does the pope run a trail race in the woods?

Would you run a race held on the Pacific Coast Trail? Well, sure you would. It’s where Cheryl Strayed hiked, and …. well, it’s where Cheryl Strayed hiked. It’s sorta like running Western States because Oprah did.

But beware. The diabolical Pacific Crest Trail Association is advising the U.S. Forest Service to ban all trail race permits. Although that’s as far-fetched as banning the Badwater 135 from Death Valley (yeah, right), it could happen.

Solution? This is America. We take swift and decisive action! We sign an online petition. THAT will show them! I dutifully opened the petition and began to read. I was in full agreement until I got past the first four words.


Ummmm, what?

First, a confession. I have been hiking and running trails since the days Ronald Reagan was a B actor. I always pretend to read the fine print on how you must go 200 feet from the trail and stay away from water and dig a 6-foot pit and plant a small magnolia tree on top after you’re through. And I DO make efforts to blend in with the environment (it’s not easy to find camo toilet paper. well, ok, in texas it IS easy, but you can’t just steal it from the toilets at the ranger station.) But I stopped packing with my little shovel back when my mustache was still brown, and I am less than careful on trail runs.

You know that feeling. You’re at mile 35. The tequila/peanut butter combo at the last aid station wasn’t such a great idea after all. Nature calls. You let the answering machine pick up, but nature just keeps calling over and over and over. Finally you answer, bringing you to The Squat of Doom. You carefully crouch as your quads begin to quiver, the calves think about cramping, and your entire body begins to sway menacingly. You finish up, hopefully still upright, leave a little bit of toilet paper disguised under a rock and some leaves, and you’re back on the trail. Done and done.

If you follow rule no. 1, exactly what happens? You’re supposed to use some sort of dog glove scooper, insert into zip-lock bag, hope you’re able to seal it shut with numb fingers, and stick it in your vest next to the wool hat, rain shell and Oreo stash? Then run with it for 3-4 miles to the next aid station?

And not to get too scientific, but ultra poop earns its name. Too much liquid nutrition, coupled with junk food and defizzed Coke, tends to create a texture that reminds me of Aunt Dorothy’s tapioca. How exactly would one remove that from the scene of the crime?  Backpacker Wet-Vac?

And what about aid station volunteers? These are the guys who get up ridiculously early to hike in to inaccessible spots so that you can have your precious pretzels. They already do so much. Now you’re asking them to tote out poop?

Realistically, though, who’s actually going to do this? It seems one of those environmental things that is a great idea that nobody will ever do, like composting orange peels and recycling plastic grocery bags. yeah, right. With pretty much zero chance of getting caught, would you actually do it?

I don’t know. I understand the need to protect a runner’s rights to trails. But maybe it’s time to give up the idea of races on them. Is it less of a run to go rim-to-rim-to-rim just because you don’t get a medal? (and they have a BUNCH of portapots on the course!!!!)

I just watched an amazing video of Anna Frost. She says something in it about how maybe she won’t feel the need to race anymore. Maybe just run for joy. What a concept.

The point? Beats me. Just that government regulation is silly, promises you can’t keep are futile, and it would likely be easy to poop in a plastic grocery bag. I could be on to something here.

mmmmm. tequila and peanut butter …

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the quotable mo sheppo, part 9

“oh, well. it’s only for six months or so.”

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i like running along the seawall just fine, thanks

Don’t run away; it’s only me
Don’t be afraid of what you can’t see
– the prophets oingo and boingo


I’m looking for a 4-mile trail. Google maps tells me it’s right around the corner. And, well, you know, it’s Google. How could a fancy-pants California company not be familiar with the tiny back roads of South Texas?

I drive north through the gloom and grey to the outskirts of town. Turn right, it says. Why? I ask. Never you mind, it says. So I do. I turn off the main road, on to the less than main road, on to a small road which leads to a tiny road which leads to what may or may not be a road at all.

The area is creepy, in that vague opening scene of the chainsaw massacre kind of way. There’s a little rundown cement factory. For burying the bodies? Followed by a Volkswagen graveyard. Maybe 10 rusted corpses litter the yard.

Still, the hope of a runnable trail 9 miles from my front door is to die for. Maybe.

It’s been raining like crazy all day. I drive through a small lake that completely submerges the Honda. Luckily I have the windows up. I’m thinking this is not the best place to stall out. This is not even in the Top 10 list of places to stall out. Not a Wendy’s in sight. Or a human. Or even mutant sewer rats. I don’t think they have sewers out here.

And then.

“Turn onto Doberman Street,” Google cheerfully announces.

I pause. I contemplate. Maybe this is just a weird dream. I can’t really be turning onto Doberman Street in the middle of nowhere. There can’t really be a large Doberman looking at my front left tire with a “not a problem” look. Jenny couldn’t really have told me I’m an inside the lines person. So I go along with it, thinking I’ll eventually wake up to find that I’ve slept in and yes, a gluten-free waffle DOES sound delicious, dear. thank you very much.

I start down the road. It’s in disarray, with potholes disguised by the high water. I pass by a marina shop with a couple of dead boats and a couple of very live dogs. Followed by a large, windowless cinder-block building with an untethered dog as big as my car lying in the yard. He stares as I drive by. And then, the building where the guy with the meat cleaver must live.

It’s magnificent in a “hey, let’s come here after dark on Halloween night and scare the girls” kind of way. Broken windows, fantastic numbers, a washed-our eeriness. I pause to take a photo for Mo, who loves numbers. Maybe not so much these, I find out later.

From there, another right turn, and Google cheerfully announces I’ve reached my destination. Which is a dead end next to a small steel factory. I wonder if Google is in on the plan to lure people here. I am relieved it hasn’t led to a sausage factory. No park, no trail, no nothing. I am secretly relieved, not having to debate whether going to the trail would be worth passing the house of horrors.

I retrace my steps, swim across the lake and head home. I tell Mo she has to see it. She assures me she does not. I tell her Jenny said I’m an inside the lines guy. Mo shrugs and says Johnny Cash. Then she eats my cookie while declaring it’s not as good as hers was.  I go home. I write a blog post. I wait to wake up. mmmmmmmm, waffles …

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i hope mcconaughey plays me

I set out for the long run. Sure, it’s icy, windy and raining. But I’m a runner. Suffering is what we do.

I run along the jesus etc. course. It’s a bit eerie dodging puddles on the yawning three lanes of nothing. Nobody else is out except the occasional Selena pilgrimages. Families jump out, snap a photo and dive back into the car. Because, well, it’s Selena, but well, it’s icky out. A gull bombs me with a pack of sunflower seeds. I’m almost sure i’m not making that up. And I run. It feels fine. The legs are tired from yesterday and my head isn’t really into it, but it’s ok.

And then.

The rain gets worse. It gets colder. The wind picks up. I’m hating life. I consider quitting. And then i see him.

Coming the other direction is Don Winkley, the legendary ultrarunner who lives here. He’s out in the downpour, moving along at that i could do this all day and I just might pace. He was one of my heroes when i first got into ultras. A true nutcase. Trans-Tennessee, Trans-America, Trans-Australia, Trans-Gaulle. Put a trans before it and he was there. And now he’s here. Rain? Rain stops sissies. Shivering in the rain, I am instantly inspired.

I know what i must do.

I run back to the car, turn on the heater and drive home. Mo gives me a dry shirt and the jeez louise you’re weird look. I crawl under the comforter and take a long nap.

The hallmark movie based on this story likely will have a different ending.

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just another run, part 3

It’s that time of day when the sun starts to fade and the saguaros turn into gnomes. A time to switch off the brain and follow the lines. A time not so much for running, as for being. I love that time.

I’m getting in 7 miles on the Ray track as a prelude to the long run tomorrow morning. An evening run before the a.m. long run is not the smartest thing, but we’ve pretty much established that much of what I do will never fall into the smart category. Still, I’ve got the track to myself except for a couple of neighborhood dogs who wander along, following me halfheartedly before deciding my pace is not worth their time.

I drift from Concrete Blonde to Lyrnyd Skynyrd to Stone Temple Pilots, poking around  Pandora for something to make the miles go by. I end up with the soulful stylings of Mr. Scott Simon.

Late-night runs on the track are an interesting experience. It’s pretty much a sensory deprivation tank, with no sounds and no sights other than a relentless white stripe. I search my memory for what it was like to do this forever. Do I have another one in me next year? I think I’m mentally stronger, so maybe. The miles are slower, so maybe not. Time will tell.

I down an espresso love gu at the 3 mile mark, just to get some caffeine, and settle in for drudgery of the last miles.

And then.

Scott Simon is doing a piece on Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old woman who was just murdered. He reads a letter she had written to her parents during her ISIL captivity.

“I have learned that even in prison, one can be free,” she wrote them. “I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.”

I think of the Prescott town square, start and finish of the beloved Whiskey Row Marathon. I remember waiting for a guy to dig through the trash can looking for aluminum cans so I could throw up in it. And now it’s become a place of mourning.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand life. How can bad things happen to good people? How do you keep the faith? I guess you cling to a letter from a woman who probably knows her fate but still struggles to comfort her family.

I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.”

I run the last miles thinking about Kayla. Wishing she could sit on the benches in the square again on a crisp Prescott morning and watch the world go by. I’d buy her a frozen yogurt from that place on the corner and thank her for giving so much to make the world a better place. Maybe life isn’t supposed to make sense. We just keep following the white line and hope for the best.

I go home and wait for my Valentino. Maybe that’s the good we carry away from this horror. Cherish every moment you have together. You never know.

And it’s maybe the best mantra for running, and for life, I’ve ever come across. “I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.” I think I’ll carry that with me for a lot of miles down the road.

Thanks, Kayla. I know Prescott will never forget you. I hope the rest of us don’t either.

And I really, really hope there’s a heaven. If I make it there, the first FroYo is on me …


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the quotable mo sheppo, part 8

“I’m finally going to understand this place right about the time we’re leaving.”


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the quotable mo sheppo, part 7

“um, i just glitter-bombed the living room.”

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