Monthly Archives: September 2010

Project 5430 – Entry #1, Boulder, Binger & Bryan

When I moved to Colorado about two decades ago it was sort of intended to be a stopover in a search to dare I say, “find myself”? Sounds cliche’ but that’s pretty much what was going down. Where I was living before Colorado was unfortunately shelling me as a human being. I knew that I wasn’t meant to be there all along but as many people do, you keep your head down, work hard, climb the corporate ladder, live in the right neighborhood, drive the right car and “be a success” as it’s generally defined by our society. Thankfully I snapped out of that lemming mentality and decided to break free and expand my horizons and start formulating my own definition of “success”.

To be honest, Colorado wasn’t even on the radar when we started looking around. Arizona, New Mexico and California were the original leaders. It was totally out of the blue that I found this job, got an offer and within weeks was living right here in the Boulder Valley. We thought it’d be cool for a while, but still had our eyes on those other places just in case Option D didn’t work out. It took about 30 seconds of feeling the vibe once we actually moved here to know we’d probably made the right decision.

A couple of years later, after getting more and more entrenched into our new laid back, free thinking way of living, we were strolling around Pearl Street, enjoying a cool summer night, listening to some live music and generally just groovin’ to all that is good. As fate would have it, we stumbled across a guy who was totally dialed into the universe in which we live. He was called Binger.

Binger was indeed quite the specimen, even by Boulder standards. He was 30-ish years old, sported loooong dreadlocks, an unkempt beard, tie-dye shirt, baggie patchwork jeans, well worn Birks and oozed an intoxicatingly groovy demeanor. He definitely wasn’t one of the Trustafarian rich kids who schlepp around Pearl Street in raggedy clothes with their medical marijuana cards, begging for change, pretending to be core hippies who later drive their Range Rovers back over to the Delta Douche-Bag Frat/Sorority House on the CU Campus. Nope, Binger was legit…100%.

Intrigued, I read his little handprinted sign sitting in front of his dilapidated card table with four stacks of multicolored paper sitting neatly atop. Looking back, this was where the decision to move to Colorado was completely validated and was a shining example of why we still live here in the GoreTex Vortex. His sign simply said:

Free hug with purchase of poem. $1

Well, yeah, if you know me at all you know I was ALL over that. I paid my one dollar and Binger gave me four options of poems that he himself had composed and  had written with beautiful penmanship. I chose the one titled “Peace My Brother”, partly because I liked the name and partly because I liked the colour of paper this particular poem was written on — each poem having it’s own colour. From there, Binger, without script, notecard or teleprompter stood from his well worn camp chair and recited verbatim his page-long missive with the most heartfelt passion and enthusiasm I’d ever heard. Afterward, I got my free hug and he thanked me for accepting him as a person and for supporting the work of love.

I had walked no more than ten feet away when I stopped and walked back to Binger. I reached into my wallet and gave him a five, the only cash I had. He moved as if to hand me more poems but I assured him that wasn’t my purpose. I gave Binger another hug and carried on about my business. Binger exemplified the very reason I wound up here and had shown me exactly what I was looking for in a place to call home…a place where my mind, body and spirit can grow without limitation and be nurtured just by waking up every morning to realize I’m right where I need to be. No fear of going solo and beating my own drum as hard and as loud as I please.

Since then we’ve met countless people here in Colorado (and all over the west) who define just what “livin’ the dream” is all about. Many, many of them we are fortunate enough to call our friends. Elite athletes, entrepreneurs, students and students of life…our friends run the gamut of age and diversity. It’s just a vibe that binds us  all together and is difficult, if not impossible, to explain. Everyone counts, even if they are a little difficult to understand at first, because they live here to “live the dream”, just like everyone else. No fear, just going for it 24/7, 365 a year with whatever they bring to the table.  It’s not for everyone and a lot of people don’t “get it”. That’s okay because in the end we all migrate to where we feel comfortable and where we feel at home.

Because I’ll be reaching a milestone in my life next year, and because I always seem to have a project from one birthday to the next, I’ve decided to do a little photo diary here on my blog for the coming year. I’m doing this with hopes that I can sort of pay tribute to all the people who helped and are still helping me see that Colorado (and the west in general) is the place I was meant to be in life. Therefore, I’m going to be posting a picture or two from time to time of some of the groovalicious people I already know and some of those I meet along my journey…the people I think personify what living here in Boulder and Colorado in general is all about.

I’m going to call it Project 5430, which is the elevation here in the “People’s Republic”. And who knows, maybe 5,430 is the magic elevation that helps bring the unique energy and associated people to our valley. Once I get four or five people in my project, I’ll also start posting them on my website!!

So, here we go. Project 5430, Entry #1, September 29, 2010. (Yes, I know my birthday is still three weeks away, but I thought I’d get a head start. My project…my option! )

About three weeks ago, we were hanging out at Amante’s in Boulder with Caroline, a friend from Chicago, when another friend, Karen, from Boulder, stopped by to say hi. With her, she had three friends, Bryan, Greer and Lisa, who instantly became our friends…because that’s just how we roll it around here. Convoluted enough? Yack, yack, yack and before long we’re hanging out with new friends who instantly felt like we’d known them for years and years. Because rampant random meetings of kindred spirits is what makes Boulder the coolest place on earth, I’ve chosen my friend Bryan, who I met that night, to be the first person I want to “feature” in my Project 5430 effort. And let me say that he was kind enough to rally early this past weekend for a little photo shoot in and around Boulder. Story there, but it can wait for another time. Oh yeah, his totally awesome girlfriend Greer will be coming up in the project in the next few weeks…among others!

So let me tell you a little about Bryan. He’s a hard-man elite mountain biker (though he’d be the last person to tell anyone) who wound up in Boulder because his car broke down here. With too little money to fix the car to get back home and the energy of B-town gripping his soul like an extraterrestrial tractor beam, he decided to stay for a while, for about ten years now.

Early in his Boulder career, he worked various jobs ranging from professional couch surfer to bike mechanic to whatever he does now for some high tech joint that does stuff I have a hard time understanding. Bryan is very well educated, as funny as sh#&%, very well traveled around this crazy world, has definitely concocted his own and participated in other people’s off-the-wall adventures, is a damn nice guy and is of course a believer in “livin’ the dream”.

I’m extremely stoked to make Bryan my first entry to the project, but more importantly I’m stoked to call him my friend. Thanks Bryan.

Project 5430, yeah, I think this is going to be fun.

And yes, I still have the poem I got from Binger upstairs in the filing cabinet.

Run long. Paddle far. Climb high. Live big.

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Crack, Addiction and My Toenail Necklace

Rewind about six or eight weeks and I was having one the worst, and I mean one of the absolute worst training runs I’ve ever had. My fault entirely, but at the time I wasn’t going to admit that I’d eaten like mierda the night before and had hydrated poorly (read:hadn’t). What should have been a pretty routine 18-mile trail run turned into a pretty average twelve mile run, a horrific two mile plunge into a mental and physical abyss followed up by a four mile emotionally gut wrenching walk under a blazing hot sun.

I literally didn’t think I could drive home safely and called Donna to tell her I’d be a while since I was on the verge of wretching there at the trailhead, Hell, I was even too dizzy to even bend over and untie my shoes without toppling over…and did. When I did finally get home I could barely stand long enough to take a shower since my body was in total shutdown mode. I just knew that I was going to barf in the shower, which would have made me barf even more given the total grossness of that.

I barely made it to the couch with my two water bottles before I was fast asleep for several hours, something I never do during the day. But before I had my eyes shut, I’d made up my mind that my upcoming running and racing projects would be forfeited and that I was out of the long distance running game for a long, long while. I had been totally crushed.

Two days later, still convinced my long distance mountain running was on pause for the foreseeable future, I went out for a quick six miles to clear my head from a bizarre day at the office. About half way through I was slogging up a saucy section of rocky singletrack when all of a sudden the soreness from the prior weekend abated and I hit that stride where I felt like I was flying. Maybe it was a catharsis of the mental bludgeoning I’d taken over the weekend, but whatever happened was unexpected and I went with it head first and absolutely torched the remainder of my run.

When I got home it seemed that the events of the weekend were pushed back into the category of “just one of those days” and I was somewhat rejuvenated once again to take on the next event on my summer schedule, the Continental Divide Trail Race up in Steamboat.

Fast forward to Steamboat and I had an awesome day. Ran strong throughout and finished well ahead of my predicted time. As amped as I was about the result, I knew I still had the Blue Sky Mountain Marathon (27-miler) ahead of me a few weeks later and knew there was still work to do. At least I’d moved past “I’m not running long distances for the foreseeable future” and was now at “Once I get that marathon out of the way I’m going to take a break”.

Now, here I am about a week and half away from running a pretty stiff race through the mountains of Northern Colorado and things have changed once again.

Let me explain how being an ultrarunner skews rational thinking and how when someone makes the suggestion of “another project”, well, it’s like giving crack to an addict.

After having a great race at the Steamboat race but taking a thorough physical beating (especially my quads and poor toes), I was pretty sure that the upcoming marathon would be it for a while. Besides that, I’d soon be forced to rip another toenail off, and my feet, legs and body were screaming, no, pleading furiously for a little break. After all, the upcoming marathon will be the sixth long distance trail event I’ve done this year and admittedly I’m starting to feel the miles a little. And besides that, once that toenail comes off, probably during one of the downhill sections of the upcoming race, I’ll finally have enough toenails to complete the toenail necklace I’ve been working on since becoming an ultrarunner. That should be reason enough for a little celebratory break in an of itself. Oh yeah, sometimes if those toenails are really purple but not too janky, they make ideal Christmas gifts to other ultra runner friends in the form of earrings or maybe a nice broach. But I digress.

So, I continued my training knowing that I had only a couple more long training runs left then I could start my taper into the marathon. My awesome friend Caroline even came out from Chicago and ran along with me for a lot of a 22-mile training run, which made the miles pass quickly and gave me a lift of spirits since she was one of the very reasons I was tackling all these projects to begin with (read my previous blog for that story!). Anyhow, I got that long run out of the way and was feeling great. Well, that’s when ultrarunners, me included, are most vulnerable to the “addiction”.

My good friend Chris and I were talking ultrarunning one day a week or so ago and he informed me that he’d decided to go after a 100-mile race in mid October, just two weeks after my marathon. He’s still pretty fresh off a grueling 77-miler just a few weeks back and is in prime shape to take it up a notch. Before he had “100 mile race” written in the email, I was already salivating and wanting me some of that action. I did snap to my senses pretty quickly though knowing that I didn’t quite have the base for the full 100, HOWEVER, I could pace him for a lot of it and hopefully get at least 50 miles and possible push it out there closer to a 100k (62-ish miles).

Running crack. Big dose.

Dreadful trail run a few weeks back? Forgotten. Smashed legs and toes at the Continental Divide Trail run? Forgotten. Exhaustion 24/7 for the last several weeks? Forgotten. Much needed break after upcoming marathon? Forgotten. Finally finishing up my toenail necklace? Not forgotten but instead the thought of having more “jewels” all of a sudden seems extremely inviting.

Just thinking about the beautiful pain and misery of running for 12-16 hours through the cold Colorado night by headlamp with a good friend, one who truly understands the “whats” and “whys” of what we do was like hearing I’d won the lotto.

Then, just today, I was surfing around a Rocky Mountain ultrarunning events calendar and found yet another one that I could do just two weeks after pacing Chris at his 100-miler. Honestly, as I was reading the course description and seeing the profile map and enormous vertical gain over the 50k, my eyes rolled up in my head and I got all woozy with excitement all over again.

More crack.

This time though I put my credit card away and navigated away from the site before I did something that probably would have been pretty physically damaging. Three ultra events in a matter five weeks might be pushing the limit just a tad. However, I know others pull off big projects like that from time to time and I’m not really all that injured…no, NO, Barry, stop it. Just look away from the light. Look aawwwwaaaaaayyyy from the light.

My name is Barry and I am an ultrarunner.

Over the Hump.

It’s now been about five months since I attended the First Descents rock climbing camp in Moab, Utah. Not only did attending the camp make me more aware of the struggles that everyday people might be facing, but it made me truly appreciate my own good health and relative good luck in life. Being there was a harsh, yet beautiful reminder that life is short and we should all endeavour to live every single second of it as if it were our last.

As I’ve mentioned a million times before, while I was there I met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to cross paths with. I heard story after story after story that would yank at my heart strings one second and have me rolling on the floor with laughter the next. Always a party, but never a pity party…ever. And throughout the whole of the experience, I’ve made some fantastic friends who I’m pretty sure I’ll have for a very long time.

To bring you up to speed since the camp, after I returned from Moab I had resolved, dedicated myself, promised or whatever you want to call it, that I would do something to help support these incredibly meaningful camps. But more so, I wanted to give back a little of what I personally got from the experience. That being the case, I chose three events to tackle which would sort of a metaphorically represent the things I observed, learned and took away from my week there.

The three events were to climb a scary peak or two up in the Bugaboo Range of Canada (done), run an unforgivingly steep and leg/lung busting hill climb type event up in Steamboat Springs (done) and finally, run another torturous trail marathon as the finale. Well, here it is mid-September and I’m only three weeks away from toeing the line at the last event.

I’ll admit this project was a little more difficult than I expected. Not so much the training part per se, but balancing everyday life with being in a constant state of training. Normally I just have one event at a time to focus on and I’ve done this long distance running gig long enough to know how to efficiently do it. But it’s been interesting and oftentimes challenging this time around to try and squeeze all three of these events into one training regimen…in such a short period of time. Fortunately some of the training has overlapped (hill climb and trail marathon) and I could use one part for the other. Nevertheless, I’ve amassed a ton of trail running miles over the past weeks and months and now I’ve finally started my taper into the last event. However, this homestretch into the final event of the project honestly leaves me just a little bittersweet.

Though I’ve never done one single fundraising event in my entire life until now, this project has meant enough to me that I’ve been able to stay focused and keep on running and climbing, even on the days when I didn’t feel well, ached from the accumulating miles or days when the weather was absolutely dreadful. And yes, even though I’m a long-time, extremely dedicated long distance runner, there were admittedly a few days where I simply just didn’t want to run. But it was on those days where I’d think about everyone at that camp and what they’d endured, and are still enduring in some cases, and I’d stop whining, put my running shoes on and head out the door. Not once at that camp did I ever hear any complaints about being too scared, being too tired or being too “injured” to get out there and just get it done. In fact, it was just the opposite. Every day, regardless of how everyone felt, they’d push beyond their own comfort zones, both mentally and physically, and take life to a completely different level.

So, yesterday I did the longest scheduled run of my training, a pretty quick, but uneventful 22-miler. I sometimes dread those final big-distance runs simply because I’m usually pretty exhausted by the time they roll around and my motivation is sometimes sagging just a bit. But, I always do them and am always happy/relieved after they’re over (relatively). But despite being exhausted and even being a little injured this time, I was really looking forward to this one. Let me explain.

A few weeks back, a friend from Chicago, whom I’d met at the Moab camp, told me that she was coming to Colorado in the capacity of “Camp Photog” for another of the First Descents camps, one being held here in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was obviously a total no-brainer decision for the folks at First Descents. Number one, Caroline’s been to camps as a camper so she knows what it’s all about. And number two, she’s a remarkably amazing photographer and more than qualified to deliver the goods. You can check out some of her work at http://ccbinsights.wordpress.com/. Anyhow, she fortunately agreed to fly out a couple of days early and hang out with us here in the Boulder Valley before heading up to the camp in Estes!

To make the situation even better, for me anyhow, she is in the latter stages of training for the Chicago Marathon which is being run only one week after the marathon I’m doing. Well, since both of us needed to do long runs over the weekend, we sort of meshed our training schedules for a quasi joint long run. Let me also add that this is the very first time in more than 28 years of running that I’ve actually shared, or wanted to share, the experience of my final long training run with anyone. It’s always an extremely personal day for me and I truly like being alone with my thoughts and reflections as I punch out those long miles..almost a ritual and meditative experience of sorts.

When this meshing of our training schedules starting coming to fruition, the normal trepidation I have about slogging through that last 62-mile week of training sort of evaporated. One of the very people I wanted to tackle this project for in the first place was now joining me for what I generally consider the pinnacle of my training. It was like the entire First Descents experience and associated project was coming full circle for me. In no way could I have asked for a better scenario to play out. Thanks Caroline. It truly meant a ton to have you here.

Getting that last long training run wrapped up before the marathon is always tantamount to lifting a huge burden off my shoulders. Yes, I’m still a little beaten up, still a little injured and still pretty  tired from the weeks and weeks of big mileage, but at least I know I have a couple of weeks of relatively low mileage and extravagant rest days ahead to take care of most of the normal pings and pangs of long distance trail running. Still a long day of racing ahead, but that’s what it’s all about.

Oh yeah, and here’s one more little tidbit before I end. When I finish the actual race on October 3rd, another friend from the Moab First Descents camp, April Capil http://www.aprilcapil.com/, will be here from San Francisco waiting with Donna at the finish area. Again, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up a project that’s meant so much to me. That’ll certainly be a huge emotional boost to know that they’ll be there waiting for me as I slog up and down every vertical foot of that “full-on mountain marathon course”, but more on that in about three weeks!

Climb high. Run long. Paddle far. Live big.