Category Archives: Planning

Guerrilla Camping

Disclaimer: If you use any information from this article to do guerrilla camping, and you end up lost, hurt, robbed, raped, run over, fined or imprisoned, it’s your own damn fault! This info is here for entertainment purposes only and is not intended as recommendations on how to choose a camp site. Always obey all laws and regulations, and respect private property.

Having said that… Here is how to camp anywhere you please:

Safety basics

Your safety depends on nobody knowing where you are. Don’t post your exact precise updated location on the Internet in the open. Don’t ask permission to anyone. Make sure your location is not nearby houses or businesses. Listen carefully for dogs in the area while scouting a location. Don’t turn any lights on your camp. Cover yourself with the sleeping bag while using your phone or computer.

Mountain lions, coyotes, bears, wild pigs, poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and drunk rednecks. All these are creatures you don’t want any contact with. Have some protection. No, I am not talking about condoms!

Practice Invisibility

You want to be visible while on the road, but the moment you step out you want to be invisible. Stealthy Ninja! Take off reflecting vests, put on black or dark green clothes.

No tents in bright colors! No reflective devices on the tent or on the stroller. Buy dark colors or spray paint it.

Look for a location that is hidden from the road and from houses. Trees, bushes, rocks, even just an inclination on the terrain may be enough. I used spray paint to make a camouflage pattern on the outer layer of my tent.

These are some places I camped on during my travels:

  • Casino parking lot, Biloxi MS
  • Edge of airport runway, Smithfield TX
  • Cemetery, Pensacola FL
  • Golf club, Llano TX
  • Orange grove, Lake Placid FL
  • Oil field, Braveland TX
  • Abandoned building, McCamey TX
  • Under a city’s welcome sign
  • Salt lake near El Paso
  • Mohave Wildlife Preserve

Remember the real meaning of signs:

Private property = Welcome!
No trespassing = Welcome!
Keep out = Welcome!
Beware of dog = Keep out!

Comfort

I bring two tarps. In good weather they stay on the ground folded in half to provide cushioning against little rocks and thorns that could puncture the air mattress.

I use an ultra compact air mattress and I don’t inflate it too much. Feels better that way.

Timing

Better find camp during the last half hour before sunset. After sunset you still have about 30 minutes of good light to set up camp. In desolate areas leave any time but if there is any question about safety I would prefer to lift camp and leave while still dark.

So I set up camp, take a towel bath, eat, and get inside my sleeping bag in less than an hour.

Stroller

Sometimes you can’t bring the stroller all the way to the camp site. Usually when there is a fence to jump. I just leave the stroller folded on a ditch, behind bushes, anywhere I can hide it.

I have a backpack on the stroller with all I need so I just have to take the backpack out. Very simple.

Finally…

Draw a circle of piss around your camp to tell all other animals that this is your territory for the moment. 🙂

Reality Check

With a little over half-way done I think I can make a pretty accurate comparison between what I thought it would be like to run across America and how it is going so far.

Better than planned:

I believed that camping would be detrimental to recover and that every time I camped it would be more difficult to run the next day than if I stayed indoors, ideally sleeping on a mattress. That prediction was completely wrong! I sleep very well camping, there are fewer distractions, the timing is more adequate, and I usually wake up refreshed and get on the road sooner than when I couchsurf. So camping is great!

Ice baths, massages, pain killers, special diet… I thought I would need all this to keep up. But in reality I am not missing any of it. The massage sessions were decisive during training, but now during the run they would be a luxury. The level of physical stress I am experiencing does not require any special care other than sleeping well for at least 8 hours, ideally 9 or 10. That is all I need to be good as new in the morning.

To keep a 27 mile average I would have to often run more than 30 miles on a day and would complete the run in 100 days. That is proving not just difficult but undesirable. I am having a much better experience, socializing much more, and enjoying my days a lot more at my current 24 mile average. That will mean finishing this in around 112 days plus the days off. So be it, I am liking it much more this way.

I used to think that other than by people interested in running I would be pretty much alone. I didn’t think I would make so many friends that are not into running at all. But to my happiest surprise I have been contacted by people from all walks of life both on the road and in the cities I go through, and I am making many friends among them.

Worse than planned:

I used to think that many people would try to locate me and run along a little or a lot. It has happened a few times but not nearly as often as I imagined.

Attracting attention of the press to this was very easy in Florida, where I thought it was going to be difficult, and has been very difficult since I left Florida, where I thought it was going to be the easiest. That part perplexed me.

I believed running clubs, running stores, would be interested in meeting, having impromptu runs and Q&A sessions. But the few running clubs we contacted made no effort to hide their indifference. I got some sponsorship from a waste management company, a catering company, but after contacting dozens of running stores without success I gave up on that part.

The running clubs are so indifferent to it that if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of some individuals, runners that brought me in anyway, I wouldn’t have any contact with any running club anywhere, both during training and during the run. I also noticed that I never find doctors or any healthcare organization maintaining or running or promoting any running club: It is always a running store, which ultimately does it because it is good for bu$ine$$. Weird, huh?

Update: The story was different in Phoenix, where the stores and the running clubs were receptive and welcoming!

Taking county roads is an invitation to get lost and end up in farmer’s backyard instead of where Google Maps tells you to go. Rural counties do a poor job of updating Google about which roads are not open to the public.

Just as planned:

  • Middle of Florida was the most difficult part of all.
  • Louisiana was the hardest state to go through.
  • Texas has been the friendliest place.

The first step is the most important

In a fabulous article written a few weeks ago, Paul Staso tells that since he ran across America in 2006 he has received emails from more than a thousand people wanting advice, financial assistance, coaching, and more toward their own dreams of crossing the continent on foot. What is most interesting is that out of those just 7, yes seven, actually started their run, and only 3 of them that have actually succeeded at it!

Only 3 out of more than a thousand!

Running across America is still an extremely rare endeavor. Keep in mind that about half a million Americans ran a marathon, and roughly 3,000 people have successfully climbed Mount Everest. However, only about 250 people have successfully crossed the United States on foot by walking or running. And of those only 11 did it running and without a support crew driving along with them.

Only 11 people crossed America running alone!
In comparison, 12 men walked on the moon!

All that brings me back to the importance of starting. I will feel more comfortable, free, and actually relieved the day that I start running. I know there are a lot of challenges to face then, but the scariest challenge, the greatest fear, is always the fear of not taking the first step.

Other runs across America

I have done some research to find out how often other people have done similar runs across America. First of all, I was happy to see that I am not the only lunatic to do it. But it is a small club. About half a million Americans have run a marathon, some 3000 people climbed the Everest, but just a handful have run ocean to ocean across a trans-America route solo without a support crew.

Another thing I noticed is how those cases remained nearly anonymous. There are very few references to them anywhere, and except for the most recent ones that had blogs and social networking to help, many are nearly forgotten. I found two great lists of runners that ran across America:

List of cross-country runners @ SeeJohnRun.com
USA crossers @ USACrossers.com

Air pollution

Running along the roads, near heavy automobile traffic, adds the risk of being struck by a vehicle and also exposure to air pollution emitted by those vehicles. Ground-level ozone, particulates, and hydrocarbons. All that damages lung tissue and cause a variety of respiratory problems.

It is very important to avoid that air pollution in general, and essential to keep an eye on traffic to avoid being hit. Even though it is customary and, in most places, defined by law in America that bikers and pedestrians travel in the same direction of traffic, I can’t get myself to do it. I prefer to travel against traffic so I can keep an eye on it and will always have a chance to jump out of the way if a distracted driver gets too close. With the traffic coming from behind I would never have that chance.

Books I recommend

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
Chris McDougall really did a phenomenal job of combining the history and unique lifeview of the Tarahumara indians, the experience of ultrarunning, the conspiracy of the multi-billion dollar running shoe industry, his personal experience fixing injuries with barefoot running, ultrarunning characters like Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Barefoot Ted, Luis Escobar, the crazy antics of Jenn Shelton and Billy Burnett, all cumulating in “the greatest race the world has never seen”. Chris is a total pro, and each chapter is packed full of facts, quotes, and antics that will get you laughing, thinking, and inspired to run. I think it’s one of the best running books I have ever read.

Ultra Marathon Man, by Dean Karnazes
Dean Karnazes, the writer and subject of Ultramarathon Man, is a wild man. He describes in great detail several of his ultramarathon feats including his first Western States 100, a failed Badwater Ultramarathon, the first marathon at the South Pole (and one of two people to run around the world naked – try to figure that out), and the first solo effort of The Relay (199 mile relay race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz). In the middle of the running stories and descriptions of his feet, his digestive challenges, his food intake (if you burn 600 calories an hour and you run for 48 hours, how do you manage to choke down 29,000 calories just to stay even?), he takes a crack at talking about how he does it, why he does it, what he eats, and whether or not he is sane. His philosophy is good, the running stories are awesome, and the motivational lift is huge.

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days
Are you a runner who wants to run more, run faster, run better or even to simply start running, and need a little bit of motivation, there is one book by one man that you want to read. Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes’ 50/50-Secrets I Learned Running 50 marathons in 50 Days-and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! book, with the help of Matt Fitzgerald delivers Karnazes’ journey of running 50 different marathons in all 50 states, in 50 consecutive days. Beyond telling of his story of this incredible feat, he writes tips on how you can recover more quickly, how to adapt to extreme conditions, how to prevent muscle cramps and overheating, how to pace yourself, and most importantly, how to stay motivated.

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak
This book is a first person account of the effects the continuing civil war in the Sudan has had on three young Lost Boys. Benson Deng, his brother Alephonsion Deng, and their cousin Benjamin Ajak all were between four to six years old when war exploded in their small world in the African Sudan. From that moment on until they were near their twenties, they lived in fear of the soldiers who killed and tortured their countrymen – and of their own people of different tribes who bullied and beat them. They lived on subsistence rations – if there were any at all. Many times there was nothing to eat or drink. Moved from refugee camp to refugee camp, they lost each other only to reunite somewhere else. For weeks and months these children ran naked, fearing soldiers, lions, hyenas, famine, diseases, and the brutality of war.

Yoga Beyond Belief, by Ganga White
Yoga is not spiritual hooha; there is a scientific element to the healing it provides alongside the spiritual. Yoga Beyond Belief is a guide for Yoga users to enhance their experiences with their meditations and rituals. Although aimed at those with some experience, it is simple enough for novices to read and learn the art.

Training strategy

Some runners may mistakenly believe they can simply scale up a marathon training program but this is not the best way to devise a training strategy. Instead the athlete should plan on increasing his weekly mileage as much as possible without making himself susceptible to overuse injuries.

Most people would assume that the normal progression would be 5K’s, 10K’s, 10 milers, marathons, and then a 50 miler. I think that is appropriate in most cases. However, I don’t think you necessarily have to run a marathon before you run an ultra. In fact, most runners won’t attempt an ultra after having finished a marathon or two. The thought of going almost twice as far, hurting twice as much, and training twice as hard, is just an unbearable thought.

You don’t hurt twice as much. In fact, ultras are easier than marathons. Marathons are much more intense and most people run the entire distance. In ultras, only the very elite are able to run 50 miles non-stop. Some elite runners (who run all the way) are beaten by other runners who mix in walking with their running.

Additionally the runner should also carefully evaluate the terrain and profile of the course and should be sure to incorporate similar hills and running surfaces into the training to ensure he is prepared for the race. Ultra marathons can usually keep high intensity speed workouts to a minimum during the training process because these workouts are not likely to be beneficial during the ultra marathon.

The key to success is time on your feet. You need to adapt to spending long periods of time on your feet and moving forward. Longer runs (>4 hrs.) can be broken up with walking breaks. In fact, learning to walk and then run again is a key to success in ultra-marathons.

New research shows that pacing in running races is controlled primarily by the subconscious brain. Throughout each race, your brain calculates the fastest pace you can sustain without endangering your life and uses feelings of fatigue and reduced electrical output to your muscles to ensure that you run no faster. The more experience you have as a runner, the more reliable these calculations become.

“Stopping briefly for walk breaks in both training and racing is the key to being able to move forward at all times,” says Buffalo Chips ultrarunner Becky Johnson, who finished her first 50-miler in 2003.

Another thing I do, this one without any scientific basis but just my intuition, is to sing. I think music is the best pacer you can have and when singing out loud while running and walking I exercise my breathing better, expand my aerobic capacity.

A 30 mile run is by no means easy no matter how you look at it. Even if you walk most of it, it is still a really long walk. You can’t control what happens after 20 miles or so. That is when most of the pain and suffering happens. It takes a lot of discipline and determination to finish the last part.

You can, however, control the pace of the first 20 miles to make the last 10 much easier. The most important is to resist the urge to start faster than the ideal pace. Now I make sure I keep a speed during the first 20 miles that is very comfortable and at points even feels really easy, because I know that if I push it hard in the beginning it will feel like hell at the end. I also make sure I keep drinking fluids and eat small portions along the entire way.

Making it possible

I will leave Miami towards Los Angeles through a route that will avoid the Interstate Highways and cross the country at the shortest distances possible, while passing through New Orleans and Houston, and not coming too close to the Mexican border, so I will be passing North of El Paso. That is a 2700 mile route.

The plan is to run an average of 30 miles a day and when necessary take a day off or make a much shorter distance. I will focus on recovery, take ice baths nearly every day, have massages as often as possible, and monitor myself carefully for signs of building injuries.

During days off I should just leisurely walk about 10-15 miles to prevent my legs from seizing.

Heat is the runner’s enemy. Running generates tremendous internal heat and forces the body to work extra hard to keep the muscles cool. When outside temperatures rise, the stress on the body is multiplied. So I decided to run during Winter. Starting date is set for December 3rd.

Researchers from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine performed statistical analysis to determine the effect of air temperature on running performance. The results showed a clear trend towards faster times under colder temperatures. According to that analysis the ideal temperature for running is just 41 degrees!