Monday, January 30, 2012

[Better] News From The Canyons

After saddening news of hunger and despair following the severe draught that struck the Copper Canyons of Mexico, it seems hope is back and spirits are lifted among the great Running People.

Last weekend was a major Rarajipare, the traditional Raramuri sport, held between the Batopilas and the Urique canyon clans. Not only is it great to know the Raramuri keep this great tradition alive, but it also warms the heart to know that, thanks to donations from all over the world, including yours, over 10 tons of food were offered as prize to the people.

Caballo Blanco addressed the crowd at the awards ceremony and told them :

“Eres Raramuri: You are the running people. You are the messengers. You bring the good news to your communities. It is your responsibility to be sure that all the people in your communities have enough food, nutrition for the old ones, the babies, the ones without the strength that you possess.

Caballo has 200 costales [10 tons] of maize [food value] in my pocket. Muy peasado! [Very heavy].....IT... is bettter to give it away to lighten my load. Share this amongst your communities. Andale y hasta la 4 de Marzo"

This will bring some much-needed, immediate relief in the canyons and fares well for the incoming big event, the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon 2012, where all Raramuri runners are invited to run and win some maize for their community.

There is still time to contribute to the food relief fund. The campaign will close this Friday, Februrary 3rd, as I leave for Urique. If you haven’t contributed yet, please consider giving some of your money to help the Raramuri thrive. As little as 25$ buys a costale of maize.

You can make your donation here.

Kuira Ba,


Monday, January 16, 2012

Taunting the Emergency Room

So today, I decided to ignore my running clinics advice and I went for a run.  I was feeling rotten and was planning only a 2 mile loop.  The route was so beautiful in the snow --snow is unusual for Vancouver -- that I popped back to the car and picked up my camera.  I was of course forced to stop occasionally and take photo's.

The trail was quite deceptive.  A few days of snow-> thaw->freeze->snow, meant that there was a thin layer of ice over all of the trail and then a light dusting of snow over the top.  As the trail was rocky to start off with, this was an feat of bravery.  I am so glad I am a minimalist runner as I am not sure I would have managed the two loops without proprioception.  Barefoot runners are not perturbed  by ice.

Ice just allows the run to be more fun.  This trail was such a blast I am going to try and break myself tomorrow. ;)

Here are some of the photo's I took from my run.  Enjoy them and let's hope the trail is as much fun when I go back tomorrow.

Why You Must Give To The Raramuri

Pretty much everybody knows by now that I will be running the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in a couple weeks. It is a great adventure for me and a rare opportunity to meet the People and the place that has inspired my running for years. It’s downright extraordinary.

Every once in a while, I've asked for some donations to either help me finance my adventure and to bring some much-needed support to the Tarahumara (their real name is Raramuri) community. I have already used a good chunk of my own money to purchase some of the corn vouchers that the local runners will earn for themselves and their family at the event. A few friends and fellow runners have also pitched in, and I’m very thankful for their help.

But I need to do much better. We received very bad news this weekend about Raramuri people starving because of the severe draught Northern Mexico has been experiencing. There is a lot of distress and, for once, it’s absolutely possible to do something that really helps, right now.

So far, I was able to gather 700$, which I have decided to use 100% to contribute to the food support program for the Raramuri. I’ll travel on my own money. I want to take this into the thousands of dollars. Help me.

About 9 people have contributed to the “Contribute to the Dream” campaign, to date. I am humbly asking that ALL readers of this blog, fellow runners and everyone who can afford it make a donation, no matter how small. Only $25 buys a full costale (50kg) of corn. You don’t have $25? Donate $10.

How often were you offered the chance to really help someone in need? I’m not talking about some obscure, bureaucratic charity that spends 80% of your money in “administration” fees. I’m talking about a local initiative, where no one is paid, that uses the entire amount of contributions they receive to get food and resources for the people.

On February 4, I’ll leave Montreal with as much money in my pocket as I humanly can. I’ll travel down into the canyons and hand that money myself, directly to Caballo Blanco and the people that run the organization Norawas de Raramuri. I want some of these dollars to be YOUR dollars.

Because someone where I’m going is hungry. Because the great Running People of the canyons have inspired so many with their culture and unique way of life. Because every single person I know can afford at least a costale or two. Because it’s unacceptable to let a fellow human suffer. Because, for once, there IS something real we can do.

And most of all, because we are one.

Don’t click away from this.


UPDATE. We have gathered 1,000 kilos-worth of maize in 2 days. Thank you so much, and please help spread the word. I aim at several thousand kilos.

I will update the results of the campaign on Twitter until my departure for the Canyons, on February 4. Follow me at @flintportable !

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sweet Sweet Telephone Pole Shadow of Shady Goodness

Since here in Hawaii we don't believe in this "winter" some of the rest of you have it was pretty warm out the road today. Due to the warmth I decided I needed to document something I've noticed and I hope other runners have as well: The Sweet Sweet Telephone Pole Shadow of Shady Goodness.
I love you, Telephone Pole Shadow
You see, dear friends, there isn't a whole lot of shade on my normal run. I have to take what I can get. And what I can get in my last mile is evenly spaced telephone poles. Run at the right time of day, approx. 4pm it looks like, and you get shadows that line up juuuust right. Now, does this actually help? I wouldn't bet the money Tebow stole from me last Sunday on it. The temperature difference, if there is one at all, can't be more than a degree or two. But that's in real life. Runners do not run in real life. We run in Runner's World (we even have a magazine). And in Runners World shadows = shade = ahhhh, much better for the three second it takes to run through the shadows. Yes, I aim for the shadow. I run to it. And while I'm doing it I think, "This is so silly. There's no way this ahhhhhhhh, that's the stuff, I love you Telephone Pole shadawww it's gone."
Note: Street Sign Shadows deserve no love. Observe:
Fail, Street Sign Shadow. Fail.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Running Smiley with technology

[Reposted from my blog]

This Christmas, Santa brought me a Garmin Forerunner 210.  Yep, not quite what the Plenipotentiary
 of “The Run Smiley Collective” should have had under her tree I admit.  I should have a TUTU or a funny hat, but not technology.  Isn’t that against everything the collective is about?! Have I abandoned my values?!  Have I become a runner?!

In other news, I was talking to my good friend Jesse over Facebook a while back and aside from the usual nonsense we spout, like spy penguins taking over the world and Boobies, we talked a little bit about how as minimalist running has become more popular, people have decided to take minimalism a little TOO far in their running.

Minimalist runners are now abandoning watches, Garmin’s, iPod’s and anything else electrical as they run.  I applaud this, however, my applause depends on their reasoning behind ditching the technology.

When I advocate ditching the technology, the reasoning is so that people are released from pace times, distances and weekly mileages and they experience the run for what it is.  A joyful way of connecting to the way you move.  If you are ditching the tech for THIS reason, then I say, “welcome to our merry band of misfit’s, please enjoy your stay”.

If you are ditching the technology because you feel it makes you better than everyone else –that by taking off the Garmin, you are becoming purer than your fellow minimalist runner- then please take a chill-pill and re-evaluate what’s important.

This seems to be a bit of a trend.  People ditching the gadgets, not so they can connect with their run, but to be “more of a minimal runner than X”.  This is just as wrong as wearing the Garmin and concentrating SO much on your pace that you ignore the flowers on your trail.

As Jesse said, (and I am paraphrasing here), “why can’t people just let everyone run the way they want to?”

And do you know what?  He’s right! 

So I am going to admit it.  I like to run with an iPod.  I have a play-list that I like to run with.  Most of the time I only have one ear-bud in, but the music is still there.  I may find a bit of fun trail and both ear-buds come out and I will have a blast, sometimes the ear-bud may be in for all of the run.  Do I care?  Not really. 

This is the reason.  I run with music, not because it makes me a better, faster runner.  I run with music, because the songs I pick allow me to connect with my inner fun and with my friends.  I will explain.

I have songs that remind me of friends, i.e.
“The Cave” by Mumford and Son’s, is my connection with Angie B. 
“5 years time” by Noah and the Whale, reminds me of Shelly and Jason Robillard, and the rest of the “Hobby Jogga’s”
“Pirates of the Caribbean” by Lonely Island (currently) reminds me of Jesse.

I have songs that make me smile.  The  “Run Barefoot Girl” “Tick Tok” song always makes me laugh and I do a little dance in the middle.  The “I am the Doctor” soundtrack makes me feel like I am being chased by aliens and I can’t help but do this without a grin on my face.

So has technology meant I fail to connect to the fun on my run? Nope.  In fact they add to it.  My friends are there when I want them and they don’t interfere when I am enjoying where I am on my run and if I am having too much fun in my run, they step away.

As for the Garmin?  Am I going to use it to increase my VO2 Maxy thingie? Am I going to run harder and faster than everyone else?  Am I going to brag that I run 3.2728 miles in 23 minutes and 45.3883 seconds? Nope.  

I am getting the Garmin as an experiment.  I want to see what the fuss is about and see if it’s truly useful.  I want to play with it and see if it can add something interesting to my run’s.  I want to see if some training plans work and if some don’t.  I am being inquisitive and trying new things.  I LOVE doing that.  So why is that a bad thing?  The Garmin is allowing me to be an engineer on my run; allowing me to tinker and test new solutions.  I am adopting the same principles when I made my hacked minimal shoes, or when I retro-tweak a pair of minimal shoes so they fit how I like.  Heck, it's either a Garmin on my run or a CISCO router, and trust me a Garmin is easier to carry.

So despite my “don’t let technology rule your run”, I think I agree with Jesse.  If you want to wear an iPod or a Garmin, go ahead, just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Twitter Road Race

For a lot of us runners, January is the bleakest of months. The last running season is an increasingly distant memory. Some are in a total break, resting away. Some start thinking of their next season, but with winter covering our favorite paths and trails, few of us actually go out and do some running. We don't have much to look forward to in the immediate future. We're mostly bored.

Maybe that's what blogger and coach Doug Cassaro was thinking when he created his January race. Or maybe he was thinking of faraway friends, of fellow runners in warmer climates, of the loss of peer contact we runners suffer during winter. I don't know what he was really thinking, but somewhere along the way, he had a stroke of genius.

Unite the virtual and real worlds. And race, of course.

So he created the first-ever Twitter Road Race, an event organized and held in the virtual world, but ran in the real one. Pure awesome!

So wherever you'll be, whatever conditions you live in, come January 21, you can join a race of thousand of happy runners, set your own course outside or on a treadmill, and join the fun of a world premiere, a 5K race ran all over the world, all at the same time!

FlintLand got a hold of Doug, in between his virtual race director duties, for a couple questions.

FL. Tell us what The Twitter Road Race is?
DC. The Twitter Road Race is a virtual race. It's a race where runners from all around the world can come together on race day and run together. The goal of this race is to create a new and fun way to connect with all the awesome runners on Twitter.

FL. Is this a world premiere?
DC. Yes. As far as I know, no one has put on a race of this nature via Twitter. I'm very excited about what the future holds for this event!

FL. How did you get the idea of mixing road racing and social networking?
DC. Runner camaraderie. The amount of support runners give each other at races and on Twitter amazes me. So, I got to thinking one day, "Why not put them together?" The overall response I've gotten from everyone on Twitter has been incredible! Never in my wildest dreams did I think this race would take off as quickly as it has! While I may have come up with this idea, I give all the credit to the runners on Twitter for getting the message out. You guys are awesome and this race wouldn't be possible without you! I can't thank you all enough!

FL. How is the race going to work? What are the rules?
DC. The way the race is going to work is simple. On race day, all you need to do is head out your door and run! It's up to you to decide what the course is going to be. When you finish, there will be a form on my blog where you record your finishing time. Results will be posted within 24 hours.
There are only two rules for this race. 1) You must be a Twitter user. (Sorry guys, there is a reason why it's called the Twitter Road Race) and 2) You must submit your time before 11:59PM Hawaiian Time (to accommodate runners in all time zones) on the day of the race to be classified as an official finisher.

Those that are interested in signing up can go here: Twitter Road Race

FL. Who’s going to win?
DC. Haha, no idea! Of course there will be an overall male and female winner, but this race isn't about who comes in first or who is the fastest. It's about bringing people together that share a common passion!

FL. How many people have enlisted so far?
DC. 231 and counting! A notable runner to mention what will be joining is Runner's World Chief Runner Officer, Bart Yasso!

FL. What’s your background?
DC. I started running in 2007 and have not looked back since. I'm a RRCA-Certified Running Coach and proud coach for my local running club. I've completed 25 marathons and 1 ultra, so I think it's safe to say I'm a fan of endurance racing. I primarily train and race on the road, but recently the trails have been calling my name.

So I don't know about you, but I know where I'll be on January 21st. I'll be virtually chasing Doug and a whole bunch of my running friends, racing my ass off on the treadmill, a large grin of my face and a whole bunch of bewildered gym folks looking at me sideways in confusion...


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Running From the Old Year and into the New

With the changing of the years, I felt the need to write something.  Right now, however, its hard to write anything without it turning into an excuse to merely bemoan my personal life rather than to celebrate running, as my life has been heavy on chaos and light on running these last few weeks.

Long story short: we've been in the process of buying a house for months.  We thought we were in the final stages, and were supposed to close around Thanksgiving, so we told our landlord we wouldn't be resigning our lease at the end of the year.  Since then, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, from the assessors losing paperwork to title companies not sending over all the documents to HPD, HUD, and the FHA all throwing their little governmental monkey-wrenches into the works.  Since last Tuesday, we've been effectively homeless, with our stuff in a U-Haul, our animals in kennels or scattered amongst friends, and the two of us and our kids staying with my very generous mother-in-law out in Connecticut.  Instead of ringing in the New Year in our own home, we rang it in unhoused and very, very stressed.
One of the ramifications of this all is that it has effectively killed off my running.  Looking back at my log, I hadn't run since the 2oth, as my weekends have been filled with packing, or moving, or just freaking out.  These few weeks have reminded me how important running is to me, but also how powerful and fast-acting the forces of entropy are; days of coffee, beer, and donuts beget more days of coffee, beer, and donuts, just as days of running beget more of the same.  Like begets like, and it is easy to follow a pattern towards its logical conclusion.  Of course, the positive implication of this is that once one has set up a pattern of health and exercise, it too forms a self-fulfilling prophecy of more health and fitness.  In many ways, this is the Buddhist concept of karma at its essence: the law of cause-and-effect, conditions ripening for a given situation to arise.
With the changing of the year, I've been harboring a lot of bitterness.  We were supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving in our new house; then we were definitely going to celebrate Christmas there; most recently, our agent and lawyer were reassuring us we'd certainly be welcoming in the New Year at our own place.  I've had a lot of expectations, a lot of hopes, a lot of future events that I'd been clinging to.  But that's another concept Buddhism warns against: clinging to expectations, forming attachments to the insubstantial things of this world as if they were of substance.  As if the future -- any future -- is certain.  What one has (what is already) is hard enough to hold on to, so trying to grasp what one does not have (what is not yet) is an exercise in futility and frustration.
With the changing of the year, I'm trying to remind myself to be grateful for what I have rather than be bitter for what I wish I had.  The fact is this process will end in our having a house.  The fact is I have a wonderful and supportive partner, and two amazingly beautiful kinds. We all are healthy and have the love and support of an amazing network of family and friends, both here in New York, across the continent, and scattered on-line.  And the fact is that all these blessings, too, can be transit, so I should appreciate what I have been given, and remind myself that, in the grand scheme of things, what we are suffering is minor.  Everything I love could be snatched away in an instant, by that same insubstantial, unknowable future that has thrown our housing plans into disarray.  Here in Connecticut, there was a house fire that killed a woman's three daughters as well as both her visiting parents on Christmas Day, leaving her alive but suddenly bereft of everything on life that mattered to her.  In light of her tragedy, what do I have to lament? In the face of such loss, how can I be anything but thankful for what I have?
M and I went for a short run yesterday, on the last day of 2011.  The sun was sinking a dull red against the horizon, and the weather was once again unseasonably warm.  It was the first time we had run together in months, if not a year -- we used to run together nearly every day before we had kids, but now we tag-team as we wait for them to be old enough to be left alone.  We only ran three miles, but it was good to run together, to move my legs and breathe in the crisp air and not think about all the things we have to do.  It reminded me I was healthy, that I have the strength and determination and freedom to run, that I live with a woman I love, a woman at whose side I've run a marathon (a woman who would like me, I'm sure, to point out that she crossed the finish line before I did).  We just ran for 15 minutes in one direction, then turned around and ran back home, but it was enough.  It was a reminder.  It was a small celebration.
With our lives in turmoil, I have no idea if I'll be running my ultra as planned next weekend.  But it doesn't matter -- if this race doesn't work out, I'll run another.  It will happen at the right time, just like our house.  One way or the other, I finished 2011 the same way I plan to begin 2012: with a run.

Originally posted on my blog, . . . when i talk about running