Grunting up a ridiculously steep mountain on unresponsive legs. What the hell was I doing? Every laboured step I cursed and questioned my life choices. I also wondered how other runners were putting time on me — we were all hiking!
Such was my day at Trailstoke, a 50km ish mountain race in Revelstoke. This was a true mountain race, exactly what I “wanted.”
Throughout, I questioned why I subject myself to such self-induced brutality. Then I recite things about how I love the challenge, I love pushing myself to the point where I question quitting.
My stubbornness carries me forward. That and thinking of how embarrassing it would be if I quit.
All of you reading this and supporting me are a huge part of what carries forward. I feel as though I’m expected to perform, and I take every race as an opportunity to do so.
I’m still trying to piece together why I didn’t feel as great as other races. The logical answer is that this course is a beast. It chewed me up physically and emotionally to the point where I was spent upon finally walking across the finish line.
Instead of a monotonous blow-by-blow, I’ll start with a few positives from the day. I was able to eat and hydrate well. My day kicked off with a couple of KIND bars, and some peanut butter slathered on bread while we sat in Josh’s car waiting for the sun the rise.
During the race, despite getting sick of gels, I forced them down the hatch — my stomach cooperated. Eating has never been a an issue.
I’m also satisfied with my ability to ‘grind it out’ and put in a good effort on a day where I may have not felt at my best. Perhaps the pace was a bit of a shock to the system as well. All a learning process.
I’m getting accustomed to waking up before my alarm on race days — usually my bodies’ clock telling me I’m ready to go. At Beacon Rock State Park things were a tad different as the hoards of chirping birds outside my tent compromised my Z’s at around 4:30am.
My plan for Beacon Rock 50k was to use it as a long training run. I trained hard the week of the race, keeping my mileage high. I had two goals: first, to see how hard I can push on tired legs. And second was to nail down my race hydration and nutrition.
I laid around until around 6 before peeling myself out of the sticky tent. On to the next challenge – coffee and food.
I’d met fellow runners and campers George, Herb, and Tom at the campfire the day before, and they generously invited me to join them for morning coffee. Seeing is how my camp stove was on the fritz, it was a welcomed invitation. These guys were awesome!
Breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches and a peanut butter chocolate KIND bar went down swimmingly. And what better way to wash this all down than with an extremely strong stove-top espresso that I nursed for half an hour on a lawn chair.
I love watching the other runners rise, assemble, and putter about checking gear.
This was the ultimate calm. My mind was where it needed to be, no nerves, no excitement. Ready.
The race started out with a few guys taking off up the first climb. These were the runners running the 25 km race as we’d all started at the same time.
I settled in alongside Kory at a comfortable clip, making quick work of the short climb before descending into the first aid station at around 10 km.
The downhill was plush, fast, and mostly non-technical — easy to bomb and easy on the legs.
We hit the aid and I moved forward on a flat section, catching a few glimpses of the leader before the 2nd climb.
I caught him near the top of the climb, feeling good and ready for the nice ridge section and long 10 km downhill back to the start. The 50km race was two loops of a 25km course.
I hadn’t planned on trying to win the 25 km… but it was a nice surprise when it happened.
The gathering crowd at the campsite were a bit confused to see a 50km runner win the 25km as well. I was grinning ear to ear as I gave James a quick high five before heading out for the second loop.
I generally reward myself with small things during the race, like music. It gives me something to look forward to. I’d planned on listening to music for the 2nd half of the race, I even made a playlist!
Unfortunately, my ipod being in my pocket the whole time turned on while I was running the first loop, killing the battery. Oh well, avicii will have to wait.
The second loop was fairly uneventful aside from me constantly looking over my shoulder for the second place runner catching me. This is a crazy headspace like you’re a small animal being chased down.
I did what I always do, just keep grinding it out. I learned this from my dad; keep working hard and things will sort themselves out.
This is why I love to compete in mountain running. There’s no hiding. No getting by on talent. Performance is all on you and how hard you work.
I approach my training like this and I genuinely believe that if I’m diligent about my time, no one will outwork me. They can’t. From here it is a matter of intelligence and experience — two things I’m working on.
Anyways, there I was really enjoying the last 20 km of beautiful sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.
I pushed the last climb and a few grunts later, saw my buddy Trey from Uphill Running doing live race coverage with a golf pencil and scrap paper. Only the finest materials.
One lengthy and fun downhill to go. Now my running was fuelled by wanting to eat pizza, drink beer, oh and how mad I’d be if someone were to pass me with 5km to go… Luckily, it never happened.
Some minor gut issues in this last downhill section made me let up my stride a bit. The long downhill rumbled the shelly, but it passed after 2km or so and I cruised into the finish.
The last 500 meters is flat running through the campsite to the start / finish. Perfect victory lap of sorts
Seeing even the small crowds cheer for you is a powerful feeling. I’ll never forget it.
The party was already getting started with the 25 km runners chowing down on the amazing ‘za and drinking beers in the sun. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the rest of the day to cap off an amazing weekend.
Thanks to James / Rainshadow Running for a great weekend. This event is highly recommended!
Finally a huge thanks to KIND Snacks for keeping me fuelled. I must have taken down an entire box of these bars throughout the long weekend.
Now for a week off running before one last hard training block which will take me to my three goal races of the summer. I can’t wait to get back to hammering workouts and tagging peaks. The snow is finally melting, making the playground more accessible. I really do enjoy the training. I’m able to push myself pretty hard, and the body seems to respond pretty well to the stress thus far.
Trailstoke Revy – July 21 – Revelstoke, BC
Angels Staircase – August 9 – Carlton, WA
The Rut – September 13 – Missoula, MT
Had I missed a turn off? As I grunt up the never ending ridgeline that makes up the final monstrous climb I continually looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was gaining on me. Still no one in sight with 8 kms to go. I’m running slow and scared at this point… up this unnecessarily steep ridge.
It’s funny the tricks your mind plays on you. I voluntarily put myself through this, why was I complaining? I was terrified I’d blow it and lose the 2nd place I’d held onto the whole race. I had far too much ego to let that happen though.
Coming into the race a complete unknown, I’m sure a few people were confused to see some random guy in a green hat settle in behind the leader as we worked our way up the first steep climb. A light breeze met us at the top — perfect running weather.
Despite a few bouts of being sick on race morning and the night prior, I felt fresh — looks like the taper was successful. Nailed it.
Bombing down the longest descent of the day I clicked off some fast km’s while trying to not go head over heals on the rugged terrain. This course was way more technical than I expected going in, but luckily, our trails in Vancouver are plenty-a-technical.
The crappy thing about out-and-back courses is that you know what’s coming in the second half — no novelty to get excited about.
I hit the first aid station 12 km feeling chipper, refilled my bottles and gels (disgusting) and was on my way for climb numero dos. This was my favourite climb of the day — barely runnable, nice and steep. Perfect for what I think my skill set is (or is going to be).
The cool thing about Yakima Skyline Rim is that the whole race is run on exposed ridge lines — you can see who is in front and behind you. I kept Justin, the leader, in my sights. He floated up the mountain like a gazelle as I growled, pumping my arms and downing gels in hot pursuit.
I crested and knew another steep downhill was in my immediate future. This’ll take me into the halfway point before we turn around and retrace our steps. I passed the leader on his way up from the aid trying to calculate how far behind I was. Must have been 5-10 minutes.
I hit the aid station, refilled — this time taking a few hand fulls of M&M’s to the house before making the return trip.
Making my best impression to look fresh and fast, I flew out of the aid station, passing by the oncoming 3rd and 4th place runners. Deciding to push it a bit to increase the gap on these two, and maybe put some time into the leader, I made a ‘move.’
This meant pushing the third climb pretty hard for the first 20 minutes. I felt strong as I prodded my way up, but no sign of the leader. Damn. This dude is moving fast!
I did however put some good time on the 3rd and 4th place guys as I descended again into the final aid station. More gnarly gels and water before the brutal final climb — about 8 km of never ending ridges with more false summits up the ying yang.
Fifteen minutes into the climb: ahh, there’s that wall I knew from other races. I didn’t feel all that terrible — I just felt like I was moving incredibly slow. Was I running in quicksand?
Glaring at my watch as the km’s crawled by, it was like being in purgatory. This is where I kept peering over my shoulder down the ridge at my competition.
I knew I wouldn’t catch Justin, and was fairly confident I had second place locked up, so I figured best thing is to keep moving, no matter how slow it seemed.
Luckily, I do a fair bit of steep power hiking in training. I never really felt tired while hiking the last climb, only when I tried to generate power and run.
Another look over my shoulder. SHIT! There he was. I could make out a white shirt in the distance. He’d just crested the ridge I came up no more than five minutes ago.
Was I going to blow second place in the last 5 km of a race? This scared me like you wouldn’t believe. Does this guy know how hard I worked in training and through injury over the last 4 months to get here?
How dare he even entertain the thought of passing me this late, I said. I wanted to make him hurt for thinking such blasphemy. Is that weird? Probably.
Suffice it to say, I was probably suffering much worse than he. I later found out this guy is running the three most prestigious and competitive 100 mile races (Western States, Hardrock, UTMB) this season alone! He was probably just warming up. I’ll note also that he was an awesome guy and I mean no ill will toward him. Just my twisted psyche.
Seeing him gave my legs a sudden jolt of energy. Funny how that works. I finished the last bit of the climb and cruised the 4 km downhill to the finish en route to second place!
The finish line is unlike any other experience. I can’t describe the feeling to you, but it is awesome.
The best part of this race in particular is the community. James Varner of Rainshadow Running puts on a great race, and the atmosphere was amazing. Tons of people posted up on lawn chairs, fresh brick oven pizza and ice cold beer at the finish — my kind of shindig.
I think I could get used to this mountain running stuff: everyone is so laid back and friendly. I even did a pithy post race interview with the folks from Uphill running who did some great live coverage of the race.
I’m grateful my body and injury held up. I guess all those hours doing ridiculously looking glute and hip strengthening exercises is paying off. Also a huge thanks to Gordon at Marpole Physio & Rehab for getting my body back in order. The man is a magician.
I’ll be back to hard training next week because this race made me hungry like you wouldn’t believe. Speaking of hungry, I chowed 14 slice of pizza post-race to go along with 4 cookies, chocolate, and easter eggs for those keeping score at home.
I have a ton to learn in all aspects of mountain running. This race was the first time I’ve used gels. They’re disgusting but efficient. I consumed around 200 kcal per hour and my stomach felt good. Looking back, I probably could have eaten more.
Gear / Nutrition
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest
Arc’teryx Soleus Shorts – these are short as hell but I love them!
Nike dry-fit hat
Random green sunglasses I got from SXSW this year
Nathan hand-held bottle
10 Gu Energy Gels – about 200 kcal per hour
After running two mountain ultra’s last summer I knew I’d found something. I literally stumbled across an outlet to channel two of my favourite things: spending time in nature and pushing myself.
You may not relate to the same degree, and perhaps you voice valid concerns around the long term health of runners. I will say that this is something I think about daily. How sustainable is it to be running up and down mountains six days a week…
I’d like to be in the sport for the long haul — I hope that if I stay curious, I’ll achieve the longevity that I seek as I conquer the lofty goals I’ve set along the way.
This sounds all fine and dandy, but what happens when disaster strikes? When things don’t follow the plan you’ve laid out, you’ll suffer but eventually learn and gain some perspective as I’m finding.
Following a planned three week break from running in January, I got injured. Perhaps ironic that I got hurt after three weeks of little activity, but looking back, I jumped back into workouts too quickly.
There was pain and suffering, but mostly extreme frustration over the ensuing three months. I rehabbed like crazy, and was stabbed with more IMS needles in places I’d rather not share. Fortunately, this was not a serious injury. I know there are some of you going through much more serious health issues than mine and for you I can attempt to empathize.
You all have struggles, and I won’t act as though mine are more important than yours. What this obstacle did for me was expose a weakness. My running gait (fancy word for form) was terrible.
It gave me the opportunity to learn and hopefully become a better runner.
I started reading everything I could about the particular injury, what sort of muscular imbalances and running style caused it, and how to treat it.
I pestered my physio, running coaches, and other resources on how to correct my issue, and more importantly, how to run properly.
I find it off that despite playing every sport under the sun growing up and competing at a high level for years, I was never taught how to run.
We’re in a constant state of transition. Whether personally, professionally, or spiritually, I like to think we’re all striving to become better versions of our current selves.
Part of transition is finding some life balance. Life is not always sunshine and butterflies. We project the highs but hide the lows. You have to learn to embrace the lows and put them in perspective for what truly matters.
Family, career, a social life, AND be active, well, and fit? I hear people say: “career, social life, fitness — pick two and be happy with what you have.” Maslow would not approve, that’s for sure.
I want it all, and you should too. We have to be selfish with certain things in life. I spend 15-20 hours a week running in the mountains, and I know this is inherently selfish. But it also makes me happy and allows me to balance sitting at a desk the rest of the day… the ultimate contrast.
Fulfillment in life comes from being content with yourself. Mountain running is making me eerily happy at the moment, so I’m going to keep doing it.
April 20 is my long awaited first race of the season in Ellensburg, Washington. I’m stoked to finally race again at the Yakima Skyline Rim 50km. I guess we’ll find out if my 5 am wakeups and hours spent with exercise bands around my knees doing goofy exercises is paying off.
There’s no bigger cop out than telling someone that you don’t have time to exercise or do anything. You make time for what is important to you.
We often forget such a basic necessity of life when we’re working long days (combined with your no doubt stacked social calendar).
I used to suck at sleeping. I’d watch TV shows or movies on my laptop to the wee hours of the morning, only to regret it when the alarm blares in the my face shortly thereafter.
From there, I’d usually nuke the system with a ton of coffee through the day to mask my sleepiness, only to regret this decision upon trying to fall asleep the following night.
It lead to a cycle of caffeine fuelled unproductivity.
Highs and extreme lows through a long day of running. This sums up my day this past Sunday at Meet your Maker 50 — my first foray into 50 miles.
I’ve never been in such dark places. Physically I was exhausted: no power in my legs as I was reduced to a pitiful walk on hills I would normally sprint.
Emotionally I was perhaps even worse off, repeatedly second guessing and trying to answer the question of why.
I awoke before my alarm to cold sweats and drenched sheets: great i thought, I’m really setting myself up for a good day here. Nonetheless, I chugged a bunch of water, ate breakfast, and made my way to Whistler Village for the 5am start.
5 am meant running under the stars — I started out at a decent clip weaving through the glimmer of a headlamp I’d never used before.
Side note: I took a stumble through the first section, running in the dark is no cake walk.
There’s something eerily simple about moonlit running, I really enjoyed it: the brisk air and feeling of running when everyone else is sleeping. The beautiful lakeside and mountain scenery didn’t suck either.
I passed through aid station #1 with a water stop — feeling good, poised.
Leg #2 weaved through an old growth forest, with some fun and technical bobbing and weaving through roots, rocks, and turns as we climbed and eventually descended into Base 2 of Whistler.
I was met with claps and cheers at aid station #2 as I ran in, filled my water bottles, grabbed a snickers and clif bar, got a quick pep talk by Chris (who did more than he realizes in crewing me) then set off for the toughest section of the day.
I really cherished the small crowds, you can see the passion on their faces. The ultrarunning community is special.
This section climbs 3800 feet over 10 km. I tried to recreate the climb as best I could at my local mountains, but it wasn’t enough. This thing was brutal.
The previous section I chatted with Nadyia, the eventual women’s winner. I got out of the aid station ahead of her and was confident I could put some time on her through the climb.
Boy was I in for a shivering dose of reality.
She came screaming past me a third of the way up. I tried to respond, but my legs couldn’t power through.
I had no pop, and we were just getting started!
Nevertheless, I refocused, ran, and power hiked my way up the endless roads and switchbacks, with some cursing along the way.
Surprisingly, I was still in good spirits at the top — probably because I knew I would get a 15 min mandatory break in the peak 2 peak, followed by a lengthy decent.
I hit the top, grabbed my drop bag and executed a swift shoe change whilst grabbing 2 bags of skittles at the aid station before huffing it for the gondola.
The descent was actually pretty fun. I cruised down making sure my quads weren’t taking too much impact.
There were a few sketchy toenail jarring sections, but aside from that, it was gravy.
I coasted into aid station #4 wondering if my climbing legs were back. More water and food, and I was back at it uphill.
Then things got nasty real quick.
This question hit me right in the gut between 55-70 km: just past my 50 km safety net. I was in purgatory – in between the thrill of starting and tasting the finish.
This was foreign territory for my mind and body — things started to derail.
Despite the excellent course marking, I took a wrong turn on a lengthy climb, and ended up wasting energy running uphill for about 10 minutes before noticing the lack of red flags.
Hard to take, I quickly retraced my steps and got back on track… feeling pretty stupid and angry in the process because the turn I missed was perfectly labelled with an arrow and about five course flags.
The climb felt never-ending as I was reduced to a hike. My usual ravenous appetite turned on me for the first time ever.
Who would’ve thought crushing two bags of skittles before running downhill on the previous section would unsettle your stomach? Lesson learned.
This is the darkest place I’ve ever been.
I kept plugging away thinking about all of you: those who continually support my crazy endeavours.
One foot in front of the other, rinse and repeat. The relentless suffering continued until I crested the never ending climb.
My stomach settled as I trotted the next 5 km downhill to the next aid station, eager to see anyone.
You’d be surprised at how lonely things get on the trail when things aren’t going your way.
Normally I welcome running alone; the headspace natural beauty of my surroundings is inspiring.
There was nothing resembling beauty or inspiration here — I looked and felt like crap.
Getting to the second last aid station tested my will. I stumbled in emotionally broken. I don’t know if I was excited to see people or if I didn’t want them to see my real state, but I put my best face on.
In reality, I was stripped down to basic human needs: breathing, food, and water — Maslow would have been proud.
So I inhaled two bananas, filled my bottles with some orange coloured liquid (room temperature water was not so appetizing) and picked up my secret weapon from Chris: M&Ms.
Knowing I had one climb to go, I threw in the headphones and trucked on — actually feeling better than before.
I was able to run this section and find a bit of rhythm again. To my excitement, I was rewarded with another downhill into the final aid.
My trusty quads never let me down all day as I was able to bomb all the downhills.
I ditched my pack at the final aid station, ate more bananas, shoved a handful of ice into my hat, and high stepped in on out of there.
Despite looking I had a growth protruding out of my head, ice in the hat is a game-saver.
The last 10km was relatively flat: a few up and downs while weaving through the popular valley trail in Whistler.
This trail was busy: I dodged families on their Sunday hike, and confused bikers asking me what race I was running. One family of about 20 in particular gave me a hero’s cheer as I painfully ran by.
I couldn’t help but smile. They have no idea what I’d been through, but that doesn’t matter.
I thought to myself how nice it would be to simply go for a walk with no more pain and lifeless jello legs.
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw another runner with a race bib about 200m behind me on the trail. Shit.
Not knowing whether he was another solo running or a relay team runner, I picked up the pace.
I wanted to make this guy suffer if he thought he had a chance at passing me with 5km to go.
Somehow I had some pizzazz left, and cruised into the finish doing a modified airplane and looking to the sky, being so thankful that I finally completed this thing.
It made for a pretty epic photo thanks to Chris.
My will has never been tested like that. I was so destroyed at the finish, I could barely process what I’d done.
A seat on the grass looked pretty comfy, so there I laid with my conscious split in two.
Part me asking why I couldn’t be content running 10k’s like everyone else, the other part relishing at my accomplishment.
I finished in 9th place with a time of 9 hours 34 minutes.
Reflecting a few days after, I’m happy with my accomplishment, I pushed my body and mind further than ever through 50 miles and 13,000 feet of vert.
New perspective comes from conquering your struggles.
I was close to being completely broken, but working through this dark place was the most rewarding part of all.
How you respond when things go awry is what defines you. When I keep pushing my body, I’m realizing how we can conquer (just about) anything but it is a choice, not an easy one.
Huge thanks to my bud Chris Jones. Crewing doesn’t do justice — he kept me moving all day, and for that I am grateful (he also snapped all the amazing photos in here). Also thanks to Meet Your Maker for an amazing race – well marked and the volunteers were amazing.
Also — checkout the Garmin GPS stats.
On September 1 I run 50 miles of unforgiving mountainous terrain in Whistler. There’s a paradox for me in doing crazy things like this lately – I’m terrified, but I can’t keep myself away.
This race is called Meet Your Maker. It cruises around Whistler before going literally straight up Blackcomb mountain, then across the peak 2 peak in a gondola, and straight down Whistler, couple more loops and bam, you’ve done 50 miles. Upwards of 12,500 feet of elevation gain and loss through what should be a long day of, among other things… self-discovery.
To put this elevation in perspective, my first ultramarathon entailed around 6000 feet of climbing, and it was a tad uncomfortable at times. I also just found out that this run had about a 50% completion rate among solo runners in 2012.
Regardless, there’s an itch to keep pushing. I’m drawn by the purity of running through the mountains, there’s no rules, no constraints.
You can run on your terms, and simply enjoy the moment — for however long that is.
There’s no pressure to perform. For that hour (or several), you are truly free. Free from the stresses of bills, rent, life.
Running entails a different context but brings about a similar state as to when I meditate.
My breathing becomes methodical and controlled, I focus on the present, and notice every bodily sensation.
There’s more sensory information to think about, but largely your mind is on cruise control, and you are free to entertain the randomness of your thoughts.
People tend to see running as boring, but this is because we generalize what we don’t know. I assume opera to be boring, but I’ve never actually been to the opera… it could be riveting for all I know.
What I’ve found about running is that it is the only time I can turn my mind off and just… be.
What differs is how we express these desires.
I’m searching for the answer as to how far can I push my body. With this next ultramarathon, the question of ‘can I do this?’ drifts in and out of my thoughts
I like trying difficult things because of the unknown it brings. I fear the unknown but am drawn to it because I’m confident that I can conquer it.
That is not to say I’m confident that I’ll enjoy every one of those 50 hilly miles on Sept 1, for some, conquering is about completion and absolution.
I’m ready for the pain, the emotions, and the discovery, because I’m fortunate to be able to try such extreme physical feats.
I love the ability to travel great distances on my own power and appreciate every aspect of the journey from preparation to execution on race day.
That day, nothing else matters but testing my spirit. It’ll be a day of conflicting emotions, from joy to suffrage and pain.
I’ll take each state as they come, and remember that there are people who face struggles that pale in comparison to mine.
Days after the most epic adventure of my life I’m inspired by one thing: the potential of the human body.
Saturday brought a different kind of introspection. When you’re stripped down to the components of your being, your self, you realize what is important.
I pushed my body to a foreign place on Saturday at Grey Rock, and I’m amazed at how it continues to respond. I moved further and faster than I ever have through the rocky, hilly terrain.
The trail dished out punishment, but my legs almost welcomed the challenge (and the pain). With that, here’s a report from my first ultramarathon.
Carving through the Ahtanum State Forest for 45 minutes on a gravel road let us know we were in ‘the bush.’ No cell service, no infrastructure… Chris (the only other person crazy enough to do something like this) and I shrugged it off with a laugh.
After a quick check-in and pre-race pep talk, we were off! We fell into formation on a single track trail laced with switchbacks for about 5 km.
I stuck with a pack of five for the climb before two peeled off infront and behind. The top greeted us with an amazing view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. I thought to myself how my favourite cheap beer is produced on that snowy peak.
Post-climb, we cruised down a lengthy, steep descent into a valley. We bombed it, but I tried my best to disperse the impact to my glutes in order to save my quads a bit for later in the run.
I had quad problems after a long descent during my marathon, so this was something constantly on my mind.
Knowing the course is a 25 km out and back, I vividly recall thinking to myself “man this is going to be a bitch to climb later on.”
Alas, the descent lead to the first aid station. This is where my competitive instincts kicked in. I wanted a quick turn around.
I fumbled with my water bottles, but managed to fill them up, ate a ton of food (peanut butter filled pretzels? Giddyup!), and set off for climb numero dos.
This was the longest climb of the day – about 12 km up 2400 feet to the top of a beautifully situated ridge at 6600 feet of elevation.
The nature of ultrarunning is such where you can’t run everything. This is a bit of a mental adjustment for me, giving I’ve never practiced ‘hiking’ or anything close to it. Apparently you just walk… for an extended period of time.
Nonetheless, the trail gets so steep that running is not only counterproductive in terms of energy output, but it is also barely quicker than a more efficient power hike.
So our crew of three prodded up and up, finally reaching the second aid station at the 25km turn-around point.
The views were truly breathtaking — 360 degrees of chiseled mountains extending to the horizon. I remember being jealous of the aid station volunteers who got to the views from atop the ridge all day.
I also realized that we were in 4th place. Shocker.
My eyes immediately fixated on the peanut butter sandwiches. It’s funny how, when you’re stripped down, it is the simplest of things which bring enjoyment.
I destroyed a PB&J, and some juicy watermelon – cracked a few bad jokes to the friendly aid stationers, relieved myself on a nearby tree, and was on my way back down (bringing a second PB&J for the road of course).
The descent back to the bottom of the valley was where the pain started to set in. A few callouses-turned-blisters and more ankle roles and catch-myself-stumbles than I care to remember.
But, we hit the final aid station still in our pod of three. The volunteers asked my name and I told replied with a grin: “David Hasselhoff.” I think this confirmed I was in good spirits and not severely dehydrated.
After stuffing my face with a banana, more peanut butter filled pretzels and M&Ms by the handful, my outlook shifted on the final climb.
Upon learning that the 2nd and 3rd place runners were 7 and 10 minutes ahead, I surged forward with my two compatriots, ready to tackle the same gnarly climb that took us about 45 minutes to bomb down hours earlier.
The climb sucked – lots of power hiking, water sipping, and grunting. Nothing pretty about this hour and a half as sweat poured down and my head got a tad foggy, but we grinded it out.
I was straddling this line between contentment and competition. It was a longshot to catch anyone, but I didn’t care, I wanted to win and needed to try.
So we continued up this brutal ridge, while I kept the thought in the back of my mind of catching one.
I was in hunting mode and I loved it.
We kept pushing the pace, I led for sections, then Chris led. Our tank emptying, but something kept us moving, step by step.
My addictive personality is such that I fixate myself on certain things and get absorbed in complete tunnel vision.
Everyone talks about enjoying your first ultra, I cherished every second of it. But I’m always hungry for that next thing. If you’re going to set out on an adventure, why not pursue your potential?
The top of the climb finally came. Now the fun part – a 5 km descent to the finish!
I pictured myself hobbling down this final stretch with shredded quads, but surprisingly, my legs felt… decent.
I had some pep, so did Chris (we lost Matt on the climb, who just came off a 100 miler 3 weeks prior!), so we cruised down growling, hooting, and hollering our way to the finish.
We couldn’t make up the time on the 2nd and 3rd placers – they finished 2 and 3.5 minutes ahead of us respectively.
They also apparently heard our yells, along with the everyone else at the finish.
So Chris and I crossed the line together in 4th with a time of 5 hours 33 minutes. It’s certainly an adventure, and I loved every minute of it.
There’s a certain purity I experienced on the trail, one I can’t quite describe. The best description I can give is one of simplicity.
Everything slows and you’re focused on one task: to finish. Step by step, climb by climb, you hone in on our innate sense of progress, of forward momentum until the job is done.
It sounds corny, but I was consumed by my surroundings, and it was a beautiful thing.
Conquering climbs, peaks, and mountains on your two feet brings an almost paleolithic (not the shitty diet) feel.
There’s something primal about travelling long distances through the wild using your own two feet and I can’t wait to keep exploring my potential.
I estimated eating about 1500 calories through the run consisting of 6 Honey Stinger Waffles (reminded me of stroop waffles from Belgium: delicious), two PB&J sandwiches, a bag of M&Ms, countless PB filled pretzels, a banana, tons of watermelon.
Finally, I’m grateful for all the support from you: I read every single message, Tweet, and word of encouragement – these are what got me through it.
When we do things that scare the crap out of us, good things usually follow… At least, that’s what I’m telling myself leading into my first ultramarathon (ultra).
Previously, I never would have dreamed of running that far. I scowled at marathon runners who spent countless hours pounding the pavement thinking how bored they must be.
But perceptions shift and situations change. Over the last 18 months, mine certainly has as I’ve gone through an emotional and spiritual transformation.
It’s lead me to a few places, and this weekend it leads me to something I thought was impossible.
This phrase is quickly becoming my mantra. We get one shot at this thing, and to settle for mediocrity is truly a shame.
It is far too easy for you to be content with the status-quo.
You have the potential to accomplish amazing things, but it is on you to ultimately get there.
Lately, I’m writing about my physical journey, but this applies everywhere. Why are we content with being average when we have the capacity for so much more?
Never settling is about challenging yourself, and that is what I’m doing on Saturday.
I’m treating this experience as a day of adventure. I know a few things: it’ll be way hotter than I’m used to, longer, and hillier than anything I’ve run before as well.
This scares me, but I know we’re amazing creatures. Our ability to adjust to the unknown is what makes us unique. The conditions are extreme but so what?
There’s no pity party for our obstacles, so let’s have some fun and enjoy new experiences.
Part of the reason for partaking in this ultramarathon is because I know many are not crazy enough to do it.
When you take risks you are sometimes rewarded in different ways. What I’m doing gives me no tangible reward which is fine. I’ll gladly forego anything tangible for personal growth.
We’re constantly evolving and searching for new qualities to define us.
Our society shoehorns us to take comfort in certainty. We feel good when things move smoothly and we’ve traditionally avoided risk because we’re conditioned as such.
The funny thing is that all major breakthroughs in your life and mine come from taking risks… however hard it may be.
I routinely get caught up in the comfort of just ‘being.’ Then I remind myself that everything good in my life has come from doing things that scare the shit out of me.
If you take a sec and think back, I think you’ll agree. Now I try to embrace fear and uncertainty. It’s a risk for us, but one worth taking.
When we push our boundaries and risk failure, amazing things happen.
I get goosebumps thinking about my first ultramarathon on Saturday. I’m fuelled by passion. Passion to complete something meaningful.
Whether it’s physical or in everyday life, playing it safe isn’t worth it, so get out and push yourself.
Push past that mental block, curb your excuses and you’ll be glad you did.
Photo by Bohari Adventures
I am an aspiring renaissance man, community builder, and writer. My hope is for you to learn from my curious quest that you can achieve anything you want.