When I was a kid there were these VHS videos you could order like “Marty Stouffer’s Wild America: Dangerous Encounters.” Later the Fox Network would go on to produces shows like “When Animals Attack.” The latter were essentially snuff films couched as nature documentaries. The viewer would be treated to grainy security camera footage of a man being kicked in the face by a moose or a lion attacking a safari truck, as a breathless narrator gave you a play-by-play of the mayhem. Maybe for how tactless those films were, they might have had a positive effect. For it seems now that people are forgetting that wild animals can be dangerous.
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.
I recently finished listening to the book “The Last Season” about a backcountry ranger who disappeared in 1996. Randy Morgenson had served as a seasonal backcountry ranger for almost 30-years and was an expert at wilderness survival and Search and Rescue. When someone got lost in the Sierra Nevada, the park supervisors turned him. So what do you do when your best man goes missing?
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.
23 years ago Matt Foley (Chris Farley) attempted to warn teenagers about how life choices can lead to living in a van down by the river. When he asked if they wanted to live in a van down by the river there was a group in the audiences who said, “wait that’s an option?” Like Christina Applegate, they found the idea of nomadic living appealing. So they packed up their climbing gear, kayaks, running shoes, backpacks, and camp stoves. Then loaded it all into vans, RVs, and campers and set out to establish a non-traditional life.
This is a topic I have been bouncing around writing about for a while. I’m partially motivated to write about my experience with ADHD because of my friend René’s blog “Black Girl, Lost Keys.” Another motivator was a recent article in Outside Magazine “ADHD Is Fuel for Adventure” by Florence Williams. I thought I would share some of my experiences and how I have coped with my ADHD.
So I thought I would share some of my favorite adventure stories that I have read over the years. I did not want to focus on the obvious ones like Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” “Into the Wild,” or John Muir’s “My First Summer in the Sierra.” Instead, I wanted to give you books that you may have overlooked.
Over the weekend, I watched the documentary “Jumbo Wild.” It is about the debate as to whether they should build a ski resort in the Jumbo Valley of British Columbia. The film does not actively attempt to vilify anyone but shows you the point of view from the developers and the activists. For the First Nations people, it is about protecting a sacred area while the conservationists feel that these wild places need to be preserved. This got me thinking about our struggles to the South of the border.
Here in the United States, there has been a renewed call to remove large tracts of public lands from under federal management. Some proponents argue that the states are better suited to manage these lands. Many have ulterior motives such as selling off the mining or timber rights to bolster states’ budgets. Others just feel the state is better situated to understand and manage the land around them. Even this concerns me as many public lands cross state borders this puts the federal land managers in a better position to see the big picture with management goals.
As state versus federal control has come up in the public debate I thought I would attempt to make a case for keeping these lands protected. Here are a few points I wanted to make:
- They are public lands, not government owned lands: While some places such as military bases and government facilities are restricted from public access, most public lands are managed to provide equal access. Some people think that means that they can use these lands for their profit, which leads to most arguments over public lands. What public lands really means is that they are managed to provide access to everyone. That’s hunters, fishermen, ranchers, hikers, runners, and mountain bikers alike. While some activities may be restricted in areas, that is typically done to protect a threatened species or ecosystem.
- We should protect wilderness areas: Overdevelopment leads to a decline in biodiversity. Unless you are looking make your grandchildren’s biology class simpler by reducing the animal kingdom to sheep, horses, cows, pigs, dogs, and cats then we need to preserve the areas where wild animals live. Are we not the country where buffalo roam? We almost weren’t after a near extinction in the 1800’s. Do you really want live in a world where your children do not know “Guy on a Buffalo?”
- Apex Predators: Overdevelopment also harms apex predator populations like mountain lions, bears, and wolves. As Douglas Peacock discovered grizzly bears actually migrate. More and more we are learning that large predators need vast areas to move about. Without our apex predators, deer and rabbit populations would explode leading to widespread crop damage. It is important to remember that predators are part of proper management plans.
- It is a Public Health Concern: When Benton MacKay first envisioned the Appalachian Trail he saw it more as an escape from the modern world. He felt that we needed to reconnect with the natural world for our sanity and the more we moved away from it, the less healthy we would become. MacKay was not far off in his ideas as scientists are currently finding. Studies have found that city dwellers have higher rates of mental illnesses, but those rates decrease with access to green areas. Cognitive psychologist David Strayer argues that spending three days out in nature, not only refreshes the brain, but also improves mental performance. Looking at these studies suggests that if we make access to wilderness more difficult then we can expect a public health crisis as more people suffer from anxiety and depression without green spaces.
So here are a few of the reasons I think we should protect our wild areas and possibly work on bringing green spaces back into our cities. What do you think? How often do you get out into a green space? Do you prioritize it? Please leave comments and questions below.
So I did it, I got a new pair of running shoes and they are not Salomons. I got a pair of Altra Lone Peaks. I’ve only gotten one run in them so far so we will see how they do. Time will tell how much I actually enjoy them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Race Report: The Mountain-to-Sea Trail 50k
This race will go down as my worst race so far because of the choices I made leading up to it. First, I picked up some sort of bug that knocked me down for a few days and left me with a persistent cough making it challenging to breath while running. This caused me to barely do any running for the three weeks prior to race day. Second, I attended the Beer and Bacon Festival the day before the race. While I promised myself I would practice moderation going into the event, the reality of a festival filled with great tasting beverages and bacon proved to be a mighty temptress. Lastly, I decided to attend a festival after-party, which led to more drinking and getting very little sleep before the race. So yeah, I stacked the deck against myself on this one.
Here I am making bad pre-race choices.
The Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST) 50k is an out and back race that follows the MST along Falls Lake from Blue Jay Point Park to Falls Lake Dam. The course varies from nice pine straw laden smooth sections to a series of rock and root covered climbs and descents. The course is not particularly technical but has a few challenging sections. It is a great course for first timer ultra runners.
The morning started with a much-deserved hangover headache. I switched between pounding water and coffee trying to shake the previous day off. Just before leaving the house around 5:15 a.m., my stomach decided to riot. I chalked it up to nerves and figured it would settle once I got going. My wife, Silvia, and I headed out driving through the early morning to Blue Jay Point. As if my iPhone knew what I needed most it played “F*** Those Who Go Untried” by Small Town Riot. This song became a bit of a mantra for me during the race.
We got there with plenty of time to check in and visit the bathroom one last time before the race. I started to feel better as my adrenaline kicked in but I had not prepared for the morning temperatures. It was 32-degrees (F) at the starting line and I had only really thought through my plan at the daytime high of 56-degrees. I was clad only in a light long sleeve shirt and a kilt. Oh yeah, I decided to try running in a kilt.
For my birthday, my wife got me a JWalking Designs Running Kilt. They say that you should not try anything new on race day, but with only one 6-mile run of experience, I decided to go all in with the kilt. The kilt is made of lightweight, moisture-wicking material that makes it barely noticeable. As I ran the material flowed around me allowing air to circulate and kept the material fairly dry. Since it was not a hot or humid day I don’t know if this is a common benefit of the kilt over shorts that tend to stay soaking wet. For a more in-depth review, I suggest you check out Trail and Ultra Running’s review.
The race began with the ringing of a cowbell and we were off. I started out trying to take it easy knowing I was not in good shape. The key to finishing this race was going to be pacing. I fell in with two guys whose pace was less aggressive than I typically would run in the beginning of a race. This allowed me to conserve energy for later in the race.
The guys were great to talk to. This was their first ultra so we chatted about strategy and then shoes (I’ve previously found this is the number one icebreaker for runners). We hung together till the 6-mile aid station. I stopped to refill one of my bottles and to get some Tylenol from my wife. I was already experiencing pain, which was not a good sign. I took off pushing forward towards the turnaround.
I seemed to be doing okay but I was hesitant to take in any calories because of my morning stomach issue. Finally, I broke down and ate a Clif Bar. Clif Bars are usually my go to for a pick-me-up during a race. While I did not pay attention to how old it may have been, I did notice that it was misshapen and the oil had separated out of it. This may have been the cause of distress later on.
My strategy for an ultra is to break it up into chunks. I had not spent a lot of time planning for this race so for me it was all about the turn around point. As I have run this section of the trail several times, I was fairly familiar with the terrain and found that it was all blurring together. I do not know if this helped me or not. One thing I did improve on from past races was that I spent less time at the aid stations. I did hit my target time of reaching the turnaround between two-and-a-half and three hours.
After the turnaround, I found that my condition had begun to deteriorate. I was suddenly struck with my stomach issues again. This caused me to have to quickly locate a fairly isolated section of the woods to deal with my issue. Once dealt with, I felt fairly good to go but I was getting stiff.
I have to attribute my stiffness to dehydration caused by both carousing the day before and the three-week hiatus from running. This became demoralizing, as I would run for what I felt was a decent bit only to check my Garmin watch and find that I covered less than a 10th of a mile. Still I pushed on.
One of the best parts of the return had to be passing the people still on the first half of the 50k or running the 12-miler option. As they would notice my kilt, often their faces would light up and they’d say things like “nice kilt.” It helped me, and hopefully, them, to momentarily forget exhaustion and soreness.
It was not until the last 9-miles that I would say things came together for me. While I was not moving as well as I did the first 6-miles, I was feeling better and more motivated. I picked a guy out and overtook him, then worked as hard as I could to stay just ahead of him. This meant that I forced myself to run some hills instead of walking them. Then another runner came up and was catching up to me. He had a great downhill kick but was walking anything that had a slight incline.
This strategy activated the competitiveness in me and now I had people that I wanted to beat. I would push the downhills and shuffle up the up hills. I worried that I would exhaust myself and not have enough in the end for a final kick. This other runner’s kick was strong and would often close the gap till a hill, so I had to keep pushing on.
The final bit of the trail played with my emotions as it first led up towards the finish line before turning back downhill away from the end. As I saw the exit of the woods and heard the crowd, I pushed even harder to make it look more like normal running as I appeared from the forest. I crossed the finish line completing the race.
As usual, Bull City Running put on an excellent event. The volunteers were all amazing also. After all those hours sitting along busy roads, they remained motivated and gave encouragement. So thank you to anyone who was involved in the race!
I want to thank my wife Silvia for her love and support through this event. After my friend Terry was unable to run the race, she came out to be my supporter. She was at most of the aid stations cheering me on and taking pictures and video. With how rough I was feeling at the start, it really helped that she was there to help me push through.
Also a shout out to all my friends from Raleigh Trail Runners who cheered me on when I passed as they waited for the 12-miler to start. Thank you to Carla (who was the 2nd place women’s finisher), Scott, Kelly, Pete, and Alana (I’m sorry if I missed anyone)–it was an awesome feeling to cross that road as a bunch of people cheered your name.
Thank you for reading. Please leave your questions and comments below.