I love this Darwin-inspired
quote and wish I knew who said it.
The psychologist in me
just can't over-emphasize how important I think it is for
human beings to be adaptable, to "go with the flow" of what life
throws at us, to harmonize with conditions. I'm convinced that the more adaptable I can be,
the happier and healthier I'll be. It saddens me to see people
who are so rigid in their beliefs and habits that they can't
learn, make positive changes, grow, enjoy, and fully
Adapt or die, literally or figuratively. Basic Darwinian
In this entry I'll narrow the topic down to
the importance of adaptability for endurance athletes,
even though I think it's important for folks to be adaptable in
every aspect of their lives.
RULE # 3: BE FLEXIBLE & ADAPTABLE
How many times have I
mentioned "adaptability" and "flexibility" in these journals?
Lots! I began back in the
2005 journal when I listed my three main "rules" for our
Appalachian Trail Adventure Run: don't get injured, have fun,
and be flexible and adaptable (it's in several of the prep
pages). I knew even before I began the trek that Jim (my crew) and I would
face numerous unforeseen challenges as we traipsed over the
to Maine. Our adaptability was tested at least once every day,
in some form or another.
You can also see in our 2006, 2007, and 2008 journals that we have
changed or modified our training and our running and travel plans many times to
fit each new reality in our lives and the world around us. Stuff
happens and we work around it.
Camper in dry dock: adapting to Summer 2008 in Virginia had its challenges and rewards
Not only was this a different kind of year for us
(since we didn't camp in WY and CO all summer), it has been a
year in which it seems that more than the usual number of other ultra
runners and journey runners have also had to adapt to unusual and
unexpected circumstances. I think it speaks volumes about the
type of folks who seek such challenges in the first place that
most accepted their lousy luck and other glitches with as much
grace and acceptance as they did. Of course, some weren't so
flexible or mature, but
they appeared to be a small percentage. Most were able to move
quickly beyond the initial disappointment, accept their fate,
and set new goals.
That's being adaptable. .
Any experienced endurance athlete knows that a lot can happen
before and during an ultra-distance event, whether you're
talking about a 50-mile trail race, a 100-mile bike race, a
multi-day adventure race, a climb up Everest, or a transcontinental journey
run, hike, or ride. Heck, even marathoners know this:
longer the event, the more that can go wrong both in preparation
and the event itself.
Major foot surgery will definitely impact your training!
Jim's feet after elective surgery
for 2 bunions, 2 Morton's neuromas, and 2 gastroc
lengthenings in November, 2003.
an injury, illness, loss
of a job, move, divorce, death of a loved one, or other life event
that significantly affects an athlete during the long months of
training that are required to complete an ultra distance event;
a missed plane connection
or lost bags on the way to a race;
numerous variables during
the event itself, including but not limited to extreme weather
conditions (heat, cold, drenching rain, hail and sleet, snow, high
winds, etc.), vandalized course markers, wardrobe malfunctions, crew
and drop bag misconnections, stomach issues, rattlesnake bites, ankle
sprain, blisters, ad infinitum.
A lot can go wrong out there, and the athlete's success in
finishing (or maybe even starting) the event depends a great deal on how he or she
handles unexpected adversity.
CANCELLED OR MODIFIED ULTRAS
In the past some ultras, most memorably 100-milers, have either
been cancelled entirely or their courses modified for various
reasons beyond the control of race management. Stuff happens.
The prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance
Run in California has been rerouted at least twice in its
35-year history to avoid late snow pack in the higher elevations
between Squaw Valley and Robinson Flat. It was also rerouted for several years
recently after fires caused hazardous conditions in that same
the course. The high-altitude Hardrock Hundred in
the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado was cancelled
entirely in 2002 because of impassable snow on the course. Other
races have been cancelled or modified because of fire damage or
threat of fires (Angeles Crest, e.g.), flooding or threats of
flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms (Mississippi 50,
e.g.), other weather-related reasons, and even the 9/11/01 acts
John Cappis begins a long slide down snow-covered
Virginius Mountain on the
Hardrock Hundred course after a pre-race trail work
session in July, 2007.
Jim Ballard is 'way down at the bottom in the lightened
circle. Photo by Jim
But 2008 seemed to throw down even more challenges to ultra
runners than most years. Several large races in the western part
of the U.S. and at least one smaller one in the East were
affected this year by a higher- or later-than-usual snow pack,
wildfires, and flooding. I'll highlight four of the more
prominent hundreds and a new 50K/50-miler that were either cancelled
or modified, testing the resilience of not only the runners but
also everyone else associated with the races.
1. BIGHORN WILD & SCENIC TRAIL RUNS, WYOMING
Jim and I have run the
Bighorn races (50K, 52-miler,
and 100-miler) several times in the last eleven years. They were
close to our home in Billings, MT and definitely worth the drive
from Virginia to attend twice since we moved 2,000 miles east
(see our 2006 and 2007 journals). It wasn't until May that we
decided for sure (well, mostly sure!) that we would NOT be going
on our third annual camping trip to the Bighorn, Hardrock, and
Leadville races this summer. The reason had nothing
to do with snow, however.
About a foot of snow fell on the upper part of the Bighorn
Mountain course a few days before
the race in 2007, but the course didn't have to be
rerouted that year. Here Jim and Cody check out
the trail near Porcupine Ranger Station, the turn-around
aid station for the 100-miler. 6-07
That higher-than-normal snow pack I mentioned out West this
year? It made the Bighorn Mountains even more wild and scenic
than usual. Shortly before this year's race both the 52- and 100-mile courses had to be rerouted
from the higher elevations (approximately 8,000 to 9,200 feet)
near the Porcupine Ranger Station.
Runners had to scramble to wrap their brains around new aid
station and drop bag locations, re-write their pacing charts,
and educate their crews and pacers -- but at least they still
got to run part of the original course and race management
retained a similar amount of the elevation gain and loss (it wouldn't
have been much fun if they'd made it easier, now would it??).
Folks who had run the course previously had mixed reviews. The
adaptable, glass-half-full types embraced the changes and enjoyed the race.
Inflexible, glass-half-empty ones were not as happy, and I'm guessing it affected
their ability to put forth their best efforts.
It takes a lot of energy
to gripe and moan when life throws you lemons. Adaptable people
2. HARDROCK HUNDRED
Because excess snow has been a factor at this race previously (after
all, we're talking about 14,000-foot mountains here), race
management keeps track of the snow pack in the San Juan
Mountains around Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride each year so they can notify the
Hardrock entrants, volunteers, and others about
what's happening with course conditions. This is an explanation
Blake Wood sent to the internet ultra list and the runners on May 21:
"In order to try and make the go/no-go decision more
empirical, the following approach has been adopted by the Board
of Directors: The decision of whether yearly snow pack
conditions will allow the Hardrock 100 to be held or force it to
be canceled, is based on the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE)
measured at the Red Mountain Pass Snotel Site. At any time
before June 1 of each year that the SWE is equal to or less than
23", the green light is on for that year. If the SWE is greater
than 23" on June 1, a review of the situation will be made by
run management and the decision announced on that date. The
Snotel data may be monitored on line at
Gorgeous scene along the HRH course near Handies Peak.
Photo taken 7-7-07 by Jim.
It's always fun for Jim
and me to keep track of the numbers, whether we're
going out there or not. Each week this past spring we watched as
the snow accumulated higher and higher. There was internet
chatter that the race might be cancelled. Not only were entrants
quite concerned about this (after all their training and
planning), so were
we as potential volunteers and "friends of the race." So were a
LOT of folks involved with the race. Fortunately, on May 27 the
decision was made: the 15th running of the HRH race was officially a
"go." You can bet there were a lot of happy people when that
announcement was made!
Yes, there was snow on
some parts of the course but most of it
was melted and the race went on as usual. About the same
percentage of runners finished as usual, and 23-year-old Kyle Skaggs ran a
phenomenal race, taking over three hours off the course record
(that's an outstanding ultra running achievement). We're sorry we weren't
there to run the Cunningham aid station and enjoy the show again. We WILL
be there next year (we hope).
Marking the 2007 race course between Kamm Traverse and Mineral
Creek. Photo taken 6-30-07 by Jim.
And if the race hadn't
been held? There would have been at least
135 very disappointed runners (and a lot more friends of the
race). Qualifying standards are tough.
Once qualified, chances of getting in are low and are weighted
in favor of previous finishers. The race has a very complicated
lottery and there were more people on the wait list this year
than ones who were originally accepted. Once accepted, training is (or
should be) tougher than that of most other 100-milers because
the course is tougher than most other 100-milers. It's
definitely "post-graduate" level.
So to go through all those hoops and then have the race
cancelled six weeks before it's set to be run . . .
well, that would be a major disappointment. But it's happened
before, and it will probably happen again. Runners, volunteers,
race management, crew, pacers, observers -- all have to realize
that possibility and deal with it if it happens in the future.
3. BADWATER 135-MILER, CALIFORNIA
This is one race in which Jim and I will probably never
participate but I enjoy reading about it and following runners'
progress online during the race because we always know some of
(Note: the next
four photos in this segment are from Lisa Bliss' photo-sharing
web site. Lisa was the first
female across the finish line in 2007 and was medical director this year.
Lisa, and good luck at
Two runners on the long road to Whitney Portal during the
2008 Badwater 135-mile race.
Photo taken on 7-14-08 by Lisa Bliss.
The 31st running of
Badwater was held in July on
paved roads through the deserts and mountain ranges of Death Valley
in southern California.
It's so hot the pavement looks like it's melting in some photos
I've seen, so
just try to imagine what it's like to be out there running and
walking those roads for up to 60
hours during the race. It starts at the lowest elevation in
North America, 282 feet below sea level in Badwater, and ends at
the trailhead to Mt. Whitney, Whitney Portal, at 8,360 feet.
Like Hardrock, this race is difficult to enter and
difficult to train for. It's got excessive heat (it can be 130º
F. and higher), glaring sun,
hard pavement, and lots of elevation gain and loss (mostly
gain). Some people get their full money's worth, taking right up
to the 60 hours allowed for an official finish. Others with
permits to climb Whitney go on to the 14,000+ foot summit after
the race. On top of that (pun intended), there are very strict
crew requirements and rules.
Badwater sounds almost as
tough on the crews as on the runners. If this race is cancelled
or modified radically, it's a Big Deal to the people who are
Now consider that some ultra runners don't find this event to be
a big enough challenge in and of itself. They further challenge
themselves by running a Badwater DOUBLE, which usually involves
running the official race, climbing Whitney, then turning around and going back to Badwater either with a crew or self-crewed with a contraption
like a baby stroller new parents run with -- about 300 miles
through the desert in the middle of July! (Then there's Marshall
Ulrich, who did a Badwater QUAD and lived to tell about it.
After running Badwater again this year, he just began a
transcontinental run this week.)
Looking back down at the race course from the road to
Whitney Portal. Photo by Lisa Bliss.
Let me tell you a little
story about this year's race, which presented one more obstacle
to which runners and crews had to adapt, at least temporarily. Different
runners reacted in different ways, as you'd expect.
An announcement from the
race director filtered through to all
the participants on the first day: the race course was going to have to be
modified DURING the race. Not cancelled, fortunately, but
significantly altered. Here's what the Badwater
web site 2008 race summary has
to say about the situation:
"At one point on Monday afternoon,
race organizers advised competitors of a finish location change - the
plan was for racers to continue as normal to mile 102.9, then turn
around and run back to Panamint Springs, a distance of 133.5 miles -
only to reverse this notice a few hours later after a concerted effort
by the California Department of Transportation, who put six road graders
into action when a flash flood shut down the race course near Lone
Part of the desert that was flooded during
the race. Photo by Lisa Bliss.
Irony of ironies, a part
of this desert course was flooded in July!
That happens during late spring snowmelt, sure, but in July?? (Maybe
it's more common than I think.) All the race participants, and
particularly anyone planning to summit
Whitney and/or do a Double, must have been very disappointed with the first news,
then elated to discover later on that the road was clear and
their original plans were still good.
At least two of the runners continued with their
original plans to complete a Badwater Double: Anita Fromm
(shown in the next photo) and Danny Westergaard. In fact, Anita
set new women's records for both the race and ascent to the top
of Whitney (52:17 hours) AND the Double (129:44
I don't know how many other runners summitted the peak
and/or did the Double. At least one experienced Badwater runner
planning to do a Double chose to drop out after hearing the news
of the re-route. He must have been pretty frustrated several
hours later when the original course was re-opened. Based on
what I've read and heard about him, he'll be back for another
Anita Fromm (L) during her Badwater Double record-setting
run. Lisa Bliss on right.
I think it took a lot of determination and
optimism for Anita and Danny to stay out on the course after the
first announcement meant their original plans would be ruined. I
have no idea what went through their minds, or the discussions
they had with their crews. But I'm sure they were both very
relieved to find out several hours later that the original course -- and
the opportunity to summit Whitney -- was still a "go."
Good job, you guys! That's some admirable
adapting (twice during the race) to unforeseen circumstances.
4. WESTERN STATES
(WS100) ENDURANCE RUN, CALIFORNIA
Probably the summer's biggest disappointment for hundreds of
ultra runners, volunteers, race management, crews, pacers,
and interested observers was the cancellation of this
prestigious race only
two or three days before the start -- not rerouted or
rescheduled, completely cancelled for this year..
Talk about difficulty getting into an ultra! The odds of gaining
entry into the 36th running of the
States 100-mile foot race
this year were only about one in six. It's gotten tougher and
tougher each year to get in. As I recall, the odds
were about 50-50 when Jim and I both got in in 2001. Jim also
lucked out in 2004.
Jim (L) at Michigan Bluff aid station (55 miles)
in the 2004 race. Jim, Jr. (R) helped crew and pace.
The race has gotten so
popular that the "two-time loser rule" was going to
have to be scrapped or modified
in 2009; there were now so many
hopeful entrants who had been turned down the previous two years
that they would no longer gain automatic entry on their third try. Little did anyone know before June 25 just how ugly this would
get (although considerably less ugly for race participants than
for residents of the area and
lovers of forests).
The run was scheduled to begin on Saturday, June 28. No one told
Mother Nature, however. Very dry conditions in the California
mountains resulted in almost a thousand wild fires during June.
Firefighters were stretched to the max from one end of the state
to the other. Additional teams were being flown in from
around the country to help them save lives first, then structures, then
forest trails like those near the Western States course. It was
difficult to contain the two or three fires raging in the deep,
rugged canyons close to the WS course and the air was thick with acrid
smoke. The situation was looking pretty dire.
Squaw Valley before the 2004 WS100 race. Shortly after the
fires in the first third of the course caused a reroute
over the next three years.
Almost as soon as this memo to the runners appeared on the race
web site a couple days before the race, the news was also flashed on the
internet ultra lists:
"Dear Western States Runners,
It is with deep regret that we announce today that the 35th running of
the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run has been cancelled, due to the
unprecedented amount of wildfires that have struck northern California in
recent days and the health risks that have been associated with these
wildfires. The Board of Trustees of the Western States Endurance Run has
consulted with many of our local and state race partners, including the U.S.
Forest Service and the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, in coming
to this decision. We apologize to our runners for any inconvenience this
decision has created.
The race's organizers are currently working on a revised schedule of
runner activities for Thursday and Friday in Squaw Valley, and these details
will be made available soon. Although there will be no race for the first time
in our 35-year history, we still wish to make this experience as meaningful as
possible for our runners. Activities will include annual events such as runner
check-in for goodie bag pickup on Friday morning, the pre-race briefing and
raffle on Friday afternoon, the showing of Western States documentaries on
Friday night, and a special gathering of runners commemorating the race's start
Jim picking up his goodie bag before the 2004 race
Since the beginning of more than 840 wildfires statewide, 312 wildfires
in northern California and more than 3,200 lightning strikes in the Tahoe
National Forest alone on June 21, the race's organizers have worked closely
with a variety of local, county and state agencies in determining the best
course of action for our race. It has become apparent that given our race's
paramount concern - the safety of our runners - holding this year's race would
pose too great a risk to our runners, to our aid station personnel and to our
volunteers. Given the close proximity of at least two fires that are within two
miles of our race course and a critical access road, as well as the
deteriorating air quality stretching from our start in Squaw Valley to Auburn,
Calif., the board has determined that cancellation, rather than postponement or
the use of an alternative course, represents the safest and most prudent
decision for our 2008 event."
The announcement went on for several more paragraphs (scroll down this
explaining in more detail how and why the decision was made to cancel the race.
One of the last paragraphs acknowledged the inevitable disappointment of the participants:
"For all of you, today's
news is disappointing. Since the lottery was held in December, you have
trained with remarkable diligence and focus to get to this day. You have
dreamed big and made countless personal sacrifices to prepare for one of
the greatest days any trail runner can ever have. As a group, the
Western States Board would like to commend you for your dedication and
devotion not only to the preparation that is required for our race, but
to the community of trail runners of which we are all a part. You are
members of a special group, one that relishes challenge, constantly
strives to improve the limits of what is believed possible, and seeks
the special kindred spirits of others who revel in the beauty of our
sport. We have been honored to have your name as part of our race's
start list this year."
Jim and about 400 other runners await the start
of the 2004 race
I know how excited I was to have the
opportunity to run this race eight years ago. It truly is the "Boston of
Ultras." I tried very hard in the 1980s to get qualified for the Boston
running it twice was memorable. Same with Western States. As soon as I worked
my way up to running 100-milers, I had a goal to run WS.
Even though there are
now about fifty 100-milers in North America -- more than double the number of
100-milers from which
to select a decade ago -- running Western States is still a goal of many
ultra runners. They're all special but WS is extra special to many of
us and we want to run it at least once.
So I can well understand how
disappointed all 400+ runners, their families and crews, pacers, volunteers,
and race officials were when this venerable race was outright cancelled.
A lot of time, money, and preparation went into it. Most folks had already
flown or driven to the event, many with their families. Whether it was their
first time there, or their 20th, they were psyched to run.
Crews wait for their runners at the Little Bald Mountain aid station
(28.6 miles) during the 2004 race.
For some, it was an even greater
disappointment -- those wishing to run the Grand Slam (GS) or Last Great Race
(LGR) series. Western States is the first race in the Grand Slam, the second in the
Last Great Race. Now what were they to do about Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch
(and Angeles Crest, for the LGR folks)? They were already registered in most or
all of those races and had probably already purchased plane tickets and made
housing arrangements. (Running either series is an expensive proposition!)
It was interesting to read the flurry
of posts that hit the ultra lists the next few days. The content was "all over
the board." A few folks were whiny and/or criticized the decision on
various levels. Many
runners who weren't in the race expressed empathy and/or sympathy to the ones who
woman (also not in the race) was outraged at the expressions of sympathy, arguing that "condolences" should
be reserved for the dead. That generated more posts.
But most of the posts were "lemonade from lemons"
types of responses from race participants that showed how adaptable ultra runners can be after they've
done the initial cursing at their bad luck and soon decided how to make the best of
the situation. There were still some pre-race activities they could enjoy if
they were on-site. They
could socialize (and commiserate) with the other runners who had already
gathered for the race. Although they couldn't see the beautiful
scenery at Squaw Valley because of the thick haze of smoke, some runners did
hike up to Emigrant Pass without endangering their health too badly or
interfering with firefighters.
Families went ahead and enjoyed their
vacations. Runners made new plans. Life went on.
Finish area at Placer High School in Auburn, CA.
(Jim finished in 2001 but not 2004; he timed out at 93
miles, which was a heartbreaker.
I DNF'd in 2001 with two torn tendons from a nasty
And some other good things came out of
this (besides the fires being put out eventually): other races like Vermont,
Tahoe Rim Trail, and Angeles Crest opened up some new spots for Western States
runners who wanted to do another 100-miler this season. Arkansas
Traveler became a substitute race for States in the Grand Slam (but apparently not
the Last Great Race). And everyone who was on the final start list for the 2008
WS100 is now on the list for the 2009 WS100. That's not so good for the folks
who didn't get in this time, but it's a fair solution to the runners who were
cheated of the opportunity to run it this year.
By their very nature ultra
runners are more likely than the average person to set lofty
goals for themselves and/or attempt risky adventures. And some
situations just seem to beg for ingenuity and optimism. Here's another
"lemonade from lemons" solution to a race cancellation.
for yourself if it was too risky, or the sort of thing you'd
have done yourself. (I realize we don't have all the facts, but
just humor me here)
This has been a very
active hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic
Ocean. After Hurricane Gustav wreaked more havoc on New Orleans
and the Gulf coast recently, there were forecasts of high winds
and huge amounts of rain along the eastern seaboard from the
next storm in the alphabet, Tropical Storm / Hurricane Hanna.
Governor Kaine declared a state of emergency in Virginia.
About 36 hours before it was to begin, The North Face cancelled
a 50K/50-miler that was scheduled to be run on September 6 in
the Washington, DC area. The company explains on the race
web site that the required
rescue and medical resources were no longer available for
support at the race. (Note: it's my opinion TNF made the
only decision it could make in this case, for several
So what did an intrepid
group of race participants decide to do? Here's the beginning of
a post to one of the ultra lists on September 5 from a relatively new
ultra runner who was very eager to run this race:
"As some of you
know, Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hanna forced VA's governor to
declare a state of emergency. This cancelled the TNF 50 I
was scheduled to run tomorrow. A group of us (about 15)
having named ourselves the Renegade 50, are planning to do the
run tomorrow, unsupported and unofficially. Many of us,
myself included, couldn't let the last months of training go by
without some sort of payoff. All of which led me to
reflect a bit on these last five months of training." (The
rest of his post elaborated on his journey into ultra running
and what the sport means to him.)
Fifteen or twenty
renegade runners and additional support crew showed up to run
the race anyway. They reportedly had fun in the heavy rain,
modified the course during the run to avoid waist-deep streams of water, and
survived the storm. It's not the first time a race has been
cancelled and an unofficial run has been held by runners who are
"all dressed up with nowhere to go."
At first I thought, good
for them! They adapted in their own way and had a good time.
As long as the venue wasn't in a park or other area that was
closed, it's a free country and they can take whatever personal risk
they're comfortable with.
Then I started to realize
that this "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" attitude could
have gotten them killed -- just like a couple of the risky
decisions I made on my AT trek. The The North Face race was cancelled for good
reason: as stated on the TNF web site, "the required
rescue and medical services" would not be available to the
runners. First responders had higher priorities than rescuing
I come by this new
realization honestly -- Jim's an EMT and fireman, covering at
least two of the categories of "first responder."
That gives me a new perspective
on risky behavior: It's one thing for a runner (or anyone
else) to risk his or her own life doing something risky by choice. It's
quite another to put someone else's life at risk
whose job (or volunteer mission) it is to rescue them.
What if one of the runners
was injured and had to be rescued during the height of the storm
when the fire department, rescue squad, police, and medical
personnel were busy with hapless victims who didn't
choose to be out in the storm? Even if they could respond, why
should they risk their own lives from high wind, high water,
downed power lines, and who knows what other hazards?
And what is the likelihood
in this litigious, it's-never-my-fault-it's-someone-else's-fault
culture that the victim or his/her family would actually assume
personal responsibility for their decision to run the renegade
It's a loooong way down if a runner/hiker slips off this
narrow trail on
Little Giant Mountain high above the Cunningham aid station
at Hardrock. 7-11-07
I think about some of the
poor decisions made on Mt. Everest attempts by both experienced
and newbie climbers. How many guides, sherpas, and other
experienced climbers have lost their lives trying to save the
lives (or recover the dead bodies) of other climbers in trouble?
Or think about the problems if some of the Western States
runners chose to do a renegade 100-miler on the course after the race was
cancelled this year. Not only would they have risked damage from
smoke inhalation, they could have hampered the efforts of
firefighters trying to put out the fires and endangered the
lives of rescuers if they became trapped by fire or overcome by
smoke. (They also would have jeopardized the future of the
Just some things for
extreme athletes to think about -- including myself. We want to
push our mental and physical boundaries and have grand
adventures, but we need to weigh the consequences of our
decisions, like the risks to ourselves. I've
voluntarily and/or inadvertently put myself into several risky
situations out in the wilderness over the years without thinking
too much about the cost involved with a search or the people who might have to
The state of Colorado has
a good approach to part of this problem with their CORSAR
program: Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search & Rescue
cards are inexpensive to purchase and save victims the monetary
cost of being rescued, if that becomes necessary. It still
doesn't mean folks should be careless in the wilderness but it's
good "insurance" and helps defray the cost of rescues. The
danger to the rescuers is still there, however.
Warning on trails leading to Mt. Madison in New Hampshire.
less and less prone to choose risky adventures as I get older
and value my life more. Even though I was quite proud of myself
for getting over
Mt. Madison in a blizzard and plowing through
streams in the Hundred Mile Wilderness three years
ago on my AT run/hike, I get the willies thinking about those
two days in retrospect. I could
have died in either situation and I could have put other
people's lives at risk who tried to rescue me or recover my sorry
I still love adventures,
but I think I'll keep them more "lite" from now on and do my
best to avoid an unnecessary rescue.
WHAT ADAPTATIONS WILL
BE REQUIRED NEXT FOR US?
Speaking of hurricanes,
our own recently-stated race and travel plans may have to be
After Hurricane Ike
battered a huge area of Texas and Louisiana two days ago, I'm wondering what Huntsville State Park just north of
Houston looks like. We haven't entered Sunmart yet. Will the
park trails be cleared by early December? Will the race be
cancelled or rerouted? Can we camp there again? We'll have to wait to see. We are
registered for Ultracentric near Dallas in two months.
Hopefully, there isn't much damage there and we'll be able to
run that race.
Jim and I may have to
change our plans yet again, and that's OK. We're resilient. We
usually have a Plan B and C. It's a minor inconvenience for us,
compared to what the residents face. Our main thoughts are for the
people who live there, the ones who are directly impacted in many ways.
GALVESTON, OH GALVESTON!
It's so sad to see the
early pictures and videos from Galveston Island, which took the
most direct hit from Hurricane Ike. I'm glad we had the
opportunity to explore the island in February while it was in
its glory. It was a great place to visit.
These houses right on the beach adjacent to Galveston
Island State Park are gone now. 2-7-08
We hope the city and
island recover as quickly as possible. We thought we might go
back in January or February. Now I doubt we will. It
depends on whether the state park campground is open by then.
I read that it may take an entire year just to clean up all the
debris! I'm sure the local economy could use some of our tourist
dollars, just like New Orleans after Katrina's devastation.
Memorial to the thousands who
lost their lives in Galveston in the 1900 Great Storm
Tens of thousands of people along the Texas and
Louisiana coast are now homeless. Many are also jobless.
Fortunately, the death toll was relatively low. The tragedy
touches on several themes in this essay: making risky
choices (living in a vulnerable area in the first place, defying
orders to evacuate), assuming personal responsibility
(evacuating to a safe place before the storm hit, having
a Plan B in case of an event such as this, not feeling entitled
to be taken care of by the government), and putting the lives of
other people at risk to be rescued (about a thousand who refused
to evacuate called 911
during the height of the hurricane;
Darwin at work).
All the victims, including
the ones who acted responsibly, have a lot of adapting to do in
the coming weeks and months. I can't imagine dealing with all
the problems they will have. It sure puts into perspective how
relatively inconsequential are the adaptations we ultra runners
have to make when a race is modified or cancelled!
Sunset on Galveston Beach. 2-5-08
Life is unpredictable.
Stuff happens and we need to be able to make conscientious,
reasoned decisions about how to adapt to the bad stuff. I hope I
can continue to adapt, accept, and harmonize with the changing conditions
that I'll face the rest of my life; figure out how to have more adventures
without endangering myself or others too much; and
accept total responsibility for the decisions
I make. Hopefully that will help me live a longer, happier life!
Next entry: update
on some of this summer's journey runners
Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
Tater (in spirit)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil