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Born To Run Free: True Trails From The Horse's Mouth | the end and the beginning

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Born To Run Free: True Trails From The Horse's Mouth | the end and the beginning

Sneak previewBorn To Run Free: True Trails From The Horse's Mouth by Micah True

Caballo Blanco was just returning to his mountain cabin near Nederland, Colorado in the spring of 1989. It had been a 7 year life-cycle bringing him back around to here, where he was supposed to be at the moment, sitting in front of the wood stove, fire crackling in warm and thoughtful reflection. During the 7 years since 1982, after retiring from his previous occupation of being a prize fighter, he had gotten very much into long distance running, having run 5,000 and up to 6,000 miles each year during the 80's. Most of that running came naturally as a form of moving meditation, a clearing of the mind and senses. He did not run a race until 1986 when he accidentally won a 50 miler after running 100+ and up to 180 mile weeks on a regular basis for a few years, for fun. That winter had been another good one for the horse-man, running the trails around lake Attitlan in Guatemala; a large, seemingly endlessly deep blue crater lake, surrounded by three volcanoes; a place where he had been spending the winters through the tumultuous times of the 80's; strifeful and growing times for Guatemala, the indigenous people of that land, and for the spirit of the man called Caballo Blanco [White Horse], a name he had received by Mayan villagers a few years earlier while running the connecting maze of trails around the lake.

While looking for more wood and fuel to feed the dwindling fire, the just returned from traveling man found an old manuscript in a drawer, the hand-written scrolls documenting another life-time in the circle of being that was his life, having had ended that particular story 7 years previous. He had stopped writing, and put the story away, not to even look at it again until this day some years later. He began to read the nearly 1,000 page text. As day tuned into night, and the night moved on, growing darker and colder as the hours passed, the Colorado cold front that he had returned to deepened, as did his attention into the reading of the words of a past life, love, wins, losses, and fictional like events leading to the now, the re-realization that the past, present and future are really connected as one, all occurring now in the grand scheme of things; a life-time being but 70 or 80 years of the millions of years of pure existence. He read and laughed, put another log on the fire, read and laughed some more, reading the story of the young California hippy prize-fighter living in a dangerous world, but in a strangely real and moving way, living a dream. And when the story would lag, the young man would stick his thumb out and wander the country just to make something happen, to create more story that could easily and only really be written as it occurred. The real life characters and dialog were so surreal as to be the stuff of fiction, but, was as real as anything can be.

24 Hours passed and the fire had dwindled down to coals. El Caballo had relived almost 1,000 pages of long-hand writings and was now into the last chapter. The events unfolding on paper were as faded in time as the ink, buried deep in the sub conscious of the writer, in a place of sacred self awareness, a learning process, a measurement of where he was and how he had arrived at this current resting place in time. Now, he was ready to read and re-experience the past, the past that led to the now, and would be his future--The trail goes on forever. There is no way to stop the water. After reading it all, the White Horse glanced over at his smiling, faithful True Dog and exclaimed: "This is damn good stuff!". He then opened the door of the wood stove and offered that part of his life to the still hungry embers. And True Dog just grinned.

1982: The place was Marin County, California. "The Gypsy Cowboy" was laying on a table in a dressing room of the Marin County civic auditorium, preparing himself by resting before being featured in the "main event" of the evening, a 10 round fight against the local killer, an up and coming undefeated middleweight. While the roar of the crowd reacted to the action taking place in the auditorium, the young long-haired boxer was totally relaxed on the table, mind wandering to other places; and everything he had been running from came to him at that moment, pinning him to the table. Tears rolled down his face, falling to his chest as the sadness overcame him like flood waters of the overflowing river of dreams. Someone entered the room and his space "Cowboy, you're on", and the Gypsy Cowboy gathered his thoughts to stuff them back into the seeming hole that was his broken heart, as if perhaps he could use those feelings to patch that place; and lifted himself up off the table, to rise with a semblance of dignity as he followed the escort down the aisle and into the deafening noise of the auditorium, stepping up, onto the platform, slipping between the ropes of the ring, dancing a warm-up circle dance. He removed the maroon colored robe with the image of a white horse, created by his lover. The white horse on the back of the robe was beginning to fade. The Gypsy man determined that unlike the image on his robe, he would not fade away. He was ready to fight. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- He had left the island of Maui, wandering the country, winning some, losing some, losing, but really winning others, having taken some dives, pretending to have been knocked out while knowing that he could, and would often times dance circles around his opponent, taking great pleasure in teasing, luring the other to chase him, making him miss and thus frustrating and angering the opposition; inflicting only the physical damage needed to get the job done, no more; and often times apparently not enough to persuade biased judges that the peaceful artist had won the fight. Thus, his art was learning to fight while not hurting others and protecting himself from getting hurt, while writing about it as it happened; the strange and raw world, the underbelly of an American sub-culture being penetrated and explored by a young man living amongst several other varied sub-cultures......

Certainly, the motivations for, and life-style of the Gypsy was interesting to the future psychologist, the curious minded Melinda. She was intrigued, and wondered why he always told and wrote his story from the third person.

The Gypsy Cowboy, along with his faithfully beautiful long haired Golden lab/Samoya pooch, True Dog, drove his '57 Chevy truck into Boulder town in June of 1980. They had wandered up from Padre Island in South Texas where they had been camping in the sand dunes and running a marathon on the beach almost every day for the winter. When the winter turned to spring, the fat furry and lean fur-less friends got into their truck and started driving west, "hitch-hiking" with the old truck that had a welded frame built on the bed with a rolled up canvas tarp that would spread over the welded steel frame for camping, looking like an old covered wagon. When the truck would be down to it's last quarter tank of gas, The Gypsy man and dog would park at a truck stop to get work loading or unloading trucks for gas money. While driving they would often spot a hitch-hiker who would ask where they were going. "West," The driving man would reply. The hitch-hikers would ask how far, "oh, about as far as the gas is above a quarter tank." He would smile, and thus drove straight through in this manner, all the way to San Diego before the truck finally ran out of gas at the curb in front of an old friend's house. Good timing!

While in San Diego the Gypsy dancer booked a fight, put on his show, danced circles around the '76 french Olympics silver medalist who was living in California and being "promoted", building his winning streak. Whenever Frenchy would get close the gypsy would launch 3 fast jabs into his eyes and dance away, frustrating the charging fighter, and eventually opening a nasty cut over the Frenchman's eye. After the 6 round fight the Frenchman was declared winner by a close split-descision. While in the locker room afterwards, the Mexican cornerman whom the cowboy had hired for $40 to work his corner said: "Yipsy...You win the fight. look what you do to your opponent." The hurting Frenchman "winner" was being stitched up by the doctor. The loser of the fight walked out the door briskly with a smile and not a mark on his face.

"Great, we have some gas money" the happy traveler announced to his grinning True Dog, and they were in the "Goat Roper", the name painted on the side of the 57 Chevy truck, headed northbound towards the golden Gate of San Francisco, Humbolt county bound, "Where the grass is greener, sweeter, and more potent." True Dog just grinned.

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Born To Run Free: True Trails From The Horse's Mouth | Dancing

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Born To Run Free: True Trails From The Horse's Mouth | Dancing

CB+2007

After leaving the island of Maui, wandering the country, winning some, losing some, losing, but really winning others, having taken some dives, pretending to have been knocked out while knowing that he could, and would often times dance circles around his opponent, taking great pleasure in teasing, luring the other fighter to chase him, making him miss and thus frustrating and angering the opposition; inflicting only the physical damage needed to get the job done, no more; and often times apparently not enough to persuade biased hometown judges that the peaceful artist had won the fight. Thus, his art was learning to fight while not hurting others and protecting himself from getting hurt, while writing about it as it happened; the strange and raw world, the underbelly of an American sub-culture being penetrated and explored by a young man living amongst several varied sub-cultures......

Certainly, the motivations for, and life-style of the Gypsy was interesting to the future psychologist, the curious minded Melinda. She was intrigued, and wondered why he always told and wrote his story from the third person.

The Gypsy Cowboy, along with his faithfully beautiful long haired Golden lab/Samoya pooch, True Dog, drove his '57 Chevy truck into Boulder town in June of 1980. They had wandered up from Padre Island in South Texas where they had been camping in the sand dunes and running a marathon on the beach almost every day for the winter. When the winter turned to spring, the fat furry and lean fur-less friends got into their truck and started driving west, "hitch-hiking" with the old truck that had a welded frame built on the bed with a rolled up canvas tarp that would spread over the welded steel frame for camping, looking like an old covered wagon. When the truck would be down to it's last quarter tank of gas, The Gypsy man and dog would park at a truck stop to get work loading or unloading trucks for gas money. While driving they would often spot a hitch-hiker who would ask where they were going. "West," The driving man would reply. The hitch-hikers would ask how far, "oh, about as far as the gas is above a quarter tank." He would smile, and thus drove straight through in this manner, all the way to San Diego before the truck finally ran out of gas at the curb in front of an old friend's house. Good timing!

While in San Diego the Gypsy dancer booked a fight, put on his show, danced circles around the '76 french Olympics silver medalist who was living in California and being "promoted", building his winning streak. Whenever Frenchy would get close the gypsy would launch 3 fast jabs into his eyes and dance away, frustrating the charging fighter, and eventually opening a nasty cut over the Frenchman's eye. After the 6 round fight the Frenchman was declared winner by a close split-descision. While in the locker room afterwards, the Mexican cornerman whom the cowboy had hired for $40 to work his corner said: "Yipsy...You win the fight. look what you do to your opponent." The hurting Frenchman "winner" was being stitched up by the doctor. The loser of the fight walked out the door briskly with a smile and not a mark on his face.

"Great, we have some gas money" the happy traveler announced to his grinning True Dog, and they were in the "Goat Roper", the name painted on the side of the 57 Chevy truck, headed northbound towards the golden Gate of San Francisco, Humbolt county bound, "Where the grass is greener, sweeter, and more potent."

True Dog just grinned.

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Running La Sierra Madre and Mexico's Copper Canyon

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Running La Sierra Madre and Mexico's Copper Canyon

This is one of the wonderful stories Micah originally wrote on his site caballoblanco.com.

By Micah True

My introduction to La Sierra Madre of Mexico was in November of 1994. That was the summer when a team of 7 Tarahumara indians, [most of them from the same village of 400 people], smoked the Leadville 100 mile race. I had been recruited to run with a Raramuri[runner], to pace him the last 50 miles of the race. During the course of running all afternoon and night with Martiamo Cervantes [who finished 3rd], We became good friends, a friendship fueled by the shared experience of a 10 3/4 hour run together, ups and downs[both literally and figuratively], and mutual respect.

That winter I made an announcement over a Boulder public radio station that I was looking for coats and sweaters to deliver to the Sierra Madre mountain town of Choguita, the town located at 8,700 feet where my Raramuri friends lived.

The coat drive was a success, giving away 400 quality coats and sweaters to the men, women, and children of Choguita.

The gnarly drive to this beautiful mountain valley was such a rough and traumatic experience that I was in no hurry to leave this lovely valley, where I camped and visited with the people for a week, having the opportunity to share some wonderful trail running; also running the 'jeep' road that had taken me 5 hours to negotiate 30 miles in my camper truck, in 5 hours 15 minutes by foot! This run required much less gasoline and stress then had the drive!

The winter had passed; I had traveled to Southern Mexico and returned in the spring for a visit, showing up in 'la sierra' just in time to participate in a 75 mile foot race. This was exciting to run with the Raramuri on their home turf! The night before the race, all of the Raramuri were gathered to eat dinner and I was introduced as being the amigo of often-time winner Martiamo Cervantes. I was greeted warmly as all had heard of this 'loco' gringo called 'Caballo Blanco'. The man called horse [me], grinningly produced a photo of a flying saucer hovering over lake Attitlan in Guatemala. The wide-eyed raramuri were even wider eyed when I announced that the beings in the flying saucer were my "ayudantes"[helpers]. Surely this crazy gringo with the extraterrestrial helpers would be the man to beat! The race was to begin at 7 a.m.

That night was a typical night before a race kind of a sleepless night. I was up bright and early eating oatmeal and downing a big cup of some strong espresso.-7 o'clock in the morning came, and the Raramuri were engaged in their pre-race, high-tech stretching and warm-up session; this consisted of laying around on rocks or smoking cheap filter-less cigarettes! 9,10, 12 o'clock rolled around and by this time I was exhausted from using up all of my nervous, coffee induced energy. The Raramuri on the other hand, were/are the most relaxed people who I have ever seen!

The race finally started! I was surprised to see the 20 or so Raramuri go out in a sprint, like it were a 5 km race. I, on the other hand[or foot], plodded along, actually eventually catching up to 2 of the 20 Raramuri. The race went into the middle of the night/early morning. The winner took 10 hours and 5 minutes to make this mountainous run; the next 5 runners were all within 5 minutes!

May the Raramuri and all our relations [all of them] continue to run free!

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Meeting the Tarahumara at the Leadville 100

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Meeting the Tarahumara at the Leadville 100

This is one of the wonderful stories Micah originally wrote on his site caballoblanco.com.

By Micah True

The summer of 1993:

I awoke in Boulder Community Hospital after a severe bicycle accident. My helmet had been split in two and numerous cuts around my eyes had required many stitches. The last thing I remembered was flying over the handle bars of my bike while speeding downhill at about 35 miles an hour and hitting a patch of gravel on the long, paved descent.

I would not let them [the hospital] keep me over-night. I had no health insurance, and a horse has got to eat! I had them call my good friend Robin, who came to the hospital to take me home and nurse me. She would tell me later how delirious I had been, and how she had nearly returned me to the place I had been so adamant about leaving!

After a week or so, I could move around without too much pain, so, decided to celebrate being alive by entering the Leadville 100. I had run a 22 1/2 hour Leadville some six years earlier, gotten 10th place while running very cautiously because of not running for the couple of months between the Western States 100 and Leadville. I had run over a cliff at a switch-back early-on during the Western States 100 mile run, seriously spraining an ankle, and ran on it until the doctor made me stop at the 85 mile point, when I could barely pick up my elephant-like swollen foot to step on the scale to be weighed. The following year, I had been in the very best cardiovascular condition of my life, having run 170 mile weeks and winning a couple of fifty milers, so, had gone for it at Leadville, only to suffer a stress fracture in my tibia and tendon damage from running too much and too hard on my bum left ankle, having to retire at the half-way point. After that run of assorted foot injuries and disappointments, I had stopped racing all together and had cut back quite a lot on my running

Here I was, five years later, with a good month to train, ready to celebrate my good fortune of being alive.

That '93 Leadville run was when the three Tarahumara of Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains and deep canyon country had traveled north to literally run for food. There had been a severe drought in their homeland, people were hungry, malnutrition was rampant among the children; they were starving. The Tarahumara people were cursed with an extremely high infant mortality rate. The Tarahumara runners had been promised bulk food for their villages if they would travel with a 'gringo' sponsor up to the states to run, so they did.

While running that year's 100 mile race in the mountains of Colorado, I ran very cautiously, and smoothly for the most part, having some friendly interaction on the trail with old Victoriano, the 55 year old Raramuri who had started slowly and gradually gained ground, moving as smoothly and gracefully as the afternoon storm clouds on a typical Rocky Mountain summer day, passing the rest of the runners to win the race. Cirrildo, who was from the same village, finished in second place, and Manuel Luna finished in fifth place. I got 28th, in not too bad of a time of a little over 24 hours. I was happy enough considering how I had felt a month earlier.

The next year I was all set to greatly improve on my Leadville performance, having been very healthy and training for a year, ready to roll. The only problem was, the race had filled within a week of entries being accepted in early January, when I had been in Chiapas and Guatemala entertaining Mayan-Chamula revolutionaries after having had a head on collision with a cow on a mountain highway a few days before the January 1st, 1994 Zapatista revolution. The happy Indigenous spectators had butchered the unfortunate bovine on the side of the road, while a few of them were helping me to repair my truck enough to make a get-away before the police came, or the army who were stationed near-by, or the wealthy land-owner of the cow. We had straightened out the fan-blades enough to keep them from knocking into the bashed radiator that was streaming out water faster than I could pour it in, then they told me there was "mucho aqua" in a stream near to their village. We threw some of the meat and Indians in the back of the truck and three of the Chamula crowded into the front seat with me. The normally very darkly serious Chamula could not help but laugh when I cursed with a smile, "Pinche vaca; no bueno para nada!" [Damn cow; no good for nothing!]. "Good to eat!"-- they chorused. We then drove near to their mountain village where they feasted and I was treated like some kind of hero, albeit, a very frazzled hero horse, filling up all of my water containers, and then some, before leaving and driving my beat-up truck back to the camp-ground on the outskirts of the town of San Cristobal De Las Casas, arriving in a cloud of steam, with whistling radiator and screaming engine block singing in disharmony. I had felt an urgency to get my truck out of the mountains of Chiapas, to drive it to the coast and park it at my friend's coconut plantation five hours away. I worked on the truck steadily for a few days before driving it out of there on New-Years day morning. Upon arrival at the coastal village of Puerto Arista, the whole town had been gathered around the television, watching the Zapatista revolution occurring live in the streets of San Cristobal!

"Well, shucks; I really want to run this race, and am an old time, loyal friend of this event; won't you let me enter?" I had pleaded with the race director, who did not even remember my name, or who I was, even though I had run the "family'' like race four times. No chance; the race had grown big now, and entry was at a premium. The "New York Times" and many publications had written the story of the 55 year old Mexican winning the race. Leadville was now a huge spot on the ultra-running map! The race and their corporate sponsor, a shoe company, had benefited considerably from all of the publicity, the feel good story of the impoverished Indians running for their communities; and not JUST running, but winning; and a 55 year old in sandals at that! A deal was made with the 'gringo' promoter who had driven the Tarahumara north, to bring another team of seven Raramuri to the '94 race. I think that part of the deal was to wear the race-sponsor's shoes for a photo op.

I received a phone call from the gringo sponsor/promoter of the team of Raramuri. He was looking for help, someone who could run and knew the course, to pace some of "his" runners. "Sure, I'll do it, providing I can run the whole 50 mile return with the runner of my choice." "They tend to run faster as they go; you think you can keep up?," he challenged. "If I can't keep up, then they don't need me," I confirmed. .........

Of course, almost anybody can run with anybody after the second anybody has already run 50 miles at an average elevation of over 10,000 feet!

I had driven my infamous cow-killing camper truck from my cabin in the mountains near to Nederland, Colorado, up to Leadville to meet the seven Tarahumara runners and their sponsor. Instantly upon meeting the runners, a good-looking Raramuri [who looked kind of like me :] and I made eye contact and each broke out in huge grins, picking each-other to run with. The gringo sponsor was amazed at the immediate communication between Martimiano and I; especially since the 'gringo' showed obvious disdain for me, at first. He would later open up considerably, being much friendlier and showing much more respect to me, this other, kind of 'loco' gringo who had introduced himself to the Tarahumara by the nick-name "Caballo Blanco."

I had been given this nick-name by the Mayans who inhabited the highlands of Guatemala, where the trail-running man had run the slopes of many of the country's high volcanoes, interacting with the smiling villagers along the way; and the not-so-smiling military during a time of civil war. While spending a few winters circling the volcanic crater lake of Attitlan, I would run into a village, greet the Indigenous people, buy some tortillas and bananas, then move on from village to village in this way. When I tired, I would get a room for about a dollar, jump in the lake to bath, relax and munch out on tropical fruit and an assortment of other goodies the rest of the evening. It was a rough life! .... After awhile, as I would be entering the outskirts of each village, the women and children would line the streets calling out "El Caballo Blanco," and the kids would follow me, laughing. Kind of sweet; so I carried this name with me throughout my travels in Latin America; and I think that the image of a caballo blanco must be rather endearing to Latin and Indigenous people, because I have always been greeted warmly, bringing a smile when I introduce myself.

While in the mountain cabin where the Indians, gringo sponsor, and I were staying, I was addressing the runners; "There is a woman who will be running the race; a very special woman runner who has great powers, como una bruja" [like a witch]. She has a very good chance of winning this race! The Raramuri were talking frantically among themselves; "A woman win?". At that, the gringo's eyes rolled back in his head and the now familiar scowl had re-appeared on his face. The only word I understood of the fast and quiet-speaking Raramuri, was "bruja"; this word being repeated softly by all of them; "bruja....bruja.....bruja".....like, did ya hear that? bruja! "The best way to run this race," I continued in my gringo horse Spanish; "is, do not PASS la bruja until near to the end; run her down like a deer." The Raramuri were chattering very briskly; the language sounding like a flock of birds, with maybe a little martian thrown in; the gringo sponsor scolded me with an intense glare. It seems the Tarahumara believe in both brujas and space-men.

It was too late for the sponsor to shake me. The Raramuri had taken to me, this caballo loco; and besides, he needed me to run with the leading Raramuri as they liked and trusted me.

Mr. Promoter kept the Raramuri as isolated as he could; at least, isolated from anybody when he was not around to protect them from the outside world that he had brought them to. A television crew was in Leadville to televise the race event; the town buzzing with it's usual pre-race excitement; and even more so this year. "La Bruja"-- Ann Trason, was widely known in ultra running circles around the world as being the best woman ultra-distance runner on the planet, having won many a race among top women AND men; a living legend. There would be a very strong field all around for this race, a breakthrough year for Leadville. Many of the American runners had begun to complain about the presence of the Raramuri. Also, many of the American runners were thrilled by the return of these beautiful and unique people. It was a mixed bag. Mr. Promoter would strut around town with "his" runners in tow, making sure that nobody would get too close. It seemed to me, that although shy, the Raramuri also enjoyed interacting with friendly people. Who doesn't appreciate a smiling face showing kindness and respect? Certainly, not all of the faces were smiling.

There was a tension building between the promoter, race officials, and the race sponsor. It looked like the Raramuri promoter was going to pack them all up into his van and take them back to the border. It seemed there was an argument about some payment. I don't know; I was just having fun visiting with the Raramuri in the cabin, while telling stories and showing them the decals of animals on my infamous camper truck, pictures of the Oso [bear], leon de la sierra [mountain lion], and Pescado [actually, a big salmon that I don't think they have ever seen or have a word for]. The night before the race, it looked like the gringo promoter was going to take his Indians and leave.....too bad. Then, at the final moment, apparently a deal had been struck between all concerned who had been arguing.

I don't think that anybody asked the Raramuri what they wanted to do.

Guadajuko [Tarahumara word meaning: cool!] Vamos a correr [we are going to run].

4 a.m: Let the games begin.

Over 400 runners were lined up on sixth and main street to start the Leadville 100. Most were stretching and shaking off the pre-race jitters. A group of seven runners in colorful blouses, wrap around skirts, and home-made tire-tread sandals were standing to the side, totally relaxed, performing their Tarahumara stretching routine that consisted of doing nothing. It was too cold in the mountains at 10,000 feet, and there were no big rocks near the street to accommodate the usual pre-race practice of laying around on rocks; so, the Raramuri just stood there, showing no signs that they were about to depart on a 100 mile race through the mountains of Colorado, competing with some of the best Ultra runners in the United States.

The shot-gun sounded the start of the race.

This year, there were a few younger Raramuri, including 25 year old Juan Herrera, who went out much faster than had the team of older Tarahumara that had come to Leadville the previous year. There were many more runners than usual in this year's race, that had filled up beyond the entry limit, in very large part due to the presence of the Raramuri. The first six or seven miles of the race were on pavement before merging onto a single-track trail around Turquoise lake. For the runners wanting to be among the leaders, a strategy is to be sure to start fast enough so as not to be behind too many people when running on that single-track trail in the dark, early hours of the morning. Of the seven Raramuri running this years race, five were all from the same mountain village of about 500 people. The gringo promoter had found them simply by asking around in la Sierra Madre, where did the best runners live. Juan Herrera and My friend Martimiano Cervantes were favorites among the Raramuri to win. Juan had told me that the 41 year old Martimiano was the best runner in their village. Juan was very confident, almost cocky. Martimiano just grinned; he was cool and confident.

During the early stages of the race, I was just hanging out near to the mountain cabin in my camper truck, reading and resting. I would meet the runners and promoter in Twin Lakes, at the 40 mile mark. Pacers were allowed to begin running with the racers at Winfield, the 50 mile mark, just a few hard miles after descending the mountains from the high point of the race, crossing Hope Pass at 12, 600 feet.

The first runners coming off the Colorado trail into the village of Twin Lakes, at 40 miles, were "La Bruja"--Ann Trason, and Matimiano, who had made the mistake of passing la Bruja, and another Tarahumara runner who had also passed la Bruja. Juan had arrived just after the others in the lead pack. Everybody in the lead pack was setting an incredibly fast pace on this beautifully sunny Rocky Mountain day. Just before entering the aid station in Twin Lakes, Ann had re-passed Martimiano and the other Raramuri who had passed her. "Ask them how it feels to be passed by a woman!," snarled la Bruja. "Learn Spanish and ask them yourself," I smiled. She was intensely competitive. "I hate them," she was heard to have said.

I jumped in the promoter's van to ride around the mountain to meet up with the runners where they would be arriving at the dirt road after running over the mountains and crossing Hope Pass. Here they came, descending the mountain, in almost the same order that they had arrived the last I saw them; la Bruja in first place, this time followed by Juan, Martimiano, and the rest of the Raramuri, then a large gap before the other top Americans began to appear. My man, Martimiano, arrived at the dirt road with that usual big, peyote eating grin on his face. I grinned back, and a spectator handed him a cold bottle of Coke. Martimiano downed the coke in a second, then began to run the three miles on dirt road to Winfield, the turn around point of this out-and-back course. I trotted across the road from him, where I was excited to begin pacing him at Winfield. I knew that with Martimiano, I would get a good 50 mile run in! Half way to Winfield, the Indian was doubled over, holding his belly, groaning. The carbonation from the Coke had caused a huge gas pocket of a stomach ache; Martimiano was hurting. He hobbled the last couple of miles into Winfield, seeing la Bruja and Juan strongly running back on their return trip to the trail that would take them up and over the pass again, in the early stages of their return trip to Leadville.

At the 50 mile turn-around in Winfield, Martimiano was taking his time, trying to barf, unable to get anything out but a loud, musical "brrrrp". It was not looking good for the cool Raramuri with the handsomely chiseled features, lean muscular body, and almost perpetual big grin. He was not smiling now! I made him eat a banana, grabbed his hand, and said "andale huevon!" [move on big-balls--a Mexican term for lazy]. He laughed and reluctantly came with me, walking back up the dirt road until I got him to trot, then run back to the trail, seeing a handful of other runners headed for the turn-around, in closer proximity to us. I verbally drug him up the steep trail leading us towards the ominous Hope pass; telling him that this is where I had always wanted to quit, feeling crappy, too. I told him that when we reached the mother mountain of "Esperanza" [Hope], mama Esperanza would reward us by blessing us with power, and send us on our way down her gentler side with speed and grace. Sure enough; she did! Martimiano had recovered. We had lost a great deal of time battling his illness, but, he had returned from the near-dead, and we were flying with the grace of Esperanza, dancing over rocks on the long descent to the lake-side town of Twin-Lakes, still in third place, with nobody near behind us, and La Bruja with the stalking Juan ahead of us.

Up ahead, after his arriving at Twin Lakes, Juan Herrera had been joined by his pacer, a very talented distance runner from San Diego named Jamie Williams. They were tailing la Bruja and her pacer. Whenever la Bruja would pull over to tie her shoe, take a pee, or whatever, Juan would stop until she was ready to continue, being sure to follow my advise: "Don't pass la Bruja." I would later read an account of the race by La Bruja, Ann Trason. In her account, she had said how un-nerving it had been that Juan would not pass her, as if to say that he could pass her whenever he wanted.

Martimiano and I were enjoying the smooth and roller-coaster like section of the Colorado Trail between Twin Lakes and Half-Moon campground. I told him that we would caminar [walk] the steeper ups, and run the downs and levels. When we hit an up-hill, Martimiano would say "arriba [up]; caminamos [we walk]". "You call that an arriba?! Andale, huevon"; I would crack the verbal whip at the laughing, lazy Indian; and we would run the hill.

We were on the roll again, up and down the roller-coaster, coming out of the wooded trail and into the Half-Moon campground aid station, where a film crew was waiting; the camera-man rudely pushing the camera into the face of the uncomfortable Martimiano; the commentator announcing; "Coming off the trail in third place, at this, the 70 mile mark, is a Tarahumara runner, Martimiano Cervantez, and his American pacer, Colorado's Micah True. Micah, can you tell us; is there any kind of secret to the amazing endurance of the Tarahumara's.....what do they eat?" I did not want to hang around long, as Martimiano was clearly uncomfortable, but I answered the question; "Why yes, that would have to be the three P's. The Raramuri eat the three P's every chance they get." The commentator was excited to have the scoop. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to hear it, exclusively on this station; the nutritional formula that is the secret of the Tarahumara! Micah, What are the three P's?" "The three P's, are: PINOLE, PISTO, and PINOCHA". We turned to run away as the commentator loudly repeated into the camera, the secret nutritional formula of the Tarahumara. Martimiano wanted to know what was so funny, as I had an even bigger than normal grin on my face. He wanted to know what I had told the television commentator. The three P's, according to Caballo Blanco, were: PINOLE [corn powder]--PISTO [hard booze]--PINOCHA [slang word for female genitalia]. Please excuse me. I had to pick the laughing Indian up from the trail, because he had been laughing so hard...........Andale [move on]!

We were running at a fast enough pace to cover the long dirt road section between Half-Moon campground and the Fish Hatchery aid station in the daylight. After Fish Hatchery, which is a medical check-point, begins a long jeep-road climb that seems to go on for-ever, up over Sugar-loaf pass. When Martimiano would start to get too serious, I would remind him to eat his three P's. We would laugh and lightly hike the long climb.

It was after crossing the pass and running down the other side, that Martimiano and I began to have an extended conversation about 'La Bruja'. My Spanish was definitely limited, and so was Martimiano's, as he is a very traditional Raramuri who speaks the Raramuri language and very little Spanish, yet; our communication, under the full moon, and during our whole race journey, had been very good. We understood each-other completely. Sometimes, laughter speaks much more clearly than words. We spoke of how much respect we had for La Bruja and her amazing performance ahead, and how we were going to tell her so later, after the race. We were going to present her with "Korima" [a gift].

It had been on this section, the descent from Sugarloaf pass before arriving at May Queen campground, when Juan had finally over-taken La Bruja, flying by her in the night with his pacer, Jamie, letting out a loud war-hoop! Jamie could barely keep up with the blazing Juan, who picked up his pace to arrive in Leadville, the winner and new course record holder, taking almost 30 minutes off of the previous record; finishing in a time of 17:30. Ann had run the third or fourth fastest Leadville 100 ever, with an amazing time of 18:04! This time shattered the previous women's record, that I believe she still holds, and most likely, always will.

Martimiano finished 3rd place in a time of 19:40. 4 of the first 5 finishers were Raramuri. The 7 Raramuri all finished in the top 11.

At the awards presentation, I gave a speech honoring the great runner, Ann Trason; saying how Martimiano had been very impressed with her, and had made her a gift [korima]. "On behalf of my Tarahumara friends, we would like to present Ann Trason with this gift." The Nike sponsored athlete came forward to receive her gift, a pair of hand-made huarache sandals.

The Tarahumara were never invited back to run Leadville, even though standard race policy is that ALL past champions are invited automatically. This rule did not seem to apply to the Raramuri.

May the Raramuri and all of us continue to run free.

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Mas Korima

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Mas Korima

This is one of the wonderful stories Micah originally wrote on his site caballoblanco.com.

MicahinSantaMaria

By Micah True

It was a sunny winter day in the Batopilas canyon of the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. The man called 'Caballo Blanco' was running back from the Tarahumara village of Munerachi, where he had looped into from a mountain trail and was now running trails along the river on his way back to his home in the deep canyon town of Batopilas. He passed an ancient Tarahumara indian walking along the trail. The two foot travelers acknowledged each other with the tarahumara greeting 'kuira'[hello].

Caballo Blanco had finished his 24 odd miles on the trail, had taken a shower, walked to 'Clarita's' for lunch, visited with friends all day, and was now sitting on the porch of his friend Mario's tienda[store] when the ancient old Indian whom he had passed in the morning, was entering the town of Batopilas, some 12 miles from where Caballo Blanco had encountered the old timer hours before. Caballo Blanco asked Mario to get him something to eat and drink, quickly!

Upon the old mans passing the tienda, Caballo Blanco handed the ancient Tarahumara elder a bottle of Coke and some really sweet cookies, along with mouthing the word 'korima'[gift]! This kind of junk food was not what the running man would have given had he had his druthers, but the old man responded with a big toothless grin and happily accepted the sweet treats. Mario, who speaks fluent Tarahumara, conversed with the old indian awhile, speaking very slowly, forming each word carefully, as the old indian was deaf and could read lips.

The 'gringo' called Caballo Blanco was moved. This old Tarahumara indian was nearly 100 years old, and he was still walking the trails all day to get to where he was going. Nobody ever told him that he could not do this! Nobody ever told him that he was supposed to be in an old folks home, or hospital. This old Tarahumara would walk until he died, and there was something profoundly beautiful about this.

What are our limitations? Are these limitations dictated by our culture? Quien sabe. To me, this old Tarahumara indian is a hero, an inspiration, a free man.

Run Free, Micah True [Caballo Blanco] La Sierra Madre--Mexico

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Los Alisos

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Los Alisos

This is one of the wonderful stories Micah originally wrote on his site caballoblanco.com.

MicahinSantaMaria

By Micah True

In a small Ranchito called 'Los Alisos' lived an octogenarian couple named Señor and Señora Torres.

"Corazon, you are my left arm", he told her. "And you, you are my right", she said.

It had been a long time that they had been together, either remembering a time when they were not.

"They say the world is changing", he said. "Oh, is it?..... I love you".

It had been many, many years since they had sex. Yet, they made love every moment of every day and night. With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she said,

"Remember when we made love the very first time, under this tree, this 'alisos', so many years ago?"

And the alder had lived a full life, tall, wide and strong; it's presence and strong spirit watching over them and their rancho. Daily, they would visit this ancient spirit, spending time together in the comfort of it's friendly familiarity, like the relation that it was. And other relations, la familia del pajaros azules [blue birds] would visit, feeding on the kernels of maiz that she would leave out for them daily.

The Torres clan had laid claim to this little piece of property in the lush arroyo 'Los Alisos', that is one of the many side canyons of La Sierra Madre, running like so many winding arteries into the heart of the 6,000 foot depths of the mighty Urique canyon in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. The family had resided in this arroyo paradise since Mexican miners had discovered silver in the canyons, oh, many generations back. And what remained among the alders, the sister sycamores, the ruined adobe structures of a past thriving settlement, was the old couple and their ranchito, along with an orchard of giant toronjos [grapefruit trees] that produced the most grande, ripened on the tree, sweetest grapefruits that one would ever experience.

The Torres family had no money; they did not need money; they were rich, having each-other, the company of the alders, sycamores, los pajaros azules, giant grapefruit trees, their garden, plots of corn and beans. What more was there?

Sometimes, a 'gringo' hiker would pass the rancho, wandering the canyon country, dehydrated and disoriented. 'Los Alisos' would seem like a mirage, an oasis with her lush bounty of fruit and fresh spring water. These encounters also provided wonderful entertainment for the old couple, and a chance to extend hospitality, to hear stories of other places while sharing of their now vanishing world.

The old man knew every little goat trail and shortcut that there was in la sierra, and could climb like a goat, leaving young hiking travelers in the dust, their tongues hanging out; this was good fun.

The old man had just escorted some exhausted, disoriented young hikers to the rim of the canyon, bid them 'que le vaya bien', and continued his walk to another rancho even higher in la sierra, where he was to examine a couple of burros that were for sale. The acquisition of these animals would make life easier for his amor verdad [true love], who cooked over a wood fire, daily gathering the wood fuel, grinding the corn by hand for the fresh, whole grain and hand patted tortillas gordos [fat ones].

He had been gone, walking and visiting, for a couple of days, and on his way back to Alisos. Old man Torres stood on a rock overlook, taking in the incredible views of the grand canyon, that in all these years, he had never lost his awe and appreciation of, in all it's beauty, no matter how many times that he had gazed upon her; like his wife; like La Sierra Madre [the mother mountains], that in his heart, was a metaphor for his beloved one. They were all connected.

He was now walking on a soft, high mountain trail that was covered with pine needles, gradually descending into oak trees that had huge leaves like elephant ears, that when dry, would fall to the ground, covering the trail, rendering it invisible but for the rocks and the leaves that would make a loud crunching sound when walked on. This loud crunch of the leaves in the calm silence of la sierra, would announce the approach of on-coming people or animals from a great distance.

The ol' timer reflected on how this year, something strange had been occurring; the pajaros had been dying; and his favorite horse had suddenly taken ill and died from some mysterious ailment. The people had said that a new virus had arrived from 'el otro lado' [the other side]; and was being passed on, carried by mosquitoes.

It was while eating a lunch of maiz tortillas and frijoles, that he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his left arm, his heart fluttering. The octogenarian was up and running; gracefully springing from the firmly planted rocks that he called 'ayudantes' [helpers], avoiding the smaller, fist sized rocks that could trip one up; these he called 'chingocitos' [little fuckers]. He was moving like a runner many years younger; he just knew that he had to get back to his amor.

Upon arrival at the ranchito, he found his love in a weakened state, shaking from fever, unable to move. He cradled her in his arms all night, nursing her with warm tea and grapefruit juice, kissing her, telling her he loved her.

In the morning, she opened her eyes and with a smile on her face, asked to be buried under the old Alisos where they had first made love;

"and do not forget to feed los pajaros azules."

Then, she passed. The old man buried his beloved where she had asked, then planted yet another young alder on top of the mound of earth that was her grave. He made the sign of the cross, then spread a couple handfuls of maiz kernels on the ground, welcoming the blue-birds as they fed; the old timer knowing that their spirits would be here, together always. What better place to be?

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Humbled by La Sierra Madre

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Humbled by La Sierra Madre

This is one of the wonderful stories Micah originally wrote on his site caballoblanco.com.

MicahinSantaMaria

By Micah True

It was late in the winter of 1995. The gringo called Caballo Blanco had returned to the Copper Canyon after spending the winter running through the jungles of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan peninsula. The previous fall had been his first trip to La Sierra Madre Occidental [the mother mountains of the west]. That is when he had delivered 400 quality coats and sweaters donated by the good people of Boulder, to the village of his new Tarahumara runner friends whom he had met at the '94 Leadville 100. Every man, woman and child of the high mountain village of Choguita had received a quality coat or sweater, coming from a town that was known for quality. Caballo Blanco had vowed to return, and to visit the deep canyons that he had heard so much about, to run and explore.

Here he was, sitting on the train on his way to the 6,000 foot deep canyon town of Urique, where the plan was to do a fast/pack running trip over to Batopilas canyon in 1 day. Nobody that anybody knows had actually made this trip from town to town in one day; oh sure, from river canyon to river canyon at times, but not the towns of Batopilas to Urique or visa-versa. Of course, thought Caballo Blanco rather confidently, the people that live in these parts are just a bunch of cigarette [did i spell that right?] smoking Mexican cowboys and marijuana growers! And the Tarahumara Indians that lived in the canyons had no reason to travel from one canyon to the other. Certainly an ultra runner from Colorado would have no problem making this journey in one day. The man called horse had hitch-hiked from the train station to the village of Urique, where he got a $5 bed in the hotel canon, ate a hearty meal in the morning, then set out for his canyon to canyon run. Running down river along a new dirt road, he would look across the Urique river to the east, at the mother mountains, seeking out a trail that he could take out of the canyon, climbing to the top of the mountains, where it would then be easy sailing down into the Batopilas canyon [not!]. A local had told him about a new motorcycle trail that the governor of the state was building for his spoiled son, who was an avid motorcyclist. No problema! This nice smooth trail climbed upward, not too steep, and Caballo Blanco was on the move, endorphins buzzing through his happy state of cerebral bliss.

What happened to the trail? It seems to have disappeared, like it was 'beamed up'. Every which way he searched, following goat trails that would dead end at a little abandoned rancho, circling back to point 0, nada; looking at his watch, so much for a record, unless he got moving soon. Heck, it was only a few hundred meters to the crest of the mountains, as the buzzard flies; and they were, los zopilotes [buzzards] circling overhead, curiously watching this gringo loco who was now scaling the flaky rock faced mountain, water bottle between his teeth, looking down below at the long drop, above at the grinning vultures who were anticipating a meal. How did he get himself into such predicaments? Sometimes, in the quest for adventure, he would find himself living an epic that really was not so enjoyable while it was happening, although fun to tell stories about later. Crawling on his belly like a reptile, pulling himself upward by grasping at plants growing precariously from the canyon-side, he finally arrived at the rim and crest of the mountain, exhausted. Regaining his breath, he ran along the mountain ridge to the south, knowing that Batopilas was in a southeast direction. Oops....a dead end again, this time surrounded by tall weed like plants with big buds that smelled strongly of skunk........hmmm... Buzzing along his way again, or out of his way, the thirsty horse-man had been dry quite awhile now. He took a pee that was orange in color. He recalled being dehydrated at the Wasatch 100 miler one year, peeing the same color. "Hey Gordon, what do ya think of this?", he had asked his rocket-scientist running buddy that day in the past, that was now blending into the present. "Not good"; had confirmed Gordon, showing why he was a rocket scientist.

Spotting a shallow pool of water, colored brown with cow shit, he filled one water bottle, dropped two iodine tablets into the murky mix that was floating in his water bottle, made the sign of the cross, and continued his run. Stumbling onward, he spotted a little ranch where a Tarahumara man was plowing a field. The Tarahumara man sent his young son to the well to fill Caballo Blanco's water bottles, and gave the depleted traveler a bag full of pinole. "Korima" [sharing], was the only word spoken by the gracious Tarahumara; and fueled by the korima, the generosity of these humble people, fueled by the beauty of La Sierra Madre, the running man called horse continued his run without incident until arriving that night at the lovely deep canyon town of Batopilas, thoroughly trashed, humbled by La Sierra Madre; NO records!

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