February 9, 2015

Why Raramuri Trails Matter, And How YOU Can Help

I first became aware of Norawas de Raramuri through Caballo Blanco himself. He told me that a group of people and him had created a non-profit organization that gathered funds to help with the purchase of food vouchers for the runners of the Ultra, but that, eventually, maybe they would do something more.

“Like what?” I asked.

His answer struck me. He told me never to forget that the Raramuri had survived – and thrived – on their own for hundreds of years, pretty much without outside intervention. He warned that we should always consider the actions we take to make sure they are genuine Korima and not the result of good-intentioned but ill-planned, culturally-intrusive projects.

So when we had to do without him, both in our lives and in the work of Norawas, we tried to always remember and consider what he said. We had lengthy conversations about how we could broaden the actions of Norawas in the Canyons and, for a while, we agreed only that the ideal first step would be to have a project that came from our friends themselves, a local idea that stemmed from the very people this organization celebrates.

And it happened.

One day, a group of us ran up to Los Alisos, to pay a visit to our friend Prospero Torres. As he was telling us the story of his friendship with Micah and how, together, they had set in motion the first plan for a race in the Barrancas, he told us he had an idea he wanted to share.

He explained that as the first sponsor of the Ultra Marathon, he had offered food and comfort to the runners on their way to Batopilas. He had also helped Micah figure out the way to use through the complex network of footpaths the Raramuri use in their everyday life. Later on, when the race became bigger, Prospero was put in charge of maintaining a segment of those trails that spanned from the bridge at La Laja up to his ranch.

He noticed that, after the race, local Raramuris would use the trail in greater numbers. The footpath was smooth and wide, safe for the people and for pack animals, and therefore a better travel option than before.

He told us he wanted to do the same with more trails. He asked if we could help him fund a local team that would restore and maintain a much longer way. He wanted to revive the whole length of the original Caballo Blanco Trail which had been used for the very first race. We answered that it would be an honor. What an awesome idea ; giving work to local Raramuris reinvigorating the traditional footpaths that serve as foundation to their culture.

So quietly, we gathered the initial funds to begin the work on the trail, last year.

When I traveled back, in early 2014, Prospero had a big surprise waiting; he told me to meet him up the trail and get together with the work team. When I asked how I was supposed to find my way, he answered, all smiles : “From Los Alisos, just look up. You can’t miss that trail now!”.

He was right.

A couple steps from the gate of Los Alisos, I discovered a beautiful, smooth, freshly-worked trail that climbed and twisted and took me to ever-more beautiful sights, ever higher up the Canyon walls… until I reached this point :


That in itself was a delightful surprise. But what struck me straight at the heart, confirming the whole purpose of Norawas and the projects we sustain, was when I reached the point where the local team was working. They raised their heads up one by one. Manuel, Silvino, Isidro… all from the original, very first group of 7 Raramuri runners who ran with Caballo Blanco in 2004… and started it all :) They had all come to lend a hand. They had all come to show support.

With 2015 rolling in, now you can also show support. Not by doing anything flashy or over-the-top. We offer you to do it Raramuri-style, humble and quiet. We offer you to sponsor a mile marker on the trail with the message of your choice. Basically, we offer you to buy a rock, and to adorn it with a word, a symbol, a drawing, a totem animal.

I am proud to announce that one of these first rocks will be sponsored by a group of people I love, namely Martin Coulombe, Dominic Melançon, JF Boucher and the Pandora 24 Ultra team. I will be honored to take Pandora’s totem creature to Las Barrancas in a couple days.

If you have a minute, read the Caballo Blanco Trail Project description on Norawas’ blog. Better yet, make a donation specific to getting a mile marker and make a true difference, quietly, supporting a beautiful running culture we all celebrate.

Kuira Ba!

February 3, 2015

10 Reasons To Run in Winter

If you're anything like me, you don't deal with cold a single bit. I often say I'm a Mexican, born in the wrong country. I love deserts, big radiating sunshine and green forest trails. The fact is, I pretty much hate winter.

Over recent years, however, I discovered that my love for running outweights my adverse feelings for the cold season. I'll even admit that, under the right circumstances, I almost enjoy some good snowy trails... granted I take the following in consideration :

1. It's awesome training
Snow rarely packs hard enough to completely hold your weight, which means your feet are going to sink and twist at every step, which makes for excellent stability training and a tougher body altogether.

2. There's hardly anyone
You'll pretty much have the trails to yourself. The woods are silent, still and calm, which offers great opportunities for introspection and relaxation. Aside from the crispy sound of your own steps and the occasional jumpy little squirrel, it's you and Mother Nature and there's something powerful about that.

3. You don't need to drink so much
Cold weather, for some reason, seems to repress your need to drink. I probably hydrate 1/10th compared to summer running, without any adverse effects. Consequently, I usually go out with a single handheld bottle and it largely suffices to my needs.

4. You won't be cold, really
Anyone who lives in a cold country knows that we get miserable mostly when we underdress for the conditions. A pair of jeans in -20F simply cannot keep you warm. Multiple layers of running gear, however, are actually way warmer than the usual stuff we wear. When it gets really cold, I put on two pairs of socks, two layers of tights and a pair of shorts, a compression t-shirt with arm sleeves, a Polartech long-sleeve shirt, plus a base layer jacket and a windbreaker. I have a face mask, a buff for my neck and at least one hat. If I go out and start moving immediately, the cold doesn't even come through. And don't believe anyone telling you that you should be careful not to overdress because you'll get too hot. This is abysmal bullshit.

5. It's good for your form
Winter slips and slides, there's ice and loose snow and all sorts of variations on the trail. Therefore, you simply can't have a long stride unless you want to end up on crotches. The conditions pretty much force you to shorten your stride and to take quick, close-together steps in order to keep your balance. That's awesome news, because this teaches - or reminds - you proper running form.

6. It's a whole new challenge
Snow, ice and everything in between react very differently under your feet than, say packed dirt or sand. Winter dramatically changes your workouts by adding some sinking and sliding and it will add some new challenges to your every day runs, particularly when dealing with downhills. It requires another level of awareness and offers a welcome change in pace. Embrace it!

7. You're burning way more calories
When your body fights the cold, your metabolism shifts in high gear and you burn more calories per hour than you would in mild conditions. Add some harder winter running to that mix and you get a potent, high-demand workout that will burn insane amounts of calories for about the same level of effort as your summer runs. Ain't that a nice bonus?

8. It's gentle on the body
A couple inches of snow will efficiently cover up the gnarly parts of the trail and change it to a soft, smooth single-track path that is gentle on your legs and offers reduced "bounce", making for a very cushioned, comfortable ride.

9. Taking a spill isn't an issue
Running rocky, gnarly trails and falling will hurt you pretty badly. Although we rarely shy away from a bloody shin or a bruised arm, it's nice to know that falling, rolling and overall loosing your shit in winter will very rarely even leave a mark. You'll have a good laugh, get back up, shake off the snow and get going again, unscathed.

10. You'll feel like a badass
It's actually way more than a feeling. It's an absolute fact. Being out there on the trails while some cars won't even start, coming back home with ice hanging from your eyebrows and lashes is 100% pure, total badass!

So go on, give it a try. I'm sure you'll find it's better than staying inside, depressed, dreaming about the summer trails and being grossly miserable :)

January 6, 2015

Frozen Land

A little video I shot on my first run of 2015, on the snow-covered trails of Gaspesie, a beautiful region of Quebec filled with fresh air, nice people and good vibes :)

May this new year bring you good health, a strong body and a clear mind.

Run Free!