Monday, September 19, 2016


“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

I'm a huge Joseph Campbell fan and love reading his works. I view my own existence here on earth through the lens of his “Heroes Journey.” Most myths and epic stories follow this pattern, revealing the struggle we all face on a daily basis as humans. Within myths, stories and religions lie metaphors that help us understand who we are. The journey involves facing an inner or outer struggle which helps us unlock something within ourselves we didn't know was there. As someone who loves the pursuit of endurance, it's easy to compare my evolution with running to the cycle of the “Heroes Journey.”

Similarly Carol Dweck's “Growth Mindset” fits into the notion that we are flawed and learn by the process of striving for something greater.

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.— Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

My running journey in Hawaii began years before I moved to the Big Island. After completing my first 100 miler, I wanted a new challenge. The driving question for me is always “Can I do this?” It can sometimes feel scary when attempting a new challenge but the mystery is always what drives me, I want to know. I stumbled across a description of the HURT 100 and thought, “Wow, that sounds BRUTAL.” Little did I know what was in store for me on those muddy, rooty steep trails. I was 21 years old and just started running the year before. After being on the course for 27 hours and only covering 70 miles, I dropped out. That was the only time I have hallucinated while running and I said for years that I would never return to those godforsaken trails. Really I had a fear of 3am voices in the bamboo and slipping down the sides of muddy cliffs. I knew I had to face the fear, last year I completed the 100 in 34 hours but part of me was not satisfied. I didn't give all that I could on the course. Those trails still have some lessons to teach me.


This summer I wanted t run a 100 miler. Travel expense from Hawaii was not realistic so I thought of my nemesis, the trails of Oahu. I wanted to go back and kill my fears of those trails once and for all. The foe came in the form of the Tantalus Triple Trek 50k, on the same trails as the HURT 100. The time was right to finally slay the dragon of those trails which meant preparing for vertical and technical trails. For 2 months I sort of obsessed over transforming my running approach in order to be efficient on those trails specifically. Early in my running, I read the philosophy of Arthur Lydiard which goes for the "run slower to get faster" approach. Over the years, I have pretty much done just that. Health has been the number one goal for me and I realized quick that running hard often is not a very good idea. Recently I have been reading the works of Phil Maffetone and think what he says makes the most sense of anything I have read related to Exercise Physiology. I studied Exercise Physiology in college and thought most of what I read in the books was completely off, my experiences told me otherwise. I even got reprimanded by the Dean of the school for calling one my professors an idiot when I was shut down for asking a question. I was told I was on thin ice. I'd rather be standing on thin ice than a solid ground of ignorance.

(Hapalua Half Marathon)

I was curious to know how my heart rate fit into Dr. Maffetone's aerobic threshold formula. That means not getting your HR above 180- your age. Ever. I thought “All right, I will get to go even slower now” My aerobic threshold is 148 bpm. I went out and picked up a HR monitor and discovered I usually run around 127 beats per minute on my daily runs. Years of easy running have built up my aerobic base. I started running intervals at aerobic threshold (148 bpm) I discovered this is one piece of the puzzle. When your HR exceeds threshold you burn mostly glucose opposed to fat, thus craving carbs and sugar. That makes so much sense. I would say I had a major sweet tooth! I made the decision and put in the effort to adopt a high fat, moderate protein, restricted carb diet. This allowed my body to use fat as fuel. The combination of not letting my HR exceed aerobic threshold and eliminating carbs and sugar from my diet is a magical combination.

The past 4 months I have been feeling in the past shape of my life. Within a few weeks of committing to this method, I ran a personal best half marathon of 1:15. I went on a 37 mile adventure run up 10,000ft. Haleakala on Maui and felt amazing the whole way, needing no recovery time. When it was time for the 50k a few weeks ago, I was feeling confident in my ability to put in a hard effort on those trails. The day of the run, I felt amazing and was able to move up and down the gnarly terrain like never before! I'm ready to tie it all together for a big effort for a 100 miler!

(Volcano Rainforest Runs Half Marathon)

Last weekend's Ka'u Coffee Half Marathon

This is an excellent film about the Heroes Journey

Saturday, February 6, 2016

It has taken me 13 years of running to figure out the whole nutrition for long runs thing. I finally admitted to myself that I am stubborn. I have never really cared that much about the performance side (racing at optimum level). Also I don’t like to plan, so it makes sense that recovery and bonking towards the end of long races has always been an issue for me. There have always been a few shining moments which allowed me to justify doing the same thing over and over (Not recovering properly or thinking about nutrition/hydration during long runs). The main reason I never paid any attention to nutrition, pace or planning is freedom. Overly obsessing about details can get in the way of the experience but I am learning that a little thought will go a long way. Also I haven’t wanted to contribute to spending money on running related products. I have realized that type of thought process is itself a limitation. I decided to put my new found anit-cynacism to the test.

I had run the Hilo to Volcano 50k two previous times and after each I vowed never again would I participate! The 31 miles starts at Hilo Bay and gradually climbs 4,000ft to Volcano Village. This year I decided to do a little planning! Plan #1: I wore a watch and tried to not run under 7:20 min/mile for the first 20 miles. Plan #2 Drink 3 scoops of CarboPro every 5 miles which = 300 calories. I have been using CarboPro for a little over a year and I must say I love how I recover quicker and feel better at the end of long runs when I drink it. The plan seemed simple enough and at the end of the race, I had a new 50k PR and a course record in 3:46! I am excited to try out my new planning skills at longer runs, time for 100!!

I was recently asked to speak about running at the Hilo Health Co-Op. Last year I started working out there and reignited my love of lifting weights. I came up with a short presentation:

Running Simple! I started off by talking about the over abundance of advice out there related to running. I always say the best advice is to not follow any advice, just go experience and adjust. The below quote is from a great old book called “The Zen of Running.”

Some things that have worked for me in races and long runs. CarboPro has been the best way for me to take in calories. Their recovery amino acids and V02 formulas have helped me tremendously with recovery.

Recovery is the name of the game. Simple things that have been crucial for me are: A protein smoothie after runs, drinking turmeric and ginger juice to reduce inflammation, taking magnesium and trace minerals. I do not have the lingering fatigue I experienced before paying closer attention to details.

Finding inspiration to get out and run on days when I am mentally exhausted is something I am constantly seeking. Inspiration is everywhere! In books, photos, music, movies, colors, thoughts………..

A few simple things have allowed me to run a descent amount for over a decade injury free. Doing low intensity runs most days of the week has been key for me. There is something to be said for slowing down and enjoying! I plan on feeling healthy and running well into old age, high intensity is not the way for either. When I do run hard, it's usually uphill for less impact and pounding on the body. Also, I love doing strength exercises. I feel so much healthier when I am lifting, opposed to just running. Deadlifts, Shoulder Press and Squats will do wonders for your running!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Arizona Dreamin'

Arizona is a vast, deep and expansive land. The catalyst for my trip and excuse to take 5 days off from work was to run the The Paatuwaqatsi Run 50k in Hopi country. I had the bug to participate in a 50k or 50 mile run. Living in Hawaii, it is hard to leave or find events due to the cost of travel and isolation. I would love to run in more events but also feel content running on my own everyday. The words on their website drew me to the run:

“This is not a race, Water Is Life is a nonprofit event to celebrate the sustaining connection between water and a way of life as it has been celebrated for centuries—by running. It’s a remembrance run to keep the ancient trails alive. It is a monument to community, heritage and preservation.”

This was my first time in Arizona, excitement was building for weeks leading up to the trip. I felt a sense of familiarity, maybe from reading Edward Abbey and John Annerino books. I love taking long road trips, something I don’t get a chance to do in Hawaii. I loved the drive up from Phoenix, open landscape! I love races where camping is involved, it's nice to talk story with other runners before the run. It reminded me of some of my first races in Virginia. It was also cool to spend some time with Patrick Sweeney and the Millers, Mike and Kim. The common thread that binds us is running down in the Copper Canyons. After a chilly night sleeping under the stars, I was looking forward to a long run. As we ran, there were volunteers all along the course chanting and shouting words of encouragement. It was a very cool experience. My favorite part of the course was the climb up the mesa to Walpi village. Very beautiful unique dwellings that dates back 1100 years,people still live up there. All morning, I ran at a comfortable pace, just enjoying the surroundings. I only felt sluggish the last two miles, because the sun was out full on! I was happy to finish 2nd in 3:5? I was gifted a beautiful blanket that I will cherish for years to come! I felt thankful to the Hopi for allowing us to run on their land and share a part of their culture with us.

After the run, I didn’t waste any time keeping the road trip going. There are times when I feel like I’m in a manic zone where I don’t need much sleep or food. I was in this zone all week, going non-stop. I have wanted to go to Supai village for years, after seeing pictures of the waterfalls. I had looked into camping and read that reservations were a must. I tried for a few weeks to call, but no one ever answered the phone. I decided it was worth the risk to hike in, the worst thing that could happen is I would have to hike the 10 miles back out in the same day. That wouldn’t have bothered me at all. The hike starts atop a canyon and drops down and then across a dry wash for eight miles to Supai. Once I arrived, I checked in at the office and luckily there was room for me to camp for two nights. I was blown away by the lush beauty, which only enhanced my manic state. I spent some time at all the nearby falls. The next day, I planned on running to the Colorado river, about 8 miles from the campground. That night, I again had nightmares of being stuck in a flash flood. On the hike in, I heard a loud swooshing sound and climbed up the canyon wall, thinking the sound was rushing water. It was really a mule train running up. I descended down the ladders and pipes to Mooney falls and stood in awe.

The trail along and through the creek with the red dirt and turquoise water was stunning. When I got to beaver falls, I notices dark clouds and heard thunder. Thankfully, the bad dreams made me scared and paranoid of flooding. If it rains, a canyon is not the place I wanted to be. I took off in a sprint back towards the campground. Just as I reached the top of Mooney falls, the rain really started to come down. Once I made it back to the campground I packed up my stuff and headed for the hills. I was hoping to make it back up to my car at the hilltop. I didn’t want to spend another night wet and cold! I asked someone if they thought the trail was alright, their response cracked me up: “You might be ok, when it rains, shit rolls downhill.” Imagine that said in a redneck accent! I started up the trail but it didn’t take long to realize the trail was flooding pretty badly. Any thoughts of trudging on were dashed by the sight of a local guy getting washed down the trail with 7 mules behind! He barely made it to safety and the last mule in line was pinned under the torrent of water. He somehow freed the mule and continued on like it was no big deal. I went back towards Supai to figure out how I was going to get out. The only other option was an $80 helicopter lift out. The only problem was I only had a card and the power was out in the village so they were only accepting cash. I sat around for a few hours, accepting the situation. I had water, food and was safe, not much else is needed. While I was sitting around, I struck up a conversation with a local who talked of oppression from the US Government and the struggle of their people to keep their identity.

There are so many people who visit the canyon, almost a Disneyland type feeling at times. It must be tough to live with so many people coming and going, some who have no regard or reverence for the land. I have read many accounts of people who have visited Supai and were dismayed by the poverty and lack of amenities. They don’t realize that they are part of the problem, I felt like I am part of the problem. Taking a break from my comfortable life to visit beautiful waterfalls. Native Americans across the country are still being treated like shit and lied to by the U.S government. I know very little of the complexities. Is there a way to right the many wrongs or at least stop the cultural destruction? It’s hard to believe that people never seem to learn from history and the same hatred and power mongering still exist in this day. Years ago, I had to stop reading the book “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” because it was too sad, tears were ruining the pages. It’s even sadder to read news articles about the issues people are debating about today.

One of the highlights of my stay in Supai was a conversation I had with two little kids. A girl around 6 or 7 years old asked me where I was from. When I said Hawaii, her face lit up and she asked if they have turtles in Hawaii. I said yes, we call them honu. She thought about it for a minute and asked me to bring some honu the next time I came. I said the honu would not survive the flight over. She said “just put him in a bucket and he’ll be fine!” Then she told me to wear the same hat I was wearing so she would recognize me. After a few hours, I was able to get a helicopter lift out. The trail would likely remain closed for days.

I was looking forward to the long drive to Flagstaff. I don’t promote drinking and driving but it’s a damn good feeling and harmless to be driving down an open road with nothing around for 80 miles and crack open a Coors Light (Mostly water anyways).

It was fun to meet up with Nick Barazza and run some trails in Sedona. He is super passionate about trail running and living a simple life. It was great to share some miles with him.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fast and Furious

As a kid, my Dad would take my brother and I to play at Little Creek Base's Navy Seal training course. They had a huge cargo net, walls to climb over, monkey bars, sand pits and many other obstacles . I remember running around with my brother just having pure fun. I have been curious about obstacle course races since they first started popping up. A character flaw of mine is that I can I can sometimes be cynical. The "in your face" commercialism associated with Spartan races has prevented me from taking part. In an effort to not be ridiculous I decided to sign up for the race taking place on Oahu, to just have fun like when I was a kid. Arriving at the stunningly gorgeous Kualoa ranch in the early hours of the morning, I began to wonder why I decided to take part. There were people coming out of the woodworks, loud house/techno music blaring and drones in the air. Given my disposition, that type of atmosphere causes a tremendous sense of uneasiness that in any other circumstance would call for hard liquor. I anxiously anticipated the start of the run and disappearing into the shadow of the surrounding peaks. As soon as the race started my feelings of uneasiness were gone and a smile was beginning to form. I went out fairly hard and was joined by two fellows I could tell were in it for the long haul. The course took us running up a stream for over a mile, straight up a muddy fern covered slope with a 1,000ft+ climb and back down. There were several obstacles to keep things interesting. One involved filling a five gallon bucket with gravel and carrying it up and back down a steep hill, jumping over 8ft walls, cargo nets and a balance beam. I was feeling great until having to carry two 40lb sandbags up and down a hill. I had fun for all 12 rugged miles. I wish it was easier for me to get to another Spartan event because I learned a lot about how to approach the obstacles. I ended up coming in 3rd place overall which I was stoked about. I would definitely recommend these types of events to anyone looking to have a good time playing outside!

The following week was the Volcano half marathon. I love this event because I can walk to it from my house. This was my fifth time partaking in the run that goes through Volcano Village and up through pastures and cloud forrest to the 4,200ft elevation range. I was feeling pretty good and ran a nice steady 6:00 minute/mile pace the whole way finishing in 1:18. I have been slowly building up for the Water is Life 50k in Arizona. I love the 50k distance and am very excited to run through Hopi country and see some of Arizona in a few weeks!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Life Force

Redwood dreamin' on 97 south headed out of Bend. There is something to be said for a long road trip, sort of purifying like a long run. Nothing but endless trees in the periphery, mountain peaks in the rear view and open road ahead! This part of the country brings a sense of manical magic to me, I can feel the pull of the flowing rivers and aliveness that is all around. From Bend to Crater Lake to Umpqua hot springs to the Redwood forests, a classic trip that will never get old.

UmpquaMeditation from Billy Barnett on Vimeo.