Thursday, March 15, 2018

rise up

in the darkest hour
in the dead of night
as the storm clouds gather
and the lightning strikes
and the thunder rolls
and the cold rain blows
the future it holds
what god only knows
and i will rise up
i will rise up

~ lyle lovett

that's how many american children have died by gun violence since sandy hook.

it's equivalent to wiping out everyone at our daughter's high school four times over.

i thought about that today as i watched hundreds of her fellow students walk out of school, gathering to honor kids killed in US schools, and demanding change in gun laws.

before the walkout got underway, i ambled about taking photos of the school sign, the principal setting up a loudspeaker, other parents congregating on the sidewalk...and i noticed a young woman standing alone, unmoving. as i neared her i saw her eyes were red and full of tears. in that moment i went from "interested observer" to "father trying not to sob in public."

"thoughts and prayers are great
but we want action."
i kept walking past, not wanting to intrude on her grief ~ and to get a handle of my own, percolating closer to the surface than i realized.

within minutes the southwest corner of the school grounds was filled with students carrying signs, chanting, cheering. cars going through the busy intersection honked and waved, while police cruisers sat silently at a discreet distance.

as student leaders took their turns on the PA, a man wearing an earpiece looked on from just a few feet away. he was inconspicuous, motionless except for his eyes, which sharply scanned the crowd. behind him and to his right, washington governor jay inslee waited for his time at the microphone.

perhaps it's because of our deteriorating political climate, or the immediate reason for the gathering itself...but it occurred to me that there are people out there ~ extreme in their distress or in their beliefs ~ who might take a shot (or 50) at an assemblage like this.

i thought about the 17 kids killed at marjory stoneman douglas high school, and tried to imagine 17 kids in this crowd disappearing randomly and forever. in that moment it was hard to breathe.

there was a time when i would've felt paranoid for thinking such a thing. 

that time, of course, is over.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

marquis glissade ~ a wallace falls race report

i don't glissade often.

but when i do, i like it to be on a snow-slick sluice heading steeply into trees on either side of a single-track trail.

i like it to be on legs wearied from miles of running in a furrow just wide enough to place both feet side-by-side.

on one calf held together with a compression sleeve and one knee freshly driven into hardpack in a predictable yet somehow hilariously surprising fall.

yeah, that's when the glissading gets good.
the 2018 wallace falls trail race was good. very good.

it was cheerfully difficult and wildly beautiful and occasionally painful and completely exhilarating... everything trail running (like life itself) aspires to be.

the course was made up of three distinct sections ~ the climb, the snow, and the descent ~ each with its own wicked charm.

falling slowly...
part one: the climb.

a week and a half before this race i suffered a rude left calf strain. which is to say it just showed up one day, unannounced, and stayed for several more, undeterred by my yawns and other obvious hints that it was time for it to leave.


despite diligent rehab efforts, two days before the race there was still plenty of doubt whether the calf was healed enough to hold up for 22.4 trail miles.

i decided to go find out, because compartmentalization is real and so is a steadfast belief that good things can randomly happen to people who make dumb decisions. besides, chuckanut was in a couple weeks and i was way behind on training miles. let's run this thing!

where was i? oh, the climb! and the advisability of scaling steep terrain on a potentially unreliable calf.

maybe it was the compression sleeve, or maybe it was the distraction of wallace falls and upper wallace falls (which were breathtaking). but while the muscle was sore at the outset, it held up throughout a 1,600-foot ascent in the first four-ish miles.

in fact, the farther we got into the course, the better it felt. who knew the cure for a running injury was more running??
stay between the lines.
part two: the snow.

disclaimer: i've run in snow before, many times...but never this far in this much snow.

disclosure: it was really hard and amazingly fun. kind of like running barefoot on the beach. if, you know, the beach were cold, forested, and covered in frozen precip. 

the carpitla (snow glazed with ice) started on the trip up the woody trail, just past the upper falls. literally every step was an opportunity to slip and stumble back down the hill ~ like a winter version of the princess bride.

at the top, the course spilled onto the upper grade logging road, which on this day was less a road and more a sunny, snowy slot car track. the path ~ narrow, uneven and fraught with ankle-peril ~ led to to a very welcome and welcoming aid station at wallace lake.

further on, jay lake appeared, signaling the turnaround toward the greg ball trail and a rendezvous with the glissade.
part three: the descent.

it was all going so well.

every step was an adventure in slush and the laws of physics, but i was winning! 

right up to the point where i hit the hard-packed snow like a beginner in his first snowboard lesson. whack!

pain points: left shoulder, left forearm, right knee, confidence in proprioception.

i stayed down for a few moments, on my back, head below feet, telling myself i was okay. "luckily i landed in some snow," i said to no one in particular.

"here we go," i went on, just ahead of a failed attempt to recover.

"here we go!" i said again, and this time time it actually worked. onto hands and knees, then back onto feet.

gravity was working in my favor as i shambled down the hill, more momentum than intention. simultaneously, i began a self-diagnostic on the parts that hurt.

shoulder: check.
forearm: ow. stand by...
forearm? okay, fingers still functional, we're good to go.
knee: it's fine, we're fine...wait. ow!
knee? not fine, repeat, we are not fine!
knee: check that, control, we're good here...
knee: ow, holy hell. not good, not okay!
what's happening, knee? you know, we were surgically reconstructed a few years ago.
knee: fine! not fine! fine! not fine!

(photo courtesy of charles r. lie,
gold bar, WA)
narrator: it was fine.
denouement: wallace falls is a great place to run. brian nelson and the folks at wander bigger running did an excellent job putting together this inaugural race benefitting snohomish county volunteer search and rescue.

the park is only an hour or so from seattle, which means i'll be running here again as often as possible.

when that will be is very TBD because, surprise! two days post-race i re-injured my calf during an easy, innocuous recovery run.

{not finé}
wallace falls 22.4m


11/20 (overall)

1/2 (M 50-59)

hoka challenger atr 4

song stuck in my head the entire time: "mountains" ~ lion bear fox

oh girl you hear the sounds
of big black boots stomping onto the ground
gonna crush all this pavement into some dirt
all the girls and all the boys
strung out messing with their toys
they're all dressed to kill sweet mother earth
that's why I say
let me take you to the mountains
take you to the mountains
take you to them hills

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

doom nation

america is a death cult.

it's always been that way.

from the time europeans set foot on the continent, the story has been one of relentless slaughter.

native americans were killed en masse to more efficiently steal their land. africans were forcibly brought here by the millions to be enslaved, tortured, and killed.

without irony, the very symbols of the nation were pushed to the brink of extinction. eagles were shot for sport and for their feathers. coyotes and wolves were hunted and poisoned. buffalo were slaughtered, their bodies left to rot on the plains.

our government backed murderous regimes and peddled weapons of mass destruction to anyone who could afford them.

wars were started and countless civilians killed because "america is exceptional."

america is exceptional at one thing: dealing out death. 

we've gotten so good at it, we're numb to the tens of thousands of our own citizens killed by guns every year.

we're even apathetic about children getting shot.

throughout history, show me a culture, a nation, or an empire that indifferently looked on while its populace randomly massacred each other, and i'll show you one that would not survive.

america. land of the ar-15. home of the damned.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sweeping Orcas (or Cleanup On Isle 100)

waterfalls look different at 3 a.m.
at midnight friday, feb. 9, my friend kay and i left the warmth and comfort of the camp moran aid station to do a safety sweep of the orcas island 100-mile course.

our task was to circle the 25.2-mile loop to make sure runners were right-side-up, moving the right direction, and generally not in any more physical danger than you might expect during a 100-mile race fraught with muddy cliffs, seething waterfalls, and packs of ravening mountain lions.*

this is not an easy course. with 7,600 feet of climbing per loop (featuring the famously toilsome Powerline ascent), subfreezing overnight temperatures, and constant mountain lion* danger, getting around four times takes a special breed of cat.

there were several times along the way when kay and i agreed doing the course just once was plenty, and twice might be feasible. but four times? damn. go, runners.

at one point during the night i noticed i had snow in my jacket pocket.

as far as i know, there was no snow anywhere on the island but in my pocket. but there it was, in sufficient quantity to make a small snowball. it took me a minute to figure out why...turns out the lid on the water bottle in my hydration pack wasn't on properly. so for several miles it was leaking down my right side, soaking my clothes, and turning to slush in my pocket.

this reminded us that conditions were fine (and we would stay warm), as long as we kept moving. stop for a few minutes, though, and we'd be popsicles on the side of the trail.

the aid stations and volunteers on the course are the best. 

  • the miso soup at mountain lake was amazing ~ pure genius
  • the tomato/red pepper soup at mount pickett was the kind that comes from a box...and it was delicious
  • there was more box soup at cascade lake, curry-lentil this time ~ fantastic
  • at the top of mt. constitution the team 7 hills crew was serving up more tomato/red pepper (and chicken noodle), but by then my stomach was no longer accepting food 
  • back at camp moran, there was a smorgasbord going on, none of which my stomach found remotely interesting ~ but then somebody brought out pancakes, which were exquisite (and i never eat pancakes)

two years ago, during our sweep of the inaugural orcas 100, kay and i encountered several struggling, straggling runners in the wee hours. we saw only two or three who fit that description this year. of the 91 who started the race, 69 finished; far more than either of the event's first two years (49 and 45, respectively).

among the images that stand out in my mind this year:

  • a crystal-clear night sky over the island ~ the stars were dazzlingly clear and bright
  • the orange glow and welcome heat of the fireplace at the mt. pickett aid station
  • an icy wind foiling the fire pits outside the mt. constitution aid station
  • glimmering purple and pink morning light above the cascade mountains
  • tired but vigilant volunteers at every stop
  • hand warmers in my gloves

once again, i am grateful to kay, who prompted me to do this for the second time in three years. at a time when i'm content to be warm and comfortable and most importantly ASLEEP in the middle of the night, it's good to have a friend who says, "let's head out and be the opposite of all those things for several hours! woohoo!"
* not really. ravening mountain lions are not known to exist on orcas island.
that's right, ha ha.
probably not.