Going into the Bandera 100k trail race, I had trained more than any other race. Previously I had only ran about 3 days a week, and my max mileage in any given week was 40 miles. But this year was different. My max mileage week was 65 miles, with 42 of them being in one weekend. I also did several back-to-back runs during this training cycle. Something I had never done before. I felt VERY good going into the race, and thought a 14-15 hour finish would have easily been achieved, but what I did not expect was the horrible conditions the weather would throw at us.
Everybody had been paying close attention to the weather for more than a week prior. The threat of ice and cold was imminent. Cold by it self I could handle. Running on snow I could handle; but freezing precipitation during a run was something I had no idea how to deal with. And to make matters worse, there was the MUD, the slimy, sticky, suck-your-foot-down and slide-your-foot-forward mud. It was like running in peanut butter. I’m pretty sure the conditions stretched and tweaked muscles I didn’t even know I had.
The night before the race it sleeted pretty much all night. I feared the worse before I even got out of my tent. I gave the rain fly a poke when I woke up to hear a heavy crusty layer of ice breaking apart. I knew the trail conditions were not going to be great, but at the time I still wasn’t prepared for the mud fest that would ensue.
Everybody was dressed warmly at the start line, with the exception of a few crazy teenagers wearing track shorts. I settled on just wearing one long sleeve base layer, a lightweight Patagonia Houdini jacket, a pair of running pants, and a buff to cover my head. It ended up being plenty to keep me warm throughout the entire race, and dry as well – despite the constant precipitation in the air.
From the start everything went pretty well for the first 17 miles. Although I did take one good slip about two miles out from the start. I’m pretty sure I had slipped on an icy covered rock. I landed right on my tailbone, but popped right back up and ran it off. Runners were pointing out icy patches to each other was we ran over the jagged peaks of Bandera.
Once I hit mile 17 things began to fall apart a bit. My legs were weary from battling the weird sticky mud for the past 10 miles (first 7 weren’t that bad). My pace began to slow and my confidence was starting to wane, even though I was still on pace for a 14-hour finish at that point. The next 6 mile stretch back to the Cross Roads aid station from which I had just left was the slowest six miles I had run, and the miles only got slower going back to the half way point (Lodge).
After reaching Lodge I was only about 30 minutes off my pace chart for a 14 hour finish, which meant a 15 hour finish was still possible. At the very least I thought I would finish in 16, but I wasn’t expecting the trail conditions to worsen as much as they did. The mud…OH THE MUD. Every step you took the mud would suck your foot down deep and slide at the same time, which made walking fast impossible, and running was even more difficult because mud would just accumulate on your shoes, making it just like running with ankle weights, only they were also sucking you down into the ground simultaneously.
Needless to say the second loop was pretty drab. Thankfully I had my friend JR Seaman, of Chasing 100, pacing me. Had it not been for him, my second loop would have been even slower. The first 6 miles of the second loop weren’t too bad. We ran most of it, but we had yet to encounter the truly muddy parts of the course. Once we did, things began to slow down pretty drastically.
To give you an idea of how much we had slowed down. My headlamp was waiting for me at the Cross Roads aid station, 17 miles into the first loop. We hadn’t even made it to the Chapas aid station at mile 11 before the lights went out; the loss of light lead to a lot of walking into the Chapas aid station. At that point JR gave me his head lamp and we both ran/walked by that one light until we got to Cross Roads and picked up a second headlamp.
At Cross Roads we fueled up on warm food the aid station was providing and headed back out for a 6-mile loop back to that aid station. This particular section of the course was very rock, which meant there wasn’t a lot of mud, except for the first mile, which was all mud. This worked to my advantage too because I hit a bit of a second wind and ended up running most of this section, even up the set of peaks known as the Three Sisters.
Upon reaching Cross Roads again we quickly fueled up and headed out for the final 8 miles of the course, which were also the SLOWEST 8 miles of the course. The MUD…OH THE MUD. I can’t even tell you how bad it was in this section. In addition to the mud, the final 8 miles included 3 big climbs, with two of them being in the final 4 miles… running was flat out impossible. But a very slow strut that resembled an old man jogging was possible in sections, which didn’t help much because the pace was still slower than a fast walk, that just wasn’t happening in the peanut butter like mud. The old man shuffle was about the best we could do, with a few bursts of running in dryer sections (but those were very few).
After reaching the Last Chance aid station we only had 4 miles left, but the mud was only getting worse, as snow had been falling lightly but steadily for the past 22 miles. If trudging up the muddy peaks wasn’t enough, the jagged descents were made difficult because of the precipitation; the mental fear of slipping and falling on weary legs made even moving forward a challenge.
But after persevering through the slowest 8 miles of my life, we arrived at the finish line 3 hours over my 15-hour goal with a time of 18:14:33. This also meant I didn’t get a Western States qualifier (17 hours), which I thought was certainly in the bag with as much as I had trained. I’m confident I would have even had my 15-hour goal had it not been for the miserable conditions.
Despite not meeting my time goals I was extremely happy to finish, especially seeing that there were: 76 DNFs (stopped at the 50k mark or before), and about another 50 that never even started the race. Seeing as how this was my first 100K, that I had put so much time into training, and I REALLY wanted the buckle, I was flat out determined to finish. But the craziest thing is I would do it all again, even if I knew I was going to face the same insane conditions.
I recently posted a lovely picture of avocados to Instagram, and captioned them as being used for a raw avocado pie. Several people asked me for the recipe, so her it is. I pulled it directly from my sister-in-law’s super secret blog…..
This makes a killer sweet treat that is full of healthy fats for your brain and body! I can’t tell you how many times I have served this to non health enthusiasts and picky kids who have licked their forks clean! they have no idea it’s made with avocado, although i usually tell them afterwards! You can sprinkle some crushed almonds or walnuts on top or pour into a pie crust. A little bit of this rich pudding goes a long way, so it’s great for sharing with friends or having leftovers.
3 large or 4 medium avocados
2 cups cocoa powder
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup honey (sometimes i sub some of these sweeteners with a little stevia to make it lower glycemic. i recommend tasting as you go to see how sweet you like it.)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
large pinch of salt, to taste
Put all of the ingredients in the food processor or blender and mix till smooth! Dish it up and serve warm or if you can hold yourself back from eating it right away, it is really nice chilled. mmm…it also freezes well, so you can store it away for when you need a quick chocolate fix!
For the crust, I do a combo of nuts (usually almond and/or macadamia), dates, coconut shreds and a some hefty shakes of salt ground up in the food processor until a meal, then pressed into a pie plate. I never measure these things, but if you are into that I’m sure you can find some recipes online for a raw nut crust. you don’t want to make it too sweet or gooey, so that it’s a nutty salty balance to your rich sweet pie.
Caleb’s note: In my opinion both of these are best served cold. The pies set when put into the freezer.
This past week the family spent an entire week at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas for the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. Bearded Brothers has sponsored the competition for the past 4 years now, and we make it out to the event every year we can. The only time we have missed so far was the year Abby was born.
Even though the actual competition is only going on Thursday-Saturday we like to arrive early so we can have plenty of time for adventure as a family. Once the competition starts, climbing is restricted to certain areas to anybody not competing.
From Austin to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch you can expect to spend about 10 hours in the car, and two hours on stops. Our two-year-old daughter, Abby, does great on long car rides. Most of the time she sings to herself, listens to music, or “reads” books. Joshua, my 4-month-old, on the other hand has not taken to these long car rides yet. I’m pretty sure he cried for at least half the trip. We had a decent amount of patience for his cries though going into the trip because we were unsure of what to expect.
In the past we have had only Abby with us for camping trips and she slept well in a room of her own in the Kingdom 8 tent that we use. But now that she is a little bit older she is developing some fears. We fully expected our 4-month-old to have the most trouble with sleeping in the tent, but it was Abby that struggled the most.
Since Abby had a hard time we made an adjustment to our sleeping arrangement. Rather than have her in a separate room we opened up the whole tent and had her sleep right next to me in her Peapod Tent. Whenever she would cry out during the night I would quickly pat her on the back and comfort her and she would quickly go back to sleep – problem solved!
Aside from the minor sleep issues we had with the kids, and the general less sleep one gets one when camping due to sleeping on the ground, we had a very enjoyable time. The evenings were nice as well because once we put the kids to bed Kristy and I were able to spend time talking around the campfire and indulging in s’mores, the type of thing we only eat when camping.
Our kids are at the perfect age right now that Kristy has been able to start climbing with me. When we go to the crag we put Joshua in a Peapod Tent to just chill and nap, and Abby gets to roam around and explore. It’s an excellent teaching opportunity for her as well to teach her proper crag etiquette.
Since we do have the little ones we occasionally have to stop for potty breaks, disciplinary action, and to feed the baby, so we don’t have any lofty goals of getting in 20 pitches of climbing or sending hard routes. We simply get outside and enjoy what the situation allows us to.
Each day we got in 3-4 different climbs, which means I was able to climb 6-8 routes because I had to clean the gear off each route. Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is in my opinion one of the best places for families to climb, especially in the North 40 area. The hike to the crag is just a short distance from the campground, and many of the climbs have wide-open flat areas for kids to roam and not get in the way of other climbers.
We climbed the first two full days in the Ranch, and I spent a morning on the Buffalo National River, just across the street. I got in a nice 20 mile run that crossed the Buffalo National River several times and went past lots of HUGE cliff lines. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I had been on in a long time. The temperature was just about perfect too. It was a much-welcomed reprieve from the Texas heat, and great training for the Bandera 100k that I will be running in January.
Aside from family vacation, the main reason we were here was for the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. Bearded Brothers had provided energy bars for the participant and volunteer packets and had a booth set up during registration and the after party event.
This is one of the most well executed events I have ever been to, and is by far the best climbing event I have ever been a part of. Every year is like a big family reunion. Climbers gather from all over the country to compete in a 12 hour or 24 hour climbing competition. Climbers climb for the entire length of the competition and the person or team with the most routes wins!
The best part about this competition really isn’t the climbing; it’s the people! The competition brings in tons of great industry sponsors, volunteers and participants. The comp is so popular that they are able to sell spectator passes. The entire Ranch is just filled with friends hanging out. Our daughter Abby was great at making new friends too. She roamed around as she pleased and sat next to any dirt bag climber she pleased, and none of them minded one bit. It just goes to show how awesome the climbing community is.
This will be an event Bearded Brothers will sponsor for many years to come, and we look forward to making it a family event every year. It’s crazy to think that in another 12-15 years my kids might be competing in this competition either together or with their dad!
This is the final post in a three-part series on getting outdoors with babies and toddlers. We’ve already talked about expectations and planning. Today, I will share tips specific to camping. Let’s get right to it!
Get a bigger tent. I know, your two-man MSR Hubba Hubba has seen you through many adventures and you hate to “retire” it. But trust me… Sleeping face-to-face with your toddler while she does baby acrobatics is going to drive you bonkers. At my urging, we broke down and bought a Kingdom 8 from REI. It has changed our camping lives! The two rooms are perfect for separating you from the kiddos. Now everyone gets a better night sleep.
Bring the potty with you. One major problem with heading outdoors with toddlers is their incessant need to go to the bathroom. Problem solved, thanks to the Potette Plus travel potty. This potty seat not only folds into a squatty-potty for the ground, but can also fold out for use on regular toilets. Just bring a few of those doggie poo bags and you are all set! Our toddler uses this outdoors all the time… At the climbing wall, on the trail, or whenever nature calls.
Bring a nap tent. Yes, you heard me right. We have two of these amazing Pea Pod nap tents and they are by far one of our top outdoor essentials. We use them everywhere in leu of a traditional pack-n-play. They pop-up instantly, weigh next to nothing, provide a shaded place to sleep and fold up easily when you are done. Both our toddler and our newborn can nap anywhere in these. We bring them out to festivals, on climbing excursions and camping trips. We set them up inside our tent for overnight sleeping too.
Pick the most remote campingsite, preferably with shade. This will spare you a lot of grief when trying to get your little one to sleep at their usual bedtime. Noise from other campsites and cars can be very distracting for kids. Try bringing a portable sound machine to help lull them to sleep. We love this one by myBaby. We have two that we use in the kid sleeping “room” of our tent. Works wonders! Best part: They run on AAA batteries and last for several weeks of all night use.
Expect more night waking. In our experience, our children wake up a bit more during the night while camping. Who can blame them? I usually don’t sleep that great either. I recommend doing whatever you normally do at home. Do you nurse them back to sleep? Do you let them fuss a little? Just do what you normally do and they will usually settle back down. Here’s my tip: bring coffee! You will probably wake up tired and bitter – Nothing a cup of joe won’t solve! There are plenty of awesome french press style coffee makers made specifically for camping. Crisis averted!
Bring some beers. There is something wonderful about relaxing around the campfire with a cold one, right? Well, after a day of family fun, you are really going to need one! Seriously, relaxing by the fire after the kids go to sleep is a great treat and something we always look forward to. Bonus points if you share some with your neighbors who didn’t even complain when your baby cried for 20 minutes straight last night.
I hope this series encourages you to enjoy the outdoors with your family. I’d love to hear any tips you have learned along your journey. And of course, funny stories are always welcome!
This is part two in a three-part series on getting outdoors with babies and toddlers. In part one, we talked about expectations. Today, I will share tips for planning your outdoor adventure.
Plan trips during temperate seasons. If it’s your first outing with kids in tow, I recommend going during pleasant seasons. I distinctly remember our first dead-of-winter camping trip with our infant. Let’s just say NO ONE slept. We have had equally miserable trips in the sweltering summer heat.
Travel when it’s best for your kids. For some, this might mean driving during nap times and for others it might mean driving through the night or mid-day. Even if you are just doing a day trip, you will need to adjust for your child’s routine. Here’s a tip if your little one is not a car sleeper: rub a little Lavender Essential Oil on her feet to help calm her. Additionally, you can try our homemade fussy baby herbal tea. A teaspoon of this usually work like a charm!
Create a packing list. You definitely don’t want to forget anything, especially critical baby gear. Try compiling your list a week before and add to it as you think of things. I like using Evernote for this purpose. I have one list for day trips and another for overnights. Best part: You only have to create it once.
Don’t forget the baby carrier. Our Ergobaby Performance is a must for every trip outdoors. We love it because it’s so versatile for our infant to ride or sleep in. I like to wear it best on my back for long hikes, but on the front is nice for nursing on the go. It also has a built in head cover that provides shade and head support for napping.
Bring plenty of snacks and water. Nothing makes kids grumpier than being hungry! I’ve found that we usually just graze during our outings. Finger foods that kids can manage on their own are best. Our favorites include: energy bars, trail mix, apples, and oranges. We love using a Munchie Mug for containing messy finger foods on the go. The soft cloth top lets little hands in while keeping food from pouring out. Genius!
Plan realistic adventures. In our first post of the series, we talked about setting expectations based on your family’s age and ability. This point is crucial to having a good time. I suggest offering your spouse some solo time to pursue their goals during your longer excursions. For instance, Caleb loves to run trails, which is not baby-friendly. On most overnight trips, he wakes up early and gets in a nice, long run while I hang back with the kids at camp. During nap time, he might watch the kids while I go on a long walk.
Hike. Hiking is the bread and butter of family outings for us. It’s free, easy and keeps the kids entertained (or asleep, depending on the age). One major bonus is that we get to talk while we hike. Sometimes we are pointing out trees, plants and animals, but mostly it’s a time for Caleb and I to share deep thoughts. You know, the kind that get crowded out of typical dinner conversation when your kids are going bananas. Our favorite pack is the Osprey Poco Premium. It carries our toddler, Platypus Water Bladder, snacks and climbing gear effortlessly. We use this baby weekly! Best part: Our toddler loves riding in it.
Go with other families. I always love outings that include other families because all the kids play together and have more fun. We especially love climbing with other families so we can swap watching the kids so everyone gets a turn up on the wall. It’s also easier to laugh-off the inevitable toddler meltdown with someone who has been there.
Stay tuned for our next post on camping. We will go over the nitty-gritty of camping with kids, including tips and gear recommendations. Now it’s your turn! Got any good experiences getting outdoors with your little ones? Share them in the comments section!
Welcome to the first post in a three-part series on getting outdoors with your babies and toddlers. We are an outdoorsy family who especially love rock climbing and camping with our little ones (Abigail, 2 years and Joshua, 4 months). In this series, we will talk about expectations, planning your adventure, and camping. Our hope is that you find encouragement to enjoy nature with your kiddos, with the least stress possible. Let’s jump right in!
The first thing I encourage you to consider is your expectations. Getting outdoors with your kids will likely look different than it did when it was just you and your best buds. I think everyone knows this, but we often forget to take the time to reevaluate our expectations. You can best do this together with your spouse or a friend. Talk it through. Maybe make a list of the things that you feel “make” a great camping trip or climbing adventure. Perhaps a perfect hiking trip for you includes getting X amount of miles in or exploring a certain trail. Maybe it’s not a day of climbing unless you get in 10 or more routes… You get the idea.
Once you have a clear and honest picture of what “perfect” is for you, then brainstorm what reality might be like, considering your family’s ages and abilities. Perhaps you can hike that certain trail you’ve always wanted to explore, but only for a few miles. Maybe you can realistically climb 5 routes, plus a little solo bouldering while the kids nap. Whatever you decide, start with LOW expectations. Nothing kills a fun family outing like frustration and disappointment.
Even better than setting realistic expectations is setting a less-structured intention. For example, our intention for most outings is to enjoy each other’s company while enjoying God’s creation. Simple. Doable! No matter if it rains or the baby cries, we can still realize this intention. Here are some other intentions to consider:
My biggest advice here is keep a positive attitude. You will have frustrating moments when you are trying to organize outdoor family fun. It is inevitable. Kids pick up on negativity and if you lose your cool, they are going to also. Try to laugh off the little hiccups and let the great expanse of the outdoors give you room to breathe. Breathe. Next year, you will likely not remember the tantrums or the spit-up that ran down your back. You will remember the laughs, smiles and feeling of accomplishment that you made through another adventure together. That’s what it’s really all about.
Stay tuned for our next post on planning your outdoor adventure. We will go over planning essentials, including tips and gear recommendations. Now it’s your turn! What changes or challenges have you seen in your family outings? Share them in the comments section!
This is our favorite herbal remedy for occasional fussiness and gas. Our first child was very fussy as an infant, especially when it came close to bedtime. We made up this recipe from herbs we knew were calming. To our surprise, it really helped!
I’m not really the measuring type, so I just used about a spoonful of each of these herbs:
I recommend the Bulk Herb Store for buying herbs online.
Bring 3 cups of purified water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add a spoonful of each herb listed above and let steep five minutes. Strain off the herbs using a mesh strainer as you pour the liquid into a sealable glass jar. Add a little stevia to taste to take away any bitterness. Refrigerate.
Use a medicine dropper to dispense about a 1/2 teaspoon at a time until your baby begins to mellow (no more than 2 teaspoons total). The tea should stay good in the refrigerator for about a week. I recommend pouring the tea into an ice cube tray to freeze small into small batches, so it will last longer.
My friend John Ryan recently inspired me to run my first 100 mile race. Ever since running part of the Wasatch 100 course during Outdoor Retailer in 2012 I have been inspired to run a mountain ultra. I thought about running one this year, but the birth of my son, Joshua, was too close to race day.
So, I have essentially been delaying running my first 100 miler. I wasn’t even planning on running one in 2015. I simply stopped thinking about it, and thought it would be one of those things I do one day when the inspiration hits again. Well, a couple weeks ago I was climbing with John Ryan on the Greennbelt and he mentioned how he was planning on creating a documentary called Chasing 100, and as part of the film he would run the Leadville Trail 100 himself.
My very first thought was, AWESOME can I be your pacer? By the end of the day my gears were churning even more and I thought that pacing John Ryan during Leadville would be a great training run for a race like Wasatch 100. It would give me training at high altitude and allow me to help a fellow runner get to the finish line. I have always found the duties of a pacer intriguing and something I have wanted to do. Essentially the job of the pacer is to encourage the runner, make sure they are getting enough food and water, and keep their butt moving. For some runners a pacer is essential for finishing a race, especially difficult mountain races like Leadville and Wasatch 100.
I’m excited about John Ryans’ documentary too. The sport of ultra running continues to grow. When the Leadville 100 first started there was only about 25 participants, but this past year nearly 1,000 runners attempted the race. When most people hear you are going to run 100 miles they think you are crazy. Crazy just might be an accurate word to describe ultra runners, but many people are starting to realize that running that distance is something humans are fully capable of – the book Born to Run talks about this a lot.
But even myself, somebody who has run two 50 mile races and two 50k races thinks 100 miles is a bit crazy of a distance, but what can I say? The mountains inspire me, and as John Muir says, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Ever since I was a child the mountains have drawn me in. It started with family camping trips to Colorado, escalated to backpacking, then rock climbing, and now ultra running. Im looking forward to pushing myself to see just how far I can go. My next ultra will be Bandera 100k; a grueling 62 mile race in the Central Texas Hill Country. The race description says, “A trail of rugged & brutal beauty where everything cuts, stings, or bites.”
Ultimately what it came down to was just saying why the heck not. If not today then when? JR’s decision to run a 100 in a sense kicked my butt into gear and made me want to help him explore this crazy sport of ultra running even more. What drives people to run insane distances? Is there any similarities, or does everybody have a different reason?
Be sure to follow Chasing 100 on Facebook, and check “Get Notifications” so you get all the updates about the project and become the first to know when the Kickstarter launches to support the film.
If it weren’t for my father, I wouldn’t have the love and appreciation for the outdoors I have today. Growing up, we spent many weekends camping, hunting, and fishing: and once a year we would take a trip to the mountains – usually Colorado.
My love for the outdoors only grew once I graduated from college and had more free time and disposable income to fund my own explorations of the mountains. I spent a good 10+ years of my life relentlessly pursuing time in the mountains. My love of climbing especially grew and, now that I’m a father, it’s something I hope I will be able to share with my children.
I’m a firm believer in the “start them young” mindset. We brought Abby on her first camping trip when she was only four months old. We have been bringing her to the crag just as early. We are starting her so young that she will never remember her first camping trip or first rock climbing experience. The same will be true with my son Joshua as well.
This past weekend was Abby’s first attempt at roped climbing. Although she has geeked-out over simple things, like climbing an angled rock retaining wall, she was a little bit freaked out over being in a harness. She didn’t really want to climb once we put her on the wall, but she did enjoy swinging around about 8 feet off the ground.
As we continue our family climbing adventures I’m sure my daughter will eventually get her first send, and it will be way earlier than I got my first climb in. She has already been to the popular climbing destination Horseshoe Canyon Ranch more times than some seasoned climbers I know.
The outdoors are going to largely be a formative part of my children’s upbringing. My hope is they learn to enjoy, and respect nature, all while seeing the Creator through the beautiful things they see and experience. I also hope that the outdoors will inspire creativity in them, and that they will enjoy quality conversations and time outside, rather than wasting way in front of a television or video game.
It has been a long time since I have blogged here, and a lot has happened since I was actively blogging. I got married, moved from Denton to Austin, had a couple of children, took up up ultra running, all while starting and running a business. The past four years of my life have been quite the amazing journey.
I have been doing a bit of blogging over at my personal blog, which is mostly business focused, but I have had this aching desire to return to blogging here. This new chapter in my life has given me lots of new information to share, such as how to train for an Ultra Marathon while still giving your family the time they deserve, and how to camp with young kids and infants. My wife will chime in with the occasional blog post as well.
Moving from being a single male, outdoor enthusiast to a married business owner of two kids has caused a pretty big shift in the way I view outdoor activity. Gone are the days of climbing three days a week, establishing new routes, running 4-5 days per week, and eating whatever I want, whenever I want. But, I would venture to say things have changed for the better.
Rather than focus on becoming a hard climber or fast marathon runner I get to teach and inspire my kids about the things I love as well: and do so alongside my beautiful wife. I hope that our life will be an inspiration to many. I feel some people view children as the killer of all things fun and that used to be, but that is not the case. You just have to shift your focus on how you view life a bit.
I really hope I will be able to provide you some practical tips that help you get outdoors and do the things you love, AND teach your children about them in the process.