My 10 Favorite Trail Running Videos of 2012

These are the videos that have been emailed, passed around to friends, and shared on Facebook. At their worst, they have given me a short escape from the fluorescent day spent sitting behind a computer and have allowed my mind to drift to my next run. At their best, these videos evoke the excitement of being outside on the trails, the feelings of freedom, joy, pain, and ultimately connection to the land, and to everyone who shares this passion.

These are my ten favorite trail running videos of 2012, starting with the latest Salomon Running video and ending with a great message from Edward Abbey. I hope you enjoy the videos, and if I've missed any of your favorites, please list them in the comments below. I could use a short break.

Some Thoughts on Newtown

I picked my kids up from school on Friday, because I just needed to be with them, to hug them and be grateful for them. I felt selfish Friday night as we watched A Christmas Carol, fire burning, Christmas tree lit, all snuggled together on the couch. My son's laugh was contagious. I smiled every time I heard it. It's genuine and innocent, the laugh of a kid that didn't have to worry about whatever was being reported on the news that night. My daughter, who is younger, snuggled up next to me in her fuzzy felt pajamas and purple robe that somehow makes her hugs even warmer. She is generous with her affection, doling out hugs and kisses and "I love yous" as if she has an infinite supply. The dog, curled up on my son’s lap, snored softly.

We didn't watch the news, and I didn't read the articles about the shooting, shielding myself from the heartbreaking details. I still don't know exactly what happened, and I have a hard time even saying the name of the school or the town. I have seen pictures and names of the children online, and I listened to President Obama read the children's names and with each one read, my heart broke a little more.

It was raining this morning when I dropped my daughter off at middle school. After she quickly glanced around to make sure no one was looking, she let me give her a kiss on the cheek, and when she opened the trunk and lifted her backpack that seems to get heavier with each passing day, she waved at me through the back window. She walked away as I sat in my car and watched her through my mirror, waiting there and looking even after she turned the corner. The older she gets, the harder it is to let her go. I can feel her pulling away as I try to hug her tight, and I am starting to feel the distance as I try to navigate the twists and turns of being a father to a young woman.

I haven't been able to feel better. I usually turn to running in times like these, in the way that others turn to prayer, as a path to comfort and to make the pain less, but I don't think we should feel comfort after what has happened. Maybe change, whether a change in gun laws, better relationships with our friends, with our neighbors, with our kids, or improved access to mental healthcare, will not come from a place of comfort. I didn't feel better after my run, and I didn't feel better after I prayed for comfort for the families of the victims, and I didn't feel better when I prayed for the safety of my children. I hope we don't forget the names and pictures of the children of Newtown. The change will come from those who can't move on, the change will come from the unhealed, because when something like this happens, maybe we aren't supposed to feel better.

The kids walking into the middle school this morning were wearing yellow and blue, the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary. My daughter wore bright blue pants and a bright yellow shirt (an old race shirt of my wife's...I think the brighter and yellower they are, the less the race directors have to pay for them). Watching her walk away on this sad, grey day, and seeing her brightness, her smile as she waved goodbye in our morning ritual, gave me just a little hope in what feels like a hopeless time.

Thanks for reading.

Support Your Local Running Store

When you walk into the Movin' Shoes in Encinitas you'll notice the obligatory "Stop Pre" poster, the signed posters from Meb and Adam Goucher, the yellow and fading newspaper clippings of local high school track and cross country stars, and if you look up, you'll see old pairs of shoes hanging off the ceiling, used shoes, worn out, retired after winning races, or used up after miles and miles of hard work.

When I started running, someone told me to go to Movin' Shoes in Encinitas. I had been buying the cheapest, most over-built shoes I could find in the bargain bin of local big chain sporting goods store. I was nervous going to Movin' Shoes because it was a real running store, and I didn't feel like a real runner. A guy named Jim helped me. He was a runner. He knew his stuff, but didn't talk down to me. He had me try on different shoes and had me run outside in them. He put me in a pair of Adidas (I think), and running in those shoes changed the way I felt about running.

Movin' Shoes celebrates its 35th anniversary today. How can Movin' Shoes, and other small, specialty running shops stay relevant in the days of smartphone apps that let you scan barcodes and find the cheapest online price of the item that you are holding in your hands? They care about running. They hire experienced and knowledgeable runners to work in their stores. They know running, and are passionate enough about it to clip out newspaper articles of local high school races and tack them up on their walls.

Our sport needs stores like these. We need a place to store the memories, share the stories, and just to hang out and talk about running. We need a place to send our friends who are just starting to catch the running bug, knowing that they will be in good hands, and that they will be put in the right shoe for them, not the right shoe for the bottom line, or the shoe with the latest gimmick. We need stores that reach out to the running community by organizing free group runs on the weekdays.We need running stores where the employees actually care about running and give up their Saturday mornings to organize a charity 5K, or give up their weekend mornings by acting as tour guides to the local trails.

I'm guilty of scouring the Internet to save a few dollars on new shoes, of hitting up the daily deal sites and buying discounted gift cards for online running stores, but I'm going to make a change this year. While I'm sure that there will still be some online deals that will just be too good to pass up, I'm going to try harder to support the local running store, the store that put me in my first pair of real running shoes, and the store that I sent my mom to when she decided to run a half marathon, because our sport needs these stores to stick around.

Last weekend my daughter and I ran a 5K, hosted by Movin' Shoes, a fundraiser for a young woman with cancer, organized by Mick, a track coach at UCSD. They opened the store early, and I brought my daughter to the store. We were the first ones there and as I sat surrounded by the history of San Diego running, Carl, the owner told my daughter stories about the old shoes hanging from the ceiling, giving a short history of the races and the trails that they had tread, talking about them fondly, and you could almost see the trails and the track, hear the cheers and sharp breaths, and this passion for running is why Movin' Shoes has lasted 35 years and I hope will last another 35. We need these local running stores to survive because they treat our sport with reverence, knowing what every runner that has ever puked on the trail, or collapsed on the finish line knows, that this sport is so much more than just a hobby.

Thanks for reading.

Sharlie on Endurance and Overcoming Limitations

I was recently asked if I knew of anyone who would be interested in speaking at The Hammer Festival, an endurance sports gala in San Diego. I immediately thought of my sister, Sharlie
Her story is one of struggle, tenacity and of overcoming challenges. While we, as endurance athletes are able to choose our challenges, Sharlie, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis, had her struggle forced upon her. And, even though our struggles and obstacles are different, Sharlie and I, and everyone who participates in endurance sports, share that universal joy and sense of accomplishment as we cross our own finish lines after months of training and preparation. 
Sharlie's attitude and the way that she handles every challenge has inspired me and keeps me motivated every day. She motivates me to overcome my own comparatively small challenges, to keep training, and to keep pushing my own perceived limits. 
The speech she gave on Friday night really touched me, and I have included it below. I hope you enjoy it. 

Me and Sharlie after the Lost Boys 50 Miler

Nine months ago I was surrounded by my family and my dearest friends, while I sat on a gurney waiting to be wheeled into the operating room at Stanford Hospital. I had been on a waiting list for five months and the call had finally come, I was going to get new lungs and a new heart.

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, which is a terminal, genetic, lung disease that causes life threatening infections and permanent lung damage. Over the years my lung function had deteriorated to a dangerously low percentage. I needed a double lung and heart transplant to survive.

The first time I realized I was different than other kids, I was doing something that many of you love to do (or you don’t love it but you do it anyway!) I was running. My first grade class was at PE and we were running around the track. I was having a hard time keeping up with my friends, but was determined not to fall behind, so I pushed myself to go harder and run faster. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor in my classroom with my legs up on a chair and my worried mother looking over me. I had fainted on the track. My lungs could not keep up and my body couldn't get enough oxygen. That was when my mom explained to me that I had Cystic Fibrosis a little bit about what that meant. She told me to be careful and listen to my body so I wouldn't hurt myself. And, of course she said that this meant I was extra special!

I’m not sure if it is because of that specific experience, or just because I have been so physically limited throughout my life, that I've always yearned to be an athlete. Not necessarily a professional athlete but I just wanted to be able to use my body and feel a freedom I had never felt before. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a couch potato. I did what I could to strengthen my body. I found low impact exercises I could do and fell in love with yoga. I would turn up my oxygen all the way and walk on the treadmill but didn't know if I was doing more harm than good as my head pounded, my fingers turned blue, and I ferociously sucked in air. Leading up to my transplant, it was difficult to even talk, let alone exercise.

When my brother started running and started writing about his experiences on his blog, I was incredibly inspired. I devoured every blog post and would visualize myself running the trails with him as I read. I clearly remember giving him one last hug before the surgical nurses came to prep me for my transplant. I knew in reality I could be saying goodbye for the last time but I was filled with hope and truly believed I would experience a miracle. As I gave Dax a final squeeze, I whispered to him, “I love you, I’ll see you on the trails.”

A month ago that dream was fulfilled. Dax asked me to run the Lake Hodges 5K trail run with him. It was super hard. After months in the hospital, my muscles had completely atrophied and I am still getting used to being able to take a deep breath and use my body. I was unsure of myself but as I ran alongside my brother and my husband, two of my heroes, I thought about where I had come from and how the experiences I had dreamed of having and had visualized when the journey seemed hopeless were actually happening. I also thought about my donor, someone who had decided that if anything should ever happen to them, they wanted to give the gift of life to someone else. Such a selfless gift. It was an amazing race and I was so overcome with gratitude and joy. I can tell you, it’s harder to run when you’re crying! They were happy tears. Even though I was one of the last to finish, Paul Jesse, the race organizer surprised me at the award ceremony with such kind, encouraging words and a very generous gift card to get some new running gear and a subscription to Trail Runner. It felt like I won first place!

Sharlie finishing the Lake Hodges 5K

I am so grateful to be here tonight. I am so inspired by this community of endurance athletes. Living with Cystic Fibrosis has given me a unique perspective. I do not take life or even one breath for granted. I have faced death many times and know how blessed I am to be here. I think athletes share this unique perspective. You push and thrive and dream and conquer, you are grateful and most importantly, you give back. When I was first accepted for Transplant, the first thing they told me to do was start fundraising. They said my medical costs could reach up to a million dollars. Dax set up a fundraising page for me and reached out to this community and we were incredibly humbled by the generous support we received from so many of you. I have come to learn that that is just who you are and what you do. I am so grateful the funds raised tonight will go to the CF Foundation and will be used to find a cure for this relentless disease.

As a beginner athlete, I’m most likely never going to be at the elite level that you all are. However, living with 15% lung function and surviving and recovering from a double lung, heart transplant has taught me a little bit about endurance and now instead of spending hours a day on my bed doing breathing treatments, respiratory therapy and running I.V.s, I am trying to follow in your footsteps. I know you also know about endurance, I know you have all experienced the feeling of thinking you cannot take one more step or pedal one more time or swim one more stroke but you dug deep and you did. That is what endurance is and I have learned it is the most painful and sweetest experience at the same time. Thank you for inspiring me. I am learning how good it feels to drip sweat, and how delicious sore muscles feel. I promise to continue to push myself and honor these new organs of mine. I also promise to follow your lead and give back. I have a lot to pay forward! On behalf of the CF community I thank you for your generosity tonight. It means the world to us. We have a saying that we hope one day CF will stand for CURE FOUND!! Thank you for helping us get closer to realizing that dream! God Bless.

To become an organ donor, please visit
To learn more about Cystic Fibrosis and become involved, please visit

Crest Canyon and the Joys of Urban Trail Running

Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have, and when you're making do with what you have, you realize that you have a hell of a lot. That's how I was feeling for most of the day yesterday as I revisited one of my first and favorite urban trail runs.

While I envy people who live in trail-running meccas like Boulder, Bend, or Park City, and I occasionally catch myself drooling over pictures of miles of uncrowded singletrack trails that can be found within walking distance of the front door of the inhabitants of these cities, I do, however, immensely enjoy the challenge of stringing together trails in an urban environment. It's fun to solve the puzzle of how to join sections of trails together in a logical way to make a loop with the least amount of pavement. It involves getting to know an area really well, getting lost on the trails, and lots of time tinkering and testing the magnification settings on Google Maps, trying to determine if that squiggly line is indeed a runnable trail, or a dead-end path leading to the den of a local pack of coyotes.

When I was training for my first marathon a few years ago, I lived next door to Paul Thomas, who was an amazing runner and world-class duathlete, and I would pick his brain about running every chance I could get. He encouraged me to get out on trails and introduced me to some of the trails around our neighborhood, trails that I run nearly every day. One day I asked Paul what his favorite local trail was, and he told me that any time one of his old running friends came out to visit, he would take them to Crest Canyon. I asked for more details. Paul gave me a starting point and a cryptic description of a loop that crossed some streets, went along some train tracks and a cliff, but mostly he encouraged me to just get out there and explore.

I started going out to Crest Canyon in Del Mar for my weekend long runs. I got lost a few times, found some beautiful trails, mixed in some connectors on the road and incorporated one of my favorite spots in the world, Torrey Pines State Park. It was so much more enjoyable than running up and down the long, straight (but also beautiful) Coast Highway. My current Crest Canyon loop is about 12 miles and I included some details below, but if you want to do the run, just get out there and explore, string some of your own trails together, or get lost and find new routes. It's part of the challenge and most of the fun.

I park at Roberto's on Carmel Valley Rd. because burritos are good. I head toward the coast, then turn right onto Del Mar Scenic Rd. The first trailhead is at the end of the hill. This trail will lead you to Del Mar Heights Rd. Cross Del Mar Heights and connect to the Crest Canyon trail. This will lead you to San Dieguito Dr. where you turn left, cross Jimmy Durante Blvd, and run west along the Del mar Riverpath until you hit the Coast Highway. Turn left and head towards 15th St. park. Run through the playground and take the trail that follows the railroad tracks on the cliff. From here, I run up the inside grade of Torrey Pines, do the short, but beautiful Guy Fleming trail loop, then down the beach trail to the beach, north on the beach, then under the bridge, through the Torrey Pines parking lot, and then let the sweet smell of breakfast burritos lead you back to Roberto's.

15th Street Park

Along the tracks in Del Mar

This is a great trail, but (wait for it...) it gets congested.

Ended the day at the Torrey Pines Gliderport with some friends in bright yellow shirts

Thanks for reading.

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