About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed a few 100 milers and many other ultramarathon trail races and marathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I Run

Too Much Running Tied to Shorter Lifespan, Marathon Runners are no Healthier than Couch Potatoes, The Hidden Health Risks of Jogging. These are just a few running related news headlines I saw in the past year. Why do I run for so long then? People ask me this all the time. Most articles in the news and on the internet seem to assume several things about people who run —that they run to live longer, get healthier or to lose weight. After all, running is such a miserable activity that no one of sound mind would ever do it for fun, right?

Mammoth Rock, Franklin Mts State Park
Well, I can’t speak for others, but I will explain why I run. The first article assumes that we run in an attempt to live longer. Running for longer than an hour at a time or more than 20 miles per week is too excessive. Hah! I ran for over 32 hours last month. IN-A-ROW! I often run more than 50 miles per week so, according to this article, I will die sooner than the moderate runner. Lucky for me, I don’t run to live longer.


The second article posits that marathoners aren’t any healthier than non-runners so we should only run a little bit. The author assumes that we run to become healthier. Some recent studies have attempted to show that too much running causes heart problems such as atrial fibrillation. While I don’t run to necessarily get healthier, I enjoy the many benefits of leading an active lifestyle. 


The third article highlights jogging’s effect on testosterone levels and the immune system. The author assumes that we jog to increase our testosterone level which perhaps some do. However, he explains that jogging has been proven to actually lower testosterone levels. As for me, I don’t run to increase my testosterone, but nevertheless, am glad that I’m a runner and not a jogger. (ba-dum-bum)

These guys can run really fast —Collard Lizard
So, if I don’t run to live longer, become healthier or to increase my testosterone, why do I run for so long? For many people, the image of running is a repeated loop around their neighborhood or going to the gym to grind away on the treadmill. I can’t remember the last time I ran on a treadmill and I absolutely loathe the gym. 

I prefer this vantage point of my neighborhood while running
When I was a boy growing up in Virginia I was allowed to ride my bike or wander up the road to Franklin Farms, a large cow pasture hemmed in by pine and hardwood trees. My friends and I would ride our bikes or hike along the hard packed dirt trails in the woods or play around in the creeks and marshes. In our minds, we were pioneers or great explorers discovering new lands. Of course these were the days before the epidemic known as “stranger danger” — parents being arrested for letting their kids walk home from school. 

Check out this blog: Free-Range Kids by the World’s Worst Mom.

Anyway, the day finally came when we rode to the woods only to discover that bulldozers and heavy machinery had been brought in to clear the land to make way for an office park. That was one of the saddest days of my childhood. Now, this may seem a roundabout way to tell you why I run so much, but stay with me anyway.

Spotted Towhee
When I’m out on a 30 mile training run on the trails of my favorite state park, I’m actually Lewis or Clark navigating his way west. When I run a mountainous 100 miler, I’m Ernest Shackleton on his 36 hour foot crossing of South Georgia Island to get help for his stranded crew. Trail running is just an excuse to be a little boy again just like the days when we used to run around in Franklin Farms.

Sweet Acacia
There is so much nature to take in and so little time that the only way I can see it all is to run long distances through the backcountry. I prefer trails over roads and like to climb high to see spectacular views. Sometimes I run for hours and don’t see or hear a thing, but there is a saying amongst ultramarathoners that goes; “if you run long enough, something is bound to happen.” Therefore, I’ve had many occasions when exciting events happened like the time a herd of javelinas ran across the trail right in front of me. Once an owl swooped out of a tree and hit me on the back of my head with it’s talons. Luckily I was wearing a hat. My personal trainers, aka my dogs, interact with coyotes on occasion and rattlesnakes have stopped me dead in my tracks. The sight of red velvet mites after a rain, the smell of sweet acacia in the morning and the sound of coyotes yipping on a moonlit night are just a few reasons why I run.

Red Velvet Mite
Enjoy the yips of a coyote:



Western Diamond Back Rattlesnake
Running is the most natural activity we can do. In fact, if we lived several thousand years ago, we would most likely have traveled long distances on foot every day in search of food, water and shelter. My favorite person in the world (besides my family, of course) is Bernd Heinrich. He is a naturalist, best-selling author, artist and world record ultra marathoner who, in 2001, wrote a book called Why We Run: A Natural History. He explains how man was built to run in order to chase antelope into box canyons to get a hearty meal. In an attempt to win the 100K National Championship in 1981, Heinrich experimented with various foods and drinks that other endurance animals; i.e. camels, butterflies, canines, birds, etc; use as fuel. After many failures, he decided cranberry juice would get him across the finish line and indeed, he set a new world record. Dr Heinrich, now in his 70s, still runs most afternoons.


Read Running Times article:  Bernd Heinrich: The Natural

I too hope to continue running into my 70s and beyond. Not so I can live longer or healthier (although I believe running helps), but just simply because I love it. I feel physically and emotionally charged after running and the sense of accomplishment after completing a long training run can’t be beat. Even better is the euphoria felt after finishing a 100 miler even though parts of the race itself are very trying. 


If one day, it is proven through peer reviewed scientific study that running too much will shorten my lifespan; guess what? I will continue to do it because I love the challenge and the mental strength I gain from it. The solitude, scenery and wildlife keep drawing me back out onto the trails and I can’t seem to get enough of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I heard Billy the Kid was heading towards Baylor Canyon and, If I run fast enough, think I can catch him at the pass. 


See you on the trail.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Yellowstone National Park

Last month I wrote about my grandparents who took a road trip out west in the 50’s. I shared a few of my grandfather’s photos of the Grand Tetons. Cara, Maddie and I also went to the Tetons (See my post: Tetons) and then went on to Yellowstone for a few days. Since I didn’t have time to write about the Yellowstone part yet, I thought I would share some photos I took and a few of my grandfather’s from the 50s.

 (Photo: Ernest Dawson)
Grandma Bea driving through Wawona Tree
in Yosemite NP. It fell over in 1969.

(Photo: Ernest Dawson)
Grandma at Devil's Tower, WY 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bighorn Wild and Scenic 100 Mile Trail Run

The course is wild and scenic traversing territory inhabited by elk, deer, moose, bears, cougars, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes with the potential for wildlife encounters with runners…runners may be subject to extreme temperatures of heat and cold, hypothermia, heat stroke, kidney failure, seizures, low blood sugar, disorientation, injury, falling rock or trees, wild animal or reptile attack, or even death from their participation in this event.
—Bighorn Trail 100 Race Packet



Well now, this certainly is going to be an adventurous run don’t you think? The Bighorn 100 has been on my list for some years so I’m excited to finally be here in Dayton, WY.  The 100 mile course is an out-and-back across the Bighorn National Forest. It feels strange to be waiting at the starting line at 10am for an 11:00 start. What do you do with all that extra time in the morning? Stress out! I know I’ll calm down once I get on the trail and start ticking off some miles.

Tongue River Canyon

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Tetons

Sometime in the 1950s my grandparents from Pittsburgh, PA took an epic road trip out west to experience the premier national parks of America. My grandfather was an avid photographer who took many photos of flowers, mountains, waterfalls, rivers; you name it. Does this sound like someone else you know? I suppose it runs in our genes. My mother sometimes says that people used to complain because so many of his pictures were devoid of family members. I will admit that I too am guilty of taking a lot of pictures of rocks and mountains. 

My Grandparents


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jemez Mountain 50 Miler

“Third time’s the charm”, as they say. Well, I hope they are right because I’m about to attempt the Jemez Mountain 50 mile course for the third time. My Jemez Mountain Trail Run history goes something like this: 1st year, DNF at mile 32 (altitude sickness); 2nd, DNS (Injury); 3rd, 50K finish in 8:30 (YAY!); 4th, snowstorm called off race; made it to mile 32. I have yet to finish this 50 mile course so hopefully today is my day. What could possibly stop me this year? Wildfire, earthquake, volcanic eruption?



Monday, May 11, 2015

Shhhhhhh...Quiet

Shhhhhhhhh…Quiet! Do you hear that? I hope you are hearing what I heard while running the remote sand hills of the Wild West which was the sound of nothing. For Mother’s Day we got some much needed peace and quiet at the BR Ranch while spending time with family. Luckily I was able to sneak off for a few early morning runs while Maddie and Cara slept in. The ranch is in one of our nations least populated counties in far West Texas where cows outnumber humans.


In fact, while out on a run, I didn’t see another human being for over three hours and was able to take in the sounds of my surroundings which was almost nil. I didn’t hear any noise of passing cars or car alarms which would be outlawed if I were King. I didn’t hear the rumble of helicopters from Ft Bliss flying overhead or the exhaust from a Harley. Nor did I hear little Maddie screaming (in a descending minor 3rd interval), “MOM, MOM, Mom! READY FOR A WIPE!” 
No barking dogs, loud music, leaf blowers or garbage trucks for three solid hours.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

N. Franklin Peak X 2

Lately I’ve been making trips up N. Franklin Peak (7,192’) to get ready for the Jemez Mountain 50 Miler next month in Los Alamos, NM. Yesterday I ran for nine hours including two climbs up the mountain. Now, I could give you a blow-by-blow account of my run including how I gagged on chia seed gel at 4:15am or accidentally blew a snot rocket onto my shoulder at 10:35. I could talk about how I tripped over a rock and almost fell into a cactus six times or how I was so hungry after the seventh hour that I actually considered eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet when I finished. I could also brag about how bad-ass I am because I ascended the mountain twice in one morning albeit very slowly. So slow in fact, that I think your grandmother passed me on the way back down. No, instead of boring you with all the trite details, I figured I’d just show you some pictures of the day. 

See you on the trail.

The start at 4:00am