Monday, December 22, 2014


bird hunting in arivaca, 1986.
i hated those early wake ups. the smell of the bacon and eggs. i remember buff starting to spin and whimper in the back yard as soon as his nose caught the scent of the shotguns as they were removed from the gun safe. my dad handled most of the prep and always drove while my brother and i slept. the road south had no traffic, which was rare.

my dad had a stressful job. the air force had him moving a lot in my early years. he had a family and few things available to him that was truly his time. he started taking me along once we came back from europe as a way to spend more time with his boys. i had so many things i would rather do on a air force base full of kids. bird hunting with my dad was never high on my list. when we started, i hated the long ride in the truck and my dad's choice in music. he was committed. he squeezed as much into every trip as we could. jump shooting ducks at sunrise, a day of quail hunting and usually a night time return home once we were out of water and food. we would spend entire days saying little else other than things related to the safety of the hunt. i loved watching buff work. he was ugly as shit for his breed. last one adopted out of the litter and he worked with a chip on his shoulder and a fierce loyalty to his people. he's still the best bird dog i've ever seen, and i've seen a bunch of them. i was ambivalent about the shooting, but watching buff work and being outside without any guarantees was what became my reason for going.

we never stayed to any trails. my dad taught me how to use landmarks and the sun to recognize where i was. we would do seemingly endless loops in the hills, alternating walking and watching the dog while scanning the ground for rattlesnakes. lunch breaks always on a rise often looking across into mexico. it was always hot. the gun was always heavy and my dad never seemed to be "ready to go". it wasn't greed, it was pushing the limits of his time to himself. it was his endurance. i would be exhausted by the end of the day, but i never faltered. he seemed to know just how far to extend us without breaking us and over 4-5 years we eventually would spend every ounce of sunlight out hunting and often returned to the truck in the darkness before the long drive back to the base. he may have been a country boy from north carolina, but he was never out of his element in any location.

a couple of years back, my dad texted me that he couldn't understand where my endurance came from. i think he was looking back on his impression of a runners traditional path and not realizing that the one he walked me down many years ago was part of the foundation. when i started trail running in college i never needed a map, because i knew where i was just by looking around. i never panicked about being out after dark, because i had found the truck by moonlight hundreds of times before. i appreciated silence and sweat. i learned that fatigue is just a start, not an ending. i've been able to run in strange places and always feel at home. there is no doubt that i've found ways to complicate it all over the years, for sure. the culture of our sport attaches false limitations, but as those melted away i found myself aligning with the lessons of those days spent with my dad in the hills south of tucson among the strongest impressions. a metaphor of the loops we once walked.

i've had some clutch guidance and mentoring over the years. the things that stuck never came from coaches, but rather from interpersonal relationships and from observed example given freely and with sincerity. trials of miles. we should all be so lucky in all paths in our lives, not just our hobbies.

i'm grateful i was asked recently when it all started. these are great memories for me to look back on.