By Andrew Fast
In the foothills balsam root shoots. Up through the soggy dirt and bolting
for the sun, cherry blossoms in the back-yard pop, and at night a warm
wind blows a new smell that makes me anxious--it all means one thing--it's time
to race the Sunflower again.
On the first Saturday of every May, a couple hundred runners toe the line at a
farm on the floor of the Methow Valley.
In early spring there is a short window, the northeastern slope of the
Cascades grow a yellow coat of sunflowers—the trails are spectacular. We
run cross country for twenty six or so miles and finish at the Twisp Brewery
for awards, open potatoes, and beer. The race is my
Sunflower is an annual rekindling with long time trail running friends
and the first chance to test the legs on real high country.
I’ve shown up burnt out after a long winter, fit and at the front or
undertrained and at the back. Every
year the race serves as a benchmark; a reminder that another year has gone
by. Traditions in trail running
help to provide stability and bring folks together while we shuffle down our
"I have never found a companion that was
so companionable as solitude." --Henry
The Mountains offer space to think, yell with excitement or scream in
frustration. No matter how I'm feeling, running wild in the mountains
always makes me feel better.
When I set out alone the flow comes free and easy. A lot of my pursuits are
alone; the solitude is restorative.
I'm going to keep racing and trying to win until I reach a
point where I can't get any better, and when that happens I'm going to get
worse as slowly as possible.
When I race something primal turns on, epinephrine drips,
and the only thing that matters is the present.
If a person is doing their best, comparing results to others
Winning is like getting barreled for the first time--a person spends the first while paddling around, flailing, and trying to stay out
of everyone else’s way. For what seems like an eternity I put in the time
and effort—getting up super early and paddling out at first light but never
quite linking it up. Then when
least expected you start to feel good, go for it, and swoosh--you're in there!
I feel fortunate to be able to train hard and race often.
I'll be searching for that perfect wave and trying to stay psyched forever.
There is something inside that drives me to explore, but
it’s the people I’ve met along the way that keep me inspired. Old wise salty mentors bring me joy. The common themes among them:
- They all have a loud
inner child and laugh often
- They go after goals
- They have a lot of
It’s inspiring to meet someone twice my age who is stronger,
wiser, and still stoked on pushing their limits—we’re lucky to be in a sport
were a lot of time is spent training and legends are easily accessible.
A big inspiration lately has been my friend and room-mate
Joe Puryear. Joe put up a long
list of first ascents on obscure peaks all over the world. He passed away on an expedition last
year. He brought back a lot of
inspiration from the mountains and put it right into his relationships. He wrote guide books, articles, and
worked with sponsors to create stronger gear. Even though I didn’t know Joe for a long time, he was one of
those folks that inspire you to do what you love and be your best. Joe definitely went through life with a
smile and it was contagious.