Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall of the runner

Sometimes things get wonky. If you have ever seen a bleached elk skull entwined in the branches of a fallen pine tree or come across an iphone 5c at the bottom of a river, you know life is not linear. Try as we might, we must flow with the debris when the volcano blows and the glacier turns to mud slurpee.

My training has not been going well. I am trying to adjust to life's tumult and dive under the waves as they crash above. I get tumbled but keep popping up intact.

Post UTMB I returned to Seattle, work, life, school for the kids although they were very jet lagged and looked like methadone zombies for the first week of school. I was smart enough to avoid the temptations of early fall Ultras including the new Skyrunning Crystal Mountain Marathon which kept singing its siren song luring me to crash into the rocks. I stuffed my ears with cotton and sailed on to a local 10k which took all of 36 minutes (a PR as it was my first 10k).

Again, my training has been sub par. My free/running time has shrunken considerably due to... life. I suppose I am lucky this has happened late in the season when my race schedule is anemic and my body is too. The daylight hours are truncated, the weather is dampening. I have a few races left this year and none of them ultra distance. Smart no? Yes but not very satisfying.

I feel like going big and wasting myself in an all out war of will with a 100 mile or longer monster. I want to duke it out with pinspot headlamps behind me. I want the thrill of chasing or being chased. It has been since June that I have had the taste of the hunt in my throat. I yearn for it. Yet I must be smart. Patience and rest. Let the body recover over the winter. Secretly train while the others hibernate. If you can't be stronger and faster, be smarter.

I am running the Lake Padden National Championship, Trail, 1/2 marathon on Saturday Oct. 18th in Bellingham, Washington. I feel undertrained and aggressive. I want to burn, I want to hurt and I want to win a medal and not puke. I suppose that is enough to tide me over until 2015.

Dark days need light. I have been extremely lucky to hitch my wagon to the fine folks at PETZL. This year Petzl will be providing me with headlamps of unequaled quality. I have been taking the Petzl NAO headlamp with "reactive" lighting out on training runs and am blown away by the feel, output and engineering put into this lamp. Reactive lighting technology means the headlamp has a sensor which lights or dims the output depending on your aim. Look at a map or an aid station worker's face, the light automatically dims, look out over an expanse of trail, the lamp brightens to full strength. The reactive lighting is not only a cool party trick, it actually is used to maximize battery life of the fully rechargeable  battery so you can get up to 12 hours of burn time. Did I mention how much I love Petzl? I am also playing with the Petzl Tikka headlamp which is lighter, has reactive lighting too and makes for the perfect backup light. Bring on the winter running.

Lake Padden Trail 1/2 then probably the Deception Pass 25k then a long winters nap with dreams of what adventures may come next Summer.

Monday, September 8, 2014

UTMB 2014

I DON'T KNOW.
Over and over again in my head until I tried to banish those three words. Say it! Say it one more MFing time. I dare you. By mile 80 I had accepted I don't know as a state of being. I really didn't know. What time it was, where I was, where I was going, how to get there, what was coming next. I had to accept simply being where I was.

UTMB- The race of a lifetime. Start in Chamonix, France, circumnavigate the Mont Blanc Massif via Italy, Switzerland and back to France in a 104 mile circuit. Roughly 32,000ft gain and loss throughout the Alps. 3,200 runners. Start time 5:30PM.

One week before departing for France we didn't know if we could actually go or not. Family medical issues were taking precedent. Scheduling with doctors, surgeons, nurses et al. The trip was a 50/50. Throw on top of this, work issues which were taking up enough time I couldn't really train properly at all. Going to France? I don't know.

Recovered from Hardrock? Recovered from Western States? I don't know. How will you find out? First climb or second climb I guess.

Issues resolved themselves, the window opened and we flew the coop. The whole family trundling from Seattle to Paris in a cloud of confusion. What time is it? How do we do customs in France? Do we have enough Euros? Why didn't we study more French?

Settled into Paris in a quaint apartment we found our bearings amongst the patissaries, fromageries, marches and cobbled streets. Which Metro to the Louvre? What kind of cheese do you suppose they put in the crepes? How can this wine be so cheap and so good? Just as we had Paris in focus, we upped and took a fast train to Annecy. Are there taxis on Sundays? Why is everything closed? Is that a castle or a church?

Maps, wifi and good old wandering and we had Annecy sussed out after a few days. Then we split for Chamonix and another clear slate. Is this the right train station? Could it be raining harder? What is the address of the apartment? As is usually the case, things resolve themselves and there we were in a beautiful apartment in a beautiful town at the base of an amazing mountain covered in glaciers. Wet, hungry, confused, happy. To the grocery store! What is this? What is that? Is that a sheep's head? Is that smell cheese or compost? How much is a kilo in pounds?

I never changed my watch to French time because it is really hard to change. 9 hours from Seattle time. Good enough. In France, digital clocks are on 24 hour time while watches with hands use the 12 hour time. We explored Chamonix and fell quickly in love. We rode the Tram to the Aguille Du Midi at 12,604ft. We hiked to Le Lac Bleu. We wandered town, we rode the Luge, we vacationed. We ate really good food and a lot of Nutella. I checked in to the race and fumbled my way around the language. I didn't have a clue if my incredibly heavy running pack was full of necessities or garbage. What would the course be like? Did I really need rainpants and manpris when I run in shorts during snowstorms in the PNW? Are the rubberized waterproof gloves I bought at the industrial fishing supply store overkill? Am I the only one here wearing deoderant?

The clock started ticking down. Am I ready? Am I trained? I know I'm not going to be at peak level but do I have enough endurance left from my early season training to make it to the finish? If I have an elite runner number, am I a sham if I finish mid pack?

The day dawned. I stayed in bed as long as I could. What am I doing? What have I taken on? I ate and ate. I dropped off my single drop bag. I milled about the street with my family. Am I supposed to meet the other runners here? What time is it? The race starts at 5:30 PM, I wended my way to the front corral at 4:30 as the rain began in earnest. Am I going to barf in front of French TV cameras? I saw the other top runners and chatted with friends. What is your plan? Do you have crew? Poles? Food? Bladder or bottles? Loud speakers, helicopters, crowds, flags, chaos and we were off like a marathon. 2,300 people. Running stupid through the town towards the hills. I was soaked. Should I bust out the rain gear even though I'm not cold? How come no one other than the Americans are talking? Am I going out too fast? So this is a French ski area. Man I'm wet. What the hell? A Fromagerie at the top of a ski mountain? This mud is really slippery and my shoes have no grip. This is like skiing! Whoops! Time for the poles. Is that the aid station? I'll eat some of everything. Hey it is Seb! Aloha, I mean Bonjour!

Where am I? Oh, yeah, kilometer something or other. What time is it? My watch seems to have stopped working. Shit. O.K. doesn't matter keep running get out your headlamp. Man am I wet. Is that a bonfire? What was that kid singing? Why is everyone so happy to see me? Is this another aid station or a spectator cluster around a fire? Is there soup? Is that chocolate at the aid station? As much as I want? I have a pocket. Man these shoes are slippery. Glad I have the poles. Is this the Col Du Bon Homme? Is that a constellation or a string of runners way up there? Way, up, there. Is that a 6 mile conga line of headlamps behind me? Will this climb ever end? Is the entire descent technical? Can I drink this water? Am I in France or Italy? Is Swiss cheese still Swiss cheese in Italy? Does this mean my quads are recovered from Hardrock? Is it going to be morning soon? I have no idea what time it is, doesn't matter, just run. Are you from Canada? Is there soup? oooh chocolate. Is that the sky getting light or a town? Do I still need my light or can I let the batteries die like they just did? Is this Couermayer? Where is my dropbag? Do I need to change shoes? Did I bring extra socks? Yes and no. Is that Ziti? Is there a bathroom? Should I take a shower? No. Coffee? Yes. Do I feel like a new man? yes I do. Was that a rooster? Heehee. Could this climb be prettier? Is that a raspberry? Top of the climb already? Coffee? Why don't I run in the morning more at home? Is that Mont Blanc? Is that the other side of the tunnel? Is the next Refugio soon? Is that the same guy I've passed 12 times already? Are those campsites? Is that the food tent way down there? I don't know what time it is. I don't know where I am mile wise. Just run down the mountain to the aid station. Is there anything in here that looks good? Soup with Star pasta, bread and coffee. Down it goes...up it comes. I'm an anime kitten who makes star comets shoot out of his mouth. Am I going to puke forever? Am I done with the race? Am I embarrassed enough to top off my water and leave? Yes. Can I pull it together? How far to the next food stop? Let's see...19 kilometers, 6.4 miles per 10k times roughly two means 'bout 13 miles up a huge climb and down the other side on zero nutrition. Hit it! Could it get steeper? Could I have a bonkier head? Is that fog and rain headed this way? Is there no water at the top? Why do I get the first runnable downhill when I'm bonked out? Is that the water stop from my map? No? Is that? Is that? Is that? I dunno. Must not exist. Is the La Fouley aid station at the bottom of this trail? No. Across the river? No. Near those cheering people? No. All the way down the road, the hot hot road? Yes. Do I drop here? Do I nap? Can I eat without puking? Do I look as bad as those guys? Mmmm crackers and more crackers. Could this aid station tent get hotter? Can I walk it in from here? What mile am I? What time is it? I don't know. Just walk until it gets cooler. Is everyone and their mother passing me? Are those mushrooms? Are those Swiss Raspberries? Is this shade runnable? Is that someone giving out hot tea? Yum. Is that a village fountain for me to soak my hat, my shirt and my head? Is my mojo coming back? What time is it? It is go time! Up this tiny hill to Champex... is this really the "small" climb on my elevation tattoo? Is this the right way? Am I going too hard? Is this the top? is this the top? Hey that must be the top no? Is this a joke? Is that the...No. This must be the...no. Jesus is that the aid station already? Yes. Is that more real pasta with sauce and blueberry pie? Damn I might never leave. Is all this food staying put? Am I really back on track? Could this lake be prettier? Is this the start of the big climb or the approach? Is this the trail or a stream? I wonder what time it is? Is Bovine named after the cows or cows after it? could this be steeper? Is that a cow gate? Is this the top? It is? Sweet. Does this descent get more technical? How can you do this race without poles? Is that the valley floor? Are those adoring fans or cows with bells. Cows. Is this Trient? Is the dude with the microphone giving me shit for being American? Is this soup going to sit? Should I be in and out so fast? Why isn't this climb going up faster? Why so many switchbacks? Will it ever top out. Am I in Switzerland or France. I don't know what time it is. What mile or kilometer or whatever just climb. I want to see the sun set in France, where is the sunset? Is this the top? Are those voices? Nope, Sheep with little bells. Is it getting dark? Can I make it down to Vallorcine without a light? Is this only technical for me? Is my flashlight in here? Is this possible to hold while using poles? Is my headlamp in here with the dead batteries? How many people just passed me as I fiddled with my headlamp? What are Jane and kids doing? What time do you suppose it is? What am I doing here in the middle of Europe, in the dark, tired, hungry, confused. I don't know. Keep going. Is this the last chance for real food? Could I get more pissy in an aid station than I am here and now? Crackers will do for now, the soup couldn't get past my lips. Deep breath, pack back on, out into the black night. On and Up. Up, up. Is this a climb or a dry waterfall? Is this right? If I slip will I die? Are there lawyers in France? Are the rocks smiling at me? Is that a lizard? Is that a marker or a star? Where is everyone? Am I on Earth? Am I drinking enough? Is this going down or up? Where am I? Is, whooops! Oh shit! Man, man, shit, man. OK OK, I'm OK, shit. OK gather, fetch the pole from the edge of the cliff, you're alright, let's go, you're fine. Am I taking stupid chances? Should I drop? What time is it. Is that the last aid station? Should I eat? Crackertime! Water and go dog go! Is this downhill all runnable? Am I flying or what? Is this going to take no time to get to Chamonix? What time is it? Are those lights? Is that town? Why isn't that town? Are you alright? You sure? Do you need help? OK. See you, bon chance. Is that someone else to pass? Am I really almost done? Is that town? Is that road? Are those foot steps behind me? Is that dude passing me? Am I challenging him? Are we really sprinting this thing in at mile 103? Is this real? Am I really back in Chamonix running past the familiar sights of the week? Is this really the end, the finish chute, the arch? Is that time right? 32:21:08 Is this really my wife and kids waiting for me? I know! Now I know! I know what time it is! I know where I am! I know who I'm hugging and why! I know why I do these stupid things. I know what it is like to see the Alps from all sides day and night. I know what I look like from the inside when I'm raw. I know what racing in Europe feels like, smells, like, tastes like. I know these things because I was there, and there and there. When will I come back and race this race again? I don't know but I hope it is soon.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mondo Slam fizzles and is snuffed out.


     What was I thinking? Nick Clark? Jared Campbell? Superman? Apparently I am none of the above.
I really thought I could do it. 12 days to recover from Western States 100 and run Hardrock. I never would have started if I didn't think it possible. I never should have started.
     I felt damn frisky at the check in. I felt damn nervous at 5:45 Am as the Superstars of Ultra Running gathered at the rock for the start. I felt old and rusty as we headed out of Silverton on a 100 mile circle through the San Juans. I felt slow and empty on the first climb up Putnam Basin. I felt like a corpse when I pulled the plug at mile 42 in Ouray.
     It was like having an Earthshaking hangover at your birthday party.
     It was so magical, the course is like running through a Visit Colorado brochure. The mountains and views alone can carry you to... mile 42.
     O.K. I sucked. It sucked. I had a terrible time. I started off with such great hope and then got passed by the entire first half of the field. I had nothing. My legs were empty and useless except for their amusing "noodle dance" which they were quite proud of. I knew I was toast with Marmalade when I got to Kroger's Canteen at mile 30idontcare and realized if I had to backtrack to Silverton I'd end up in Telluride passed out on the mat at a hot yoga studio. Speaking of Telluride, I've never been so wet as I was after the storm that washed me down into Telluride and I've snorkeled plenty. The sky was actually projectile vomiting, violently on the runners. This is what a mobile puddle looks like.
drowned rat

     After spending a good 15 minutes under the hand drier in the crapper at Telluride Aid Station, I then proceed up the valley to be passed by everyone from the front mid pack, to the mid pack, to the juggaloes, to the jogglers, to a pirate with a peg leg, to eventually a three toed sloth and a star fish. I didn't care. I was done. My Goose was al dente and I decided to walk every step of the "awesome downhill" from Kroger's to Governor's aid station and then enjoy the sunset traipse down the 7 miles of Camp Bird road to Ouray where I could die in peace. I got passed more by friends old and new. I finally fell in with Garret Grobbens who was too nice to let go. I decided to run/ walk with him to Ouray. He had no idea I was dropping and I didn't want to bring him down by telling him. We hit town and I saw my wife, kids and best friend and I fell apart. My legs wouldn't go. The go juice was all dried up and they only had enough gumption left in them to get in a truck to Silverton. I felt bad, real bad. Then the sky lit up and Hell rained down from above and I felt a lot better about my choice. I showered and snuggled into a warm bed with my gorgeous wife and slept great. The next day was spent watching the runners come in to the finish is all states of disarray. Julien Chorier looked like me last year (Horrible). Adam Campbell was struck by lightning, Kuboraki was hit by rockfall in the face. The stories were epic and I felt the conflict of missing the adventure mixed with relief of not having to endure what those runners endured. Hardrock is a race unlike any other.
     The ghosts of what went wrong in Silverton still haunt me but I still have UTMB to look forward to. Life has been a series of downs and downs since returning from Colorado. Sometimes things suck and what can you do but motor on. It could be worse, I could be hunkered down under a rock on Handies Peak waiting for the lightning to abate. I had to give up the Mondo Slam but I'm still alive and kicking and learning French. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mondo Slam Part One Western States

     Well that was interesting. As I recover in Denver, shedding a toenail or two daily, I finally have time to reflect on what I've gotten myself into. The Mondo Slam got off to a slightly disappointing start.
     I had high aspirations coming into Western States 100. Of the last three races I'd run all were faster than any year before. I felt like I was as trained as could be for my A race and was hoping for a finish time between 16:30 and 17:30. I was hydrated, rested, ready and well supported by family and my amazing crew of Phil from 7 Hills, Jonathon Bernard and Glenn Tachiyama. Everything was lined up for a great race.
     We hit Squaw on Thursday, the altitude is always an annoying factor as I think it shouldn't bother me but it does. The atmosphere was really fun. I like the hype, the history and the pageantry of the oldest 100 miler. It was really fun to hob knob with the elites and meet new people. I finally met Nikki Kimball who is a family friend to my siblings in Montana. Talk about inspiring.
     Race day dawned early and cool. Got to the start around 4 AM, checked in, drank coffee and waited. Gordy said a few words then the gun rang out across the valley and we were off up the Escarpment. Beautiful. So beautiful I was fighting the urge to stop and watch the sun rise over Lake Tahoe. I kept going and fell in with the top women, meeting and chatting with Larissa who took second and Kaci who ended up sixth. A lot of back and forth later, I was matched up with Jason Leaman and Pam Smith (last year's champion). I saw crew at mile 20 something. The day heated up. My plan was to not allow myself to overheat. Wasatch last fall taught me a valuable lesson. I wore a visor, a waist pack, a bandana full of ice on my head and stayed wet by dipping in every stream, puddle and aid station.
     My race progressed nicely. I was in the top 40 where I wanted to be. My plan was to be efficient until mile 70 then race the last 30 and pick off the carnage.
     Memo to myself: Pack a lot of Avocados in my drop bags 'cause that shit rocks!
     The day got hot. Average heat for W.S. but hot for a PNW runner. Still I didn't lose my composure or my stomach even though I was on the line a few times. I picked up Jonathan as a pacer at Forrest Hill and the company was great. We picked up the pace and were really clipping along but there was nobody to pass.
     My Achilles heel is digestion. I stop at an aid station, get food, eat it while walking and then have to walk until it goes down, which is the preferable direction. This slows me down. Something Jason Leaman and AJW may have noticed as they passed me walking out of aid stations. Thankfully, AJW would stop to puke and we would pass him until the next aid station. Rinse, puke, repeat.
     Jane, my amazing wife posted a Facebook picture of our daughter sitting barefoot on a fence on an island with her friends. She said, "Do you have your bliss on?" This became my mantra for the race. When I would start to suffer I would ask myself if I had my bliss on. I did. I was running around in the mountains of California having a blast with friends. We finally made it to the river crossing, the iconic, seen it in pictures, river crossing. It was so freaking cool. My favorite part of the course for sure. I wanted to do it twice but Phil was waiting to take over pacing duties on the far side.
     By now I knew my race time was way behind where I wanted it to be. So it goes. I was still running good and within my self. I was pushing it but not dangerously. The hills on the last 20 miles are nasty. My feet were falling apart, my legs were getting stringy. The time between aid stations got longer and longer. Phil's enthusiasm was uplifting. By the time we made it to No Hands Bridge I decided it was time to leave it all on the course. We ran the uphills until they turned to steps. We pushed hard and looked for the lights of Auburn. We got to the road leading to the stadium and I again was taken by how many great ultra runners had run this very road. Jonathon joined us and we three ran to the stadium. Surreal. I finished in 19:28 for 32nd place. I couldn't have run any faster.
     Post race they ask for a blood sample to study. I gave. When my results came back it said I had elevated BUN and Creotin and something else which indicates kidney danger. Pretty much it said if I wasn't peeing regularly a trip to the ER was due. I was peeing great so it wasn't an issue. The results told me I was running within my limits. I pushed it but not to the danger level. I think if I was 10 years younger I would have been in the ER. Instead I ended up in the Super 8 in Auburn with a pizza and an IPA (Thanks JB).
     I will always cherish my Western States experience. I probably will never run it again as it is a course which really doesn't fit my strengths. I will definitely come back to pace someone. Phil?
     From California, to Seattle for 2 days, to Denver to rest and recover and on to Silverton for Mondo Slam part 2. I've lost most of my toenails and my legs are still really sore but, hey, I've still got another 6 days until Hardrock starts.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chukanut 50k Report in Haiku

2014 Chuckanut 50k Race Review in Haiku

Woke up too early
my mental alarm clock runs
seven minutes fast

Drove my car alone
hashbrown sandwich and coffee
crumbles in my lap

The weather report
double doppler pack O' lies
rain held off 'til four

Fairhaven is nice
if you need to find parking
spots are always free
Hanging with Ather pre race

My 7 Hills hat
a perfect compliment to
my Team 7 shirt

Race start is a blur
front pack goes out so damn fast
I am left behind

I ran with Cory
nice guy from Olympia
left him half way home

Tortillas are not
a true replacement for bread
FU PBJ!

Saw Yassine ahead
it was clearly not his day
passed him feeling bad

If dog had a leash
it may not have tried so hard
to knock me off course

Chinscraper this year
seemed like it was not as steep
I ran the whole thing
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Hydration this race
along with my nutrition
made me bonk free guy

Scott Kinabalu
great shoe for technical stuff
so so on the flats

I brought my Ipod
didn't use it even once
the race was too close

Passed Jodee and then
two guys with four miles left
trying to hold on

Footsteps from behind
Ellie Greenwood flies past me
am I standing still?

Crossed the finishline
four hours, fourteen minutes
thirteenth place for me

Got third place Masters
Won some cool Julbo glasses
Thanks Krissy, Heather

Max King won the race
Ellie won for the Women
fun was had by all

Post race party was
a lot of laughs with old friends
and some new ones too

Thank you Seven Hills
for supporting me this year
and the hundred bucks.






Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shoe review N2 Pearl Izumi

     The best thing about being sponsored by a shoe store rather than a shoe company is the chance to try out a plethora of trail shoes. Team 7 Hills is being sponsored by Pearl Izumi, Scott and Hoka One One. Phil gave me a pair of Pearl Izumi N2 Trail shoes to try out.
     I have been looking forward to getting into a pair of Pearl Izumis for a while. I love the look and have heard great things about them. I took them and ran.
     The uppers are plush. Nice fit across the top of the foot and a lacing pattern which makes sense. The  bumpy lumpy laces actually seem to work and do not untie. The N2 has a low drop and a bit of a rockered front of the shoe leading to a roll off the forefoot. I find both very nice and they lend themselves to a quicker turnover than a flat format. The only rub I've heard about the N2 Trail is in the stability on slippery downhills. In my testing I found this to be somewhat true. The tread design works great on wet uphills but the knobs seem to be a one way gripper and give ground on sodden downslopes.
     My overall opinion of the Pearl Izumi N2 Trail is positive. I really enjoy running in this shoe and would recommend it to serious trail runners. It is light and responsive and would rock on a dry course.
     The downside of my experience with the N2 is the squeak. I have had two pairs of shoes in my life which have developed a squeak. My pair of Pearl Izumis developed a squeak in the left shoe after about 20 miles. I love this shoe when I am wearing headphones but without all I can think about is what is causing the squeak. I think it is a production flaw in the rubber. Even off my foot, bending the shoe, you can hear the difference in the sound. Odd. I had a pair of Hoka Stinson Trail Shoes I wore at Wasatch last year which also developed a squeak only on the right shoe. Even my pacers started to be driven somewhat mad by the ever present sound.
     I would compare the P.I. N2 to the Scott Kinabalu in nimbleness and support. Both great for races up to 50 miles.
     Thanks again to 7 Hills Running Shop, Phil and Pearl Izumi for the opportunity to test drive these shoes. Next up, the remodeled Scott Kinabalu 2.0.