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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Boulder Bound!


On May 21st I'll walk across the stage at The University of New Hampshire and receive my Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology: Outdoor Education. The ceremonial ending to an odyssey in education that began in the Fall of 2006. On May 23rd.. I'll load a van full of our personal effects and begin the more than 2,000 mile drive cross-country from Epping NH.. all of 197' above sea level.. to Boulder, CO.. 5,399' above sea level.. to begin a new life.

It was in May of 2006 when I first travelled to Boulder. We stayed in town while a family member was wed at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. It was right before this trip that my future father-in-law told me that I'd fall in love with Boulder and Colorado and for sure there is where I'd want to be. And so, that Fall.. my journey began and some 4 very long years later it will end.. as most everything in my life tends to end, with the end goal in hand.

I've secured an Internship/Job as a Professional Guide in the Greater Boulder Area. I'll be guiding in Rocky Mountain National Park, Roosevelt National Forest, on the Colorado Trail and over the Continental Divide. Hiking, Backpacking, Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking, Trail Running, Rafting, Horseback Riding and many more adventures... this was my goal. My dream to bring people outside and provide unique life-changing experiences for them in the outdoors is finally coming to fruition.

Words cannot fully describe how excited I am. I'm excited to be leaving New England and it's conservative ways. The stubborn, never change nature of this place has long grown old. Progress for the betterment of man doesn't exist here but constant bickering does. This is no place to raise children with urban sprawl constantly on the rise, education funding always in debate with no clear solutions... this is honestly one of the last places I'd ever wish to raise my children.
How Many Elk Do you See?
I really wish I could find the words to describe how I'm feeling. I'm humbled, excited, energized, motivated, complacent, awe-struck, even angry.. I can't believe it's happening. Just another day of realizing my own true Human Potential. Realizing in 2006 that yes, yes I could make it to Boulder if I want it.. and 5 years later, I'll be standing at the foot of the Rockies once again only this time as a resident instead of as a visitor. The work I put into this, the time, the effort, the commitment.. to my studies, myself and my loved ones... I'm exhausted. But it was all worth it in the end.

So.. as these last few months in New England wind down I'll be sure to count my many memories here after 30 years of life amongst the storied stones of the New Hampshire countryside. This, of course, will always be home. But I have a new history to create. A new story to tell. A new chapter to begin. So for the many of you who read this from the Northeast... my only hope is that we'll have a chance to say goodbye. And to those who live in the Wild West.. I hope we get a chance to say.. Hello.

Influence
It was Ethan Allen Crawford and his father Abel who were the fathers of Inn Keeping in America. They turned their house at the southern terminus of, New Hampshire's presently named Crawford Notch, into a Bed & Breakfast of sorts for northward travelers. They then built and Inn at the top or northern end of the notch.. then a house halfway in between now known as the Willey House. It was 1819 and people were taking the train to the North Country then from there they'd ride by horse of buggy to the Crawford's hostels. Ethan, seen above, was a pioneer of sorts. He soon became America's first mountain guide, bringing his many visitors, some of whom included Emerson, Thoreau and Cole, to the top of New Hampshire's White Hills.

As the story goes, Ethan also wanted to created a petting zoo in the valley at his house. So on his hunting expeditions, he would herd whatever creatures he could find back to the yard, where he'd fence them in and invite guests to engage with his new friends. One day, while hunting, Ethan found a bear and chased it up a tree. He climbed after the bear then tied it's snout closed with a handkerchief. He then threw the bear amongst his shoulders and began walking down the mountain with it to bring to his petting zoo. The bear scratched and clawed at everything it could reach. Trees, branches, even at Ethan himself. He decided he'd tie it's paws too. Except when he lowered the bear from the shoulders.. he dropped it with such force onto a rock that he killed the animal. Ethan was crushed.. and so ended his days as a petting zoo owner.

However, "Ethan of the Hills," continued to guide his guests into the mountains to show them a world unlike any other and to allow the moments of peaceful and spiritual tranquility. Almost 200 years later, the Crawford legacy of Inn-Keeping and Guiding carries on. After spending a majority of my life camping amongst the tree's of Crawfords Notch and now having just completed education to do exactly what it was this man did.. I of course memorialized my idol in the premier way. Enjoy
Lastly.. please help my group out in one of my final classes by answer the following 3 Minute Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KVZ8RS2

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Upcoming Peak.com Races

Just wanted to set a quick reminder out on behalf of my good friend Andy Weinberg. The www.peak.com racing season is fast approaching and they have three AMAZING races coming up on the calendar pretty fast. Those who have run an Andy Weinberg race in the past will tell you how well he takes care of you as a participant and as a crew member. They'll also tell you how challenging his courses are yet, easy enough that anyone can join in the fun.

So here is what's coming up!

March 5, 2011
SNOWSHOE RACES
6.55 Mile Fun Run, Half Marathon, Marathon and 100 Mile Snowshoe Ultra!
Prices are $60, $90, $100, $225 respectively

May 5-8, 2011
McNAUGHTON IN VERMONT
30, 100, 150, 200 and 500 Mile Trail Races!
Prices are $80, $260, 300, $350.. contact Andy for 500 mile prices

June 4, 2011
PITTSFIELD PEAKS ULTRA CHALLENGE
50K, 53 Miler and 10 Mile Fun Run
$75, $100, $40 respectively.
This is by far my favorite of the races and is a GREAT VT100 Prep Race.

For more info visit www.peak.com

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Cordwainer Search

[Before I get to the down and dirty of this post, I just want to take a moment to thank my friends at Brooks Running for 3 great years of support. It was in 2008, while working at Eastern Mountain Sports that I met one of Brooks Regional Sales Reps. After talking for more than an hour about Human Potential and Ultra-marathon running, she put me in touch with the head of the Brooks Inspire Daily Sponsorship Program. I was immediately accepted into the program as a "mid-level" sponsored athlete and over the last few years, it has been Brooks shoes that I've trusted to help me click off the miles and get the job done.


However, nothing in this world seems to stay the same anymore, and as changes to programs and products come about, so do the athletes willingness to be a part of the program. So last week, after having previously accepted my sponsorship for 2011, I had to thank Brooks for their support and move on. Below is the story as to why.]
This past Tuesday while walking around downtown Portsmouth, I decided to take a walk over to the local independent shoe store known as Runners Alley. I ran 50K in my Brooks shoes this weekend and while looking down I realized that the model shoe I used to love, has turned lack-luster to me. I'm getting blisters more frequently on my heels, the quality of the shoe has gone down hill quite dramatically and the amount of nagging injuries being subjected to my ankles and shins, as well as random pains in the knees has begun to increase. These injuries typically occur due to inadequate footwear. So, I thought I'd head over to Runner's Alley and try on a pair of real trail shoes.. I wanted the La Sportiva Imogenes.

I walked into the front door of the store and was greeted by one of the young ladies behind the counter. She was inviting and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I told her I was looking for the La Sportiva Imogenes to which she replied with a rather snooty voice, "We don't carry that brand's stuff." So I asked, "Ok.. well what trail shoe companies do you carry?" She replied by raising her hand and counting on her fingers, "Brooks, Mizuno, Asics, Adidas, New Balance..." She stopped and I took my chance, "So... road shoe companies that try to make trail shoes?"... "Well I've never had a problem before." I thanked her for her time and then walked right out of the store, disappointed as usual that one of the only local running companies in New Hampshire hasn't the foggiest of ideas about trail shoes.. it's a road running heaven around here.

But then I thought about my response to her... "So... road shoe companies that try to make trail shoes?" It was like a type of epiphany. Road Shoe companies.. why the hell are these companies even trying to make a trail shoe. I thought about my sponsor, Brooks, and what they had. They carry just two trail shoes. The Cascadia's were co-created by Scott Jurek, one of the best 100 mile runners in the world. The shoe is pretty much a racing flat with an aggressive sole texture. This shoe would work well for a guy like Scott. Long legs, long stride and a fast turnover. He can run 100 miles at 8 minute pace if he wanted to so the idea of a racing flat isn't painful to him, it's ideal. But when you're a runner like me, who is going to be out on the trails for a whole extra day compared to Scott's performance.. yeah... I'm not afraid to admit that I need a little help in the stability and cushioning department.

So then I looked at my go to shoe. The Brooks Trail Adrenaline ASR's. I'm currently running in a pair of the 7's. When I first became a Brooks Athlete, I began running in the ASR 4. Check out the photo's below. I still have a pair of each generation of the ASR's through the years. From my beginnings with 4, to 5, 6 and now 7.
Adrenaline ASR 4 - The Tanks
The ASR is the shoe that I've had the longest obviously. I cannot tell you how many miles I've put on this one pair. I'm still running and adding miles in them to this day and I got the shoe 3 years ago! These shoes were amazing when I bought them. They perfect about of support, stability and protection that I needed and craved. While it wasn't Gore-tex, the show came with an inner layer of plastic that was place in between two layers of fabric. When the 5's came out, that layer of plastic was gone and so was some of the "tank-like" fabric that the outer of the shoe was comprised of. The shoe also changed from a stalky protective shoe to a more elongated running shoe akin to the road-running brethren. The the shoe wasn't terrible and I missed the features of the 4 that I loved, the shoe still performed quite well though I'll admit they substituted comfort for rigidity.
Adrenaline ASR 6
I got a pair of the 6's early as I was a wear tester. I got them in March of 2009 and when I tried them on they screamed road shoe all the way. Gone was any and all protection on the shoes upper, traded in for mesh. The sole was the same as the 5's but the "soul" was now gone. I wasn't wearing a trail shoe anymore, I was now wearing a road shoe with a trail runner sole. The evidence of this change came rather quickly. I owned two pairs of these shoes and by the end of 2009, they both looked the same. An awful mess. The Adrenaline ASR's, a shoe I could wear everywhere and anywhere before without fear of their instant disintegration, were now... disintegrating. My toes were hanging out of the sides of the shoes and that whole idea of them not building things to last so I'd have to buy more was coming into mind. I wasn't replacing shoes at 300-500 miles because of the sole's being worn out or compacted.. I was replacing them because my shoes were falling apart.
Adrenaline ASR 7
And then the 7's came out. I only bought one pair to check them out. I've run maybe 300 miles in them and they falling a part quicker then any of the other ASR's preceding them. I look down in disappointment and at times almost disgust. What was once a perfect trail running shoe, made of quality materials that held up over the miles and the test of time.. was now a flimsy road running shoe with a mediocre footbed. The sole is still aggressive but it doesn't even matter anymore. The shoe's outer is made up of mesh that houseflies could fly in and out of. I could never take this shoe running in New Hampshire's White Mountains and expect to wear them again. They'd be chewed up and spit out by the rock gods if I even made it out of the woods with them still on my feet. "Road Running shoe companies trying to make trail shoes..."
Sole's of the 7 (Left) and the 4 (Right)
When I had my epiphany I was truly disappointed. Sometimes it takes something really simple to get our gears turning and opening our eyes. I'm sad that it was yet another lack-luster visit to Runners Alley that got the cogs inline. While I support Brooks culture, their mission and what they do to Inspire people to run,  I cannot honestly support what their shoes have become. As I make my move out to Boulder Colorado I realize that I need a real trail shoe. A trail shoe made by a trail shoe company. The search is on..

[Note: Could someone please open a quality running store in New Hampshire that knows what trail running is and something, hell anything, about trail running shoes?!]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

STREAK 2 - ADVERSITY

Huge thanks to everyone who participated in Streak 1 - STREAK! We started the program on January 1st with 11 inspired souls. Forty-Five Straight Days of running later, and a few naked butts on the 31st, four were left standing. Nathan Sanel won the Human Potential Prize Package after running for 45 days straight and accumulating some 451+ Miles! Wowsers! Congrats to Nate and all of our other participants who were inspired enough to show the world a bit of their own Human Potential

Now it's time for
STREAK 2 - ADVERSITY

There is no doubt that adversity plays huge part in Human Potential. Lighting your internal fire is only one step of realizing all that you truly have to give. Think of it this way:
Dreams & Goals = Spark
Doing It = Lighting/Feeding the Fire
Adversity = Raging Inferno or Dwindling Flame
Success + Self-Actualization = Human Potential

For Streak 2, we're going to tap into Adversity = Raging Inferno or Dwindling Flame. By now you can probably guess that our goal is to tap into Raging Inferno and forget all about Dwindling Flame. The month of March is going to be your time to create your own March Madness, create adversity for yourself and fight through it to turn that tiny flame you call a fire into a raging inferno. Much of what we do as adventurers goes beyond the basic skills and challenges necessary to complete the task or live the dream. We sometimes go through a series of situations (adversity) that gets in our way. Some people call this "The Wall." Streak 2 is about creating your own wall, pushing it down and stomping all over it.

The Rules:
- Participants must engage in creative workouts 2 times per week (Examples Below).
- Some form of photo or video of the workout must be taken and shared.
- Running with Ankle Weights Doesn't Count... GET CREATIVE!
- One Workout must cover at least 2 Miles in Distance. The other must cover 4. (2 per Week)
Example 1: Create a waist/harness system that allows you to drag a large truck tire behind you for 3 or 4 miles.
Example 2: Find a log, find a way to carve a yolk or some kind of way to carry it, then run for 4 miles.

The Point System:
2 Tickets For Each Week Survived
4 Bonus Tickets For Winning Workout Of The Week
5 Bonus Tickets For Best Blood For The Month
1 Extra Ticket For Creative Use Of 80's Music In Videos
1 Extra Ticket For Apparel Considerations
8 Tickets For Each Workout Completed Entirely In A Walmart Parking Lot

All Participant Tickets Will Be Put Into "The Bowl" For The End Of The Streak Drawing (Apr. 1)

This Months Human Potential Prize Package:
Two 22 Oz. Nathan HPL Handheld Bottles
Nemo & Powerbar Stickers
1 Case of PowerBar PowerGels - Vanilla
Choice of Team Sherpa Headsweats Hat or Visor
One Pair of Earthtec Fleece Socks

To Enter Please Email: Sherpajohn@gmail.com
Place "Streak 2" in the subject line

Workout Examples:

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..

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rock Hard Adventure

A few years back I spotted a video on ESPN.com that depicted this "crazy" competition out in the frozen hills of somewhere England. I watched the video with my jaw wide open as it told the story of a competition known as "The Tough Guy." I watched as participants dove through ice into frigid waters, crawled under barbed wire, ran through fire, were electrocuted by Jellyfish tentacles and all other kinds of general masochism.  After watching the video I supplied the link to my friend Joe Desena in Pittsfield, VT and told him... "Peak races need to put this on in America."

And so was born The Peaks Death Race. Peak Racing's own version of torture which challenges the heartiest of competitors. What started out as a hobby race has turned into a monster. From ages 18 to 53, nearly 50 have finished the race as over 400(+/-) have tried. It has quickly garnered a following of sorts. Competitors from all over the country have come out. It's been featured in national news casts, Outdoor Magazine and there is talk of a reality TV show being made about the event.

There had to be a way to get everyone involved. The Death Race is primarily for those who can survive more then a day of torture. But what about the average Joe? Someone who just wants to test themselves for a few hours and feel much the same pain as those Death Races will in late June. For them, they've also created The Spartan Race. These "baby death races" are being held all over the United States, Canada and England. Winners gain auto-entry into The Death Race and many others simply cry their way back to their cars. While on a much smaller scale, there is nothing easy or kind about a Spartan Race.

It intrigues me lately when I sign into Facebook and see advertisements for races such as The Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac and The Oyster Racing Series. Each of these races has some claim to being "The toughest race on the planet." Hearty claims for small time races that cater to pansies who want to pretend to have a pair. The Tough Mudder comes close to the Spartan Race but doesn't hold a candle to Tough guy or The Death Race. Nothing annoys me more then a race with false claims.

All joking a side (I hope you got the jokes and sarcasm above), America has fallen in love with this new idea of a challenge. Something about masochism, testing your limits, the potential to be set on fire and electrocuted while wearing next to nothing and being covered in mud.. yes America.. you are truly sick. You have plenty of events to choose from. From the mundane to the bad ass. Choose the limits you're willing to test and give it hell. It's a unique way to discover your true human potential. Why not give it a try!?

SJ

Sunday, February 6, 2011

From Grass Roots...

Lately I've been thinking back to last August when I was sitting in an auditorium in Leadville, CO with about 1000 other runners and their crews. As I sat the left of the room on the top row of the wooden bleachers I quickly scanned the scene, in complete awe at the amount of people that had filled the room. My friend Jeff had made the trip from the Northeast to help out Nate and his run, and while sitting in the auditorium Jeff was the kid who spotted all the "famous types." For a short while Jeff would continue to nab my attention, stand up and point people out. It was with exuberant excitement on his face he pointed out Anton Krupicka, Hal Koerner, Chris McDougall, Barefoot Ted and on and on. It was while Jeff pointed these people out with a child-on-christmas like exuberance.. that I began to feel more and more distant from a sport that has become something different then what it was when I joined in the fun.

So I think back even further. To that summer of 2005 when I ran my first ultra-marathon. I first heard about Ultra's in 2004 when they were described to me with words like, "So few people are doing this kind of thing" and "small community." I signed up for my first ultra, The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra in New York's Adirondack Mountains. It was a 50K race that only allowed 40ish starters every year. The entry process favored race veterans who were the first decide if they wanted to run again. After that, whatever spots were left open were at a first come first served basis. The race, a 36.2 mile adventure, offered no aid stations, was point to point and never crossed a road.

Last year I hear that after 10 years of Race Directing, RD Jim Houghtaling, it was because of his disdain for the over-the-top popularity of his once humble race. So many people are into running ultra's now that this once humble and "family" race was beginning to be harder for the veterans to run/get into and that it's just not what is used to be. (Heard it through the grapevine) There certainly was something special about Wakely. After Jim left his RDing duties, two new RD's have taken the reigns. Registration is now first come first serve, race shirts cost an extra $15 and who knows where the humble beginnings of this Adirondack Adventure will lead...

But these thoughts bring me back to Leadville. Sitting in that gym having all of these "stars" pointed out to me made me rather disappointed. This once humble sport, the humble sport I joined, is no more. It's not a sport filled by stars and "pros" thanks to the hyperbole of a few popular books. When I joined ultra-running, it was a sport where we all were equals. Everyone got the same buckle, for running the same course, regardless of what our times were.. it was a family event. But now.. the shift has turned to a sport of individuals with a sense of entitlement. Where family has turned into, "I'm better than you," and the writing of a book as turned into a train wreck that everyone wants to be a part of.
Courtesy of www.realendurance.com
As of the writing of this post, I'm waiting to hear if I've made it into the Hardrock 100 via the Lottery. I'm not holding my breath and am actually anticipating the answer to be no. Why? Because of the numbers e-mail I read this week. As of last weekend, 559 runners were fighting for 102 spots.  After the algorythm, my chances of getting in were around 9%. Then I read this,


"I speculate that we are seeing the beginning of a swell of applicants who got into ultra running after having read DK's book or "Born To Run", and are just now getting to the point where they meet the qualifications to run Hardrock. I think we'll have over 1000 applicants in two years. It is unlikely that we will increase the number of runners that we start."

Yeah... and that same crew of runners will be the ones in Silverton standing up pointing out the Hals, Deans, Barefoot Ted's and others like they're more important then the others. In a sport where everyone is supposed to be equal and the member of a "frindge family," there sure are a lot of super hero's these days.. and the idea of family has sadly begun to disappear.  So while Jeff stood up and pointed at Leadville.. I look at him and mouthed.. "WHO CARES?" I know that I don't. Maybe it's because I also think fondly of my run with Karl Meltzer in 2008.. he came to NH and ran with me in the snow. Just two guys, members of a family.. equals.. sharing the roads and trails of New Hampshire's Seacoast. I knew who he was.. he knew who I was... Just two guys who enjoyed running for our own reasons.. we were equals.

I hope our sport can someday get back to it's grass roots. I fear, however, that we've travelled down a road we can't turn around on. Maybe I'll find a new sport.. maybe I'll find those quieter races.. becaue in the end.. I don't care if the dude's barefoot, or looks like jesus, or appears on page 147 of a NY Times best seller. All I care about.. is that we're all in this together... as one.. as equals. I just wish while in that auditorium.. Jeff could have pointed at himself and said.. and here I am... 

I'm just proud I joined before "the books" came out. I consider myself a member of the original generation of Ultra runners/dreamers. I inspired myself.. not by a book.
SJ

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January Recap


It's Groundhog Day and winter is all ready about half over. For some reason I think we have a long way to go. We finally got some snow around here in January. We went from not having any heading into this month to getting over 80." This combined with some bitter cold snaps where temps reached in the teens and 20's below zero has made running very interesting. I managed to run outside on 28 of 31 days during the month. The streak is still alive, 31 days, and counting. The new diet has shown fabulous results where I hit 169.2 on Saturday the 29th. My weight shifted back up a bit since then but.. I know I'll continue to lose with my life style changes. What a great month it was and February is looking better as well.

I signed up for Leadville finally, so I'm in. The Hardrock 100 Lottery is this coming weekend. My schedule for the year will be pretty much solidified after this weekend. On top of that, the Snowshoe 100 is about a month away now. I'm pretty nervous about it as it's going to be my final Peak Race after proudly racing in Pittsfield, VT for the last 4 years. There's only 4 of us registered in the event, we start on a Friday at 4pm and have two days to complete the distance. I have no idea what I was thinking.

But for now, lets just look back at January...
January Re-Cap

Miles Run: 101.7
# of Runs: 31
Avg. Miles: 3.28
2011 Total Miles: 101.7

Health:
Month Starting Weight: 178.2 lbs
Month Ending Weight: 170.2 lbs (weigh in 1/30)
Weight Change: -8 lbs

Race Results:
No Races

Goal Results:
Weight: 178 to Sub 170 (PASS - 1/29 Weight 169.2)
Time: Threshold 5K in 26:07 to Sub 25:00 (PASS - 24:44 on 1/31)
Days: Run on 20 Days (PASS)

February Goals:
Weight: Reach 165 lbs. Bonus for 162.
Time: Threshold 5K time down to 24:00
Days: Run on 20 Days and include at least one run of 50K or more.