My favorite books to inspire, run smarter, blow your mind, and find more fulfillment in running and your life.
Let Your Mind Run:A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor I’m not going to say this was my *favorite running book of all time* because it would be insane to make that claim about any book, but I am putting it first on this list for a reason. What’s so great about this book is, it’s somewhat educational, it gives you a glimpse into the glittery and exciting world of the elite, it’s wildly inspirational, and the takeaway is bringing more positivity into your life and running. No book has had this big of an impact on my life since the first time I read Once a Runner! Big time.
The Science of Running:How to find your limit and train to maximum performanceby Steve Magness. Okay, Steve Magness is a genius, and this book is the ultimate nerd out for us science minded runners (which obviously isn’t for everyone, even I had a hard time following a couple of the chapters and I studied biochemistry, although I listened to it and I don’t know that was the right format). It’s intensely informative, and it makes the other running instruction manuals look like those learn to read books with Nan and Sand. I just saw when looking up a link for this post that Magness has a new book. the Passion Paradox, about the joy and unbalance of intensity and I am so stoked to read it I might put this post on hold until I have.
Born to Runby ChristopherMcDougall I resisted reading this for a long time, it was so popular and I had this conception that it was all about the whole silly barefoot running fad. It’s actually awesome, it’s a great story, there’s tons of research and conspiracy and science and history. Classic. Must read.
Strongby Kara Goucher The Amazon reviews are absolutely right, this is not a memoir or an instruction manual, there’s some but not a lot of meat to it. It’s the jumping off point for you to learn to write your own confidence journal and it does that perfectly. The contributions by other prominent women are the icing on the cake, this is an inspirational workbook!
Run or Die by Kilian Jornet Is it too obvious to include? I couldn’t exactly make a list of favorite running books without it though. I handwrote out the Skyrunner’s Manifesto and had it taped to my door for years. Kilian doesn’t give a lot of interviews [but when he does it’s a must listen, here’s Kilian’s episode of Rich Roll], so this is a rare and delightful look inside his wonderful head. His new book, Above the Clouds just came out, and I’m not all the way through it yet, it’s beautiful and mature, but it doesn’t have the same rawness as Run or Die. I relish in when they all lived in one studio apartment, called their skis and bikes their “girlfriends”, and dropped their rent on race fees. Speaking of girlfriends, I’m going to include Skyrunner here, Emelie’s book is delightful and inspiring, just like she is.
Run the Worldby Becky Wade Becky Wade was an elite college track runner that eventually moved on to marathons and in between she got a prestigious fellowship that paid for a year long odyssey visiting great running cultures of the world for a year and then she wrote a book about it. What a fun exploration of culture and community and why people run, beautiful and brilliant.
Meb For Mortalsby Meb Keflezighi I loved this deep dive into Meb’s world but not everyone wants to “Run, think, and eat like a champion marathoner.” There’s chapters on inventive strength moves, he gives you the nitty gritty of his training schedule and eating (although it infuriates me when he says many runners think they can eat whatever they want but it’s just not true, paraphrased), recovery, mindset, just everything. He wasn’t one of the great runners of our time by accident or talent alone, he devoted everything in his life to it and he lays it all out in this book. I think his somewhat arrogant tone is delightful here (but not in his autobiography) but I’m sure not everyone will agree. 🤷♂️
Once a Runnerby John L. Parker I know there’s folks that haven’t read it yet. We used to consider this the Bible. I’ve read it probably, 80 times? I read single chapters over and over sometimes. The flip side of getting too intense about it is it might lead you too far into the rabbit hole. It’s a fictional story about the pursuit of perfection and world records and Olympics with a cast of some technically fictional characters [universal avatars that you’ll recognize in folks today] and some real life historical heroes.
The graphics I designed for this post are all in my Threadless shop if you’re interested! Want to read more? I’ve just started writing about yoga again here.The Amazon book links are affiliate links. If you use any of the links to buy anything, it doesn’t cost you extra but it helps support this blog! xo
When I started writing about the winter buildout considerations, I realized I had way too much for one post so here’s its companion post, a list of things that I found made my life a lot easier and more comfortable after spending last winter in the San Juans. I read a lot of vanlife essentials lists when I was starting out a year ago, and these I think are all things I haven’t seen on other lists (a weather station is something that was super useful to me but you’ll find on everyone else’s lists too).
Forgot to put the cover on my bikes before an unexpected storm 😦
Down BootiesI had always wanted these anyway, for winter camping (or backpacking in the mountains when it’s not even winter), or mountaineering, because my feet are always cold, but I never wanted to spend the $$$. Nowadays, you can buy cheaper versions of everything down, and while I wouldn’t recommend cheaping out on your belay parka or sleeping bag, down booties is one place where the $20 version serves the purpose fine. Of course, are the Western Mountaineering ones nicer? Duh.
The Sun Something I had never considered in the camper was the direction I was parked relative to the sun. You’re probably familiar with this concept in the summer, because your windshield is a powerful and undesirable heat source. When you’re parking somewhere for the night, if you can, face the direction the sun is going to come up. You will honestly not believe how much heat you get from doing this and it will melt the interior ice buildup on your windshield quickly.
A Long Pivoting Snow Brush Look, I didn’t even know this existed until someone saw me trying to clean off my solar panel and brought theirs over to help. I’m short, van windshields are tall, and clearing off your solar panels is a necessary evil that’s difficult and dangerous when the van is buried in snow and you’re crawling around on the roof with a mediocre brush. There are a lot of variations of these super brushes, but the crucial qualities both for clearing the windshield faster and easier, and the ability to clear your panels while standing on the ground, are a pivoting brush and an extendable reach. It will make your life So. Much. Easier.
Clip on Oil Diffusers for your heating vents I was always concerned about the van developing a smell, and winter is harder because you’re going to be keeping the van mostly shut up. When it is warm enough to drive with the windows down to get some airflow, do it. The other golden rules of keeping stink out are: keep it clean, wipe down surfaces after cooking, odor absorbers, and essential oils. At first I was just randomly dumping oils around the van, in the bedding and rug and whatnot. Then I found on these clip on dealies, you put oil on the felt pads, insert them into the little clips, and clip them to your heating vents so while you’re driving, they heat up and spread lemon or eucalyptus or cedarwood or whatever delightful scent you choose all around. They work better and are much cheaper than a standard diffuser.
Windshield Insulation Last winter I used Reflectix that I had sewn a blanket to one side of. You’re looking for the opposite effect than the summer, any reflector you want on the inside, and you want the outside to be a dark color that draws heat in. I had hoped the blanket would absorb some of the moisture that collects and freezes on the windshield, and that hasn’t worked yet. But covering the windshield and any exposed windows while you’re parked and they’re not in direct sunlight with ANYTHING will make a huge difference heat wise. I am definitely making nicer ones this year that velcro on and are more heavily insulated. This couple makes really nice ones if you have the $$ and don’t want to make them yourself. These nice folks made their own and posted here about it for some guidance if you’re going to diy, but there’s a ton of ways to do it from very cheap to very spendy. I’m going to use some of their ideas and but do it cheaper and spend less time for this winter.
Rubbing Alcohol in a Spray Bottle I don’t remember how I found this out, but rubbing alcohol melts ice. The only moisture I really had trouble with was the inside of the windshield and front windows. Whether I was just existing and breathing, or especially if I was cooking or running the heater, there would inevitably be a layer of ice in the morning. The best way to deal with this is to park in the direction of the sun and not have to drive anywhere until the sun came up and melted and dried the windshield ice itself. But I worked at the ice park last year and had to be in before sunrise. Melting ice off the windshield takes FOREVER if it’s cold and you’re just waiting for the defroster to do it, so I’d first use my ice scraper on it, then spray rubbing alcohol on it and wipe it with a towel. This is why you see towels on dashboards in the winter, ps, to collect all the melted ice water when the windshield defrosts in the morning.
Electric Blanket & Electric Gloves I was actually gifted an electric blanket for Christmas one year, I can run it off solar and it’s much more efficient to warm you up than running a heater to heat the space, and I absolutely love it. For comfort level, it is the biggest difference, and if you’re part timing or not going to be in horrifically cold temps, I would go this route first before getting a heater. I also bought these cheap gloves with heating elements in them, the heating elements are removable and you can put them in socks or boots or other gloves or anything. They only take a tiny bit of electric to run and produce a small amount of heat, but it was a big comfort level difference when I was doing computer work in the morning.
Sleep Setup I had a variety of pieces that I tried together in different combinations and what I ended up really liking was a regular comforter and a very heavy sleeping bag (flannel on the inside, heavily insulated, and some type of plastic outside, the kind you car camped with as a kid) unzipped as a top layer. I considered buying a really nice down comforter, but it would’ve been spendy and it wouldn’t have been versatile enough for summer. I also didn’t want to use my really nice and expensive UL down bag on an every day basis. In the summer, I still sleep with my medium weight comforter or nothing, and have the big heavy sleeping bag put away. This set up was warm enough to sleep comfortably in in all temperatures, the variations being that sometimes I went to bed with my down coat and booties on. I only ran the heat at night if it was below zero, preferring to sleep with Pip in our cozy little den then turn the heat on when I woke up.
Hydroflasks and Yetis I was never a hot drinks person until I started ice climbing. The same principle applies to winter vanlife. Hot bevies completely change your quality of life. I boiled a lot of water on the stove, and every time I was at a coffee shop, I’d have them fill up one of my big Hydroflasks with hot water that I could save for later. Pips and I both drank mostly warm water all winter. You can put emergen-c or tea bags in it, you can use Better Than Bouillon to make broth, lots of options. Klear bottles are identical to Hydroflasks but cheaper. Yetis do keep stuff hot for longer, it’s noticeable, but they’re so $$$ (save money and get one free at the Ice Fest).
Rugs I mentioned this in the buildout post, but just in case anyone’s on the fence (I was), you NEED RUGS if you’re going to live in your van in the winter. No matter how much insulation you have (I have 2″ of foamboard and a 1/2″ of plywood AND laminated flooring), the floor will be unbearably cold to the touch at all times. You also need rugs because you will never be able to keep up with the mess you track in with snow, and at least a rug will absorb it and dry out later.
Hope you got some good ideas from this post, how do you stay warm in the winter??
I was thinking about the phases I’ve gone through of OTS, it’s a lot like having a long injury. If we can talk about what we go through, it won’t be so scary, and I have tons of tips to help you get through it, because none of us are alone. Here are the five stages of grief:
the furor: I was reading a book during this time about developing a healthy psychology around your sport, and they said it’s natural to feel angry when you’re injured, and one idea for coping is to assign yourself an amount of time that you can be as angry as you want, then after the time is over you must let go. They suggested 2-14 DAYS, depending on severity. I had been angry at that point for about THREE MONTHS. Needless to say, I never picked up that dumb book again.
watching sports movies/reading about others rad pursuits etc and weeping [in related news, Kilian Jornet has a new book, and Nolan’s 14 has seen at least eight finishes already this year, including new men’s and women’s FKTs][less than 24hrs after I published this, Megan Hicks set yet another women’s FKT, amazing]
the epic search for a new identity: experts and most regular folks agree, if your identity is intertwined with one endeavor, and it’s taken away from you, you will probably have a breakdown. Which is why you should suddenly start applying yourself to OTHER endeavors. Perhaps you’ll spend days making a new resume and applying for a job, sign up for college courses online in grant writing or physiology, write a novel, blog endlessly, or start your own nonprofit.
the final stage is obviously just when you’re better again. This isn’t the Great Riddle Gate in the Neverending Story, where I expect that we’ll all have supreme confidence in ourselves and can walk through unscathed. Maybe you will have a healthy relationship with the thing that’s holding you back by now and you can call it acceptance, but maybe not, and that’s okay. btw, I recommend a lot of stuff in this post and NONE of it is sponsored in any way.
So how to survive? The most helpful thing to me was understanding specialization, and how that was never going to make me happy. When Steve House says, “Avoid this at all costs, because you will lose everything,” I at first was like “F***! THAT IS THE TRUEST THING EVER.” But upon months of reflection I’ve realized, what’s so f***ed about it is that if you can lose everything so easily, you didn’t have enough to lose. And THAT is the key to it all, my friends. Here’s a couple thoughts on specialization that I’ve gleaned from all this reading and thinking:
If you spend all your time trying to be the best at something, you will probably fail, and that won’t make you happy. If you succeed, which if your sights are set that high, you probably won’t, the fulfillment you feel will be fleeting. And one more really important thing, by nature it is almost impossible to specialize in something and not let it become your identity. If you sacrificed everything else for running, and then you’ve lost it, WTF do you have? Nothing. I’ve been working on building an identity outside of running basically every day and it is not easy but it is WORTH it. So here are my thoughts on making it through this shitty time.
It is completely okay to veg for a while. You probably need to, and you definitely deserve to, and right now I’m absolving you of any guilt. Bingeing Netflix seems to be America’s pasttime of choice, but you could also spend this time playing Candy Crush, sleeping, reading, daydreaming, or staring at the wall. Actually that reminds me that sleeping is the best way to spend your time now, as it is the absolute best way to heal whatever is wrong with your body and if you have OTS, you’ll be sleeping excessively for a while anyway.
Once you’ve distracted yourself for a suitably long time, you might start feeling more energetic and be ready to focus on other things. You might start devoting yourself to other pursuits, or your might need to spend some time in a gray area of slightly more stimulation than rewatching Avatar but less than starting a college course. Here’s an list of ideas to cover the spectrum of not completely mindnumbing to pretty interesting and involved:
Google Science: I’m not going to recommend staying up on the actual news because you’re probably already too depressed/stressed/fragile but the latest in science and technology is generally pretty exciting and mostly positive.
Take a deep dive into the Semi-Rad archives. Friday inspiration will give you all sorts of things to do, plus it’s somewhat outdoorsy without drowning you in FOMO. usually.
Learn a new language. This might not have fit in the fun/not overwhelming category before they made all this game-based app languages stuff. Now with sites like Duolingo, it’s free and easy and fun. I’ve been working on Spanish because as soon as I’m better (and the world isn’t on lockdown) I’m buying those plane tickets to Mendoza for Aconcagua! In a similar category, I also was hooked on Lumosity, which is like brain games that are also fun, so you can at least imagine you’re bettering yourself while playing free, addictive games.
I also want to tell you that during the other phases, I reverted back to the veg phase a few times, and I think that’s okay because it was apparently what I needed at the time. Once I got hard into this app game Animal Restaurant? It was weirdly fulfilling (until it wasn’t) and I have no shame about it, and you shouldn’t either.
Nourishment: It’s not exactly a distraction, but I think it’s the right time to mention that you should also take really good care of yourself, that can only help you. Remember when Kilian posted that his broken leg healed miraculously fast and he was back to racing in like two months or something and it was all because of spirulina? For folks with OTS, adrenal supplements to help your body regulate especially cortisol production is super helpful. Mushrooms like cordyceps are great for healing. I went to an acupuncturist in the winter and she was like, “You BADLY need nourishment!” And prescribed me this Chinese medicine just to help my body get back to homeostasis. While it’s on my mind, acupuncture helped a lot. There’s no one size fits all recommendation here, just a jumping off point for you to look into how best to take care of yourself when your body is maybe undernourished and could use some extra support. And it’s not just what you consume, it’s a good time to do things that make you feel nourished, like spend time with friends and family, have rituals that make you feel taken care of, maybe think of some affirmations that make you feel good, sleep tons and tons.
The furor phase. Two things: I don’t think everyone will go through this. My friend was recently hit by a car while biking and broke both of his femurs, and I don’t think he ever felt any anger about it, because that’s just not his way. He also recovered in record time, blowing everyone’s minds, because science tells us that hope and optimism, after sleep, are the best things for healing. The other thing is, I do think if you enter the furor phase, it’s only fair to let yourself be furious, at least for a certain amount of time. I let mine go on for WAY too long. I actually think I agree in retrospect with that book I mentioned earlier, but I wasn’t ready to hear that yet. Assign yourself a certain amount of time and just let yourself be pissed. Yell and scream about it, be super obnoxious, get it all out, burn it all up. Then move. the fuck. on. I saw another friend go through a long term injury who got stuck in self pity for too long, and that’s not going to help you either. Pity and Anger will prolong your recovery, that is proven, it’s science. No shame about going through these phases, but you MUST move on at some point. That’s coming from someone who really knows, you can sabotage your recovery this way. I tried a variety of types of meditation to help me with stress and attachment, but ultimately I think you just need to soldier on to the next phase.
Feeling the tragedy. You can definitely skip over this one, but I included it because I feel like it’s inevitable that you will do it, even if you’re not trying to. [And it can happen at any time. Currently, the morning after I posted this, I’m mid-tragedy spiral after deep diving Ryan Hall’s IG. There’s more hope now than sadness, but I’m still crying my eyes out]. Like one day you’ll be three hours into a loop of those mini docus that Salomon and North Face and everybody make, and you’ll be soaked and all hoarse from the sobbing and you’ll be like, “Dammit! Why am I doing this to myself?!?” The real worst part of this is isn’t even wallowing, it’s that you’ll get to the end of the Barkley: The Race that Eats its Young or Running for Good or Made to Be Broken or whatever and you’ll get all stoked and inspired and be all, “I’m going to start training for the Barkley!” Then you’ll remember that you can’t, and that will be the worst. THE WORST. [if you can’t help yourself, watch Emelie be the happiest most adorable mtn runner in the world here]
Now this is finally the fun part, when you start looking for other things to work on and use your energy for self betterment and good in ways that hasn’t occurred to you yet. Another thing I did wrong that resulted in tons of suffering and probably prolonged my recovery is, I vehemently believed for at least six months that I was like, almost better and on the verge of being able to start training again and would be back to my normal self any second now. Then I would feel slightly better and be like OMG I CAN HAZ TRAINING! And then I’d feel terrible and realize that was a dumb mistake. Then I’d do it again. This is a difference between injury and OTS, if you have OTS your training will never be the same again, and the sooner you realize that the better. And it doesn’t have to be bad, I’ve come to terms with that I might be healthy enough to train and run hard again some day, but when I get there, it’s going to have to look a lot different. And that’s okay!
So maybe not everyone had their entire identity wrapped up in their running and can use their newfound time to devote it to all their other existing endeavors, work or hobbies or whatever. But I’m guessing that a big part of how you got here is that you were specializing, like I was, and with all my research into specialization psychology and just plain seeing it in my friends, I definitely think finding a healthier connection to your identity and sense of self, and building a life for yourself that’s rich in lots of different things, is going to be how you not only feel better NOW, but prevent this in the future.
I used to be heavy into yoga, and my old teacher would always say, “You are not your body, you are so much more than that.” And it helped me build a healthy identity. Then all sorts of other things happened in my life and I lost that. Say this with me, I am not my running, I am so much more than that. I am not my running, I AM SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. [here’s a fun and related read if you want to get scientific about it that I found by accident] That said, this is the perfect time to find other things you care about and devote some of your energy to getting good at other things. Remember, being the best at something was never going to make you happy anyway, it’s the endeavor that gives you a sense of fulfillment. So what else can you get up to that’s meaningful to you and will help you feel fulfilled?
Play and practice an instrument. This IS the right time to finally learn how to play ukelele or violin or harmonica, and music is a very satisfying hobby that you can see progress in quickly.
Take courses online in basically anything. There’s websites that are totally free, like Khan Academy, and ones that charge you to hop in on actual college courses in exchange for certification like Coursera (you can still audit on Coursera for free), there’s job sector sites like Nonprofit Ready with tons of free courses in fundraising and management and grant writing. I had a multi-month injury a few years back and I wrote a book about Pet Sitting that still sells decently on Kindle, and took a bunch of graphic design courses, and both of those things still serve me regularly.
Start writing your novel, or children’s books, or YA fiction, or blog, or journal, or memoirs, or nonfiction about some obscure snake in the Amazon, or lists of streaming movie or TV recommendations (the world NEEDS more of those) or whatever.
Explore new ways to get involved in your community by volunteering or starting a book club or just spending more time with your friends (safely, OBV). This is a great idea for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list them all. I’ve been thinking about putting together ski lessons for kids this winter, and maybe some kind of girl-focused outdoorsy nonprofit since we don’t have any of the big name ones here in Ouray, and I’m only just starting to investigate those things but it feels great to be investing my time in something more meaningful than *myself*.
Was this stuff useful? What helped you get through? Calling for comments, let’s get through this together. XO
Tis the season for making winter preparations, for those of us choosing to live alternatively (ooh good euphemism). I woke up to snow on the mountains this morning!! One year ago, after two years in the camper, I sold it and bought a van, and I did my buildout (with an extreme amount of help from my dad) last September with the intention of spending the winter mobile in the mountains and after a year in Sisu the Skimobile at high altitude, here’s part one: insulation, heat, and other winter buildout considerations.
early winter ’19/’20
I did the buildout with winter in the mountains CLEARLY in mind. There’s 2″ of foam board insulation on the floor and ceiling, foam board in the windows, there’s spray foam and fiberglass insulation stuffed into every nook and cranny and hole in the frame, there’s a layer of Kilmat (I got that for free, it’s sound deadener that’s already sticky on the back, awesome) and Reflectix (used a lot of spray adhesive for that) on every bit of metal, and some of the panels I used to cover the camper’s windows stuffed in there too (those were made of cardboard, Reflectix, and quilt insulation).
foam board’s and floor is in
all interior insulation is done and paneling’s started, you can see the fiberglass in the door
rear door in insulation process
There’s paneling on the walls, the ceiling is made of paintable wallpaper spray adhesived to the foam board, so that doesn’t have really any extra insulative effect (and it was a pain to put up but turned out REALLY cute). There’s 1/2″ plywood on top of the foam insulation floor, then a friend gave me some leftover laminate flooring, then I put rugs on top of all of it because regular floor is TOO COLD in the winter. When I went to Ikea with a friend, he did not believe me that I expected to get a floor rug to cut up for $12 (but that’s just true!). I did not want permanent carpeting because I knew it would get trashed with snow and mud and boots, and I wanted to be able to pull it out and clean it, dry it, or replace it, easily.
Here you can see the closet full of jackets and Gore-tex pants, the rugs, the bins, and just barely my skis hanging above my bed.
I’ve mentioned before, and I’ll do it again, I was not trying to do an expensive buildout and made a lot of decisions with the mindset of, if I spend too much on the heater, I won’t actually be saving anything by not paying rent. You can pay A LOT for a heater. The forced air propane furnaces that are reviewed so well by vanlifers start around $745 (for a Propex, which are dope heaters, they don’t create moisture, but they do have to be externally vented which is a complicated job and a permanent change to the vehicle’s frame)
Alternative ways to spend $745:
Lou Harvey flew to 4 continents in two weeks and only spent $745 on airfare. Coincidence? I doubt it. That’s maybe not the best example of what you could buy for $745 but it’s an excellent point.
Almost 75 Pizza Hut dinner boxes, but only if you live near a Pizza Hut.
Rent in lots of places, two months rent if you have a roommate.
I did a lot of research and read a lot of reviews, as usual, looking for a combination of most affordable and effective/safest. I settled on a catalytic heater, which are very efficient and very safe, as compared to the standard (and cheap) Mr. Buddy. The Camco Olympian was consistently well reviewed both on Amazon and by copious vanlife youtubers. I went with a Wave 3 because it was cheaper basically. It’s the smallest version, thus lowest output. It would be fine for the limited space, except that I was going to be up high all the time and altitude affects their functioning. I read a variety of complaints about altitude and decided to do it anyway, and the reality was, it doesn’t have as much output at altitude but it still works fine. It was a lot better in Ouray (7,900ft or so) than in Leadville (10,150) or the pass (11,018), but in all of those places it kept us warm, possibly (probably) thanks to all the insulation.
Not a great pic, you get the gist though. The heater is put away for the summer so I had to use this old one, it’s actually pre-laminated floor.
A lot of people worry about the carbon monoxide possibility, my understanding was that with a catalytic, it’s unlikely, but I can tell you all the time I ran it, the carbon monoxide detector never went off and I did test the detector once by putting it next to the Biolite so I know it worked. The moisture thing that people talk about also wasn’t a problem, there was more moisture buildup (frozen) on the windshield when I was running the heater than when I wasn’t, but it wasn’t significant and I never had any problems with dampness (I’m going to do another post with winter essentials that will cover the windshield probs). In fact, after a day’s work at the ice park or a day of backcountry skiing, Pip and I would both be soaked from the snow and running the heater dried everything up. I used approximately one propane tank/month in the coldest months, December and January.
The heater is mounted on wood that’s installed behind the passenger seat, I wanted it off the floor for better circulation. It’s connected to a propane tank that sits in the passenger seat foot well but is movable if I’ve got a passenger besides Pip (or what actually happened is, passengers sat side saddle with a Pip on their lap).
a surprise snowstorm caught me unaware and I didn’t get the cover on my bikes 😦
Other Winter Buildout Considerations
Roof Vent: I did not want to do this, after all the problems I had with the camper’s roof in the winter. Snow is EXTREMELY PERVASIVE, I was constantly re-waterproofing the roof of the camper and no matter what I did to the screw holes that held the solar panels on, I could never get them not to leak during snow melt. The van’s panel is held on by the roof racks, the ONLY structural change I made to the body of the van was the two holes that the panel’s wiring runs through to the controller inside. This was a calculated risk, and I take a lot of care removing snow around there and there’s piles of caulk and waterproofing around it.
Water: I also chose not to do a sink or pump and only have portable water storage. I don’t heat the van when Pippa and I are not in it, so there’s too many times water can freeze. I used gallons and Nalgenes and Hydroflasks, and got water at the coffee shop, the gym, the hot springs, the public bathroom, or the grocery store. If a gallon freezes, you can melt it out pretty quickly either in front of the heater or on the dashboard in the sun.
Organization: I have two pairs of skis (an AT setup for backcountry and skate skis, I actually sold my Nordic classics because three seemed to be TOO MANY in the van. Nordic skis are very light and good for hanging, so they hang over my bed. The AT skis, being so heavy, go under the bed behind my gear/clothes/boots bins. Unfortunately, I bought a ski box from some guy for cheap and it didn’t occur to me that it might not be long enough for either pair of skis (d’oh!). Ski and climbing boots (and crampons) go in a big Rubbermaid bin underneath the bed during winter, while they’re in use, and in the roof boxes in the summer.
I badly wanted a closet because my various jackets (down puffy, down midlayer, soft shell, hard shell, etc) and pants (insulated hard shell, work bibs) wouldn’t sit in a box very well and I thought they’d store better hanging (they do, and the other upside is when they’re wet, I can put them away and they’ll dry there). My axes hang on a hook, then are secured by a velcro strap that I screwed into the side of the closet. Gloves of all kinds pretty much always live on the dashboard. You can definitely pick out a winter vanlifer by all the many things drying on their dashboard.
Okay, that’s enough for now. I’ll do another post with Winter Vanlife Essentials for like, windshield stuff, bedding, miscellaneous comfort things, etc.
I was climbing Hope Pass from Clear Creek. I had wanted to put up a hard effort in Missouri Gulch, but while riding my bike from camp to the TH, a Subaru stopped me to ask if I had happened to see their bikes anywhere, or anything related to them getting stolen off their rack in the parking lot while they were hiking. I hadn’t seen anything, and it put a sour taste in my mouth for MO Gulch so I kept riding on to the Sheep TH and hid my bike in the woods there instead.
I could see the top of the pass, I was on that last long switchback, and I was feeling like I really might’ve pushed it so hard that I might actually explode this time when I looked at my watch for my heart rate. I had put on a heart rate monitor today finally, in an effort to find more data that might explain why I felt so bad. I had felt bad for over a month. It read 201. I finished the final steps and collapsed. I had put up a solid time, but at a price. Later that night, I was relaxing and watching TV. My heart rate monitor read 110. Something was really wrong, and I had the evidence now but no actual understanding. This was one year ago.
I actually had a photo from that very night on Hope Pass
Once again, I’ve done a poor job of lightening up this experience and this post is not very funny, but I think it’s important to get more information about OTS out there for anyone who needs it. Check your heart rate, people! It’s preventable.
My first clue was when I arrived in Provo, Utah the day before the Speedgoat. I walked Pippa around the campground and went for a short swim. I was exhausted. After a three week progressive taper. I knew something was wrong then, but it was easy to explain it away. It’s just that heavy feeling after taper, I told myself. I didn’t keep it sharp enough this week. It’s from the drive. I’ll be fine. Once I get started, I’ll be fine. The first steps off the start line, I was exhausted. The first mile ticked by, I was exhausted. I descended and was exhausted. By the time I got to the second big climb, I wanted to give up. I wrote about it after. I said I wasn’t strong enough, that I didn’t train hard enough, that I didn’t want it badly enough and I mentally gave up. I told myself every disparaging thing I could rather than getting curious enough to look into that something was really wrong with my body.
Pip modeling how I felt
This is a common problem with OTS and it’s how it goes so far so fast, that you start underperforming, you start feeling bad, and instead of backing off and looking into what might be wrong, you push harder. You blame yourself. You train harder, you try to dig deeper. Is that cultural? Dig deeper, dig deeper. Show your soul. What are you really made of? I am made of blood and bone and skin and muscles controlled by a failing nervous system, but I don’t bother to look into it, because the only reason I could fail is that I didn’t try hard enough.
Random picture from this year actually
Shadow Mountain, I did some running in the Tetons in ’19 but a lot of biking to get Pips out
I went back to Leadville and tried to run twice a week. I was aware that I wasn’t recovering between runs, and I guess I thought that would be enough time to make it up. It wasn’t. I felt worse every day, whether I ran or not. One day, I slept all day and woke up in the afternoon at like 3pm, I saw my sister had texted and I started tapping out a response, but I couldn’t hold my phone up with my arm long enough. I collapsed back onto the couch and slept through till the next morning. I hadn’t learned the difference yet between like, tired from running versus full body fatigue. Fatigue makes your fingernails and your ears feel tingley and brutally exhausted, along with every other piece of your body. I put a heart rate monitor on.
When I got back that night from my Hope Pass run, I pulled out Training for the New Alpinism. There was something in there, I knew it, I had read it, about heart rates and if your heart rate won’t go down between runs. What was it? “Avoid this at all costs, you will lose everything.” It said. I would eventually get confirmation, but I knew it the moment I read it and reread it and reread it. The parasympathetic nervous system symptoms, the heart rate, the sleeping, the depression, the underperforming. He said overtrained runners would try to compensate for their underperformance by training harder and pushing more. He ain’t kidding.
Nez Perce and the South Teton group from the lower saddle
Later I would learn about the hormone production imbalances, particularly that I would have no cortisol in my body, then suddenly my adrenal system would just dump it and my heart would rush like it was really going to explode and I would suddenly feel this whole body tightness. And what a relief to find out what was happening because it happened for about the first three months and it was TERRIFYING! I would be watching a rom com and suddenly my heart rate is 185, and it comes on like a wave in your whole body. Like something is definitively happening, but wtf is it?
Hope Pass was my last run until November, I think it was. Steve House said the only cure is complete rest until your nervous system sort of resets itself and everyone and everything else I could find agreed. It was hard to believe I might ever feel better. I would wake up every morning and my resting heart rate was in the 90s, then the 80s for a while, then eventually got stuck in the 70s. After a few months, it got back down to the low 60s, and that was around the same time the other symptoms started going away. I could feel the depression leave like an evil spirit peeling out of my body.
Looking for pictures for this, I realized before I was fully better I tried to go ice climbing bc Lincoln Falls was in on Oct 15th. The 500ft hike up just about killed me, but the morale boost was probably worth it (photo by Chris Jewell)
I progressively slept and ate less, [inflated appetite was also a symptom, and since I was filling in at the coffee shop during that time, I had no shortage of quiche and scones available]. After a couple months, I was basically eating and sleeping like a regular person, even dipping below eight hours naturally sometimes. The full body fatigue went from being constant and pervasive to in and out, and that would continue for another six months or so, fatigue being a definite signal that I had overdone it either physically or stress-wise.
I say I was on complete rest, but I was walking and biking w/ Pip still to get her out, just taking it EXTREMELY easy and only a couple miles here and there.
I had read things that had hinted that you would wake up one day and feel better. I had been tracking my symptoms and noting such significant improvement, then one day in November I did wake up and feel better. They say to stay on complete rest until you suddenly have the strong desire to go out and do something, and I did suddenly have the desire. I went for a short, easy skate ski. It was amazing to move again. A song came on by Tokyo Police Club that I’d never heard before, “And I’m still amazed you made it out alive, after what you did / It’s good to be back, it’s good to be back, it’s good to be back.”