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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Race Report: Raid Nirvana

Lake Como
Nirvana. The name alone is irresistible. From there it only gets better. Raid Nirvana is a 150-km adventure race (AR) located in and around Lake Como with it’s tranquil waters, picture-postcard villages, friendly locals and all of it cradled gently in a ring of majestic mountains. A more idyllic and spectacularly scenic location is hard to find. 

The invitation to join a Swiss team came from Lucas, a friend I’d raced and trained with before, who I got along with well, and who had tons of AR experience dating back to his upbringing in Columbia. And despite having another race already on the calendar two weeks later, this one I couldn’t resist. Nirvana was calling.

raid nirvana holly zimmermann adventure race running everest
Race Plan
The other two team members were new to me. Lucas had already raced before with Laure, a French woman, and the fourth, David, was a ‘last minute’ replacement for his training partner. David was young and strong but a newbie to both AR and ultra-endurance sports. He’d done some long-distance triathlons, and although the two sports share similarities, the speed, environment and time span are like comparing apples and oranges. For this reason it is completely common and acceptable to match up young, strong competitors with those who are older and experienced. It’s a team sport in which diversity offers stability and resiliency as long as the chemistry amongst the individuals works. And it worked with us. It was clear as soon as we met that we would all get along. Right from the start, the conversation flowed easily, even though we were of four different nationalities and the same number of mother tongues. 

holly zimmermann adventure racing
Logistics and organization (although it doesn't look very organized)

holly zimmermann running everest raid nirvana adventure racing
Team Powerbar Swiss Explorers!
We met at 10am in the parking lot of the race organization where the start and finish were to be held. The race briefing was scheduled for 8pm that night, with the start scheduled for 9pm. Even with the somewhat restricted timeline, packing transition bags and planning race strategy were done with ease and calm. We were allotted a bike bag, a paddle bag and a transition bag. Our bike bag was limited to contain only our bike shoes and over-shoes for warmth, which we all had since the weather was expected to be cold up in the mountains, intensified by the rain. Our paddle bag was a large mesh sack which was to hold our PFDs (life vests), paddles, paddle gloves, shoes or whatever gear we’d need in the boats but no other items such as clothing or food. We’d get the transition bag about half-way through the race prior to the longer trekking stage and in that we could store food supplies, gear and clothing. Once we’d finish discussing the race stages, transitions and strategy, we had a few hours to rest and eat before heading to the briefing. 

We arrived at the race briefing around 7:30pm and shortly after 8 we were given the maps. With maps in hand, the race director was still relaying important information, but once you have the maps and the count-down is on, paying attention to anything else is a challenge. I was dying to start marking maps but there is critical info that you don’t want to miss, such as having to disembark from the boats at the dam and carry them to the other side; the long difficult march after the paddle stage and to follow the marked path; that the gate at the railroad crossing was welded shut and we’d have to heave our bikes over the gate and climb over the barbed wire. Finally all info was relayed and we could concentrate on the maps: David, as lead navigator, marking a full set with Lucas, while Laure and I marked a second set of trekking maps. 

The sun went down, it got dark, the rain started, and at 9:00pm on the dot we were on our way, racing through the streets of Lecco with headlamps on, map in hand and full gear on our backs. The first leg was a short urban orienteering stage which sent teams in all directions collecting five checkpoints before heading to the shores of the lake to assemble our paddles, get into our PFDs, and shove off in our kayaks for the first longer stage, a 14-km paddle southwards till the lake transformed from a massive waterway to a narrow river-like inlet and eventually to a marsh. 

holly zimmermann running everest raid nirvana adventure racing

But the start didn’t go off as hoped for. 

The kayaks were not rigid but rather of the inflatable type, which are difficult to maneuver unless you’ve had some experience with them. This had Laure and David, who were in a boat together, going in circles. Lucas and I were quite a bit ahead and after about 30 minutes I asked Lucas if he could see our teammates. He replied that they were one of the three boats ahead of us. I said that I was pretty sure that they were behind us. And after closely inspecting the teams up ahead we realized that our teammates were not only NOT in the group ahead of us, but also not in the small bunch of boats behind us. We’d have to wait and let them catch up. This, of course, is part of the sport. To fruitlessly expend so much energy and then have to sit still and wait may be frustrating but it was our own fault for not having stayed close together from the start. But we knew that we weren’t fighting for the podium anyway. As a team we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and throughout the event at some stage you have to wait for everyone. And on the bright side, even in the drizzling rain, the lake glistened under the lights of the villages dotting the hillsides. It was magnificent. There was no place I could imagine that I’d rather be.


Once reunited with David and Laure who were also frustrated at having to learn the hard way to maneuver an inflatable kayak, we decided to put a tow line on them and stick together. Although this kept us as one unit, it was a huge strain on the front boat, especially Lucas who was aft. He had the difficult task of being the pack-horse and maintain course. David had to use his paddle in the rear boat to keep them moving straight, while Laure and I just paddled blindly, trying to keep in tempo with Lucas’ tact calls. 

Half-way through the stage we were confronted with the dam at which point we needed to go up on-shore, get a check-point, and then carry the boats adjacent to the shoreline and to the other side of the water-work. Then things got tricky. The water level was low. It was dark. There were difficult-to-discern sandbars and a couple times we got stuck. After briefly trying to push ourselves off with our paddles, Lucas gave up on keeping his feet dry (which was a premonition for what was to come) and he climbed out of the boat and dragged the two boats to deeper water. After a couple of hours of paddling and another check-point in a side inlet, we finally saw the exit point and were relieved to disembark, but unfortunately the transition area was about 500 meters away through a marsh. And we had to transport the boats all the way to the transition. So we each took hold of an end of the now water-filled kayaks and sloshed our way through sometimes knee-deep boggy ground. This was much more physically strenuous for me than the paddling, as it was tough enough just walking but also having to grip and hold the weight of the kayak with the chronic joint pain in my thumbs. Several times I had to put the boat down and re-grip. Then once we got to more even, stable ground, I took the backpacks and carried them while Lucas dragged our boat. Finally at T2.

There were three teams in the transition area when we got there. It was located in a material storage warehouse. It was not warm in there but it was sheltered from the rain. We moved fast in order to keep our body temps up. I stripped down out of my wet clothes and put on dry bike clothes, then repacked essentials quickly and we were out of the TA before the other teams. The race marshals checked to be sure we all had front and rear bike lighting and then we were back off into the darkness.

Only about the first kilometer was flat, and then it was up and up, and up some more. And then when you thought it couldn’t possibly continue going upwards, what happened? We’d round a bend and see the trail continue upwards even higher. It varied between paved roads that were rideable to steep muddy paths, some of which were in such poor condition due to the rains that even pushing the bikes over some sections was all but impossible. We had to carry and climb, slip and fall, push and be pushed. David and Lucas helped me a lot on the bike, with a hand on my back during the road ascents and even David quickly riding or pushing his bike up the steep trails then running back down to grab mine. This continued for about 3 hours before we had a slight reprieve with an exhilarating serpentine descent of about 30 minutes ahead of the next multi-hour push and shove up the next mountain peak until the morning began to break. Around six am the first rays of light began to appear and the mood immediately went from somber to light-hearted and optimistic. Laure was singing and making jokes and I felt intoxicated by her positivity. After six hours of nearly just climbing, the last 30 minutes was another descent, this time over rocky trails that had us carefully navigating the ruts, but it was a welcome reprieve from the strenuous uphill slog. 


The next transition area was in a small sports club building. There was a fire lit, coffee and a few plastic chairs where we sat for a few minutes while changing our clothes and shoes for the next trekking section. It was 07:30 am when we set off for the next leg, back up into the hills where we’d just spent the night.

I was exhausted, which was not typical for me this early in a race. But I knew why and was worried about it and whether I would be able to make it to the finish line. I’d been sick with Covid-19 just two weeks earlier. I had been down for about 10 days with a fever, couch, congestion and exhaustion. But I had been feeling better for about a week and figured that since all my training had gone well prior to being sick, that maybe I could fight it out and make it to the finish of this relatively short race. It wasn’t like I was huffing and puffing, but it was clear that my lungs weren’t functioning right because my muscles seemed to suffer from oxygen deficiency. I had no energy. Nothing in the tank.

holly zimmermann running everest raid nirvana adventure racing
Short nap before the via ferrata

I could jog quite effortlessly on flat sections, and we were moving along at a pretty good pace, but traversing uphill was a battle for me. It was also pretty clear to my teammates that I was in a bit of trouble. After a couple of hours on our feet we were approaching the via ferrata section after which we would have a considerable climb to the peak. It was time to make a decision. Did I want to attempt it? It would be easy to turn back now, but not half-way up the mountain. I knew that I was rapidly slowly down, and did I have to energy to climb? But I was determined to get everything I could out of the race that my body could offer, so I suggested we take a short break at the base of the climbing wall, then move on. We put on our climbing gear and lay down for about 10 minutes of shut-eye, after which I felt better, but not great. We moved ahead slowly and my teammates were absolutely amazing with me, taking time to be sure that I was climbing safely and waiting patiently each time that I had to sit to take a breather. I was in good hands.

holly zimmermann running everest raid nirvana adventure racing
Cozy warm hut on the mountain top
It became colder as we ascended and we had to stop to put on jackets. The rain had stopped but the weather was overcast and a low fog restricted any views over the lake which would have been breathtaking from that perch. So we climbed blindly. Several times we stood off to the side to let a few sky-runners pass through, quick and light on their feet. At last the peak came into view and after collecting the check-point we retreated into the mountain hut that was thankfully open and serving the few brave climbers. Inside we were thrilled to find a fire lit, which I settled myself close up against. We ordered Cokes, relaxed and re-grouped. It was then that I hesitantly admitted that I would have to call it quits at the next transition area. I was a near-empty shell. The team, although mega disappointed, agreed without question. This is a team sport and if one is out, all are out. They could have continued on out of ranking, but they also decided to call it a day and save some precious energy for the next race on the calendar which was only two weeks away. 

holly zimmermann running everest raid nirvana adventure racing
All teams at the finish!

In the end, the weather had created such horrendous conditions for the first bike leg that it forced most teams early onto short course and only three teams finished the full course. This sport is like no other: unpredictable, exhilarating, dangerous, multi-faceted and thoroughly addictive.

And although I didn’t come home with a medal, I did arrive home safely with another ‘adventure’ in the books. 

holly zimmermann running everest raid nirvana adventure racing
Cheers and till the next one!


Friday, May 13, 2022

Speedy Regeneration after the World Championships

holly zimmermann adventure racing world championship running everest
Adventure Racing World Championship,
Galicia, Spain

After competing at the Adventure Racing European and then the World Championships within a few weeks of each other in the Fall of 2021, covering nearly 800 km in total, I came home with a completely wrecked body, inside and out. I was thinner than I’d been since I was a teenager, my hair was falling out in handfuls, my teeth were over-sensitized, my feet were swollen and blistered, and several toenails were gone. To say that I was simply exhausted grossly underestimates my physical state, as the thought of even a recovery bike or jog was completely out of the question.

Sleep. Healthy food. Supplements. Repeat. That was the plan.

But when weeks went by and I was still feeling schlapp, I knew I needed to focus more seriously on my recovery. I got a blood test done and found that I had both Vitamin D and Ferritin deficiencies and my Omega 6:3 ratio was through the roof at (33.9:1).

And as fate would have it, at that time I met a man in my village named Oliver who worked for a company called Zinzino that made high-quality all-natural nutritional supplements focused on the individual.

holly zimmermann adventure racing world championship running everest author blogger
Bike Leg at the Adventure Racing World Championship

As if heaven-sent, that was exactly what I needed.

I told him my story. He explained that his company occasionally worked with select athletes as product ambassadors. I made it immediately clear to him that I would not represent a product that I did not believe in and have personal success with, especially when it came to health. I would have to try it out for myself and see if it worked for me. He was so sure that Zinzino could help me that he gave me three bottles of Omega-3 oil from his own stash and said we’d talk soon.

zinzino balance oil omega 3 supplement holly zimmermann

‘Soon’ was an understatement as I began to feel the effects almost overnight. The aching in my joints diminished, my energy increased, my hair began sprouting new growth like a frizzy teenage nightmare that needed gobs of hairspray to tame the wilds. And I was finally able to run again without feeling like I was dragging a sack of potatoes behind me.

Four weeks later another blood test using Zinzino’s Balance test revealed that my Omega 6:3 ratio had normalized and was down to (1.7:1). A ratio anyone could only hope for. When Oliver gave me the results (tested at an independent laboratory) I laughed and told him I didn’t believe it. He said that he was also very surprised at the blitz-schnell turn-around and that’s why he had consulted the company’s medical experts before giving me the data. Well-trained athletes often have an excellent system of regeneration when given the right tools. Considering that my body was in rock-bottom condition, plus the fact that I am vegetarian and consume no fish oils, and the oils had free reign over the chronic inflammation that is typical of an endurance athlete, the rapid optimization of my blood health was not overly surprising.

But just to be sure, we retook the test and and found that it yielded very similar results.

At the same time I had an independent blood test done at my general practitioner. Still slightly low on the Vitamin D and Ferritin. No big surprises there as nearly everyone living in central Europe has a Vit D shortage in winter and I’ve always had an issue with iron. But what did surprise me was that my red blood cell values were better than they have ever been. Apparently, complete regeneration of the body’s red blood cells occurs every 120 days, and with the help of the Omega 3 balance, the overall quality of the cells was improved.

zinzino sports ambassador athlete supplementszinzino health products supplements holly zimmermann

Needless to say, I was thrilled with the preliminary results of what I attribute, at least in part, to the Zinzino Balance Oils, and agreed to test out some of their other products and become involved with their company activities as a sponsored athlete.

So as soon as I have some other revelations to share about Zinzino’s products, you can be sure I’ll pass them on to you via my blog or social media because I know that I’m not the only one looking to optimize their health and performance. And who can't use a little help?

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Live to be 100

An old joke asks: “Who the heck wants to live to be 100?” 

Answer: “A 99-year-old.” 

I recently attended a funeral for a woman who died at age 101 years. She lived in the mountains and was active till the end, even skiing regularly until she was 95. The attendance at her burial was impressive, although all of her peers had long said goodbye to the world. She had clearly done something right in her life, and I wanted to know how to follow in her footsteps. So I did some digging. 

Our lifespan is believed to be determined 10% by our genetics and the remaining 90% by environmental factors. If that is true, then there is a lot that we can be doing to extend not only our number of years, but the quality of life in those years. 

Studies have been conducted in the world’s Blue Zones, namely, regions in the world where people not only live the longest, but are also the healthiest. The top five include: Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the main aspects of a healthy lifestyle are diet, exercise and stress reduction, but the details of those and how best to adapt them to our lives can be tricky. Let’s start with the ‘easy’ ones first: diet and exercise. 

Diet

A healthy diet should concentrate on (not be restricted to) the following: 

5 servings or more per day of colorful fruits and vegetables

Nuts and seeds for snacking

Beans (protein)

Whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc.

Drinking lots of water

While avoiding or limiting:

Excess salt and preservatives (processed and packaged foods; artificial sweeteners; i.e. avoid the center of the supermarket)

Processed meats. High-quality meat should be limited

Added sugar (including sweetened beverages)

Alcohol in moderation (Better avoided. It is, after all, a poison)

And we should never eat to the point of being full. In the Blue Zone of Okinawa, Japan, there is a Confucian teaching called Hara hachi bun me, which instructs people to eat only until they are 80% full. Okinawans typically consume only about 1800 to 1900 calories per day and elders have an average BMI between 18 and 22, compared to 26 to 27 in the same age group in the United States!

Exercise

This is also a no-brainer. Move your body. If you are reading this, then you are probably already quite active, and although a regular exercise regime is great, what we should really focus on is incorporating more movement into our lifestyles as a way of life. Park in the back of the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a walk on your lunch break and stretch whenever possible. Stretching helps keep your muscles active and healthy, along with your joints flexible and strong. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting on your tights and doing yoga poses; rather, while sitting at your desk, stretch your arms up over your head, side-to-side, do neck and shoulder rolls, rotate your ankles and wrists.

holly zimmermann running everest ultramarathon mom adventure racing polar circle

Again, we can go to the Okinawans for role models, as their preferred sedentary pose is a squat, something that is nearly impossible to copy for adults in the Western world, but is beneficial in stretching the hips, thighs, knees and ankles. 

Now we get to the more difficult part: stress reduction. This is multifaceted and has both physical and mental components. 

The acronym, ASICS, is derived from the Latin phrase, “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano” which means “a sound mind in a sound body”, and is the English translation of a famous quotation by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales (Miletus, 624 – 546 BC), demonstrating the close links between physical exercise, mental equilibrium and the ability to enjoy life.

Believe it or not, between 80 and 90% of doctor’s visits are directly or indirectly linked to stress. Stress is more than just a feeling in your head, it effects your entire body - including lowering immune function, interrupting sleep, causing muscle tension and complicating digestion to name a few.  Research suggests that less-stressed individuals tend to live longer, healthier lives. Different things work for different people, but many find stress-relief from yoga, exercise, meditation, getting outdoors and deep-breathing techniques.

Sleep: Try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night

Be Mindful: This means focusing your attention (“awareness”) on what’s going on in the present moment, rather than ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. 

Get Outdoors. Time spent in nature, along with getting enough sunlight, has been linked with the prevention of diabetes, auto immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. 

Put your family and loved ones first. Surround yourself with the right people (positive energy). This provides a sense of belonging.

And last but not least…

Have a purpose: Wake up each day with an outlook or purpose for your life: a job you love, a passionate hobby, fulfilling relationships.


A healthy lifestyle of taking care of the physical body implements the tools, but passion and purpose are the keys that unlock the door to a long and satisfying life, which, if we’re lucky could guide us to the status of centenarian. 


If you want to run the numbers on how long you are likely to live, check out the John Hancock Lifespan Calculator.

https://www.johnhancockinsurance.com/life-expectancy-calculator.html

And if you’d like to read a thriller novel on the subject you can get yourself a copy of Lifespan, by Holly Zimmermann.



 


Monday, January 17, 2022

New Meaning to the Runner's 'High'

The runner's high, that feeling of euphoria that sometimes accompanies aerobic exercise, has often been attributed to the release of endorphins, but new research suggests that it might be due to endocannabinoids instead. Giving new meaning to the term ‘high’.

holly zimmermann, frontrunner, asics, running, training, everest, mds, blogger, german, instabloggerWe all know it. It’s that feeling like you could take on the world. You come home from your run in a better mood and with greater mental clarity. “It begins with this peace of mind and then a greater ease of movement, a sense of power and confidence, optimism and hope, and you will often hear runners describe feeling loving and connected to everyone and everything,” explains Kelly McGonigal, in her book The Joy of Movement. “So, what could possibly be going on in the body and the brain that would make you feel powerful, hopeful, faster, more confident and more loving?”


For years it was believed that this feeling of bliss, sometimes referred to as the 'runner's high' was attributable to endorphins. But in 2021, Dr. Johannes Fuss, the director of the Human Behavior Laboratory at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, published an article in Psychoneuroendocrinology describing a study he conducted on 63 experienced runners, which showed that their general euphoria after running was greater and their anxiety less, even if their endorphin system had been inactivated.


So, what’s causing the high we feel during exercise? Scientists now believe that it may be attributable to endocannabinoids, which are similar in chemical structure to cannabis, and are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite (explains the munchies…), pain-sensation, mood, and memory. The cannabinoids made by our bodies surge in number during pleasant activities, such as when we run, eat a good meal, and also when we have orgasms, giving us a powerful sense of inner peace, empowerment and connection to others. And unlike endorphins, endocannabinoids can cross the blood-brain barrier, making them viable candidates to cause any runner’s high.


Hunting that high?


Want to get that high a little bit faster? McGonigal also suggests that listening to music early in a run can actually kick start the process – releasing more endorphins, dopamine and adrenalin – so that you can start to feel some of that high sooner. Another boost can be gained by getting outside. Exercising outdoors has been shown to provide a sense of relief of anxiety, a feeling of being at peace or at one with the universe. Similar to what one experiences during mediation. Sounds like an ideal state to be in!


The study by Dr. Fuss does not explain, though, why a runner’s high exists at all. There was no ‘walker’s high’ among the volunteers in his study. But Dr. Fuss suspects the answer lies in our evolutionary past. “When the open savannas stretched and forests retreated,” he says, “it became necessary for humans to hunt wild animals by long-distance running. Under such circumstances, it is beneficial to be euphoric during running.”


I guess the same thing could be said for the act of procreation, if it weren’t for a healthy dose of endocannabinoids being shaken out during acts of pleasurable sensation, the human race may no longer be in existence, and thus able to enjoy those precious highs we get when out for our daily jog.


This article was first published for ASICS Frontrunner on January 13th 2022 (https://www.asics.com/de/de-de/frontrunner/articles/new-meaning-to-the-runners-high)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Fueling for a 41-hour 'long' run

Long runs are the pillar of training for the marathon and any other long distance race, but fueling them can be tricky. And if your mind is boggled at the thought of fueling a 3-hour run, imagine what’s required for more than a day on your feet?

Beautiful wilds of Spain's Galicia
I’m not a doctor nor a nutritionist but I’ve been around the block in foot races of all distances. Here’s my non-expert experience and some tips on fueling for endurance.

The Marathon

As crazy as it may sound, ultra runners consider the classic road marathon to be a fast race. It is a ‘relatively’ short distance, typically on good terrain, without much elevation gain or loss and the pace is at the high end of our aerobic capacity. Obviously the amount of calories that your body needs to take in depends on what you are burning. Are you jogging? Or running at your aerobic-anaerobic boundary? In general it is recommended that runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes. I find that eating small amounts more frequently, such as every 30 minutes, is a better energy delivery than once an hour, with the added benefit of little or no consequence of GI distress. It is always best to eat whole foods if possible, but I find that when I go out on a 3-hour long run or compete in a road marathon I can get by on processed foods which are light and easy to carry, i.e. gels, isotonic drinks, energy bars, because the duration is short. But you need to be careful as energy bars can range in calorie content from 200 to 400 and in carbs from 30 to 70 grams! I believe that staying on the low side is much less of a risk than the bloated feeling and weight of having too much to digest. My own safe bet is my tried-and-true energy gels during a marathon that provide 100 calories and 22 grams of carbs at kilometers 8, 12, 15 and 18. I drink water at every refreshment station until about the last five kilometers where I may take an isotonic drink depending on how hot it is (how much I’ve sweated and whether or not I have cramps.) Yes, my carb intake during a marathon is below the recommendations, but it works for me. Everyone is slightly different and should test alternatives. 

The Ultra

The ultramarathon is a whole ‘nother ball game. Fueling for a road marathon is like apples and oranges compared to fueling for a 100-kilometer trail run in the mountains. Both require energy that can be used immediately but the latter has more long-term considerations. Chemicals and refined sugars may taste great and have immediate positive effects on performance, but how will they make you feel during that post-sugar-high crash? Or after many hours when your large intestine is trying to remove that garbage from your system? Here is where an effort should be made to eat whole foods as much as possible.

During the recent adventure racing world championships our first leg of the race was a 122-kilometer trek through extremely difficult terrain with 5,800 meters of elevation gain. With freezing temperatures and torrential rain, our team needed over 40 hours to complete it with only about 10 minutes of sleep. And I finished it feeling good. Well, as good as possible considering that I had three more days of MTB, trekking and paddling in front of me. That said, my nutritional plan couldn’t afford to be anything less than spot on. 


Half-way through a 40+ hour trek

This is what I had in my backpack:

Dry-roasted cashews in soy sauce. I roast them on low for over an hour then douse them in soy sauce. An excellent source of protein and salt.

Goodie bag. This is a zip-lock baggie with a self-made mix of my favorites: cashews, almonds, dried mango, dried figs, soy nuts, chocolate-covered espresso beans, Brazil nuts, dried cranberries, dates, raisins, and peanut M&Ms. I keep it in my front pouch and can snack on it constantly.  

A bag of fresh kale. It takes up some space but is light and loaded with vitamins and fiber, which may help to counterbalance those digestion issues with eating too many nuts. 

High-quality vegan energy bars. These provide dense calories eaten a little at a time. 

Potato sticks. During our last expedition race I was craving potato chips. Since they don’t travel well, I decided to go with their cousin the ‘sticks’ but it wasn’t the same. They’ll not be coming on the next one.

I was constantly on the look-out for fruit trees on the sides of the roads and trails. Along the way we were treated to some blackberries, apples and grapes. 

I also had red beet powder to add to my water. I had one banana with me but since they bruise so easily I didn’t take more but our team had a stash of them in our gear boxes for when we reached transition areas.

We each had a freeze-dried meal with us that we could have prepared by boiling water on our small portable cooker. But we never wanted to remain still long enough since it was so cold and wet, so we decided to look forward to that at the transition prior to the bike leg.  

Ok, and of course I had some Twix bars. I’m only human. 

Gear and bike boxes packed and ready at the 2021 Adventure Racing World Championships in Galicia, Spain

Other important considerations over longer events are electrolyte balance and hydration. Significant sweating can cause dehydration and deplete sodium reserves pretty quickly. Potassium, calcium and magnesium are also lost, but when considering that human sweat contains about 150 mg per liter compared to 2,000 mg of sodium, it’s clear that you aren’t going to get very far if you don’t supplement your salt loss. I always have salt tablets on hand to use as necessary and I also used electrolyte tabs in my water, as well as amino acid tablets to accelerate regeneration.

It is wise to eat regularly so that your body uses that immediate supply of fuel and prolongs and/or minimizes the need to tap into your fat stores. Leaving too long between snacks can jinx your system and make it really hard for it start back up again to process that food (think nausea and vomiting; constipation and diarrhea) and recover (mineral balance and optimal function). As we all know, a properly functioning digestive system can be a make-or-break during a race so it’s best to try things out beforehand so that you can reach that finish line still loving the sport enough to want to do it again.

Crossing the finish line at the 2021 Adventure Racing World Championships in Galicia, Spain






Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Homecoming

Home again after Raid Galicia in Spain. An interview with Holly and her children in German but with English subtitles from the Mittelbayerische Zeitung in Regensburg



 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Nordisk Adventure Challenge Silkeborg

Adventure racing is anything but mainstream. A multidisciplinary endurance sport far removed from civilization that tests the mind as well as the body.

The 2021 Master course of the Nordisk Adventure Challenge in Silkeborg, Denmark was simultaneously the European Championship of Expedition-Length Adventure Racing, raising the level of the competition across the board. With a point-to-point distance of 575 kilometers, an 80-hour time limit gave us three and a half days to complete the course, which left little to no time for sleep.

So what exactly is Adventure Racing? Well-known in some parts of the world, it is still an obscure sport here in Germany. Also called expedition racing, adventure racing is a team sport involving the main disciplines of trekking, mountain biking and paddling, but often include climbing, abseiling, swimming, inline skating, horseback riding, skiing and whitewater rafting, among others. Teams are generally mixed in gender and made up of two to five people, with the standard being four racers: 3 men and 1 woman. A team must remain together through all disciplines throughout the entire race. A set of maps are given to competitors shortly before the start, and navigation (without GPS) is required to get through the course. A good navigator can steer even a weaker team to victory by choosing the best routes, whereas poor navigation can lead to dead ends, longer routes, difficult terrain, getting lost and ultimately, frustration and vexation amongst the teammates.


The beginning of this journey brought me to a small village outside of Hannover to meet with two members of my team, Vincent, our captain, and Ange, his cousin. Both 20 years younger than me. Our fourth member, Lucas, also more than a decade my junior, was taking the train in from Basel, Switzerland later that day. We’d drive together to Silkeborg the following morning. Lucas is originally from Columbia and has 15 years of adventure racing experience, while Ange is an adventure racing newbie with a strong background in biking, and Vincent, our leader and a giant at 2-meters tall, is a master of all tricks and can pretty much do everything, though his strengths lie in paddling and climbing.

Expedition-length adventure racing is not only an enormous challenge for the body, but a logistical feat that requires considerable detailed planning. The race in Silkeborg would consist of 18 legs, between which, at a few designated points, you get access to your gear. You need to carry all of your food and drink as well as mandatory equipment such as first aid and safety items. Sometimes you need to carry gear for several legs which requires a change of clothing from trekking to biking or swimming, in which case a life-preserver may be required and has to be brought with you. You may have a trekking/climbing stage and have to lug your climbing belt, helmet and weighty carabiners with you. And you don’t have weeks or months to plan this as the race plan is disseminated just days before the race. Timing is everything. Experience is priceless.

After checking into our little cabin at a campground in Silkeborg, we unpacked the van and began to scatter our gear all over the place to try to find some semblance of organization in the midst of utter chaos in an attempt assemble our gear boxes for the transition zones.

After a day of packing and double-checking we finally had our 5 gear boxes, four bike boxes and a paddle bag filled with four kayak paddles, seat cushions, neoprene suits, gloves and paddle jackets ready to go hand over to the organization. Shortly afterwards we’d get our 45 maps and have 4 hours to review and mark the best routes to the 187 check points prior to the start.

Well, it was not really the start of the race, but the prologue, which is actually a race in itself for 2 hours around the city of Silkeborg for which the sole purpose, other than to entertain the city dwellers, is to spread the teams out before crossing the starting line so that we are not one endless line of racers following each other from check point to check point.

Promptly at 4:00pm, the teams were announced and introduced at the starting line in the city center and the prologue kicked off. We were sent on a sprint through the streets of Silkeborg, with quite a few of the runners gripping blow-up air mattresses to help in the swim sections. After about 2 kilometers we all jumped into the river for a 600-meter swim after which the teams were subdivided into smaller groups. We were first sent back into the water for a 1.5-km swim further down river, at one point having to climb up out of the water on a rope ladder onto a bridge and then run off the bridge and back into the river to continue swimming. Then we were back in the city for a climb and rappel up a four-story brick building, a white-water kayak relay, another swimming obstacle course, and a Lego-figure-building teamwork task before we were finally on the first leg of the official race course!

The first leg was a run and swim whereby we were in and out of the water half a dozen times completing a distance of about 35 kilometers. The shortest water crossing was a river of about 20 meters across, while the longest was about 600 meters across a lake. Before each crossing, our backpacks were placed in dry bags which we then towed through the water. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not like water. And cold water even less. I don’t like swimming and am not a big fan of any water sports. Showering is my single amicable relationship with water. So I was dressed in neoprene leggings, a long-sleeved swim shirt, neoprene jacket, glove mitts and cap, shoes and socks. And a life jacket which was required for all swims. While the guys, on the other hand, were in T-shirts and shorts. Until they weren’t. That is, at some point they were sick and tired of changing in and out of wet clothes so eventually as night fell and we were out in the wilderness all three of my teammates decided to swim in their birthday suits and call it a day. So, imagine the scene when another team came up behind us just as we were about to enter a water crossing. The middle of the night, three buck-naked men wearing only life preservers and me dressed from head-to-toe in black neo, with a tow-line attached to the life preserver of Lucas. To the inexperienced observer we were either filming a porno or competing in an adventure race.

Each of the checkpoints (CP) were listed in our Road Book and given a title like: Statue, Overhanging Tree, Southwest Corner of Bunker, etc. And these names were in English but translated from Danish by a Dane, which needless to say, the translations were not always exactly accurate. Case in point, sometime in the middle of the night we were looking for a CP entitled Bridge, and after running back and forth along a shoreline for nearly 45 minutes looking for a bridge that would give us the CP and take us to the other side of the lake, we realized that there was no bridge, it was a wooden dock, from which we would unfortunately not have a dry crossing but another swim! Argh. Ange, Lucas and I were not thrilled but Vincent was ecstatic because he loves water. I often felt like I was the mom of this foursome, not necessarily because of the age difference but because what could a bunch of little boys wish for more than to run around during the night swimming, climbing, and mountain biking?

That leg took us about 10 hours to finish and we were into the first transition zone and on the mountain bikes by sunrise. A short bike to the lake where we piled into a canoe. Two seats, three paddles, four persons. I curled up amongst the backpacks in the hull and tried to get some shuteye, but despite running through the night, at that time of the day it is tough to sleep with the sun blazing, the rocking of the waves and Lucas singing. So I simply rested while the guys were having fun paddling. We had to go ashore to get some checkpoints before we had a transition where we had left our mountain bikes. We loaded the bikes from Vincent and me in the canoe, and the two of us paddled further, meeting Ange and Lucas later on the other side who met us by bike.

Then it was back on the bikes for an epic leg of over 100 kilometers that took us about 14 hours, in between which we had to stop at a climbing park and do an elevated climbing, zip-line course high above the tree line, as well as a tricky BMX-inspired trail loop which felt like a scene from the Maze Runner from which there was seemingly no escape. As we entered a city our next checkpoint was at a high-rise where there was a rapelling task from a 12-story hotel. The guys were thrilled! I was not. Abseiling James Bond style from 120 meters with equipment that I’d never used before was not happening for me, so after going up and cheering the guys on, I took the elevator as well as a minor penalty back down to the ground to continue on the bikes.

But finally at 2am on Friday morning we reached the next transition area where we were to catch a bus to the next leg of the race. We had to disassemble our bikes and pack them in the bike boxes then could get an hour of shut-eye on the floor of an auditorium (I’d packed my sleeping bag in the gear box for this, yippee!) before the bus was schedule to leave at 3:30 am. The bus ride was about 1.5 hours so that was obviously was spent in dreamland too. 

When we awoke and disembarked at around 5:30 no one knew where we were except that we were somewhere on the coast, but which coast? North Sea or Baltic? We soon realized we were at a castle estate on the Baltic where we had another little prologue-running-puzzle-solving-event before we set off on the second half of the course.

This next leg was comprised of 42 kilometers (a marathon) of coasteering. This is a discipline where you trek along the coastline, remaining within 1.5-meters of the shoreline at all times. If there is an obstruction on the shoreline, you have to go over or under it, or into the water instead of on land. We were in and out of the water constantly over this 10-hour haul. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous and the sights were beautiful on this completely remote track of land on the Danish Baltic shore.

Next up was a 50-kilometer kayak tour on the Baltic. We checked into the next transition late in the afternoon and were hoping to get some distance on the water behind us before darkness set in, but getting the kayaks down to the water was no simple task, as we had to carry them along with all our gear for more than a kilometer. And they were heavy. Very heavy. Much too heavy for me so I was tasked with shuttling back and forth all our gear to shore side while the guys wrestled with the boats: 2 single kayaks and 1 double. 



Finally around 6:30 pm I was teamed up with Vincent in the double and Ange and Lucas were on their own in the singles as we headed out to sea in somewhat choppy conditions. As the sun went down (yes, it was beautiful) the wind picked up and so did the height of the waves. I was scared (due to my water phobia) as we crossed wide open spaces of water to islands to collect checkpoints in the dark. After darkness set in and we were several hours in the boats, Lucas told us he needed to take a break and sleep. But where? It was late and dark and we were cold and in kayaks on the Baltic?!? We eventually decided to take a short break and huddled together on the shore in some sea grass where we slept about 15 minutes after finding a checkpoint. At the next land stop we decided to try to sleep a little longer but I knew this was not a good idea for me since I was wet and cold already. If I didn’t keep moving my body temperature would drop even more. But I trusted the team’s decision and we wrapped up in our emergency blankets and curled up off the shoreline. I kept getting colder and colder while the guys slept. I couldn’t sleep and kept mumbling about how cold I was. Finally I knew the situation was getting critical and that I was in the initial stages of hypothermia. I woke the guys. They jumped into action. They were awesome. Sooner than I knew what was going on they had me tucked into an emergency heat foil bag, a buff and swim cap on my head and warm neoprene mittens on my hands. I snuggled down into the bag and slowly felt the heat creeping back into my body. After about 10 minutes Vincent asked me how I was. I said that I was getting warmer. I wanted to stay curled up like that for hours but I knew that as soon as I was ‘out of danger’ we needed to get moving, so after another few minutes I told them I was ready to go. We packed up our packs and got back into the kayaks and paddled into the darkness. Back in motion, it wasn’t long until I was warm again and concentrating on the task at hand. We were now looking for a bridge to cross under to get from the bay to more open exposed water. It was still dark so land masses were just black patches but shouldn’t a bridge be lit up? Wouldn’t we see headlamps of cars traveling across it? We soon realized that this would be the second ‘bridge’ that was not a bridge, or at least not in the traditional sense. It was a land bridge that we needed to cross over, not under. So upon reaching the breachway, I climbed out of the kayak, and scrambled up the steep embankment to see if there was possible reentry into the water on the other side. There was. So I carried the paddles and gear while the guys lugged the kayaks up and then back down the other side. As the first boat was delivered to the edge of the shore and they guys went back for the next, I suddenly heard a scraping noise (yes, that sound of hard molded plastic scraping along rocks) and turned to see our kayak ship off on its own into the water! Boat! Boat! I yelled but none of us were close enough to grab it so once the second boat was in the water Ange paddled out to secure the runaway back onto land. 

The sky was beginning to brighten and just as the sun was beginning to rise we decided to take another short break and we laid on an island in the tall grass in the morning sun. After that we had the last push of about 10 kilometers to the next transition but it was the toughest segment of all. A strong headwind and 2 to 3 meter waves battered us as we tried to navigate along the coastline, at times seemingly making no progress at all. We pushed through paddle drills which had my nervous system at its limits and the tears came again with the fear of being capsized and having to battle it out in the water to reach the shoreline. Vincent had his hands full with the boat and conditions but still tried to console me and my fears. And eventually that gray Nordisk Adventure Challenge flag was in sight in the distance and after 17 hours we were finally done with the element of water in Denmark.

We were then somewhat behind on the transitions and would miss the pick-up time for our last gear bag, so instead of a bike/run/bike finish, we’d bike it all the way in. Just 100 or so kilometers ahead of us until the finish line in Silkeborg.

We were now into the fourth day with only about four hours sleep during that time and the effects were taking their toll. I was wobbly on the bike and was sporadically dozing off. I reported this to Vincent by telling him that I didn’t want to stop and sleep but that I was in a lull and that we should take is slowly and carefully. He said that he already knew. Apparently my swerving all over the place was a dead give-away. But despite my fogginess, I couldn’t help but notice an apple-tree grove along the trail and I ditched the bike and ran in to pick four juicy apples for our team, a welcome fresh food after days of vacuum-packed products.

As we’d stop for checkpoints I’d let the guys look for the flags while I sat down, reclined back against my backpack without removing it, and simply dozed off for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, whatever was available. This repeatedly over the span of about an hour each time that we stopped and finally I was rejuvenated and felt as though I’d had a full night’s sleep, though in total it was probably not more than several minutes. We rode on trails and roads, through forests and villages, grabbing checkpoints along the way. And as if in a blur (which it understandable was) we finally reached the outskirts of Silkeborg and our goal was so close we could taste it. Then we were nearly blown away by another team passing us that had taken the longer course and though finishing at nearly the same time as us, they’d be way ahead in the standings because of the complexity of the rules and the sport, allowing stronger, faster teams to cover more ground and gain more points, yet slower teams to remain in the middle of the action.

We collected two more checkpoints then headed to the city center exhausted but still pumping with adrenalin about the ensuing euphoric finish. And then… we crossed the finish line with the jubilant crowd of zero. No one. It was midnight on Saturday and there was not a single spectator, competitor, nor drunk Silkeborgian in sight. But then we heard Wait! and the race directors came running out of an adjacent tent to take photos and congratulate us. Then they were overly welcoming, offering drinks and food and of course, our finish medals. 

Now what? We were completely spent but our cozy campground cottage was about 5 kilometers away, so the easiest thing to do was to just stay on the bikes. After all, what’s another 15 minutes of riding after an epic 400-km haul?

Back at the ranch, a hot shower, a sandwich and that tiny little bed with fluffy comforter and pillow were the most decadent luxuries I could ever have hoped for. That topped off with satisfaction, pride and the gratification of success were all the elements required for 8 hours of a well-deserved, hard-earned rest.


Friday, October 15, 2021

AR World Championship

Interview shortly before the Raid Galicia, Adventure Racing World Championship in Spain (in German)



 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Amanda Gormans Gedicht für die Amtseinführung des US-Präsidenten 2021 (ins Deutsche übersetzt)

Januar 2021 trug Gorman im Rahmen der Zeremonie ihr Gedicht The Hill We Climb vor, das sie nach dem Sturm auf das Kapitol in Washington am 6. Januar 2021 angepasst und fertiggestellt hatte. Sie war mit 22 Jahren die jüngste Dichterin, die bisher bei der Amtseinführung eines US-Präsidenten auftrat.

(See below for the English original version)




„Der Berg, den wir erklimmen“ von Amanda Gorman

(Ins Deutsche übersetzt von meine Nachbarin (AI) und ich)

Wenn der Tag gekommen ist, fragen wir uns,

wo wir Licht in den nie endenden Schatten finden können.

Den Verlust, den wir mit uns tragen,

ein Meer, durch das wir uns hindurchkämpfen müssen

Wir haben dem Bauch des Monsters gestrotzt.

Wir haben gelernt, dass Stille nicht immer Frieden bedeutet.

Und die Normen & Vorstellungen

Von dem, was Recht ist, ist nicht immer Gerechtigkeit

Und jetzt die Morgendämmerung gehört uns

Bevor wir es wussten.

Irgendwie haben wir es geschafft.

Irgendwie haben wir bezeugt und verwittert

Eine Nation, die nicht gebrochen ist,

aber einfach nicht fertig.

Wir, die Erben eines Landes und einer Zeit

In der ein schlankes Schwarzes Mädchen

abstammend von Sklaven und von einer alleinerziehenden Mutter aufgezogen

kann davon träumen, Präsident zu werden.

um sich dann dabei zu befinden, für einen etwas vorzutragen.

Und ja, wir sind weit weg davon, auf Hochglanz poliert zu sein,

weit entfernt von Makellosigkeit,

aber das bedeutet nicht,

dass wir danach streben, einen Bund zu formen, die perfekt ist.

Wir streben danach, einen Nation zu schmieden mit Bestimmung.

Um ein Land zu bilden, verpflichtet zu allen Kulturen, Farben, Charaktere und Zustände von Menschen.

Und wir heben unseren Blick; nicht auf das, was zwischen uns steht

Aber auf das, was vor uns liegt.

Wir schließen die Kluft, weil wir wissen, wenn wir unsere Zukunft an erste Stelle stellen wollen

Müssen wir erst unsere Differenzen zur Seite legen.

Wir legen unsere Waffen nieder

damit wir unsere Arme ausstrecken können

zueinanderWir suchen bei niemanden Schaden, aber Harmonie für alle.

Lass der Welt, wenn sonst nichts ist, sagen, dass folgendes wahr ist:

Obwohl wir uns grämten, sind wir gewachsen.

Obwohl wir / verletzt sind, haben wir gehofft.

Das auch, als wir müde wurden, wir haben es versucht.

Dass wir für immer zusammen gebunden werden, siegreich.

Nicht, weil wir nie wieder besiegt werden würden,

aber weil wir niemals wieder Spaltung sähen werden.

Die heilige Schrift sagt uns, dass wir uns vorstellen sollen,

dass jeder unter seinem eigenen  Weinstock und Feigenbaum sitzen können

und niemand soll ihnen Angst einjagen.

Wenn wir zur unserer Zeit leben,

wird der Sieg nicht auf Messers Schneide liegen, sondern in allen Brücken, die wir gebaut haben.

Das ist das Versprechen zur Lichtung

Der Berg, den wir erklimmen.

Wenn wir es nur wagen

Weil „Amerikaner sein“ ist mehr als der Stolz, den wir erben.

Es ist die Vergangenheit, in die wir hereintreten

Und wie wir sie reparieren werden.

 

Wir haben die Kraft gesehen, die lieber die Nation zertrümmert, als sie zu Teilen

Würde das Land zerstören, wenn es bedeuten würde, die Demokratie hinzuhalten.

Und diese Bemühungen hatten fast Erfolg.

Aber während eine Demokratie immer verzögert werden kann,

kann sie nie dauerhaft bekämpft werden.

In dieser Wahrheit,

in den Glauben vertrauen wir.

Weil wir unsere Augen in die Zukunft richten,

Geschichte hat seine Augen auf uns gerichtet.

Das ist die Ära der Erlösung.

Wir haben bei seiner Gründung gebangt.

Wir fühlen uns nicht bereit, die Erben

von so einer Furcht erregenden Stunde zu sein

aber in ihr haben wir die Kraft gefunden

um ein neues Kapitel zu schreiben.

Um Hoffnung und Lachen uns selbst anzubieten

Während wir uns einmal fragten,

Wie könnten wir uns möglicherweise gegen eine Katastrophe durchsetzen?

Jetzt behaupten wir

wie konnte die Katastrophe über uns herrschen?

Wir werden nicht marchieren zurück an das was gewesen ist,

aber nach vorne an was es sein sollte.

Ein Land, das verletzt wurde aber unversehrt (geblieben ist)

wohlwollend, aber schroff,

grimmig, aber frei.

Wir werden uns nicht umkehren lassen

oder durch Einschüchterung unterbrechen lassen

weil wir wissen das unsere Trägheit und Schwerfälligkeit

wird es das Erbe der nächsten Generationen.

Unsere groben Fehler werden ihre Bürden,

aber eine Sache ist gewiss:

Wenn wir Gnade mit Macht verschmelzen lassen,

und Macht mit Recht,

dann wird Liebe unsere Hinterlassenschaft, und wird unserer Kinder Geburtsrecht ändern.

Also lasst uns ein Land zurück,

welches besser ist, als das, mit welchem wir dagelassen wurden.

Jeder Atemzug, mein bronze-geschlagene Brustkorb

Wir werden diese verwundete Welt in eine erstaunliche verwandeln.

Wir werden von den  in Gold getauchten Bergen des Westens aufgehen.

Wir werden von dem windigen Nordosten aufgehen

wo unsere Vorfahren die erste Revolution realisiert haben.

Wir werden von den Städten am Rande der Seen in den Staaten des mittleren Westens aufgehen.

Wir werden vom sonnengebräunten Süden aufgehen.

Wir werden wieder aufbauen, schlichten und erholen

und jedem Winkel unseres Landes.

Und jede Ecke unser Land

Unsere unterschiedlichen und wunderschönen Menschen werden hervortreten,

zerschlagen und wunderschön.

Wenn der Tag kommt, werden wir uns den Schatten treten

in Flammen und ohne Angst.

Der neue Sonnenaufgang erblüht wenn wir ihn freilassen.

Weill da ist immer Licht,

wenn wir nur mutig genug gewesen wären um es zu erkennen.

Wenn wir nur mutig genug sind, um es zu sein.



Amanda Gorman “The Hill We Climb”

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We've braved the belly of the beast

We've learned that quiet isn't always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn't always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we've weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn't broken

but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time

Where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one

And yes we are far from polished

far from pristine

but that doesn't mean we are

striving to form a union that is perfect

We are striving to forge a union with purpose

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us

but what stands before us

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another

We seek harm to none and harmony for all

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

That we'll forever be tied together, victorious

Not because we will never again know defeat

but because we will never again sow division

Scripture tells us to envision

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

And no one shall make them afraid

If we're to live up to our own time

Then victory won't lie in the blade

But in all the bridges we've made

That is the promise to glade

The hill we climb

If only we dare

It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it's the past we step into

and how we repair it

We've seen a force that would shatter our nation

rather than share it

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy

And this effort very nearly succeeded

But while democracy can be periodically delayed

it can never be permanently defeated

In this truth

in this faith we trust

For while we have our eyes on the future

history has its eyes on us

This is the era of just redemption

We feared at its inception

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was

but move to what shall be

A country that is bruised but whole,

benevolent but bold,

fierce and free

We will not be turned around

or interrupted by intimidation

because we know our inaction and inertia

will be the inheritance of the next generation

Our blunders become their burdens

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy

and change our children's birthright

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,

we will rise from the windswept northeast

where our forefathers first realized revolution

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,

we will rise from the sunbaked south

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we're brave enough to see it

If only we're brave enough to be it