In the same week there were interviews with two of my favorite “mountain athletes” aka wildmen who do some awesome shit in the mountains.
The first is an episode of the Ultrarunner Podcast featuring an interview with Timothy Allen Olson.
In it he discusses a range of topics covering overtraining syndrome, meditation, and his plans for the Hardrock 100 (best race ever!)
The second is an episode of the Tim Ferris Podcast where Tim interviews Alex Honnold- rock climbing extraordinaire. (If you don’t know who Alex is…youtube him immediately)
In it Alex answers questions ranging from how to handle fear to how to poop while rock climbing. I’ve been fascinated by Alex Honnold for years now so it was really interesting seeing how he goes about his everyday life.
What skill could you learn if you spent 100 days of intentional work EVERY SINGLE DAY?
How good of shape could you get into if you spent 100 days of intentional exercise EVERY SINGLE DAY?
How much improvement would you see if you practiced EVERY SINGLE DAY?
I keep preaching the importance of “showing up”- of being consistent and persistent. The importance of being disciplined.
I’m awesome at this….in some areas. I’m terrible at this in other areas.
For example I’m pretty good at this in the areas of health and exercise. I’ve made being active part of my routine. I generally don’t miss a workout. If I say I’m going to go for a run, I go for a run. If I say I’m doing yoga before bed, I do yoga before bed. Consistent (I show up every day) and persistent (I keep at it).
I know this idea is the key to open many doors in life. I’ve seen it work its magic.
But it’s still hard to get right in other aspects of my life.
Ever since I was in 7th grade I have wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I was an EXPERT at air guitar as I imagined myself on stage rocking the heck out! So I begged and begged my mom to buy me one. “I promise I’ll practice every day!” Guess what happened? For a few months I stuck to my promise. Then time passed and the guitar sat there more and more. The sadness of an unplayed guitar.
Every so often I would get inspired. “Now I’m really going to learn the guitar!” For a few weeks I would consistently play. Then I would play less and less until it resumed its job of sitting there.
I’ve been stuck in this cycle for YEARS.
Recently I’ve gotten a little better, practicing a few times a week or consistently playing for a few months. But I’ve struggled at incorporating this into my routine even though I know the magic of being consistent and persistent.
This is why it’s really important to be held accountable, which is where my friend Calvin comes into play.
He will hold you accountable. In fact he’s creating a community meant to hold you accountable. It’s called the 100club.
100 days to practice a new skill, compete in different exercises, to accomplish a goal.
Why not work smarter AND harder. Isn’t that inevitably the key to success?
This is why “hacking” has always bugged me. It seems unhealthy to be obsessed with shortcuts.
You need to develop your HARD WORK MUSCLE. This seems a lot healthier in the long term.
Combining intelligence and hard work will be the most useful tool driving you towards success (in whatever area you are striving for).
So before you start working hard at something- do your research, do a pre-mortem, come up with a blueprint, breakdown your goals into smaller more achievable benchmarks. Come at the goal with a well thought out plan.
Guess what? By creating a plan, you’ve already put in some dastardly hard work in the form of time consumption and mental energy. Gasp!
Once you have a plan in place then WORK HARD to achieve your goal. Then WORK HARD to see what parts of the plan have been successful and what parts you need to tweak. Then WORK HARD to make and observe those changes. Then WORK HARD to do it all again.
“Much of our behavior is literally contagious; when you make positive changes in your own life, you are unconsciously shaping the behavior of an incredible number of people.”- The Happiness Advantage
This idea is incredibly important. You want to make the world a better place? You want people to be nice? More positive? Do you want your kids to grow up to be healthy and happy? Do you want your coworkers to smile more often? Do you simply want to see positive differences?
The way to do this is to start with you.
You need to be healthier and happier. You need to make the positive change in yourself.
Change the only thing you are responsible for and, quite frankly, the only thing you have control over- Yourself.
People always say “you are a product of your own environment.” And in some instances that is completely true (mostly subconsciously).
But I feel like that thought can be dangerous; it takes the responsibility off the individual.
If I’m just a product of something else then it’s not my fault I am unhappy, lazy, zoned out, depressed, angry.
That’s a bunch of crap. You aren’t on earth to simply exist as a product. You are meant to be the producer. The one whose morals and beliefs are permeating the community around you. The one who is affecting change.
You CAN make the change you want to see in the world. But you have to start with YOU. And it’s not going to be easy. In fact, it is much easier to be the product- to let your surroundings shape you and form your personality, shape, moral compass, beliefs. Being mindless is a piece of cake. Being mindful? That’s the challenge!
But it’s a challenge I believe all of us can take on.
So today I challenge you to improve you. However you see fit. Whether that’s going for a run, doing yoga, taking on a new skill, stepping outside your comfort zone, calling an old friend, letting go of a grudge, meditating, uncluttering your house, or joining my friend Calvin’s 100 Club (100 days to learn a new skill).
Whatever you may choose, just step up to the plate. You got this. You rock!
As I plan the next big trip I’m reflecting on what I love so much about adventures.
I honestly believe a life without adventure would not be a life worth living.
But adventure is what you make it. You can have little adventures all the time. You don’t need to head to Mt. Everest or the Amazon (although giant overseas trips are amazing). You can have adventures in your own backyard. You can approach every day with the curiosity of a child (what my two year old teaches me daily!). You can go exploring everywhere.
The world is a fascinating place.
You just got to be receptive to it.
(This is an Anti-Zombie-Mode public service announcement)
First of all, if you live in the southeast (Georgia, Carolinas, or Virginia) you should sign up for a Run Bum race IMMEDIATELY. What I look for when I sign up for an ultra is adventure. That’s my number one priority. I want well designed courses, fun people, a kick-butt challenge, good food, but most importantly- BEAUTIFUL TRAILS. The race needs to take my jaw drop by showing me touring me through a stunningly gorgeous place I have never been before. I want some badass views, waterfalls, cliffs, weird animals, and so on. At some point during the race I want to feel like I’m Indiana Jones lost in the middle of some crazy wilderness.
I think “Run Bum” the race director gets this. He must value the same experience. Sure, the “racing” aspect is tons of fun, but its everything else that makes an event memorable.
I’ve participated in three of his events (Quest for the Crest 10k, Quest for the Crest 50k, and Grayson Highlands 50k). All three have been unique experiences that have taken me deep into the wilderness, shown me AMAZING views, and have treated the event more like an adventure than a standard race.
SIDE NOTE: Quest for the Crest in Asheville will legitimately destroy your body, mind and soul (if you are in to that sort of challenge)…seriously, it took an hour to complete the first three miles (3,000 ft elevation gain).
Run Bum events have become my favorite races of the year.
The Grayson Highlands 50k was no different.
My friend Travis (“Uncle” Travis to my two year old) flew out from California on the back of the promise that he will witness THE BEST VIEWS IN VIRGINIA in which Grayson Highlands happily supplies.
Unfortunately we consumed by a cloud during the section of our race that would have been nothing but amazing views for 3 hours… Fortunately, Travis and I went hiking the day before to check out the course.
Long story short: We ran into some Longhorn Steers that were grazing in the National Forest, we got scared after imagining them running around with their giant horns gored through our limp bodies like marshmallows over a campfire. We scurried back down the mountain looking over our shoulders every few seconds only to see the bulls slowly following us. Eventually we made it to the flimsiest gate thinking this chicken wire will surely stop a one ton beast and felt safe again.
To be fair (and to keep our man cards) I was wearing a red coat…. to be even fairer, we found out later that the whole bulls hating the color red was just mumbo jumbo. Man cards revoked.
We stayed in the loft of a barn in Healing Springs, North Carolina. In the early 1900s this was a popular destination due to the spring water’s mysterious healing powers. Needless to say we drank gallons of healing spring water, while high-fiving, and assuming that it would protect us from the punishment of a 50k (it did not…though it was delicious!)
We woke up freezing cold at 4:45am (barn loft=no heat), packed our bags, and drove to the starting line.
Travis had never run a 50k before. In truth he isn’t much of a runner nor did he train super hard. Neither of us were worried though. I’ve known Travis for years and he’s the kind of guy that says he’s going to do something and then goes out and gets it done. He’s also a stubborn SOB. His exact quote was that he would finish “even if I have to drag my cold dead corpse across the finish.”
Although I hoped that he wouldn’t die, I couldn’t wait to see him attempt to painfully shuffle around the next morning for no better reason than to please my own twisted sense of humor.
We ran together for the first half mile and then went our separate ways at our own pace.
I saw him at mile 24 for me and 18 for him. He was looking pretty good – still energetic, smiling, and moving foward (the three aspects of a good race). I’m always impressed with Travis when he goes “mindless mode.”
The race itself was awesome. Here’s a couple highlights:
We ran by the famous Grayson Highlands ponies. They are pretty awesome and not as scary as the Longhorns.
Speaking of which, everyone ran by the Longhorns. I wasn’t as scared this time because I only had to outrun one other person to be safe….
As previously mentioned, we were stuck in a cloud in what would have been the most beautiful part of the race. I was cool with it because just two days earlier one of my students asked me “what would it be like to be in a cloud?” Well here’s the answer “wet…and you can’t see very well.”
The aid station at the old cabin was AWESOME! This might be the only trail race in which you run through a cabin.
The out and back was fun. You went straight down a mountain, then up a mountain (as I so terribly describe to Travis in the video), then back down said mountain, and then STRAIGHT backup the mountain. It reminded me of the good old times had during Quest for the Crest 50k.
Towards the end, you rounded a corner and saw the finish line. “Yay I did it!” every single racer thought until they were quickly informed that they still had a mile and a half loop to go. It probably had the best view though…so totally worth it.
BBQ at the finish line= spectacular!
The other racers = amazingly nice people! (One of my favorite parts of Ultras are all the awesome people you get to hang out with)
I finished in 4:53 which I was pretty satisfied with since I was shooting for under 5 hours. My muscles and joints felt pretty good and I did not have to make any trips to the woods this time so my change in race nutrition seemed to work out! Yay!
Travis finished like a champion! We ate some BBQ, waded in a cold river, ate some burgers, drank some healing spring water, ate some spaghetti, played some SCRABBLE, then fell asleep. The next day he had to shuffle his beaten and broken body down the stairs….it took at least 5 minutes…am I bad friend if I say that I found it hilarious!
Overall, it was a great experience! These adventures keep me inspired, keep me healthy, and most importantly keep me happy. Can’t wait for the next one!
Rode about 22 miles in an hour and a half. Didn’t crash. Didn’t run over a copperhead. Need new brakes though…my brakes are garbage.
Note to self: Always wear sunglasses when riding a bike. I spent the hour after my ride pulling random insect parts out of each of my eyes.
Note to self #2: Geese don’t give a shit if you are walking, running or even on a bike. They will still chase you if you come close to their babies.
In all fairness I did end up running almost a mile yesterday… I was pushing my daughter in a stroller while on a walk with my wife and her friend when a giant thunderstorm rolled in. Being superdad I jogged back to the house to beat the storm.
I’ve officially put myself on a running hiatus after training for and participating in two 50ks in the last few months (Holiday Lake and Grayson Highlands).
Basically, I’ve been in training mode since December and need a month off for mental and physical health.
One of my life goals is to stay a lifelong athlete. I need competition in my life. I always want to be competing because competition brings me joy, purpose, a reason to stay healthy, adventure, inspiration and so much more.
Also, I never want to lose my “super power” of being able to run up mountains like a freaking goat. To keep this ability sharp I have to avoid overuse injury.
To be a lifelong athlete, it is important to take time off. Not time off from being active, mind you, just time off from trail running. This allows the body to recover and the mind to relax a bit. So until June I am not signing up for any future events (beside a few backpacking trips I’m planning).
Instead for the month of May I’m doing two things:
Focusing my running muscles and joints on recovery
Expanding my horizons in different activities
I’m going to be doing much more yoga, bodyweight training, biking and swimming (if my face doesn’t swell up like the StayPuff Marshmallow Man again).
I’m not going to be in “training mode” per se so I won’t be on as strict of a diet or a training regime. This doesn’t mean I won’t eat healthy most of the time, but it does mean that if someone offers me some cheesecake you can bet your life I’m not turning it down (and I’ll probably ask for seconds…sue me).
This is going to be a fun FUN month. I’m looking forward to trying some new activities. And I’ll make sure to report on my adventures (hopefully none involving face-planting on the bike)!
(Also I owe you guys a Grayson Highlands report which I promise I’ll post sometime this week…less training also equals more writing)
SIDE NOTE: I am signed up for a trail series in my town that I will be participating in once a week. Each Wednesday in May about 45 people will run a 4-6 mile loop on the trails. Times will be updated every week until there is an overall winner (think NASCAR for trail runners). I’ve skipped it the last two years and wanted to make sure I signed up this year….though I probably won’t be competing too hard.