mm heel-to-toe drop in the sole/cushioning of the shoe.  Why does this matter?  Stand on the floor in your bare feet.  Your heel and your toes touch the ground at exactly the same level.  Your foot has no drop.  It stands to reason that your shoes should mimic this.  More goodness on this topic at my friend Patton’s website HERE.

Newton Neutral Racer!  2mm drop at only 8.6 oz!

4,000,000 steps last year in a shoe with an elevated heel resulted in my Achilles tendon shortening from its natural length.  So about a month ago 2 months ago I started running in Newton racers and a few weeks later in the Newton trail shoe.  4 years ago Newton came on the scene and turned established, conventional thinking about running on its’ head!  I was so excited about my new Newton’s that I went out and cruised a 16-mile run in them day one.  Big mistake!  They felt great during the run, but after my Achilles was barking mad at me.  My 80 to 125-mile a week regiment had just been brought to a grinding halt.

Ice! Ice! Baby too cold!

Once I figured out that some serious adaptation in my Achilles tendon had to take place I attacked this concept with zeal.  My runs became shortened to less than 5 miles each.  To compensate I would do multiple runs a day 6-8 hours apart when I could to try and keep some mileage up.  One day I had to shut it down after about three miles and limp home the last 2 miles.  That was a miserable feeling.  Anytime I was sitting somewhere I had it elevated with a bag of ice.  Foam rolling religiously.  Lots of walking in my new 2mm drop shoes to let me Achilles elongate.  All told it took 3-4 weeks. 

Use a metronome app on your smartphone to hit 180!

There were moments I thought it would never happen.  I jumped on the phone with Patton after the day I had limped home pretty dejected.  I took away two additional mini-adaptations relative to my running form that proved to be very important to my success.  The first was that I should be LIFTING my foot off the ground not pushing off the ground.  More details on the why behind this HERE.  The second was that I was flexing my foot as I struck the ground instead of landing with a very relaxed forefoot, allowing my foot pad and toes to spread out, and then quickly lifting off the ground.  All of this should be done at about 180 steps per minute.  That is fast foot turnover that is low impact and wildly efficient in many ways!

Guadajuko has perfect form.  Check out his foot spread.  Caballo Blanco's dog photo by the greatness of Luis Escobar.

All of these efforts to adapt and continue in my evolution as a runner culminated this morning on the trail.  Last night around midnight we had a very severe storm flash across the Metroplex, leaving the trail very slippery.  I was excited for two reasons:  I love to run in the mud.  There would be no one else out there but me slogging it out!  My plan was to run the 8-mile loop 3 times at a very steady pace similar to what I would use in a 100-mile race.  The trail was glorious to say the least.  75 degrees and the sky was an indescribable shade of blue that I can still see when I close my eyes.  For 5 hours the entire 200 acres was all mine.  If I had not run out of fluids I would have pressed on for another loop or two.

The greatness ended all too soon today!

My patience and perseverance was rewarded today as my Achilles performed perfectly all day.  There was not any swelling or tenderness later either!  Another aspect of the day that delivered just as expected was in the area of mental clarity.  5 hours with nothing but the wind in the trees, my feet on the trail, and my soul soaring!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Follow your heart...

Paulo Coehlo, author of ‘The Alchemist”, shared the following thought from his blog here 
In the middle of a storm, a pilgrim reaches an inn and the owner asks where he is going.
“I’m going to the mountains,” he answers.
“Forget it,” says the innkeeper, “it’s a risky climb, and the weather is awful.”
“But I’m going up,” answers the pilgrim.”It is my dream”.
“If my heart got there first, it will be easy to follow it with my body.”

The five simple lines of this antidote capture a very powerful truism.  If your heart is not fully in something, ultimately you are not likely to be successful.  At some point along your journey you will be dissuaded by some adversity or perceived obstacle.  This can be applied to any aspect of one’s life:  Career/work, family/relationships, athletic endeavors, etc.
Bill and his Dad, Sheldon Frye in 2001
Less than 2 weeks from now I will run with my friend, Bill Frye, as he runs 59 miles to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of his father.  When I met Bill back in January the farthest he had ever run is 13.1 miles at White Rock.  It is a big leap to go from 13.1 to 59 miles.  The thing that struck me the first time we met to talk about this was that his heart was 100% committed to climbing this mountain.  I had no doubt at that moment that he will stand on the top of this mountain on April 19th.  Since January he has endured inclement weather, knee problems, and other discomforts along the path of this journey.  Because his heart is already there his body must follow.
Do you have the courage?
The question one must always ask yourself is:  What is truly in your heart?  What are you passionately committed to?  Too often we fail to follow our heart and our passions, only to wake up one day looking up at a mountain of regret instead of basking in the sunshine at the summit of one of our dreams.  The surrender happens slowly and the ground is given up without us even noticing most of the time.  What keeps us from following our heart and ultimately pursuing our dreams?  Fear.  Sometimes rational, but most of the time it is not.  I personally believe that most people give up on their dreams because they seek acceptance and approval from others first and foremost.  So what if your idea of success and happiness does not conform to some perceived social norm or standard!
Sometimes the journey is long with ample opportunity to quit.
Only you know what is true in your heart.  Which version of you will be the one your true friends and family want you to be?  The one who gave up on your dreams or the one who blazed forth on the trail that your heart told you was true?  You will always know the people in your life who are the ones who care the most about your happiness and fulfillment.  It is easy.  Just tell them your dreams and aspirations.  One group will scoff or look at you like you are crazy.  Odds are they have already fully surrendered.  Your true supporters will cheer you on as you pursue your audacious goals and pick you up when you fall along the way.  
So fear not.  The true joy in life is for those brave souls who have the courage to follow their heart and live their life on their terms.  A few Tuesdays from now I get to help a friend stand on a mountain top.  The view will be spectacular and hearts will soar!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dominate Adversity

Everyone faces adversity in certain points in their lives.  Sometimes it can be a very dramatic life-or-death situation and other times it may not even register as a significant event in the moment.  I love stories of people overcoming adversity.  People who in the face of overwhelming duress, find the fortitude to stay committed to a course of action or a goal and in the end are triumphant because of the immense mental strength and fortitude it took to persevere.

Amy Palmiero-Winters running at Badwater last year just 10 days after completing WS 100

This is probably also part of the draw for me to continue to push the envelope with running ultramarathons and seeking out challenging physical circumstances and situations that require mental stamina.  I always seek to push myself to that moment where physically things are becoming very uncomfortable and mentally there is a decision to make regarding the current adversity.  Do I fold or does my mind, body, and soul go beyond previous limitations and soar to new heights?

I had plenty of chances to cave after running hard early in this 50 miler

I watched the movie 127 hours for the first time this week.  I never read the book and I saw limited coverage of Aron Ralston’s story when it actually took place in 2003, although I was aware of the general particulars of his story.  Uh, wow!  Of course it is completely hardcore to cut-off one’s own arm under any circumstances.  I think we all would like to think that in a similar scenario we would have the tenacity and pure guts to do what Aron did.  I do not believe that kind of resolve is very common at all.  From the very beginning he took a very measured approach to his situation and kept recalculating his options all along the way.  Of course he did have a number of freak-out moments.  Who would not in this situation?  127 hours is a long time to be alone with your thoughts under this kind of duress. 

I have not read the book yet, but James Franco did a great job in a fantastic adaptation.

As a thrill-seeker, I found myself relating to Aron’s sense of wonder and adventure about the natural world.  I have scurried about my apartment in very similar fashion grabbing this and that while packing for an impromptu adventure on the weekend.  I love taking pictures of these adventures from unique perspectives.  Stuff you do not get to see if you are couch-bound.  I hope I never am in a similar situation where my life is on the line, but if it is, I would like to think I would have the courage to persevere as Aron did.

Being at the right place at the right time is no accident.  Explore your world!

Adversity and courage come in many different shapes and sizes.  Lisa Smith-Batchen running on a broken foot for over 1,200 miles of her 2,500 mile journey across the United States last summer was an incredible display of tenacity.  This picture of her finishing in her home town in Idaho last summer still gives me goose bumps every time I see it as I absorb the depth of her commitment to her cause and the mental strength it took to endure and overcome every physical barrier along the way.    

This pic was in my last post as well.  I take much inspiration from what it represents.

People we bump into during our everyday comings and goings are facing struggles we will never be aware of.  I use my local Starbuck’s as my home office away from home.  Sometimes it is good to have a change of scenery and people watch while working on my laptop.  There are lots of regulars I have come to know and the staff at MY Starbuck’s is great.  Cool people all with amazing tales to tell themselves.  Do you know how sometimes you meet people that emit this great energy and light?  One of the barista’s at this store is just such a person.  Her lightness of spirit and general joy is unmistakable.  Over the past few years we have become good friends.  She is also the mother of 3 very young boys.  About a month ago, Trish confided in me that she had a degenerative ocular disease that was going to leave her blind within a short number of years.  She had to consider various paths of treatment including intense chemotherapy.  Through it all she remained her usual vivacious self.  Ultimately she decided not to take the path of no-return involving chemotherapy.  By choosing this path she knew the odds were pretty good she would end up legally blind unable to see her children as they grew up.

This pic tells you all you need to know about Trish's attitude in life.

I have battles of my own.  None are life and death thankfully.  Currently my Achille’s tendon has been bothering me pretty badly.  After lots of ice and rest the last few days, it felt pretty good this evening as I headed out the door for a very gently run.  I planned on doing about 7 miles very easy.  2.5 miles in and it started to feel a bit tweaky so I shut things down.  I turned for home, cut the pace to almost nothing, and resolved myself to enjoying a brisk walk home in the fading daylight of a beautiful day. Put in the proper perspective, all is good in my world.

It was a beautiful evening just to be out last night.

I thought about Aron and Lisa as I walked home tonight and the strength of character and courage they and people like them display in these scenarios.  Now I am not about to tell you that I found the courage to finish my run strong tonight.    I did walk it in the rest of the way home.  But an amazing thing happened in the last couple hundred yards of my journey tonight.  As I approach my apartment Trish the barista comes bounding across the parking lot of the grocery store next door from out of no where.  “I am not going blind!”  she proclaims.  A miracle!  Alternative treatment options worked and she was given a new diagnosis that she no longer has the degenerative condition that was going to rob her of seeing her boys grow into young men.  I have no doubt that if she had gone blind she would not have changed a bit.  Her spirit and joy for life would have persevered through it all. 

The adversities and stories of triumph of others always remind us that no matter how difficult our own circumstances are there is always someone who was dealt a worse hand and was able to persevere.  Remember, when things are at their very worst and the storm clouds are the darkest, you must keep going.  It is beautiful on the other side! If you quit you will never get to experience that break through moment of pure joy and bliss.  Ironically, the break through moment for Aron came when he broke his arm so he could get on to the business of cutting off his already dead arm and get on with his life!

I cannot do a post about courage and not include an image from my favorite movie.

Will you be ready to act when the moment of truth comes for you?  Will you have the courage to seize the moment and break through?  I wish you all strength and courage for all of these moments of your life.  This world needs more Aron’s, Lisa’s, and Trish’s to inspire us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Running Hope to the World

I asked what people thought the sneak peek of this picture was going to be all about.  Tarahumari was the most common response of course.  They are beautiful people living in a beautiful land.  Caballo Blanco had the 2nd running of the Copper Canyon races this past weekend to support these indigenous people and their running culture.  I would have loved to have been there to experience that.  Perhaps next year!

These wonderful feet belong to the shining faces below.  These three boys live on the island of San Pedro near Ambergris Caye in Belize.  I was there this past weekend for a spur-of-the-moment trip with my girlfriend Calley. San Pedro is a small island where most of the people ride bikes, golf carts, or walk for transportation.  These boys were running up and down the street hawking bracelets and other trinkets to the few tourists who were around.  I watched them as they joyfully ran barefoot along the cobblestones with no thought or awareness of proper running form, foot-strike, etc.  They certainly were not wondering when the newest version of manufacturer X’s trail shoe would hit the shelves.  I wondered if they even owned a pair of shoes. 

The people of San Pedro and Belize in general are very welcoming and happy people.  Everywhere we went the locals were friendly and seemed very genuinely happy.  It is a very simple lifestyle that most live.  Housing is very basic.  People do not own cars, excessive electronics, or other “stuff”.  Sunshine is abundant and just enough of a cool breeze always seems to be blowing in this island paradise.  The thing I liked most about San Pedro was that it was not commercialized at all.  Where I live in “the bubble” all you see as you drive down the street are the same homogeneous clustering of national stores every couple of miles.  Most of the “resorts” here are over-sized residences with some beach-side cabanas for guests.  The place Calley and I stayed only had 2 other people staying there when we got there and they left after 2 days. 

We stayed at Xamen Ek resort.  The reef is only a few hundred yards off the dock.

Now I am not under some illusion that these gentle people are without problems.  Most of the problems we face here in the United States are completely self-induced and completely avoidable.  Take the economic woes of the last few years as an example.  Greed, over-indulgence, and a general focus on things that have nothing to do with true happiness have left many here lost and awash in a sea of debt and other misery.  Most have given up on the dreams of their youth.  Slowly the ground is given up on one’s dreams inch-by-inch. 

In San Pedro the worries are much more basic.  These three boys were not selling trinkets on the street at night because they wanted to.  They have to do this to help put food on the table.  Reading the local paper I was able to gather that the children here face many perils.  Abandonment and abuse do happen.  Not as badly as in some third-world places, but many are essentially living on the street largely on their own at 8 to 10 years-old. 

Rush hour in downtown San Pedro

Health care is a huge issue here.  It is not the same ridiculous entitlement issue that is happening in the United States.  There is no hospital on San Pedro.  There is no Urgent Care center.  There are a few general practitioners around, but the care is very basic.  The proprietor of the resort we stayed at had a friend who had a basic case of food poisoning misdiagnosed as kidney stones!  She ended up having to take a plane to the mainland and was hospitalized for 2 days in Belize City. 

I had an amazing couple of days overall in Belize with Calley.  We went snorkeling on the amazing reef there.  We swam with sea turtles, sharks, and manta rays.  It was very relaxing.  It is a place I would go back to again and again.  There is much of the Mayan culture and jungle ecosystem we did not have time to explore this time around.  Most of our activities were sand and surf driven. 

Calley commandeered my hat early on.  It looks much better on her.

Most of my posts have connection with running.  I think running is universal across geography, culture, language, etc.  We all have feet right?  Many of my amazing running friends are intimately involved in very important causes.  They use their running exploits to raise money and awareness about situations that need to be attended to.  They have fully embraced the concept put forth by Ghandi:  “Be the change in the world that you seek.”  These people do not just talk about of empathize with people who need our help.  They take action. 

Lisa Smith-Batchen is a perfect example.  For years she has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of children in Africa.  Along with her amazing spiritual sage, Sister Marybeth, they have raised millions of dollars and directly impacted thousands of children’s lives in a profound way.  Just last year she raised over $700,000 as she ran 50 miles in all 50 states over a 60 day period of time.  That is 2,500 miles for the mathematically challenged.  Half of those miles she did while running on a broken foot!

Never bet against these two.  They are a powerful force for good in this world.

There are so many people like Lisa that I know in the Ultra community who are making a huge difference in the world around them.  Caballo Blanco with the Tarahumari.  Jason Harper with his grassroots BE CHANGE campaign.  There are too many to list here.  The main point is this:  It only takes one committed, motivated, passionate person to make a profound difference.  The scale of the effort does not matter.  It can be one person executing a random act of kindness for one person.  If we all did this once each day the impact would be limitless.

Jason has impacted the health and wellness of over 500 children in Sacramento and inspired a movement much larger than himself within his own community and beyond.

No longer am I inspired just to run just to see how far I can run or how fast I can get there.  Yes, I will always revel in the simple joy of running and the freedom of having my feet take me anywhere I want to go with the sun on my back and the wind in my face, but for me it is about leveraging my passion and energies connected with running to make a positive impact in someone else’s life.  Running has been transformational for my body and spirit.  It is time for me to pass on the gift.

Lisa finishing mile 2,500 for the children on her broken foot.  No words necessary.

Whose life are you going to change today?  It just might be yours.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sneak preview of my next post...

Here is a sneak peek of a picture that tells an important part of the story for my next blog.

Coming soon!

What do you think these feet represent?  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Burnout baby!

Below is an excerpt from the newest post on a blog I frequent:
"Everyone experiences burnout.
Maybe you feel overworked, sick of your marriage or stressed about money. Maybe you’re living a daily cliché: one step forward, two steps back. Life can be tricky like that.
Believe it or not, burnout can be a beautiful thing. Instead of surrendering to burnout, what if you could use it to transform your life? Just like the story of the Phoenix, what if burnout was a chance for rebirth?
Four years ago I was overworked, stressed and a bit burned out. Now, I’m in a much different place. Here’s what I’ve done since 2007 to help redefine my life.
  • Quit smoking for good (after failing more than eight times)
  • Eliminated over $42,000 in debt.
  • Convinced my employer to let me work from home two days a week.
  • Stuck to a budget so we could live on one income which allowed me to …
  • Quit my day job.
  • Started to eat right and exercise.
  • Ended my relationship with stuff."
This resonated with me on two primary fronts.  The first was that I could totally relate to this person and the feelings they were experiencing a few years back.  Hitting the bottom and the feeling of burnout has been a part of my journey in the past.  I am not currently experiencing burnout.  Not unless you count how wicked fast my feet are in my new Newton's and all the rubber I burn in my speed work from my training at the Michael Johnson Performance Center!

The second was due to a number of people who have approached me lately looking for advice on how to get out of their rut and shed themselves of these feelings of burnout.  The themes are universal.  Job.  Relationship.  Diet.  Fitness.  Some are dealing with all four of these elements, while others may only have one or two areas they are trying to move out of stagnation.  

I believe one of the keys to moving out of this negative and toxic zone begins from within.  What is the common denominator in each of these four particular areas?  You are!  Attitude creates altitude.  This may be over-simplifying things, but true wisdom in this world usually is this simple.  It all starts with you.  You have to make the conscious decision that your current state of affairs, while undesirable, are only temporary. You can change anything about your life you choose at any particular moment. It may take several additional steps for you to arrive at your chosen outcome, but the longest journey begins with a single step.

Leave your old self behind!  90 seconds of greatness.

Two of my favorite quotes/mantras from my ultrarunning experiences standout to me in relation making real change in your life and have the dedication to follow through.

In regards to race pace:  "Start slowly and taper off..."  Taking immediate action is good to create some momentum, but it is more important to make consistent forward progress at a pace you can sustain.  A flurry of desperate activity with a quick flame-out will not create lasting change.

In regards to persistency:  "Run if you can.  Walk if you must.  Crawl if you have to."  All forward progress is significant.  Even the smallest of movements forward in your quest for growth and change gets you that much closer to where you desire to be.  Sometimes in an ultramarathon you can feel so good you think you could run like this all day.  Minutes later you may be reduced to walking with no perceived window of time that you can see that you will be able to run like you were earlier.  Invariably, your fortunes will change many times over when running 20-30 hours consecutively.  The key is to always be making RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION!  You only fail to reach your destination when you quit moving forward, no matter how slow that may be.

Get moving!  Be the change you seek in YOUR world!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Gentle Reminder

The following quote was posted by Gordon Ainsleigh on his Facebook wall a few weeks ago.  It resonated very loudly within me.  What a very simple and true statement that can be applied to guide one's entire direction in this world.

"Just a gentle reminder to follow your gifts, avoid distractions that steer you away from where you want your life to go, pursue at least two exercise disciplines with zeal and mindfulness, and fill your diet with whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Remember that you've been placed on this earth to do some things that only you can do, and if you don't do them, they won't get done."

Gordon is a renaissance man.  I truly admire and respect his approach to life.  As a longtime chiropractor, he has challenged conventional thinking in the medical community and embraced wellness from a simplistic, fundamental level.  I believe this "gentle reminder" captures the essence of this approach to life very well.

Western States 100-mile Endurance Run finisher's buckle.

Amongst those of us in the hardcore ultramarathon community he is truly one of the pioneers.  In 1974 he toed the starting line of the Western States 100 for the first time.  This is significant because all the other entrants were horses!  Gordon's horse came up lame and he figured if a horse could do it so could he.  A few years later the official human version of the event was born.  Gordie has officially finished the Western States 100-mile 22 times.  At the age of 63 this past year he completed the entire 100 miles just over the official cut-off time in about 31 hours.  

Let's break-down the quote form above:

Follow your gifts...

We all have unique talents, abilities, and passions that we have to offer the world.  Hard work and persistence can be used to overcome a lack of natural talent or other shortcomings, but if you can apply those same efforts and persistence to your strengths and passions even better!

Avoid distractions...
These can come in many shapes and forms.  Negative, poisonous people.  Possessions and trappings of the rat race.  Do not make the mistake of basing your life on stuff.  The true good stuff in life is based on unique, fulfilling experiences, not stuff!  Dream big, act boldly in that direction, and follow your heart.  This will surely lead to the fulfillment of YOUR personal destiny.

Pursue 2 exercise regiments with zeal and mindfulness...

Our bodies are designed for motion, and lots of it.  Use it or lose it.  Movement heals.  Some diverse or complimentary activities will add many quality years to your life.  Gordon obviously runs, a lot.  He is also an avid rock climber among other things.  In his 60's he can run circles around most of people of any age.  This does not happen by accident!

Fill your diet with whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables...

Again, this is what our bodies have been designed to consume for healthy fuel.  Not all of this processed, artificial crap most people buy in the grocery stores and happily pay way too much money for in restaurants.  A well-rounded balance of many different fruits and veggies will give you all the nutrients your body needs.  Look in the mirror at your body.  Naked.  This reflection showing back to you is a direct result of how YOU have taken care of your vessel in life.  Your exercise regiment and dietary choices have directly given you this result.  That is the plain and simple truth.  If you do not like what you see, and more importantly how you feel, do something about it.  The power is within all of us!

There are things on this earth only YOU can do...

We all possess a unique combination of talents, gifts, passions, and opportunities to find the path of our personal destiny.  Along the way people will come into your life for a specific reason.  Act on it!   That opportunity is presenting itself specifically for you.  If you let it pass it is gone forever.  So many amazing movements of human kindness started from seemingly insignificant acts.  The ripple effect of these positive actions is usually infinitely impactful beyond our perception.  Sometimes only later do we realize how huge that moment and the initial step we took to act might have actually been.

Some people seem to think the path to happiness and fulfillment in life cannot be this
simple.  We all have a choice.  Free will if you will!  I choose simple.  

What do you choose?