So I heard y’all wanna float?

One thing I have been dealing with lately is my view on what failure actually constitutes. This was born from a series of experiences recently that did not really merit that hard dialectic.

Success, or failure.

It was a curious thing, as I think about the growing overlap between me as a person and a runner. Which up until sometime late last year were nicely segmented portions of who I am. This year I decided to put myself out there in a way that was maybe more open and honest all around. This is a dual edged sword. I feel like being a more present person would invariably improve me as a person, and being more open as a person would make me a better runner.

I am trying to create a feedback cycle that is just going to feed itself like an ouroboros. As any reader of my blog will note from earlier posts, I perhaps struggle more with the interpersonal aspects. Which is a polite way of saying I like to put up a wall and dull the negative experiences, This is important, it ended up affecting the positive aspects of whatever I was doing as well, you can’t often feel like you’re watching yourself through an ambient fog and be very strong in the mountains. If you can’t be strong in the mountains, you can’t apply this across your entire personal rubric. From writing to engaging in any type of meaningful interaction.

I think the solution was to figure out how to be more present, not just in the moment, but on a macro level. I couldn’t just sit in the cozy bubble bath of my mind generating every possibility, and then leaning deep into positive(or negative) permutations I wasn’t willing to actually work through to even try to make happen.

What has happened is, as I am willing to take risks in my personal life, I can feel my ambition as a runner, and as a student, and as a person starting to slowly vector.

Of course, there is a side effect of bombing down the Fern Canyon of life. You’re going to catch a toe, you’re going to skin a knee, you’re going to see the proverbial blood. Running down the hill in real life, doing this does not equal failure. You still made it down, perhaps not as fast as you had imagined, but the route is completed in the best style you can manage at the time.

You bonk. You run out of gas. You act short, you’re tired. But you’re there, and you did it.

This is tying back to the non-running portions of my life. As I have become more open to any possibility, I am opening up the idea that I can catch my foot, or any other set of circumstances that don’t merit complete success, but don’t necessitate actual failure.

These instances hurt.

Cassidy felt a stab of pain that was close to physical, and therefore within the penumbra of hurts he told himself he could bear.

I have been prone to think this is the way to deal with pain of all stripes. You learn to carry the proverbial flagstone on your back silently and stoically.  Just some more weight to hold you down right?

Training was a rite of purification; from it came speed, strength. Racing was a rite of death; from it came knowledge. Such rites demand, if they are to be meaningful at all, a certain amount of time spent precisely on the Red Line, where you can lean over the manicured putting green at the edge of the precipice and see exactly nothing 

These quotes from the same influential book, granted, I am not, nor are you, Quentin Cassidy. I started to think of the great metaphorical furnace driving me. If I am going to carry pain, why not use it fuel your endeavors?

why not think of experience as follows -> E

|-E|=E, |E|=E.

If you are not interested in math, that essentially states the entirety of experience is an absolute value. It goes a step further when I think about experiences that maybe hurt, there is still great beauty and joy there, even if there are the momentary instances where things couldn’t be actualized in the way you potentially imagined.

There is the disappointment, something we’ve all felt as runners. How do you deal with disappointments? Do you let a poor result shut down a training block? Do you not revisit the hill you fell on?

I certainly do. The last few months have been instructive personally in the same manner. I might be catching toes and stumbling and not quite catching myself. But I am going back up the Fern Canyon of life and staring over the edge at the possibility that I am going to do something great if it didn’t happen on this lap, or the few previous, or even for the years previous. I am going to haul myself back up there.

I am going to continue to take extraordinary risks. Just on the off chance that something magical can happen.

Anyways. You came here to read something about running gear.

Cheap running gear

 

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The Fool’s Errand

One of the curiosities that tends to permeate most writing about running, is that running is inherently a hard sport to write about. There are a couple of standard tropes, one of which is a typed version of what is essentially a training log. Another is to post race reports.

These can generally be boiled down to a small variants in the variety of “I ran from point A to point B, and here is how I felt about it.”

The issue overall with this, is that it is not compelling to write, and that translates to being less than compelling to read. There are usually some useful tidbits of information to be gleaned from these types of media, but I feel overall that the actual story of the race is lost somewhere therein.

The training log approach is even drier, and while more useful, is often even less useful to read. An example of this would be from my own training logs.

Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 2000′
Thoughts: Felt like shit.

While this is an accurate depiction of how I felt that particular day, I don’t feel as though this is the kind of information that is again, very compelling. Short of actually being there with me, it’s just stats. So it’s not entirely surprising that these types of blogs have more or less gone away(though I halfway suspect that Strava is more responsible).

What I have found recently, reading a lot of running related content looking for what would make my content stand out in a meaningful way from other similar content, is as follows.

Writing about running is a fools errand.

The most compelling stories from running come from a few singular sources, and not surprisingly, These folks tackle adventures that from any angle are compelling(things like The Barkley, Nolan’s, Wonderland, PCT, AZT, CDT, AT, et all.) And have almost nothing to do with results.

I also don’t think it’s surprising that with very very few exceptions the best media produced about running isn’t by runners. I feel as though every interview and article from within the sport is pretty typecast, and in one case, almost every interview and article is predisposed to asking one of my favorite athletes about things they haven’t done in nearly half a decade at this point.

It’s tedious for me to read, I can only imagine how tedious it is to answer. If you want to truly get the spectacle of mountain running done right, you have to look for people who don’t even run. In fact I find the most salient perspective I have been given on this subject is from a good friend of mine

“today my chest hurt and also my legs here’s a picture wow transcendent”

I am guilty of this as anyone.

This is not to be confused as a call to action, The acknowledgement that our media is generally tedious and boring is something we will need to deal with, And that people like Candice Burt have the right view that it almost always reeks of being some type of advertisement.

Of course this doesn’t mean that everyone should start trying to write visionary pieces of running in the woods and mountains, because again, most runners don’t crossover in to being even remotely decent writers(I suspect if there were more, there’d be less advert heavy, interesting content.)

Or you could get in to the Barkley.

Cheers.

 

 

 

When the work begins.

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“Alright, then, I’ll go to hell”

This winter has been a wonderful character building, hyopthermic suffer fest. I ran the skyline with Nate and some other members of HPRS, I put in a great deal of vert, and I’m ready to put the work in for Run Rabbit Run.

I’m gonna have to fucking work for it.

Bring The Sun: Indian Creek 50K musings. With bonus word count, no extra cost.

Bees produce honey; Wasps are assholes
-Sherpa John

If fiddling with your GPS watch at the start of a race isn’t quite your thing, I would suggest the full excitement of being stung by a wasp! It’s going to be the next health craze. ADRENALINE! DIRECT SHOT OF FOCUS! REDUCES STRESS!

(Note: The author is not actually suggesting that being stung by a wasp will be of any medical value. However, if you feel like your feet have meridians, perhaps Wasp Therapy may be for you)

What I would recommend, wholeheartedly, and with no hesitation, is you get yourself to Sedalia around the middle of October and run the Indian Creek 50 or so K.

But why, I hear you asking, oh intrepid reader, “Why should I sign up for a race that is somehow longer than I can drive a car for.”, Post race, Nate Swanberg(all around great guy) noted that someone had said to him they couldn’t imagine running the distance we were discussing walking to eat a pile of food, they couldn’t even drive it.

I’ll let that ruminate for a moment.

So sometime in late September, I was convinced, or, more accurately lightly suggested, by One Emily Fried that this would be a good race to run. Actually, I think it was mentioned in passing, She also helped set up a carpool to and from said event. A real gem that one.

Still thinking about how you can’t drive a car a distance a human can run? Me too.

Immediately upon signing up for this type of… box-social?Hootenanny? Let’s say race though I only compete with myself(Because you know, everyone else is kicking my ass((The Author doesn’t wish to convey a lack of competitive or fighting spirit or low morale for that matter, as will be illuminated shortly, all had a great day.))) I realized I had already spent the entire summer hardening my will by grinding out summit after stifling, calf burning summit of Mt. Sanitas, along with the kind of long runs I had only read about a year previous.

At this point, I would like to finalize that you can indeed drive a car farther than a human can run, and that you won’t have the air sucked out of your lungs if you travel faster than the speed of a galloping horse.

You can also learn more about the amusing history behind this strange sport I participate in at the following link
People seriously thought watching dudes walk for six straight days was the greatest thing since the butter churn

So natch, long and short of it is. You want to run in the mountains, you train in the mountains, having an obsession with the mountain a fifteen-minute bike ride from your house doesn’t hurt either. But you know those vistas… They don’t run themselves, so even though they are a staggering thirty minutes from you, make a point to run…

(At this point the author generally means a vigorous hike((Actually, no I don’t))as the author has no proof of “running every…((Strava.)) Oh. Carry on)

…You make a point to run up those as well. Also, stop and take pictures. Later defame those who take lots of selfies, and post their adventures on Instagram; Maintaining your own Instagram hashtag free of course, and adding witty sardonic titles to everything. Or potentially just make vague allusions to people not being there.

Refer to surf culture liberally. Buy new shoes. Discuss shoes as a primary means of conversation with other shoes. This can be a great icebreaker.

“I heard [insert brand here] is really uncomfortable and that [sponsored athlete here] is really sour on them at this point, in fact, I saw him wearing [Non-sponsored brand of footwear] on [insert trail, Consider scratching beard].”

These conversations almost write themselves. When you’re not mad libbing through shoe conversations, meet people you genuinely admire and don’t genuflect. In fact, as they say in dazed and confused. Play it cool.

This all kind of ties back to being stung by a wasp no longer being a big deal, and being the net low point of a long day.

What ends up being relevant, in both reference to the title, and the actual content of this post is as follows. You play it cool, shout out to David Wooderson, and just ramble and roll through the woods, It turns out that the Indian Creek trail system is pretty, really pretty, like PTOAT(Prettiest trail of all time), Not only that, in an unknown nod to running in Alaska, there is a steep section of dirt road that doesn’t really lead anywhere if you aren’t running this course. Curious. How did Mt. Riley road end up within view site of Red Rocks and Denver?

Now at this point, things were getting dreamlike, miles were rolling by, I was rolling by, and suddenly your half way(ish, kinda/sorta) done? My suspicions were aroused. As the kind of runner who knows that some kind of epic blowup or poor decision is more likely than not, I made doubly sure that I had all of the things I’m more than a little prone to forgetting, difficult things, like let us say water, for instance, or food, Maybe I’m still wearing my bike helmet half up the first climb. Those types of things.

For the record, I was not wearing a bike helmet.

Instead I, in defiance of my own self-foot-shooting, continued to succeed and have one of those rare days where you enjoy fall colors in the foliage, climb a jaunty several thousand feet, reference Ahab, David Foster Wallace, and Gravity’s Rainbow, and run 34 miles and some extra change, and try to keep my spirits and those around me high with both Dad jokes, bad puns, and a linguistic burner of a joke that is so funny, no one, is allowed to laugh

Person One: How is the mood out there.
Person Two: I’m not sure, it’s subjunctive.

I’ll give you a moment to laugh at the genius there.

Or rather. Keep reading. Serious.

So sometimes it gets hot in canyons, There is a race that is pretty famous, really long(Still not further than you can drive a car.), and features hot canyons. When the race director mentioned it would be hot in the sun. Boy oh Boy, I paid attention. This led to some rather casual hiking in said canyon, and downing a lot of water, and rice crispy treats at the last aid station.  And then bulldoze it home.

By the way, Thanks again to everyone who volunteered, that’s not snarky bullshit, I really appreciated you guys humping water up that hill, and having rice crispy treats. And thanks to Sherpa John for putting on such a great race. Val for driving, Emily for allowing me to carpool. Ah, I’m sure I’m forgetting something else important here.

And since you basically just scrolled to see what gear I used, here’s something better anyways.

Not a postcard

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“To the one true God above.
Here is my prayer.
Not the first you’ve heard.
But the first I wrote.

Kill him. Fucking kill him.
Kill him. Just fucking kill him already.
Kill him.”
Shellac “Prayer to God.”

He was bored with the idea of adulthood. The daily repeated hollow tasks. The endless lists of items to be checked, each Ineluctable and emetic. He was trying to chase dragons, the same ones children chase, laying in a field absently ignoring pleadings from his job; His phone hammering a xylophone of rocks and roots. Trees as mimesis, their leaves dull in tone, the blue sky the wrong shade.

We are all ghosts.
Ghosts upon ghosts.
Singing our Broken Psalms

Postcard Ψ

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Dear Mr. Foster Wallace.

I know we never met. I didn’t even have the fortune of having heard of you until your untimely passing. I think I know how endless sadness and loneliness can feel. I am not a better person for allowing myself to entertain similar dark thoughts. I feel the darkness looming ever present just beyond the next ridge in my mind. I think I’ve found a way to hold it back, and I partially have you to thank for that.

Without reading Infinite Jest, I never would have started to think about my own nature as a person. I want to be a good person, I actively work at being empathetic and caring every day. As the world has sometimes felt to grow distant and colder around me, I try and remain positive.

But the darkness still can loom.

Thanks for the beacon.

Aaron

Postcard #31

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To my own mind.

I know we have spent a lot of time together, going back and forth. You have ever been my greatest source of pride, and the source of my greatest difficulties.

I try to think of depression as the great side effect of all the other things you’ve given me, a slowly spiraling void amidst the stars of thoughts beneath my feet. At times you’ve drained all of the light from me, and left me a skulking bitter shell. Darkly contemplating climbing knots possible secondary uses. I don’t blame you. I have tried to avoid for years that I could just deal with you, or ignore you until you went away and the light would return.

That time has thankfully passed. We have done two incredible things together this year. The first was finally pushing ourselves to take the real steps to improving our life together. The second was admitting weakness and taking the first painful steps of admission and treatment.

We are allowed to feel pain and joy. Light and dark. To ignore one does not make me stronger. To sit inside my own head can not lead to only bad outcomes.

I’m glad we’ve made it this far. Here’s to another six or seven decades of back and forth between you and me.

Aaron.

Postcard #15

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Hey Amanda,

It’s been a long long time since I’ve seen you. We have both grown a lot. A lot has changed. You’re married to a pretty neat looking dude, and I’m living in the mountains chasing my dreams.

It’s a pretty far cry to when I would ride the train to your house with a bunch of food and equipment in a bag. Maybe even further but closer somehow to when I drove you and Beth to a Hanson concert and then I spent many hours popping a fake tooth I lost along the way, in and out of my mouth. I think most of the time we’ve spent hanging out could be turned in to commencement speech stories, now that I think about it.

I know we didn’t speak for a while, I’m sorry this happened. I missed a lot. I could’ve been present for some of it. Is that what regret is? I don’t know. I just know I’m glad we are and will always be friends.

Hey the next time in town. Let’s hang out.

Aaron.

Postcard #1

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Hey Brooklyn,

It occurs to me that every time we hang out, something big changes in my life. Somehow this last trip to chill went almost exactly the opposite of how it went. But great things came out of it anyways.

If this was a one time occurrence I would probably do my best to write it off, but our long history of friendship is dotted with these wonderful anamolies. The first time we hung out you changed me, I came open to experience something completely out of the scale of my normal life, and you delivered.

The most recent time, I was hassled and left feeling indifferent, though this was no fault of your own. My expectations were highly unrealistic and prone to failure. My favorite person to interact with, of course, went well. I felt joy at seeing their growth. Few other things felt right or in place. I was left with the strong idea that I was at the end of something.

Or at the beginning of something.

Thanks for all pizza. See you sooner than either of us think.

Aaron