Monday, November 4, 2013

Let It Begin

It’s July 2014, Missoula, with 42.19 kilometers before me. It’s cold in the morning, but it will be perfect for running, even hot by the time things are done. I’m probably here with a friend, possibly alone. I’d like to think I’d have a friend doing this one. I’m surrounded by attractive ladies, and aware that more of them make more than $75,000 per year than are married. The hair is long again, probably tied back. I’d like to think that probable friend is here, but I know I’ll be alone, if not now, then some other time. I’m wondering how fast I should go. Maybe it’s the perfect day, when everything propels me forward, and all that I have to do is hold back. Maybe it’s the rough day, when every muscle aches from the get go, and willpower is all that moves me forward. I should have broken four hours last year, but got hit with terrible pacing. The pacer didn’t do it either. Missoula’s an insanely slow course, saw veteran marathoners forced to a crawl somewhere between Reserve and Russell. It’s hundreds of blocks of uphill, designed to suck all energy from the body. It’s the future. It’s not going to be determined by what I do in the future. It’s determined by what I do now. It’s not about running fast with roaring crowds through a perfect town. It’s about running in miserable weather. It’s about being fearless in the dark, with snow and patches of ice. It’s about layering to handle the Intermountain West wintertime. Great runners aren’t children of summer, they are beast of wintertime. Let it begin.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trail Rail Run 2013 Review

Warning, this review contains explicit descriptions of how not to get chafed in places you really don’t want to get chafed in. Consider yourself warned. I’ve wanted to do a 50 mile event, but the only one in Montana is the Le Grizz 50 Mile, which is located roughly 60 miles, as the crow flies, from my place, and roughly 300 once all the travel is taken. I’ve been to Hungry Horse, and haven’t yet figured out how to get another 50 miles beyond the bad roads. On the other hand, the Trail Rail Run is located in St. Regis, which is down I-90 from Missoula. I know how to get to Missoula, and I know what an interstate highway does. So, I sign up early, for the lowest price, and spend the first half of 2013 thinking about an upcoming event. My semi-brilliant plan was to do the Governor's Cup Marathon as a training run. I think I managed to hold back some of my energy, although it went into two weeks of thunderstorms. So, it’s been a matter of running when able to get out, fitting in whatever seems possible. Head over to St. Regis for packets the day beforehand, along with milkshakes. Wanted to make sure I’d have the thing, and not mess around with it on race day. Everyone else just did morning of packet pickup, which seemed to work just as well. Set up Hammer Perpetuem for the drop bags, along with change of shirt, and the all important change of socks. Morning of race, try out fancy nipple pasties and Bag Balm for anyplace which has ever chafed. It’s an odd feeling placing a petroleum jelly product in places that Dan Savage would blush about, but the alternative is massive rubbing. For the record, no rubbing or chafing the entire event. Beats the hell out of bloody nipples from eight mile training runs. Get up super early from Missoula (which is a natural place to base out of), as in 2:45. So, I’m running on something like three hours of sleep for this thing. Get to St. Regis, get on school bus to Mullan, Idaho. I’m not sure if they recycled the bus for the 50k crowd, but I suspect so. Just once, I’d like to stay on a nice warm bus until the event actually begins, rather than freezing out for 30 minutes. Admire stacked wood in fire pit, which is not lit. Race director says, in pre-race instructions, that she actually has no idea how long the course is, since she odometered it. For the record, website stated that course was short, at 75k. At 7:00 Mountain time, a fairly nice stubby starter revolver is fired, and we start heading downhill for a kilck or two, before heading up toward Lookout. It’s actually a real easy grade the whole way. I’d checking on the Garmin, trying to keep a pace around eight minutes a klick. Get to the top of Lookout Pass, feeling nice and warmed up, and ready to go. We hit our first aid station, grab some pretzels, and some Jelly Bellys. Sun is out, and feels good, because the event started cold. We then get a good downhill section out to Brimstone, which is the second aid station. Brimstone is really well supplied, with amazing volunteers, easily the best crew of the whole race. We continue the downward trend to the third aid station, at Dominion. Unfortunately, I develop a nasty blister on the right heel, and a smaller one on the left. I get to the aid station expecting to have expert advice on how to handle such matters. Nope, the aid station volunteers have no clue how to handle blisters, and not a ton of supplies to do with. Another runner offers me duct tape, which does an alright job, although not as good as being able to just roll over the whole heel. I head out on, and get to start dealing with the painful process of blistering. The last event where I had real blistering problems was the Elkhorn 50k, where water and shoes on their last gasp created a disaster situation. In this case, it was due to the hammering of feet on uneven, pebble-filled, surface for long distances. Nonetheless, the inability to get proper treatment, along with inexperience to include blister kit in the drop bag, made for great and unnecessary misery. I’d fight the blisters the whole way. Likewise, foot swelling was a real problem. I’m going to have to consider drop bagging larger shoes for longer events. Nonetheless, I managed to enjoy going out over the trestle for the second time (we went out to the aid station, and back over). In fact, the course did that for most of the aid stations, which were in the small towns along the way. Unfortunately, the RD did not tell us so until after we were at the starting line, so I didn’t have money to visit the fine bars, which, along with a post office, comprise half the requirement for being a Montana town. I hit on through to the DeBorgia station, although everything for about thirty klicks is a blur. At one point, an unmarked ambulance comes roaring down the trail, which is annoying, since I cannot differentiate it from a normal truck with an oversized camper. Once it hits the siren, I do know to properly yield. At DeBorgia, I drop off the belt and water bottles, and go down to just the handheld. It was a gutsy move, because I was moving a lot better, but everyone was completely confused on distance. Under good circumstances, being 55 klicks into an 80 klick event means there are only 25 klicks left. However, along with my fellow runners, we had no idea how long the course was. Plus, 25 klicks is a lot faster when there aren’t 55 klicks under the belt. I meander to an aid station, where I am told that there are seven miles remaining, which is about two miles more than the Garmin predicts. Sure enough, three point eight miles later, I hit the last station, where we are told we have three point two miles remaining. That’s right, the course was long. When my Garmin hit 80 klicks, I check the time. I’m at 10:57. If the course were accurate (and listed as a qualifier), I would see the finish line, would have had enough to make it in a WS100 qualifying under 11 hours. But, it isn’t, so I get to do another 20 minutes of miserly. Fortunately, I’m moving along with Frank, from Spokane, who keeps me focused away from the pain. We get passed by two guys from Texas and Mississippi, who are flying by on a 25 minute run, 5 minute walk strategy. That’s more effective on courses like this than the ‘run the uphills strategy’ since the whole course is uphill. At least, I’m convinced it is. Andrea, from Missoula, joins us at the end, and the three of us finish a few minutes behind the amazing Southern duo. Garmin stats: 82.45km, 11:17:06.54, 3059m ascent, 3342m descent. For the record, that’s more ascent / descent (as measured with the Garmin) than the Elkhorn 50k. Overall thoughts: I survived this one, and my legs actually did fine, but the feet took a pounding. The 50 mile distance isn’t that much harder, but the suffering is for so much longer, as compared to finishing a 50k. Nonetheless, although there’s nothing official about it, there’s something real nice about knowing it’s reasonable to be able to crack a token qualifying time on a more accurately measured (and possibly easier) course.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crashing Out For Fun And Profit

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

Running With The Family

“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

We're On The Road To Nowhere

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.