Friday, July 5, 2013

A Day As Planned

These are my feet warts and all.

   By this point I know writings and blogs about my time spent out in nature probably come across in most cases as boring and monotonous in their core. This is entirely understandable because it is undeniably true. However, I love the written word. I love the romanticism of a story, a life, an adventure. Yet at the same time I can find, or at least what I come to believe, the beauty in much simpler things. So I find myself wanting to express and publish what I come to believe as things that may sometimes go unnoticed to a busy or untrained eye but deserve otherwise.

   To paraphrase, my recants of days spent doing such things as running half naked(shoes, shorts, phone, light pack, and hat) up and down hills and mountains, ridges and bluffs, may not elicit much thought from most peoples imaginations out there especially in the busy world we currently thrive, or, survive in, but for me it poses as a record of a small glimpse into a day, a week, etc. of my life at that current stage. And that is something that can be lost such as most things. That is why I log these times down no matter how menial, because even on a simple outing there is something to be found, something learned.

   In some way or another as humans we are always searching for recognition, allegiance, acceptance. In general we seem to be a very insecure breed us humans, or at least for those of us who have not accepted that enlightenment is a dead art, relegated only to those who follow eastern philosophies. We search for that communal understanding everyday and everywhere. That is why I write. That is why I/we ramble on and on with one another when we find someone with whom we see a mirror of ourselves in, no matter how small or how cracked that mirror may be. And to me, searching in itself, in whatever medium that may be, is enlightenment to a degree.

My planned route. Thompson Peak the destination.

   I still tend to put myself in very sticky situations now nearly 3 years after I first took to the trails. This day I find will be no different. I tend to sometimes look at a map as a playground frozen on a crinkled page. I look at the curves, the lines, the peaks, the valleys, the greens, the reds, the reservoirs and lakes, the elevations that proudly sprout from the dull page. I look over mileages as if they are menial, side notes. I do this often. I tend to learn lots of lessens often.
    I decide that even though I have essentially zero leg strength compared to the past few years of running, and pretty much a empty tank of an endurance base that today I will walk out the door with 80 ounces of liquids in my intestines and 60 ounces on my person, with only 52 of those making the 16.5 mile trek that I have "mapped" out as seen above. Yes, I did say 16.5 mile trek and yes I did say 52 ounces will be available for my purchase along the almost 5,000 feet of vertical gain that I intend on scaling throughout the day.
    Now, I don't believe that it is as much ignorance on my part, or blatant disrespect for the land and mother nature for that matter in this instance as it is me just trying to convince myself that I am getting over the crippling health problems that have hounded and sucked every bit of life from me over the last 15 months. See, since the age of 6 when I was involved in a horrific and life changing accident I seemed to somewhat believe that I was somewhat unbreakable, invincible. I enjoyed all the fruits of a healthy body even though I always lived knowing the fact that at one point I was lying face down in a broken heap at the ripe and sunny age of six, clothes torn and matted to my skin, blood purging from gaping gashes in my skin and bone gleaming, jagged, skyward for those in the skies to see and remark upon. I laid there in that intersection millimeters from my maker, seconds from an early exit of a life that I have found to be all too precious, all to glorious at times for one person to take in. Yet, this never seemed to haunt me. I never looked back and said why me? Instead, I took the life that was given and moved on. And I moved pretty well considering. I grew to be a strong, athletic young man with a chip on my shoulder and that I believe is why I found myself on this trail this day, unready and somewhat ignorant to the reality of what lie ahead, but unwilling to turn around. Unwilling to say that I can't handle this life, this day.

    I felt good upon reaching Tom's Thumb Trailhead. It was a bit past 8am, which was 45 minutes later than what I had planned on, but other than that everything had fallen into place in regards to the drive, my food, my hydration, etc. I was ready.
    Out of the gate I could tell the weather man was wrong and that this morning had a bit more reverberating heat hanging in the hills. I had planned on 80 degree temps at around 8 am but I knew that it had to be upwards of 85 degrees plus already and rising. Nonetheless I set out with the goal of getting a good line in which would be a straight shot up to Tom's Thumb then backtracking back down and tagging The Lookout before crossing back and dropping deep into the rugged canyons heading southward on the East End Trail for a few miles, and a huge super-steep descent, before linking onto Bell Pass and then upward for the ascent up to Thompson Peak. And yes, all of this on 52 ounces of water and this being my first time into these mountains. Can we say nuts?
     After a very respectable speed/run up to the iconic Tom's Thumb I lose the trail coming off the Thumb for a bit before finding the thin spaghetti like trail and breezing back to the branch off to The Lookout which I hit at a nice pace considering my fitness. I take in the flora which is drastically different in this area than anywhere else I had seen in the valley with its rich colors and shrubbery and trees that I could not quite put a finger on. I reach the summit of The Lookout and pull from my pack my calories which on this outing was some trail mix as well as some gummy bears. At this point I realize for the first time of the day that the heat is definitely going to play his major role as always. My chocolate and yogurt covered trail mix is literally a melted soupy mess inside of the small zip-loc baggy I had escorted them in. I take in the enormity of my situation at that point which is that I essentially will have no calories for the remainder of the 2 1/2 hours I still planned ahead of me. I am not happy. I move lightly down the trail.
Beautiful sweeping view off The Lookout

    When I reach the East End Trail junction I get a bit confused as I find two trails heading south off of the main trail with neither giving me any indication as to it being the East End. Each is a direct shot south and into a deep canyon and each has considerable foot traffic on it. I march off confident that I had taken the East End with a fair amount of trepidation to say the least.
    After about 3 tenths of a mile and a deep drop off the cliff face I scramble and fumble to a dead end. I gaze about in the now 90 degree plus weather and curse loudly to the skies as if it were their fault. I turn, shoot a few ounces of water down my throat and pull myself back up the cliff and back to the junction. Once I get to the top I realize that not only am I down to half my water reserves but they are now starting to warm up. This is unsettling. I drop off the canyon, head down, with high hopes of making it to Thompson Peak.

    The loose scree and steep terrain carve at my heels and fill my soles with their likeness but I find footing where I can and survive the swerving switchbacks and get spit out into the valley floor amongst the washes and the others who can't scale their way out. The temps are rising fast and I can feel the sun which is visible from every possible angle as the valley floor is vacant of anything remotely considered an obstruction, just rolling hills and sharp valleys flowing from east to west. I search endlessly for a spot to pull off for shade and a few swigs off my bottle. Nothing. I feel the first real tinges of weakness and stress creeping into my quads as I hit the first gradual uphill and I try and blow it off as just a bad patch. I know I am wrong.
    My mouth is dry, skin raw as I reach the junction of Bell Pass. Deep in the back of my mind I know I am in trouble today. My legs are feeling the 7+ miles accompanied by the now nearly 100 degree heat. I can only figure that in the canyon a few miles back behind me the temps are even higher. I look to the sky for help, a cloud, a helicopter? None. I tell myself: Call it off! Thompson Peak is not happening! I feel light in the chest meaning my bottles are nearly void of liquids. I pull them both out in unison and find less than a third in each. I make the decision right there to take them inside me before they get even hotter. I put them back empty. As I turn I make the conscious decision to take the trail back nice and easy as I figure if I can get back up to the ridge at the East End connection then I will just walk the remaining way back down to the trailhead which would be mostly all downhill on smooth singletrack.
    I clumsily under the baking sun roll past two fellow hikers who must have been in their late 60's along the East End Trail heading back, them coming from my newly desired destination being the ridge above. Sucking up my pride and ego as best I can I trot by with a nod and a hello, keeping secret my death wish which I figure is soon to come. I figure they will hear about it in the news eventually. As take the last switchback before the steep portion of the climb out of the canyon I pause and take note of my physical state and realize that I may be in real trouble today. I know I am out of water and calories and I am physically vulnerable in almost every way. The heat is now flowing through the canyon like a rogue wave sweeping everything away, everything crushed by its weight. I look back down the valley and see that the hikers have turned around and are heading back up the East End. I feel a sense of closure at the sight.
The East End Trail looking east
    "Okay, lets just stay moving. These guys are here if I need them." I mumble, bent over, eyes closed.
    The switchbacks carry a punch and I glance around frantically looking for a direct line to the ridge. I am pissed off! I am weary. I am way past dehydration, and most importantly I have no options other than to move forward with nothing in the tank. I look over my shoulder.
    "What the hell? Are they stopping?" I say as I realize the hikers are just a small colored blip in the valley below.
    Never before had I put myself in this much of a predicament on any trail, any run. I was starting to feel dizzy. I was now considering pulling my phone from my vest and calling in a rescue. I looked up the canyon and the ridge seemed no closer than it did 30 minutes before. What had taken me 12 minutes to descend had now taken me over an hour to ascend and I still had over third of it to scale. I look back again and find the men stopped on the trail below, hands motioning back and forth emphatically showing their amount of energy reserves dramatically to and from. I realize they will be of no help. I find a large dome shaped boulder off the right side which garners a touch of shade and slump to a heap at its base. I sit for minutes. Nothing changes. Clutching for a hand hold I stumble up and lean into the earth and continue up the canyon.

    "Do you have any water by chance?" I hear and wearily glance over my shoulder after finally gaining the ridge.
     Ashamed of myself I reply.
    "No I don't. I am actually completely out." I say this acting as if I had planned it that way.
    "Why are you out?"
    "Yes. Completely!" She says under the sun as her head drops balancing on her walking stick.
    I realize that this woman is in trouble quickly. Suddenly I feel a sense of energy filling me.
    "How long have you been out? Do you have food?" I say inching close to her.
    Long pause.
    "Over an hour or so. I got lost and have been out for over 4 hours or so now maybe? I don't know?"
    I realize that letting her know my current state will make things even worse so as I reach her I take note of her age and her physical state. She looks to be in her mid to late 40's and based on her stature she seems to be very fit and agile. She is drenched head to toe in sweat which leads me to believe that she at least had been hydrating well throughout her dilemma. She is English. London I presume?
    "Well, how are you feeling?" I say looking into her eyes. "Can we keep moving? I will stay with you so don't worry!"
    "I don't know. I am so dizzy. I am so fucking dizzy!" She manages with the last of her breath.

    I realize now that my state is taking a backseat for the remainder of the day and I need to suck it up. I look over at her and she is bent over, 90 degree angle, staring into the fine dust.

    "Well, this is a well used trail so someone has to be coming down it soon." I say this with a slight bit of uneasiness as I have not seen anyone in over 2 hours other than the two crazy retired army generals meandering down inside the canyon below us.
    "If we can just make it up to the ridge up there than it is all downhill from there to the trailhead."
    "I just don't think I can do it. It is so hot. I don't think I can do it. I need to sit down."

    I watch her body break down over a rounded nub of a rock, her legs swaying back and forth with her head. I glance up the trail. Someone has got to be coming up this trail soon. Right?

    "Let's just take it nice and slow. We can do it. Once we get up to the ridge it is less than a mile back to the lot. We can do it." Just at that moment I hear a voice. No voices. I look up the trail and 100 yards off see two men scurrying down the trail without a care in the world.
    "Here is someone here! I will ask them for water for you, don't worry."
    As they draw near I call out to the lead runner who is in his late 40's.
    "Hey guys do you by chance have any water? She is out of water and needs some badly." I say pointing to the mass beside me.
    "Oh! Yeah, yeah. Is she ok? Are you out of water?" He says with no hesitation as we all as humans are out to help one another in times like these.
    "Yeah, I am out too but she needs it, I am ok."
    He reaches into a fanny pack around his waist and pulls a full 20 ounce bottle which glistens and sparkles in the mid afternoon sun as it changes hands. I quickly uncap it and hand it to her and she puts it to her mouth without saying a word.
    "Thank you so much guys. Are you sure you don't need it?" I say almost like a loving father over his ailing daughter.
    "Don't worry about it just get her down safely!" He says looking me in the eye as if he did all he could do and now it was my turn.

    "Oh my god, water is the best thing in the world!" I hear from behind my turned shoulder.
    "Please take some? You need some too!" She says reaching out to me with flailing arms.
    "No don't worry about me you just take as much as you need. I will be ok."

    As we stumble up to the ridge again she says:
    "Please take some." Bottle outstretched, less than 6 ounces remain.
    I take one solid drag off the bottle and hand it back feeling less of a man.
    "Ok, now all we have to do is just take this last mile or so very easy. I know it will be hard because it is so steep but we can do it."
    She nods and we drop down the trail.
    "What part of the U.K. are you from?"
    "Yeah." She says obviously missing my question in her delirious state.
    "So what part of the U.K. are you from? I noticed your accent." I say again, trying to lighten the mood.
    "Mmmbasstonbury." She mutters, leaving me no closer to my desired answer.

    As we inch closer down the trail I realize that she seems to be nodding off again. I spy her stumbling and catching herself a few times and realize that though we are only 3/4 of a mile from heaven, she is in hell.
    "Are you feeling ok?"
    I realize she is not ok. She stops in her tracks and collapses to her knees and I pivot and run to her.
    At this point I think to myself how we on earth sometimes find each other. How we find love. How we find our fate. How we find distress. How we find hate. I wonder why today it was us that found one another? I am no hero. Why me?

    I hover over her shielding her from the sun who above watches her with care. I touch her shoulder which is now dry, no signs of sweat.
    "I don't think I can make it. Please go for help. My car is the yellow car at the end of the parking lot. It is unlocked. I have water inside."
    "Does it have ice? I have ice water in my truck, a lot of it." I pronounce.
    "No. No ice." Is all she can muster.
    "Here, give me your stick. Give me your bottles. You don't need to carry these!" I realize today I am a hero.

    My feet pound the sand and lift off and I find a rhythm that had eluded me all day. The trailhead seems miles away when I glance up under the unrelenting sun but I push on.
    As I come over the last hill about 75 yards up I see a man, arms folded, and what looks like a small child glancing up the trail at me. My feet flow over the hot earth. As I get closer I lock eyes with the man. Suddenly I hear:
    "Have you seen a woman in a pink hat up the trail?"
    I screech to a halt half annoyed. I pause to think.
    "Umm?" Then it hits me. "Uh, yeah, she is just up the trail up there."
    "My god! Is that her stick?"
    "Yeah, I was carrying it for her. I came here to get her water. She is in bad shape."
    "Mommy! Mommy I have water for you!" The young child cries out letting go of his fathers hand and running up into the heat and earth.
    "Mommy I love you!" I hear as I am bent over heaving.
    I don't bother looking over my shoulder as I race off under the shaded trailhead awning and head straight for my truck not realizing I had dropped my water bottle in the dirt as I stumbled, finally to its resting spot at the far east end.

    "He saved my life out there." Johanna says to me with her sons arms wrapped around her small neck, gripping tightly, too tight for her state.
    "I was done for."

    Gripping her husbands hand I knew I had done more than any race or mileage could bestow upon me. I was satisfied.

    From my truck I watch the husband start up the yellow unlocked car and then her and the boy, in the other vehicle, slowly backing out of the parking space, pausing at every movement in the vehicle, the days events evident in every movement. I chuckle slightly as I see her veer off down an unmarked road before pausing and realizing her miscue, husband in wait. Their colors stream slowly across the desert and off out of sight.
    I realize that this day had gone as planned.



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tom's Thumb: A Granite Treat

   I found myself rousing my sleep deprived body from the concentrated mess of the bed and sitting upright, feet gently touching the cool wood floors. Two hours of sleep had once again reared its monstrous face upon my world leaving me staring blankly into space gauging my coming approach to the new day, with a sun rising quickly and sharply outside to the east as if to say:

"I wait for no one. Follow if you choose. If not you will not be missed on this day."

   My goal was to wake my sleeping beauty as is nearly almost always needed(then again who would want to wake to this world on most days?), drop her upon her place of employment doorstep and from there follow a carefully calculated route across Maricopa County zig-zagging the jumbled hulking city all the while ascending and descending six of the highest points in Maricopa County by foot.
   But, plans are futile. Plans, are, plans.

   When a sun rises and sets there within lies our chances to explore our gift of life, existence. To some that may range from reading a great book from dawn to dusk while to others it may mean spending a day standing over an operating table, hands fumbling, angling throughout, piecing together bodies in the way they were mean to be, leaving their hands aching with pain awaiting the next life threatening injury to bound through the adjacent double doors. There is no tried and true path to this exploration, only the guilt that comes with letting night fall over us with nothing gained, nothing learned.

   After waving off my beloved and curling up fetal style in the sea of striped sheets and pillows I dozed in and out of consciousness for ninety minutes dreaming of worlds and yearnings that no human has before been given nor granted, before finally accepting my fate and pivoting up angrily feeling my heels dropping to the wood beams laid out below. My mind races with a somewhat controlled and confused rage before finally rising and commencing with my days activities.

   Striding slowly to a stop atop the saddle below Tom's Thumb I am devoid of any thoughts of sleeplessness, anxiety, confusion. Instead I am drinking in what comes with the exploration of this world. Granite pillars stand around me like the fair skinned cousins of Stonehenge, gathering together as if spreading gossip or admitting a secret crush to one another. I glance up the ridge to the base of the Thumb to the north following the thin vein of trail that delivers us all to its vantage, catching a family of five all in unison hurriedly scurrying up the well packed path in anticipation of the fruits of their labor.
   Good for them, I bemuse.

   As the parking lot splays itself into view in between each rolling hill on my descent I realize that life is quite simply just that, a series of rolling hills, peaks and valleys, with an intangible reward awaiting those who make it to the other side.

   A new day.



Monday, May 20, 2013

A Breath Of Fresh Air

   So I knew from the week that had just faded into my past that I would surely need something to ease my mind and body. That paired with the fact that Michelle was out of town for a batchelorette party in San Diego made it eternally harder to resist leaving town albeit for only a day and a half. So after tying up loose ends early Saturday morning with the mortgage team over at Bank of America(some real winners they have working over there lemme tell ya) I kissed the wife on the lips, watched the Jeep Patriot roll out of the driveway and with that came the instant satisfaction of knowing for the rest of the weekend I would not have to hear: "Can you please.... please just turn off the lights when you leave a room?"

   You know I love you Michelle. I know you love me, unconditionally. So we can joke like this.....umm right?

   Soon, after doing up the dishes, laundry, and of course turning off all the lights, I made the decision that I would head to the northwest into the Yavapai County hills, to Prescott, Arizona to not only drink in the simplicity of the life that is so entrenched there but also to see my good friend Jon who also just so happened to be in a Battle Of The Bands competition out at the world famous Prescott Valley fairgrounds. You know the PV fair grounds? It's where Dwight Yoakum played all those years ago after resurrecting his music career after a couple of failed attempts in Hollywood? Think Panic Room.
   Anyways, you get the picture. It was gonna be a good time.

   So I gathered enough supplies and clothing for not only a good nights stay under the pine studded skies but  also I knew I would have to enjoy the trails at least one time if not twice while up there, so I dutifully grabbed my running gear and as a last minute decision grabbed my bike and hit the road for the drive.

   I always love the drive up off of the 17 freeway because once you get through the outskirts of Phoenix the landscape slowly melts into a almost at times extraterrestrial world full of cosmic like shapes of the geologic features which hug the freeway and surrounding boundaries that frame the view heading up. But also the people, the houses, the cars. It takes a different breed to live in the desert but it takes a different animal to exist in mere solitude in the relentless drought ravaged deserts of south central Arizona. Yet, they hold their ground. They watch you from their porches and turn away as if a ghost had passed, which in time we will all be.

   I curved and the western horizon caught my windshield, and as I passed and briefly contemplated the turnoff to Arcosanti I felt the gas pedal become a bit lighter, the sun a bit brighter. I settled in and rolled the windows down and the mid day sun hovered above with just the right amount of anger. This was gonna be worth the drive.

  Coasting past the V A cemetery and into old town Prescott I made the quick decision, after futilely racking my brain over the course of the 10 miles between PV and Prescott for someplace different for once, that I would head out for a run in the Prescott National Forest just north of Thumb Butte Regional Park in the western reaches of Prescott. After finding a good pull off spot where I was hoping I would not get ticketed for parking on someones front lawn, though I can never tell where the road shoulder and someones front yard ends in Prescott, I locked my bike to a nearby ponderosa pine and headed up the roadway leading into the park with the intention of doing a 8 mile-ish loop which would give me some great views of the surrounding valley and both Granite Mountain as well as a bagging of the iconic Thumb Butte.

   I knew my attempts at any kind of a decent day on the trails would have to be put aside since I had not run a step in nearly 2 weeks so I tried to go in with the goal of just getting some good rhythmic movement over a long period of time on foot as well as take in the nice early summer day in a beautiful locale. However, though my physical body, mind, and even my uphill speed climbing legs decided to make this trip with me(I really appreciate that also), my quads, my lungs, and even my flat as all hell very runnable terrain legs were essentially non-existent. And you know what, let me back track. NO, my mind did not make the trip because one simple rule that anyone of sound mind would not have forgotten was to remember that they would be running at 5,900 feet altitude all day and that that alone should be taken into account when they jot out a mapped route with plenty of climbing in it.

   I didn't. And soon I found myself a bit dizzy, sweating profusely, cursing somewhat profusely and already resorting to the euro style power hike at some of the early semi moderate climbs. I tend to do this a lot, that is underestimate not only the terrain but the conditions. I have grown up quite a bit over the last 4 years since I decided to punish myself with shoes, shorts, and anaerobic activity. Yet, to this day I still find myself hovering near the danger zone occasionally, dipping in with cupped hands and gorging myself on the darkened ledges of our lives. And in some way, when I emerge from the shadows I feel stronger. I feel like the more I test those waters the more the winds calm, unfolding a day, a life in front of me like a clean white sheet waiting for a warm body to stretch its limbs across its cool white surface.
   My predetermined route was to take me out from the parking lot connecting on trail 315 heading northeast which would round to the west gaining altitude before connecting to 317 which would give me some great peeks of the valley to the north and even the red rock formations of Sedona in the far distance. However, I went off route and accidentally took 316 off in a switchback section that emptied me off off the western side of the hills leaving me at a cross section of cabins along the hillside. I was well aware heading down into the rural area that I had gone off the route I had readied myself for but figured I would see where it would take me as I had never ventured into this arena.
   So as I took in the views, took a quick but shameless number two behind a accepting pine, and drained one of my two bottles down the hatch, I powerhiked back up the hillside and reconnected with the 318 trail which then got me back on course. At this point though I only had 4 or so miles on my legs I was a bit drained so I just let my body take me on a stroll through the woods. It was a bit slower than I would of liked, and definitely a bit under what I would call a good effort on my part, but it felt good to just let my body do all the work and give my mind a breather. I turned on the auto pilot and just tried to keep the engine running with a couple ounces of H2O every 5 minutes to stay on top of my intake.
   As I approached the roadway on the descent and connected to trail 392 I drifted under a thick canopy of skyscraping ponderosa pines. I welcomed their arrival as I knew their fallen needles would provide the nourishment that my feet were yearning for. Their visage and towering beauty always greets me with a sense of a past life. Oregon shaped me. Its trees, they spoke to me. I have always been fascinated with trees and the way they cling to this earth, roots clenching and digging into the flesh of the world readying themselves for   what is to come. And these, these ponderosa of the west, were no different. They sat quiet as I danced below them and whispered to and from as I dissolved out of view and into their distant families arms which speckled the hillside.

   Upon reaching my final destination, my F-150, I unchained my bike from the tree and tossed it in the back and with the truck in neutral coasted the 3 miles back into downtown Prescott. Along the short drive back into civilization I found myself asking why anyone would not want to live here? Why the easy going life of small town America seems to be stretching further and further beyond our reaches? Are we losing our connection or our yearning to this minimal, simplistic style of life, or better yet are we just simply going with the flow? Keeping up with the Joneses.

   I can say this much, upon leaving town I stopped for gas. After grabbing a Gatorade and snack, the young, fresh from high school clerk looked me in the eye smiled and said,
   "Hope to see ya next time your in town?"
   I might as well of had Mr. Jones etched on a name tag.


Monday, February 25, 2013

No Name And A Place All Our Own

"What is his name?" 
Me, directly, "I have no idea?"
Pause. "Excuse me?"
"Yeah, no clue, Michelle literally brought it home probably a year ago and said....."

     After awaking to a faint, jumbled traffic report rousing my senses, I roll over and decide that my active day starts now. 

     Before long I am moving swiftly amongst the downstairs dwelling, picking up clothes piles and scanning them for a technical tee, my favorite technical tee.

     Auburn Running Company, ahh, there it is! Wait, do I actually even need it? Yeah, what the hell. Who do I think I am? Ok, what else do I have here? Watch. Shoes. Shorts. Socks? Wait, do I have socks? Yes, I'll wear what are on my feet, the ones I slept in. Towel. Canvas bag. Ok.

     Oh wait, food. 

    Ok, a couple of tangerines and chocolate chip cookies should be enough sugar right? 

    A well-thought pause.


    My heart rate rises as I realize that this day I awoke. As extra credit I realize also that I feel refreshed, ready to take on a challenge. This has been a rarity since March of 2012. Since early spring of 2012 life, in its simplest form,  has for myself been a challenge. Today I move fast. Challenges can be lazy, futile in their attempts to challenge our wits, our prowess. Today, this is true. 

     As I pass the coat rack a hanging plastic bag catches my eye. Two more quick strides and I feel only the polished steel of the front door between me and my bottled energies. 

    Wait. Wait.

    I drop the bags making sure I don't miss the rug, their cushion preventing a  broken, crumbled chocolate chip cookie, rendering it worthless.

    After a deep-controlled breath I mumble, "Why not?"

    We are making good time as I nearly miss the turn off on Idaho Road. Cutting across 3 lanes of traffic and through the gore area I break the first of possibly multiple state(federal?) laws for the day. I seem more focused though today as if the day was hand made prior specifically for me. Made, In America I might add, on some television show hosted by some well-liked wholesome character of yesteryear. 

    The sandy parking lot is empty but for one vehicle as I roll off Interstate 88. A lone seashell on an otherwise picture perfect pink sand beach. I feel indifferent as I open the door and feel the elements. The wind immediately grabs me, clipping at my heels and fingertips. I shut the door.

"What am I doing?" I mutter to myself staring ahead.

    The bags containing my running items are roused about the seat and floorboards. Tangerines lie where they should on the dirty base, resting against a box of weathered tie-downs. One shoe, caked in crackled mud, is nestled neatly in the door panel like a steaming Thermos full of coffee.

    There, lonesome, and sitting where I placed it, gently, a plastic bag. Sternly and stout it stares back at me.

    "All I know is his wife said he wanted his ashes to be spread up in the mountains somewhere. So I said 'yeah, give 'em to me. Logan is always out there.' "

    So here I was. No name. No story. Just a bag and a wish.

    I realize that I have no way of transporting his cremains into his preferred place of rest. I have a handheld water bottle with a small zippered pocket big enough to hold a bite size Snickers on a good day. A pair of running shorts, no pockets, and my tech tee. I calculate the numbers. The ounces. The days. The wives. The children. The wars. The weight. The weight. He was a simple man. He will make the trip with me, I will make it happen. We will make it happen.

    I grab the now empty brown paper bag that concealed my pre-run snacks and delicately tear off a large enough swatch of paper to transport his remains securely. I am ashamed. 

    Without thinking my cupped dry palm dives into the bag. I feel my fingers surprisingly dig in deep with relative ease, reaching for life, a life. I only want to make one swipe so I tense and tighten my cradled hand knowing that it is important which part of this man will make this trip and which will stay behind, working, watching the children, the grandchildren, watching his life pass on until the money stacks up and the clouds and the roads open and once again beg to be explored.

   That's enough. I clench even harder and pull my arm from the bag. Before long I am on the trail with surprisingly heavy legs. I gain the first ridge above Bulldog Canyon to the south and finally open up my legs on the flat buttery path. I cruise the singletrack following my petrified footprints from the week prior and can think of no other place in this world I would want to be. I hope he feels the same.

    The winds from the north rip through the canyons leaving the flora dancing like wildfire. I am determined this day to make the trip. I feel I will know when I get to the right spot. The wind is a side note.

    For a year he begged. He was patient as my health improved and failed over and over again and this was my way of repaying him for his fortitude. Life in this moment, these moments, cannot be taken away. It is yours, maybe only for a moment.

    My legs loosened up on the flat terrain and the landscape painted itself in front of me trying to catch up to my churning, pulsating legs. I pass a group on horseback, maybe a dozen horses in all, not one nodding in my direction. Large eyes four times the size of a humans suddenly catch my eye. I move on down the trail, across the streams.

    I wonder to myself, "Was he a nature lover?" 
    "Did he ever trade tracks, footprints, with the wild animals of this world in the wild mountains of this world?"

    "Was he a wild animal?"

    "Did his faults destroy him? His family?"

    "Was he an athlete?"

    "Am I an athlete?"

    At the 6 mile mark I knew it was time. I knew because he told me. I knew it was time because the heavens sucked the circling clouds from above like a straw and hushed the surrounding winds that had rented the space inside the broad sweeping mesa to a halt.

    When my lungs returned I paused and for a moment scanned the land. A wind, after its brief pause, grew in size and strength from the northwest. It swept over the surrounding cliffs 500 yards out and gained power and force. I fumbled for the zipper. It was in my hand in an instant, the brown bag, folded like a small brown packet of sugar bulging at the center.

    The zippered pocket was opened, and, void of his cremains was covered in fragments, in dust, that had seeped through the package and coated the inner compartment. I let him down. 

    A gust of wind rips through the canyon like a blade reminding me of my mission and in an instant my arm shoots to the skies and I feel the release of a weight, a substance, an existence, which quickly dissolves into the backdrop of colors and sky and sweeps quickly down the mountainside enriching its worth. 

    The mountainside calms to a silence. A sea of clouds accompany a flock of sparrows that float above, heading east, dotting the ground in dancing shadows.

    Time may stand still. But for now, time, life, has moved on.

    My bottle is empty. I turn and head back the way I had come.





Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 8 - 19 summary

Elev. Gain:3,500'
YTD Miles:352.8
YTD Time:59:17
YTD Elev.:46,200'
To make another boring sob story short I have been going through somewhat of another sleeplessness bout. In this state I am not much for elaboration, more just quick and to the point. I had some decent days of running but it has been overshadowed by the last week or so of just trying to stay sane. Hopefully this passes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

July 31st - August 7th

Elev. Gain:3,400
YTD Miles:328.5
YTD Time:54:48
YTD Elev.:42,700'

So this past week+ was not a very successful week mileage wise but it was definitely a success in the area of total time on foot, especially time spent vertically on foot. I hiked Humphrey's Peak(12,633') two Saturday's back just to get out into the mountains again and see how my body would hold up. It held well over the 9.5 mile hike which covered also 5,300' of gain rounding out the hike in just over 6 hours. I felt good and refreshed for most of the coming week so I summited Camelback Mountain here in Scottsdale 4 times over the course of 10 days with a few of those being a concentrated effort at pushing the pace. In temps almost always hovering around 105 degrees I would say that that is a step in the right direction. I feel that the energy and emotion needed for longer runs on the trails is starting to slowly come back to me and getting over 11,000' of vertical over a week+ is the confidence that I will need as the temps start to slowly lower over the next few months and my yearning for the mountains builds. I am so glad to even be remotely back to my normal self. Knock on wood!

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 2nd - July 30th

Elev. Gain:1,300'
YTD Miles:314.4
YTD Time:51:52
YTD Elev.:39,300'

After spending the better half of the last 4 1/2 months trying to get a correct diagnosis on a sleep/insomnia disorder, which unfortunately never materialized in reality, I have finally been able to string together 2 weeks of not only sleep but also slowly getting my mind back and body mentally out of the hole that it was sucked into which drained me of not only my energy but it also forced me to re-write my entire life from my diet down to things as simple as the way I brush my teeth, and look at it with a magnifying glass, dissecting it like a science project. I honestly at one point not only wondered if I could ever run again but it got to the point that I started to accept that I may never fully be able to perform any type of athletic endeavor again. My thoughts ran the gamut and through it all I kept the most positive attitude I could considering the circumstances. 

And now I stand here on the 30th of July feeling like I may actually be fully on my way to recovery and I can say that though I have had some ups and downs in my life which made me appreciate the little things that we all take for granted in life, I never truly realized the depths of which our blessings are as human beings. I have a new set of eyes to view the world that I am blessed with awaking to each day, and I can promise I will not blink again.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oh What A Couple Fortnight's!

Elev. Gain:2,400'
YTD Miles:286.5
YTD Time:46:47
YTD Elev.:38,000'
Stay tuned in the next 48 hours.....if ya give a damn! 
8,000 flight miles, 3,000 driven miles, and a whole lot of germs and sleepless nights. A detailed run down, pardon the pun, to come hopefully tomorrow. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Real Start To Summer

Elev. Gain:2,000'
YTD Miles:259.7
YTD Time:42:03
YTD Elev.:35,600'
5/19/12 Treadmill 8 miles. Some inclined with some speed and heart rate concentration sprinkled in. It was a tough week prior with sleep, work, etc. so this was not ideal conditions coming into the new week.
5/26/12 South Mountain 6 miles, 1,200'. After a few nights of decent rest I had an open day to myself so after getting some errands done I headed out in the late morning for what I had hoped to be a 6 mile+ run at SMP. The relentless temps from the week prior I knew were going to relent so I knew that if my fitness held up that this could be a pleasing day on the trails. After realizing the park was quite busy due to the cooler temps I decided to do a reverse of my normal loop which would normally give me some time to myself but with the reversal I figured I may be able to avoid even more of the crowds which lined the roadway like the lines found at Disneyland. Luckily I was right. After gearing up for what I had hoped to be an hour to hour and a half trot, I headed out at a little bit slower pace than normal because I knew that even the low 80 degree temps could catch up with me soon in the somewhat weary state I found myself in. But, to my surprise I was able to hold my own throughout the first few miles, keeping both my breathing and my mind in the right place. It really was a pleasant day with breezes creeping in at just the right moments and the nice rolling terrain played well with my limited energy levels and fitness. I somewhat surprised myself with carving up a new trail that I had never laid foot on, this was not intentional, and found it to have a prolonged inclined stretch which lasted just a shade over a mile which seemed daunting at first but yet I found myself able to settle in at a decent climbing pace and tackle this stretch quite effectively. I was a bit astounded at my energy levels and found this to be quite endearing to my confidence moving forward. 
After a speedier decent off the back half of the loop back to the truck I rounded out the day by a good meal and a good flick with the old lady, Moneyball.
5/27/12 Papago Park 5 miles, 700'. I felt like I had some momentum on the heels of my last few runs so I headed into the closest set of tall rocks I could find in my immediate area, Papago Park. I have always found the Papago Park area of Tempe to be quite mysterious and astounding in that it gives the runner/hiker/walker a taste of all that a wilderness or state park has to offer in terms of flora and fauna as well as all that comes along with a water source and yet it is situated literally in the middle of a metro/dry desert area in the outskirts of north Tempe. I really do sometimes like to let my mind wander while I run under cottonwood trees and over rushing meadows all while being no more than 20 feet from a busy freeway linking Tempe to the local international airport. It was a treat. I was still a bit tired from the day prior's outing so I rounded out a sluggish 5 miles and headed east to my hut.
I really do feel like I made some progress in my health and fitness this past week. I cannot say that I have found a remedy for my insomnia other than just positive thoughts. I will try to post from across the pond in Great Britain over the course of the next few weeks. 'Til then, cheers. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Treading Water? Feels Like It Sometimes

Elev. Gain:1,900
YTD Miles:237.7
YTD Time:38:37
YTD Elev.:33,600'
5/10 Treadmill: 10.1 miles. Variable speeds and inclines. Boring as always but sometimes to avoid the 105 degree weather ya gotta suck it up and hit the 'mill.
5/13 Dreamy Draw Park: 3.0 miles, 500 ft. After a nice Mother's Day breakfast I decided it would not hurt to get out into the Phoenix Mountain Preserve for a few miles in the afternoon. I knew it was hot and I knew I had less liquid than I would of liked so I stuck to a nice slice of track that was somewhat flat and just kept it easy for a few miles around the base of Piestewa Peak. This trail and park holds some memories as this was the trails that I was able to share with Tony Krupicka a few seasons earlier. Overall a decent short run. Ran into a park ranger who after a short Q and A with myself was sold on the MT110's and said he was most likely gonna give them a shot. In my own little way I felt like an NB Ambassador for the day. Good feeling.
5/14 Black Mesa Trail: 5.0 miles, 800 ft. I try to always get one good trail run in on my weekends and even though I was still quite tired from some more insomnia like effects I headed out and took the Black Mesa Trail in the Superstition Mountains out for a nice 5 mile clip. It was hot and exposed for most of the run so I knew that even a 5 miler would take quite a bit out of me. The trail has so so footing throughout and this and the fact that I knew the rattlers were out and about made me a bit pretentious going into it but I enjoyed getting out alone and getting to take in the scenes of some trail I had never ventured into. Good day, a bit taxing.
5/17 Football Field: 3.0 miles, 300 ft. Used my spare time to get a nice, speedy couple in on the soft cushioned field. Temps hovering around 102 degrees.
It seems hard to tell if I am going to be 100 percent back to normal on the sleep and rest front considering I have had about 5 or 6 days now of only an hour or two of sleep each night. I am hopeful that this will pass and that I am on the right track. It is unfortunate that I had such high hopes for this year after a couple mishaps in the last two years, but I am hopeful that the coming trip to Europe will relax my head, heart, body and soul and get me back and yearning for more time on the trails.