Wednesday, December 17, 2014


La Sportiva Mountain Running Athlete Andrew Fast goes through some of his favorite core exercise to help build the base strength you’ll need to go fast and hard in the mountains, cycling or racing a triathlon. Even though Andrew is a mountain runner for La Sportiva, these are great workouts for any endurance athlete.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chapter 9: Enjoy the Ride

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain... To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices - today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.
     -Kevyn Aucoin

After three days of bad weather at the base of Pico Duarte (the ultimate objective), it was time to retreat to sea level.  Piglet, the farm dog, was in rare form as river rat/raft guide; all good things come to an end. 

Chapter 8: Live life love, love life.

       -Jamais Cascio

Zach and Extreme Hotel Cabarete have a farm on the north coastal side of the interior mountain range.  Aquaponics, bees, goats, chickens, star fruit, cacao from the tree, peppers, mint, and eggplant; these guys are driving around old Mercedes Turbo Diesels on veggie oil and living proof that, with creativity, anything is possible.

Chapter 7: Terrain

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.      -Albert Einstein 
There is a saying: “God is everywhere, but he lives in Costanza.”  With jungle peaks as far as the eye can see, and sitting smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic and Caribbean, it’s not a bad place to hang out

Chapter 6: Bliss Found

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.
     -Joseph Campbell

One of many waterfalls making their way to the ocean from the high peaks.  Something weird happens to my body when a full moon is up, I can’t sleep and have a lot of energy.  I left towards the mountains out of basecamp at 4am, in the dark, and explored all day.

Chapter Five: Musk of the Open Road

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!
      -Bob Marley

Musk of the open road, you are Master Splinter. Simplicity, independence, and empowerment--as long as tired legs will carry I will thrutch. It’s all butterflies and butterscotch until shit goes wrong; that’s when you know you’re in it.

Red jungle dirt has a healing quality.  My home base on the north coast was at my friend Zach’s Hotel Extreme, this is a road near their farm.

Chapter 4: People

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.
      -William Feather

No Pirates.  But I did find a Dutchman living off the grid.  He offered me imported Belgian beer, I stayed for a couple days.

Exploring jungle trails in the Dominican Republic is unpredictable.  Some trails end up at a scenic beach--it feels like you just discovered it--some trails go to the door of a simple tin roof home; donkey out front, chickens, and skinny dogs. I suppose that’s what makes us feel alive and human; the unexpected.

Chapter 3: Being,sitting, enjoying

“It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie

I don’t normally sit on the beach to work a tan but if I did, Las Galeras is where I’d go.  Literally the end of the road, everything stops here, including time. Word has it, remote coves notched at the end of the north coasts Samana Peninsula provide refuge for drug smugglers on the Cocaine Highway; naturally I looked for a trail.  Jungle running to spy on pirates--I’d be foolish to resist such an urge.

Chapter 2: Lost my Marbles

Like a kid loves candy and fresh snow, new trails and culture, I love you oh so well.  I built TukTuk (my bicycle) up at an open air terminal, plenty of spectators and biting bugs.  Agriculture land.  I was the only gringo on the flight; a good sign for sure.  Turns out TSA lost the nut to my front wheel skewer.  Translation: the piece that prevents the front wheel from rolling off the bike was missing.  Dripping in sweat, determined, and applying my community college B- physics, I made a skewer with four zip ties and a bike lock key.

“Don’t ride at night,” that’s the only consistent pre-trip advice I got from folks who’ve ridden in Dominican Republic.  I left the airport and headed to Moca.  A dusty town surrounded by agriculture on three sides and a mountain range on the North.   Mopeds are like mosquitoes, cars are in varying states of decay but rest assured horns are intact.  I ascended a, not the, ridge out of Moca just as the sun set.  Alpenglow on broad leaf palms and eucalyptus are like finding a long lost brother.  Ascending the first ridge, based on my maps, I’d anticipated seeing a beautiful descent down to quaint little coastal village.  Instead I saw countless jungle ridges and a closing curtain of darkness; I suppose that’s when the trip really began.

Joie de vivre is a French phrase often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.

Chapter 1: The Beginning

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©r

This is the start of something good. Traveling through a new mountain range via human power is a process of refinement.  The less gear I need, the faster I can go; the faster I go the more I see and experience.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good Morning Gordy

Good Morning Gordy

The following is an excerpt from my thought diary while logging some miles with Gordy.  Through conversation and minimal research, I’ve determined Gordy started not only the Western States 100 mile running race, but also ultra distance trail running in the United States as we know it.

Gordy starts: I’d fallen in with bad company.  We weren’t bad, really, just bored.  My friend John got caught stealing a candy bar and it just so happened that, at one time or another, we had also relocated a couple delineators.  John went on house arrest; eventually he got antsy and started giving names.  Local authorities came to my house, arrested me, and put me on probation.  Pretty soon after that my mom said: “Let’s move Gordy to the country”. 
Gordy is tall, much taller than me, with big hands, big legs and long gray hair that blends with a big bushy grey beard.  Gordy was the first person in the United States, and likely the world, to take on the challenge of a 100 mile foot race.
Gordy goes on: The school I transferred from in the suburbs had something crazy, like twelve hundred students; I would have never played sports with that kind of competition. But out in the country things are different.  Out in the country there is plenty of room at the top.  I turned out for wrestling, and it turned out that the coach for the wrestling also coached cross-country; he needed a third to strengthen his relay squad; that’s probably where it all began.
I first noticed Gordy after breakfast.  He was filling up his water bottles.  His tall frame hunched over an orange juice pitcher, delicately tipping towards two homemade hand-held water bottles, then whipping the salt shaker in the general vicinity of the bottles.
I’m attracted to people like Gordy—a kind disregard for whatever everyone else is doing, non-disruptive, and forever interesting to follow.
Gordy goes on: They wouldn’t let me run Western States one year because of my appeal to the board.  The director had put a stop to the horse race that occurs a couple weeks before the running race because he believed the trail could not withstand the horse’s impact.  Well, ultra running attracts a pretty powerful group; I sent out a few letters to fellow ultra distance runners who happened to be involved with parks and protected areas who happen to know BLM officials of the area, and what do you think happened next?  The horse race was back on. 
Gordy didn’t get to race that year but his style based principles is timeless in the world of endurance folks.  Most ultra runners I meet are at the top tier of a tier system they made up, in a non-elitist, non-intrusive sort of way.  Like Gordy, these people are innovators and don’t give a hoot about what anyone else thinks; the same characteristics that define some of the greatest innovators of our time.
Gordy goes on: I’m not a manager.  I’m not good at managing things.  I’m an inventor. 
I’d applied to Berkley after high school.  In my letter of intent I didn’t have a single materialistic goal.  Being the late 70’s with all the student riots and the whole thing going on I think they saw me as threat, so they sent me to UC Santa Barbara—with all the other kids they saw as a threat.  It was a pretty crazy time, I took a club to the head; I was singing a Martin Luther King song, you know—‘you can’t stop me now’.  Then “whap”.  I took a night club to the head so that pretty much ended that.  I wasn’t too worried about it because the scar was hidden by my hairline but now I’m losing my hair, so that didn’t work out.
Gordy adjusting his sun faded visor keeping to keep long hair from his eyes.

Gordy goes on: At any rate in ’79, there tacked on the wall of the University of Santa Barbara Stables, was flyer for the Western States Horse Race.  I gave it a once over and said; ‘heck’ that’s only an hour from my house.  I wrote the director and asked to get in, she said I was too late, so I bought a horse marked my calendar, and raced it the next year.
Gordy and I started up a hill and we both lost our breath.  My thoughts launched into questioning what prompts a person to ditch an animal with legs perfectly capable of carrying in exchange for using their own legs to propel—Gordy’s thoughts launched into who knows what. 

The year after completing the great Western States Horse Race, Gordy got rid of his horse, laced up his shoes, filled his homemade hand-held water bottles with orange juice and table salt, and set out to do something no one else had thought of doing.  Years later, the result is one of the most popular running races in the world and a multimillion dollar trail running industry.

In the end, and in his early sixties, the important thing about Gordy is that he isn’t burnt out on a trend he started, he’s on the trail, inspired, and keeping the rest of us psyched about getting our shoes muddy.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shaved Legs and Chest Hair

"I completely underestimated our route,"  She started out.  "It took a couple days of climbing just to get to the next town, camping along the way.  Then the rain came--so miserable--riding up hill all day then crawling into wet gear.  We got worked by the mountains, but it was awesome.  I want to go back."  There was a lightness to her voice.  It was easy to tell the memories of camping under a bright moon, descending long hills with the sun, and the calmness of the mountains in the morning will stick with her for years to come.

A few years ago I lent this friend a circa 1980's steel frame Team Fuji bicycle, shifters on the down tube, nice big lugs typical of that time--a school bus on two wheels compared to bikes of today.  She had fractured her knee and wanted to get fit without the pain of running.  And so it began--that indescribable passion for pedaling--as fast as legs will allow, racing friends, or exploring new terrain via human power.  Having something in your life to look forward to everyday is important.  Having that 'thing' be fueled by endorphins, culture, and fresh air is awesome.

Now, this friend mounts the steel frame Fuji for Tuesday night hammer rides with a group, she's the only girl and the guys are all on carbon frames.  She has completed two self-contained tours tours on the bike, on routes she made up herself through mountain ranges she'd never been.  On July 20th at 7:00AM this friend and her iron donkey will embark on their first Half Ironman--please send them positive energy.

Last weekend I was 5th Male Pro at Ironman Mont-Tremblant 70.3, and I can't help but believe my progress up to this point is a direct result of others showing me the way.

Above all else, just keep pedaling.  It's simple.

Your Pal,

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mt. San Jacinto: FKT Cactus to Clouds


San Diego at Sunrise
I’m on a search for the perfect ride; a simplified and stripped down perspective--every day.  From the saddle of a bike, outside the breakers at dawn, or chasing alpenglow on a new trail; simple pleasures. "Simplify, simplify." A tape worm road through a range I've never ridden, Hank Williams shouting through headphones, off camber turns, goose bump arms; child-like smile. Running a trail, steep enough to require thought, technical enough to stay present; freedom, solitude, and independence--that is why we go. Perspective, inspiration, and a spanking--that is what we get.  I play outside because it’s fun, the faster I go the more fun I have.

I’m fascinated by snoring.  Really, so impressive.  The most soft spoken petite Asian man, projecting with such confidence when he’s not awake. Social dynamics are weird, the body does whatever it damn well pleases.  On an adjacent bunk and on his side, an accordion of noise; baritone meets burping, inhale. Whistling Dixie please let me sleep, exhale.  I’m on a bunk at the San Diego Hostel, it’s 1AM.


New Hampshire.  Winter riding.


A few years back I cycled from Phoenix to San Diego (SD) then linked up with “The Christmas Tour;” a 500 mile cycle tour--the most fun a person will ever have on two wheels.

The ride is organized by sons and daughters of 1980s cycling legends--started as a way for professional cyclists to get base miles as a family; awesome.  Now in it’s nearly 30th year, the route and company are world class; sleeping on church floors, elementary school room floors, and in community center gymnasiums--it’s more about the ride and less about the fluff.  Communal meals enhance interaction, there is no WiFi, all walks of life; upright bikes, recumbent bikes, couples now married who met on the tour riding tandem with their toddler in tow.  
San Diego.  Winter riding.


Typically the longer a tour survives the stronger and more efficient it gets--just like us; well oiled with less stress as the years go by, aside from the hills and flat tires.  Ever since The Christmas Tour I’d been trying to get back and do variations on the route--this was that moment.

In a basin around a bonfire, somewhere near Seward, Alaska after Mount Marathon:

Patrick: If you like vert in a short distance check out Cactus to Clouds.

Me: Where is Cactus to Clouds?

And so it was.  Like most escapades, a seed gets planted, the idea festers, and you either do it or you don’t.


9 days in numbers:

16,500 meters: Distance Swam
21,400 feet: Vertical Gain Ran
32,000 feet: Vertical Gain Ridden
6: number of hours slept in Chicago Airport
Many: Ounces of beer
1: Number of Pappa John’s pizza’s eaten


NOAA called for 100% chance of precipitation in San Diego County; it was time to head east and run in the desert.


I woke early on February the 26th. Clear skies and cool temps in the valley (5AM Palm Springs).

I didn't preview Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds) but had read trip reports, studied the route, and recently run a similar profile, which can be found here:

Alive, inspired, and getting cold near the Tram Station.

2/26/14 @ approx. 6:45AM

Recollection of the run in segments:

Segment 1: Why are there so many spur trails?  Am I on pace?  This is a steep hill.  I feel heavy.

Segment 2: I'm dropping south off the ridge towards a valley.  Why am I dropping? Effort spikes, angry pace ensues, tempo is found.

Segment 3: It's leveling off a bit, is it supposed to level off this much?  Mad pace continues. I find flow near the 1:15 mark.

Segment 4:  It's steep again.  Heavy legs.  I fall.

Segment 5: Around the 2hr mark, after rock pillar.  A glimpse of the tram! "Pick-up-your-feet.  You must be close."

Segment 6: Climb after the traverse; I'm not that close.

Segment 7: Cold.  Low blood sugar. (Upper tram station)

Segment 8:  (Lower tram station) Sierra Nevada on draft.  You can read minds?  "Wait, I have to walk 4 miles down to the highway to catch a bus?"

Segment 9: Walked 4 miles to HWY, hitch hiked, got picked up by a very cool couple from Canada; THANK YOU (if you're reading this).


     The number of off-ramps down low and mid-route are a deterrent.  Had a person done recon and previous attempts for time on the route-->beneficial short cuts are likely available.  Stumbling into cactus land on an off-ramp and having to push on or re-trace; not fast or efficient.  These detours did nothing but break rhythm and tempo.  

     -Accessibility: The aesthetics of gaining over 8,000ft in such a short distance, at a route so accessible, in and of itself is enough to get stoked and hopefully inspire folks to go after this time.  If you come from winterland and you trail run--Idylwilde is a good mountain town hub/launch pad with plenty of trails.

     -Tram: Going super hard and thinking "base to summit" and not "base-summit-base" allows a person to go light and fast.  Light and fast is fun.

     The route: I like that there are not a lot of markers yet at the same time, this is a high traffic trail with many novice hikers going up for an hour (max) then turning around; more blatant signage down low for the gumbies might help the spur trail problem. -->spurt trails up on the ridge: I'd be willing to bet are by fast local hikers-->it's your backyard-->who am I to say where to and not to go? 

-High of 79dF (Valley Floor)
-43dF (Tram Station)
-Recent Rain/precip-->none-->no ice
-Snow level: not an issue this year
*Weather is like a river; dynamic and never the same.  Please do not assume that my listed gear below will work for a person under similar circumstances.

-Top: La Sportiva Persuit Race Tank
-Bottom: La Sportiva Race Short
-Feet: La Sportiva C-Lite 2.0
-Cargo: Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 20 + Camelback Delany Race (bottle hip belt)
-Micro Spikes: left them in the car
Emergency Burrito (strapped to Delany Race belt)
-Petzl e+Lite
-Storm Pass Pro ST wind/rain coat
-Novara arm warmers
-Turtle Fur beanie
-Nike run gloves
-Cell phone
Run nutrition:
-Bonk Breaker BP&J bar
-One bottle electrolyte drink + one bottle water (only dusted one bottle)
-PowerBar Cola Gummies (did not use)

Pre run PM nutrition:
-Serria Nevada Torpedo IPA (x3)
-Papa Johns Vegetarian Pizza w/meat prepped at hostel (x1)
-Almond M&M’s; the large bag (of course)
AM Pre-Run:
-Last slice of pizza

Logistics: I didn't think them through.  Had to hitchhike back to Palm Springs after walking four miles from lower tram/drop off down to HWY 111.  Would advise dropping a bike at lower tram pre-run, driving to start, then riding back to car/TH post run. Winds seem to blow south while I was there so it'd be at your back and a good spin out for the loaded legs.

:13 Picnic tables
:29 (Rescue Station #1)
1:01 (marked rock cairn)
1:28 (Rescue Station #2)
1:40 (Flat Rock)
2:03 (Rock Pillar, lookers right)
2:21 (Grubs Sign) *just before tram (approx 2:20)

2:26 Tram Station (Base of stairs)

Below is a brief recap of the trip with swim/bike/run details:

Day 1:
Check into hostel.  
Build bike.  
Note to self: don’t pack almond butter in bike box--it explodes.  

I cleaned off Tuktuk (my bike) and idled up the coast for a few hours on flat legs.  Hello beautiful people!  I’d forgotten of the tattoos, lips, boobs, and butts that make north San Diego County so pretty.  In it’s own ‘trying too hard hard not to to try at all’ fashion, N. SD County is very pleasant place from the saddle of a bike. Good coffee at ‘The Loft’.

Day 2:
AM: 3k Swim. Encinitas YMCA.
PM: 80mile ride.  Heading east from El Cajon to Pine Valley on a local classic 80 miler with plenty of vert and sweat.

Day 3:
AM: run + strides. Sunset Cliffs dirt trail on bluff.
Mid: 90 mile ride w/ 9,000ft vert on Mt. Palomar; world class riding.

Day 4:
AM: 4k swim w/ 10x200. Encinitas YMCA
Mid: 90 mile ride, 8,000ft+ vert via Temecula around and up Mt. Palomar from opposite side.  Much more gentle climb, very aesthetic.

Day 5:
AM: Mt. San Jacinto Jaunt (FKT) Skyline Trail.  “Cactus to Clouds”
Total time 2:26
PM: easy 2k recovery swim. Palm Desert Aquatic Center.

Day 6: AM: 3hrs Spin up to Mountain Center. High winds, good views.

Day 7: AM: Swim; 3,500meters MS 25x100. Palm Springs Aquatic Center.
Mid: Ride: 3:45 easy/mod in the rain
PM: 1:10 Easy/mod run. On the canal to see black dirt flash floods.

Day 8: AM: 3hr up to 6,500ft on Jacinto. Sunrise start. Just after a rain. So perfect.
Mid: 4hr mod./steady Ride. Out on Dillon Rd. with a head wind. Head wind and chip seal; locals like Dillon Rd.; I don't.

Day 9: AM: 4hr spin to La Quinta from PS. If I win the lotto I'm going to La Quinta; green grass in the middle of the desert...what's that green grass costing the Colorado River?


Thank you:
La Sportiva....happy feet
PBM Coaching...Kurt is an amazing coach.
Bonk Breaker....real food, in a bar headlamps on the market
Smart Cells...insoles for long days and recovery
Woodinville Bicycle...I don't care who you are or where you live, this shop is better.
Orca/Orbea...Keeping aero sexy


Mom, Dad, Allison, Mathew, Alycia; I am nothing without you.


Your pal,


Pictures from the trip that I can't seem to get perfect; very organic.