I have recently found myself standing in the middle of the most beautiful church ever created. In the midst of all the splendor I also have found myself out of water, my head pounding, and still a few hours away from the trail head. The shear beauty of the Eastern Sierra will take your breath away every time and the stars will never run out of juice. It is a constant reminder that we are just specks in the universe and the secrets of creation will never be fully revealed to us.
I am new to the sport of running. Who would ever run for fun? After spending the past 5 years of my life stuck on the enormous walls of El Cap and scary ass alpine climbs I wanted something that could exhaust me just as much as climbing a 32 pitch big wall route, yet save me from the mental exhaustion and heinous amounts of gear needed to get my weekend fix. I started by soloing alpine routes in a car to car aka marathon fashion. This was curing my need for physical exertion and adventure but I was still finding myself scared as shit climbing to the top of some loose mountain in the middle of the backcountry.
I was ready for something different, something that would constantly push me to become a healthier person without really any risk. Running looked to be the answer. It was perfect, I could push myself to complete and total physical obliteration yet not have to worry about whether or not I was going to get seriously hurt or have to spend the night shivering in a bivy somewhere on an exposed granite ledge. Therefore...I was going to run!
This quickly became a self mutilating sport as well. I wasn't fast… I couldn't run long distances. So why was this sport kicking my ass just as much as all the others? Well running just became a solution to climbing those walls even faster. I was now able to get to the base of a route in half the amount of time which then meant that I could climb two or even three of those routes in a single day. It is a never ending cycle. We will never satisfy ourselves and our constant need to push harder and farther.
However, I am trying to run for the pure enjoyment of it. Again I'm not fast or have much endurance so there should be plenty to keep me busy in my training. Last week I ran my first half marathon. I was far from being ready to run in any type of race. I had taken the past 10 months off of running and just started training again by trying to keep up with the athletes that I was photographing. I had just ran / walked up the mountaineers route on Mt Whitney (14,500ft) while photographing Adidas athlete Don Bowie. I felt like we moved pretty fast. It took us 4 hours from the car to the summit, which included 7 miles of snow covered granite trail with a 6,400 ft elevation gain. I'm not going to lie I felt like quite the bad ass! Then I looked at my watch; 30 min miles. In saying that, I can suffer, that is a fact, but I didn't know if I was going to put in any sort of honorable time during this half marathon. Not to mention I happened to have quite a few brews when I committed to running this Half Marathon.
After sleeping off the altitude hang over from climbing Mt Whitney I realized that I had less than one week before my race. Well if a half marathon is 13.1 miles and the longest distance that I have ever ran without stopping is 8.5 miles I better get outside and see if I can even make it that far. After spending one day resting from Whitney I went out and ran a 12 mile loop. It was the best day I had running. Exploring new single track less than a mile from my house. I ran the loop in 1:57:55, averaged 9:49 a mile and gained 1,467ft in elevation. Not to mention this was at 9,000ft above sea level. I thought to myself…I have this race in the bag. And in a way I did. I set a personal goal to run the course in 1:50:00. I far surpassed that time by coming in at 1:42:39. I felt like a champ to say the least. We celebrated by drinking beer and hobbling to the porta-johns for the post race dumps and I mean multiple trips to that beautiful green shit house. We grabbed some hot soup and watched the local culture of Monterey as they danced around as well as Cave Man dude prancing around with his staff. Times were released and Cave Man dude beat me by 20 minutes! He was an easy 35 years older than me and ran in a loin cloth! One guy also from Mammoth came in with a top 10 time under 1:10:00. I knew he was from Mammoth when I saw him ripping by me with his beard that would make any grown man feel like a boy.
I am always so inspired to see people push themselves to the point of “clearly being way too freaking strong” We always have the opportunity to become stronger. Is it always necessary? Hell No! But it is what keeps people like myself from going to the looney bin. So thanks to all the freakishly strong, motivated, humble people that inspire us all to adventure more and seek the finer things in life!