Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Hampshire Adventures

It's no secret that in a few months it is my every intention to now longer be a resident of New Hampshire or New England. With that thought in mind, over the last few months I've made it a bit of a point to try and get to a few places I've never been before I head out. I wanted to provide a pretty elaborate reflection of these adventures but I thought I'd keep it rather short and just give you the nitty gritty. So without further adieu, here's a little more of what NH has to offer.

The Flume Gorge
One of America's top ten most beautiful State Parks. A natural chasm takes visitors from the Flume Visitor Center on wide gravel paths and wooden walkways through covered bridges, past waterfalls and through the 800-foot long gorge with its sheer 90-foot walls. Scenic pools, glacial boulders, and mountain views. Discovered in 1808, the Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty. The walls of Conway granite rise perpendicularly to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are from 12 to 20 feet apart. Bus service is provided to transport visitors to within 500 yards of the gorge entrance. Marked walking trails with signs explaining natural features lead to other points of interest, including the Pool and Sentinel Pine Bridge.
We decided to check it out. New Hampshire is the ONLY state of the 50 whose State Parks are funded specifically through entry fees. The State of NH charges $13 a person to take this 2 mile, self interpretive walk through the woods of the Flume Gorge Area. After paying the same amount (for 2) that you pay for a tank of gas, you and 300+ of your closest friends stand in lines on wooden scaffolding that lines the walls of the gorge. As the water crashes over the rock cliffs, you get to enjoy being soaked and cold while enjoying the natural beauty herein. Ok.. really.. I enjoyed the place, I just can't understand the $13 price of admission. But I guess it costs money to operate a place like this especially where many of these citidiots treat the surrounding nature like their own personal trash can.

Georgiana & Harvard Falls
Down the road from the Flume is a free hike. Into the woods, under 93 and up the hill you'll find a series of amazing waterfalls as the water cascades down the mountainside. These falls or even more gorgeous then the Flume and you definitely get better bang for your buck. Crystal cascades, weave in and out of the rocks strewn about as this river meets up eventually with the Pemi. Gorgeous views looking south along I-93 complete this trip as you hike ever higher up the trail to its terminus at Harvard Falls.

Every once in awhile you run into one of these but seldom up this close.

Yeah, I finally made it to the top of Monadnock. It was cold as hell this past weekend when we finally got up there. Shuffling our feet along the frozen puddles up high, temps in the 30s and wind cranking out of the west at 35+. This is the second most climbed mountain in the world and I finally made it up there to soak in the scenery of Massachusetts, Vermont, NH, NY and even a sliver of Connecticut. No mountain rises remotely as high for nearly 100 miles in any direction. The hike wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected and was truly enjoyable. Anyone can hike Monadnock.. if they wanted to.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Imagine If

Ray Zahab has only been running/adventuring for the last 5 years. A Former pack a day smoker, Ray continues to show the world what is possible.. by simply believing in yourself. He ran across the Sahara and then ran across Antarctica as you'll learn in the video above. But the reason I've decided to share this video with you is not because of Ray's accomplishments, per say, but what he says at the end. When talking about young people when Ray says, "We can make the impossible, possible... Imagine being 13 years old, hearing those words and believing it."

Yes, imagine being 13 and hearing that "You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To." This is indeed the life I lived as a youngster. My parents told me time and time again that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I believed them. Even when I got older, and started telling them, "I want to do this... " and they sometimes fired back some hesitation in supporting me by questions whether or not I was biting off more then I could chew, I believed what they had taught me earlier. I was so invested in the idea that the mental power to believe and achieve rules above all else.

Over the years, I was told that I'd never hike the 4000 footers in one summer... I believed I could and I did. I was told that I'd never make a documentary film that people would want to buy... or sell 500 copies of it.. I did and sold 800. I was told that I'd never run 100 miles.. and I have. I was told I'd never get a college degree... I'm got an associates and in May I'm graduating with a Bachelors. I've started to wonder.. did my parents really mean it when they put that bug in my head? Or did I just take it far too literally. I guess what they meant matters not because I made the saying meaningful for myself.

And you can too! I recently gave a talk in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where I received some feedback from a gentleman who said, "The idea that someone can do anything they put their mind to is hogwash. Someone with an IQ under 100 would never become a neurologist." Which is probably true.. why would someone with an IQ under 100 want to be a neurologist? But that's not the point.. the point is, if you have heart, if you believe in yourself that you can accomplish anything... you can... and you will.

Now.. Imagine if it went one step deeper.. and this is where YOU come into play. Imagine if the 13 year old believed it... and then you helped foster it? Think about how much more productive our society would be if instead of people telling you why you couldn't, shouldn't or can't do something they spent more time supporting you to do, to achieve, to get there.. just think about it.. and then the next time someone tells you that they're going to do something so unbelievable, so unfathomable.. you'll tell them.. yes you can.. And I'm here to support you every step of the way.

Happy Trails

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Manchester City Miracle Version 2.0

Manchester City Marathon
26.2 Miles - Manchester, NH
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Team Relay
Every once in awhile, something happens in your life where you realize that your work is worth while. I've made it my life's work and my mission on this earth to inspire as many people as I can. To help as many people as possible realize their own true Human Potential. To help individuals realize that through some of life's more exceptional experiences, you too can accomplish anything you put your mind to. This past Sunday in Manchester, NH is where some of my work has finally come to fruition. I've said it before and I'll say it here again, that in all the work I do, my family tends to be the hardest people to get through to. While I was raised with the belief that you can do anything you put your mind to, I see a flurry of hypocrisy in my genetic relatives that at times leaves me speechless, aggravated and on the verge of giving up my mission. Until this past weekend...

Leg 1: Sibling Motivation
We arrived in Manchester dangerously close to the start of the race. It was my step-mother Helen who suggested first that we run the Relay here as a family team. unsure of if she could run a 6 mile leg and after having not heard form her for her decision, my sister Ann stepped forward to take the spot. My sister Ann who up until today had yet to run further then one and a half miles at any given time previously. She's never been a runner, isn't a runner... but she's stubborn. She has a ton of heart, some motivation, and if anything she has hope. She trained with my nephew Timmy in the months heading into the race, repeating out loud how much she hated running and how much it hurt. Yet this morning as the air is frigidly cold and windy on Elm St, I found her ready to run. hat, gloves, knee brace and a "Why the hell am I doing this." It was perfect.

I walked with her to the very end of the crowd of people and told her there'd be no pressure back here. We stood around, shivering a bit as the national anthem was sung. Here we were, two siblings, who grew up in this city the son and daughter of blue collar workers just trying to make it... about to run some miles together down memory lane. The race started, we walked across the starting line and then we began to run slowly. It was all about Ann's pace. We knew we had to average 13.6 min miles over the course of 26.2 miles for our team to finish officially.. our simple goal was to finish the first 10K of the race, at that pace. Ann thought for sure it'd take her 2 hours or more to run the 6 miles. I didn't care if it took 3...

We ran together down through the mill yard and I pulled every pacing trick I could out of my bag of tricks. I engaged my sister in conversation about anything just to make sure that she was running and running at a pace where she could hold conversation. This conversation pace, is a pace where you can run at a decent clip while still breathing. It's just below thresh-hold and she knew none of this. At the first hill an ultra-friend of mine, Tammy, and I were yukking it up. She laughed that I was running a hill as she said, "Sherpa you NEVER run the hills," my sister refused to walk the first hill so.. so did I. We ran as best we could and kept running when we could. Before we knew it, we were at the very tail end of the entire marathon/half marathon field. It was us, a handful of others and the police escort.

My sister kept looking back to apologize to the cop. I kept telling her that the longer it took us the more overtime he got... "Don't worry about it! Stop apologizing." We walked when she felt like walking but the further into the run we got and the more the miles began to tick away the more my sister wanted to run. She wanted to run that she almost couldn't walk. We eventually did walk those hills, but we moved at a good clip. I tried to give her a Powergel Chew, she spit it out in a fit of laughter at how awful it tasted. We looked for Halloween Candy at aid stations.. nothing but water and gatorade. We walked and ran and walked... we picked objects in the distance to run to, we picked objects to walk to. Before we knew it, we were making the turn at Dorrs Pond and out on the trail. My sister, after more then 5 miles of running was finally feeling discomfort but she kept running anyway.

We ran together that last bit on the trail. I can't describe here or anywhere how proud I was of my sister. There were no excuses, no reason why not, just the belief that she could run 6.2 miles and then here she was at the end of 6.2 miles. Sweaty, breathing heavy, sore legs and hips but smiling from ear to ear and happy. Not only did she make it the first 10K of the race but she did it in 1:16... a far cry from the 2_+ hours she thought it would take. The only problem now was, our crew and her husband weren't in the transition area. We had arrived way sooner then they had anticipated us to and they were away eating at Dunkin Donuts. My brother-in-law Mike was supposed to run the 2nd leg but since he was no where to be found, I knelt down and took the chip off my sisters ankle and took of running up the hill.

Leg #2: Run Like The Wind
After having run 12ish minute miles with my sister, I knew it was up to Mike and I to pick up the pace, to give Sarah a little cushion with the final leg and to ensure we finish in under 6 hours. So with that, and the chip around my ankle, after having run the first 10K with my sister as a warm-up; I settled into my own threshold pace. This would immediately turn into the greatest game of pac-man I've ever played. My sister and I rolled into the transition area as the very last two people to come into the 6.2 mile point of the race... out of EVERYONE. One after another I started to catch people. While some huffed and puffed, I could hear the frustrations of the many runners who felt that they were standing still as compared to my blazing pace. I was now running 7-8 minute miles with my mission to get to the half marathon point in an hour or less.

One after another... and about a hundred or so of that, and I was still feeling great. At first I felt like I was running much too fast, gasping for air, hurting a bit but eventually I settled into a pace around 8 minute miles where I wasn't breathing heavy. This was around mile 10 where I was trying to maintain a decent clip while also preparing for the final run downhill towards Elm Street. I had worn my Nathan Waist Pack so I had no need to stop in an aid station for water or other. I just focused on what was ahead of me, focused on runners up ahead and then catching them then finding another. This went on and on and on. I lent encouragement to those with their names on the backs of their shirts. I lent encouragement to other relay runners I passed. To those who were walking or stretching I offered gel packs or salt (they all declined). I knew I wasn't alone out there and every one of these other runners were helping me get the job done quickly and inspiring me.

After topping out on Hanover St. now began the long 2ish mile run downhill back to Elm St. I picked up my pace and let gravity take me downtown. As I made it right down in the heart of the city, the wind picked up and blew in my face almost standing me up but I cut through it. Cheers rang out from both sides of the street. Half Marathoners to the left, Marathon and relay right. I took the hard right onto Elm where I saw my family waiting in the transition area. I ran in, Mike bent down and took the chip off my ankle and put it on his wrist. I took off running with him, "John.... you can stay back if you want." "Nah, I want to run the whole thing. I'll run with you." I thought I'd be pacing him. I was unprepared for what would happen next.

Leg 3: Holy Blazing Tornado!
Mike and I ran over the Merrimack River and into Manchester's West Side. Up the hill into Manchester's old "French City With-in a City," and across Rimmon Heights. We talked along the way about how Ann had done on leg one and then how I tried my best during leg 2. During leg two I had run faster for further then I'd run in the last 2 years of running. I ran the 7 miles back to Elm St in a tiring 1:07. After talking with Mike for a bit I pointed out that if we could keep the pace going we'd give Sarah an excellent cushion and still finish with a great time as a team. That's all I needed to say. From that moment on I struggled to keep up with Mike. I was expecting to pace him but after the first half of the race, half of that which was faster then I'm used to, I was cooked. Mike began to take off and I struggled to keep up.

As we came to the Kelly St Bridge, Mike took off across the span and I couldn't keep up. I played it smart and hung back, letting him go. I knew he knew what to do and he was doing it well running a 7:30 min mile on average. I was beyond elated to see this happen. I wasn't the least bit upset at not being able to keep up because I knew at this point that we were kicking ass. That's not all, we were running this thing about an hour faster then planned at this point and Mike was running faster then I thought he was capable of over the course of 8 miles. I stopped at a porta-potty for a Sherpa Ritual and when I came out he was nowhere to be seen.

I kept running as best I could. In all the hustle of getting to town and then chasing Mike, my hamstrings were now shot. I mean.. SHOT. It had been a very long time since I'd been in so much pain and I forgot the essential role hamstrings play in our abilities to remain upright. Hunkered forward, I trudged along as best I could to make it to the next transition area. Around St. Anselm's college I realized I was running next to the News 9 Weather man. "Skarupa" We talked for a few miles while running to the top of St. A's then I took off down the hill. I ran into the next transition area where I saw Ann and the Kids. They ushered me into the van and we took off to a point on the course about 2.5 miles up.

Leg 4: Sarah
I saw Laura Bleakly round the turn somewhere at Mile 23.6. So I got out of the car knowing that there was no way we were that far ahead. Laura was pacing the 4 hour marathoners to their finish. I got out of the van and sat on the sidewalk trying to stretch out my pained hamstrings. They hurt and hurt bad. After about 10 minutes Mike and Sarah came running down the hill. At the last transition, Mike handed the chip to Sarah and she took off alone. Mike had come in some 15 minutes ahead of me after he blasted his section of the course. He eventually caught Sarah to keep her some company as I was supposed to.

They appeared from off a hill and the three of us ran together. We ran through the last neighborhood on the west side before crossing the new pedestrian bridge back over the Merrimack. Sarah was doing great, running at her own threshold and managing her own race. There was no doubt that she was in charge of her run, running her own race and doing so comfortably and at a good pace. I was so proud of her. We settled into her pace while crossing the river, around Fisher Cats stadium and back up towards Elm. We only walked a few times as Sarah told us she'd run almost the entire way. Sarah has run 4.5 miles before, today's run was putting her at a personal distance record of 5.1 miles. It was so great that the three of us could run together and then, around the final corner there was Ann and the boys.

The entire family was out here. Sarah, myself and the Robinsons. As we ran the final mile together I was elated. My sister was running with her husband now, trying to keep up with Sarah and I who were trying to keep up with the boys. What a GREAT feeling this was for me. My family had finally gotten it. You CAN do anything you put your mind to and nothing in this world is impossible. We all peeled off to let Sarah run it in. She picked up the pace on Elm St and sprinted across the finish line. Score one for Team Sherpa on This day!

Our team time was 4:21:26.
I managed to run all but 2.5 miles of the race.
We came in 51st out of 67 Relay Teams. Not bad for being dead last at mile 6.
We were 30th out of the 37 Coed Relay Teams.

Monday, November 1, 2010


One of the usual questions I get when folks hear that I run ultra's is "What Do You Eat?" This of course comes right after the more simpler question "Do You Eat?" During this years RANH I had the crew keep tabs on what I ate during the 24 hours that I was actually out running around West Central New Hampshire. Here are the results:

2 Bananas
1 Jelly Dunkin Donut
2 Boosts
5 Powergels
Cup of Chicken Broth
Handful of Grapes
1 Strawberry Banana Stonyfield Farms Yogurt Smoothie
1 Small Bag of Lays Potato Chips
1/2 of an Orange
1 Can of Ginger Ale
1 Can of Coke
3 S-Caps
2 Cups of Mom's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
3 Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
2 Slices of Cheese Pizza