Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Loose Ends

I wanted to take a minute to tie up some loose ends here on my blog. I know some of you have been following right along this year and we've covered quite a few topics. I certainly hope the change in content., the frequency of content and the relative nature of the content to what you'd typically find here is both useful, thought provoking and entertaining to you all. I've made it a mission of mine this year to really hone in on those relative pieces, taboo topics and also continuing to lend a little bit of that magnifying glass on my personal development as a human being while we roll along. From time to time, I have a need to just take a break from the harder to write posts and just shoot from the hip to catch you up to speed on life.

New Sponsor/Old Sponsor
I'd like to welcome Osprey Packs to the family. I've long admired Osprey Packs and have sold many many many packs while working at Eastern Mountain Sports. Their high quality, comfortable and virtually indestructible packs are the bee's knees. I'm proud to be a supporter of Osprey and proud that they've decided to support me.

Unfortunately my three year relationship with Darn Tough of VT has come to an end, after becoming very disappointed over the last few months with their level of professionalism and lack of communication. As I mentioned in a previous post about Getting Sponsored, a large part of what it is to be sponsored, and for a company sponsoring an athlete, is creating a valuable and productive relationship. It is a two way street that unfortunately wasn't reciprocated on their end. This aspect of sponsorships is very important to me and in the past I've even turned potential sponsors down because they lack communication skills. I'm really disappointed by this development especially since Darn Tough socks is all I wore and promoted for so long. I still do think their company produces quality socks and wish them well in their future endeavors.

The Big Move
I've found a place to live in Louisville, Colorado as well as employment out of Boulder and Estes Park as a guide. I'm very excited about making the trip west. A drive that will take 3 days, I've invited my mother and step-father to drive us across the country. Some good last minute quality time to share an explore together. I'm excited, especially with my new internship/job. I called my employer to ask how the work load looks for the summer and there's talk of opening a second office. I'm excited knowing I'll be a busy boy once arriving to my new digs. I'm excited to document the adventure here, I'm also excited to compare and contrast East vs. West Living and running cultures. Right now, I know the move is going to cost over $2500 just to get to Colorado from here. Crummy Travel Expenses!

Injured
Something is wrong with my right leg. At first I thought it was Posterior or Anterior Tibialis Tendonitis. I rested in February but after picking up my training again here at the far end of March, the pain is back. I'm beginning to think that I have a stress fracture in my tibia. I called my doctor today and he won't be able to see me until April 20th. They suggested I go to Urgent Care if it gets any worse, which is where I think I'm going to end up going. I can see a tiny straight line bruise under my skin. It's feint but, I know something is there, something is wrong and I need to get it looked at so I can adjust my training to the bike if need be.

Streak Earth
If you haven't read it yet I encourage you to check it out. The Streak for the month of April is called Streak Earth and it's designed to not only get you running but helping you clean up your running routes while being environmentally conscious. As always there is a prize package involved. I've added a T-Shirt from NEMO Equipment to that prize package. I very much hope some of you decide to sign on and do your part to pick up the earth around you.

Something Foolish
This upcoming weekend is the Sixth Annual Fool Scouts Ball at Lonesome Lake Hut on New Hampshire's Cannon Mountain. I had attended the first two or three of these foolish events and then life kind of got in the way these last few years. I'm excited to be making my triumphant return as the ceremonial turkey runner for the event, a record which I still hold for running turkeys to the hut from the base of Franconia Notch. Sounds like this year I'll be running Hams and Pork Loin. No matter to me. 

The other part of this weekends adventure is my friend Randy Pierce and his wife Tracy. I've invited them along and I am exited to be helping Quinn guide Randy to the hut to introduce him to some of New Hampshire's more fun and successful peak-baggers. It is my hope that, as I say goodbye to the many friends I've made in the White Mountains over the years, I can pass Randy off to them in the hopes that they'll assist him on his amazing journey.

That's about it for now. Sometimes I get caught up in the content I want to present and forget that this blog is also a personal public journal of sorts. I hope you'll all continue to read along and I hope to meet many of you on the trails soon. Don't be shy.. I'm always an e-mail away.

SJ

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Streak EARTH

After the success of January's "Streak" competition, we planned a second for the month of March. However, so few opted to give it a whirl that we cancelled the competition all together. So now, on the doorstep of the month of April, we're going to try it again. As we all know, April is the Month for the Earth with Earth Day being the main focus. This streak is going to coincide with the ideals of Earth Day and how we as runners can do our part to help tidy up. As the snow continues to melt in your neck of the woods, or maybe it never came, either way this streak is designed to get you involved with Spring Cleaning in your neighborhoods. So without further adieu, Streak Earth!

Streak Earth
The Rules:
- During the four weeks in April, being from Friday to Friday, you must run 2 runs of 2 or more miles where you make it your mission to pick up trash along your running route.
- Collect your trash throughout the month, never throwing it away, so that we can see your growing pile through your individual efforts all month long.
- After you have collected trash on your runs each week, take a photo of your pile and send it to Sherpa at Sherpajohn@gmail.com

Completing this weekly task during the 4 weeks from April 1 - April 29 will give you 5 tickets for the end of the month raffle!
All Participant Tickets Will Be Put Into "The Bowl" For The End Of The Streak Drawing (Apr. 30)

WIN EXTRA TICKETS!
As always you can also win extra tickets for the end of the month raffle through the following ways:
1 Extra Ticket: Go To http://www.afitplanet.com/ and take the EcoPledge
3 Extra Tickets: Run an Earth Day 5K
3 Extra Tickets: Separate the recyclables from your trash
(cash in your aluminum for $$ and add the $$ to your "found change" pile)
5 Extra Tickets: Be the one to collect the most loose change while on your runs
5 Extra Tickets: Perform one full 6 hour day of volunteer trail maintenance with an organization

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

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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Barefoot Running

A Contrite Story
It was early 2009 and I worked at Eastern Mountain Sports. I'd been a employee there for the last 4 or 5 years. Our stores "Foot Guru" Chris came up to me and started asking me questions about his running form. He told me how he felt sluggish, his legs and joints always hurt and he felt like he just wasn't running right.. like he wasn't efficient. So we went out into the parking lot and I watched him run. I asked him to run away from me, and I watched his stride. He turned around and I had him run back. I found the problem right away and as we walked inside I started to talk to him about it... "You see Chris, the problem is that you're a heel striker."

Chris was blown away by the fact that something as simple as, "you're running by landing on your heels" was the root of his problems. I knew me just telling him wasn't going to be enough. So I fished around the internet and in scholarly journals to find what little evidence of Fore-Foot stride vs. Heel Stride existed. Chris and I took turns reading and we both continued to learn. I explained to him that when I first started running in 2004 it was extremely painful. The heels of my shoes were wearing out rather quickly, my hips and knees always hurt and I was unsure if it was even something I wanted to do. Then I hired a personal athletic trainer. The first thing she did with me was look at my stride and that very day we got to work fixing my mechanical issues and making me a more efficient runner. From that day on.. my running would never be the same and it was this discovery that led me on the road to running 100 milers.

Chris, as our "Foot Guru" at the store then went to the annual "Foot Guru" training in mid 2009. By now Born To Run was making some waves and the amount of research, articles and various other writings had begun to flood the internets at a ferocious pace. He brought some of these articles with him to Eastern Mountain Sports training and he asked the "EXPERTS," "Will EMS be carrying the Vibram Five Fingers and what is our stance on barefoot/forefoot running. The answer blew our minds... and left an extreme sour note with Chris and I that would eventually lead us to leaving a company we no longer believed in. After the rep's and experts finished laughing at Chris they said, "this barefoot running craze is nothing more than a fad. Soon enough, once the boom of running injuries has subsided, it will disappear back into the abyss. For now, our stance is to keep selling our customers quality foot care, with orthotic inserts to provide them the support they need."

By Christmas of 2009 word had caught that EMS would be carrying the Vibram Five Fingers come Spring 2010 (imagine that). People were coming into the door on a daily basis looking for the shoes wanting to try them on before we even had them. We continued to turn them away, sending them to our competitors to find them. When the shoe's finally arrived, we couldn't keep them on the shelves. They flew out the door! Then we got a company wide memo which stated, "Sales of Vibram Five Fingers have exceeded our expectations. Unfortunately, because of this we failed to order enough of the shoes to fill our customers needs for the remainder of the year. Therefore, what you have now is likely what you'll have for the remainder of the season." Chris and I were livid. EMS went from laughing us out of a room, to carrying the shoes they laughed at and called a fad, to running out of the supply at a breakneck pace, to admitting their idiocy and having no fix. Not to mention that EMS started carrying Born To Run  some 9 months after it landed itself on the New York Times Best Seller List.

I helped many a customer at EMS, try on a pair of the new funny shoes. My favorite being a gentleman with the absolute most disgusting feet I've ever seen in my life who asked me if he could "put my custom orthotics into these?" I tried to explain, "Well sir, there's scientific research that states..." "I've read the research!" ...

Do You Run Barefoot?
It's a pretty constant question. People see you walking around in a pair of the Vibrams and they point at your feet, "Look! He has those funny shoes!" or some other variation of sounding rather misplaced. The question I'm most getting these days when people hear that I'm a runner is not "Have you run Boston?" Now it's, "So what do you think of that barefoot thing? Do you run barefoot?"I tell them honestly that I own a pair and that I have run in them... and I leave it at that. Truth me told, I really only wear them around the house or whenever I'm swimming in a river or lake. When I wear them for a run, which is a total of 2 times in the 2 years I've owned a pair of Vibrams, I run no more than 3 miles in them. I use them to remind me of the running stride I adopted in my more traditional shoes, the fore-foot strike, which I trained myself to incorporate into my running without the need of a special shoe or sock.

Science
You really cannot argue with the science. When I read Born To Run, I felt that the most fascinating pages of the book had nothing to do with McDougall's account of Leadville (some hyperbole there) or his inspection of the Tarahumara. No, the most fascinating pages was how McDougall gave us his evidence that this fore-foot strike and this idea of barefoot running was the real deal. Where he talked about ancient tribes and harvard research. You, yourself, can go to Harvard Website and read the research for yourself. It's all right there with EVIDENCE in the form of videos, studies, models, etc. After reading and watching the things I've found there, I can't help but chuckle at those who still scoff and chuckle at the idea of running with a fore-foot stride.. they call it BS or hogwash. I call them ignorant and uninformed. These are most likely the people who believed that I Dream of Genie was a biography and that Jesus Christ himself actually did create the earth (Sans Big Bang Theory). No... what can science teach us if anything? To these folks.. science teaches us nothing. Or it teaches us only what they are comfortable to here. Well... pull up a chair and head to Lieberman's Research. Read it for all it's worth and THINK about it. It makes sense.. http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/  Need more proof? Watch a kenyan run... are they landing on their heels??



Barefoot Flood
It's everywhere now. An industry that at one point laughed at the idea of people running without shoes or with a specialty shoe, has now embraced the idea of "minimalist running." Merrell, Nike, Newton, Vivo, New Balance, Inov-8, Kigo, Feelmac, Soft Star, Sockwa, Zem, GoLite, Jingo and Vibram (http://barefootrunningshoes.org/).. yeah.. these are all the companies that are making a Barefoot or Minimalist shoe now and guess what? People are buying them! Some companies can't keep them on the shelves. At one point Vibram had a wait list over 6 months in length for a pair of their five fingers. There are blogs, websites, books, magazines.. you name it, dedicated to this new fascination. It's everywhere! Who's laughing now!?

The science is there. It make's sense. Do I run barefoot? No, I love my soft skin and I like shoes. I'll keep running in traditional trail shoes, but I'll continue to run the way I taught myself to run in 2005.. with a forefoot and mid-foot stride stride, before anyone ever heard of a Vibram, a Tarahumara or a Born To Run. Remember, it's not about what's on your feet... it's about the science.

Sherpa John... inventor of the Sherpa Shuffle. It's alive and well in America.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Running

Spring has finally arrive as far as the calendar goes but perhaps you're one of the unlucky few who still finds rotting snow lining your front yard. Or maybe you're like myself, and you fall under, EXTREMELY unlucky where a fresh 2 inches fell in your yard today. Either way, Spring running is either upon us or just around the corner and I felt that now is a great time to talk about some Spring Running tips to get us all off on the right foot.

Sherpa's Things to Consider for Enjoyable Spring Running
Shoe Choice
Let's face it, it's very probable that you're going to get wet and muddy on your trail run this time of year. If you are taking to the trails, now is not the time to bring your favorite pair of NEW shoes out for a tour. Instead, pick a pair of shoes you don't mind transforming into a pair of wasted fabric. Water and mud/sand does a number on your sneaks. After a run like this, you'll be hosing them off and leaving them out to dry causing some heavy damage to your shoes. With this in mind, try to use a pair of shoes you don't mind doing the damage too.
Road Hazards
If you're on the roads this time of year, be wary of the potholes left behind from winters harshness. It's easy to roll an ankle in one of these "holes to china." Also, be aware of the debris that lines the sides of the streets and lays just off the pavement and in the shoulder of the road. Nails and other sharp objects are easily hidden underneath the sand left behind by the town trucks. You'd be pissed if you ended a month of training due to a rusty nail in the foot.

Also keep in mind that now that the snow is gone and cars can actually see you, the new found freedom of driving faster is in full effect on the roads. Drivers forget that you're likely to be out and about or perhaps they don't expect you yet because they wouldn't run during this time of year themselves (if at all). Remember, not everyone is a runner.. you're just another object that the eyes scan only briefly. Run against traffic, keep your headphones OFF for now, and pay attention. Someone has to!

Tread Lightly
Try to stay off of trails that are primarily single-track and are still sopping wet from the melting snow and rainy days. If you run down a trail and you're leaving a 1-2" foot hole in the ground with each stride, you should have run elsewhere. Keep in mind that the trails don't take care of themselves and the effects of trail users (like you) heavily decides the future uses of some area's. The damage you cause on a "soft trail" could adversely affect your ability to use the trail in the future.

It's the time of year to pick up the trash, not contribute to it. If you're out for your run and it's time for a gel or snack, make sure your wrappers aren't flying in the wind. Secure your trash and pay attention. If you see any trash on the trail.. pick it up. If you see plenty on the road, spend one of your weekly runs doing your part to clean it up. Make your runs more enjoyable by making it more attractive to look at.

Ice Patches
Lets face it, while the snow is gone in your yard it might still be prevalent in some areas of the woods. Area's that are heavily travelled in the winter by snowshoers, nordic skiers or snowmobiles have been packed down hard and a slowly melting ice patch is often times still present. These patches tend to last much longer then most of us anticipate. Keep in mind that running on these patches comes with a variety of inherent risks. Make sure the patches you're running on aren't frozen deep puddles or ice hovering over bodies of water. You never know! Keep in mind that if you're breaking up the ice and it's slicing into the trail beneath, you're likely doing some damage to the trail from the ice chunks digging in. No matter how minimal this damage may be, you're not helping the process of erosion. Stay off ice patches and wait patiently for the thaw to complete it's work.

Water Crossings
As the rains have come in and the snow has melted rapidly, keep in mind that the deep rushing waters of spring are often times altering the river banks. What you might remember as being one way back in October before the snow flew is now looking completely different thanks to the effects of the running water. Also, a river/stream crossing that is traditionally shallow may now be much deeper than you can handle. Wait until Early May to begin fording those rivers. This also gives the rivers a chance to recede some as well as the water to warm up a bit. Hypothermia is still a real concern with daytime temps hovering in the mid 40s.

This is not an all encompassing list but hopefully it has given you some food for thought. We all get excited when the snow finally goes away but we all must remember the risks we take in running this time, and other times, of the year. Use common sense, have a plan, know when not to head down a trail.. and we'll all be able to enjoy an entire season of epic trail runs.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lucky Jeff

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Hike: Mount Jefferson
5,712'  @ 12 Miles
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Everyone has their white whales in life and Mount Jefferson has been one of mine. Sure I've hiked it many times over the years but it's the winter ascent that has haunted me since December 2005. It was March of 2006 when I announced and celebrated my completion of the "48" peaks in winter. However, for personal reasons I've never been satisfied with the effort. The main theme of that personal reason is Mount Jefferson. So heading into this winter, with plans to move to Boulder, I made it my one and only serious "MUST DO" goal of the winter to return to Jefferson and stand atop it's rocky exposed peak.

Timing is everything. When you start trying to come up with a plan to hike a peak such as this, you need a free day (rare these days) and the perfect weather window. Last week I told my classmate Pat that, whatever day the window falls on over Spring Break, we're going up. He agreed, excitedly, and as the weather story unfolded throughout the week we figured it out. At first it looked like Wednesday was our day but as a weak disturbance rolled though we switched to Thursday. The valley forecast called for temps in the upper 40's (it was 64 back home) and the higher summits forecast still told a vastly different story. When I woke up the day of our hike and looked at the Mount Washington Obs. higher summits forecast I told Pat we had a D.F.U. situation. "What's that?" he asked so I told him. High's in the uppers 20's with winds in the 35-40mph range with high gusts. Clouds rolling in in the afternoon with winds rising to near Hurricane Force with gusts near 100 and rain over night. "Don't F&@* Up."
We parked at the base of Mount Washingtons Cog Railway around 9AM, loaded up our packs and headed to Marshfield Station for a bio break. Only problem was the museum is closed. So after checking all the doors we walked right into the woods and began our hike. We could hear the rushing waters of the snow melt which have filled the stream beds which are rushing down to join the Ammonoosuc River down below. We reached the first bridge which was a mix of exposed boards and a monorail of rotted snow. The second bridge was a monorail about 3 feet high where one miss-step or cascade of snow would send you about 10 feet down into a 3 foot pool of frigid water. We took great care as we stayed with the Mantra "D.F.U."
 As we finally began to hike the main ridge of the Jewell Trail I felt my head get dive bombed by a tree rat.. or more commonly known as "The Grey Jay." We stopped to take out some food and our cameras. I put some craisins in my hand and smiled as these little guys landed upon my finger tips and ate the berries from my palm. Then I put a few up on my head where the birds landed and pecked a few berries off my dome. All smiles we pushed along enjoying some of the early views through the shrinking trees along the way. I entertained Pat with tales of some of my more illustrious prank calls from back in the day, chuckling along the way really enjoying each others company.
It wasn't long before the tree's were brightly covered in rime ice from the over night frozen fog. We stopped to admire natures artistry before rising above tree line and out into the open sky. From here we continued to silently watch as the morning fog and cloud bank rose from the valley's and flow up and over the tops of New Hampshire's highest peaks, lightly tickling the summits as it flowed over like water of rocks. The snow is much deeper now, not cold enough to be melting quite yet and firm. Solid sections of ice lay hidden under a fresh coating of sleet that had fallen the day before. Tired of slipping around and fear of falling down into the ravine forced me to put my Micro-Spikes on and Pat his snowshoes.
video
We continued to climb ever higher, enjoying the views, playing in the snow, being very careful along the snow slopes to not trigger and avalanche or slip and fall far below. The higher we got the more the wind began to pick up. The sun is up and it's lighting the white peaks up so bright that we had to put on our shades. My sunglasses gave me much needed relief from the blinding snow and I was relieved to no longer have to squint to see. Soon, it was evident that the trail was just going every which way. Cairns were still buried from the deep drifts and it was getting tougher to find our course. Though, up ahead I could see the cairns which marked the Gulf Side Trail. So, we made a b-line across the snowfields to the trail. After linking up, we turned North and stared at our goal of Jefferson.

As we moved along the Gulf Side Trail we noticed that we were now following a set of footprints. We knew they belonged to the resident fox but what was amazing to us is that he was following the trail, EXACTLY, from cairn to cairn across the entirety of the broad ridge. We carefully maneuvered our way across a large snowfield before making our final descent into Sphinx Col. Once reaching the col we could feel the wind kicking up and starting to really whip through the low spot. As we now began to climb the shoulder of Jefferson, the winds only got stronger. At our first place of refuge from the wind, we stopped to layer up, put on face protection and secure our glasses. Up here, the temps were in the 20's with the winds blowing from the WNW at 45 mph.. the windchill is 7. Below, we can see the haze in the valley from the evaporation of melting snow.. what a different world we are in now.
We stopped for a few breaks as we made our final approach to the top of Jefferson. The wind whipping so ferociously that we had to struggle for each forward step. We both were being knocked around, tired and near exhaustion from fighting. We couldn't talk simply because we couldn't hear each other through the rushing of the wind anyway. We both simply put our heads down, sucking in our guts, and trudged to the top of the peak. We finally reach the flat landing just below the summit where the wind was non-existent. We stopped here, dropped our packs and sat down for lunch. In disbelief that we're exhausted all ready from fighting the wind, sore.. and it had taken us 4 hours to reach the summit.. 6 miles of hiking.

After our lunch time break, we put our packs back on and touched the top. I raised my hands in celebration. Where the common theme here on my blog is redemption, that's exactly what I got this day atop Mount Jefferson. I'd made it to the top of my white whale and made a personal wrong a right. I was emotional yet it was too cold to cry. I knew my tears would freeze to my cheeks so I opted instead to just start heading home.
video
As we began our descent off Jefferson, we came to a place which offered what looked like exceptional glissading. So, I sat atop a high snowdrift, took out my camera and snapped a video of my adventure. Pat took his camera out and got a shot from his vantage point as well. It was a hoot! We reached the col once more and began the long slog up and out and back to our junction with Jewell. About half way up I spotted a long snowfield that ran parallel to the contours of the mountain. We got off trail and just started side-hilling around the cone of Clay. Not long after we came across a long snowfield that ran down hill. We looked up then down and sized the situation up. If we glissaded here, how long would we go for? How fast would we go? Where would we stop? Is it worth it? YES!  The camera's came out again, we sat down and took off down hill. We were the only ones on the mountain today, so no one could hear our hoots and hollers except for ourselves. We were having a blast, being kids, wishing we had a sled.
video
video
As we made our way back into the tree's it was warming up quickly. The rime that graced the branches earlier today were now raining to the forest floor. We were getting soaked from both sweat and drip. The snow was now rotting beneath us and post holing became the prevalent activity. Thankfully we descended quickly, and made it out of the woods without any "major" injuries. It was a fantastic day in the Whites, Above tree-line enjoying my last winter jaunt and most likely.. the last time I'll be above Treeline here in NH.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Starting Over

Very recently I came to the epiphany that, I need to start over. Now, at first I looked at this concept with a dejected feeling, like I'd failed myself, but in the end I realize that this is a good thing and if done properly I can help resurrect myself as a runner. I say resurrect, let's look at the definition of that word


resurrect  (ˌrɛzəˈrɛkt) 
— vb
1.
to rise or raise from the dead; bring or be brought back to life
2.
tr to bring back into use or activity; revive: to resurrect anancient law
3.
tr to renew (one's hopes, etc)


I find myself looking back on this "career" of running that I've amassed. I think of the goals I had before I started this journey, all of the goals that I obtained, the things I've fallen short on lately.. and why... and I think I finally have it all nailed down to one thing... It's simply time to start over. So where does one start over after having run over a dozen 100 milers, across an entire state and completed a loop of the Barkley Course?? The same place they started in the beginning.
I'm taking a very systematic approach at this by starting with what I call "The Human Potential Process." This 5 step process is what I believe we as humans endure in order to realize our HP. The steps are Goal Setting, Believing, Motion, Adversity and Self-Actualization. Let's Look at these a little bit closer and how we work with these steps in starting over.

1.) Goal Setting: What is your main goal? Now is not the time for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). Here we're going to use K.I.S.S.  Keep It Simple Stupid. So, moving forward, my main goal is redemption through finishing the Leadville Trail 100. Everything else between now and Leadville is a part of obtaining my goal of finishing Leadville. This means that if I run any races between now and then, I treat those races as training runs and not additional goal races of any kind.

2.) Believing: What's the point of trying to realize your goals if you don't believe that you can even do it? It's one thing to set a goal, it's another thing to try and work at it, but the very next step has got to be believing that you can achieve what you're after. All the time people say to me, "Ugh, I could never run 100 miles" and my response is always a quick, "and thats why..."  One of the best ways to continue believing through this entire process is to visualize that finish line.. what do you dream it will look like.

3.) Putting It In Motion: This is the next logical step; You have a goal, you believe in you can do it, now it's time to do the work. However, it must be stated that "Putting It In Motion" goes beyond simply starting to run.. this is an everyday belief.. everyday you must "Put It In Motion" and this especially includes race day. I've said it many times here on this blog, "Left-Right-Repeat." That's exactly what this is..

4.) Adversity: "If you want to see the sun you've got to put up with a little rain." This is where you learn how to adapt. Let's face it, training and striving to meet your goals can be hard. If it wasn't, chances are you wouldn't be trying to go after it anyway. You are bound to hit some bumps along the way or simply put, you're up for a roller-coaster ride. Learning how to welcome these "walls," tackling them, getting over them and moving ahead is essential training when it comes to running ultra's. Keep in mind, you're going to hit the wall during an ultra multiple times. You need to be aware of what that feels like as well as how you plan to handle it. The better you can deal with adversity now, the more successful you'll be on race day.

5.) Self-Actualization: This is the end piece, where you've reached your goal. All of your hard work has paid off. You've worked through each step of this process from day one to day zero, you cross the finish line and you realize that yes... yes you can and you did accomplish this. This is also where you begin to dream big and move beyond this goal and onto new goals and perhaps that B.H.A.G. can come into play. But beware, too much of this can do you great harm... I'm living proof of that. Having too many B.H.A.G's or one that really is the epitome of "BIG" can lead to you being lost in the shuffle or beginning to overestimate the level of commitment you can actually handle (which has nothing to do with ability or belief and everything to do with TIME).

In the coming weeks I hope to come back to this very post, this process if you will, and continue to let it evolve for myself and for the rest of you to work on your own 5 step program. But for now, I'm going to outline for you my first 3 steps as of today.

1.) Redemption at The Leadville Trail 100 through finishing the race.

2.) There is no doubt in my mind that I can do this.. and I will.

3.) I've gone back to a website I used when I first started running: http://www.scrunners.org/ultrasch.php
I have 5 months from now until Leadville. So, with the above website I created a training plan to run a 50 Miler 3 weeks out from Leadville. Except, instead of running a 50 miler that weekend, I'll choose to run 20-30-20 for Fri-Sat-Sun Respectively. Then, increase my miles for one more week after that to a 70-80 Mile week then, begin a two week taper heading into the race.

Again.. my focus is not on any other race between now and Leadville. So-much-so that as I've seen races on the radar that I'd love to run, I've steered clear of signing up for them for this very reason. If I do in fact run any 50K (no longer then that) events between now and Leadville, they will strictly be treated as training runs without any goals other than to finish and gain time on my feet.

With this... forever forward..
SJ

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Balsams

This past Sunday Night I had the distinct pleasure of being the guest of The Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville Notch, NH. Those who are in the know will tell you that this is where America's First in the Nation Primary takes place every 4 years and it is also the first location in America to vote on Presidential election day when the entire town does so at Midnight Sharp.
Growing up my entire life in New Hampshire, I've been afforded the opportunity to understand how important, and famous, The Ballot Room at the Balsams Grand actually is. Giving a talk in this room, I'd have to say, is my Carnegie Hall of sorts. I get to stand up in a room where many former Presidents have given speeches to the entire nation, and give me own presentation to an intimate group of about 20 people.
As I arrived at the Balsam's I was pleased to find a poster they had assembled near the concierge that told guests a little bit about my presentation... the who, what, where and why. I didn't know what to expect. In my head I figured that the hotel would be pretty empty seeing as it's a Sunday into a Monday Night in the middle of March. But much to my surprise, it was jam packed, so much so that they had two seatings for dinner.
So, I gave my presentation on "Human Potential: Chasing Somedays"which lasted about 45 minutes to a group of about 20. I had a wonderful time with these folks and was glad to hang around and answer questions for some 45 minutes following my talk.
If you ever get a chance to go to the Balsams, the best part of the place is the food... To DIE FOR.

Special thanks to J. Kennedy at the Balsams for having me. I had a wonderful time and it was a pleasure to entertain the guests and be a guest myself.
SJ

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Risk Management

Every once in awhile I start to think about the races that I've signed up for and wonder how seriously the race administration takes the idea of "Risk Management" into consideration when organizing their event. Then I wonder, how many other runners ponder the same thought.. and what does it really mean to them? It goes without saying that some races put an exponential amount of added effort into keeping their runners safe as opposed to some races that tell you "You're on your own." So I wanted to take a moment to open the curtains a bit here, in the hopes that as we all move forward, with safety in mind, we can better chose which races we want to participate in based on a races Risk Management plan.

In preparing for this post, I e-mailed a hand full of race directors asking them A.) Do you have a Risk Management plan for your race B1.) Why Not? B2.) Can I see It? C.) Why Not?
Let me give you some of the answers to the above questions.. "Yes we have a risk management plan and no you cannot see it." "No we don't have a risk management plan.. it's not necessary." "You can't see it because it's not necessary or required of us to show it to you."

My goal here is not to throw any races under the bus.. so I'm not going to name names. But I was surprised by some of the answers I got to these questions. Please note that some Race Directors said that they DO indeed have a RM plan and they'd love to share it with us, though they've yet to get back to me on it because they lead rather busy lives.. I assume.

But imagine... you pay an entry fee to a race and part of what you're paying for.. is not so much guaranteed safety, but I've always been under the assumption that part of my entry fees goes towards the overall "plan" for the race itself. Part of this plan for the race, is this risk management piece.. and as a race customer.. someone who is actually going to be out there.. someone who you are trying to protect,.. should be at liberty to see these documents no?

So.. some of you may be asking, "What does a Risk Management Plan Outline?" Well, here it is:
(From RRCA Website)
GUIDELINES:
Planning
Course Design
Volunteers
Entry Forms, Pre-Race Information and Packet Pick-Up
Start Line
Traffic Control
Spectator Control
Participant control
Communications
Water Stations
Medical Assistance
Weather
Finish Area
Special Considerations for Children’s Events

Any road-race in America that is sanctioned by USA Track and Field or the Road Runners Club of America is required to have a Risk Management Plan in place that outlines their plans for the above topics/sections. The details that are outlined within these sections pertain to the safety or all participants. These documents are then used to help INSURE the race (Ie: Insurance Policies.)After searching through the American Ultrarunning Association Website, (The AUA is the closest thing ultra-running has to a sanctioning body), there is no mention anywhere of any such copy-cat policy that Ultra's must adhere to in order to insure the race or maintain the safety of participants.

So then I think about some races that I've done.. like Massanutten. You sign off in their Waiver that, there is NO MEDICAL STAFF at the race, and you are entirely on your own. If you break a leg out there.. the race provides no medical assistance and you have to figure your own way to the hospital. I find it hard to imagine how a waiver such as this would hold up in court. Every state is different in terms of how the legal process treats waivers and protects racers or races. But it's something to consider...

Then there are races like the Vermont 100, where at every single aid station, they have some form of medical personell present, every body has a Two Way/CB Radio for course communications and keeping runners safe and healthy is their number one priority. Now.. thise could be viewed as apples and oranges.. sure I admit that. But for the purpose of this post.. Which race would you rather run when you keep your idea of "safety" in mind? The race that has you sign your health, well being and life away? Or the one that has constant tabs on where you are at all times?

I'll provide you with another example.. In 2009 I ran Massanutten and there was a horrific thunderstorm that overtook the course. The race continued, there wasn't even a kink, we ran through it all.. there was never any talk about closing the course for a short time or keeping runners stationary at aid stations until the storm passed. Nothing. That same summer, at the Vermont 100, a horrific Thunderstorm came rolling in (not as bad as the Massanutten storm) and it was the talk of the race. Rumor's echoed across the course that race and local officials were considering shutting the race down until the storm passed due to safety concerns.

Take the Peaks Death Race for example. The race waiver is all of three words: I May Die
Competitors then sign their name on the dotted line. Does race staff actually think that such a document will hold up in court? Are races really to assume that they "may die" on the course? What if someone actually does die out there? I thinkthe more appropriate waiver in this instancr should have a competitor signing, "I acknowledge that death is a real possibility during the course of this race and in the event of my untimely death neither myself nor anyone who represents me may sue Peak Races." Read this language and opposed to "I May Die" and tell me which one you think would have a snowballs throw in hell of holding up in court.

So this makes me wonder.. does MMT have a Risk Management plan and what's in it? What does their insurance cover and how are the runners voided from the plan? What does the VT100 have in place for Risk Management and is it a document that others races can take cues from? I personally think it's time that Ultra-Running had an official governing body to start getting a handle on the overflow of races dotting the country. Not to put the reigns on, or to create a form of dictatorship over races that were built on renegade trail-runner ways... but as a way to ensure the safety of runners and to promote the safety and positive promotion of our sport as a progressive, forward-thinking, community.

Lord know's I've run MMT twice and LOVED it.. I accepted the challenges of being "on my own" and took that into consideration all through the race. I've run Vermont 4 times.. and love that race equally as much as MMT (though.. perhaps not more)... and have always felt accounted for, cared for and thought of with safety in mind from step one. I've run many more races where there was never a waiver to sign, there was no mention of medical staff or first aid of any kind at aid stations.. hell.. you could hardly call them races. But I know that it's only going to take ONE fatality for someone's rump to be in a sling because a lazy RD wasn't prepared with a Risk Management plan... Food for thought.. choose wisely.. Run Safe this year!

Sherpa

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

RR: Pittsfield Snowshoe 100

It was March of 2009 when myself and a group of my peers showed up in Pittsfield, VT to run a marathon before the snowshoe marathon. Our reason for doing this was far more then just trying to run 50 miles in snowshoes. It was to prove to RD Andy Weinberg that people want to run further on snowshoes than the marathon and that a Snowshoe Ultra was indeed viable in Pittsfield. After the eight of us ran our 50 Miles, Andy agreed and in 2010, the first ever Pittsfield Snowshoe 100 became a part of the Snowshoe race weekend. To my knowledge some 12 runners lined up last year and 7 finished the 100; a 21 year old being the youngest. I was sad to have missed it while I was down in Boston fulfilling a requirement fot a class. So this year was my chance to take part.

Daunting
I knew before even lining up this weekend that there was no way in hell that I was going to make it 100 miles on snowshoes. Four os us stood around at the farm before the start. Courtenay Geurtin who says he hasn't trained for this but regularly runs on snowshoes and is what I consider to be one of the better "Dark Horse" runners in the Northeast. Tom Page, a regular to these types of events.. I'm certain could pound this out if he wanted to.. though admittedly he didn't seem to be too convinced from the get go. Jason Jaksetic, who had only been on a pair of snowshoes for the first time in his life 3 weeks ago, a leab looking chap who appeared to be in the right shape to accomplish such a feat but.. unknowing of the real mental challenges before him. Then there was me.. a guy out of his league before we said start.. a guy who ran all of 4 unmotivated days in February after having run every day in January. Coming into the race I thought about telling Andy I was dropping to the marathon, but I felt like it was my duty to run the 100.. it was my idea two years ago, I begged for it, I ran for it.. now I have to run in it.

We were supposed to start at 12 Noon, but at 12:10 we were still gathering ourselves, milling about. I showed up at the barn and dug a hole in about 2 feet of ice and snow to set up my NEMO Mio to be used as my personal aid station. Inside the tent was my inclement weather gear, changes of clothes, a sleeping back and a sack full of jackets. Outside, It looked like a yard sale. A bin full of food and goodies with jugs of water strewn about. Jason and I both have a flip cam so we're taking video of each other, joking about how stupid we are. After the usual jokes had been abound, one of the Aimee Farm workers said, "Go" and at 12:15 we headed off for the mountain.

Loopy
The course is pretty straight forward. A 6.55 Mile loop that gains and loses 1800' of elevation (approx.) per loop. We start on the snowmobile trail and head down to the river, cross on Fuster's Bridge then head up towards riverside along the swith backs that weave their way back and forth up and along the side of the mountain and the Tweed River. After a few short and steep climbs known as The Stairs and The Escalator, we zig and zag our way to the Western side of Joe's Mountain. Here, instead of hitting the road as we traditionally would, we endure a long slog of a climb up to a place known as The Labrynth. The Labrynth is a section of dark fir trees that are so thick that even during the brightness of a noon-time sun, it's dark in there. After emerging from the Labrynth, you top out at the top of Joe's where there is a cabin and a magnificent view of Vermont's Green Mountains. From here, it's all downhill back to the Farm. We head to the Eastern Flank of the mountain where we hook up with the trails over on Fusters Mountain. A few steep downhills have us bleed elevation before returning to the bridge and eventually The Aimee Farm. All in all, the loop is 4 miles uphill and 2.55 Down... and it's TOUGH.

As we hit The Stairs on loop one I was in the lead. I heard the other three, marching together, coming up behind me pretty quickly. So I opted to step aside and let them pass. Just like that I was in last place and would stay here until the bitter end. I found myself alone pretty early and enjoyed my time to think and decompress from the mountain of stress I've been going through with School, moving, work, etc. I thought about quite a few things on this loop, a kid at school who is the definition of "know-it-all" and the antithisis of "humble." Projects I'm working on for a class and how it relates to a project I'm working on for my upcoming employer. The infected finger I was sporting and how much it hurt and how my finger was swelling to the size of a cuban cigar. Before I knew it, I was back at Aimee Farm. I expected the first loop to have taken me 2:30 but when I checked the watch at the farm it read 1:55. I was way too fast, yet I felt pretty good. There is no doubt that the loop is tough and as I headed out for my second loop, the gears were now turning.

Drew for Two
My gears were now turning in terms of the math. A few times I caught myself, got angry and yelled at myself to stop trying to figure it out and just move. I usually equate this to a testament of how difficult a course is. When I'm taking the time of my first loop, and starting to do the math in my head for A.) When I'll complete my first 4 laps. B.) How far I want to have gone by 6 or 8 am Saturday C.) When I'd actually finish 100 miles... One could drive themself crazy doing this math in their head and it's tiring. The amount of energy you waste doing such a practice is alarming. I had to stop, I just needed to slow down a bit and get into a groove.

Not far into the second loop, I saw Drew in the woods at the base of The Stairs. I saw him towards the end of Loop one waiting about half way down Fusters. He told me he'd be waiting here to do the second loop with me. I met up with him here and we took to the hill. I lifted the televators on the back of my snowshoes to give me some ease on the uphill sections. Instead of my foot being at the hill's angle, I was now walking the steeper hills as if they were a set of stairs. I figured this saved me a bit of energy and I cold only surmass that it worked in that, on these uphills I found myself gaining on the others in the race. But now, Drew is a local who shows up at many of my races and razzes the racers, including myself. At about 60 years old, he's in great shape for an old buck. He's retired and works as a guide over in Killington through the summer, bringing spa guests on hikes into the woods.

Drew and I took the opportunity to catch up. He filled me in on all the New England hiking Scene Gossip I've managed to distance myself from, thankfully. Drew is a riot. As aggrivating as he can be sometimes, he's equally as fun. I guess I'll put up with it though admit that from time to time, the things he says and talks about.. gets you riled up.. and you waste energy in being angry and appalled.. some of what he shares are reasons why I'm glad to be moving west.. Regardless, I enjoy my time with Drew and about half way to the top of JOe's, he bails and heads to the top "the quicker way" while I continue to wind myself around the backside. Back at the cabin, we hook up again, and instead of running down across Fusters I walk briskly with Drew to continue our conversation and enjoy some time together with my friend. In the end, as much as I'm in a race, I understand that this is likely one of the last times I'll get to hike with Drew before I leave.

1 and 1 and 1 is 3
The second loop had taken me about 2:45 to huff around with Drew. As much as I enjoyed my time with him, I headed out for loop 3 alone. Drew had told me that another old friend, Charles, who had paced me during my first VT100 was going to show up later to help out. Knowing his time table, I knew that he'd be there for loop 4 and I'd have fast company once again. This was helpful because.. I was under the impression that another friend of mine was going to keep me company for a loop at night but in an email a few days earlier he pretty much bailed on the idea. I felt like I was getting help back. So I headed out for loop 3 with thoughts of company to come. Except, on this loop the sun was going down, the temperatures were dropping and this mountain loop was actually really starting to suck. I wasn't moving as fast as I would like. Before this loop I had all ready been lapped by my peers in the race. I was feeling prtety discouraged and that feeling of being in over my head had returned. I continued to push forward and by the time I made it to the Labrynth, it was no night time. I reached the cabin and sat down on the stoop of the door. I pulled out my block of cheese and started to eat some dinner.

While sitting on the stoop, I saw a light and heard a snowshoer. It was Courteney and he was now lapping me for the second time. He was still running, looking fresh. I was stuffing my face, labored breathing, wet from sweat and now frustrated. I got back up and chased after Courteney. There was no hope in that. He bounded down towards Fusters in a hurry and soon his light had disappeared into the night. I followed at a pace that was as fast as I could muster. My leg was hurting, my leg throbbing, my feet sore and blistered all ready.. I was fallign a aprt early and I knew that not only was I not finishing the 100, but I'm wondering about my ability to go even 100K.

Tomorrow...
Back at the Aimee Farm was Charles. He and Drew had been waiting for me to come in. I'm whipped all ready and starving. I checked myself in for having finished lap 3 then walked to my tent. I got out my Jetboil which I hadn't used in 3 years. I didn't know if the fuel was still good. In firing it up the answer is "no" but good enough to boil water still. So, I made some chicken noodle soup and headed over to the fire to eat it. While taking a break, the greatest show of the weekend had started. The Peak Death Race is in June and this weekend they were having a training camp. So I stood there as I watched about 15 idiots dig up stumps and pieces of wood then begin to split the wood with axes. They may has well of used rubber mallets to chop the wood because it was so frozen that the axes just bounced off the top. After this, they were tasked to hold a length of rope over their heads for some 60 minutes. Sounds like fun. Meanwhile, Charles told me that his plan was to do a loop with me tomorrow if I was still going around. I all ready knew my fate at this point. I put my soup down and headed back out for one more loop.

Charles and Drew followed me for the first 100 yards down the trail. I had to show them the bull head hanging on a tree. It was disgusting. On my way in from Loop 3 I saw it hanging there and it scared the crap out of me. A frozen head with muscle still somewhat attached and it's eyes still frozen in place. Obviously a death race item that I was sure 199 of the 200 in Saturdays races could care less about seeing. They heaed back to the farm while I headed out into the night alone. As soon as I hit the first little incline on the trail, I came to a screeching halt. My legs burned, with my right leg swelling. My feet are sore and blistered and my ability to climb hills has significatly diminished. So much so that I knew that this should be my last lap.

As I got to the clearing at about 2 miles into the climb, I took out my phone and called anyone who would answer their phone. I called Leah as I held back tears and stood there with a lump in my throat. I was so disappointed and had it in my head that this was dumb, my efforts are worthless and it's time to go home. I got Leah on the phone and could hear Josh and Grant joking in the background about getting me some Vagisil. Now was not the time to be egging me on.. I was in a dark place.. and as I began to lose signal I simply hung up. I had spent 30 minutes on the phone with friends, rationalizing my decision out.. wanting to make sure I was going to make the right one, I had told Leah and the rest of "Team Robert" to not bother coming out.. to just go to their place and have fun in the morning when they hoppied into their races. Me? I knew I was fine with my marathon.. that is tough enough especially for a guy with ZERO training.

So, I continued to push myself around the course. I had left the barn at just before 8pm. I had no idea what time it really was but figured I'd be in the barn for 10. I moved as fast as I could, dragged my legs on every uphill section as I struggled to even lift my knees high enough to get these snowshoes to move along with me. At 11pm, I made it to the barn and there they were.. Team Robert. I wanted to quit.. I had had enough for sure. But they convinced me to stay the night with them and return the next morning fresh and ready to roll. I agreed.

So, we went to Josh's friends house where we started a fire in the hearth and I feel asleep on the couch. We talked for an hour or so, cracking jokes and reminiscing about old times. This is my favorite part about Ultra-Running, the family. Being alone out in the woods for 11 hours certainly sucked. I knew as I fell asleep that I was only going to do one more lap in the morning. I knew that I wasn't prepared, in the least bit, to take on this challenge of 100 miles on snowshoes. I knew deep down that I had all ready pushed myself to my mental limit for the weekend. My body could go further, but I don't want to. And so.. I fall asleep.

Day 2
I woke up in the morning and we all drove to the General Store where the packet pick-up was for the big race. After just the 4 of us groomed the trail yesterday, some 200+ runners were about to show up to do a one loop fun run, a half marathon or a full marathon. The trails were to be crowded for sure. I ordered an Egg Sandwich and as I waited I said hello to the dozen or so familiar faces I enjoy seeing so much at races. I can't help but get choked up. If this is my family.. I know I'm leaving them and many I wouldn't see for a long time to come. Today was turning into a long painful good bye and I was pretty emotional about it. I got my sandwich and headed back to the barn. It was there that I learned that Tom had gone to bed as well, after 6 laps... Courteney was still out there having gone all night and was soon to be finishing his 10th lap. Jason was having a hard time, shuffling along, delusional and unsure of who his mommy is. At the big race, pre-race meeting, Andy Weinberg introduced me to the crowd as Fourth Place in the Snowshoe Race. HA!  It was true.. but as the questions started pouring in, all I could do was hang over my hiking poles, look at the crowd, and mutter "I'm only doing one more loop to make it 50K.

As the big race got underway, I hung back at the end of the line and took off as a hiker. I tried to trot a bit, to get a little run in me, but my legs feel flat and tired. My night of slumber rested my mind but my body is pissed. I slow right down to a trot when I see Drew and Charles again. These guys keep me company as we chuckle and laugh our way up and around the switchbacks. We continued to wonder if the hardware store sold "Plaid Paint." Those two left me again, deciding to meet me at the top. I took off alone again, leap frogging the back of the packers and struggling to reach Joe's. Once I got there I saw Leah. She was all smiles and had waited for me while the rest of Team Robert pushed on. I saw Charles and Drew.. and the three of us made it some 200 yards before Leah and I tried to make a race out of it.

Yesterday when I started the snow was granular and rough. The Fuster's side of th course was nothing more then a trough carved out of the 2" Ice Sheet on top of it all, rubbing your ankles as you shuffled by. Now, it was a sticky mess. Every time I lifted my knees I took up a ball of sticky snowball snow with me. My snowshoes are heavier now then they were before, and it's a real pain to move about. There is no room for shuffling, as we're forced to lift our knees with every stride. Leah and I enjoyed each others company, catching up, yadda yadda.. and then... we see Drew one last time at the bridge. He walks in with us. At the Bull head we see a Death Racer struggling to carry his buckets of rocks that he had picked from the river. Drew asked, "Do you need some help?" And this guys response was epic.. with a quivering verge of tears voice "please don't talk to me.. please don't" as he whimpered and lifted his buckets and kept going. Yes... he paid for his race.. I paid for mine.. I know when to go home.. he doesn't. ; )

I cross the finish line with my 50K in hand. My elapsed time is 22 Hours and 22 Minutes. Actual moving time on the course was 13 Hours 22 Minutes. I knew that my body could keep moving forward, I could do another lap.. but I didn't want to. My finger is now severely infected, pussing and painful. I knew I need to get to an ER to have it checked out (I did.. it was bad.. I got meds) and I had had enough as the rain started to fall from the sky. It was time to go. I said goodbye to all those who I had the chance to... including Michelle Roy.. who has a blog of her own, and whom I admire greatly. She's the toughest woman I know.. a death race competitor.. and someone who has an open door in Boulder for life. Watching her zip up and down the mountain this weekend, carrying logs, holding rope over her head, building bird houses and even taking a 60 second dip in a frozen pond.. she did it all without complaint. She made a lot of men look bad.. so when I hugged her I had to tell her, "I Admire you."

So... My weekend didn't go as I had hoped but I suppose it went as expected. A tired, has been of an ultra-runner lined up for another 100 mile event and failed to find the finish line. I'm back at the drawing board trying to figure out where I've gone wrong.. it all starts with training... which starts with my current lack of free time while I finish up school. One things for sure.. come Leadville.. I'll be ready.. and the fall is going to be like Sherpa of old.

SJ