June 28, 2017

Jim Walmsley is a Champion

Canyon de Chelly, last fall. I had just finished setting up my little dirtbag camp (sleeping in the back of a rental Ford Escape with The Dragonfly) in beautiful Navajo country when a car pulled in our spot. It was pitch dark, and some guy stuck his face out the driver’s window and asked “Is it OK if I park it here?”.

“Sure.”

Two guys stepped out and we shook hands. “Hey, I’m Jim.” “Hi, I’m Myke.” And that was pretty much it. They got set up in the back of their car, just like us, cooked a little bit of dinner, and came to sit down at the Miller’s Casitalita. And you know what was really special about it all? Absolutely nothing.

We all took a seat and started chatting among ourselves. I found out that “Myke” was a photographer, that he traveled quite a bit, and that he documented Jim’s runs. My friend Nico was there too, and it was cool to spend a little time and have a beer before the grand day tomorrow, one of the most amazing runs an ultra runner could wish for. Everyone shared stories and like every eve before an epic ultra, it was relaxed and fun.

Walking back to our car, Julie told me “Wow, that guy I was talking with, Jim, turns out he’s just ran a world-record Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim just a couple days ago.” I had actually sort of met him before, running Mesquite Canyon in Arizona. He flew down a trail at an impressive speed, and I thought he really looked like Scott Jurek with his curly hair and his long legs. Julie was impressed. “He’s just this super casual dude”, she said, “He didn’t mention anything about his feat until I started asking questions.” Champions tend to do that, I thought to myself.

The next day started before sunrise as we made our way down to the sacred fire and shared the Dag’ha ceremonies, where elders and tribe members help prepare the runners for the long day ahead. I asked Nico where Jim was. “Oh, he’s just here for the experience”, he replied. “He’s not running today.”

I wished him good luck on what would turn out to be a pretty fantastic day for him (Nico flew like the wind and won the 2016 run) and set out on my own adventure with Julie, who was experiencing her very first ultra. It was an amazing day for us, too.

At the midpoint, atop the magnificent canyon after a tough climb, I got into the aid station with 1,000 things on my mind. Two hands eagerly extended at me. “Dude, do you have any trash I can take care of?” I lifted my eyes and there he was. “Are you eating well? Have you got enough to drink?”. Jim Walmsley was helping runners out at the aid station, and he wanted to take my trash to the garbage can. He was happy and excited and dedicated and he made me so proud of my sport.

“When was the last time you saw a sports superstar take care of some random guy’s trail trash and make sure he’s doing OK?”, I remember telling Julie, on the way back. A real champion will do that, I again reflected.

I never told this story until today, because I’m convinced Jim didn’t do this to get publicity or gratification. I’m convinced he did it out of his love for running and to share a special moment with the people who, he knows, “get it”.

So when some of these running people started speaking negatively of him after the Western States last weekend, it really bugged me. They accuse him of being brash. They find weaknesses in his strategy. They say all sorts of things, from the comfort of their little certainties, like they’ve had a front-row seat to Jim’s career all along.


The same people who would have written the exact opposite, should Jim have made it and won the race and smashed a course record. They would have lauded his boldness, they would have talked about every little bit that he’d done right. And that, too, is pissing me off.

I’ll be first to say, I don’t know Jim Walmsley that well. But I’m the kind of person for whom actions speak louder than words. And after seeing how he behaves and the respect he’s garnered from many ultra runners in the community I know and love, I’m taking his defense and I’m standing with him.

He went out there and he gave Western States his absolute best shot. He was convinced he could win, and he was unafraid to say it. And maybe some people didn’t notice, but he’s also unafraid to talk about despair and depression, of failing and mistakes, even of wanting to die. And then finding a way. Champions tend to do that, too.

I salute Jim for his bold attempt last weekend, as I salute every single one of us out there who builds up the passion and the determination to tackle ridiculously long distances in difficult environments with no certainty of success, yet who goes at it nonetheless. There will always be some naysaying bystanders to hit someone when they’re down. Often, they will also be the flip-floppers who will turn around and sing the praises of the same person when they actually succeed. I hope their words are as meaningless and inconsequential either way, to the people subjected to them.

After so many hours of training and sacrifice and dedication, ALL Western States runners, from Cat Bradley to Jim to that last person to cross the finish line to those who didn’t even make it to the start but tried, deserve a well-earned congratulations, a recognition of their hard work and some words of encouragement to keep going, to keep pushing the limits and to keep living this life to the fullest.

The bystanders are all the same to me. And I don’t care what they think.

Jim Walmsley’s a champion.




Photo credit : Myke Hermsmeyer


May 9, 2017

A New Partnership

http://www.enduroforce.ca/en.htmlYou all know that I’m involved in Mas Korima, as a means to support our Raramuri friends in facing the advance of the modern world onto their remote wilderness home, but also with the aim of bettering my endurance nutrition using natural ingredients.

I’ve been extensively using Korimalitas as my running fuel of choice, and I make liquid nutrition out of Andale! pinole powder and maple syrup. So when my friend Jack introduced me to a new type of endurance tonic based on maple syrup, using only natural ingredients and free from caffeine and taurine, it was an instant natural fit.

I started using Enduroforce last year, and quickly became a fan of its energy-boosting effects. It only uses 4 ingredients; ginseng, maple syrup, sea buckthorn and spirulina. No head rush, no buzz, no crash. Just a nice cocktail of superfoods I start my long days with and use about every 4-5 hours along the way.

Well, it seems Enduroforce liked me back and has offered to make me a brand ambassador :)

So whenever you meet me in running events and on the trails, don’t hesitate to snatch a vial or two from me and to give Enduroforce a try. I think it’s an excellent, natural endurance supplement well worth checking out!




I’ll be writing some more in-depth analysis of the product itself and its ingredients as I keep using it this season. In the meantime, you can access full product info right here.

April 25, 2017

Indigenize the World

First time I heard those words, I had a flash. They came from the music of Cody Coyote, another amazing young leader I’ll spend more time writing about a little later on. Like a connection had been re-established, like I had just been made to remember a solution to a problem I’ve been having for too long, I’d been offered a teaching of wisdom.

The Western world is failing and our value system as a society is shallow and destructive. Every day that goes by, we suffer the consequences of the terrible choices we’re making as a civilization. War, poverty, injustice, exclusion, hatred and the destruction of our environment. All in the name of profit and the enrichment of a powerful few who divide to conquer.

I am a son of the oppressor. An unwilling member of this broken system looking for better answers. I found many of them, on a personal level, in running and endurance. Through it, I’ve also been extremely fortunate to be welcomed in many Native circles, to be taught and guided by ancient knowledge. For a while, it felt like a personal, intimate journey and a privilege. I hope I’ve shown worthy of what I’ve been taught. But as time passes, I’ve been increasingly wondering what I can do, on a more global level, to bring change and hope for a better world.

Then I heard Cody sing “Indigenize the World”.

Here I was, always worried that my endeavor in Native knowledge and culture would be seen as appropriation. Tip-toeing in a new world, eager to share my excitement and discoveries, but shy and afraid of being inadequate, out of place, wrong. I had it backwards. I wasn’t taking anything from anyone, I was being generously given a gift. I was missing a concept. I was missing a word.

I am simply becoming indigenized. I am invited in circles and taught. I am being healed and rooted back into the culture of Nature and all living things. I am being made a witness to a living, breathing culture that has lived on from millennia until this very day, always following the same basic principles; Respect yourself and others. Share more, own less. Take care of the land, air and water. Respect and abide by the Circle of Life. Realize that we are all related.

***

Like it happens every once in a while, I was invited last weekend to talk to a group of inspiring young people who’ve embarked on a great physical challenge; they will run a 250+ km relay between Montreal and Quebec cities, in May. So instead of having “the usual”, where we talk about adventures in endurance, motivation and the numerous benefits of tackling a challenge, I decided to share a bit of what I’ve learned over the past couple years.

From the Raramuri to the Hopi to the Navajo to the Cree and Northern Peoples, I spoke to these teens about the importance of sharing, the respect for water and all living things, humility, pacifism, openness to others, feminism and matriarchal societies, and the center concept of Kuira Ba, of being one.

I gave them examples of young leaders like Theland Kicknosway and spoke of their own leadership and dedication. I congratulated them on their efforts. I told them to stay aware and open to the signs life would bring along their journey. I told them the importance of having a dream, a vision, and to hold on to it.

I didn’t know if I made any sense, but I just let the words flow and I didn’t hide my emotions. It only took a few minutes after I was finished to see that the message had resonated with them, and the teachers, and the parents. It was a beautiful, powerful thing.

Our world needs healing. We, as Humans, need to get back to better, more sustainable values for the sake of our global future. Some of us, including a lot of young people, are ready to instill change and spread the word. We are many more than it seems. We need to grow the confidence to oppose the Western culture and to promote a humbler, healthier and happier lifestyle.

It's time to get back to our roots.

Time to get indigenized.