"A blank spot on the map is an invitation to encounter the natural world, where one's character will be shaped by the landscape. To enter wilderness is to court risk, and risk favors the senses, enabling one to live well.

...The time had come to protest with the heart, that to deny one's genealogy with the earth was to commit treason against one's soul."

-Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I am here in the ultra hip Ace Hotel lobby/Stumptown Coffee seating area, posting this.  The ambiance is pleasing and everything looks nice but the coolness is pretty intense.  Anyway, I needed to use the internet and the coffee is great.
Since writing the following piece I had to return to the Bay Area to get my car and stuff that was stored there.  I was able to get in some good runs in Marin and the East Bay Hills while there and then had a proper adventure with the infamous Animal Athletics co-founder, Tony Barbero, in the Columbia Gorge after we caravanned back up north in a Subaru/U-Haul truck tandem.  I've included a few pictures from the California trip for your enjoyment.  
And, of course, I'm feeling stronger everyday and patience is the key.  I'll relearn it over and over as long as I live.


Angels Rest, looking west toward Portland along the Columbia Gorge
The Marin Headlands, looking south to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge

        I have been incredibly fortunate to have gotten in touch with two great ultra runners since arriving in Portland, Nick Triolo and Yassine Diboun.  When I ran with Yassine, in Forest Park, it was the week before the Chuckanut 50k, up in Bellingham, WA.  Luckily for me he was tapering, which meant that he wouldn't be running at his normally blistering pace.  We had a good time and it was a nice introduction to a new friend and an amazing park, my new local training grounds.  A week later, after finding a nice apartment in the Alphabet District, I headed out to the Columbia Gorge with Nick, as Yassine was battling it out a few hundred miles north.  

As we drove out of the city the scenery instantly demanded my attention.  After lots of rain and grey, the sun and blue skies were almost shocking.  Mt St. Helens and other snowy peaks on the Washington side appeared out of no where to the north and Mt Hood looked relatively Himalayan to the southwest.  Huge cloud forms danced on the sky and clung to the peaks, collected in the valleys.  We drove less than thirty minutes, parked at the Angels Rest Trailhead and set off.  Nick led the way, ascending quickly up the steep trail.  It was a fairly stout little climb, ~1,500 ft. in 2.3 miles, the first part of the ~12 mile loop.  I chugged along behind him for a very short while, and then realized that there was no hope.  He fierce pace never slackened and he quickly was out of sight.  Goddamn it! Ahhhh... Go easy Willie, just go easy.  My ego began to cry out like a weak and pathetic puppy as my lack of fitness became brutally apparent.  I tried to relax and enjoy it, which wasn't too hard given the grandeur around me, but my legs and lungs burned and I finally had to resort to a few short periods of hiking.  I felt like a weak little brother trying to tag along.  Don't be too hard on yourself, remember you haven't been training.  You'll be feeling better soon enough.  

The trees thinned and the trail became more exposed and rocky just before reaching Angels Rest.  I arrived to find Nick quietly sitting there on his craggy perch, enjoying the views west to Portland and the glory all around.  I was embarrassed and apologized for my tardy arrival.  Of course, being the good person he is, he simply assured me that he was just psyched to be out there and that I shouldn't worry.  He graciously let me lead the next section, a rolling descent to the top of Wahkeena Falls, one of the dozens of stunning cascades that tumble thunderously into the Gorge.  And then another climb.  Not as big as the first but, as Nick put it, it would "get my attention."  Right he was.  Once more I floundered upward, hiking short bits here and there, feeling the burn, feeling the sting of a wounded ego, as he absolutely motored off into the distance.  Then we hit the snow.  Our high point was Devils Rest, and there was a good bit of the white stuff on the ground as we neared it, then falling from the sky as we pressed on.  Angels Rest and Devils Rest are named for the quality of views from each point; the former being expansive and spectacular and the latter having no real view at all, just a little rocky bulge in the thick forest.  I struggled along, spouting excuses when I could get Nick within ear shot: "Man, I haven't run up something like this since last November," and so on.  After that it was all down hill, no pun intended, but my hobbled body protested even then, beginning to cramp as I tried to keep up.  Normally downhills are one of my specialties, but not that day.  Time to let go.  Let the ego just dissolve away.  There is no me, no I.  Just nothingness and a cramping fool out in the woods.  We took some pictures at Angels Rest on the way down and I finally managed a decent clip as I lead the way back to the car past literally more than a hundred other hikers and runners, inspiring and humbling to me in their own right.  

Nick Triolo and Willie McBride at Angels Rest on the way back down

Regardless of my physical state I had a great time, thrilled at the proximity of such wonderful landscapes and excited to have met another new friend and savage adventurer.  Being humbled, I realized clearly that day, can be a positive thing.  Being humbled can in turn inspire, checking our realities, making us more human.  It gives us reason to push further and go harder while keeping our egos grounded.  Just as in Nature, there is an order, a progression in everything that must be understood and followed.  To put it in mechanical terms, you don't skip from first gear to fourth gear in your car, or start in third.  You must follow the appropriate progression, the necessary steps.  And so it is with training; be patient, do it for the love of it, keep it up and follow those steps, adhere to the thoughtful and logical progression.  Soon enough you'll get to where you want to be.

I corresponded with Yassine after Chuckanut about meeting up for another run.  He wrote: "Dude...that race was ridiculous! I'm completely humbled by the talent that showed up yesterday."  Even at the elite levels people can be humbled by the talents and efforts of others and that's a wonderful thing.  We can inspire some and be humbled by others at the exact same time.  The collective energy put into these activities is infectious, born from a continuum of sorts, free floating energy and inspiration that courses through all our lives.  At any level, strong performances inspire more strong performances, going hard and giving it everything make people want to do that same.  And so my bruised ego heals and I know I must follow the progression, must look to Nature for that wisdom.  The energy is in the air and so I will breath it in.    

I am forever a student and I feel fortunate to have many new teachers.  

a few more pictures of the Marin Headlands, California...

And, once again, enjoy this music video!


  1. Nice write-up Willie...very thoughtful perspectives and welcome to the hood! Glad that we met and I look forward to getting out there w/ you again soon. Also, your pictures got me excited for Miwok in the Marin Headlands...Talk soon....and keep breathing in the good energy! :-)

  2. Greg post Willie - I loved reading it!

  3. Great post! ~ sounds like we had a similar run up Angels/Devils ~ Now the work begins! :0)