Monday, December 28, 2009

Burning By The Numbers...

So here I am.. sitting in the computer chair. Yeah.. sitting in the chair as opposed to the normal for this month.. laying in bed.. or laying on the couch. Sprawled out in my favorite chair with my feet up while the re-runs of Dirty Jobs or Deadliest Catch play ad-nauseum on the Discovery Channel. BUt I'm not watching the TV.. hell it's on right now.. I can hear the Bears miraculously beating the Vikings in the 3rd quarter... but I'm not watching it. I'm barely listening to it. The only thing that goes through my mind right now are flashes of greatness that have long since past. They all seem like a flash in the pain of what some consider to be no big deal... and maybe it's not.. but I know that when the day comes for the story to end, It'll be a hell of a read.

Man I can visualize moments of my life so great in my mind that my eyes well up with excitement, contentment and confidence that a sort of complacency overcomes all of these feelings. I remember the first time I scored a goal in soccer one chilly autumn night in Manchester, NH. My coach was pissed. I had won us the game yet he benched me because I was "supposed to be playing defense" and should have been no where near the goal. So proud I had finally done it.. scored a goal in a sport I was merely mediocre at only to be yanked by the coach. But what I remember most about that night wasn't the image of seeing my breath rise into the chilly air.. it was the loud cheers I heard from my family on the sideline. My family who during the time of my parent's divorce had come out to cheer me on. They held up a large bed sheet that said "Go John Paul!" I remember scoring that goal and running like a mad man around the field with my arms raised high...

I remember returning to my alma mater (High School) in 2005 to host the release of my documentary film "48." I remember walking out on the stage, bright lights blinding me and not being able to see any faces. I knew there were over 200 people staring at me and listening to my every word. But I wasn't nervous as I stood tall and told them how amazing it was that life comes full circle. I almost failed out of High School... failed out of college and yet here there I was.. 4 months from getting my Associates Degree in Radio/TV Production and Broadcasting and presenting to them for the very first time.. my documentary film. And as I walked through the audience as the film winded to a close I watched the reaction of my audience. I saw them laugh, I saw them cry.. I saw them become so moved that a few even embraced each other from time to time. Being able to drag emotion out of others was a huge rush and one of my biggest thrills in the life.. a great moment, a proud moment...

And then I remember running my first mile... I had tried many times to run a mile only to find myself walking many times. Yet I tried and tried and tried again.. until finally I ran a mile without walking a single step. And in that single moment, a few thousand miles would follow. I remember the feelings that ran through my body during the final miles of many races. My first marathon in Vermont followed by surviving my first ultra. I remember wanting to quit running all together when I struggled to finish the Bay State Marathon (The Easiest in New England) one cold autumn day. One cold day much like the night that I scored my first goal.. and then I remember running another 50K.. and another.. and then a few 50s.. and how could I ever forget my first 100 mile finishes. The first time in Illinois.. and my second time in Vermont. After finishing McNaughton in Illinois, I got One Day 100 Mile tattooed on my leg.. and then everyone said, "But John.. You haven't run 100 miles in one day yet.." They were right I'd tell them and follow it up with, "Don't worry though.. I will"...

So many great moments... too many to mention. These are just a few. And yet tonight while I sift through my computer I look through my collection of lists. I go to my peak-bagging database and marvel over the year I had not long ago where I hiked all 48 peaks in two months (winter).. and how I almost hiked them all 3 times in one calendar year. Yet, I'm lucky to find time to hike at all it seems over these last 2 years. I'm one peak away from finishing the 48 for a 5th time and 8 away from a 6th time. Somehow this year I became the youngest to complete a list.. and reset a record I all ready held.. great moments.

And then I turn to my running numbers. in 2007 I ran 2090 miles. In 2008 I ran 2065. In 2009.. only 1534 (to date). I've fallen off the rocker yet, I continued to have those moments tat define who I've become. And then I think that I've now been running for as long as I was ever a wrestler.. and I begin to wonder if I've lost that fire. So I sift through pictures and continue to remember great moments and live vicariously through those moments frozen in time. Some how some way I need to re-light the fire inside and rally through the harshest season. Rally to rise above once again to create new moments of greatness, to reach new finish lines. To explore new places and push the limits even harder. To get rid of the tire I might have to drag a tire. To get the strength back in the legs to get the miles back over 2K. To see my breath rise into the chilly air once more, to stand in front of hundreds, to see that bed sheet waving in the night.. to get back to the days of glory and to rediscover my own HUMAN POTENTIAL.

Starting over is hard to do..

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Goal Setting

Starting over is never easy... sometimes it's even harder then starting at all though some would certainly disagree. Either way, this is the time of year when we always strive for that fresh start. So... a we head into the 2010 we're going to strive to do these things together. All of you that visit this blog on a regular (or not so regular basis) now is YOUR time.. to think about the new. Forget the old, we've all been over it, analyzed it.. none of it matters anymore. What matters the most now is the future.

So whether you are a runner, or a hiker.. or an aspiring adventurer of any distance or kind.. now is your time to step forward and declare your goals. We're going to ignite that flame together.. we're going to take that first step together... and we're going to do this together.

So.. what is/are your goals for 2010? Send me an e-mail at or post a comment here. We'll gather everyone's goals and plug them into a post. The first step to achieving is believing.. Believe you can do it and DECLARE YOUR MISSION! It doesn't matter if its a 5K or your first ultra... stretch the bar.. dig deep.. now is your time!

Here are Mine:
Try to buckle at Western States and the Vermont 100
Run Across New Hampshire one last time on Primarily Trails
PR in the Marathon (3:37)
No DNF's

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Starts In Waterville

I have no idea what I'm going to accomplish this winter season in terms of White Mountain exploration. The last few years, I've set the bar pretty high only to come up short time and time again. I have a list of things I know I'd like to do and yet it all had to start somewhere. So, on the first official day of Winter, I put the call out for all comers of the UNH OE program to join me of a hike of Mount Tecumseh, better known as the 4003 Foot Peak of Waterville Valley Ski Area. I managed to wrangle one sucker in... and Marion, a Grad Student, was excited to join me on the adventure.

We left the parking lot of the ski area just before 7:30pm and headed out onto the Mt. Tecumseh Trail. The trail was a well packed highway of about a foot of snow down low. Water still flowed freely at the first river crossing but the higher we ascended up the slope, the deeper the snow got and the more frozen the mountain became as snow/ice bridges were forming well on the other two crossings. It was a rather chilly night, with temps hovering around 10 degrees on the mountain with a stiff westerly wind. Being on the eastern slope of the mountain we were well protected.

We enjoyed great conversation as we steadily climbed the mountain. The only thing we could hear besides our heavy breathing and words, was the pumping of the snowmaking fluid lines. The trail climbs ever so steadily before really increasing in grade making for a somewhat steep climb. We bare booted the entire way without the need of snowshoe or traction devices. The spruce trees above 3000 feet looked like a colony of snow people silently watching us as we moved on by. Our headlamps pierced the darkness and lit up the small tunnel of earth we walked through. I warned Marion that as we made the ridge the wind would whip up for sure and to be ready for it.. it didn't disappoint. As we topped out at the Sosman Trail, the wind cranked in out of the West and chilled me to the bone. We kept moving steadily and made our final approach up the summit cone. As we reached the top, We touched the cairn, stepped to the edge of a tiny outlook and shut our headlamps off and enjoyed the millions of lights above.. and the lights of the valley below. Such a surreal experience.. and if anything else, a wonderful moment of silence for busy lives.

We turned the headlamps back on and made our way over to the ski area. We knew we had arrived with the sound of the wind moaning as it slide through the open areas of the cell tower. We quietly walked on by and then we stepped out into a frigid open expanse. The ski area's main slopes are wide open allowing us an amazing view of Plymouth, NH and Waterville down below. I led us over to the main slope, I sat down on my sled.. and away I went. With my feet out in front of me and using my hiking pole as a rudder, I steered myself down the mountain side at times excellerating to speeds I was not too fond of yet I laughed out loud like a child. Marion hiked down on the side of caution, negotiating the steep slops by walking at the edge of the forest and the groomed trails, often time slipping into a deep spruce trap. I tried my best to control my speed and to ensure that I didn't injure myself and putting her in a bad situation. At times, I just sat down and slide down the icy groomed slope on my butt. It was great fun.. and we made it to the base of the mountain in about an hour.. a 2 mile sledding run I'll never forget.

I'm not a huge fan of winter, but I'd like to think that I started the winter hiking season on a good note. Now, as soon as the new running tights come in, I can get my feet back on the roads and continue to prepare for the year 2010.. running and mountains.. tons of work to do.

Thanks Marion!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 Year In Pictures Part 2

To view Part 1 CLICK HERE
2009 was another great year of adventure. This is the continuation of the year in photos. Click on the links above the photos to head back to old reports!

We bushwhacked up Raymond Cataract to continue out 4th of July Traditions.

With Adam and Al we reset the Belknap Range Record
(No Photo)

I finished my 3rd straight Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run in under 24 Hours.

We went backpacking into the Pemi-Wilderness staying at the beautiful 13 Falls Tentsite

Set a 5K PR at the Cigna/Elliot 5K in Manchester 20:04
(No Photo)

Then I spent 5 days backpacking through the White Mountains

I finally became the youngest person to ever complete the TrailWrights72 Peakbagging List

We sought redemption and found it at the Wapack 17.5 Miler

I survived the MUD FEST that was the Vermont 50 - my 4th finish.

Once again, Ran Across the state of New Hampshire for charity.. all 120 miles of it.

I met and ran with a New York Times Bestselling Author

Finally climbed up Lincoln's Throat

And went up and bushwhacked down Carrigain in a pair of Crocs.

And finally.. before the December Rest, I got a chance to lead Erik Weihenmayer and Randy Pierce to the top of Mount A.

2009 was a year full of great adventures and I am very much looking forward to the year that will be 2010. Over the last two posts you've only seen a few pictures of the adventures had and have been supplied with links to my reflections of each. There is not enough time and space to share with you all of the adventures I've had this year.. both internally and in the out of doors. Though I hope through this blog I've had the opportunity to both share my world with you as well as inspire you to believe in yourself and seek out that something new.

It is my only hope that as we make our way through the Christmas and Hanukkah Holidays, you will be safe and warm with your friends and family. You will also welcome and enjoy the New Year and get geared up for a promising 2010. I'm not talking about my 2010.. I'm talking about YOUR 2010. Together, we will accomplish great things as we all strive to live this life for all that it's worth. Left Right Repeat.. Human Potential... it's inside you!

Sherpa John

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Year In Pictures Part 1

Usually I put together some kind of video montage for the end of the year but with piracy laws being enforced on Youtube, I don't want to do it without being able to use the music I want to use. So.. ce la vie. Regardless... in 2 parts I welcome you to enjoy some of my fondest memories with pictures from the year that was 2009 and hope for an even more adventurous 2010. You can click on any of the links above the photos to read their associated blog post.

The Boston Prep x2 with temps in the negative teens!

Winter Wandering on Bondcliff

Hiking The Boulder Loop

HIked the Moats with our friend Al to celebrate his New Hampshire 100 Highest FInish

I did the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon.. after a night time Snowshoe Marathon = 52 Miles on Snowshoes!

I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge

We Went BACK to McNaughton to try the 150... and made it 100.

We Tried our luck in our first Adventure Race

And we got a little Muddy at the Muddy Moose

Even got to explore Waterville Valley a little more

We survived Massanutten (again) only this time, without a pacer or crew

We explored the Zealand River Valley/Pemi Wilderness

Returned to Pittsfield Peaks to Thrash the Quads again

Crawled around the Pemi-Loop with Giardia... in record slow time (CCW)

and we went Back to Waterville to Hike the O's and Trip's

(To Be Continued with July-December)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Something Newsworthy...

"In our January issue, we have a short Q&A with the fastest woman to complete the Grand Slam in 2009. That's the type of coverage we would probably do in the future. So if you would win the entire Slam or set a course record or accomplish something that was newsworthy, we would consider covering that. Hope that makes sense."~RW Rep

I had received an e-mail from RunnersWorld magazine as they were looking for some photo's of a local half marathon they had saw on my blog that I have run. I didn't have any pictures from them, but while I had their attention I thought I'd pitch an idea to them. I made sure they knew that I was just an "average" ultra-marathon runner. Not the fastest, not the best... but have a hell of time telling folks about the journey. The journey right? That little notion that this blog has become quite a bit about. So I pitched the idea a little further telling them that in 2010 I planned to run the Grand Slam of Ultra-Running and I would LOVE the opportunity to share my summers journey with their readers as a way to inspire others to reach beyond what they think is possible. To dare to challenge the impossible and to find their Human Potential.

Above is the response that I got.. words like SHORT Q&A with the fastest woman... Really? That would be Carolyn Luckett from Utah with a time of 121:29:26; some 42 hours slower then Ann Trason's record of 79:23:21 set in 1998. Congrats to Carolyn for being the fastest woman in 2009... yet only being able to be recognized by running's PREMIERE magazine with a short Q&A being stuffed into the January issue some 4 months after you've even completed the series.

"That's the type of coverage we would probably do in the future..." Really? Wow.. the only type of coverage you are willing to give the fastest growing sport in America is a Q&A from the fastest woman of the 2009 Grand Slam.. and yet you continue.."So if you would win the entire Slam or set a course record or accomplish something that was newsworthy..." Now I must stop. Define Newsworthy... is being the first person to run across New Hampshire at it's widest part... newsworthy? Is running 4 one hundred mile races in 4 months NOT newsworthy? Because I see all kinds of "newsworthy" articles in your magazine which of late includes I'm a Runner: Sarah Palin Really? I've had enough Sarah Palin to last me into my next lifetime and how is her being a runner Newsworthy? And to even insinuate that someone need break a record or WIN something to consider it newsworthy... I was left speechless.. or was I?

So I wrote:
"Hi RW,

This is very disappointing. Trail running, especially ultra-running, is one of the fastest growing sports in our nation. When you think about the ideals of running such long distances.. you have the opportunity to reach out to your readership with the ability to inspire millions to try something beyond what they initially believed to be possible. This is, in essence, whats inspires us all to run in the first place... the belief that indeed "We can."

I've been a reader of Runners World for quite some time.. I would hope that it's time for Runners World to communicate to the arm chair runner that "Human potential" is endless and within us all. Running... is not about who did what the fastest, who did what the most times... who did what for whatever charity. Running is about the journey.. within and without. I hope in the future your publication can begin to recognize this. A problem in our running communities is that we spend FAR too much time focusing on who is "The Best" and not enough time focusing on those middle and back of the pack runners. THEY are the ones who make these races even possible... it's time we celebrate them and their journeys. So while you folks focus on who ran the Grand Slam faster... I respectfully feel you are missing the larger picture. This, is in essence, why there is a rift between ultra runners and road runners. Two different cultures and two totally different focuses.

I look forward to bringing my inspirational journey to another publication.

Thanks for your time
John Lacroix"

I wrote to TrailRunner with the same pitch... I got no response.

Maybe I'm the one that is wrong here, who knows.. maybe you do? But in the end, I feel very strongly about what I said to my "friends" at RW. It's time to get away from all this DK, Jurek, Meltzer, Trason, Kimball and whoever else is sponsored by The North Face mumbo jumbo (no offense to you folks respectfully). What about those middle and back of the pack runners. The ones who while the race winner is showered, stuffed with a hot meal and slumbering away in bed.. then maybe getting up in the am, reading the paper over coffee and limping their way back to the finish to get their award...they are still out there running. Still enduring a magnificent journey and THEY ALL have a story to tell. So no.. maybe my story in 2010 won;t be anything special, nothing to write home about... but I think these magazines are missing the BIG story. That journey... A to B and everything in between. I should not that I am not upset or bitter that they declined my idea.. I could care less. I wasn't writing for them before and won;t be in the future either (obviously)... but I was kind of insulted with their response.. Newsworthy.. I think in 2010, I'm going to rip a Runners World magazine in half at every single finish line I cross.. just to show them what I think of "Newsworthy."

If you don't blog.. now is your time. Tell the world your story. What got you here. Why did you dream it? Why did you try it? How did you do it? THAT is what life is all about... I don't care how fast you were. No one else does either.. I'm more interested in how it changed you and why on god's earth you'd choose to do it again and again.

"HP" is alive in us all.. Tap it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Seeing is Believing

Monday, December 7, 2009
York Water District, Maine
Mount Agamenticus

I recieved an e-mail from one of my professors, Brent Bell, about joining him for a hike on Monday. It's not foten that a professor randomly invites me to hike with him so I was intrigued from the get go. After a little discussion I knew this was an opportunity I did not want to pass up as the company for the hike is both inspiring and honorable. So I agreed to go along, yet little did I know that Brent was making me a guide for a day to the top of tiny Mount A.

I met Brent at his house and we then carpooled over to New Castle where we met the rest of the group at Wentworth By The Sea. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was easy to recognize that this was our group. Randy Pierce was walking through the parking lot being led by his guide dog. Randy is 100% blind, the effects of a neurological disorder if I remember correctly. Quinn is his guide dog and best friend and they make a wonderful team. With them is Kara, one of Randy's friends from college. What also sets Randy a part in the crowd is that he was the 2001 Patriots Fan of the year. He is a current season ticket holder, seats given to him by Teddy Brushi himself. Randy is on a mission to climb the 48, 4000 foot mountains of New Hampshire.

And then there was Skylar.. Skylar is Erik's guide. An accomplished climber, Erik Weihenmayer became the only blind man in history to reach the summit of the world's highest peak - Mount Everest on May 25, 2001. On August 20, 2008, when he stood on top of Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest peak in Austral-Asia, Weihenmayer completed his quest to climb the Seven Summits - the highest peak on every continent. Skylar goes most everywhere with Erik, best friends of course as Skylar serves as Erik's guide. Erik also has a guide dog, whom we did not have the chance to meet. She slept all bundled up back at the hotel.

They all piled into their vehicle and Brent and I led the way over to Mount A. But before we left, we had a small introductory conversation in the parking lot in the hotel where I finally realized my role.. Brent had recruited me to play guide.. and I had no idea. The group was charged and ready to go and I was the one who was going to lead us to the mountain and then get us to the top. I had no idea what to expect.. but what I got in return was one of the most empowering experiences of the year.

We followed the directions Brent and I had dug up on the web before heading over to the mountain. I had no idea if we were going the right way or not... but as far as the rest of the group knew.. I was an expert on Mount A. I'd only actually been there once before when I ran to the top with my good friend Al. The drive over is all of 18 miles or so.. but its all Maine backroads, taking us a whole 30-40 minutes to get there. We turned onto an ice covered dirt road and soon came to a sign that said, "Road Closed in Winter." I looked carefully at the hiking map we downloaded and speculated our location on the map. The group turned around thinking we had arrived at the wrong side of the mountain. Based on my knowledge of the terrain on this side.. I agreed. Yet we asked some hunters what was up the road ahead.. we liked their answer. So we turned back around and parked just 200 yards up the icy path.

We got out of the vehicles and I watched everyone get ready. I was in rare sherpa form. I showed up in a pair of fleece pants, no poles, no pack.. just me myself and I. After all, Mount A is only 750 feet tall and the trip is not that strenuous. Yet it was enough for our group to enjoy a day in the out of doors. Erik and Randy had been pen palling for quite some time as Randy prepares for his tour of the 48. The purpose of this meeting was for he and Erik to finally meet and pick each others brains. Me? It was my job to get these guys to the top of a mountain. They are both blind, I'm naieve.. and my nerves are in rare form. I felt lost, concerned.. even humbled. And then we started hiking.

As we started off down the trail I gave as clear a description as I could. We're going to walk past a gate in a minute. There is about 2 inches of fluffy snow on the ground, beautiful powder. It's hanging from the evergreens so sprly and causing them to dip low. A set of ATV tracks mark the trail as we can clearly see that hunters are out and about. Randy smiles and thanks me for the fine description.. and we carry on. I march in front at a rather comfortable pace. Not too fast and certainly not too slow. And then... the climbing began.

From the map I knew what the trail ahead looked like. There were other ways to take but I was unsure of mileage and we were under a time window. I knew this trail, Vultures View, had plenty fo slab under the snow and ice. I wondered if the group would manage. I got nervous.. I even cringed, yet I continued forward determined to give these guys the test I felt they wanted and craved. I mean.. one of these guys at least had been up Everest... EVEREST... BLIND!

The trail got steeper and icy. I lead us off trail and slightly into the bushes or woods where I could to give the guys a break, offer some traction and some form of safety. The higher up the hill we got, the more impressed I became. Skylar wore a bell and Erik simply followed the faint jingle jingle with each one of his steps. The mighty Quinn led Randy expertly up the slope, stopping at low hanging limps and waiting at exceptionally steep sections. Yet in the entire way up the mountain, Randy fell but once, he got up, brushed himself off and let Quinn show him the way once more.

Upon reaching the summit we painted the picture for them as we hiked to the summit tower. We climbed the short set of stairs to the top and faced Northwest. Erik did an amazing job of pointing to where he thought Lake Winnepesaukee would be located. Low hanging overcast prevented us from seeing any peaks of considerable distance away. One a clear day you can see the Belknap Range in the lakes Region and even Mount Washington and the Presidential Range out afar. While those of us with vision enjoyed what limited views we had, I marvelled at the amount of joy exuded on the faces of these fine gentlemen who must rely on their other senses to enjoy the beauty on high.

We descended from the tower and walked over towards the summit house. This is an old ski lodge that we learned they were turning into a Conservation Center for families. Randy and Erik then asked about the history of the hill. We didn't know it, so we made something up about the idians seeing the american's and british fighting in the 1700s. And the I spotted an information board. I walked over and read what I could. It is speculated that John cabot himself spotted Mount A from sea back in the 1490's making this hill the first spotted land mass by an explorer. In the 1800's, Oak was harvested from the mountain to be made into Charcoal. And in the 1940's, the summit was clear cut to be made into an Army Barracks. Why? Because the first land radar tower in America was erected here during the war.

Now it was time to head back to the car. I lead the group down Witch Hazel to the Ring then down Goosefoot to the Cedar Trail. On the way up the mountain I hiked with Erik and Skylar. On the way down I enjoyed some time with Randy, Quinn and Kara. We talked about ultra-running, hiking the 48 and creating a non-profit. Randy wants to hike the 48 to raise money for a local foundation dedicated to creating better living for the blind. His project 20/20 has not yet gotten off it's feet but when it days I'll post more here.

Upon reaching the car back down at the base of the Mountain, I felt in absolute awe of these gentlemen. Two blind men, making the most out of life still engaging in what they are most pationate about. And even thought they can't enjoy the view beyond what lies behind their own darkness, they can suredly enjoy the view within. Randy and I talked about this in great detail on the way down the mountain, in how the journey one endures on the inside is much greater then the one experienced on the outside. For this, I was in a way jealous of their disability, perhaps if I was blind I too could see.

We got back into the cars and headed over to Kittery for Lunch. Turns out Erik and I have a few mutual friends and we enjoyed talking about them greatly. I also enjoyed talking with Erik about the Primal Quest he participated in, various other hikes and the joys of living in Golden, CO. I can honestly say that through this hike I was greatly humbled. To see that even when blind, these men have so much to see and even more to share. Did I guide them up a mountain? No.. they guided me. They guided me in much more than a hike up a silly little hill. It was a true joy to share some vision with others, both of the land and of the "landscape."
(Erik and I)

Believing is achieving.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Watch It!

I stood at the starting line of my local Thanksgiving 5K and took a good look around. With just minutes to go before the start of the race, I noticed runners stretching, jumping around and readying their watches. In that very moment, I transcended into that void between my ears, investigating old photoshopped moments in my brain of races past. I'm not talking ultra-marathons.. I'm talking 5K's, 10K's... marathons. I'm not about to get into the debate of ultra-runners vs. road runners. I could fill this blog for months with mindless banter about the subject. But I do want to hone in on just a few observations I've had over the years and to issue a challenge to you for 2010.

Why wear the watch? Maybe it's something that I just don't get. If so be it, thats fine. But really.. why the watch? In ultra's, you're typically on your feet for an amount of time too long to really care about what time it is. From time to time, I might ask for the time of day to simply plan when I want to eat lunch. At home I eat lunch at Noon and dinner around 5 or 6. In an ultra... I try to keep to those times. I don't really change anything from my regular day to day habits for a race. Time... what is time? Perhaps I'm racing the clock... "What time is it?" "2am" "Hmm... 2 hours to go before the sub 24 cut off.. I better move." And that is what I do..

But in your local road race.. these people stand on the starting line with their fingers on their watches. Someone yells go, they strut a few steps ahead and as soon as their feet hit that starting line, you can hear the echo of a collective "Beep." Off they go.. they look ahead and watch the road, they look down and eye ball their watch.. "Oh Shit! I'm 3 seconds off... better pick it up!" And then their feet hit the pavement a bit faster.. the constant up and down of their heads literally shakes their brains from it's skeletal hold. At mile 1.. a digital clock displays their pace... "8:01" "::Gasp:: I'm a second behind!" Oh brother... why have the watch when you have this digital clock? The clock re-appears at miles 2 and 3.. in marathons you might seem them at 3, 6, 13, 16 and 20... why do you need to watch? Who the hell are you racing? These runners are so obsessed by the time that they forget that they are sharing the road, the trail or an experience with a few hundred others runners... making the event not so much social as it could be and more rather self indulgent..

Recently, my friend and I were out for a run. We'll leave parties nameless for this.. but he told me of a time he ran with an acquaintance of ours. The run was typical of a runner who upholds that typical road runner mentality. (Refer to the White Rabbit above). The runner talks of his most recent times, "Dude.. I ran that 5L the other day at 6:56 pace..." As if we give a crap.. good for you pal... good for you. And yet as this runner can bang out a 5K in under 20 minutes... he is somehow falling behind on a 10 mile runner with an endurance guru. No kidding... different muscle sets! The fast 5K runner uses more fast twitch muscles, while the ultra/endurance runner uses slow twitch. Yet.. he continues with his myriad of memorized times.. and then he begins to trail off on the run to the point that he feels an apology is warranted. "Man.. I'm sorry I'm so slow.." And then.. my friend tells me his response. "you don't get it do you?" "Who cares how long it takes you man.. it's not about that. Just enjoy the run.. the journey."

Ah... the journey... imagine for a moment you arrive at a race.. your local 5K and NO ONE is wearing a watch. There are no clocks on the course... it's just runners... legs... feet... earth. You all keep your head up, your wrists down.. and you run. You smile.. you talk.. you engage in moments of human interaction outside of your bubble of unnecessary competitiveness. Ya.. I own a watch.. and I almost never wear it in a race. My watch doubles as a GPS unit.. I run with it to help me find my way back.. because my runs are long. I use it to tell me how far I ran today.. so I can record the miles in my log. But do I use it to look at my pace? To see how long it took me? Yeah.. at the end.. and usually I give a chuckle. Because it's not about the time... it's not about the damn time.

And as an aside, a few months ago I did watch a video of The Western States 100.. and I've seen it myself. The ultra-runner come across the finish line, and the first thing he does before placing his hands on his knees.. is push that button on his watch. After 100 miles... some how.. for whatever reason time matters. But how bout that journey? Another ultra runner posted on his face book that he ran a few 800's and 400's.. I don't even know what an 800 or a 400 is... or how it makes you a better 100 mile runner. To me.. what makes you a better runner is running more.. running longer.. and running as part of your journey within.

A Challenge
My challenge to all of you this Christmas Season is to take the "watch" off of your running Christmas List and put the word "Journey" in there instead. Ask for some time to embark on a journey. A journey where time does not matter.. take a day.. and just run. Run for the sheer joy of it.. run because it makes you happy. Run because it makes you healthy.. Run to simply smile, to be and to be a part OF something with others. I challenge you to leave the watch off in 2010. Leave it at home, after all... time is something that was made up. It does not exist.. it is nothing.. No body REALLY cares what time it was when you crossed that finish line. Chances are they are only asking you "How did ya do?" to compare their time to yours. Ever notice how quick they are to tell you how much faster they were? And they play it off like it's "no big deal." Think about it for a minute.. got it? Who ares how long it took you... this is why I LOVE Ultra-running.. when you tell someone where you ran last.. if they ask at all.. it's one of the last questions and its a simple "How'd ya do?" I did great, I had an amazing adventure.. and I got a great finishers award.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hello Pussycat..

HI! My name is Buttercup. I'm a feral kitty that Sherpa John saved from the outside. I'm only 6 months old but I'm a total lady. I have a lot of fun in my new home. After a few weeks hiding under the bed, I decided that these people were all right after all. Now I enjoy getting lots of exercise around the apartment. I run and jump a lot. I like getting into the tub and sniffing around. I eat a lot too.. I'm such a little piggy.

I like when my people do things because that means I get to get in the way. One of my favorite things to do is chase that damn red thing around the apartment. Every time I think I get it, it disappears!

This Sherpa guy really likes to sleep.. so I wake his butt up at 2am to play fetch. He throws my little rattling mouse, I run off the bed and get it.. then bring it back. This only works a few times before his batteries run out.. he's a lazy dude. We like to take naps together some times.

Miss Sarah is my best friend.. I love when she comes home from work. When she walks in the door I say "Meow!" and then we give each other lots of loves. When she sleeps at night, I lay down at the top of her head and if she moves even a little bit, I flip out and claw her eyes (true story).

It's great to meet all of you. Just know that Sherpa has been very busy getting ready for finals, gaining weight (he's up to 163 pounds!) and working on his running schedule for the next 6 months. Time to get training for next years races.. maybe I'll run beside him like a cheetah! MEOW!