Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Water is life 50k 2011

Water is life!

I've always fancied myself as more of a sun worshiper.
You can't drink sunshine!

Ra is still my homeboy

How about a compromise?

"Water is life and the sun makes life worth living. "
(Sweeney 2011, lol)

Water? Who knew it could dance better than I could?
Anyone that's ever seen me dance.

I'm proud to say at least 57% of my body in composed of the stuff.  The other 43%  most likely a mix of Avocado, hops, and BS  (that would explain both the green and the brown in my hazel eyes)
Each day it cleanses me allowing me to find new ways to get dirty.

Stupid fact (or perhaps I'm making it up)

Ever heard of that dude Jesus? (suposedly he was born around 2011 years ago)
Well water is contunuely recycled on this planet and odd's are that in every glass of water you drink there is at least one molecule of water that passed through him. ( I guess you could say the same thing for Socrates the Buddha or Tim Leary.) 

Water is pretty damn important we take it for granted every day and rarely do we we give it credit.  It's time for me to pay my respect . 

2010 Race
.  Last year BookisTed, Jules and the Professor all participated in the run and gave it rave reviews.  Ever since seeing the pictures and hearing about how great an experience it was this was an event I really wanted  be a part of .
(plus much of the course in run on soft sand, how could I resist?)
This year Luna Sandals was a sponsor of the event yet for some reason nobody could make the the trip
"I'll do it! I'll do it! Pick me! Pick me!
While persitence hunting the weekend before the race Barefoot Ted asked If I would like to go represent Luna.
I was stoked!

History of the race
(from the race website)
In an effort to bring back community involvement, known by the Hopi word naa’ya, Bucky Preston, founder of the Paatuwaqatsi Run, along with many volunteers organized the first Paatuwaqasti Run in 2003. Since then, the Run has grown and now has over 200 participants entering the different races. Bucky Preston stated: “This was something that I had always wanted to do for many years. We are forgetting our Hopi values. We are forgetting to help each other’s out. I want to see that effort return to our community. Putting Hopi life values and teaching at the forefront is the purpose of the run. Why are we taught to run early in the morning? Because running not only strengthens you physically, it strengthens you spiritually. A runner would take one of the many foot trails from the village in the early morning to a spring, take a drink from the spring and sprinkle himself with the cold water. This gave that person strength and provided healing for any ailments. Everything at Hopi involves water—water is life. Now, water is being abused and is depleting. In some places, it is gone and I want to bring awareness to the people.”
The run also helps to keep these trails ‘alive’. These trails are viewed as the veins of the village. By utilizing them the villagers keep them open, which helps to keep the village alive and brings the clouds.
The Paatuwaqatsi Run, since its inception, is based on these cultural values to remind the Hopi community of these teachings. The run also invites other cultures to learn from this and share their values about life enrichment and the role that water and running plays in their lives.
The Paatuwaqatsi Run’s main event is an Ultra Run which is a minimum of 30 miles. The course follows the old foot trails of the First Mesa Villages, including Walpi and visits seven natural springs. The Ultra Run is designed for conditioned runners who are used to covering distances of 20 miles or more. The course covers various types of high desert terrain from open sand to hard rock surfaces atop high mesas to riparian habitat around the base of the mesas.

Louis Tewanima, a Hopi Indian, won a silver medal at the 1912 Olympics and was a two-time Olympic distance runner.

History of Hopi running

The Hopi people are known for running long distances at record speed. Throughout Native American history and culture, the tradition of running can be traced to mythical stories. The people believed that their ancestors and animals showed them how to run, and they understood that the mythical races helped to organize the world. In Hopi culture, the people ran for practical and ceremonial reasons. Several centuries ago, Hopis did not own cattle, sheep or burros, and they relied on their ability to hunt, which required them to incorporate running in Hopi society. Besides running for gaming purposes, Hopis ran in search of food. When there were no horses for transportation, running helped to cover great distances.

Moreover, Hopis organized races between neighboring villages. For example, runners from the villages of Orayvi and Walpi would often challenge one another to a race. In such cases, runners participated in races to prove their fortitude and fleetness of feet. Hopis also ran for physical reasons, as the people believed that running banished unhappiness, strengthened the body, and rejuvenated one’s energy. Furthermore, according to Hopi oral tradition, young boys as well as men from Orayvi would assemble at a common place in the morning and run to Moenkopi to work in their fields.
In addition to the practical reasons for running, Hopis used running as a way to transport information. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, Hopi messengers ran to the nearby pueblos to prepare the people for an attack against the Spaniards. Hopi messengers were celebrated for their promptness in delivering messages. In 1903, George Wharton James gave a dollar to Charlie Talawepi of Orayvi to take a message to Keams Canyon. Talawepi ran the distance of seventytwo miles and brought back a reply in thirty-six hours.

In times of warfare against the Navajos, Hopis runners often ran to Navajo country to look for salvia, hair combings, and food in their enemy’s hogans. When the runners brought back the elements, they buried them as bait and ignited a fire above the items so that the Navajo would be weakened before the approaching battle. In such instances, running had a supernatural purpose. Hopi running also occurred in conjunction with several ceremonial events. While preparing your body to participate in races such as the Snake and Basket dances, praying as a group for rain and prosperity during these ceremonies serves as significant of giving from one’s self and embodiment to the ceremonial events. Today, Hopis continue to practice ceremonial running. Therefore, Hopi running games are religious and secular in nature, as the people played these games to bring rain and cultivate crops.
During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, the Hopi primarily ran for spiritual and practical purposes. Beginning in the twentieth century, Hopi running became increasingly linked with physical fitness and American sports. One of the most famous Hopi runners was Louis Tewanima from Songòopavi who won the silver medal in the 10,000-meter race at the1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Another Hopi runner, Nicholas Quamawahu, won the Long Beach – New York Marathon in 1927.

Back to my Shenanigans 

A few days  before the race I headed down the the Stone Brewery.  My buddy Chris always takes good  care of me.  He hooked me up car a full of ale and some one of kind Stone racing gear.  He had Just read Born to Run and a coworker Randy was wearing Vibrams.  Both of them were very interested in Luna Sandals and I'll be disappointed if they are not wearing them when I next visit.
Thanks you Stone Brewing Co for your support.

  The brewery is awesome place to have a meal and drink FREE BEER after a brewery tour.  If you love strong hoppy ales and good vegan friendly food this is place you need to visit.

Since I had  only found out a few days before the event that I would be running it.  I had to scramble for travel plans.  Ideally I would have liked to fly to Pheonix and then drive the rest of the way to Northern AZ.  My buddy Jamil from (Glendale AZ) had won the race last year but this time he was traveling from CO.
Lucky for me I had another friend in the race the beautiful and sweet Maria Walton (part Apache).  When I called her up she could not have been more inviting. "Come stay at my house will drive up Friday morning with Guadajuko (her love ) and his owner Caballo Blanco.


Airline tickets were a bit pricey  plus you can only bring so much beer on a plane.
 Looks like I'll be driving  One problem my car needed smog check this year.  Being the responsible guy that I am, I waited till the very last day.   After about 10 minutes sitting around  reading Cozmo, I was called over to my car. 
"Sir we have a problem."
The computers on my car were not receptive to the machine at the smog check place. The dude working on my car told me to go drive 50 miles and come back and maybe they will turn on (nope) 250 miles later (nope) I paid my registration but did not receive my sticker. Maybe an illegal drive to the desert will get it to work? 
 I drive like little old lady anyway let's hope I don't get pulled over.
I drove straight out to Phoenix  (well  I did stop at fruit stand for some dates and figs). The weather felt great when I stepped out of the car 113 degrees farenheit.  Judging by the picture above you can probably guess I didn't go straight  to Maria's house.  I ended up at Shelly Sharp Disc gold course.  It was too hot to dilly dally around the course so I decided to jog a little 30 minutes later I had finished 2 rounds and was re-hydrating with a nice Stone IPA.

By this time it was about 5 p.m. Maria wouldn't be home from work until after 10p.m. but she told me Caballo would be hanging out her place and to come on by.
I new Caballo Blanco enjoyed a good beer every now and then and I was glad I had someone to share my libations with.
It was good to see the dude and I was happy he was on board for the adventure.

The next morning we were joined by Jamil's younger brother Nate. Nate's good dude who is following in his brothers footsteps at becoming a great runner and  a fruitarian

We left Phoenix at about 11 a.m. on a 4 or 5 hour drive.
As we drove drove the pillows in sky turned from white to grey.  A storm was brewing and by the time we reached the Hopi reservation water had begun to spill from the troposphere.

We weren't really sure where we were going.  There was supposed to be a pre-race dinner at the starting line (also where we planned to camp) but we were way early for that.  

Building on the top of 1st mesa
(picture snapped from a moving car as we drove aimlessly in the rain)
After driving around for a little while we decided to wise up and call one of the race directors to figure out where to go.
They informed us that the dirt road to the starting line had been washed out and that they were scrambling to get things together at  Post office up the highway.
The clouds were spilling there load but Guadajuko and my favorite Apache Maria didn't seem to mind.

We found our destination got checked in and had a nice pasta dinner. At the dinner I saw two other runners who planned  on wearing Luna Lead Cat. sandals during the run.  It was nice to know I wasn't the only Lunatic out there.

We were here to celebrate the importance of water.  It was a beautiful site to see it rain in the desert.  We were even blessed with a beautiful rainbow.
Nate and Guadajuko checking out the specs at our lodging.

The ground outside the post office was pretty muddy, luckily we found a covered area outside an abandoned building which we would call home for the night

View from our hobo hotel.

Amazingly all of us slept really well.  Early the next morning the sun was out to greet us.

The skies could not have been more beautiful
Nate, Jamil, Caballo Blanco, Maria and I

Just a few minutes before the race was to start I gathered a few friends together for this pic before ditching my camera in the car.
I had planned on wearing my Original Luna Sandals (my favorite) for racing.  From what I had heard the course was not very technical with a huge portion of it being on soft sand but because of the rains from the day before that soft sand was now mud.  I still really wanted to wear the originals but at the last second I decided to wear my new Luna Lead Cats instead.

I guess it's about  time I get to the event.

It was not a race.

Each step we ran was an individual prayer for water!
 That being said my game plan was to to "prey" as fast I could.

 Because of the the rain the starting line was moved closer to the main highway.  The washed out road to the original starting line (non passable by car) would now be where we would start.

Looking at the course all you could do was laugh.
How long till I will be covered in mud?  One step or two?

I was their for an adventure, the water was a blessing for the Hopi people, time to have some fun.

Let's Prey.

I wished my friends good luck and lined up at the front of the starting line.  All of a sudden we were off.
There was good vibe in the air.   My spirtis were high and the comrodery with other runners was off the charts.  Rather than avoid the water I saw Jamil out in front jam straight through a puddle about 10 inches deep like a little kid trying to piss off his mom.
(it was great to see)

The mud was was thick and heavy and you could feel it pulling you down with every step.  My 7oz Luna Lead Cat's felt like cinder blocks on my feet.  (thankfully there were no mobsters their to throw me in the Hudson).  At this point I wished I had gone out barefoot. The path with the least mud was narrow and the group got into 9 min pace in a single file line.  I found myself sandwiched within the group trudging along in 10th place.  I thought about pushing the tempo and wanted get out of this corral but decided it was not necessary this early in the run.

Well it turns out only the first mile or two were soggy mess after that most of the trails were in really good shape.  I passed a few people and ran in about 6th place for the next few miles.

It was the most well marked course I had ever seen and it felt like ever 100 yards their were local people cheering us on in their native tongue "Askwali" thanking us for running on their trails.  Thanking us? Man, the Hopi people have people have an awesome attitude toward life!  I was truly humbled to be in their presence hopefully a little of their kind generous spirit will rub off on me some day.
A few of the hill's had miraculously avoided being saturated by the rain.  This provided a wonderful soft sand cushion and I bounded down them giggling like four year old with a big old smile on my face.

The course flattened out a bit before reaching the second mesa.  My legs felt strong and I moved into 5th place.  At about mile 10 I turned on the speaker of my mp3 player and started jamming.  During the next climb I passed Jamil and another runner.  I had wanted to run with them but at the time my bodies rhythm was not in tune with theirs.

I dashed over the top of the mesa till the trail abruptly ended at a cliff face.  What now?  I got worried and started pacing back and forth.
Jamil and his buddy quickly caught up and yelled at me to go over the edge.
I looked over cliff and too my surprise I saw a volunteer off in the distance and we were in fact supposed to climb down the side of it.  I let Jamil and his friend pass and they were down it in an instant.
As for me I took forever and would never catch back up to the 2 of them.

Because of the added weight to my sandals from the mud, the leather laces kept stretching.  about 5 times during the race I had to retie them costing valuable time.  I questioned my decision not to go with my Original Lunas.  What's the point of having better traction if all it does is hold more mud? If I had had little traction on the bottom does that mean less mud would have stuck to it?
I don't know.

My body felt strong and ran the next 10 miles or so feeling pretty comfortable.  The weather was perfect about 75 degrees and I was really enjoying the run but I was starting to get tired.

At about mile 20 we climbed huge mesa which we ran on top of for a few miles.  From their you could see Walpi village which has been continuously inhabbited for over 1,100 years. It was an amazing site that I won't soon forget.

When you become an ultra runner you start to discredit the distance of the 50k as being far.  In my head I'm thinking piece of cake but 30 miles is still a descent run.  My goal going into the race was sub for 4:30 and I wanted to maintain about sub 10 minute pace for as much of the run as possible.
I was doing a good job by down the home stretch I began to tire

During the last 5 miles I was passed by 3 runners.  The pistons in my engine were still firing but the power they provided propelled me at a very pedestrian pace.

I could see the finish line but my gps was tracking way short.  The course had been modified because of the rain and maybe it would end sooner than I expected?
At this point I was very welcoming of that outcome.

I tried to step it up a little down the home stretch to beat my original goal of 4:30.  Along the way I passed one runner and strolled into the finish line in 4:28 minutes in 7th place overall.

At the finish line they only had bottled water. (somthing I try to avoid)  Although I was quite parched I declined.  Then all of a sudden up stolls this Hopi lady with a gatorade bottle full of water.  I was about to grab it out of her hand and start pounding it like it was a Stone IPA.  Before I got the chance she corrected my error in judgement offering to bless me with a sacrement of water.  I was honored to recieve the blessing on my head, It touched my heart and made me forget about my thirst.

All in all the Luna Lead Cats held up pretty well.  On day tlike that their was no such thing as a perfect shoe (or lack there of.)   Half the time I wished I was barefoot 1/2 the time I wished I was wearing a combat boot.
I fugure the Lead Cat was a good compromise.

About 200 people ran in the race either doing the Ultra or as part of relay team.  Out of these people at least half were Native American. After I was done I sat around and watched  many of them finish.  There was so much positivity at the finish line coming from the volunteers.  It was a great scene to see people reconnecting to their native culture through this run.

(pic from last year,my camera was locked in the car)

As if the Hopi people weren't already gracious hosts, they provided the runners with a traditional  meal for lunch.

After our meal and before awards were given out the organizer of the run Bucky Preston (an Ultra runner Caballo remembered from back in the day) gave a moving speech about the importance of water.  The springs that once yielded sustainability for everyone were now very dry and what little water they did provide was (contrary to government reports) undrinkable do to high levels or arsenic coming from the near by coal mines. The Water is Life run helps bring awareness to this dangerous problem for the Hopi people and Bucky reminded us not to take this this valuable resource for granted.

If you want to help please email

Race Director Bucky handing me a traditional Hopi award.
Bucky told me that this bowl made from the  Yucca tree was Hopi runners would often receive as a prize for winning a race.

I was stoked and it is one of the best awards I have ever received.
Thank you, Bucky! and thank you to whom ever crafted and donated this bowl to the race!

(but even if I had received nothing I'd of still had a smile on my face)

I dig sage and use to burn it quite a bit but realizing that the smoke aint so good for my lungs I new right away this bowl would be used for fruit.
"Hey Jamil, What did you get for finishing 2nd?"
Jamil scored a fancy set of red moccasins.
Perhaps he will make a sequel to 
(He's got kind of a granola Tom hanks look, Right?)
After the race I got a chance to hang out with a real cool Navajo dude named Pete.  We have crossed path's a few times but never got a chance to to chat.  Last year Pete ran in Luna sandal's.  It was a pleasure meeting him and his wife and I look forward to our next interaction.

As for the rest of my group Nate dropped at mile 20 but was in good spirits at the finish line.  Caballo ran a strong race finishing just behind Guadjuko. I got to watch Maria finish and she came in with a smile on her face (as always) and her arms spread out for a big hug.  I had a great time with you guys and thank you once again Maria for your Awesome hospitality.

I had never been to an Indian reservation before and I gained a lot from this experience.  The Hopi people have an beautiful outlook on life  that we could all learn from.
Thank you to all the amazing volunteers and sponsors  that made this a top notch event.  I will be back next year.  

Thank you to the Luna Sandal Company for supporting my Lunacy

The next day before heading home from Pheonix I decided to play a round of disc golf with Nate at a course I had never played before in Pheonix "Popago Park".  I pretty much only golf barefoot but thought maybe I should bring my Luna's?
(I forgot them)
Check out the terrain
My nerve endings were on sensory overload.  I played slow and steady and by then end of the round my feet felt riveved from the desert accupreasure and ready to run another 50k.

What's next you Ask?

Tuesday night I leave to New York for the New York City Barefoot Run.  I have no expectation's other than a good time.

by the way my car passed smog when I returned home.

Life is good!


  1. Dude! Great report. Lookin forward to your NYC BF Run report.

  2. Great read, thanks for sharing this. :)