I was born in Port Jefferson, NY and moved to Mill Valley, CA in 4th grade. So while I speak both East coast and West coast I consider CA home. More specifically Marin County. Living in Marin in the 70’s was a great place to be a kid. Mountain Biking didn’t exist yet and almost no body trail ran so as kids we had Mt Tamm (Mill Valley is located here) to ourselves.
I played the typical sports but in Jr. Highschool I figured out I could run. I was that kid who was always in front of the P.E. class when we had to run around the field and I was asked to run Cross Country. I did this through Highschool along with wrestling and enjoyed both sports.
I knew I wanted to be a Marine from childhood and on Christmas break (1984) from Highschool I asked to borrow my mother’s car. I was only 17 at the time so I had to come back with the recruiter to get my Mothers signature. My mother was in tears but I was in and couldn’t be happier.
I went to Boot Camp September of 85’ in San Diego and then to ITS at Pendleton. I came out an 0311 and went straight to Amphib Recon School in Little Creek, VA. I was so nervous that I would fail that I buckled down and did quite well in my class. This only matters in that when I arrived at 3rd Recon I was assigned to Bravo Company based on my performance at ARS. Bravo Company had the DRP (Deep Reconnaissance Platoon) and I eventually ended up here as a result. This allowed me to go to several schools and participate in advanced training. Of course, in the late 80’s we never thought there would be another war so I got out in 1989 to go to school.
While attending school at Sonoma State university I took a job in a climbing store and this began a career in the Outdoor Industry. Most notably as it relates to this group I ran the softgoods division for Salomon and was in charge of all the apparel, bags, packs and footwear for quite some time. Also, while running Sales for Sierra Designs back in the day we purchased Ultimate Direction and I began a long friendship with the founder and now creator of Ultra Spire Bryce Thatcher.
I eventually started my own company, Waterbox and we made steel, plastic and glass water bottles. We eventually sold to Nathan Sports and I was their V.P. of Licensing and Innovation as part of the deal. Bryce and I would cross paths here as he was stepping away to start Ultra Spire and this left me and the team with the need to reenergize the brand.
We hired Jim Frazier as V.P. of product and together with the team we introduced the Vapor series of running vests, the L.E.D. lights that you now see and a complete redesign of all the bottles. During this time, I received several patents and as part of my deal, and since the patents really belonged to Nathan I was given $1 and a cheesesteak (Nathan was based in South Philly) for each patent as part of my contract.
For my part in trail running and in ultra’s I first became aware of ultras when a friend and co-worker Toper Gaylord signed up to run Western States. I never heard of this and it was around 97 or 98 and I couldn’t wrap my head around running a hundred miles. All I knew is Toph was running 10 miles before work and 10 miles after work and when the race was finished he was psyched to have his buckle.
I was commuting to work on my motorcycle one morning on Hwy 80 outside of Berkeley, CA when a steel pipe fell off a contractor’s truck in front of me. I tried to avoid it, but it directly impacted my right knee at about 55 mph and it was as ugly as you might expect. The accident is a story in of itself, but I managed to keep the bike upright and rode the final 4 miles to work.
My knee cap was completely shattered, and I had to sign a release to have my leg amputated. Luckily it didn’t come to that and four surgeries later and I found myself in the doctor’s office working through trying to walk normally again and for some reason I was channeling Toph and I said I wanted to run Western States. The doctor laughed out loud and told me with a dose of tough love that I wouldn’t be able to run 10 miles again let alone run 100.
That didn’t sit well with me but there wasn’t much I could do at the time other than keep working through my rehab and move on with life. Fast forward to my time with Salomon and I started running again, fast forward a bit more and a friend asked me to pace her during her first Wasatch 100 and fast forward yet again to when I was horribly out of shape and thought of being fit was just a memory and that’s when I signed up for my first ultra, the Wasatch 100.
I made all the rookie mistakes one can but, in the end, I got it done. I was within sight of the finish line with a mile or two to go (the course variation that went around the golf course) and was thinking of my accident and all the surgeries and pain and knew I was about to finish 100 miles. It didn’t matter that I was slow, all I cared about was completing the goal and giving that doctor the giant middle finger.
I’ll close this out with one final rehab story and that’s to say that I got in to Western in 2016 and got my own buckle and Toph was there with the best high five ever.
Never give up, keep fighting, and push forward. Who knows what will happen.