Saturday, November 8, 2014


Here is the full length feature:

Moments before the flight to the wilds of Colombia. 

Colombia is one of the most amazing places in the world and this was one cuss of an adventure. Most notably my most greatest adventure to date. I am super grateful and amazingly appreciative for the opportunity and need to thank JulboUSA, but most notably superman Nick Yardley. Nick as been unbelievably supportive and has embraced me into the JulboUSA family, which feels like a very tight group and I really love being able to call them a sponsor (and their gear is far superior to the rest).

The flight into Colombia was wild and crazy and upon arriving at Manizales, it was very evident that this was going to be a wild adventure. The people that were hosting me and helping me get situated didn’t speak much American, and my Spanish is rusty but usable, so communicating was tough, but it was awesome.

I befriended a bunch of people that turned out to be editors and photographers for outdoor sports magazines in South America, and they became my guides up the mountain to preview. The preview was gnarly and awesome and had me zoned into that this would be the hardest adventure also.

RACE: I opted for the black Trek shades, a Julbo buff and all other gear La Sportiva!

In preparation for the race, I needed to wake up at 3:30 to catch a bus to the start, which was a 4 hour bus ride was speeds of 25 mph due to the dirt mountain roads.

Around half way up the mountain we stopped to get breakfast at a local coffee villa. I prepared my own breakfast and took a walk to look at part of the course that rolled back to this point, and was the 15k to go fuel stop. I met some very friendly bovines and sought their godliness to remember me when I ran back through. Which they did.

We then boarded the busses again and continued up into the mountains. I opted to not ride inside of the bus (which was a party bus known as a Chivas), and took a seat on the roof of the bus. This was gnarly and epic. A few Colombian compadres joined me up there for what turned out to be a very scary endeavor.

It turns out that the mountains of Colombia are lawless and wild, just the way I would have hoped. The bus didn’t pit stop for any pee breaks, so while on the roof, I did my best Beverly Hills Cop, and climbed down the rear ladder to pee off the moving bus. This immediately elevated my already legendary status with the Colombian to another level.

After another 90 minutes of 20 mph and treacherous mountain passes we reached the destination of the start in the Los Nevados Mountains. This was great to get off the bus and stretch the whole body out. It became very frantic, and people started to get panicky. I asked a few dudes who I now call friends what was going on and they told me that the race was going to start in 5 minutes! Cuss, we just got off the bus, and I just went to the bathroom.

So, after a bit of a whirlwind gear check I toed the line as the countdown began… cinco, quarto, tres, dos, uno, BANG! The race started and I felt like I was in a mile sprint. People literally took off at 5 min mile pace, and I instantly felt confused. This was a 42 mile mountain race! Why are there men and women ahead of me with trekking poles flying? This was bizarre but it settled down as fast as it started.

A group of dudes did continue to pound away, and I had no illusions of going with them. I knew I could have, but I also recognize that that would have ruined my whole race and experience. I stuck to the plan that Pete Thomas preached to me: “Don’t you try and win this cussing race! Don’t even thinking about winning the cussing race. Just run and finish.”

This was a very new approach, but knew him to be right, as he always is with my running, and took it to heart. But… in the back of my head I had to think I was going to compete, and maybe that was surviving until the end and seeing what happens. So, as those wild hombres sprinted out ahead, I settled in to a very comfortable pace up into the elevations.

The first 10 miles was rolling up and up until around 13,5k feet of elevation. The race started at 9,5k feet and the first 10 miles were a great lead in with nothing too severe. It was around here that the up seemed to have stopped (it was still gaining elevation, but rising ever so slightly) for a bit and it just rolled up and down.

This brought me to 12 miles, where a Vertical K was part of the race. This VertK started at around 14k feet and climbed to 15,7k feet. Woof! All in 4.5k!!! And this was cussing tough, very tough, and when I got to the end of the VertK, it was at the base of a snowcapped glacial volcano (which was active and the race had to be diverted, which added 6 miles to the course, to avoid highly active volcanic activity).
This was absolutely unreal for me. This area of Colombia is one of only a few places in all the Earth where it is considered a Mega-Diverse Region, and I was running in it! The race officials had to have each competitor stay at the 15,7k ft elevation for 60 seconds. I didn’t ask why, as I was so out of it. I felt like I weighed 400 lbs and had a righteous headache. I compensated (from a discussion with Nick Yardley) by drinking/sipping water every 20-30 seconds. This tactic carried me over throughout the whole race and I felt was the best thing I could have done, and continued to do over the remaining 30 miles.

Once the officials allowed me to turn around and head back down, I felt better and better the closer I got to 14k feet. This was very short lived. AS great as I surprisingly felt over the next 45 minutes, upon the next climb I was destroyed. The VertK absolutely annihilated me. The next climb was a series of switchbacks and around half way I had to stop. One, I was dead, and two; I was low on calories, so I started walking and eating the granola/power bars in my pack. I was well geared with salted caramel GU’s (and ended up eating 12 throughout the whole 42 miles), and bagged one of them as I was walking. It was here that I got caught by 2 dudes that were still running and they went by me like I wasn’t even moving. This climb was insanely steep and they were floating up it like it was nothing, as I was reduced to barely being able to walk straight. I just kept telling myself to fuel and hydrate. 

Once cresting the hill I was on a large plateau and could see the dudes that passed me. One of them I befriended in the hotel we were both in, his name is Diego, and he wasn’t too friendly once he passed ha-ha. At the next check point and 20 mile mark I found out that I was currently in 5th. Around this time, a storm cloud rolled in out of nowhere and the fog was so thick, I could barely see 25 ft in front of me.

While in this mistress of thickness fog I went off the trail. The markers were not visible due to the no visibility and the two dudes ahead of me where not in sight. I had to yell and wait until I got a response and ran towards the noise. I figure I was off trail for about 2-3 minutes, before dropping into the thick jungle/woods that was Colombia’s mountain jungle. This was a 3 mile section of zig zagging downhill to the next check point and dirt road section.
While in the jungle I caught one of the guys that recently passed me and instead of running with him I went by him as fast as I could. This small move was huge positive feedback. I was feeling good, and only about to feel gooder! Once popping out onto the dirt road, I knew (from the previous day’s info meeting) that this was a 5 mile gradual downhill stretch of dirt road. 15 miles to go, and 5 miles of downhill? I was about to commit to something that could have been a game ruiner, but two more guys came into view and I went after them. I opened up the stride and I felt as fresh as I have ever felt in a race! I caught them very fast, dropping one guy immediately and the other dude was Diego. Since Colombians struggle with certain letter combos, my name was pronounced as Yesshwua, and spoken very fast. Diego saw me charging towards him and started to root me on and waving me to his side. This was a very nice uplifting gesture, and I regretted hating him from earlier, but still wanted to break him. I could feel him start to get sluggish and I did my best Pre impersonation and slowly picked up the pace, and continued to do this until he dropped off the map. I ran the next three miles solo and pushed as hard as I could. I kept telling myself that I would be ok.

This brought me back to the breakfast stop from the morning and my bovine friends were out in the field to cheer me on. I now had 15k to go; with (what I thought to be) one more mountain climb (turned out to be 7 1000m climbs and descends). I was completely out of water, so I hopped a fence and hustled to a farm house that was just off the trail and frantically asked fro agua. A little kid (9 yrs old) was super fast and hooked me up, filling both of my Ultimate Direction bottles. I had my mind made up that I was going to power hike anything that added the least bit of lactic acid to my legs, and stuck with this.

Granted the last 10 miles of a 42 mile race are going to feel tough. But when the actual vertical steepness is the most severe (even if it was only 800-1000m stretches) it makes it ever so much harder. Upon cresting one small mountain it was followed by an immediate downhill that mirrored the climb. This continued until the last 4k. GOOSH! Up and down, up and down, and no one in sight behind me or in front of me. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was finish and it was going to be a huge feat. I focused on sipping water, hawkeying the trail, and playing my footing safe while watching the trail. I couldn’t fathom getting lost now, nor was I going to allow that to happen. I was dialed in, focused and STILL feeling great! It was mind bottling (like when you have your thoughts trapped in a bottle) that I was feeling this good, this late into a gnarly cussing cluster cuss of a cuss hard race!

It was around this time that I did want to be done also. I wanted to know where the finish was. I was running out of fuel and water, and just needed to be done. Then a miracle happened, I caught a glimpse of 1st place. This was like being in prison for 25 years and then let loose into the PlayBoy mansion, all life was burst back into my whole being. The only kicker was he was at the top of a 5 switchback 400m climb and I was at the bottom. I just told myself countless times to just keep rolling and keep your eyes on him. Once I got to the top of the climb I saw him on, I could see that he was hurting and not running. He was in full on walk. This also turned out to be the last real climb. I caught him in a matter of seconds and flew past him in hopes of destroying any morale or confidence. It was around this time that there was only 5k left in the race. I pushed with all I had. The original plan had the race finishing on a climb, and this is what I believed the whole race, so on the next portion, which was downhill, I just strided out and ran comfortably as I could. I knew he was fried on the ups and wasn’t going to be a factor on the uphill’s, but he caught me on the next downhill and had a downhill gear that I wasn’t ready for. The race is going to end on an uphill, right?

So I thought. Once he went flying by me down the hill, I didn’t try and change gears to catch stay with him. And truth be told, he had a gear that my legs at that distance into the race didn’t have. The last time he and I were together there was only 3k to go. After losing total contact with him, I did try one more hurrah but the legs didn’t have a response down the hill. A few curves of the road later the finish popped into view and it was definitely not on an uphill! Ha.

Now, I’m not making any excuses as I truly believe my legs were shot, but had I known where the finish was (and not gotten off trail earlier) maybe I would have been a little closer to the winner at the finish. I finished in 2ndplace (losing to the Colombian National Marathon Champ, who was of hero stature) in a time of 7:47. He put 2 minutes on me the last 2 miles, and he said that he closed in 10 flat for that 3k! Whoa… so my finishing pace wasn’t too shabby! Ha.

The race concluded by ending right next to some Termales (hot springs) where the first 4 finishers bro’d up and chatted about our races and the race in general. The winner didn’t speak great anything (even the Spanish speakers found his dialect tough to translate as it was more Basque than mainland Spain), and my buddy Diego finished 3rd right ahead of a Brit named Danny Green. The three of us chatted it up at great length in the spring before crushing some empanadas. (Diego was a true lifer, as I almost got into a physical altercation the next night with a local trouble maker, and Diego was ready and willing to jump in if I needed him. Obviously, I didn’t!)

Colombia is an unreal wild place filled with amazing geographic locations, beautiful heartwarming people, awesome food, gnarly animals and life long memories. Thanks ever so much to Nick Yardley and JulboUSA! Arguably the best sports related experience of my life…

Here is the full length feature:

Dia a Uno

I've made it to Manizales Colombia safely. It was a long day of travel but was an awesome last leg as we flew over the volcano I'd be running on and Nevados Ruíz. 
The runway was wicked short and we were coming in with some serious speed. 
Once on the ground I met with a few of the hosts. 
The young girl over my left shoulder spoke amazing English just like a stateside girl and as it turned out was brought along to be the translator. Ha. 
After some high confusion of where is be staying (originally we were in a 5 star hotel, but... Cuss happens) I settled into the new digs. 
This is all expenses paid trip, all flights, meals and anything else. The new digs however didn't have a kitchen open and I was a bit taken back bc I was hungry. My Spanish is rusty but is doing the job, so the hosts took me to find some food. 
Friday will be a day up and out on the mountain, which I'm very excited for. And as it turns out, I'm highly unprepared as far as clothes go, it's friggin' freezing here! Ha. I also found that I would be racing on Sunday and will be starting at 4am (5 am US time) and will need to have a headlamp for the first 1-1.5 hours of the race... Very excited and this is all very exciting. I'm still shaking my head as this feels very bizarre...
Not the country mountainous view I was hoping for, but the people are awesome and I'm completely appreciative for this opportunity and all the hospitality. 
Mountain time, then Shakira time :) 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Vaya Con Gringos

Just spent the last 3 hours in front if a lab top typing my Colombian race report and the cussing computer froze right while I was trying to save!!! I'm cussing pissed bc, obviously, I lost 2 hours of my life! Cuss everything right now! And to make matters worse, I have to manually restart my computer and there is no god cussing auto recovery! Cuss!!! What a way to end a day, cuss you Microsoft 2007's no auto save recovery. I typed for 2 hours and it didn't auto save once???!!! Yea, cuss you hard! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Spiritual Morphogen

This was an unpublished account of the weeks leading up to my huge adventure of Colombia. I say the race is 37, but truly turned out to be 42... Here is the lead up of cool cuss going in...

The previous two weeks were great, plain and simple. I had some awesome running days and took full advantage of being two weeks out of a 37 mile adventure race in Colombia. 
Last week I really shut it down and tried to "taper," or not get anymore tired than I already feel and be as fresh as I can. The trip will be 12 full hours of travel time before I get to my final destination of Manizales. I'm still unsure of what the race profile is and what day in racing, so it goes, I'm over it. 
The week before had three epic days in a row and concluded a 90+ mile week. I Voltroned with myself to the first place I really felt Wild and alive, South Acworth, NH. I used to live here and the energy of the town and trails is overwhelming. I opted to do a "mini-Tour de So. Acworth" which would combine my favorite parts of three different runs, ultimately leading me to the top of Gates Mtn. Gates is a relatively small mtn but does reward with an almost 360 degree view. I brought the girls and it was reminiscent to see Ellie bouncing along the once familiar routes. This run however, did take just under two hours and GPS'd in at just over 16. I made plans to meet Patrick Rich the next day for a run near Killington and ploy three good days in a row together. 

Killington with Pat Rich:
This was a great great for me. I got to meet an awesomely great dude, run some new trails and call this dude a friend once all was said and done. 
If you don't know Pat, I highly suggest seeking him out for a run or just a chat, great guy... Now that the pleasantries are done, it was one cuss of a cussing cluster cuss run! For real. I have a map of the Long Trail and plotted out a route that was about 12 miles and I figured about 2 hours bc it was up and over Killington. This was a great plan, but I forgot the map, don't know the area well (Pat didn't know the area either) and who was going to know if we (he) would get along? 
We met at Plymouth Union and I could tell just from the greeting, Pat was a good dude and I liked him. He did however, have a fuel belt with water and some calories of sorts tucked away. Upon seeing me in just my shorts, he (what ended up being foolishly) put his gear away. Note: over the course of the run I really was witching he had the cussing belt (in hopes he would have shared). I was the usual, under prepared self that I am on adventures. 
We opted to just wing it (the way I usually roll) and headed up a didn't road. I felt the pace was hot right from the start but would never admit that on a run, but I felt it was fast. We then started up a very long climb to the top of a defunct ski mtn. Once on top it turned into an access road and we were able to run fast but comfortably. Pat was gracious enough to ask about the glory days of Keene State and the conversation was both organic and fun. 
After a while I was beginning to wonder where the cuss the trail was and like magic, a kiosk appeared. It said some stuff about Killington being far away, but we weren't scared so we attacked. Once on the single track trail of the Long Trail it was awesome. We hit a very cool mtn (Salisbury?) which lead to a winding ridge in the trees to the summit of Killington. Very cussing awesome and very cussing far. I feel we were at about 2 hours at the summit before having to navigate down. It was also at this time that I became extremely thirsty and would have drowned a million Beagle puppies for a drink, no lie. As we cruised down an awesome, gradual trail we came across an ice cold stream flowing over moss covered rocks. I felt like a frosh in college again, my mind was saying, "no, you could catch something!!!" But other parts of my body were screaming in celebratory revolt. So, I over did it and drank about 8-10 double handfuls often water, and it was glorious. 
Feeling totally refreshed we continued to the bottom only to find that we were a cuss load further away from the cars than I had left in the legs. Without any shame I told Pat I was done, and to our credit, we were 3.5 hours into the run, so at no point did I feel bad about it (especially since I had a white mtns run with Double J and KTilton the next day!). 
We approached the first person we came to, a women in a bikini and pushing 65. With no shirt on and rocking swagger stank of short shorts and runners gliss, I felt it would be a done deal for a ride. WRONG! It did however lead to ice tea, ch-Ching! The neighbor next door was a dude with a Mohawk and an attractive lady friend and thought the same thing, only he'd give us the ride and get us the cuss away from his women who was eye yupping the cuss out of us. 
Once back at the cars we hit the Plymouth Notch General store. Pat was gracious to hook us up with some beverages and as it turns out, this store didn't get the memo about restocking the shelves every 39 years and all that was left was Moxie. This really made me laugh but it was ice cold and awesome. Only in dire circumstances would I drink a Moxie and that was it. Great run, great dude, and for a better account of the run, read Pat's Blog...

The Wilderness: 
The third day of awesomeness was a run with Jim Johnson and Kevin Tilton along the Pemi River through what they called (bc it is) The Wilderness. This run was cussing awesome. I was done with hilly runs and Kevin prescribed this as "not hilly," which it wasn't at all. It was an 18 miler along the river on awesome trails. Theses two should really start a summer running company and take people for runs and tours of the area. The info these two had was constant and non stop and made the run perfect and more awesome. I decided to bring my magic straw this time so I could drink from any water source while out there. I didn't feel a pack was anything I wanted today so I grabbed te straw (Sawyers) Jim hooked me up with a gel from the silent film era and we piled into KT's race car to drive to the start (as it was point to point). 
The run started out on an amazing lead into the trail with views of the whole valley. I really like running along wooden planks and it had some early which was boss. We hit the hut, which I don't remember the name of, and found it to be 98% better than my house I live in. For real. 
Since those two are clad in Inov2, I had to rep and sport La Sportiva, notice the product placement... 
It was along this ridge/cut we had an opening of the whole valley north and south. Very awesome. Kevin and Jim had unreal info and answered every Q I had. 
We then ducked back into the woods which lead to a water stp along a cascading waterfall. I took full advantage of the water situation and magic straw. 
We then continued to wind our way along the river and ended with a dip. The straw was awesome, the run was awesome and it was great to (yes Jim, we Voltroned) meet up with these guys. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled abroad with both these guys and it was fun to reminisce. Kevin and I hit Italy in 2004, and Jim and I survived The Netherlands in 2011, next step for a another trip combining all forces. 
All pictures are courtesy if Jim, thanks a ton for a great run!!! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Climbing The Walls

Blaaahhh... That's how I've been rolling lately. It's been super hard the last three weeks to get decent consistent training. I've got a full plate of "who the cuss knows," ahead of me in Colombia and training has been tough. I'm racing a 59k at extreme elevation and running through jungle to highlands to glacial mtns to the base of an active volcano! Cuss yea awesome!!! I haven't felt good or right since Loon, but I also haven't really taken a "break." I've been logging slow long miles over hills and have hit some mountains in preparation for the unknown of Colombia. I'm super excited JulboUSA is sending me (all inclusive) to Colombia. Maybe bc I'm a charismatic megafauna with the resilience of a mega virus, Julbo is entrusting me to be an ambassador... Which I will rock the cuss out of! The last three weeks have culminated some awesome runs with amazing people. 
This whole blog experience is fun as I meet people here and there that read this smut, some enjoy it , most others are not impressed (as I'm not impressed in meeting them, so we are even), and others might miss the main point of all my dribble. At the end of the day I'm highly positive, fortunate and grateful for all the experiences that I've come across and will venture too (and yes, all the whole time being totally cussing rad!). On a recent run with WarHammer Hammett we discussed people that inspire others and it made me really think. I KNOW I inspire other people, and probably more than I know, but I also KNOW that I'm inspired by even more people than I inspire and way more people than others know. So dig, I may inspire a single person a day, which is cool, but when left to think about it, I'm very fortunate for the people in my life as I'm inspired by no less than 20 a day... From my family and friends, random folks, elite runners who don't know my name (how the cuss could that be?!!) or the students in my class. I teach in Bellows Falls and have amazing students with great personalities. They inspire me everyday as I look at some of their backgrounds (zero support at home, fending for themselves and taking care of their younger siblings, single parents, both parents at home, wealthy, poor, split households, great parents, no parents, and any other scenario) and how resilient these kids are. (A lot of kids come from supportive backgrounds that I was privileged to come from) but any kid I meet that's dealing with any adversity is a little hero. And my community fosters tough, savvy kids and I love it! So yea, if I inspire you, I'm grateful if it makes you a better person or happy, but if you're inspired by me, then know my inspiration comes from many many more stronger than a tidal wave. 
Back to running: the last three weeks I have had some awesome runs! My OWL brother Matt Haley came north for a great trip up and over Mt Ascutney with Greg. Like I said, I'm trying to pound some hours on my legs in rugged conditions to get them ready for the most adventurous adventure yet, 36+ miles, starting at elevation and climbing to 16k feet? SMH, going to be unreal hard. 
I've also explored some amazing local trails that are being revived. One run in particular had two bald eagles! One flying high above the West River and the other being the under carriage of a sunbathing feminina along its shores ;). 
But the most epic and recent adventure was a Presidential Traverse. This was very fun and exciting. I'd like to preface, yes, I did go up there with the intentions of previewing the route in expecting to set an FKT. This will be highly difficult as the FKT is very competitive and the route does not suit my running style and abilities. The FKT is righteous and very admirable. 

Greg and I started at the Dolly Copp trail and planned a north to south route. The first few mtns are supposed to be the hardest so the idea of getting them done early was the plan. The beginning was awesome. I had a tough time running and had to hike a lot due to the technical boulder fields, but also couldn't stop looking around and taking in the sites! It was awesome. 
We hit up Mt Madison hut (where all but one of the "croo" were total elitist acting dbaggers) and continued on. After Mt Adams we ran into a little map discrepancy and headed down the wrong trail then back another trail towards Mt Madison. This sucked only bc we lost about 45 min and roughly 2 miles.
Great fun. It was an awesome day but I didn't realize how much hiking I would have to do! It was great for the legs in preparation for "god only knows" in S. America, but I truly wanted to be able to run more. But, I didn't cussing care at the  time as the weather was awesome and the company was great. (Side note: 60% of the hikers were awesome people with great attitudes! The other 40% seemed to be inconvenienced by runners on the trails. There were some cuss clowns out there. If you're a hiker upset bc a runner is one-upping you, go to hell, how about just love the fact that we are all enjoying the outdoors and being fit?! I felt it awesome that people were out bettering their lives. Not once was I upset that a person was hiking (and SHOULD be running), but leave your elitist trust fund entitled attitude at home!!! ((I have nothing against trust funds only spearheading the stereotype)). Once we got back on track it was a ton of fun to see the ridges and far off trails climbing and descending the mtns. I was rocking the La Sportiva Helios, Ultimate Direction race vest and had Salted Caremel GU's. I fueled properly the whole run and took advantage of the day in hopes to acclimate a bit to running and fueling. 
The summit of Mt Washington was a cluster cuss! It was great to see people outside but holy hell there were a lot of people. Ha. The climb to Washington from Clay was fun and awesome, then after Washington was very very enjoyable. I loved the southern Presi mtns and the trails that were there. If I did take a stab at the FKT I truly think my best bet would be a south to north attempt. I feel I would run well on the early sections and hike down almost as fast as I could hike up. Just my thinking... 
Lastly, if anyone knows how to respond to blog posts to the people that are posting to my entries, please cussing share how!!! I truly wish I could respond to the awesome comments people make (let's be honest, only 14 people read it, I'd love to thank them and respond back). I blog via my iPhone but cannot figure out how I can respond. I attempt to but it asked me to log in, where I'm already logged in and when I do so, I still can't respond to the amazing people that read my toad cuss... 
The crow awaits us all...