Monday, February 19, 2007

Reflections on the American Flag

I missed you all!
I have been remiss in posting on as I’ve been wandering a bit. A couple weeks ago I returned from a bit of travel to Europe, Africa and South America, successfully climbing Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua as well as taking in the cultures, people, and sites of the areas in which I traveled, specifically – England, Tanzania and Argentina.
I wanted to share with you some post climb/travel thoughts - Reflections on the American Flag as a way to touch base again. I hope you enjoy. I’ll be back at you again soon…

Post Climb—Reflections on the American Flag

My climb on Aconcagua in Argentina involved doing two things I enjoy the most when I travel; engaging in very remote or rural areas, and, doing something in these areas that requires significant mental and physical fortitude—in other words—doing cool things in cool places.

Terri Schneider
Terri at Kilimanjaro.

I’m quite aware that I experience a constant, altered reflection of home due to my travels abroad. This reflection is heightened when I’ve moved through less fortunate countries than the U.S.—which would include most places I wander. If home represents physical comfort and ease of use, and we choose to go out and do things in depressed areas that are the antithesis of ease of use, then that contrast will roar loudly when we return to home base.

Climbing mountains requires not only substantive physical strength and stamina, it obliges one to live in some of the harshest environments on earth for sometimes extended periods of time. Just sitting, doing absolutely nothing, in an enclosed tent in rarified, bone dry air in raging winds and sub-freezing temperatures surrounded by incessant spindrift, can test the mental resolve of the most stalwart of humans. To actually climb in these elements is a consistent examination of the unknown, because we never fully realize what hand altitude, weather, or our bodies will deal us in any given hour.

Some may consider that we regress as humans when we climb on mountains.
I experience them as an evolution or freedom from the constant, constructed world that we have created. On a mountain we are stripped naked of the man made world which we are used to existing and we are required to establish another reality. This “other” experience and existence is our own, unique conception.

On a mountain there is no point in negotiating the constant of your bed back home, or heating system in your house. Nor do we generate much thought around how we present ourselves visually to the mountain world. Combing our hair or tidying our clothes has no reflection on whether we will survive the mountain, therefore these trivialities fall away. We are free from them.

What is relevant are the basics that even today far too many humans struggle to acquire daily—food, adequate shelter, adequate warmth. As nature helps in stripping away our “stuff” we have time to ponder what that stuff really means in the first place. On a mountain we covet our sometimes meager efforts to be warm when high winds repeatedly rip the zipper open on our tent door. We let go of the desire to be clean as we don the same smelly, dirty shirt we’ve been hiking in for two weeks. And we adapt to lack of calories as we spill our bowl of soup on the tent floor and are short of the energy to generate another.

Some may consider these experiences regression if their definition is based on an affluent man made world, but if juxtaposed to basic human needs aren’t these issues at the top of the pyramid of established healthy humanness? The act of existing on a mountain requires grave acknowledgement to those things in life that, as Americans, many of us have in abundance.

This deprivation gets our attention, asks us to reflect contrasting views of life as humans. And perhaps if we look a tad further, we realize we have an opportunity in this deprivation to truly appreciate what we may have in our life back home—that a warm home with a roof, running water and a plenty of food are not items to be taken nonchalantly.

I am stunned each trip abroad at how fortunate we are in America. Astounded. Amazed at our privilege to live comfortably and our freedom to choose to go after what we wish in life if we decide to acquire the knowledge and motivation to make our dreams happen.

Daily my thoughts go back to so many I have witnessed who do not, or can not, have these human basics because of their social status or the state of their community or country. As a woman in a world that tends to still generate effort to suppress women’s forward movement these facts never get past me and I feel fortunate that I choose to change up my lens color and reflect again and again. That evolving reflection keeps the brain sharp and desirous of dream seeking.

If the hardship of physical enduring continues to hone my reflection of home and my desire to seek the ultimate dreams in life – I’ll gladly take that adversity. If sitting through a storm on a mountain in South America makes my latte back home taste that much richer, or, the hug from my brother feel that much warmer, I’ll choose to engage in nature any day.

And if foreign travel creates the knowing that back home I have the freedom to go after the means it takes to put my dreams to life, I will forever glance on the essence of the American flag with a bright light and with even more respect. Hardship softens immensely when its retrospective reflection is so sweet.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Terri Heads to Kilamanjaro

Greetings from Moshi, Tanzania - or Moshi-town as the locals call it. After another long haul of travel we have arrived to a beautiful and serene part of Eastern Africa. After dealing with lost luggage issues and logistics stuff, we got a chance to test the local food and get a sense for the area. It looks as though we will be eating a lot of rice and, veggies and meat - which works well for me.

The people here are as lovely as the geography. Our head guides for our climb, speak English quite well which has allowed us to learn that they are as interesting as they are interested - excellent qualities to hang out with on a mountiain for a week.

Louise's bag has been lost with all her climbing gear so we've needed to spend some time outfitting her properly for the climb. Other than that everthing is a go for our departure this morning. I am quite excited! I have a feeling we have a very visually pleasing adventure ahead of us.

We will have support from a staff of about 12 people to get our 4 asses up the mountain. I'm not used to having people carry my stuff and cook for me so its quite a luxury. I feel fortunate to just be able to hike, take some pictures and enjoy the climb.

We'll be doing the Machame Route on Kili, which is one of the most beautiful. I do not have internet access on the mountain, so I'll be back at you after our ascent.

Happy Holidays to all - I know I'll be celebrating in fine style!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Romancing Yosemite

After some much needed time off of concentrated training post Russia/France travel extravaganza, I followed a yearning to visit my first love - the romance of my youth. So I headed out for a strong dose of heady granite visuals and tough hiking/running in the Yosemite high country.

Terri Schneider
Yosemite high country...

Hanging out for a portion of each youthful summer in Yosemite taught me early on about the possibilities of a long term, healthy, fiery, relationship - with nature. Heading back a few times each year connects me with that romantic essence. And there’s nothing like getting up into the high country for an honest measure of ass kicking and a reality on ones lack of fitness. Various relationships may come and go in life, but Yosemite holds a constant spell of beauty, reality and truth to all who experience, and this weekend in particular would prove to be auspicious at minimum.

After a brief night at the notorious Camp 4, a couple friends and I took off from Yosemite Valley on a Friday morning for a tough 18+ mile hike/run up into the Yosemite high country. Getting off the Valley floor is a breathtaking 3000 foot climb but with the season winding down, the crowds sparse, and the weather spectacular, it was well worth the effort.

The "high country" is a vast sea of pristine granite mixed with evergreens of various types, and mountain lakes - unlike anything I have seen or will ever see in all my travels on this earth. We hiked over Clouds Rest - a narrow edge of granite with views of the backside of Half Dome and everything else in a 20 mile radius.

Experiencing the granite in Yosemite first hand, is having a deep knowing why athletes and climbers, fall in love here. The rock has an affirmative feel. You perceive its sure grip when just treading on it, yet experience its sharp, harshness if you fall. Yosemite granite is like the lover who is sure to support and nurture when needed but at the same time asks you to step up and shine even brighter when the going gets tough. “Risk knowing me and you’ll emerge strong and sure,” it says. “You game?”

Nestled in the granite walls and trees we ended our day at Sunset Lakes at about 10K feet. We made a fire, sipped some tea, and laughed a lot while watching the sinking sun cleanse the granite walls and mirror that essence on our lake.

Next morning we hit the John Muir trail for a tough but satisfying 17 mile trot through the high country with a gradual, then steep, descent back into the valley via the backside of Half Dome. My ultimate pleasure in the backcountry is to go light and fast and try and run as much as possible if the terrain allows. To experience my first love in this fashion is such an incredible "groove on". He never disappoints.

After hitting up some food and a couple of Yosemite Pale Ale's in the historic and romantic Ahwahnee Lodge we caught a presentation of the 1966, ascent of the Salate’ Wall on El Capitan, by Allen Steck, a pioneer of big wall climbing.

The American Alpine Club was hosting a celebration in the Valley this week commemorating the history of climbing in Yosemite. Steck’s program was one of many pieces to this celebration and we were privileged to have been in the Valley on this auspicious weekend.
Even in the 60’s and big wall climbing’s infancy, Allen et. al. had the foresight to bring a video camera along and film their climb, which was at pure minimum - EPIC. At 80 years today, Steck explained, “I remember standing at the base of the climb that morning and each of us taking turns reading the directions to the camera while organizing gear…”

With no sound on cameras at that time, Allen Steck, as humble as he is authentic, narrated their novel climb. After a couple days of pushing in the high country, body satisfied, I felt warm and content to sit among the trees and listen to his rambling, 80 year old chatter about this historic experience.

Meeting and chatting with this sweet gentleman the next morning in our campsite, I tried to imagine the heart and courage it took to endeavor such an epic feat at such a mysterious time for big wall climbing in the world.

Like a virtuous first love, Yosemite continues to offer memories of ignited passion, while constantly teasing the prospects of what is to come. I suspect I’ll be back again to visit this satisfaction some time very soon.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

DNF in Mont Blanc

To protect my body I have a rule of thumb in races. I will never continue in an event if I feel I could be potentially permanently damaging a body part. Despite being highly goal oriented, I respect my body and am constantly amazed at what it will let my mind coerce it into doing.

So when at 80K into the 158k brutal Tour du Mont Blanc Trail Ultra I felt my chronically bogus Achilles tendon start to yell, "This is now BAD PAIN - I'm not messing around any more!" I figured I better assess my options.

As an athlete it’s vital to learn the difference between "good" pain and "bad" pain. Bad pain could turn into an irreparable situation and potentially alter one's athletic life. The good pain is the kind we deal with daily in training.

I've experienced enough good pain in various volumes to last a few lifetimes. Good pain is something I am comfortable in – it’s a familiar and potent teacher and we can reap huge lessons from her if we listen well.

Pushing through bad pain is not a courageous act as our society would like to emphasize. Bad pain is plain stupid.

When I made choice to drop out today I knew I made the right call in the grand scheme of my athletic life. But I still sat down in a meadow near a small mountain hut in the shadows of the storybook picturesque Alps and cried. Grieving loss is healthy and not completing this amazing course feels like a big loss.

I've made my way back to Chamonix and the finish line to watch runners coming in. It seemed important for me to feel the celebration and to remind myself that to have more finish lines like this one I needed to make the decision I did today. There's always another race if we choose.

The Tour du Mont Blanc Trail Ultra in an impressive event. Though I felt like I was racing through Braille with the language barrier, I was impressed with their organization and execution on all levels. Definitely a world class event.

That said, the course is purely brutal. This event makes Western States 100 look like a walk in the woods. Our first big climb of the race was about 4500 feet steep, unrelentingly straight up to 8000 feet in the cold mountain air. It took me about two+ hours to complete this ascent and that doesn't include the knee breaking descent straight down the mountain on slippery rocks and dirt. This was the first of eight climbs similar in difficulty. It was huge with an unprecedented view. Excellent combo. Huge.

I feel privileged to have experienced even a taste of this race and Chamonix has definitely taken a piece of my heart.

Back at you from home,

Tour du Mont Blanc Begins!

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 158k circumambulation of the Mont Blanc Massif. The event moves through France, Italy, and Switzerland via a total elevation gain of 28,000 feet and various villages and mountain passes. Most folks hike/backpack the circuit over a period of 7+ days. Our aim in this race is to cover the distance in less than 45 hours.

The race organization will provide 30 aid stations/checkpoints along the way including two drop bag locations where we can pick up personal food or other needed items. We can not have crew or pacers and we're required to carry a small list of mandatory gear including; rain gear, space blanket, whistle, bandaids, two headlamps, spare batteries, passport, food, money and more.

The race starts in a few hours, at 7:00 pm here in Chamonix and I'm starting to get that familiar/gut reality check prior to a long event - the check is that I have to be moving forward for a day and two nights constantly. Eeeeeek.

My goals are: to work off all the excellent rich French food and wine I've been eating, complete the course so I can experience the entire route visually, take lots of pictures to save those visuals, complete the route with body and mind as intact as possible (this can have many interpretations) and, to finish in time to hobble on wasted legs and feet to the bus station for the start of my trip back to the States.

Wish me a short day...

Back at you post race.

What Country are We In?

During another mini-marathon of travel starting at 1:00 AM in Moscow, Russia, we touched down as I woke from a nap. Feeling a bit disoriented, I turned to my travel companion, Louise, and asked, "What country are we in?"

After a pause combined with glazed stare I realized Louise was as unclear as I on our arrival location. Three flights and three countries later, our initial glance into the new airport terminal at the helpful, smiling faces, the expedience of passport control, and the cleanliness of our surroundings, shouted that we weren't in Russia any more - quite the contrary - definitely Switzerland.

My traveler’s patience normally has a very very long fuse but Russia burned it quickly via the language barrier and the scolding, unhelpful Russian employees. I don't think "customer service" has yet become a part of their culture (even an anemic version). Despite excellent times with newfound climbing friends touring the Kremlin, Red Square, the ballet, and various museums and restaurants, my patience fuse and my stomach were quite happy to be in amiable Western Europe. I seem to have picked up intestinal bad guys on the mountain and am just now getting it sorted out. Maybe too much dill and ketchup (served on everything in Russia...)

We took the train from Geneva and the further southeast we went the more magical it became. From Martigny, Switzerland we transferred to the Mont Blanc Express and picked our way through the mountains via picturesque villages perched on mountainsides.

As we got closer to Chamonix the Mont Blanc Massif began to open to us. It is even more spectacular than I anticipated. From the architecture and food, to the people, Chamonix is a breath of fresh air and the scenery is amazing everywhere you look.

Our first day in Chamonix we took the Auguille du Midi Gondola ride up through the bowels of the Mont Blanc Massif over into Italy - I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was all real. I brought my map and was able to pick out all the famous climbing routes I have read so much about. I tried to imagine Bonati climbing the first ascent of the Grandes Jorasses or the Dru - daunting, beautiful rock faces that set a precedent for mountaineering in Europe. I already know I need to come back here to play a bit in these historical and pristine mountains.

Other than a bit of hiking and running in between bouts of eating incredible food we've been relaxing with friend and mountain guide Vern Tejas. On his way to guide on Cho Oyu in Tibet, Vern came to Chamonix to hang for a bit, chat, have some fun, and talk about climbing Denali next spring... more adventures to come for sure :).

I'm a bit nervous about finishing the 158k given the stomach issues. My plan is to just take it 1k at a time and adlib - I seem to do well that way. The taste of what we've seen of the course thus far proves it will be very tough with a constant flow of eye candy. A perfect adventure combo.

I've been feeling very fortunate living this trip, just living. The more I experience the more I want to experience. Living life large definitely feeds me and that includes loving and caring for good friends and family. Solid life stuff. I'm very pleased I'll be home in time for Bob's memorial. Looking forward to connecting with you all.

Also anticipating drinking some good CA wine when I get back - though I must say the pastries are quite nice here... the French definitely know how to eat!

xoxo to all back home. Mary - give Gryphon a big hug for me!

Back at you soon from Chamonix,

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

From Russia - Ponderings of Life and Death

Life. After several days of acclimization, camaraderie, and Russian gastronomies, we woke at midnight to our clear, calm, summit day on Mt. Elbrus in southern Russia. Bundled in three solid layers to start our initial ascent, I had the privilege of a conversation with Migma Gelu Sherpa, a 26 year old Nepalese man who has summitted Everest five times. He was proud to share with me that his sister, at age 15 was the youngest female to summit Everest. Life. Auspicious life.

I've always been in love with the rhythm of steady movement. Whether it’s the forward stroke of an extended ocean paddle, the pulse in the legs over hours of constant movement on trail, or the purity in power as feet connects to turn the drive train of a bicycle, there is comfort in the simplicity of motion. The body draws strength to feed its strength.

Mountaineering has become a recent extension of my celebration of motion. Life affirmed in basic repetition. As we ascended Elbrus slowly I immediately connected with this essence; breathe, step, breathe, step. Body solid and relaxed I meditated on the affirming sound of dry snow crunching on metal, and silence.

Death. Several weeks prior on Elbrus, several climbers got caught in a storm and perished. Before our final summit push we came across some of their clothing clinging to a rock as if to mark their passing. I could feel my heart move loudly in my chest as I stood and glanced at the impromptu memorial.

The summit was welcoming with brilliant, clear views - rewarding us for our diligence in motion. Be smart, stay solid and the Mountain Gods may let you experience the prize.

The crux of our descent was a straightforward traverse on a steep ice/snow field. It was a spot I "noticed" on the way up. An increase in heart rate and reluctant glances down the extended, sweepy drop off definitely got my edge on.

Before heading down this spot our guide said in his halting English/Russian, "Of course, be very slow on this section. Many people die here."

Of course, I thought as we descended in the hot sun. With the thought of death lingering I placed my feet precisely and stopped often to knock the snow balls off the bottom of my crampons with my axe shaft.

Life. Mountaineering always seems to involve copious amounts of eating and post climb drinking and our dinner and vodka session was no exception. Celebrating our newfound friendships and our movement up the mountain affirmed the chance to try for another peak. These thoughts prompted songs, laughter and stories from all.

Death. After some challenging travel in a country that seems to reluctantly share basic information to aid English speaking travelers, I arrived in Moscow to news that a friend and all around solid human being, Bob Hebeler, died in a bike crash on a pristine mountain road in Santa Cruz, CA.

With a heavy heart my thoughts reach out to friends at home, his kids and wife - all of us left to somehow make sense, or not, of that slight precipice between life and death. It has always seemed strained and fruitless to try and justify or negotiate a premature death. We are then left to cope with our own lives without that person and perhaps somehow steep their essence upon our life choices.

Bob went out in a beautiful spot in the world, celebrating this life giving movement on his bicycle. From a distance, I like to think of him still riding indefinitely. Purity of movement in that strange juxtaposition of life and death.

I have an upcoming Ocean Swim Clinic in September that I shall dedicate to Bob. Perhaps together we can celebrate him through our continued movement, swimming, biking and running. Continued life to you Bob.

xoxo from Russia - back at you from France,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

From Russia with Love

Four flights, three airlines and a day and a half later I arrived in Moscow, Russia sans my backpack with all my mountaineering gear. The extremely by the book, diligent, Russian airport workers decided that I needed to have my recovered pack sent to my room at 2:00 am. If I weren't brilliantly happy to see the gear intact, I would have passed out in the guy's arms. Can you say jet lag...

If there is any frustration that I get from international travel, its my lack of understanding of the underlying "way of being" of the culture into which I'm inserting myself. Every place, every country, every community has a way of acting, being, talking that is only known by those who participate in it. When we go abruptly to a novel place that is "particularly" foreign we are asking ourselves to try and fit in with no beta on what that underlying current looks like.

Places like China and Russia, that have made enormous social and economic changes in their environment in a relatively short period of time seem to be the most difficult to "figure out". Its as if their negotiation of a new climate (i.e. capitalism) as a disruption in their lifestyle spills over into the way they interact foreigners. Do I actually know that this is true? Not necessarily, but it feels like it.

I did have a wonderful conversation with my airport transport driver here in Moscow, who spoke impeccable English and who was more than happy to practice it on me. Due to the constant traffic here we had a solid 1.5 hours to chat and being the insatiably curious one, exploded questions on him. Too much to share in this short post, but I will say I learned more about Russian culture than I would have spending a month here solo. He tried to convince me that having a Russian boyfriend would greatly increase my chances of learning about the country - - pick up line I'd never quite come across before.

Off for another flight and bus ride tomorrow to get us to the Caucasus mountains in Southern Russia and the base of Mt. Elbrus. Extremely excited about the climb,the opportunity to meet some new climbing buddies and explore that part of Russia a bit. I'm not sure I'll be able to do email while I'm there, so I may need to update you on the climb upon my return to Moscow.

Back at you post climb!

From Russia with love,

Monday, August 07, 2006

Terri's next to Russia and France

As usual, I spent a pre-dawn moment multi-tasking. Brush teeth, assess spider-web accumulation on the bathroom ceiling, fill water bottles, make toast and feed Gryphon. Within the easy whirl of early morning prep I paused to catch a glimpse in the mirror of my “morning face” as I remembered how much I enjoy getting up before the rest of the world on a Sunday. When I saw the face I smiled, remembering my upcoming adventure. This particular quote came to mind:

“A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals.
A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.”
Jorge Luis Borges, Epilogue, The Maker

I’ve often viewed my wrinkles and face lines as being earned, like the virtues we gain as endurance athletes engaging again and again in the mêlée of self. We are drawn back again and again to the journey because the journey feeds us. It also leaves us with permanent trophies, gifts, maturity, life shifts, face lines. The lines are earned via our travels, our experiences, and the visions we gain while voyeuring through various countries, eyeing the hardship, toil and the strife of other cultures.

I also have seen my face lines as enterprising; that the experiences they represent offer a confidence from which to matter-of-factly state things like, “I think I’ll go climb a mountain in Russia. I’ve read of and always wanted to see Chamonix, France, a spectacular icon of adventure. I may as well do a race there while I’m in Europe - what a perfect way to see the mountains…”. And thus the planning begins. The seeds are planted, and further opportunity to draw the lines begins.

I’m off on the 8th for Min Vody, Russia via Moscow. I'll be climbing Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountain range which is nestled between the Black and Caspian Seas near the border of Russia and Georgia. Post climb and before heading to Chamonix, I’ll check out Moscow for a couple days and hit up the Bolshoi Ballet in my new black dress.

In Chamonix, on the border of France, and Italy, I'll have a few days to hang before doing the Tour Du Mont Blanc; a brutal 98 mile trail race through the Mont Blanc mountain range. During the race I’m looking forward to viewing the entire range from various angles. I'm psyched.

You can also get info on these events here:

Mt. Elbrus climb:

Tour Du Mont Blanc:

Would love to hear from you all while I am away!
Back at you from Eastern Europe…

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gobi Desert: Exceptional Ramblings

While out in the Gobi I thought quite a bit about exceptionalities in life. These thoughts were brewed by the brilliance in geography of the area, its aesthetic juxtapositions and history, the condition of the world as China sits in it, the competitors and the natives. The people were exceptional. I will remember a lot of laughter and stories, bullshit slinging and kindness—the kind that fills us as a coping mechanism under physical duress. The kind that keeps it all real. The kind that keeps us ultimately free from inauthentic views of self. When you keep it real in the dirt there isn’t anywhere to hide and there is huge freedom in that reality. The people who live in the Gobi keep it real daily. We gave it a good shot for a week.

Terri Schneider
Mountain Yurt and more Gobi Desert photos...

I’ve always felt that a human being who chooses to have varied and many extraordinary experiences and who is open to allowing those experiences to reflect on their life views is an exceptional human being. If that is true then everyone I met at the Gobi March event defined exceptional. That thought made me feel warm and hopeful inside. Kinda' like home base.

Yet we were competing in a race—definitive to be resolved at an ending place—a finish line. The meaning of the outcome of an event, the tangible result, the part that the world in due course rests their eyes, is open for interpretation by each individual. In a society defined by competition and results, the outcome is the ultimate and can start to take on a life of its own via media, judgment and gossip. Mature athletes know this. Mature athletes can separate from the result and broaden and blur their view to take in and assess the nuances of the journey. The exceptionalism of an event is the process. The people, the culture, the mutual understanding, the struggle and what it gives back.

Exceptional for me in an experience involves engaging in the unknown of the journey. Pieces of a journey such as in the Gobi, house the intimate and intense aspects of life—the crux. The journey and the choices we make in that journey are the portion that defines us as exceptional. The soul of an expedition isn’t about the summit or the finish line, it’s about the stuff that happens and the people that are engaged with prior to that socially interpreted definitive moment. When we come home to comfortable life stuff, we don’t necessarily remember the shit that went down or the ending place. We remember how we reacted to the shit that went down and we peruse our feelings around those reactions.

Terri Schneider
Terri in yurt camp 4...

I think people that choose to live in the crux are asking more from life than they even know exists, because the crux puts us in a tenuous and mysterious place—a place of learning—a place that isn’t yet defined. Some folks feel frightened in the unknown. For me and for many I met on my journey in China, the unknown meant freedom, possibility.

My strong female competitors were tough as nails, unforgiving in their pace and efforts and persistence. And yet at the end of each day, we smiled and hugged and shared warmth. Respect. Understanding. Support. Embrace of the unknown. We cared for each other. We were exceptional together because we could empathize with each other's struggles and support our vague dreams. Exceptional humanness at its best.

I am often asked why I do the things I do. The truth is I feel more at home sleeping in the dirt with others of like mind than I do in a man-made constructed world. The dirt makes more sense to me and I can relate to it more than politics, suicide bombings, counterfeit humans and socially constructed views of the female body, yada, yada, yada. And my compatriots in the Gobi found it just as absurdly freeing as I did. Dirt. Home base.

In the dirt we can create our own sense of self. Nature is indifferent to who we are. That freedom feeds exceptionalism. Exceptional people choose to run through the Gobi Desert and embrace the earth and despite my never having met most of those dirt lovers we will have a bond that is withstanding.

I want to thank my compatriots in the Gobi for sharing that paradigm of life with me, for nurturing it. People that I may never see again mirrored for me the value of my life choices, the value in pushing past limits, of not only moving forward when you are beaten down, but moving forward with distinction.

I want to thank those in the race that supported me after I was sick. Who believed, either through medical reality or pipe dreams, that I could come back and race to the finish. Either way they gave me hope and hope fueled my experience. I want to thank my compatriots for their irreverent humor, intelligence, neuroticisms, humanness. To be authentically human is an art. Endurance athletes seem to either get this and master it, or fall victim to its challenges—especially when they are several days sleep deprived and dirty. Thanks for getting down and dirty with me. I am the better for having met you all.