Strava Made Me Do It

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Dre coughed so violently that it activated her gag reflex, sending in her into a sort of mid-stride dry heave.  She looked up the steep ridgeline in front of her and forced the words out through a muffled wheeze:  “We almost there?”

“Yeah, almost done,” I lied. “Last little push.”

It was cold for Southern California, around 45 degrees, but she was stripped down to her sports bra, the previously donned jacket, beanie and gloves stuffed in various locations around her waistband, stripped off and stowed as the effort accumulated.  We were charging up a trail in the Santa Monica Mountains that you won’t find on any map or listed in any guidebook.  One of those locals-only type things that, if you’re lucky enough to know about it, will roll you higher and higher across increasingly technical terrain until it deposits you on the highest point in The Pacific Palisades.  The summit has exposure, solid topographical prominence and even a make-shift register in a plastic box with a little boulder on top.

We kept pushing hard, fighting through the brush and branches jutting out across the seldom-used trail.  Just as we crested one of the many false summits along the ridge and started to descend I heard a muffled exclamation but didn’t see her break stride so I kept moving, not thinking much of it.  It wasn’t until we were back in the car that I saw the gash along her right eyelid and found out that she had been stabbed in the eye by an errant tree branch.

It’s a funny thing that these type of efforts do to you.  Dre was chasing the course record on a Strava segment. You might think that’s pretty lame.  Say whatever you will about it: it’s a social media app, it’s not a real FKT, it’s for old dudes on electric bikes and retired pro cyclists.  But this app and it’s segments, particularly this 1.4 mile ridgeline with 1600ft of vertical gain over rocky, technical terrain with a solid class 4 section, switched what could have been a casual Friday morning jaunt through the mountains into a coughing, hacking, dry heaving, spitting, air-gasping all-out sufferfest where Dre was prepared to leave it all out there on the trail.  Blood, sweat, tears, stomach bile; name your bodily fluid.  She was going after it.

There’s something special about these type of efforts.  There’s something different about charging and moving and hurting yourself.  Taking yourself to this place where you’re not sure what’s going to happen.  A place far outside your comfort zone.  A place where pretense and posturing fall by the wayside, dumped in a pile along with all those other neatly manicured aspects of your personality.

It’s a magical place that, in my opinion, not a lot of people have the ability nor the toughness to experience.  I’m not talking about going out and trying to run a fast mile or targeting the course record on the ½ mile bike path loop by your house.  I’m talking about mountains.  Climbing.  Testing yourself against terrain that most people wouldn’t consider walking on.  Putting yourself in situations where the stakes are high and the risk is real.  I’m talking about being alive.

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Dre is no stranger to tough Strava segments; last summer she set the CR on the Owen-Spaulding Route on Grand Teton (from the lower saddle to the summit), where she free-soloed three class 5 pitches above 13’000ft. 

The amount of time we spend in a climate controlled box, staring at a glowing rectangle has overreached any cliche about being sedentary and far surpassed all hyperbole about “screen time”. For most of us at this point, it’s just the way it is. It’s becoming harder and harder to remember a time when things were different.

We have come so far out of our evolutionary setting that the effects are real and easily measurable.  We hardly experience any of the emotions that make us human anymore.  We don’t do anything that makes us appreciate all the luxuries that we enjoy.  The inordinate amount of time we spend in this luxury makes us soft and whiny so when we don’t have it, we pout and get angry and count the seconds until were back in it, to the point where I hear people talking about not being able to take a shit without their cellphone. How did we get here?

“We’re not gonna get it…” Dre said breathlessly as her left foot slid atop a small pile of loose boulders.

“Just keep moving,” I replied. “Almost there.” I had probably said that so much to her at this point that it reminded me of the opening line of 4th Time Around by Bob Dylan: “Then, she don’t waste, your words they’re just lies.” But she did. She kept charging. Grunting and huffing and puffing away. Approaching the class four section (aptly titled The Wall on Strava). I extended a helping hand but she ignored it. I knew she would. She scrambled to the top, wheezing a bit, fighting off another coughing fit.

All that was left was a couple of little rollers and we were there. I glanced down at my watch as Dre charged past me, hands still on her knees, surveying the terrain waiting for it to flatten out enough for her to start running. It was going to be close. She didn’t ask me how much further, she could smell it. The barn, the summit and the end of this little digital line, drawing a beautiful aesthetic across the ridge by way of satellite.

She was lost in the effort.  Lost in the experience. Completely in the moment, just her against the mountain.  Moving lightly over natural terrain, pushing her body to the edge, redlining and testing those outer edges of her fitness.  Striving to reach the top.  I don’t think it gets much more human than that.  She was learning about herself this morning.

Would she have done it without Strava?  Probably.  That’s just the kind of person she is.  But maybe not quite as hard.  Having a bench mark already set by someone goes a long way toward making your morning runs competitive.  Not for everyone, but for some.

For Dre on this particular morning, the thought of going to work all day after missing the course record by eight seconds was too painful an eventuality.  This time, you could safely say that Strava made her do it.

I was a few steps behind her as she crested peak and stood on the summit, rolling green mountains surrounding her on all sides.  Despite giving all I had on the final 400 meters, I couldn’t stay with her. I found her bent over, breathing hard, watching her sweat hit the dirt in front of her face. I laid my hand gently on her back.

“You got it,” I said with the slightest air of solemnity, “By almost two minutes! Sent a lot of emails this morning…”

She stood up, beaming. Her eyes sparkled and her skin glowed.

“I fucking better have,” she said as a huge smile spread across her face, “cuz there’s no way I’m doing that again.”

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Still smiling though…

It Must Have Been Love…

[Editor’s Note: We apologize for the lack of content for the past year.  Expect a return to regularly scheduled programming at the beginning of February.  We have some great stuff coming down the pipe.  Until then, here’s a piece that isn’t what we typically publish on this site, but we hope you enjoy it anyway.]

img-2064My bike and I had been through a lot together.  Sure, I had only had her for about eight months but we were tight.  We went together like avocado and expensive toast. Rice and beans. Coffee and alpine starts.  She was good to me, and I was good to her. Every time I rode her, regardless of the conditions, we just clicked.  I smiled a lot. She fit me like those old pair of 511s.  The ones I don’t want to get rid of even though I should. They feel too good. They fit right.

I hung that first century on her.  On dirt and gravel no less. Around the Tetons.  At altitude. On my first bikepacking trip. No flat tires, no slipped chain.  Not even a squeak. Smooth, supple and perfect. That’s how I would describe her to my friends.  And fun. Oh so very fun. Since I got her, I hardly went a day without riding her. My more expensive bike never saw the light of day. There was never an excuse not to ride her.  No reason was good enough. It didn’t exist. I couldn’t talk myself into getting on anything else. I was in love and having fun.

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I am a simple man.  A minimalist if you will.  I will inevitably error on the side of less.  20 mile run in the heat? A single 20oz handheld and no calories should be perfectly sufficient.  Running up Half Dome in July from the valley floor? I’ll just toss a Lifestraw around my neck and hope for the best.  Maybe tuck an avocado in my back pocket. Definitely never need a shirt. For any reason. Read a little beta online and free solo Grand Teton in an afternoon.  Pass 50 people on their second day of a three day trip wearing helmets, harnesses and hundreds of feet of rope. I like to keep shit simple.

Point being, I’m the type of guy who buys a single speed gravel bike.  I’m extremely minimal in my athletic pursuits and like to try hard. The perfect combo, I like to think.  Be the guy in the puffy jacket and the overstuffed backpack while I jog by you shirtless in my zero drop shoes.  What do you have in there? I’m in awe of your overpacking and overdressing. It’s confounding. I do more than you and I do it with less. A lot less. I take pride in this type of stuff.  

I took great pride when I rode my single speed past the dudes wearing full kits on $10,000, 21-speed bikes.  Some would even balk at my solo gear and try to keep up for a second. Until the realized what it took. They aren’t willing to go there. Shift again.  Pop, pop, pop. Still nothing.

img-0453She made me feel safe, protected.  We had a relationship built on mutual trust and understanding.  She knew I was gonna take care of her. Ride her everyday. Push the downhills a little too fast and find the rhythm on the climbs, flowing. Smoothing it out. 12% feels like four and a half. And I knew that she had my back. My bike. She got me there. She could push a mellow 20mph on the flats and still climb with geared-up, kitted-out lawyers with too much money to spend on their bikes.  It just worked. I was Thor and she was my hammer.

She rode on the bike rack all summer.  Came with me wherever I went. Bryce, Sedona, The Wasatch, Jackson, Grand Teton and Yellowstone NP. Yosemite. The High Sierra Music Festival for god’s sake. I didn’t leave home without her. She was my escape.  My trusty steed. Made everything better. My ace in the hole. My get out of jail free card. Can I live?

Then, just as quickly as she entered and changed my life, she was taken from me.  In an instant. Stolen from a busy Santa Monica park. In broad daylight. With dozens of people in the immediate vicinity. First bike rack from the door.  In plain view of, and six feet from, the completely full parking lot. My baby was taken from me. I walked outside and glanced toward where my bike was supposed to be and my heart stopped. It couldn’t be true. There must be some mistake. Not my girl.

img-1170It’s pretty easy to assign blame here.  It was Phil Gaimon’s fault. He made me believe that otto-lock was actually a good company that could be trusted when they said their lock couldn’t be cut easily (I have since discovered that it can be sniped with a pair of garden shears easier than unlocking it).  I would never have even known about otto-lock if it wasn’t for Phil Gaimon. I hope he dies. I hope he dies an unbearably slow and incredibly embarrassing death.

But this article isn’t about that asshole or assigning blame to anybody. No. And this article isn’t even about me, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. This article is about my All-City Nature Boy Single Speed Cyclocross bike.  The love of my life.  She was taken from me on a balmy afternoon in November.  A mere eight months after she swept me off my feet, she was gone.  Never to be heard from again. No sightings on Craigslist or OfferUp.  No cameo at the local bike thieves’ tent encampments. Just gone. Vapor.  Blowin’ in the wind.

I’ve accept this fact. Resigned myself to it. As Boyz II Men so aptly put it: It’s the end of the road. But my one and only hope is that she found a good home.  I hope the dickheads who stole my bike kept it together and sold it to someone who shreds it.  Someone who can push it harder than me for longer than me. Someone who rips gravel roads up and down mountain passes every morning before breakfast and rides it into the next state on weekends.  

For the love of god, please don’t let her be sitting in a garage somewhere or all chopped up.  Let her be rolling downhill at 40 mph over rocks and ruts. Let her be bathed in moonlight as she navigates some Southern Utah slickrock along the edge of a mesa.  Or in Hawaii, bombing down the side of a volcano staying mere seconds ahead of an ever-quickening cascade of molten lava. Whatever the case may be, let her be free.  Let her be alive. She needs to live. She needs to ride ridges and bask in the fresh air.

Even though there’s no way to be sure, I can lie to myself and pretend that it’s true.  It has to be true. It’s what she deserves and where she belongs. Never rest, my love. Ride, ride, ride.  I’m grateful to have ridden you while I had the chance. It must have been love… but it’s over now.

Searching For Balance: Five Questions with Tony Krupicka

AntonK- by Alexis Berg
Photo by Alexis Berg

Bobby Geronimo: One my favorite articles that you have written is on Runner’s World called “Anton Krupicka: On Being Real”.  In it, you discuss your desire to live a life that you feel is authentic, a life where you are being truly genuine in both your actions and the way that you portray yourself to the world.  This article was written in March of 2011 (over six years ago).  Have your general feelings about this changed at all since then?  How has your increased public presence on social media over the past five years affected your feeling about this?  Do you ever post things/say something in a interview because you feel like you have to?

Tony Krupicka:  Like everyone else, I’m just trying to figure shit out, dude. I don’t have the answers. I’m a completely different person than I was six years ago; much more compromised physically it seems, but hopefully a little more evolved—empathetic, compassionate, generous—as a human than I was back then. Of course I still strive to live an authentic life and to authentically portray myself to the public (what does any of that even mean?! I feel like “authentic” has become such a buzz word.). But I’d also like to move in a direction where maybe I’m not quite as inner-directed, not as self-involved. I’ve spent most of the last five years putting all of my energy and focus into myself—I’d like to try and balance myself a bit more going forward by putting some energy into things greater than myself. Things that align with principles that I’d like to live up to. Valuing human relationships and social justice and this fucking planet itself.

Do I ever post things/say things in an interview because I feel like I have to? I guess so? But not much. However, I am a human in society, and I am an ambassador in the marketing departments of various outdoor gear manufacturers. I only work with companies that I feel like haven’t lost sight of the basic human element, but, at the end of the day, I AM in marketing to a certain degree, and social media is always going to be curated to a certain degree.

BG: The sentiment has been expressed that ultrarunning is different than other sports because it’s a smaller community, you can “interact” with the elites on twitter and maybe “run with them” for a while in a race.  I have people telling me that I need to apologize to Sage Canaday for my article (like he read it and got upset).  I could have written an article about any other sport and been WAY more negative and people aren’t going to tell me I should apologize.  Do you believe that because the sport is small, by default, nothing negative or divisive should be said about anybody?  If you are putting yourself out there on social media to be seen ALL THE TIME, do you believe you have the right to be scrutinized?

Tony Krupicka: Of course, if you’re presenting yourself as a public figure, you have to be able to take a certain amount of scrutiny and criticism. Saying negative, divisive, personal things about ANYone is generally pretty petty and pointless, though, and tends to be more telling about the person spouting the hate than the subject of said hate. I don’t think life is all sunshine and rainbows—I’m as petty and judgmental and cynical as anyone—but what’s the point of embodying those things publicly? Any time I’ve felt negatively about someone it’s almost always because I’ve been feeling angsty or unhappy or insecure about myself for some reason and have just been lashing out. Negativity rarely has any value.

BG: Aliens land on Earth.  They propose a mountain running relay for the fate of the planet.  It’s five laps around Mount Blanc on the UTMB course, run relay-style with a team of five runners.  You get voted as the captain for the Earth team when you declare via Instagram that you plan to ignore all lingering ITB issues for the sake of mankind.  It’s your job to pick the four other runners you want with you on the team (and the order you will run in).  What do you do?

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TK, Dakota Jones and Joe Grant

Tony Krupicka: I guess a question like this is supposed to provoke me to select and explain who I think the best 100mi mountain racers are? If the goal is to win (and save the fate of the world?), that’s pretty easy. The four picks are Francois, Kilian, Tim Tollefson, and Xavier Thevenard. Duh. Incidentally, I don’t deserve to be captaining that team. But that’s pretty uninteresting. If the question is, who do I want on my team? Then I pick Joe Grant, Dakota Jones, Clare Gallagher, and Jenn Shelton. I mean, three of us can barely run (come on Clare and Joe! carry us!), but fuck it, at least there will be some feminine charm and sensibility (traits that I can’t believe I’m actually bestowing upon Clare and Jenn) in the mix to balance out all the whiskers and square edges and we’ll enjoy ourselves and each other’s company. (This is not to imply that any of those other four wouldn’t be good company, too.) [Editor’s Note: We here at Trailflow would pay a significant portion of our monthly income to watch a reality show with those five runners in it.  They could be doing anything too. They don’t even necessarily have to be running.]

BG: In another one of your Runner’s World posts (I realize these are old but fuck are they GOOD! And still so relevant.  No one is writing like that (and that well) about mountain ultrarunning currently) you‘re discussing why you (used to) run barefoot.  You write:  “Minimal footwear enforces a heightened sense of the position of my body in space and its position relative to the technically challenging terrain. This sort of awareness is at the basis of any skilled movement we do as athletes, and the athleticism that running quickly over variable terrain requires is probably the essential difference between a trail/mountain runner and the traditional road/track athlete who operates primarily in a straight-ahead plane of movement.”  Obviously, your opinion about footwear has changed since you wrote this. Do you no longer agree with that statement?  It seems so no-bullshit, common sense.

Tony Krupicka: It depends on exactly how you define “minimal” I suppose. And the application varies…that’s the most important thing. For long trail runs and races, I think a shoe with some cushion underfoot is going to serve you better. You’ll sacrifice a small amount of nimbleness, but that will more than be made up for by the fact that your feet won’t be killing you by the end of the day. I can think of more than one 100 mile race where the main complaint I had in the final quarter of the race was foot pain. And not injury pain, just pure battered dogs. Specifically, one that sticks out in my mind (maybe because it was the last ultra I ran) was the Transgrancanaria 128K in 2015. I ran that in a pair of NB MT110s. After about 90k I remember wishing I had on a cushier pair of shoes—I was running more slowly simply because my feet hurt. When Antoine Guillon came bounding by me in a pair of Hokas late in the race, I distinctly remember feeling envious. Those two shoes are close to being at either end of the spectrum, so, obviously, a middle ground makes more sense.

For me, now, a pair of La Sportiva Mutants or Akashas strikes that middle ground nicely. I don’t think the 10mm drop on the Mutants is ideal, but it honestly doesn’t bother me that much, either. If I think about it, that kind of late-race foot pain was just something I took for granted in every 100k+ race I ran after, say, 2010. Before Rocky Raccoon 2011, I honestly just don’t have a good enough memory to recall if late race foot pain was a factor or not. For 100K and below, a “minimal” shoe like the MT100 series (all those shoes still had stiff TPU rock plates, don’t forget) worked great. Now, for off-trail travel—which is most of what I do anymore—the footing is often much more variable and challenging than on a trail, and I still agree with the quote you pulled above.

BG: I was lucky enough to take a class from David Foster Wallace (the year before he took his own life) in college.  He always talked about how much of a perfectionist he was and how it became this completely debilitating thing for him because he could never do anything that was perfect enough so he just ended up not doing anything at all, even when his far-less-than-perfect work was still genius by any standards, and I think that theme comes through a lot in his writing. After he died, a ton of his unfinished work was published (most notably the novel Pale King).  Having read a lot of DFW, how do you think he would react to knowing that an unfinished manuscript had been published?  Devastated? Somehow liberated?  Thoughts on how it might relate to your running career?   

Tony Krupicka: I’ve read darn near everything there is to read by DFW and I think most of what was written about him, too. All the major stuff at least. And I think his neurotic perfectionism would leave him devastated at the thought of an unfinished manuscript being published. I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with how this might relate to my running career…sorry, I just don’t see it. I’m not (and never have been) a perfectionist, if that’s what you’re getting at? Losing a leg (or some such other properly career-ending calamity) wouldn’t leave me feeling liberated, I’d be fucking devastated. If you’re lucky, life goes on longer than one’s 20s, 30s, and 40s when races and epic adventures are most doable. But there’s a lot more to life than those kinds of pinnacle experiences.

Eventually, just having the ability to stay active will be hugely fulfilling. The only way that good fiction relates to my running or anything I do in the mountains is that both are hugely satisfying because they tap into a feeling of connection. In fiction, it’s usually a feeling of connection to the greater human experience. In the mountains, it is that as well (through shared experiences with humans both past and present) but also a deeper connection to some other kind of grand substrate of power and magic and meaning that is conveyed through moments of clarity and grace…realizing I’m simultaneously more powerful and capable than I ever otherwise thought but also just such a fragile, infinitesimal blip of a speck in the grand scheme. That’s all I got.

BG: That’s all I got too.

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Tony and I, October 2013

Look at Me! Look at Me!

I’m gonna be the old man on the porch. It needs to be said.  

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YouTube: The Mocko Show

The times they are a-changing.  And they’re changing fast.  Things that would have been viewed by most people as completely insane just a few short years ago, are now becoming ubiquitous.  I recently finished a run on a bike path where I live, and the majority of the people riding bikes (the vast, VAST majority) were either filming themselves, taking photos of themselves or facetiming somebody.  

One guy was laid across the entire southbound lane of the bike path on his stomach with a DLSR so he could take photos of a girl who was posing in a bikini.  When I ran back by 45 minutes later, he was still there, doing the exact same thing, still laid across the bike path.

I get it.  The allure of social media status has completely outweighed everything else.  The ability to exist in any situation completely depends on the amount of attention you think you could be getting.  If you think you can garner enough, you’ll do something as outrageously ridiculously as lying across an entire bike lane for almost an hour, blocking hundreds of people’s path and completely forgoing any amount of respect you may have had for your fellow citizens.  Not to mention those last shreds of personal pride.   

I honestly never expected it to bleed into the trail and ultra scene quite so hard and quite so fast.  The entire allure of trail running for me was as an escape.  To get away from all the bullshit.  To leave my phone and my inbox and the rest of the world behind, to get out on the trails away from all the commotion and be present.  It helps me balance out the rest of my life.  My screen time, my poor eating choices, too much sitting… all these things can be mitigated by a long, hard mountain run.  You come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  

It’s essentially the opposite of what Jamil Coury does.  When was the last time that guy went on a run without a camera?  Then he comes back and whines into the camera for eight and half minutes about how stressed out he his, how much editing he has to do, and how it’s so important for him to get his videos out to “to his fans”.  Like there’s some sort of hard deadline being imposed by someone.  Like all his “fans” are gonna die if they can’t watch his next video where he shows off the new car he just got

The V-log/Snapchat/Instagram Story thing is probably what has gotten to me most.  The mumbling The lack of quality is appalling.  If you’re gonna produce content, edit it.  Nobody wants to want watch you say “uhhhh”  75 times in a six-minute video.  Would it be that big of a deal to write some thoughts down on an index card?  I would expect this from someone as dull as Sage Canaday.  But we know that Jamil can put out quality content.  He does it once a week with his Mountain Outpost newscast.  When you script what you’re going to say, or maybe even just think about it a little bit, it isn’t quite as appalling.   In fact, sometimes it’s really good.

Chris Mocko, who is definitely the posterboy for “how to be an ultra douchebag”, was actually writing some decent content on his Medium-hosted website.  I mean, it was somehow all about money and and how he quit his tech job, but at least he was sitting down and formulating content.  He was creating something that he obviously gave a little bit of thought to.  

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YouTube: The Mocko Show

Then, apparently he realized how easy it was to just film himself walking through Costco rambling about nothing and throw the video up and get a couple thousand easy views.  Why bother sitting down and typing out an article?  It’s all becoming pretty unbelievable.  Here’s a guy who has one successful 100-mile finish under his belt on a course with a net elevation loss and he has the audacity to title a series of videos: “How to Train for UTMB”.  What does he know about it?  Has he run the race before? And no one calls him out on this shit?  It’s just a big circle jerk.  

Billy Yang probably spent more time editing the trailer for The Unknown than Chris Mocko has spent on his entire 50+ vlog catalog, including the conceptualization and editing (Ha! Just kidding, Mocko doesn’t edit).  It’s really sad that someone who takes the time to actually THINK about his content (and this is obviously understating it enormously) is getting the relative same amount of views as someone like Mocko or Canaday.

(Full disclosure: I have never watched a Sage Canaday v-log.  A long time ago, my Youtube autoplay cued up one of his videos and he was supposedly just finishing a 20 miler in the middle of a 100 mile week and he goes, “Just finished a 20 miler, getting the legs nice and sore going for a 100 mile week.”  Then he points at the camera and and says, at the absolute apex of douche:  “Don’t try this at home.”  I had just finished a 100 mile week, despite having a full-time job and getting no support from anybody.  So I immediately turned it off and vowed never to watch him again. He might be scripting his content, but from what I’ve heard, it’s chock full of “ummm” barrages and repetitive, tangential garbage.)

At the end of the day, however, it’s not their fault.  These guys are trying to make a living doing what they love.  Sure, they might be bastardizing the hell out of something that has given them so much, something that they purport to love, but apparently they don’t see any other way.  

The fault here lies with the community.  It lies with us.  Mocko isn’t throwing in the towel on his website and focusing solely on his stellar YouTube content because he gets less views there.  He’s doing it because he gets a lot more.  Is this what we really want?  Is this really how you want to spend our time.

The argument against this usually goes something like this: Chris Mocko is sharing with the community.  He’s putting himself out there and inspiring tons of people.  He’s a saint, paragon and a model of excellence. Anyone who says anything bad about him or what he’s doing is an asshole. Period.  

It’s funny how these arguments always sound dogmatic (and I would know, I’ve got the Reddit comments to prove it).  It’s always “if you don’t like it, don’t watch” or some other such sentiment that completely misses the point. Someone comes with a solid, logical argument about why something is inherently bad or dangerous or annoying and you never, ever get any logic back.  

You just get people who are upset for some reason simply because I said something that wasn’t positive.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I could have said that Chris Mocko smells like shit and the reaction would be the same as if I said I hate his YouTube channel and think that it’s bad for the running community and the world.

This is why someone like Dakota Jones is forced to opine about social media use in an entirely satirical way.   And while this is funny, all he’s doing is normalizing these things.  Despite what seem to be the best intentions, he’s really only making things worse. It’s the Satire Paradox, something Malcolm Gladwell does an amazing job illustrating here.  

But when I read Dakota Jones’s piece or stumble across a funny comment in a Strava activity like this one:

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God, I love Tim Tollefson.

I can’t help but feel slightly hopeful.  Hopeful for our attention spans, hopeful for humanity, hopeful that pure vanity isn’t going to win out. There are the guys and girls out there who are doing it right.  Tim Tollefson would never pull this shit.  Mike Foote does just fine making a living from running without being a douchebag in the slightest.  You can even have a huge presence, like Emilie Forsberg, without compromising your humility.  

Can you imagine Jeff Browning filming himself saying “Any runner can get a free pair of socks or a few gels… but how about a full shoe sponsorship?!?” and then proceeding to dance around in praise of himself for the next three minutes?  Why is this acceptable?

Time is a valuable commodity and whenever I watch one of these videos, I feel like I’ve wasted time I can’t get back.  I feel like I’m losing touch with the world.  I feel like everyone has lost their mind.  I feel like an old man on the porch trapped in a 30-year-old body.  I’ve vowed to stop.  I can’t do it anymore.  My only hope is that you will stop too.  Stop consuming this garbage.  Take a stand.  Vote with your time.  I’ll tell you right now, your time is much more valuable than this:  

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YouTube: Vo2 Max Productions

 

Recently, Kendrick probably said it the best:  Be Humble. Sit Down.

 

An Ode to Climbing

Leo Tolstoy famously said, “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves.”

I say, “Fuck the world.  Climb a mountain, change yourself.”

An ode to climbing.

Huffing
Puffing
Spitting
Grunting
Wheezing
Hacking
Learning
Fighting…
Climbing.

climbing4
Dripping
Stopping
Leaning
Starting
Slipping
Pursuing
Persisting
Grinding…
Climbing.

Climbing1

Sighing
Lying
Spitting
Sliding
Slipping
Doubting
Dying
Trying…
Climbing.

climbing3

Searching
Finding
Leaving
Arriving
Attacking
Maintaining
Peaking
Surviving…
Climbing.

The 7 New Rules of Trail Etiquette

 

I was bombing down a trail, descending the last couple miles into Will Rogers State Park in Southern California last week when I rounded a bend and was (somewhat) surprised to see a full on film crew conducting an interview on the side of the trail.  I was running fast, around 6 minute pace and noticed that a couple of the people were standing right in the middle of the singletrack, including the guy holding a 15-foot boom mic.  Annoyed, I kept my pace up and intended on flying right by.  

Then, some guy who was looked like he was in charge, started frantically waving at me to get by them.  He had both arms extended and was in a half crouch, silently (but madly) flailing his arms in the direction I was already running, and running pretty fast.  

Since I was already doing what he seemed to be signaling me to do, I could only assume that I had misinterpreted his signals.  So naturally, I slammed on the brakes, stopped right in front of the guy (and this huge production) and started asking him– very loudly– what his arm motions meant.  

“Just keep running!” He said in a hushed shout, eyes wide with bewilderment.

“But, I was already running fast, so your signal had to have meant something else, right?” I screamed at the top of my lungs.  “You wouldn’t have been so adamantly suggesting that I simply continue what I’m doing, right?  I would have done that on my own.”

One of the three guys behind the massive camera setup said “Cut!”.  

“Can’t you see we’re shooting here?!” The guy asked.  

I looked around a bit and said, “Oh no. I didn’t notice the multiple handcarts full of boxes, the complete lighting studio and the 20 people standing around on the side of the trail.”  

These guys were incredibly upset I had ruined their shot.   It was pretty hilarious.

“Maybe next time you see someone running down the trail, simply trying to enjoy themselves, don’t start telling them what to do– especially if they are already doing what you want– it’s confusing.  Maybe just realize where you are and let me do my thing.”  I added before starting to jog back down the trail.  

You may assume that things like this only happen on trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, but as has been pointed out ad nauseam since the deluge of gopro/drone/iphone/gimble/boom hordes descended on Squaw Valley a couple weekends ago, this shit has gotten out of hand.  

At this point, the old rules for trail etiquette are obsolete.  They leave out scenarios that are becoming all too common in the trail and mountain running world and they need to be updated.   

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Kilian finishing the 2017 Mont-Blanc Marathon
  1. The person operating the least amount of electronic devices has the right-of-way

Forget the uphill/downhill argument.  If you’re taking selfies with your gopro on the big climb, the guy running downhill with free hands has the right of way.  If you’re holding a gopro on the end of a selfie stick and you’re approaching a guy simply holding his phone in his hand, you relinquish your right of way.  If you’re holding a DLSR attached to a gimble with a microphone, you gotta move to the side for the guy with selfie stick.  It only makes sense.  

  • Pro Tip:  Be ready at any moment to drop into a squat in order duck a selfie stick.  You never know when the operator might like to change angles or get a panoramic shot.  

 

  1.  Do NOT, under any circumstances, talk to someone on the trail.  

How many times have you been out for a trail run and thought that the person you were passing was saying hello, so you said hello as well.  Then you find out that they were just talking into their phone and they are fucking furious with you for ruining their live facebook feed or snapchat.  I know, it happens to me almost everyday.  

If you hear someone talking on the trail, it is safe to assume they are only speaking to their device, not you.  Keep your head down and keep moving.  

 

  1. Drone operators must be at least three feet off the side of the trail.

There’s nothing worse than coming around a corner and seeing someone standing directly in the middle of the trail, staring up in the air with a controller in their hands.  They never see you coming.  They are too concerned about crashing their plastic quadcopter with their $500 camera on it.  

Eric Schranz recently advocated for shooting them out of the sky.  I love this line of thinking, but I don’t have a gun.  In the particularly egregious offenses, I like to take control of the drone– either forcibly or by telling them that I am an experienced drone operator and can show them some awesome “tricks” and then turn the drone in a kamikaze missile headed straight for them.  This way, not only do you destroy the drone, you get the opportunity to inflict some bodily harm.

  • Pro Tip: If you can get the drone to chase them up the trail away from the trailhead for a mile or two before crashing it into their head, it makes them even angrier.  These people never want to go far.

 

  1. During a trail race, any registered runner may lower their shoulder and “truck” a non-registered person on the trail holding a gimble setup.  

This doesn’t really require further explanation.   

GrabbedShot 2017-07-06 at 3.56.35 PMGrabbedShot 2017-07-06 at 3.57.26 PM

  1.  The volume in your headphones or bluetooth speaker must be kept low enough to hear someone behind you on the trail, even if you’re not listening to music, just the new Tim Ferriss podcast, or you may be tripped.

It seems that every race has some stipulation of this rule and yet, every time I race I end up behind someone who can’t hear me yelling at them.  It’s way worse when it isn’t a race situation and people have to use common sense to determine what and what not to do.  

If you yell “excuse me” as loud as you can three times and get no response, you are allowed (obligated?) to trip the person in order to get around them.  

  • Pro Tip: Just as they are picking their foot up off the ground, kick the outside of their foot toward their other leg.  

 

  1.  If you are part of a group of three or more people operating a camera in any way whatsoever, you relinquish all rights that you have on this trail and as a citizen of the United States.  

Basically, you become fair game.  It’s like those Purge movies except limited to this very specific scenario instead of one night a year.  

  • Pro Tip: Always stuff some empty water balloons into the gel pocket of your shorts when you go running.  You won’t even notice they are there, and you can have an awesome time on the serendipitous chance that you run into a film crew and have to pee.

 

 

  1.  During a trail race, when there are already a large number of cameras on a runner, a situation like with Walmsey at Foresthill or Kilian finishing the Mont-Blanc Marathon, and you wish to shoot some amatuer video yourself, you first must count the number of people already filming.  Then– and most importantly– shove your iPhone up your ass.

 

 

An Ultrarunning Thought Experiment

id4-spaceship

Bobby Geronimo: Here’s the situation:  Aliens land on earth.  A vastly more technologically advanced species, they intend to wipe out humankind before mining the earth for it’s resources.  Luckily for us, these aliens (who are also bipedal and avid runners) hold some ancient karmic belief that gives us a sporting shot: they want to race 100 miles for the fate of the planet.

Wasatch Willy: So, essentially it’s Space Jam except the aliens are ultrarunners instead of basketball players.

Bobby Geronimo: Exactly. I should have just said that… So, after a brief consultation with the aliens (which I imagine will begin something like that scene with Will Smith in Independence Day) we iron out all the details and decided the race will be a five-leg relay run on the toughest, most versatile courses we have to offer on Earth.  Each species lines up their five best runners to tackle each course for the fate of the Earth and, in our case, the species as a whole.  After running all five courses, the team with the lowest combined time wins.

welcome-to-earth
Welcome to Earth.

Wasatch Willy:  And the five courses need to be difficult, different and showcase a bit of all the different types of terrain Earth has to offer.  Let’s go with: Western States, UTMB, Hardrock, Badwater and Barkley.

BG: Perfect! That gives us a little bit of everything.  And for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s both a draft our team (alternating picks) so we don’t end up with any duplicates and it makes it a bit more interesting.

So, you have to draft five runners in any order you choose and assign each of them to a race: Western States, UTMB, Hardrock, Badwater and Barkley.  The alternate needs to be able to fill in wherever needed.

Your five runners run the five courses and the combined time needs to be below the combined time of the alien runners or we all die horrible, painful deaths.

WW: Sounds good, I’m going first.

“With the 1st overall pick in the 2017 hypothetical ultrarunning draft, Wasatch Willy selects”: 

Wasatch Willy: #1: Kilian Jornet, Spain, Hardrock 100

Kilian

This actually might be cheating… Are we sure Kilian isn’t some sort of alien? Assuming he is human, this seems like the safest pick. He has the CR in both directions and it didn’t even seem like he was trying that hard. He also is the nicest guy on the planet, the aliens may change their minds about global domination after meeting him.

Bobby Geronimo:  #1: Jim Walmsley, USA, Western States 100

Another big surprise here. Nobody is beating Jim Walmsley on the Western States 100 course this year.  Not Kilian, not a deer, not some alien.  Not after what happened last year.  With the fate of the planet on the line, he definitely goes sub-14.  Plus, I want someone with the competitive fire of Jim Walmsley lining up for the species.  He’s gonna bring a swagger and confidence that, coupled with his suicide pace, will hopefully leave the aliens searching for a planet of less-athletic runners.

WW: #2: Kaci Lickteig, USA, Western States 100

Give us your biggest, baddest lady alien, and we’ll give you Kaci. She is a friendly, smiling assassin and is KILLING it right now. She knows the course and is in great shape. Obviously these aliens haven’t been following her on Strava.

BG: #2: Francois D’Haene, France, UTMB 

francois-dhaene

Experience. Experience. Experience.  UTMB course record holder and two-time winner.  Adds some perfect balance to the team with someone like Walmsley up front.  You just know this guy is gonna get it done, especially on this course.  With the exception of Kilian, there’s no one else I’d be more confident in going sub-20 hours on a circumnavigation of Mount Blanc.

WW: #3: Zach Bitter, USA, Badwater 135

zachbittersolstice2015.jpg

Zach is flat out fast. He is possibly the most fat-adapted athlete on the planet, I bet these idiot aliens haven’t even figured that stuff out yet… Anyways, Zach owns the American 100-mile record in 11:40:55(I am aware that some Russian dude has the WR but I’ve seen the movies, Americans always save the world.). He did that on a track, which takes an incredible amount of willpower that will serve him well on the melting asphalt roads at Badwater.

BG: #3: Anton Krupicka, USA, Hardrock 100

This is my darkhorse.  It’s a bit risky, obviously, but I’m assuming that with the Earth on the line, Krupicka is gonna push through any latent ITB issues and get the job done. At the end of the day, his skill set fits this course and I think he has the tools to put together a course record performance on a good day.  And he wants this race.

Plus, worst case-scenario, we get to watch Krupicka race Hardrock before the world ends.

WW: #4: Rory Bosio, USA, UTMB

Rory

These chick aliens aren’t going to know what hit them when they meet the women of Planet Earth. Rory has the UTMB course record in 22:37 and has won TWICE. She also has one of the smoothest gaits around and seems like a total badass. She hasn’t been racing a ton, so she will be well rested and ready to kick some alien butt.

I’m all about gender equality when it comes to saving Earth.

BG: #4: Mike Foote, USA, Barkley Marathons

I was really tempted to go with Gary Robbins here, but I think that Mike Foote is gonna be the guy to get this one done.  Gary has the experience on the course, but at the end of the day, Mike Foote has the ability to excel on this course and a bit of a higher ceiling than most previous Barkley finishers.

If Mike puts together the type of race he’s capable of on this terrain, I think he goes under Brent Maune’s CR and gives us a solid cushion on the aliens.  Mike is also just a super awesome dude, and if someone is gonna represent our species, I don’t know who would do a better job.

WW: #5: Cameron Hanes, USA, Barkley Marathons

Chanes

Admittedly, this pick is a little bit out of left field. Cam is a strong runner, a professional bow hunter and very competent in the outdoors. He is PERFECT for Barkely. It is a footrace- but an unorthodox one and Cam is used to being off trail and the challenges that come with those situations. I think his skill set works well for Barkley… Ok, I’ll come clean about this pick. I hoping Cam kills one of these alien bastards with his bow.

BG: #5: Rob Krar, USA, Badwater 135

Krar-Western-States

I think Krar would be capable of doing something really special on this course. Rob knows a thing or two about battling demons.  With Earth on the line, He might be able to run 135 sub-five minute miles.  Who knows?  I just know I want him lining up for that race on my team.

WW: You get to pick your alternate first because I had first overall pick. Just to be clear, the alternate needs to be a versatile runner capable of filling in for ANY injured runner on ANY of the courses.  This can’t be a one-trick pony.

BG: Sounds fair.   Alternate: Magda Boulet, USA 

boulet-trappe
Photo: Matt Trappe

This is a no brainer for me. I already have too much testosterone on the team (because you stole my two picks!) but I really feel like Magda could line up at any of these races and crush it.  She’s done it before on the UTMB and Western States courses and I think she has the foot speed and ability to withstand the heat enough to be very successful at a race like Badwater.  She just edges out David Laney for this spot for me, as a 2:17 marathoner with a true mountain running pedigree, he’d be a nice reliever to have on the bench as well.

I like my team! I think we win the planet.  Who you got on your bench?

WW: Alternate: Gary Robbins, Canada

He is versatile as can be, runs super-fast on all sorts of terrain and is a Barkley finisher guy who almost finished Barkley. I’m really concerned Cam will be DQ’d for killing the aliens and Gary can fill in if needed.

BG: Good picks bro! That was fun.  Our lists might be a bit-American centric (as we are from the US).  We would love to hear from readers what their mountain running teams look like.

The Final Teams: 

Bobby’s Team: Jim Walmsley, Francois D’Haene, Anton Krupicka, Mike Foote, Rob Krar, Magda Boulet

Wasatch’s Team: Kilian Jornet, Kaci Lickteig, Zach Bitter, Rory Bosio, Cameron Hanes, Gary Robbins

Leave your selections in the comments below.  Did we get it wrong?  Who did we leave out?  Let us know what you think!