Sunday, July 27, 2014

Top Ten Zen #4 Bound by the Past

We're still going strong with our Zen series! I'm pleased with the productivity, so let me showcase our continued work ethic to you now!

















Top Ten Zen

Andrew and Nick have compiled a list of Zen-like philosophies comprised firstly of a quote, an interpretation of said quote, and finally a story to drive their point home. This list can aid you in doing anything from completing a 100-mile race to surviving cancer, or obtaining any goal you set your mind to. 

Here are the previous posts for those who missed them:
  1. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
  2. Body follows mind
  3. The faster you hurry, the slower you go

A crash from the past

"You are not bound by your past."



The Survivor’s Take:  It’s easy to get caught up with the perceived failures of the past and all the pain that you’ve dealt with. But the past exists as a separate entity, it can only affect you if you let it.
The Runner’s Take:  Don’t let past races, past performances or past climbs and descents decide the outcome of your present race.

Survivor’s Tales:  In my attempts to rebuild my life after cancer I have tried multiple times to return to school, with only limited success. My first attempt ended in hospitalization caused by a series of events set in motion by a nasty car crash. After a year of recovery I started taking classes at University of California Riverside, only to have my ankle collapse in less than a month, forcing me to withdraw. I spent the next three years taking community college classes before I felt ready to face university again. UC San Diego accepted me and I managed to stay for a whole three weeks before I got a call I’d been waiting ten months for, confirmation of a knee transplant. Once again, I left. Despite being forced to withdraw three times from school, I am still working toward getting back into a four-year university. I refuse to let my fears of another problem bully me into quitting. I have no intentions of succumbing to those thoughts, because my past can only affect me if I let it.

Mountain Tales:  Around 31 miles into Ronda del Cims, I’d gained on 7th, 6th and 5th place. I’d even managed to squeeze my way into 4th at the top of a climb called Bony de la Pica. I used everything I had to stay ahead of 5th place while I could. I fought him off, but in the end he passed me while descending down to the 48 mile aid station. Along the descent, 6th place passed me back and 7th was closing in quickly. It felt like all the effort I’d spent was for nothing. I arrived at the aid station only seconds off from all three runners, who were now blazing on ahead. I felt hopeless. I thought for a moment that if they were able to pass me once, they’d just do it again and that I’d best just settle into 7th while I could. I didn’t accept that though, I couldn’t. Our positions were not determined by a single descent. I had the rest of the race to decide my outcome. I was in control. Within 20 miles, I’d caught them all again and passed them with ease. I charged on ahead carving my own outcome and race.
































A pass from the past


Of course, just because we are sharing our own extreme examples does not mean that these philosophies are all strictly for extreme situations. We share these because they can be used by anyone in the proper situations and we invite you, dear reader, to take these helpful tips into the world to use as you see fit. Feel free to hoard them or share them with others. It is both of our hope that these do some good somewhere, and so we wish you luck in your journey of a thousand Zen-filled steps.

Nick Hollon
Andrew Bundy

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Top Ten Zen #3 The Faster you Hurry, the Slower you go.


Continuing on with our Top Ten Zen list we have post #3 for you all this afternoon,

Top Ten Zen #3

Andrew and Nick have compiled a list of Zen-like philosophies comprised of a quote two personal interpretations and two stories. This list can aid you in doing anything from completing a 100-mile race to surviving cancer, or obtaining any goal you set your mind to. 

Here are our previous posts for those who missed them:
  1. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
  2. Body follows mind

The tortoise ascends
"The faster you hurry, the slower you go."



The Survivor’s Take: Patience is one of the most important factors when it comes to recovery. Pushing yourself too hard can make things worse, and what at first appears to be a big step forward might end up actually being several steps back.
The Runner’s Take: In endurance sports, it’s easy to get caught up in the competition and let things like nutrition and form fall to the wayside. Don’t let them. Even if it means sacrificing speed and position early on, staying relaxed and fueled leaves you in control of your race.

Survivor’s Tales: With my most recent surgery, a total replacement of my right shoulder, I quickly found myself impatient with the healing process. Compared with all the lower joint replacements, my recovery seemed to be going smoother and I felt better than I remember with the other surgeries. Within two weeks I was pushing myself to my limit, and admittedly a little beyond, with my exercises. In addition to that, I would sometimes take my arm out of its sling for extended periods of time, despite the doctor telling me to keep it in for at least six weeks. It didn’t take long for sharp pains to start cropping up in my shoulder. As a result of all this overreaching, I had hurt myself and was unable to do as much PT as I should have, causing my progress to regress. It took almost a full week for the pains to calm down enough to where I could start exercising properly again. Had I simply stuck to my recovery plan, I might have gotten to the point I am now even faster (click here to see my progress so far), but I’ve certainly learned my lesson: when it comes to recovery, it pays to stick to the plan instead of brushing it aside at the first glimmer of your strength returning. It may feel like you can do so much more, but very often it’s just a brief phase and soon you find yourself paying for your arrogance with sharp aches if you’re lucky, and serious damage if you aren’t.

Mountain Tales: It was the second to last climb of Ronda del Cims. 3,000 feet in just over two miles at an average grade of 45%, far steeper and more technical than any single climb at the Barkley marathons. I came into the aid station at the base of the climb right alongside Carles, a local Andorran runner who was holding 3rd place. He blew through the station and started hammering up the long climb. I glanced at my watch and realized it had been over an hour since I’d eaten anything. I hobbled slowly behind Carles as he pulled further away. I stuffed Gu after Gu down my throat and ate as many dry crackers as I could. Food was an awful chore, but a necessary evil. About halfway through, Carles was now 200 feet higher than me, but I knew he’d not eaten a thing. He’d burn out shortly. I swigged down more Carbo Pro and whipped out my hiking poles asking myself, “What can I relax?” I let go of my tense shoulders, let go of the tight tension in my arms and felt my upper body sink.  It’s terrifying what unconsciously tightens up while running. About three quarters of the way up the climb, I finally caught Carles.  He was breathing hard and his steps were labored on the steep ascent. The short seconds I’d taken to fuel my body were now paying off. I passed Carles and kept my pace steady all the way to the top of the climb. The faster you hurry (aka skip things like nutrition and proper form) the slower you’ll go. Endurance sports are the tortoise’s race, not the hare’s. Take care of yourself and you’ll be rewarded!











































A mildly exaggerated recreation of how I hurt myself

Of course, just because we are sharing our own extreme examples does not mean that these philosophies are all strictly for extreme situations. We share these because they can be used by anyone in the proper situations and we invite you, dear reader, to take these helpful tips into the world to use as you see fit. It is both of our hope that these do some good somewhere, and so we wish you luck in your journey of a thousand Zen-filled steps.

Andrew Bundy
Nickademus Hollon

Friday, July 25, 2014

Top Ten Zen #2 Body Follows Mind


Ready for the second installment of Top Ten Zen?














Top Ten Zen #2


Andrew and Nick have compiled a list of Zen-like philosophies comprised firstly of a quote, an interpretation of said quote, and finally a story to drive their point home. This list can aid you in doing anything from completing a 100-mile race to surviving cancer, or obtaining any goal you set your mind to. 

I think I can I think I can...


"Body follows mind."


The Survivor’s Take: Life is mental (I did a post about this subject a couple months back. You can read it here: Life is Mental). Your body’s true limits are set by the brain. By manipulating your thoughts, you can achieve much more than you ever thought possible.
The Runner’s Take: Lore of Running by Tim Noakes and Matt Fitzgerald’s book Brain Training both speak to the concept of mind over matter. This belief states that your brain acts as the ‘central governor’ of your entire body and in endurance events ultimately controls how fast you can go and how much you can endure.

Survivor’s Tales: When I was dying in the hospital in May of 2008, my body shutting down and rapidly deteriorating, the doctors gave me a couple weeks to live, and everyone knew it. The only person totally oblivious to the dire news was…me. I had no idea how bad I was, so I thought: “You know, this sucks, but I’m going to get out of this and then we’ll be done with all this silliness.” (Much stronger language was likely used.) Because I didn’t know how bad I was doing, I believed I would survive, and guess what? I did! Despite a less than 10% chance of survival I didn’t give in and I didn’t give up. I inadvertently lied to myself that things would be okay and my brain shrugged its metaphorical shoulders and agreed with me, dragging my reluctant body along with it. Whether you lie to yourself or you actually believe you can achieve more than you or anyone else thinks, your brain has an astounding capacity to overachieve and push beyond the limits of what is deemed possible.

Mountain Tales: During my most recent 100-miler (Ronda del Cims) I experienced first-hand what many runners call “smelling the barn.” It’s that strange phenomena that occurs when we ultrarunners approximate the finish line of a race and feel a sudden ‘boost’ in our speed and endurance in spite of fatigue. In my case, I was about 10 kilometers off from the finish line and running neck and neck with my friend and contender for 3rd place. We’d heard 2nd place was only about ten minutes ahead of us and with 10 kilometers to go, he was within what my brain decided was striking distance. Despite the 40,000+ feet of climbing, 100 miles and 30+ hours on my legs, I sped up and sped up fast. Within 5 kilometers I had 2nd place in my line of sight and steadied myself, preparing for a swift and merciless strike. I proved that my mind’s drive to compete was capable of overriding my body’s immense fatigue.


Yikes. I think I can I think I can...



Just to add an extra "oomph" to our point, Andrew recently read this article after hearing about it in a book. It emphasizes and proves the very point the two of us made in the above stories, and proves just how astounding both the human body and mind can be:






Of course, just because we are sharing our own extreme examples does not mean that these philosophies are all strictly for extreme situations. We share these because they can be used by anyone in the proper situations and we invite you, dear reader, to take these helpful tips into the world to use as you see fit. It is both of our hope that these do some good somewhere, and so we wish you luck in your journey of a thousand Zen-filled steps.

Nick Hollon
Andrew Bundy

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Top Ten Zen #1 A Thousand Steps


Hello readers!

For the next week and a half I'll be posting a co-authored list of "Top Ten Zen" philosophies that helped get me through Ronda del Cims this past weekend and more importantly have helped my friend Andrew Bundy survive cancer over the past years. I hope you enjoy them!

Top Ten Zen

The authors of this ten-part series are close friends who have worked together on numerous collaborations in the past, and thus decided, “Hey, what’s one more?”

The idea for this Top Ten Zen list came into being after Nick returned from a 100-mile race in the Pyrenees and told Andrew about his fantastical experience using Zen teachings and positive thoughts to help him get through his grueling race. To Nick’s surprise, Andrew proceeded to explain that many of these concepts Nick found in a book were similar to ones he used to battle both cancer and the cure. After much head scratching, the two of them produced “Top Ten Zen,” which includes Zen quotes as well as personal interpretations and stories.

They have compiled a list comprised firstly of a quote, either concocted by the authors or someone else, an interpretation of said quote, and finally a story to drive the point home. By putting their work side by side for comparison, the authors offer a preview into their books, Ultra Souls: The Tale of Mr. 3000 and Life Has No Title.

These Top Ten Zen-like philosophies can aid you in doing anything from completing a 100-mile race to surviving cancer, or obtaining any goal you set your mind to.

“Vell,” Andrew said in a suspect German accent, “It is about time ve start Zen.” Nick groaned.




One step at a time
Zen Quote #1
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

The Survivor’s Take: Tackling a large problem, whether it be treatment or planning for the future, is far easier if you break it up into smaller problems and take them on one at a time.
The Runner’s Take: Break down the race into smaller segments, don’t try to take on the whole distance at once.

Survivor’s Tales: I’ve had a lot of surgeries. I mean a lot. To date, I’ve had seven major surgeries on seven different joints (one joint was done twice and two were done at the same time), plus a slightly less major one to fix a tear in my abdominal wall. I knew I was going to be in for a rough ride almost from the get go when I found out that my bones were degenerating and my joints disintegrating. The overwhelming anxiety of all the upcoming replacements acted as a crippling force for months until I trained myself not to look at the whole picture of replacing anywhere from two to eight joints, but instead just one surgery at a time. And wouldn’t you know it, shortly afterward my stress and depression began to lessen (with a bit of help) and I didn’t feel so scared about these life-changing events that would soon take place one by one until I was a cyborg of epic proportions.

Mountain Tales: Two weeks ago I participated in Ronda del Cims, Europe’s most intimidating and difficult 100-mile footrace. And 100 miles is a hell of long way to go for anyone, especially when you throw the endless rocks, tree roots and mountain passes that I encountered throughout the race. So how do you overcome that? You break it up. Never once did I think about the fact that I was running a 100 miles, no I was running to the next aid station, headed to the next climb or sometimes even just taking the next step. By making the race bite size and taking it on piece by piece, you’ll find yourself running happier and more efficiently than ever before.

Andrew on his way to becoming part Cyborg

Of course, just because we are sharing our own extreme examples does not mean that these philosophies are all strictly for extreme situations. We share these because they can be used by anyone in the proper situations and we invite you (the reader) to take these helpful tips into the world to use as you see fit. It is both mine and Andrew's hope that these do some good somewhere, and so we wish you luck in your journey of a thousand Zen-filled steps.

Andrew Bundy
Nick Hollon

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Born to Run 50km Race Report Guest Author: Jade Belzberg

BORN TO RUN 

The Burning Man of Ultra's

By Guest Author Jade Belzberg 

Four months ago, while I was living in Colorado and interning with a running magazine, Nick traveled down to Urique, Mexico to run the Ultra Caballo Blanco with the Tarahumara and other Mas Locos. I admitted my jealousy of his trip when he returned and I think he read that as a sign that I needed to experience something similar. And so he signed us up (thank you, Luis!) for my first ultramarathon, the Born to Run 50K in Los Olvios, California. I was excited, sure, but also nervous; I had only run half marathons, courses that were too hilly and too hot and too much for someone who had only just learned about the ultra scene a year and a half before. But I would be out in Carbondale, Colorado for three months on an internship and had spare time: why not begin to train?
And so began the training: long runs along the Rio Grande Trail in Carbondale and speed workouts around the track. When Nick came to help me pack up during the last week of my internship, he had me finding my Max. Heart Rate and doing AT Threshold Workouts that left me wondering if others were training like this, too. Would it be enough? Would I conk out after mile 21, at which point I would be in unknown territory? Was I ready for a 50K?
After celebrating Nick’s birthday and my last day of the internship, we packed up my apartment and headed down, through southwestern Colorado, the very northwestern tip of New Mexico and toward Arizona, where we set our eyes on the Grand Canyon.


The majestic Grand Canyon at sunrise.
Nick had run the Grand Canyon twice before, but I hadn’t even seen the Grand Canyon, let alone run the golden gorge. After arriving in Flagstaff and finding ourselves the cheapest motel we could, (throughout the course of the trip we learned the secrets of finding the best places: look for the busiest and noisiest corners in the city,) we laid everything we would need for the following morning’s run on the cigarette-burned bed: our packs, windbreakers, food and water. Nights in Flagstaff had been cold, and so I was more concerned about freezing during our 2:30 wake up and our 4a.m. start.
A cold start.
Turns out,  running keeps you relatively warm and the grandeur of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time as daylight crept upwards through the gorge kept my mind on more important things, like how blessed I was to be running here.
Running down and down and down.
We finished the 42 miles–with the last six miles being hell for me and hell for Nick who had to deal with me– an hour before sunset.
“Well,” Nick said as he took a bite of pizza, “you’ll definitely have something in your back pocket.” We had stopped at the closest restaurant we could find in the Grand Canyon Village before driving back to Flagstaff for the night. My feet had never hurt this much in my life, but beyond the fatigue I felt excited. And Nick was right. If I could run–or, most of the time, hobble–through the Grand Canyon, then I could wrap myself around running my first 50K.
The finish! Rejoice.
On Friday morning, Nick and I made the 4-hour drive, (which turned into 8 hours after several stops for Chipotle, ice cold sparking water and, of course, fossils!) to Los Olivos, where we arrived at the ranch just before five p.m. After a quick packet pick-up, we pulled into the large clearing where tens of RVs, motorhomes, trailers and vehicles spewed a variety of camping gear and running clothes. The majority of people had gathered underneath a banner of flags brought by campers–I was glad there were other Canadians representing our rugged land. Before we had a chance to settle in, the infamous Beer Mile event started and a rowdy bunch of good-natured runners slammed down their first beers and started running.
Race packet pick-up on Friday afternoon.
The rest of the night was spent meeting Nick's friends, setting up our camp with the Mas Locos and dancing to Metalachi, an eccentric, obnoxious and very catchy band that combined Classic Rock, Mariachi and lots of Fireball Whiskey into one lively performance. Who needs pre-race fuel (tortilla chips) and lots of rest (dancing to Metalachi until late at night and falling asleep to the happy laughs of tipsy campers)I fell asleep quickly, exhausted and anxious to begin the race.
Luis Escobar's voice, loud through the microphone and reverberating throughout the tired campground, woke everyone up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning. We'd have enough time to throw together our packs, get in line for the port-a-potties and make our way to the start.
Getting ready.
Some runners looked focused, as though they knew exactly what they were doing and how fast they were going to go out, while other runners looked half-asleep, unsure of what they had signed themselves up for. Nick can probably verify that I looked somewhere in between, but 6 a.m. rolled around, (after we all raised our hands and agreed that no matter what happened out there, it'd be our "own damn fault!") and the 2014 Born to Run Ultramarathons began.
The first loop of the 50K went by fast; the soft light of dawn shadowed the slopes and the fog hung low, enveloping the oaks. We had started off near the front, but as mile one turned to two and two turned to three, runners began to pass me. I wasn't worried, though, as I figured that most runners were in the 10-Mile, not the 50K. This was a whole different race! Or so I thought...
Running
For the most part Nick and I ran alone. On uphill sections I slowly jogged past runners who were walking, but then I’d be passed on the downhills, (finding a balance between these two will be addressed this summer!) It was during one of these downhills that another female runner caught me–and stayed. As with other runners, I would pull away from her as we slogged up a gradual hill, but she’d be quickly back on my heels as the road leveled out or dipped down. Whether or not the push of running aggravates and intensifies certain feelings, I was bothered. Her feet shuffled each time she moved and I couldn't stop myself from deeming her "The Plodder" in my frustration.
“What are you doing?” I said as The Plodder began to catch up to me on a downhill section. Nick explained that he was “brushing down my hackles." He would explain that he could feel the tension between the woman and myself. Even though I hadn’t realized it, I had felt real competition.
As we pulled into the last aid station of the loop, The Plodder dodged into the port-a-potty as we continued, (although she would ultimately pass me and finish ahead!). She had looked strong, and though I knew I wouldn’t be ahead of her for much longer, I felt more relaxed now that I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me or behind me. Rather than the pressure of racing, I only had the pressure I could choose to put on myself–time, distance, whatever I was competing against.
You probably can't tell, but I guarantee I wasn't so pleasant here...
The second loop of the Born to Run 50K course, much like the first, wound through the Los Olivos ranch, studded with oak and olive trees.  Luis Escobar, the RD, had made it clear that we were to follow the pink ribbons on the first loop, yellow on the second, and pink again on the last, meaning we’d be repeating ten miles of the course. I had started off slow when the race began at 6 a.m. and though I now picked up some speed, the longer flat sessions on the first loop felt endless. Still, Nick was by my side and had promised to run the full thing with me, so I let go (as Nick, coincidentally, began humming Frozen’s “Let It Go” song) of my doubts and focused on how lucky I was to have a pack mule (he carried my water and food!) and my best friend running with me the entire time. This loop, though the longest, was also the most enjoyable; the hilly section that revealed a beautiful vista of the entire ranch, the friendly smiles of other runners–50-Milers and 100Ks running their race on the adjoining loop–and the knowledge that I could worry about catching other runners, (and making sure they couldn't catch me,) still a loop away.
This hilly section was especially fun!
And then we came through the campground for the second time, the second loop finished. 21 miles in and now was the time to keep that pace in check. I passed a few runners and a few more passed me. The pressure of having runners behind me kept me moving forward, despite my sore feet and even sorer butt. I was more than ready to be coming through the campground for the last time.
The out-and-back half-mile. I just had to run around the flag and return back to camp. Mile 30.5.
And soon enough, we were! I’ve been in larger races (Vancouver Sun Run) where the entire 10K course is run with hundreds of people at your side and the finish line is often so backed up that race officials have to keep urging people to move forward. The Born to Run, however, was barely 600 people, and much, much less than that at the finish line considering almost everyone was running the course. As Nick and I came running into the dusty camp, some in camping chairs and some with beers in hand and some working tirelessly at the aid station yelled out support. Despite my initial dislike of having other runners (outside of Nick) around, it really was great to have that last push at the end. With whatever was left, I mustered my speed and sprinted my way to the finish, in 4:39:59.
Fin.
As a quick summary, here’s what I loved:
-The entire Born to Run experience. It was awesome to come out of my shell a little and join everyone in dancing to Metalachi and the other bands. Also, I’m so happy to have finally met so many of the friends Nick talks about! Hello Josue, Flint, Margaret, Maria and others!
-I was spoiled having Nick beside me the entire time, be it for support, food and water. He obviously knows what he’s doing and having someone tell me to eat, even when I protested, was probably a big contributer for feeling strong throughout the race.
-Having completed Rim to Rim to Rim three weeks prior. Just knowing that my body was capable of going that far and that long was a real confidence booster.
-The course. What a beautiful part of the world!
-The touching moment when Luis and other runners gave their glowsticks to the Tarahumara and Viva Chihuahua was sung.
-The competition, although I can’t decide if I love it or hate it more…
-Blue corn tortilla chips, my choice of fuel before and after the race.
Thank you to everyone who helped organize and contribute to such an amazing event. I can’t think of a better introduction to the ultra world and look forward to another!

Can you find Jade?

Cowboy Gangsters

Morning fog w/ scenic cow on race morning

O the hills are alive with yellow grass!

Jade lookin old school

Nick just looking like a fool

Luis Escobar RD w/ Nick's Ram Drinking Horn