Friday, May 16, 2014

Exploring Southern Red Rock Trails: Cottonwood Valley

Big day at the office: dehydration, bonus miles, horses and lots of dirt.

Today I explored more of the Southern end of Cottonwood Valley, part of Red Rock National Conservation Area and a paradise for mountain bikers and trail runners (if they knew about it). Temperatures reached 100 degrees on the trail and by the end of my ride I was cursing the iron horse and wishing I could just run up the hills. Lots of sand, rocks, and never ending desert. My desire for cold water was so strong that nothing else in the world seemed so lovely. I think I'll bring more water next time. It was a perfect day as long as you don't mind hearing a few (ok a lot) of swear words. 

On the iron horse again today

That is a piece of trail running & mountain biking heaven

Horses, what an incredible sight. I was glad when two of the stallions stopped rearing up and fighting each other so I could pass by though.

Ok, what the fuck is this? That's what I thought from afar. A giant mushroom? I dead body? An alien? Nope. It appears to be an enormous costume ripped apart by an alien monster. Time to bike on....
Las Vegas!

This ended up being a steep descent!

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Are you a Dirtbag? A Growing Social Movement

Before I go into details about Dirtbags, I want to explain a phenomenon that I see growing. Like any great social movement, it's always been there on the cusp of society. The movement I speak of I'll term Dirtbaggery, or as individuals, Dirtbags. Dirtbags are defined in the Urban Dictionary as:

A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communaly and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle

Me, living on the trail more than home. I've created work for myself that allows me time to do what I love and has become my work. 

A purely selfish endeavor, you might think. Not so, and I'll tell you why. These lovers of never ending single track trails, high altitude peaks, and feeling the sun on their sweaty skin are choosing a different life, not a selfish one. They are the seekers, the new philosophers of our time. Creativity is born of a free spirit and these individuals are highly creative. Their kind of creativity cannot be conformed to a modern job or a monotonous life. At its essence, the life of a dirtbag is like any spiritual journey. It seeks a connection, a merging with the outdoors and with the deepest most powerful parts of nature. The idea of death doesn't slow down a dirtbag's pursuit of the outdoors, it fuels it. For the dirtbag, life without living their passion is the true death.

What Makes Someone a Dirtbag? 

The main points are:
  • Lack of "normal" employment, or complete lack of job
  • Alternative housing, homeless, living out of car, etc
  • Choosing this lifestyle in order to spend more, or all, their time pursuing their outdoor activity
  • An extreme (according to social norms) commitment to their outdoor pursuit of choice

Not necessary, but common traits:
  • Unusually talented at their sport
  • Propensity to connect with other like minded dirtbags
  • Very athletically inclined
  • Adopt unique social views, and are unlikely to classify themselves in any common organized religious, social, or political factions
  • If they are employed they are self employed or work in jobs that allow them lots of time for their chosen lifestyle. 
  • Not weekend warrior dirtbags, these people are in it for the long term.
  • Often become masters at their sport/lifestyle. Many of the best climbers, trail runners and skiers were or are dirtbags.
  • Unlikely to take regular showers, shave often or follow other normal hygienic procedures. 

Anton Krupicka, one of the most recognizable dirtbags in trail running. Photo by Kevin Winzeler.
New Trail Kerouacs: The Dirtbags
Why we need dirtbags

Every now and again, a generation of young people come along and say no to what is considered the norm in society. Our generation's anti-establishment movement are the dirtbags. Yes, dirtbags have been around for as long as I can tell, yet the movement toward this kind of social freedom appears to be growing.

Dirtbags, as I am terming these people, are individuals who choose to spend their time exploring the outdoors and turn away from traditional jobs, marriage, and other socially accepted stepping stones of modern life. Dirtbags live for the present moment and find ways to spend most days doing what they love. They might be trail runners, rock climbers, mountain bikers, or skiers. They might even do all four of the aforementioned pursuits and some more.

Dirtbags might have jobs, and if they do their work is designed to maximize their time in the outdoors. I know of one dirtbag who works a few months of the year, saves up then road trips to small towns with incredible trails. Another saved up money from a lucrative job, quit the job and made his life one of endless road heading from trail to trail, mountain to mountain. Dirtbags seek work that allows them to play as much as possible and hone their skill.  They want to climb higher, seek a tougher route, and ultimately to find something that just hasn't been done before.
Joe Grant, a talented trail runner, writer, photographer, and trail running dirtbag. Photo by Matthew Brown.
Dirtbags are often masters of their sport. They give back to society through their physical creativity. They are athletic innovators. Many new ideas, products, and outdoor adventures are born of the dirtbags. It's likely a dirtbag that is taking you on that trail running expedition. Dirtbags show all the "sport" types (people with regular jobs and modern lives that find time each day or week to exercise) what is possible. Society needs these kinds of committed nature freaks. Dirtbags weave a beautiful dream that is their life for modern society to see how it's lost its soul.  When society is ready, the dirtbags have the map and they're happy to share it over a few small batch crafter IPAs and a slack line.
Richard & me epitomizing dirtbaggery in Zion, canyoneering the Subway.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why You Should Cross Train Even if You Aren't Injured

The simplest and most obvious reason you should cross train even if you aren't injured is because it's fun! Exercising for the joy of it is really what it is all about. Why run every day if you dread it and procrastinate for 2 hours? I have found that cross training can bring a lot of joy back into running as it takes the pressure off of having to run everyday.

From where I am right now, can I even admit it? Ok, here goes: I'm injured. There I said it. I don't know exactly what is wrong with my foot, but there are two issues that make running very unpleasant after a couple miles. On the outside of my foot it feels like my ankle is crunching bone on bone. On the inside, arch area, it feels strained and the pressure on my arch from running makes this pressure feeling more painful. I paid a price for pushing through pain during the Zion 100 in early April. In fact, I didn't even realize I was hurting myself since I'd taken more than my fair share of ibuprofen (don't do this at home folks).

So here I am: unstoppable and in constant orbit needing something to do. Needing to play outdoors in a pain free kind of way. I love the trails and without being able to run on them, I decided it was time to mountain bike. Mountain biking was my second love, horseback riding being the first as a child exploring the woods and trails of Langley on Whidbey Island. It has been a crazy long time since I've hit up the trails on a mountain bike. The idea, like a moist seed in fertile soil began to grow and I found myself quite excited to ride the trails, instead of my usual running or road biking. As you can imagine, I had a blast mountain biking and since I needed to map out a number of trails, I decided to continue using mountain biking as my cross training and to get work done.

These past 6 weeks of recovery from Zion 100 and subsequent injury have had me trying quite the variety of cross training methods. I'll go over a few of my favorites. If you are injured and want to cross train consider some of these options, but stop any of them that make your pain worse. There are too many fun activities to do one that causes you pain.

Yoga: I can't say enough about how magical yoga is. Work on your flexibility, strength, and loosening up your fascia all wrapped up in one lovely spiritual experience. Vinyasa Flow yoga focuses on the breathing through flowing poses teaching the yogi how to use their breath to fuel the strength of the poses. The kind of yoga I do is hard! It requires a lot of strength and discipline to hold the poses while your quads are cooking. This kind of suffering is a great mental strengthening activity. Make it hot yoga (my favorite is vinyasa flow hot yoga) and you have your heat training taken care of for your next sumer ultra.

Mountain Biking: We run on the trails because we love the trails. Can't run or need a low impact day? Mountain biking is a natural alternative. It is far more exhilarating that trail running usually is, and in some cases it is harder! As the bike shop owner in Hurricane, UT said, "Trail runners always look so grumpy, we [mountain bikers] like to have fun."

Deep Water Running: Deep water running is truly amazing how it maintains your running musculature and cardio. It's actually pretty fun too if you can somehow entertain yourself as you do small loops in the pool while a creepy guy in the hot tub watches you.

Road Biking: Biking on the road will help trail runners develop a rhythmic cadence. It's also great cardio and leg strengthening. It will make you a better hill climber.

Swimming: An excellent low impact cardio workout for the entire body. Swimming is all about core muscles. I don't find that it translates to faster running, but it is a great way to mix it up while still getting intense cardiovascular training in. I like that it requires breath control as well. As a swimmer, you must learn to breath at certain intervals and in my experience that strengthens the respiratory system.

Rock Climbing: Climbing actually works your lower body as much as your upper when you're doing it right. It also helps you overcome fear and works your brain in a way that running doesn't. And that's a good thing!

Strength Exercises: Work those abs, arms, back, and legs to strengthen your body and make you a more well rounded athlete. I follow my 200/100 workout almost everyday. I also created a quick core routine for ultra runners.

Slacklining: Oh so addicting even when you're being sling shot across the lawn after just two steps on the line. Slacklining will develop your core and back muscles like nothing else you've ever done. Take your line to the park and make new friends while getting in a sweet workout.

What do you like to do for cross training? I know I left out some things, so tell us why you like your cross training sport of choice!

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Red Rock Trail Running by Las Vegas

This is my go-to trail running destination by Las Vegas, Nevada: the Red Rock Conservation Area. Not only are there amazing trails to run, no one seems to have gotten the memo that it's a trail running mecca! I have yet to see another trail runner out here. There are a lot of rock climbers, road cyclists, and mountain bikers enjoying the outdoor playground that is West of Vegas. All the pictures are taken from the Blue Diamond Hill area, with the Calico hills of Red Rock in the background (see first pic). 

A few helpful links if you visit:

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Running Through the Valley of Fire

On my way to Vegas, I spotted the sign for Valley of Fire State Park and once again found myself exploring some great trails just 1 hour North of the big city. Valley of Fire is Nevada's biggest and oldest state park. Most of the trails are shorter loops and out and backs to historical sites, including one with petroglyphs. The Arrowhead Trail is a 6 mile point to point trail (12 miles total), which was what I ran, as well as a smaller loop by Elephant Rock (see pic).  Temperatures were around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit with a nice breeze, perfect. I also visited Lake Mead, a huge recreation area just a few miles down the road on a short bike ride. Here are some pictures from my day!
Elephant Rock, right?!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rock Climbing, Scrambling & Trail Running in Zion National Park

I have about 1 hour before I do some canyoneering in Zion National park, and I wanted to share a few pictures that my friends and I took on our scrambling (class 4) and trail running adventure. Enjoy!

We climbed that big towering white mountain behind Richard

token selfie at the top of the climb!