Joshua Ebert

Trail Runner | Misadventurist | Storyteller

Tag: Running

It’s Been Awhile

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog and a lot of that has to do with my injury. I broke my big toe in the beginning of the summer, which sidelined several of my plans. It prevented me from running for about 6-weeks, during which I gained a lot of weight. Nobody had told my appetite that I had stopped running. Now I am locked into a battle with weight loss.

So let me recap my summer:

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Baring It All On The Trail (NSFW)

So June 25, 2016 will be the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland, Oregon. This reminded me of an article I read a few years ago about the nude trail running scene. That is right, there are runners whom are so minimalist that anything more than a pair of shoes and socks is too much. Of course I’ve heard of Hike Naked Day, but I struggle to wrap my head around running naked. Even when I ran in a kilt I wore compression shorts for support.

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Trip Report: Hanging Rock State Park

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This past Sunday my wife and I took the drive up to Hanging Rock State Park, about 2.25 hours from Raleigh. We arrived mid-morning and after checking out the Visitor’s Center, we hiked three of the waterfalls. These were short hikes from the main parking lot that offered some great views and allowed us to get in the mood to scramble around the mountain.

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We first met in Italy, you were in your second incarnation as the SpeedCross 2’s, and I was a budding half-marathoner. I fell in love with your aggressive outsoles and rugged rubberized lugs. You were the perfect temptation for someone with trail runner aspirations. I bought you even though you were a half size too small. I crammed my feet into you and loved you anyways.

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Together we toured Italy, ran a race in Davos, Switzerland, and then tackled the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Even though you were too small I was happy with your performance. I converted to your brand and then I started experimenting with the rest of your Salomon family. There were packs, shorts, t-shirts, and more shoes. For over five years we’ve had an on and off relationship, sometimes I saw other shoes, but I always kept a special place in my heart for you.

Then you reinvented yourself as the SpeedCross 3, a lighter, new and improved version of your old self. I was over the moon and did not think things could get better. I continued to order you as I spent at minimum 500-miles with each pair of you. You carried me through my first ultra marathon, the Triple Lakes 40-miler. You were part of every ultra I ran after that. Frozen Sasquatch twice, Leatherwood Ultra 50-miler, Uwharrie Mountain Run 40-miler twice, and most recently the entire Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST) 50k.

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It was during the MST that I started to think about our relationship. It’s not you it’s me. For these past 6-years, I have been making myself fit into you. This is not how a relationship with a shoe is supposed to work! You are supposed to fit me.

I found my feet hurting a lot, more than I think they should during an ultra, so I started to question if you were actually right for me. Yes, my feet will always hurt, but maybe another shoe would make the hurt less. I’m not mad. I just think it is the time that we both move on.

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My last pair of you is circling the 500-mile mark and I do not think I am going to reorder you. To be honest I’ve already started looking around to see what my options are.

I want you to know I will not badmouth you to my friends or other runners I meet. I will just say that we both moved on. It will be difficult at first because for so long I’ve told people I’m a SpeedCross guy. It will be a major change of my identity. No longer will I be Josh the SpeedCross runner. It will be hard because I would always tell people there were no better shoes, and to me, this was true because I did not stray much from you.

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Going forward I will be judging all future shoes by your technical capabilities. I just need to find a pair that fits me better. I hope it will not be awkward when we see each other at races or REI.

Thank your for all the miles and adventures but I must look out for my feet.

P.S. I hope you do not mind but I plan to still see your sister, Sense Mantra. She will never replace you, but she is great for an easy jaunt.

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

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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?

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!

snakeslandmines

You are scrambling over some rocks while out on your adventure when you jump down only to be met with a sudden stinging pain and a chorus of tiny maracas. You have been bitten, but unfortunately for your girlfriend you won’t become a sparkly, moping vampire, you will begin to develop necrosis (the death of skin and muscle tissue cells around the bite area).

So what are you to do now that you’ve been bitten? First move away from the snake. The snake bit you because he felt threatened, not because he thought you would taste delicious.

After moving away, remember this next step through the rest of our snake encounter. In the words of the great Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”

A lot of old timers will tell you that you need to kill or capture the snake to bring with you to the Emergency Room. This is as bad as drunkenly texting your ex at 3am. The thing is they estimate that 20-25% of pit viper (rattlesnakes, copperheads) and 50% of coral snake bites are dry bites (the snake does not use venom). So chasing a snake around is sure to increase the likelihood that it will use venom. Just note the description of the snake and stay away. In North America there is only one type antivenom that treats bites from rattlesnakes, copperheads and cotton-mouth/water moccasins. The only outlying snake would be the coral snake.

Do not attempt to “suck” the venom out of the bite. While this makes for an entertaining comedy trope, it is not accepted first aid.

Some more old practices that we now know to be bad are:

  • Do not put ice on the bite.
  • Do not try to “bleed” out the poison by cutting between the fang marks.
  • Do not use alcohol.
  • DO NOT TOURNIQUET THE AFFECTED LIMB!

What you should do is remove anything that can become constrictive in the event of swelling (things like rings).

Attempt to immobilize the bitten area without constricting the flow of blood. Seek immediate medical attention from the local Emergency Room.

Remember throughout the event the key is to remain calm and don’t panic.

The Ballad of Caballo Blanco: Rule One of the Wilderness

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If you intentionally own two or more pairs of Running Shoes, then you probably know who Caballo Blanco is. Caballo Blanco is the nickname of ultra running legend Micah True whom went on to become the mystical central figure of Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”.

Micah True lived a life without materialism and in pursuit of passion. With the decision to eschew a normative American life he developed a bit of a following not unlike that of Christopher McCandless. For a man who lived a fairly private life this lead to complications but also the ability to use his celebrity to further causes he cared about, like protecting Copper Canyon in Mexico. Unfortunately, just as he spend a large portion of his time running alone through the mountains his life would end the same way.

On May 27, 2012 True left the Wilderness Lodge in the Gila Wilderness, part of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, for a 12-mile run. After he failed to return to the lodge a large search and rescue operation was launched in an attempt to locate him. On March 31st, after searching a 200,000-acre area, they finally found his body alongside a stream. True had died from complications related to a heart disorder.

Could True have been saved? That is something we will never know, but what we can learn from it is the importance of notifying people as to where you are.

When I was younger I used to go solo hiking all the time, and I would often write up my where I was and my proposed route and when to contact help if I had not returned. I would then tape it to my roommate’s door and begin my adventure. Fortunately I never needed assistance but at least rescuers would not waste valuable time searching other areas.

Aron Ralston famously gave a vague description of his weekend itinerary in Utah and found his arm pinned under a boulder in a canyon. While searchers looked elsewhere, Ralston was forced to cut his own arm off to escape the predicament.

Today it is even easier to let people know you need help. There is a great app called Bugle. This app allows you to put in your important information, such as where you are going and when you plan to return. If you do not check in with the app in time it will automatically send alert notifications to your emergency contacts telling them they should check in with you and where you said you would be. The app is free so there are no excuses for an adventurer to not use it.

So unless you enjoy drinking your own urine or you’ve always wanted to attempt a major surgery on yourself, tell someone where you are going.

Shit, a Bear in the Woods!

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It’s all fun when you are kicking it with your friends and beers, but it’s never fun and when you are kicking and screaming with your friends and bears. So here are some basic bear safety tips.

Introduction:

I think bears are about one of the coolest animals in North America. The Grizzly and Kodiak bears are badass apex predators that put mankind in check. There is a majestic feeling that comes from being in their presence, maybe its because we’ve gotten too comfy at the top of the food chain and that reminder that there are other creatures that can rip us apart without hesitation excites us. Maybe it’s because most of us spent the first few years of our lives carrying around a Teddy Bear everywhere we went. I do not know the real reason but one must tread lightly when dealing with bears and respect them.

Safety:

1) Make Noise: Do you like it when someone sneaks up on you and surprises you? Now imagine that you are an 800-pound creature who is guided by their amygdala. It’s fight or flight and your opponent is half your size. Making noise will tell the bears that you are in the area and typically they will avoid you.

2) Stop playing with dead things. Remember that time your sibling/roommate ate the last piece of cake that you were thinking about all day. Initially you probably thought of smashing something heavy over their head and then the rational side of your brain kicked in and you did not have time for a trial and lengthy prison stay. Well bears are not constrained by a penal code so when you impede on their food, they will defend it, but unlike an angry roommate you cannot talk your way out of this one.

3) Do not bait in the bears. Bears have a great sense of smell and will scavenge food. So pack out your trash. Also when in bear country, store your food in a bear bag and hang it away from your camp. Remember you are in the bear’s house, not your house.

4) Take Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino’s advice and be extremely weary from dusk till dawn. Bears are large, furry mammals so during the summer months they tend to be fairly inactive during the day and more active at night. So when in bear country attempt to do most of your traveling during daylight hours. This also improves your chance of spotting a bear before they see you.

5) STAY ALERT, STAY ALIVE! The problem with bears is that they live in some of the most beautiful areas of North America, so if you visit these areas you must tread lightly. Remember you are in nature to experience it so unless you want the latest album from The Weekend to be the last thing you ever hear, take out the headphones and pay attention.

6) DO NOT RUN! Seriously, move away cautiously, but do not run away. Bears are like cops in that way. If the police roll up and you run away you look guilty and in need of chasing.

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