#OldManRunning

If you follow my Instagram, Strava, or Twitter feed you’ve seen that I’ve been getting out again. The change came after a conversation with my cousin Chad who basically pointed out to me that I’ve been lazy curr for a good long while now. He’s totally correct, I have let myself go. And yeah, sure I’ve got a long list of excuses, but I know that’s just what they are. I’m not doing what I need to in order to provide for my own health, sanity, and happiness.

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Elements of a Whole Matt

I’ve always been a runner and a hiker, just never very fast. I’m also well beyond the time in my life where I might find success racing. Since 2012 I’ve struggled to stay active and to find the motivation to get out onto the trails and this has, in turn, created complications for me. Weight (~190 lbs [87 kg]), body image, energy levels, flexibility, and mood: all these things use to be pretty good for me, right now not so much. I’m about 25 lbs overweight (~190 lbs [87 kg]), don’t particularly like to acknowledge my self in the mirror, often feel sluggish, sore and stiff, and lose motivation to do even necessary things from time to time.

Back when none of that was a worry, I was a happy-go-lucky dude that just smiled as he went through life. I was effective, capable and ready for anything. My favorite year, in fact, was 2009 when I spent stupid amounts of time on the trail. Stupid and necessary amounts of time.

Matt, it seems, is best when he’s dusty with trail dirt.

The Goals

Okay, it’s a short list, but that’s because I’m trying to keep it simple. Unquestionably, it’s easier to reach for simple.

  • Lose about 25 lbs
  • Be able to run long distance again
  • Improve my body’s autoimmune response
  • Sleep like a rockstar
  • Travel for some running and hiking
  • Serve my wife, family and friends more effectively

We’ve been over the reasons why more times than I’d like to recount (because each time I stop running I’ve eventually got to go back to my core motivation and reexamine what the hell I’m up to). I can easily track inputs and outputs around some of this, others are less tangible. For instance, I can keep records of what I eat, how long I sleep, how much I weigh, and how much I’m exercising, but I can only track if and when I’m getting sick, not how many sicknesses I’ve been exposed to and successfully fought off. But the bottom line for all of this is an improvement in my quality of life.

Also, notice, nowhere in there does it say race. I write this as a reminder to myself, “Hey dumbass, you’re no longer racing.”

Why No Racing?

“I’m too old,” is actually a craptastic answer. There a plenty of older men and women who line up below the inflatable arch every weekend. I think a lot of this decision comes down to two elements.

Valuetanium: a heavy metal found only in the human soul which gains weight in response to the thoughts and time we put next it. Basically, for the energy and time I have to run and trek, I need to invest it in the experience and moments that time on the trail can generate. Running is a meditation, an exercise in mindfulness, and running for a race tends to devalue that experience.

Robustonium: an element found in the bone that determines a person’s grit and longevity in response to a hostile world. As my recent visits to the ER have reminded me, my time in this life is limited. My experience tells me that training to race means I’m burning my robustonium not gathering more to me. This has got to be a lifestyle change that makes me stronger.

A Call for Help

Add to the above that my best friend just asked me for some help. He’s got some of his own challenges and goals, but there’s plenty of synchronicity. So yeah, I want to be there for him as much as making these changes for myself. It’s just a kind of kismet that we’re looking to make similar improvements at about the same time.

The Plan

I’m already back on the Primal Endurance program. My diet is pretty much grain-free already, but I’ll have to work at eliminating brown rice from the mix. Add to this that I’ve been running at a low-intensity rate on a five to six-day routine while using work in my garden to add explosive core strength “workouts” into the mix. All of this is governed by my heart rate as I pursue efficient Aerobic base building over an eight week period. My Garmin VivoSmart HR+ sits on my wrist and vibrates whenever I’m overdoing it, and I’m responding and slowing down when it does. Sleep remains a challenge, but I’ve made some profound changes in my sleep hygiene habits and with the exertion of exercise I’ve actually been doing pretty well.

I’m encouraging my friend to take similar steps in this direction too. Just knowing that there’s someone else out there suffering through the first month of metabolic fat-adaptation or sweating up a hill seems to help me mentally.

Finally, I just ordered some more parts for my van. A pair of *new* transmission mounts, the old ones are all cracked and need to be replaced before I kill the transmission. That travel bullet needs some attention too. Yes, there are a lot of things that I need to take care of on my van and I’m going to address these systematically so that as my abilities return to me I can reach the high country trails.

 

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An Explanation

Little Bear Beating Feet

Little Bear Beating Feet

Those of you who follow me on Strava may have noticed that recently I’ve started to shake things up a bit. Instead of steadily building runs through island forests, you’ve likely seen me walking … sometimes slowly … usually with our youngest son in tow.

My original plan was to return to Ultra running. Build up slowly safely and then get back into racing. The end goal was to run long FKTs and multi-day events. I’d been working toward this goal steadily and successful since September when I made a bunch of changes in my diet and lifestyle to aid me along this path.

Then the holiday season and subsequent breaks befell us and, well, there’s just no way to carve out a couple of hours of your day, each day, while you go run and still provide anything that resembles child care for your kid who is at home. Maybe some of you young dynamos can do it, but not me. I was already a hot mess.

But here’s the truly wonderful thing I discovered while Aral was home for the holidays. He may not be interested or capable of running at my pace or close to the distances I wanted to achieve, but he’s enthusiastic about backpacking.

Consequently, I’m in the process of reviewing my near and long-term goals and looking for ways to make them work for the two of us. We’ve been hiking around the island a lot the last couple of weeks and he’s been showing a great deal of interest in the idea of Wilderness. I’m investigating backpacking trips for kids his age and realize that there just aren’t a lot of people doing this.

I’ve since found a couple of guides and ordered the materials for making him a sized-to-fit SUL backpack, but there is a dearth of written experience and it’s more than a little troubling. Kids can and probably should get out into the woods every day. All day, if possible. He comes back a better, happier kid without fail.

I’ve been constructing the outline for my own guide/semi-autobiographical tome on the subject and I think this may be where I’m now headed.

Secret Plans

I just answered the leader of my local writing group with this current description of my state of being. “Shocked, rudderless, angry, and feeling very solitary.” Up until I met with a physician yesterday I thought I might be coming down with a case of cancer, now that seems less likely, but yeah, still riding on my raw nerves.

And there are the election results, or should I say, then there is the expected Electoral College results. Mixed into that all the ridiculous and regressive ideas that have plagued our nation and held us back for so long. The result, I’ve lost skin, I feel flayed.

My friend Jefe recently posted this personal account of some of his troubles and it’s got me thinking. This is the same Jefe that has held the CTR course record since I started following the race and the same Jefe who has taken home top honors on the GDMBR too. Point is, the guy is a machine that gobbles up the miles and he’s always sort of been someone I look up to. But just like me, he’s recently encountered some challenges.

This present state of less than 100% has kicked my ass. Mentally it has crushed me. The past few months I feel like I have been pulling back on everything that has made me tick in the past. The passion for riding, racing and pushing boundaries has been so instrumental in keeping me moving forward, staying positive, and focused, has been subdued.

Since the seizures started. That’s the point I started to pull back, now every little twinge in my body gets treated a catastrophic sinkhole on the road to my health goals. And this messes with me, regardless of if I admit it to myself or not.

Add to this that my goals are somewhat divided. Often my responsibilities and my desires compete for my time and motivation. Balance is just a myth, a story we tell ourselves before we collapse into bed at night.

RAID Runner in Training

Here’s the deal, I’m never fully alive, never completely as mindful and living in the moment as when I’m trotting along some trail. I need to feel my heart pounding in my chest sometimes. I want to suck in chilly morning air that bites the insides of my nostrils. This is the way it’s always been.

The harsh reality I’m faced with is that I have very localized responsibilities. Kids, house, an aging dog, and now a need to develop our family’s independent sustainability for the impending doom of the Presidential shit-show consuming the country.

Since September I’ve been working on a slow comeback. I’m gotten religious about my Primal Endurance. I’ve been working with a coach as if I was new to the practice of running. I see my physical therapist regularly. I’ve lost weight, regained flexibility and swimming around the back of my mind is a long list of goals and ideas for places to go, things to see, races to enter, and trails to run.

Truth be told, I’m a long way away from racing or record fitness, but the motivation is still there. Besides, “winning” has never really been what it’s about.

But I can get out there, where I’m happy. I can run my butt off, run until there aren’t any more worries. I can be glad I can run at all.

RaidLight Olmo Ultra Raid Desert 30L + Health Planning

If you love trail running and fastpacking as much as I do, right now is about the time acute gear envy will set in. As I said in the unboxing video above I’m back out on the trail again, and that means improvements to my kit.

First up, is the RaidLight OLMO Ultra Raid Desert 30L pack.

First Glance

This pack weighs in at a measly 710 grams (1.6 lbs) and much of that appears to come from subdivisions inside each of the main compartments. The pack has seven (7) sealed nylon zippers with metal toggles which probably add a fair amount to the overall weight of the pack. The pack’s eighth zipper is inside the main compartment and is just the right size for a passport and other important documents. Most of these are relatively short travel which shaves off some of the bulk. Relative to other rucks on the market RaidLight has managed to do a fair job of keeping the weight down. Ultimate Directions FastPack 30L weighs 700 g (1.5 lbs) and lacks many of the organizational features RaidLight has crammed into the same space.

I actually like the color (mine is white, gray and orange with black trim) although I admit that when combined with my blue, charcoal, red, green and orange running togs it’s going to really complete’s my trail-side clown motif. C’est la vie.

Construction looks solid despite any double sewn seams. High-stress points are reinforced with tape and probably fabric glue. When I run my fingers around the inside of the main compartment I can feel the toggles for the draw cords because they run all the way into the seam. That’s good news since a failure at any one of these points could spell disaster on the trail.

A pair of water bottle holsters is positioned perfectly for hands-free sipping underway. Plus, even when loaded the bottles miss tender nipples saving all that uncomfortable pain from chafing. Both holsters have mess pockets for stuffing goo and snacks into. In addition to all this functionality up front, trekking poles have a stowage location across the front of the water bottles. I particularly like this because it means I can on or off-load my poles without taking the pack off.

The pack is well balanced does not wobble or irritate. The harness is well-padded conforms to my shape. There is an unpadded channel that runs up your spine to the shoulder harness which will allow sweat to escape, although I anticipate a wet spot on the back of my short after long, hot runs. The chest belt is easily four or five centimeters away from your chest which means that it won’t ever rub. The hip belt, designed to be worn loosely, comes with a sock over it. The sock is constantly falling off and without it, the belt will likely chafe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this particular feature.

Details

Headphone Extension

A headphone extension has been provided in the pack. This is supposed to connect your iPod or phone to your earphones from the right waist pocket and I think it’s a great idea. However, the cordage is heavy, difficult to remove and/or replace, and potentially unnecessary.

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Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of having a hookup for audio books and music while I’m running, but this is probably going to be the first thing I change about the bag. I’ve checked and a pair of old Apple headphones is just about the right length to make a similar journey and easily half the weight. With a little fishing around I can get a good pair of earphones to complete the job and shave off some unnecessary mass from the kit.

Number Case?

olmo_3Honestly, I’m not even sure what this is for, but just behind the shoulder harness is a pocket made of clear plastic. I’m guessing that it’s for holding a race number, but if that’s the case then there’s a number of problems. First, when the shoulder straps are anchored properly to the top of the pack this pocket will inevitably be scrunched down. Also, if you put a number here it’s always going to be obscured by your head making the number impractical at best. “Look here,” he says bowing low so that the aid-station people can see.

I suppose you could mount a map here, but duh, why? You’d have to take the pack off to see it. So yeah, I’m not sure what this is for. And without any documentation (even in French which I could noodle through) your guess is as good as mine.

Easy Access Pocket

olmo_4Again, another spot on the pack where I’m left wondering. On the exterior of the main compartment is a tab with an icon I’m unable to puzzle out. The icon seems to indicate that there is easy access for something, however, what is anyone’s guess.

isobag-housse-isothermeAdditional clues: There are two zippers, one at the top of the pocket and one just above the easy access port. Near the top of the pocket are a pair of velcro loops and a water bladder port (clearly marked).

All of this seems to line up and or reflect RaidLight’s ISOBAG/ISOTHERM water bladder stuff, but why you’d ever want to load 2 liters of water as far away from your back as possible is beyond me. Especially when there is a port that runs next to your body. Maybe on long stage races crossing hot, arid deserts more water is needed?

Gear Attachment Points and Cinching

olmo_5olmo_6The main gear compartment is cinched down via a network of cords woven into the sides of the pack. You can operate this feature from the bottom of the ruck and it’s pretty straight forward. It’s nearly impossible to do this with the pack on so keep this in mind when you reach into the bag and pull out your raincoat or flashlights. If you’ve made space in the bag you’ll want to pull the cord before you put the ruck back on your shoulders.

Extra gear can be affixed to the ruck using four (4) gear attachment points on the bottom of the bag. Your sleeping bag and mat will need their own container and straps to be mounted outside the main compartment.

On The Trail

Yeah, so it’s not all confusion. Last night I took this ruck for a round in the forest. The run went off smoothly and while I wasn’t toting a full load I padded so there was some weight.

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I took my poles on this dash through the woods too, and my arms got a workout as well. The shoulder straps stayed out of the way and my arms cleared the poles when I stowed them up front.

Silent Celebration

Good grief! Twenty-five years ago I was sitting atop a pile of lumpy scree in the Flat Tops Wilderness. I had, in fact, previously dumped the greater portion of the contents of my backpack — a huge Lowe Special Expedition approach ruck which must have weighed six or seven pounds all on its own — at a trail head along the South Fork of the White River. Beyond some very basic things, I wasn’t carrying too much. I was easily trekking 35 miles a day, sometimes a lot more.

I can recall sitting on top of that mountain, listening in on campground hosts as they negotiated how many bog rolls needed to head to Trapper’s Lake and where they would all meet for dinner, while looking at a map. I was marveling at the distance I had traveled and staying off the transmit button on my radio because I’d dumped the extra batteries along with all the extra stuff.

My foray into MYOG and ultra-light backpacking started on that trip and I became aware of what it meant for me on this afternoon twenty-five years ago, today.

The Spread: Gear laid out for last week's bikepacking trip.

The Spread: Gear laid out for last week’s bikepacking trip.

Today, I spent the morning in physical therapy, working my back and legs in the hope that I’ll be able to return to that sort of life. So many decisions, in my life, have been predicated on this singular realization that is now a quarter century old.

My mind stutters at the implications.

Yesterday, most of you were shooting off fireworks and blowing things up. Yeah, ‘Merica! I could smell the smoke from the beach far below our deck, so don’t try and deny it. I kept on returning in my mind to the long climb up W Mountain while snow blew in my face and lighting flashed on the Hog Backs many miles away.

Somewhere, on a back burner of my brain, simmers the idea that I’ll be able to return to this sort of existence. A living in which celebrations are only in the moment and never extend beyond the bounds of your own perception. A wild grin on a dusty trail, a welcome rest on top of a stormy mountain.

My biggest challenges at this switchback are finding ways of enticing A-bear toward this lifestyle and figuring out how to capitalize my efforts as well. I have ideas.

If you’ve been watching my Strava feed you’ve noticed that Aral has been walking/running/biking with me on my regular “workout” trips. His willingness to participate varies, but I’m finding that the more I engage him this way the more likely he’ll want to come along. My struggle here is dealing with his slowness compared to my own pace and occasional fits along the way. These are both artifacts of his age and conditioning through repetition will reduce their frequency.

A friend recently suggested that I stop writing science fiction and instead focus on writing stories from my past. Turning all that history into something I could sell has merit, and apparently I’ve done some crazy things that have a certain appeal. I’m not certain I’d necessarily need to stop writing SF, but yeah, penning some of those experiences as stories, memoirs, or even trip guides or write-ups has potential.

The more I think about it, writing about blending hiking with children and ultralight philosophy has exceptional potential. I’m noodling.

A New Yo-Yo

Correction: I formerly reported that 68 people have yo yo-ed the PCT. I have updated the story.

It was a long time coming, but in 1993 the Pacific Crest Trail opened officially. Any number of people hiked the path before the opening, knitting together sections on their own, but the corridor wasn’t designated until that time.

Since then some 3,413 people have hiked the PCT once. This means that they have completed the whole of the 2,663 miles on foot in segments or in full, as a thru hike. In the intervening 22 years only 68 people have ever successfully repeated the whole distance and of those only three have ever yo yo-ed. For those of you who don’t know, this means that they walked all the way up, and then back all the way. That’s 5,326 miles and nearly a million vertical feet in elevation gain.

Recently, the first woman, Olive “Raindance” McGloin, Yo-yoed the PCT. Congratulations to anyone brave enough to start something like this. I’ve hiked segments and even these are no small feat.

Now, let’s get this back fixed so that I can join her on that list.