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.

DCIM107GOPROG1231937.JPG

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.

Advertisements

An Inconvenient Truth

“Ha ha. 6k? That’s like four miles. Four miles is a joke.”

I was wheezing so heavily through my nose that I thought my left nostril might rip.  It, meaning my nostril, was beginning to feel like loose skin flapping in the wind each time I was fortunate enough to begin exhaling the oxygen–nay, CO2– that was trapped in my lungs, stretching the shit out of my diaphragm and forcing the aforementioned wheeze out of my flapping left nostril.  I refused to breathe through my mouth.  This was a training run.  This was way below my (self)prescribed distance. I’m an ultra runner. I run 100 miles a week.  Four miles is a joke.

I was never a cross country runner.  I didn’t come from this background.  I began running largely as an escape, an attempt to get away from the bullshit.  I needed to get away from my phone, away from my boss and away from anyone who wanted to contact me.  I ran from people and for myself.  Then, a time came in my running career where performance started to become a bit more important.

Running was now a habit.  I had run everyday for three years.  I was enamored with the simplicity, the solitude and the brain chemistry.  In fact, I was addicted to all three.  A couple of my more scientifically inclined friends started referring to me as a junkie.  I was after the brain chemistry, they said. I needed the dopamine to function like a normal human being, they said.  I couldn’t be trusted to control my reactions in everyday situations unless I had run for at least three or four hours, they said.

As I had ascended to this level of junkie, I was clearly ready to have more performance-based aspirations.  So what to do?  I felt like my running had plateaued a bit.  I was running consistently and I was maintaining a solid weekly mileage, yet I still felt like there was something missing… an unexplored side of my craft.

heroes6k

“Fuck that shit!”

Was my initial response to my wife’s inquiry of whether or not I’d like to run a 6k race for her work.

“You realize I’m currently training to run a 100k, right?  And you furthermore realize what a big fucking deal I am, right?  I mean, I might have a good– if not relatively good– chance of finishing in the top 20 of a trail race in which 99.99999% of people have no idea exists and if they did realize it existed would (somehow) care less about it?”

Long story short, I lost my argument and I was toeing the line with a few hundred other runners on a balmy September morning in the Santa Monica Mountains at the Heroes in Recovery 6k.  I’m not exactly one to make excuses *cough cough* but I had like 65 miles on my legs already that week and I was entering this race with far less knowledge of the distance than was ideal.  My shortest race to date was a marathon and I only had one of those tacked to a 15-race resume.

The crowd around Paramount Ranch wiggled, the gun went off, and the participants of the Heroes in Recovery 6k danced their ways down the trail.  I stayed with the first group, probably six or seven guys, for the first kilometer of so, until the first mildly sustained climb, at which point I looked down at my watch and saw that I was pushing a 5:40/pace.  Way too slow.

I dug into the hill and passed a couple runners on the ascent, sucking wind heavily as we crested the small peak, grateful to fall into the descent down into the tiny valley below.  I did my best Scott Jurek impressions and kept the wheels turning, owning the transition, and started my climb out of the low valley when I glanced at my watch.  I had only run for .86 of a mile.  And I was about ready to puke.  I certainly wanted to stop.  It was reminiscent of the latter stages of an ultra for me.

But this wasn’t an ultra.  This was a 20-min race.  I needed to get it together.  I was rolling.  The hills at Paramount Ranch certainly were.  The elevation on my Suunto was.  My stomach felt like one of Kanye’s waves.   Then, I saw a runner ahead of me.  I couldn’t really breathe.  But I felt like I had to go.  There he was.  I had a little climb, my advantage.  Next thing I knew, he was behind me.  My nostril was flapping.  I couldn’t breathe.

Mind numbing pain.  The hysterical sucking for air.  Loss of limb function and general motor control.  Theatrical vomit sensitivity. All things I was taking for granted the first few years of my running career.  It was mostly mountain tops and sunsets and easy mountain mornings over coffee… ridgeline traverses and butterflies floating on descents into lush valleys.  Summits and sunsets.  Now, I tasted pennies and blood in my mouth and I wanted nothing more than to stop running. Immediately.

But I couldn’t.  There’s some asshole ahead of me with his tank top hanging around his neck like it’s a fucking a cape and he thinks he’s the flash and he seems to be slowing down a bit and I really really want to pass him.  I also really don’t want to yack on my shoes.

I kept pushing my legs, looking for my turnover like a fat kid in a Pillsbury factory as we switched back onto a little ridge and dropped steeply into a wide gully that I immediately recognized as the single aid station on the course.  I wondered why it was only a kilometer in as I blew past at an unsustainably fast pace only a few minutes ago but I guess it made sense now as I lollipopped back out with only a kilo to go.

Despite any pain I was feeling, there was no chance I was letting off the gas. I was feeling alive.  Lungs and stomach be damned.  Like I previously made clear, it’s fucking 6k. Less than thirty minutes. Let’s go. This is what I came for.

I slowed a bit to take in the commotion that was mostly the overweight, hiking contingent of race crowded around the oasis, still only a .62 of a mile into the race, refreshing themselves on electrolytes and refined sugar, when I noticed, in my periphery, a runner cresting the lip and plummeting toward me at breakneck speed.  The runner in front of me was just exiting the climb out of the valley and out of sight and I had this sweat-inducing vision of being passed and the two runners in front of me battling it out, gladiator style, sprinting barrell-chested toward the finish line with the requisite scantily clad women cheering them in as I gasp for air and vomited on myself in the dirt a few hundred yards back, just out of sight (and mind).

As that outcome seemed less than ideal, I decided I needed to stop being a pussy.  I had less than four minutes of running left and I was on the verge of passing one runner and about to be eclipsed by another.  I was in the heat of battle like I had never really been in an ultra, at least in such close proximity, where runners are usually spread over vast distances and regularly stop for significant amount of times at aid stations.  No, this was different, and it was fun.

It was a similar adrenaline rush that I feel at the beginning of a race, with all the people around pushing hard, but this was complete with the late race brain chemistry (I had been going for a bit), the simultaneous feeling of being chased and hunting someone else, all coupled with that amazing smell of the barn (I had pushed and I was ready to be done– and it was close).

Despite the sense of stomach bile rising steadily up my throat, I couldn’t help but smile.  I was having fun.  I was running, I was racing, I was testing myself against other people and natural terrain.  It didn’t get much better.  I finished 5th, just out of the money (fucking 4th place got $100) but the experience opened my eyes.  It was great experience, not only running fast on a trail but racing against other people, pushing myself beyond my limits to find that finish line before and (unfortunately) after a few people.

I crossed the finish line, jogged out fifteen or so strides and then bent over with my hands on my knees.  A volunteer ran up to drape my medal around my neck and for a split second I started formulating an apology for yacking on his shoes, but I held it in- even after he walked away, and didn’t puke up my morning coffee.

______________

In the beginning of my ultrarunning career, I spent too much time running too slowly.  I spent too much time where it felt too good.  Most of the time, it is supposed to feel good.  Like the sunsets and butterflies and shit I was talking about earlier.  But those moments where it feels good are only highlighted even more by the moments of deep suffering.

As an ultrarunner, neglecting the high-end of your own spectrum can come with severly negative consequences.  For one, sprinting is good for your running technique.  Most of us run pretty perfectly when we’re sprinting and it’s always good for our overall mechanics to feel that (especially if you’re like most people and your slower-paced running form sucks balls).

Secondly, when you run really hard, you’re always out of your comfort zone, and that’s where the growth really happens.  It’s an inconvenient truth, but a truth nonetheless.  The more time you spend outside of where it’s comfortable and sunsets and butterflies, the more you grow and the better you get.  Just look at what guys like Dakota Jones (who placed 2nd and 3rd at Hardrock) and Tim Tollefson (who recently took third at UTMB) have been doing the last couple weeks:

grabbedshot-2016-10-12-at-2-18-22-pmgrabbedshot-2016-10-12-at-2-20-07-pm

Running slow and recovering on the move certainly has it’s place, but in your hard workouts, when you try to improve your ability as a runner, it doesn’t belong.  As they say, you gotta have easy and hard workouts, from now on, I challenge you to make sure your hard workouts make you look forward to your easy days. You’ll be a better, faster runner for it.   

An Open Letter to the Non-Runner

I know what you’re thinking: Here’s another self-righteous asshole trying to tell me what to do. Up on his high horse, berating my sedentary lifestyle, tossing around phrases like “obesity epidemic” and “heart disease”.  Making grandiose claims about brain chemistry, all while promising a decrease in body fat and an increase in energy. 

But that’s not what I’m here to do.  I want to talk about running in the context of our culture.  I want to talk about running as a way to escape. 

I used to be just like you.  There was nothing about running that appealed to me.  I used to sit behind the wheel of my car and scoff at the idiots running by in their short little running shorts and stupid visors.  I would laugh at their sweat stained shirts as the artificially cooled air spilled out of the vents and into my face. 

“Why would anyone want to run, just for the sake of running?” I would often wonder.  It just didn’t make sense.  It was too simple to be attractive. There were no bells and whistles.  It wasn’t exciting enough. “If I want to do cardio, I’ll just play basketball.  Then at least the running has a purpose beyond just… running.”  

But then something changed.  And it wasn’t from a physical standpoint, like you’re probably imagining.  No, this particular change came from a spiritual standpoint.  To put it succinctly, I was bored.  I had gotten myself into a place where I was completely overrun with stimulus; sounds and pictures and lights constantly bombarding my senses; computer screens and TV screens and a cell phone screens, music being pumped directly into my ear canal and advertisements shouting at me from every direction I looked.  But somehow, amidst the ever-present stimuli being disseminated on a level unlike anything the human brain has ever seen, I was incredibly bored. 

I found myself withdrawing further and further from the reality TV, fast food, endless-consumption culture that was being thrust upon me at every turn.  It just didn’t feel right.  Everything about my life had become so complicated.  All the technology that professed such convenience and comfort was making me feel like a prisoner.  Complications that beget more complications.  Did it ever end?  Suddenly, I was craving simplicity. 

As Steve House, arguably the finest American Alpinist, reiterates many times in his book, Beyond the Mountain, “The simpler you make things, the richer the experience becomes.” It seems counter-intuitive, but if you keep it simple you’ll never get bored. We’ve been brainwashed by consumer culture to think that we need a huge production to be entertained.  I’m here to tell you that the exact opposite is true.  What you really need is to get as far away from your cell phone and TV as is possible in your current situation.  You need to pull the headphones off of your ears, get off of the air-conditioned car seat and start putting one foot in front of the other.  Just run—like we’ve been doing for thousands of years.  It’s time to regain a little primal simplicity.

Use running as a way to stand up and rebel.  Don’t watch Keepin’ up with the Kardashians like everyone else.  Don’t spend countless hours a day mindlessly browsing Instagram and Twitter feeds like everyone else. Just get outside and do exactly what we were designed to do: move. 

Use running as an escape.  Don’t think about how many calories you’re burning or how fast you’re running. Take the most simplistic, primal activity that exists and make it a part of your everyday life.  Get away from your work emails and group texts.  Don’t worry about the trending topics.   Just enjoy the rhythm of your feet falling onto the dirt or the road or the grass.  Really listen to the sound of your breath.  Connect with the landscape.  Find your place in the natural world.  Find your flow.

If you’re even a little bit like me and you’ve been feeling bored staring at all those screens—trapped in a world that never stops trying to sell you something—I am offering you a simple, no-strings-attached escape:  Run.

Chasing Flow

Dr. Angela Garcia, a Cultural Anthropologist at Stanford University, has coined the term “moment of incomprehensibility”.  In my rudimentary understanding of the subject, this is basically a moment where what is in front of you becomes utterly incomprehensible.  You can’t explain it.  You can’t find words to describe it.  All you can do is just be there.  Absorb it.  Try to take it all in. 

These moments don’t come around very often.  For most people, they don’t come around at all.  Most of the time, you have to be pretty far outside of your comfort zone to stumble across a true moment of incomprehensibility.  I’m not talking about being unable to fathom why the dude in front of you is going 15 mph under the speed limit or being baffled by the garbage spewing from the mouths of the Kardashians.  The moments that Dr. Garcia and I are talking about are beyond written description.  These are the moments I am chasing.  These are the moments that allow me to experience flow at it’s fullest. 

Standing atop Mt. Whitney, my first 14er, and experiencing the sheer, undeniable magnitude of it’s vast beauty.  Running through the early morning mist in the Santa Monica Mountains, climbing above the marine layer just in time to glimpse the first rays of the sunrise.  Scrambling between the switchbacks through the talus on the way up Mt. Timpanogos, stopping to suck wind, entirely exhausted, and glancing up at the seemingly unconquerable, gorgeous mass still waiting for me above.  Bombing down an underused single track, racing the setting sun, watching it slowly descend into the Pacific Ocean, increasing my pace as it disappears beneath the shimmering, purple water in a subtle, yet perfect flash. 

All of these experiences included a moment of incomprehensibility for me.  I have not described these moments here; to do so would be impossible. I have simply set the stage in which these moments took place.  My sense of awe was unmatched.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment.  The stars were aligned and I was absorbed by an overwhelming sense of rightness.  I melted into the landscape.  I became one with the mountain.  My soul was nourished.  Flow was realized. 

For me, Bobby Geronimo, this is what flow is all about.  Every time my foot falls on the trail, I’m chasing these elusive moments.  These moments don’t happen running through the city streets or staring at the screen of your iPhone.  These moments have to be earned.  These moments take blood and sweat, experience and knowledge, miles and miles, sacrifice.  These moments take an understanding of your own insignificance.  An understanding of your true place in the world.  These moments make me who I am. 

I want flow.  And I want it to be utterly incomprehensible. 

Be Evolutionarily Relevant

As I’ve been tacking more and more miles onto my personal odometer, it’s become harder to keep my running obsession under the radar.  It’s not that I’m trying to keep it hidden; I’m incredibly proud of the running I’ve done and what running has done for me.  It’s just that I skew introverted to begin with and as soon as people start to realize what I’m doing, it inevitably leads to questions.  Questions that I generally have no interest in answering.

Every ultrarunner understands exactly what I’m saying because every ultrarunner has been asked, at some point, ‘Why?!?’, when something like the distance of your next race happens to be disclosed through casual conversation with a non-runner.  And we all know that someone who would ask that type of question has no idea how to fully understand the answer.  At least not in a real, practical sense.  So we utter clichés and talk vaguely about the intrinsic value of running.  

More often that not, when I arrive back at work after a long run in the middle of the day, I’m forced into some variation of a conversation that goes something like this:

“Bro! You were running this whole time?!?” You’ve been gone for like three hours!”

“Actually that was about four and a half… bro.”

“That’s nuts man!  I can’t do anything for four and half hours besides sleep. Why would you do that?”

“Oh, you know, I really enjoy getting away from everything—getting out in the mountains—and just running around.  It calms me down.”

  “You’re insane!! Why would anyone do that?! What do you think about while you’re out there?  Does your ipod last that—Bro! Where you going? Why you walking away?”

When looking at the human body from an evolutionary perspective, it seems odd that nobody ever has conversations like this:

“So, how was your day today?”

“Eh—it was pretty rough.  I sat at my desk at work for eight hours and then I sat in my car for an hour on my commute home before sitting for another five hours in front of the TV.”

“You mean to tell me you’ve been sitting for 14 hours today!?! That’s crazy!! How could you have possible done that?!? Isn’t your back killing you?  I’ve never heard of anyone sitting for so long!!”

“Well, I did get up a few times… I had to go to the bathroom and get something to eat… walk to my car.”

“Still, I don’t how you anyone could sit for so long!!  I would have lost my freaking mind! You’re a way stronger person than me.”

What happened to our evolutionary relevance?  As Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Daniel Lieberman points out in his book, The Story of the Human Body, humans are incredibly slow in comparison with the majority of quadrupeds.  The fastest humans top out around 23 miles an hour for—at the most—20 seconds.  Your average lion is running around 45 miles an hour for over four minutes.  

Tools like the bow and arrow weren’t invented until about 100,000 years ago and even the most basic stone spear points only appeared 500,000 years ago.  Yet there is archeological evidence that early humans have been hunting quadrupeds like kudu, zebra and wildebeest for almost 2 million years.  These animals were faster, stronger and much more agile than the humans hunting them.  But as mostly hairless bipeds, our ancestors could do a couple of things better than the rest of the animals on the planet: sweat and run long distances. 

So, according to Lieberman, we waited until the day was hot and we ran our prey down until it collapsed from heat stroke.  We evolved to be endurance runners. Now, we sit in chairs and type on computers.  We’ve lost touch with our evolutionary history.  Most of us have completely stopped using our bodies in the way they were designed.  And for some asinine reason, we expect no consequences for these actions. 

The next time someone comes up to me and asks me why I run such long distances with an incredulous look plastered across their face, I’m going to simply reply that I’m “attempting to stay evolutionarily relevant”.  I think that sums it all up nicely.  What more should I really have to say?

Now, if you’d excuse me, I’m going to run outside under the hot sun and sweat my ass off.  

The Best Type of Fun

A few days ago as I was run-commuting home from work, I happened upon an old episode of the Dirt Bag Diaries, Fun Divided by Three.  Let me just be clear: out on the trail, in the mountains, I would never attempt to distract myself with music or a podcast.  Running home from work on the street, it suddenly becomes a necessary diversion from the traffic.  Judge me if you will. 

Anyway, there I am running along the Pacific Coast Highway, staring longingly up at the mountains to my immediate left, when Fitz Cahall starts talking about the different types of fun. 

According to Fitz, all the “fun” experiences you have fit into one of three distinct categories.  I’d like to think there’s a little more grey area in there but essentially Fitz describes this sort of (reverse) correlative scale between how much fun something is during the planning and execution stages and how much fun it is to talk about afterward.  I was intrigued.  I kept listening. 

At the bottom of the scale you’ve got the type of fun that sounds like a good time during planning, is a good time in actuality, and is fun to talk about afterward for fifteen minutes or so  (i.e. a leisurely four-mile hike you planned with your significant other along an idyllic single track as the sun sinks low on the horizon, culminating in a summit/sunset picnic and a bottle of expensive Malbec).   Just regular old fun. 

Then about halfway up the scale you’re getting into the fun that sounds like fun when you’re drawing it up, is mostly fun while you’re doing it but definitely includes pain, moments of sincere regret and a lot of expletives, and makes a great story to tell over a beer for the next couple years (i.e. a 20-mile mountain run you plan with your buddies for a sunny Saturday morning that ends up being 35 miles because you got lost, were almost hit by lightning and forced to cross multiple chest-high rivers while possibly being stalked by a cougar. Oh, and the dude who was supposed to bring the S! Caps forgot them in the car). 

Then all the way at the top, you’ve got the type of fun that isn’t really fun at all until it’s over.  The type of fun that sounds miserable while you’re planning, you’re lucky to make it out with all limbs intact, and makes for one of the best stories you’ll tell for the rest of your life.  Fitz says something about post-holing at 25,000 feet through four feet of fresh powder when he’s describing this top of the scale or “type three fun”. 

If you’re an ultra runner, a trail runner or even someone who spends time in the mountains, you likely have your own version of type three fun.  We all have those experiences.  Running along the beach that day, my mind started to wander to my first 50 miler… or that time that Parker and I decided to run the 14-mile trail to the summit of Mt. Timpanagos the day after we ran the Skyline Mountain Marathon (and two days after I flew to Utah and left my sea-level apartment) with nothing but a couple of 20oz handheld bottles and two Larabars (apparently all the vomiting the day before didn’t fully hammer home the need for some basic acclimatization).

I love telling the stories from those experiences.  There were serious moments of doubt.  Serious moments of pain.  For a while, I didn’t think I would finish that first 50 miler.  It hurt more than anything I had ever done up to that point.   And there were times when I didn’t think I would ever make it off Mt. Timp (and I may not have if it wasn’t for Parker).  There were definitely times when sitting down and giving up sounded like the most reasonable option.  So why do these experiences, the hardest and most trying times, become the best memories and stories later? 

In my opinion, these raw, visceral experiences are the only thing that makes us feel truly alive.  Our daily lives aren’t doing it.  How alive have you ever felt staring a TV or computer screen? Without pushing ourselves to find our limits, we can never know who we truly are.  It’s in these times of self-doubt—where we find ourselves stripped of all pretense—that we discover who we are and what were capable of. 

We accept challenges and we conquer them.  We push ourselves to those deep, dark places we thought we were never capable of getting out of.  And then we get out.  And we can’t wait to talk about it over a beer.