31 July 2014

Existing and Writing 3

Write like you talk. You want your readers to fall easily into your narrative, so focus on keeping it conversational. We talked about voice in Part 1 and content in Part 2, now we'll talk a little about style. I read a lot. You probably read a lot, too, whether you think so or not. Aside from scholars who live off reading and writing literary critical theory, I believe most of us enjoy reading a more conversational style.

I studied under Diane Wakowski for poetry (the creative side of my writing), and under Mary Lawlor (an underling of Harold Bloom), along with a sentimental influence, William Lockwood, for critical theory. Dr. Lawlor, whom I also had a crush on as an undergraduate, gave me the tools to really appreciate modern and post modern writing and the American West, specifically the notion of the "frontier". Dr. Lockwood (a cyclist back then as well!) introduced me to one of my favorite poets and gave me a signed copy from his personal collection after I toiled for days on an analysis of the poem "Westport". It was then that I learned that "+++" and "Yes!" meant great things from him in the margins of my graded essays. Lockwood appreciated my need to find new dimension and meaning in everything I read, even when I argued that Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was most certainly about suicide or the subconscious desire to kill oneself. Ah, youth.

Regardless of the formalities in the "learning", I realized early on that both my poetry and prose languished under artificial exuberance (i.e. flowery writing that tried too hard). One year I wrote over 500 poems, one to two a day for the year was my goal. Most were heavy handed and make me cringe today when I force myself to read them. The simple ones that meant something to me at the time still flow today. Same with the story writing. I see the transformation from trying too hard to simply allowing the words to link together seamlessly, like a conversation. It works so much better.

If you speak directly, then write directly. Avoid going outside of your normal vocabulary; it will only make the reading strained and tedious. The natural feel of your normal conversational vocabulary and pace will come through and draw the reader in. If you're a dreamer and talk in circles, taking several stories to get to the main point, then write without constraint - sort of like James' stream of consciousness. The meaning will come through and the audience that matters will stay to the end, and get it. To continue the comparison with photo in social media, the natural images of something you personally feel are unique and interesting will make more of an impact than an image that means nothing to you that you enhance with some filter to make it "interesting". Don't write (or live, for that matter) like you're "affected", as my mother would say. Write like you talk.

30 July 2014

Existing and Writing 2

Content and subject matter can be almost irrelevant if you have some style and creativity. Where does style and creativity come from? Well, as covered in part 1, I believe it comes partly from a mixture of hardship and realism in life and living. I say partly because you obviously need to have inherent skill, training in both a grammatical sense and a creative sense, and a deep passion to express things in words (both in written and verbal form). Anyone can write something interesting about something interesting. The World Trade Center towers collapsed and anyone could write "My heart aches for those involved" and it's a poignant statement. Writing about the mundane takes skill. Actually, I mean, writing something interesting about the mundane takes skill. Most don't get it and that's cool. The world is now full of banal public writing that used to reside at best in a hand written personal journal or more likely just laid dormant in the short term memory of people's minds.

Content and subject matter don't need to be unique (really, nothing humans create is unique any longer, but that's another post series all together). Subject matter actually works best if it is common, yet presented from an odd viewpoint or angle with a separate plane of meaning (trope). A simple yet robust example is Robert Frost's poem "Departmental" in which he writes about ants (can't get much more common or basic than that, right?). Well, the use of the simple insect and the shifting focus from small simplicity to complex concepts unfolds into a comparison to humans and our society that has become automated both literally and figuratively, where we seem to act based more on what is expected rather than what is in our hearts. Thoroughly Departmental.

Simply regurgitating what one observes or experiences is, well, boring. It's boring, mostly, because most of us have experienced that same thing in some form. It's like the photos you see of someone's gear laid out the night before a run/ride/hike/trip, whatever. You're like, "Wow, that's interesting - socks, shoes, hat, water bottle." That's clearly why people feel the need to enhance most of the photos they graciously share with the world. The photos are images that have enjoyed heavy exposure already, thus the need to filter the image in the hopes of shifting the presentation to make it interesting.

You need to not only observe and experience common things but ask what it means. Why did something occur the way it did? What influence does it have on me? On others? The fact that it may be too boring to write about could be the thing that makes it interesting to write about. What makes this thing stand apart from similar things? Why is this particular thing interesting this time? You may not have the answer. Most don't.

Today's my Birthday, so go ahead and take the day off work and write an essay about something common. Your boss will understand.

29 July 2014

Existing and Writing 1

One's voice is a delicate and bulky thing at the same time. The tender nuances can carry waves of power both exquisite and crushing.

A friend once commented that my writing voice "is fucking sublime" (a true compliment, considering the source). Like a family of complex personalities, that voice is but one child in the din of the gathering, each voice vying for attention, acknowledgement, love. From where and how do true voices come?

Restlessness and pain create the most naturally pure and divine voices, like intricate webs shimmering in the light breeze and dew of sunrise. You hold your breath while admiring them in that exact point in time when you stop contemplating who you are and why you exist and simply blend into the creation of something unique.

Perspective is critical when you require clarity in meaning. Though it can seem random to the casual reader, I often move between first and second person narrative to keep the reader engaged. It seems to layer the scene I've laid out to give it a real dimension that gives the reader the sense that he is somehow involved and not simply a passive voyeur. But I digress.

Back to the fuel that runs the voice. Pain, restlessness, the naked eye pure view, lensless and stark. It takes years and layers of increased internal suffering and acknowledgement to strip away the influence of media and similar outlets/stimulants. People may tell themselves it's a dark place in which to live, but that's the easy way out - glazing over the reality because it's the path of least resistance. On the polar contrary, a critical view with clarity doesn't need to be some dark reverse-solipsistic distopic swamp where you feel only despair and fear. In the right hands, it's liberating. All life cannot be a filtered instagram image.

21 July 2014

Telluride 100 Race Report


Whoa. What the hell is this, a blog post? Yeah, big deal, right? Whatever.

On our last Elevation Trail show last week, Gary asked me when my last "real" race took place. I had to think back to the San Diego 100 in June 2012. Not a whole lot of writing I cared to publicly share since then. Plus, I just needed to shut down most every public outlet, save for the most innocuous drivel on Twitter. Regardless, I've been honing the writing skill and practicing my best Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound poetry reading impersonations. Yeah, pretty hot lifestyle I've been banging out lately. Since getting booted from my last job, having lots of time and little money, I have to keep myself entertained on the cheap and down low.

It's been hotter than a four balled tom cat here. So, what do I do? I wait until mid day 100 degrees to train. It's like a big FU to mother nature, just like last winter when I'd go out and train when it was negative 10 degrees. Tough or stupid, take your pick.

Back when my collarbone was still healing (it's still technically in two pieces but I think that's a permanent thing now), I learned about a new 100 mile mtb race, the Telluride 100, which was to take place in the far off future of July. Shit, those two months shot by and here I was just a couple days before the race last week.

As far as training, the trails around here are harder than string theory and I can't get any real sustained training in on them (now I see why no real pros live here). Fortunately, my neighbor has like 9 sweet road bikes and loaned me one to train on. I put that sucker to work, riding up and over the Colorado National Monument about a million times (or once a day for the last month). I uncorked a couple fast ascents a week ago and felt fairly ready for the 100. I'd also been hitting the gym religiously for quite a while now, so I have a chest and guns like Andre the Giant (maybe a slight exaggeration. slight.). Whatever, I'm stronger than I was in college when I weighed 170-180 lbs like the beefcake I was.

So, upon learning of the Telluride 100, I invited the RD, Tobin, onto the ET show. Here it is if you want to be wildly entertained. http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/telluride-100-tobin-behling/ The man knows what he's doing and puts on some sweet races (even if some of them are mind bending hard).

My excitement for the race was building and yet I had absolutely zero nerves or worries about it. I had the mindset (correctly) that it was going to be an adventure and damn hard, so I figured there was nothing to be nervous about. Ride within my technical ability on the screaming descents and keep the power even, strong, and sustainable on the climbs and the rest would work itself out.

I drove down to Telluride in my 1983 pick up that's so rusty it barely casts a shadow. I'd never driven it further than the food store, so I prayed to the Dodge Gods and it made it down there. The campground didn't take reservations, but I figured I'd get a spot since I got down there pretty early Friday. Unfortunately, I was met at the entrance with a "Campground is FULL" sign. So, I drove up to the little Parks n Rec building where there was another "FULL" sign. Whatever. I went in and the guy in there was like, "Well, there might be one walk in space available on the other side of the river." He, of course, wouldn't allow me to pay for it then and there and reserve it. He instead said I should go to it and if it was indeed unoccupied I could leave something there to claim it and then come back and pay for it. I'm so used to the backwards-ness of parks and open space management that I barely smirked and headed out the door to claim my spot. Lesson and Pro Tip: Ignore signs and make someone tell you you can't be there. Anyway, I got a spot, put my tent up and was situated.

A guy I coach from Arizona decided on a whim to race this thing without much (any) mtb training, though he is fit and training for Leadville 100, so he figured he'd give it a shot. Mistake. As a coach, I have a tough time saying no to athletes who want to push themselves. I should've this time. I felt pretty bad when I learned that he dropped fairly early in the race (the first climb is a heart breaker) after driving all the way up there. At least we got to hang out before the race, which was fun.

A little ways up the first climb to Black Bear Pass. Start was way over on the other side of town down below.
Some big daddys showed up for this thing, including pros Jeff Kerkove, Yuki Ikeda, and Olympian Travis Brown, among others. Sheese. They were pushing the first climb hard. I was settled in and pleasantly surprised to be feeling so good, even with the length of the climb (9 miles) and the altitude (12,840 ft on Black Bear). The descents were hair raising if you wanted to blow caution to the wind and fly down them. I didn't want to crash and break my back (the only thing I haven't broken yet), so I was careful and as quick as possible.

Above tree line. Way above.
I hit the start/finish area after the first loop (40 miles) in around 4:28 or something like that and in 18th place. Everyone underestimated the course. I quickly mentioned to my buddy Dan, the UCI official at the race, that there'd be a lot of folks not making the first cutoff. He was like, "Uh, yeah, we'll probably adjust that." Tobin gave me a pep talk and said the second loop wasn't as tough as the first. Liar. But I needed to hear it to get my ass out of there. From that transition I climbed non stop for two hours. It was brutal.

I had a loose understanding of the main features of the rest of the course and just kept counting down tenths of miles on the climbs - "Just 2.4 miles more. Just 1.6 more. Just 5 tenths, 4, 3..." and then I'd crest the f*cker and be like a little kid, no hands 40 mph down the other side, Weeeeeeee!

The last climb was obviously not insulting enough, so someone introduced a hot wooly blanket of biting flies and mosquitos. At 3 mph giving everything you've got and having bugs biting the shit out of you (I have welts on my back), you just want to either cry or light the San Juans on fire and break your bike over your knee.

The final descent was glorious and you knew it was coming because you could see the town of Telluride and knew it was a couple thousand feet below you. I had been passed by one guy and I passed another guy, so was still holding my 18th position and now I saw I had a chance at sub 11 hours, so I hauled ass over the last 6 miles and crossed the line in 10:57.

I nailed the nutrition (thanks VFuel), hydration, electrolytes and the bike held up solid (other than the rear brake squealing on every revolution... all day. Eee! Eee! Eee!, etc.) All the water crossings were kickass and made the bike look pretty gnarly by the end. It was the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. Hardrock is hard (duh) but you're never really pushing yourself to the physical limit like you can on a bike. Push until your eyes roll back, recover a little, push until you're nauseous, recover a little, do it again, over and over. The beauty of mtb or cycling endurance races in general is that you recover pretty quickly. Other than heavy legs and swollen hands, I felt good the next day.

Thanks so much to Tobin and his wife, Jennifer. They put everything into this race and the details were obvious. It felt like a race that had a lot of history and was dialed in already. I love Tobin's course marking. Too many events nowadays are WAY over marked. I felt like I was in a truly adventurous ride in remote areas, yet with a sign here and there, exactly where you'd need one. Very intuitive and jaw dropping beautiful. I could only manage one photo on the first climb, then it was all business. The Telluride 100 MTB will become a classic. It already is in my mind.

23 April 2014

Coaching Spots Open


I have coaching spots opened up now for new athletes.  All that is required is a desire to reach your potential (and likely break through beyond your perspective of that potential), eagerness to learn, and a commitment to work.  I work with every level of ability and experience both road and trail running. Mountain bike coaching and training plans are available as well!

References available and there are some testimonials on my Coaching Page. And I also offer customized training plans for your goal race.

Contact me if interested in filling one of the openings long[AT]footfeathers.com.

Hardrock 100 finish

18 April 2014

Zap

And, just like that, racing (and pretty much normal daily life) is on hold for a couple months.


03 April 2014

A Slice of Ultrarunning Pie

The gym at Placer High School is hot and humid from the mass of humanity squeezed in beneath the old scoreboard and elevated basketball hoops. The electricity in the moist room raises the hairs on Max’s and Luther’s necks as names are drawn in what is, for many, the most important day of their lives.  Their entire existence is hinged on hearing their names announced as one of the few chosen individuals who will be living the ultimate dream in Squaw Valley in late June at the Western States 100 run.

Max and Luther were, in fact, chosen this year for Western States and, in a several part series, Matt and I at Elevation Trail will be covering everything from their backgrounds leading up to the lottery all the way to the drama of the race in a follow up report on their individual experiences during the incredible event.


ET: Gentlemen, let’s start with an introduction.  You’re on the verge of the Super Bowl of Ultra Running, a place hundreds (or a couple thousand) can only dream of; briefly explain where you’ve come from ultra running-wise.

Luther: I have never really been an athlete.  So running is everything for me because I can finally say, “Luther, you’re an athlete!”  This great ultra running culture has accepted me with open arms.  It’s so reassuring to see that at my local 50k or 100miler, I’m surrounded by others who are just kinda new to this and all giddy about their outfit, their shoes, their family and crew excited to help them get through this, just all the smiling faces that have that desire to spend the day breathing in this new identity.  I think about it every day.  It’s more than running.  It’s who I am.

Finishing the WS100 will be a life time achievement even though I just started.  I really feel born-again.  I started this new life August 2012 and since then have completed 13 ultra marathons.   Yeah, that may seem like a lot, but it’s not.  Some of my best ultra running buddies make me look soft (and yeah I’m still working on this belly!).  So, that’s the short of it.  Ultra running found me.  Frankly, I have never felt so invested in anything (not even my marriage).  Ultra has given me so much.  Aside from all of the thought I put into my blog and training program, I’m really trying to think how I can pay ultra back.  Is there a church of ultra I can erect to allow people like me to pay reverence to this incredible sport?  In the meantime, I’m thinking of going semi-pro (working on some cool sponsorships); helping some “ultra” brands to grow might be one way I can give back.  The last year and a half has been insane.  Before that I was nobody.  Just an accountant with a doughnut addiction.  Now it’s me, my ultra crowd and cliff bars!  I hope you’re listening Cliff Bar.

Max: Yeah, even though I’ve finished dozens of ultra distance runs and even won the Southeastern Missouri Marble Hill 100 mile race in 1998, getting into Western States is life altering. Don’t tell my kids but I cried when they called my name. I’ve applied to get in the last 13 years, so I feel really lucky. I plan to up my game with training and even thought about getting a coach to tell me what my heart rate zones are. 30 hours is a tight cutoff compared to other 100s I’ve done but I know, with some speed work injected into my 100+ mile weeks, I’ll crush it. (Eats a Lance Armstrong Honey Stinger waffle cookie while motioning to the issue of Ultra Running magazine on the table).  That’ll be me on the cover sometime. My buddy, Hank, was on the cover, like a PRO, last summer.  He had it framed with a little baggie of dirt from the actual race in the photo.  

ET:  Right.  I can feel the enthusiasm.  Good for you.  Max, you brought -up training and even the prospect of hiring a coach for this run, I mean, race.  Guys, tell us a little about your actual preparation.

Max: I’ve learned a lot from my friends on Facebook. I mean, I knew a lot anyway and have even run a three hour marathon on the road in the Midwest but without my ultra buds on Facebook I would still be wearing Five Fingers and not Hokas now. I never realized that the foot had so many fragile bones. Now with my Hokas and my AK signed ultra hydration pack, I feel as though I could run forever.

Preparation will be key and that’s why I started my third blog:  “myjourneytowesternstates.blogspot.com”. It, along with my daily postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Strava, Daily Mile, Garmin Connect, Athlinks, and, of course, my family blog “relentlessforwardwalkerandfamily.wordpress.com”, I’ll be able to chronical the experience. Because, when I get that sub 30 hour buckle, I want to not only remember how I did it but I want everyone in my blessed life know what they can achieve through sacrifice. After my first ultra, I got a tattoo on my thigh that says, “if these legs are rockin’ don’t come a knockin’”, which, to me, means that I’m serious about this sport.

Luther:  Sweet tattoo, Max! Oh, and ET, thanks again for interviewing us for this incredible journey.  I practically wet my shorts thinking about things like Hokas, irunfar, Anton, WS100 and Elevation Trail!  Now, as far as my training goes, golly, where do I start?  I love the blogosphere.  No seriously.  I asked my partner to join forces via social media.  From the top of my driveway (I was doing hill repeats), I tweeetered my love, which showed up on my blog (time to plug: cheers2ultrafolk.blogspot.com).  Two days later they said YES!!!  Obviously, I get so much of my life’s inspiration from the web.

I fell in love with my training via the web, too.  I’ve gotten all of my training from reading blogs and Facebook.  After 5 ultras last summer (2 50ks and 3 100ks), somehow I fractured my right foot and developed, oddly enough, an oblique fracture in my left knee.  Crazy stuff.  I actually walked my sixth ultra, another 50k, because I knew any extended downtime would kill my relentless forward progress.  I knew I needed a change.  I knew I needed a coach to help push me further.  This was a big step for me.  Asking around the community, 2 names kept coming-up. I couldn’t decide which to hire, and given the incredible work we have to put-in to be able to finish these huge treks, I hired both. One is a MAF-oriented coach who obviously has his dipstick in the LSD.  The other guy, who also loves ultra, has introduced barefoot speed work to supplement my big mileage.  This has really worked for me so far though I’ve only been with this program for about ten days: I combine both training schedules.  My first full week of training consisted of 187 miles that included two really tough speed sessions with strides, plyometric work, a tabata work-out and sets of stairs.  I actually just got back from urgent care to record this interview: I have a deep, dull pain in my right shin and sharp pain in both hips.


ET:  Wow. You’re a monster, Luther.  Good luck with, ah, those schedules.  And congratulations on your marriage.  That brings up a great question: how have your family lives been affected by this commitment?

Max: 187 miles your first week, Luther? Pretty good start and I’m sure you’ll get over 200 in no time. Family life for me couldn’t be better. Like jumping into ultrarunning and big training, there were some growing pains. (Luther laughs at Max’s unintentional pun) But as I spent more and more time before and after work on weekdays and every weekend grinding out the long runs, and securing several KOM routes that I have finish in my kitchen so no one else can beat them (Luther laughs again), my wife found other hobbies and new friends to fill her time. She always liked good wine and she really honed her knowledge of it over the last couple years. We’re both quiet people, anyway, so, when I read this great guide on “How to Run the Leadville 100” and it suggested getting an altitude tent, it was a no brainer. I spend what little daylight time I have in it working and then sleep in it every night. I live in the Bay Area at 5 feet elevation, so this is a major training tool for my quest of Western States. I mean, we’ll be at over 8,500 feet for at least 30 minutes! I’ll be ready for it.

As for a coach, I don’t really need one since I’ve learned just about everything I know from blogs, Facebook, and other awesome sites with informative articles. Sometimes the information is a little confusing like whether to eat salt or not, minimal shoes or overly cushioned ones, when to run through pain or when to stop - NEVER, ha ha. Overall, almost like Luther is doing by hiring two coaches, I’ve simply combined all the information and use everything. A typical week for me looks like this:

Monday through Friday - get out of my altitude tent at 3:30am, wipe down the condensation in it, make a green drink, and get out for my first of two daily runs. This is when I can really have some time to think. At 4am the trails in the Bay Area area are at their least crowded and I only usually encounter a dozen or so people per hour. After my run, I spend time in the bathroom; the green drinks often give me diarrhea, which I figure is part of training since diarrhea is common in races. Then I sneak into my kids’ room to see them sleep (Max Jr. and Patricia, ‘Pat’ since she’s in some tomboy stage), then wave to my sleeping wife who usually falls asleep on the sofa overnight after watching her favorite TV shows, and I’m off to work.

I’m not very overly micro-managed at my workplace, so I’m able to catch up on blogs, both writing and reading, and follow what all my friends are doing on Facebook and Twitter most of the day. At lunch I’ll try to sneak in a run or at least do jumping jacks in the Men’s Room for 25-30 minutes. At 5pm I’ll often leave my car at work and start my second - or third - run of the day. I usually get home around 9 or 10pm, have a few IPAs while making dinner, eat a couple pounds of cheese and red meat along with another couple of beers because I’m paleo and training my body to burn fat for fuel, otherwise known as ketosis. At about midnight I’ll do a set of 10-15 sit-ups for core work and zip myself up in my cozy altitude tent for the night.

Saturday and Sunday - look pretty much the same as the weekdays except I’m able to replace the work hours with running. Depending on which time of the year it is, I’ll put in around 28 hours of training per week, which translates into a solid 120 miles. Of course, at peak training I’ll take vacation time from work and strive to get in over 200 miles a week.

Luther: See, that kind of life-style is a dream I am frantically trying to make real.  Speaking of IPA, Max, have you tried that new one from CO or CA or OR, it’s called Musty Butt Muff DIPA, I think.  So good.  I actually threw-up the first couple of sips because it was so strong and bitter, but, by God, I learned to like it.  Finished three and woke-up passed out on my kid’s bed (he was on the floor nearby).  I didn’t have time to console or apologize because I was up early, a little dizzy, to get in a morning 25 miler.  

My family, on the whole, has learned to deal with my ultra ambitions.  Like Max, I am trying to convert to this fat-burning approach, enabling my ketosis?  Whatever it is, the family loves all the butter and ice cream.  I’m also consuming a lot of milk (and as many IPAs as I can), but the kids really enjoy the soda and cakes, etc.  Who knew bacon cheese cake could be so delicious in the morning with my cocoanut butter coffee?  Fat for life.  

As for my lover, there have been some real difficulties on this front, which I don’t really want to discuss in this venue (unless ET has a degree in marriage and family therapy?).  Let’s just say there is some disagreement as to the role ultra should play in my life.  For instance, I chose to spend half of a decent retirement account at the 2013 Outdoor Retailer Expo.  Sure, I might have slept on the coach for a few nights (or passed-out on my kid’s bed), or in the garage next to my Nordic Trak (that’s a real bummer, to have such easy access to my training - take that, honey!), but my ultra gear for 2014 looks amazing!




ET: Nice segue, Luther.  It sounds like you both have a handle on your training and how it fits in with family. Let’s talk about some of the gear you’ll be utilizing during your training and actual race at Western States. Tell us about the one piece of gear you can’t live without and, also, we know you both have some sponsors and this would be a great time to talk about them.

Max: Gear! Where do I start?! Nothing gets me fired up to hit some awesome trails like a new piece of running gear. Now that I have a part-time apartment in Boulder, I get to dress for all sorts of weather. With my wife’s responsibilities with her membership in several wine clubs and the time she spends with her new friend, Ricky, she stays in the Bay Area when I travel to Boulder for both physical and spiritual training. I like to lay out all my clothes, pack, food, and accessories neatly on the kitchen table and take an Instagram photo of it before every run - it’s so colorful and cool looking that my adrenaline spikes! 

To pick one piece of gear I can’t live without is tough to do but I would have to say that for winter running it’s a toss up between my insulated Salomon capris-length tights and my Smith Glare Goggles (new screaming flame orange color for 2014). For summer, well, I can’t live without my signed Christophe Le Saux Buff Hankie. It has so many freaking uses. There’ve been plenty of times I’ve had to crap on the trail and not had toilet paper - Buff to the rescue! A quick rinse in the nearest drinking fountain and it’s back on my head, or neck, or arm, or ankle, or wherever!

Of course, I have to to mention my all time favorite piece of gear, my cool Foreign Legion style floppy drape baseball cap. Nothing screams “I’m an ultrarunner!” like it does. I also have an original David Goggins belly shirt but that baby is framed and hangs in my kitchen and inspires me every single day.



As for sponsors, after winning the Marble Hill 100 mile in 28:45 - a PR for the distance, I decided it was time to reach out to some companies. I got snagged up as a Full Ambassador In-Training by Hoka. The new Conquest model is like running on air. The way God intended us to run. Check them out at your favorite running store. They retail for $190, so I’m super thankful for the 50% off Ambassador deal. I also get gaiters for free from my second favorite sponsor, Dirty Girl Gaiters and the lady who makes them is smokin’ hot! (winks and giggles).

Luther: It’s a three way tie.  For this I’ve come-up with a way to talk gear along with the importance of the mind, the heart and the sole in ultra running.  The mind: my Buff headwear is crucial.  The way my lover used to approach scarves for happy hour at Applebee’s, I absolutely covet my various but stylish Buffs. My Ora SS14 Cool Bandana Buff is pretty legendary in my household.  I held-on to finish my fourth ultra at the Zoom Croom 50k in Brooksville, Florida, and the Buff helped me seal the deal.  Flat as a pancake, but pretty darn hot, that race requires a ton of heat management, given the amount of pavement: my Ora Buff was central to an 8 hour finish. Boom.

Of course, I have to mention Buff’s association with my hero, Anton Krupicka.  Bit of a man crush . . .  

ET:  Luther. . .

Luther:  Oops.  Sorry.  Buff keeps my mental game in line for any ultra and any ultra distance.

Next, the heart of ultra.  This might sound a bit bizarre; my hydration system is the heart of any race coordination I undertake, from 5k to 100miler.  For my ultimate commitment to the ultra trail, I take to Ultimate Direction for my hydration gear.  The website says it best: “Designed by the champion of minimalism and a 2014 Trail Runner Magazine Gear of the Year Award winner, the AK Race Vest gives you everything you need and nothing more.”  Enuff said.  There’s a mysterious quality to this vest. I’ve finished races or long training runs with tears in my eyes.  Passersby have wondered if this is from the water bottles repeatedly hitting me in the face while I run.  Ha ha.  Not quite.  In fact, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with the gear; this vest kinda wraps its “arms” around me.  Between the beauty of the trail, the story of my new life and an affirmative warmth and near intoxication I get from using this AK Race Vest 2.0. . .I feel the support of this ultra community in this one piece of gear!  Add this to the ledger: “We” design our own gear.  Thanks again, Anton!

Last but not least, the sole of ultrarunning.  My shoes.  Ah, I might write a book about this gear.  Ha.  Get it: the sole of ultra running.  I’ll try to keep this to the point.  For my speed work I wear whatever is the next generation of New Balance minimalist shoes, currently the Minimus Zero v2, or a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.  Naturally, for the longer stuff I’m solid with my Hokas.  LOVE MY HOKAS aahhhhhhh!  Sorry.  I’m a little pumped about the direction of Hokas and the way people notice me when I wear them.  The other day some dorks called me a clown and I guess the shoes do look a little clowny.  But I just fired back, “yeah but looks who’s having all the fun!”    

Sorry to go on like this.  Kinda like talking about a new lover or something.  

As for sponsorships, I’m grinding hard to get noticed and picked-up by anyone who wants to support this love affair though I have a little support from the guys at SkinFit and an evangelical church here in town that wants to remain anonymous (but they get pretty involved in my fundraisers throughout the year.).  You can check my blog cheers2ultrafolk.blogspot.com for updates on any new fundraisers or new sponsors.  

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interviews with Max and Luther...