You never fully appreciate where you live until you go out and explore every inch of the land! The Orcas Island is a goldmine filled with a lot of trails, waterfalls, and some of the most beautiful scenery out there. I headed up there to start my year off with a 25k thrown by Rainshadow running. I met Cindy Desmarais and all her friends that evening and spent the night at their cabin. Great group of runners! I got the hookup form Ben Phenix I met at the Team RWB trail running camp. (Below: start of the 25k, can you find me?)Race day! About 2 miles into the 25k, my prosthetic leg completely snapped at the pyramid where the socket is attached to the pilon. As I had my arms around a few runners shoulders heading back down to the road, I was laughing the whole way back because as the other runners were passing me I told them, “Hey! watch out for the grizzly bear! My legs gone! He took my leg!” “Hey watch out for a bloody leg disintegrated all over the trails!” They all laughed. Not able to finish the 25k, I was determined to come back for the 50k. I thought it was such a tease to only let me run a few miles of the course. I felt as though I never wanted anything more other than to come back for vengeance and make a good run on the trails. They weren’t ready for me, I said. My time will come. I apologize for the misleading title, there wasn’t an actual grizzly bear. #honesty. (To the left in the purple is Cindy & Ed in the red shirt who I have my arm around.)
I decided to stick around and cheer on the finishers. Let me introduce you to a beautiful young lady Mona, she grew up with a rare condition that stuns her muscles/bones from fully developing and has restricted movement. To the left is her twin sister leaning over and caregiver to the left. She is very funny and has a great sense of humor. We talked for a bit about my prosthetic, how shes doing in school and I showed her some of my pictures from my travels. She asks “who takes all the pictures of you?” i said, “I mostly take them with a self timer and sometimes it would take me half an hour to set it up and get a good shot” “Here let me show you the app! Why dont we take one now? smile! 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. cheese!
I had a whole week to reassess my situation with my prosthetic, eat up, and stretch. I was now ready for the real thing. A week later> I was heading out on the ferry to Orcas Island right at the time the sun was setting. I got to Orcas in the evening, pre registered and set out to look for a campground. I found a spot near the shore, relaxed and ate some sweet potatoes w/coconut oil, quinoa, pasta and drank coconut water w/chia seeds. I also had a few krispy kreme doughnuts first time in years. I needed the carbs, right? I pulled out a sleeping bag and threw it on top of my car, climbed up and laid for a few hours watching the stars listening to Rod stewart and other classics. Caught a few shooting stars burning out into the unknown. Race Day! take 2! All smiles! I go to the front for fun to turn around and give people this look like this will be effortless. Like seriously, I signed up for a 50k not a 5k! Everyone is wearing a long sleeve jacket. It was around 35 degrees. I was fully convinced it was going to get warmer through out the day. The time ticks, James is holding the microphone and announces, we take off and start running. The anticipation to fully put your character up to test the brutal trails. Course description: Beautiful, soft and well maintained single track trails through old growth forest with waterfalls, lakes, cascading creeks, and views of the Puget Sound, the surrounding islands, and on clear days the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, including Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St Helens. About 8400ft of elevation gain on the loop course. There is just something to me about doing some old fashioned hard miles. They have no mercy and they will not get shorter. It is up to you to decide how far you are willing to push yourself. A majority of the trails are very narrow. Usually I need at least 3 feet to swing out my prosthetic leg and get a good whip motion going. To modify, I would turn to my side and skip until I got to wider ground. A few miles in we pass a waterfall. The peaceful sound of runners feet pounding the ground as the water crashes down beside us. It felt as if it was a scene from the Last of the Mohicans and I was Daniel Day-Lewis.
I make it to Mountain Landing(mile 6.4) in an hour and a half. Grabbed a few gels, drank some water & a salt tablet then took off. I start to get questions in my head, “why am I doing this in the first place?” What am trying to prove?” “can my leg just break like last time so I don’t have to go on any longer?” I’ll be okay! No one will care” and when I have kids someday, “what will I tell them? That its Ok to stop when things get tough?” Then I come to realize that I am not only doing this for me. I’m doing this for a whole lot of people that follow my story, I am representing amputees past present and future that are filled with doubts, people that have labeled themselves “disabled” My younger brothers that I would like for them to set out and conquer the world. I cannot teach or pass on any advice to people & tell them to believe in themselves and that they can do anything they set their heart and mind to if I don’t live it myself. Pain will only last for a few hours and eventually the miles will end. But its what you learn through those hours that will matter most. Some of your greatest moments will be right after your worst.
The trails kept getting more technical. Running narrow downhill is probably my least favorite. My prosthetic leg doesn’t bend at the knee and therefore I decline slowly one step at a time. I cough some speed at some of the wider downhills. I would throw my arms out and flap them like a bird and let my body lead and do what it naturally does. Around mile 12, I felt something in my sock moving around and It didn’t feel like it was a rock. It was a strange feeling I have never felt before. I realized that it was my 3rd toe nail detached from my skin barely holding on moving around between my other toes. The only thing I could think of is, Hoka One’s? Already? Why?.. For a second there I thought it was pretty cool. I stopped, clinched my teeth, tied my strings as hard as I could so I would have much less movement at my toes and carried on. I didn’t think about it much since.
There is a lot of walking that people do in trail running as the hills become steeper. There were a few moments where I told myself, “NO! They call this is a trailRUN not a walk!” That would get me moving to run again. I remember one vivid part where I was coming out from the tree line onto a bridge over water. The unexpected scenery change was as if the whole world stopped and I was the only one running. A very peaceful moment. A few miles later I started to develop some issues with my prosthetic. With all the movement, the gel from my seat started to slide out of my socket and I had to stop a few times to fix it. Also, my blade foot started to turn little by little inward 90 degrees and under me. I ran into Mike here and there on the trails, he is a bike mechanic who straighten out my prosthetic with a little allen wrench I carried in my handheld water bottle. I made it to the mile 20 North Arch aid station at 1:24, 6 minutes til cutoff time. While stuffing my face with a few oranges and bananas, the kind volunteer straightened out my prosthetic. I thanked him, grabbed a few gels and I headed out. (Below: Almost there! it was a little snowy there too.)Shortly after Ive reached the power line/climb. It consists of a steep hike of over 2000 ft of elevation in 2 miles. I’ll be honest, Long slow hikes up steep elevation is one of my favorite things. Its all about placing one foot in front of the other. By the time everyone made their way through it, it was muddy and slippery. I was the last one. I had to bear crawl at a few parts with my hands and hop on my foot up a few climbs. I kept mumbling “come on” as loud as I could to myself. There were a few mountain bikers in the area that helped me out and straightened out my leg as it was turning inward. Kept moving forward. About half way up, I stopped to realign out my prosthetic yet again. I placed the mini allen wrench on the black dirt by my water bottle. As I fixed it up and was all set to go, the wrench was nowhere to be found. I felt as if I was smeagol digging through the dirt looking for my precious 4mm allen wrench. I couldn’t find it and I didn’t want to waste any more time. I took off and within a quarter of a mile it started to turn inward again. Ive tried banging it against a tree and on the ground but that didn’t make it nudge. I kept moving forward. Once I made it to the flat ground, I couldn’t get a good running stride going. That’s when I knew If I didn’t cover any ground fast, I wasn’t going to make it. My heart started to beat faster and faster, I was desperate. I really wanted to finish it. I set a good pace by power walking.
I started to get really angry and tried to find someone to blame. And I had the perfect txt all planned out to send my prosthetist once I got my phone back. I told myself that this isn’t even fair. I am here to put my body through this and I cant even get a decent prosthetic leg working to allow me to suffer? But then I realized, my prosthetist Ryan, has been my biggest supporter through out my whole process. None of this is anybody’s fault. I don’t know any other hip-amputee that have ran more than a few miles. The parts that I’m using are made for weekend runners who put a few miles a week. The parts are weak. The people upstairs have no idea what I’m attempting to do. The running leg is not complete and I need to take this to a whole other level. Were still creating it every step along the way and were just here to learn. Every flaw is one step closer to the perfect model. It was 3:17 and I hear people talking. “I’m going to make it!” that’s the aid station! I’m still in!” Around the corner I come upon 2 ladies walking a dog. I was bummed. I kept moving. With all the walking, my adrenaline started to lower and I started to shiver a bit. The whole day was around 35-40 degrees. It did not get warmer. I thought the T-shirt was enough if I kept moving faster. It was 3:25 I had to be there in 5 minutes or I was out. I kept going faster and faster. It clicked to 3:30 and I knew I missed the time. I didnt care I kept trying to get up there, maybe I could bargain with the volunteers and they would let me finish. I would say, “but..but. I have one leg? Its a disadvantage?” Nope. I didn’t go there. If I want to show people that amputees with disabilities such as mine can do what highly trained athletes can do. Than I have to meet the standard myself. & that makes it even all the more fun for me. I am usually the last one to finish, and now I finally have something to compete against. One of the Volunteers Matt, was sweeping the course caught up to me gave me some food bars and we talked while making our way up. We made it to Mt. Constitution Summit(25.8mile mark) close to 4pm. Missed it by about half an hour. A total of over 8,100ft of elevation was covered throughout in 8 and half hours. We hung around for a bit and took a few pictures. It was one of the best races I have ever ran. I raced it with and against myself. The anticipation of trying to make the last cutoff time made it feel more alive than ever.James Varner, thank you for throwing on one spectacular race and for giving me the opportunity to run it! Would like to thank Ben Phoenix for making the connection and getting one foot in the door for the races. I came into the events with nothing to loose and left with a stronger belief and mindset. Oh, & more broken leg parts. We live and we learn right? Learned a whole lot about myself and things I could improve on. Also a big thank you to all the crew and volunteers for taking the time of your day to come out and contribute.
Also make sure to stay updated with Team RWB for some great upcoming news! Big things are coming!
Memories from the Island
When your body has shut down on you and you have nothing left, how much more are you willing to push? What will you say yourself? How will you stay motivated? When your mind starts to fill up with doubts, will you find the courage in your heart to continue? Or are you going to stop and give in? “The ultimate measure of a man is not when he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. -MLK… The Mission: Operation Enduring Warrior is a veteran operated non-profit whose mission is to Honor, Empower and Motivate our Wounded service members through a physical, mental and emotional rehabilitative cycle modeled for overcoming adversity and hardship through innovation, teamwork and perseverance.The mask is a humbling idea, not to give any glory to the individual, but to shine the light on the wounded service members for what they have overcome and continue to do. We are not an organization here to give you any sympathy or money, but an opportunity. To empower and show you that you are capable of much more than you might ever imagine. Speaking for myself and a lot of wounded service members I have known, being labeled “disabled” puts a lot of limitations on you. When you are coming from overseas, serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, in the best shape of your life, have never felt more “badass” than you have felt before. To an injury, missing limbs, multiple surgeries a week, needles stuck in your arms, starting all over again, learning how to feed yourself, get yourself to the bathroom, shower. Then eventually learn how to walk again. You are going to choose one of 2 things, you can let the injury destroy you, or empower you. From that point on, you have nothing to loose, and everything to gain. It could be the end to your life or just the beginning. It has been said that “the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the expectations of your peer group.” Who is your peer group? Which direction will you take? This is where we step in. To show you what its like to run a challenging obstacle racing course, to be apart of a brotherhood, to get you out and take you skydiving, put you back in the state of empowerment as you have felt before and even go beyond that, put you in a position to inspire others and be that leader you already are deep down inside. (Above Noah Galloway mentoring Earl on the Murph workout.) Breathing in the Avon C50 gas mask is about 30% less oxygen resistance. After a while, you start to get headaches, nauseated, and if you don’t regulate your breathing you start to hyperventilate. You also need to get some type of nutrition/sugar every 45 min. To join and be a masked athlete of OEW, you have to go through an INDOC process that lasts over a 24+ hour period. I wont go into a full schedule and detail of all the events/evolutions that went on this past weekend, but overall it was a total combination of 26+ miles of team building exercises, obstacle courses, ruck marches and my all time favorite, The Murph workout. This past weekend I had the opportunity to witness 10 men with diverse military backgrounds try out to become masked athletes. We started the first event off bright and early with a warmup of a 10k masked run. John Sales finished first on the 10k and set the example by turning around and ran back to finish off with his team when he had the choice to rest. On a later team building event about 10 hours in, he pinched a nerve in his shoulder and couldn’t move it or lift up his hand. He still finished til the end with his team. Prior to INDOC, he wrote- “It’s not going to be easy, it’s not supposed to be. It will be cold, it will be grueling, it will test everything we have, and it will be worth every second.” (Log carry team building evolution) I was impressed by Earl’s Granville’s performance. He is a Army Vet and an amputee. On the team log carry exercise, when his prosthetic gave out, he immediately pulled it out of his pack like a sword and switched it out as fast as he could, all happened within minutes so he could continue on with his Team. I could see that he didn’t want to stand out because he was an amputee and pulled his weight as everyone else did. Through out the day as 3 of the candidates have dropped, some due to medical reasons, the team started to synergize together. They realized that if they want to finish this, they are going to have to communicate and start working together more efficiently. Its great when you have a group of people in an uncomfortable situation, your ego goes out the window and you start to realize how much you all need each others support. Brian Wilson was motivated throughout and was always on the move. He said at one of his low points, the thing that motivated him was when he looked at his wrist strap, it had the information of his son that passed, kissed it and said, “this is for you.” and kept moving on. They all have their reasons for why they’re doing this. Strength comes from the ones we love and would do anything for. Brian is also quite the talkative one, and that was useful to pump up his group at the right times and keep them motivated. Here I read the LT Michael P. Murphy Medal of Honor citation before the candidates begin the Murph WOD. The workout consists of an intense 1 mile sprint, followed by 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 leg squats, then finish off with another 1 mile sprint. 15 hours into INDOC, the workout could last you up to 1 hour, or 3. I remember Chris Accord with a pretty sweet goatee beard. I saw some of his courage showing as he was hurting on an ammo can carry evolution and still finished off the whole indoctrination with his Team. Jesus Orleva was quiet and professional. Always seemed to get the job done. He is now the 1st Air Force member on the team. We currently have members that have served in the Army, Marines, Navy, and now the Air Force. I definitely have a lot of respect for Zach Orlowsk, who was dehydrated and had back issues for a majority of the time. Sucked it all up and finished the full 24 hours. Joe Kreischer “jojo” Had some trouble with the Murph exercise, I asked Jojo to find something he could repeat to himself that could motivate him, He came up with, “ We are Kreischer’s, and we never quit.” He never did quit and finished til the end. They all finished off with an unknown milage caring triple amputee Todd Love (100lbs) throughout the night into the morning AM that lasted 5+ hours. Came in as strangers, left as family. United for a cause bigger than themselves. Zach Orlowski, Joe Kreischer, Aaron Brown, Jeremy board, and Joseph Dunn, thank you for trying out and giving your best! I really have a lot of respect for you all for taking the time to train and fly out for the event. Hopefully we will see you guys back again! Chris Accord, Earl Granville, Jesus Olvera, John Sales, & Brian Wilson, welcome to the Team! We are glad to have you, you 5 are at the core of what this organization represents. To the cadre, definitely had a great time with you all! Noah Galloway & Jamie, was a lot of fun riding with y’all in the razor! Noah brought a whole duffel bag of Quest nutrition bars for us and the team to munch on over the weekend. I ate about 20 of em! Todd Love, always look forward to enjoy our “deep thoughts” conversations every time. Dan Covo, its always great to see you! Say hello to Erin and the girls for me! Gabe always great hanging out with you, thoroughly enjoy our conversations as well. Sabrina, keep dancing in the rain! Loved watching Danny go into SEAL mode and take charge with the candidates. Stephen Mills, say hello to your family for me as well. Heggie Jonathan the “Team cook” and his friends came out and grilled all of our delicious meals. Quinoa salad was the best! Mark Jones & Pat, wish you were there with us! Allison, great hanging out with you! does this blog make up for all the ones that I’ve missed? Brian Lakey brought a whole ton of chocolate and peanut butter glazed bacon. Greatest thing I have ever tasted! Angela, Meg Suave “mom,” Stephen Glover, Walt Romano great catching up with you all as well! Don’t know how we can all thank Scott Blough enough for just about single handling putting all of this together! (Noah Galloway, Todd Love, & me, below) Lastly, I did not want to make this blog about me but i wanted to share my INDOC finisher photo with you all where me and my team went through a similar process back in 2012.(below)
“Sow a thought & you reap an act; Sow an act & you reap a habit; Sow a habit & you reap a character; Sow a character & you reap a destiny.”
Memories from “Ft. Bragg”
I made my way up to Mt. Rainier this past weekend to run the Skyline Trail at Paradise. I have been wanting to come up here for the longest time and now that the skies have finally cleared up from all the rain and fog, I get my chance. When I arrived, it didn’t look anything like the pictures i’ve seen online. I came prepared to run a dazzling trail run, not hike up a ski hill. I was well aware of a few possible snowflakes here and there but wasn’t expecting a few feet deep. As the sun came up, it became really warm. The weather was beautiful. It started out pretty rough as I began my hike. I wasn’t getting any traction at all. Slipping, falling, and getting my prosthetic stuck in snow every other step. I usually like to attack the trail and power through it all with intense focus. This time I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run it. I kept telling myself, “lets go back down and find another trail, this is a waste of time.” Anything that has to do with not running is a waste of time!
The weather was too perfect to pass such an opportunity up. The views were astonishing! So I thought, “Ok, lets learn, how are we going to go about this? It was hard for me to accept that I cant physically run this, I am getting no traction on my shoe and prosthetic. So I was going to have to trek very slowly following other peoples shoe prints. Watching all the skiers truck forward. If they can do, so can I. I was committed to climb that hill no matter what. This time, I had to coach myself, “all were going to do is put one foot in front of the other, as long as it takes. Very slowly. That’s all we could do.” As it became steeper about midway through the hike, I started struggling for traction and a gentleman named Bob, lend me one of his crampons and a metal ski holder for my prosthetic. He served in the Military and works for the Mountain rescue team. Also another man, Kevin wouldn’t leave my side, lend me one of his hiking poles. Had to swallow my pride and accept those things. I have a very hard time asking people for help when I really need it. Very much appreciated guys. (Bob on the right)
Reaching the top at about noon and having Mt. Rainier up that close was breathtaking! Across was Mt. Adams. I was like, “You’re looking a little tiny from up here. Do you even lift, bro?” I sat and talked with Kevin for a bit until he took off skiing while looking around and enjoying the beautiful views. Kevin is the guy who took the picture with the flag. Even though I get all the credit, things like this aren’t possible without the people that help along the way. The sun glazing over the icy snow. The cloudless skies. The echo of the skiers swooshing through the slopes. I couldn’t find anything I wanted to change about the picture. It was, perfect. Heading back down was a bit challenging. No way to run once again. Half the time I was crawling backwards using my hands “bear crawls.” The other half I would lay on my side and slide down. Made my way down safe and sound. I took my time. I didn’t want the struggle to end. It was a slow and technical day. Nothing that anyone can’t do. I believe the human body could adapt to anything. You just got to ask yourself how bad do you really want something! Putting yourself on the line is great way to test your own ability and see how you act under uncomfortable situations. Its in those times where you find out what you’re really made of! Your strengths and weaknesses. Do it for no one, but you.
I will leave you guys with a little piece of wisdom to ponder over if you ever feel rushed to do everything at once.
“Think of your life as an hourglass. You know there are thousands of grains of sand in the top of the hourglass; and they all pass slowly and evenly through the narrow neck in the middle. Nothing you or I could do would make more than one grain of sand pass through this narrow neck without impairing the hourglass. You and I and everyone else are like this hourglass…if we do not take [tasks] one at a time and let them pass…slowly and evenly, then we are bound to break our own…structure.” -Dale Carnegie
-Skyline Trail at Paradise, Mt. Rainier
It has been one amazing Veterans Day weekend! Got a chance to meet & run with some of the worlds greatest endurance athletes. Team Red White & Blue, trail running camp at Camp Eagle, Texas. Throughout the weekend we learned trail running techniques, first aid foot care, hydration systems, racing nutrition, and injury prevention. I thought, Wow! There is going to be a lot of classes that have to do with your feet! Nice! What a goldmine of an opportunity to crack leg jokes! I was so excited! After a run I would point to my prosthetic and ask people, “You know I really have this calf cramp, do you think you can massage it for me? You think I can loosen it up with a foam roller?” During ankle taping class “Hey Liza! What do you think of my duck tape job on my flex run blade?” “oh my Achilles! Why now?” “My IT band seems a bit tight, you think it would help if I put some K tape on that pilon?” & if someone would attempt to imitate a massage on my prosthetic, I would be like “Hey! That tickles!” From afar I would get confused looks from people, like “what is going on over there?” Seemed as though I had every type of cramp muscle issue you can think of. Also reminds me when I was passing through security at the airport and had to get my leg scanned in another room, I would say “Ugh, did my abs of steel set off the alarm again?” The security guys would shake their heads and have a laugh out of that. I love putting a smile on peoples faces, even if I have to make a complete fool out of myself. I really enjoy incorporating humor into all that I do. We all exaggerate and stress out over the little things in life and I believe if I can joke and laugh at myself about missing a leg, maybe you can learn to laugh about the things you stress about; especially the things you have no control over. Try it! Learn to have a sense of humor about yourself, it’s powerful beyond measure. You’re either running 26 miles 1 time or you are running 1 mile 26 times. It’s all about perspective.
The trails were rocky and challenging. Camp Eagle reminded me of Bandera. Over all the trails I have run at, every one is unique and requires you to adapt and be flexible to anything that will come your way. “Be formless like water” Bruce lee says. I really enjoyed the evening night run. The gathering of the crowd, as the nightlights come on, the unforgettable sight of seeing a few hundred people’s night lights disappear into the dark. I was accompanied by Karen Kantor that evening as she shared her amazing story. A coach and mentor for many. Karen has the greatest outlook and most giving personality, always has a story and an answer for all my bizarre questions. She also got attacked by a “rabbit-giraffe” on one of the trail runs. Yep ask her!
Liza Howard, you and the team are amazing for putting all of this together, all while having a 3 week old baby! Talk about commitment and dedication! With low sleep, you still had the most enthusiasm out of all the people! While on a trail or giving a class! I met Liza when I was stationed in Texas when she came and visited the CFI, we kept in touch ever since. It was great seeing old friend Joe Prusaitis and his wife, I ran his Bandera 25k trail run last year. Legend tell that “Joe goes out at night and drops extra rocks all over the trails.” Had a great conversation by the camp fire with Chuck Sellingman, This is the man who invited me out on the trail run and now got me hooked on trail running! Chuck also recently got married to Michelle and had a birthday as well! Happy Birthday & Congrats!
Mike Ehredt’s presentation, the transcontinental run across America nearly brought me to tears. His journey by placing a flag each mile for every soldiers death in Iraq & Afghanistan. A run from Oregon to Maine, and another transcon run from Minnesota to Texas. Wow that’s a total of over 6,500 miles! Mike is also working on a book called 12,000 steps. We also joked about that he needs write a Dummies guide to running across America. And it would start off with the first rule: Don’t! Lol. You have to spend at least a week with each person just to scratch the surface of their experiences and wisdom. Keegan, 15 yrs old, who runs the Xterra world championship races, spotted me with OEW last year in Hawaii, it was the coolest thing that such an event like that long ago, yet people still remember. We sat and talked by the campfire and looked at the stars, great guy! So young yet such a great perception on life! So I was like “now that you’re sort of a big deal running world champion races, gettin all them hs girls?”.. He laughed. I look at Keegan, Asa (Liza’s younger son) and the other kids, running around eager to explore, discover, learn, unlimited potential as to what you can do and be! Fearless! A passion to love! I also look around and observe, people in their 20’s to 60, 70 yrs old all laughing full of life and most of them still have that fearlessness and spontaneity! As a child does. We were all children once, we all have those characteristics as they do, buried somewhere deep down inside all of us. Don’t try to be phenomenal, you already are! Just be.
Roy Pirrung, 64yrs old, we chatted before the morning WOD. He was telling me that it all started off for him at the age of 33 by seeing an overweight woman through his window running back and forth. He was overweight himself. He knew he could do it if she could. He said he tried not to skip any days, he knew he had to do it constantly on a daily basis even if its only getting out and running a mile. If he took a day off, it could turn into 2 then 3 then 5 days off. Now he has ran hundreds of marathons/ultra’s and broke over 100 titles and records. Wow! Its not in the genes, its all in the heart. Nikki Kimball shares her story of overcoming depression and running a 270+ mile trail run over a span of about 5 days and setting record titles all over the world. She has a new documentary coming out called, Finding Traction. Also got me interested in taking a look into skiing! Dominic Grossman “unicorn” guiding me on the trails giving me his insights on trail techniques & his passion for running. Great story about his nickname unicorn, Someone called him “Italian stallion” but he said “I’m not buff and I don’t look like Stallone from rocky, I’m more of a happy guy!” “Ok, so like a unicorn?” “Yea, sure!” He says “unicorns only exist if you believe in them, and to run all these ultra distance trails, you have to believe in yourself”… I was like, Aww… Love it!
The amazingly talented dancer Kara Welte, who takes Waltz and Tango lessons on her free time. Thank you for keeping me company at the airport! Haven’t laughed like that in a while! Your dog Tank is so awesome! The queen and flamingo costume you thought of is definitely a must! A shout out to Sean Brossman & Holly Yamakawa, who seemed fairly new to trail running, saw your struggles but y’all kept giving your all. Awesome job! Got a neat Salomon pack from Mike Erwin! Thank you! Krystal the s’mores you made me were bomb! Had a great time talking with you! Curtis making me laugh on the trails, was always mentioning how he was mesmerized by my hair waving back and forth! JoAnna who ate an avocado with her oatmeal for breakfast? Great to have you run beside me on the trails. My russian friend, Violet from NY! Don’t loose your accent! Had a handful of great roommates, Scott, John, Tommy, Juan, you can’t have a bad time with these guys! A few more great athletes, Max King, Sabrina Little who ran her first ultramarathon for a family member who had cancer, Jacob Shlarb, Sage Cannoway and many others. Keep on running and keep inspiring!
A big thank you to my prosthesis Ryan Blanck, for making last minute adjustments to get my running leg all set up for the weekend! Would like to thank all the Volunteers, staff, camp directors, mentors, Andrew, Chris, Liza and for many others that were involved for putting on one amazing camp! These memories are just a few that come to mind upon the hundreds that I’ve made throughout the weekend. Hearing all these amazing stories inspires me to continue to write my own! When I would be asked about my running history, I would say, “longest race I’ve done, oh just a ‘cough’ marathon ‘cough’ ‘cough’ no big deal”… To all the superhuman world class endurance athletes that I’ve met over the weekend, y’all need to step your game up, its been a little over a year since I began my running journey and I’m only just getting started!🙂
Memories from Camp Eagle, Texas
The trail is called Rainy pass, located on the North Cascades scenic highway, Washington. This is my 3rd visit up to the North Cascades and it is already starting to feel like home. When I step on a trail I like to have a very minimal idea of what my destination and mileage length will be. I like to have the route take me and be completely surprised every step of the way. I look to see how far my body is capable of going rather than putting a limit on it right at the beginning. That immediately takes out the complaining and the “am I there yet?” feeling. In return, my runs are more enjoyable. My mileage is always usually decided by how my body feels under current circumstances. This trail run took me about 6+ hrs. The weather was surprisingly random. It started snowing when I got to the trail head and snowed heavily throughout once I got above the tree line. I always seem to underestimate the weather and come unprepared. I saw people there with their full north face waterproof tops, bottoms, and boots, along with their cute hiking poles and full out hiking rucks. I’m all over here with my Colorado Rockies mesh cap, tights, an old Army sweater from Alaska, a trail running shoe and a camelback. All by the way got socked by the time I got back. Every time I pass some people I have the biggest smile on my face. I like to have them think that I somewhat have an idea of what I got myself into in this type of weather.
The trail run started with a light run through the woods. The path was a little muddy but the icy snow hardened it up. All my stability and coordination is done on my one good right leg. It could easily wear out quickly if I don’t maintain a proper 50/50 balance. I always stretch prior and that tends to warm me up. The uphill views are unbelievable! I glance through the trees and catch a sight of the mountains. The fog constantly moving, leaving the mountains peaking through. There were a few streams along the route I had to cross tip-toeing on the rocks. On one occasion I had to get down and do a “bear crawl” across, to try not to get my foot dipped in the stream.The summit of Rainy Pass was all completely covered with snow. A majestic winter wonderland. It reminded me of the grueling months I spent during the winter in Fairbanks, Alaska. The winds were strong up here and the snow was hitting hard. By then I was already shivering and didn’t have a spot to sit down and “enjoy the view.” So I quickly swallowed the sweet potato and shot-blox gels I brought. Took one last look around and started to trek back down.
The scenery was beyond beautiful. The snow covering the mountains and tree lines, the crisp fresh high altitude air, light snow hitting the sides of your cheeks, it was all an exhilarating experience! I really enjoy the simplicity of trail running. The only thing that is on your mind is where your next step is going to be placed. Every time I would trip or fall is when I would lose focus and let my mind wonder. I get lost in the timeless moments of the hike and like to feel as if its just me and the mountain. Being up here is empowering. It puts a lot of things into perspective and gives me a stronger mental clarity of the important things in my life. It is a time for me to reassess and ponder on how I should go about my days and take on upcoming challenges.
It was fascinating for me to look over the forest and think how all the thousands of trees are standing there next to each other. I like to believe that someone planted them there seed by seed, perfectly one along the other, with enough spacing between them to grow and to flourish. How they all grew throughout the times together over hundreds of years. Withstood some of the coldest nights and toughest weather conditions. Standing tall and proud, through it all. “Oh to confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accident, rebuffs as the trees and animals do.” It puts my impatience, life’s trials and tribulations into perspective.
Everything is good & everything has its own timing.
Until next time,