A good day on the trails

Good energy out on the trails Wednesday with my old friend and veteran pack-burro racer Kendra, and new friends Mel and Rob, all from the Denver area.

Mel and Ace.

Kendra brought Mel and Rob here to check out pack-burro running. They were introduced to Ace, Redbo and Laredo. And everyone got to run with every burro except Rob, who served as the official photographer for the outing and somehow missed out on his chance to run with Ace. Rob has a good eye with a camera.

We took a jaunt through Bear Bones Ranch and then through the school section to see if we could locate our cows, but the cattle were hiding in the brush. Then we cut over through Bear Basin Ranch for some cross-country, trails and double-track dirt roads.

In the end we had put in two hours of running. All the donkeys and people had good workouts. It was decided that Ace is the most steady, but in the end Mel pulled away with Laredo and got back here first.

Kendra takes her turn with Ace.

Back at the Out There Pack-Burro Ranchito we enjoyed fresh salads before they headed back to civilization. I hope to see them all back here soon.

Photos by Rob Hering.

50 minutes worth of distance run

I very rarely write about running. Why that is, I don’t know. I’ve run almost every day for the past 30 years.

I suppose I don’t find much to say about putting one foot in front of the other. However, I’ve done enough reading about running to know that some runners like to do some sort of a special workout on a milestone birthday, like run a mile for every year or whatever.

Life being how it is these days, I didn’t have time to run 50 miles on Thursday. So as I headed out for some exercise I thought about what I could do to make this birthday workout into something memorable. Maybe I have time for 50 minutes, I thought.

And so I warmed up by walking for about 7 minutes, and then began to slog away through the mud and the snow. Somewhere about 25 minutes out, I thought if I turned around right then and slogged on back home I’d have that 50-minute run. Big deal.

But there was the crest of a hill just ahead, maybe two-tenths of a mile. Perhaps I could make something interesting out of this workout by picking up the tempo, running to the top of the hill, and then trying to make it back home in 50 minutes.

But first some rules: No overstriding — I couldn’t think of anything worse than spending the first couple days of my 50s quad-sore. And there would be no kicking myself if by some chance I didn’t win my race with the clock.

I picked up the pace, reaching the top of the hill at 28:44. That meant I’d have to run back home about 7.5 minutes faster to get there in 50 minutes.

I know the landmarks fairly well. And it seemed like I was gaining time. About 2 miles from home a killdeer plover, the first I’ve seen this season, winged away from a snowbank with its distinctive cry. They always seem to arrive following a spring snowstorm. I took it as a good sign.

I checked my watch and it appeared I was indeed on pace.

About a mile from home there’s a fairly steep hill. When I reached the top I checked my watch again and felt even more confident. As I turned the corner on the last half-mile I knew I had it, but not by how much. So I kept up the tempo, trotting past my front gate in 48:44, more than a minute ahead of my goal.

There was nothing to do but celebrate with a short cooldown. I stopped my watch at exactly 50:50.

Time, I understand, is relative.

A new Bigfoot in the neighborhood

It’s really just coincidence that I’m reading Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” and found myself running barefoot in the snow today.

Allow me to explain. I’ve had nagging pain and minor swelling in the top of my right foot for about two years. I’ve tried a number of different shoe models, and a number of different lacing patterns, with little improvement. All seem to bind up the joint in my big toe, forcing the arch into the shoe upper.

I’ve edited Dr. Phil Maffetone’s books for many years, and he has always been adamant that most modern athletic shoes are not healthy for our feet or the rest of our bodies. He advocates some barefoot walking and running, and finding shoes that don’t have gimmicks like motion control, and that do not separate the foot too far from the ground.

So I called him today and we had a talk about my feet. Once again he recommended I spend some time barefoot outside, starting by walking 5 to 10 minutes.

“But Phil, it snowed 8 inches last night,” I said. He was not impressed with the weather report. My feet, ankles and calves need strengthening and barefoot was his remedy.

I had every intention of putting this off for a warmer day, say like in mid-May or June. So I headed out for a typical run, starting out walking in my Nike Frees for about 10 minutes, then jogging a couple more miles out on the road.

On the way back I noticed there was a sandy edge to the road that extended for about a quarter-mile. I was jogging along and suddenly thought, “What the hell,” and took off my shoes.

I walked about two or three steps and then it suddenly just felt natural to run. It was odd for the first couple steps and then it was like some memory in my feet clicked on. The next thing I knew I was running through mud, snow and gravel. The snow actually felt great, especially where the plow had scraped it to about an inch deep.

I ran the entire way home barefoot and then went up and down the side road near my house. I ran without shoes about 28 minutes total.

A couple of neighbors and a Schwan’s delivery driver now probably think I’m even crazier than they thought before.

When I got back home I walked around in the snow some more to clean my feet off. They felt invigorated the rest of the day.

I will say, however, I may have been better served by following Phil’s advice and starting out with less time and distance. I can tell I perhaps overstimulated some muscles in my ankles that are accustomed to shoe support. I’ll probably try just 5-10 minutes tomorrow. Remember, this is therapy. I’ll still need shoes for most of my running.

Spring training and Spike’s new trick

Saw an actual robin yesterday while doing some snow removal in the driveway. Not that a robin is totally unheard of up here in the wintertime, but it did seem a little bit out of context.

I took it as a sign, and decided to open spring training a little early. I ended up taking Spike out for a 90-minute run. I hadn’t done anything much over an hour since last fall, so I was pleasantly surprised to feel pretty good for this first longer workout.

Spike did pull a new trick on me, however. There’s a cattle guard on Brush Hollow Road that has a three-way gate. Essentially there are two wire gates that hitch to one post where three pastures meet at the road.

I had opened them and put Spike through on a long lead, and was wrestling with the hasp on the last gate. That’s when I noticed Spike eyeing the cattle guard and thought “Oh $%#@.’”

At this point I realized all I could do was stay stlll, watch, and hope for the best.

And what I watched Spike do was simply an amazing lesson in just how sure-footed donkeys can be. He walked right over that cattle guard, placing his feet, both the fronts and backs, directly on the metal rails. There was no misstep, no slip-up. He simply walked right over a cattle guard that would eat most horses alive. Not that I view this as a good thing for Spike to do, but it was amazing to watch.

I had to reopen the gates to put him back through before we could continue on our way.

The gift that could change someone’s life

If you are looking for a meaningful gift to give someone this holiday season, consider the book “In Fitness and In Health” by Dr. Phil Maffetone. You just may be giving someone the gift of health!

This book details the diet, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle strategies that I’ve used to stay healthy and fit, and to compete at pack-burro racing, for many years. But it’s not just for athletes — the principles can be used by anyone who wishes to improve health and fitness.

If you order this Monday or Tuesday there’s a 20% discount — you get the book for $14.39 (the regular price is $17.99). It’s an inexpensive gift for friends and family.

To order, go to:


Many of you know that I have worked with Phil as his editor since 1998, and have been the editor of this book for three editions, now. We worked on two printings of the 3rd edition starting in the late 90s. And there was a major overhaul of the book for the 4th edition in 2002.

However, this new 5th edition, which I edited and designed earlier this year, is more complete and more interesting than all the others. It contains updated information, and some totally new material about organic foods, sunshine, gut health, and more. It tells how to optimize the diet for physical and mental performance, and how to make healthy dietary choices to prevent disease.

This book could change somebody’s life, or even save somebody’s life.

What better holiday gift could there be?

A second Thanksgiving

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I just wanted a turkey dinner. One cooked by me. My friend Peter had a spare bird, so we made a deal.

It started in the morning when I roasted a small pumpkin for an almond-crust pie. This was followed by a frenzy of cooking: a sausage-rice dressing, mashed cauliflower, prepping the turkey for roasting, green beans, gravy. It was a full day in the kitchen.

After all this cooking what I really needed was some fresh air and some exercise.

It was late and the turkey was still roasting when I headed outside and selected Redbo out of the pasture. We headed out running onto the Bear Basin Ranch trails and somewhere out there the sun slipped behind the Sangres. It was damn well dark when we came off the trail and struck out on the road home — two more miles ahead in the dark.

An overcast sky captured the glow of the waxing moon and all was still except for my own breathing and the clip-clop of the burro’s hooves. It was an exhilarating experience as Redbo headed for the barn with his big trot, and my feet, in step with his, quickly searched out the invisible ground. Perhaps this is how it would feel to fly. Nearing home, Redbo’s ears perked up and his head towered high over my own to point out the ghostly gray forms of deer coursing through a field in the weak moonlight.

In many ways it was one of the most interesting and thrilling runs I’ve ever had with a burro, better even than some races I’ve won.

Back home the smell of roasting turkey filled the air, and soon this would be joined by the sounds of friends. Indeed, there was much to be thankful for.

• • •

A friend sent this link to a story about a man and his autistic son who were swept out to sea by a rip tide, though the story is really about much more than that. It’s yet another interesting look inside the world of autism and is highly recommended reading.

Another reason to avoid NSAIDs

It’s been known that ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may delay healing and come with other side effects. Now a study of runners at the Western States 100  indicates taking ibuprofen during the event significantly increased inflammation, adversely affected the immune system, impaired kidney function and caused bacteria to leak from the colon into the bloodstream.


Nice, huh? Seventy percent of entrants used ibuprofen during the race.


This only adds to the list of reasons I very rarely use NSAIDs of any type. Instead I consume a variety of anti-inflammatory foods that include EPA fish oil, ginger, turmeric, raw sesame seeds and oil, citrus peel, onions and garlic.


In addition, I limit or avoid foods that cause inflammation. These include vegetable oils, refined carbohydrate foods like bread and pasta and foods that contain sugar, and hydrogenated oils (trans fats).


Other lifestyle factors that contribute to inflammation include overexercising and too much anaerobic activity such as weight-lifting, and exposure to certain environmental toxins.


Inflammation is no joke and can do much more harm than just messing up your run. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. For more information about the dangers of inflammation and how to control it, check out Dr. Phil Maffetone’s book, “In Fitness and In Health.”


30? Not yet


The 2009 Colorado Pack-Burro racing season concluded Sunday with Bobby Lewis of Buena Vista and his burro Wellstone winning the 22-mile Leadville Boom Days race, as well as the sport’s Triple Crown, just a few seconds ahead of myself and Laredo. Tim Van Riper caught this photo of Bobby (right) and myself at the turn-around on the Mosquito Pass summit, elevation 13,187 feet, where the wind was really whipping.

Bobby and I have had an interesting racing season due to the dynamics between Wellstone and Laredo. Laredo is Wellstone’s father. When we are out on the course, Wellstone refuses to leave Laredo on his own. But if I try to break the race open, Wellstone digs in to catch or keep pace with Laredo. Then when we near the finish line, Wellstone is willing to go slightly ahead of Laredo and Laredo refuses to pass him. And thus the three finishes just seconds apart.

Although I walked away with another frustrating second place, I extend my congratulations to Bobby, and also take satisfaction in my 30th consecutive finish at Leadville. My first race was in 1980 and I claimed the infamous “Last Ass over the Pass” award with a burro named Moose.

“30” is what we old-school journalists used to type at the end of a story to signify that it was complete, and some people have asked if I am ready to wind down my pack-burro racing career.

When I’m just a couple seconds from another win?

No. Not yet. But I might show up with a different burro.

Pingback this: I work for free now

Here’s a little example of what’s wrong with journalism these days . . .


Today I received a “pingback” notification from wordpress asking for my approval. For those not in the know, a pingback is sent when another site links to yours. In this case, a company that sells running shoes linked to my recent review of the New Balance 904 TR shoes.


Ironically, back in the 1990s I made a fair amount of money reviewing outdoor gear for magazines. It’s true: I was paid as much as $1 per word (generally these reviews were 500-800 words) by magazines such as Outside, Snow Country (formerly published by the New York Times Company) and Rocky Mountain Sports for my written opinion about things such as running shoes, flashlights, bike lights, snowshoes, backpacks, outdoor clothing, cameras, cross-country ski equipment, tents, and I can’t remember what all else.


Some of these can still be found on places like Outside magazine’s website (just click and then search for my name) — the specific work-for-hire contract ensured the magazine could archive these reviews online until the end of time. But what did I care? The work was fun, the pay was great and I got all sorts of swag, some of which I still use today.


Now, I review something for free on my blog, and some web-based shoe-sales site uses it to help boost sales. The pingback message asks if I want to approve the link, but I notice it’s already posted whether I like it or not. Plus, what good does it do me to disapprove it? I already wrote it for free.


How easily and thoughtlessly I did something gratis that I used to get $1 a word to do. I gave nearly $300 of expertise away and didn’t even get a free pair of shoes!


This is an example of what the Internet is doing to journalism. For all anyone knows the person who wrote that review has never run a step in his life. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.


The Internet has cheapened just about everything trained journalism professionals do. Newspapers and other news organizations give their work away for free these days. And so do journalists who blog or have a website.


Oh well, meanwhile a late evening shower moved through the area, cooling the air and leaving things smelling great around here. Pingback that.

Another taste of defeet

“Feet” seems to be a major search term that brings people this site. There’s tremendous interest in the notion of running closer to barefoot, and the potential damage caused by many of the overbuilt running shoes on the market today. 


Earlier this year I wrote about some issues I’ve had with running shoes and my attempts to get closer to a natural stride. It all started when Nike made changes to its Pegasus model. I have since been running in an old pair of Pegasus and rotating them with an old pair of Nike Free 5.0 and the new Nike Zoom Skylon.

The new version of the Pegasus left me with a painful talus joint in the medial ankle/foot. I recently had this worked on by Dr. Scott Cuthbert in Pueblo. He’s performed a couple of miracle healings on me in the past and I recommend him for anyone seeking a holistic approach to their health. After treatment by Dr. Scott, muscle testing showed I was fairly strong in the Zoom Skylon. In the meantime, upon recommendation of John O’Neill of Colorado Running Company, I ordered a pair of New Balance 904 TR.

I’ve now run three days in these new shoes and I really like them. The foot actually rests way lower in these than a side view would indicate. They are lightweight and flexible but offer just the little bit more protection that I need for running over rough terrain. And, most importantly, my gait feels fairly natural in these shoes. New Balance also offers the 904 in a street model.

The only thing I really hate about these shoes is the disco color scheme. Who comes up with this stuff? Whatever, I’d probably wear shoes in fluorescent pink if my feet felt good in them.