Sunday, December 31, 2017

obligatory year end 2017-by-the-numbers-and-other-stuff note

We're on a planet that somehow knows how to rotate on its axis and follow a defined path while it hurtles through space!  Our hearts beat!  We can see!  We have love, laughter, language, living rooms, computers, compassion, cars, fire, fingernails, flowers, music, medicine, mountains, muffins!  We live in a limitless Universe overflowing with miracles!  The fact that we aren't stumbling around in an inconsolable state of sobbing awe is appalling.  The Universe must be like, 'what more do I have to do to wake these bitches up?'

not the same Jetta as 2015.
also, my daily is not a Jetta.
(a little context for my new readers this year: for the last couple of years i've been aggregating unused thoughts that didn't make it into my race reports into a year-end catharsis.  most of these are ideas or discussions i had in a potentially-hallucinogenic stupor around mi75, but some of these are thoughts i had in a definitely-drunken stupor 13h into an aid station shift.  i hope you enjoy this stream of consciousness as much as I do when I am inevitably incapcitated with the man-cold or something.)

things i learned this time around
  • "hopefully this isn't from some sinus infection and my cheeks only hurt because i've been smiling too much."
  • if you asked me again why i keep doing this, i would now say that it's because i've learned to appreciate the value in suffering.  
    • when you've done something for a while and you start to get more efficient about it--the initial joy, awe and wonder you felt when you first started disappears.  adventures become less 'adventurous'.  there's an extended ennui about it and you're now doubting whether you're truly enjoying this anymore.  alcoholics and coke fiends may comment with, "hey, I know how this story ends!", but there is a constant from doing ultras repeatedly in that mother nature will always remind you that you are her bitch.  she will remind you how lucky you are to live a civilized life.  she will remind you how fragile you are.  she will remind you how important your enablers are.  she will remind you how happy you should be with what you have.  she will keep you from making this compulsive and destructive.  you could probably humiliate yourself during an ultra as one does after a couple 40s in the span of a single night, but you will be able to humble yourself every single time you do so.
    • I sound like Statler and Waldorf combined when I say this, but this convenience-oriented world we live in today is way too comfortable.  it helps to have something that requires discipline to produce focus once every so often.  
    • I've long cited that adventures are merely "inconveniences rightly considered".   when I say that I can appreciate the value in suffering, I've accepted that most of life exists in the journey, and not at the desired goal.  Despite what I have learned from convention, I think I'd find more happiness in getting to the career achievement, the actual stable relationship, or property ownership, than basking in the completion of those actual objectives.  The 'way there' is more important than 'there', which is why I'm actively procrastinating on the above socially-defined life goals.  
      • yes, dopamine is a helluva drug.
      • believing in this makes me a hilariously less angry person in the sense that a lot more to life is controllable than i thought it was.  the tunnel in front of the light isn't actually a tunnel, but rather a large expanse waiting for your light, full of things waiting to be seen and felt.  every step of your existence is controllable.
      • the meaningful sections are always the toughest.  
        • there are no perfect runs, so it helps to not expect one.  shit will go down every time, no matter how good you think you're executing.
  • there are still a few things that won't help me with this bizarre endeavor, including, but not limited to:
    • getting sponsored or repping a brand.  needing to afford my antics all by myself is a part of the fun and exacerbates any punitive effects of fucking up, but the aforementioned journey is more enlightening if there's no external agenda to it.  
    • feeling the need to maintain an iota of any social media presence.  when you commit to doing epic shit and don't have memory loss just yet, there is no need to document anything because it'll be quite memorable if you've done it right.  sometimes i feel like i have to share those experiences for those who have no chance of feeling them first-hand, but most of the time I feel that I am obligated to make others remember how to feel skeptical again.  Because in this age of conveniently-instant knowledge and unearned memories, it's harder to remember how to feel.  
      • and maybe this is exacerbated by the hordes of randos who showed up because Parks Canada decided to make National Park admission free this year in celebration of Canada's sesquicentennial--but I feel somewhat obligated to keep certain spots of scenery as scenic as possible by not documenting my experience there.  
      • sooner or later, a mandate for perpetual content creation will kill your honesty and identity.  i've seen it render an RD rather ineffective at a race outside of working on their 'gram game I was vollying at this year.  
        • and this is why i'll never podcast.  i'll be good for seven weekly episodes, tops, before i run out of original, genuine things to say and have to go on hiatus.
      • as big of an asshat i am, i am not one to intentionally push my friends into a state of near-constant comparison and insecurity.  enabling them to live vicariously through me as a means of inspiration is a completely different game.
      • We find our true selves in solitude and prepared to come to conversation.  Which is why I pretty much only take my phone on a run if someone is asking for proof of trail conditions.  
    • not listening to my body and delving into full-blown punishment classifiable as masochism and/or sadism.  i've started using heart rate variability to indicate when I need to throttle down, because overdoing it is on the same lines as drug abuse.  
      • there's a reason why exercise dependence will be listed as an entry in the DSM-V.  
      • as suicidal as i appear to be, i'm in no hurry to die.  little and often always trumps grand acts of ruinous excess.
    • acceptance of the concept of an 'unnecessary' race.  you get something out of every race, whether it be a WSQ or HRQ, UTMB points, yet another technical shirt, mother nature telling you who's boss, or you telling mother nature 'not today'.  I like to say each one changes me a little, makes me grow, makes me better, and builds my character--but I think I've used the phrase 'unnecessary race' in the past because I haven't been patient enough in realizing what these races have given me.  it only becomes apparent months or even years after it happens, but not immediately after i take my shoes off. 
      • that's also why I love writing these end-of-the-year musings with this 'what i've learned' section.  to learn is to change, and it's fun to see what 12 months of douchecanoery does to me, months and months after the fact.
    • having no tolerance for running with slower friends.  to improve does not necessarily mean getting faster--despite all these years of doing ultras, I'm 75% sure I can't hit my marathon PB of 3h29m at the moment, and 90% sure I can't go sub-90 on a half.   furthermore, every chance to downshift is an opportunity for heat training, to hear ideas for aid station fare, or to share recipes.
    • unreasonably pushing the risk envelope further than i need to.  like the way the 4th step in a 12 step program pretty much just highlights that destructive behavior is caused by you just running from a bunch of fears, the same can be said of going way off the beaten path.  
“…There is this dual nature of sublime meaning and utter absurdity in climbing mountains. Sending harder, bigger, more badass routes won’t make you a better, more humble, more gracious or happier human—yet we often approach those mountains like they can. There is no glory, no real answers, in sending and summits, yet we organize our entire lives around the myth that there are.”
--The late Hayden Kennedy 
        • I like to say I don't race in Canada anymore so I can volunteer more at local races, but a part of my adventures far far away in unfamiliar territory outside of cell coverage surrounded by strangers is because I just want to be away from the problems associated with familiarity once in a while.  (this account is along the same vein, but obviously i have it easier as a dude.)  and this is something i don't want to be doing for the rest of my life.
          • it's expensive, for starters.  i don't keep tabs on how much i spend on travel, but it's quite ridiculous.
          • Also, because of Harricana.
        • if you asked me why i don't take a proper long vacation, i'd probably say it's because i'm afraid what will happen if I do.
          • I would also say that I like to do serious things without taking myself seriously. 
"I've always wanted to....."
--procrastinators, bullshitters 
  • living next to the rockies means getting cockblocked all the time by shit weather, whether (pun so intended) it be stupid amounts of snow in the winter or stupid amounts of snow and hail and lightning in the summer.  and i don't mind the disappointment at all, because being disappointed by this shit just means i'm super passionate about what i do.  
  • i'm nervous every single time.  sometimes you don't see it because i'm screaming to myself internally that "I'M JUST EXCITED I'M JUST EXCITED I'M JUST SO FUCKING EXCITED".  i don't think it's really denial because i'm channeling it into something a little more positive.  
    • i nicknamed my fear of heights "donny".  "Theodore Donald Kerabatsos" just doesn't flow well and "SHUT THE FUCK UP DONNY" as i'm negotiating a surprise rope section mid-race sounds so much more hilarious.
  • hilarious ways people have introduced me: "have you met leo?....
    • ...he literally runs with everybody."
    • ...he's the crazy person i was talking about."
    • ...he's the crazy man who runs forever."
    • ...he's the crazy one."
    • ...ask him about his other pair of shorts."
    • ...he's insane. so stay away from him, honey."
  • When you lock eyes with a dog, oxytocin is released in your brain.  A highly empirical self-study implies that the same effect may occur with burros.  
    • But don't get me wrong, I actually hate burro racing.  There you are, just living your life and thinking you're all hot shit with everything you do outside on the weekend and every other month, trying to stay active in a mountainous paradise, and then you run this one race and you suddenly realize your entire life, already turned up to 11 before the race relative to those who don't live near the Rockies, is a complete fucking joke.  Everything you have done to date does not compare to running around 13ers having to reason with a furry donkey sidekick lamenting about being chicked.  
      • and that's literally the raison d'etre of my hobby--it's all about finding the point where I have to re-evaluate how the fuck I got to this excruciating and probably-avoidable moment, and then correspondingly make adjustments to get back up, in the hopes that there's probably a life lesson in all of this.  
  • I'm not going to lie - I volunteer a lot not only because I also appreciate the value of others' suffering, but also because I am afraid Housman was right.  I always reevaluate my priorities after each run, and weigh the rewards against the risks (albeit after the run, counterintuitively).  they say time heals all wounds but that's not true--one day I'll finally say 'fuck this shit' for the last time.  One day I'll be injured, potentially horrifically, and won't do this stuff any more.  And when it happens, I'd rather have a life I can just slip into, instead of having to come to terms about how the world has turned and left me behind.  
    • Encouraging others also costs, like, nothing.  And we wield so much power in being able to make others around us feel uplifted or dreadful.  
      • honest empathy takes a level of imagination i don't have yet, but this helps with building that.  
    • being a runner is always second to being a human.  what you do matters, but not as much as what you do for others.  
    • operating an aid station will make you question whether you get more energy alone or in the company of others.  
      • standing from an aid station - when you see someone at wit's end from dealing with mother nature, when they have nothing left to give - you see what that person truly is.  you see what they're truly made of.  
        • it may sound strangely narcisstic, but when I constantly nag loiterers at my stations and ask them what they need to GTFO--it's not because i've got a big heart, but rather that i'm a terrible voyeur who just wants to see what they really have in them.  
      • alas, spectating this sport reminds me of my strengths and weaknesses, and constantly reminds me that i'm human.  
      • operating an aid station makes you run harder the next time.  virtue untested is no virtue at all.  
    • working TA2 at a kids' triathlon will give you hope for the future, because the sight of a 5-year-old not even bothering to rack her bike up as she starts her run and just leaving it and her helmet in the middle of the zone reminds you that even the next generation knows not to give any fucks every so often.  
    • for someone who appears to never stop training, i can't define my goal races as events that culminate from a training campaign.  i like to rather think that goal races are events which motivates my training, and excite me a little.  strangely enough this would mean that sinister 7, a race which i wasn't even entered in but worked various jobs for ~29h, was my goal race this year.  
    • I like to also think that I'm in the business of making legends; in the sense that I enable the progress of extraordinary people doing extraordinary-er things; and, in the sense that stories and hearsay depicting an oasis of hard-to-find junk food ("that's right! I have white creme oreos and white chocolate kit kats!") and paint-thinner 120+ proof moonshine in the middle of the course somewhere are propagated each year.  
      • i may also reply that this is my fight against the loss of culture in this sport, as well as the escalating disparity between cost and value of participation.  
    • splitting a 32h aid station box-wino shift to pace a someone running a 100mi CR is the best kind of pre-taper ever, in the sense that hour 31 was the worst i've ever felt in my life, including the 100mi race i was tapering for. 
    • i know i tell everyone that "if you're going to DNF, don't do it at my aid station"--but number of sag-wagon calls is not the KPI I use to benchmark whether i'm successful or not.  it's actually the 'number of shit-eating grins from outbound runners', which is why I try to get those who have DNF'd on my watch extremely shitfaced.  
  • it's quite possible I don't want to DNF races (TOUCH WOOD) because i don't want to inconvenience the volunteers with my diva-ass problems.  
  • i haven't rollerbladed since taking up ultrarunning but i would like to see how far i get in a day.  and totally not because i am a strava segment troll.  
  • baconnaise.
  • it's taken a long time, but i'm finally content with those who unfriend me on bookface.  i'm not a big subscriber to the "haters gonna hate" school of thought, but rather that I did not say at any point in my childhood that "when I grow up, I want matching drapes and a kickass backyard so big I need a riding lawnmower".  some people live for those things, and that's ok.  which means it's ok if they distance themselves from me to strive for those things, because i represent a toxic antithesis of their existence fueling an insecurity they don't need.  i strive to avoid being victimized by circumstance, and i know that sometimes people have to stay the fuck away from me in order to do the same.  i also strive for a life with less noise--one free of others' expectations, but pure in conviction and passion; spontaneity and honesty, and those who choose to live without my presence are doing literally the same thing.  the one thing we still have in common is that we all realize it can absolutely get serene when you realize that time is the most valuable thing you have, and you accept that the ones that don't make you smile just make you grow in ways you never thought possible, and push you closer to finding who you really are.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
    • (yes, this actually came up mid-race because i was unlucky enough to check facebook right before my race and noticed an unexpected "deterioration of friendship", if you will.  and that, kids, is why you never look at your phone between waking up and starting a race, because you break into a bizarre existential angst for the first 50 miles.)
      • (yes, i notice these things.  what did you expect from someone who writes such explicitly detailed race reports?)
    • having been raised by parents who pretty much acted like they were going to split up every day, i sometimes wonder how many decades of happiness they gave up for the pettiest of reasons.  so yea, i get it.  good on you for realizing that.  
    • it's quite possible that people go in a different direction because i am also just an unapologetically terrible person IRL, but that wouldn't change any of the rationalization above.
      • i say 'unapologetically' because i do not collect gold stars for a living.  that shit is tiring.
      • conversely, no day is guaranteed and any given run could be your last.  i believe it is a responsibility to practice gratitude and be a good steward of opportunity, regardless of how many people I piss off. 
"Make your life so interesting that unicorns have a hard time believing it's true."
  • someone asked me this year if I would ever run a race to actually compete against anyone.  that's never why i race.  i race because each event is physically and mentally enriching, and tests the faith in my preparation.  but unlike burning a stack of benjamins while fastpacking a long route, racing is my worship to the sport and its history; it is a galvanization of my place in its community.  the whole personal endeavor of winning and losing, or in my case, finishing or not finishing, creates a shared culture to continuously improve.  taking names is just an ancillary, completely unintentional effect of this. 
    • sometimes i am threatened with "but think of the children who look up to you!" but come on.  that shit doesn't happen.  (right?)
      • if i run through an aid station with kids, i usually get my shit together and disappear like a pro ninja.....but only so i don't end up inadvertently swearing like a sailor-working-part-time-as-a-trucker in front of them.  
by the numbers (the Strava ones, because those are the only ones that count):
  • distance run: 5411.6k / 3382.5mi
  • elevation gained: 133,035m / 429,703'
  • time not spent playing with scissors: 609h 13m
  • active pairs of shoes at year end
    • at work: 7
    • at home: 9
    • with Sheila: 3
ultra races run:
unique summits bagged (new summits in italics):
  1. Prairie Mountain (AB, Canada)
  2. Dunstan (Otago, New Zealand)
  3. Sulphur Mountain (AB, Canada)
  4. Powderface Ridge (AB, Canada)
  5. Moose Mountain (AB, Canada)
  6. High Knob (PA, US)
  7. Grotto Mountain (AB, Canada)
  8. Lady Mac (AB, Canada)
  9. Two Bears Mountain (AK, US)
  10. Mount Sherman (CO, US) 
  11. Mount Democrat (CO, US)
  12. Mount Cameron (CO, US)
  13. Mount Lincoln (CO, US)
  14. Mount Bross (CO, US)
  15. Quandary Peak (CO, US)
  16. Wiwaxy Gap (BC, Canada)
  17. North Franklin Mountain (TX, US)
  18. Ranger Peak (TX, US) 
  19. Cox Hill (AB, Canada)
  20. Jumpingpound Mountain (AB, Canada)
current 2018 event schedule (volly gigs in italics):
  1. 26 May: EcoTrail Oslo 80km
  2. either
    1. 16 June: Angel Fire 100m
      14 July: Beaverhead 100k
    2. 23 June: Black Hills 100m
      14 July: Beaverhead 100k
    3. 16 June: River of No Return 108k
      21 July: Tahoe Rim 100m
  3. 7-8 July: Sinister 7 AS 3a/4a and 5b/6c
  4. 31 August: UTMB
TBC list:
  1. 30 June: Powderface 42 AS3
  2. 28 July: 70th Annual Burro Days 29mi Pack Burro Race
  3. 11 August: Ute 100mi Race in some volunteering capacity
  4. 7 September: Lost Soul Ultra ASx
  5. either 
    1. 17 November: SkyRun (the one outside Lesotho)
    2. 1 December: Ultra Trail Cape Town
last year's new year's resolutions:
  • Run the Quad again!  Ideally not a week before a race!  I didn't finish the back half, on the account my stomach didn't work on a fairly hot day.  
  • Buy no new running shoes or clothes during 2017.  Forsake not the wife of thy youth, or something.  Let everything in my wardrobe before 2016 be the coffers of my dreams, hopes and aspirations of 2017 and beyond.  done, but only if 1) work-subsidized shoes don't count, and 2) shoes i use for daily-commuting don't count.  
  • Try not to die during Sinister 7 while volunteering; ideally without the use of psychotropics.  done.  almost passed out from 4am - 5am but the mosquitoes kept me awake.  
    • also, ideally without tapping into my 15-flavor not-so-secret oreo menu.  it's never good to get high on your own stash.  done
  • Start monitoring heart rate variability for signs of overtraining.  Replace running with wine and aggro yoga accordingly.  done, but with a beer/aggro yoga combo instead.
  • Figure out how to get into Barkley, then sign someone else up who has no races that weekend.  still working on this one but only on the account of figuring out how to get somebody's email on the listserv without them knowing until the last possible moment.
  • Be a little more grateful.  done, probably
  • Believe in myself a little more.  still working on it
  • Continue accumulating more trail friends.  the aid stations helped with this one.
this year's new year's resolutions:
  1. the guerilla aid station.  now that i have a vehicle that doesn't give a fuck about approach angles, i'd like to give this idea a shot--find a single-stage backcountry ultra with a fairly long unsupported section over public land, drive Sheila up to a spot on the course about halfway between aid stations, then set up my own a pop-up aid station.  in lieu of available egress for DNFs, we'd have pot brownies instead.  
  2. in accordance to #1, seriously stop buying running shit and pimp out Sheila instead such that she's basically a single-vehicle aid-station-in-a-box (cargo basket-mounted awning, skid plate, lift kit, etc.).  I broke last year's attempt because I didn't have the necessary shoes for the technical shit involved with the triple crown, but I truly believe I have something for everything now except for cold-weather, which i don't expect to need that for a long time.  
    1. secondary objective: emergency shoe purchases (there better be a fucking good reason like "I accidentally ran on a giant palm sander for 5k in my Salomon Wings") will not exceed more than $50CAD per pair.  
  3. improve my burro handling skills.  maybe finish in the top 50 percentile this time.
  4. finish the fucking Quad.  it would be good UTMB training.  
  5. finish either SCAR, Backbone Trail or the Zion Traverse.  (anyone?)
  6. finish either High Rockies or Skyline or both.  (anyone?)
  7. more trail friends.  should be doable, given i have to train my stomach for all the meat and cheese of UTMB so i'll be likely running with baguettes and wine too during the summer. 
    1. secondary objective: tame a grizzly bear while training for UTMB.

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