Beebe Farm 12hr

Mixed Emotions.

In two words, that is precisely how I would have to describe the Beebe Farm 12hr running-fest that took place yesterday. The actual main event of the weekend was a grueling 48 hours of running, walking, crawling.. whatever mode of travel the runner chose to pass the time and pack on as many miles as one could in the allotted time. Nor’East Trail Runs hosted this gem of a race back in Dorset, VT (we were just there for the Lost Cat 50k and Dorset Hollow road race..found here!) and featured a 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, 48 hour, marathon and 50K distances, a little something something for everybody, I suppose!

If I remember back correctly, the decision to run this event came while I was still riding the ‘runners high’ of the aforementioned events last month in Vermont.. thinking to myself that it would be a splendid idea to ‘try anything once’.

Lists were made well in advance to try to avoid forgetting any necessary clothing or piece of food that might be my savior on race day – and I have to say, I think I did quite well looking back! I had my grapes all washed and ready to go when I wanted something juicy at mile 11, Ciara’s gracious mother brought clementines which I scarfed down somewhere around mile 20, then came my trusty dates when my calves needed some nutritional loving around mile 36, but what really hit the spot was the rye bread dipped into pickle juice once I hit the 40 mile mark!

Nor’East Trail Runs of course had anything and everything to offer up, keeping the weekend runners bellies satisfied and fueled for the long miles ahead; pancakes and eggs were on the stove when I arrived early Saturday morning, shortly after they got the grills all smoky and filled the surrounding air with the tantalizing scents of burgers and hot dogs. The best part? They offered everything for the dietary restricted also, featuring gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options!

Unfortunately (or fortunutely for me!), I just did not feel like tackling the grease-fest.. so I opted for a glass (yes, you read that correctly.. a glass) of real, local maple syrup followed up several hours later with apple cider..and several glasses of the refreshing nectar!

The one thing I truly wish that I had brought.. which honestly were just forgotten were headphones! Twelve hours on the circle gravel track is really quite a mind game. While there were plenty of amazing and kind folks (some I recognized from previous events!) to pass the time in conversation with.. I think a podcast would have been a great addition to break up the hours, or even to be able to listen to any of the 400,000 musicians that scrolled into my head as the day cranked by!

So what did I do about this? I turned the music up real loud on my drive from New York to Vermont.. trying to get my fill of decent tunes before being trapped inside my head with my wacky thoughts for the on coming twelve hours.

Nine AM

I arrived early enough to check in with the team and pick up my new Beebe Farm fleece jacket and super cute coffee mug with matching spoon, but had I given myself an extra half hour, I think I would have actually remembered to put the ankle bracelet timer on my leg prior to heading over to the runner briefing at 8:50! A quick trot back to my car a quarter mile away and my problem was solved.. but certainly helped add to the rushed chaoic sensation of the morning.

Watches set to record and all of us were off, some quicker than others of course. I tried to stay reserved to start, hovering somewhere around a ten-minute mile pace, which afforded me the breath to chat it up with a mother next to me – she was running with her autistic son, they were here to run his first full marathon – and let me tell you.. the two of them absolutely crushed it! He was in the zone just trotting along when she would remind him to eat, drink and use the potty – really quite a remarkable sight to see!

Lots of “nice work!“, “lookin good!” and “you’re crushing it!“-‘s were exchanged and before I knew it the sun had rose to full force, I had thrown down my first eleven miles – each one of those miles had me eyeballing the 1 gallon jug of local maple syrup on the aid station table. I suppose one would assume this real maple syrup would be for the pancakes? I finally got up some courage, slowing to a walk near the table.. “hey.. could I have a shot of maple syrup?”, I asked Adam (from the awesome Race Director team of Adam and Eliza).

“We don’t have any shot glasses.. yet.” he replied.

I conjured up my inner Ciara as I replied, “My mouth is the perfect shot glass!!

Turns out they just happened to have a red solo cup filled about half-way with the sweet, sticky nectar. “Here you go.. *hands me the red solo cup as I peer into it*, WAIT! Erik that’s not a challenge, man!“, Adam went to the other table to grab a spare biodegradable cup to split the 10oz of syrup. So I poured, drank about 4oz of pure heaven.. then refilled, and downed another 4oz.. and before I knew it the contents of the original red solo cup were coasting south, straight into my belly. Such bliss, washing it all down with a quick blast, 8oz of some of the best race coffee I had ever had and I was on my way, super satisfied with my decision!

The miles clicked by (literally clicking as I ran across the timing mats) and I grew curious (and hungry!) about when Ciara’s mother was planning on dropping by – I figured I would have one of my tomato and vegenaise on rye bread sandwiches since I would be happily slowing my pace to spend time with her.

Not only did she bring my pickles (I left some food in her fridge as I spent the night at her cabin to make the morning commute shorter) but the cooler she brought could barely zip! Packed with oranges, apples, carrots, ginger ale, a full block of tempeh – it felt like I could have survived the week out there on the track with all the treats she brought!

I thought I was spacing the food and drink out far enough while trying to avoid ornery leg muscles seizing up or becoming dehydrated in the afternoon sun, which I did.. I felt great but there was a point that my stomach said “no more” and detested all solid food.

Next up at the aid station, I pulled in again once I saw the jug of apple cider come out – I wanted it cold and fresh!

“Mind if I have a glass or two?” I asked the youngsters who were now our hosts of all things delicious.

“Go ahead, we have another jug in the back.. and if we go though that.. well there is an orchard right over those mountains!

This young fella had the right attitude toward this fresh apple cider!

Ciara’s mother, Tuesday had been gone for several hours and I was limited to a run-walk technique. I’d like to say it was a methodical and thoughtful technique, but I was now fighting off the occasional acute stab that would oscillate from side to side if I tried to pick up my pace.. so I was basically limited to a 16-minute power walk around the track.

Just then a fellow runner came trotting up and slowed to my shuffling pace and asked how I was doing, this would be the most interesting man I would meet all day.

Regretfully, I never did get his name, I simply remember him as #48.. I’m sure I will learn his name once the results are posted and give him a big thank you for all of his help during the day!

You’re in FOURTH PLACE!” he disclosed and continued on for the next couple of minutes giving me backstories on the other racers who made up the lead pack; everything from the ‘guy in the blue shirt up there’ who is more of a bicyclist and has a torn tendon in his leg, turns out our friend in the blue shirt had gone out too fast and despite being 5-6 laps ahead had faded fast and was talking about throwing in the towel at 50 miles. I was at 36 and upon doing some quick ‘ultra-math’, I knew I should be passing 50 miles if I kept up this mediocre pace!

If that doesn’t put a little pep in your step, I don’t know what will!” Yelled number 48 as he hastened his shuffle and took off. Throughout the remainder of the event, we talked a lot as he would pass by: he used to be extremely overweight as a child and his father put him on the track team, he had not stopped running since – and man, he sure enough looked like a lean running machine!

Up to that point I was completely unaware that the current stats were being displayed, I honestly assumed I was hovering somewhere around 14th place, and that would have been fine with me – I was watching the miles fly by 38, 39, then FOURTY MILES! Up until September 28th I had never pushed past 33.25 miles, this was all new and exciting territory for me – but to do it and be in fourth place? Un-freaking-real!

Mile 45

I had one thing on my mind: Dates. I knew dates had always treated me and my finicky belly very well at any other event, or when running in the mountains – reliable and predictable energy that takes care of any leg calf fatigue.. such an amazing burst of ‘everything is okay‘ energy!

I’m sure curious minds were fixed on me as I ran-walked another lap, this time with my arms held high; the sun had fallen behind the surrounding mountains and a slight breeze had coasted in. There were threats of storms, but we saw nothing more than a few flashes of lightening off in the distance.

Arms in the air, breathing slow and thoughtfully: slow inhale held for several seconds and then releasing through my nose, I was able to shut my eyes and live in the moment – almost in a meditative trance-like state. It was truly blissful. I actually felt okay in those minutes.

Being able to relay all of the many emotions that welled up from 11 miles all the way to 53 miles to Ciara back at home was unlike anything I had in the past, my own secret weapon of encouragement at my fingertips!

She kicked my ass into gear when my ass needed kicking, and I cannot thank her enough for that!

The sun was gone and finally at mile 46, I did not want the company of anyone around me.. I was hurting all over and I just wanted to collapse into my mind, experiencing all I could.

Friends tried to talk, so I forced conversation about mountains and what life was like while not on this doggone circle. I just wanted my peace and quiet – that is.. until I saw a familiar face: Tuesday was back for more fun – and this time donned her Altra running shoes!

Big hugs were exchanged and we were off down the track! Pretty sure by this time I had slipped into such a tired state that I rambled and went on down the rabbit hole of not making sense, but I didn’t care, I wanted to share the chaos that now traversed my scattered brain.

Since number 48 had told me about the scoreboard, I made it a habit to veer over and scope it out – thinking that perhaps I would slip up into third place and not realize it, but I was also able to monitor their calculated mileage and my lap count.

Mile 47.6

So close, and with an hour and fifteen minutes to go, I was still in fourth place. Our friend in the blue shirt was pulling off more and more frequently, but he was still out here – and he was running! Tuesday offered to jog a bit, I politely declined – being completely satisfied with my 16-minute per mile shuffle and potential fourth place finish!

We talked and talked, as much as I wanted to just tuck away into my pain cave and just auto-pilot the last hour away, I felt extremely lucky that she wanted to come back at such a late hour of the night to help.. even if I did stumble sideways into her a few times!

By now, I began to feel a certain taste of pain in my quadriceps that was henceforth unknown to me.

Just. Keep. Moving.

One more beep from the timing mat as yet again I veered over the left to check the stats: 49.68 with time to spare.. I would surpass my fifty miles for sure! In fact, two more laps brought us to 52.29 miles with 10 minutes 28 seconds left to hammer out as much steam as possible!

Just then I heard my name, it was the timing guy running after me with a little red flag. We were instructed to jab that sucker into the ground on the right side of the track when the clock hit 9pm. The end was in sight and it tasted so sweet.

All those miles that I had endured, the sun burnt legs, the chaffing, the shuffling feet, the pickles and rye bread eaten; it was all for this moment.

9pm. Game over.

We made our way (a little stiff-legged on my part) back to the aid station and starting line for the finishers’ medal where I was greeted by Eliza, “here’s this.. and.. you got Third Place.. right?”

Whaaaaat?! I never saw my place bump from fourth to third – that literally happened as we began our final lap in the last 10 minutes (I didn’t see it happen). Holy heck, all I could do was keep quiet.. I truly believed she erred, but without questioning her, I took my 3rd Place piece of slate award.. still, slightly in shock, I suppose!

It wasn’t until later that night, going through the photographs that I found that I did take third place after all!

What a magical tormential experience.

I write this now, merely 12 hours after completing my first 12 hour, 53 mile travel by foot with restless, tired, beaten up legs.

Mixed emotions.

Those words running through my head so early on in my day and continuing to swim violently upstream, trying to stay afloat in my mind. I love the crew, Adam and Eliza are absolutely incredible Race Directors, and rad folks for sure! They just seem to get better and better at what they do, becoming more organized with each event! The weather was just lovely out at the horse farm, I got to experience a side of myself that I rarely find at the mountains, pushing gravely deep past the point where I just want to curl up in the grass and whisk away.

Despite reaching 2,733 feet of vertical gain over the day: I miss my mountains. I miss time spent on the trails with Ciara and our doggies. Twelve hours after running 53 miles, I can safely admit: I want to finish hiking the 48 high peaks of New Hampshire with Ciara, I want to thru-hike more, I want to sink my trekking poles into the glacial slopes of Mount Hood, I want to travel to new places and see new things in our bus – knowing me though.. I’d give it another 48 hours and I’ll want to do this crazy adventure all over again!

I cannot thank Ciara and her awesome mama, Tuesday enough for helping me kick butt (or.. get my butt kicked!) and helping me get my mind through the grueling, tough times! Of course to all the friends I got to see again and new friendships made through running silly distances! Many thanks to everyone at Nor’East Trail Runs for giving us all a stellar venue to destroy our bodies and truly see what we mortals are made of!

It really was an incredible day!

Thanks for following along – got a question about running plant-based? Let me know.. shoot a note!

Have an awesome day – time for me to refill my coffee and limber up a bit!

Cheers!

– Erik


Overall stats for Beebe Farm 12hr

Recorded with COROS Pace

  • 53 miles
  • 12 hours
  • 2,733′ elevation gain
  • 0 bathroom breaks
  • 1/2lb green grapes
  • 4 clementines
  • 1/3lb dates
  • 10oz maple syrup
  • 8oz coffee
  • 2 pickles
  • 1 slice rye bread
  • 6 cups apple cider
  • many ounces of water

 

The Joys of Volunteerism.

In the midst of ten thousand missed messages, phone calls, and random alerts chiming out of my phones speaker box, one headline stayed prominent in my mind all day: “Looking for Trail Running Expert!” The note came from a co-worker who had Wrong wayme in mind and assumed that I could be ‘their expert’, I couldn’t help but laugh a little!

I would definitely not classify myself as an expert in anything to do with running, but I sure do love to let loose out on the trails! The race director was on the prowl for a volunteer to help mark their track through the New Hampshire forest.

Sure, it sounded like a sweet gig.. but I had never volunteered for anything in the running community, despite how much fun I had heard it really could be!

Tossing around the idea in my mind to pay-it-forward to all of the volunteers who had helped any of my past running events go as smoothly as they could, I decided to just shoot the Race Director an email to let her know that I would be the ‘expert’ that they longed for.

To my surprise after I hit the send button for my probably-too-lengthy email describing my elevated level of stoke for the STOAKED Trail Race, I almost immediately received a note back thanking me and breaking the news that someone (probably more qualified!) had already volunteered and filled the position!

I wrote off the whole event, content that I could remain in the cocoon of safety that I had woven for myself over the years.. because, after all.. if I don’t step out of my comfort-zone, then no one will see me fail.

Runners of STOAKED

Several days passed until my email box dinged back to life – it was the UVTA Race Director again.. on the prowl yet again!

After a multi-day game of tag over numerous emails I was thrilled to write on my calendar: “Saturday August 3rd: STOAKED Trail Run, 8am. Be there.

Having ran the Stoaked trail race in Hanover, NH back in 2018 during the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series, I was truly excited.. yet still nervous to say that I would be helping out – giving back to a community of runners who had helped whip my butt into some-sort of shape one year prior.

My official title as a volunteer: Course Sweeper

Being a creature of habit who likes to be in control of his environment, I had plenty of time in the preceding weeks to ponder the multitude of questions: Why did I volunteer? Why should anyone volunteer? What will I get out of this? ..and possibly the most important and frequently reoccurring question: What if I suck at everything I do and everyone sees me?

All I could do now is just show up.

That Saturday morning was like any other: wake up, coffee, check the weather, stretch and pile gear into the Subaru. I decided to remain calm during this entire ordeal by convincing myself that, if I arrived to utter chaos that would tail-spin me into a slew of panic, then I would simply hop back in the Subaru and drive away. I knew that I had that option, sure it may On the quest for arrowshave made any situation more awkward, but that was my end-game escape plan!

The parking lot was a happening place as I dodged stretchers, sprinters, joggers to nab a parking spot. Quickly noticing how much I had actually missed the running environment and all of the excited bustlement that comes along with it, I found our Race Director who quickly broke down my task for the morning and handed me a big yellow “Volunteer” pin and my radio, should I find runners incapacitated.

Helping injured runners? That was beyond my scope of proficiencies – but ‘what could go wrong, it’s only a 10k!’, I gently reassured myself.

I would be taking to the trails 5 minutes after the start of the event, following the last few runners and removing the orange arrows and stapled signage from the trees.

I had a button, a radio and a purpose; time to run!

Immediately, I remembered the layout of the course: a turn here, up that hill, turn and scoot down over there.. and now jam over that-a-way.

Being instructed that I only needed to remove the signage on the sections of single-track trail where the ATVs could not access, I made quick work of the first mile and a half of this lush green pathway.

Then I saw my first friend just up ahead, ironically enough she wore a bright red shirt with huge white letters that filled the entire backside of her shirt – the letters plainly read “BEEF”.
Single track dreams

Here I came from behind.. the dreaded Course Sweeper wearing my bright white “Vegan Power 50K” t-shirt.. the combination of shirt themes brought a wave of chuckles over me, I was having an absolute blast as the Stoaked Trail Race Course Sweeper!

As to not startle the heck out of the woman in the Beef shirt, I politely and softly said “Good morning! Doing great up there!”, she remarked by noticing how fast I looked and that I should just pass her. I reassured her that was not my plan, today I was not a racer, today.. I was a fun-haver!

She was gone once we did finally hit the single-track section and it would be many miles of arrow-removal before I would see her again!

So why did I volunteer? Easy enough to say that I was tossed into the whole ordeal as instantaneously as the original email hit my inbox. In my heart, I had always wanted to give back – I always thought, somehow owning the title of “volunteer” would make me a better person. And did it? Yes, I like to think so!

It made me incredibly grateful to see the running and racing world from the inside, not trying to beat some other dudes time, or my own PR time, but just out there because friends counted on me. I was there to do a job, and that job (finally) was not just simply handing over $40 to throw on shoes and run to there and back.

It felt amazing to be out there, on the course as I was clearly in ‘last place’, picking my orange cardboard with black arrows off the trees, to stop, breathe in deeply, look around and just pause.

That’s what I could do, just pause and think about anything and everything all at once: the friendly faces at all of the aid stations I had thanked in the past; the times I had watched the sun make its way into the sky as my feet beat down rhythmically, leaving my mark on the soft blackened soil; all of the doggy-slobber that had lathered my beard from the post-race puppy kisses during the days running mountains with Ciara, Boone and Crockett.

I was in a good space as I gathered up my arrows.

Running these familiar trails became an unforgettable experience as the thought of several hundred sweaty runners plowing through, dipping and dodging the chilly streams, mud and trees on their quest for their best trail run yet!

I never caught up to another runner until I had radioed in to let my team know that all of my signs had been picked up and dropped off with the last aid station attendant. Then I heard the words crackle through the radio waves: “Thanks Erik so much, well that is it.. you are good to just RUN IT IN!!!

My hands were completely free now as I blew by the reservoir and over the ATV paths, destroying the one beast-of-a-hill that I recalled had annihilated me one year ago as I threw down footsteps in this dirt – this time the tables were turned, I was rested. I destroyed that climb and made it beg out for mercy.. okay maybe that is taking it a bit too far, but dang did I have such a blast!

Waving to the cars on Route 10, I meandered my way now out in the sun, tracing the outline of a mowed teardrop in the alfalfa field before returning to the tree cover.

With my head held high and feeling like a rockstar – I kicked harder, breathed slower and waved to the campers who were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.

Making my way through the campground, I could hear the mega-phone echoing out the automated voice reading off the winners and raffle prize winners.

“Last hill, get it!” I thought, now seeing the same red shirt with huge white letters, “BEEF” was still in front of me.

Cheers rang out for my friend just ahead of me as I now crossed my imaginary finish line to the sound of “..and now everyone put your hands together for this years COURSE SWEEPER… ERIK!!!!

I received lots of congrats and hand claps during my first full marathon back in 2018, but that was nothing compared to the deafening hoots and hollers that I received today.. and for what? Removing staples from trees? Maybe.. but perhaps also for finally doing something selfless, for putting other folks ahead of myself, my own aspirations and wills.

Today I helped other friends aspire to kick some booty and take that step – one step closer to reaching their goals!

I am thrilled to say that my story is not dissimilar to so many other folks out there: earlier this year Ciara volunteered at several events which I assumed would simply be a terribly mundane and boring experience for her – she brought her camera and photographed runners coming into her aid station! I heard for several days after the events that she had a great, memorable time helping runners with water bottles or PB & J sammiches (even the time I ran into her station and simply tossed my soft flasks right at her and continued running the 1 mile out-and-back.. upon realizing what I had done and how much of a jerk I must have seemed to be – I was all apologies when I returned to Ciara and her positive-vibed aid station! We both laughed it off when we got home!).

Should you volunteer? Do you want to get a different experience from the same old running event? Do you want to meet other like-minded (sometimes overly energetic, smelly and sweaty) runners? Do you like free stuff? Do you want to develop new skills? Do you want to be productive? Are you injured to the point that you cannot run?

Well.. I really hope that you are not injured to the point that you cannot run!! But YES! Everyone should volunteer from time to time! I did not think it would amount anything to ..write a blog post about.. but it was such a memorable experience!

It is deeply gratifying to be thanked and applauded for doing something that seemed so.. simple!

There is no doubt in my mind that I will be volunteering again – hopefully next time Ciara and I can both be at the same aid station making days brighter for fellow friends who shelled out hard-earned cash to punish and push the limits of their bodies!

Don’t know where to start?

These days there are so many small 5K’s and local shin-digs that it really shouldn’t be difficult to find an event that fits your schedule and what you want to do with your time, or perhaps what you want to get out of your volunteering experience – or if all else fails, hit up Google or ultrasignup.com, check the bulletin boards at your local Co-op, ask around – chances have it that someone you see every day knows of an event looking for your help!

I hope this helped make the decision easier for you – to go volunteer and give back a few hours of your day.. it will be worth it and pay you back ten fold!

Have an awesome day out there – go out and enjoy nature – enjoy giving back!

Thanks for following along this wild journey!

Much love!

Erik


 

5, 10,13.1, 26.2, 50, 100.. what even are all these Km’s and Mi’s?!

With dozens of local events held each and every day of the year, how the heck does a person who enjoys running even choose what to do when they don’t know what they are cut out to do? Run. Hike. Walk. stretching at the 2018 MDI marathon

Step one is just deciding that you want to move your body.

There is never a need to rush running head over heels (I know you want to get cruising through those soft, lush winding trails though!!) – or whatever the famous saying is, into running or a new strenuous exercise. Always start slow, get the blood flowing, get the muscles loosened up and whatever you decide to do, relax your arms, legs, joints and try to move as fluidly as you can, and always be working on being fluid with movements, becoming forever more efficient step by step.

I enjoy putting my paws on new places, but I really prefer to have a set loop or circuit in the woods that I can just traverse and not have to over think – throw on the shoes, the shorts and just run some familiar terrain. All while listening to your body, your lungs, and your footfall. While some folk’s will swear that they cannot run without blaring music (me being one of them – to get pumped up or to trance out and push through the end of a long run), it can be extremely beneficial to be able to hear your feet landing or hear the rise and fall of your chest while trying to utilize your diaphragm to take in slow, deep breaths. Just doing these “maintenance runs” regularly will give you a clear idea of how (or if) you are stepping up your endurance, letting you focus on the little tweaks of a pinch in the side of your knee, or if you land too heavy on your big toe. A lot of thought can take place in an hour of running (it can be therapeutic to drift away into far off wonderlands!), but also a great place to analyze and listen your body!

It can be thrilling to use techy devices such as a watch or even just the analog clock back in your car at the trail head to keep track of how long you hit the path each session (I have a Coros triathlon watch which I hit record and then forget it is on my wrist until I finish my work out!). This is a great way to track your progression day to day, or session to session, and an extremely great motivator when you see the seconds or even minutes drop off! (Hooray progress!!) But when I set my watch, like I said, I prefer to not look at it while I am in motion. I’ll tuck it under my jacket sleeve in cooler weather or make it a point to look Trail running in the morning lightahead at the trail, not at the seconds ticking by! This way I am reminded to listen to my body, my breathing, my muscles whether they may be tight if I just began running, or trying to notice the progression of the fibers becoming loose, ready perhaps to push a bit harder up hills or even down when my knees are feeling up to it – my foot landing can vary on the day, on the surface I am running on, or even the weather I’m exercising in. Sometimes feeling harder or softer, despite trying to stay light and fluid on my toes – I just seem to notice the calamity of bones landing more some days than other despite all of my attempts to be “light like a feather”.

“But I don’t even do these things,                                   how do I pick the ‘RIGHT’ one?”

Getting back to the original topic of that ominous question I would think anyone who has taken part in an organized event has asked at least subconsciously. There really is not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ event (I prefer to use the term ‘event’ because there is no rule that what you do has to be a race, plenty of folk’s do organized events for charity or just for the camaraderie experience!) for you particularly. And that is more or less what it comes down to – is racing against other competitors your calling? Even during these races it can be possible to just race against yourself and see what you are capable of! An organized ‘race’ is a fantastic place because 99% of the time there is so much support from other runners of all ages and capabilities, it’s typically about pushing yourself, meeting people and just being a nice, decent human being! 🙂

I always felt a certain selfishness about running in a certain way; it feels so good when it goes well, even euphoric perhaps on some days! But at the same time I knew that I preferred to be alone while running and did not like tripping over other people with dogs or just feeling pressured, I enjoyed the freedom of ‘my pace’ on ‘my run’ in ‘my forest’. Then there was that text message that came through, making my pocket buzz with so many questions “Can I even do this? What if I cramp up and die on the side of the trail? What if I need to poop in the bushes one mile into the race? What if my shoes hurt my feet? What if people call me out for running funny? Will I even finish this thing in the allotted time?” All of the questions flowed into my brain, a bit overwhelming of course, the most interesting part though was that none of these predicaments ever dawned on me during my day to day runs, I never felt pressure and anxiety like this over something that had always been a form of decompressing and forgetting about daily nonsense.

The message read: “I signed us all up for our first 5K!!”

I didn’t know whether I wanted to respond with “That’s awesome!” or “Oh no… what did you do now?” Turns out all of the worrying was for nothing, race day came and went and none of the other runners mocked me or pointed fingers at my slow pace. I had survived my first organized race event and even had a heck of a lot of fun while doing it! In fact, we all had so much fun getting together and watching each other come in to the finish and take our sweaty-faced post-race selfie photos, and then Our 1st 5K event together!we made it kind of like a ritual sort of thing of going to get some super good local plant based food near to wherever we had raced. 2017 brought us a handful of 5Ks which were all fun, but toward the end of “running season”, we discussed and signed up for an event along the shore of Lake Champlain, which was organized by Racevermont.com and listed as their Season Finale, and other folk’s listed as one of the most scenic courses on the east coast. Heck yeah I wanted scenic, heck yeah I wanted to be sore the following day, heck yeah I wanted to do something that I had not yet done – I guess just to say I was once able to run 13.1 miles, if I were suddenly stricken with the inability to run.

I trained, made my own plan of how I thought I could best prep my muscles and stamina for just getting through all thirteen point one miles: I ran, pushed to 10 miles. Once that wasn’t too bad, I pushed to 12 miles and thought “I can do thirteen, I’ll try it next week!”. I did the 13.1 and on my first attempt thought “I just hit the wall at 12.5 miles, how can I do 13.1?” so I did 13-14 miles at least once a week probably 4 or 5 more times before race day and took the two or so days prior to race day light. (turns out that I did NOT at that time know what The Wall really was, I only craved my lip balm and then I somehow felt refreshed and the final mile or so was no issue..strange, I know, but that’s how it went!) The actual race went fantastic, I thought I had started (“gone out”) too fast – but I just concentrated on my breathing and making every step meaningful, and of course enjoying those views of the Adirondacks from across the Lake. I even had Ciara (she ran the 5K) there to grab some photos of me and finish the final stretch of road with me – I somehow realized that day that I was hooked; I loved to run, I loved to push myself!

For the next 8 months we really had nothing on the radar. We had recently moved to New Hampshire, both working at jobs that we really did not mind, we hiked almost every weekend and worked on our new toy: our school bus turned Tiny Home! When I first started my job, it is safe to say I had some down time. Down time to read blogs and of course – check race schedules. I was gifted the New Hampshire Trail Race Series which consisted of 5-12K trail runs just about every other weekend, I saw a lot of the same folk’s event to event. This also gave me a great opportunity to learn of new trails and nature preserves for Ciara and I to take the boys to burn off some puppy energy!

“I’m definitely not getting any younger”

This was my mantra as I perused the list almost daily at that point looking for what I thought would be “The Perfect Race”, I wanted my opportunity to run a full marathon. Something that I NEVER thought I would do, I thought of it back in my troubled twenties as a mileage territory that my body was just not cut out for. Three miles? Check. Seven miles? Check. Thirteen point one miles? Again, check! But that random number (26.2 – a nod to Greek History) that I could never remember until I saw the white oval stickers on every Toyota Prius ever driven. I wanted to check that off my life-long “want to do, but probably don’t really have the balls to try List”. I found a course up in Maine in Acadia National Park. Ciara and I stayed for the weekend in October 2017 and fell in love with the whole Bar Harbor area, so we went back in 2018 with her mother, hiked and camped, having an incredible time making vegan finger food in the back of the SUV as the sun set behind Cadillac Mountain. I had been eyeing this event, had my finger on the sign up button for nearly two weeks but just did not have it in me to jump on it, until the day I finally realized that if I did not hit “Take My Money”, I would live with the regret of not knowing what would have Lining up for the 2018 Mount Desert Island marathonhappened, not knowing if I was capable of running 26.2 miles. I hit the button, they took my money, and I had to break the news of what I had signed up for to Ciara.

In a fit of selfishness I had signed myself up for the Mount Desert Island Full Marathon

Which took place just a few weeks after we were due to return from our vacation get away to the very same island. Follow along for a journey through my eyes as I tackled my hardest and longest run up to that point! Was I mentally prepared? I sure thought I had read enough and ran through the day mile by mile until I could see the finish line! Was I physically prepared? I was scared shitless! While everyone told me to hit the mileage at least once to get a feel for it, I had not gone over 16 miles and was barely pushing 20 mile weeks!! Spoiler alert – I ran my first marathon, loved the pain I experienced (the oh-so-good kind!) and felt content that I had decided 4 months prior to sign up for a 50K just two weeks after the Mount Desert Island full marathon. I loved the punishment and escaping into a world where nothing mattered but just running. One foot in front of the other. I loved what I was doing because I was doing what I loved.

Together after our raceI am beyond excited, and feeling a bit lucky to have the opportunity to run next to Ciara while we bust out the Runamuck 50K in April (I have decided I want to start together and finish together, this is OUR run – not MY run this time, and this makes me super stoked to share!!), while there is a chance there may be cold and snowy conditions, as long as we get the hydration, nutrition and clothing layering right, I know we can do it.. and I am here to make sure we have a whole lotta fun out on the trails together!! We have a mountain run through the White Mountains planned that (luckily) falls in my birthday in June, and her incredible plant-powered mama (Tuesday) just gave us The Vegan Power 50K as a 3 person relay (Ciara, Tuesday and myself!) as a Christmas gift, which happens to fall on Ciara’s birthday this year – so needless to say we are both super psyched for what the future holds for us! Be sure to follow along, and see where the next adventure will take us!!

Much love and happy trails!!

Erik

Who is this bearded guy and why am I reading this??

This journey into transformation begins in the wee morning hours on a chilly, windy, rainy April morning in the year 2006. I woke up in my typical post-over-indulgent sleepy haze, looked out the window to see what I assumed was a happy couple husting and bustling; hurrying their groceries from trunk to doorstep and back again, all while trying to avoid each acidic drop of New York rain only to return to the trunk to reward themselves by slamming back a frothy bottle waiting for them fresh from their morning of shopping.

“This is life, I guess.” I thought to myself, “this is what it must be like for people who adult every day”, one mouthful of frosty reward after another, congratulating ourselves for thinking we made good decisions or accomplished the impossible earlier in the day. “This is just not right”, I kept thinking over and over, knowing this happiness was completely fake, manufactured by psychopharmaceuticals being washed down with an endless supply of adult beverages.

I was not happy, I was only getting by, one day by one day at a time.

I walked with no light into the living room and something told me to look into the closet that held the objects that I wanted to forget about. What I found this time when I looked down was a pair of my fathers old Nike running shoes – these things must have been as old as I was at the time, otherwise he had secretly been logging 40+ mile weeks without me recognizing it (he wasn’t, he stopped running about 10 years prior). I bent over to toss the shoe laces into the grimy sneakers (a pet peeve that still plagues me to this day!), looked them over in my hand, they appeared to be about my size.. heck yeah, they actually fit! I looked at my feet in these so-called “running shoes”, looked outside at the drizzle pouring off the patio roof, glanced back at my feet – actually glanced at my toe, which I could see through the weathered toe box mesh. Grabbed up my keys without giving myself the option to muster up an excuse and shut the door behind me. Step one to my first run ever was now complete.

I knew of the vast trail system that spider-webbed along the shoreline of the Mohawk River and interlinking 12+ trailhead lots across the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve. I knew dozens of these miles from my solo walks along the Erie Canal Towpath, such a lovely area that I had photographed though all seasons; birds of all colors, turtles getting it on (yep, this actually happened right off the trail!), deer grabbing some morning treats off the low laying branches, soccer ball sized puff ball mushrooms, ships passing downstream in the lock systems, I got to see it all on my first “run” in nature, I covered 3.1 miles that morning. And it felt ama-zing! Incredible to feel the pain in my chest from heaving lungs trying to suck the moist air in, burning legs that were used to a much slower pace of hiking, my toes were sloshing in the muddy, drippy sneakers, the cold of rain drops falling off every branch and aiming themselves directly into my eyes. The best part of this whole run though, I felt alive for the first time that I could remember.

I didn’t have a watch at this time, in fact, I had no gear. My father donated several scraps of clothing that he could find from his youth, he refused to part with his busted up Nike sneakers, but I still used them for the following year on the trails, rolling up and over the paved hills in the back country of Clifton Park. The shirt I used was cotton, and fortunately I did not experience this term “chafing” for quite some time – until I broke though my limit of seven miles, which held me prisoner for the next several years, I thought “Seven is enough, I’m not a real runner so I don’t need to push it, my knees can’t take more than that anyhow, what’s the point – I get out and move, that’s enough for me..” I think the best part of these early years laying down miles were quite possibly the shorts that my father donated to my cause – they must have had a 2inch inseam, and for those not in the know about inseams, the fabric ended before my legs began.. and I loved them, I had quads at the time, and I loved to show them off in the sunlight, I showed them off in the snow as if that could be my form of a middle finger up in the air at society’s expectations!

Nor'wich 50K ultramarathonFor years, I kept up this habitual running after college classes, before work began in the morning, any time that I could find I would lace up those Nike sneakers that probably should have been retired 400 miles earlier. That didn’t stop me from my old ways of over-indulging constantly, my reward was a shower beer because.. I wasn’t actually drinking, I was rewarding myself. I wasn’t actually drinking, I was doing research because I loved the science of brewing my own beer. I wasn’t actually drinking, I just enjoyed trying new styles and experiencing new things.

Fast forward 4 or 5 years to after the time I took a two-year hiatus from running. I drank more because I was bummed out that I didn’t run in this new city that I had moved to, I drank even more because I was okay with a few bottles as I put in “work”, creating artwork, selling artwork and photos.

Then I woke up again, had another one of those “ah-ha moments”. My fathers old Nike sneakers were long gone since I had moved, and I had even wore through several other pairs, but I had stock piled Asics because gifting me one new pair of running shoes every year for Christmas was my father’s way of hoping that I would get back into running, and I did, awfully slow at first. We had trails, I had to drive a bit, but we had trails! There was not much I loved more than cruising through the nature preserves, living my old, good life once again. The sun encouraged me to get back out, the crunching leaves, the gnarly old twisted roots formed obstacles that always kept my ankles in check and strong while I was not even aware of it. I still loved running in the rain, why? Because I didn’t know anyone else who did, I loved the rain, the peacefulness, jumping in puddles was always fun once my Asics had soaked up all the rain they could.

Then, once again, I moved away from my safe place – the trails that I had grown to love. But it wasn’t all bad, in fact, quite the opposite! I had begun hiking again in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State with my father (who still insisted on Mount Haystackdonating old gear, no short shorts this time though!) and his long time gym-rat buddy Wendy. After completing her first 4000 footer climb, she decided over a greasy lunch at The Noonmark Diner that she was officially hooked, “how hard can it be?? I want to do ALL 46!!” she would exclaim. I got dragged into it, and I loved every bit of it. I still had my own issues to deal with off the trails, but for those hours out of cell service, I knew what it was to feel “free”, I was also hooked! Then after about a year and a half and what seems like every weekend, we found ourselves with teary eyes on the summit of Mount Haystack, 4961 feet above sea level at 12:05pm on June 4th, 2016 – we had done it, all 46 high peaks of New York State. While it was bittersweet, we continued hiking; short hikes, hikes with friends, hikes to old fire towers, even waterfalls made their way into our destinations.

Someone had invited us three on a hike for something, to a mountain I had hitherto yet heard about. All day everyone had fun and laughed, all I wanted was to be alone, not sure why at this time, but that is the feeling I took away from that day. I reunited with a brother of one of my best childhood friends and took photos with two goofy looking dogs with their mother Mount Halewho had the most bad-ass frosty dreadlocks, while I had my share of a frosty beard. Turns out this lovely lady, her two pups and I would continue to grow our friendship together, even travel via her Honda CR-V and my 3 person tent for nearly 4 months going cross-country. It was around Tennessee when we awoke to no nearby mountains, but dang did we have trails! Right out of our tent site we had soft packed single track trails, we decided to run (I somehow had the intuition to bring a pair of Asics running shoes, thank goodness!). We took off down the trails and I thought “aww crap, she doesn’t even need to warm up.. shit balls she is fast!!” I tried to keep up, luckily one of the doggo’s had to lighten his load (literally, on the side of the trail) so I had my chance to catch up. For the whole trip, we hiked, we ran, we explored everything, every day. And then we rehydrated with watermelon, which was cheaper than I had EVER found in my life – $2 at some southern Walmart shops for a massive 30 pounder! She had been vegan for years, then raw on and off.. and me? I had been cutting down on meat for years but never made the switch fully from chicken and turkey until that May when we departed down the road together, I was not convinced completely that an “athletic” body could thrive without meat protein (my father being a body builder heavily influenced my beliefs!), boy was I WRONG!!! We returned from our cross-country excursion and decided that if we don’t move to the forests of Washington state, we will have a go at New Hampshire for some time and see what happens!

A year or so later as I write this, good things have happened! We still run, hike and kiss our doggies. We weighed the idea of a tiny home (the thought of shelling out rent money to a stranger is nauseating!!) and made the purchase of a big 2005 flat nose school bus which we are currently turning into our home on wheels to afford us the option to travel with the seasons and be able to work for ourselves and just do what we love to do! Ciara and I both ran our first 5K together (with her mother who is also plant-based and possibly the most positive person that I have ever met), we ran some half-marathons, and in my boredom at work decided.. “26.2 miles, I remember seeing those stickers on cars.. dunno if I can do it, but sure as hell I am going to try!!” Then in October 2018 I ran my first full marathon and it kicked my bum, but I had the best crew (Ciara and her mama with Boone and Crockett) pacing along on the roadway offering refreshments (more on my during-race-hydration in another post soon, stay tuned!) and then two weeks later turned around and locally ran my first (and longest distance up to that point) 50K ultra-marathon, which my GPS actually tracked at 33.5 miles. I felt better during the 50K than in the 26.2 mile marathon, hydration and nutrition were both more on point the second time.

We bought a bus!!This year we have many, many exciting adventures lined up – from a Vegan Ultra 50K relay together, a 15ish mile mountain run, a handful of various events together. For me, it’s so nice to collect my thoughts while alone out on the trails, but nothing beats the smile and laughter of someone you love together in the mountains. Stick with me as I share what has, and has not worked for me in running and mountaineering and of course – how to take care of yourself while kicking butt while fueling yourself on all the Veggies, catching all the best Vistas, and tacking some mean Vert to be the best you that you never knew.

Cheers and happy trails!!

Erik