June 25, 2016
Ok, I know I have not blogged consistently for 10 years but I did my first post on June 12th 2006. I had just started my first engineering job (summer internship) in New York City (NYC). I lived with a teammate and her family (thanks Rosows') 30 minute train ride north of Manhattan. I still have fond memories from time running 10-15 miles after work, then going to the gas station to get one of those one dollar Arizona Green Teas in the big can and sit on the curb sipping it whilst the last of my sweat dried up. This consumption of Arizona Green Teas foreshadowed my next summer of employment in Bagdad Arizona thus the new name of the blog - Bagdaddy. On weekends, I would drive to Rockefeller state park to get a longer run in sometimes. I think I also went to hawaii with my family that summer and also made a trip to Penn state for a long weekend to meet my friend Ronit.
I digress...10 years is a long time and a lot of my life but i feel like the last 8 years have been pretty stagnant. I only made one significant change which was moving to Australia. I acknowledge that is a big change but I thought I would have had more new milestones in my life by this point - house, wife, kids, different career, more direction in life...etc
During college, I felt like i was always running around to the next new thing --> graduate high school, pre-season camp, school starts, thanksgiving break, semester ends, christmas break, pres-season camp, spring semester starts, spring break, semester finished, finish up the track season, hang out for a week on campus, start a summer internship in new york or arizona, repeat for 3 more years. I liked that schedule because there were always milestones and checkpoints out on the horizon to keep things fresh and give yourself a chance to start anew. It also had the side benefit of plenty of breaks between each new endeavor to go do stuff whether it be a road trip or a long hike in the woods or experience XYZ new thing for the first time.
Now in the working real world, you really have to make your own fresh horizons and milestones. No one is going to do it for you and the schedule well defined because there is none. It is so easy to just sit back and forget to push for the next thing. First of all, there are infinite options. Secondly, comfort is hard to let go of if there is no incentive. Thirdly, it is easy to dig yourself into a hole - a good or bad relationship, debt, desire to reach certain financial milestones. Finally, there is a paralyzing internal dialogue that is in constant turmoil on which direction to go. We'll see what the next 10 years has in store for me
I wish I would have kept the blog going more consistently because it is really funny to see how I was thinking back then. Since 2006, blogging has taken the backdoor to other flash forms of social media like twitter/instagram/snapfish/chat/periscope. I still really enjoy the longer format that blogging. It takes a long time to craft a post but it has more deep meaning and reality than a single picture and caption...
You can still find the first post on the old blog aptly named Triceraptops Man here:
December 2, 2015
“A quick pounce and kill requires no dream. Dreams are the beacons that carry us far ahead into the hunt, into the future, and into the marathon. We have the unique ability to keep in mind what is not before the eye. Visualizing far ahead, we see our quarry, even as it recedes over the hills and into the mists. Those ancient hunters who had the longest vision—the most imagination—were the ones who persisted the longest on the trail and therefore were the ones who left more descendants. The same goes these days: Human beings with the longest vision tend to make the biggest mark. Vision allows us to reach into the future, whether it's to kill a mammoth or an antelope, to write a book, or to achieve the record time in a race.” Bernd Heinrich, Racing the Antelope (Why We Run) or Endurance Predator.
Quick Thoughts on the Big Day:
15 years on either side of 2000. I like that symmetry.
The world is changing fast and will keep changing faster every year. Facebook came out my freshman year of college. Computers are not cool anymore. But smart Phones in every pocket – and I mean every pocket – Particularly in Asia, where small hands hold jumbo screens. I can only imagine what the next 10 years will look like. Virtual Reality? And let alone 50 years from now. Robots - AI? Robots that make other robots using 3D printers and take over the world? A million humans on Mars? Mining Asteroids/Moon? (Which I almost did as my senior thesis (2008) but the funding did not come through from the National Science Foundation. Now private companies (Space X) are making it happen.)
I am alive in the best time in human history? Yes.
I won the life lottery? Yes you did. You’ve travelled enough to realize that. You have been surrounded by good people at every stage of life without doing anything to deserve it. Your job options and choices are spectacular. The hardest part is deciding what to do and feeling like you are wasting an opportunity. Just remember that the worst that can happen is you live in your car down by the river nibbling on a 1 kilo bag of oats you purchased for 99 cents.
Kamchatka. My current wanderlust obsession takes me to far eastern Russia and/or Siberia because I was listened to Travels in Siberia. Or one of the obscure ‘stan countries like Tajikistan. Or maybe I can do an epic trip through Kyrgystan like Kyle did in The Road from Karakol . Basically, I’m interested in an off the beaten path wilderness experience – Maybe I’ll just walk across Tasmania.
I would give my 20 year old self two pieces of advice: Read 50 books per year and Avoid sitting down.
Along with that, I would have studied abroad to become proficient in another language/culture earlier in the game, not made running the focal point, taken a summer to walk the Appalachian trail, maybe not even gone to college or at least got in so much debt to go to college, got a second major or at least minor in something outside the realm of math/science/engineering like geography, taken those random courses I wanted to take like brewing science and wildland fire fighting but was too lazy, talked to more pretty girls during college because they were numerous especially as a track and field athlete and without potential “baggage” that older ones typically have, avoided processed foods, made more bad decisions or not been frozen by fear and thus took no action: meaning its better to do something and regret it than to not do it and regret it later – better to try than not try at all, done more volunteer work, not downloaded facebook or any social media, started a website or blogged more regularly in the longform, tried 3 different jobs in 3 completely different industries by the time I turned 30, dumped more money into the stock market when I started earning a yearly salary, kept a really detailed journal during my college years particularly to capture the obscurities of training on a Division 1 cross country and track team, worked for a smaller company rather than a big, public corporation…But ultimately nothing really matters except family and friends, so I wish I would have focused on that more rather than chase arbitrary athletic goals or pointless wander lusting.
Another Thought – On Enjoying the Process
I have also looked at the last 3 years of posts I have done on my birthday: 27, 28, and 29. I was injured a lot and seemed to be in an erratic state of mind. That trend has continued this past year but I feel more OK with it than ever. It’s the journey of a runner.
My goal for 2015 was to run a 100 mile footrace around Mount Fuji two days before I turned 30. See write up about it in 29 post written September 2014:
“100 miles. I set a goal after running the Old Pueblo 50 miler in 2010 to run 100 mile race before age 30. I figured it would be a relatively easy goal given how well I was training at the time. That was before my downfall of injuries starting with a femoral stress fracture in October of that same year. I just ran my second ultramarathon 4 years later in August (2014) at Mount Rinjani. I now have less than 11 months to do it…”
It was a 5 year-ish goal that I thought was really attainable at the time. I was in the best shape in my life in 2010 but I didn’t foresee the upcoming injury rollercoaster ahead. 2015 would follow the same injury plagued script.
I failed to run 100 miles. I didn’t even make it to Japan in September. Instead, I spent that week gallivanting around Australia’s Coral Coast on a solo road trip contemplating where I’d gone wrong. I wandered around sleeping in my car, peeping at wildflowers, paddling down canyons, and even getting my passport stamped at “The Principality of Hutt River Province”. Despite all this fun stuff, I was sour the entire time about not reaching my goal. I was so confident earlier in the year before the wheels fell off. Here is how it went down:
Feb/Mar – Great, building up nicely after a hiking centric January.
April- Good (running 140 km/week) by mid April, ran and won Mount Tambora Race in remote northern Sumbawa, then got heat sickness after race and lost another 8 pounds travelling that week through Indonesia.
May – Back in Australia and returned to normal weight and strength, then plantar fasciitis kicked in on right foot, 6 weeks of rehabbing and xtraining.
June – 95% recovered from Plantar then banged knee on rock while hiking the Hinchinbrook trail in Queensland. I could not walk normally for 5 days. No running for two weeks.
July- Good, gaining momentum and did some epic hikes/runs in the Stirling Range
August – Plantar came back in right foot moderately but ran through it anyway. Overcompensation led to odd twinge in left lower shin. Saw physio and suspected stress reaction . I ran every other day trying to work through it, jogged half marathon at City 2 Surf in Perth, then took two weeks completely off.
September – Pain still there after two weeks off running. Finally pulled the plug on Fuji after pain did not subside.
That has been the story of my running life the last 5 years. I still haven’t cracked the code as to why my training and health has suffered so much. There are four or so areas to investigate: Mechanical, Diet, Hormonal, and Mental.
Much of my rehab has been more mechanically focused. It’s logical to me that if you have weak muscles or imbalances, you have to fix them via strength training. I can understand that part of the equation.
Diet is another aspect I can somewhat grasp although with so many opinions out there it’s hard to say which is the best approach. What every diet agrees on though is to not eat processed foods. If I do that, I’m 85% of the way there.
Unlike machines, humans have other intangibles besides the moving parts. The hormonal and mental aspects are more unclear and harder to diagnose. The body can only handle so much stress. Stress from the physical exertion, from work, life circumstances, from lifestyle choices…etc Too much stress overtime leads to adrenal fatigue or jacked up hormones. The same can lead to mental breakdown. Are you happy? Do you have purpose in your life? When your personal life isn’t going well, your running will suffer too.
I suspect my break down is in that hormonal/mental zone although I don’t know for sure. Maybe I am just getting old? The entire thing is a complex issue. It’s hard to figure out.
What I do know is that I love the process. I have never been one who chased the quick high or the easy road. Maybe that’s why I make some things harder just for the sake of making them hard - like living out of my car for years. The truth is everything I have enjoyed in life took a lot of work whether that be running fast marathons, hiking the John Muir Trail, or getting an engineering degree. Be in love with the process. Chase the process, not the outcome.
Milestones have come and gone during my 20s: Graduate College, Get First Job, pay off student Loans, build emergency cash fund in case you quit/lose your job, have an adventurous overseas work assignment. None of these destinations ever solved all my life’s problems. Now what? If I buy that house, maybe I can finally have a normal routine and settle down? If I run 100 mile race, maybe I will finally fill that void of adventure inside me? If I get married and have kids, maybe I won’t be lonely ever again and maybe they would help me make important life decisions. I used to feel this way that accomplishing crucial goals would suddenly make life better. They are merely notable check points in the game of life. If you are waiting for a solution to your problems, if you are waiting for that one moment, it will never come. Most people realize this by the time they are 30. You never arrive so stop thinking you will arrive at some magical end point.
Enjoy the days, enjoy the process.
I often have doubts on whether or not the work I do is changing the world or noble. The reality is that if you are alive you change the world. Your attitude affects everyone around you. You can build them up or bring them down. You can build yourself up or bring yourself down. Stop trying to arrive at some magical end point.
Memorable Content Consumed in the Last Year:
There is a lot of good content on the web. Part of me feels this is a huge distraction. It is hard to focus when two clicks takes you to stuff a lot more interesting than your daily life (see Malaysian/Indonesia airline security workers). Add in that need to keep up with Facebook and Instagram feeds then you’re done. It is impossible to keep up with everything and I am starting to wonder if it is even worth keeping up at all.
On the other hand, these tools are really incredible. And imagination, the thing that separates us from other creatures, is sometimes captured. Here are some off memory that inspired me or in some way made me think about how to live my life:
The Dawn Wall and the Idea of Wasting Time“I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall.”
Gunhild Swanson Interview Western States70 years young finished the western states 100 mile footrace 6 seconds prior to the cut-off time of 30 hours. Ridiculous.
Pete Sampras Letter to My Younger Self. The introspective tennis star reflects back on the mistakes he made. I grew up watching the Sampras-Agassi rivalry and this sheds new perspective about the mind of this tennis star. Sports like tennis or boxing where you go one on one with the competition intrigue me.
The Moral Bucket List (David Brooks, NY Times)Remember to work on the “eulogy” virtues rather than focus all energy on resume virtues.
How to Live Wisely (Richard Light, NY Times)This would have been a good read before starting university. It provides an outline and list of questions to ponder before launching into life.
Remembering Johanna Nilsson. Another interesting free spirited runner but with a sad ending to her life. Almost a Christopher McCandless like story. She was nearly my age and from Northern Arizona so I feel like I have connection. I just remembered the article when I went to look up the one above.
Father and Son Take Some Photo for 29 Years. This is Cute.
The Thousand Year Journey: Oregon to Patagonia. A guy named Jedidiah Jenkins (great name) quit his job and set off to on a long bike ride at age 30. Again, I can connect with that since I am the same age. He explains how 16 months on the road felt like a lifetime because he packed so much in. It seems his goal is to do epic stuff so by the time he is an old man he would have accumulated numerous stories.
DoraisAn touching peek inside the lives of the best backcountry skiing brothers in the world. They are also ER doctors and dealing with a wife with stage 4 cancer.
Hiking and packrafting the wilderness of Southern Greenland. An inspiring 25 day off trail journey in pure wilderness. I am more and more interested in wilderness travel without trail and without 800 trip reports and articles written about them.
Denali. A creative look at our relationships with good friends (dog).
Obama Beau Biden Eulogy. I didn’t know who Beau Biden was but I like him after reading/hearing this eulogy. Obama is a really good speech giver and this one seems very thoughtful. You can watch it if you want and have 25 minutes here.
Pico Iyer Commencement Speech. Along the same lines as working on eulogy criteria rather than resume criteria. Pico calls them real and secret (inside the mind).
Bernd Heinrich - Why We Run Salomon VideoI love Bernd Heinrich (see quote at top). Racing the Antelope may be my favourite book. I read it in college. Most of my favourite books were read in those formative years. He doesn’t get out much on the inner webs instead choosing to live the simple life in his cabin in unassertive Maine. The only other content I found about him recently was this podcast interview he did here:
There are just too many now. I remember liking these for various reasons I cannot remember now:
PICO IYER — The art of stillness - On Being Podcast. A really smart guy who has travelled a lot now finds solace in exploring the inner landscapes. He lives in Japan which is cool.
RRP 73 CASEY NEISTAT. Basically, this guy has a great outlook life. He is a filmmaker who seems to pack a lot into life. There are many podcasts with him but this is the first one I listened too.
The Moment Podcast: Brian Koppelman and Seth Godin. Two wizards on the creative process.
Chris Hadfield - Making the Impossible Possible - James Altucher Show. I should have been an astronaut. These guys are really jacks of all trades.
Maria Popova Q&A - Tim Ferriss Show. A very introspective look from the creator of Brain Pickings work and life. A wealth of knowledge and book recommendations about how to live.
Dr. Wayne Dyer - A Test To See If You Are Ordinary. A spiritual guide to life.
Sarah Kaye - Way With Words. I like her performances and this podcast gives some insight into her creative process.
The Leap - This American Life. Take the Leap.
Blue Zones and How to Live to be 100- Dan Buettner. I have shifted my diet to match that of the blue zones. 95% plant based. Dan Buettner is a journalist and has led an awesome life. It makes me think I should have gone into journalism. But I suck at telling stories.
That’s a lot of content and only the stuff I remember liking the past 12 months or so. And the amazing thing is it is all free. Again, maybe I am wasting too much time consuming?
Here is a list of some good books I read. Honestly, if I finished a book, it was good. There is something to take away from every book. Books are the best value for money. The hardest part is actually making the time to read them. Hopefully, I can read more books than articles in the upcoming year.
Quotes on My Mind
“The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery. There is no possible reversal to this process.” Robert Greene
“You would be allowed to submit an application only after having travelled, alone and on foot, let’s say from Madrid to Kiev, a distance of nearly two thousand miles. While walking, write about your experiences, and then give me your notebooks. I would immediately be able to tell who had really walked and who had not. You would learn more about filmmaking during your journey than if you spent five years at film school. Your experiences would be the very opposite of academic knowledge, for academia is the death of cinema. Somebody who has been a boxer in Africa would be better trained as a filmmaker than if he had graduated from one of the “best” film schools in the world. All that counts is real life.” Werner Herzog, on the entry requirement to his imaginary film school.
“If there is something I wanted to do, I would have already done it.” Casey Neistat, when asked what was on his bucket list.
“If you don’t know what you are passionate about, surround yourself around passionate people.” Tony Robbins
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Ghandi
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
“Pursue poverty in your 20s.” Tom Scott
“The greatest challenge is not to travel abroad but to travel within. Not to conquer unclimbed routes on remote walls of shear stone, but to seek out seldom visited terrain in one’s heart, mind, and soul. To push oneself to improve when improving seems most tyring. Our inner landscapes are just as intimidating, just as breathtaking and without a doubt, just as rewarding to behold.” Chris Calman
“The only gap between you and your dreams are your excuses.” James Altucher
“I’ve never met a happy man who did not have some level of risk in their past.” Robert Kurson
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Cambell
“Most men die at 25 and are buried at 75.” Ben Franklin
March 9, 2015
February 1, 2015
On the application for Australian Residency, they ask for a list of every country you have been in the last 10 years including the exact dates. Using an obligatory excel spreadsheet to conquer the task, I was surprised how I quietly racked up an impressive list of destinations and duration in foreign lands. I didn't really start travelling globally until 2010, age 25, when I went to Europe on a 10 day blitz. Since then, its been non stop.
2014 was my most nomadic year yet.
I travelled to Indonesia 5 times. I spent more time in Indonesia than America this year. I speak better Bahasa than Spanish (5 years study in high school). I feel about 1/64 Indonesian.
I ticked off two new countries for 2014, which also happen to be world class destinations: Japan and New Zealand. Tokyo is ridiculously clean and efficient. The south island is an outdoor wonderland.
And my obligatory trip back to the USA. 3 weeks of continuous movement visiting 6 great American cities: Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, and iconic Elko Nevada.
I explored Australia’s southwest again and again and again. The most under-rated, serene place in the Australia? The world?
35 Flight Legs = Super tight psoas muscles = ridiculous injury rate = questioning my sleep deprived travel habits
I slept (aka laid awake for hours on hard floors) at airports. I showered at airports. I know the best toilets to use and the places to go run and the lockers to put my belongings. Embrace the long layover.
Numbers and stats aside, I met so many great people who literally made the destinations memorable. Without them, every single trip would have had far less meaning. Quite simply, the majority of the travel memories are People related vs. site/scene/guidebook hotspot.
I feel like I missed out on some locally sourced fun and friends here in Western Australia. And I am not the most well rested person now…but I have had 2 months off and ready to go to Myanmar in February. 2015 adventures start.
2014 Travels in chronological order:
Jakarta, Indonesia. Population: lots, Traffic: Sucks, 4 hours to cover 50 km. Jakarta isn't too high on my list of places I want to visit. I had a reason to be there- having no responsibility or obligation to anyone or anything, this was a chance to surprise a friend for her Birthday. I got to stay with her family and experience life as a local battling J-town’s smog, people, flood waters and traffic. It is always quite refreshing to see four generations all living in the same small neighbourhood. Family and friends are important. Apparently January is the wet season in Indonesia. I learned that as I waded through a flooded side street from Linda’s family house to catch the DAMRI bus. There are a lot of big malls too. That is the thing to do: go to malls and drink JCo coffee. The park in the middle of Jakarta is fun.
Japan. Season- winter, Pre-emptive Planning- none except 7 days Japanese Rail Pass, Time – 7 days but wish I had 3 weeks. Japan is an easy place to recommend for travel. People, food, culture, transportation infrastructure and cleanliness make it an unassuming, yet enriching experience. I was stranded in Nagano because snow bombarded the rail line. Luckily, I met a Japanese woman who navigated language barriers. She took me out to eat some Ramen at a place I would never venture into alone. Apparently, you are supposed to slurp and suck the ramen down loudly. The guy next to me was so ferocious in his execution that I could not stop laughing. I regained my composure and tried my hardest to match his pitch and timbre but failed. Hopefully, I will get back there to try again. I have to mention capsule hotels. They are basically a 3 ft x 3ft hole in the wall 6 ft deep. They have a curtain for privacy and a mini tv (I caught up on Olympic Games coverage of the Women’s Japanese Curling). I stayed in two different capsule hotels. One was more of a hostel style for backpackers ($15) and the second place was an upscale male only hotel catering to Japanese business men in the Shinjuku neighbourhood of Tokyo ($40). The second place was unusual for me and overpriced because I didn't properly utilize all the amenities. It was a place to be pampered and relax. When you check in they give you a robe to wear and two lockers: one to put your shoes in before you enter the main area (Japanese always take off shoes before entering any main living area- the only time I heard anyone raise their voice was when I walked into a room with my shoes still on) and one for all you clothes when you enter. Most guys were walking around in the robes or naked. There was a tv lounge with big reclining chairs, Onsens (hot water spas), massage centre, shaving/grooming room, and a massive dark room with futons you could sleep on if for some reason you didn't want to retire to your capsule. Tokyo is crazy clean for the largest city in the world. Kyoto is beautiful but I only had like 2 hours to explore. The mountains and countryside are beautiful. 90 years olds shovel snow. People are so friendly. Japanophile.
Albany, Western Australia. The quintessential long weekend Western Australian road trip is to go “Down South”. South generally means the surfing and wine hotspot loosely defined as Margaret River and its surrounding area. My long weekend trip took me from Perth to Albany via Margaret River. This route can be covered in 3 days. I did some salmon fishing, chocolate tasting, tree climbing and beach hopping. The water is brisk but the beaches on the southern ocean are the best I have seen. I went in April during Salmon season. I pulled my salmon in at Shelly Beach west of Albany:
Bali, Indonesia. Bali is a great destination for the hesitant tourist wanting to try out Indonesia. I prefer to go to other lesser travelled parts of Indo (see below). My plan on travel lately is to go somewhere because there is someone or something specifically I want to see or do (a race, an event, a course). Or if I find a great flight deal (Japan). The purpose of this trip was to do a wilderness first First Responder course at the Green School. The Green School itself is an impressive place to visit. A half hour drive from Ubud, the progressive k-12 school for expat and local children is made entirely out of Bamboo. I attended class during the day, and then spent evenings exploring around Ubud via a 1-2 hour run. I laced up the shoes every night for a jaunt through rice fields. The Campuhan Ridge walk (near the Ibah hotel) is a great place to run during the cooler sunset hours. Local teenagers typically hang out there at night to do things but always smile and try to take photos as I run past. One night, I veered off my normal Campuhan Ridge route and stumbled upon a lone pavilion in a rice field. Loud music was playing so I went to explore. It was an international Hula Hoop Convention with 150 girls in sports bras (and a handful of dudes, not in sports bras) performing in front of their peers. That “run” lasted nearly 3 hours but my watch was frozen at 27 minutes- the time it took for me to stumble upon this “gem in the jungle”. It was the first and only time in my life I was asked the question: “Do you hoop?” The expat Green School teachers lamented when I told them the story: “That is so Ubud”. It has that mystical, hippie feel where women come to do soul searching and pamper themselves (Eat Pray Love- I have not read yet but takes place in Ubud). I partook in my own pampering by getting a Balinese massage. Matteo, a 21 year old Italian convinced me to go with him. He argued that we had to try it because we are in Indonesia and it’s what people do here. We have to experience the true culture he pressed. Normally, I feel uncomfortable doing massages and this time was no different. But at a $5 price point, I had nothing to lose economically so I rationalized it in my mind. Besides, travel is about getting out of your comfort zone. We each changed into the black “whity tighty” style underwear and stood awkwardly in the candlelit lounge together waiting for the masseuse to guide us each into our respective room. The girls came and led us both into the same room with two massage tables a soccer balls width apart. It was a couple’s massage. We were like “No No No” but they didn’t understand so the manager came and basically laughed at us as if to say you silly immature boys but gave us each a private room. Later in Lombok, I went again with my co-worker- that time they put us in the same room but was separated by a curtain so we could still talk but not having to look at each other oiled bodies. I always meet out of place characters people on the street in Ubud. I feel like the world meets in Bali whether it is a successful Ukrainian Lawyer dressed like 60’s hippie dancing to local music or the 20 something South African vagabond flying home the next morning after 3 full years on the road.
Esperance, Western Australia. If Margaret River is the quintessential 3 day weekend trip from Perth, then Esperance would be the top choice for a weeklong road trip. Stops along the way can include Albany and the seemingly out of place Stirling range where you can experience alpine environments and snow if you get lucky. I went in July, when whales put on a display at Point Anne in Fitzgerald River National Park just 200 meters off shore. Then finally got to Esperance and beyond to Cape Le Grand National Park for camping and kangaroos on the beach. Hardly anyone was there because it was winter and so “cold”. But even in summer this wonderland has been surprisingly empty. Someone then complained that Lucky Bay was awful because of all the seaweed on the Beach. I didn’t notice until they said that – maybe I was too focused on the dozen kangaroos on the beach hopping around 3 feet away. My conclusion is that the stretch of coast between Margaret River and Esperance is unspoilt playground with some of the best beaches in the world. Ok- the water is cold though.
Lombok, Indonesia. In August I went to Lombok to run a race; I got much more than that. I ran the Mount Rinjani Ultra. Midnight start, 52 km with an absurd 5,200 meters of vertical gain, active volcano. The times seemed ridiculously slow to me at over 14 hours in 2013. How hard could it be? I thought I would easily run under 10 hours. I was wrong. It took me nearly 13 hours. It was hard, really hard but awesome. The feeling I had running down Rinjani at sunrise knee deep in ash and dust left me grinning ear to ear. I was running completely unconstrained as fast as I possible could down an active volcano at sunrise knee deep in ash and dust. That moment erased 3 years of personal struggle and doubt about my dedication running. It made the long toil worth it. It’s funny how in a good race or good feeling during a race can justify years of running doldrums. I hope to return in 2015 but I am not sure the stars will line up for me. It may spoil the feeling 2014’s race gave me (and I don’t know my work schedule). I have more to write about this one, for now it is jotted down on loose sheets of paper until I am ready to post it here. I met so many great people who were eager to learn more about my training and trail running in general. There is a great community at Trail Runners Indonesia who is opening the door to trail running in the country. It is great to see. Besides Rinjani, my co-worker in Mataram chauffeured me around the island which is basically just a less crowded version of Bali. There are some awesome spots like Gili Nanggu and Senggigi Sunset restaurants but I feel pretty content with my coverage of Lombok. Sumbawa island seems like the natural new frontier for me.
United States of America. Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Nevada, Dallas. I am running out of energy to keep typing. There is so much to say about this trip that I can’t really sum it up. Mostly, though it was about catching up with old friends and family. I even got to spend my 29th Bday with family.
Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. 8 days after landing in Australia from my crazy America trip, I hopped on another plane headed to Jogja (Yogyakarta) in Central Java for another Trail Race. This time it was the 60 km Mesastila Challenge Ultra. The Trail Runners Indo guys put on some sinister races. I think this one had like 4,200m of vertical and naturally an 11pm start. We ran though rice fields and villages in middle of the night while locals standing next to bonfires cheered us on. Actually, they just stood there silently and watched us run by as if they had just seen an alien spaceship. Trail running is still a new sport in Indonesia so I am always encouraged by their beginner enthusiasm towards everything trail running. I felt ok for the first two hours, then stomach pain set in and I was in damage control mode. Maybe it was all the travel the past month or just lack of fitness or something I ate but whatever the reason it made or a long outing. It was still a great cultural experience for me. My favourite part of the race was running on the narrow Andong peak ridgeline at 3am dodging all the tents and bonfires and teenagers strumming guitars and singing. My Second favourite part was the ridiculous first climb while running up a knife edge footpath a piece of dental floss thin white ribbon was the only thing preventing a shear 300 foot fall off the mountain. I also met some great people at this one. Trail running is a global community and it always amazes me who I meet at these races.
Mount Bromo, Java. Ok, One last time to Indonesia during 2014 for yet another trail race race. I was scheduled to run the 100 km to get 3 UTMB points but dropped it back. I was having mid leg thigh pain since Mesastila race a few weeks earlier. I thought was another femoral stress fracture so made the decision to drop to 30km and jog it. Bromo is awesome. The scenery is unparalleled except to maybe the moon. The 30 km edition skirts the Caldera and before climbing to the crater rim. I made a wrong turn and kept running along the rim giving me sweeping views of the valley and smells of sulphur. At the race, I met more great people and some familiar faces from previous events. Thanks Indonesia trail runners for a great year. And congrats to my buddy Luc for the 100km W.
New Zealand, South Island. My brother and his wife were on holiday there so I finally had a good reason to go (ahem). I hired a car for 8 days, no itinerary. Christchurch to Queenstown. Queenstown to up the West Coast. West Coast back to Christchurch. Like Australia, there are hardly any New Zealanders there. Everybody is from somewhere else. Queenstown Rocks. Routeburn was the best hike I did on the island. I love the Mount Cooke area but needed some more time to get off the beaten path. The weather also limited those opportunities. I got stranded by Landslides twice which led to unexpected encounters with some interesting people. Most notably was the French chemical-nuclear engineer also sleeping in his car around the South Island. I asked some questions about his job and he about my job. We came to the conclusion that even in highly specialized jobs like open cut mining and nuclear reactor energy generation, there is still a comically large amount of technical knowledge we don’t know in our niche field. The next day after chatting with my Nuclear Buddy, I touched a glacier and hiked in the rainforest on the same day. New Zealand is diverse as heck and obviously 8 days was not enough time, but better than no time. It is expensive there too. I paid over $2 per litre of petrol. I gotta get back here now that fuel prices plummeted.
November 14, 2014
“Don’t prepare, begin. Remember, our enemy is not the lack of preparation: It’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is resistance. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reason why we can't/shouldn't/don’t do what we know we need to do. Start before you're ready.”
~Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
The most important thing in life is to be as healthy as you can. If you are healthy, you are generally happier, less focused on your own problems, more likely to help others and expand your network of good will, which in turn makes you feel good. It all snowballs from being healthy.
I started posting a birthday thought 2 years ago at 27. I was not in a great place at that time. I was just trying to get that ever crucial clean bill of health. Most of my time was spent trying to claw my way back to feeling normal. Then at 28, though still not a 100 percent with my running, I was gaining traction and mostly content. My mindset shifted from focusing on injury to being grateful for what was working in my life. It piqued an interest in not wasting energy on things I can’t control and a fear of “squandering my life away on worthless pursuits”. At 29, today (September), I am continuing along that same line of thought: What do I want to dedicate my life to? What legacy do I want to leave? What is the big life plan, the purpose? But I don’t know for certain, most people don’t. Just keep being the best version of you so you are ready when opportunity knocks.
I also find I am not playing as much, not having any fun. I get too caught up in doing adult stuff, always feeling the need I have to be productive that I forget to have fun or just completely waste my life playing ont he phone. I feel the need to become some super mountain running athlete, to train 100 miles a week and lift weights and stretch and eat right and if I miss a session why even bother? I throw in the towel completely for a few weeks before reasoning I should get back out there. There is certainly value in dedicating oneself to a goal and taking on the tumultuous journey, but I am slowly losing the will, the drive to be a great runner. I continue to break down, mostly in a mental fashion, uncertain in the purpose. I’m a slave to the watch just ticking off the minutes for the sake of getting minutes in. I have sucked the fun out of it. I just need to go back to playing and having fun in all aspects of life.
I was fortunate this year to spend my birthday in America with my entire Family. I had to fly from Austin to LA to make it all happen, but I felt like being in two major cities on my birthday was fitting given my current binge of travel. It was actually 3 cities due to a layover in my old bagdaddy stomping grounds of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. I had a nice steak lunch in Texas with my Aunts/Uncles/Sisters/Parents then hopped a plane to LA to see my bro and wife. Really, the entire USA trip was amazing. 13 flights over 20 days meant I was on the go constantly, but I got to see friends and family on all corners of the country. I’m a lucky man.
I suspect big things (transitions?) to come in the next year. It will be my best year ever? I feel good, positive about it. To keep that ball rolling I must keep my body healthy, and focus on things I do currently have on my life (gratitude). Let my last year as a 20 something be the best yet. (Ironically, as I post this in November my femur is aching again. I may have stress fractured/reacted it again and my confidence is lost. How quickly the tides change?)
100 miles. I set a goal after running the Old Pueblo 50 miler in 2010 to run 100 mile race before age 30. I figured it would be a relatively easy goal given how well I was training at the time. That was before my downfall of injuries starting with a femoral stress fracture in October of that same year. I just ran my second ultramarathon 4 years later in August this year at Mount Rinjani. I now have less than 11 months to do it. My plan is to qualify for UTMB 2015 (update November = FAILED). This means I basically have to run two more big races before December 31st to get enough points to qualify. I will go to Eastern Java in Indonesia at the start of November to run BTS Ultra (dropped to 30km so will fail to qualify) and do the Duncan’s Run on the east coast at the end of December. Of course, if I fail to finish either, I’m out of UTMB. And even if I do finish and get the qualifying points, I still have to win the lottery to get in. So if UTMB doesn't pan out, I will look at a few other 100 mile foot races next year preferably one that falls on this list of Hardrock 100 Qualifying 100 mile races..
South Africa. The reticular activating system in the brain shows that when you see something once, you start noticing it everywhere. Like if you buy a Toyota car, you start noticing everyone Toyota in every carpark and on the street. Or if you meet someone from South Africa, you start noticing every connection to South Africa. I met a mixed race girl born in South Africa that told me about her father taking her into the “white” toilet because there was no bathroom for mixed race. Her dad died soon thereafter and her mom couldn't raise her because of the social pressure of a black woman raising a mixed race child. She is my age so it’s crazy to think that in 1994 this was still a major problem. For an outsider who knows little about the country’s history, the story sheds light on the magnitude of Nelson Mandela’s Mission who died last December. The other link to South Africa for me has been the mining industry. During the apartheid years of the 70-80-90’s, there was a trade embargo by most countries towards South Africa. This drove innovation across all sectors, especially the expansive South African mining industry. Many of the mine managers across Australia are South African. I just found out that a regular visitor at work spent 30 years working in the South African Mining Industry. He told me he runs a lot but has slowed down in his older age. I asked if of Comrades Marathon. He ran it 7 times. He told me it was one of the greatest experiences of his life – Ten Thousand People running 56 miles from Durban to Capetown with spectators lining the entire course (I believe now it has 20,000 runners). But the Two Oceans is more beautiful he went on to tell. I looked into entered that afternoon…Entries are still open. Finally, the most beautiful girl I talked to was from South Africa. I met her on the street in Ubud Bali in April this year. But I played it “cool” and never got her name or contact info. Maybe she will enter comrades next year?
Voluntary Poverty. Kevin Kelly mentioned it in a podcast. I have been living a "Voluntary Poverty" lifestyle for some time choosing to ruthlessly cut spending in areas of little value to me and lavishly on things I get satisfaction from (experiences). I've hacked my living situation for the past 3 years so I could money that would go to rent on airline tickets or tanks of gas for my Hyundai. I can’t even get a credit card in Australia because I have no bill paying history: No water or electricity and my cell phone is pre-paid, no contract. If I got laid off tomorrow, my lifestyle wouldn't change. I would just keep bumming around in national forests, grilling prawns over open flame, doing a long trail runs in the morning, charging my camera/laptop at the library and cruise down tot he beach or a yoga class for the side benefit of a shower.
Time. It’s flying by. Too fast. I waste a lot of time messing around to hack my living situation so I do not have pay rent (see above: voluntary poverty). I am starting to realize I could save a lot of time if I had a fixed place to live and to shower and to store perishable goods. There will be a cost associated in the regular rent check, but it would save time. I am getting to the point as people do when I am beginning to have more money than time. A cash strapped student may find it more reasonable to do menial tasks than to pay someone to do it: change the oil in his own car, or do his own taxes, or true his own bike wheel. I will continue do these things as I see fit but I find myself second guessing menial which I could pay small sums of money in exchange for a few hours of time to do what I really want to.
Podcasts. I have been listening to many, almost too many. The content is often so good and actionable that I just keep consuming more and more without any action. I just end up writing down all the book recommendations or resources they give without taking real action to make my life better. Nevertheless, Kevin Kelly on Tim Ferriss and Lewis Howes, Nassim Taleb on James Altucher, the Hardcore History podcast, the Dirtbag Diaries podcast and Rolf Potts on Tim Ferriss.
Nassim Taleb. I will be working through some of his great books and papers soon. He sounds like a brilliant and philosophical man. And he is Lebanese, reads/writes like 5 languages, and keeps a Philosophical Notebook so that makes him a cool guy.
Wizard Beards. I wish I never trimmed my beard in August. I trimmed it before going to the USA. I wish I would have cut my hair instead. But now is time to start growing the wizard beard again…or do a Kevin Kelly Amish beard.
Deep Work and Killing the Passion Hypothesis. I am still really bad at this but at least I am aware of how much time I waste on menial tasks. One of my favourite reads this past year was Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You. In it he kills the passion hypothesis instead arguing that you should get really good at something first because it will lead to more life happiness and fulfilment. Also, this article from Ryan Holiday crushes the passion hypothesis. Passion is Not the Problem.
Indonesia. To think that I couldn't place Indonesia on the Map before I moved to Australia three years ago is absurd. They just elected a new president, Joko Widodo, Read A New Hope in Time Magazine. It is the 4th most populous country in the world at 253 million, 90% of the population is Muslim, 13500 islands (17000+ at low tide), 4th most Facebook users, and the middle class is emerging as people living below the poverty level has dropped from 24% in 1999 to 12% in 2012. I enjoy going to Indo. My dollar goes a long way, the people are friendly and extroverted, the culture is still bizarre (in a good way) to an American like me, and the mountains are beautiful. I have run some fantastic trail ultra-marathons in the past 3 months. It is an up and coming hotbed for trail running. They have a few race directing wizards devising some epic trail races. Their latest masterpiece is the GP100: 100km with +10,000m vertical gain. I did the Mount Rinjani Ultra in August and it was probably the best single day in the mountains I have had. And the Sunrise was THE BEST I have experienced.
A life of adventure. #dontwasteyourlife. Some of my favourite books are about men who lead adventurous lives. Where Men Win Glory, Into the Wild, Unbroken, Roughing It, Steve Jobs, anything by Jack London and currently Shantaram are a few good books that come to mind that reinforces my desire to lead an interesting life and experience all the world has to offer. “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. That’s the whole point- figure out by doing. So none of this nonsense about being ready” ~Austin Kleon.
Jack London. I read Call of the Wild and loved it. The Game and to Light a Fire also. But I recently enjoyed reading series of articles about the life and man that was Jack London. He never stayed in one field too long and had wide experiences. The adventurous life is there if you want it.
Appreciating Good Work. I have been consuming some great creative works such as Shantaram (43 hour audiobook) or the Searching for Sugar Man documentary (see South Africa above). I appreciate great creatives and their work more as I get older. In my adult life, I find it so hard to focus and actually do real work, even for 15 minutes a day. I’m flooded with meetings and interruptions and distraction from the web and email and smartphones. Then of course doubt and wanderlust and mental sidetracking enter the picture. I respect anyone who can push away distractions and eliminate things from their life to make great stuff. See Jack London, Shantaram, Steve jobs.
Notebooks (commonplace books). I have one for travel, one next to bedside and one at work. Always cheap notebooks, A4 or A5 size (preferably A5 for compactness). I always lose notes on my phone or computer. So rather than scatted all over the place in different digital compartments, notebooks neatly compile everything in one place which allows me to easily review my notes a few quick flips of the page.
Good Reads. Not elementary, easy to consume internet top “10 lists” or “how to live” articles. There are too many good books to read and not enough time. Don't waste more time than you need to on the phone/internet. I know it is addicting. Kevin Kelly he takes a disconnected day once per week not because phones and tablets are bad for us but because they are so good. It makes you appreciate how great the technology is. I think social networks are great, especially for hyper nomadic modern men like myself, but I don’t fully utilize it and end up wasting my life with them instead.
Digital Trail. I have been thinking about building a more serious webpage, a landing page for my life. This blog is a nice record, but I want to add some other elements in to display and archive photography, gear lists, book notes, travel tips and logs…etc
Photography. I have been to so many amazing and exotic places but I still feel like I am not capturing the essence very well with my photos (or written word). I am always so goal oriented, to see as many places as possible as fast as possible and as cheaply as possible that I don’t take time to truly take in a place. I rush the photographic process and feel awkward taking pictures with a million other tourists all taking the same picture. I’d like to move my photographic output towards local people vs. landscape. Taking photos of people adds that uncomfortable element of human interaction, especially with people groups with mysterious customs. If nothing else it will force me to have uncomfortable conversations.
Time. And not wasting it. See above: On Wasting Life and Time
Very late posting this. Should have went out in September but I have been a busy busy boy.
Picture is from my recent trip to Java Indonesia, Borobudur Temple.
July 8, 2014
“They just feel like stuff is supposed to happen to them,” he said. “They're not going to have to work for it. And that bugs me because I know how hard I had to work to get where I got. Sometimes they sit there in amazement at why I come out here every day. But I cannot let their way of thinking into my head.” Tony Gwynn
Perth Marathon. After a successful 12kmrun at HBF Run for a Reason during the last Sunday in May, I decided to tick the box on doing a marathon in Australia while my running was going well. My original plan was to give a “good effort” to use a training run for the target race of the season, the Ultra Tour of Mt. Rinjani in August. I figured 3 hours would be about right. I would plan to run a comfortable 1:30 first Half, then a harder whatever I had 1:20-1:25 2nd half. But I got excited and emotional and ended up coming through halfway rather comfortably in 1:19 with a group of 4 guys running together. Shortly after halfway, I started to spiral into the pain cave. My legs and back were so tight and out of whack that my shorts twisted to one side causing me to re-adjust every couple kilometres. Then my joints- knees/hips- started to heat up with 15km to go. I kept shortening my stride, increasing turnover to reduce the pain whilst maintaining a 2:40 marathon pace. The crowd spurred me on the last 5 km allowing me to maintain a respectable 4 minutes per kilometer but I fell short of even splitting. 2:42 final time.
Dissappointed I did not negative split. Dissappointed I did not have the legs to run 2:40. Dissappointed I needed 3 weeks to not feel pain in my knee for 3 weeks after. Glad I didn’t snap in half or sustain serious injury. Annoyed that I lost 3 weeks of training for Rinjani. Relieved my engine (breathing) felt comfortable at that pace. Happy with the effort. Content with the time. Satisfied I can use the learnings from this race to continue to understand my biomechanical issues. Optimistic about my running future. Hoping I survive RInjani without injury.
The Perth Marathon is a beautiful race and spectator friendly as it completes two out and backs. One could argue that it is boring, but I personally enjoyed the crowd support as the other two marathons I have run only had spectators at the finish line. I couldn't get over how beautiful the day was for a wintery July afternoon. The city glowed across the Swan River as I watched the awards ceremony. My buddy Gerry PR’d by 5 minutes to take 2nd place. I talked to Ethiopian woman who dropped at 41 km but still really happy. One guy I ran with through halfway (1:19) ended up running a nice negative split 2:34 for a PR. I took out my tent afterwards to rest a few hours before the awards ceremony. People thought i had slept there the night before in the pouring rain. No, not there, but 30 minutes away. I lounged around there watching the mid-packers drift on by from my temporary camp site for the afternoon. These people inspire me.
Running for Rinjani. The first two weeks of June were by far the best few weeks of running I have done in 2014. Then I ran the Perth marathon on June 15th and that forced me to write off the remainder of the month. I could hardly walk because of knee pain. The physio at work looked at my quad flexibility and wondered how I could even run, let alone run a marathon. Now, 3 weeks later and a lot of quad stretching and agonizing lacrosse ball massage, the knee feels better. I just ran 15 km today but do not feel like I will have enough time to properly train for Rinjani as I leave August 3rd. I might just have to walk/hike/survive the 52km torture course.
Reading. Art of learning, the Snow Leopard, The Obstacle is the Way. All good books but the Snow Leopard resonated with me the most. I listened to this classic as read by the author, 95 year old Peter Matthiessen, as he recounted the story over 40 years earlier in the Snowy Himalayas. This adventure narrative reminds me of one of my favourites, the Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway. It makes me want to do an epic adventure of some sort, and write a story about it. If I were to write a book, this would be the style I would go for.
Learning. I did a knife making course and a intro level kayaking course in June. I bought a new camera so I can take some pictures. The knifemaking was a lot of fun because it encompasses so many different skills- forging, grinding, polishing, woodworking, heat treating- and it renewed my joy for building stuff. The kayaking course was mainly a stepping stone to start training for the avon descent in August but I have since decided it is just not a possibility with my schedule and lack of anywhere to put a a kayak. Lots of other things to learn this year- surfing, sailing, spear fishing are a few that come to mind.
Good Article on Tony Gwynn: