From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our quarterly excursions are opportunities for men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Winter 2019: D&T Grind

On January 24th, 2019, nine men and nine women will head into
the mountains of Santa Cruz for three days and thirty miles of cold and grit. This is their story.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


We've got thirty dirty miles ahead of us.

When is the last time you did thirty miles on your feet? With a loaded pack?

I've never done that. I've run Skyline without a pack. I've hiked much shorter distances with a loaded pack. But this combination of distance and load will be new for me.

So it's time to get conditioned.

I hate exercise. I made sure that I worked out at least twice before drafting this post. Because I hate being a hypocritical loser even more than I hate exercise.


We're going to talk a lot about gear in an upcoming post, God willing. And when we get into that, we'll talk about the importance of making sure that we are all packing as lightly as possible to minimize the stress on our bodies day over day.

But what about OUR weight?

Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator here.

If you come up as overweight, please recognize that this is putting undue stress on your joints along with your pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. These are the very systems that will be taxed on our trip, so we have a BRILLIANT opportunity to reduce the burden to these systems NOW.

I'm not a weight loss expert. There are tons of resources out there, but they all boil down to one thing: caloric deficit. We need to take in fewer calories than we burn. There are loads of apps and tools to figure this all out, like this one or this one.

We are often boxed into thinking about weight loss as a purely aesthetic choice. That's stupid. It's a functional choice. As a lighter person, you will operate with much more efficiency.


Take a look at this elevation chart:

We start out at Saratoga Gap, around 2600 feet. At the end of the first day, we end up at Waterman Gap, around 1200 feet. All downhill right?

Did you know that heading downhill is actually harder on your body than climbing?

Jonathan Chang, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon out of Monterey Park (who gets super shitty reviews on Yelp) says this:
"Recent studies have shown that you spend three times as much energy walking downhill as walking up," he says. "It just doesn't feel as tiring."
A big part of this is that our leg muscles are actually forced to contract as they lengthen. They're called an eccentric contractions and they suck. Add to this the stress on our knees and our ankles and you've just got a terrible recipe for soreness and misery.

Which means that when we start climbing on Day 2, we could very well be in a world of pain.

Unless we get strong. Or get hopped up on drugs.

Focusing now on exercise, the single best way to do this is to load a pack and hike. A lot.

If that isn't an option, make use of every opportunity you have to work your legs and core. Go for walks and mind your posture. Be creative. My wife is taking the stairs at work, eight flights. Walk to the grocery store with your pack, load it with groceries and hike back home. Do planks when you wake up. Ride your bike.

What else can you think up?

Looking for something a little more structured? Check out this tip sheet from REI.

Personally, I alternate a tabata treadmill routine with body-weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and leg lifts. More recently I've begun to experiment with those incline treadmills and that feels like it's working the right spots.

It's possible we could do some of this together, so if anybody is feeling inspired and ambitious, you may certainly organize a training group to keep everyone accountable and to track gains.

The Head Game

Something is always better than nothing. Showing up at the trailhead in January without putting in any work is a REALLY bad idea. This is a through-hike. One way.

Once we start, we can only keep going.

So PLEASE don't skip training.

But, according to elite athletes, 90% of their success comes from mental preparation.

You each made a decision to sign up for this adventure. You each put down a deposit to mark your commitment. There is only one decision left:

Will you decide to walk off of that mountain and onto Waddell Beach?

She's totally on drugs. You should never stare into the sun like that.

But we're sober and we should think of physical training as a way to reduce the possibility of injury and to make this whole adventure a bit more comfortable.

Think of mental conditioning as the way to fully internalize your determination to succeed.

I know who you are. I know how many emails and inquiries I get. I know how many conversations I have with people who talk about joining the next trip.

When it's time to register, these people fade away. It happens every time.

You are the elite. Many of you had nothing to say to me. You just signed up. Long on action, short on talk. That's the stuff.

And you've got it.


  1. Great article Ahmed, with good suggestions. Yes, I got to get in shape and be prepared and do trainings and disciplines. Maybe people can share what they are doing

    1. You're in pretty good shape, brother. But you're right to train- no harm in prepping and fine tuning :)

  2. Though this post is old my brain is still here. A few weeks ago, fairly soon after signing up, I had a mild panicky feeling: what was I thinking, hike 10 miles a day maybe, carrying supplies? Not without being very uncomfortable and perhaps unhappy probably before the end of day 1. I’m a nerd so I googled how to train for a backpacking trip and have been piecing together a training/workout routine. Feeling better, still nervous. Bismillah

    1. Anxiety, if it compels action rather than induce paralysis, is a very good thing. I know a little about your sense of commitment and determination. I have no doubt that you will rise up and do what needs to be done, God willing.

      Now, what our bodies will feel like afterward . . .


    1. These are excellent links, Syma! Thank you very much :)