There are those moments in life you pinch yourself, wondering just how you ended up there. This is one of those moments. Here I am, hiking though the southern Sierra mountains, the Barrancas of Northern Mexico, with famed ultra-distance, Rarámuri runner Manuel Luna as my guide. Luna, featured in the best-selling book Born To Run, barrels ahead…
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A late-summer storm gathered in the distance. The brilliant hue of orange, purple and deep red clouds merged with nighttime blues as my flight, Miami to Havana, crossed the Florida Straits. Silence took hold, marking entry from known into that of an unknown. Only an hour prior I’d left the bright, digital billboards, city traffic lights and illuminating high-rises along Miami’s coast; a stark contrast to darkness now covering much of the island below.
“Once in a blue moon,” so the saying goes. And under such a moon, the alarm on my phone chimes. It’s three am, early on Saturday morning. My eyes rapidly open, coffee brews and a hot shower wakes my aching muscles in a modern beachfront bungalow. My first full day on the French Polynesian island of Moorea begins with this ritual, the same before any long run. Bib pinned to my shorts, shoes laced tight and I’m out the door. Moments later, I stretch before the starting line of the Tahiti / Moorea Marathon. Little did I know what adventure these islands, just a quick overnight flight from Southern California, had in store.
My watch ticks 11:30pm as I step out of the cab and up to the double French doors of the boutique Rivera del Rio hotel. A warm ocean breeze threatens to blow off my beach fedora. With just the slight crackle of the trees and the faintest crash of Pacific waves blocks away, Puerto Vallarta is calm tonight.
Before my knuckles meet the door with a knock, it swings opens, “You have my pizza? You’re two hours late!”
I write to you while on a journey heading deep into the base of Cooper Canyon, 20,000 square miles of jagged cliffs and gorges slicing through the remote Mexican landscape. Currently going on a restless two-hour-night’s sleep, I’m sandwiched between two other ultra-runners in a van filled with twelve. After 14 hours of driving, my tired body aches from doing nothing but bracing for the next speedbump on this half-paved gravel road. To most, I am nowhere near luxury, but we’d probably agree, this is the beginning of an adventure-