Sunday, February 2, 2014

One Night in the Tank - Dipping My Toenail in the Psychedelic Experience

We have been to the moon, 
we have charted the depths of the ocean, 
and the heart of the atom, 
but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves, 
because that is where we sense all the contradictions flow together.
-Terence McKenna

About a week ago, I took my first float down a cosmic ocean whose headwaters look like a 1000 lb  Easy Bake OvenTM or a lunar escape module. They're called many things-- flotation tanks or sensory deprivation chambers, but the idea is simple-- that by spending time alone, floating in a womb-like chamber of of lukewarm saltwater, in complete darkness, deafness, and stillness, on a cold winter Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, one might come to a radical encounter with themselves, the present moment, the frailty of their beating heart, the meaning of eternity, and the scale of the universe. It could literally drive you crazy if you weren't already. 

Gravity Spa in Dayton has a cool thing going on.
My brother-in-law was sweet enough to let me tag along to his annual birthday ritual. Otherwise, I don't know that I would have ever gone alone. I certainly never would have found it in the eastern suburbs of Dayton. I could see why maybe he just wanted a bit of quiet time away from his kids for a few hours. Because it delivers on that, no question. Any galactic spelunking or insights from the great cosmic alien Mind is just icing on his cake. It's also reputed to be a sober trip into the psychedelic experience, which I know nothing about.

Maybe I'm pandering here-- trying to justify to my 'merican mind why spending $50 to take a cold bath is a Pareto-efficient investment of a tax refund toward preventative medicine. In fact, for me, it really was great muscle recovery. It was a fantastic stress relief. (Until it wasn't, at about the 84th minute, when my chaffed scrotum felt the volcanic burn of epsom salt and I needed to scratch my eye lid). It brought me a great camaraderie with my bro-in-law-- sipping tea, high-fiving, burrito-munching, exchanging notes, debriefing about how my anticipated roller-coaster rocket shipping of the mind was more like bumper car traffic jamming.  Maybe the exercise was practical. Maybe it wasn't.

One of the spin-off insights the tank delivered was about the limited scope of our awareness and the power of our filters. I can see how the mind is like a Magic 8 Ball. Our immediate awareness capturing just a tiny sliver of ALL that's actually going on in our mind, let alone the world around us. If you've ever played with one, you know that inside the plastic ball, there is a small, buoyant icosahedron with affirmative, negative, neutral, or maddening phrases etched in the face of one of its 20 sides.
At some periods of my life, I could have sworn that inside the plastic sphere of my head was a polyhedroid with just one or two phrases that read something to the effect of "SIGNS POINT TO SHITTY" or "SAME SHIT DIFFERENT DAY" or "YOU SUCK!" And you feel as good as dead, despite a lovely wife and a good job. 

When this is what happens, IF you're really lucky, you will have an absolutely magical moment IF you can take that magic 8 ball and smash it against the wall and watch the blue dye ooze out and the plastic innards hit the floor. This is kicking the Man in the dick. It's blessed.

In Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, he tells the following story: "Someone once asked the Spartan king Leonidas to identify the supreme warrior virtue from which all others flowed. He replied: Contempt for death." As a modern rendition, I would substitute Leonidis's supreme warrior virtue with contempt for big hairy BS. 

Dysfunctional magic 8 ball minds, with their stuck-in-a-rut-ness, qualify as a big hairy BS. They are not to be believed, in their limited awareness. They are to be smashed. If they cannot be smashed, perhaps they are best left on the floor and ignored like an age-inappropriate toy.

When I was in the seminary, I would "meditate" 1.5 to 4.5 hours per day. It sucked. I had the same frustrations through my 20s. I was trapped in the same old awarenesses and same old filters. I know a great many meditation teachers would disagree with me here, but I credit the physical act of running-through-the-woods-meditation with saving my life. Running, they will say, is NOT meditating. But this is a big hairy BS. This is something to kick in the dick. If it's worth its metaphysical muscle, it will not smash to pieces, but may become accessible once I grow up a bit more.

You have to take seriously the notion that understanding the universe is your responsibility, 
because the only understanding of the universe that will be useful to you 
is your own understanding. 
- Terence McKenna

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 - To Be or Not to Be... the Baddest Mother F-er

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. 
If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. 
If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. 
If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. 
If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

 Neal Stephenson (via Neeraj G.) 

It was this time last year that the end of the world happened. Or whatever the Mayan calendar makers had figured out. But Earth's galactic crossing hasn't really differentiated 2013 too much from 2012, at least for me and my mortgage. So, here I am, barely a few years beyond the honeymoon period, in what I'll call Normal Time. This is perhaps the inevitable stage in the life cycle of a blog (a boy) where the infatuation with (and mere modest gains in) becoming a bad mother-F-er (or professional triathlete or musician or entrepreneur or whatever dream you hold sacred) slowly give way to the first cracks of middle-agedness.

But without the cracks, how else would the light, seeds, and air get in?

It'd be great of my dreams if, instead of balding, they merely greyed themselves into maturity like some kind of George Clooney handsomeness cocoon. Then, when I emerged covered in mucus, instead of obsessing about kicking The Man in the dick or the mediocrity of my running skills, maybe I'd repurpose my feet into Riverdancing or finally learn to love and forgive. Then again, maybe I'd emerge from the cocoon with fangs and a vampire thirst for vengeance.

Transformation is risky business. Regardless, the calendar rollover to 2014 provides me with a welcome opportunity to take stock of the year's highs and lows. I'm especially excited to renew my commitment to own and enjoy the process, since the end products may or may not ever come and are never really ours anyway. For instance, in 2013, I never ran 5 miles barefoot in the snow like I had hoped and trained for, but I spent a lot of time in the snow and didn't let winter weigh my soul down. I never achieved my 30 pull-ups goal, but my upper body didn't completely atrophy into Ethiopian spindles and I did manage 25 decent ones. I didn't watch five sunsets or sunrises. I didn't eat a big ass salad but one day a week, let alone every day. I didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon. I did, however, spend a lot of time in my garden, met a ton of really cool people, saw the most beautiful places I've ever been, watched a few sunsets with nieces and nephews, and ran a bunch of miles that were faster, farther, more enjoyable than I've ever experienced. It was a mega-wonderful year by almost all measurements. So, I suppose gratitude is where I'd like to begin. But after gratitude, it gets more complicated.

As I try to craft how 2014 might go, I recall one of my favorite podcasts this year of Rich Roll's interview with Dr. Jeff Spencer about the so-called Champions Blueprint. Step one of all champions' grand plans, whether they be gold medalists, Grammy winners, or millionaires, is to begin at the end-- of not just their careers, but their lives, where they define what they hope to see in the rearview mirror. First, they define their legacy. This demands that they do their homework-- to ask and to ask again - what's it all for? To win the championships? To get the peer reviews? To amass the baptisms? But what's all THAT for?! What will be left once the trophies tarnish?

"Ten" by Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada
To be honest, I'm having a hard time committing to paper what I want as the specifics of the 200 Year Dwyer Legacy. I'm having no Ah-ha! That's the birthday cake I wanna make! breakthroughs. Instead, I think I'm only finding clarity around the sort of basic ingredients I know I want involved. My wife, Susie, and I have been working on this activity book together called "Ten", where we make lists of what motivates us, what our dreams and goals are, what our talents, resources, and unique contributions might be. One of the activities is to make a "Ta-Da" list. Unlike a traditional "To Do" list a "Ta-Da" list is... inspiring and magical list of reminders about what you strive to include in each day of your life, no matter what, no matter what, no matter what.

Here are some examples of a Ta-Da list:
Did I wake up and greet the day?
Did I celebrate just being alive?
Did I read something interesting today?
Did I find at least one piece of good news?
Did I learn something new?
Did I change something for the better?
Did I think about my future?
Did I stop to thank someone?
Did I put something-- even just a dollar-- in savings?
Did I find something to make me laugh?
Did I make someone else laugh?
Did I help or reach out to someone?
Did I forgive someone (maybe even myself)?
Did I do something sacred (pray, meditate, visit the sick)?
Did I stand up for someone or something?
Did I do something ridiculous or fun?
Did I tell my loved one(s) how much I appreciate them?
Did I treat my body well?
Did I write down at least one new idea?
Did I take a chance on something?
Did I count my blessings?

Imagine how good you'll feel if you can say "Ta-da!" to these kinds of questions at the end of each day.

This list, no matter how true and beautiful, is also somewhat trite and intimidating-- almost imposing--
Hey, were you a living saint today? It begs a more pressing question, What might the Ta-Da list look like of someone who truly is a bad mother-F-er? Below is my first crack at what I think their list might be, whether they are a young boy or old woman. It's pretty much universal.

Did I get grounded as hell today, maybe walk/run around barefoot or in kung-fu slippers?
Did I get hydrated as h-e-double hockey sticks?
Did I prepare myself thoroughly to F those mother-F-ers up?
Did I let the big hairy BS wash past me?
Did I choose the "red pill" (as opposed to staying plugged into the Matrix)?
Did I F with their minds/paradigms/dogmas/addictions/commercials?
Did I stand tall and do WTF needed to be done for the ones I love?
Did I face the fear/F-er?
Did I stand in awe at some cool science schizer?
Did I let the universe blow my F-ing mind?
Did I move/sweat/dance my balls off?
Did I embrace my Womyn/partner and play with my cats/dogs/alligators/kids?
Did I thank myself for being my own guru but also bow to my senseis?
Did I visit my compost?
Did I befriend/recruit/uplift/study/surround myself with bad mother-F-ers?

"We use the buddy system. No more flying solo."
Bad mother F-er aspirations aside, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling haunted by some kind of residual Mayan end-of-the-ages drama. I'm mortally wounded by the state of the world and especially the Japanese nuclear disaster and cover-up at Fukushima. A sobering cloud of nuclear fallout hangs over me and I don't see it going away for a couple million years. It's not like we, as a society, are accidentally over-reacting to nuclear fallout and the annihilation of the ocean and inappropriately over-loving each other. We're just sort of watching it happen like, "Ho hum, well... that's just the system doing what it's programmed to do-- delivering paybacks to the investors."  

I know we're supposed to "live in the moment" and all, and that "we're not guaranteed a tomorrow", and cliches like that. But somehow it resonates deeper and truer when you say, "live like you'll die by the third Tuesday of the month." That calls for a completely different agenda. So when one of my senseis, Guy McPherson, estimates that enough planetary self-reinforcing feedback loops have been kicked into action such that climate collapse and near term human extinction is "likely by 2030", that kind of specificity changes how I piece together my 2014 goals. Pull-ups and yoga goals are either irrelevant or, more likely, more relevant than ever. 

Sure, the end of the world (death) is inescapable for all of us. I get that mentally. But to even consider the non-zero possibility that we've only got 15 or so years before this ball we call Earth drops to shit-- that hits me emotionally-- motivationally. Perhaps that's the genius of religious eschatology-- Doomsday is always just around the corner, so we better shape up. 

Maybe the trick here, in the spirit of "Antifragile" author (and bad mother F-er) Nassim Taleb is not to tinker with the decimal points of probabilities of disasters, as if assets will only be risked against the most probable or foreseeable of them. The trick, instead, is to assume ALL assets WILL be exposed to disaster (black swan events) and to ask myself if my assets are even worth saving. And if they are, are they prepared to not only endure disaster, but be improved by it. I hereby devout 2014 to the task of better asset management.

Am I living like a fragilista materialist scumbag? 
Am I on the spiritual path to becoming a bad mother F-er? 

What's in your wallet?
I have to give a special shout out to the RawBrahs for their challenge to own less than 100 things. It speaks to me as the first step in an essential and ongoing distillation process of what's important. 

After that, my hope is that: 
1) Things around here get less thing-y.
2) I have less stuff to stress about. 
3) But the stuff I have is more sacred and better taken care of. 
4) Relationships become what matter most. 
5) And mental, physical, and spiritual health reign supreme. 

1) learn to play a few Jack Johnson songs on the guitar,
2) resurrected my garage from the abyss-- make it habitable,
3) run around Lake Tahoe,
4) have sex in an orange grove,
5) go gluten free,
6) go on a huge gluten binge,
7) produce a few podcast episodes,
8) qualify for Boston (for real)
9) ride my bike (or run) from Cleveland to Cincinnati
10) get more real tattoos than imaginary ones.

And now it's out there.
Happy New Year, everyone! 
I love you.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beauty is in the Eye of the Glove Holder

 The ugly days ARE the beautiful days.

Slightly bored this Saturday morning of mini-taper, I made a monster smoothie, sold some crapola on Craigslist, and made a special drive to get a pair of running glove for tomorrow's 16 mile trail race, The Stone Steps 50k/27k. Traditionally, I've never made a big deal out of gloves, certainly never buying any. Gloves are, after all, like umbrellas and pens, karmically arriving when and where you need them via the great cosmic river.
Unfortunately, they also disappear just as quickly, so now, I'm left with just a bunch of left-handed garden gloves. All of a sudden, we've gone from summer to winter in Cincinnati, which means my only shot at staying sane through the cold dark days is by playing dress up like Michael Jackson and/or by trail running. And the only way to do that is to really embrace the ugly days (which are many). And the only way to do that is with proper running gear. And the only way to do that is by cashing in my gift certificate-- YAY-- free gloves! 

Thanks for the gift certificate, Teresa.
By some quick napkin math, I figured my glove trip wasted about 1/5 of a gallon of gas, which is ~20,000 BTU of fossil fuel, which is equivalent to about 5000 food calories (kcal), or about 1.5 days' worth of food. Had I run the four mile round trip to the running store, I would have burned not even 300 calories (~3 bananas' worth). So, I was feeling a little guilty about pushing a 2000 pound car filled with junk up a hill to a place I could have easily run or ridden. Then I felt guilty about making the common mistake of discussing energy in terms of over-simplified equivalences-- as if double A batteries can be compared to raspberries can be compared to gasoline can be compared to Fukushima nuclear power.

To assuage my guilt, I decided I needed to know how much energy I'd be saving over the life of the gloves, which the store clerk assured me would be at least three years, if I could stay clear of the karmic river serpent's thievery.

I figured that by wearing gloves, I will retain the metabolic and mechanical "waste" heat that would otherwise be lost from my hands to the surrounding air, having to be fueled by eating unnecessary extra calories. (But I always reserve the right to eat extra calories).

I estimate my whole body is about 2 square meters of surface area from which I could lose heat. Since I eat about 4000 kcal per day, that's about 16,000 kJoules of energy given off per day as "waste heat".
Since one day is ~80,000 sec,
Energy lost to surroundings = 16,000 kJoules/80,000 Sec = 200 J/s = 200 Watts

I also estimate that each hand is about 100 square centimeters of surface area. So hands are about 1% of my total body's surface area.

Thus, energy lost through my hands = 200 Watts/body x 1% of body = 20 Watts ...or ~10 Watts per hand!! That's kinda cool to think about-- each hand being heated by a 10 watt light bulb like you might find in my dining room's chandelier. 

So, how much energy am I saving by wearing 200 square centimeters of fabric with about R-2 quality insulation (an attic has about R-30)? Can we say 10 watts per hand? So, if I'm running 10 hours per week through the winter, that's
20 Watts x 10 hrs/wk = 0.2 kilowatt-hours per week = ~700 BTUs per week.

Since I used ~20,000 BTU during my car trip to get the gloves, to save the energy it cost me to get the gloves, it would take
20,000 BTU/700 BTU/wk = ~28 weeks.

As long the new gloves hold up for at least 28 weeks, I may not go to hell for destroying the planet. But the more I ponder the question, and the errors of my ways, the more distracted by the thought of calories, I get.  
Mmmmmm, calories.

The bottom line is that with a few algebraic manipulations, some plugging and chugging, I now have some sweet gloves that will go well with my zebra pants for the race tomorrow. The result will be a comfortable, enjoyable run. So here's to keeping the nerves in the hands from popsiclizing and keeping the nerves in my brain in cosmic happyland.

New gloves make me feel like this while running with my friends through the woods.

In the whole history of the world no one in zebra pants has ever had a bad day, unless they also forgot their gloves.

Race report to follow...maybe. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crappy Run Form - Uncrapified

Practice makes permanent. 

This year's Burning River 100 marked my first 100 mile ultrarun, and therefore my first 100 miler recovery phase. In some ways recovery has occurred surprisingly fast, but in other ways not nearly fast enough. While on a quest to crack the sub-3:00 marathon barrier this fall, my plans have been temporarily reoriented toward a more noble long term goal-- health.  

The BR100 race day photographer captured a telling moment of that day that hints at why certain body parts still hurt six weeks later. Forty miles into the race, the outside of my knee was writhing in pain, approximately where my IT band attaches at the outside of the fattest part of the knee. I thought for sure my race would end prematurely but I started popping ibuprofen at mile 50 against my better judgements. I felt terribly conflicted about the whole sacrificing-health-for-performance thing, but I went on to finish the race on ~12 x 200 mg vitamin I (advil) in 21:17, with only a few regrets and lessons learned.
My left leg went rogue by mile 40. (Steven Pierce Photography)
Two weeks after the race, I attempted my first run, at low intensity, of course. For the next several weeks, I logged no more than 20 miles per week, with my longest runs not exceeding six miles. That's where my left knee started to whisper the same obscenities that it had shouted at me on race day. So, even though I wanted to go longer, I erred on the side of shutting my runs down early.

It seems obvious, only now, that I had let some mechanical bad habits creep in over the course of the year, likely compounded by compensations for other neglected issues, maybe less obvious than the wonky left foot. I made an appointment to see my physical therapist buddy Eric Oliver at Beyond Exercise. I can't say enough good things about his ability to step back, listen, see the big picture, and then advise.

Eric found all kinds of stuff wrong with me, from my ankles (soccer injuries), to my calves (cycling injuries), to my knee, IT band, quads, glutes, hip flexors, and even scapula. On my first visit, he red-lighted my fall marathon bid and told me I need to REST, heal, and then rebuild my body from the ground up. At this point, there is a temptation to pop the proverbial advil, ignore him, and push through the aches and pains. But I'm really trying to be on board with his plan for a more long-term approach to performance and a better, healthier, balanced body.

I took another two weeks off completely, and showed drastic improvement-- reduced inflammation and soreness, especially. But also a resurrected desire to go hit the trails with reckless abandon. On my second visit, Eric assessed my run mechanics on his treadmill and I'll share his evaluations below.

The primary observations that I noticed are: 
1. You exhibit inconsistency with your foot striking—you waffle between a midfoot and rearfoot striker, as exhibited in the two different initial contact images (1a and 1b). The hip, trunk, and knee angles during initial contact are good. 
2. Good alignment of body during the loading response and pre-swing phase. 
3. During the toe-off phase, your leading leg does not show the optimal knee angulation. There should be more knee bend. This knee bend will shorten the lever arm of your leg and thus allow you to swing it forward more easily. Additionally, more knee bend will better set you up for a midfoot strike. 
4. At the speed you’re running, there should be more knee bend at the mid-swing phase. Again, this shortens your lever arm which will both conserve your energy and set you up for a mid-foot strike. 
5. All your other joint measurements are within a good range. 
6. The rear view shows your “wacky” left leg and foot position as you begin your swing phase. The difference between your left and right foot is obvious, and I’m speculating that it is due to the way your left foot supinates at the end of your stance phase. Biomechanically, this may be due to your talocrural (ankle) joint laxity. There is so much joint play in the talocrural joint that when your foot strikes the ground in a supinated position (this is a normal motion) the ankle stays in supination because the “mortise” part of the talocrural joint is not tight enough to guide the foot back into a neutral and pronation position. 
          A. Your body may be just fine tolerating this for a certain amount of mileage per given run and weekly gross distance, but eventually there will be break-down of tissue as evidenced with your recurring left knee and foot pain. 
          B. Your outer ankle ligaments are either just too loose or partially non-existent, and some sort of external support may be necessary to support the ankle in promoting normal biomechanical movement. You will need a support with substantial “squeeze”, such as this one
          C. Single leg exercises that force you to pay attention to lower extremity control in an eccentric manner will help, but I’m not sure if it will be enough (ie. Bracing may still be necessary).

Eric then gave me about a dozen exercises to do plus a 45 minute stretching/foam rolling routine. That doesn't leave a whole lot of extra time for bad behavior of logging long miles, but that's OK-- it's almost fall and it's  been great to hang out with family and just be a little more devoted to lazy.

Happy healing!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Burning River. Burning Man.

Oh, you don't know The Man? [class shakes their heads] He's everywhere. In the White House, down the hall, MISS MULLINS... she's The Man. And The Man ruined the ozone, and he's burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! OK? And there used to be a way to stick it to The Man. It was called rock ‘n’ roll. But guess what. Oh, no. The Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool or pure or awesome, because The Man’s just going to call you a fat, washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just GIVE UP!!!
-Dewey, School of Rock


RACE REPORT - Burning River 100
What does running your first 100 miler through the Cuyahoga Forest feel like? It feels "pure and cool and awesome", like you and your kick-ass crew are making beautiful music on instruments that have been designed by 4 billion years of evolution, and are having sex, and head banging, and are kicking The Man square in the dick as he yells at you to just GIVE UP, but YOU DON'T, even though it hurts like heck because your feet have turned to bubble gum and blisters after running 12 hours in nonstop rain, and you come to the end of a 21 hour day of torture where some of your favorite people are waiting and cheering you on with cowbells, and you get to see how happy they are... to see you happy.. to see them watch you.. doing what you love. It might be the COOLEST feeling in the whole wide world. And to be DONE.

If you've ever been stuck in a traffic jam after a tough day at work, when your car's AC is broken, and your blood begins to boil, then you've felt the helplessness of spiraling toward confounded levels of epic constipation. At this moment, The Man certainly has his grip on your colon. But then you go on a trail run, and you realize that it gives you the exact opposite feeling. So you say to yourself, I should do more of this. Your wife echoes, "You need to do more of this." Then it begins to snowball, exponentially. You put an event on your calendar and hit the "Pay Now" button. Everything changes. 

Albert Einstein was once asked what the most powerful force in the world was. His answer was "compound interest"-- in other words, exponential growth-- where something grows (and doubles) at a fixed rate of time. Although it seems obvious that the bigger something is, the bigger it grows, one of the most common of human oversights is that exponential functions tend to sneak up and overwhelm us, whether they're bacterial growth on the surface of a pond, the consequences of interest bearing debt, or this time, the accumulation of miles beneath my feet. Somewhere along the line, they just kind of snuck into my life like a volcanic blister outbreak. To an outsider, the miles may have gotten out of hand ("Enough is enough"). But to me, the last couple of years of running have been one of the rare sacred spaces where I feel like I get to make beautiful music.

At some point in the training period, your friends, family, and colleagues inevitably question the sanity. "I just don't see the point," they say. They're not wrong to ask, "What does running 100 miles accomplish that running 50 didn't? Do you really need to double it? Is that why you're so skinny?" You struggle to muster the exact words for a defense that captures the positive feelings it gives you. These positive feelings, in fact, may be their lifeline too-- the only thing keeping them alive for asking such lousy questions.

Internally, I play out their logic, What does running 50 miles accomplish that running 26.2 didn't... that 13.1 didn't... that 10k didn't... that 5k didn't... that the trip to the mall didn't? How did this repeated doubling happen, and why? And is the mall The Man? (You're damn right!) In front of us both is piling up evidence of self-indulgence-- the yard is overgrown, social events and responsibilities skipped, superbowl stats ignored, internet browsing muscles atrophied.

In a moment of fatigue, an ugly temptation creeps in. The ego jumps at the opportunity to distance itself from the company of all others with a restraining order of exactly 100 miles, creating a "geography of purity". At the center of the geography of purity is, of course, pure meddlesome ego. Extending from the center are concentric circles-- barriers representing ever greater and denser levels of impurity. First the 100 milers, who are a select few. Then the 100 k-ers. Then the 50 milers. Then the marathoners...and so on, until you reach the farthest outskirts of ego-city-- where the masses of "untouchables" reside-- the so-called "washed up losers."

But if you could transcend the ego's pathetic ground game, you'd soon realize that the separation is an illusion. The ego is me AND he is the washed up loser AND he is everyone in-between AND everyone "left out"... of a place that really does not exist, anyway. The 100 miles of trail separating Cleveland from Akron, Ohio are actually helpful in exposing the sinister illusion of separation for what it is. Not many other experiences leave you feeling so broken and mortal and in need of bridges to others, for their company and their aid.

Looking peppy. Give it time. 

(not philosophically)

50 medjool dates soaked overnight and blended with water into 10 cups of "date-o-rade"
30 super ripe bananas blended with water into one gallon of "banana-mamma-jamma"
20 small canned potatoes (+ 10 to shove down your pants and forget about till bath time that night. )
10 half dixie cups of The Man-Cola
4 half cups of Heed (electrolyte)
10 Salt Stix pills
3 cups of Ramen noodles
1 handful of pretzels
3 gels
2 homemade energy "blue balls" (recipe available for purchase for $1zillion)
15 Advil (I'm not proud of this but it might have been less unhealthy than dropping out at mile 40 and having to start over)

The most important thing after food is a kick-ass crew, just like Oceans 11.

The Cuyahoga River used to be scary-- it caught on FIRE! Hence the name of the race-- Burning River 100.  Susie, my saintly/devilish woman, helped prepare me physically and mentally to face my fears. 
Behind every good man, there is a badass woman or two or three.
Why do they look so happy? Do they not know what they're about to do?
5AM Squire's Castle. It's GO time. 

Me (It's a Topper baby) and Franklin (half-nekked)  building bridges to awesomeness. We ran the first ~55 miles together, then did some yo-yo-ing back and forth before his belly did some yo-yo-ing. 
We've got a rainy day on our hands. All-damn-day!!!
Susie doesn't even look like she was up all night from the Tom Petty concert right outside our window the night before the race. "Crazy 'bout Elvis. Loves horses. And her boyfriend, toooooo."

At ~45 mi, my knee was throbbing and my stomach was doing hula hoops. I told Franklin that he looked so strong that it would be best if he went ahead without me. Shake and Bake was cooked. Then I discovered a powerful combination that worked a miracle on me-- two advil, two potatoes, and a cola. Voila! I'm back from the dead and would soon find myself running a few more aid stations with my dude. 

Lee Ann (Crew cheif extraordinaire and high priestess of trail running-- Part Michael Vick's pit bull, part Santa Claus), and Cincinnati favorites, Mike and Colleen, gearing up for pacing me through the second half of the race, and keeping me sane.

I'm soooo happy to see you right now, Pater.  You ready to rocky and roll? 
Literally, the rockiest section was about to strike. I spent days building the ultimate Enrique Iglesias playlist for the second half of this race...but I didn't resort to it even once. It wasn't necessary with the kind of company that I kept. Great people, my crew. 

What's this?! A special guest appearance straight from his monstrous 4th place finish at Badwater 2 weeks earlier-- Harvey Lewis, here to keep everyone entertained, as usual.
His advice-- "Stretch it out." 

Whoop there it is. Tag team back again. The four of us Cincinnatians, Me, Franklin, Colleen, and Pater, would soon bump into Kyle and Dave from Cincinnati as well. The forest almost started to smell like Skyline Chili behind us.

Colleen, keeping me focused. My mind keeps detaching from the moment.

Heck! I'm STILL smiling. 

My dad, and brother Matti D (made the trip from Cincinnai),  Lee Ann, and Levi (Franklin's son) got to spend a LOT of time together waiting for me and Franklin, and then cheering us on. Ultra-running is way more a team sport than is given credit for.  Crewing an ultra is the HARDEST thing in sports. I'm so grateful for their support.

Finally some sunshine! Susie was there to pace me at dusk through a really beautiful section of rolling hills. I was feeling VERY good and rode a wave of energy for a stretch of about 25 miles that I've never experienced before. It was like I was being controlled by the spirit of Ricky Bobby.

It's no Ironman finish line glam, but it's way more beautiful-- brother Matti, mom-in-law Nancy, dad-in-law Ben, and my dad standing in front of the finish line on a random street corner of Akron, Ohio, with a timing clock in the background. "Where the heck is Chris? He's way off pace. He must be hobbling on those blisters by now. I wouldn't be surprised if Lee Ann were carrying him on her shoulders."

Several other runners through the night tried to hitch their wagon to the gravy train was Lee Ann and Chris sloshing through the woods. Unanimously, they all said Lee Ann was the BEST pacer they'd ever seen, which she certainly is. She has a gift.
I was especially grateful when she fished me out of the creek that I fell into it at ~85.
I had the pleasure of pacing her for part of this race two years ago, which is where she planted the initial seed.
Matti D and Pater, serving as cruches, looking handsome at 2AM.
Even my emotions are worn out. Ouch! It hurts so good. 

A sloppy kiss, a belt buckle, and a clean bed are perks worth more than gold.
The biggest challenge of the day - blisters on the soles of both feet, each as wide as the my foot
The toe nails will live to fight another day.
Bruised and battered from kicking roots and rocks in the middle of the night.
Tired but content.