Texas Clouds

As a teenager I studied the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  Now, decades later, here I was on an airplane flight from New York to Texas, rereading Beyond Good and Evil, when I came across one of his most widely-quoted aphorisms:  “When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

I paused to ponder what Nietzsche might have meant.  Was this a comment on the risk of excessive introspection?  (He’d prefaced the statement by cautioning that people who fight monsters may themselves become monsters.)  Or was he expressing a concern about the spirit of nihilism, for elsewhere he wrote that the self contains an “abysmal sickness, weariness, discouragement” – symptoms of the impoverishment of life that results when the “will to power” turns against itself.

The dictionary defines abyss as “a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm.”  I imagined a tunnel deep within myself, reaching back into my distant memories, or perhaps even farther back into a realm of ancestral knowledge.  Maybe this tunnel would lead all the way back to the beginnings of life, maybe it would contain clues to the primordial forces that animate living beings.

Looking up from the book for a moment, I glanced out the airplane window and found that staring straight at me was — a cloud.

This was a year or two ago.  Since then this strange idea has stuck with me, namely, that deep within the abyss you might find a cloud….

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Texas Clouds

5,000 Miles Barefoot

Last May I reported on reaching the 4,000th mile of barefoot hiking and running since starting the practice almost five years ago.  Last week, the finish line of the Knob Hills Trail Race marked mile 5,000.

When I started, barefoot was primarily an experiment, to see if the practice would improve my form and reduce the risk of injury.  However, there was also in the back of my mind the idea that for an aging athlete it might not be a bad idea to embrace shorter distances and a slower pace, as would necessarily be the case without shoes.

The surprise was how much fun it’s been to run and hike without shoes.  I found that the barefoot practice taught me better agility and balance and a lighter step and turned every hike or run into an adventure.  Because barefoot’s more fun, I no longer train in shoes unless there’s snow or ice or too much gravel for me to handle, although I still wear shoes at work and other places where they’re expected….

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5,000 Miles Barefoot

Knob Hills Trail Race

By way of background, I’d registered for this race a year ago, curious about the trail, only to find out a few weeks later that it was canceled.  Evidently the Knob Hills Trail is maintained by mountain-bikers, and when conditions turn muddy, they close the trails to prevent erosion.  The race was rescheduled to January 18, 2020, and my prior registration rolled over automatically.

For barefoot runners, the nature of the trail matters for the obvious reason that smooth dirt or sharp-edged rocks have different implications for speed and thus goals and  strategy.  Since this race would take place on the northwestern shore of Grapevine Lake, I imagined a mix of sand and dirt with some crumbled limestone strata, which is what I’d experienced on the lake’s southeastern shore, where I’d participated in the Rockledge Rumble…. Continue reading “Knob Hills Trail Race”

Knob Hills Trail Race

Managing Chaos at the Rockledge Rumble 50k

In the last few weeks a little bit of chaos has been spreading through my life, or so it seems (maybe it was always there).  I attribute the chaos to excessive business travel, but some amount of disorder is inescapable, whether in daily life or in ultramarathons for that matter.  Here’s my account of the Rockledge Rumble 50k ultramarathon, a recent race along the Northshore Trail in Grapevine, Texas, together with the travel, logistics, planning and other headaches that led up to and spilled into race day, and how I tried to manage them….

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Managing Chaos at the Rockledge Rumble 50k

Jeffrey Adams’ Account of his Record-setting Long Path Run

This is a guest blog post by Jeffrey Adams, an experienced ultrarunner who recently thru-ran the 358-mile Long Path in 7 days, 12 hours, and 18 minutes, establishing a new fastest known time (FKT) record on a supported basis.

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Jeffrey Adams’ Account of his Record-setting Long Path Run