Joshua Ebert

Trail Runner | Misadventurist | Storyteller

Month: March 2016

jungle & river trails

Currently I am in the planning stages of introducing my wife to backpacking. She loves hiking but has never been camping. So now I’m attempting to devise the perfect backpacking trip as an introduction. A trip where everything goes exactly right is basically impossible, especially since the definition of adventure is “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Looking at my last backpacking trip, what stands out in those memories beyond the time spent with my friends, is the scene of thunderheads coming up river towards our camp and being driven from my hammock to spend the night snuggled up with my dog in an attempt to stay warm and dry.

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Most people have recommended that I start with a simple car camping trip, but that is like comparing riding Splash Mountain to running the Colorado River. The real experience is walking in, setting up, and making do with what you carried in on your back. So picking somewhere where I think I can control the variables is important.

For that reason I’m going with somewhere I’m fairly familiar with, Uwharrie National Forest. I have previously run Uwharrie Mountain Run there twice along with a few training runs so I feel fairly comfortable there. I know there are several great spots along streams that are flat and provide great campsites.

All that I am waiting for is a weekend where we are not busy and the weather cooperates. Then the adventure is on! Now I do not want it to come across as if my wife is high maintenance, which is far from the truth. In reality, it is my own neuroticism that wants it to be perfect. It’s like when you show someone your favorite movie and you keep looking at their face to see if they are enjoying it for the same reasons you love it. I think this is a common feeling as you attempt to share a passion with someone. I think part of it is an attempt to relive that first time again vicariously through your partner.

Hopefully this all works out as I want to start planning bigger backpacking trips for us so we can start exploring our National Parks. Whenever this introductory trip happens I will be sure to share the trip report here.

Have you introduced a partner to one of your passions? How did it go? What suggestions do you have? Please comment below, and any advice would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: Paul’s Boots has started their journey on the Appalachian Trail!

 

 

Happy Birthday

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir, “Our National Parks”

In 1916, the United States Congress created the National Park Service (NPS) with the mission of protecting our National Parks for future generations. One hundred years later they continue their mission of preserving our countries most important places.

When people think of the NPS often it is of places like Yosemite or Yellowstone, but in reality, they protect so much more. Their mission has grown to include protecting our sacred places such as Pearl Harbor, the Gettysburg Battlefield, Valley Forge, and sites of the Civil Rights Movement. They are truly tasked with maintaining our history.

The men and women of the NPS are not just passionate curators our history, but also, they are rescuers, law enforcement officers, and educators. There are not many jobs with the description of teaching children about owls to apprehending armed criminals to scaling El Cap to bring home a stranded climbing party. In their storied 100-year history 32 Rangers have lost their lives on the job.

In 2015 alone over 307 million people visited a NPS location. Truly the men and women of the NPS have a monumental task at hand as they continue to maintain and educate visitors about these places.

So what can you do to help celebrate their centennial birthday? You can take the time to remind your representatives in Congress how much you appreciate our National Parks and that they too should endeavor to protect them. Second, and most important, visit the National Parks!

REI has teamed up with the NPS to help make it easier. Download the REI National Parks App, pick up a visitor’s pass and get out there and explore!

What is your favorite National Park and why? Share your stories. Please comment below.

Add heading

Fastest Known Times or FKT’s have recently surged into popular culture after this past summer when Scott Jurek and Heather “Anish” Anderson both set separate records on the Appalachian Trail. FKT attempts and records are set all the time and most people never hear about it unless you are actively following them, but because of Jurek’s celebrity from “Born to Run” and the epic distance of the Appalachian Trail it drew in more people than usual.

For years, runners have been actively pursuing FKT’s on famous routes like the Grand Canyon’s Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim or Colorado’s Nolan’s 14. Their unofficial record keeper, Peter Bakwin, of the Fastest Known Times ProBoards, started maintaining all these records around 1999 after he and a friend set the FKT for the Colorado and John Muir Trail. Now it has grown into a full Internet community where people can see what is being run around them and if maybe they can set the new fastest record.

For those ultra runners who aren’t drawn to the “fortune and glory” of actual races (we all know of the untold fortunes the top ultra runners make) it’s a way to prove yourself in a new way. Some may see it as being a purer form of ultra running. It is a way to compete in a realm without aid stations, race organizers, and to face down the trail within your own mental arena.

Some of the benefits I see to FKT’s are you have more control over when you challenge the course. With races, you have to accept the conditions on the course and how you feel or wait till next year. For an FKT you can say, ‘I don’t feel it today, maybe next weekend or next week’ (Of course this is if you did not have to travel to the course). You can also attempt it more than once in a year and determine which conditions you found more favorable.

Lastly, I think FKT’s are a great thing because not many sports are set up for such a DIY element and it gets back to that root of racing, “I bet I can do it faster”.

Have you pursued an FKT? Are you thinking about pursuing an FKT? Please share your thoughts and comments, thank you

Socks & Underwear

I thought it might be fun to talk about two important things that we all use but probably do not think about much. As someone who takes their gear seriously, I do a lot of research on what should be the best for me. So that means I have dedicated a fair amount of time to thinking about and researching who makes the best underwear and socks. So here are my current favorites.

Socks: They can make you or betray you!

To runners and backpackers, socks are important so for them, this is probably a no-brainer. As I forayed into running and taking my adventures to new heights, I came to realize that sheep would be your best friend. Merino wool by far makes the best socks! I started out buying a few pairs for running but eventually realized that all my socks needed to be merino wool.

I first bought a pair of SmartWool PhDs that I wore during an adventure race. Over the course of the race my team went from mountain biking to paddling down a river to a 14-mile trek to the finish. After coming out of the river, I paused to wring out my socks, put them back on and continued with my race. With wet feet and miles to cover I was a prime candidate for blisters, but the socks worked so well that I experienced none of these.

Since then I have bought merino wool socks from several different manufacturers, which have all worked equally well, but because SmartWool’s were my first, they hold a special place in my heart.

Underwear: A bad pair can ruin your life (well at least your trip)!

For years I mindlessly bought your standard cotton underwear without ever thinking, is there something better than this? Cotton has this great ability to hold in moisture and become like steel wool between your thighs. Also, during those years, I also continued to struggle with an incurable case of jock itch. Nothing worked, then one day I decided to try a pair of these fancy Under Armour underwear. This was the best decision I ever made–what I needed was proper moisture management and these did the trick.

For years, I wore Under Armour until a friend pointed me to the ExOfficio Give-and-Go underwear. This underwear was designed for the adventurer. They have an antimicrobial treatment to prevent bacteria from colonizing and can be washed in a sink. This makes them versatile enough that you only have to carry a couple pair on your adventure as long as you have time to wash and dry them on the fly.

So what do you think? Do you have any stories about the time your socks or underwear ruined your adventure? Please comment or share your stories below.

Finding My Trail in Brooklyn

T R D

As an avid trail runner, I decided to take on the challenge of finding trails to explore in Brooklyn. So I, of course, looked to Google to help me find suggested runs. The first thing I came across was the website for The Brooklyn Trail Runners, who happened to have a group run my first day in town. So here is a wrap-up of all my locally sourced, artisanal miles.

Sunday: The Brooklyn Trail Runners “bRUNch” (Strava Data)

This technically is not a run in Brooklyn, or even New York City, as we ran across the George Washington Bridge (GWB) to Fort Lee, New Jersey (Gov. Chris Christie was out of town so the bridge was open). After meeting at a restaurant in Manhattan we dropped off our stuff, made quick introductions and began our run crossing the GWB and connecting to the Long Path.

Long Path

The Long Path starts at the GWB and goes 357-miles to Albany, New York. The trail starts out wide and easy but as we ran up the river the track became more technical. My biggest complaint about the trail is how close it stays to the Palisades Parkway. It does have some great vistas as it winds closer to the cliffs.  We cruised out about an hour and then returned to the restaurant for some well-deserved food and beers.

One of the best aspects of finding a running group/club to run with for a day is you get a little insider knowledge about the place you are visiting. On top of that, you get to meet new and interesting people. I was not the only tourist in the group as a businessman from South Africa also joined us. It was nice to be able to talk to trail runners whose experiences have been wholly different from my own.

Monday: Prospect Park (Strava Data)

It was a straight shot of about a mile and a half to get to Prospect Park from my hotel. I burned up Flatbush Ave attempting to get away from the busy street as fast as possible. Running on the streets of NYC is more than just a physical workout, but also a mental workout. Constantly I found myself judging rates of speed, calculating if I could make the crosswalk in time and figuring out my path through the sea of other pedestrians. Once I got there, I was rewarded with a bit of a trail run.

 ProspectPark

The trail was not much compared to what I am used to but it was there. In this park where paved paths guide you around, people have been compelled to create their own paths. This says a lot about how people still desire that connection with the earth, the feeling of dirt under their feet. It all reaffirms that need for green spaces and what the mental health repercussions would be without them.

Conclusion:

I did not make it out for a third run, as I had hoped. I guess we can blame it on the many fine dining and drinking establishments of Brooklyn. The thing I took away from this trip is my continued love of exploring someplace new through running. Even when I was not running, I was walking and experiencing how people interacted with the city. It left me with a better understanding of how the city worked and how to navigate around. So next time you are somewhere new, I would suggest even in a city, unplug and wear down some of that shoe leather.

What have your experiences been exploring somewhere new? Have you tagged along with a local running club?

…But Are You Hearing Your Adventure?

But Are You

Popping in earbuds and going for a run seem to go hand in hand. A great up-tempo playlist will keep you cranking out the miles at a solid pace. I know that I really enjoy bombing down a technical hill while listening to the bombastic melodies of The Shell Corporation or Billy Talent, but on those runs am I really connecting with the natural world?

In the running community, the headphones debate will rage on for all eternity (or until implants replace headphones). I definitely see the merits of both sides of this debate because I have rules for whether or not a run is a headphones run. For me if I am running somewhere new, then I will definitely not wear headphones. Not only does it help me feel as if I am truly experiencing a place, but also it makes me more receptive to what is going on around me.

When I was visiting Portland, Oregon a few months ago I went for a short pre-dawn run (Like 4 a.m. pre-dawn) and started to enter an unlit park. As I started winding up a hill I started hearing voices and laughter coming from ahead of me. I stopped and moved into the shadows of some trees and waited. The laughter continued, like in a horror movie, but I could not exactly pinpoint where it was coming from ahead of me. Ultimately, I could not decide if those ahead of me were a threat or not so I turned and silently jogged back towards the lighted city streets. If I had been listening to my headphones I would have probably ran right into whoever was out there ahead of me.

I do listen to music though when I run around my neighborhood or when I’m alone in Umstead State Park. These places are familiar to me and I relatively know what to expect around each turn. For me these are the times when I experience the music the most, my mind focuses on the lyrics and the arrangements. It is during these runs that I use the music to tune out the monotony of a run I have repeated so many times (or road running).

One place I do not believe headphones should be is in trail races. I know, “run your own race”, but to me, it’s skipping out of a part of the race. The toughest battle you face on a run is in your head and music is tuning that out. I am not putting music in the same category as PEDs, but in my opinion, you are not facing the entirety of the run.

Another thing is you are shutting yourself out from meeting new and interesting people. The one thing I tell people about the trail and ultra community is that it is made up of some of the best people. I know one of my favorite parts of racing is getting to meet the people you are pacing with. I like hearing where people are from, why they run, and how they got here. I see us as a small interconnected community, so I value when I get to meet people of my same tribe. This is also the place where I can talk about my passion for ultra running without coming off as a bragging or getting asked the typical mental health screening questions that non-runners like to ask.

Finally, I’ve seen people blow through aid stations with their headphones on and “forget” to thank the race volunteers. DO NOT BE THAT PERSON! The volunteers having given up their weekend to support us and if you cannot be bothered to thank the volunteers then you don’t need to be out there. These people are as bad as those who blast music from a Bluetooth speaker as they run, go run a Rock & Roll Marathon you’ll fit in better there.

Sorry, it turned into a bit of a rant but I guess I have some strong opinions on this topic. Also after reading one of Mid-Pack Zach’s rants I was kind of inspired (he has a great running blog). Thank you for reading and feel free to comment with your opinion.

 

Your Sick Adventure

I have been dealing with a self-induced case of the Noravirus over the last two days and it has been awful! It is also a bit timely, as I have been planning on doing a rundown of some diseases and ailments that you can encounter on your adventures in the wilderness.

Giardia: What do I do now that I’ve read through all my Outside magazines?

Giardia is a waterborne parasite that comes from fecal matter. Giardia is fairly resilient which makes it more dangerous. The parasite does well in cold weather and is resistant to many disinfectants. For this reason, water filtration is always a better choice than chemical treatment. Once Giardia is consumed and enters your body it begins to multiply. The infection often causes diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. The disease takes 7-10 days for incubation and can typically last for 3-4 days. If you believe you may have contracted Giardia you need to contact your healthcare provider.

Lyme Disease: Is there a target on my back?

Lyme disease is a bacteria spread through tick bites. The first symptoms can appear anywhere between 3 to 32 days after the bite. These first symptoms include feeling tired and body aches, so feeling old and worn out from your adventure. The biggest telltale sign of Lyme disease is if you develop the Target Logo on our body in the form of a rash. The disease can be treated but the longer treatment is delayed the more severe the disease can become, leading to cardiac anomalies, joint pain, and neurological symptoms.

Botulism Poisoning: What I was poisoned by cosmetics?

Botulism poisoning is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum (it is related to Botox, but they are not the same thing). The reason that this disease is relevant is because it is prevalent in canned and packaged foods. It can easily be prevented by bringing the food up to boiling temperatures. Botulism has a short incubation period from 12 to 36 hours. The symptoms start as blurred vision and then go on to cause paralysis throughout the body. Botulism must be treated with an antitoxin so immediate medical treatment should be sought. The more rapidly the symptoms onset is the higher the potential for being fatal.

Salmonella: Does this mean I’m at a greater threat of being eaten by a bear?

Salmonella is one of the more common food poisonings and people across the world are affected by it every day. Salmonella commonly presents as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramping. Often times a healthy person is able to fight off the infection after a few days, but sometimes antibiotics are required. The reason I mention this is because when traveling in the backcountry it can be hard to maintain optimal cleanliness and hygiene. For these reasons, you should make sure to thoroughly cook your food and boil your water. The backcountry is not the best place to try making Chicken Tartare.

Did I get anything wrong? Is there a disease that I should have covered that I didn’t? Let me know in the comments section. Thank you.

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