Monday, February 5, 2018

Trestle Run: Don't Feed the Bad Wolf

Since being more mindful is hot in the streets right now I figured I would share something that kind of spoke to me the other day. I was listening to/watching a recent Ginger Runner Live episode with HURT 100 winner Yassine Diboun. If you don't know anything about him I encourage you to check out the episode below or the short film the Ginger Runner did about him in 2017. In short, he overcame various addictions through running to become an accomplished ultra runner.

In the GRL episode, Diboun is talking about the HURT 100 and grinding through some of the tougher parts of the race and he says "Don't feed the bad wolf" in regards to how he overcomes those difficult moments. This jumped out at me because it reminded me of an anecdote in a story about how Coach Quinn dealt with losing the Super Bowl. He hung a framed version of this parable called 'The Tale of the Two Wolves' in his office. The story features an old Cherokee telling his grandson about a battle that wages inside of him, and everyone else, between two wolves. Essentially, one is bad - full of anger, doubt, sorrow, regret etc., while the other is good - representing love, joy, peace, and hope. At the end of the story the grandson asks "which wolf wins?" to which the grandfather responds "the one you feed."

Mind. Blown.

In all seriousness, I've heard a million different ways people have dealt with difficult situations. That was sort of the theme of early 2017. But when I heard Diboun say "don't feed the bad wolf" and it reminded me of this story about DQ it all clicked in my head and I felt like I knew exactly what they were talking about. Along with everyone else, I'm trying to be more mindful and "don't feed the bad wolf" has sort of become my mantra when trying to do that. Whether it's running or work or just life in general whenever I start to go down that negative path in my head, "don't feed the bad wolf."

I know it probably sounds a little silly like I had this eureka moment of clarity while listening to a podcast, but I do find that having a little mantra that you can go to can make a difference. I've taken a lot of small lessons from Coach Quinn. It's a perk of my job and a lot of them apply to running, controlling what you can control, not worrying about what others are doing or not feeding into negativity. Sure, a lot of this stuff seems like bumper sticker material or bromides, but they can work if you give them a chance.

It's taken a month or so, but that's my motto for 2018 - I'm going to try to stay positive. I'm not going to feed the bad wolf.

I really want to listen to that AWOL Nation song Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) now.

Here's the GRL episode and the ESPN article about DQ's Cherokee Parable

Ginger Runner Live // Yassine Diboun

Microadventures of Amanda and Matt

Last weekend Amanda and I jumped in the Jeep and drove up to Helton Creek Falls. I got the idea from Wander North Georgia when I saw that it was a short hike and you had to drive through two smalls streams. Despite the rain, it was well worth the drive. There was virtually no one there and the falls were fully rushing. Because I'm 12 I was climbing all over all of the rocks and trying to take cool pictures the whole time.

After about an hour of wandering around the falls, we had a PB&J/Fluffernutter picnic in the back of the Jeep before driving up to Brasstown Bald. Even though the summit was socked in with fog and clouds - the visibility was maybe 30 yards - we decided to make the half-mile hike up to the observation tower. I've been there twice and both times it was the dead of winter and I/we were the only ones up there. Which, when you think about it is probably for the best. It was pretty cool to be the only people on top of the highest point in the state. Even if it was windy and raining. I bet there aren't a lot of weekend afternoons that you could be alone up there.

What I'm Reading/Listening to/Watching
Outside Online // The New (Bipartisan!) Conservation Corps Is a Win-Win
I came across this story on Twitter the other day about a modern Civilian Conservation Corps. Now, I have been fascinated by the CCC for a long time. I think it was an incredible program that not only helped to create the backbone of a lot of the outdoor places that we all enjoy but also helped a lot of people during a downtrodden time. The prospect of potentially creating a 21st-century version of this for young people just getting out of school is really interesting to me. It would be a great opportunity for kids to get practical experience and have a little adventure before settling into the real world all while tackling much-needed maintenance and repair in National Parks and other public lands. This really has the potential to be a big win for everyone involved.

One piece I found particularly interesting in the story was the potential for reducing unemployment among young people and veterans. It seems to me like this could be a great opportunity for service members when they return to the US or finish with their service. We can do so much better for veterans and giving them housing, food, and additional job skills sounds like a good place to start.

Messenger's Run // Bears Ears
I am a proponent of the National Parks. I agree with Ken Burns and think they are America's best idea. One of my greatest memories from growing up is the month-long cross-country road trip my family took, during which we spent time at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. These were incredible places that I cannot wait to share with my children someday. It's no secret that the future of our public lands has been a hot-button issue as of late. The reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments is concerning and complex.

It's easy to say you support something, but it can be hard to fully understand it when you are far away from it. That's been a concern for a lot of these public lands. Sure there will be plenty of people to stand up for the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, but will there be enough to stand up for smaller or lesser known ones? That was a long intro to a short video.

In January, 17 people got together and ran 250 miles in six-mile relay segments across Bears Ears and Grand Staircase in an effort to - in their words - 'carry a message that wild places are worth protecting, and sometimes the first step in doing that is to take another.'

It's pretty powerful stuff.

MESSENGERS - A Running Story of Bears Ears & Grand Staircase-Escalante from Yeehaw Donkey on Vimeo.

It was cool to see a bunch of people that are pretty well known for their running (I mean Magda Boulet ran) or their cool AF Instagram accounts come together and do something epic to try and help a cause they really believe in.

Forward Podcast // Part 1 | Part 2
Lance Armstrong had 'Icarus' director Brian Fogel on his podcast to talk about the hit Netflix documentary recently. If you haven't seen it, go watch it right now. I'll give my login if you need it. The movie is crazy. I wasn't sold on it at first but about a third of the way through all hell breaks loose. It's gripping. Anyway, Armstrong and Fogel talk about the documentary in this two-part podcast and it's really interesting to hear some of the things that Lance has to say about it. I can't remember him ever really being as forthcoming about some of the things he did as he is in this discussion. Some of his revelations are treated as just him saying something in passing but if you listen it's interesting to stuff.

For example, there are all kinds of things that Fogel takes in addition to EPO, some don't seem so crazy, but when you hear Lance say "and you need that for the EPO to take" or "You don't need all of that" I thought that was pretty interesting and surprisingly candid for him. Now, with that being said, he's still pretty coy but for Lance, I thought it was really interesting. And while it certainly doesn't let him or USPS off the hook in anyway, it does put what he did into perspective and shows that we have a long way to go in the fight against doping.

What's Poppin' on IG

Mount Washington is incredible in the Winter.

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James Wade getting radical at Dirty Spokes.

An incredible shot of the Super Blue Blood Moon from last week. I was treated to some cool views of it for my morning workout at the track, but didn't really get the blood part. It was massive and lit up the whole track though.

This shot is from Johnnie Gall, one of the producers of the Messenger's Run film. She's a good follow on Instagram if you are into daydreaming about cool places and like random Star Wars quotes.

Final Thoughts... 
I'm kicking around the idea of riding Southern Cross. It's a 55ish mile gravel bike race in the North Georgia mountains that I've wanted to do for a few years now. I'm not 100 percent certain my bike could handle it but it sounds like it would be a difficult yet fun day. I rode Fools Gold 50 a few years ago, which was brutal but talking to a few people this sounds like something that would be more up my alley. After all, I'm not going to be riding fast. I just want to finish the thing. I don't know. We'll see.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trestle Run: Restlessness

I had a minor crisis the other day. Well, I guess it wasn't so much a crisis. It was more of a bout of restlessness. This isn't all that uncommon. I don't know if it's work, the time of year, or if it's just all in my head, but every now and then I drive myself a little bonkers with restlessness. I'm guessing this was triggered by the time of year. It seems to happen at this time regularly. Work slows down in January or February and my brain goes into overdrive trying to come up with things to do.

It's like my mind can't bear the notion of relaxing and taking a breath for a minute. Once work slows down the clock starts ticking to it heating up again and I feel like I have to cram as much fun stuff in as possible. I can't just enjoy the downtime and play it by ear. I have to turn into McPlansalot and have some grand adventure set for every waking moment. Which is obviously not possible.

I thought that planning a trip home for February would mitigate some of this, but if anything it put me into overdrive on the trying to come up with plans front. Fortunately, as usual, Amanda snapped me out of it when I realized I was driving her nuts. I took a few deep breaths and told myself to relax. I ended up taking Thursday and Friday off from work to deal with some stuff around the house and get in a couple of local adventure runs to assuage my restlessness.

Okay. I feel much better now. What else is going on?

Territory Run Co.
To kick off the year, I joined Territory Run Co.'s Runners of the Wild team. Well, technically I joined in the late fall but they sent out kits and gear in mid-December and I'm a little behind. There was a cost to it, but I got a jersey and a few other pieces of gear - a sweet hat and buff - so the cost was really just for the gear. I've been following them for awhile now and despite the fact that I'm not an ultra runner, I thought it seemed like a cool group of like-minded people and figured it would be a good place to get some inspiration and possibly meet some other interesting runners.

I've picked up a couple of additional pieces of their gear, which I like, but what I like better is what they are doing to promote the sport of running. They just released an online course on improving your hill running technique - which I might need to check out. Even better than what they are doing to promote the sport is what they are doing to build the community. The trail running community as a whole is incredibly supportive and it's good to see a company that's trying to grow that in different ways.

I Really Want to Go Skiing
I mean, I really want to go skiing. I think that was the thing that made me realize I was driving Amanda crazy the other night. I was talking 100 miles an hour about possibly doing a ski weekend in North Carolina, or whether it was a better idea to wait until we go home and try to take a trip to Loon or Sunday River or somewhere in Vermont. Here I go again. I blame this on the inch and half of snow we got a week or so ago and the fact that the Olympics are coming up. I've spent far too much time watching ski videos on YouTube and playing Steep on PlayStation.

Sadly, iconic ski filmmaker Warren Miller recently passed away, which only made me plunge deeper into the youtube ski video rabbit hole. I actually found a few Warren Miller films on there. I remember being 10 or 12 and sitting in my basement watching his movies when they would come on TV. I can't remember the network, maybe NESN, but they'd always show a few every year and it would get me so amped for the ski season.

I wanted to be a big mountain and freestyle skier so badly when I was a kid. I used to love when my parents would take me to the Boston Ski Show so I could see all the cool new gear. We went skiing at Breckenridge and Whistler, which was awesome. Once I got to my sophomore year I didn't ski as much since I was focused on track, but I reconnected with the sport during my senior year of college thanks to Joe Reynolds and a few other teammates. Amanda and I have tried to get a day trip to the Whites in at least once a year when we are home, but it's definitely one of the things that I miss about New England.

What I'm Watching, Listening to, and Liking
Ski the Whites // I told you. I really need a ski trip in my life. I've been binge watching Andrew Drummond's YouTube channel about backcountry skiing and ski touring in the White Mountains a bunch lately. This was another thing that had me restless. I was googling everything about alpine touring and skinning trying to see if there was a way I could try it when we're home in February. Drummond's YouTube channel is full of cool GoPro videos of him and his dog - Squall - skinning up and skiing down awesome spots in the White Mountains, like the iconic Tuckerman's Ravine. If you are ever in the Jackson, NH area, check out his shop at Black Mountain and give skinning a go. I'll let you know how it goes if I get a chance to try it.

I've also found his channel to be inspirational for my own video making purposes. I'm hoping to do some GoPro videos this year. And in an interesting twist, he was on a Ragnar Relay team with my buddy Josh this past summer.

Salomon TV - Becoming History // The New Canadian Air Force was so sick. I remember watching those guys throw insane tricks and pretending I was doing the same. When I was in ninth grade my family took a trip to Whistler-Blackcomb which was the most amazing place I've ever skied. I remember buying a bunch of skiing magazines for the trip and reading about the NCAF guys on the flight to Vancouver and the drive up to Whistler. I told you, I'm on a big-time ski kick right now.

Outside Podcast // Red Dawn in Lapland - This was a really interesting story that appeared in the December issue of the magazine and they did a nice job with it on the podcast. The story is about how a small group of Finns fought off an invading Red Army because of their ability to maneuver and survive in the frigid conditions north of the arctic circle. Essentially, Stalin wanted to create a buffer between Russia and the expanding Nazi control of Europe. They didn't take the conditions into account and lost massive numbers of men to the cold. The story also touches on how the Finns are still preparing to fight in the Arctic today, just in case.

What's Poppin' On IG

The whole skiing down sand dunes things looks really cool. It's probably really hard, but it looks so cool.

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I could definitely relax by the fire in this cabin for a weekend.

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Now I want pancakes. A lot of pancakes.

I don't think I could do winter surfing in Maine, but I really liked this shot from Short Sands Beach in York, Maine during the winter. It's a complete ghost town up there during this time of year and I loved seeing this one guy surfing with everything covered in snow.

I might be a little homesick. That might be part of my problem lately. Either way, I want a barn. Not a barn in the traditional sense, but a finished barn that would serve as an office slash gear shed slash hang out spot. Someday. If I win the Powerball or something.

Another Trestle Run in the books. That's two posts in like 10 days...of to a good start.

Friday, January 19, 2018

On to 2018

The last couple of years I've done a blog recapping the last year and while I did do some fun stuff in 2017, I'm ready to switch the calendar to 2018. With that in mind, I'm focusing on goals and plans for 2018 rather than a look back at 2017. Instead of a year in review blog, this is going to be about moving forward and what's on the horizon.

I feel like Dwight Schrute. Nothing is on my horizon except everything. Everything is on my horizon.

I'm not a big New Year guy. It's just another day, but I do appreciate that it gives a reason to reflect on what you've been through, positive and negative. And while I'm not staying up till midnight drinking champagne any more, I like the idea of it serving as a jumping off point for where you want to go next.

I don't know if these are resolutions or just things I want to do but here are a few things I'm looking forward to in 2018.

Focus more on experiences rather than stuff.
Enjoy the process - across the board in everything I do.
Plan more adventure runs
Write more
Read more
Use my GoPro more!

One of the things I did think of when reflecting back on the last year was memories. After we lost my mom, I spent a lot of time thinking about all the experiences and memories that I had growing up. I never want to lose sight of that because that's something that I want Amanda and I and eventually our family to have to look back on.

With that in mind, I am trying to plan a trip or short adventure for every month. Of course, we can't afford to be flying all over the country, but there is nothing stopping us from jumping in the Jeep and doing some day trips. We already have a trip home planned for February. After that, we'll probably go to Chattanooga for River Gorge in March and then we've got Tuck Fest in April. Other than those few trips we don't have anything concrete planned, but I'm thinking a longer trip to the Smokies, maybe a weekend in Asheville or a ski trip to North Carolina. There are some good spots within a few hours drive of Atlanta, so I am hoping to do more day trips this year.

I am a creature of habit. To be honest, that's probably an understatement. I very much like having a routine. It makes everything seem easier. You don't have to think about doing certain things. You just do them. Automatically. This is great for my running. I get up every day and get my miles in. It keeps me consistent and I very rarely have to worry about missing out on a run because I got home late or I'm not feeling it or any of the other million different excuses we've all come up with in the past.

While that keeps me rolling day to day and week to week it can make some runs feel like a chore. I hate that. I enjoy running. I don't want it to feel like a chore. We all have our days where we just aren't feeling it, or we are just going through the motions. That's fine. That's going to happen no matter what you are talking about. Some days you're just not into it. This is where the adventure runs come in. These come in all different shapes and distances. It could be a grand adventure where I drive two hours to new trails or as simple as getting up a few minutes early and hitting one of the local trail systems before work. I want to do more of both. I need more new runs but just as important is breaking the monotony of a Tuesday morning.

Having said that, I do want to be more mindful in 2018. Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and forget that every run has a purpose. You are building towards something. Whether it's a goal race that's a few weeks away or a few months away. Each run serves a purpose in getting you to that finish line. What does that mean in practice? Mentally remind yourself what you are working towards. Hopefully, that will reduce those days that you're not into it.

I've really enjoyed what Tracksmith has done with their No Days Off campaign over the last couple of years. Starting on New Years Day, they push the NDO mantra. Now, that might sound a little Belichickian and unrealistic for many, but that's what I like about the campaign. It's not about running 365 straight days. It's about doing something every day that makes you a better runner. That could be anything from taking a day off from running if you need it to spending time in the gym or eating well. At least that's how I take it. Do something every day that makes you a better runner.

That's some good copywriting. They are trying to sell gear, but I've said it before. I like some good content marketing.

I think I say this in something like 75 percent of the things I post, but I'm going to say it again. Write more! I read somewhere or heard somewhere, I can't for the life of me remember where that a good tip for working on your writing is to write every day. Now, I have failed at that thus far in 2018, but it's something that I am trying to work on. Even if it's just a few sentences. I think that would really help me with consistency. I enjoy writing but a lot of times I struggle with what exactly I want to write. The tip or trick that I read was to if you write every day it'll spark ideas. It hasn't been a success thus far, but I am working on it.

Along with writing more, I need to read more. Again, it's something I really enjoy but for whatever reason, I don't feel like I do enough of it. Maybe that's because I spend the majority of my day reading 140 character takes or trying to figure out ways to put a positive spin on something that's not so rosy. Either way, I'd like to do more reading. Books, magazines, online, it doesn't really matter. If it looks interesting and it's longer than a few paragraphs I'm in.

Another thing I really want to do more of in 2018 is to use my GoPro, or GoPros to be more accurate. Some of that goes with taking trips and doing adventure runs, well actually it pretty much all goes with that. Along with writing, I also enjoy editing. I'm not going to be making any highlight reel videos anytime soon, but it's something that I enjoyed when I was in college and thanks to working with some really good editors, it's something that I got back into over the last few years. It's a skill that I enjoy working to improve and I'd like to do a little more of that. Naturally, making some running or biking edits would be a good way to do that.

From a running standpoint, my goals are pretty similar to what they've been the last few years. As much as I want to win races or at least finish on the podium, this is where I want to focus more on enjoying the experience. I think I've done a better job of this over the last year (see my Tuck Fest blog), but I still have my moments. Running can't just be about results. Eventually, that's going to lead to frustration. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to win my age group for XTERRA again this year - even though I've missed a few races already due to work travel - and podium at River Gorge, I want those races to be about more than just what place I finished.

I'm still in the process of figuring out my race schedule for 2018 but it will likely feature some or all of the no particular order...

XTERRA Georgia
Dirty Spokes
One Winter Wild race back home - Looking at the Ascutney night race with Ferenc
Southern Cross Gravel Bike Race - That's a big ole maybe. It looks cool though.
River Gorge
Tuck Fest
Loon - I think I've said I wanted to do Loon for like the past decade.
Half marathon(s)
Maybe a Marathon???

I realize that we're nearly three weeks into 2018 but I'm still trying to figure some of this stuff out. My work schedule ends so abruptly sometimes it can take a week to just process everything that happened. That's where I am right now. I'm moving past processing and into planning mode. I'm definitely looking forward to what we've got coming up. The first race on the calendar would be Dirty Spokes at Heritage Park but I'm thinking we'll have some kind of day trip in the works before then.

This has been all over the place but I think it actually helped to put some of this stuff down. I didn't put down any concrete goals for 2018, so here are a few. One is a little silly, but the other really takes a lot of what I've just written into account.

Goal number 1 - Get into a regular rhythm of posting content and launch a new version of this blog. That's something I've been thinking about for a while, but I don't want to spend the money on a domain and all that without committing to regular posts. I've thought about a number of different ways to do this and I'm hoping to get myself to a point where I can post at least two things per month. That's a pretty modest goal. It's definitely something that I can accomplish. At least I think it is. We'll see.

Goal number 2 - Make this the year I finally buy a Cannondale Slate. It would work real nice for Southern Cross.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Trestle Run: The One With PEDs

Athlete's testing positive for PEDs, or at least the suspicion of athletes taking PEDs, seem to be ubiquitous now. Well, maybe ubiquitous isn't the right word. I mean it still feels like it's something that happens in the galaxy, far, far away that is the professional level. Of course, I'm not naive. I've read enough to know that it happens at the amatuer level or sub-elite level. All of us have probably run in a race with athletes that are in that sub-elite or pro category. Still though, how often have you come across someone that's tested positive or has the suspicion of doping?

Me either. Or so I thought anyway.   

I was watching a Mountain Outhouse News episode on YouTube the other day and was surprised to hear Jamil Coury say that OCR athlete Ryan Woods had tested positive for a banned substance. I was doing some post-run stretching and did a double take when I heard it. I've raced against Ryan Woods a handful of times, and even though I've never beaten him (or come close to beating him), I've been within a few minutes of him at the finish.

I replayed the clip on Mountain Outhouse, then decided that I needed to find out more about it. It was a weird feeling. For as much as you hear about this kind of stuff, I've never really heard of someone that I've competed against testing positive. I felt a little robbed at first, but then again he's not really a guy that I expected to beat any of the times I've raced him. He's clearly faster than I am. Still, it was a weird feeling. What did he test positive for? When? I wonder if he was on something when I raced him?

In the clip I watched, Jamil Coury was pretty harsh. Normally, I'd say that's warranted. However, when I started googling Ryan's positive test the waters got muddier. He tested positive for DHEA after the 2017 Obstacle Racing World Championships. He thought he was taking DHA. This seems pretty obvious and part of me was thinking...'bullshit dude'. Then again, I've actually met this guy before. I've talked to him. He even had my back when I protested a result at Tuck Fest a couple years ago.

He and I were clearly out front but another guy crossed the finish line in second. Ryan could have just said "whatever, I won who cares" but he came over and explained to the RD that he had passed this guy towards the end of the race despite not getting passed. I talked to him a bit after, he remembered me from a La Sportiva Mountain Cup race earlier in the year. All in all, I thought he seemed like a pretty good guy. Like I said, muddy waters.

One of the things I came across when researching this was his response to the failed test. The OCR World Championship website had Ryan's statement/response. In my opinion, and that's all it is, I believe him. I think he made an honest mistake and it sucks. Regardless of what you think of his positive test. He handled the aftermath the right way.
“I am in a state of shock and disgust. I would like to say I had no intention of taking a banned substance nor would I knowingly compete in an event with WADA testing while using banned substances. With that said, I understand that I alone am responsible for what I put into my body. I took a supplement purchased at a grocery store called DHEA, which is a banned substance on the WADA list. In my mind, I thought I was purchasing DHA, which is omega 3’s. I had ample opportunity to correct this mistake by simply looking at a label or going to the WADA website, but I never did. Instead, I packed it away in my vitamins and took it all weekend at the OCR World Championships. I am ashamed and embarrassed at my current situation of my own doing. I would like to apologize to my friends Ryan Atkins and Hunter McIntyre. I have let you guys down. I have robbed you of an incredible moment. I hope one day you guys can forgive me, even though I know I will never forgive myself. I would also like to apologize to Adrian Bijanada for putting him and his event I love in this situation. I praise him though, for his work for a drug-free sport and despite my current circumstances, I hope efforts for a drug-free sport only grow. I apologize to anyone and everyone affected directly or indirectly by my actions”. 
Again, believe his explanation or not. He took responsibility for his actions. It doesn't change the fact that he took a banned substance, but his honesty was refreshing. He didn't try to worm his way out of it. While I agree with Jamil Coury that if you are a podium finisher in a sport that tests, you have to be more careful about what you put in your body, I still feel for Ryan Woods. He's a good guy and he screwed up. I hope that he learns from this and is able to have success after serving his ban. It is good to see that testing is working. And that should serve as a learning experience for all of us and as a warning to those who would knowingly (or unknowingly) use banned substances or PED.

Regrets about going DIII?
I don't read every day anymore, but it's still a good place to go for the latest running news and if you don't mind sifting through a little light trolling, it can be a good place to find some interesting running discussion. I came across this thread about the choice to go to a DIII school over a DI school. I thought it was a pretty interesting topic given the fact that it was a decision that I faced coming out of high school.

A lot of what I read matched with my experience. Most of the posters that said they had run at a DIII school said that they had no regrets about their college experience. The general feeling was that DIII schools allowed runners to develop at a more sustainable pace. Interestingly enough, many of the posters that said they ran at DI schools echoed that thought. Saying that they believed that if they had gone to a DIII school they felt like they would have had a better experience from a running standpoint. A lot of them cited burnout, stress, and increasing pressure as negative factors on their experience.

Obviously, a lot of this depends on what you are looking to get out of your college experience and where you are looking. I was fortunate to be in New England where there are a number of DI, DII, and DIII options. Of course, a lot of DIII schools in the area are really well known for their academics and much of this debate centers around what you are going to school for. You shouldn't choose a school based solely on the running program, but there's certainly nothing wrong with it being a big factor in your choice. I know it was for me. Granted, I may not have been choosing between the most academically prestigious schools, Keene State was the perfect fit for me.

I felt like I fit in well with the team, they had programs of study that I was looking for, and I loved the area. I had opportunities to go to some lower tier DI schools but Keene State was perfect for me. Being in New England, we had the chance to race against all different levels of competition and I had good coaching and good mentors. I also feel like I had a very solid academic experience. I learned a lot about accountability and being a self-starter. I think those are two of the biggest reasons why I am where I am right now from a career standpoint. IMO anyway.

What I'm Reading, Listening to and Liking...

Instagram Is Loving Nature to Death - I know I am guilty of this but with our public lands under siege right now, maybe it's not the worst thing. Now, I'm certainly not advocating for the vandalism or illegal use of National Parks or public lands. I do think being inspired to visit these places through social media is a good thing. We just need to be responsible when doing so. One thing I plan on adopting from this article is the notion of searching out a new spot instead of going somewhere to get a copycat photo. Obviously, there are going to be things you see on Instagram or Facebook that you want to check out and I think you should do that. Just do a little googling and see what else is around too. You might find a better spot.

Amanda and I did a day trip to the Smokies last year and while we really enjoyed Clingman's Dome, it was a little weak to see a bunch of people in flip-flops marching their way up the paved path to the observation deck. I'm glad so many people were getting out and experiencing the park, but flip-flops kind of rob you of the wildness of it all.

It's all good though. We're planning another trip up there in 2018 and this time we are going to try and find somewhere that's either more remote or takes a little more effort to reach. We still might check out popular spots like Cades Cove, but we'll be doing it by bike when they close the road to cars.

Morning Shakeout Podcast - Since I sort of modeled these Trestle Run posts after Mario Fraioli's Morning Shakeout newsletter I figured it's only fair to mention that his Morning Shakeout Podcast is one of my new favorites. It's only two episodes old but I've really enjoyed what he's done so far. It's an interview format, but it's really more of a conversation, which I personally find more enjoyable. Thus far he's had Scott Fauble from NAZ Elite and USATF Marathon Champ Tim Ritchie.

I knew a little about Tim Ritchie since he's from New England, but I didn't know much at all about Scott Fauble. I thought Mario did a good job of introducing the guys without going through their whole biography. I found it interesting hearing that despite being really successful these guys still have some of the same issues as a runner like me. I enjoyed hearing about the ways they connect with other runners and fans. I'm all in on Scott's Burrito Mafia and if I'm ever in New Haven I'll be keeping an eye out for Tim.

People in this sport are always talking about how to make the connection between the elite runners and the regular runner. Mario has found a great way to do that. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on what these guys are doing because they came across as relatable human people and not weird robots.

What's Poppin on IG...

We had our once-a-year snowstorm down here a few weeks ago and while we didn't see much in Chattanooga that weekend, Fast Break Athletics posted this photo from one of my favorite spots to run, the Walnut Street Bridge.

A post shared by DRINKmaple (@drinkmaple) on

It's getting cold down here in Georgia, not quite the negative temps they are getting back home but relatively cold. If you're trying to warm up try this hot cocoa recipe from our friends at DRINKmaple.

If Hoth had an ocean this is what I imagine it would look like. This is an amazing shot from another one of my favorite places, the "Nubble Light" on Cape Neddick in Maine.

I told you we had snowstorm down here. Check out this photo from my favorite coffee/bike shop Whitetail Bicycles. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rad Run // Issaquah Alps

Seattle has officially moved up to the top of the rankings of my favorite cities to run in after this one.

To really appreciate how awesome this run was I have to go back a little bit. Maybe two years ago I stumbled on Alistar Humphreys, an adventurer, and author from England. He writes a lot about microadventures, this idea of making an adventure out of something small. Instead of having some huge plan and three-day trip, he promotes taking advantage and control of your 5-9 life.

While I have a really cool job, as I often lament here, it can be very difficult to find time for adventures or even just runs beyond the usual seven-mile loop from my front door. Figuring out my own microadventures is motivating in the offseason but a struggle when I don't really have a 5-9 life during the season. It's more like a 7-9 life. With that in mind, I've really tried to take full advantage of these road trips where we are spending an extra day in different cities.

I've always enjoyed getting a chance to run in different places. That's one of the big perks of traveling for my job. I get to travel at least 10 weeks of the year. In the past, I've felt pretty limited in terms of where I could run based on where we stay, but recently - with the help of public transportation and Uber - I've started to branch out a little and look for adventures that are further afield.

This all started in Oakland of all places. Last fall we had a two-day trip to Oakland. Not really being too thrilled to run there, I decided to jump on the train and head to San Francisco to run. An awesome 15-mile run to and across the Golden Gate Bridge and back later and a microadventure running plan was born. I followed that up with a bus ride to Boulder to run up Green Mountain a few weeks later when we were in Denver, which you can see below.

With those to adventure runs under my belt, you can imagine my excitement when I found out five of our trips for this year were going to be multiple days, including a three-day trip to Seattle. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I enjoyed the extra day. Sometimes I still just run from the hotel depending on where we are, but when getting ready for this trip I came across an Outside article about the top Five Wild Escapes You Can Access by Public Transportation.

The Second one? Tiger Mountain in the Issaquah Alps.
Seattle has a ridiculously good public transportation system for adventurers, but the best trip you can take might be to Tiger Mountain State Forest. Located in the Issaquah Alps east of the city, Tiger has more than 70 miles of hiking trails, some of which climb more than 2,000 feet to the summit. You can get there from downtown Seattle by catching the Sound Transit 554 bus to the Issaquah park-and-ride lot, then take the paved Rainier and High School Trails to the Tradition Plateau Trailhead, where you’ll find a half-dozen routes up the mountain. The West Tiger #3 Trail is a stunner, offering a five-mile round-trip hike with views of Seattle and Puget Sound at the summit. The bus runs every half-hour during the day, and your one-time fare is $2.75.

I tweaked a few things about this but it served as the basic inspiration for one of the best road-trip runs that I've had in my eight seasons of doing this. I ended up cheating a little and grabbing an Uber from the hotel as it was an hour bus ride compared to a 15-minute drive. A few of these other places I've done public transport adventure runs, the transit has been around 30 minutes which works with my schedule. An hour bus ride would have made the timing tight so I decided to spend a few extra dollars to give myself more time to run.

I had the Uber drop me at Issaquah High School and ran two miles along a couple of different trails to Tiger Mountain. These trails were fantastic. Freshly fallen leaves mixed with the crisp smell of the evergreens was exactly what I needed after waking up a little groggy from the five-hour flight the night before. Any cobwebs were quickly brushed away by the multiple signs I saw warning of cougars and bears. I took a minute to read the do's & don'ts of cougar know...just in case.

Once I reached the High Point Trailhead, I followed the West Tiger #3 trail as it snaked its way to the summit over three or so miles. On the way up I crossed back and forth from deciduous to coniferous forest. I was again treated to vibrant yellow leaves, bright evergreens, and the orange hues of a pine needle covered trail. From the base of Tiger Mountain, the trail was mostly double track. It reminded me a lot of the Wagon Train trail that runs from Young Harris College to Brasstown Bald in Georgia. This trail had more steep twisting switchbacks, but both are nice and wide with long sections that vary in pitch from gradual to reach out and touch the ground steep.

The scenery was ripped straight from the forest moon of Endor or maybe First Blood. I felt like any minute I was going to look up and see an AT-ST or an imperial shield generator base. That or I was going to get arrested for vagrancy by Brian Dennehy.

Seriously, tell me there's not an Ewok lurking around in here somewhere.
As I worked my way up towards the top the trail, the trail split in two - a more direct, and far more sketchy looking, cable trail - and a slightly more technical than the rest of the route single track. I decided to stick to the main trail and pick my way over the single track instead of trying my luck on the cable trail. This splinter trail was almost all loose rock and was much steeper. While it was a straight shot, the main trail looked more fun. This was a good call because just off the side of the main trail there were two view-point pull-offs that provided outstanding views of the mountains that spring up east of Seattle. After another few minutes of climbing, I reached the 2,522-foot summit of West Tiger 3.

Portrait mode is clutch 

The pull-offs on the way up were better viewpoints, as the summit was really just a small clearing with a sign and cairn. I took a short break at the top and exchanged pleasantries with some of the other people that had reached the halfway point of their hike or run. I saw two guys come up to the summit from the opposite end of the clearing and I decided to do a little exploring. My watch read 4.7 miles at the summit, so I figured I needed to get it to five before turning around and heading back down.

I dropped down from the summit and back into deep woods surrounded by towering pines. It nearly went from full daylight to pitch black in about 200 yards as I descended. I came across a sign that read West Tiger #2 -> and decided to see if that summit was within reach. I am notorious for this move by the way. I've gotten a death stare from Amanda more than a few times for saying "I bet it's right around this corner" or "Let's just got a little further and see what's over this rise". I got a little bit of my own medicine, but it paid off as I scrambled my way to the top of an "I'll just get to the top of this then turn around" reaching the top of 2757 foot West Tiger 2. This summit still didn't provide a great view as it had a radio tower perched in the clearing at the top, but it was still cool to say I tagged two summits on the day.

After snapping a couple of pictures I made my way back down to West Tiger 3 where I stopped to chat with a couple of the hikers that I had passed on my way up. I got very jealous of the two guys talking about going skiing the next day. That would be amazing. It was 60 degrees and sunny on these mountain trails and a couple hours to the north or east you can go big mountain skiing. Okay PNW. I get why people are so wild about you now.

After thinking about whether I could get out of meetings on Sunday to go skiing for a few minutes, I started the three-mile descent back to the trailhead. The trail was actually a little bit muddier than I realized on the way up, which made going down a little tense. I wore Saucony Ride 10s, which obviously don't have a ton of grip so I had to ride the breaks a bit in some sections to make sure I stayed on my feet. I ended up paying for that the next couple of days with sore quads, but overall the descent was pretty fun. I opened it up a little on some of the more gradual sections and worked on having quick feet on some of the steeper stuff.

When I reached the base, I spent a couple minutes at the large trail sign trying to decide which route I wanted to take back to the high school. I settled on sticking with the trail that got me there, figuring it would be at least somewhat familiar, which would hopefully diminish my chances of getting lost. I actually really enjoyed these trails. I don't know if I was anxious about making it to the base of Tiger Mountain or worried about getting lost on the way out, but I don't think I fully appreciated the approach trails I took. I made sure to right that wrong on the way back. I would imagine that Issaquah has a good cross country team because the trail access those kids have from their high school is epic.

I followed the Around Lake Trail and Bus Trail (there was an old burnt out bus off to the side) back to the High School trail which, appropriately, led me back to Issaquah High School. After grabbing the water I stashed in the dugout of their softball field, I decided to see if there was somewhere to grab a coffee close by. I settled on Issaquah Coffee Company, about 1.5 miles away. This was a great idea by the way. I hopped on the Rainier Trail, a paved/gravel path that runs through the town. While it wasn't the lush forest of Tiger Mountain it was still a cool little section to run. I passed through the downtown and saw the Issaquah Alps trail headquarters and a historic train depot along the way.

I reached my destination after covering 12 miles and tagging two summits over two hours. I went inside and ordered a Cougar Mountain latte and some cinnamon apple bread while watching a little bit of college football. P.S. - that might be my favorite thing about the west coast, it was like 10:30 a.m. and the college games were into the third quarter. I could completely get on board with prime time games ending at like 8 o'clock too. After enjoying my coffee and pastry, I grabbed an Uber and made my way back to the hotel in time to finish up my credentialing duties and head over to the local high school for practice.

I wrapped up a full day in Seattle with a trip up to Washington to see the Huskies take on Utah in what turned out to be an epic PAC-12 matchup. My next couple of days of running in Bellevue weren't quite as exciting as Saturday's Rad Run, but I'm still a big fan of running there. I was treated to a fantastic view of Mt. Rainier, so that was cool.

Like said, Seattle has definitely vaulted its way toward the top of the rankings for my favorite cities to run in. I'm really glad I decided to make the trip to Issaquah for this run. It was well worth the $40 I spent on Ubers.

Here's what the full run looked like on Strava:

Just in case you are wondering, here are my top NFL cities to run in.
1 - Seattle (obvi)
2 - Denver/Boulder
3 - San Francisco (Really Oakland since the 49ers are like an hour away now)
4 - London*
5 - LA - We stayed in Santa Monica

Honorable Mention - Houston - Shut up. Don't even say son of a...Seriously though, I had a rental car and ran at Memorial Park every day. Everything else was concrete but Memorial Park was cool.

*We stayed at a place called the Grove in Herefordshire. It was freaking amazing. Bridle trails everywhere. One day I ran for an hour before realizing I needed to turn around. If you take London out then LA would be fourth and Chicago would be fifth.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trestle Run: Night Racing

After what felt like a long two month stretch of August and September, things finally settled down a little bit. I missed the first race of the XTERRA season due to traveling for work but got back into the fall race season with the Rise Up & Run 5k that I recapped in my last blog and then a couple of trail races on back to back weekends. The first one was the Iron Hill trail night race at Red Top Mountain State Park, my first night race. I know I said that race recaps tend to be boring last go around, but since this was something a little different I figured I'd include it here.

Race Recap - Dirty Spokes Iron Hill 7.5 Mile Night Race
This was a pretty cool one. We actually ran Iron Hill earlier in the year. I ran pretty well there and had a nice bounce back after really struggling at River Gorge. It's a slightly rolling course - 3+ miles per loop - with nice wide trails that run along the lakeshore at Red Top Mountain. Not sure why it's named that. There is no mountain (insert shrugging guy emoji). Coming off of a good road 5k and knowing that this course suited me, I was looking forward to the race going in. Albeit a little apprehensive since I've never run a night race.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I run with my headlamp a good amount in the fall and winter, but it's normally only for the first 15 or 30 minutes of my morning run until the sun comes up. I've also never run fast or hard with the headlamp, so I had no real feel for how it was going to be. The only real night run I've done was one at Magic Mountain with Ferenc a few winters ago and we were just running around, not trying to race. I figured I'd wear my Patagonia duckbill hat and pull my headlamp as tight as I could and just see what happened. Spoiler actually worked pretty well.

Wild Endurance is for the children

The fact that the race was at night made things a little wonky from a logistics perspective, but Amanda and I did our best to make a day of it. This race was on the Saturday of our Bye week, so that meant it was one of the few truly free Saturday's that I have from September to January (hopefully February).

We spent most of the day up in Chattanooga walking around and riding bikes to take advantage of the day. Around five, we started to make our way south to the park. We arrived about an hour beforehand, so that gave me plenty of time to warm up. That didn't take long because despite the mid-October date it was still 80 and humid. Once the sun set, darkness fell pretty quickly over the trails. I did a few strides just to try and figure out any last minute headlamp adjustments before heading to the starting line.

I don't know if it was the Red Bell or what, but I shot off the line and immediately into the lead. I was locked on to RD Tim Schroer's wheel (he was on his mountain bike leading the race). After a few minutes, I realized I needed to settle down and relax. Only being able to see a few feet in front of me made it a little difficult to judge effort, so it was all too easy to get sucked into following Tim closely. I tried to relax and find a rhythm and stay smooth through the first lap, but in all honesty, that ship sailed pretty early in the race. It rapidly turned into a hammerfest, where I was just going to be on the gas the whole time.

As I wound through the first lap I got a few cool glimpses of the line of headlamps across the lake in some sections. That was a really neat sight. In the spring, we ran this course in the opposite direction - and it was light out - so it was hard to pick out any landmarks. I knew there were a few bridges - two - or so I thought. Turns out there are four. That made for an interesting few minutes towards the end of the first lap. I was rolling pretty well thought the first lap and wanted to try and run negative splits, so I tried to stay on the gas into the second lap, but the humidity started to take a toll around five miles in.

Despite a real fear of blowing up, I ended up running fairly even and crossed the line in 44:14 for the win. It was an awesome experience. I don't know how much I'd love doing a night race on more technical trails, but I'd be open to giving it a shot sometime. This was a good way to dip your toes into it.

The best part of the race smores

What I'm reading/watching/listening to/liking
Shalane won NYC!
What more can you say about this? After Boston, after all the close calls she's had, Shalane just went out and smashed it. It's great to see someone's hard work and dedication pay off like this. I was working and didn't get a chance to watch the race but I caught the tail end and really had to control myself to not go crazy when she dropped the 'Eff Yeah' when she crossed the finish line. That's 100-percent the Masshole in her and I love it.

Speaking of women crushing in it in the marathon, Gwen Jorgensen announced that she's stepping away from triathlon to focus on the marathon and people have been dicks about it. What a shocker right?

I was reading about her decision to make the switch on a certain running focused website and while I probably shouldn't have been surprised, there were a ton of haters. Obviously, winning Olympic gold in the marathon is a very lofty goal, but when you are someone like Gwen Jorgensen, who has accomplished some very lofty goals why wouldn't you aim high?

If/When she makes the Olympic team in the marathon, she'll be the biggest story of the Olympics. How many others have qualified in multiple sports? Just the fact that she's going to go for it will make her hugely valuable to sponsors and even if that has nothing to do with her decision, she's made herself into the hottest topic in running outside of Shalane. I don't know if she can do it, but I'm excited to watch her try. One thing I do know. The 2020 women's Olympic marathon trials are going to be lit.

I'm a sucker for some good content marketing...
It's true. I know companies spend a ton of money on marketing to try and entice you into buying their product or supporting their brand, but the ones that can story tell in a unique way really stand out to me. Again, I get that is the point of marketing but let me live. Take, for example, Tracksmith & Huckberry. Both of which recently put out amazing fall catalogs. Let's start with Tracksmith. Yes, I know their stuff is expensive...Rapha for running...yes, yes, I know.

Look at this thing though -

It's a thing of beauty. Ignore the fact that they are selling products and it's a brilliant photo essay and story about a group of talented runners getting together for a fall training camp. I don't know about you but I would love to get together with a few friends and spend two or three days training together. I think that's why I like what Tracksmith does so much. I feel connected to who they are as a brand. I mean they are all much faster than I am, but that aesthetic and vibe really speak to me as a runner.

That extends beyond their lookbooks and catalogs down to their products too. When they first launched, I really wasn't too keen on $60 cotton t-shirts but as they've grown and released more gear, they've done an amazing job of storytelling with their products. Every new item they release is comes with a story. Summer runs to swimming holes (Cannonball shorts), early morning/late night track workouts (session shorts), and my personal favorite - track meets at Northeastern (Solomon Track Pants).

The last one is very specific and personal for me. Solomon Track is located in Dedham, Mass. and is the home of Northeastern University. It's also home to a number of championship level meets for the state and region. My first time running at Solomon Track was during the summer between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I won the open men's 5k in 16:37, 50 seconds up on second place. Woot, woot!

That was nothing compared to the next race I remember running there though. One of my best running memories and one of the best races I've ever run was at Solomon Track for the NEICAAA or Open New England's my sophomore year of college. This meet was all of the New England schools, division I, II, and III (except for the Ivy League schools, because...Heps). Anyway, I ran an absolutely perfect race to PR in the 10k (31:46) and take the win. I executed the plan that my Coach, Pete Thomas, gave me before the race absolutely perfectly. I ran in second or third for the first four miles, running a calm and patient tempo before launching a move with two miles to go. I ran the final two miles in under 10 minutes to take one of the biggest wins I've ever had. I can still remember Mark Miller standing in lane eight yelling "Haley, you won't close in 65!" as I rounded the turn with 300 to go. FYI, I closed in 65. Oh those were the days. 

I realize that this is silly and fairly self-indulgent but that's honestly where the story that Tracksmith told about the Solomon Track pant took me. That's obviously a unique circumstance and no company would sell anything if they had to connect to people that personally, but I thought it was cool that their catalog brought up a fun memory like that.

Side note: I just went down the rabbit hole of old results on Cool Running while looking to see if I could find those times. That was fun.

I won't dig into Huckberry's catalog because I just wrote War & Peace about a pair of pants, but check it out. If you are a fan of rocky coastlines and Fall in New England you'll dig it. Also, I'm buying that damn pizza oven.

72 Hours in Maine

There is a college trail running team... 
Jamil Coury of Run Steep Get High had an interesting vlog where he visited Western State and its Mountain Sports team. Western State, of course has a very good cross country and track program but I thought it was pretty interesting to see that they've also got a trail/mountain/ultra running and mountain biking team. While it is probably not something that I would have been interested in while I was a student, since I was running cross country and track, I definitely think it's a great idea. I know a bunch of people that didn't run in college that have become big time trail runners. Maybe they ran in high school or they started later in life, whatever the case may be, I think it would be cool to see more programs like this.

I actually feel like I read something like this about a school in Vermont...

opens a new tab and searches 'vermont college trail running team'

Yup. Sterling College
"Sterling is proud to host the first collegiate program in Mountain and Trail Running in the United States, established in October 2013. Students are supported to compete locally and regionally in events throughout the Green Mountains, White Mountains, and around the Northeastern U.S. Sterling students, staff, and faculty train in a supportive community of runners to prepare for competitions from an annual 5k trail series at the nearby internationally recognized Craftsbury Outdoor Center to 50 km, 50 mile, and 100 mile ultramarathons in Vermont and around the world."

Okay. I need to stop. The wheels are spinning on how we could move back to Keene and start a mountain/trail running team at KSC.

What's Poppin' on IG
A post shared by Cannondale Bicycles (@ridecannondale) on

SHOCKER. Another Cannondale Slate. I am loving the new orange CX1 model. I will have this bike. In this life or the next.

Shout out to Matt Johnson, who recently won the Sky to Summit 50k at Black Rock Mountain State Park. Matt is a local fast dude that I've raced a few times. He seems to have my number but it's always a good challenge.

A post shared by J U S T I N H A R D I G R E E (@justin.hardigree) on
Did I trick you with this one? It looks like it's probably somewhere in New Hampshire or Vermont right?  Wrong. That's the North Georgia Mountains. I've been traveling a lot and I haven't had a chance to spend much time up there but thankfully Justin Hardigree - a local photographer - has been taking cool shots like this to feed my habit.

A post shared by Austin Hittel (@ahittel) on

I am very fortunate to work with some really talented people. This shot is from the Brooklyn Bridge during my adventures with Austin Hittel and Trevor Lasso from a few weeks ago. Austin set up his a7s for a long exposure on the bridge just after the sun set.

That's all for this Trestle Run. This is what happens when I start one and then it takes me a month and a half to finish it. Some day I will get my ish together and make these shorter and more frequent.