10,000 Meters Vertical Gain in a Month

View at sunset from the top of a 280 meter hill at a Buddhist temple in Krabi..
View at sunset from the top of a 280 meter hill at a Buddhist temple in Krabi. ©2014 Vern Lovic – CRANK101.com. Click to enlarge.

Well that went rather well. I finished the month just missing my 10,000 meter climbing goal by 200-300 meters. My left knee just hurt too much to push it for a simple walk up the stairs today. I thought better to relax and let it get better. Yesterday I did a double on the other mountain I run up – it’s a trail to the peak. That was a 9.3 mile (15km) run up to the top, down to the bottom, up to the top, and back down. Total elevation gain – 1,000 meters.  Apparently that was too fast, and too much. Will revisit the 10,000 meter goal again in a couple months.

Some things I learned about climbing 10,000 meters elevation gain in 31 days:

1. Respect the challenge. I’ve been doing 6,000 – 7,000 meters gain most months and it hasn’t been a problem at all. I also do a lot of horizontal running with no vertical gain during those months. I just thought it would be so simple to do 10,000 vertical meters that I could go at 90% maximum effort like I always do. I shouldn’t have, but I did that for the first 20+ days. I felt the effort a lot more than I should have by today! Slow down, enjoy the scenery. The goal was to reach 10,000 m, not to race 10,000 meters!

2. Wear a shirt! There are more things in the tropical rainforest that sting than you can count on fingers and toes. I was stung by black ants, termites, a scorpion, a caterpillar, a bee, and some random stuff that may have been bites or maybe small thorns that tagged my legs as I ran by. Today I was covered with these little black-ant biters that give a wicked little bite for not weighing as much as a grain of sand.

3. 1 Degree C = 30 seconds of time. I can run my trail 3.7 km hill in 36 minutes when I push hard when it’s 24C. When it’s 34C I run it in 41, or I have to kill myself to get under 40 minutes. 10C = about 5 minutes at the very maximum effort end of the scale. This is just for the temperatures between 24C to 34C because I’ve only ever measured at these temperatures, and it’s almost always 34C-36C when I run. I don’t know what I would do in 14C temperatures… probably freeze solid.

4. Just like running on the flat, my body kicks into fat burning mode after about 40 minutes of hard effort on the trail or stairs. It just does it naturally and pretty consistently. I can make it go into fat burning by running for 20 minutes pretty hard then walking for 200-400 meters. That sometimes triggers it. How do I know I’m in fat burning mode? My breathing evens out. My legs have power. My run feels rather effortless once fat-burning switches on.

5. A sharp pain is not reason to stop. OK, there are various levels of sharp pain, and I’m not telling you – run through anything! But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my forties now, it’s that a pain is a pain, is a pain. Something hurts on most of my runs. Maybe 80%. When I first start out – it might be my big toe, my ankle, my achilles, my knee, the adductors on my left side. It’s always something. I run through it cautiously for a few minutes, maybe up to fifteen or twenty, and the pain subsides – usually completely.

On the mountain there are a number of non-venomous snakes. I have seen dozens, and none venomous. © 2014 Vern Lovic - CRANK101.com.
On the mountain there are a number of non-venomous snakes. I have seen dozens, and none venomous. © 2014 Vern Lovic – CRANK101.com.

6. A 50 km ultra-run up and down a mountain would be the worst thing I could think of to do to my body and expect it to survive. I’ll try it next year.

7. I’ve seen 1 other runner on the technical mountain trail I run up. Not during this month. Not this year. EVER. I’ve been there for 6-7 years now. I’ve seen just one person running it besides me and the one other guy I used to bring there to run it with me. That’s profoundly sad to me. It’s an incredible mountain trail!

8. I thought I loved the trail a bit more than I loved climbing the steps.  No, I love the trail a hundred times more. Being surrounded by flying lizards, snakes, frogs, cicadas, eagles, bugs of every sort, dirt, vines, biting ants, little deer that come up to my shin, waterfall and stream, jaw-dropping views… there’s no comparison.

9. I need to either find a trail, or forge my own up the 1,400 meter mountain peak that is not too far from my home. I think that is going to become my main trail in the near future.

10. Though I’ve tried climbing with friends and alone both, I much prefer alone. I like to see random people on the trail or steps, but I don’t want someone with me to talk to me during my run or stair climb. I just want to be lost in the moment, pushing when I feel the extra energy, when I need a challenge. Taking it very easy when I just want to enjoy monkeys howling around me, or whatever the natural sounds of the forest are that day.

10,000 vertical meters in a month – highly recommended!

Next Challenge – a 50 kilometer Ultra-run / walk around the 1.25km loop at the park on the river. This involves no vert at all.

Ultra-Running, Running Trails in Krabi, Thailand

There are few ultra-runners in Thailand, especially here in Krabi. Around “Thara Park” on the river there might be 30 guys running around a few times per week. Every now and then you’ll see kids running the streets with an adult following them on motorbike. They’re not following them to protect them, or give them water, they’re following to make sure they run the whole time. Not kidding. They take Muay Thai and track training seriously. Poor kids…

Anyway, there are a couple of places to run where you can be somewhat safe from dogs. I’ll list some places below.

1. Thara Park. This is a flat, vertical-free park next to the river and close to Krabi Marina where some small yachts are moored. One big loop around the park on a paved trail is 1.25 kilometers. It has sun during a portion of the running loop and it doesn’t cool off until after 5:30pm. Then it gets dark quickly – around 6:30. You can run until 7pm safely. I wouldn’t go too much after that time. It is possible to run on the grass beside the paved path, and that’s what I do for a good portion of my runs there. I abhor the hard surfaces. Too hard on my knees. There are a couple dogs roaming around here. I’ve only been growled at a couple times in six years, not chased.

2. Ngorn Nak Mountain Trail. This is located out past Ao Nang Beaches, past Noppharat Thara Beach. Into Tub Kaek. Look up “The Tub Kaek” hotel or the Sofitel hotel on the Klong Muang Beach. You’re getting close. This is a 7.4 kilometer round trip up a 500 meter high mountain. It’s a technical trail. If you’re walking fast, it won’t be that difficult. If you intend to run fast – you’ll better be watching every step or you’ll torque an ankle in no time. The canopy is dense, you get little sun as you run, so that’s a positive.

3. Ao Nang Beach Road. This is a couple kilometer road along the beach, along “Big Beach” with a sidewalk. You will occasionally encounter dogs, but most are cool with foreigners because there are always a couple thousand walking around. Some of this run can be in the shade of trees and not that hot.

That’s about it. There are other places I run, but I’ve been chased by dogs and had to fend them off. Not fun!

Keep in mind that daily temperatures in Krabi are 30C+, and many days 35C+. Bring water, lots of water. I always run with a bottle in my hand to make sure I’m drinking enough and regularly.

If you’re looking for someone to run with, zap me email and see if I’m due for a run. I am not fast on the flat, but quick on the climbs and downhills.

There may be another mountain trail climb of some distance (15 km) not too far from Krabi Town. I have to suss it out. I’ll add it here when I do.


Flow, Pseudo-flow, and Mind Tweaking during Exercise!

This article is about pushing your mind out of the picture so your body can do what it wants to do – go faster and harder.

This article will answer questions such as:

What is mind tweaking? What is Flow? What is Pseudo-Flow?
What is your E-mind? L-mind? CS-mind?
What is “stopping the mind”?
How can I go to the next level of competition?
What is Vipassana meditation? How can it help you have “flow”?

First I talk about three parts of the mind we all have in our heads:

1. Logical Mind – L-Mind
2. Emotional Mind – E-Mind
3. Common Sense Mind – CS-Mind

Is your mind limiting you while you’re exercising and going for Olympic gold?

Mine does. Or rather, it tries to.

I’m not a competitive runner or cyclist anymore. Now I run five or six times a week and I don’t have my road racing bicycle or membership at the local Olympic swimming pool where I used to spend many hours each week. My days as a triathlete are over (for now) and yet I’m still going through some mental gymnastics on most of the days I run hard. What I mean is, I’m trying to break my mind so I can go harder or faster.

I’m running mostly for fun now, but there was a time when I was running for the money so to speak. I was training for 3 – 9 hours per day over the course of two years. I entered running races, bicycle races (roadie), and biathlons and triathlons. I would work the overnight shift at a seniors care home and then drive two to four hours in my Jeep to make it to the starting line early in the morning. I was dog-tired before some of those races because I wasn’t quite conditioned to the overnight work schedule. Yet I was still able to compete because I refused to accept my mind telling me “The Body” was tired or that it wasn’t such a good idea to be racing after a night of no sleep.

In fact, whenever my emotional mind (E-mind) tells me it’s stupid because it can’t be done or really shouldn’t be done – I go ahead and make myself do it. I want to show this part of my mind, along with the common-sense part of my mind (CS-mind) – which is small sometimes, that little things are of no consequence really. I won’t bow to common sense all the time or to mind-blocks thrown up by the E-mind – ever. I won’t let these parts of the mind’s processes overcome what I’m going to do.

I take it personally!

It’s funny, but I really see it that way.

I refuse to let those two things slow down my plans for exercise.

Now I’ll talk a little about the relationship that I have with “the mind” and it’s parts…

To go deeper about the various parts of the mind, the “E-Mind” is the emotional part of the mind. It’s the one that fears things. It’s the one that wants to slow down any attempts to do something that is out of the ordinary or that will require a great deal of effort, whether physical, emotional, mental, or social. The

Climber at Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand.“CS-Mind” is the part of the mind that relates to common sense. I’ve been known for a lack of it sometimes, and when others see it and point it out to me, it’s usually very surprising.

I tend to see the big picture clearly, but I don’t see the common-sense details all the time. The CS-mind helps me and yet it also joins the E-mind’s side rather often. So, I need to take control over it by using the L-mind.

The “L-Mind” is the part which is logical. It’s the part that is closest to who I think “I” am. It’s almost “The Me” but it’s more like the part that must analyze everything and make decisions that are based on the evidence collected. It’s the part that basically controls me, tells me what to do, unless the emotional or common sense side is briefly in control. The L-mind is the part that I want to handle things because I don’t trust the other two parts – they are too unpredictable and too prone to bad decisions.

“The Me” is the sum total of who I am. It includes all the parts of the mind, as well as “The Body”.

“The Body” is, of course, everything related to the body and how it feels. The L-mind is always monitoring the body, but so too is the E-mind. Sometimes they have conflicting opinions. CS-mind might also add it’s point of view if it seems important. L-mind usually listens to all of it. However, during certain activities, like running or other intense physical exercise where I’m pushing myself to some limit, L-Mind doesn’t listen much to any of it.

L-mind is well-versed at manipulating the other parts of the mind. It knows some little tricks. These little tricks to overcome something… some obstacle, are what I call “tweaks”. Mind tweaks are those mental gymnastics that the L-mind must do to get around the resistance from the E-mind and CS-mind, and sometimes “The Body.” This results in plans being accomplished in a way that will bring personal satisfaction, joy, bliss, accomplishment and success.

Sometimes mind tweaks are done overtly by the L-Mind, other times they are done covertly. Sometimes ignoring the other parts of the mind makes the most sense and the L-Mind just ignores everyone altogether.

If you’re a serious athlete or any kind of athlete that pushes yourself hard in a race or even a time-trial against yourself, this article may help.

If you’re focused on getting better results all the time and you’re running up against a performance barrier that doesn’t seem to be falling down… this article might help you.

I’ve been running all my life beginning at six years old in soccer as a kid growing up. I haven’t stopped for more than a few months since then, and I’m now forty-eight.

I’m a really logical person in general. There is very little I do that is based on emotion. Logic rules me and I feel good like that. I can be emotional, very emotional – but logic drives me all day. I really get revved up about doing things efficiently and producing something of value. Those are the things that drive me, so I let the L-Mind drive the vehicle nearly all the time.

I also have something that affects the mind in another way. I have attention deficit disorder (ADD). I refuse to take medication for it because I don’t want to stifle any creativity, but with this problem there is always something new to pay attention to that has nothing to do with anything I have planned.

And maybe that’s part of the problem while I’m running.

The L-mind is always active. It’s always monitoring things. When I’m writing – like now – the L-mind is monitoring the spelling of every word. It’s judging whether I’m chugging along fast enough to be able to write a five-thousand word article by the time this internet cafe closes (I’m in Thailand at the moment). It’s also monitoring ten other things going on nearby. There is a boy and girl chatting at the table twenty yards away. A guy is washing dishes behind me. Music from a radio station is playing on the speakers. There is email making a ding when it lands in my inbox. The discomfort of my seat. The birds I heard… etc.

When I’m exercising, the L-Mind is studying every single action that is going on with the body and anything coming in through the senses as a byproduct of ADD. The L-Mind registers each movement and is gathering bio-feedback from “The Body”. Unfortunately the E-mind is getting it too.

I wish there was a way to knock out the E-mind completely for hours at a time. The E-Mind part of the brain is the one that tells me that I’m maybe going too fast and I’m going to pull something. It tells me that there’s no rush, run again tomorrow or later in the day… don’t push it too hard – something bad will happen.

It, along with the common sense mind (CS-Mind) tells me things like, “there’s moss on that sidewalk – and you can feel you’re slipping a bit, what if you fall and tear a ligament?”

Or, “What if you twist your ankle on all these broken sticks laying all over the path after the summer storm yesterday?”, and, “It’s dark, is that a snake? You know there are many different kinds of poisonous snakes here in Thailand…”

I don’t know if any of you reading are like this – or if you notice it. I think you must have this little monologue running through your heads too as you’re exercising. I’d hate to think I’m a weirdo on this. But, my brain is constantly in this “fear mode” when I’m running or exercising and pushing myself over 85% of my maximum effort.

The E-Mind is paying too much attention to fear.

The L-Mind is watching without emotion or reaction to the variables – but it’s monitoring them, and when something really IS worth paying attention to, it will do so.

Now when I’m running, the logical side is monitoring breathing and it’s counting in and out-breaths in relation to how many times the feet are hitting the concrete or path.

Logically I know that 4 strides for an in-breath and 4 for an out-breath is a nice easy pace about 60% (or less) of maximum effort and I can go at that for quite a while without any trouble. In fact, I could go like that for 2 hours if I wanted. I don’t see any point in long, slow, distance (LSD) training like that for me now – and so I don’t do 4/4 breathing for any length of time, just for ten minutes of warm up and to see how I feel before I go harder.

I know that 3/3 – three strides for an in-breath and three strides during an out-breath is medium effort but still on the low end. I’m at about 70-75% of max when I’m at that breathing rate.

When I hit 2/2 breathing that’s a pretty big range of effort considering it can be 75-100% of maximum.

I do hit 1/1 occasionally, but it doesn’t last long. It is very difficult to keep that up for more than a few minutes.

I usually have to tweak the mind a bit when I get into the 2/2 range – and especially at anything over 85% of maximum effort.

There are some days though that I am “flowing”… it appears as if there is no mind and I am only “The Body”. The Body is flowing without the mind – and there is no thought really, just a unfathomable concentration on what the body is doing. The focus is totally on the present and it’s not a form of zoning out – it’s a form of just zoning IN and being entirely present with what the body is doing – without the mind at all except a feeling of smoothness or fluidity. It’s an incredible state that happens when it wants, there’s no making it happen consistently.

But you know what?

I know some of you know this state. It happens to great athletes quite a bit. They have practiced their movements during whatever it is that they’re doing – so that it becomes second nature… they get into the flow quite a bit and have these incredible peak experiences that most of us dream about. Their peak experiences are the top in the world, but that doesn’t mean as mortal men and women we can’t have some darn good ones too!

Here’s a small secret…

there IS a way to make it happen sometimes.

More about that in a minute.

There are a couple little mind tweaks I might implement over the course of a run. Actually, I sometimes start before the run. Mind tweaks are nothing more than little Jedi Mind Tricks that fool me into something.

Say it’s before the scheduled run. The E-Mind might be whining about something. It doesn’t want to go running. It knows already there is no question about whether running is going to take place today. It IS going to happen. Yet, the whining emotional mind continues with small reminders that it’s not really with the plan. It might bring up some alternatives to running that sound quite attractive. Pizza dinner. Writing more articles for Crank101. Sex!

Crazy things, it can pull out all the stops.

Usually I focus on something else on the agenda that I must do and E-mind sort of disappears quietly into the background. I don’t give any more attention to the emotional mind. As long as I don’t pay it any attention, it won’t come back until we’re at the park to run.

So, that’s Mind Tweak #1. Ignore any protests from the E-mind by refocusing on something else. The subject you choose to focus on can be just about anything if the protests are weak.

Or, you might play hard-ball. Once you realize the E-Mind is going to try to trick you into not running, you could start getting your shoes on immediately – upping the ante. Maybe you planned on going at 5:30 p.m. but since the E-mind is whining already you’re going to go an hour earlier because you really don’t want to be dealing with it for a whole hour while you try to get other things done. That’s a good way to shut it up the next time, and I actually found that the mind does very little of this type of mild protest whining before we go running anymore. In fact, usually there is nothing at all.

Many people have doubts about running or exercise before they go, and the E-mind ends up talking them out of the activity! I can’t let that happen! Neither can you, apply Mind Tweak #1 or #2 quickly.

The emotional mind must understand that it’s NEVER in control when it comes to things that matter. Running matters. Running is a logical thing. It’s emotional only when winning a race or doing especially well – and that’s at the end of the race when some emotion pours forth – spontaneously.

And how cool is that?

There’s nothing coming out of the E-Mind that I’m going to listen to before a run unless it deals with The Body complaining that it isn’t 100%.

I do listen to that. After many years of running I have a good idea what an injury feels like before it happens. I usually know when I can take some tylenol or coffee and run though it. I usually know about how much to push myself during a run in which The Body isn’t 100%. I usually know how much time I can exercise without pulling something. I also know the signs of an impending injury, like when the pain increases at a greater rate than it was up until that point.

If you’re a runner or other athlete that regularly pushes your body, you will probably also have a good sense for how “The Body” feels and when it’s a good idea to listen to it. Some people never get a good handle on it – and they continue to push when they shouldn’t. They’re often injured because their logical mind doesn’t listen to “The Body” or the E-Mind – which will kick in too, and loudly once it realizes there WILL be an injury unless the exercise is halted immediately.

So, always listen to various parts of the mind if they’re talking about “The Body” and evaluate. Err on the side of caution and over-protection so you keep yourself from getting injured.

I know, it’s easy to say that right? When you’re motivated to run and accomplish your fitness goals, it can be quite a hard thing to listen to the E-Mind telling you “Um, bro? ‘The Body’ is not 100%”. Because when I hear that, the first thing I responded with in the past was, “You’re NEVER 100%, now let’s pull it together and do this!”.

However, that isn’t the first thing I say anymore because I used to get injured too much.

These days I take a good look at the pain. If I’m exercising, I might stop and see what makes it worse. Does it go away when I stop? Does it feel like a tightening? A knot? A sharp pain? Sharp pains rarely get better if you continue. Dull pains of some sorts just go away as you loosen up. Calf muscles are like this. Sometimes I sit for twelve hours at a computer, and then ten the next day before I go running. My legs have atrophied from doing absolutely nothing but trips to the restroom some days!

Calves are still an area where I pull something every now and then. Groin too. I tend to have a longer stride when I run fast – perhaps too long, and that pulls something occasionally.

So, moving on. The next mind tweak I’ll describe is put into play as I’m running.

Let’s say I’m at a 3/3 breathing level. Three steps as I breathe in and three as I breathe out. I have slowly ramped up from a 4/4 and now I’ve been at 3/3 for about fifteen minutes or so.

I notice that The Body wants to go faster. I feel strong, the breathing is good.  The Body wants to go into the 2/2 range. This is also the range where the L-Mind and E-Mind start getting revved up because now we’re doing some speed. There’s something to be proud of at this point. This is what control and power is all about when I run. I love to feel that – all systems are go and we just kicked the body into a hardcore workout. This is a great state to be in and the one that I try to keep the body in for as long as possible before dropping back down to a 3/3.

Though the E-Mind is excited and should savor the bliss of the experience, it is more fearful. It will question the logic of increasing speed. “Does the body REALLY feel that good?” It asks. “Is it safe to push that hard right now? How is the heart? Pulse? Breathing? Calves? Toes? Are the shoes snug enough?  Are your socks too wet – will you get a blister? Is it too hot? Could heat stroke happen? Did you sleep enough last night?”

And so it goes through all these questions. Sometimes the L-Mind, in an attempt to appease the E-Mind will just patiently answer all the questions. Once they’re all satisfactorily answered the L-mind gives the order to “The Body” to go full after-burners.

So, that was Mind Tweak #2. Exhaust all questions about whether “we’re” ready to increase speed and go hard. By exhaustively answering the questions, the L-mind gets the greenlight because the E-Mind has nothing left to ask and shuts up. This is a good tweak to use if there really might be a possibility that it isn’t a good idea to crank hard at the present time.

Mind Tweak #3 can be implemented during the same kind of run… going from 3/3 to a 2/2 level. The emotional mind starts to build the list of questions… the logical mind, being so in-tuned to the body, KNOWS that all systems are go – and it’s time to take it to the next level. At this point the L-Mind will just ignore all questions from the E-Mind and instantly increase the effort to max, effectively killing all questions from the E-Mind.

Ignoring all the questions in Mind Tweak #3 tends to put the mind in a state of quiet. As the body goes into the high-speed 2/2 mode the mind is watching all systems like a virus scanner watches the computer. It’s watching to see if there is any serious problem with anything in the system. There is usually not much thought at ALL at this point.

This is the experience of “being” the exercise. It’s like there is no mind present. There aren’t any thoughts of yesterday, tomorrow, or your spouse. You literally ARE the exercise. You ARE running. You are only that. You are focused entirely on the doing and there is nothing else.

When this happens it’s a good thing – needless to say. This is sometimes referred to as being in the flow – but to me there is more to being in the flow than just this. For me this state of being the exercise occurs during nearly every run or intense exercise. The Flow does not. It happens occasionally. For me, true flow happens one or two times per week, and only a big handful of times each month.

I found recently that I can initiate the flow to some degree.

When I do it, I call it “Pseudo-Flow.” I’m not sure how close it is to the original, or how valid it is since it’s kind of a manipulation of mind to get there – but, it is a flow of some sort that I can’t distinguish from regular flow in terms of performance. However, the factors that brought it on are different (forced) and the feelings or lack of them are different during the experience.

I’ll try to explain.

First a little bit about natural flow.

The natural flow happens on it’s own. There is almost no thought if I’m running and in the true flow. Sometimes it even kind of starts before I even start running. During a run where flow is present there is a natural slow buildup to speed and an easy, effortless switch into high gear that is blissful and not painful or negative in any way. It is pure experience and yet it’s experience at a very high level – the body is functioning in a way that feels effortless. There may be a numbness to the body… and yet the eyes are taking in the speeds that are being reached, so though the eyes and logical mind know something incredible is happening, “The Body” and the E-mind are kind of subdued – they are almost numb too. It’s like dopamine numbing the mind and yet one is fully present and aware of all that’s happening.

It’s a state of bliss because there is no thought, only direct experience and amazingly efficient and fast exercise without realizing that it’s taking bodily or mental effort. There are some feelings that go along with true flow though. It’s a feeling of being in a peak experience. It’s a bliss or a feeling of great competence, of being a master of the activity. It’s like I feel as if I’m slippery through the water when I’m swimming, I’m making exactly the right strokes with my arms and my hands feel the water perfectly as I push it to propel me forward. Or, if running, it’s as if I’m so light on my feet and yet I’m flying really fast. I’m breathing fast and regularly but it’s a perfect state of existence during the run – my body is a perfect machine and there is no pain or negative that exists during it.

“Flow” can exist in many things. It exists with activity that requires thought – writing for instance. I might bang out a 10,000 word article straight through in 2 hours. It happens sometimes. I’m not sure what is going on – but there is such an efficiency achieved… a fluidity and an ease of producing great writing that it’s just about unexplainable.

Pianists talk of flow. Basketball players and golfers. Swimmers and football running backs.

Here’s how I initiate the pseudo-flow, as I call it.

Remember I told you about Vipassana meditation at the beginning of this article? Vipassana meditation can slow the mind down over time and one can actually reach a point where the mind can actually STOP. Well, it can stop all the thoughts in the mind. The mind becomes so at peace that thought ceases. It’s an incredible state that could never be explained with words, yet I often try to. If you are interested you can read the free e-book here and if you’re more interested you can try it for yourself. It may take months to reach a point where you’re able to reach a silent mind or a mind that has stopped all thought.

Soccer flow, Thailand.I think if you follow the steps I’ve outlined you CAN though. It happened to me in a short time of meditating. It wasn’t long before I could do it any time I chose. For instance, as I’m writing this I can stop the mind and though I can’t type I am fully aware of everything that is going on around me. I am just living pure experience without relying on memory or the mind chatter that asks me questions, names things, and accesses memory and fear about the future. It’s a great state to live from and it’s said that perhaps those that are enlightened live in this state 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.

I’m not sure about that, but I do know that it’s been an incredible tool to have over the years.

I use it to analyze anger, frustration, any emotion that pops up… any attachment that leads to disappointment. I use it to relax. It is incredibly relaxing in that state. Some claim to not need sleep if they just lie in bed in that state for a half hour or so every few hours. I believe it, though I’ve not tried it much more than a few days – and yes, I felt great without sleeping. Perfectly fine really. Doing it long-term I’m not sure about – but I think it must be possible.

How I use this to reach the pseudo-flow is like this…

Anytime I’m feeling very good and yet the mind is too active with questions and concerns about running or maybe even concerns that have nothing to do with running. Maybe I’m worried that I’ve screwed something up on my web site code that can’t easily be fixed… maybe I’m worried about a family member… it could be anything.

If I choose, I can stop all thought in the mind. I can shut off the thought.

When the thought shuts off – there is nothing that is distinguishing it from the true flow – except how I came about getting there and there is literally NO feeling about anything – no feeling of mastery or anything about feeling very efficient and competent. But there is no pain or fear either.

Later as one goes faster and faster without adding any more concerted effort, the feeling is one of bliss and yet it’s a little more moderated maybe. It’s a little less “feel good” because the mind is completely absent. There is a good feeling to be running… and there is no pain. There is no mental or physical effort that can be noticed, and yet one can run at maximum speed for a while before the breathing catches up and shuts the body down a bit – forcing a drop down to 90% effort for a few minutes before trying again if one wishes to.

There is less experience of “power” or “control” than with true flow because there aren’t thoughts to reinforce those feelings.

In a way it is nicer than pure flow because one is not happy or sad – just DOING. It is truly just doing, whereas “true flow” has some more recognition of the emotions that are present… Psychological needs are being fulfilled because one feels powerful, exuberant, in control, efficient, strong, balanced…

With pseudo-flow there is none of that going on emotionally. There is balance. There is peace. There is an effortless moving in a very efficient manner. There is a realization that this is “pseudo-flow” though there is no feeling of achievement for having done it – just a real zero-emotion state but one in which the body is operating at the same peak state as pure flow.

I should try some experiments on my own – but I think they’d be too subjective. I’d like to know – is there any difference in performance between the two types of flow. I think too hard to experiment with because the true flow just comes on when it wants and I’d not be able to tick off the distance or times and I probably wouldn’t even care to. Perhaps it would kick me out of the flow experience? Not sure.

I’ve not read of anyone else talking about this stuff and I’m surprised. Well, I am and I’m not. I’ve not met anyone else that can stop the mind at will, but I’m sure there are some. I’m SURE others can do it if they follow the steps in my e-book, though, to be honest, meditation is not such an easy thing to tackle. It’s hard work! It is very difficult to watch the mind time after time, watching thoughts, watching breath… to the point where the thought starts to slow and then stop.

Most people fuse religion with their meditation which heaps on expectations about the experiences one will have – this alters the whole process and actually puts more stumbling blocks in the way of the mind becoming quiet.

I’d like to hear from anyone that has tried this technique to compare thoughts and observations. Though it’s new to me and I think I’m the only one talking about it, on the other hand I realize that SOMEONE else has done this – so maybe they’ve got it online.

I’ll Google it and see what I can find!

As a technique to overcome e-mind and “just do it” so to speak, I don’t think there could be anything better. But, there might be, and I’d love to hear about it if you want to tell it!

As always, send email (AimforAwesome ~ at ~ gmail) or leave comments if you have any questions or comments about this article!

Best of Life!

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My First 30 Mile Ultra-Run / Walk

I am nearly done with my 10,000 meter vertical gain challenge for August and I’m getting excited about my next challenge – my first ultra-run! It will be much more like an ultra-walk I’m sure, but just the idea of doing 30 miles in a row is mind-numbing to me because I never had the urge to go farther than the 15 miles I’ve run in the past. That was my longest run ever – somewhere around 15 miles. Thirty miles is twice that, and will be much more difficult.

Still, I’m excited about it and I’m thinking a bit tonight about how I should train for it. The fact that in August as I do this 10,000 meter challenge I am also running a LOT on the mountain is a good thing. I’ve run already 130 kilometers. That’s around 20 miles per week. That’s pretty good, considering I really do think I’ll be walking most of my first ultra-distance trek. See, I’m not even calling it an ultra-run because I’m damn sure it will be an ultra-walk with some light jogging thrown into the mix. If I run too much, I’ll hurt myself and screw up the October challenge, whatever that becomes. I haven’t thought ahead that far yet. If it isn’t raining too much, I think I might try to forge a trail up a 1,400 meter mountain that nobody climbs any longer. There are bears and all sorts of beasties up there, so I’ll think carefully about it. It does seem to be calling me.

So, I finish up this 10,000 meter vertical challenge on 31 Aug. I’ll have a decent month of workouts behind me, and I’ll need to ramp it up on the flats. My 30 mile attempt will be at a flat park that has a paved path. I am not sure yet whether to walk mostly on the paved path, or the grass beside it. I think the grass will actually make it harder for walking that far. It’s soft and muddy in some places. It is not flat by anyone’s estimation, it’s quite uneven. I’d better use the path primarily and the grass to change things up every couple of laps.

My goal is somewhere around 7 hours. Up to 10 hours would be OK. I could even rest for an hour and see how I felt if I was struggling, but I think that would be counter-productive in the end. Better to take short rest breaks of 5-10 minutes max.

I have a friend that doesn’t do anything physical that told me he was SURE he could walk 30 miles, he said he “just wouldn’t stop.” I don’t discount what he said. He’s from Poland, and Americans, if we know anything at all, we know not to gloss over what Eastern Europeans say they can do. They are a tough group!

Still, I’m going to do this 30 miles (50 kilometers) in a good time so he can’t replicate it. Literally, he doesn’t do a damn thing all day, so if he decides to take a crack at my time, I don’t want him to be within a couple of hours of it!

So, back to thinking about training.

Sept 1-7 I’ll probably walk daily, maybe take a rest once during the week. I’ll walk on the grass primarily to keep stress injuries down. There is no goal of speed for the miles I put in as I ramp up to the 30 mile attempt. I think I’ll do something like:

Day 1 – 5 miles walking and running
Day 2 – 6 miles walking
Day 3 – rest
Day 4 – 6 miles walking with some running
Day 5 – 4 miles walking
Day 6 – 4 miles easy
Day 7 – 12 miles at decent pace

About 37 miles for the week. That would be good. Maybe the following week do a couple long ones with a rest day between them?

That’s as far as I am right now. The rest I’ll decide as I see how I am feeling and what niggling injuries are on the cusp of becoming full-blown problems.

I won’t do more than one long walk maybe around 18 miles before I attempt the 30 miles because I don’t want / need any injuries. I really want to do this in September by the end of the month. I could do it anytime though, and the way I am, I might get cocky and just go for it two weeks into the month if I’m feeling good.

My current weight is 73KG – about 161 lbs. I feel really good. This 10,000 meter challenge has built my fitness up WELL over the past 3 weeks. Assuming I hold together and can complete it by Aug 31, this next ultra challenge shouldn’t be THAT difficult. I am expecting to hate it… but that’s just because it will be so far out of the realm of exercise that I’m accustomed to. Once I do it, I’ll focus on doing 50 miles at some point. Not October, but maybe early 2015. I’d also LOVE to find a 30 mile ultra-run race through the mountains within the next 3-4 months. I am ready to take the next step into ultra-running lunacy.

If anyone reading this will be in Thailand over the next few months, you’re welcome to meet me in Krabi and do some training run/walks with me. In particular I absolutely LOVE climbing the mountain peak trail. It’s 6 miles (10km) and technical, with 1,500 feet elevation gain, but it’s a picture perfect run (hike) and you’ll be happy you did it.

Ok, cheers then. Basically this entire post was just thinking to myself!

Hazards of Trail Running in Thailand Tropical Rainforest – Asia

Rainforest Running Trail - Thailand

Besides the 95F weather with 90% humidity, roots, thorns, and slippery rocks, there are some other hazards faced while running mountain trails through the rainforest in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Malaysia, or Vietnam.


Dogs are probably the worst threat you’ll run into. I’ve had days where I see no dogs at all, and then days when I’ve been bothered by forty dogs in a pack on a remote hill with no other humans beings around for help.

Luckily in Thailand the dogs are:

1. Not that big.

2. Not that ferocious – there are few rottweillers, pit bulls, shephards, etc.

3. Not that bright.

Dogs in Thailand inevitably fear two things. Sticks and rocks. Pick up whatever is at hand and threaten the dog with it, before it takes a mouthful of your leg. I know you love dogs. Me too. Dogs in Thailand don’t like foreigners because we look different. We probably smell different. Apparently they want to see if we taste different.

The stick trick works in 90% of cases, it backs the dog(s) off to around 10-15 feet. This gives you some time to find some rocks. Big rocks preferably. Start wailing the rocks toward the dogs and they high-tail it away from you quick. Nearly every dog in the country has been hit by a stick and hit by a rock. None of them want to repeat it.

When the forty dogs came after me on the hill I picked up a big stick. They didn’t stop running toward me, but they did slow down a lot. They were still coming after me and barking though, so I started throwing rocks at them. Gradually they all got the idea and turned away. I was amazed really. Dogs in a pack are nothing to mess with, but if you can scare them with rocks before they get too close, you’ll probably be OK.


I know, caterpillars, right? Seriously. There are caterpillars that have stinging hairs that feel like blow torches when they touch you. I had one yesterday on my ankle, which in part prompted me to write this info-bulletin today.

It starts out as a tiny burn, which escalates into a full on bonfire. I looked at my ankle when I felt it yesterday, and couldn’t see anything. The pain was unmistakeable though. Be careful about brushing leaves as you run by. The worst pain would be to get a caterpillar in the eyeball. I’ve had them on my arm, leg, back (I went under a fallen tree and I brushed it with my lower back – ouch!), and now ankle. The pain doesn’t last forever, but you’re in for a good half hour of searing pain.


I go hunting (herping) for snakes and other wildlife at night. I’ve seen scorpions of all kinds, but they are always on the ground, and usually under something. There are about eight species of scorpion that I know of in Thailand. A couple of them like to climb vines on the trail I run.

Last week I was clearing part of the path from this massive growth of thorn bushes and vines when I saw something moving up the vine. Wow, a 3 inch brown scorpion. I couldn’t believe it. I made a mental note not to touch the vines in that area any longer.

Yesterday I was running down the mountain, grabbed a vine in a different area to help slow me down as I descended a steep section.  Something crunched under my thumb as I grabbed the vine, then an immediate sting and it dropped to the ground. OUCH. Scorpion got me. Same kind I saw on the vine the week before. Guess they got revenge on me at last… Here’s me eating one in a video.


There are some sting-less bees in Thailand, they are small and look weird as they fly through the air. They don’t swarm when you run through them. They don’t sting. They make little tubes that stick out like straws on trees and in limestone rocks.

Then there are many other species of bee that do sting. I met one yesterday. Yes, no kidding, I was stung by three beasties yesterday on that one 6 mile trail run! I was cutting away some vine from the trail and felt a sting on my shin. WHACK! I smacked that bee into the next life. Then I ran my ass off before his friends found me.

If you are running through the rainforest and you hear a hum, you can bet it isn’t Pooh Bear singing his silly songs. Just turn around and go back the way you came because bees are nothing to mess with. Recently two Buddhist monks were attacked by a swarm and they are in critical condition in the intensive care unit of the hospital.

Over the past couple weeks we have had these gigantic bees coming around our front porch at home. I killed one. I don’t like bees. Almost instantly, there were eight to ten more bees there flying around me like they were going to attack. I quickly went in the house where I was trapped for 40 minutes until the pheromones went away enough that the bees relaxed and went elsewhere. Bees, when aggravated, release these pheromones that float through the air and instantly alert other bees that they need to come and help attack something. Scary stuff!


Malaysian Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus) and Asian Black Bears (Ursus thibetanus) are roaming the rainforests of Northern Thailand, a lot of Malaysia, and some other choice places. Though where I run doesn’t have them on the distribution map, I have seen some large scat and large undefined tracks in the mud. The national park I run through is big enough to have a bear. There are plenty of trees with smelly fruit on that mountain. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one.

The two bears mentioned are known to be extremely aggressive at times. I have yet to hear of someone attacked by one here in Thailand yet. I’m sure it has happened in the past.

Bears climb trees. Bears run fast. Still, if I see a bear and he comes after me, I’m running for my life. I think I can get down the technical trail at least as fast as it can, and hopefully with all this exercise I’ve been doing I am fitter than the bear and can wear it down over a kilometer or so. That’s my plan. You should have a plan too.

Oh, my other plan is that I would climb a thin tree – about 6 inches in diameter that was near some other trees. If that bear climbed the same tree, I would swing over to another tree beside it, and another one and another one. Bears cannot do that. I think it would tire of my shenanigans and go find some delicious honey to munch instead.


In theory snakes could be a problem. I’ve spent hundreds, probably a thousand hours by now in the rainforest on trails in Thailand and Malaysia and I’ve not been bitten by anything. Of course I watch where every step goes, but still… over all this time I could have stepped next to a snake I didn’t see and been tagged.

I’ve seen just one venomous pit viper on the trail during daylight hours during a rain shower. Just one. I’ve seen about forty other snakes during runs, but they were all non-venomous and of no danger at all. See my other site – ThailandSnakes.com for more information on snakes found in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

The only three snakes you’d have to fear in Thailand, and I think most or all of Southeast Asia are:

1. Cobras (Naja kaouthia; Ophiophagus hannah; Naja siamensis; Naja sumatrana). They are active during day and night. They flee when possible, like every snake, but they also are not afraid to hood up and strike either. Still, I see them infrequently in the forest, more so out on the streets and near homes – especially near the ocean.

2. Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostema). These are various brown colored snakes with triangle patterns on the back. They blend in very well with dirt and leaves and this is probably the biggest threat to anyone walking on a trail, through grass, or anywhere really, at night. During the day they are not active unless it is raining or very wet out. The problem with these snakes is that they do not move when they sense the vibration of a human walking toward them. They stay where they are until stepped on, then they dig their 1-2 inch fangs into your leg. I know one woman bitten during the day as she reached into greenery in her garden. It was a sunny day but she had the water on there for hours before and it was very wet.

It had to happen, eventually. Just last month I was running up the mountain, nearly at the peak, when I looked down horrified at where my food was about to strike the ground about 2 inches from a Malayan pit viper coiled up right on the path. Video here:

3. Russell’s Viper (Daboia siamensis). This is a large, usually grey or brown colored viper with white oval pattern that is common only near Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand. This snake is probably responsible for more deaths in the world than any other snake. They are strong biters, have big fangs, and have strong venom. These snakes sometimes hiss when aggravated, so they are capable of a warning before striking. Not always though.


Golden Orb Weaver Eating BirdIf you are the first one on the trail you will be breaking spider webs with your face. Though I catch venomous snakes all the time, spiders flip me right out. I cannot take a spider on the face. I’ve had that happen half-a-dozen times while running the trails here. What I do now is I find a small branch with numerous branching twigs coming off it. I hold that in front of my face as I run. I still get spider webs in my face, but not spiders. The golden orb weaver (Nephila pilipes) spiders that I see most often on the trail are very large and they build the strongest web of any spider in the world. Here is a golden orb weaver eating a bird caught in its web.


I was running up the trail a couple years ago and all the sudden my left eye burned like someone poured battery acid in it. I cussed for fifteen minutes as my hiking partner marveled at my creative vocabulary. It burned intensely for about fifteen minutes. I rinsed my eye for ten minutes with water and eventually the pain died down enough that I could finish the hike. The only thing I can figure is that there was a bug on a leaf I ran by and it squirted me in the eye with its eye-disabling fire spray. It is a mystery to this day what it was. If anyone has any ideas, do let me know!

I know this covered the bad about trail running in Asia, there is plenty of good too – don’t let this scare you out of coming over for an ultrarunning race or trail running of any sort. I’ve run on the trail hundreds of times and have only had the few bad experiences listed here to complain about!


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Update – 10,000 Vertical Meters Challenge

The mountains in Thailand have some excellent technical trails. This is the view from the top of Ngorn Nak mountain in Tub Kaek, Krabi province, in Southern Thailand.
The mountains in Thailand have some excellent technical trails. This is the view from the top of Ngorn Nak mountain in Tub Kaek, Krabi province, in Southern Thailand. CLICK to enlarge.

It’s Sunday August 24 here in Thailand, and this is an update to my goal I set at the beginning of the month.

The challenge to climb 10,000 vertical meters during a month of running up a mountain trail and some steps at a local Buddhist temple is going well. I didn’t think it would be a real significant challenge but I wasn’t sure because I haven’t given myself vertical elevation challenges before. Typically in a month I go 6,000 to 7,000 meters anyway, so I figured another 3-4,000 would be no big deal.

What I’ve found over this month is that it isn’t such a big deal to go 10,000. I think 15,000 is quite doable and I may make that a future goal. The big deal is reigning my mind in so I don’t go at race pace every time I get a chance to run or climb the steps.

So far this month I’ve climbed 7,200 vertical meters. Approximately 95% of those runs and climbs were at 95% of maximal effort. I didn’t even realize what I was doing until mid-way through the month. Apparently, without much thought, I’ve been treating each session as a race.

I’ve been going much too fast, and I’ve been lucky not to hurt myself during the efforts. Two days ago I did 39:30 minutes / seconds up and 38 down my 500 meter elevation mountain which is a 10K up and down. That’s fast. Then yesterday, instead of go slow like I imagined I might (should), I flew up because I felt great, and did it in 37 up and 39 down.

The problem is, I don’t know how to shut me off. I don’t know how to insist that I go slower if I feel good. It’s alright to train this way when there is no goal to accomplish, it’s actually great fun to fartlek my way around training and go hard when I feel like it, slower when I don’t. However, if I don’t hold myself back some over the next seven days, I might not make the 10,000 mark. I really need to start doing my runs and climbs at 60-70% effort before I blow something.

So, that’s what I’ve noticed during this challenge. What should be a relatively easy goal, could turn out to be more difficult than it should be because I didn’t put enough thought into it. I didn’t see the big picture so clearly before I got started. Even now that I see the big picture, that the goal is the most important task – I am having trouble slowing down and slogging it out.

Sometimes the goal isn’t that difficult, but we make it so. Sometimes we don’t think clearly enough about how to go about something before we dive in and are half-way through it. Ten thousand meters at 70% of maximum effort is not difficult. Ten thousand meters at 95% of maximum effort is!

Slow down and think about what you’re doing.

See the big picture!

10,000 Vertical Meters Climbing in August

I created this goal for August that I would climb 10,000m vertical elevation during my workouts. I’ve gone 7,000 before and ready to ramp up more the next month, only to face some setback. Now I’m feeling healthy and I think I’ll be able to pull it off. It’s 10 days into August and I’ve done 3,300m. Right on track, August has 31 days.

This isn’t really so much of a fitness goal as much as it’s a test to see whether my body (knees in particular) can handle climbing that much. Anton Krupicka, one of the world’s top ultra-runners, does 10,000 meters in a week. He’s somewhere around 30 years old and has run since he was 11. I’ve run a lot in younger years, but took up cycling for years before I got back to running. That might be to my advantage in the big picture.

So, I’ve been climbing 500m at a time either on the steps up the mountain or on a mountain trail leading to a peak with a great view. I feel good today, a slight niggle in my L knee, but today will probably be a rest day so that should take care of it.

I have a goal for September now already, regardless whether I make this 10,000m vertical this month. I’ll do a 50km walk/run. I just have a burning need to accomplish some physical feats I haven’t ever done before.

You doing anything cool?

Trail Running in Thailand – 1080p HD Video

Here’s a mashup of clips I put together on two different days of running up my favorite mountain here in southern Thailand in a place called “Ngorn Nak” mountain in Tub Kaek subdistrict of Krabi province.

This is a great little run with 500 meters of vertical, but another 300 can be added by doing a couple different paths while also doing the main peak climb. Today I did 700 meters and it worked out to 9 miles. It’s quite technical, but enormous fun and I can’t seem to get enough of it, I’m there 2-5 times per week running this thing.

This month I’m going to do 10,000 meters of vertical climbing on my runs. I’ll also do some flat runs at the park, so hopefully I can pull this off. What are goals for if you know you’re going to reach them – right?

It’s the 5th of August and I’ve done 1,700 meters, so I’m on track.

If you get a chance to come to Thailand to run trails – do it! Let me know if you get down south to Krabi province way.


Penang Hill Trail Running [Yes, UP the Mountain]

Here’s a video I’m not sure I ever posted here. I ran up the Penang Hill the other month and had a blast. Looking forward to doing it again soon, maybe in the next 2 months. Gotta see how I can get there straight from here.

Definitely worth the effort to go here!