Joshua Ebert

Trail Runner | Misadventurist | Storyteller

Month: February 2016

books title

When you are passionate about something you tend to collect everything said or written on the topic. Here I have compiled my top four books that cover a variety of fields that an adventure seeker should be familiar with.

 walker

The Complete Walker IV: When I was 18 or 19 years old I was a student at Penn State Mont Alto, which is right next to the Appalachian Trail. It did not take long for me to become infatuated with the trail and the people who walk it. So as I began to obsess over it, a mentor of mine, Rodney, made sure to put this book in my hands. He explained that it was the bible for backpackers and would tell me everything I need to know. The book, which is written by experienced outdoorsmen Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins, breaks down almost every aspect of backpacking. Some might be surprised that it takes 864 pages to explain putting your stuff in a bag and then putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, but the authors do not want their readers to be uninformed.

 Freedom_of_the_Hills_8th_ed

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills: If you could earn a college degree in standing atop the world, then this would be your textbook. Unlike many textbooks, this one is not some overpriced scam but a well-written textbook with excellent illustrations. This book condenses the knowledge of some of the most experienced mountain men and gives it to you in an easily digestible content. Even if you do not plan to summit Aconcagua, this book has valuable information for all those who enter the realm of mountains. Knowing how to read the terrain, weather and conditions are really important because, in the mountains, dangers are amplified.

 Relentless-Forward-Progress-cover-250x375

Relentless Forward Progress: Before I met my friend Ben, who became my ultra running go-to guy for questions, there was this book. Bryon Powell is the founder and editor of the website I Run Far and has made a career out of running ultras and covering ultra races. He is also an excellent example of someone who has made what they love into a career as he went from being an attorney to a running coach and journalist. In this book, he breaks down the science of running and includes essays from elite ultra runners in what works for them. He also outlines great training plans for a multitude of distances. I myself used his training plan when I ran the Leatherwood Ultra 50-miler.

 handbook

The Ranger Medic Handbook: This is the most expensive book on the list but also the most valuable in my opinion. This book is densely packed with lifesaving information. While it is geared towards a highly trained Army Ranger Medic, it is laid out in if-then-style flowcharts on how to evaluate and treat a casualty. While I hope your adventure does not include injuries caused by bullets or landmines, it also has practical information on how to treat fractures, concussions and variety of ailments you can encounter in the backcountry. Not only does it tell you the hands-on treatments for them, but also the correct medications and dosages for these injuries and diseases. Note: A few years ago there was a fake version of this book in the Kindle store and had bad information in it. Amazon has several versions of this book in different formats. I have included the link to the North American Rescue Products version, which is the version issued by the U.S. Army. The fact that this version is spiral bound and printed on more durable paper means it can stand up to the hardships of your adventure.

So those are the four books I recommend the most when asked about adventure. Did I miss any? Do you have any suggestions for future reading? Please comment if you do.

This past Sunday my wife and I dedicated the day to fun and adventure. After eating breakfast, we loaded our kayaks into the truck and drove to the Eno River Boat Ramp in Durham, North Carolina. It was a beautiful morning with a light chill in the air so the boat ramp was busy with fishermen putting their boats into the river.

We unloaded our kayaks and slipped into the river. At first, I found the scenery a bit dull as we have had a lot of rain this winter, which caused the river to spill across the floodplain and washed the surrounding vegetation in mud. As we paddled past the fishermen in their boats we found ourselves drifting into more solitude. We began picking out unique looking trees and 100-year-old oak trees as we toured a small section of the river.

kayak

Following our 6-mile round trip paddle, we drove to the town of Hillsborough for some beers and barbecue. We saddled up to the bar at Mystery Brewing Public House to begin sampling their tasty gluten sodas and ordered lunch from Hillsborough BBQ Company. This is one of the best combinations in the Triangle and I recommend if anyone happens to be out around Hillsborough to check both out.

mystery

After stuffing ourselves with barbecue, we headed out to Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area for a hike. We pulled into the small, overflowing parking lot only to be greeted by raindrops. While another couple turned back from the trailhead we figured we would march on and hope the rain would quickly pass. Fortunately, the rain only lasted for 10-15 minutes, just doing enough to make the air humid. It was a nice loop that went down along the Eno River then climbed up an old rock quarry to give us a great view of Hillsborough.

mountain

After the hike, we finished the day with a stop at YesterYears Brewery in Carrboro. Then we headed home to unload the truck and feed the dogs.

YesterYears

The thing is while our adventure was nothing groundbreaking it was a nice day outside. It was a day where my significant other and I got to connect and spend the day seeing new places. An adventure does not have to be a speed ascent of Denali or paddling a source to sea on the Amazon. It is important to make these small adventures part of our busy lives. If you are outside, experiencing things for the first time or in a new way then you are having an adventure. What is better than making new stories with friends or loved ones? Not much in the grand scheme of this singular life.

Are.You_.Lost_

The air begins to cool as the sun begins to go down and you are not exactly sure about where you are. Maybe the mental note of ‘turn left at the downed tree with the squirrel on it’ was not your best moment. Now you are starting to even question whether it was a grey, red or one of those mutant black squirrels (seriously look it up). Now you shiver and you regret leaving that hoodie in the car. It is right about here you first ask yourself the question, “Am I lost?”

You probably are not, you just need to take a moment to calm down and figure out where you are. This is the time to sit down and take a moment and think rationally about it. This will help prevent you from doing something to get yourself into real trouble.

According to Boy’s Life Magazine (the Foo Fighter’s least favorite magazine), you should follow the acronym S.T.O.P.

  • Stop: Just stop moving, getting more lost will not make it easier to get found.
  • Think: Take a moment to think back on how you got to this point and look at the map if you have one.
  • Observe: Look around and assess if anything is familiar. Maybe you can see the parking lot from there.
  • Plan: Come up with a plan. If you want to look over the next hill to see if you find something you recognize, make easily distinguishable markers to at least get you back to where you are now. Do not keep wandering around hoping to find your way out.

So now that you have admitted that you are lost it is time to figure out your next steps. You are at a critical point where you must decide what you do next. Does someone expect you back? Will they notify help if you do not return tonight? Do you have the resources to spend the night? Approximately how much daylight do you have left? Do you have food and water?

If you know someone is expecting you back at a certain time and you know they will notify the authorities, then you need to hunker down. You need to face the possibility of being out there the entire night. That means get out of the wind, build a shelter that helps keep body heat in, and conserve what remaining resources you have.

Do not drink unfiltered water unless it is a life or death situation.

Do not camouflage yourself and your equipment (unless you are being hunted by a predator).

Attempt to remain in your current location through the night and as long as possible into the next day. If you have to move or choose to move make sure to mark the route with obvious signs that rescuers can follow. Arrange rocks into arrows, break fresh tree branches or arrange things in a way that will tell people that someone recently passed through the area.

Ultimately the best thing to do is wait for help, moving around only makes it harder for rescuers to find you.

And as always, remember the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”

cuts-and-scrapes-MEME1

As of lately I have been working on building and improving my Instagram presence. A big piece of this is being more active and taking the time to photograph my runs and hikes. Taking pictures expressly for social media is nothing new for me, but now it definitely feels less like I am recording an event and more like I am competing for “Likes”.

So I decided to make a list of Pros and Cons and see if I may find some revelation on the good or evil of Instagram.

Look how much fun my friend Terry is having with my Instagram habit

Pros:

  • My desire to find interesting photographs or a unique way to frame the sunrise has made me much more aware of my surroundings. I have been running the same trails for years now but I’m starting to appreciate different features, textures and patterns that I have previously run past over and over.
  • I am always looking for somewhere new to go. This is not something new for me, but now I am focusing on the photos I will take.
  • Hopefully, my pictures are inspiring people to get out and explore the world around them. Whether it is planning an epic trip to a national park or just walking around the forest behind their house.

Cons:

  • I’m not as present with my running partners in conversation. As my mind begins to focus on finding a great shot, I lose touch with the conversation.
  • The trip becomes more about the photo documentation than the experience. I am not saying that I lose everything about the experience but taking an epic picture is beginning to dominate the experience.
  • My trips are losing spontaneity as I become more focused on getting to the perfect photo opportunity. While this is not the worst thing it is curbing my chance at self-discovery.

So is Instagram good or bad. It’s neither, like a finely crafted beer, it is something that should be enjoyed with moderation. Some days I probably obsess over it too much, while others I hardly notice it. Going forward, I should endeavour to be more present in the moment while also appreciating the beauty around me.

For some more fun information on Instagram, check out this video “Instagram Husbands

I’ve also recently wrote about putting mileage into context on my running blog “The Distance and the Pain”, so check that out.

noshit

Storytelling is a key skill to have when you are sharing an adventure with someone. The thing is recounting what happened, is not just about regurgitating a dry account of what happened. You can have the coolest story ever, but without excitement, you might as well be reading tax laws to your audience.

A while back I used to tell this complete B.S. story about the time I engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a Grizzly Bear (yeah bears are running theme for me). As I retold the story I dialed it in and learned a few lessons about how to deliver a solid story.

How to Begin:

Begin with the meat of your story or the hook as some call it. This is what draws people into the story. Introduce the story with something like, “Did I ever tell you about the time a German WWII veteran bought me a beer for being American?” (A true story) It draws people in, as they want to know the details surrounding this event. This clears the way for you to launch into the beginning.

Laying Out the Story:

Now that you have the hook in, you can launch into the event preceding the main point of the story. Map out your story with the key details that put it together. Visualize it as a straight line and avoid sharing too many details that make it look more like a curvy road.

Keep the Story Fluid:

This is where Emotional Intelligence plays a big role as you watch your audience. What details do they want, what is too much, and what details is my audience most receptive to? When I would tell my bear story there was a mildly off-color joke that I could play up, tame down or completely remove depending on the audience. It was of little consequence to the story, but provide a chuckle just before the main action. With any story it is important for the teller read the audience as to when they want more or less. Some people just want to sit back and enjoy a fantastic yarn, while others what a quicker and to the point explanation.

Animate the Story:

People feed off enthusiasm, so if you want people to draw in you have to show that you are excited about the story you are sharing. It is easy to be excited and talk rapidly like you cannot wait to get it all out, but that does not connect with your audience. Tell the story in a natural rhythm, but use the space you have to include movement in your retelling. If you partially re-enact key details of the story it brings further understanding as to the action while, also drawing the listener in. You in an essence are bringing the story to life.

End With a Punch:

The biggest problem is to know when to end your story. Sure you can close the climax of action and ramble on about the after effects, but that leaves your story to close on the soft note. Instead, close on a punch line or a moral. Then allow your audience to ask for supplemental details if they are interested.

So go out there and earn some stories through your adventures then remember these skills when you and your friends are sitting around a bar or campfire.

Here are a few extra resources:

Storytelling Skills and Techniques

How to Become a Storyteller

One Final Note:

There is no problem with telling a B.S. story, as long as you don’t attempt to pass it off as the truth. Your audience will see through you and just think you are a liar.

brian-williams-no-shit

 

This post originally appeared on my running blog, “The Distance and the Pain“.

Last year Uwharrie defeated me. I had a terrible finish, so, of course, I wanted to go back and do it again. This time, I signed up for the series (three races hosted by Bull City Running) along with several of my friends. Uwharrie is the second race in the series.

The Race

The Uwharrie Mountain Run takes place on the Uwharrie National Trail, a 20-mile point-to-point hiking trail that runs north to south in the Uwharrie National Forest. The race has three distances you can choose from: an 8-miler, a 20-miler or a 40-miler. I was doing the 40-miler.

Pre-Race

One of my favorite parts of this trip is getting to go camping with my friends Ben and Terry. On Friday afternoon, we drove out to Uwharrie to find a place to camp. We found a nice spot at the West Morris Mountain Campground and set up as the last rays of sunlight died. Ben made burgers over the fire and we kicked back to recount stories while enjoying our beer. Then it was off to bed (later than I would have liked) because we had to be up at 4:30 am to tear down camp.

It was around 20-degrees outside when I awoke to my alarm. I quickly changed into my running gear, layered up and crawled out of the tent to make a quick breakfast of ramen noodles and instant coffee. As I poured water into my pot I watched it freeze into slush. I put it on my stove and started heating it. Once Ben and Terry were up, we started tearing down the camp and tossing it into the back of my truck. It was time to head to El Dorado Outpost to check in.

The First Half

The race starts on a steep climb that goes up to a ridgeline. By the first ¾ of a mile, your legs are already screaming. The nice part is you hit the top of the ridge just in time to see the beautiful sunrise. Then you follow along the ridgeline and start descending down again.

Terry and I were pacing up together until we hit the steep technical descents, then I would slow. I had foolishly decided to change my inserts before the race and had yet to get my shoes dialed back in. So where I previously would be dancing down the steep, technical descents while chortling with glee I was instead cautiously picking my way down the hills. This I did not like.

Another change I was trying to make was to avoid the siren song of the aid stations. They typically are staffed by the best people lauding you with praise and offering all sorts of foods. Unintentionally, they become like the mermaids of lore beckoning the weak willed to disaster. My challenge was to keep hustling through the aid stations as fast as possible.

I did a great job of that through the first half with my longest stop being to refill my water bladder. I also found myself in a competition to beat my friend Terry. Terry is a strong runner who drops me with ease on most training runs, but for some reason I somehow best him on race day. The friendly competitiveness between us became a theme on the trip out to Uwharrie and during the race.

Finally, after the first 20-miles, we made it to the turnaround, and that is where everything changed…

The Second Half

Terry bested me out of the turnaround. The entire first half while I lead he was never far behind me, haunting me like a ghost. Ben, who was acting as our crew, was trying to go between the two of us at the turnaround. A nice volunteer stepped forward to get me soup and HEED (sports drink) as I struggled to change my socks, shoes, and shirt then re-lube for the return trip.

Terry was gone and when I realized it, I think I yelled some profanity in front of children.

I took off catching glimpses of Terry’s Ultimate Direction race vest ahead but never closing the distance. During this time, I saw several runners I knew coming in. First was Scott, who was pacing himself through the 40-miler. Next were several runners from my running group, the Raleigh Trail Runners. I saw Pete, then Carla, Alana, Jeff and Kelly. We passed each other shouting quick greetings and encouragement.

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Then I started to fall apart…

At the turn around I switched to a more minimalist shoe, the Columbia Conspiracy Razors. I went from poorly dialed but well-padded shoes, to shoes that could feel the entire trail. This had its positives and negatives. On the positive side the smaller shoes improved my agility as exhaustion made my footwork sloppy, but on the negative side my feet hurt like hell.

I plodded along in a walk/run style until Scott finally caught up to me. The year before it was I who picked up Scott who was really struggling and ultimately dropped out of the race. This year Scott returned the favor and buoyed me through till the final 8-miles.

Coming into the 32-mile aid station, I was struck with the immediate need to make a BM. After I hustled across the highway, I was met not only by Ben, but also by all the 20-miler runners who had come to cheer us on. I felt awkward as they greeted me and encouraged me to keep running but I dropped my pack, grabbed some baby wipes and darted for the port-a-john.

With my business concluded and a cup of soup downed, Ben and the others sent me off to complete the final 8-miles of the race. Through this section, I internally recreated the scene from “The Empire Strikes Back” where Luke fights himself. The punk song by Hear the Sirens “Reason to Run” began playing in my head. I was alone, evaluating what I was doing and why. I will not say that I discovered the meaning of life or answered my own question, but at least I have a few ideas that I can attempt to flesh out in later blog posts.

I finally finished the race in 9 hours, 27 minutes and 26 seconds. I did beat my previous time, but not as well as I would have liked. Currently I have no plans to return to this race because it is time to move on and find the next challenge.

Closing

All I want to say is that I recommend this race. It is one of the toughest races I have run, it will test you physically and mentally, but for all your suffering you will be rewarded with a well-organized race and amazing volunteers. So get out there and run!

Adventure and Limits

Merriam-Webster defines adventure as, “an exciting or dangerous experience”. So it’s not ridiculous to say that most adventures push your limits. That’s the point of an adventure, to get out of your comfort zone and say, “I can do this!” That said, there is also knowing where your limits are and the responsibility to not needlessly take risks. The reason is that when you call for help, you are asking someone else to put his or her life on the line for you. In mountaineering, there is something called the “death zone”, a place where if something bad happens to you, it is a death sentence.

This isn’t to say you should not push your limits. The above picture shows Sue Austin, a woman who has been challenging ideas about what it means to be handicapped. Sue has looked at the world around her and said how can I show that I’m not a prisoner of a wheelchair. The wheelchair is just her vehicle to see the world.

She worked with engineers and experienced divers to devise a system in which she could use her wheelchair on a deep-sea dive. She then went where many people in her position would never think of going. What Sue did was push her limits while working to mitigate risk.

I am not trying to discourage the budding adventurist because I have taken my share of dumb, needless risks. I just want to encourage people to plan, prepare and analyze their proposed adventure. We live in a world where safety equipment and features are built into most aspects of our lives so it is easy to lose sight on what real risk is.

One of the deadliest years on Mount Everest since 1996 occurred in 2014. A problem that kept re-occurring on Everest was the amount of novice climbers who booked trips with discount outfitters. The novice climbers saw this as a guided trip to the summit of the highest mountain on Earth. They in no way were prepared for the physical stamina required to make the climb or what to do when things went wrong. The outfitters were prioritizing getting their clients to the summit over doing it safely. Fortunately the government of Nepal has stepped in and placed more controls on who gets to attempt Everest.

I leave you with this, go out and explore and experience. Just do it wisely, not foolishly.

Paul's Boots

In the most recent episode of, one of my favorite podcasts, The Dirtbag Diaries they made a call to action for help. They received a call from a woman, named M’Lynn, in Australia looking for help on how to reach hikers and to share the story of her husband Paul.

She described Paul as a large, kind man who loved the outdoors and who had one dream, to one day travel from Australia to the United States and Hike the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Unfortunately, like with many of us, life got in the way of Paul’s dream. First he stayed to care for his mother in her final years as she died from Parkinson’s disease. Then his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, in which he again took on the task of caring for him.

During that time he developed a heart condition that eventually led to his death at age 53 this past July. Up until his death he studied the Appalachian Trail constantly and dreamed about the day he would finally complete it. He stockpiled the equipment and planned out every detail, only to never get a chance.

After his passing M’Lynn donated his equipment to a local Boy Scout troop but kept his three pairs of boots. She described how he would lovingly polish these boots over and over making sure they were ready for an adventure.

Now in honor of Paul’s memory she would like to see his boots complete the trek. Paul was a large man so the boots are size 13’s, but even if you cannot fit them you can volunteer to carry them. All she asks is that you take pictures of the boots along the Appalachian Trail and send the photos back to her.

To help with the logistics of this task Duct Tape Then Beer Productions (The people behind The Dirtbag Diaries) and REI have teamed up to get the boots to volunteers and coordinate their journey up the trail.

So if you plan to do any hiking on the Appalachian Trail this year please volunteer to carry or wear these boots on your trip. For more information and to volunteer you can go to Paul’s Boots page. Also take time to listen to the episode and hear the story of Paul as told by M’Lynn.

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