Saturday, November 21, 2015

Notes from the West: Moving to Reno

For the past three days I have run the same lollipop route. Whites Creek to Jones, past Galena Park, up to the ridge, down the back side, back down along Whites Creek and back to the truck.

The first day I woke up early was there by 6:30. The morning air was crisp and cold, and as I made my way up and over to Jones Creek I was ecstatic to be shluffing first tracks through fresh snow. As I got up higher the snow turned to ice and for the first time for in a while I thought I should dig out my microspikes next time. On the back side I was back to breaking trail through untracked snow until I returned to the stem of the lollipop back on Whites Creek. Day two, I woke up a bit later and the air was significantly warmer when I started out, nonetheless I brought the microspikes, only to keep them in the hip pack the whole time. The route was sloppy, muddy fun in the sun, and once on the back side I was back to following two tracks down this time: my own from the day before and a deer's who seemed to enjoy that I had broken trail in the snow. On day three, not to carry extra weight I left the microspikes in the truck. I decided to try to move fast as a storm was moving in. With the sky spitting small crispy snow flakes I had the whole trail all to myself. The uphill was slow. The tracked out muddy slush had turned to ice with the drop in the temps and I regretted my attempted minimalism. I stopped at the top of the ridge for a moment to watch the storm clouds pouring over Mt Rose. On the back side of the ridge I struggled between crusty uneven snow in the shade and windblown snow drifts across the ridges. I arrived back at the truck with bloody shins and frozen ankles.

In mid-September Jess and I moved to Reno; sight unseen. For weeks, and maybe even months, we struggled to find rhythm, hemmed in on every trail we thought might lead somewhere further. As Summer faded to Fall we tried our best to live life as we had before the move, seeking familiarity in our activities in a wholly new place.  I welcomed the change of seasons, without remembering what they meant. One morning we woke to snow covered hills outside our kitchen window, and with joy, that only fresh snow brings, we rushed out to play, and for a brief fleeting moment I did not worry about figuring out our new life here. I just shloshed and slipped my way up the trail loving the beauty. "Its Winter" I thought, as if the seasons could change over night.

A few weeks later I found myself on day one of my three day lollipop routine, and I suddenly remembered something Sylvia told me before I moved to Chicago: "Watch the seasons, they have a lot to teach you if you pay attention."

Its Fall here now, slowly moving to Winter, and the transition in the hills is a bit sloppy.










Thursday, August 6, 2015

AC 100 Race Report

At 3:30 am my phone alarm went off. Snooze! "I think I can afford nine more minutes." After the second time, I put my clothes on and wondered around aimlessly waiting for Peter to wake up next door so I could bum some coffee. A few trips to the toilet and it was 4:45 already: time to head to the start. Time to eat a gel, and so it begins. "Just a casual fun run for the first part": the last thing I remember Chris saying to me before I toed the line.

This year during the time leading up to my races I did my best to detach myself from the hype and nervousness of the race start, and I think I did my best so far before AC. Going up the Acorn Trail I settled in behind Guillaume, turned off my headlamp and enjoyed the morning air. The sunrise was as beautiful as ever and I stayed light hearted as we moved toward Inspiration Point. Cheers at the first aid did their best to over excite me, but I made sure to stop, see the faces of my crew and cruise on.

Photo: Mandy Wong
Vincet Gap came and went. Up Baden Powell. Past Larry: Click Click. Along the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains. At Windy Gap I stopped for a second and admired the beauty. Down hill, catch up to Guillaume methodically moving forward, trip going down to Little Jimmy Spring and on to Islip.  Up towards Mt. Williamson. I had determined to hike this climb, but  quickly decided that a little fox trot would be much more efficient. Caught up to Guillaume again and let him set the pace all the way to Eagle's Roost. I tripped and fell one more time before arriving to the aid.

Photo: Dom Grossman
After ER aid station I was a little bummed knowing that the technical mountainous terrain was over until I made it home to the front range. Nonetheless, I did my best to focus on the beauty of the Berkhart Trail and Cooper Canyon and stay present, we still had a ways to go. The cruiser miles from Cloudburst to Three Points did not come as easily as I had hoped, and I knew the struggle to stay present with my tired legs was beginning.

At Three Points I plugged in the music and trotted on.  After a few miles I passed Guillaume relieving himself in the bushes, and for the miles following I fully expected him to catch back up.  I made it to the pavement with no sign of my friend, and worked to give a relaxed steady effort as the heat radiated off the gradual incline up to Mt Hillier. Through the aid, up and past the boulders, and down to Chilao. I overheated a bit in the last couple miles before the aid and had to take a few minutes at Chilao to regroup.

Photo: Ulysses Chan
On the way to Shortcut, someone really cranked up the heater and I wilted a bit in the stagnate canyon air. Mike Carson caught back up to me as I arrived at Shortcut Saddle, and I had take a few minutes again to regroup (maybe I should have heat trained after all).   From shortcut to Newcombs I really fell apart. As I shuffled my slow ass down the fire road I could see Mike Carson and his pacer easily putting miles between us. At the bottom I bathed in the dead smelling water and began the hike up. I knew I was moving slow and after trying to put back a bunch of calories I stopped all together to puke them out on the side of the road. The rest of the climb was fairly lackluster, as I lost my determination to stay present, and agonized over the time it was taking me to make it to the next aid station.

I arrived at Newcombs, sat, drank four cups of sprite, filled my bottle with soda and accepted that I would be slowly shuffling for the rest of the race. Miles down rocky trails, slow, wondering where Mike and his pacer were. Down at the bottom people cheered and told me he passed 15 or 20 minutes prior. At Chantry flats someone told me Guillaume was having kidney problems and had dropped. "Shit," I thought. I had hoped someone behind me might give Mike a run for his money on the last 25, and now it looked like we were all going to shuffle to the finish in our respective places.

Hiking out of the Aid with Chris he assured me that the 27 minute lead was nothing and that we would surely catch Mike. "Thanks for the encouragement," I thought, "but not today." Nonetheless, I tried my best to answer his calling for me to fox trot the flatter sections and hike the steeper ones. By the time we arrived at the climb on winter creek he had somehow convinced me that I was good at charging uphill and I proceeded to give the climb everything I had: hands on the knees hiking the steeps and shuffling the more gradual sections. Down the toll road, the rocks reminded me how beat up I felt, eventually we made it to Idlehour. At the aid they told me Mike was only 12 minutes ahead. This information apparently fired Chris up, but all I could think was now I had to really charge the climb out of Idlehour, damn it! My beat up legs shuffled down into the depths of the canyon, brushed through some poison oak, and began up the other side. As I began the climb, I remembered how much I love this place, this special canyon, the surrounding peaks, my home trails, and something switched: my focus came back, and under the constant encouragement of Chris I proceeded to run as much of the climb as I could. Near the second creek crossing I looked and saw the headlamps of Mike and his pacer. Fired up, I let out a low growl and pushed on. Up and out of the canyon, arrived at the aid station and awkwardly noticed Mike was there too!

A few sips of redbull, restock on fruits, and soda in my bottle. "Chris, I'm heading out." "I'll catch up," he said. As we made our way along the backside of the Sam Merrel Trail Chris reminded me of something I knew very well. "No one knows these trails better than you do. These are your home." With adrenaline pumping we came around the corner and saw Mike's headlamps only 50 feet ahead of us. All the pain in my quads disappeared and I knew I was going to be able to hammer this downhill. Right then, I stopped. "Fuck!" I said. "Whats up, why are you stopping?" I looked down at my cramping legs and for a brief moment thought I wouldn't be able to do it. I quickly drank some water and massaged out my leg and the cramp subsided. I picked back up and in a few switch backs caught up to Mike. In full excitement I turned it on to get by him with authority and proceeded to slip and fall only ten feet after we'd passed him. My water bottle went flying, my calf cramped up, but I quickly picked myself up and hurried on. I excitedly hammered the rest of the downhill, ignoring Chris' admonitions to calm down. "Never!" I thought. I was having too much fun. The Sunset Trail came and I worked hard to hammer that decent too as the adrenaline wore off and the pain returned to my legs.  Quickly through Millard aid. Still working hard on the small climb on Brown Mountain Rd, down El Prieto, and on to the pavement. Chris told me we should probably get some insurance, so I ran that out as hard as I could, thinking Mike could be right on my heels. Ran the last mini climb up to Altadena Dr. "Might as well leave it all out there," I thought.  And on to the road. Here, on the road, was the first time I let myself think that I could win. Half a mile later I crossed the finish line at 19:46.

The day went as well as I could have hoped. Except for a low point in the middle I was able to stay present all day. I am proud of myself for pushing the last section so hard in an attempt to emulate Chris' final push at Hardrock this year. For my first finished 100 miler (I dropped at mile 60 last year), I am amazed at the ability to find energy and motivation long after I thought was possible for me. If for nothing else, the personal self discovery made the day worthwhile (the trophy was an added bonus!).



Thanks to:
My Crew: Jess (Crew Chief Extroardinaire), Chris (Super Pacer), Elissa (Mrs. Levelheaded), My Mom (no title needed). All of my friends who came out to see me at different times. Guillaume - you ran fearlessly and elegantly when I could see you. Mike Carson - You were steady all day. Thanks for giving me something to chase after in the last 25. :-) Run With Us running store in Pasadena - you've been so supportive of me all year. Hammer Nutrition - Heed and Perpetuem kept me motoring all day.

Gear:
Julbo Eyewear: Blast and Stunt sunglasses where (as always) perfect choices.
Petzl Nao Headlamp: I wouldn't endorse this borrowed headlamp, but it was f'ing amazing! So bright, I didn't ever think about it being dark. Thanks Greg for letting me borrow it.
Simple Hydration bottle keeping me handsfree for most of the day.
Some Huakas, drymax soxk, and Strider Pro shorts round out the garb.

Cheers!




Sunday, June 28, 2015

Notes from the West: Lessons Learned

Go into the mountains and find
Dirt and rocks, trees snow and ice.
Find a reality devoid of romance
Find out that your thoughts 
Lead you astray, and this stark world
Cares not at all.

Go into the mountains and see
Yourself dealing with this remorseless place
What comes out? Who are you 
When your mind can no longer shape
Your environment?

Go to the mountains and find
That they hold power like gods
And you are no longer who 
You thought you were, but
Something less.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Notes from the West: Introspection


Drizzly, wet, foggy trail. Cant see too far
Better to look inside.
Adolescent bear rustles in leaves. 
Nothing to do but wait.
Listen to breath, beating, trickling 
Water from Decker spring.
Down through cloudy mind, city streets.
Back at work; chacos, dirt still on toes.
Grit feels better anyway. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Notes from the West: Zane Grey


IAs a child, growing up, the name Zane Grey was an all too familiar one. My parents had an obsession with westerns. Along side of Louis L'amour, Mr' Grey's books occupied the majority of the space on our house's shelves, and so most of my dreams as a kid were of these romantic depictions of the West: its rugged landscapes, wild animals, its grit. "I want to live there when I grow up," I had thought, only to eventually realize that this world was no more real as the words on the dusty pages. Unbeknownst to me all this time there was a foot race taking place on Arizona's Highline trail as rugged and wild as any of these stories, only void of any of the romanticism. Welcome to Zane Grey 50.

Last year was the first year I went out to Arizona to run this race, and due to the deteriorating weather the race was called at mile 33; so I came back this year for the full experience. Before I get into this years race, for those who don't know the ZG course, its full of rocks. The whole course is indeed runnable, just as long as you like running on top of rocks of all sorts and sizes. I find the terrain dreamy; perfectly technical to keep a mind engaged for the whole day.

This year the weather was cool again. I think the high was 65 for the day, and I'm beginning to be skeptical as to the tails of this race being HOT. Luckily, I didn't really bother heat training before hand, as the cool temperatures were perfect all day. The race started with the same jittery nerves as always, but as we all began the first climb I settled into a comfortable pace. By the top of the climb Joe Grant, Jason Koop, and Rene Rovera (the eventual winner) sped off. I felt it fitting to join Brian Tinder in trail of the lead group since we both were wearing the same color shorts, shirt, and shoes: Twinzies! We cruised into the first aid together, and as I fumbled around Brian took off. I spent the next few miles working to close the gap between us so we could be twins again, and to my chagrin as I caught up to him I noticed just up ahead of both of us was Joe Grant.  Brian let me pass, and soon I scooted pass Joe too. (He had a broken rib, so I don't think he was completely on his "A" game.) I worked to keep the effort up through to the next aid, where I was much more efficient this time (all thanks to my super crew: Jess). I tucked two new bottles into my shorts and started off, it wouldn't be until mile 33 that I would see Jess again with replenishments, so I had all sorts of Hammer Gels and a couple of bottles weighing me down. I settled into an easier pace.  I reached a section of the trail where these large bunches of tall grass grow. I hate this section.  I had a low point here last year, and it was repeated this year again. I can't stand not being able to see what I am running on, and I found myself ridiculously frustrated as I shuffled blindly through the grasses. Brandon Stapanowich caught me in at my low point, and I quickly let him pass, as he looked much better than I felt.  For the remainder of this section all the way until mile 33, Joe trailed behind me by about ten feet. It was almost comical, he would catch up to me on the down hills, only to fall back on the climbs. We continued this way for what seemed like hours. Not talking, just running at close proximity. As I neared the Fish Hatchery aid at mile 33 I caught sight of Jason. I had run out of water about five minutes before, so I didn't bother trying to pass; I just ran into the aid station with him, and to my surprise followed by Brandon (he ran off course for a bit). At the aid station I downed some Heed and a highly caffeinated beverage, and had planned to tell Jess I needed an extra bottle of water for this section. In a whirlwind of excitement I trotted out of the aid station without mentioning anything about more water. This would turn out to be my undoing. Full of caffeinated fervor, I ran the first climb with the intent to put a gap on Brandon and Jason in this next 11 miles.  Within a mile from the top of the climb my dehydration caught up with me, and I decided to slow a bit. Brandon caught back up and served me a plate of humility. I told him he could pass, but he insisted we should work together for the next section. I pushed along this section as Brandon encouraged from close behind. Eventually, I took a digger on what was probably the smoothest part of the course. Frustrated and tired I told Brandon to go on ahead. I trailed him for a bit, but eventually he ran out of sight. About a mile or two later I ran out of water completely, and my pace slowed significantly. I arrived at eh See Canyon aid irritated I had put myself in that hole. I chugged more Heed and took an extra bottle of water for the last section. Brandon was five minutes ahead, but being so down on my hydration, that seemed like an big gap. For the last seven mile stretch I did my best to keep a solid effort, although I know my pace wasn't anything too quick. I finished out the day Third in 8:47.

Every race I run I come away with a list of things I might have done differently, and I realize now, that this is ultra running. It is so improbable that everything will go perfect for you on any given day, and so the challenge is to be able to keep moving and working hard as the problems arise. I feel great about the effort I gave this year, and I look forward to going back next year. The course is beautiful, and was marked wonderfully this year.



Gear list:

Shoes: Adidas Adios
Food: Hammer Perpetuem in the bottles, Heed at the aids, and Hammer Gels to top me off.
Glasses: Julbo Blast
Bottles: Simple Hydration
Clothes: Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts, Run With Us race shirt

Thanks for the support Run With Us running store in Pasadena for keeping shoes on my feet, Hammer Nutrition for keeping my stomach happy, Simple Hydration for the awesome bottles, and Julbo for keeping my eyes healthy.

Cheers!



Friday, April 17, 2015

Notes from the West: 1

The muscles in my legs screamed for air with each sluggish step. The switchback before I let Chris pass, and just up ahead he effortlessly trotted off; just out of reach. I started out too excited and my lack of focus was fully apparent now with each misplaced foot strike.  I switched to a hike, trying to remember what I was doing there, as the sun rose, and the cool morning breeze floated down the steep canyon.
Not Bear Canyon

"Even with the best intensions it is difficult to master the way of unfavorable conditions; living in a quiet place in the bosom of nature is the most conducive for practice. It is better to rely, at first, on place rather than the mind." Saicho (quote stolen from Joe Grant's blog)




Finding rhythm; breath and legs moving, hiking. Knowing Chris had run this section, and yet reminding myself to be present with each rocky step. I was there to practice. If yoga is practice for health and meditation, then running is practice for movement in the mountains: a type of meditation in and of itself.


Thanks Julbo for the awesome shades! 
 I struggled to a 1:39.58 to the top of Bear Canyon. Chris cruised to a 1:34.xx 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Taking Diggers



On our second top out of Baldy, we came up what we are choosing to call Harwood Ridge: A slow, slog of a climb in what felt like warming temperatures, until we neared the top of the ridge of course.  The wind picked up a bit. Chris' hat blew off and I died with laughter as I watched him chase it down the side of Mt Harwood. We continued and the wind picked up some more, and then some more, and then a lot more. I was done laughing. My jacket rapidly slapped against my skin, and my hand quickly went numb.  "This is fucking shitty," I thought out loud. We reached the top, beaten down and cold quickly continuing down the other side.

Out of the wind we were in a different world all together: hot! But now, post holing in the snow every three or four steps: about as non-rhythmically as possible. "I swear I used to enjoy running down hill in the snow." I thought as the numbness left my hands only to take up residence in my feet. Down Bear Canyon we went, the snow fading to dirt and rocks as my fumbling feet pounded out the numbness.  One of the rocks, being slightly more stubborn than the rest, stopped my left foot dead in its tracks.  Woo! What a show for Chris who patiently stopped running behind me to watch as I rolled around in a pile of pine needles and dirt. Later on down the trail I let Chris run on ahead, scoped out another good spot, one with a few more rocks this time, and bam! Down I went, leaving some of my skin on the rocks in exchange for some dirt firmly rubbed into my scraped up knee.

Now, I know what you are thinking: "Erik, what the hell is your problem?! Pick up your damned feet!" But no, thats not why I end up taking so many diggers. I have taken up this past time as a means to really feel the dirt of a place on my skin; a sort of ritualistic sacrifice of flesh to a place to really tie myself to the land.  You know, like those guys do in Dead Poet's Society when they make a blood oath to each other by cutting their hands. At least thats what story I feel like telling here.

Why else go to the mountains? I mean, this is a place that if engaged in any honest way can have some serious physiological and often mental effects on yourself, and taking diggers just means I am just more committed than the rest of you.

Most of us living in North America are in places where we have covered over the majority of the dirt with concrete, allowing the plants only to grown in conveniently organized rows, so as not to obstruct our fast placed lives.  Because of this, many of us turn to wild places to experience something real for once, and to bring some sort of growth to ourselves.

In reading Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums there is a moment when Jack's character has an epiphany while he is running down the side of Matterhorn Peak in the Sierras. He exclaims (and I'm paraphrasing here) " You can't fall off of a mountain." I remember reading this and thinking, "Yes you can, you idiot!" But, I guess, for most mountains, to fall would mean that you would only end up some other place on the mountain,  hitting all sorts of rocks and pieces of that mountain on the way down. You would surely experience much more of that place than you other wise would have, had you stayed upright on your feet. Maybe a better statement is: you cannot fall off of a sidewalk; because even if you do, you are still experiencing the same substance, and thus have gained nothing from encountering the cement with any other part of your body.

With all this in mind, I implore you to go out, find a hill, walk to the top, and dive down it face first. No hills around? Find a tree, climb to the top, and fall in such a manner that you hit as many branches as possible before you reach the bottom.  This, I must say, would be the most efficient way to get out and experience the natural world around us, and all of your bruises, broken bones, and concussions will be a great story of you physically engaging the place you have found yourself.


Monday, March 2, 2015

This week in Haiku

Greetings! I don't have anything interesting to write about this week, but I did find myself writing down a few poems. So here they are, with a few pictures interspersed.



Valley heat rising
Waist high snow drifts: silent guards
Legs, arms, mind engaged.


Wisps of wind and clouds
Signs of an absent winter
Here, just for today.


Trapped inside a bowl
A breeze from snowcapped mountains
Awaits and eager mind.



Long ago the leaves have fallen
Yet fresh snow brings newness
As if winter's cold precipitation
Also brings whispers of spring.

 \


Thanks for reading. Cheers!


When it snows in Southern California, you can't hesitate.  Thanks to Hammer Nutrition and Simple Hydration for keeping me going!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter?

So, I guess Ultra-season has begun. At least that is what my facebook and twitter feeds are telling me. My initial gut reaction, of course, is, "Oh shit! I need to go out and start hammering my workouts."

A couple of weeks ago I tried this going up Mt. Baldy.  I thought to myself, "I feel pretty good today, I'm going to really go for a good time."And then I reached the ridge at about 9,000 ft covered in melty, post holing snow that made any efficient movement impossible, and I was sorely reminded that it is still winter.  Contrary to the summer-esque temperatures here in Southern California, it is still the middle of February, a month that, in other parts of the country, is characterized by the coldest most dismal grey days of the year. Although many Californians are touting the fact that they do not live in Boston right now, the people living in the more frigid parts of the country have something that we do not have: the inability to ignore the current season.  They are still forced to slow down, to sleep more, eat more, and enjoy a time of rest.  For us here in the West, paying attention to the slowness of winter is a much more difficult discipline.  Instead of walking out the front door and seeing or feeling winter with our bodies, we must find some other way to remind ourselves of its presence.  We are forced to pay homage to an invisible season, as if enacting an ancient tradition tied to a different time and place.

That being said, Ultra running season might have begun, but I think I am going to keep taking it a little slower.  That doesn't mean I wont be working hard, it just means that when given the choice to push myself to the limit or back off a little, I will choose the latter for the time being.  After all there is still snow on Baldy.

Weekly arbitrary stats:

Burritos consumed: 4
Number times I kicked a rock: ~ 20
Push ups: 35
Pieces of Pie: 5 (not including pizza)
See there is still snow.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

On Rituals and Practice

I remember the first time I returned to my parent's house after I moved out to go to college.  I woke to the sound of my mom clumsily washing pots and pans in the kitchen sink as she waited for the coffee to be ready.  Prior to this, I had some how completely ignored the habits of my mom each morning and/ or saw no significance to her actions each day, other than the fact that she insisted on vacuuming the house at 6:30 am (which, at the time, seemed like an ungodly hour to be doing anything other than sleeping). On this visit, I decided to get out of bed and see what she was doing, and for the first time noticed my mom's calculated practices and rituals:

-Wake up
-turn on the coffee pot
-wash the dishes and or vacuum
-sit down to read with her coffee in hand
-water the garden
-fix breakfast and lunch
-leave for work.

I was fascinated at her ability to commit to these tasks each day, all before heading off to work, and I was inspired and determined to create my own morning rituals when I returned to my college dorm room.  That inspiration lasted all of one day before I returned to previous ritual of sleeping-in as late as possible without being late to class.

Fast forward a number of years and there I am listening to Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder give an informal talk to promote a new book they had out, and I hear Wendell and Gary discuss the ideas of daily practice and how these rituals we enact each day can be, and are, means to practice living the best way we know how.

As I thought about these words I began to realize that I had already, myself ,without knowing, created my own daily rituals that I practiced each day in order to help create some sort of structure.  And so, I began to write down lists of theses rituals.


This is a list of practices that mostly created a healthy and productive day:
-Wake up
- Make Coffee
- Meditate
- Drink coffee and eat breakfast with Jess
- Get out of the house for a run or workout

Unfortunately this list often included other things that weren't always so productive:
-Social Media
- Email
-and a bunch of other computer related time wasting techniques...

There were also weekly lists:
- Tend to the garden
- Yoga
- Read
- Wash dishes
this list goes on and on.

And of course there are all of the running related weekly rituals:
- AMRC group run
- Tempo Run
- Weight Train
- Long Run
- Yoga
- etc.

With all of these lists on hand I had began to think why? Why do these things? Of course some of these are necessities, but what about all of the others? In the running community we are constantly trying to answer the question "Why do we run?" Perhaps the answer to this and the answer to the  "why?" of all the rest of my practices is simply because the practiced ritual helps to create some level of structure to my day to day life, and this structure provides the necessary friction for movement and change.  I found, through this exercise, that the noticed ritual, over the arbitrary habit, has a profound impact on one's ability to enact this change on the path toward being the best version of our selves, if this is indeed our endless goal. Thus, I run, garden, wash dishes, read, write, and whatever else merely as a means to practice my own life.


And now for the real reason for this post: I write all of this nonsense to say that I realize, just as in running, the consistency of my blog posts are indeed important to the success of me as a writer and of my blog.  Thus, I will try my best to have something written down here each week from here on out.  Sometimes it may have to do with mountains and running, sometimes it might not, but all of it will be something, all will be practice.

Cheers,

- E

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

[Enter Cliche New Years Title Here]

Every twelve months or so many of us in the western world partake in a tradition of reflection and preparation. Although I am fully aware of the relatively arbitrary notion of most traditions in the grand scheme of things, I also acknowledge their ability to be highly useful reminders of ideas and actions that should probably be more common place in our lives.  With all of that said, it is time for me to begin my 2015 New Year's blog.

Where I Have Been

Struggle.  I think this word characterizes this last year most succinctly for myself.  I struggled to deal with a chronic knee injury early on. I struggled to learn the intricacies of Yoga in my teacher training program (on top of being the least flexible in the program). I struggled in races and I struggled to have confidence in my haphazard training.  This last year often felt like I was never quite grasping whatever it was that I was running after, and so I struggled to keep up.  What I often did not realize during times like these is that there are changes taking place within the struggle.  Physiological changes where taking place as I grunted through endless miles and likewise my mind and spirit also have come out of this year different.  I have learned from the struggle many things that still I have yet to formulate into words, but I have come to realize the value of the struggle itself.  Movement takes place in the struggle and in the suffering.  Movement in the muscles and the blood of the body gives way to movement in the breath and the mind.  You then begin to understand the intricacies of each as part of the whole and the depth of all that you don't really understand.  I have learned a lot from falling short of some of my goals and from reaching others, and in the end this past year doesn't seem so much different than any other.  I learned from my time, just like I expect to do each year, and the Erik that is here, now, writing is a different person than one that was writing last year.

Looking Ahead

And so I'll use that as a segue into this next year.  I have the same expectations I always have.  Not that this year should be so much better than the last, but that I hope I have learned from my time in the past and that I use that information to instruct my day to day practice for the coming months.  I am also not saying I don't have goals.  In fact I have a chalk board in my living room that I like to scribble down my goals for the next year, and those chalky ideals stare at me every every day waiting for me to live up to my dreams.  Sometimes they become reality and sometimes they get wiped off the board to make room for other outlandish ideas.  This next year, hopefully, will be another year of practice and refinement.  With new tools learned I hope to achieve some of the goals that I am not yet ready to write down here, but that are swirling around in my head waiting to be written on the living room chalk board.  With the help of Steve House and his book Training for the New Alpinism I hope to take better hold of my training, and with Yoga I hope to understand my mind and body in a deeper way.

I am also excited to have the support of Hammer Nutrition for the 2015 season.  Its great to feel the assistance of such a wonderful company with a dedication to quality products.  I cannot say how proud I am to be a Hammer Nutrition Athlete Ambassador for this next year.

Over all, I hope to come back here next year with a similar blog, but with completely different experiences.  I hope this year will have the same effect as the ones in the past, but with totally different ways to get there.