In my last DL,
i made a veiled invitation to Master Student Alan “L’Gaté” Ludgate to submit a Race Report on our shared Pilgrimage to the Mother of all Mountain Races, Imogene Pass last Saturday.

Like the impeccably brilliant Master Student he is, L’Gaté immediately produced this offering for all of us.

May each of us be inspired by this NYC Warrior who took pilgrimage to the misty, lofty mountains of the WF Birthplace and danced his dragons with fierce grace…as i read through his beautiful words, i reflected on some of the intense training i put him through in order to prepare for his Pilgrimage…

L’Gaté and i cranking off some Medicine Ball Tosses; preparing his core/hip chain musculature to withstand the 4+ hours of sustained effort which Imogene would demand months later…

Imogene humbles the runner by placing an insanely high mountain pass in front of you which can either intimidate or infuse…i took L’Gaté indoor climbing to teach him to ‘keep one eye on the summit and devote yourself to the present m(om)ent,’…determination to keep moving upward is a huge part of Imogene success!

…L’Gaté seeing God, gasping God, reeling with God after a sustained uphill nordic ski interval with me last winter here in Flag…any yogi who accepts the Imogene pilgrimage will be forced to surrender to his or her deepest Breath Body and remain with their Breath Body for several hours…this is vital to any pilgrimage so that the Mental Body becomes erased!

…and now,
i give unto our Practice,
L’Gaté’s Imogene Race Report…
also known as:
“Jazz in the Present Tense,”

L’Gaté…Cash, Coltrane, and Marley are pleased…i can feel it from here. It was deep honor to share the Sacred Sweat with you in ‘my’ San Juan’s…

your loving coach



About six months ago, Coach and I had an e-mail exchange to plan our next private intensive, my third in 5 1/2 years of WF training. I suggested we organize the intensive around a race. Coach asked what I had in mind. Recalling past DL entries, I asked “what about the Soulstice Race in Flag, or something in Telluride around Imogene?” Coach’s response was…”IMOGENE!!?!??!…that would be a Noble Pilgrimage in deed!”.

With that, we were off and running (literally). As readers of DL know, Coach has been putting the hammer down on the trails all the summer. I was doing the same in the Bronx, using the Mt. Washington Road Race in June as my key prep race. The general response of friends and family to my plan was “you are out of your f&^%n mind!..what are you going to do about the altitude?” I had no particular answer to their queries, but I did have complete faith in my Coach and in my training program. Long, “suffer-fests” on the weekends, endless stair workouts and uphill treadmill runs, all of it balanced with HP / Prop Yoga and Early Morning Ritual.

Flew into Phoenix early Thursday morning. At Coach’s recommendation, I stopped off in Sedona and hiked Devil’s Bridge, performing Ai Imawa on the top of the rock bridge itself – not the most flowing Ai Imawa I’ve ever done, but many fear dragons conquered. After a late lunch in Sedona, it was off to Flag for Thursday night Prop! At Coach’s instruction, I did my best to keep the throttle on “medium”, but it was hard not to get caught up in the chi that was flying around that room. As I would continue to learn throughout the weekend, Flag is full of kind, yet fierce, fitness warriors, and the Cave was flying Thursday night.

After meeting beauty-full Dewa and re-connecting with Ananda Friday morning, Coach and I set sail across the Desert, passing through Hopi Land, the Navajo Nation, and the Great Resting Ute. Desperate for pre-race calories, we wrestled down some questionable pizza and burritos (“…you have to PUSH it down..”) and continued on into Ouray, arriving just in time for the pre-race dinner and briefing.

Up early on race day, I worked through EMR and tried to quiet my nerves. I really had no idea what to expect – not only had I not run a high altitude race before, I had never spent time in the high Rockies. For the first mile, I felt terrible. I couldn’t get into a rhythm, I was exerting heavily, and as the other runners bounded by, I felt like I was in way over my head. As we left the start line, Coach leaned in and said “Trust the dharma…trust the mantra”. As I got into Mile 2, I started to settle in and find a groove. I found a four count breathing pattern (nose inhale, mouth exhale, mouth inhale, mouth exhale), and paired it up with the first four syllables of the sacred mantra (OM…MA…NI…PAD). I rode this all the way to the summit. Whenever my mind wandered or I looked up and got discouraged, I just doubled down on the breath and the meditation. My first goal was to make Upper Camp Bird inside 2 1/2 hours to avoid being DQed. Stamped on the timing pad at 2:04 and knew I was going to make it. The last two miles to the summit were brutal and slow (it took me an hour to cover the final 2.4 miles of the ascent). And then, I was there, at the top of Imogene Pass, on top of the world. Coach told me after the race “something like this uses every workout you’ve ever done”, and that couldn’t have been more true. It was all my cardio, all my rear squats and jump squats, and especially all my Yoga, Pranayam, and Meditation that got me to the top of that mountain.

Yes, I was elated, but I also had 7 miles to go, all of it downhill. I dropped down the fall line and dropped back into the mantra, all six syllables this time…Om Mani Padme Hung…singing inside my head like a choir of angels. For the first 4 miles, I was moving slow and steady, and feeling great. In the last three miles, the constant pounding of big toe against shoe began to take its toll. At the same time, the footing was becoming better and I felt strong, so I tried to pick up my pace. The downhill for me was all about meditation (staying focused on the mantra and on the next step), and yoga (my limber joints adjusting automatically to the changing terrain). My last mile was my best mile, and I crossed the finish line in 4:31:29, the 700th person to cross the line (but the first from the Bronx!!). No, I didn’t get within sniffing distance of the podium (84th in my age group), but I made it, unbowed by the altitude and unbloodied by the trail. I wanted to be a net passer on the way down, and by my count in the race results, I passed 27 people between the summit and the finish. As Coach said in his race report, he and I both woke up feeling great on Sunday, heading out for an early morning hike. Even after folding my body back into the car for the drive to Phoenix, and surviving a red eye flight back to New York, I feel terrific.

All in all, Imogene 2008 was a remarkable life experience, and an amazing private intensive (I think and feel I advanced my practice 12 months in four days). And I even got to hear a Dutch guy play a 2 hour concert of John Denver songs!! It truly is a blessed life.

Namaste and Love,
Student L’Gate

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