Sunday, February 27, 2011

Adversity & The X Factor

With the second streak of the year on our door step, I plead again to all of you to consider joining us for "Streak 2 - Adversity." It's a fun little competition, you only need participate twice a week for 4 weeks. A 2 mile jaunt and a 4 mile jaunt, each of which includes a bit of creativity and guts on your part.

"Adversity isn't an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It's part of our life... So, our responsibility is not simply shielding those we care for from adversity, but preparing them to meet it well. And we do a disservice to our kids when we make them feel that they're not equipped to adapt."

The above quote(s) comes out of the video I've posted below from TEDMED 2009 Featuring Runner Aimee Mullins. Before we get into this months streak, I wanted to show you the below video in the hopes that it might inspire you. Inspire you to understand that in order for us to realize our true Human Potential... in order for us to achieve that level of self-transcendence.. we must tackle adversity.

In this talk you'll hear how our adaptations as humans are what allows us to survive. So when we think of ourselves as adventurers, we must think about the adaptations we must make in order to find the finish line or the end goal. Take for example "The Wall" in a marathon. How do runners adapt to the situation to reach the finish line after struggling for miles? What don't other runners do that causes them to fail? We must tackle adversity if we are to have an understanding of our sense of self and a sense of our own power. In this talk, you'll also hear a bit about the medical fields "X-Factor" when given prognosis of ailments. The X-Factor is that no one knows the potential of a humans will.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vision On Lafayette

I watched the weather closely as the week progressed and it never once looked promising. They were calling for snow and frigid temps, high winds, and a warm front moving in from the south. Never once did the forecast sound even remotely promising and I knew I had a tough decision to make. Randy and I wanted to hike Lafayette to play homage to Guy Waterman, the visionary who claimed his own life on this summit's frigid peak in 2000. Paying homage to Guy didn't include the risk of our own lives, but there were certain tangibles to this hike that added to the risk assessment of going.
For those who haven't frequented here long enough, Randy Pierce is a man who in my mind needs no introduction. He exemplifies Inspiration, Human Potential and "Vision." Randy is visually impaired, 100%, and has aspirations of becoming the first person with visual impairment to become a member of the AMC's Four-Thousand Footer Peak-Bagging Club. His 2020VisionQuest is his way of raising funds for and awareness of the invaluable services that other organizations such as the The New Hampshire Association for the Blind, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Having put off this hike one week because of the Super Bowl all ready, I had it in my head that I didn't want to push this back again. I thought long and hard about the weather forecast, the risks, the problem solving. And then I went back to a conversation I had had over a year ago with fellow hikers in New England. One hiking enthusiast had warned his brethren that winds above tree-line were to reach above 60mph on the upcoming weekend and told (not suggested) hikers to pick different peaks to hike given the forecast. I argued that, this practice in particular robs individuals the valuable experience of A.) Feeling 60mph winds and B.) Gaining the knowledge and experience necessary to make sound judgements to turn back in the future... on their own... without a know-it-all holding their hand. I knew that this weekend was one of those hikes to gain such experience.
Randy's first winter hike was Saturday, up Pack Monadnock, a tiny bump in New Hampshire's landscape that holds virtually no merit as compared to the Franconia Beast we were about to tackle. Thanks to the education I helped give Randy a year ago about layering and regulation of Body Temp, he had some clue as to what to wear for the adventure. So when I met Randy at 6:10AM at our rendezvous point, I could see clearly that he was perfectly prepared for the adventure ahead and ready to rock n' roll. It was here that I realized that I made the right decision for our hike and this day was playing out perfectly.

On the way up to the notch we confirmed earlier conversations about our plans. The forecast this morning called for increasing clouds, snow 2-4", winds 60-80 MPH with higher gusts diminishing later at night with higher gusts. A warm front moving in from the South/SouthWest could make things sticky. Knowing the terrain we were going to be on well, our plan was to try and obtain the Greenleaf Hut, assess the situation and if all seemed right, to hike to tree-line so Randy can feel winter's wrath against his body and face. Randy agreed with the plan. We had no intentions of summiting but knew that if for some holier-than-thou reason we had the opportunity, we still might take it.

We made it to the Lafayette Place campground to find Robby Caldwell and his girlfriend Sophie preparing for the hike. Robby brought 2 friends, in a separate car, who had summit dreams so they left ahead of us. Randy, Sarah and I then waited for Randy's gang of friends, Lianna, Claire, Steven and his son Steven. By 8:45 our group of 9 was saddled up and ready to take on Lafayette one step at a time.
The bright morning sun was quickly giving way to the storm moving in. As we drove up to the notch we could see the lenticulars had formed over the summits, an indication that the winds were indeed whipping up high. Cannon was shining brightly as we set out thanks to the reflectiveness of the sun on snow, but it wasn't long before the world was turning to gray. I had bells on my pack so Randy could track my location with his hearing. I jingled as we walked along. To whole reason I had propose winter hiking a possibility to Randy was because I knew it would be easier for him. Gone were the billion obstacles of rocks, water, roots and other pieces of fragmented earth. Everything was filled in and/or hidden by the snow. TONS of snow. Even with his snowshoes on, the trail had been packed down by travelers before so much so that Randy could had shuffled to the top as if he wore slippers.
video
For the first time since knowing Randy and leading him on hikes, he wasn't the slowest in the group... he was the fastest. I let young Robby have a go at guiding Randy up the mountainside and in that moment, the two of them, the tallest of the group, put their long strides into over drive and kept leaving most of us in the dust. Having run 50K yesterday, I was certainly one of the ones in the back of the pack, dragging my legs through the snow yet smiling the entire way. This group was perfect. Hiking isn't supposed to be rocket-science and today wasn't one of those days. A carefree group of smiling happy hikers, with no qualms or complaints, all content with where they settled into the pack in terms of speed, all of us respect of each others desires and needs as outdoor enthusiasts.. it was perfection, like a well oiled machine and surprisingly put together by strangers.
Robby and Randy
The higher up we progressed across Agony Ridge, the deeper the snow got. We made it to "Lunch Rocks" where we enjoyed plenty of jokes and enjoyment of the views. More getting to know each other and unfortunately now that the weather was fully moving in, the group was starting to split up a bit. The two Steven's took off for the hut. Neither one of them had been on snowshoes in over a decade so for them to have made it that far even is impressive. I think this was a testament to the inspiration Randy provides. Robby called his two friends on their cell-phone and they told him they had made it to Little Haystack. The weather up high was terrible and their plan was to retreat back down from there. Sophie had forged ahead in an attempt to catch them earlier so now Robby needed to go catch his girl for safeties sake. So this diminished our group to Sarah, Myself, Randy, Claire and Lianna.
From lunch rocks to the hut was a walk on the moon. There was so much snow on high that it seemed to encase us. Snow drifts higher then 6 or 7 feet, 2 to 3 feet of snow piled up on top of the fir branches. Many times I had to get Randy to duck under low hanging branches that in summer are over your head but this time of year, are at chest level and weighted down by mounds of snow. A few times we stepped off trail and fell into the spruce traps. Some of these traps I found myself in up to my neck. It was hard to not laugh from the sheer enjoyment of walking through the landscape. I told Randy how I felt like we were in an airplane. As we peered through the gaps in the trees over at the ridge, the snowdrifts created a discernible foreground while the ridge in the background seemed to move on it's own.
After 4 hours of hiking, we reached Greenleaf Hut. The snow was so high as we made the final approach that we seemed to be up higher then the roof. Snowdrifts on the western side of the hut were deep/high enough that we could have walked right up to the roof and taken a seat. In only 4 hours we'd travelled 3 miles. During the summer, it took Randy and I three-and-a-half hours to hike eight-tenths of a mile. We had reached our primary goal for this expedition with relative ease. Randy was of course covered in snow but smiling. The entire group was smiling. Robby had caught up to Sophie, the Stevens had made their return and the wind was whipping. While we stood at the hut and tried to re-apply layers, I glanced up at the ridge. I could see the snow coming up and out of Walker Ravine dancing across the tops of the Krumholz. We watched as a few hikers we'd seen before came careening down across the frigid white landscape almost running and rushing to get out of the elements up-high. We asked a few when they reached us if they had reached the summit. 3 teams of hikers, all 3 had turned back before summiting. I spotted a large cairn across the col and up at about eye level. I knew that it was built by Guy, you can tell.. and it was above treeline. I asked the group if they wanted to go and everyone said yes. We all dropped our packs and put on our puffiest coats. Then we made our way over.
As we reached down into the Col, the wind came screaming up and out of the ravine racing across Eagle Lakes. We ducked quickly back into the trees, crossing the sign for the Alpine Zone and then up and out of it all, into the open and on the spine of the ridge. As we all huddled around the cairn, I asked Randy to pull his balaclava down a bit, face South and feel the wind. He did so, then turned back at me and said, "yep" before covering back up again. And just like that, our group hurried to take a group photo before we retreated for the comfort of the trees again. These are the moments I'm talking about. The summit's not going anywhere nor is it the most important thing out here. Randy had experienced, in one hike, all that winter has to offer. From the terrain to managing body temp to feeling the effects of the wind on his face... and even without sight, being able to make the right decision that turning around was the right choice.
Back at the hut, we all removed our snowshoes so we could prepare for the fun that was about to commence on the way down. We knew from the hike up that Glissading and boot-skiing was certainly an option. Options we were about to take full advantage of. As swiftly as we'd made the hut and our journey above the trees, it was now time to swiftly take to home. Instead of using bells, Randy held onto the pack of who ever was leading him and we just went. As we hit our first decent, we sat down on our butts and let fly. We slid down the mountain taking the turns like we were on a winding roller coaster. Through the trees you could hear the hoots and yahoos! of people truly having fun. Randy himself exclaimed as he slide down as fast as he could, "This is sooo awesome!" From time to time I sat down and wrapped his legs around me so we could get more steam and go together. I'd never heard a grown man laugh as giddily as he.
As I sit here now and write this report, I can't help but feel humbled by my continued experiences with Randy. All of my life I've had the privilege, and it is a privilege, to see the world around me. Though Randy could see before the year 2000, he is doing more now with his life now without vision (presumably) then he ever had with vision. As much a I enjoy helping Randy realize his true potential, to dream, to engage his goals and to test the limits of his potential... I think Randy is more the one helping me. I can't put into words, yet, how it is that he is helping me but I want the world to know that this man gets my inspirational gears turning. After a hike with Randy I am more motivated then ever to dream big and reach higher.

The best part of hiking with Randy is that... I don't view him as someone with a disability and this is important. Randy is my friend. He's honest, candid, caring and full of life yet to live. I often forget that he's visually impaired and this is evident by the number of times he walked straight into a branch out on the trail (sorry bud!). Together we're always smiling, laughing, joking and giving each other about as much guff as we can each take without thinking it was personal. You'd think that, most people who are committed to a disability such as Randy's choose to suffer. They'll do what they need to do to get by. But not Randy... Randy takes life by the balls, says "Screw it!" to all the rules and dares to achieve a Vision Greater then his own.. I'm eternally grateful to be a part of Randy's Journey.. from our First Hike up Agamenticus, to our 8 days in the Pemi... I hope the chapters keep coming.

(2020 Vision Quest inspires people to reach beyond adversity and achieve their highest goals -- personal, professional, and philanthropic. We believe in leading by example, in climbing the highest peaks, and in sharing our successes and challenges with each other. Funds raised through these endeavors will be given to two remarkable organizations which benefit the visually impaired community: Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. To learn more please visit: http://www.2020visionquest.org/)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

RR: Frigid Caboose 50K

Saturday, February 12, 2011
Frigid Caboose 50K
Rockingham Recreation Trail +
Manchester - Newfield, NH
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Six of us met up in Manchester, NH at Sandy's Convenient Store and began our trek down the Rockingham Recreational Trail. For as long as I can remember, this trail left the shores of Manchester's Lake Massabesic and headed East to part unknown. It wasn't until I moved out to the seacoast that I lived near the Eastern Terminus of this trail (some 20+ years after I knew of it's existence) and knew an end to end run of it must be completed. So, as part of the grand finale of our first STREAK! Competition, the inglorious streakers headed east towards The Great Bay.

There really isn't much to stay about a run that includes 25+ miles of mostly flat railroad grade. For as far as your could see looking east you saw flat rail bed. And for as far as your eyes could peer West, you saw the same rail bed you just ran on. I could tell you that it wasn't exciting but, it rather was. For the entire day we ran on the very edge of the packed down rail bed. The bed is groomed by many local snowmobile clubs who drag a grate behind the groomer to pack it down after big storms. Then, the snowmobiles by the dozens go back and forth all day long. Some were courteous to us, slowing down to ere on the side of safety, waived hello and informed us of how many were behind them. While some were pricks.. speeding down the trail along side us, fishtailing to kick up clouds of wet snow, revving their engines and trying to prove a point which to this moment.. I still have no idea what is was.

Then there are the tunnels. Since the closure of this railroad, the many towns of Southern, NH have built up their roads over, and under, the old rail bed. In order to keep the trail open for recreation use, tunnels were built and we went through maybe 4 of them along our way.
The other cool part of this trail is that it's just one of many snowmobile trails in New Hampshire. Given the amount of snow we've had this year, all trails are actually open which has been a rarity over the last few winters. We came to a junction at one point that offered up a sign with a map of the area trails. After a glance at the map, I quickly read through the map that the trail we were crossing met up with a spot we were at 2 weekends ago out at Bear Brook State Park and from there, you can connect to Pawtuckaway, or even Nate's house in Bow which means we could technically run these trails all the way to Vermont if we wanted. It's really quite exciting and fascinating though disappointing to know that the trails are not maintained for summer use as they are for winter use.
The trail runs along many beautiful bogs, swamps, marches, lakes and ponds which dot the landscape in the area. Frozen over now, these spots offer up a chance to catch a gorgeous view.
As we entered Raymond it was like running into nostalgia. Here in Raymond is the old Train Depot for the Portsmouth & Concord Railroad which also connect to the B&M. It was 1845 when this rail line was built and operational and it stayed as thus until 1945. It was 1855 when the first company who owned the rail declared bankruptcy and this pretty much maintained the history of the line as various owners operated it over the years. In 1982 the State of NH purchased the line and it has been a recreational trail ever since. So as we ran into Raymond it was super cool to see the relics of days of old hanging out in this quaint New Hampshire town.
But still, the real excitement was in Raymond for sure, just not at the old Depot. It was at Dunkin' Donuts. Steve had showed up to offer us some support. While we waited for Josh and Leah to bring it in, I decided now was a good time to pee. I was wearing my micro spikes so heading inside the DnD was not a swift option of mine. So I elected for the dumpster. I walked over to the dumpster and saw aline of about 15 cars in the drive-thru. So I walked in a bit deeper to ensure I was hidden from plain sight. I let fly and peed, then after "putting it away" I headed back to our crew vehicle when I hear a "HEY! NEXT TIME THINK! I HAVE KIDS IN THE CAR!" I looked at an angry guy standing up in his car with his body hanging half out his window while he was at the food window of the drive-thru. I looked at him and just gave him a thumbs up and walked away.

This story is too good to be over. This guy wasn't done. After getting his food, this guy (who had a Fremont Fire&Rescue placard on his car) drove right up to us with the passenger window down and began yelling at me over his wife. "NEXT TIME THINK! I HAVE KIDS IN THE CAR!" I looked in the back seat to see two kids sitting in car seats ages 2 and 3 maybe. I looked at the drive and said, "Hey mean, it's no big deal, everybody pees, even your kids." He replies, "NO IT IS A BIG DEAL! I'M GOING TO CALL THE POLICE FOR INDECENT EXPOSURE!" To which I replied, "It wasn't indecent exposure you idiot, it's not like you saw my penis." As he was ready to get out of the car to fight and really show his kids how to set an example, and between the beatings I'm sure this guy gives his wife.. they drove off. 

Josh and Leah came into the parking lot having missed the excitement. They had reached their goal of running to the halfway point. We said our goodbyes as Nate, Julie and I headed out for more while Steve played the role of support at a few of the upcoming road crossings. As the temperatures continued to climb throughout the day, the hard pack granular we had to run on was getting harder to find. I was super glad to have had my Kahtoola Mikro-Spikes over my Brooks shoes though my feet were soaked and getting cold. My legs were tired as I hadn't run this far since mid-October. Between cramps, fatigue and trying to keep up with the speed demons, I was in and out of the weeds. Though I'll be the first to admit I accomplished everything with a huge smile on my face.
At the end of the trail Nate was looking for the cars. I got a real kick out of explaining to him that in typically Sherpa Style, this race has some nuts to it. I explained that we had 3.5 miles left on the road. We headed out to 108 and I told Julie and Nate to take a right at the next light and they'll find the cars some 3 miles down the road from there.. "come and pick me up when you get there." They took off running and I followed behind at my own pace, soon losing sight of them. As I ran through the center of Newfields, I laughed and knew that these guys weren't going to come get me. The final 3 miles I set up was all long rolling hills that pass through open farm space. Which means after 25 miles of flat, they were being forced to run with different muscles (tired as well) over hills that now seem epic, through fields where the winds whipped across.. while I laughed and chuckled and enjoyed my own torture, I knew that at the car there'd still be beer waiting for me.

So the first STREAK! of the year has come to a close. To end it off, I put all of our streakers tickets into "the bowl" and then proceeded to pull the winning name. After running the most miles through the month of January, surviving all 47 days of running, and a few other miscellaneous items, Nate won the first prize package. We had a great day to celebrate and I really enjoyed my time with the gang as usual. Hey... you should never need a race to run 50K.. just head out and do it.. never know where the adventure will take you! Cheers!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Flow Theory

It was the 1970's when world renowned psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi began his research on positive psychology concept of "Flow." I own Mihály's book on flow and have taken the time to read it a few times, It takes a few times to comprehend his writing, and others I have met who have read it agree that it's a tough and pretty boring read. But it's this research that is spread through the psychology of so many fields.

I like to look at flow theory from the perspective of an athlete. When people hear that I run for hours and hours on end, they often say, "What do you think about? I'd get bored." I've thought about this greatly and I've come to the conclusion that many of these people would get bored because they do not have an understanding of the Flow Theory.

In brief lay terms.. Flow is a time during activity engagement, where the individual transcends oneself into an almost other-worldly state, where they are completely immersed in the activity. This is not just relegated to athletic activities, Mihály has proven through his research how anyone can achieve this level of consciousness through even the simplest activities. It truly comes down to the amount of joy one derives from the engagement of an activity. (Another way to consider Flow is to say, "In The Zone.")

So when I hear that someone would be "bored" from running for hours on end I'm taken a-back. Because I don't get bored. When I run 50 to 100 miles or more I fall into this transcendent state of flow numerous times. It's during these times on the run where the miles just tick by, time seems to stand still and I am at my best. There is no other experience on this earth that matches this phenomena and/or the natural chemicals one receives from this state (adrenaline, dopamine, etc). I think people have this perception of boredom because they themselves are incapable of experiencing flow or knowing when to recognize when they are experiencing it. It certainly is acquired knowledge and an acquired taste.

My goal here is not to give you a lesson on flow. I'm going to let Mihály do some of that on his own within the video below. My goal here is to merely introduce or remind you of this concept. To inspire you to investigate your own understanding of Flow and how it is woven into your life. If not in sport then in what? Reading? Writing? How do you achieve flow? When we talk about Human Potential we talk about that fire within us all that fuels our engine and allows us to engage in the activities that make us realize this potential. When we think about flow in this context... we think of it as.. the fire is burning at it's brightest, we're all systems go, we're in the zone.. and our potential is truly being realized and reinvented. Enjoy it.. embrace it..

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bear Brook Fat Ass

Saturday, January 29, 2011
Bear Brook State Park
Allenstown/Deerfield, NH

I want to take a moment to thank Leeapeea for organizing yesterdays Snowshoe event out at Bear Brook State Park. Josh and I had the privilege of getting up before dawn and meeting out at the park for a few extra miles before the rest of the gang showed up. It was a beautiful morning, fresh snow and crisp air. We saw many animal tracks of our furry friends the moose, deer, squirrel and snow hare. Once the rest of the gang showed up we had quite a group. What was thought to have been a 9 mile loop turned out to be cut in half which in itself was over 11 miles. Josh and I managed to slog through 18 miles of fun. The afternoon temps rose to about 38 degrees in the mark making the snow super sticky and tough to travel on but we fared well. Breaking trail was a blast up Bear Mtn and we thank the snowmobiles for packing the rest of the park out as we made our way up and over Hall. Hey... instead of me babbling on, here is a video of our day out in the snow!

video