Archive for the ‘Fitness and running’ Category

Endurance

June 16, 2016

Last fall when my neurodiverse son Harrison was running on his middle school cross-country team I began writing essays about our roller coaster of experiences and emotions. Some of these became columns for Colorado Central magazine and others I stashed away, or were parts of emails and other correspondences to family and friends.endurancecover

At some point I began to see a common thread of community, compassion and inclusion, and began to think in terms of combining these essays into a longer story. This long essay eventually became a short book I called Endurance — A season in cross-country with my autistic son.

At first I viewed the short book as an interesting experiment in an age of shrinking attention spans. It seemed hardly worthy of paper and ink, and so I initially published it as a kindle ebook. However, I immediately began to get requests for hard copies, so decided to publish a limited-edition run, and released it recently during an opening at The Brookwood Gallery in Westcliffe.

As an indie publisher I’ve been debating how to best distribute this short book. Because of its size, price point and sales margins, I’ve decided for now to offer it direct to my readers rather than through Amazon and other mass outlets. If you’d like a copy please send $10 to:

Hal Walter, 307 Centennial Dr., Westcliffe, CO 81252

You also can pay by paypal (which accepts credit cards) using “send money” to jackassontherun@gmail.com.

Price includes shipping, and of course be sure to include your address.

The book is also available, along with my other book Full Tilt Boogie — A journey into autism, fatherhood and an epic test of man and beast, in two regional retail outlets — The Book Haven in Salida, and The Village Shop in Westcliffe.

Thank you for supporting my writing and indie publishing.

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Grounding for the Hardscrabble Runs

May 4, 2016

grounded

Grounding, or earthing is a controversial practice that in its truest sense involves direct physical contact with the ground. Some people claim health benefits and I don’t doubt they may be true. I just know grounding feels good.

Lately I’ve been grounding out on the Hardscrabble Mountain Trail Run course. The races are coming up June 5 and already the entries are flowing in. I won’t be laying around in the dirt that day for sure.

This is my fourth year as Trail Boss for the event, which raises awareness and funding for vital land and water conservation projects in Southern Colorado. The Hardscrabble Run is hosted by the San Isabel Land Protection Trust,  which  in partnership with landowners, has protected more than 40,000 acres of land, 174 water rights, and 61 miles of stream frontage in Southern Colorado.

Runners and walkers can meet the challenge of the 5K or 10K courses on Bear Basin Ranch, a 2,400-acre protected ranch located in the Wet Mountains 11 miles east of Westcliffe.

It’s work it just for the lunch — after the race, entrants will be treated to a post-race fiesta that includes a gourmet lunch by Kalamata Pit Catering. There’ll also be live music by Bruce Hayes, awards and prize drawing for fantastic gifts, including awesome items from Patagonia.

Youth 17 and under will run free thanks to the generosity of Ranchers Roost Café/Cliff Lanes Entertainment, and other individuals. The goal is for 100 young runners from Custer County and surrounding areas participate. Young runners must register online by using discount code youth.

The races start at 10 a. m. on June 5. The start and finish are at 8,913 feet elevation. The courses feature 475 feet of vertical gain on the 5K and 1,083 feet of gain on the 10K, with the 10K topping out at 9039 feet. Both routes have short but steep sustained climbs that may require many participants to hike or walk. There is one aid station for the 5K course and two for the 10K.

Entry is $40 if received by May 30.

For more information or to register visit: www.hardscrabblerun.com or contact San Isabel at 719.783.3018.

Anyone wishing to sponsor the event with cash donations or prizes for our drawing should contact me at jackassontherun@gmail.com.

So come on out for the trail run. Ramble around Bear Basin. Each some lunch and listen to the music. Maybe win a prize. Do a little grounding yourself, if you want.

Two laps to awareness

May 3, 2016

lineup

T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruellest month,” but then he was not referring to a calendar for autism awareness.

Each year I greet the proclamation of Autism Awareness Month as a source of amusement and with a sense of duty. The fact is, every day is about autism awareness around here.

Actually, I have been doing my best to avoid using the term “autism,” though this is nearly impossible when writing about it. Instead, I prefer “neurodiversity.” It is more accurate for one thing, less of a label and more inclusive. Read the rest of the essay.

Minimal shoes vs. performance-enhancing devices

March 31, 2015

I believe in minimal footwear and if I were to live on a beach somewhere and run only recreationally, I’d probably only have two pairs of running shoes for those times when I might choose to wear any shoes at all. One would be a pair of New Balance Minimus and the other would be Luna Sandals.

But I don’t live on a beach. I live in the Rocky Mountains. And to further complicate matters, my chosen sport is pack-burro racing, which involves running long distances over rugged mountainous terrain alongside a large animal not always known for its cooperative nature.barefoot2

A few years ago in one of these races — the 28-mile World Championship up and down 13,187-foot Mosquito Pass — I watched as the first-place racer smoothly eased away from me on the descent. This eventual winner was wearing a pair of Hoka One Ones, thickly padded maximalist shoes that looked more like Moon Boots or clown shoes than running gear.

That same summer I’d also managed to bruise my forefoot badly when a rock jabbed through the soles of a pair of minimal shoes. The pain was terrible, and it seemed like I could not get in a run without finding a rock or two with that sore spot and re-injuring it. I started to look at different options. At some point out of desperation and at the suggestion of several friends I decided to try on a pair of Hokas.

At once I realized why these shoes were so popular among trail and ultra runners. They smoothed over the roughest terrain. No rocks could poke through to my feet. I likened them to the difference between a mountain bike and a road bike for off-road use.

I also quickly realized that these shoes were clearly performance-enhancing devices, allowing a person to run beyond natural capabilities and enter the danger zone where injuries happen. Were they healthy footwear? No. There are many health risks associated with wearing thick shoes like this long-term — including loss of proprioception, muscle imbalance and weakness throughout the body, increased shock (from reverberation, or bounce), and others.

In a sense these shoes were much like performance-enhancing drugs. But, unlike drugs, they were legal and other competitors were wearing them. If I wanted an equal footing I thought I should at least give them a chance. As competitive athletes many of us often make choices that improve our chances but are not necessarily healthy. Just deciding to compete in the first place is one of these choices. Training beyond requirements for health is another. Besides, my forefoot was killing me, and the increased inflammation from this injury was actually showing up in blood tests for C-reactive protein.

What would Lance do?

I now had racing fats instead of racing flats. And, in fact, the first race I ever wore them in, I won.

Another thing I quickly realized was that as soon as I was done training or racing in these shoes I wanted them off my feet — like right now.

barefootIn defense of my maximalist shoes, they did not have a huge heel-forefoot drop. They were fairly flexible, explaining why they did not tip and twist my ankles on rugged terrain. And they were so soft that they actually allowed my feet to do their own thing. In some ways it was like running in sand. They had transformed the Rocky Mountains into a beach. My forefoot even healed up without the constant strikes from rocks, and my inflammation markers returned to normal. But I remained very conflicted about using them.

So how was I to resolve this inner conflict between my natural minimalist sensibilities and my maximist racing fats?

Part of the answer was what my body had already told me — wear the fat shoes as little as possible. Run in them, then get them off my feet ASAP. And the other part of the answer was to continue doing what I had been doing — going barefoot as much as possible (see my article on barefoot therapy), choosing my workouts wearing the big shoes carefully, wearing minimal footwear to warm up and cool down, and for most of my other everyday activities like walking. By maintaining strong feet, ankles and balanced muscles through barefoot therapy and minimal footwear, my body was better able to adapt to those times I chose to wear the performance-enhancing shoes.

Along the way I also transitioned to another brand and style of maximal shoes, finding the Altra Olympus to be somewhat lower to the ground, with a zero-drop and much larger toebox.

In this manner I have adjusted to being able to wear both styles of footwear successfully, enjoying the advantages of performance-enhancing footwear for racing while also maintaining and building natural foot strength and health the rest of the time.

Go Run!

April 18, 2013

For the past couple of days I’ve been searching around the house for two small things I’d not seen in a while. I looked on shelves, in drawers, in boxes, in plastic containers of odds and ends. These items I was looking for had not seemed all that important for the nearly three decades I’d had them, but suddenly finding them seemed paramount.

I was looking for my Boston Marathon medals.

gorunmedalTo me they’d always been just another couple of trinkets among a collection of hardware won throughout the course of my running “career,” if it can be called that. As I sorted through the various medals stashed away I found some that brought back memories. “The Rawhide Marathon,” “Skyline Drive 10K Overall Winner.” “Leadville Trail 100” . . . all great memories but I wanted to find the thick gray medals, the ones with the unicorn on them.

And all this time I was looking for the darned things what I was really trying to sort out was my feelings about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Were my feelings any different from those who had never run the race? Did I have more empathy because of my past connection with the marathon? Maybe. Maybe not. And really, what does that matter, and who cares anyway?

Finally I did find one of the Boston medals. I held it in my hand and thought of that day when I had run the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the “Pru” in a driving rainstorm, then went with friends for fish and chips and to a RedSox game. That day so long ago when the world seemed so different than the one we live in today.

In recent days on my daily runs around the neighborhood, I’ve noticed people waving more enthusiastically than usual as they drive past. Some are neighbors. Some are people I’ve never seen before. I doubt any of them know I have a medal with a unicorn on it but somehow I think seeing someone out running means something totally different to them now.

And while splashing through the slush yesterday I suddenly realized why I felt the way I did about the Boston bombings, why I so badly wanted to find those medals, why running is important, why those people were waving. I knew now what the Tarahumara of Mexico know. And what the Maasai of Africa know. Running — this ancient form of travel, of hunting food, of spreading the news — builds tribal cohesiveness. And the lack of tribal cohesive is really what’s at the core of tragedies such as Boston.

So do this today. Go run. Run however far you can. However far you want. Run for 6 seconds or run for 60 minutes. Run 10 feet or run 10 miles. Run from your office to your car or run from your home to your office. Run because light drives out darkness. Run in place. Run around your house or run around a track or around a park. Run up your driveway or across town. Run because love beats hate every time. Run from your desk to the coffee pot or run across a mountain pass, a prairie, a desert, or on a beach. Run for the chance to wave to people you may or may not know, or to connect with someone you may have forgotten within yourself. Run for those who no longer can and for those who never will again.

Run because we’re all in this together.

Just go run.

Spring snow

May 8, 2012

Spring snow

‘Haulin’ Ass’ out on DVD

March 5, 2012

Over my years in pack-burro racing I’ve had the occasional good fortune to win a race and be the person someone with a video camera wanted to interview.

Sometimes it was local TV media, sometimes national networks like the Outdoor Life Channel, and sometimes it was independent filmmakers. No matter how dead-tired or brain-dead I was, I always did my best to make time for the person behind the camera after the race. I did so because I knew sooner or later someone would capture the spirit of pack-burro racing in a video that would appeal to a mainstream audience.

It turns out that I was right. One of these interviews with independent New York filmmaker Trevor Velin eventually led to the production of “Haulin’ Ass,” which recently was released on DVD.

The film focuses on the lives of three pack-burro racers — myself, Roger Pedretti of LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Curtis Imrie of Buena Vista. While the movie may outwardly appear to be just about pack-burro racing, it’s really about much more than that as Trevor delves into our lives and the psychology behind our participation in this sport. This film will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It’s only an hour long but you’ll feel like you’ve physically and emotionally been to the top of Mosquito Pass with each of these characters.

Haulin’ Ass can be purchased online at http://haulinass.flyingcart.com/.

To celebrate the release of the film on DVD, I’m offering a special deal on my book “Wild Burro Tales — Thirty Years of Haulin’ Ass.” For a limited time if you buy the film and are interested in buying my book send $15 and I’ll pay the shipping on the book. Just email your information to jackassontherun@gmail.com and tell me that you ordered the movie “Haulin’ Ass” online.

A quick trot and plenty of go

March 22, 2011

After a disappointing pack-burro racing season last summer, I knew if I wanted to stay with the sport I’d need to do something about my animal situation. Clearly, I’d reached the limits with Laredo, who’d been my main partner these past few years. Despite winning two World Championships Laredo has some physical limitations on the long, high-altitude courses at Fairplay and Leadville. I began to think in terms of bringing Spike out of retirement, knowing that he won four world Championships, and could probably still outrun the current winning times. This is still an option. Then Vicki Livingston suggested I give a burro out of her herd a try. This burro, whom I’m calling Cash shows a lot of promise with a quick, long trot, and plenty of go. I believe him to be a great grandson of the first burro I ever ran, Moose. Cash still needs a lot of training before I could consider him race-worthy, but check out this video I made during a recent training run with him.

Barefoot therapy

October 28, 2010

How to shuck your shoes, at least some of the time

Ok, so you’ve read all about the benefits of barefoot running, the debates in running magazines, the Tarahumara (who generally run in sandals, not barefoot) and Barefoot Ted. In your mind there’s a vision of yourself running barefoot for miles across the countryside.

But in reality outside awaits a world of concrete, ice, blistering hot pavement, angular gravel, thorns, glass and many other hazards to your feet.

So, just how does an outdoor athlete go about shucking his shoes?

Dr. Phil Maffetone, health and fitness expert and author of “In Fitness and In Health” and “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing,” advocated barefoot exercise long before the current hype. Best known as the fitness coach for six-time Hawaii Ironman Triathlon Champ Mark Allen and ultramarathon record-holder Stu Mittleman, Maffetone also pointed out years ago that scientific studies showed alarming injury rates among runners wearing the most expensive shoes.

A good place for many aspiring shoeless athletes to start, he says, might be with barefoot therapy.

“Even a short amount of barefoot time initially can bring tremendous benefits in correcting and preventing foot and ankle problems. These types of problems also can cause chronic knee, hip or back problems,” says Maffetone. “Just 10 to 15 minutes a day can help balance and strengthen foot and leg muscles, allowing the whole body to better balance on its own natural support systems.

Maffetone suggests starting by spending more time barefoot indoors for a few days both at home and at work. Once you’re comfortable with that, venture outdoors, on a safe surface such as grass, sand or the sandy edge of a dirt road. Slowly work up to being barefoot much more of the time on your feet.

Your barefoot time can be done separately as therapy, or as part of your workout as a warm-up or cool-down, though doing so after your workout may have more benefits in resetting your feet’s sensory system after spending time in shoes.

Most of us have been wearing oversupported fitness shoes for many years. Although the foot can quickly adapt to barefoot walking — and even running — muscles, tendons and ligaments in the feet, ankles, calves — and even other areas we may not consider like our jaws — may take some time to rehab.

But not as long as you may think.

“Despite being bound for years by shoes that don’t match the needs of our feet, being barefoot can quickly help restore foot function because the muscles respond beginning with your first step,” Maffetone says. “During this process, it’s very important to find the best shoe for your feet.”

Over time many athletes who have access to safe barefoot environments may be able to build up to doing entire workouts without shoes. However, for many, shoes will remain an integral part of workout life. That’s why Maffetone says it’s important to find the right shoes, those without too much support, cushioning and other gimmicks.

“Look for the flatter more flexible, less soft shoes,” says Maffetone. “The answer may end up being cheaper models, so-called racing flats, or even shoes that are not marketed for your sport. In addition, use comfort as your guide, and realize that most people wear shoes that are too small for their feet.”

‘Born to Run’ author likes ‘Wild Burro Tales’

August 11, 2010

A few years ago, Christopher McDougall came out to cover the Leadville International Pack-Burro Race for Men’s Health magazine. Since then, he’s become a New York Times best-selling author with his book “Born to Run.” When I was putting “Wild Burro Tales” together I contacted Christopher and asked him to read the galleys. He provided this kind quote, which is on the back cover of the book:

You need to read “Wild Burro Tales” to discover why Hal Walter is the poet laureate of pack burros, and why pack burros deserve their own poet. For the same reason we’re lucky that Jack London went to Alaska and Hemingway took a fancy to bullfights, we got a break when a writer of Walter’s talents decided to immerse himself in the weird and wonderful world of pro burro racing. Not only does Walter capture all the drama of “the longest, highest, roughest, toughest test of man and beast” where “a big animal gets in the way of a big ego,” he also pays as much respect to the scrappy old miners who created the sport as the blazing young newcomers who are redefining it. No one knows more about this unique partnership of complex animals and extraordinary athletes than Walter, and it’s hard to imagine a writer who could describe it better.

— Christopher McDougall

Author of New York Times Best-Seller “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen”

How to get a copy of “Wild Burro Tales”:

• Available at The Book Mine in Leadville, The Hand Hotel in Fairplay, the Book Haven in Salida, Candy’s Coffee and Westcliffe Super Market in Westcliffe, and The Bookery in Pueblo.

• Order a signed copy directly from me.

• Order from amazon.com.

• Order from Creastespace:https://www.createspace.com/3438422.