Thursday, May 2, 2013
Today was the first time back on the Cannondale since last week. At first, I was worried. After all, the last time that I was on it, I hit the brakes too hard at 40 klicks per hour, flipped over the handlebars, went to urgent care and got five sutures, and may have hit my head (I wouldn't remember it if I did). On the other hand, that isn't quite true. The last time that I was on it, I was riding with a right hand that would require five sutures, a leg that had just smashed into the pavement at 40 klicks per hour, and a head that may or may not have hit the same pavement. And, I realized, as compared to then, I'm in really good shape to ride. I'm sure it's possible that something worse can happen while I'm out and about. On the other hand, I've probably found the limits of what I'm capable of doing to myself. So, overall, I've realized that there's absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I can not only walk way from the wreck, I can figure out how to ride another two and a half miles to East Helena to get help. Getting sutured really isn't that bad (they combine lipocaine with epinephrine now, it's so cool to see my palm turn ghost white), and I've got a great insurance plan that I haven't been drawing down on nearly enough. Getting the DTaP shot afterwards isn't really all that bad either. I really needed one of those anyway. So, yeah, the point is that I've felt that bad things that are supposed to happen, and they really are not all that bad. Get back out there!
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
“Then Jesus looked at those people sitting around him. 'These people are my mother and my brothers! My true brother and sister...'” The Gospel According To Mark, ERV, Chapter 3 When I did the Windermere half marathon back in 2011, I remember looking around and noticing that I was running with a pack of rather attractive females, aged somewhere between 20 and 40 years. There's something about Spokane and the ideal weather, along with the fitness required for a half marathon, that means the people who do it tend to be much more beautiful than the general population. It's one of those by-products of massive calorie burn required to train for a half marathon, and living in a place not cursed with eight months of snow. So, the point of all this, is that I used to finish somewhere in the middle of the attractive 20-40 year old female division. It made for a good view when running. Out at Spokane, I was one of the strange few that signed up for the 50k. I should have known that something was terribly amiss when the fine folks at the packet pickup gave me strange looks. It's not like I haven't done a few 50ks before, and the weather wasn't even silly for this one, nor was it listed as having a silly amount of elevation gain and loss. Plus, Spokane is low elevation, weather is great, and there's piles of trees everywhere, unlike Montana's high elevation miserable weather station, with slash piles from all the beetle kill. So, anyway, I pick up a few new pairs of Montrail shoes at Mountain Gear (nothing like needing to go up a half a size every six months) and do packet pick up for the whole crew (three 10ks and a 50k). Yeah, I get a more awesome shirt, because I'm running farther. And, I head over to the Sally Ann and pick up an old Wazzu Rose Bowl sweatshirt so I'll have something to wear in the morning. It wasn't really necessary, since Spokane was super warm in the morning, but it seemed like a great idea. I check my drop bag (extra socks, change of shirt, change of headband, and three Hammer gels). Yeah, so I think the story continues on race morning. So, on race morning, we have a nifty roll call style, where we get to say 'present and accounted for' when out names are called. Actually, all three members of the 'Anderson' clan skipped out, so it started slow, but everyone else was good to go. I've got the racing handheld bottle (aka, fall taker), and enough clothing to handle a generally cool morning. Oddly enough, we don't really get a countdown, just a bunch of announcements and then we are literally off. It's probably the strangest start to a race, no pistol blank, just a bunch of people heading out. I'm rolling along with a goodly group of people, although I start further ahead than I planned. But, it all settles in soon enough, and I get to enjoy a massive collection of hills. To understand, there are exactly five uphill sections, and five downhill sections, on the entire Don't Fence Me In 30k course, and a mere three sections on the Elkhorn 50k course. There's no roll to the courses, just a bunch of big hills that one goes up, then goes down. The Spokane River Run goes all around the place. And, despite claiming a mere 700 feet of elevation gain on the front end and 300 feet on the back end, the Garmin is clocking in at least six times as much, which is a more appropriate measure of the magnitude of the course. Anyway, I'm running along with a fairly decent pack for most of the beginning of the course, and probably though the first 15k or so. I manage to get a good breakaway, and then smash on a downhill, which leads to nice scraping of the arm and leg, and no permanent damage. The handheld continues to take massive shots and save the arms, and for that reason, is justified as a implement on anything with rocks. I get way slowed down on the talus piles, as talus is painful in the Trail Gloves. I'm doing a goodly clip, and then, at some point, I realize that I'm busy running with a bunch of people doing the 25k. Yeah, there's a 25k that starts at the same time and does the first half of the course. Right as the Garmin hits 20k there's a big uphill section, and I just start walking it. I realize all the short runners are going full bore because they are getting near the end, whereas I've got a long distance to go. So, I downshift it, and end up being completely alone on the course. No problem. Actually, minor problem, I manage to hit a rock on a downhill with the right foot, and rather than just properly crash it out, I end up recovering. Of course, this does more to jam up the body than smashing to the ground, as the toes end up being part of the recovery, rather than the lifeless handheld. It'll probably cost me second and third toenails on the right foot, which means it really messed with the form. Nonetheless, I manage to rumble into the halfway point at 2:37 (right around the expected pace), take the minute to grab the shirt change and get rid of my slopped out gear, but decide not to take the time to mess with a sock change. So, I head back out for round number two. I'm right at the back of the back of the 10k group, which has a much later start time than the 50k people, but shares part of the course. Running into Virginia, and later, Catherine and Kevin is actually really awesome. It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, having piles of runners around is invigorating. On the other hand, it makes it easy to start running way too fast. Likewise, I'm spending time dodging runners. And, for the record, the #Q%!T@Q (and yes, I get to use the term) who blocked the trail as I was going down and yelled 'This isn't a good place to pass' after refusing to yield, can go to running hell (also known as the Elkhorn 50k). Yeah, it's a terrible place to pass, and that #Q%!T@Q needs to learn that long distance runners are somewhat crazy. We share trail with the 10k group for a few klicks, then go from being in a huge crowd to all by ourselves again. I mean, packed to completely spread out. There's a huge uphill then three kicks of talus, which really drains me out after getting the boost from people being around. There's a runner way ahead with a green shirt, and a runner way behind with big dreads. They are actually really nice guys, but that's the quick way to identify them. We end up running at a decent pace for roughly the next ten or fifteen klicks, walking more up the uphill as the race goes on. Actually, the interesting thing is right as I'm starting to completely fade on the last uphill section, the guy in dreads totally shifts gears up. He ends up finishing a good eight or nine minutes ahead of me. In contrast, once I hit the flat(er) part of the course, I end up hitting a good pace, and finishing a few minutes ahead of the guy in the green shirt. It wasn't like I felt like I ran faster or better, I just had a good moment at a good time, and felt more comfortable getting the event over with. I end up getting a sweet finishers bottle. I also realize that I'm no longer finishing with the attractive females between ages of 20-40 anymore. Now, I'm running with a bunch of grizzled old guys who know how to run distances, and a bunch of young guys who can overcome the lack of knowledge with the echoes of the division one athletic departments they were recently in. Better than a bunch of first timers who don't know when to yield. Distance: 50.08 klicks, 3731 feet of gain / loss on first loop, 6942 total, roughly seven times the advertised amount. This is definitely more of a mountain run than a flatland run, even if there aren't long stretches of uphill / downhill. There's very few flatish, and less than a klick of truly flat trail on the whole race. Lessons: It's hard to do long trail runs in the Trail Gloves. I'm worried about moving up to something else, because I've gotten real comfortable in my third pair. On the other hand, Trail Gloves aren't good sellers anymore. I might have to move up. Look at the elevation profile and never believe the course website for elevation gain / loss. Although Garmins are supposed to overstate such things, most people actually underestimate the amount of gain / loss found in roll.
Monday, March 18, 2013
There are methods to being prepared. There's a philosophy which says that being prepared is a matter of brining everything but the kitchen sink. It's a great philosophy, expect for the fact that it isn't being prepared. Things have weight and volume, weight and volume have costs. Weight and volume cost time. Costing time requires more weight, and more preparation. Despite the claims, it's easy to predict the weather for the next five minutes, not so easy to predict it for the next five days. There's a strange feeling being on the mountain with nothing but the old fitness iPod Nano, and a handheld water bottle, passing people dressed for Antarctic travel with a pair of hiking poles. We're both prepared to get to the top of the mountain, but we aren't prepared in the same way. I'm counting on being able to get up and back before any radical transformations of the weather, of generating enough heat to overcome any problems in the weather. My steps are just as sure as theirs, but come in great speed. I know that I'll fall, and when I'm wise, I'll use the handheld bottle to take the impact. We learn to be wise on the mountain. I know that it won't be as cold as it has been before, and that it will be cold after the great solstice that turns waxing daylight into waning daylight. But, that is a long way away. Take what you need, leave everything else.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I ran 17.03 miles, gaining 2838 feet of elevation. I went an hour without seeing a single car, I went less than a minute between cars. I ran in rain, snow, and the dry. I ran on street, snow, ice, rock, pavement, dirt. I ran on asphalt because the sidewalk lost all grip. I ran next to cars that slowed down and pulled to the other lane on South Hills, ran past cars that didn't on the Frontage Road. I ran in a cloud. I could see the trail ahead of me, and had no clue what the valley below looked like. I ran on Eddie McClure Trail, which I never ran on, and up Sanders, which I've run hundreds of times. I went up hills, and I went downhills. I felt great, and I bonked. I felt the legs lose all power, unable to handle the slightest inclines. I felt the legs gain power, smashing up Mount Ascension. I love running in clouds. I love looking down and seeing clouds. Sometimes, I love looking up and seeing clouds. I love clouds at night, and hate clouds opening up at night. The belly of my calf hurts. My quadriceps did hurt. My nipples got bloody and chaffed, and if that's gross to think about, it's far more painful to live through. More painful than the calves, more painful than the quads. Bag Balm is my savior. I ate a large burrito at Taco Del Sol. My Garmin says that I should eat more. I eat a lot, but my Garmin says that I need to eat more. It never tells me that I need to go faster, but it sometimes tells me that I should go slower. It's usually honest, but I don't always listen. I should listen to it more often, but I think it might be lying. I'll be back out soon enough. Can't stop it now.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Somewhere, there are runners who have everything nicely planned out. They are probably the sort of fools who believe that any difficult uphill effort would be balanced by an easy downhill effort, and thus, bother with neither. They know what mediocre weather conditions to expect. On the other hand, the trails are somewhat of a mess right now. So, running trails is a bit of planning, replanning, finding things, and making hard decisions. When I hit the very bottom of the Entertainment Trail, I found an unexpected pile of ice patches. It's nothing that I cannot handle with a good water bottle to take half the blow, but every time the ice rears its head, I risk some manner of injury, which will prevent me from running for awhile. I'm not down to sit around while the knees and legs heal, so I don't want to get injured. So, I head up to the Rodney Ridge trail. I had planned on heading down T. R. Trail, but realized that it tends to be horribly iced over, so that wouldn't be a good option. In fact, anything Waterline way would be a slickly miss. I thought I might try the Roger Fuchs trail, which I haven't spent much time on. However, I got a grand total of fifty feet, realized that I'd be dong slip and slide the whole way, and wisely decided to head on back. So, up and over the big hill, which was big, but didn't have piles of ice to worry about. Except for at the very end. Which weren't too bad. But would be annoying. And the trail toward Spring Hill road would probably have the same conditions. So, I decided not to do the Spring Hill road, even if it would normally be awesome, since slipping over to it would not be. Instead, I ran down Arrastra and Oro Fino. I'm not normally a huge fan of running on roads, especially when there's a nice parallel trail, but I'm not a fan of slipping all over the place, and roads are known to be dry. I'll take a lack of view and annoyance of cars for dryness sometime. So, the moral is that there really shouldn't be a great deal of planning in running on the trail, especially this time of year. Actually, during the summertime, there's plenty of logging operations, fires, and sundry other maladies to force constant rerouting. So, one should learn some good navigational skills. The real navigational skill (in addition to knowing where one is) is knowing how to get to the nearest road. Roads are speedy, and there are plenty of vehicles to take you back to civilization in case of emergency. Mostly, the speedy thing is an advantage, along with the fact that roads have to be grades for wimpy cars, and are relatively few in number. So, don't get too caught up in plans. Do what you need to do, adapt when necessary, and don't adapt when necessary. Parse out the logic.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
There's a myth that runners are somehow full of a mystical runny substance which makes them faster than the rest of the planet, call it, runundium. There are possibly a few people with some supernatural count of this mysterious substance. But, unlike magical abilities, trust funds, and eyeballs destined to need glasses, running is not something that was predestined. Rather, like great piano playing, driving in the Indianapolis 500, and Bayesian modeling, running is a skill, one to be learned and applied. Even after all the miles that I've put in, it's a fact that most people will run faster than me over short distances. I'd make an absolutely miserable purse thief. So, what separates me from the pack? Despite being barely able to keep up with the average second grader in a game of tag, I know how to keep running. Most people will beat me to the corner, fewer can beat me around the block, and, without experience, very few can actually beat me over a distance of a mile or so. Running isn't about having massive levels of runumdium in the bloodstream, it's about learning how much effort to exert at the proper times. When I first start to run, I never feel good. The body has been enjoying being at rest, and it is never quite sure that it wants to change that position. There's the annoyance that the weather outside is miserable this time of year, and I'm wearing far more doo-dads and gizmos than I want to wear. I don't want to wear gloves; it's cold outside so I must. I don't want a flashlight, vehicles are dangerous so I must. So, I spend my time getting everything on. And, even running after having done it a hundred times, I'm slow out of the gate, and wonder why I'm doing it. But, after a little while, everything starts to click into it's proper place. I find whatever pace I feel like running at. I start to find those paths around the trails that I've learned, along with all the pinnacles and sloughs. It doesn't take me long to find where I want to be, and once I'm there, I'm good to go for awhile. None of us start out this way, though. It's like playing the guitar. It sounds great to say that Eric Clapton just picked up a guitar for the first time and started making awesome music. It's far more accurate to say that Eric Clapton spend a ton of time practicing, figuring out how to make the notes sound good, and then started to rock the guitar. He's probably afraid every time that he gets on stage, but knows it'll come back, and just be part of his guitar playing nature. There's probably someone else who picked up a guitar the same day as Eric. On that day, Eric probably didn't sound any better than that person. But, no one remembers the name of that person, we remember Eric Clapton, who realized that he's be able to play well, and saw beyond the moment to the possibility.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I'm convinced that the devil drives a Cadillac. It's the class vehicle one gets with great power and wealth, large and fuel inefficient. It's probably got a bunch of red, because that color is usually associated with the devil, and smells like cigars.
When I was running the 50k out in the Elkhorns last August, I might have considered a ride in the devil's Cadillac. I'd just gotten back to the aid station at the top of a figure eight, and had plenty of miles of painful downhill ahead. My toenails were in the process of coming off. My shoes had given out ten miles ago, and the heel was falling apart. My socks did little to comfort the blisters that were forming, and were a wet, soppy, mess. For better or worse, the devil's Cadillac might have an impressive speed on the Autobahn, but is completely incapable of getting around the Elkhorns. So, regardless of what I wanted to do, I had no choice to continue onward, regardless of the consequences.
The main thing that separates the runners who finish events like the Elkhorn 50k from everyone else is a refusal to quit. It is technically possible to quit the race, and have a staff carry one out. I suppose, if one should actually get seriously injured, a helicopter can always take one the ten or so miles back to Helena, as the crow flies. Yet, despite all manner of aches and pains, the consequences for quitting are severe. Thus, as I constantly remind myself, I've nothing better to do, and continue onward.
During the Fat Ass 50k, I became confronted with the same dilemma. I'd ran too hard at the start, took too much time at the aid station at the power station getting my water pack unfrozen, and fallen behind the main pack of runners. I'd run into a friend, Lisa, and asked for the one that would get me through the race, a perfectly acceptable cup of hot chocolate. I knew that I'd be walking up Lump Gulch and Travis Creek, until I got to Brooklyn Bridge. So, I'd been going at a steady uphill slog for two hours, with nothing but Bruce Springsteen to accompany me on the iPod. Yet, after cresting Brooklyn Bridge, I knew I had another seven hard miles down Grizzly Gulch.
My temptation came when I ran back into my friend, who, I must admit, I'd completely forgotten about. She was helping another runner who got injured, and so I walked with them awhile, trying to get my legs warmed up again.
She had two great temptations. The first was the hot chocolate I'd requested two hours ago. The combination of warmth and sugar filled me with unimaginable energy. At that point, I'd spent over four hours in temperatures ranging from -5 degrees Fahrenheit to a balmy +5 degrees Fahrenheit. I'd have to fight to get clothing back on, as it would freeze whenever I needed to remove it at aid stations, or to get at the semi-thawed water pack. But, all of a sudden, everything just felt better.
Second, she offered me a ride back to Helena, instant transportation in a more humble vehicle back to the safety and comfort of the indoors. Yet, I knew I couldn't take it. I was not injured. I'd followed my running plan well enough, and had plenty of strength to get back down Grizzly Gulch and to the finish line. And, most importantly, I'd no reason not to accomplish what I'd set out to do that morning.
Fifty kilometers seems a long way. But, the secret to success is to keep going, and not quit.