Orcas was more of a mental necessity than a race or event. My spirit was yearning for a finish line, some small moment to peek out of the liminal space I had found myself running from a less than fulfilling 2015.
The reality of crossing over into that refreshed mindset came tumbling down as 10 days prior to toeing the start line, I ravaged my right ankle. I recognized the problematic potential of attempting the stout Orcas 100 profile. Even if I could somehow manage to move on the bulb, my left ankle is still prone to giving out after HURT in 2015. Through the support of close friends and respected physiotherapists, I made the hard choice to attempt the, for me, impossible: complete a 100 miler on a freshly sprained ankle. I had told myself that if there was legitimate pain, I would stop.
Orcas 100 came and went. Another 100 miles ticked by with the typical but awe-inspring Pacific Northwest beauty. I thoroughly enjoyed Rainshadow’s foray into the 100 mile distance. They managed a seemingly flawless first 100 with an incredible host of volunteers.
Having collected my mental fortitude and confidence again, the path ahead was my toughest challenge to date. Rest. Healing. Recovery. My body needed it. I was going full on for quite some time. I sunk myself into preparing for a mid-summer 2015 race which was cancelled, leading me to attempt Fat Dog again with a lackluster spirit. Don’t attempt something that requires all of you when you are not willing to be all in.
Work hard and the rest will sort you out. With patience and failed attempts, I have finally been able to return to my love of running.
Keep moving, except when you shouldn’t.
“We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling. Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up. We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors. This is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights.” – Vivaldi, “The Four Seasons – Winter”
It is always easy to blame something, someone. For me, it was HURT, not because of the event itself, but the moment in my history it marked; an equinox at the shifting my of axis. To say the months since HURT were challenging would be only scratching the surface of truth. I hope to capture well what has been bubbling to the surface and let it breathe.
Everyone has a breaking point.
Either the longevity of a situation or compounding restrictions can take tolls on a person. I have been dealing with both. Running has been my respite, my meditation, my way of reminding me that nature takes its time and fruits bear. That mode of processing disappeared after HURT. I struggled with 30 minute hikes which left me aching and unable to sleep for nights later. Each attempt to grasp at maintaining a hold on the situation, on life was leaving me painfully empty handed.
I had tossed my penny in the well and waited for the splash but there was only silence.
Work was starting again. An opportunity I am beyond grateful for having landed in front me was still not what I wanted to be doing with my life. Sometimes you just have to do things, but I do not how much longer I can pursue life outside of passion. The job carried with it a certain set of challenges not dissimilar from any other new position. The finish line for time to hear on my Canadian permanent residence was coming in to view. The end of June became my focus. But even with as long as I have waited, I could not wait anymore. The frustrations were akin to having course markings constantly being changed. I resorted to putting my head down and pushing towards a PR decision. I had waited long enough and felt I owed it to myself.
From my running community here in Vancouver BC, I am known as the guy that can ralley and gut out a finish at any race if need be. It is a characteristic I am happy to possess naturally with many chances to nurture. I have been able to develop a lot of techniques that help me endure on and off the trails. But as a dear friend of mine told me, “just because you are good at struggling does not make it any less of a struggle.”
The real struggle had just begun. Training began to enter my life again. Void of any solace or joy, I found myself cutting runs short because they were mentally taxing. I only wanted to run alone because those few hours were the only time during the week I could try to forget the tangled web of life at this juncture, to no avail. And that is when the fissures began to crack.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses respect for himself and for others. And having no respect, he ceases to love.” – Dostoevsky
Identity crisis. Who am I when running is stripped away?
Existential crisis. How do I live away from all I know: science, running, and community? What will I do with my life when I do not even know where or when I will be living in any given place? What is the point?
These were the questions I carried with me every day. Close friends saw the cracks – my smile not as wide, my laugh not as deep. The PR finish line keeps moving further away. The end is no longer in sight and my spirit is tired.
The last couple of weeks has begun to reset my axis. I am gaining hope and direction; embracing the coming changes whatever and wherever they might be. I find peace in the still again. The passion for running is burning bright within me again. Each run takes me deeper emotionally. I stripped away all of my races this year. I only have 2 events on the 2015 calendar with one holding any sort of goals.
I am beyond excited at the uncertainty ahead; it now holds promise. Professionally, I do not know where I will end up. These last few months gave rise to my desire to help people. That heart is what propelled me in the sciences and I will look at more direct impact career options in the final hours of this waiting room.
My sails are open. Let the wind blow.
“The truth is that it is natural, as well as necessary, for every man to be a vagabond occasionally.”
Sometimes in order to be lifted up, you must first be brought down. I have now been experiencing the vagabond dirtbag runner life for two months. While it is as awesome as I had dreamt it to be, it is not without challenges or for the weak-spirited, but adventure is always worthwhile.
Two months ago, it all began with solemn excitement, hopeful anticipation, and what I thought were the necessities. After just one week I realized that my 3 carry-on sized luggages of clothes was way more than enough. They were filtered and condensed into one. Seeking minimalism is required in this lifestyle, excess will just weigh you down. Minimalist living is not for everyone and I have yet to decide if it is still even for me. I have been able to distill my belongings which are in arms reach but my storage unit tells a different story. My hope is over time I will realize how frivolous all ‘things’ are as my mind begins to forget what I have stored.
One personality trait I have been able to develop further is my self-motivation/sufficiency. I am so glad I already had this engrained in me, otherwise I think the vagabond life would eat my soul. Some days I get that longing feeling of needing something to do, anything. Remember that from your childhood? How long has it been since you’ve felt that? It had been years, maybe decades, for me.
Other days I am overwhelmed with possibilities. I recently viewed the film 180 degrees South. Jeff leaves California via boat for an incredibly long journey towards Patagonia to climb. The film documents his adventures and stoked in me the flames of long distance travel. The next day I began researching ways to become a deckhand and make way to South America. One of my best friends has connections and has offered to help me flesh out this extreme dream. While this particular scenario might not happen (for now), I feel something in the same vein is bound to soon.
I am in the midst of training for the H.U.R.T. 100 mile race which is in Hawaii in less than 2 months. Like a good crew, my friends have helped me beyond measures unthinkable or repayable. Those days filled with doubt and loneliness are matched with days of hurting cheeks from laughing too long and tired legs from the days mountainous excursion. It is reminiscent of running an ultra with long stretches of not seeing a soul or sometimes a marker to ensure you’re on the right path. Then suddenly you happen upon an aid station and the energy is palpable. At the end, I am left with gratitude and a desire to give back.
“The life you’ve led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”
Now that job offers are all but on the table, I am restless. I do not want to slip back into the rhythm and routine which was stirring my heart to seek something more. I fear I will miss the opportunities and freedom too much, leaving me unfulfilled with no time to pursue my true desires. That said, there is something to feeling tired at the end of a day of hard work. Returning to the depths of scientific research and development does not have to be a return to the life I had. I will be able to carry with me the vagabond spirit and find even more ways to pursue further the dream life this season awakened. I am willing to go the distance both in life and on the trails, empowered by the sense of life one gains as a vagabond and the arms of my friends around me. Thank you will never be enough.
Keep the dream alive.
I am extremely excited about my 2014 race calendar. I spent a long time mulling over possibilities, timings, and overall fun impact. I have also decided to stay local this year. There are so many places I have yet to run because of a hefty race/travel schedule and I am excited that I get to discover more of where I am fortunate enough to live and train.
There is one focus this year — Fat Dog. It has been a while since I have been nervous about a race. I will have the opportunity to push myself past the 100 mile mark and experience incredibly scenic views along the way. Most of the people I am fortunate enough to call both friends and training partners are also running it, or part of it. Fat Dog has the biggest fun impact in my racing yet.
Cap Crusher 13km – March 23, 2014 (link)
Diez Vista 50km – April 5, 2014 (link)
Sun Mountain 50m – May 18, 2014 (link)
Survival of the Fittest 18km – May 31, 2014 (link)
Trailstoke 60km – July 19, 2014 (link)
Fat Dog 120m — August 15-17, 2014 (link)
My volunteer trail work hours have been accepted and I am now officially in the Wasatch Front 100 mile Endurance Run. The more I look at the elevation profile, the more nervous I get. To combat this Goliath and to calm my nerves I have ramped up my training significantly. I run up and down a mountain twice a week before work and then run later during the day to keep my weekly mileage high. I have been doubling up my weekend runs to bag as much vertical gain as I possibly can. The video below is from my training weekend in Seattle this past weekend. I joined Jen for the 2nd half of the 12 Peaks run on Saturday afternoon and early the next morning tackle a double summit of Mt. Si. That’s a lot of elevation in under 24 hours, but is still about HALF of what I will have to attempt at Wasatch. Woah.
I pace Jen at Big Horn which was an incredible experience. She definitely brought out her inner honey badger. I was thrilled to support her and was again blown away by the amount of encouragement received from other runners (there were 3 shorter races finishing simultaneously towards the end). Also her friend John was travelling across the country and just so happened to be near the area. He picked me up after the 100-milers started and drove me to the turn around at mile 48. I love ultrarunners. So much community.
I have a hefty month and a half-ish left before Wasatch. Time to embrace my inner honey badger more than ever.
Enjoy the video. Thanks for all your support and please consider helping out the 100 for 100 cause.
Earlier this year, the Chinese rang in the year of the dragon. One would expect to choose that as a personal spirit animal for the coming year. I however, am no such person. While the dragon symbolizes good fortune and intense power, there exists another creature in the animal kingdom with even more tenacity and power than a dragon could ever possess. I am speaking of the honey badger, my 2012 spirit animal. For those of you who have not yet viewed the honey badger in action, check out this video on YouTube (*contains colorful language*) and you will see why, in part, I have chosen it to be my spirit animal. “Look, it runs all over the place…It’s the most fearless animal in all of the animal kingdom…Honey badger don’t care.”
After I finished the Orcas Island 50k, I found out that I had been selected in the lottery for the 2012 Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance run (YAY!). I learned that those relentless enough to finish the race in the alotted 36 hours are awarded with — the Badger Heart belt buckle. The website states the badger is a creature of the earth and a tenacious, undefeatable, committed adventurer. I would be honored to have these words describe me. While I will be more than thrilled just finish this beast of a race, my goal is to achieve the Spirit of the Wind belt buckle — finishing in under 30 hours. The incredible few able to complete Wasatch 100 in less than 24 hours join the elite order of the crimson cheetah. I began to research animal groups. Do you know what a group of badgers is called? It is a company. That is the best description I could think of for what it takes to attempt races of this magnitude.
I am beyond excited to join in running this race, one of the 4 oldest 100 milers. It is the closing race of the Grandslam of Ultrarunning: Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100, and Wasatch 100. Completing the grandslam, running all 4 in one year, is for sure on my to do list…someday.
I am so blessed to have good company around me to support me mentally and those with whom I train. I already have some of the best people I know signed up and ready to travel with me to Utah to help crew and pace me. Thank you already. We are going to have an incredible year!
Unleash your inner honey badger.
I finally got the opportunity to experience the Orcas Island 50k, another race put on my James Varner (Runshadow Running). Having run Cle Elum, another Runshadow race, before I knew the amazing spirit and atmosphere James facilitates at his events. For example, the t-shirts are hand selected from thrift stores by James and have the logo printed on the back. Super rad. I also knew how he somehow always manages to create courses that are at times seemingly unmanageable. Overall, this was one of my favorite race experiences. Having everyone at Camp Moran was invigorating and the ability to shower right afterwards in the cabins where we stayed was a huge bonus. Huge thanks to James for putting on such an incredible race in some the best runnable trail I’ve been on, all around stunning views of the gorgeous PNW scenery I get to call home.
The excitement and anticipation of this race was bigger than I have had in a while because I was getting to go to Orcas Island for the first time AND take in its beauty by running with some of my favorite people. Going in to this race I had very few expectations. It was the first ultra of the year for me, as well as the first since Cascade Crest 100. I was ready to see where my lower mileage training plus CrossFit had me. As I got ready to leave I realized my watch did not want to charge or turn on. So I had to go in to the race with no way of knowing where I was pace-wise. I had set 5:45-6:15 as a timeframe I would like to hit. Since I did not have a watch, I decided to just run comfortably and see where I’d land at the finish line.
I gave a the course profile a brief look before driving down to Anacortes to catch the ferry. I saw four hills, with the 3rd looking fairly steep. What I neglected to remember was how insane some of the climbs are on James’ races. I started the race slower than I wanted to but knew I needed to reign in my excitement and tendency to burn out early. I felt great until ‘the power lines.’ I have run some steep hills before but this was leg-sizzlin’ steep. My legs had felt good until this section. The residual soreness from CrossFit on Wednesday started to seep in, like I was pumping siracha from my glutes to my calves. Thankfully this race had great downhill sections. The uphills were steep and short while the downhills were at a moderate grade and drawn out. I finally did a good job at staying hydrated but I did not take in enough calories. By mile 19-ish my stomach was growling. I had to stop running and eat the trail mix I had in my pack (almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries). After the stunning views at Mt. Constitution (mile 22.4) the food was starting to provide me with energy and just in time for some more downhill. At about mile 25 I hit a big wind. The course was predominately downhill and I was able to let my legs fly me down; I still walked some of the uphills. Sadly, I had neglected to consume anything while I was feeling great and a little before mile 31 I completely tanked. The end of the race was a little uphill on a road and then straight down to the finish line. I had decided to just walk that little stretch of road since I was shaky from no energy. At this point a bud from Seattle rounded the corner behind me and yelled at me to run; so I did. I am so glad Joe was there to push me. Afterwards I found out that elevation to mileage ratio, this race was actually harder than White River 50.
I ended up finishing at 6:15. I made it (albeit barely) in my timeframe without really pushing my legs. This puts me in a really positive mental state for this upcoming year of running. Next race is Chuckanut 50k in March and I will be running it hard. For Orcas Island 50k I learned that I will want to take a whole week off of CrossFit before an event I want to race hard and to not neglect calorie consumption in the ups.
During the race, the Wastach Front 100 Mile Endurance Run lottery was being held…more on that soon.