9 Gear Choices of 2017


9 Gear Choices of 2017

As the year is close to ending, despite the fact that we may not want to be thinking about a new year, it is important to reflect. Part of my reflection is on what I have used on a day to day basis to facilitate adventure and, even, daily life. Today we are going to applaud the gear that has risen above the rest this year. Gear that allows me to optimally turn idea into reality and move across the land as purely as possible. It is about efficiency, simplicity, and functionality. Before we get started I do want to say three things. (1) This is all gear that I have gotten this year, so not necessarily items that are new this year or released this year. (2) These are my favorites, so this isn't a review with pro's and con's, instead it is simply showing you how incredible these products are. (3) Finally, I am not doing this for any company, I am not being paid, nor are these affiliate links. These are simply products that facilitate awesomeness!

For an even more in depth and story driven version, you can listen to me talk about this gear on this week's episode (Ep. 102) of the podcast here, enjoy!


Cannondale Slate


Over the summer my dad was interested in dipping his toe back into cycling. So he began to look for ultralight, carbon mountain bikes or road bikes. He couldn't quite make a decision or find one he wanted, so he began to research building one. That idea eventually slipped to the wayside, but a few weeks after I went to college, on one of our usual calls, he told me about this bike he found online and bought. In his renewed research he found the Slate, was fascinated, bought it, and...fell in love. On his first ride, a ride that would have stumped only a mountain bike and only a road bike, the Slate handled beautifully. I too fell in love and, with money I have saved, purchased my own on sale at REI. This bike truly allows the rider to cover virtually any terrain. It allows you to look at a place, say 'I want to go there,' and go there. That is what I want, I want the tools I use to allow me to forget about them, but I can trust that they are doing their job excellently, and the Slate does just that.

Quick Specs:

  • 22 lbs. (2017 Cannondale Slate 105, which is the one I own)
  • Lefty fork
  • Shimano 105 componentry
  • Geometry is a unique blend of road and mountain bike geometry


Bedrock Cairns


There is nothing quite like the Bedrock Cairns and I am going to start right off by saying that they are the best sandals out there, without a doubt. The company originated from backpackers, but these sandals are more than capable of carrying a runner for miles. Their REGOLITH outsole is one of a kind and can skillfully tackle any terrain. I also love that the sandal has three adjustment points which allow for you to find the perfect fit. In addition, because the straps are held up by wings they are removed from the ground preventing wear and tear on the straps and preventing the heel strap from falling down. I can put these sandals on and forget that they're there. Which is exactly what I did at the muddy Sean O'Brien 100k in February and the Bryce Canyon 100 in June. Bryce's terrain covered everything from sand and creek bed silt to jagged rocks and extremely technical terrain, the Cairn's handled perfectly through anything I threw at them.

Quick Specs:

  • 7.8 oz. (per size 9 sandal)
  • 14mm stack height
  • made in the US

Altra Superiors

These are my go to shoes to change things up or give my feet a break. They are durable and I love the tread, which allows me to tackle any terrain. They fit wonderfully on my foot and I love when I slip into these shoes (personally I own the Superior 2.0's).

Quick Specs:

  • 9.2 oz
  • zero drop
  • 21 mm stack height
  • wide toe box


La Sportiva Tarantulace

Let's be honest, I am still very much a beginner climber, but as a beginner these shoes are a great affordable beginner shoe. The laces allow for a precise fit and the rubber finds a perfect balance between stickiness and durability. I have not faced a situation yet where these shoes didn't excel and they are my friends on the rock.

Quick Specs:

  • neutral climbing shoe
  • FriXion RS rubber

Petzl Corax Kit


Another great affordable beginner product, this harness setup sets you up to climb! Thanks to Petzl for helping me get this product that truly has everything you need (in terms of the harness setup) to get up on the rock. The harness is comfortable, lightweight, and minimal.

Quick Specs:

  • contains:
    • Corax harness
    • Am'd carabiner
    • Verso belay/rappel device
    • Bandi chalkbag
    • Power Ball chalk ball


Elftear X2T Wireless Earbuds


These earbuds have no wires, at all, running between them. That's incredible! They allow you to listen to anything and not ever think about how you are listening to it. There is no annoying cord or wire to get tangled in hair or clothing. I also love the functionality of the fact that you are going to store them in a case, so why wouldn't it be a battery? These earbuds are perfect for everyone.

Quick Specs:

  • battery case included
  • 6 hour battery life with two earbuds
  • 12 hour battery life with one earbud

Oisle Mini Power Bank


This battery sits flush against the phone, which is fascinating! It plugs right into the lightning port and sits right against the back of your phone. This battery isn't a case and it isn't an external battery with a cord running to your phone, it is something wholly unique. This battery allows me to charge my phone without even thinking and is minimal, lightweight, and sleek in its design. I own the smallest version which practically doubles the capacity of my phone (recharges it fully almost).

Quick Specs:

  • three versions: 2,200, 2,800, or 4,500 mAh (milliamp hours, which denotes how powerful the battery is)
  • lightning cord rechargeable


Stanley Adventure Cooler


I own the 16 quart version and Stanley says that the cooler keeps cool for 36 hours. That is completely true. I went on a weekend dirtbag trip to Santa Barbara recently and 48 hours after I loaded the cooler, the food and ice packs were still a little chilly. It most definitely kept cool for 36 hours and is perfect for a weekend trip, longer if you refill on ice or ice packs. It is extremely durably, you can beat it up, sit on it, stand on it, and it is even functional on the outside with external tie downs. The latches are rugged and the big handle can handle (haha, see what I did there) any weight.

Quick Specs:

  • keeps cool for 36 hours
  • functional:
    • durable latches
    • tough construction
    • leak resistant gasket
    • tie downs on top allow for external storage

GSI Pinnacle Soloist

I prize efficiency and functionality, as such the fact that this cook set is lightweight, stores within itself, uses the stuff sack as a sink, and has so many features built in let's me easily say this is my favorite cook set I've ever come across. I'm not cooking anything fancy and it allows me to be efficient with what I am making when I am camping or dirtbagging it out of my Honda Element. Every part of the cook set has multiple features built in, which is what I prize in the products I utilize.


Quick Specs:

  • 10.9 oz
  • Includes:
    • 1.1 L Pot
    • Strainer/Sip-It lid
    • 14 fl. oz. insulated mug/bowl
    • Telescoping spork
    • Stove Bag
    • Welded Sink

I hope that my recommendations for what I loved from 2017 will help you facilitate your very own daily adventure!


Jarod Contreras


Donate to Touching the Trail
This is Not a Time to Excuse Laziness.


This is Not a Time to Excuse Laziness.

Today concludes my journey throughout my first quarter of my career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I took the last final, of this first quarter, today. I spent all of last week studying with intent to prepare for these finals. In total I had five finals: two lab finals, one Public Speaking final, and two lecture finals. I feel confident with the work I put in to prepare, felt confident throughout each test, and feel confident that I will get good grades as a result. To be honest, for me it is not about the grades. It is about doing my best, and if I do just that then good grades are a happy by product. If I didn't do my best then I would be wasting away the $26,000 a year it costs to attend this school. In addition, I work to take every moment in life, whether stressful or joyous, as an opportunity for growth. That is why I don't usually get stressed about school, because life itself is a masterclass in betterment and school is no different. This quarter has been a wave of life, with its ups and downs, however I have taken each up and each down as an opportunity to be present and persevere. To grow.

I began this journey with many warnings that the quarter system goes fast and it is hard to keep up. However, I have really enjoyed the 10 weeks of condensed education that I have received. I have not only enjoyed them because of the classes that I am taking, although that constitutes a major part of my enjoyment, but I have also enjoyed it because I value efficiency. Efficiency is a beautiful thing. To waste time or effort on pointless activities is to waste your life. Most education falls under the inefficient category due to its year long nature, where most of the year consists of futile activities that don't earnestly contribute to your education on the subject. With a quarter system you have 10 weeks to learn the course, because of the limited time the professor and student both are obliged to be efficient.

As my father says...

Live your life with intent.
— Gabriel Contreras

This has been a mantra of mine for the past few months and it rings true in education as well. I want my education to be taught with intent. As such it should have thoughtful direction and purposeful drive. While I have not had necessarily the best teachers of my life this quarter, I have observed a natural necessity to be better due to the condensed nature of the quarter.

Public Speaking

One teacher that I have had this quarter that without a shadow of a doubt falls into the category of 'Best Teachers' that I have had is my Public Speaking professor, Professor Scarborough. Within the first weeks of school I went to his office and told him that I have a podcast. He was extremely impressed at that fact and at the fact that I have been doing it for so long (I reached Episode 100 last week. Woohoo). He told me that I may have it harder doing a podcast than even speaking in front of an audience, because with a podcast I don't have immediate, real life feedback from the audience. Regardless I let him know how excited I was to be in Public Speaking, how much I hoped it would positively increase not only my podcasting skills, but my speaking skills in general. Professor Scarborough was quick to assure me that he could see how talented I already was and that I would, without a doubt, be better when I finished the course.

He was not wrong. If you listen to the podcast I hope that you have noticed an improvement over the past two months in my ability to speak intelligently and competently. The art of communication is an art built by practice. I have had the pleasure of practicing in front of the microphone for two years now with the podcast. However, being thrown into the fire that is public speaking is an entirely different beast. Now to be honest I am not scared by public speaking. Whether that is due to loving the sound of my own voice, ego, megalomania, or a combination of all three, I do not know. Hopefully the reason is much less negative. I think it is, because I love to tell stories. Whatever the case may be, unlike most people in our society, I am not deathly afraid of opening myself up to an audience. I am not afraid of being raw with my fellow humans.

Through the podcast and through my writings I strive to be raw with you, the audience. As such, while I may not be deathly afraid of public speaking, I still get nervous. The trick is to use that nervousness to your advantage. When you are nervous your senses are heightened and you have adrenaline pumping through your body, your body is enacting a flight or fight response. These natural reactions allow you to focus on the task at hand and execute it with confidence, but only if you do not let that focus tip the scale into fear. Use the reaction to simply sharpen your attention.

The Choice

During these couple of weeks where finals are on all of our minds here at college we students are presented with a choice. We can use our nerves, and the body's natural reaction to that stress, to sharpen our focus and accomplish what needs to be done, which is to do our best. Alternatively we can excuse ourselves into laziness.

That is the eternal choice of the college student, indeed of us all. That choice is what separates those that are truly successful and those that are not. However, when I write successful I do not mean monetarily, relationship wise, career wise, nor any other conventional definition of 'success.' When I write successful I mean those who are truly fulfilled and following their truest paths. Now what do I mean by that?

Well, if you can look back on your life and smile with a twinkle in your eye, then you are following your truest path. If are passionate about what you are doing in each moment, and what is to come, then you are following your truest path. If you can look within yourself and acknowledge that you are fulfilled, then you are following your truest path. However, these barometers for the truth of your path all require a vital ingredient: honesty. Honesty with yourself, with your life, and with those around you. If you cannot be honest with yourself about who you are, then you are truly lost. The only way to find yourself is to go within, find that honesty, and break down those walls that we have built around who we truly are. We all still have work to do.

As Robert Frost says...

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.
— Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

I have written and spoken extensively on this topic of following our truest paths. A key component of that journey is to make this eternal decision between perseverance and laziness. This decision is at our fingertips in each moment and, as our minds are wont to do, we tend to reach for laziness. Once we have a firm grasp on laziness, or are within reach, we pardon ourselves. Our mind is extremely well practiced at explaining to itself why it should take the easier route and we quickly comply. But, when do we ever grow in ease? Never.

This week of finals is not a time to excuse laziness. Life is not a time to excuse laziness. If laziness is the reality today, then perseverance and focus are ephemeral specters. To often do we drift linearly through life, without concrete commitment to connect us to reality nor the fire of discomfort to allow us to grow. We need commitment and discomfort to better ourselves, it is as simple as that. It takes commitment to successfully study for finals and achieve grades you are proud of by doing so. The discomfort that arises within that commitment is simply part and parcel of the process. To learn from the discomfort we must acknowledge and accept it. Know that it is a teacher and tool, not a curse. To commit we must acknowledge what we will accomplish and accept the process inherent in accomplishing it.

Our mission must be to break the paradigm of laziness and become pillars of perseverance for those around us. You can be the example for those you love, you must only begin the journey. Go within.

Break the Paradigm

How? That is the question is it not? How do we transfer from doing the easy thing, to what takes actual effort? How? Well, recently I was walking to my room in my apartment and one of my apartment-mates said, "Oh man, all I've got to do is read 150 pages and I'll be ready for that final tomorrow." He said that, which clearly displays his level of unpreparedness and the necessity for work to be done to prepare, yet he sat and played video games on his computer. He sat idly by in the midst of an opportunity to better himself, but instead reached for the easy thing. He made his decision. What will yours be?

Now, I am not perfect. There are many times when I still reach for the easy thing. A few days ago, while studying, I suddenly realized that I had spent the last ten minutes mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. A few days before that I finished my breakfast, then got up, and filled my bowl with a heaping pile of sugary cereal. I was already full of oatmeal, but still decided to fill my bowl with wasted sugar. I never even eat cereal. What was I doing? I do not know.

Presence is not about escaping, instead it is about connecting. Connecting with the present moment. When we let desire drive, we run ourselves off of the road. The solution is to live your life with intent. To condition yourself through daily doses of discomfort, so that you can learn how to learn and how to persevere.

We are back to the question of how, are we not?

The Process

  1. Shut Up: the very first step is beautifully simple, yet it rings true. To begin this process is to begin in silence. Stop your complaining, your excuses, and your lies. Grit your teeth and put your head down. Quite simply: SHUT UP.
  2. Get Real: now comes the hard part, honesty. This is where you must acknowledge where you are and what needs to be done to accomplish your goal. Be honest with who you are, because you may think that you know yourself, but you might only know the walls you have built around your truth.
  3. Plan: establish a plan for how you will accomplish your goal, no matter how big or small.
  4. Be Here Now: here is the opportunity to execute your plan, to accomplish your goal. However, you must stay present within the joys and the discomfort. Be open to what comes and learn from it. Persevere.
  5. Review and Revise: what could you have done better? This is a continually, constantly changing, impermanent process. Be even better next time.

It does not matter what you might think, what those around you might think, now what society might think, because the truth is that you have the control. The buck stops with you. With us. Inherent within each of us is a capacity to choose between excuses or action. While you may have a boss or a professor or other position of authority above you, you must make the decision if you will do your best. Remember that this is not a time to excuse laziness. So what will your decision be?


Jarod Contreras


Donate to Touching the Trail
On Gratitude


On Gratitude

The world that we inhabit can easily inhibit our views. Our perspective is formed by our upbringing and our surroundings. This perspective can be positive or negative, because we either have a good or bad outlook on the world and society. It is binary and that dichotomy can shape who we are within. Our soul is malleable, sculpted by our experiences, so I ask you: what will you build yourself to be?

We have a choice to make in each moment. Will we be better? Or will we be the same? This choice is at the core of every decision we make. We can either work to become the best version of ourselves or we can settle for remaining unhappy. Today, as it is Thanksgiving, it may seem odd to equate bettering ourselves with gratitude. However, to better ourselves gratitude is a vital part of that evolution. What tends to happen with Thanksgiving is that we forget what the title of the holiday actually denotes. It is a day to fill ourselves with thankfulness, instead we fill ourselves with food. I believe that the twisted relationship that we have with Thanksgiving speaks to the state that our society is in.

To often we live our lives as paths of linear ease. That we 'deserve' this biscuit or ice cream, because we have been working hard or went for a walk. Our perspective is based on reward. Reward for even the smallest of accomplishments, which in most cases aren't accomplishments at all. The human mind is very good at making excuses with itself to allow it to have something it desires right now. My father has a quote written on a post-it note posted above his desk. A simple reminder that reads, "Don't give up what you want most, for what you want now." This wisdom rings true for every one of our daily decisions.

Throughout each day we hold the power to decide what we will do. This power has been clearly exemplified to me now that I am in college as kids around me are feeling a freedom now that they have never felt before. They are fully realizing that decision making power, but most are abusing it. Using it to make decisions that they, most likely, know are bad, but decide to pursue regardless of better sense. This is similar to what happens at Thanksgiving and during the holidays at large. We, as people fickle in commitments, tend to reason, excuse, and argue with ourselves to allow for breaking any dedications that we have built in the months leading up to today. We forget to better ourselves and only seem to remember the food. The food that holds us on a leash. This leash is one that we are all to happy to be tied to.

Food is an addiction. That is not arguable. If you want realized, credible sources of that fact listen to my podcast with Dr. Neal Barnard. This addiction is widespread and rampant, but for most of us not acknowledged. Again our mind is an expert at getting what it wants. Remember that you are not yourself. Another quote that my dad has posted above his desk is, "You are witness to body and mind, not the 'I'." The truth is there for us to realize, if only we look. To often we say, "I deserve this. I worked hard." That is not you who is arguing for that cake, that is desire. As the Buddha teaches desire is our downfall. The detriments of desire are hardly more exemplified during Thanksgiving and the day after, Black Friday.

Whether it is food or materialism we quickly fall for anything that provides us immediate gratification. However, I ask you: what do we search for, but true happiness? That truth is lasting happiness which comes through following our truest paths. Trails centered on bettering ourselves everyday, in every moment. A core part of bettering ourselves is gratitude.

Grateful (adj.): warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received.

Gratitude is a practice. It is a skill that we build, because in tough situations gratitude can easily be forgotten. That is why we put in the work to be grateful, no matter the situation, because it is a valuable tool. Many studies have shown, although more research does need to be done, that gratitude has a positive affect on well-being. In research it has been indicated that people hold gratitude as important (Gallup, 1998) and I would hope that you agree. When I do a loving-kindness meditation I can't help but finish the meditation with a smile. Acknowledging the good in your life reminds you how good your life actually is, no matter how bad it may seem.

Gratitude tends to raise happiness, positivity, well-being, and your life enjoyment (Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003). These benefits come with practice. As the holiday is called Thanksgiving it is easy to think that we only have to be thankful today. What about the other 364 days of the year? Don't good things happen then as well?

Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which every man has some.
— Charles Dickens

Again as the mind tends to go for the easiest path, we focus on the misfortune immediate to us and not on the gifts around us. To break this trend we must put in the work, for nothing comes without perseverance. You will find that a daily practice of gratitude will revolutionize your life. The simplest and probably most effective daily gratitude practice is to simply say three things that you are grateful for each day. Make the time for it, don't find the time. In today's world of smartphones you can easily set a daily reminder to say your three gratitudes. You can also think the three gratitudes in your head, but saying them creates a deeper connection. An even deeper connection is built if you keep a gratitude journal, which is something I am going to start doing. Each day write down three things you are grateful for. Be conscious of gratitude and the good in your life and you will find that, through that consciousness and whichever way you practice this technique, that a mindset of gratitude will begin to become part of every aspect of your life.

However, it is not to be blind. Do not ignore the problems, flaws, and issues that can be improved in your life. Gratitude is not another tool to use to reason with yourself why you are doing so well and deserve this cake, cigarette, beer, or other negative influence. Incredulity and shock would be the reaction to a year long sober heroin addict who took a hit, because he reasoned he deserved it for being sober a year. You should respond with the same incredulity and shock to your own falterings. Be the observer. Use the shock you feel to let you know that you are improving to be cognizant enough to acknowledge your mistakes.

Now use gratitude as a tool to not be overwhelmed, depressed, or downtrodden by flaws, but instead to eliminate them and better yourself. All the while staying grateful for your blessings.


Jarod Contreras

Happy Thanksgiving!

Works Cited:

Gallup, G. (1998). Gallup survey results on" gratitude", adults and teenagers. Emerging Trends20(4-5), 9.

Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal31(5), 431-451.

Dickens, M. (1897). My father as I recall him. Westminster, England: Roxburghe Press.


Donate to Touching the Trail
Beat Up and Scarred: The Straightforward Running Foot Care Guide


Beat Up and Scarred: The Straightforward Running Foot Care Guide

The truth is running isn't glamorous. It tears you down, it beats you up, and it fashions you into ever new forms. The sculptor that is running takes on an entirely different face in endurance running, in ultrarunning. The long hours, technical terrain, and other conditions can break you down. However, in all forms of running it doesn't matter how much it breaks us down, because it also builds us back up and that is part of why we love it, right? Well, it is for me at least.

Despite our love, running, of any distances or terrain, breaks our bodies down and that's the truth of the matter. One area of our bodies that is specifically targeted by the rigors of a run is our feet. Our feet are the first line of contact with the surface of the run and as such, take a beating. So how do we combat this? Well, over the years my feet have been especially beat up and as such I have encountered and overcome many different situations of foot well-being. These situations have bred many varied, creative solutions that apply both basic concepts of foot care and innovative approaches. I was motivated by the Climbing Magazine piece Ultimate Rock Climbing Skin Care Handbook by Chris Shulte and so decided to take a similar approach, but to running and feet. I hope that the straightforward and simple approaches help.


The nemesis or the tool, calluses are an old friend for every runner. What always strikes me is how fast and furious they can form. Calluses were something I was not at all familiar with before I ran, but now it is more like all to familiar. Look at it this way, an oyster makes a pearl when a grain of sand or other irritant makes its way in between the oyster's shell and mantle (the protective layer surrounding the organs). When this happens the oyster coats the grain in layers of nacre, the material that makes up its shell. Well, your calluses aren't much different. The irritant is the miles upon miles you've ran and while what your body layers might not be as beautiful as a pearl, it is still a functional solution.


Calluses are an excellent way to protect and toughen your foot. They allow you to skillfully cover more technical terrain and give your foot a dedicated layer of protection.


The important thing to remember, however, is that calluses can turn into enemies if you let them. If they become to dry they can create deep cracks into delicate new skin, this will cause you a nagging and deep pain. This happened to me after the Bryce Canyon 100 and I had to spend many weeks fixing it.

  • Lotion: this is how I fixed those deep cracks in my calluses, by applying lotion to my foot at least once daily, usually twice daily. It is vital to keep your foot skin hydrated. I personally like Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, but you could even use coconut oil!
 I could have definitely used some lotion after this training run preparing for the Bryce Canyon 100. My favorite part is that when going long and far, I can trust that my feet can take the beating.

I could have definitely used some lotion after this training run preparing for the Bryce Canyon 100. My favorite part is that when going long and far, I can trust that my feet can take the beating.

You must also remember to not let your calluses get out of hand. If you let your calluses get to thick they can reverse themselves and grow into your foot. It causes a painful reverse pyramid or pinpoint that digs deep into your foot. It is very hard to remove so don't let your feet get this bad. There are many ways to shave, cut, or file down your calluses and keep them at a manageable and beneficial level. Some of these ways are:


Now blisters are an annoyance that many people are familiar with, whether you are a runner or not. They can be a nagging nuisance if not taken care of quickly. There are many ways to deal with blisters, but in my life I live by the mantra of simplicity. Within simplicity inherent is efficiency. As such my solution to blisters is, when I get one, take a sowing needle, heat it over a flame (stove) until it is red hot to disinfect it, then pop the blister gently. Pop it enough to let the liquid drain and then the skin that made up the blister dries up and falls away within a few days. Simple and straightforward!

Black Toenails

Honestly, because I run in sandals black toenails are not really a problem for me. The times I have got them my solution was again simple. Black toenails are, in most cases, caused by repetitive trauma to the toe (from the toes hitting the inside of your shoe again and again) causing a blister to form underneath the nail. This effectively detaches and kills your nail. My solution was always to simply let the dead toenail fall away or get to a point where I could, with as little pain as possible, take it off. Afterwards I would simply let the new toenail grow in, which might take a few months.

*Important: Remember with calluses and black toenails to always vigilantly watch for infection. Clean your feet before and after any of the recommended solutions.

 Dirt caked, bloody, sweaty, salty, and in pain these were my feet after the Bryce Canyon 100 and I only healed them through diligence.

Dirt caked, bloody, sweaty, salty, and in pain these were my feet after the Bryce Canyon 100 and I only healed them through diligence.


The reason this guide is comprehensive is because it not only covers skin or topical issues you might have with your feet as a runner, but I am also going to go over ways to become a stronger runner through your feet and prevent/treat foot injuries. Remember that it is not simply dealing with issues when they arise, but preventing them. That's why you keep your feet hydrated with lotion and part of the reason I run in sandals so that I don't have to deal with black toenails. Apply the same forethought and intention to within your foot.

Towel/Newspaper Toe Curl

This is an incredible exercise to strengthen the little muscles within your foot and toes, which allows you to have more control over the land you are running on.

  1. Begin by placing a towel (a dish towel size, a foot by a foot or so) or newspaper on the ground in front of you. You can do this exercise standing or sitting.
  2. Place your toes on the edge of the towel or newspaper facing you.
  3. Scrunch the entire towel or newspaper towards you by squeezing your toes again and again.
  4. Then, when the towel or newspaper is roughly balled up underneath your toes, extend your toes again and again to flatten the towel or newspaper out again.
  5. Try to keep your heel in the same place throughout.

Single Leg Balancing

This exercise can be done anywhere, at anytime, and strengthens not only your feet, but your glutes, core, and more.

  1. Stand on one leg and open your toes for solid balance.
  2. Balance on one that leg for 30 sec. to a minute and then move to the other leg. Repeat as many times as desired.

Remember that you can do this exercise at home, at work, while standing in line, anywhere.

Calf Raises

This exercise target your calf, which plays a vital role in the absorption, distribution, and release of energy with each stride. In addition if your calf is strong that strength positively benefits your entire foot.

  1. Stand with one foot on a staircase or other ledge.
  2. Only have your toes/forefoot on the stairs/ledge.
  3. Use your body weight and sink down into stretching your calf.
  4. Then, engaging your calf muscles raise your body back up.
  5. If using your entire body weight is to difficult right now, use the stair railing or other point to ease the weight you are putting on your calf.


We often hear about the importance of stretching. In reality when done wrong, which happens a lot, stretching can be very detrimental to your body. To much stretching and you don't give your muscles a chance to effectively build muscle, which actually happens during rest. If you stretch when your muscles are cold, so right before a run after you've recently woken up or something, then that leads quickly to injury. Self massage is a much more logical approach to recovery, but stretching plays a role as well.

Target Release

These tools, handmade by yours truly, allow you to target any muscle and dig deep into that muscle. This specific approach allows for beneficial cross-fiber massage. Cross-fiber massage is more beneficial than conventional rolling massage, because it prevents scar tissue from forming, maintains mobility, and aids in repair. Additionally the deep tissue aspect allows for a well-rounded, complete muscle recovery in areas of the muscle that we can't usual target. The Basecamp is the larger, yet still portable, version that you can use against the wall or floor for maximum pressure and control. For a finer, even more portable approach the Peak can come with you on your adventures. Remember the amount of pressure you apply is completely in your control. Both tools are great for your feet, because they allow you to target the fine muscles that make up your foot and calf. You can find out more and buy your own here.


I do also admit, however, that rolling out your muscles with a foam roller or massage ball also plays a beneficial role in recovery. What I like to use is a foot massage ball, like this, when I am sitting writing or reading or something.

Calf Stretches

If you haven't been able to tell, your calves play a vital role in foot health. If your calves are tight (usually due to glute weakness and thus calf overuse) then they will pull on your achilles and heel area muscles which will cause many issues. To prevent this be vigilant and massage your calves (ideally with the Basecamp or Peak). In addition you can perform some calf stretches:

  • Downward-Facing Dog: a yoga pose that bookends, and features heavily within, almost every session of my practice.
  • Stair or ledge stretch: imagine that you are doing the Calf Raise, but without raising your body up. Simply place your toes/forefoot on a stair, curb, or ledge and allow your body weight to stretch your calf. Lower until you feel a stretch, not until it hurts. You can bend your knee slightly to target you lower calf or lock your knee to target your upper calf.
  • Extended leg stretch: place your hands against a firm surface in front of you and extend the leg you wish to stretch backwards. Make sure your entire foot is on the ground, keep your heel on the ground as you lean forward to feel a stretch in your entire calf. You can lower your knee slightly to stretch your lower calf and upper ankle.

Upper Foot/Shin Stretch

This stretch is deceptively simple, but it allowed me to grit out the last 20 miles of the Bryce Canyon 100 as my upper foot seized in agony. I would stop about every 100 yards or so, when it was really bad, to do this stretch quickly, simply so I could keep moving.

  1. Place your hands on a firm surface (for me it was a tree at Bryce) and extend the leg you wish to stretch backwards.
  2. Angle your toes into the ground and away from you.
  3. Now pretend you are trying to touch the ground with the top of your foot/ankle. Imagine someone is pushing on your heel and stretching the top of your foot. This will stretch all the way from your toes to your shin.
 Immediately after finishing the Bryce Canyon 100 I began to ice my painful shin/upper foot, because I wanted to be able to walk again! My foot was swollen to double its normal size and it took me about three weeks to get it back to normal.

Immediately after finishing the Bryce Canyon 100 I began to ice my painful shin/upper foot, because I wanted to be able to walk again! My foot was swollen to double its normal size and it took me about three weeks to get it back to normal.

The feet are truly a fascinating part of our body. Their simplicity and function is without equal, within that I find beauty. They are our base inherent in each stride and as such I truly hope that you take care of them. I still have lots to learn, but these techniques are how I have kept my feet strong and healthy over the years and it has made me a better runner for it. I hope we can continue to learn together and I hope these techniques help you.


Jarod Contreras


Donate to Touching the Trail
The Comprehensive Guide to True Running Form


The Comprehensive Guide to True Running Form

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a sh!t how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

-Caballo Blanco, Born to Run

While the phenomenon of minimalist running may have swept the world in 2009 when Christopher McDougall's Born to Run came out, and for a few years afterwards, it has now turned into the opposite phenomenon of maximalism. Born to Run is one of my all time favorite books for more reasons than one. It is not simply a classic tale of adventure, but a guide for life. A life centered on the purity of running, it is a guide on running and yet so much more.

While it may seem odd that I call minimalist running a 'phenomenon,' I only use that word, because for those few years it was. It took the world by storm, with many companies jumping on the bandwagon. However, people found that they were getting injured so they turned to maximalist running and companies like Hoka became quick successes. The fact that people didn't realize was that to suddenly jump into minimalist running, after a lifetime of running in Nikes, was to set your body up for injury. Your body was not used to the unfamiliar minimalist style and so reacted negatively. The more appropriate approach is to work into it slowly. Walk around at work in minimalist shoes and be barefoot as many times as you can, then progress into shorter runs in bare feet, sandals, or minimalist shoes, and then build up consistently.

While for many people minimalist running might have been an experiment, for me it is a lifestyle. It is truly the best way to run. The best way for your body and soul. The connection you feel when simply in sandals allows you to not only endure more, but appreciate more. Instead of the world being at your fingertips it is, quite literally, at your toe tips.

As I began my running I always wanted a guide to form. Not simply overall tips, but techniques for each part of the body. Over the years this is the knowledge I have gained, I truly hope that it helps.

 Here I am mid-stride; demonstrating bent knees, forefoot landing, loose hands, and loose arms. Keep it fun!

Here I am mid-stride; demonstrating bent knees, forefoot landing, loose hands, and loose arms. Keep it fun!

True Running Form


Open your toes with each stride and extend them upwards, this helps direct your forefoot towards the ground.

Foot Landing

Land on your forefoot, specifically the ball of your foot. This is the first part of your foot that will begin the process of absorbing the impact of each stride.


Keep your knees bent to shorten your stride. Pretend that you are sitting down in a chair, sit far enough down to where you might think it looks outrageous, but in fact you are not sitting back all that far. Especially on descents bent knees and hence short strides are vital.


Pretend your pelvis is being pulled forward by a string. This will help engage your glutes and keep your center of gravity over your stride.


Engage your glutes! By bending your knees and pretending your pelvis is being pulled forward by a string you will work to engage your glutes. We forget so often, so be conscious to engage them. Pretend you are trying to hold a dime between your butt cheeks.

On ascents lean into the ascent, power hike if necessary by placing your hands on your knees. Whether you are running the ascent or power hiking remember that you are not pushing down with your hands or quadriceps, instead you are pulling back and up with your glutes.

On descents remember to sit back into your glutes and keep a short, quick stride to engage them. Do not 'pound' the descent, but flow down it.


Keep your hips squared to the trail so that you will be able to most effectively overcome what is ahead.


Engage your core! This will support your entire stride and form, just like your glutes.


Keep your back straight, but do not force it. Pretend your head is being pulled upwards by a string. By engaging your core you will also lengthen your back.


Keep your elbows in close to your body, except for when you need extra balance on fast, technical descents. Then you can extend your elbows and arms outwards for better balance at times.

Overall, however, keep your arms close to your body, loose, and pulled back a little bit. Engage your upper back muscles (trapezoids) to keep your arms pulled back a little bit. Keep your forearms/hands below your elbows, keep them low. What your arms do=what your feet/legs do. So keep your arms low, because you want your feet low. Here is a fundamental technique that no one realizes: move your arms faster, to go faster.


Do not clench your fists or hold your fingers out straight. Find a balance between, keep them loose.


Don't strain your neck. Keep it loose, but straight. Remember a string pulling upwards from the crown of your head.


Be aware of your surroundings, move your head around, be attentive and aware. Again remember a string pulling upwards from the crown of your head.


For smoother trails look about 15 feet ahead of you, as the trail's technicality increases bring your gaze in closer and closer to see more immediate obstacles.


Remember to smile! Even when the going gets tough, smile, because when you smile you can endure more.

Overall Things to Keep in Mind

  • Quick step! Pretend you are running on hot coals. Tell yourself, "ooch, ouch," for a quick, efficient stride. You can also pretend that you are log rolling, this will also help you sit back into your glutes. With quick leg turnover and a short stride you will give yourself an ever greater ability to effectively land on your forefoot and run skillfully.
 At the Bulldog 50k in August of 2016; here I am demonstrating solid uphill technique. Leaning into the climb, hands on knees, strong foot placement, and pulling upwards and backwards with my glutes to ascend.

At the Bulldog 50k in August of 2016; here I am demonstrating solid uphill technique. Leaning into the climb, hands on knees, strong foot placement, and pulling upwards and backwards with my glutes to ascend.

Remember that these are itemized tips for each part of your body, but your body will naturally do these if you run as we should (barefoot or otherwise as close to the ground as possible; so in sandals or minimalist shoes). Your entire body comes together to run, that is part of the beauty. These are simply tips to keep in mind to improve your running form. Whether you utilize all or one, remember them for when you are fatigued and distracted or for when you are ecstatic and energized. In both states you can forget form and that's when injury rears its ugly head. Live your life with intent.


Jarod Contreras


Donate to Touching the Trail
Vitriolic Viewdoo


Vitriolic Viewdoo

Recently I joked with my mom that the title of this piece could be my debut album title if I decided to begin to play music. One of my favorite musicians, Marilyn Manson, always impresses me with the depth of emotion and societal commentary that he layers into his music. Songs like Antichrist Superstar, The Beautiful People, and Disposable Teens are anthems of honesty. The titles, lyrics, and performances of Marilyn Manson may seem counterintuitive to my morals of pacifism, love, and peace, but they're not. I listen to Marilyn Manson not because I am an angsty teen who wishes to rebel, I listen to Marilyn Manson because he speaks truthfully about the state that our society is in. He comments on the hypocrisy, vices, evil, lies, weaknesses, and other issues that our society transgresses. His music, and other music like it, has been a vital piece of my evolution.

One of the cornerstones of my personal philosophy is honest positivity. What is honest positivity? Honest positivity is remaining confident within challenges while also remaining honest with yourself about what needs to be done. Instead of blind optimism that forces you to hide the truth from yourself, adopting a mindset of remaining honestly optimistic will allow yourself to have hope in the positive aspects and accept the negative ones so that you can overcome them. Being simultaneously honest and positive with yourself allows you to peacefully acknowledge, accept, and overcome challenges.

This mindset is one that has taken me far. It has taken me through high school and through running 100 miles, amongst other things. One of the main attributes of this mindset as opposed to blind optimism is that this mindset benefits you in the happy moments also. If you are simply optimistic then that will largely only apply to challenges. If you are both honest and optimistic you can apply that ethos to the positive moments as well by having a present head amongst the fun, yet still acknowledging how you can better yourself. These complimentary skills are vital in all aspects of life, because they provide a supportive platform during the peaks and valleys of emotion and mindset.

Having been at college for only a short while, I am still in the heat of the transition. Thankfully, by employing this mindset I have been able to live much happier here at Cal Poly. Instead of sinking into dread, because of the fact that my family and I are separate, I can be honestly positive. I can have trust in the fact that this grand adventure will positively impact my journey, I can know that each moment is a positive gift, and yet I can be honest with myself to the fact that to truly be happy I still have some things to work on. I can still build my body back up through running with intent, I can manage my time even better, and I can get out of my comfort zone to meet new people. This mindset has helped me in the past few weeks and I believe that it will help me in the years to come.

This mindset is one that can be applied to all aspects of life, as stated above, yet most of our society partakes in neither aspects of this mindset. The reason that Marilyn Manson's music speaks so deeply to me is because he is not afraid to comment on the state that our society is in. To often in our culture those who speak the truth are ridiculed for being inappropriate, rude, or cruel. However, there are negative and positive ways to state the truth, I am calling for a positive statement of the truth. Just as in the mindset I examined above, positivity and truth (honesty) go hand in hand. Our society needs both.

As I grow older I notice more and more aspects of what our society is, specifically what it portrays itself to be and what it truly is. I pride myself on my ability to see the truth behind what is presented to me, whether that be in school, friendship, daily life, or anything else. The truth that I see in our society is that we are afraid of ourselves. We run from who we truly are. From birth we are conditioned to build a wall around who we truly are, instead focusing on the material. Our truth becomes wrapped up in the lies of career, wealth, property, food, sex, alcohol, drugs, and immediate gratification.

Roughly 2,600 years ago the Buddha outlined these same points in his Second Noble Truth, that the root causes of suffering are desire and ignorance. Throughout history society as a whole has always been an exemplification of that truth, but with the interconnectedness and immediacy that our global culture has brought that truth has never been more exemplified and poignant to our collective current situation. You can browse social media, look at the news, or even look at our current President to easily see that both desire and ignorance run deep.

To often, though, those of us who want to enact change fall into the trap of desire and ignorance also. Our judgment is clouded by our desire for change and our ignorance of how to enact it. This cycle exacerbates itself until we become no better than the very same people that we are trying to enact change from. How far would Ghandi have gotten if he had raised an army against the British empire instead of raising compassion?

Throughout our lives we have all heard some form of Ghandi's statement, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." This statements is one that has been bandied around on social media and T-shirts for many years, but it nonetheless rings true. Countless studies have shown that what you believe manifests itself in reality. That you are what you think. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." So whether it is a leader, science, or scripture this message has been repeated throughout history and yet no one seems to remember it.

Now you might be wondering where I am going with my writing today, you might also be wondering where in the world I have been on the blog recently. Well, transitioning into college I decided to give this a break and focus on the podcast and college. Now that I am much more settled, and have had a lot of time to think, I am ready to return to this medium. Now that I am at college I have realized even more so how much my contemporaries are obsessed with the material. Cal Poly is not a party school, but you still hear the conversations about and see the connections to alcohol, drugs, sex, and partying. I hold very high moral standards which contribute to my overall well being and peace, those standards include not drinking, not doing drugs, and not having sex. The partying is a slightly different matter, because I know that you could go to a party and still have "fun" without drinking. But, to me a party is not my definition of fun. I don't like the crowds of people and conventionality of conversation inherent in a college party. I know that it is all about perspective, to most of those around me a party is fun, but my kind of fun, which would be running for hours on end in mountains, is crazy.

As for sex, you might say that college is a time for experimentation and finding yourself. The fact is, however, that you cannot find yourself within someone else. You must go within yourself and anyone else around you who positively fulfills you is only a benefit, but not the first step. To me, the waste that "sex" is in college is unnecessary. I have never had sex and don't intend to anytime soon, most definitely not until marriage. Now you might believe that the reasoning for my abstinence stems from my Christian upbringing or from fear, but in fact it does not. The best way that abstinence was explained to me is thusly: Imagine that you are walking amongst a farmer's market and you come across two apple vendors. One vendor lets anyone take a bite out of his apples and then still sells them. While the other vendor only lets you eat the apples once you have purchased them. Now let me ask you, would you rather buy the apple that everyone has taken a bite out of or the one that is pure?

The truth is this: failure, emotion, and pain are your teachers; use peace, presence and perseverance to most effectively learn from them. That is my guiding light. To fully follow your truest path and find who you truly are within you, you must realize that alcohol, drugs, and the material are not part of that path. They are not only distractions, but detractors from your dedication.

Part of this dedication is compassion. All of our path's have certain common themes and compassion is one of them. Now to most people compassion is a nebulous concept, but in actuality it is quite simple. Compassion is, at its essence, learning from the good and working with the bad of those around you. It is a constant evolution of connection between you and your best friend or the stranger on the subway. The same mindset of lessons gained from acceptance and challenge that we see in meditation applies to our relationships with those around us. Through meditation, following our truest path, yoga, and treating our body right we are working to transcend the ego, right? Well, selflessness is another tool that we can add to our toolkit of change, because through selflessness we are transcending our own ego and working to better the people and world around us.

The Master has no possessions. / The more he does for others, / the happier he is. / The more he gives to others, / the wealthier he is.
— Verse 81 Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Every religion, philosophy, and taught way of life examines and explains the vitality of selflessness. Throughout history philosophers and wise teachers have examined this philosophy. Why are there such transcendent parallels on the importance of selflessness? Because, it is true. Because, it is a basic component of being the best version of ourselves. A component that we are all capable of realizing, but many of us don't.

Let me ask you a question: Are you kind? A simple enough question with, most likely, a quick answer of 'Yes.' However, that answer is not thought out. You might be reading this today and think, "Yes, well I already know this. I am compassionate and kind and selfless and positive and honest. I'm fine." If you are thinking that, or anything related to that, you are not being honest. There is always room for improvement.

The point that many of us don't usually realize, myself included, is that compassion is a tool not only to be used for those around us who we already like, but also for those around us who we don't like. As humans we make snap judgments on whether or not we like somebody, and I don't mean sexually, I mean whether its your employer or a new friend, it is a snap judgment. That judgment is usually held forever after in the relationship, as such we know it's important to make a good first impression. But, what if there is someone who we just don't like, who we think is annoying, or rude, or mean, or even evil, how can we show compassion towards them?

Let us remember this: life is cyclical. If we are evil, then evil will be shown towards us. If we are mean, then meanness will be shown towards us. If we want to change the world for the better, evil is not part of that recipe. The more we want to make a positive change, the more we tend to look at the world as wrong, as twisted. Thus that shapes our own view, we become negative, and our chances for positive change quickly dissolve. Like I wrote earlier, it is all about your outlook. Your vitriolic outlook, however large or small, shapes you and soon spirals into a cycle of, what seems like, bad magic with how many negative events will transpire around and to you. However, it is hard to always take an honestly positive outlook on the world, especially when faced with such evil that surrounds us.

How can we be compassionate towards a President that would rather insult those around him, than help those around him? How can we be compassionate towards an administration focused more on themselves, than on the country? How can we be compassionate towards industries focused more on taking whatever they can from the earth, than giving back to it? How can we be compassionate towards "bad" people, when we ourselves are imperfect?

There are so many questions, with one answer: look within. That is how the truth of the answer is found. We have within ourselves the answer to every question, if only we look. Take a peak and see what you find. Take a peak in every moment. I have realized many things by looking within. In terms of what we are talking about today I have realized that the world around us is shaped by choices. Donald Trump chooses to be evil, but we do not have to. We do not have to make the same choices as those that we dislike. I am continually shocked by the fact that people who I look up to and learn from, insult Trump. I see it so often on social media and in conversation, people who proclaim peace, yet turn around and post hate towards Trump, the animal agriculture industry, climate change deniers, the GOP, and more. How can we strive for our betters if we hate those around us?

Now you might say that that vitriol is how you share your opinions, but again let me ask you: How far would Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. have gotten if they hated and ridiculed those around them? By embodying evil, even marginally, within their hearts they would have never found peace from the evil that transgressed upon them and their community. If you want to make change, if you want to see the world be a better place for your children, do not point out the imperfections of others. Instead point out the imperfections within yourself and work with intent to better yourself. The world is not lost because of a president or company or singular individual, in fact the world is not lost at all. People are lost.

Begin the journey of following your truest path, with honesty and positivity, and become the example for those around you. By bettering yourself, you will better the world. For the solution is not to change the President or change people's access to guns or change anyone else, but to change yourself for your better.

Go within,

Jarod Contreras


Donate to Touching the Trail
Sit Down and Tell Stories.


Sit Down and Tell Stories.

When it comes down to it what I do here on Touching the Trail, with the podcast and the blog, is tell stories. I like to say that I am a connoisseur of stories, which is why having guests on the podcast is so important to me. Whether I'm hearing tell of a story from someone else or I'm the one living the story I love to be able to tell a good tale. Throughout all of history telling stories has been a vital part of our growth as a world wide culture. Whether it's sitting over the campfire, telling of the day's travels or sitting over our phones posting on social media, telling our story is inherent in our evolution. Opening ourselves up to those around us in honesty creates a deep and meaningful connection.

A few weeks ago, after the Bryce Canyon 100, I sat down with my friend and neighbor to tell him the story of my race. My neighbor, Ted, is an old school ultrarunner who ran ultramarathons when they were just beginning. Ted is a motivation and a guide to me. When I walked over to tell Ted about my race his face lit up upon seeing my belt buckle. We sat outside on a swinging bench, releasing in the shade, while I began regaling him with my tale of 100 miles. We swapped stories of what it's like to run 100 miles. With each up and down I told him about the race he could connect with a very similar situation that happened at one of his races.

The simplicity of sitting amongst trees and talking about adventure is beautifully unique. We chatted for quite awhile, soon his wife Bonnie came home and she even joined in the conversation a little bit. After detailing the race and swapping stories Ted shook my hand, congratulating me on the accomplishment of running 100 miles.

Ted is a storyteller himself, consistently regaling me with tales of his numerous adventures. Recently I sat down with him again to detail his life story for the podcast, listen here! It's truly a conversation for the record books and one that transcends what we think of as possible. 

When you think about it telling stories happens everyday, in every moment. When thinking about it, however, one area that seems to be clearly lacking in our day to day storytelling is dinnertime. What I mean by that is that in our society dinnertime, and really all of our meal times, are times of inattention and distraction. Distraction caused by the obsession we have with the immediate gratification that food and screen give us. When it comes to the meaningful interactions that can happen at mealtime, we are truly missing out. 

One of the key parenting tactics my parents have employed everyday since I was born is to sit down and eat dinner together. Not sit down and eat dinner together in front of a TV or phone screen, but sit down and eat dinner together. We laugh, we eat, we talk, we ask questions, we tell stories of our day, and we engage like a family should. Together.

So many of the kids that I know, my friends throughout my life, have grown up without the act of eating dinner together. Now it may seem like a stupid thing, but having the security of knowing that you can sit down with your family and talk is a vital aspect of growing up. Being able to talk with my family over a good meal everyday provides me with an ability to better understand not only my day, but my entire life.

I know it sounds cliché , but talking about your life helps you to better appreciate and understand it. It's about talking with the people who love you most, about connecting with them. If, as a family, you commit to daily meal times together you will notice a major increase in your ability to work, live, and love together. I think that reaching inside and sharing about more of ourselves on a daily basis is a wonderful way to connect. But, no one is perfect, some days you will miss the dinner together or maybe some days there won't be all that much conversation. The important thing is that you are trying and you are making an effort each day to connect through discussion. It is about consistently putting family first.

Telling stories is a way to put your wellbeing first. You may be wondering why I have been away from the blog for so long, it is mainly because I wanted to feel motivated to write. Up until this week I didn't feel like writing for the blog, it is as simple as that. Now I don't think that that is me having a lack of commitment, instead I think that it is listening to myself. If I can read my body and what it is telling me, then what it was telling me was that writing wasn't that important over the last few weeks. Well, more specifically not writing for the blog, because I have been writing (for magazines). I was also enjoying my summer, focusing on the podcast, and getting new things going.

All in all I think the stories we tell shape the perspective we have and the life we lead. If the stories are lies and discouraging to our motivations, then we will not accomplish what we desire. If we are honest with ourselves and stay positive, then we will overcome every obstacle. Listen to what your body and mind are telling you, they are there.


Jarod Contreras


Donate to Touching the Trail
Don't Forget to Hallucinate!


Don't Forget to Hallucinate!

Well it's been more than a week since my first 100 miler at the Bryce Canyon 100, a week to recover, slow down, and think on the fact that I ran 100 miles. It's a very rare thing in our society to want to run one mile let alone 100 so I'm cognizant of how incredible my achievement is, coupled with the fact that it was a mountainous race with many more challenges than if it was 100 miles on road. That race was the end to one chapter and the beginning of a new one, it was my high school graduation present to myself and my send off to college in the fall. To run 100 miles is more than transformative, it's transcendent and it allows you to have an infinitely more enlightened perspective on what pain is. One thing that I talked about in last week's podcast recap of the race (which you can listen to here if you like) was how I hallucinated. If you know anything about ultrarunning then you know that hallucinations are things that happen in a race and going into the race I knew they were a very real possibility, however I didn't they'd happen to me. Boy was I wrong!

This actually brings up one aspect of my preparation for this race that I haven't really talked about all that much, my ego. I let my ego cloud my decisions preparing for this race and it didn't impact me that greatly, but it could have. I was arrogant enough to think that I could easily finish the race under 24 hours, that I wouldn't hallucinate, and that the heat wouldn't affect me. All three of those things turned out in the exact opposite way as life is. I finished the race in 35 hours and 40 minutes, instead of 24, I hallucinated like crazy, and the heat destroyed me. Like in life a race never turns out exactly how you expect, the trail takes twists and turns that you never expected. The only way to deal with these unexpected challenges is to simply go with the flow and I know it sounds cliché, but it really works. To get through this race I had to take each new challenge with a present mind that responds with solutions, not reacts with anger. The hallucinations were really the thing that most threw me for a loop at this race. I've never hallucinated before and to experience it so consistently for hours on end (I figured afterwards that I probably hallucinated for 18 hours, about half the race) was crazy. Each hallucination seemed so real, thankfully I never had the type of hallucinations were you think you are somewhere else, the main feature of the mix of hallucinations that I was given was that I stopped being able to distinguish what was real and what was not, so much so that I stopped trusting myself. It got so bad at one point that I waited on the trail for someone to pass so that I could ask them if what I was seeing was real and the way I was going was correct, thankfully it was.

This race ate me up and spit me back out again and again. To feel lost within your own head is something that I've never experience before and something that was shocking to endure to say the least. Not knowing what was real and what wasn't was what led me to feel like my psyche was in a rowboat amongst a stormy ocean. A few steps down the trail seemed pointless, not that I wanted to quit the race, more pointless that I knew I was messed up, so to keep moving seemed idiotic until I sorted my mind out. However, thanks to the great advice I was given before the race I was able to remember what was drilled into my head, to keep moving! So even though half of my mind wanted to stop and sort myself out, the other half was still rational enough to keep taking one step after the other. If I just kept taking a step I knew eventually I would reach that finish line.

Now that I've had more than a week to absorb and reflect on this race a thought has struck me, "How in the world did I do that!?" After every tough adventure I usually have some form of that thought, but after Bryce I really have to wonder how I overcame those challenges. To be honest I don't know, all I know is that the perseverance that was bred from accomplishing that is a skill that I will be able to call upon in any tough situation from now on.

This past week has been a total recovery week, I have not ran and have been sleeping in late everyday. It's been really nice and I'm doing things that I rarely ever do like eat ice cream (vegan of course), sleep until 8 or 9 in the morning, watch a ton of movies, and only hike instead of run. While these are crazy to me, I know that for most they're not jumping off the wild end, but to me they are unusual, rare, and fun. My family and I have also spent quality time together; I've been walking with my mom, going out with my dad, hanging with my sister, playing board games, and more. Life ebbs and flows, just a few weeks ago the race was my focus, now rest is my focus. I stayed present during my training, but now I must stay present in a different time. I feel like I am being to lazy at times, but it's rest and I should enjoy it for all it's worth, because I never do it like this.

It's odd to say the least to go from hallucinating to lying on a couch watching a movie, but I guess in life sometimes you need a little hallucinations to make sure you appreciate the couches. :)


Donate to Touching the Trail
Where Have I Been?


Where Have I Been?

Yes, that is the question isn't it? I have been gone from the blog for a couple weeks, but I have been keeping up with the podcast. In this time of real busyness I decided that the podcast was what needed my focus, so the blog suffered. I feel bad that I didn't keep up with this here, because writing really is my first love, but I will be getting back to it I promise. 

Anyways, enough of the apologies, let me answer the question of where I have been. Over the past few weeks I have balanced the launch of Target Release Recovery, AP tests, finals, studying (for those very same tests), preparing for graduation, actually graduating, my drivers test, training for my 100, and the podcast. There has been a lot on my plate, but I knew going into this adventure that I would have to balance a lot. Sometimes the trail is smooth, other times it's rocky. Recently it has been very rocky, but I have applied the same lesson that I have learned in trailrunning when encountering rocky terrain. Stay light on your feet and be ready for anything, take it one step at a time. So in these past few months I have stayed light when facing challenges and stayed ready for anything, above all I have taken the stressors and joys one step at a time.

One of the biggest focuses that I had these past few weeks was making sure that I finished out the year with all A's. Last semester I got one B, which was my own fault and while a B is great to some, to me it's a failure. So this semester I studied hard and planned ahead, ensuring that I finished the year with straight A's. It worked for all of my classes, except one. For my AP Governement/Economics class I had an 88%, even with the final input of grades and if I got even 100% on the final I would still only have an 89%. So what did I do? I headed right to my teacher to talk to her, because in making happen what you want to happen you must use all of the resources available to you. Through the art of conversation or through small talk, whatever you want to call it, I was able to get a 90%. Yes I was able to talk and I guess you could say "shmooze" my way into an A. Shmoozing as a tactic is, to me, usually quite despicable, because I associate it with politicians. However, in conversation I think there is a level of "shmooze" that we can use that does not cross over the line into evil. I think what I'm calling "shmooze" has an insincere quality with a hidden agenda. What I'm really getting at is that in conversation I think you must be sincere, you must lay yourself out there for all to see, and then those you are speaking to will want to help.

Beyond school and the focuses I had there with tests and grades, I also passed my drivers test!  I took it for my second try two weeks ago and I was much more prepared. I knew what to expect, seeing as how it was my second time, and I had practiced in the three weeks since my first try. Going into the test I most definitely felt nervous and since it is the DMV I had a long time to be nervous, we had to wait for 2 and a half hours! Throughout that time I chatted with my mom and dad, I meditated, napped, and wrote. To me I use meditation as a tool against boredom, because we don't always need to be stimulated by screens or noise. Silence is the best company.

Once it was time for the test I again breathed in and breathed out. I took the instructions one step at a time, applying what I have learned. I only made a minor mistake, which was similar to my original mistake on the first test of turning, so that is obviously something I need to work on. Thankfully I passed!  

As for my high school graduation it has had one theme, lack of planning. My school has a knack for forgetting to do things and not grasping the situation, well they did it again. This year the instructions, directions, and details have been not only downright confusing, but in some cases nonexistent. Graduation, especially with 600 students graduating, should be a time of organization, but apparently my school doesn't understand that. Amongst the chaos I have tried my best to find peace, I have learned the information that I need to know and organized my own schedule to facilitate a smooth execution as best I can.

A few days before the graduation we had an award ceremony in the auditorium. It was for academic, athletic, community, and other assorted achievements and scholarships. I was recognized for my straight A's and exceptional academics a few times. It's always nice to know that the hard work you put in is recognized. But, by far the coolest recognition I got was being awarded Student of the Year. While you may think that I was awarded that award because of my academics, but in fact I was actually awarded it due to my running. Here's what the Magnet Coordinator (who is for all intents and purposes my principal) said:

"For those of you in the Magnet you know how much you must balance. You must balance ordinary classes, AP classes, community service hours, extracurricular activities, clubs, school events, sports, and family. While everyone must balance that, this next student balances even more. While he may not participate all that much in school activities, he runs...a lot. On June 16th he will be running the oh what's its name? (she forgot the name of the race and I had to YELL Bryce, because by that time I knew it was me). Oh yes, on June 16th he will be running the Bryce 100! Yes, he will be running 100 miles! A century! Also he says that he didn't join cross country because it was to short. The Student of the Year award goes to Jarod Contreras!"

That whole statement was incredible to hear and meant a lot. When she said that it was going to be 100 miles the entire audience erupted in shock and awe, they also laughed hard at the fact that cross country is to short for me. But, once she said he runs a lot I knew and my friends knew that it was me, but before that I had no idea so it was a total shock. I am so glad that they recognized me, even though I have always tried to keep a low profile at school.

When it came time to actually graduate I was ready. The whole school and I had practiced the day before and the days leading up had been casual and fun, hanging out with teachers and friends. I didn't go to school the day of graduation, instead running with my dad and relaxing at home. I made sure to dress nice for the event, which for me meant a cowboy shirt! The line for the family and friends to get in ran all the way around the block, but the line for the students was super quick, I just walked right in.

It was nice before the ceremony to hang out with all of the people I know, for one last time really. I don't get sentimental or sad all that often, instead I recognized this final hurrah and stayed present. It was a sea of students and I had trouble finding my friends within it, but once I did it was nice to just laugh and talk. 

Of course the ceremony began with a dramatic walk to our seats, with music in the background as we stepped through the victory arch. All a little to over the top for me, but at least I saw my family in the stands. As we took our seats there was the requisite confusion, even though we "practiced," once that subsided we soon found our way.

The ceremony commenced with speeches which were all textbook, stereotypical graduation speeches. So stereotypical in fact that they sounded like the speech givers looked up "graduation speech" on Google. The speeches were filled with "this is our time" and "now we can change the world." They weren't motivating or meaningful, which is disappointing to say the least.

I know it sounds like I hated the graduation, but I actually really enjoyed it. I took it for what it was and made the best of it. Once the speeches were over the principal began to recognize accomplishments of every kind. Leadership, academic, sport, and more types of accomplishments. I stood up for many different academic recognitions and for being an Eagle Scout. But, by far the coolest reason I stood up for recognition was because the principal said, "And any students planning on running a centurion please stand up." I was of course the only one to stand up and yes she did say centurion, not what we call them. Either way it was awesome to stand up and hear everyone cheer and be in disbelief. Just like the awards ceremony I was glad they did it, but it did shatter my attempted low profile.

As for the 100 miler training itself, I have put my heart and soul into preparing for this race. Training with not crazy big weeks, but instead making each run count and matter. I have planned out my gear and execution of the race so that I have very little to think about during the race. Plan, plan, plan is what I say. Now a few days before the race I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally confident in my ability to run 100 miles. We'll see how it goes!




Donate to Touching the Trail
Drivers Test: Failed It!


Drivers Test: Failed It!

Well I failed my first attempt at the behind-the-wheel driving test. I have been driving with my learners permit, which means I have to drive with an adult, for a few months now. Practicing a lot with my mom and dad. Today was my driving test and a few things happened, today's post is just a quick little note for posterity and story.

My dad and I headed down to our local DMV knowing that it was going to be a long wait, the DMV is always crowded and slow. My dad dropped me off and I went to go get in line. However, a security guard told me that my dad was going the wrong way and I had to quickly run on over to tell him where to park. Whoops! Thankfully, because I was taking a driving test I could head right over to the window. We had to wait for a little bit to check in and the lady was cold and efficient, but I'd rather have efficiency and coldness over anger or lackadaisicalness.

Once you check in you have to bring your car around to the side of the building, which is were my dad had incorrectly headed in the first place. On the side there we found what was once an empty car queue, to now be filled with three other cars. We knew this probably spelled a long wait, but we did not know how long. Boy were we in for a shock. We ended up waiting for about an hour and a half or more! Yes, an hour and a half for a fifteen minute driving test! That is why the stereotypes about the DMV are so true. To further reinforce that stereotype, while we were waiting a man in the car in front of us asked an employee nicely if she did the driving tests and she answered rudely, "I don't do the driving tests. If I did I would have walked over to your car, okay? Chill out man."

We spent our time waiting by napping, meditating, going on our phones, and talking. It was a nice enough time, but man was it long. Finally our turn came and my dad headed inside. The instructor asked me to demonstrate hand signals, the brake lights, the horn, and other parts of the car. We then headed off on the drive, he would instruct me where to turn. We drove for about 15-20 minutes before returning to the DMV, throughout the drive I felt nervous, as I had felt in the lead up to the test. When we returned to the DMV I was very nervous, but calmed my nerves with some mantras. He gave me the verdict, I failed. The actions that caused me to fail where these:

  • Turned right on red when there was a sign that said, "No Right Turn on Red." MAIN ONE!
  • Didn't check the bicycle lane when merging to turn right, did that twice.

These mistakes really boil down to my two issues, keeping my head moving and looking ahead for signs, dangers, etc. Since hindsight is 20/20 it's obvious to me now that I should have practiced those issues much more leading up to the test, but due to ego or whatever I felt confident going in. Now I have to wait two weeks before I can take it again and over these next two weeks I will practice those issues and more. Wish me luck!

A This Close to Being Licensed Permit Holder,


Edit: One thing I forgot to mention was something funny I noticed during the test. The instructor was the stereotypical government worker, super monotone and robotic. It seemed like he had said his spiel a million times before, which I guess he had. He delivered his hellos, his advice, and the verdict with zero emotion and zero care. Funny.


Donate to Touching the Trail
Target Release Recovery


Target Release Recovery

As of Sunday April 23rd, 2017 my company Target Release Recovery has launched! Now if you read this blog and listen to the podcast then you have heard me talk about Target Release Recovery. This company is a sport recovery tool company that has been in the works for a long time. In this post I will tell the story of Target Release and how it came to be.

It all began back in August of 2016. My mom, sister, and I went to visit my aunts in Palm Springs, my sister stayed for a few days, but my mom and I only left for a day. When we got back home my dad had something to show us. Motivated due to the fact that the numerous massage sticks, foam rollers, and other such recovery tools did not provide him what he needed he set out to design something better. What my dad showed us that day was deceptively simple, yet incredibly effective. A handheld sized wooden dowel with the end rounded off and a rubberized bottom, he showed us how he could put it against the wall and use it to dig into his muscles. The rubberized bottom kept it in place and the rounded off end dug into the muscle with leverage provided by your body against the wall of floor. The design was ingenious and yet so effective. It provided something that no other tool did. As they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention." At the time my mom joked that I could even sell them! Well that planted the seed into what grew into Target Release.

Over the subsequent week I made a smaller version for my dad to try and began using each tool myself. The idea began to grow more and more solid in my head, I really started to want to make this a reality. The next vacation we had planned was a trip up to Mammoth to do some mountain running. Over the time leading up my dad and I talked extensively about the tools. When we got to Mammoth we used the tools after the runs, too. But, I was still looking for a name. One of the runs we did was the climb up to Duck Pass, my dad and I were chatting and laughing, making out way up the mountainside trail. You could turn around and see the entire valley that Mammoth sits in while we made our way through shale, above a turquoise alpine lake. One of the topics we were discussing was the design of the tools and the name of the company. We threw ideas back and forth, after a lull in the conversation my dad threw out the name of Target Release. The minute he said it we both new that was going to be the name, it embody everything the tools were and the philosophy behind them. Forged by suffering on trails it was apropos that the name should also be forged by that same suffering and setting.

Over the next few months we worked on finalizing the design of the tools, branding, and packaging. My dad, in another stroke of genius, developed the logo as well. I even took the Basecamp and the Peak, names I developed, to the Bulldog 50k to see how they would help me on a longer run. They worked great and helped me jump back into running. The fall of 2016 was spent in what you might the "creative" phase. Working on the whole image of the company and fleshing out ideas on how I would sell them. Over Thanksgiving break I met with some running stores in Portland to see if they were interested to sell them, which they were. Over Winter Break I sent the tools, along with the packaging we had designed, to some friends of mine from the podcast to see what they thought. Jeff Browning, Joe Grant, Rip Esselstyn, and many others loved them!

Now it may seem that this company has been long in the making, and it has, but not without reason. Going into this entire endeavor I knew that I was going to take it slow and methodically. I planned my approach and made sure to know what this company meant and where it could go before I launched. Moving into the new year I had other things on my mind, my first 100k and school, that put this company a little bit on the back burner. Then in March I chatted with my friend Karl Hoagland of Ultrarunning Magazine about the tools and the company. He got me in contact with Donald Buraglio, who writes the reviews for the Magazine. Donald and I emailed back and forth and he decided to write a little online review of the tools along with some other tools that he uses. I took it and decided that I would launch when the review came out. Over the next few weeks I made sure to produce a lot of tools and refine my process.

On April 23rd the review came out on the site and I launched! I am so excited to finally be able to begin the new adventure and new chapter of this company. I hope you will partake in this adventure and incorporate these tools into your daily regimen of recovery and health. Wish me luck and I hope you will share the news of the best recovery tool. Thank you.



Donate to Touching the Trail


Back to Back

Most of the posts that I write on this blog are entitled with topics where I discuss a tangible lesson. But, very rarely do I simply write like a usual personal blog, about my adventures and life. This past week was very fun and brutal, in the best way, so I thought that it would be good to share it around. 

Last week was Spring Break for my family and I, now usually we go on a big trip somewhere, but this year we kept it simple. This year for the first weekend of the break we went up to Santa Barbara for a few days and then my dad and I headed home while my mom and sister went to Disneyland for another few days. Other than the trip to Santa Barbara I stayed at home, which was great, because then all I needed to focus on was running and resting. It was a great reset period.

On the first Saturday of the break we left for Santa Barbara. We were in no rush so we woke up at around 5 and got ready, leaving in the cool and crisp fog at around 6:30. Later than when we usually leave, but like I said there was no rush and we made sure to keep that in mind. We drove up in our Volkswagen Weekender which we got last summer and now comes with us on every trip. It is an extremely versatile van, with a pop top, beds, table, comfortable chairs, and more. The drive up in it was calm and fun, albeit I did get a little bit car sick, but listening to podcasts and closing my eyes helped assuage it. If you have never drove from the LA area along the coast to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo then you should make it a priority to do so one day. It is a totally stereotypical California drive with surfers, beaches, beach houses, mountains, sun, palm trees, and more. That was the drive we took and as the sun rose more and more it got ever more beautiful. With the sun shining on the ocean and surfers playing in the waters I was reminded about how much I love where I live.

When we got to Santa Barbara we headed straight to the trails, I had already put on my running shorts under my regular shorts when I got dressed in the morning. After gathering our things at the car and making some final decisions on what to bring my dad and I headed down Jesusita trail. Now if you don't know the trails in Santa Barbara are some of the most technical and brutal that I have ever come across. With huge stones to ascend, rocks (of many varying sizes), roots, slippery sandstone, sand, and now because of the crazy amount of rain that we have got this year, tons of plants. Now you may ask yourself, "Why are tons of plants bad?" Well I'll tell you they're bad, because they hang over the trail and make you mistake where the trail is, so on a trail with a steep drop off to one side you might think that you are stepping on solid ground but you are actually stepping on grass and then off the ledge. We had to be aware of this. The plants were also damp, making slipping even more likely. But, as my dad and I were just heading off down the trail we didn't know all of this. We took it easy, laughing, talking, and running. The trail climbs up to Inspiration Point and up until then we did not see that many people. One thing that continuously amazes me about this sport is how fast you can climb. Within moments it seemed we could see all of Santa Barbara. The vistas really do make it awesome!

 My dad powering up. 

My dad powering up. 

After Inspiration Point you drop down to Tunnel Trail and around this point there were lots of people. We could tell that Tunnel Trail had not been used all that much, due to the overgrowth and even more gnarly terrain. The rains have washed away much of the dirt that usually tops the rocks leaving large boulders exposed that you have to climb up. This trail was probably the most brutal part of that run and we took it easy, power hiking it all. At the apex you reach Rattlesnake trail which is where we discovered how sketchy the plants and sand made the descent. Both my dad and I almost took a few spills here and there as we made our way down to the trailhead were my mom and sister would pick us up. Which they did once we finished our run and relaxed by the creek. While we were running they went to a farm and picked up some delicious fresh blueberries and snap peas.

 After run smiles. 

After run smiles. 

After our excursion in the mountains we grabbed a falafel lunch at Whole Foods and headed to the hotel for a shower and some rest. But, we were soon ready again to head out so my dad and I walked to Santa Barbara Running Co. which is always fun. They had a good selection of fuels, but not to many clothes. Well not to many clothes from many companies. Afterwards we walked back up State Street to head to dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant, Los Arroyos, on the way we stopped off at an Indian/Tibetan store. After dinner we went back to the hotel and I read and watched Hulu while the rest of my family watched Say Yes to the Dress (what!?).

The next day we slept in and took it easy in the morning. Enjoying the hotel and the room, I had an oatmeal breakfast. My dad and I had planned on going for a run, but he wasn't into it so I went by myself. I started at the trailhead that we ended at the day before and I went up Gibraltar trail, which ran through pines and sand. I soon connected with Gibraltar connector encountering only a handful of people on my way there. That trail was great, simple climbing up switchbacks is the life. But, I soon encountered a problem, I hit a road. Which was not something that I had expected. I gave a call to my dad and we worked it out that I had to run down the road. I soon found the next trail and it was a descent through small scrubs and then along a creek, with some sketchy parts here and there were landslides had occurred. I even encountered a drainage pipe from 1905! After that trail, Cold Springs West, I hooked up with Cold Springs East and made my way upwards, until I got lost again. Thankfully a friendly local saw me staring confusedly at my map and offered to help. We stayed together for a little bit, as he helped me find my way, eventually I made it to the Hot Springs trail. This trail, after the sweeping vistas of the ridge I was just on, was deep in large shrubs and trees. As I made my way down the trail opened up to let me gaze down the canyon to the ocean. Eventually you start to see palm trees and then you hit the ruins of the old Hot Springs Resort. I felt like I was Indiana Jones, climbing up the sandstone stairs and looking over the valley. The rest of the descent was mainly open fire road and I casually made my way down to Mountain Road for my pick up.

After my run I grabbed lunch at Natural Cafe and then headed back to the hotel for a shower. My dad and I walked to REI which is always nice to look around in. We checked out the new Co-op bikes. We also saw and talked to the owner of a VW Weekender (ours is better). We found a cool coffee shop and my mom and sister met us there. I love sitting in a new coffee shop, talking, and relaxing. We talked about how I could build out my dads Honda Element, which will now be mine, so that I could camp in it. After we finished we headed to the nicer Los Arroyos a little ways down the coast. The dinner was great and then we relaxed in the hotel.  

The next day, Monday was when we left. We took the morning easy, enjoying our breakfasts on the balcony. Then we hopped in the car and headed out and as the way up was the drive was great. I listened to music and enjoyed the scenery. We stopped in Ventura to go to the original Patagonia store which doesn't have that wide of a selection and then headed for coffee. The rest of the drive was spent nicely.

Once we got home my dad and I unpacked the car while my mom and sister headed to Disneyland. My dad and I enjoyed the rest of the day, I worked out and we had a nice dinner together. Relaxing was great. Tuesday was spent much in the same way, I ran and we watched a movie together. On Wednesday my mom and sister got home after my run and we all relaxed. Thursday I went for a long run while my dad worked and I got the afternoon to myself, recording my interview with Nickademus Hollon. Friday I ran again and then my sister and I watched X-Men: First Class. 

The weekend was going to be the big deal. I planned on doing a 20 miler on Saturday and a 20 miler on Sunday to round out the week with 70 miles. And I did just that! Saturday had a 5 am wake up call and I ate a peaceful banana and almond butter breakfast before doing some yoga and getting dressed to run. I headed out in that sigh of tingling cold air that is the early morning mist. The sky was a gray blue that always signified the calm before the day for me. My hands quickly became really cold, but I enjoyed the flow of the run. As I made my way along the road to the trailhead I eased into the rhythm of the day, which was to take it slow. Once I reached the trailhead I filled my bottle and headed up. Those first few miles in the early morning by myself are always so peaceful and what makes this sport so awesome.

 Like Utah. 

Like Utah. 

As I headed towards the first big climb of the day I listened to some podcasts and took it easy, the overgrowth naturally slowing me down. Once I got to the first big climb I remembered to take it slow, which seemed to be my mantra for the day, as I headed up. The climb rises until you have a vista of much of the ocean, islands, and lands of coastal Southern California. At the top I refilled my bottles and headed back down, getting used to the long descent again. The plan was to climb a very steep and technical climb three times for the next part of my run. As I began to head up the climb I put the audio book of The Alchemist on, which I had never read before and realized was absolutely awesome! The climb was slow going due to the technical terrain and overgrowth, but my plan was to take it slow. At the apex I took in the views while I stretched and while the horizon stretched out too. The descent had changed much since I had last run it, due to the rains, many areas of it looked like there had been big floods/washes. Once I reached the fire road at the bottom I headed back up again, powerhiking it like I needed to. The first part of the climb is very rocky and seems like you are running in Utah or Arizona. Afterwards you ascend towards the apex a little bit more gradually throw many types of plants, mainly mustard seed. Again I took the descent slow after taking in the views up top and enjoyed The Alchemist. When I reached the fire road I saw my mom! She was hiking and once I reached the climb again I saw that the Rancho Palos Verdes Parks people were there and that trail was closed so I didn't want to chance it, thankfully I didn't because my mom later told me that the sheriff showed up soon thereafter. After realizing I couldn't do the climb a third time I figured that it was for the best, I would still get 20 miles, so I headed home the way I came.

At home I did some yoga, foam rolling, Target Release, and took a cold bath. I made a point to recover well because I knew that I was going to run long again the next day. I also wore compression shorts and sleeves and drank lots of water. For the rest of the day I relaxed, watching Alien: Resurrection and having a nice dinner with the family.

Sunday was Easter and we were going to have brunch with my aunts and uncle, so I had to wake up earlier to get my 20 miles in. I woke up at 4 am and again had a peaceful breakfast with yoga after. I always try to make the time before I run very peaceful so that I can get my headspace right. That morning I headed out with a headlamp and used it all the way to the trailhead. The dark is like a blanket to me, focusing me on my running, but I always have to make sure to be aware of what is around me, to be safe. At the trailhead I was thankful that I had the forethought to bring gloves, because for the moment or two that I had them off to fill my bottle my hands were frozen.  Heading into the trails I didn't need my headlamp anymore so I put it away and again enjoyed the silent breath before the rest of the day begins. That days plan was to head all the way to the farthest reach of the trails that I have and then head back to my aunts house. I figured it would probably round out to about 20 miles. 

The first big climb was the same as the day before and again I took it slow while listening to the still amazing The Alchemist. After the climb I headed into the less populated part of my trail system and I loved the solitary suffering. I took it slow again and enjoyed both the ascents and descents. There were parts of my run through this area that were so overgrown that I had to walk and battle my way through, I was a forward moving force battling against infinite tendrils of stationary mustard seed and grass.  It was fun, but tiring. Some sections I could simply cruise, but then I would reach the inevitable overgrown area and have to tell myself, "Jarod take it moment by moment. You will get though it eventually. Enjoy the beauty." I also threw on some Metallica for some extra motivation. Once I reached the open fire road I was ecstatic to throw on some Judas Priest and let the legs fly. I took the same route along the ocean to my aunt's house where we had Easter Brunch. I was overjoyed to have completed to 20 mile days and to have rounded out a solid 70 mile week.

While it might seem weird to have brunch right after running 20 miles, but I showered and I was ready to eat. We did a little Easter egg hunt and then chatted. For the brunch they had the stereotypical ham, but my mom had made us a vegan frittata which was sublime. Super tasty and just what I wanted after my run, paired with some roasted potatoes it was a great meal.

After we hung out at my aunts house we headed to my grandma's and grandpa's to see them. They were happy to see us as usual and we chatted with them about Easter and life. They originally speak Spanish so sometimes the language barrier is a little hard, but I have known them my entire life so usually it is alright. They have both lived through huge swaths of history, from growing up on a rural Mexican farm to immigrating to the US to building a successful business. Don't forget all of the history that has transpired in the time that they have been alive either. As a lover of history it is always wonderful to sit with them. 

Afterwards we headed home and my sister and I watched Avengers. Again a simple time spent with family is always a favorite time. We then both helped my mom with dinner and when my dad got home from work we had a great Easter dinner of samosa pie, scalloped potatoes, and roasted veggies (a compliment to almost every vegan meal in my opinion). The rest of Sunday night I spent lazily relaxing in the warm embrace of a good chair and good show. 

This past week was a real adventure for me and even more evidence of the fact that a great vacation can be had right here at home (even though we went to Santa Barbara it wasn't like it was a strenuous trip or the it was to long). To me vacation is all about simultaneously breaking the norm and keeping it. So big runs and lots of relaxing are a perfect pair. Here's to big runs and relaxing! 



Donate to Touching the Trail
The Art of Movement


The Art of Movement

From the beginning of our lives movement is the process that takes us from the crib and into the world. It is the simple act that carries us into our lives. To me there is nothing as pure as putting one foot in front of the other. Throughout my experiences as an ultrarunner the fact that movement is an art has become ever more clear. To spend hours upon hours on trails, feeling the flow, is to live life truthfully.

The fact that our society has stripped away this art is horrible. In our day to day lives we see this stripping away again and again. Just this weekend my family and I went to Disneyland. While there we saw that you could rent motorized scooters (Rascals) to get around. Of course the token fat people were using them, but there were also many people who seemed to be perfectly capable of walking on their own. Actually, there were times when those renting the scooters would get up and walk fine. This fact was shocking to my family and I, we were surprised that people who were perfectly capable of moving on their own just wouldn't. This is evidence of a larger problem in our society, the fact that so many people choose ease and laziness over dedication and commitment. Disneyland seems to perpetuate that fact extremely well. With turkey legs, fast food, sugary treats, and so much more Disney seems to feed right into the problem (pun intended).

In our lives the many conveniences of transportation that we are privileged to have are often taken for granted. The cars, planes, trains, and ships that we employ on a daily basis did not exist a very recent time ago. In all honesty cars and other forms of convenient transportation strip away our original humanity. What I mean by that is that in the beginning we ran. We ran to feed ourselves, to live. With the advent of revolutionary transportation systems we have forgotten our origins. Not only forgotten, but rebelled against. We now treat running with dread and as an impermanent distraction. Not nearly as a way of life. On a smaller scale, we originally walked too, yet now walking is confined to the habits of the "healthy." Even when the "healthy" are truly not that healthy.

As humans we have been turned from a society that loves the outdoors, to one that treats it as another resource to be exploited and avoided. We live in the squalor of ignorance. Ignorance to the simple fact that what we are searching for is right outside our door. The open spaces and beneficial challenges that nature brings can not be overstated. Our ancestors understood that, using what we now call pagan religions to worship the land that they called home. Now what we call home is stripped from the land and held in a selfish grasp. The world that we now occupy has mangled the original art that we as humans could produce.

Far before language, writing, and society one thing bound us together as a community, our ability to move. We moved together to live and to survive. Over the years and generations we evolved into an intelligent species that could communicate on an extremely high level. We shared stories, we told tales to our children, but whatever tales we told they all related back to our exploration of, interpretation of, and movement within our world. All of the great ancient literature that we have today relates back to these simple topics. Literature such as the Odyssey, the Iliad, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and the Aeneid tell the simple story of a journey. That topic that has enraptured our species since time immortal. Even religious scripture is bewitched by the art of movement. The Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and so many other seminal religious texts convey this tale of movement in our world.

So why should we be so arrogant as to ignore the wisdom of our ancestors? Instead of solely relying on the means of transportation that we have now, why not return to the original means of transportation? Now don't get me wrong, I am not calling for every car and plane to be destroyed and for our society to walk everywhere. By no means. I agree that the transportation systems that we have now are incredible. However, what I am saying is that our society must be able to let go our obsession with these contemporary means of transportation and make a conscious effort to return to originality in some form or another. We must truly try to incorporate into our daily lives some form of basic movement. We must run free in my opinion.

The art of movement is as simple as they come and it is more beautiful than any you have ever seen, I guarantee you. In truth, I strongly believe that everyone should find the joys of running, but if not that then at the very least walking. If you are to unhealthy to even walk, then there is an even deeper problem. In the truest essence you must get outside and move. For me, I run and to me that is as pure as it gets. Maybe you will move in a different way, whatever you do incorporate it into your daily life and make it pure. The purity of a hard run not only teaches through suffering, but is the most basic form of movement that we can ever attempt to do. Watch children move, they don't walk, they run! So in your life I hope that you can see the art of movement. The flow of the body and the mind melding into one being, one consciousness, one existence to be present in this chaotic world. So that you can see the benefits of what this art can bring.



Donate to Touching the Trail
My Opinions on Meal Plans and Diets.


My Opinions on Meal Plans and Diets.

Recently a friend of mine asked me to make for him a week long meal plan. I said I would, but on the inside I had many qualms about this idea. I have extensively talked and wrote about the fact that meal plans and diets are quite honestly, stupid. They are temporary solutions for a long term problem. In my personal opinion, meal plans and diets offer tantalizing commitment for a predetermined amount of time and afterwards, you slip back into your old routines. It is a topic that has bothered me for quite a while. 

In our society of quick fixes we do not find the perseverance within ourselves to commit. What I love to say is that it is not a diet, it is a lifestyle. That statement is the basis for much of my thoughts on this topic. We, as a society, have become weaker and weaker in recent years. Now let me pose this thesis to you. Food is much of the basis of who we are as humans, it is one of the three tenants of survival which are food, water, and shelter. In our beginning years as a species the quest for food was what drove us to explore and to leave our lands to find new ones. Throughout history food has been a centerpiece of living any where on this planet. My thesis is this, if food is so vital to us and our society makes it poisonous and quick, we are weakened at every meal. We are weakened physically and mentally. We lose our ability to commit and, even if we could commit, we would not be able to due to the sicknesses that our contemporary food brings.

Our perspective on food and health in general should not be one that is temporary. We should not look in the mirror and subsequently crack open a diet book or pull up a meal plan and believe that that means "health." Health is a mindset and a lifestyle. Now like any good essay should I am going to support my thesis with evidence. Weakness by definition is "the state or condition of lacking strength," now when I say that we are weakened by food this is what I mean. Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." This in and of itself is a quite famous quote, but in the simple act of saying the quote it develops two pathways that society can take. The first is the right one, the path of letting food be our medicine. The second is darker and the one that we are on, the path of letting food be a drug and using drugs to combat what food causes. The saturated fats, processed sugars, processed breads, and so many more poisons that we constantly ingest at every meal simply cannot and are not beneficial to us as humans. The human body runs on these six basics: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. These nutrients, ideally, should be consumed via natural pathways. However, let me tell you the equivalents of these nutrients in our contemporary food landscape.

  • Our carbohydrates are heavily processed breads and pastas.
  • Our protein comes from meat that is filled with disease and detrimental carcinogens and saturated fats.
  • Our fats are saturated and clog our arteries, such as butter and meat.
  • Our vitamins and minerals come in pills.
  • Finally, we forget about water, instead we turn towards alcohol and soda.

Now with this list it might seem that we are getting the six basics of food that our body needs. But, look closely. All of the ways we gain these nutrients in our society is poisonous to our body. It is not fueling us in any way. It is destroying our bodies and minds and creating a mindset of willing acceptance of failure. Because, we as a society have failed to provide for ourselves in a healthy way. We have failed each other and are killing ourselves with the food that we eat. Appealing to the parental side of all of us, not only are YOU eating the poisons of our society, but so are your children or future children. We are not only killing this generation, but those to come also. It is estimated that there will be a 33% increase in obesity prevalence and an 130% increase in severe obesity prevalence over the next two decades (Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecast Through 2030). Also heart disease is a leading cause of death in America.

Our society has the perpetual ignorant arrogance to believe that we can cheat death. We eat whatever we want, whenever we want, because of the access that we are privileged to have. Then we fall in love with the pretty pharmaceutical commercials that we see and we go to our doctor to get prescribed yet another temporary solution. Then if those don't work or you feel that you want something "more," you pick up that diet book or meal plan. We return again to the quick fixes, but we are weak and we fail.

Now I may have painted a bleak picture of our contemporary landscape, but in reality it is not. When I say that we are weak I am simply saying that we have become accustomed to weakness. We have gotten comfortable in failure. However, in my opinion there is most definitely a way out of this perpetual cycle of binge, medicate, binge, medicate, diet, binge, and on and on. In my opinion the way out is not through a meal plan or a diet book. It is simple and yet the most difficult thing that you will ever do. It is to commit. It is to commit to the truest possible you and take those first steps onto your honest journey. Take those first steps and don't look back, there will be challenges of course, but you must and will find it within yourself to persevere. You must break the paradigm of health and sickness and become an example for those around you. Find the joy of a good, whole food meal and the happiness in living out true health.

This journey is one that will be fraught with challenges and even failures. If you eat that hamburger, do not beat yourself up over it, simply acknowledge that you did, and recommit to the journey. It is not so much as to change your life, but your mindset. That is what the journey is and what diets or meal plans do not allow for. They do not reinforce the practice of commitment that must stem from your mental will to persevere. In a larger sense your awareness of both failure and success and a learned ability to have those two be teachers. Learn from both failure and success.

So in our world let's all move away from the diets, the meal plans, and the quick fixes. Let us all find our own true journeys and commit to them.

Have a great week of commitment,



Donate to Touching the Trail
It's About Perspective


It's About Perspective

What's yours? When you go into a difficult situation or face a challenge, what is your perspective? Are you the glass half type of person? Or the glass half empty? 

Throughout our lives we face many challenges. Some great, some not so great. But, whatever they are there's a certain attitude that we should all take with them. For most people going into a challenge cause them to be filled with dread, despair, discomfort, and stressful anticipation. Or if it is a challenge or obstacle that surprised them, they are thrown off their game and demotivated to overcome it. Just like the glass half full or glass half empty analogy, you can look at life and the challenges within it two ways. 

The, "I can't do this/that," Perspective: 

For those people who face challenges with dread or despair, this is their perspective. Whether it be a challenge that they are personally facing or a challenge that is in the world, people that have this perspective skirt the issues of their lives. This perspective and the people that hold it is very synonymous with lying, making everything seem ok, ignoring what they are truly capable of, and a general unconscious put down of themselves on a daily basis. 

If you have this perspective on the world you might look at a marathon (or a 100 mile race) and say, "I can't do that." In a broader sense you might look at the challenge of doing your best at your job and, maybe not consciously or verbally, say, "I can't do that." What I mean by that is that if you have this perspective then your entire frame of life will be based on failure. Which isn't a bad thing, you can learn from failure. But with this perspective you will make it very hard for yourself to learn from failure. 

A lot of people in my life have this perspective and it's sad. They are wonderful people (most of them) who can do so much more with their lives. I'm not just talking about the adults in my life, many kids that I know at school also have this perspective. 

One of the biggest challenges that people with this perspective face on a daily basis, are themselves. They are there own biggest challenge, because they do not allow themselves to live their full potential. They stop themselves from pushing beyond their preconceived limits. They cannot overcome large challenges and little ones cause great stress. Of course someone who has this perspective could not be as bad as I describe. People vary. But, whether you have this perspective very badly or hardly noticibly it is negatively affecting your life. 

 The, "That's a challenge," Perspective:

This perspective is the opposite of the one above. It is the peaceful and ultimately successful perspective. If you look at the world as a challenge and not in a bad way, then you have this perspective. What I mean by that is that the "I can't do this" Perspective would look at the challenges in their life as impossible. While the "That's a challenge" Perspective looks at the challenges in the world as a challenge to themselves to overcome. As a contest where they can persevere and an opportunity to overcome. For the negative perspective their life alone is to hard, but for this positive one the world is an opportunity.

Do you see the difference there? It is subtle, but it is there. This perspective looks at the world and sees hope, while its evil twin looks at just their own life and sees despair. Like I said before, this perspective can have many different variants within it. The common theme between them all is the fact that those who have this perspective, large or small, tend to live happier, more fulfilling lives. Instead of setting themselves up for failure and failure that they do not learn from, they set themselves up to learn. Now this perspective isn't perfect, nothing is. While you will fail sometimes with this perspective, nonetheless you will learn from failure and work to overcome it. That is the difference. 

But how do you achieve this perspective? Or if you feel that you already have it, how do you improve it? Well the answer is quite simple and you have heard it all before. The answer is practice. Now I do not like the saying, "Practice makes perfect," because nothing is perfect and there is always room to improve. I prefer, "Practice makes better." This is what you must employ to gain or work on this perspective. You must practice looking at the world as a learning experience. A teacher that teaches through failure and success. You must practice enjoying every moment and beginning to look at the world as hope, instead of despair. When you catch yourself thinking or acting negatively or saying, "I can't do this/that," simply do what we do in meditation. Become aware of your negativity, breath into the moment, and look at the reason why you are negative as a time to learn and a time to overcome. Look at it as a challenge, something to persevere through. Of course, it's easy to enjoy the good times mostly, except for when the negative ones take over everything. In those cases you must again employ a present mind and a calm soul. Breath into the moment and into the challenge. It is nothing that you cannot overcome.

For me, and I know for you, it is a constant journey. I do not want to call it a battle, because it is not something so violent. The conflict between good and bad perspectives will wage your entire life, but it is not a war. It is more of a give and take, a ying and yang. One could not exist without the other and so when you face the bad, know the good will come. Now when you face the good, simply stay present in that happiness. Recently I went to UCLA for an AP Chemistry review session. Going to such a huge campus, even for day, was different to say the least. My high school is extremely small and while the architecture of UCLA was beautiful, it is not the kind of school for me. To big and to vapid. While walking around I was thinking on what the majority of perspectives that students in high school and college have. I came to the conclusion, from that UCLA experience and my own high school experience, that most of my fellow students perspectives are the " I can't do this/that" Perspective. They limit themselves to less than what they are capable of and it is very sad. I wish that more of my generation could find who they truly are and see what they are capable of at a young age, instead of the many years or never that it usually takes.

These thoughts on perspective are just that, thoughts. Maybe you look at the world differently than either of the ways that I outlined. Like I said, there are many different variations and possibilities. I am not here to tell you what to do, I am simply here to make you think and consider. To think on your life and the state that it is in and consider that you might need or want a dramatic change. I am here to help. It is what I do at my school and in our world. Let's all try to change our perspective for the better. Whether you are a fresh faced student or a weathered adult, we all have one very basic thing in common. We exist on this planet at this time. So let's all support each other a little bit more. Love each other a little bit more. Change each other for the better a little bit more!






Donate to Touching the Trail


Change Your Mindset

So I'm sick. And no I don't mean I'm awesome, I mean that I have a cold. Snot and a sore throat, really that's all that I have. However it is very annoying. It hurts to swallow and cough, even though I need to do both. In reality it is not a matter of what medicine to take or how many days off from school I'm going to get. I hope to not have to take any medicine nor take any days off. To me the fact of the matter is, I am going to get better. It is just a question of when and how?

I have a very direct answer for how. By eating well, drinking lots o' water, getting enough sleep, resting, and focusing on my body, instead of my discomfort. Now you may be asking yourself, but how can he focus on his body without feeling his discomfort? Well, then let me write it this way: I will be focusing on my body and my discomfort, aware of both. Letting both float away like a feather in the wind. The sore throat and runny nose has nothing on the power of the mind. So I'm going to overcome this mild three or four day nuisance.

When it comes to sickness I have been very successful with it. What I mean by that is that my lifestyle, veganism, running, meditation, and yoga, does not welcome much sickness. I do not get sick all that much and when I do, it usually comes after a long stint of doing A LOT. I feel that it's my body's way of telling me that I need to slow down, to take a break. When I do get sick I embrace the rest I must take and that same lifestyle that I lead results in quick recovery from the sickness. You have to be proactive with these things, because if you aren't then you can let it slip away and then you will be sick for who knows how long. If you let it lapse then your sickness may "heal," but it might stay with you in a more quiet and hidden form for much longer. There are many things waiting just below the surface that can jump out and attack. Sometimes they will disappear again just as fast as they came. Sometimes they will stick around.

3 Ways to Be Proactive When You're Sick:

  • Drink water! It is a vital tool to clean out your system and get the body moving (inside and out). It is the body's transportation system, helping you regulate your temperature, transport nutrients, make up blood and most of what your cells are.
  • Eat even more plants. Your plate must be these things-
    • Well rounded. Make sure that you have a variety of veggies over a solid base (such as legumes) flavored with a nutrient packed sauce. Or if your having a burger make sure the patty has legumes and oats as its base (or something similar) with lots of veggies for toppings and, ideally, does not have bread as its delivery method. Maybe some lettuce instead. These are just some examples, but if you apply a conscientious effort to include lot's of color, flavor, and nutrients into your plate you will notice a jump in your ability to recover.
    • Consistent. Do not resort to cheat days or say to yourself that "I deserve" this hamburger or ice cream sundae or whatever. Whatever unhealthy treat/cheat that it is, it will not aid you in your recovery or in any of your life. It only brings short term relief to a long term issue.
    • Researched. Make sure your plate contains the ingredients necessary to alleviate what is ailing you. Ex: Do you have a cough? Include some turmeric or garlic in your meal to lower inflammation.
  • Rest. Now when I say rest I do not mean be lazy and sit around all day. What I mean may be more akin to active rest. To proactively rest when your sick your rest must include, even largely focus on, yoga and meditation. These two practices are ways to calm your body, yet also improve it. The meditation teaches you to be at peace with the discomfort and knowledge of being sick. The yoga gets your body moving, which something we too often forget in our quest to get better. Of course sleep is vital, too. A total rest

This past week has been very crazy. Last week I had the honor to interview Julie Piatt and our podcast conversation just went up. It was an incredible chat and one that I have been wanting to do for a very long time. Listen to it here. But, beyond getting sick and interviewing Julie, my birthday is tomorrow! My eighteenth birthday. The "official" age when I will become an adult. However, tomorrow does not mark anything special for me. It is just another birthday, which of course I love to celebrate, but it is no different than the others. No more or less important. To me, becoming an adult is not marked by an age. It is not like tomorrow I will wake up with some wild realization that will christen my adulthood. Just the opposite in fact, tomorrow will be like today and it will be like the next day. It will be a day. We tend to make events to seem more important than what they really are, they're just days. We glorify a date until it becomes like a god to us. Of course there will be food, family, love, and presents tomorrow, but I look at it as more a time to be present than to glorify a date or an age. Becoming an adult, to me, is an idiotic phrase in and of itself regardless. In conventional terms an "adult" is someone who has passed the age of 18, but in reality an adult is someone who is mature. Someone who has the knowledge, capabilities, experience, and of course maturity to live alone in this world. To live truthfully. There are many "adults" that I know who have passed that fateful age of 18, but are no more adult than a child. They are irresponsible and have royally messed up their lives.

Adulthood is an often fantasized about view and position in our culture. But, let me put it to you straight what adulthood and maturity means to me...

If I am mature enough to carry on deep and emotional conversations with people twice or three times my age in a long-form setting while being recorded, then I am an adult. If I am able to connect with people that I have never met before and give them the tools to find their true lives, then I am an adult. If I am able to understand the world that impresses everyone that I meet, then I am an adult.

Maybe I am old soul. Maybe I have just learned more of enlightenment very young. I do not know. All that I do know is that, beyond the countless times that I have been complimented for my knowledge and maturity beyond my years, I have lived a true life. I have lived a life that is supremely fulfilling so far and turning 18 tomorrow will neither hinder nor aid in that ability to live. I will always be true to myself above all else.

Throughout our entire lives, whatever we are facing. The good and the bad. The sickness or the birthday. One fact always rings true and will always be your angel or your devil. That fact is mindset. Whatever you desire for, no matter how much, you cannot ever reach that goal without the correct mindset. Whatever you are facing that is a challenge, no matter how impossible that it may seem, you cannot overcome it without the correct mindset. The correct mindset comes quite simply and is defined quite simply.


In the face of happiness or despair if you can be true to yourself you can enjoy every moment of what is to come, whether it be a challenge or a reward. Say you want to lose a certain amount of weight. In this scenario there are both rewards and obstacles, as with most situations in life. You will never be able to commit to this path or even take a step down it if you lie to yourself. If you tell yourself that you are fine where you are at or that you are happy, you can never start. Even if you do start and you begin to lie to your goal and engage in cheat days or the like, you will not succeed. To have the correct mindset you must be able to tell yourself what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right. To commit to any path you must change your mindset from the lies to the truth. We all hear about how a positive mindset is key or a present mindset, and yes they are, but both those mindsets and any mindsets thereafter start with the Truth. The truth to yourself, those around you, and to the world.





Donate to Touching the Trail


Just Got Accepted!!!

Yes, you read that right. I, Jarod Contreras, got accepted to my number one school, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo! I have been wanting to go to this school for a very long time. My family and I have been traveling to San Luis Obispo for my whole life and I absolutely love that town. It is a great town with awesome trailrunning, vegan food, people, and whole vibe. These next four years are going to be pretty freakin' awesome!

For many years of my life I loved chemistry and was fascinated by it, so I wanted to go to the best school out there. I wanted to go to MIT. So for many years I focused on that, then I began to run and I went vegan and my focus changed. I discovered Reed College in Portland, OR. A beautifully small campus in my one of my top three favorite cities. With great trails and great food it was a no brainer. But, then again my focus shifted. A great friend of mine, who went to San Luis Obispo Cal Poly, really influenced me on the amazing attributes of Cal Poly SLO. Coupled with the fact that I had been going to that city for years and loved it, a new focus and desire to go to SLO was ignited. 

When that new desire began my dad said one thing to me about it and it rang true throughout the rest of my journey to get into SLO. He said, "If you want this then YOU have to make it happen." That is a philosophy we both live by in our running and in our day to day lives. So why shouldn't I also apply that to my quest to be accepted to Cal Poly SLO.

It is a very prescient piece of advice that rings true for the majority of our lives. I have always focused on getting great grades, so I just doubled down on that focus. I also became an Eagle Scout, something I had been working on for a long time. Also as an ultrarunner that gave me a very unique perspective and skill that colleges would be impressed by. With my work here on this website, along with my podcast, I felt like I created a very well-rounded and tantalizing picture for colleges to choose to come to their school. And it worked!

One of the hardest things that I had to battle with in this journey to hopefully getting accepted to SLO was coming to peace with myself with the fact that I very well might not get into the school. This whole college acceptance thing is very much up to chance. You do your best, then when you press send on that application form, it's all up to the admissions officers. Which seems like a very hard job to me. To be the ones who, in reality, change the course of someone's life. But, I simply told myself, "Jarod, you have lived an incredible life, on that will be very intriguing to the admissions officers, so don't sweat." However, in those moments where I did begin to sweat I eventually came to a very Buddhist realization. That realization came in three parts:

  • Now (after I sent all of the applications) it is out of my control, so why should I stress?
  • If I don't get accepted to SLO, I will still get accepted to an amazing college. It will just be somewhere else.
  • Wherever I end up going, I will make my life there amazing.

These three realizations helped me relax into the fact that whatever way my life ends up it will be what is best for me, it will be the path that I have been handed. I was prepared to make the best of that path, wherever it landed me. Thankfully I don't have to. Know I can plan in earnest my life in San Luis Obispo. Before I could only talk in probabilities and hypotheticals, I would have to talk about my plans and then apply them to all of the colleges that I applied to. Now, thank goodness, I can and will only talk about SLO and the adventures I will have there.

In my entrance into college one of the things that seems to scare everyone else around me, but not me, is the fact of friends and people to meet. Almost all of the kids that I know are worried about college mainly for that reason, that they might be a "loner." Even my mom told me that I need to be open to new people and that I can't close myself off to people who don't do exactly what I do. My response was, a.) When have I ever done that? And, b.) If I only meet two people that become my really good friends, then that is that and it is exactly the same way I live my life now in high school. Most people are frightened by solitude, but I embrace it. I think there are a few reasons why most people are frightened by solitude. The first is that for people who are extroverts they do not have anyone to interact with. The second is that solitude allows people to glimpse the world in a present mind, if only for a millisecond, but that glimpse scares them. To see the world as it really is, scares most people. The third is that when people are alone they are also allowed a small and fleeting glimpse of who they really are and usually the lie that they have been living does not correspond with their true self. This truth scares the living daylights out of most people.

To me solitude represents two things. Freedom and enlightenment. If you pair solitude with pain, then you have ultrarunning. So much of my life is based around solitude and it is a driving force in my life that fuels everything else that I do. Solitude is really the only state you can have. Your experience, your journey can only be lived by YOU. No one else and, yes, many people can change the journey in good and bad ways whatever happens it is your journey. That is how we must live our lives. Our journey is ours. No one else's. We cannot be beholden to a paradigm that simply does not work for us at a base level. The paradigm that solitude is bad, that your a "loner," is quiet simply stupid. It is a waste of time and energy to work for anything else, but your journey. Do not be deceived, solitude is where enlightenment stems from. 

So whatever happens these next four years I am ready. I am at peace with myself in face of great challenge and great joy, because that is what college will be for me. I have never been and never will be one for school spirit or anything like that. My joys will come from running hard, meditating, cooking well, enlightening my journey, and of course continuing in earnest everything that I do here. With blog, podcast, Target Release, and so much more. So thank you all for being with me in this wild journey, I hope I have aided in yours. Wish me luck these next four years!







Donate to Touching the Trail


Why is Meditation Your Greatest Tool?

Last, last Saturday I did the Sean O'Brien 100k, which I have discussed extensively. It was my first 100k and afterwards I knew that recovery was going to be key. I needed to get back to 100%. I focused on eating well, yoga, rolling out my muscles, massage, and meditation. I figured that all of those focuses would allow me to recover in no time. I effectively used yoga. rolling, and massage to get over my muscle pain in a couple of days. However a new pain soon arose. I began to feel very off. "Off" is really the best way to describe it. For specifics, I had stomach issues, I felt very fatigued, and my head felt swirly. To overcome the fatigue I knew that I needed to double down even more so on eating well and to make sure I slept a lot. Go to bed early. Which I did. But, I simply did not know how to overcome the other issues. I could not shake that stomach pain and I still felt very "off." I took some Tums for the antacid, I drank lots of water, and rested. Those kind of helped, but not fully. Then I remembered, "Jarod, you're not meditating!" So I did just that. 

Tuesday night I sat down on my meditation cushion and did a 10 minute body scan. Focusing on being aware and subsequently relaxing each and every part of my body. Nice and easy. To my surprise, afterwards I felt great! For most of the rest of the night I felt like I was back at 100%. I was amazed and grateful, I knew that meditation would have to be a hallmark of my recovery from now on. The next day I felt bad again, but with meditation I eventually broke through the "off-ness" and got back to 100%. It did not just happen in that one sitting on Tuesday, it took many sittings to realign my body, but it worked and that is the important thing!

I know I shouldn't have necessarily been shocked that meditation helped me so much in my recovery, but it was such an immediate result. That result gave me a renewed faith in the power of meditation and a renewed commitment to meditate everyday. It is a wonderfully simple practice, but it is hard, too. To sit, be aware, focus, and become present is difficult. If you can find that present mind then your body will benefit greatly, as it did for my "off-ness."

Basic Benefits of Meditation:

  • Helps fight disease, increases immunity, & improves cardiovascular health
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves concentration
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces age-ing
  • Increases happiness and appreciation
  • Makes you a better person!

As you can see meditation has many benefits on the basic level, but if you sit down and create a daily practice of meditation you will find that the benefits transcend anything that can be written down in a list. When I say "practice" I really mean that it is a practice. You can never perfectly meditate, there will always be a distraction or difficulty, but the goal is to refine it as much you can. To do it a little better than you did yesterday, which is why it must be a daily commitment. If you don't do it a little better than the day before, then that is perfectly fine. You must trust in your commitment, if you have made it. Now let's talk about the why of why you should commit to meditation.


Like I said, there are countless benefits to meditation. The main one, however, is that meditation will create a better life for you. It will help you unlock who you truly are, to become the person that is most fulfilling to you. The person you have always wanted to truly be. It is not a question of "why" you should meditate. It is a question of when? When will you begin your meditation practice to begin a new path in your life? A path that will lead to true happiness.

The secret to life is not money. It is not a big house. It is not a fast car. It is most definitely not a fatty and sugary meal. The secret to life is actually quite simple. It is fulfillment. Our lives are surrounded by and filled with vapid and insincere people who do not know where they are going. Our society is more similar to a raging river. A raging river is chaotic and lost, but it is forced in one direction predetermined. To find fulfillment you must transcend the raging river. You must learn to travel beyond the banks and become the calm pond. The calm pond that is fulfilled by the immense wonder of the fact that it exists. We are privileged to be alive right here in the moment and most people forget that. They go through life without purpose or with purpose placed upon them unwillingly. Usually the unwillingness is forgotten and the purpose seems to be real. But, true wisdom is having the capability of remembering the unwillingness and the lies and seeing that the purpose you have laid out before you is not who you truly are. Wisdom is being able to break away and fight the battles that will come, because they will, but at least they will be on your true path.

You may not find your path right away, however. You may search for a long time, but the first step is to take your first step away from society and into your own life. To discover who you truly are.

How do I discover who I truly am?

The answer to this question is simple, but it is scary. The way to find who you truly are is a path that most people are to fearful to take. To find who you truly are you must...suffer. You must feel pain, because pain is the only way to break through the walls that you have put up around your soul. What I mean by that is is that as we go through life, the longer we go through it, the more walls we put up around our true selves. We hide it from ourselves unknowingly, because it is the scariest thing that we will ever see. No horror movie or ghost story compares to finding who you truly are, because when we do it reveals all of the lies that we have told ourselves and masks that we have put on for so many years. We see that the life we are living now is not the life we should be. Our true self, once we find it, jumps out of the walls and tears away at our mask, revealing what is beneath. It is scary yes, which is why the suffering that comes before should not scare you. Actually be scared either way, it is going to be the hardest thing you ever do and it will not stop. It is a constant journey, but it will be the most fulfilling one that you ever embark upon.

Pain is hard, but living a lie is harder, even though you may not realize it. Suffering hurts, it's supposed to, but it will be an enlightening hurt. Their are many ways to suffer, of course my weapon of choice is to run. To ultrarun. Meaning I run very long distances, but you can pick many different ways of suffering. Find an endurance sport, it really is the best, nothing compares. My recommendation, fall in love with suffering, because to find the Self there will be lots of it. Fall in love with suffering, learn its ins and outs, welcome its lessons, and you will see that you are becoming better. A better person, a better partner, a better parent, a better friend. Better.


In its simplest form meditation is peaceful awareness. It is a peace with oneself that transcends distraction, pain, even thought. To reach that level of peace you must practice. To complete this practice there are many different ways. When I say that it is a peaceful awareness I mean that you are aware of all of the thoughts and distractions that you have, but you are simply not part of them. You let them pass by like the breeze. That is why meditation is so hard. To be able to let go of the constant chatter that we have is very difficult. Most think that meditation is blackness, is forcing away thoughts until you are thinking and doing nothing. But, meditation is nothing so violent. It is much more peaceful. It is a simple process. 

The first way that you can enter a peacefully aware state is by breathing. Yes, breathing. The act you do every minute, but that we are never aware of. That is why it is so powerful. It is always with us, yet we never see it. Simply find a place to sit. Sit tall, place your hands in your lap or on your knees, and sit with a straight back. Not to straight, nothing uncomfortable. Take a deep breath in and in your mind say breathing in. Then let it out and say breathing out. Repeat this a few more times, feeling all of the nuances and intricacies of each breath. Once you have repeated the deep breaths a few times return to your normal rhythm of breathing. As you are breathing remember to focus on the breath, as it tickles your nose hairs, as it runs across your lips, as it inflates your core or your chest. There is a lifetime in a breath. It you are having trouble counting one on the inhale and two on the exhale helps. 

During meditation the easiest way to deal with the thoughts and distractions that arise is to think of them as passing clouds. The moment that you become aware that you have begun to wander, to think of other things. Reaffirm your focus on your breath, feel its life, and let your thought go. Do not stress or overthink it, it is a flowing process. The ebb and flow of peace and then distraction, of peace and the distraction. While I say the "easiest" way, meditation will not always be easy. It is a process, but a process that will refine you as a person.

One of the most helpful things that you can do for yourself in this journey of mindfulness is to get help. Find someone who can teach you or, if not possible and in addition, use an app and read books to increase your knowledge and keep you accountable. 

While the method I outlined is a very basic form of meditation, it is a very powerful one. I have been thinking recently that I should dip my toe more into this pond, so in sight of that I think I will begin to post some guided meditations as supplements to the podcast. The official podcast episode goes up every Monday, so maybe at some point later in the week each week I will post a meditation. In an effort to help you all even more, I think that is something I would really enjoy. I think it would benefit us all. 

In conclusion, I think I should have a straightforward answer the title of this post. Why is meditation your greatest tool? Well, the answer is simple and I have already said it, really. Because it will make you better! It will help you find you true self, help you overcome pain, help you heal, help you change for the better. It will enlighten all. So I hope from the knowledge that I have laid out today you will go out and meditate. Maybe you already do, either way, we all must! More and more and more. So as Noah Levine says let's #meditateanddestroy







Donate to Touching the Trail


After the After

As I made my way up the first climb of the Sean O'Brien 100k this past weekend I could only focus on the circle of light ahead of me and everything else around me, the mist, the darkness, even the people, may have well as not been there. It wasn't because I was suffering just yet, but because I was in the moment. I was feeling the flow as Meghan Hicks and I discussed last week in our podcast. I put one foot in front of the other continually. In my focus I was surprised to see the sun, when I looked up. The sunrise had begun and I hadn't even realized. Fiery orange and cool blue stretched over the horizon, capped with clouds, as I looked on to the rising ball of fire. I didn't stay long, just enough for a picture. The climb beckoned. I love to climb. Not vertical walls, I'm not a rock climber. But, to push my body on a near vertical trail is pure bliss for me. That first climb was not near vertical. But, I took it for all it was worth and I loved every moment of it. The cool morning air whipping around my sandal clad toes and tossing my hair. The sun beginning to shine brighter and brighter.  



I realized in that moment that the whole idea of that race that I was going to accomplish that day, and I was going to accomplish it, was to simply enjoy it. Enjoy every step and every climb and every descent and every rock and every person as they are, as it is. If it hurts, let it hurt. If it feels good, let it feel good. In fact there is a wonderful allegory to illustrate this point:

There was once a student who asked his teacher, "Teacher, what is enlightenment?"

The teacher replied, "When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep."

Of course one of the basic realizations/lessons of the Buddhist tradition is that enlightenment cannot be taught, it must be found. So take this allegory with a grain of salt. Either way I am not saying I found enlightenment during the 15 hours and 18 minutes that it took me to complete the 62 miles and 14,000 feet of elevation gain in the Santa Monica Mountains that is the Sean O'Brien 100k. What I am saying, instead, is that this was yet another journey. An encapsulated one. Life in a day as they say. Where I experienced the joys and sorrows so familiar to those of us who are truly experiencing life, instead of simply passing through. Life is sacred. It has to be. Otherwise, you will become one of those who died at 25, but weren't buried until they were 75. I treat everyday as a sacred day. Last Saturday was no different. It was a day were I had to dig deep within my own soul to find the perseverance to continue. 

An ultramarathon is a test. Pure and simple. The only way to pass the test is to find within yourself who you are. To further chip away at the stone that encapsulates your true self. The Self is hidden and yet clear to see, but like the Bhagavad Gita says if you find the Self then duality falls away. The complicated verses that are so common and so similar in all religious and secular texts become clear. You realize that the key is not in a book, but right within the body that we occupy. I love to run. To me a hard run is purity exemplified. Everything else falls away and all that matters is what you are going to do to keep going. The mind is powerful and in a long run you get a glimpse of just how powerful. You are privileged to witness what you are capable of if you can and it is a perfect time to further search for the Self.

In this after, after period of the race I have a lot of thoughts. Now what I mean by after, after is that the "after" was when I finished the race. When I could barely walk and food was the only thing I desired and then I didn't even feel like eating it once I got it. Then over the next two-ish days of pure exhaustion and pain all over. Now the after, after is what has happened since. The subsiding of muscle pain, but the arising of overall body fatigue and the ability to really think now. With this ability to think straight it has given me time to think back on the race. To relive what happened out there. The good and the bad.

Looking back I realize one very important thing. I can be arrogant. When I finished the race and over the next two days I did not think I suffered all that much. Or at least that the suffering was singular to two or three very specific sections and that the rest of the race went by great. But, now that the fog has lifted and I can truly remember it is only now that I realized that the Sean O'Brien 100k REALLY FREAKIN' HURT! That is what I mean by after the after. Now I can see how painful that race really was. 

Thinking back on the race day I can pin point very specific moments of pain, but I can also realize that it took a lot to finish that race. There were more than a few extremely low moments. I never asked myself why am I doing this or wanted to quit. Sure I wanted to be done, but I wasn't going to be done until I covered those 62 miles. I'd sit in a chair soon I told myself, but let me just take a quick 20 mile detour first. Coming up the longest climb of the race, a 5 mile climb I believe, I crested a shallow hill that I thought for sure was the top. As my eyes rose from my tired legs to, I hoped, see the trees that would mark the top, I instead saw the second half of the climb that I needed to complete to reach the top. Those 5 miles were specters manifested in twists and turns that tortured your mind. Playing fake peaks and finally the real peak in and out of view. Tantalizing close, yet brutally far.

The minute I crested the true peak I threw on some Iron Maiden and flew down the descent. I was happy to get my legs moving. But soon an 8 mile section of rolling hills, twists and turns, and relative flats gave me a run for my money. A painful section where I simply wanted to walk, but I knew I would get to a steep climb eventually, so just walk then.

I am not going to do a detailed account of my race, I did that in this week's podcast episode. But, I do want to talk about the after, after. Now that time has passed a little it has gotten clearer like I said. I am still not 100%, but I am getting there fast. The race destroyed me and I know that, so I have recovered right. But, the real things that I have realized in the past few days is how far a simple step, multiplied over thousands or millions of times can carry a body far. It's so simple, yet so mind blowing. If you just keep on going, keep on committing, building upon where you have already come from, what you have already done, you will get to where you want to go. The lessons we learn in running are lessons that apply to life. The skills that we build through pain are ones that aid us in everything else. I have realized over the miles that I have ran that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, then one day I will get to where I desire. But, it doesn't mean I have to do it only focused on where I am going, I prefer to focus on where I am. To make the most out of what I have right now. I read a quote recently that I really like...

 Coming in hot.  

Coming in hot.  

"The future is just a bunch of right nows strung together."

Which is so true. The Sean O'Brien 100k was an infinite amount of right nows strung together to form the day that was. Now I am experiencing the day that is. Recovering right and eating well. That is all any race or endeavor I undertake is for me. A bunch of right nows. Some of them hurt and some don't, but they all have one thing in common, they're all beautiful. They really are, I just need to find the beauty. I need to stay in the right now and put one foot in front of the other and that is exactly what I did. I couldn't be happier!

To doing what we set out to do,



Donate to Touching the Trail


The Mental Dance

This weekend I have the Sean O'Brien 100k. It will be my first 100k and the farthest distance I have ran so far. I am nervous of course. Who wouldn't be? But I am so excited! I have only ran a 50k before and while most people run a 50 mile before a 100k, but I just decided to go for it. The Sean O'Brien 100k is not a race to be trifled with. It has 14,000' of elevation gain and of course 62 miles of running. There is a 16 hour time limit and 12 aid stations, so an aid station roughly every 5 miles. There are four aid stations that you can have a drop bag at, which of course I will use. There are no pacers allowed and you can only see a "crew" at mile 50. The reason I put crew in quotation marks is because since you can only see them once I'm not really counting them as a crew. It's of course and as per usual going to be my dad, mom, and sister there to watch and crew. So really I will only be able to see them at the start, mile 50, and the finish. Meaning it is going to be a very long day where I am in my own head. And I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. The purity of suffering alone has always been one of my greatest loves, in life and in ultrarunning. 

This race will be hard. There is no doubt about that. But, I have trained hard and been smart in the lead up. The only thing left for me to do this Saturday is dance that mental dance. As they say the race is already done, I just need to show up and do it. The mental dance is something that we face everyday and every moment. Usually it's innocuous. What to have for lunch? What's the fastest way to get to work today? Why do I have to do this essay? Should I do this essay? And so many more little dances that our minds play and complete. The difference between the everyday dances that we face and the ones faced during an ultramarathon is that during an ultra those dances are what will keep you going or bring you to a hard stop. They are the barrier between a successful and unsuccessful race.

When I talk about these dances I don't mean any simple dance either. Your mind is a powerful foe and can make or break you. Especially in an ultra, you must learn to dance the dance. To motivate yourself. To control your mind and dance away the little voices that tell you to stop or to quit. Sometimes those little voices win, but that is never the end. This mental dance is a constant back and forth. Little losses and little victories that will hopefully end in overall success. 

The dance is complicated and it takes practice to really get to know its depths. I have only been dancing the dance for a few years, but I have many, many more to come. I love the dance, in fact. It is like a game of chess to me. Just like any game or any dance you must know the moves, or at least know how to come up with new ones. When the going gets tough and the little voices turn into roaring crowds of despair, knowing how to cut through the noise is key. One of the best ways to cut through that noise is to take a lesson from meditation. In meditation you use noting to bring yourself evermore into the present moment. Noting is what it says. You note what you are thinking, hearing, feeling, and seeing. Use your mind to identify the senses and the thoughts that are bringing you out of the moment to let them go. While it may seem counterintuitive to note what you are feeling or thinking just to let it go, it really is productive. You make yourself aware of the distractions and then can better let them float away. In suffering my approach is the same. I note what is hurting and what my mind is saying to make me stop, then I simply breath in and out...I let the pain, the despair, the hurt, the thoughts float away. I chase them away by identifying them. Because, when it comes down to it those thoughts that are trying to bring you down are scared of attention. If you shine the spot light on them they will run and hide. If you keep the spot light trained on them, wherever they run to, they will cease to exist. The same is with pain. Identify your pain, shine your mental spotlight on it, chase it away, make it cease to exist.

Pain is not something that the mental dance should be scared by. In fact the addition of pain is when the mental dance turns from a middle school dance to a Broadway performance. When your brain is fighting a revolution within itself. Battling to see who will have control. The little voices telling you it hurts and that you should stop or the calm, motivational side that tells you to push on. That this ain't over yet. Sometimes the little voices win fully and you have to stop. But, I try my hardest to make sure the calm side wins always. That I can keep going. But, you have to be smart about these things. Pain can bring bad judgment, which can bring the failure of a kidney because you forgot to drink, or the cramping of a stomach, or the overwhelming pain of an brutally cramped muscle. You have to be aware. To know yourself and what you need, because without that you will get lost in the dance and never come out, which is just as bad as the little voices winning. It is a balance that you should treat with the uttermost respect.

Mind (n): the element of a person that allows them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.

You see that even in the definition it discusses awareness. Awareness is something that our world seems to lack. Awareness of ourselves and others. Awareness of our own true self. Instead we blindly go by who we are and never try to realize our most fulfilling life. By running this race I am trying to be more aware. To be more aware of who I am. Only through suffering can we learn who we truly are. I know I will suffer this Saturday, but I will be aware. I will be aware of who I am now and who I truly want to be. I will be aware of what is bringing me down, so that I can lift myself up without it. It is a constant battle and I know that whatever happens out there in the Santa Monica Mountains in 4 days will be what I made happen, good and bad. So here's to a great race, I'll make it happen I hope!

Thank you always.


Donate to Touching the Trail