Endurance Sports on the Web
Sheryl, ex national rowing team, now coaches full-time at UBC. She recently discovered the joys of jumping through mud puddles on our North Shore mountains when she took up trail running. Having completed a few ultras, she decided to sign up at the last minute for the Seattle Marathon to see if she could beat 3:40 and thus tick Boston off her bucket list! Here’s an excerpt from her blog and a link to read the rest of this article and check other great race reports ..
Life is short, running makes it seem longer – Seattle Marathon 2013
For anyone who knows me quite well, when the going gets tough I go running. That being said when the going is not tough, I still go running…I often sign up for random races especially while I am stuck in some emotional rut or faced with some sort of challenge. I crave the therapeutic process and outcome of setting my own challenge. I have always said “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” so my coping mechanism is to temporarily make life feel even tougher (but usually in some beautiful place)….as a result, in the broad scope everything seems a bit easier in perspective.
What else is there to say? The book tour is done (today is the final event), I’ve written what there is to write about the adventure, and I’m pretty well stoked for the next chapter for No Meat Athlete.
2014 holds some major changes for NMA, the biggest in the five years since I started this little blog. While there’s a lot I can’t unveil quite yet, I can tell you that one change, for me, is a big shift in what I personally do. A shift away from the roles of managing, emailing, accounting, and more emailing, and a return to the simple job of making things — blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, webinars, and a lot more that Doug, Susan, and I have in mind for the next year and beyond.
And what has brought about the desire to make that change is, of course, the experience of the past two months … meeting literally thousands of readers from all across the country, listening to their stories of change, and being inspired to focus again on the things that really matter for this blog. And for this movement.
So in this final post about the tour — and trust me, it’s been amazing but it’s with great pleasure that I move on — I’m pleased to share a live recording from our event at Bearded Brothers in Austin, Texas. You’ll hear me and co-author Matt Ruscigno give what became our standard talks, so that you can get a small taste of what the events were like, in case you couldn’t make it out to one.
Hope you enjoy it — and even better, I hope you use it.
Here’s what to expect in this episode:
- The best parts of the book tour
- Matt Ruscigno’s talk at Bearded Brothers in Austin, TX
- My talk at Bearded Brothers in Austin, TX
- The “easy” trick for becoming comfortable with what scares you
- How Doug actually took my advice and put it into action
- Doug’s plans for his 100-miler
- The importance of “burning desire” when it comes to habit change
Click the button below to listen now:
Download audio file (nmaradio19.mp3)
If you’re a fan of NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!
Links from the show:
I had a new running partner for the annual Santa Barbara 4-Miler Turkey Trot
this year...Sophie, my 7-year-old daughter! Despite having only run a mile once before, she said she was game this year. I thought I was going to burst with excitement. I have always wondered when and how one of my girls might join in for a race, and all it took was the promise of free powdered doughnuts!
(Sophie is ready to run!)We started off with a few sprinkles of rain as a record 700 runners filled Hollister Avenue to get their Trot on. The Turkey Trot is quickly becoming a national phenomenon, topping out at 800,000 participants last year
(25,000 in San Jose, CA alone) and possibly crossing 1 million this year. The SB Turkey Trot was no exception, already 7-8 times bigger than my first running over a decade ago. But thanks to a nervous Sophie at my side, it felt like my first! She took the rain in stride, using it as an excuse to wear as much pink as possible.
(Sophie joins the fun! Check out those inov-8 x-talons...size 2!)Running beside Sophie was such a joy, and if I smiled any harder I was likely going to break my face. Such a thrill! We jogged along at a steady pace, enjoying the costumes around us, and took our first walk break at mile 1. A 10:30 min/mile...I was so impressed! By mile 2, she had shed nearly all of her clothes (making Daddy the sherpa) and took to the trails aside the bike path. "Trails feel faster, Daddy". Chip off the ole block, I tell ya.
(Turkey hats rule!)
(Sophie sheds a layer and takes to the trails!)
(Thank you, thank you, thank you photo gods for this one - grandparents, prints are on their way!)By mile 3, Sophie was a panting mess, but pressed on, determined not to be last. She swore she would never do this again, and I told her that all runners say that at least once in every race and forget all the hard parts immediately after crossing the finish line. Once she smelled the doughnuts, she sprinted to the finish and right on through to the snack line. I think she ate three before taking a breath, and the powdered sugar soon covered her face like a culinary explosion. She dropped a handful of sweat-sticky doughnuts into my palms, and we plopped down and easily negated all the calorie burn of our 53 minute 4-miler with a blur of NOM-NOM-NOM.
(Hooray for Sophie!)
(Doughnuts never tasted so good)By the time we headed to the car, Sophie was already talking about coming back next year. She busted up laughing and said "you're right, Daddy! I have already forgotten all the hard parts. That's so cool." I think she's hooked!
Papa (my Dad) said it best...I've got maybe 12 years tops before Sophie Jane leaves me in the dust. A little more than a decade before she desperately asks me to take down this post so sports journalists and would-be boyfriends stop linking to it and making jokes about powdered doughnuts (never!). I sigh knowing I likely have less than two years before holding hands with Daddy on walk breaks isn't cool anymore. As eager as I am to see how she blossoms, my heart already clutches fiercely at these fleeting moments. I guess that's what parenting is all about.
...and we'll keep our eyes on Quinn for the kids race next year! ;-)
(A very stylish 3-year-old Quinn chills with Martha - you're next, kid!)
(Toddlers take on the kids race!)Happy Thanksgiving, all!
Registration is now open for Fat Dog 100 2014 – rated one of the most difficult ultras in the world with an elevation gain almost equivalent to the height of Everest! Spanning three national parks, this race is also one of the most scenic! Sign up for the full 120 miles, enter a relay team or sign up for one of the shorter distances.
Inversion layer of clouds
In 2005 I ran across the Grand Canyon and back for the first time. At that time, only a few runners could be found running rim-to-rim-to-rim. Now during some weekends it is almost like a super highway of runners who experience the amazing beauty of the canyon. It had been about 2 ½ years since I had run in the canyon and four years since I had run a traditional R2R2R using the corridor trails. It was time to return and I had my sights on attempting a quad crossing, repeating what I had accomplished back in 2006.
The only known quad crossings are: Jim Nelson (1999) – FKT 22:48, Wally Shiel (1987), Dana Miller (1993), Susan Gimbel (1994), Davy Crockett (2006), Jason “Ras” Vaughan (2013) – did sextuple crossing.
After Thanksgiving dinner I headed to the canyon and spent the night at Kanab. I got up very early and drove to the North Rim for a 5:00 a.m. start. As I drove through some fields near the National Park entrance, I noticed that my car thermometer was diving 10, 5, 0, -5, and then to -10! Three years ago on the same weekend I aborted a run starting at the North Rim because the temperature at the same spot was -20 F. I was amazed and worried. The heater in my car couldn’t keep up with the cold coming in from the outside. I hoped that my car wouldn’t break down. This time, I kept driving and thankfully it was warmer at the trail head, a balmy 11 degrees.
I still dressed in shorts because I knew it would be much warmer below. There were no cars in the parking lot and it felt very lonely as I walked over to the trailhead in the dark to start my very long run. There was about six inches of snow at the top as I started running down the North Kaibab trail. Down I went and the trail was pretty slick in spots for the first mile. Curiously it wasn’t getting warm as fast as usual. I later figured out that there was an inversion going on near the rims, with very cold air that was spilling into the canyon. I saw frost on the trail all the way down to Roaring Springs.
Lately I had been worried about soreness in my bad leg near the area of my bad fracture in 2012. Again, the pain was felt and I became to doubt that I would be able to do the quad crossing. It just wasn’t worth a bad injury. But I kept going and tried to keep the pace up.
As I was filling up my bottle at the facet in front of the Roaring Springs house (about mile 6), I saw a light coming up the trail. A backpacker came up to me and we chatted. He was heading up to the North Rim. I told him what I was doing. He predicted that he would be seeing me again in the afternoon.
I reached Cottonwood Campground (mile 6.9) in 1:20 and was surprised to see that the water was still on there this late in the year. Finally it was starting to feel warmer and dawn arrived by the time I entered The Box at mile 10. (The Box is a slot canyon that Bright Angel Creek roars through with the North Kaibab trail on the side.) My pace now was fast and I was ready to shed my jacket. I stopped and stashed my light, jacket and some gels and then ran on.
I arrived at Phantom Ranch (mile 14, the bottom of the canyon) at the 2:40 mark. My best time from that North Rim in the past was a speedy 2:24 for those first 14 miles. I was now more than 6,000 feet below the North Rim. While filling my bottles, I noticed two groups of R2R2R runners who were heading in the opposite direction. I tried to greet them, but they didn’t respond much, too focused on their tasks.
I continued on and headed over Black Bridge to run up the South Kaibab trail toward the South Rim, towering above more than 4,400 feet. I usually go up Bright Angel Trail which is a mile longer, but if I was going to run a quad, I needed to reduce the miles. Looking up the river, I could see a river rafting group eating breakfast as they watched me run across the bridge over the Colorado River. The river color was unusually muddy red. As I ascended the steep trail, I realized I made a mistake leaving my jacket and gloves stashed back in The Box. A wind kicked up and it was chilly. I hoped that the sun would hit the trail soon to start warming things up.
I think there is a no more beautiful place to watch the morning light than from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I love to watch the light, colors and shadows on the monoliths above. There were a few day hikers coming down and I greeted them all as I did my best to jog up the trail and keep a good pace going. At one point I looked ahead and noticed a round rock that looked like it had a tail. But then it moved. It was a tame big horn sheep. It barely moved as I ran by just feet away.
When I reached Lift Off and the Tonto Trail junction, the wind was pretty stiff and cold. I was glad that I wasn’t running the Tonto trail today. The weather just seemed very odd. Coming from the rims above were thin layers of clouds, inversion. As I climbed higher, it was an amazing thing to see. I wished I would have taken pictures but it was too chilly to stop. As long as I was moving hard, I was OK. The higher I went, streams of day hikers appeared. They were all bundled up in winter coats and there I was going in the opposite direction with short sleeves and shorts. I received many curious looks. Only a couple people asked me what I was doing and I would explain that I had run from the North Rim. I left them stunned.
I started to have leg issues. This time it was bad cramping in a quad muscle. I had to keep stopping and roll it out with my water bottle. That was slowing things down. I hoped that it would settle down.
I soon reached the cloud layer and sure enough it was a layer of ice fog. The temperature dived about 10 degrees, well below freezing as I ran through it. But once over it, the warm sunshine was nice. I reached the South Kaibab trailhead in 5:26. I had hoped to reach the top by the 5-hour mark, but still I was pleased to beat my personal record by a minute. I didn’t stay long and turned around and headed back down. I passed about 100 day hikers who were amazed and alarmed to see me running. One let out a cry as I tripped a little on a rock but it was no big deal.
One guy heading back up saw me coming and asked, “Are you Davy?” I stopped. I’m always amazed how people can recognize me from my pictures on my blog. We talked briefly about my past adventures and he was very kind.
The morning was finally warm and even the day hikers were starting to shed some over coats. The river came closer very fast and I could now see another river rafting company stopped for lunch. They watched me as I ran by the river back toward Phantom Ranch. I arrived there at the 7:14 mark which is my fastest time by nearly an hour. I took a long stop there to eat plenty, refill my bottles, and visit the bathroom.
I would now run back up the trail with a trekking pole in my right hand and water bottle in my left. That worked out great and I enjoyed running up the trail along Bright Angel Creek. I reached my stash and it was good to have my jacket and gloves again. I had been debating internally if I would continue and do another R2R2R. I had plenty of good energy, but with the leg issues and the cold weather, I was pretty sure that I would finish at the top.
I tried to predict when I would see the other R2R2R runners coming back down and my prediction was nearly exactly right. The first group was moving good. They had 11 miles left and I also had 11 more miles to reach the top. Others came later and I counted a total of nine R2R2R runners for the day including me.
The higher I went, the colder it got. If I pushed it hard, I would sweat plenty and then feel even colder. Near Roaring Springs, I met the backpacker from the morning. I asked him if it was still cold on top. He explained that even at noon, it was frigid up there. I wasn’t looking forward to the rest of this cold climb. But if I kept pushing, I would arrive back to my car by dusk and avoid the big plunge in temperature.
I started noticing frost far below Supai tunnel and then the ice started to appear. It was already below freezing. I pushed on but the cold was slowing me down. During the final mile, hypothermia started to set in. My feet and hands were freezing. I knew I would be OK, but I worried about the group of R2R2R runners who would start in the morning. I sure wouldn’t want to finish after dusk in this frigid air.
I never needed to get my flashlight out and reached the trailhead at the 12:56 mark. This was a PR for a North Rim start by 16 minutes. My best time for a South Rim start 12:47. I believe starting from the North Rim is tougher because you have to end up with a much longer climb.
It was easy to quit with one trip. Making another trip through the night would be just too cold and miserable. My leg was sore so the wise thing was to stop, warm up and start heading home.
It had been a great day running across the Grand Canyon and back. Certainly because of the weather, this was one of the most unusual R2R2Rs that I had run. This was my 14th double crossing. I’ve now been up or down the North Kaibab trail 30 times and I know every turn well. I also now have logged 1,004 miles in the canyon.
With Thanksgiving finished — and I hope you had a great one — we move into what for my entire life has been my favorite season of all.
No, not the “Black Friday through Cyber Monday” shopping season. Not even just Christmas. But instead, the entire final month of the year, as we head towards a brand spanking new one.
Why December is My Favorite Month of the Year
It’s only since I’ve been an adult that I’ve come to realize that New Year’s Eve and Day are my favorite days of the year. But, considering the total geek for goal-setting I’ve grown into, this isn’t surprising at all.
While I used to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s reflecting on the past year and putting plans in place for the next, I’ve in recent years expanded those behaviors and that mindset to stretch through the entire month of December.
To me, it seems natural, primal, and in tune with nature — take time during the cold, barren months of winter to plan, so that when it comes time for massive action in the spring and throughout the summer, you’re ready.
Sure beats overeating and getting loopy at holiday parties (though I won’t say I never do those …).
Having treated the past few winters this way, it seems a habit has been formed, and now when the chill enters the air, a sense of possibility is what comes to mind.
If you’re into New Year’s “resolutions” — and I’ll of course remind you that January 1 is arbitrary and that the “clean slate of a new year” effect is almost meaningless — I do believe you dramatically increase your chances of success by using December as a month to get a head start on those resolutions. If not by action, then at least by serious planning and anticipation, so that when the calendar changes, it brings with it a feeling of importance rather than the sense that this resolution will meet the same, silent end so many others have.
So that’s why I love this time of year. And while I’m not saying you need to go into a special goal-setting cave or shun the occasional overindulgence of the holidays (I watch almost no TV throughout the year, then suddenly become a fiend for awful ABC Family movies like Holiday in Handcuffs), I encourage you to start thinking about your goals and the changes you’d like to make now, instead of waiting until the afternoon of December 31st to start thinking about how next year will be different.
And so with that, in hallowed Black Friday tradition …
Special Deals to Get You Jump-Started
Here’s what we at No Meat Athlete have for this weekend, through Cyber Monday — aimed at helping you get a head start (or just a boost of extra inspiration) on whatever big changes lie ahead for you in 2014:
1. Book/ebook combo packs at over 35% off — a signed copy of the new No Meat Athlete print book + either the Marathon Roadmap or Triathlon Roadmap, priced at over 35% off the combined total regular prices. And as a bonus, you’ll get access to the special goal-setting workshop described below.
2. Exclusive goal-setting workshop when you buy 3 copies of No Meat Athlete: To encourage you to gift the new No Meat Athlete book this holiday season, just buy 3 copies of the No Meat Athlete book (from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Indiebound, your local store … anywhere EXCEPT the No Meat Athlete store) and you’ll get access to a special live webinar at the end of December, where I’ll walk you through the goal-setting process I use each year to tackle big, “unrealistic” goals — plus answer any questions you have (about anything at all). Just forward me a copy of your receipt (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll give you the details!
(And by the way, ebooks work too — the NMA book is available as an ebook, on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Amazon even has a special program called Matchbook that allows you to get the Kindle version for $2.99 if you’ve bought the print version!)
3. 25% off everything in the No Meat Athlete store. Shirts, magnets, stickers, ebooks, and even signed copies of the No Meat Athlete print book.
Have a great weekend! And amidst all the shopping, if that’s your thing, take just a few minutes and start to think about what you’d like to change and what you might accomplish next year if you’d let yourself believe that you could … and go into 2014 with engines fired up and raring to go, rather than playing catch up from the very start.
The 3-foot tall poster my wife and kids used to keep track of me.
Just like an ultramarathon, it was both exhilarating and exhausting. There were times when I looked at how far I had left to go before I could sleep again in my own bed, and — feeling completely overwhelmed — I did what dozens of ultras and marathons have taught me to do.
Focus on the next step. And then the next. And then the next.
And, just like that, I went from city to city for a month and a half. Instead of aid stations, they were hotel rooms. Instead of long hikes up hills, they were 8- and 12-hour drives. And instead of downhills, the fun parts that ended too quickly were the events themselves, where I met hundreds and hundreds of No Meat Athletes and felt anything but alone.
I’ve been back home with my wife and kids for two weeks now. I’ll hit the road next week for two more events nearby (Raleigh and Charlotte, NC), but it sure feels like I’m done. And like every ultra I’ve finished, while I’m glad to be done, I’m especially glad to have done it.
Was it Worth It?
I really saw the country, for the first time. I connected in person with so many online friends I’ve made in the four and a half years I’ve been blogging. And I introduced a lot of new people to No Meat Athlete and to my new book, of which I’m extremely proud.
But if I’m honest with myself, the book tour came at a tremendous cost, in four areas that I can think of:
- I was away from my family for more than a month. Not only did this mean missing them; it meant my wife had to watch our toddler and infant all by herself. (Tougher than a book tour, IMO.)
- Financially, it cost a lot more than it earned. Hotels, gas, and food came to $100-$150 per day. And although selling books and shirts at events helped mitigate this cost, I definitely didn’t break even. But more people than I could have imagined paid for my meals when we went out and offered to host me in their homes, which I’m incredibly thankful for, even though I didn’t always take them up on it.
- I didn’t have time to do any other work. So while I was on the road working harder than ever, the appearance online to a casual No Meat Athlete reader was probably that I was slacking off!
- It was more stressful and more uncomfortable than life at home, and I had to give up a lot of healthy habits. I rely on reading every day to keep me sane, and though I brought a huge stack of books with me, I barely found time to crack open one of them.
Despite all that … Yes, it was 100 percent worth it, without a doubt. Here’s why:
The Highlights (in Rough Chronological Order):
- Being a guest on the Rich Roll podcast, mid- DC Vegfest
- Catching up with Jason Fitzgerald and Gena Hamshaw in DC
- Running 39 miles of the 200-mile RAGNAR DC relay, as part of an ultra team with 5 good friends
- Seeing my whole family and lots of friends at the Great Sage event in Clarksville, MD
- The NYC event at JackRabbit and run in Central Park, where the 70 or 80 available tickets went quickly, my first “big” event, and getting a drink with Evan Thomas later on
- Speaking at the Humane Society’s main offices and being introduced by Compassion Over Killing founder Paul Shapiro
- Running with the Crooked River Trail Runners on the same trail system in NE Ohio where I ran the Burning River 100 this summer — and meeting a high school freshman runner named Noah, whose parents drove him 2 hours to the event
- Meeting longtime online friends Joel Runyon and Erin A.M.G., as well as Chicago Diner owners Mickey and Jo at the Chicago Diner event (on the day of the marathon)
- Colorado Springs, where I hiked The Incline on a snowy morning with Dave Burgess, before and after being treated with incredible hospitality by Dave and his wife JL Fields (of JL Goes Vegan)
- Being pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of Nebraskans at the Omaha and Lincoln events
- Having my wife and kids fly out to spend a few days with me in Seattle (and doing touristy stuff like visiting the first Starbucks in Pike Place Market)
- Herbivore Clothing and two meals in Portland, plus a drink with Mike Pacchione, who helped me prepare my talk before the tour
- The beautiful, solitary drive through the Redwood Forest and along the Pacific coast from Oregon to Mendocino, CA
- Staying at the Stanford Inn by the Sea (and eating at the resort’s all-vegan Ravens Restaurant), where I met author and nutritionist Sid Garza-Hillman, his family, and the Stanfords themselves, and where Sid and I recorded this podcast
- Eating dinner at Millennium in San Francisco with the owners, Ann and Larry Wheat
- The Samovar Tea Lounge event in San Francisco, where Leo Babauta, Samovar owner Jesse Jacobs, and I did a panel discussion about change — I had watched a lot of interviews and discussions that took place here (like this one with Tim Ferriss), so it was very special to be part of one
- Lunch, coffee, and a walking tour of San Francisco’s Mission District with Leo Babauta, a friend and huge personal inspiration and teacher of mine
- Making it to San Diego on Halloween night, just in time to trick-or-treat with my little Ironman (the superhero, not the triathlon) — my family flew from Seattle to San Diego to meet me there
- Being on Osher Gunsberg’s podcast, drinking this delicious kale shake, and riding his tandem bike to get lunch (and another smoothie) along the beach in Venice, CA
- Dinner with Nicole Antoinette in L.A.
- A brutal, verge-of-puking, boot camp workout with Gut Check Fitness in San Diego
- Hanging out with Susan Lacke, Doug Hay, and Matt Ruscigno all at once in Arizona, and having Doug and Matt join me from Phoenix to Austin
- Being interviewed on Tucson’s Morning Blend show
- The food in Austin, TX — including dinner with Christy Morgan, lunch with Rip Esselstyn, and a food truck “bacon cheeseburger” that was the most disgustingly delicious vegan thing I’ve ever eaten.
- Speaking at Whole Foods Headquarters in Austin and playing poker later with Rip and friends
- Meeting two more people with (real!) NMA carrot tattoos
- Closing down a honky-tonk bar in Nashville with Ray Cronise and Steve Kamb, after a fun event at Fleet Feet Nashville and hanging out with Jeff Sanders, Matt Ragland, and Brett and Amber Morgan
- Speaking to family and new friends at Malaprops in Asheville
Of course, I’ve got to mention that there were so many more people and great experiences than these. To keep this highlight list relevant to you, I haven’t listed all the people I met and spent time with who don’t have an online presence and who you probably don’t know, but trust me, there were a lot of them. And the people were the best part of this trip: more than anything else, hearing their stories of the incredible changes they’ve made, due to running and especially eating a plant-based diet, is what kept me going.
How I Ran, Ate, and Slept
Running: There was RAGNAR DC, of course. Then a lot of the events were at running stores, and often we’d go for a 3-5 mile run as part of the event. On a few mornings in some cities, I went for runs with friends. Oddly, all of that happened during the first half of the tour, and I didn’t run at all during the second half, nor since I’ve been home. I’m itching to get back out there, but can’t easily get motivated without a big goal — I’m working on that.
Eating: I wrote a post that describes how I ate for the first half of the tour (the short version: Whole Foods, Chipotle, and lots of raw trail mix and fruit). Once I hit the west coast, I started going out to eat at restaurants a lot more often and had some amazing meals (some healthy, some not) with great people (all healthy).
Sleeping: I rarely booked a hotel more than a few hours in advance. Each afternoon when I got to a new city, I found a hotel on Trip Advisor, Hotwire, or the Hotel Tonight app and booked it. On the second half of the tour, when Matt Ruscigno and Doug were with me, we stayed with friends of Matt’s for a few nights in Phoenix and Austin, which was great. I stayed with relatives occasionally, and although I planned on doing some camping, I never did.
What I Learned
I’m still processing the whirlwind of events, and I suspect that the most valuable things I learned as a result of this expedition will be sub-conscious — improvements to my self-confidence (for planning, undertaking, and completing something so big), to my ability as a public speaker, and to my level of comfort in being the center of attention signing books, meet-and-greeting, and whom people come out to see. As an introvert and pretty shy person, these things do not come naturally to me, but one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book tour is that the way to become comfortable with an uncomfortable situation is simply to put yourself into that uncomfortable situation night after night. Which isn’t so different from the idea of creating accountability when you set big goals — it took only a few minutes to announce on my blog that I was going to do this book tour, and once I hit “Publish,” then I had to speak and mingle and sign books night after night … and after a week of doing these uncomfortable things, they became easy. And fun, even.
I learned also that I absolutely hate having a smartphone. I can’t wait to get rid of it after the remaining two events next week. I resisted the smartphone for a long time, but finally got an iPhone for this tour — for the maps, the hotel apps, the photos and social media updates, and the Square card swiper. I don’t deny that these things were essential for doing a tour like this in the world we now live in, but I think the fact that I resisted for so long gave me a good perspective. I noticed that with the phone I was distracted, frequently checking in on email, Twitter, and Facebook after each “real-world” activity, as if checking in on the phone was my center, my happy place, my set point that I needed to return to after each meal, talk, stop for gas, etc. I noticed that I’d get out my phone with the aim of doing one small task, then lose 20 minutes or even an hour accomplishing next to nothing, when in the past I’d have spent that time thinking and enjoying myself. No, a smartphone is not for me.
I learned that by default I’m an optimizer, when often it’s better to be a satisficer. I first learned about the concept from the Happiness Project, but didn’t apply it until this tour. Example: at first, it took me a really long time to choose hotels. I would find one that seemed decent, then keep looking for a better option, to be sure that I made the best choice possible (optimizing). But after I realized how much time, stress, and second-guessing this required, I started just picking the first one that met my needs (satisficing). Believe it or not, it was hard to get myself to do this, but just seconds after the satisficing decision was made, I felt better for it. I’ve noticed this phenomenon in a lot of other areas of my life (restaurant menus are an obvious example, assuming you’re at a restaurant where there’s more than one option for you), and I’m happier as a result of satisficing more often.
And finally, I learned that all of *this* matters. I met so many people who enthusiastically shared their stories with me — stories that involved dramatic weight loss, health improvements, the discovery of a compassionate side, and the conquering of (or sometimes, the commitment to conquer) an utterly ridiculous, unreasonable goal and all the self-discovery that entails. And as a result, when I have those moments where I ask myself, “Does this silly blogging thing really matter?”, I’ll have this experience to back up the belief that yes, it absolutely does.
Not in any particular order. If you’ve got some good ones from an event you attended, please share it with me on Facebook so I can have a big collection!
Malaprops in Asheville, my “hometown” event.
At Life Alive Cafe in Boston on the day of the book’s release.
At JackRabbit in NYC, wearing my new Rich Roll Plant Power shirt.
Running RAGNAR DC.
With Tom Giammalvo and his cousin Mike in Boston.
Morning Blend in Tucson.
Lincoln Running Company.
Red Dirt Running Company in Omaha.
At the Ann Arbor District Library.
With JL Fields in Colorado Springs!
Anthony in Sugarland, TX.
Nikki in Lincoln, NE.
Sid Garza-Hillman speaking before me at Whole Foods Oakland.
At the top of The Incline in Colorado Springs with Dave Burgess.
That Pacific coast I mentioned.
With TJ Ernst, who helped make the Omaha event happen.
My little guy in the Asheville Barnes and Noble — this text brightened my day from across the country.
With my little girl in Seattle.
With my buddy Erin A.M.G. at the Chicago Diner, post-marathon (for her).
Not exactly the World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn, but …
With co-author Matt Ruscigno and Rip Esselstyn at Whole Foods HQ in Austin.
Fleet Feet Nashville, the last event before getting home to Asheville.
That’s it! Have a happy Thanksgiving, and look for a new podcast next week with a live recording from one of my talks — so that even if you couldn’t make it out to an event, you can hear it.
The elite field
for the North Face Endurance Challenge Gore-Tex 50-Mile Championship
in San Francisco, CA, was recently released and...holy speedskates, it's a showdown! I'm seriously eating crow from my premature post last month
. The prize purse remains one of the biggest in the sport - $10k for first, $4k for second, $1k for third for both men and women.
For the men, you've got the top 3 finishers from 2012 returning - former winner Miguel Heras, Francois D'Haene, and Cameron Clayton - as well as Sage Canaday, Max King, Dakota Jones, Tim Olson, Rob Krar, Dave Mackey, Hal Koerner, Rickey Gates, Mike Foote, Team inov-8's Gary Gellin and USATF Trail Marathon Champion Alex Nichols, Jorge Marvilla (with a recent 1:09 finish at the Berkeley Half Marathon), Ryan Sandes, Dave Riddle, Jason Schlarb (5 wins this year!), Mike Wolfe, Michael Wardian, Jason Wolfe, Karl Meltzer, and MORE. Incredible line up!
The women's competition is similarly stacked. 2012 winner Emilie Fosberg is back, as is 2nd place finisher Stephanie Howe, and they will be running with Rory Bosio (winner and CR at UTMB in Sept), Anna Frost, Olympian Magdelena Boulet, USATF 50-mile champion Cassie Scallon, USATF 100k champion Michele Yates, Jenn Shelton, Mexico's Silvia Correa Jimenez, Jennifer Benna, Aliza Lapierre, Joelle Vaught, and the list goes on.
It's going to be a barn burner! Hope to see you there. If you are out there taking pictures, be sure to post them on Instagram/Twitter/Vine with the tag @thenorthface and #ECSChampionship between Dec 4-11 to be eligible for North Face prizes.
And good luck, everyone!
GORE-TEX 50 MILE - ELITE WOMENFIRST NAMELAST NAMECITYSTATEAshleyArnoldCarbondaleCOCynthia LaurenArnoldLexingtonKYJenniferBennaRenoNVLyneBessetteTopsfieldMAMelanieBosKelownaBritish ColumbiaRoryBosioTruckeeCAMagdalenaBouletOaklandCAKerrieBruxvoortBroomfieldCOChristinaClarkGuelphCanadaSilviaCorrea JimenezMexico Distrito FederalMexicoLaurenDilsKentfieldCAEmelieForsbergTromsFranceSheriFosterCalgaryCanadaAnnaFrostMetz TessyFranceBrandiGarciaAtlantaGAJaimeGileFayettevilleARKelseyGrayKalamazooMIRachelHansonFlower MoundTXCharmaineHorsfallLeedsUKStephanieHoweBendORAndreaJarzombek-HoltPortlandORAnnaJefferisSanta BarbaraCACatrinJonesVictoriaBritish ColumbiaMeganKimmelSilvertonCOMeganLaibSanta MonicaCAAlizaLapierreWillistonVTSarahLavalleeKailuaHIKristinaLewisBoulderCOGinaLucreziCarbondaleCOSallyMcRaeAliso ViejoCASimoneMoroBergamoItalyEricaNambaBerkeleyCAMaggieNelsenEncinitasCARachelPaquetteVictoriavilleCanadaAmyPhillipsEl Dorado HillsCACassandraScallonBoulderCOJennSheltonDurangoCODianeVan DerenSedaliaCOJoelleVaughtBoiseIDKatieWaddenVancouverCanadaMicheleYatesLittletonCOGORE-TEX 50 MILE - ELITE MENFIRST NAMELAST NAMECITYSTATEJoshuaArkinsRogersARFlorentBouguinQuébecCanadaDylanBowmanMill ValleyCANoahBrautigamTruckeeCAScott BreedenBloomingtonINSageCanadayBoulderCOAdamCampbellNorth SaanichCanadaFrankCaroVenturaCAJayCechPortlandORCameronClaytonBoulderCOJeremyCleggNanaimoCanadaFrancoisD'haeneSt JulienFranceGeradDeanMount ShastaCAFelixDejeyMetz TessyFranceScottDunlapWoodsideCAFritjofFagerlundUppsalaSweedenJohnFinnEl CerritoCAChristianFittingBerkeleyCAMattFlahertyBloomingtonINMikeFooteMissoulaMTMartinGaffuriAnnecyFranceRickeyGatesSan FranciscoCAGaryGellinMenlo ParkCASjaanGerthTorontoCanadaRyanGhelfiAshlandORNealGormanCharlottesvilleVAJeffGosselinQuebecCanadaJonathanGundersonSan FranciscoCAChrisHauthSan FranciscoCAMiguelHeras HernandezBejarSpainPeterHoggLivoniaMIDakotaJonesBoulderCOMaxKingBendORHalKoernerAshlandORJoshuaKornOgdenUTDanielKraftGrand JunctionCORobertKrarFlagstaffAZMarcLavesonSan FranciscoCADaveMackeyBoulderCOJorgeMaravillaVallejoCAKarlMeltzerSandyUTAlexNicholsColorado SpringsCOTimothyOlsonAshlandORMichaelOwenPomeroyOHDavidRiddleCincinnatiOHDannyRogersMcLeanVAPhilSandersonSan FranciscoCARyanSandesCape TownSouth AfricaJasonSchlarbMissoulaMTBobShebestWindsorCABrianTinderFlagstaffAZGeorgeTorgunBerkeleyCARiccardoTortiniHoughtonMIChrisVargoColorado SpringsCOManuelaVilasecaRio De JaneroBrazilZachViolettBendORGregoryVollettMetz TessyFranceJamesWalshEncinitasCAMichaelWardianArlingtonVAJeremyWolfMissoulaMTJasonWolfeFlagstaffAZMikeWolfeMissoulaMT
It’s that time again! Christmas is just around the corner – only 30 shopping days to go – and Santas around the world are out there running for great causes! Santa Jogs, Dashes and Shuffles are an international phenomenon which is spreading across the global. In Las Vegas last year, 10,000 Santas showed up in full costume, including beards, as part of their Christmas festivities!
On December 7th Canada’s own Santa Shuffle will be coming to 39 cities around the country as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army. BC Locations include Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Victoria. The whole family can join in, and you don’t have to be an elite runner to be part of the fun – run or walk the 5km Shuffle or the 1km Elf Walk.
Watch the Santa Shuffle 2013 video online
Distance running is a journey that invites, if not demands, considerable self-reflection. I suspect it is why many of us gratefully push past hour two of a run on a regular basis - as the miles pile on, you soon exhaust the relentless hamster wheel of work/kid/life self-smalltalk that consumes our brains day-to-day, freeing your mind to pursue more meaningful questions unshackled. The longer the run, and the farther into nature you explore, the deeper you permit yourself to dig into the soul and find what awaits. If the journey is long enough, even the most dormant of demons will pop up and join you for a few miles. Distance will always invite demons with arms wide open.
Distance can wear many faces too, I have recently learned. A few months ago, I was given a career opportunity one sees rarely in a lifetime – come join a growing company of amazing mobile rock stars
that find themselves in the eye of the greatest technology shift the world has ever seen. Just one catch, the commute is a tad long…about 2,245 miles to be exact. To do the job right, while keeping the family as happy as possible, meant working in Pittsburgh, PA, and living in Woodside, CA. Christi, my wife and career consigliore of 20+ years, sized it up similarly, and with the GAME ON nod of her head, distance invited itself into our lives in a whole new dimension.
In retrospect, it was a bit foolish of me to think that long runs might somehow prepare me for the solitude that creeps up when you work away from home. When you run, you invite solitude into your life, and in that sense control it. When you spend 4-5 nights a week in a hotel room away from your family, your bed, and the home trails that keep you grounded, solitude soon controls you.
Not at first, of course. In the first few nights, you secretly revel in your newfound freedom. No snoring pugs hogging the covers, no screaming kids needing baths mid-meltdown, not having to ask permission for a quick run….heck, you don’t even have to pick up the towels. For the first week or two, you feel like pinching yourself every morning. And THEN you order room service! Word.
But by week three, you begin to miss those familiar burdens. The snoring dog who warms your legs, assuring you with the harmonious purr of a dozen face folds that you are at home with your pack. The kids that always need you do actually need you, and their absence forces the realization of how fulfilling that truly is. The hotel room that snaps back to its sterile and apathetic state of cleanliness every day at 10am begins to feel like a bad looping video or a glitch in the Matrix
, adding a touch of anxiety to the quiet. With all the time on your hands, the solitude consumes you.
The trails, however, are always good for reprieve and it didn’t take long for me to find the gold and orange hills of Schenley Park
, Frick Park
, and the river trails just outside of my regular hotel. The autumn colors of Pittsburgh are breathtaking, and I soon found a morning ritual of getting lost in the hallows as the morning sun chased away the frost and filled the campuses with young and vibrant smiles. For a few hours a day, it was a much-needed sanctuary.
(Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA)But after a month away from home, separateness settled in like some new form of gravity. Phone calls from the family came less often, their lives naturally adapting without my presence. FaceTime video calls lost their novelty, and contact with my family became little more than Instagram photos and one sentence updates at a regularity I share with Facebook friends I’ve never met. I even felt lonely at home, out of touch with their day-to-day lives, little more than a ghost in their busy weekend rituals. FUCK. NOT HOW I SAW THIS PLAYING OUT.
Then in a single moment of clarity, all that anxiety disappeared. After a Saturday morning 10-miler in the hills of Woodside, I returned home to see Christi and the girls through the front window laughing, having breakfast, and playing with the dogs. They were happy. Like, crazy happy. In fact, I was the only one choosing to be anything less than gleeful. ME. BY CHOICE.
A beat, a pause, a breath…aahhh. A “long run revelation
” for sure. I am out of The Pit
(My girls)Then Quinn, our almost-3-year-old caught sight of me, and pressed her face to the glass with a smile full of drool, bouncing enough to attract 7-year-old Sophie and the dogs who soon steamed the windows with their anticipation. I pressed my face right back, humbled by every precious second I have to share with them. I am happy too.
Pittsburgh greets me with a smile now too these days. My coworkers have become friends, a little retail therapy got me a fresh and Pittsburgh-ready wardrobe (wakka-ow!) to explore the neighborhoods, and I no longer need a map to find my favorite trails even in the dark. Family vacations are revered with renewed anticipation, and I find myself delighted with the warmth of California winter weather that weeks ago felt like it chilled to the bone. My runs have again become a place to explore, not escape. Life, once more, seems full of potential and poetry as far as I can dream.
(New city duds - it's all about layers!)I may have run with my demons for a stretch, but I’ve found a new gear now and dropped those bastards. They never could pace the long runs anyway. ;-)
Kiss your lovies, everyone. See you on the home trails, East or West.
With the book tour just about wrapped up, it’s great to be sitting at my own desk in my own house writing a blog post again.
The tour has been amazing. So many roads, people, stories, hotels and cities, and so many delicious meals (especially once I hit the west coast). There are still a few events left, including Charlotte, Raleigh, and my hometown of Asheville this Thursday, but these and the remaining dates in Raleigh and Atlanta (maybe) are short drives away. The hard part — all 11,000 miles of it in my Hyundai Elantra — is over. The goal, achieved.
Yes, this self-supported book tour was like any other goal. It started as a speck of an idea that hit me on a run one day, a ridiculous and unrealistic idea. Then the day of intense, excited research to answer the “Is this possible?” question — knowing that no matter what the facts were, I’d somehow bend them into the shape of “Yes.” Finally, going public with it and creating the accountability. At which point it became real … then the rest was just details.
I’ve got plans for a book tour wrap-up post with photos, links, stories, maybe even a recording of my talk … but this is not that post.
My talk each night focused on three topics: running, the plant-based diet, and setting big freaking scary goals. Far more than the other two topics, the ones I thought were a safe bet, it was the talk of goals that people really cared about.
And so with this post I want to share, in a nutshell, what I said about goals while on tour. It’s exactly what I’ve done with just about every goal I’ve accomplished, from qualifying for Boston to the 100-miler to the book tour itself. The steps are obvious, I think, but important enough that they’re worth hearing from as many angles as you can.
1. Think really big.
If I may, an excerpt from Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek, which perfectly sums up “thinking big”:
Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming …
If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
Unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve for yet another reason. Having an unreasonably large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal. Realistic goals, goals restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort.
The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits.
My example: After I set the goal of qualifying for Boston (starting from a marathon time of 4:53, an hour and forty-three minutes too slow), it took me almost four years to run a second marathon. My shins would not cooperate, and shin splints became stress fractures became abandoned training plans. During this time, a physical therapist friend took a look at my legs and told me, essentially, “Matt, you’re just not built for running marathons. Pick a different sport or get used to being injured and frustrated.”
Had my goal been simply to run another marathon and improve on my 4:53, I’m 100 percent certain I would have quit here, with three years of failure to show for it. But the Boston goal was so much bigger than that, my mental picture of success so much more inspiring than simply a second medal, that quitting never crossed my mind.
2. Ask: Does action flow from it?
It should. From the minute you set that big goal, you had better be buzzing with enthusiasm and itching to start. If the excitement doesn’t keep you up at night because you can’t stop thinking about it when you’re lying in bed, then this goal isn’t it.
I can admit that it’s possible the goal is too big — if the goal is beyond crazy and you believe on the deepest level that you simply will not be able to make it happen, you won’t be motivated to do anything. More likely, though, it’s not big enough, and something more “unrealistic” is what you need to get that kick in the pants.
3. Give yourself time.
Simply put: We overestimate what we can achieve in a year and massively underestimate what we can achieve in a decade.
Again, from my experience:
Every single marathon I trained for after I set the Boston goal, I told myself at the outset that this would be the one where I ran a 3:10 and qualified. And for seven years before I was right, I was wrong. I had overestimated what I could achieve in a short time, and as a result, it took me longer to get to Boston than it should have. It would have been smarter to set a course that would take 2 or 3 years, with intermediate goals along the way, than to tell myself each time that “this one is it.”
On the flip side, had you told me 10 years ago when I first set that Boston goal that within a decade I would not just qualify for Boston but also run a 100-miler, I’d have told you that was impossible because nobody can run 100 miles. I had no idea that anyone even ran more than 26.2.
Give yourself time. How you grow and what you learn will compound, and in a few years you’ll get to a point that’s hard or impossible to imagine now.
4. Create massive accountability.
Once you’ve set your crazy goal, the single best thing you can do is take an action, right away. This gets it out of your head and into the physical world, before it can evaporate when the stresses of everyday life do what they’re best at.
If your first action is one that involves other people, so much the better.
Start a blog and write about it. This is the single best thing I did for my personal growth and my ability to achieve goals. At mile 22 of my Boston-qualifying race, I felt the same feelings I had every time before, where the wheels are starting to come off and it becomes more painful to keep pushing than to ease back and face the realization that today is not your day. The difference was that this time, quitting was more painful, because people were watching. So I kept going, and discovered that I had more than I had ever accessed before.
But don’t just start a blog. Also tell your family. And your friends. And Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and everything else. Best of all, get a partner who is equally motivated to go after an equally unrealistic goal, and promise to hold each other accountable each and every day.
If you want to take the island, burn the boats.
*Yes, I know that Derek Sivers said in a TED talk that announcing your goal makes you less likely to achieve it, because it satisfies some part of your personality that thinks announcing it is the same as actually doing it. But I’m not talking about just announcing it — key here is involving other people, deeply and on a day-to-day basis (a blog is great for this), who will take an active and relentless role in reminding you when you’re not doing what you promised them you would.
5. Get to work.
Obvious, I hope. I put this here only because too many people (and I’ve been guilty of it) have the idea that, by visualizing their goal and repeating incantations in their head and “acting as if,” they’ll make magic happen. I’m not saying these things aren’t valuable tools, but if they don’t lead to actual work being done, then they’re not any good.
So what’s my goal?
People asked me this during the Q&A after my talks. A lot.
And my answer is that I don’t have one right now — honestly, this book tour was it. As soon as I finished my 100-miler, the tour was all I could think about, and actually being on tour consumed every last bit of mindspace I have.
I used to tell people (and myself) that you should have your next goal ready before you accomplish your first. This way, I said, you’d prevent yourself from slipping into a rut.
I don’t believe this anymore. I’ve learned that when I force a goal, when I set one just because I should and it doesn’t give my butterflies and doesn’t keep me up at night, then I don’t care enough about it to make it happen.
So now I wait for that inspiration to hit, as I’m sure it will once I come down off this most recent high.
Breaking 3 hours in the marathon would be pretty exciting to me. The Badwater 135 is more exciting, but longer-term and more of a burden for my family.
In time, another speck of an idea will come. Then the day of frantic research and bending the facts to convince myself that I can do it. Then the accountability.
But this is beside the point. My hope is that you’ll take this post as “permission” to think about a goal that’s more unrealistic than what you’ve allowed yourself to think about before, and then go make it happen.
Trust me — the fear of failure thing is overrated. When people see that you’re serious — that you’re going to do it no matter what – well, that’s a lot different from watching you try once, fail, and then give up. You’ll find, if you stick with it, that your failures (and there probably will be some, but just call them “feedback”) won’t entertain your friends, they’ll inspire them.
PS — For some inspiration, see my friend Doug’s announcement of his new goal.
It's lottery season again in the world of ultrarunning! Time to put your name in the hat for your favorite races and see how the Lottery Gods
determine your fate! The Western States 100m lottery is on right now (already nearing 2,200 entries), and given the changes for 2015, it will be the last year you can qualify with a 50-miler. So don't hesitate - put your name in!
Below are a few links to popular races that have lotteries (and a few that don't...yet):Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
, June 28, 2014 (Lottery Nov 9-16, Drawing Dec 7)Way Too Cool 50k
, March 8, 2014 (Lottery Dec 2-8, Drawing Dec 10)Lake Sonoma 50m
, April 12, 2014 (No lottery - reg opens Dec 15)Miwok 100k
, May 3, 2014 (Lottery Dec 1-10, Drawing Dec 12)Massanutten 100
, May 17, 2014 (Lottery Jan 1-8, Drawing Jan 10)Mt. Washington Road Race
, June 15, 2014 (Lottery Feb 14-March 14, Drawing March 15)Hardrock 100
, July 11, 2014 (Lottery Now-Dec 1, Drawing Dec 7)Tahoe Rim Trail 100m
, July 19, 2014 (Lottery Dec 7-21, Drawing Dec 22)Badwater 135
, July ~15, 2014 (Lottery/app Jan 20-Feb 1, Selection Feb ~15)Vermont 100
, July ~20, 2014 (No lottery - reg opens around Jan 1)Leadville 100
, Aug 16, 2014 (No lottery - reg opens Jan 1)Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc
, Aug 30, 2014 (Registration Dec 19-Jan 5, Lottery selection Jan 15 if needed)Wasatch 100
, September 5, 2014 (Lottery Dec 1-Jan 6, Drawing Feb'ish)Ironman Hawaii World Championship
, Oct 11, 2014 (Lottery Now-Feb 28, Drawing April 15)