You're really going to hold onto that for the entire hike, I asked my boy. He gave me a shoulder shrug and the no big deal look. I never litter and I guess I have taught my kids not to litter, but I don't make a habit of picking up trash on the trail and I don't think I ever taught them to do it either. I asked him where he got the idea and he didn't know, so I said okay, but if you pick it up you have to carry it the entire way or until we run into a trash can. I knew from experience that my kids don't like to haul their own stuff, and when I walk them to school I usually end up carrying two backpacks stuffed with books, jackets, and a school-year's worth of accumulated junk/treasures. So, when the boy picked up the trash, I was impressed, but I assumed I would ultimately be carrying the empty juice box.

The hiking was slow, but that was the point. I usually don't have the patience to hike, but with my separated shoulder, I needed to back off the running for at least a week, so I would enlist a combination of my son, my daughter, and my dog to slow me down on the trails.

We talked about school and math problems. I tried to teach him how to add halves like one and a half plus one and a half, but I don't have the patience for that either. We saw a lot of funnel spider webs and spotted some hungry legs waiting patiently in the hole at the bottom of the funnel-shaped web. We saw two red-winged blackbirds, and I think we were both a little disappointed and relieved that we didn't see any rattlesnakes. I love hiking with him because, like most children, he notices the little things, the things right in front of his eyes.

When I run, I tend to go inside myself, even when I'm running through Zion National Park or the Grand Canyon, I have to remind myself to occasionally look up, to look around at the beauty and the vistas. Hiking helps with this, slowing down and appreciating where I am and where each step is landing. A couple of weeks ago during a run, I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake that was stretched out across the trail, seeing it at the last possible instant, and dodging what could have been a couple of fangs to the shin. If I were hiking, I would have seen it.

It's not a bad thing to go inside, to be alone with my thoughts on the trail. I usually come back from a run happier. Sometimes I will have come up with some good ideas for work, or a thought that needs to be expanded. But, it's nice to slow down once in awhile, to notice the things a seven year old would see, the beauty at my feet.

As we neared the end of our two hour hike, I noticed that my son was still hanging onto the empty, now crushed, juice box. I then watched as he worked his way down a small, rocky hill to pick up a discarded Jamba Juice cup. He carried both to the trash can at the head of the trail and dumped them. I don't know where he learned this, but it made me optimistic and proud. The hike was on Earth Day, but I don't think that's why he picked up the trash. I'm not sure he even knows what Earth Day is, but I do know that he has a respect for the land, probably more than I have, and he was willing to go beyond the "leave no trace" ethic, without being told or asked, and while I may just come across as a proud dad (which I certainly am), I am grateful for a generation that I hope will respect and value the Earth more than my generation and the previous generations have.

Oddly Shaped Lump

If this post wanders, contains grammatical and spelling errors, or is exceptionally good, I blame the hydrocodone. I was hoping for Oxycontin, but I guess they save that for people who are hurt really bad, like Rush Limbaugh.

I took a couple of days off after the Zion run. I went hiking with the family, ran into Ricky Gates in Zion Canyon, and made the eight hour drive home on Sunday in my compression gear. By Monday I was feeling recovered, or at least recovered enough for a short mountain bike ride to my mom's house to say hi and drop off a check. She lives about 5 miles from me by road or 2 miles by trail. It takes me about ten minutes to drive to her house, or about 10 minutes to bike (it's steep with three stream crossings, and I'm slow). However, they are doing construction on the road near her house and the wait time is about 30 minutes before the gatekeepers in orange let you drive through. So, I was actually doing the smart, logical thing by riding my mountain bike.

Smart and logical doesn't really describe the way I took the final descent. The county has been doing a lot of trail work around Elfin Forest and they have decided to create foot-high berms every 10-20 feet on the hills. I'm sure there is a purpose for these, some kind of anti-erosion technique, or some plan to ensure that all of my mercury fillings will soon need to be replaced with a less poisonous compound.

I bombed that last hill, like I always do on this trail that I've ridden at least 50 times, but this time I didn't see the berm towards the bottom, conveniently located after a corner, and camouflaged by shade. I hit it hard, shifting my weight back at the last minute and too late, feeling the back tire lift and bouncing and rolling on the front tire and then flying, flipping seeing my bike still attached to my feet with a backdrop of clear blue sky and then hitting the ground hard in two places, the back of my head and the back of my right shoulder. I couldn't breathe, but immediately popped up and strung together different variations of the F word, mixing it with mother and stupid and bike and county workers, then I started to black out, so I sat down to assess the situation and do the requisite body scan.

My ankles were fine, no bones sticking out of my legs, I lifted my arms and the left one was fine but there was a sharp pain in my right shoulder and when I felt around back there, I felt a bump that should not have been there, not the swollen bump of a bruise, but the solid lump of bone poking out, not through the skin, but pushing against it like a beautiful and fitting mountain bike jump between my neck and shoulder.

I slowly got up and was able to walk, then slowly ride the rest of the way to my mom's house, who used her well-honed persuasion skills to get us through the construction and to my wife who was waiting to take me to Urgent Care.

They took me in the back room and the nurse that was taking my vitals got queasy and couldn't look at the injury. She said she was originally going to be an x-ray tech, but couldn't handle the sight of bones not being in the proper place...she wouldn't have lasted long as an x-ray tech.

I had x-rays taken and was sent to the orthopedic doctor who told me that I had a Grade 3 AC shoulder separation (that's the bad kind). The clavicle attaches to the scapula via the acromioclavicular joint, or at least it used to. Mine no longer attaches, and it probably never will. He told me the bump where the clavicle sticks up is probably going to be permanent; it's cosmetic and once it heals it shouldn't interfere with much. He said the healing will be exquisitely painful, which I thought was pretty poetic for a doctor, and it could take up to two months before I am able to start rehab and physical therapy, and I should be in a sling up to six weeks. The ortho told me a lot of hockey players get this injury, and that I'm just a couple of missing teeth away from looking like a badass.

I'm the guy who asks the doctor for my x-rays "so I can post them on my blog."
Of course, all I could think about was running and what effect this injury was going to have on my training, and if I was going to be able to run the SD100. I pulled out of the PCT 50 on May 12th, and I'm hoping to do enough vertical hiking, one-armed bike riding on the trainer, and hopefully be able to run in a couple of weeks to be able to get myself in shape enough to at least attempt the 100 miler.

I was feeling depressed and sorry for myself until I re-watched this excellent video from Lisa Bliss talking about her solo and self-supported Badwater to Whitney Summit run. My friend and running partner Cory, who I ran Death Valley with, sent me this video before the Zion traverse for some motivation. The timing could not have been better. The name of her speech is called "No Failure in Trying," and I plan to watch it again as I try to get over this injury, as I try to run again, as I try to get my fitness back, and as I try to finish a 100 miler.

As far as injuries go, this one isn't too bad and there are so many people that have it worse than I do. Plus, the injury could have been much worse (thank God I was wearing a helmet, and that my spine and neck were spared). I don't respond well to sympathy, so if you would like to comment, I prefer the humorous route. Try to top Jess' Facebook message "chicks dig oddly shaped lumps." Or my sister's "I think this qualifies you for medical marijuana." Yes, yes it does.

Thanks for reading, and if you have a spare 20 minutes, this video is awesome.

Zion Traverse Trip Report

6:30 AM Start

Early Morning Singletrack
Two personalities captured perfectly

The crashing sound of falling rocks echoed down the narrow slot canyon and the three of us just stood there staring, trying to see beyond the fallen trees and past the sheer walls that stretched up for what seemed like hundreds of feet letting a narrow path of sun and sky through. We knew this couldn't be the right trail, and we had probably known for about an hour as the trail became a stream, then a wash, then boulders and fallen trees covered in snow and then tracks of large cats. We turned at that point. We weren't lost, we knew exactly how to get back to a known point of reference a long 5.5 miles back and 6.5 miles into the Zion Traverse route, but we didn't really know where we were, and the threat of a rockslide in a narrow canyon seemed like as good a point as any to re-trace our steps to a familiar reference point. We had ran, hiked, and scrambled 3 hours and 11 miles off course, and as we made our way back to the 6.5 mile marker where the La Verkin Creek trail becomes the Hop Valley Trail. The sign was there, clear as day, "Hop Valley Trailhead" with an arrow pointing up the hill. We had all missed it in the excitement of the early part of the traverse. Earlier that morning, I had pointed out a sign that read "Park Boundary 4.5 miles," and that should have been our first clue, our first sign to slow down, take a long look at the map and assess the situation. It's hard to do that on a run, it's hard to admit a mistake and the deeper and more compounded the mistake, the harder it gets to admit that we were on the wrong path, that we needed to turn and re-trace the hard-won trail miles.
Off track in the slot canyon
Not a trail
My mood turned, and not for the last time that day. I was upset at myself for not seeing the sign, upset that we had wasted three hours, pissed that quality weather was slipping away and that the clouds were rolling in, and that the forecasted snow would soon be falling.

I was ready to bail, head back to the start and either hitch a ride back to the cabin or call my wife and ask her to pick me up. I went through all the excuses in my head, the fact that there was no way now that we would finish the traverse before the heavy snow and darkness fell, the fact that I had been sick with a serious bout of the flu and bronchitis the week before our Zion trip and wasn't feeling 100%, the fact that I didn't sleep much the night before as I tossed and turned and thought of thunderstorms, lightning and getting caught in a blizzard. These were the thoughts, but I couldn't say them out loud, I could only tell Chris and Jess that I would run to the Grotto, it wouldn't be the traverse route that we had planned on, but it would be 49 miles through Zion and that was good enough for me. The fact that we had already gone 17 made it a little over a 50K to the Grotto, and I could handle that.

Hop Valley (photo courtesy Jess)
We ran through the vast Hop Valley pasture with strong winds in our faces and soft sand at our feet. This was the low point for me. Conditions would worsen, the temperature would drop and my fingers would go numb, but that wind and the sand and such a seemingly long way to go was tough on my spirit. As I was feeling sorry for myself, I thought of all the trip reports I had read, the report from Dakota Jones (who had crossed in beautiful weather the previous weekend), Karl Meltzer, Matt Hart, Andrew Skurka...they all make it sound so easy. Seemingly the hardest thing Dakota had to deal with was slowing down enough to enjoy a 3 Musketeers bar. But they are elite, and I am not. Then we began to climb.

Haggard? I was trying really hard to smile here.

On the elevation profile, this climb looks gradual, and lasts for about 20 miles, and is between 6,000 and 7,500 feet. We climbed up layers of sandstone and slickrock until we reached the Wildcat Canyon Trail, a rolling singletrack trail that weaved through the snow covered trees. At this point, large, dry snowflakes began to fall and we could see the destination, the giant sheer red and black water stained walls of Zion canyon.

We ran and hiked, Chris running ahead, then waiting as Jess and I caught up, then running some more, through the now muddy trail as the snow started falling harder, covering what must have been amazing views into the canyon with a thick white snow-fog. I struggled with footing, sliding around if I tried to run and slipping backward when I hiked uphill. I put my head down and focused on moving forward, ignoring the snow, and slipping in my headphones. For about three hours I listened to podcasts (a mix of running from Ultra Runner Podcast and Endurance Planet, comedy from Mark Marron and both from the 3 Non Joggers). It helped pass the time and take my mind off the conditions of the trail. We stopped to fill water at a natural spring on the West Rim Trail and I took my gloves off, dipping my bottle and my fingers into the icy spring. It would be another hour before I could feel them again.

This is before the snow storm came and I stowed the camera
After a long snowy stretch of a pretty flat trail that was quickly disappearing under a blanket of snow, we hit the descent, a 5 mile twisty and steep downhill that hugged the canyon wall with drops of hundreds of feet and sheer cliffs across the canyon perfectly placed for an echo. I found my running legs and smelled my self-imposed finish line and pushed to the end, slowing around the hairpin turns and the switchbacks that led to Angel's Landing, and sacrificing my knees to the concrete path at the bottom of the canyon. We crossed the bridge and jumped on the tourist bus that ran along that bottom of the canyon. The parents on the bus averted their eyes and the kids stared at our mud-covered shoes and legs and our haggard faces as I downed packets of babyfood in the form of pureed sweet potatoes, apples and mangoes. It was just another difficult, beautiful, and memorable day on the trail.

Final descent
As far as logistical and useful information goes, this post is pretty useless. If you want some useful information, head to Andrew Skurka's Zion National Park Traverse page. He has maps, a water table, elevation profile, and much less complaining.

Thanks for reading.

Excellent conditions for snowball fights, not the greatest conditions for a 50 mile run.


I spent last week in a haze of half sleep, burning 103 degree fever, sweatsoaked sheets, and 6-hour countdowns for the next little orange Advil pill. The hardest part of the week was the boredom and dull depression that slowly descended from not running, and the feeling that this sickness just wouldn't end.

I tried to run on Thursday, bundling up in a hat, gloves, a black long sleeve wool shirt, and shorts (I would have worn tights, but I don't have any). I ignored the accusatory looks from my wife as I set out shivering in the 75 degree heat and walked, jogged, hiked, and struggled through a tough couple of miles. I returned home defeated, coughing and tired. I decided to go see a doctor. She told me that I had the flu and secondary infections in the throat, sinuses, ears, and to top it off, bronchitis. She recommended antibiotics and I agreed, although I don’t like taking them because my antibodies are f’ing macho, but this sickness warranted some reinforcements.

The fog of sickness slowly lifted on Saturday and I ate some solid food off the taco cart at our neighborhood block party because I just like to jump in with both feet. My friend Chris sent a message Saturday night about meeting up for a run on Sunday morning, and while I didn't think I could join for the entire 2-3 hours he was planning on doing, I did think I could manage a slow 6 miler.

Saturday night I read that Search and Rescue had located Micah True (Caballo Blanco from Born to Run), deceased, in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, and as I woke up with a slight fever Sunday morning, sleeping through my alarm and missing Chris, I knew I had to get out to run anyway. My thoughts were with Caballo Blanco as I set out on my own, slowly, my legs remembering what it was like to move across trails and my feet feeling the sharp rocks through the soles of thin shoes, and my breath came fast and labored, rattling around in the top of my lungs. I thought this is probably what new runners feel like, sore knees and ankles, but unlike them, I knew the feeling that would soon come. I had lost some fitness, but not much. I chose a semi-flat route and was starting to feel good when I turned a corner and ran into Chris who joined me, forsaking the hilly route that I'm sure he preferred, and slowed to match my intentionally and necessarily slow pace. We talked about Zion, the traverse we would be sharing in a couple of short weeks, we talked about Caballo Blanco, we talked about running, Chris buying a house in the neighborhood, and the trails we have yet to explore. We hit the coffee shop, my intended stopping point and he continued on, and while my legs wanted to follow, my lungs said enough.

After meeting my family for breakfast and with the post-run energy coursing through my blood, I asked my daughter if she wanted to go on a hike with me. She has grown so fast and walking and talking with her now is like talking to a friend. We stopped to rest (more for me than for her) at the top of a climb and we looked down at a large hawk perched on top of a tree. We sat there, talking and waiting for the hawk to take off. The wind picked up and as Sophie asked me when the hawk was going to fly, it spread its huge brown and white wings and caught a breeze, floating up on the current, soft, effortless. We both stood there, amazed. I have never seen a hawk fly from above, and it was so beautiful. It banked against the side of the hill we were on, then wings spread wide, it soared directly over our heads, so close that I felt that if I jumped I might be able to touch it with the tips of my fingers. My daughter gasped and I just stood there, grateful for the moment and the opportunity to see this beautiful bird so close, so free, and floating in the wind.

Being sick for the week made me not only appreciate and miss the running, but also what running has given me, the amazing local running community, the appreciation of the trails and of being outside and able to witness such beauty.

I never met Caballo Blanco, or had a chance to run with him, but I was an admirer through the stories of other people. He was an inspiration to so many trail runners, a legend, and the thing about legends is that we all have a part in creating them, fleshing them out with ideals and ethics that we strive for. Caballo Blanco's love of the trail, his simple appreciation for nature and his selflessness and loyalty to the indigenous Raramuri people was an inspiration to me, and to so many others. There have been many things written about Caballo Blanco over the last few days by people who knew him and by people who were touched by him, and as his legend grows, because legends are immortal, I hope more will be inspired by him, and that the Raramuri will not be forgotten. Who knows what Caballo Blanco's last moments were like, but they were on the trail, and I like to think they were effortless, free, and soaring.

Caballo Blanco (Photo Courtesy of Denver Western Blogs)

Thanks for reading.
More about the Raramuri and how to help.
I enjoyed reading Ben's thoughts on Caballo Blanco.
Another nice memory.

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