Essential Holiday Gifts & Stocking Stuffers Every Runner Will Love

Sometimes it’s difficult to chose the right gift for the barefoot adventurer in your life. There’s a trick to buying presents that make your mom and dad smile, letting them know that you love and care for them. And then there are the essentials: the best outdoor gear that your athletic barefoot endurance brothers and sisters  just can’t go without. Here are a few choice Amazon items for the active person in your life, perfect for last-minute gifts.

Waist pack belt for SmartPhones with Waterproof, Sweat Proof Lightweight Case

Waterproof SmartPhone Case for Endurance Athletes
Waterproof Smart Phone Case for Endurance Athletes

On my long run days, when I’m miles and miles from home on slender country roads slick with icy rainwater, I always feel better knowing that I have access to my phone.

Sturdy PolyCarbonate Multi-tool Phone Case for SmartPhones

Multi Tool Case for iPhone 6/6s
Turn your smart phone into a Swiss Army Knife.

Sometimes my sandal-lace snaps, ripping the toe-strap from the sole of the shoe whenever I  kick a rock or trip over an unseen root on the trail. When I finally stop shouting curses to the empty sky, I usually have to break out my car keys to reinsert the strap into the sandal before I seal it back in place with duct tape–yes I always run with duct tape in my camel back. Car keys work, but it’s always nice to have some tools on hand when you’re all alone in deep dark forest. This tough case, made of sturdy poly-carbonate, upgrades your smartphone into a Swiss Army knife. The tools are securely ” hidden” in the case, but easily removed, and the blades are TSA compliant!

Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm

Body Glide Ultra Running Anti Chaffe lotion
Body Glide Ultra Running Anti Chafe balm

This stuff is magic. Prevents and treats chaffing, especially on the most sensitive part of your chest: the nipple. Easier to apply than olive oil or petroleum jelly. Don’t toss the container in the bin because you can use it to hold home-made, all natural deodorant– a recipe I will cover in an upcoming post.

 Medal & Buckle Hangers for Endurance Athletes

Medal Hanger for Endurance Athletes
Medal Hanger for Endurance Athletes

This is a great gift because it highlights the achievements of the past while inspiring your runner for the goals of the future. Without my medal hanger, I don’t think I’d be running the Hagg Lake Mud 50k this February. Whenever I don’t feel like getting out of my warm cozy bed and onto the wet, icy wind, I look at my medal hanger, then put on my huaraches and hit the streets.

Reflextive Vest

Reflective Vest for RUnners
Reflective Vest for Runners

Don’t let your best friend become another Elizabeth Jaeger, the woman who was given a citation after a car slammed into her hip  during her morning run. Give them the gift if safety. Be safe. Be Seen!

Sweatproof bluetooth headphones

Bluetooth Headphones for Barefoot Runners
Bluetooth Headphones for Barefoot Runners

A study at Brunel Unversity’s School of Sports Education reveals that listening to music while running boosts endurance by 15%!!!


Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray for Barefoot Runners
Pepper Spray for Barefoot Runners

Not a every pit-bull is puppy at heart. Some beasts are just downright ferocious. Dogs are pack animals by nature, programmed to chase anything that runs. Most of the time they just yap at your heels, but every once in a while they bite. Pepper spray is humane way to protect yourself without causing lasting damage to the mutt.



A Life of Desperate Caffeination?

According to legend, there once was an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi who noticed some of his goats eating red berries from a bush. After chewing on the berries, the goats who were tired from a long day in the sun, hopped around energetically and bleated happily. Kaldi was intrigued. So he popped a few berries into his mouth, wincing and puckering at the bitterness, just as he was ready to spit them out, he felt a surge of energy and a wonderful sense of euphoria. It just so happened that a monk from a nearby monastery witnessed everything. When Kaldi was away, the monk picked some of the berries to share with his brothers at the monastery. That evening, the monks were able to stay up all night, alert in prayer, asking forgiveness for stealing Kaldi’s berries. (This story was adapted from Zoltan. See “Works Cited”.)

It took me about 3 weeks of agony to stop drinking coffee. Kicking caffeine was harder than running my first 50k ultra marathon.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
Cup of Coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that the cravings for coffee are completely gone, I occasionally ask myself if I made the right decision. After all, many grandmasters, writers, and mathematicians enjoy the psychoactive benefits of arabica. Sometimes, I miss the manic episodes and on-demand vigilance that coffee gave me.  In terms of creativity, I think coffee may have given me a slight edge. Whenever I needed to bang out a post, I’d brew a pot of java.

For the past year, I’ve been in an artistic slump. The urge to write, to play music, sometimes, even to paint or draw hasn’t been as strong. I know that it’s foolish to wait for inspiration because the Muse only shows up when I do. I’ve got to put myself out there for the magic to happen. It’s impossible to paint a masterpiece without a brush in your hand. Even so, I often ask myself:

Would drinking coffee guide the strokes? Am I distorting the past? Was coffee really my Muse? Or just a monkey on my back?

To discover the truth, I’m going to slip into the socks of Benjamin Franklin. After all, he was one of America’s wisest citizens. Whenever the great man was faced with an important decision, he would take a plain piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and put a plus (+) on one half, and a minus (-) on the other. By listing all the positive elements on the plus side of the paper and all of the negative ones on the minus side, his decisions would become obvious.

Here’s my list of Pros and Cons for drinking coffee.

+ Pros:

  • Gives me energy and a slight manic twitch to write blog posts, draw goofy skulls, and play the didgeridoo. Looking deep into my blog, some of the most exotic posts were written when I was hopped up on caffeine. Most of my sketchbooks were filled after percolating a pot of coffee. I even used the grounds to “coffee wash”  some of my tattoo flash sheets.
  • Escalates social inclusion. When I quite coffee, I felt ashamed and exiled, like someone on Survivor with a secret immunity idol who was blindsided at Tribal Counsel. Whenever I tell my friends and coworkers that I’m not part of the Java Tribe, their shocked expressions do little to betray their contempt. I can hear their thoughts, “He’s not one of us. Is he Mormon?”

– Cons:

  • Coffee is expensive. It’s very easy to drop 5 to 10 bucks a day on it.
  • It stains your teeth and breath.
  • It makes me manic, which can be a plus when it spurs creativity but also a negative when it makes me believe that my wife was replaced with an ultra-sophisticated, lifelike, robotic surgeon who sews microchips into my scalp while I sleep, giving government agents the ability to control my thoughts with a radio transmitter; thereby giving them the ability to influence my behavior for military applications.
  • It may have caused some of the mysterious panic attacks that I suffered from years ago.
  • Everyone else is a slave to it. The mass of men lead lives of desperate caffeination. I don’t know any coffee drinkers who can bear the horrendous headaches from missing their morning cup. Caffeine withdrawal is so serious that it’s in the DSM V:

…abstinence from caffeine induces a withdrawal syndrome of headache, fatigue, and drowsiness which begins within 12-24 hours and lasts about 1 week. The syndrome can be severe and appears to be one reason for continued use of coffee. The prevalence of this caffeine withdrawal syndrome is unknown.

Caffeine withdrawal but not caffeine abuse or dependence should be included as a diagnosis in DSM-IV and ICD-10. Future research should focus on whether some caffeine users exhibit clinical indicators of drug dependence.

(“Should Caffeine Abuse, Dependence, or Withdrawal Be Added to DSM-IV and ICD-10?” -direct link requires paid access to DSM-5 online)

The cons outweigh the pluses. I’ll stay clean, eating magic mushrooms or drinking ayahuasca whenever I need a little inspiration.


Works Cited:

“Should Caffeine Abuse, Dependence, or Withdrawal Be Added to DSM-IV and ICD-10?” Ajp 149.1 (1992): 33-40. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Zoltan, Melanie Barton. “Coffee.” Food: In Context. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 138-141. In Context Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

God is good, God is …

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...
Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a twelve mile run deep into the woods of the Upper Salmon River in Welches Oregon, I realized that I grew up Christian, learning early in my life to fear and to love God, the same God who often took the shape of my “father” who snapped his black leather belt as warning when I misbehaved and who sometimes whipped me with it, blistering my thighs and back with red welts whenever I continued to defy him, the same God who also embodied my “dad” who bought me a brand new red and blue huffy bike with spider-mag wheels just because I told him I wanted one, meaning I can never extinguish belief in the divine, I can only interpret it. 

On the drive home, while flipping through the jangle of tunes and talk on the radio, I heard a warm and intriguing voice say,

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; Acts 17:28.

I fell under the spell of that verse immediately, with its pleasant assurance that all things are divine. The flow of the scripture spun my mind to running–for in him we move. I run, not to become faster so I can win races, not to develop fitness so I can stay healthy, and not to burn calories so I can eat  pizza and guzzle Oregon’s finest beers; instead, I run as an act of worship, each springing knee bent over the wild terrain honors the cosmos, moving me forward, bringing me closer and also distancing me from my ultimate destination. I am not a Christian, but I do feel God surging in my blood, heaving in my lungs, screaming at me to stop and also to push harder whenever I’m bouncing over the landscape of this vast planet. I grew up Christian, learning early in my life to fear and to love God, who sometimes takes the form of my “dad” and “father,” and who, at other times, takes the shape of the man casting my shadow.

Honesty in 3 Letters

I was disappointed and frustrated that my race times were so pathetically slow this year. I thought I trained well. But obviously I didn’t. So I asked myself what did I do last year that I didn’t do this year?

The answer was clear. Last year, I used my GPS for every run. It kept me honest. Every time I hit the streets or trials I knew exactly how far and how fast I was running. This year it was all guesswork. For instance, I added a “10 mile” trail run to my schedule. I estimated the mileage by the Upper Salmon River  signs and by feel. When I wore my GPS watch  on the run last week, I discovered that the trail markers were correct, but my estimates were wrong. My “10 mile trail run” was only 8.97 miles. The miles felt  longer because the trail has some steep, technical spots that slowed my pace considerably. Because I used this “10 mile run” as the basis for other mileage (I looped the route to get in my 15 and 20 milers) all of my training mileage was off. I was also running the route much slower than I should have.

This year I learned that honesty can be spelled with just three letters: GPS. For now, I’m still using my ancient Garmin Forerunner to track my mileage. But here some top of the line models that are in my wish list. These watches are perfect some of the longer ultras that I’m planning next year:


The World’s Oldest Propulsion

After many years of barefoot running, I’ve never used running as a transit system. My runs have been loops or out and backs. Today was different. Instead of hopping on Trimet to get from PSU to Gresham City Hall, I decided to run the 13 plus miles with my own two feet. Why not? It was a beautiful day, I got off a 5PM, and I brought my hydration pack,and my running clothes.

Pitiful Princess Strip Club
Pitiful Princess Strip Club in Southeast Portland

The run didn’t go as well as I expected. I took a wrong turn and added a mile. Most of the run was on the very busy thoroughfare that is Division St. The sun blazed over the exposed, cracked sidewalks which shimmered with heat fumes; black smoke piped out the noisy cars practically choking out my breathe; the route was exhausting and monotonous and since I ran against traffic, I constantly felt watched.

But it was also rewarding. I got see “gentlemen” entering the Pitiful Princess Strip Club, which neighbors a sketchy trailer park called “Golden Estates”.  Just before I passed the Pitiful Princess, two jumpy tweakers tried to block my path under 205. They  wanted money. But so did I, so I plowed my way through without much thought.

Aside from certifying that there are some sleazy sections of Southeast Portland, I also learned a few lessons from my run. First, running long distance from one place to another seems to be psychologically more difficult than running an out and back or laps*. When I run an out and back, I know I’m half way done when I hit the turn around, and that always lifts my spirits, especially on longer runs. But with a destination run, the half way point feels more like a punch in the guts. The long road ahead doesn’t let your brain turn around. The street just seems to go on and on. I also learned that it’s better to leave your work clothes in a locker than to stuff them into your hydration pack. My clothes bobbed up and down more than one of the Pitiful Princesses’s heads in back seat of a red Cadillac behind the strip club.  The straps chaffed my neck. Also, the  combined weight of the clothes and water felt like a jack hammer on my lower back.

I’ll probably run home from work again a few more times while the weather is nice and the sun is still up. Even though I had a challenging run this time around, it was nice to take a ride on the world oldest transit system, even if it did take me on tour of world’s oldest profession.

*Maybe that’s just because I’m not familiar with the route. Unfamiliar routes always seem longer.