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February 19, 2019

Cool shit happens when you shoot for the stars

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Opportunity (Oppy) - Mars Record Holder for the Ultra and Marathon 



Shooting For The Stars


Cool shit happens when you unleash your BHAG.  Absolutely nothing happens when you don't.



Last week the world said goodbye to a fantastically ambitious and talented ultra athlete named Opportunity.  Its story began on July 7, 2003 when Opportunity set out on a journey to do, at best, a 2K race on the planet Mars.  Along the way, Opportunity, or Oppy as its engineers nicknamed it, was designed to collect things and tell everyone back on earth what it had found.  Kinda like a runner here on earth taking photos during a marathon and posting them on Facebook or Instagram.  


And Oppy wasn't alone.  It had a running friend named Spirit who landed on another 2K route on the other side of Mars.  Yeah, they were friends, but also age group competitors. 


Such is the world of high science.


Oppy and Spirit were part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover program.  The objectives of the mission were complex, but a key piece was to find out if there used to be (or maybe still is) water on Mars.  They could do this by poking around a bunch of rocks and dirt, doing some tests, making some hypothesis, and then testing them.  This is some seriously cool science.


cart , golf cart looking machine on a six to Imagine the caliber of the talent that sat around the table back in 2000 or the late 1990s.  They had to figure out how to send a golf seven month journey into space.  Two of them!  They had to land on opposite sides of a planet that no one had ever been to.  Then, they had to unpack all their gear, make sure they had power, and then send a message - which would take 14 minutes to arrive - to a bunch of RD science geeks on planet earth telling them that they were ready to begin their run.  sized


"Hey Earth, it's time to say Go"


And I sometimes get people complaining that Montana is too far out of the way for a marathon!


Anyway, the science geeks knew all this, of course, and had a bunch of plans for the project.  A key part of the plan was that both athletes - Oppy and Spirit - were designed to run at least, or at best, a 2K and they had a cut off time of 90 days to get this done.


Fair enough.  90 days should be enough time to do a 2K.  We don't have cut off times at the Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series (GYAS) and I guess NASA doesn't really either.  I mean 90 days for a 2K?  Come on.


But here's something that NASA learned and that we can all appreciate, and even replicate.  When you shoot for the stars, when you unleash your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), God only knows what will happen.


In the case of Spirit, the 2K turned into almost an 8K (4.8 miles) and 90 days turned into five years, three months, and 27 days.  It was chugging along at a PR and potential planet record pace when it got bogged down in some sand.  I guess the RDs dropped the ball on course management, but turning a 2K into an 8K is pretty fricking cool.


Oppy became the Eliud Kipchoge of Mars. Even though Spirit had a head start, Oppy kicked some serious ass.  Its 2K run turned into an Ultra.  It passed through the marathon finish line of 42K (26.2 miles) a couple years ago and just kept on going.  It obviously had higher ambitions.  Instead of a 2K, it ran an ultra of 45K (28.06 miles).  Instead of a 90 day run, it ran for 5,111 days.three week


When BHAGs are unleashed, not even the brainiacs of NASA know how far something can go.


But here's the deal.  The real story.  The first thing you have to do is shoot for the stars.  You have to try something totally unrealistic.   You gotta have a BHAG.  You have to say to yourself that you're going to do something that no one has done before, or at least very few people in your circle of friends have done.  You may have to travel a long ways to do this. It will almost certainly be difficult.  That's part of the deal when acting on BHAGs.  But if you do all this.  If you really do shoot for the stars, tremendously cool shit happens.


Why not give it a try?


In less than two weeks, the GYAS has some launch date openings.  On March 1, 1872 President Ulysses Grant shot for the stars by creating something called a National Park.  Instead of Mars, it was the Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park became part of what many people call, especially the documentarian Ken Burns who coined the phrase, America's Best Idea. In memory of President Grant's BHAG, we have chosen March 1 as the official opening date for online registration of the GYAS race series.  At high noon Montana time (MST a.k.a. the best time zone) on March 1, 2019, the links to sign up for all the GYAS races go live.  The links are on the left bar of this newsletter, but we'll send them in another email before the 1st. 


This is your chance to shoot for the stars.  Create a BHAG for the Yellowstone and then do it.  Just say Go.  It could be one of the most amazing experiences of your life and like nothing you had even planned for.  That's how BHAGs work.


Just ask Oppy and Spirit.


Stay Happy, Healthy, and Always Run Forward while shooting for the stars.





p.s.  ULTRA UPDATE:  The US Forest Service process to get permits for the Madison Ultra Up and Madison Ultra Down races got disrupted by the federal government shutdown.  However, I'm in touch with the team in Ennis and they are on top of it.  We hope to announce a final decision very soon.  Stay tuned and please keep the proposed ultra date - July 7, 2019 - open on your running calendar.   Sometimes BHAGs take a while to get started.


.  Kudos to p.s.s.  Stay tuned for a really cool idea called a Mars-athon three time TBA (and 2017 champion) Dylan Malloy for one hell of a BHAG idea.

The John Colter Club

The John Colter Club is a members-only club for athletes who are or have been:

  1. An inaugural athlete in one of the six GYAS races. 

  2. Earned a podium finish (top three) in the overall men and women's category of any GYAS race. 

  3. Are a three-time returnee to a GYAS race. 


We want to recognize those who went first, those who finished well, and those who just keep coming back.  For a membership fee of $30 per year and immense bragging rights for getting in, members receive the following:

  1. personalized water bottle with the GYAS logo, your name, and the club's name. 

  2. Early access.  Members get to sign up for the GYAS races before the March 1 opening. 

  3. discount of 15 percent off the entry fee of the race you sign up for. 


Do the math and you can figure out that your $30 comes back to you pretty quick.   If you qualify and if you want to join an exclusive club of athletes named after Montana's most famous total bad ass, send me an email.  Tell me how you qualify.  I'll confirm it all and send you the application. 

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