Being a dork at
Cascade Crest 100m
With David Hughes.
I hope this finds everyone well, enjoying the holidays and looking forward to another great year. I’m having fun planning new treks, runs, and climbs on Kilimanjaro and in Nepal. Hope you can join me for an adventure.
This year was particularly rich in trail running, especially if you contrast it to the road miles of 2012. If I were going to brag, I would mention trails in the following places: North Cascades, Grand Canyon, Zion, Wasatch, Kilimanjaro, and in the Himalaya. Not bad huh? Well, there was a little misfortune thrown in, just enough to make things interesting. But first the good stuff, I think these two runs were the highlights of the year:
One of my resolutions for the year was trying something different. This meant getting out of my comfort zone and getting creative. Running around Kilimanjaro’s high altitude circuit trail with Jacob Slaa in a continuous push of 12:35 hours fit the bill perfectly. As far as we know, it hasn’t been done before. It was quite the dreamscape.
Jacob Slaa – making tracks at ~14,000ft on Kilimanjaro’s Saddle.
And combining love for climbing with running, Matt Palilla and I did a speed climb up Mt. Adams (14,216ft) in Washington state and then ran around it, covering some really tough terrain and finishing in 23:16 hours. We just won a “Washington Ultra Grimey” for this effort in the ‘Only Known Time’ (OKT) category. Both of us have been inspired by many of the other awardees, it is neat to be in their company. Of course, we are all a little insane. Wait ’til you see what we have in store for this summer.
Up, down, and around!
There were many other good runs, but sadly it wasn’t all perfect luck this year. Last month I had the misfortune of having an errant door jam run into me at full speed during the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal. You never know when one of those pesky things is going to hit you. It took six days, a 17,000 ft pass, and ~50 miles to get out of the woods; x-rays back in Kathmandu initially showed what looked like a fractured C7 vertebrae my neck. One friend, a radiologist with a penchant for mountain biking and a quiver of injuries, encouraged me to treat like it was a ‘wet paper bag filled with groceries’ until I had a full diagnosis. Another used the words ‘ticking time bomb’. My spirits tanked.
In those two weeks of contemplating where I am and hope to go, I realized how much I take for granted. Running has become my therapy, my friend, my drug, and my community, and is bordering on a vocation. It is what gave me a new direction six years ago when I spent almost every day on the couch. But maybe some of us have swung too far in the opposite direction? Most of my friends are runners and they live it and breathe it. A friend just posted a new tatoo that says ‘Run or Die’ on Facebook. Others have license plates and belts buckles and even stones. And then we have that intrinsic motivation, the private inner bliss of sailing down mountain trails, hands outspread like wings as we bank around a switchback. Worries melting away. I confess to sometimes making sounds like an airplane. Was this all gone? No more thermals?
Looking for the answer took me on an endurance event of its own – from jarring taxis in Kathmandu for MRIs, to a small hospital in southern Thailand for CT scans which were soon foisted into my friend John’s hands. Sitting next to a serene beach, John-the-vet looked at the scans and said that if I were a dog, he would tell my owners to keep me on a short leash and cage rest, but that I would probably heal fine. I’m not sure he was impressed with my shiny coat or teeth but we didn’t go there. (As a very long parenthetical aside, watching John and Kathleen get married a few days later on the beach was absolutely beautiful and they are off for some remarkable adventures for the next ~2 years. And I had a great time hanging out with some wonderful people. We plan to cross paths again in Nepal in April in prep for the Great Himalayan Trail. Please follow along on their blog and help support their sponsor Ultraspire which makes the best running packs I have ever owned.)
Back to my monologue. John’s veterinary advice sent with me to the best surgeon in a swanky Bangkok spinal center. There was an Instagram booth next to the Christmas tree and I was escorted from room to room by some kind of bellhop. Yet my entire visit and x-rays cost a mere $72. The findings list grew longer with words you do not want to hear, words that were different and more complicated then what was first thought. Somehow, miraculously, the doctor leaned across his desk and said, ‘quite likely a full recovery with no surgery.‘ I made him repeat it twice. He even said I could start running again, basically backing up the short leash treatment protocol. Oh sweet joy.
Relief Redux with Dr. Deepak in Nepal.
Thanks Dr. Rajeev (far right) for setting us up!
Three days later, back in Kathmandu, I hired a car and driver for half a day ($20) and took a ride to Dhulikhel Hospital which is a good bit outside of the city. I had been swapping emails with one of the best spinal surgeons in Nepal and like a bad internet date, there we were checking each other out wondering where things were gong to go… Looking at my new images, he backed up John and the surgeon in Bangkok. Oh sweet relief redux. The bill this time was $0.25. Yep, no mistake with the decimal.
I’ve learned that it can all be taken away in the blink of the eye, in the most stupid way possible, and that I am very lucky. My thoughts these days are to run now while you can and make the absolute most of it, feel grateful for it, and don’t make it your entire life. Those are my new resolutions at least, borrow if you like. And cautious are my new foot steps as I heal, but under them is new energy from a second chance.
Scouting trail above Kathmandu in Shiva Puri National Park
With that, I think it is time to go for a run. I’ve been back in Kathmandu for a few weeks and feel not 100% but trending in that direction. I am in the mountains almost everyday – watching my steps and scouting trail for the Ultra Trail Kathmandu 10/25/50k run which will be in a couple weeks. It has some insane climbing. Thanks all of you who have believed in me and supported me through these ups and downs. Best wishes for what is to come in your new year, I hope we can cover some trails together.
December 28th, 2013
PS – A complete brag, but some of my ‘bigger’ adventures in 2013 below…for trip reports and photo albums, please click here. Here is hoping 2014 is just as exciting.
An Oreo at Orcas 50k, my 4th time!
Jumping for Joy at
Chuckanut 50k, 3rd time and a PR
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Too many to count.
Columbia Gorge 50k Waterfall Run,