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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Getting Up To Speed

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

The Devil's Cadillac

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.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Even Experienced Runners Get Scared Of New Things

Despite the rumors, I am not in fact, fearless. I'm afraid of approaching groups of strangers, who are probably talking about things more interesting than I. I'm quite fearful of drivers on cellular phones, who manage to pose great threat to me with little threat to themselves.
On Sunday, I decided to actually do the Grant Creek to Rattlesnake run. I checked everything up on a variety of websites. There's a trail that goes up Ravine... Trail, up toward Stuart Peak. The problem is that I couldn't quite figure out the distance looking at a collection of maps designed for bicyclists. I cannot be the only person who thinks it is more fun to hike / run from one edge of Missoula to another, but, looking online, it seems like the bikers outnumber the hikers, and there are few runners. Plus, who else wants to do a complicated point to point run that involves getting dropped off and heading over to another part of town. Okay, someone with someone who can drop them off, and someone who knows someone cool who lives up the Rattlesnake.
Fortunately, the night before I undertook this epic quest, it had snowed. Now, I hear a lot of opinions on snow, usually from people who don't spend much time in it. Since I spend a large amount of time outside, I think my opinions count for more. In my opinion, snow is great for trail running, because snow has a good slowing crunch.
I run into another runner who is planning on doing an out and back up Ravine Trail. I leave a few minutes before him. You see, despite the fact that it's wintertime, and I'm about to commit to a run with unknown distance and time, I realize that I've got to do this sometime. Plus, I've got nothing better to do on that morning; I've already committed to it. So, I bravely head up the Trail and into the unknown.
For the first half mile, I'm scrambling over ice with a snow layer. There's a few places where I get brought to my knees with the ice, which forms a huge sheet heading down the trail. But, then, something cool happens. I get past the ice, and into a nice collection of packed snow. It's absolutely amazing, tromping over packed snow. And, roughly two miles up (where the trail starts to split up), I get overtaken by the fellow runner heading back. I ask him about the trail, he says that I can go left, toward Stuart Peak, or stick to the right. I had planned on doing the left, and so I start to head down. And, I go from trail into three feet of snow, thrashing all the way. I remember hitting the turnoff for the out and back up Stuart Peak (which I had not planned on running) and thinking the best feeling in the world, which is that I knew exactly where I was at, and exactly how to get where I was going on the unfamiliar trail. However, at that point, I manage to get caught in the snow drifts, and flop into three feet of loosely packed snow. It's just too much fun.
I head down through the Rattlesnake, and start to see the capillaries of trails heading down toward the main trail. The heavy snow is gone, replaced with the light dusting that crunches and encourages speed. Eventually, I hit the main trailhead, and run from there the last three miles to my friend's house. Actually, that's a bit of a lie. Rather than take the direct route, I try taking a trail near the creek, and end up wasting a bunch of time and sneaking out through some citizens yard.
So, despite my hesitation about trying a totally new route, with unknown distances and weather conditions, it's the most fun that I've had out running in a very long time. This one's a good one!

Totals: 11.55 miles, and about two hours and forty five minutes of crazy fun running, stomping, pushing through snow, and the occasional slip and slide.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fitness Weekend

There are probably thousands of promotions run under the name of fitness weekend.  Then again, I’m not all that much of a promoter, other than to promote health and well being.  So, I’m here to tell you the secret to doing an awesome fitness weekend of your own.
The idea behind a fitness weekend is that one can do a lot of important things during a weekend.  Sure, everyone knows that doing laundry is super important, and watching the continuing adventures of Honey-Boo-Boo child and Uncle Poodle is not as important.  But, the fundamental idea of a fitness weekend is to do a bunch of cool stuff.
So, I’d been planning night skiing up at Great Divide since, well, last week.  But, in my fast moving world, a week is a long time.  There’s epidemics of congenital heart disease to be found and lost in a short time, along with more branches of ICD-10 to learn about.  There’s twenty or thirty miles to travel down in that time, which makes it feel slightly more epic.  Anyway, I head up to Great Divide, where I continue to ski, with less light than the last time I went, last weekend.  So, I get in three good hours up on Great Divide, where I continue to learn more about how to travel over snow, ice, and combinations thereof.
So, Don’s headed on the slopes the next day, and let it never be said that too much is not enough.  Anyway, he’s planning on heading out at 11:00.  So, I decide, rather than let a weekend of running go to waste, just go running before meeting up to go skiing.  Head up the Rodney Ridge for an awesome two hour run, finishing at exactly 9.99 miles.  I’m alright rounding that up to the whole ten miles.  The only real downsides were a few places where the trail was packed with snow that wanted to dump me off the ridge, and not having time to head out past Springhill Stables, and instead heading down Arrastra Gulch and flying back to my place in time to be ready at exactly 11:00.  I’m starting to get the hang of this running timing thing.
Yep, back for round two of skiing that afternoon.  Nothing like another hour and a half in boots, with new tricks to learn and places to move.  So, at this point, I’ve done a great run, and done two days of skiing.  But, is the end of the noble quest?
No, as expected, I head back out on Sunday for another great day out at Great Divide.  Jase shows us all an awesome route, even with the broken Good Luck lift.  Yep, I get to spend even more time outside, doing real and important things while a bunch of people I’ll never meet push each other around over a football.
So, how do I feel after this weekend?  I feel amazing.  At some point, the body switches from being exhausted to being energized.  The chemical receptors in the brain change wiring, and learn to ignore the exhaustion, instead, replacing it with massive amounts of chemicals released by the brain.
Get out there y’all!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Flying Bastards

The world hasn’t quite gotten used to the fact that many people dress up in exotic bright colors with lights and cruise alongside the roads and sidewalks.  It’s like a Mardi Gras parade, but with a whole lot more exercise.
On Monday, I went out for a run with Robert.  We were talking, and there were a few drunks across the street.  ‘You bastards, what the hell are you doing?’  I wasn’t quite sure how to explain the idea of running to a bunch of frat boy drunks.  It’s what the athletic people do to feel good.  I think drinking might be what the frat boy drunks to do feel good.  I’m not really if it feels good, but runners know a lot about addiction.  Of course, I think everyone can agree the effects of two years of running are a lot better on the body than two hundred gallons of beer.  And, I think there might be just as many people who manage to hit 26 bars in a night as manage to run 26.2 miles.  Actually, the former is less common, but I’m not sure why it should be impressive.
So, we run away from the frat boy drunks, and run by God’s Love.  One of the residents yells out ‘Run, Forrest, Run.’  Yep, I’m being mocked by Helena’s bum population.  On the other hand, there are some upsides to this.  After all, some people look at the transient population shuffling their feet and feel sorry for them.  But, now Robert and I know the truth, which is that at least one of them is a feet shuffler, always willing to start trouble because they’ve got nothing to lose.  And, I realize, I just feel sorry for them.  Some drunk transient screaming at passerby?  That’s pretty much as pathetic as it gets.
I can separate out the runners from the non-runners when I tell them about the events that I’ve done.  The first thing that a non-runner does is ask ‘what was your time?’  That isn’t even a fair question.  I’ve ran as strong as I can in events and finished near the back of the pack, ran downright mediocore races and finished near the front.  Run the Governor’s Cup, and you’ll feel like a Greek God of running.  Do the Montana Cup, and you’ll struggle.  Do a 50k, and you’ll finish ten minutes behind the person in front of you.  Running in Montana has temperatures that neither coast has ever heard of, high altitude baking instructions, and no flat section of 26.2 miles in the entire state.  I’ve run over ten minutes per mile pace on the flats, while getting slowed to a crawl by snow, and flown on uphills past the snowline.
Well, I need to give credit to drunk frat boys, where credit to drunk frat boys is due.  Add a good adjective to bastards, like flying, and it becomes an awesome name for a running group.  In honor of overweight drunk frat boys everywhere, we are now the ‘flying bastards.’

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

50 miles, a solstice away

Yes, I get to write about running, or exercising, and try to inspire everybody else to do it.
I am going to sign up for a 50 mile run.  I know I can do it.  I did a 50 kilometer race, and that was in the middle of Montana’s miserable wintertime.  I watched a documentary on Everest, mocked the guy for complaining about the cold.  Started at my place, by the time I hit Lime Kiln, the Camelback’s straw had frozen solid.  Got it thawed out again sometime past the Power Station going up Lump Gulch.  I remember taking off my Brooks running shirt and having it freeze by the time I got it back on.  Clothing isn’t designed to freeze, but somehow, I manage to run in it.
50 miles is a long way.  It takes a decent amount of time to drive, and that’s cheating.  I think a person might get it done faster than a horse.  There’s a big bike ride up York way, that’s less than 50 miles.  No one had any idea how long the thing should take; anything under 11 hours should qualify me for Western States, the disaster example of what happens when a bunch of hippies have to work with the Forest Service.
So, I do what I need to do, now, knowing that June is a long way off.  It’s training from winter solstice to summer solstice, in conditions that scare Everest climbers, running in the dark, running in snow, running over hills, all of it for something that’s months away.
Runners have an addictive personality.  There’s that ability to overcome temporary discomfort for future reward.  It’s the same trait that makes them generally succeed in jobs and school, and likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.  That ability to overcome the first poke, the first inhale of hot smoke, knowing there’s something absolutely amazing to come.
So, with the help of a GPS watch, expensive shoes getting shredded, and wonderful sugar in a packet, y’all get to read about what goes into running those 50 mile races.

Running total for Jan 30: 5.31 miles in 45:15.25 up Grizzly Gulch for 2.55 miles and back, plus some jogging to the starting line.