Wednesday, May 25, 2016

engage (or, 65 days to #WR50)

until yesterday i was idly thinking about signing up for some summer races.

and, until yesterday i was having a hard time actually getting anything on my calendar.

then, yesterday, the nice folks at the white river 50 moved everyone on the 2016 wait list to the "you're in!" list.

i'm no longer idly thinking about summer races. 

today my calendar says: 
may 28 ~ soaring eagle 13.1
june 5 ~ teanaway 26.2
july 30 ~ white river 50 mile

also under consideration: 
june 25 ~ taylor mountain 50k
july 10 ~ white river corral pass loop 27.2

there will be many training miles in addition to these events. obviously.

but while i started training 22 weeks ahead of the #gw100k, today we're t-minus 65 days to #WR50.

don't know what i'm thinking.

gotta run.

Friday, May 13, 2016

welcome back, plodder

me, now. earlier, not so much.
"to be on the wire is life. the waiting."

~ joe gideon, "all that jazz"
i'm back.

it took the better part of a month, but i'm finally fully recovered from #gw100k.

which is to say, my energy is back to pre-race levels, i have spring in my legs, and my head is on straight again. as straight as it ever is, i suppose.

i was getting (a little) worried. ten days post-race, dragging myself from the car to the office, i literally said out-loud, "come ON, enough is enough." no, it wasn't.

trying to engage in what passes for an active recovery, i barely kept up during group runs, barely stayed awake during daylight hours, and barely felt coherent when my eyes were open.

i ate everything in sight, but it had little effect, other than to make my clothes fit a little tighter.

friends who also ran #gw100k, meanwhile, were tearing up the trails like it was nothing. "a hundred k? ho hum, NBD. who's ready for hill repeats?"

yeah, that was a little demoralizing.

having said that, i fully recognize that everyone recovers differently. and that bouncing back from a 100k with 12,000 feet of climbing takes time (for most people). still, after a week i was ready to be recovered.

after two and a half weeks, i made an appointment for a physical, just to make sure i hadn't permanently depleted myself. or something.

the bad news: i was unable to get in right away. the good news: in the interim, i pulled myself back together.

which is to say running and writing and staying awake feel good again. they're things i want to do, rather than feel like i should do.

so, walking into the doctor's office i can say, "i ran a long race, which made me tired. i'm not tired any more. nice to see you. buh-bye."
update: the doctor agrees with my assessment: i'm fine. so healthy, in fact, that i don't have to go back for three years.

{scurries off to to fill up the rest of 2016.}
"it's show time, folks."

~ joe gideon, redux

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

let it ride ~ #gw100k

you can ride that train
to the far end of creation
away from everything 
and everyone you know
you better make friends 
with your angels and your demons
they will be riding with you
wherever you may go
ah, but you have to go

"train in the distance" ~ don henley
seemingly overnight in discovery park the space between winter-gray branches filled with green.

running on some of the park's most obscure trails, glimpses of water and mountains disappeared, replaced by verdant, variegated walls.

this development coincided with the long-awaited arrival of the gorge waterfalls 100k, which months ago somebody signed me up to run. lots of miles unfurled in the park (and elsewhere) since that october day. through the wettest winter in seattle history, in dusky daylight and nights barely illuminated by headlamp.

i understand why many people would call this "no fun at all." or, "crazy." or, "dangerous." (hi, mom and dad!) not long ago, i felt exactly the same way. but something happened...i can't explain the metamorphosis to myself, let alone someone else. but, change happens...those dark, wet, muddy miles were some of the best times of my life, spent with some of my favorite people.

and they led to a starting line that once was hilariously beyond my reach.
i took thursday-before-race-day off from work so i could properly obsess over race prep. sorting through gear, packing drop bags, deciding on shoes and socks and shirts and went on far longer than it should have, given that running is supposed to be a simple activity.

friday morning we stuffed the car with a week's worth of provisions for the 2.5-day stay in troutdale, oregon. which is not far from benson state park, the starting point of the 2016 #gw100k. 

friday evening, runners, family, and friends gathered to chatter about the next day, to eat a lot, drink a little, and sleep even less.

saturday at 4 a.m. the alarm went off.
"unique and valuable life experiences are out there on the trails during these long, long runs." ~ matt urbanski

spoiler alert: i finished.

and now i know what 100k feels like. it hurts. this race hurt my body and hurt my pride. along the way, my GI tract revolted and my brain mutinied. and while i had some very good moments during this very long day, there were also lots of lows. henceforth to be known as "attitude management issues."

the good news: the first half of the race went great! i had fun, felt good, enjoyed the scenery, and had a blast greeting all the people i knew on the course.
the bad news: from the halfway point on, my stomach went sideways. it was a constant question whether i'd be able to keep down what little food and liquid i forced in. forward progress often slowed to power-hike speed, and from mile 42 to mile 56 my brain spent a lot of time and energy coming up with reasons to drop.
the good news: none of them stuck.

when i got to the yeon aid station (mile 49.3), my friends scott hodukavich, tracy brown, and luke notman were there crewing for dana notman, scrambling to get her on her way.

with her squared away, they surrounded me, pushed food and hydration options at me, asked if i wanted to sit, how i felt, what i needed. i didn't know the answers to any of their questions, but i scanned the table for anything that looked remotely palatable. eventually i grabbed a section of bagel and cream cheese...and some oreos. next thing i knew, scott and tracy were escorting me down the hill and away from the aid station.

in the commotion, i temporarily forgot about dropping.

not long after, dana caught up with me, chatted cheerily for a while, then trotted off. couldn't blame her, i was moving sloooowly.

from about mile 51 to mile 56 daylight faded into night, and mentally i dropped many more times. rolling into the no-name aid station at mile 56.6 i was, once again, prepared to call it.

until i saw dana, that is, getting ready to head out. she said something encouraging ("michael's here!!!" i think it was, which was sort of true), prompting me to reflexively refill my bottles and head out with her.

we left no-name at 8:45 p.m., giving us 2 hours and 15 minutes to cover 6-plus miles and beat the 11 p.m. cutoff. in between was a two-mile,1500-foot climb, followed by a precipitous descent to multnomah falls and the finish.

we started climbing at about 9:20. several minutes in, i remember being glad it was dark; it kept me focused on the few steps i could see directly in front of me. this was important because the climb was very steep and required my full attention lest i collapse and roll back down the hill.

we counted the switchbacks, which some sadist thought would be funny to commemorate with signposts. "2 of 11" said the first one i saw. it took a long time, it seemed, to get to "3 of 11".

at 9:49 p.m. we passed a sign that said "historic columbia river highway 1.9," which roughly coincided with the end of the climbing.

"i think we're gonna make it," dana declared.
"yup," i replied. because i'm clever like that.
"i think i'm gonna cry."
"me, too."

down the switchbacks we went, like barn horses hurrying back to the stable. i was able to run most of it, which means the bagel and oreos must've kicked in somewhere along the way.

past multnomah lodge and multnomah falls and the helpful volunteer directing us thataway. "it's less than a mile to go." 

we ran to the finish where we high-fived race director james varner and each other and hugged our spouses and each other.

we beat the cutoff by 20 minutes.
you better make friends 
with your angels and your demons
they will be riding with you
wherever you may go...

postgame: my better angels were conspicuously silent during the many miles that my inner demons would not. shut. up. so i can't say i made friends with any of them at #gw100k. but, at the very least, i WILL recognize them next time out.

yes, there will be a next time.

that's progress.

"the fears we don't face become our limits." ~ robin sharma

gorge waterfalls 100k


192/219 (overall)
14/17 (M 50-59)

merrell all out peak (mile 0-21)
hoka challenger atr (mile 21-62.5)

song stuck in my head for way too many miles: "delirious" ~ prince

thank you, good people of rainshadow running, for handing me a beatdown on such a spectacular course. i will never forget i can remember.

thank you, friends at and from and through seven hills running shop. you already know your place in my heart. always.
final note: it's worth mentioning that in finishing this race, i qualified for the lottery for the western states 100-mile run.

every year, thousands of tickets go into the lottery ~ but only 270 get punched. in 2015, "the probability of being selected with a single name in the hat was 4.7%."

so, while i'm not holding my breath regarding this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...i am saying there's a chance.

Friday, March 11, 2016

shhhh... #gw100k

no-solace soleus.
i don't want to say this too loud, but...

i'm injured.

i figure if i don't say it too loud, it won't be as true as it may be, and i'll recover faster.

i need some plausible deniability here, so give me some space.

it happened wednesday night in the howling wind and pouring rain.

i'm not implying a connection between that storm and this injury. i'm just saying i'm tired of this fucking weather.

it's a soleus strain. again. the same kind of injury that kept me out of last year's orcas 25k

two days ago i would've said i'm in the best shape of my life.

today i'm standing here saying, "what the actual fuck."
as a last big push before #gw100k, i'm supposed to run the chuckanut 50k next saturday, march 19th. after that, two weeks of tapering.

i'm not sure i'll be able to run between now and the 19th. but i can certainly ride the hell out of a stationary bike.
i've come too far. too far. 21 days to #gw100k

Friday, February 26, 2016

orcas-stral maneuvers in the dark

heading up the switchbacks to
the mt. constitution aid station,
randomly looked up to see this.
scenes from sweeping at the inaugural rainshadow running #Orcas100 trail race.
i keep trying to catalogue the images in my head.

so far they refuse to cooperate.

but some things have started to emerge from the fog...
1:20 a.m.: camp moran aid station. returning loop 2 sweeper says "the weather's not bad out there."

1:30 a.m.: loop 3 sweepers head out, are immediately deluged with wind-driven sideways rain. me: (shouting) "no, this isn't bad at all!" kay downes allen: "what?" "i said, 'this isn't bad!" "what??" "nothing!"

1:55 a.m.: visibility: three feet in front of headlamp. "is it me, or is it getting foggy?" "it's getting foggy."

2:05 a.m. "we could literally be passing bodies strewn on the side of the road and we wouldn't know it."

2:10 a.m. "hey, a confidence streamer!" "do you feel confident?"

2:15 a.m. trail marker points away from road, into woods. (ominously) "here we go..."

sometime later: "this is a great trail. i bet it's really pretty when you can see it."

later still: "did we miss a turn?"

"a confidence streamer would really be welcome right now."
"i'm seeing lots of footprints."
"you are??"

"keep an eye out for bigfoot. this is about the time they come out."

"i thought i saw a light up ahead."
"it could be bigfoot."

overtaking our first runner: "hello!" "hello." "how are you doing?" "about as well as could be expected."

volunteers at mountain lake aid station: "can we get you something? we have sushi and soup and pierogis and apple pie..." "do you have anything with caffeine in it?"

overtaking next runner: "hello!" "hello." "how are you doing?" "you just about caught me falling asleep on my feet."

later: "do you see a trail?" "yes, over here." "good, i was about to lead us into a swamp."

later still: "geez, i almost led us right into that tree." "maybe i should lead for a while."
checking in at the team 7 hills
mt. constitution aid station.

(photo courtesy of justin richards.)

approaching section of trail disguised as a small pond: "i'm not sure there's any way around this." "well, #%&*. #@$^, #*%&. we are totally #$%@&."

overtaking next runner: "hello!" "hello." "how are you doing?" "i'm getting ready to climb powerline. it's all i can think about."

climbing powerline: (loudly) "hoo. hoo hoo. hoo." "either that's an owl, or the guy we passed back there is having a lot of fun with this climb." "it's an owl."

next runner: "hello!" "hello." "how are you doing?" "i've been better. i can't keep any food down."

in front of a space heater at mt. constitution aid station, wet clothes steaming. ian burton: "dude, you are smokin'." "oh, yeah. i get that all the time."
post-sweep exhilaration 
at #Orcas100.
(photo courtesy of daisy clark.)

it was all downhill from there.
sweeping a loop of the orcas 100-mile course ~ in the middle of the night, in the midst of wind/rain/fog/snow ~ was kind of addictive, in fact.

many thanks to kay, who came up with the idea in the first place. definitely not something i would've dreamed up on my own.

and, the fact is, we needed the miles.
34 days to #gw100k

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

don't know why there's no sun up in the sky

"duck n cover, dude."
apparently i need a much bigger running pack.

so i have room for all the layers i shed mid-run.

that, or i really have to get a handle on how to dress myself for cold rain.

yesterday's run through discovery park ended with me soaked. again.

not because i didn't have on a great waterproof layer ~ i did. and not because i didn't have other layers i could take off if/when i got too warm.

i got too warm, all right. but by then the inside and outside of my jacket were dripping wet. may as well have gone out without it.

except i hate starting a cold, wet run by being cold and wet.

it says here we're not on the verge of warm and sunny.


related: working the orcas 100 aid station this weekend will be interesting. sweeping an overnight 25-mile loop will be an adventure.

multiple ultra finisher jordan maki-richards is excited about the forecast, too:

"Okay veterans and adventurers - any advice on gearing/strategies for the persistent rain and cold at Orcas this weekend? I've struggled with keeping warm in similar conditions past 4-5 hours, so 25-30 is REALLY intimidating."

wet-&-cold loves company.
update, this: 

Monday, February 08, 2016


sunday's view of the local volcano.
i don't know why i'm so tired this monday morning.

oh, wait. yes, i do.

saturday a.m. 12.5 miles seven hills group run

saturday p.m. clean kitchen, deep-clean disgusting shower (get fingers scalded by bleach ~ idiot), pick up accumulated dog poop in front yard, haul 10 bags of mulch and peagravel down treacherous slope to back yard, fill 6 yard waste bags with cut-back shrubs and blackberry brambles, haul bags back up treacherous slope, order pizza, drink a beer, fall into sleep-coma.

sunday a.m. 11.2 miles up and down chirico trail, 5,280 feet of vertical.

3rd on beam, 5th on floor. a good day.
sunday p.m. shower, wolf down late lunch, do laundry, drive loving daughter to gymnastics meet in tacoma, endure interminably slow meet and awards presentation, drive home in surprisingly heavy traffic, arrive magnolia at 11:15 p.m., get ready for bed, bandage fingers, sleep like a stone for 5.5 hours.

monday a.m. fail to kill alarm, feed and walk dogs in windy cold darkness, shower, commute 26 miles to office. zombie-walk through morning, struggle to recount reasons for current torpor.
it was worth it.

t-minus 53 days to #gw100k