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
Theres a flood of emotions and questions through the last couple of strenuous weeks of prep for my first ultramarathon.
I liken the training to stoking a fire as I’m pushing myself pretty hard before starting the taper. With the taper ahead, lets look at some of the fun stuff.
I hadn’t covered anything close to marathon distance since early May, so My first longish run actually went better than expected. 38 km with about 4000 ft of elevation change in around 4 hours. The body was definitely tired and a bit sore after this one.
To make things worse, I literally rushed back to my apartment after the run, showered, stuffed some food down before getting picked up to go to a wedding and overnight adventure.
I ended up on my feet for the majority of the rest of the day — but felt surprisingly… decent.
My training week has two weight sessions and four running days. The running days vary in length and intensity — some days are hill repeats at a local park, others are tempo runs, others are long steady state runs.
The ultramarathon I’m running (Grey Rock) is basically three long climbs and descents over 50 km — this is causing me to really hone in both uphill and downhill running.
After the marathon – it’s glaringly apparent that downhill running hurts. After the long downhill, my quads were shredded and I could barely walk down stairs for two days after.
I don’t think this will be the case in July.
Forward momentum is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. For whatever reason, I need that constant feeling of progress – the reassurance that I’m not wasting time, not moving backwards.
Moving forward is about never settling with where you’re currently at. Why should I settle when there is so much more out there? Bucket lists, careers, and living a life worth living.
I’m starting to contemplate how you only get one go at this thing. Why waste time on anything? Those 2 hours wasted online, that hungover day laying in your room with fans blowing in your face – whatever it is, you’ll never get it back once it passes.
Time is without a doubt your most valuable commodity.
For me, I relish the present moment. I find myself more content with just being – not worried about the past, and not looking forward to the future.
The tricky part is that there is a fine line with this thinking. If you’re satisfied with being present, then how does ambition fit into the equation?
Ambition means planning and thinking big, and part of thinking big is positioning yourself for the future.
Running my first marathon was the single most rewarding thing I’ve done in the last year. I look back on that morning and I’m pierced with this urge to get that feeling again.
Leading into it, I planned on taking it fairly easy for the rest of the summer because the time commitment is such a sacrifice.
Choosing to stay in on a Saturday night because of the impending 35km Sunday morning stroll is fine… but enjoying the fruitful Vancouver summer is a top priority as well.
The timing was perfect: I could bang out the marathon in early May without destroying my summer activities. But something happened.
After a month or so ‘off’ and taking care of a nagging knee issue from the marathon, I’m getting another itch. Life without challenges is boring.
I want to compete… to keep pushing my body and mind.
To satisfy said itch, I’ve decided to run an ultramarathon (ultra) this summer. Ultras are anything over the standard marathon (42km or 26 miles).
Setting goals is important. You know that so I won’t get into the kumbaya swan song because you’ve heard it before. What I will say is that I put a lot of thought into my personal and professional goals.
I regularly write them out and share them with those who’ll keep me accountable.
With that, I’m setting the goal to complete two ultras by the end of October. The reason I share this with you to keep me accountable (please do).
It’s easy to think big to yourself – much harder to let others in on your dreams and the accompanying uncertainty.
So over the next few months, in addition to my other musings, I’ll share everything associated with my lead up to run an ultra.
I’ll give you a snapshot of the training which you’ll be interested in because it is a bit different from the traditional schools of thought.
The training plan is still being put together, but I’ve consulted a couple of ‘experts’ and literature. We’re going fine tune this machine.
I have some unique challenges in preparing given that I work a lot (who doesn’t?), am currently without car (makes it difficult to access local trails), and also love going to the gym. All of these potentially make things counterproductive.
The gym one is interesting because I’m stubborn and refuse to give it up. The feeling of lifting weights in therapeutic and stress relieving for me.
I also don’t want to shrivel up and turn into some malnourished looking marathon dude.
Another challenge is social activities through the summer. Thus far, I’ve been out of town on weekends for music festivals, stags, and weddings.
After I stopped playing field hockey competitively, I told myself I would never sacrifice experiences for sport. Life is too short and I already sacrificed too much.
These make training pretty difficult given that weekends are the logical time to get in the long, hilly runs that I’ll need to prepare my body for a long slogs through the mountains.
We’ll see how things play out, but I’m confident I can find a balance between getting my body ready without ruining summer festivities.
You’ll find out over the next month if I can indeed have my cake and eat it.
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Since I started experimenting with a mindfulness meditation practice six months ago, my perspective changed. So today I’ll share how you can reap the benefits of meditation by being more mindful.
I’ll preface this by saying if you haven’t read my thoughts on meditation, here are the cliffs: I started with sitting in a dark room – observing my breath, clearing my thoughts, and noticing any sensations in my body.
Now six months in, the differences in my personal well being are a plenty.
Your perspective shifts after you teach yourself to become more attuned to your thoughts and sensations.
Basically, you take your learnings from meditating and extend it to all aspects of your life. Some people call this informal meditation.
Dedicating yourself to being in the present moment takes a ton of practice.
A certain diligence with catching yourself thinking is pretty tricky to get the hang of, but if you make the conscious effort, you’ll notice the benefits – it is an empowering feeling.
But, like everything else, it takes practice… no shortcuts here, friend.
I’m now realizing how absurd it is to dwell on the past. Something you have no control over is not worth your thoughts.
That mistake you made at work, or botched encounter with some girl or guy is history: move on.
Thinking about the future is a bit different, but the same premise applies. The future is exciting for some but anxiety provoking for others. My advice is to come to terms with what it is.
Instead of looking forward to things, focus your energy on what you can directly control, the present.
I started by learning to notice the present throughout every part of my day. Previously meaningless sensations I now notice and embrace.
Despite my inability to walk afterward, the feeling of crossing that line and finishing my first marathon is difficult to put into words.
It’s an adrenaline rush like no other. Everything slowed after crossing the line. Although I was a bit lightheaded and could barely walk, to finally enjoy that moment with the roaring crowd is thrilling.
After a day or so to reflect, I’m still blasted by a ton of emotions. Mainly I’m appreciative for having the ability to train and last through an entire 42 km’s.
My body held up and for that I am fortunate because I know there are a ton of people out there who would kill for the ability to run without discomfort.
There’s another rarely talked about feeling: gratitude.
I’m grateful for the amazing community of friends and family who supported me through the journey.
Whether a message, text, or tweet, these words of encouragement make a huge difference. I appreciate every single one of you.
Beating a bongo drum and toting an ipod stereo, these two yelled and encouraged us the whole way, making jokes and entertaining other runners.
People ask if this is a one-off accomplishment. My answer is probably not. While I realize this is quite a feat in and of itself, I want more.
I’m wired in such a way that I always crave the next thing. Call it ambition or stupidity, but the point is, I’ll never settle for where I’m at now.
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.