Thursday, August 17, 2017


good day to hold on
good day to survive
good day to tell you that
i'm glad you're alive
freedom lives around the corner from me
freedom lives around the corner from me
some for now and some from memory
freedom lives around the corner from me
when i am lost and the eyes don't see
freedom lives around the corner from me
the locals seem friendly. key word: seem.
~ arruda, woodward, and mcmahon
(lion bear fox)
i'm back.

last night i enjoyed my first run in many, many weeks where i felt strong and happy to be running, rather than wishing i were having a nap.

convenient timing, this, as the squamish 50-mile is two days away.

pursuant to a previous post, i'm not ready to run squamish. but i am very happy to be ready-ish. the course is described as "...exceptionally difficult, made tougher still by the technical nature of a majority of the terrain. Throw in the fact that the back half runs much more difficult than the front half and you have yourself a nice little day of suffering."

caveat: "Thankfully we’ve made every effort to distract you with incredible scenery at every possible turn."

other possible distractions:

"There are bears and even cougars in the wilderness around Squamish, and we have seen both on our course over the years. We see bears each and every year at some point during the weekend. In our first year we had a bear cross the course with less than a kilometer to go, right in downtown Squamish. We cannot say enough how rare it would be to encounter a cougar and how regularly bears are seen in and around Squamish."

oh. okay, then. time to dust off the chainmaille running attire, i guess.

it's fortuitous that the cut-offs for this race seem very generous: 17 hours, 45 minutes to get it done. key word in that sentence: seem. it's also possible i'll need every last one of those minutes. especially if i'm obliged to spend valuable time evading or fending off top-of-the-food-chain predators.

it's trail running. no one said it was gonna be easy.

no matter.

time to set aside the qualms, pack up the kit, and go see what's what.

gotta run.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

unready to run

mountains like these await. they can do that,
because they're mountains, and they have lots of
time. i don't. 

it's been a while since i wrote something here.

it's almost like i didn't have anything to say.

not the case.

actually, there's been too much to say, and too much happening in our little corner of the world, and most days it's all i can do to keep the barbarians from the gate. 

so, the page stays blank.

we'll break that streak and begin turning the tide today with this important reminder: i'm registered for the squamish 50-mile (aug. 19), and i'm not ready. i am, in fact, entirely unready.

because i haven't had the energy to train.

i felt good coming out of miwok. good enough to run a 25k two weeks later, and a half-marathon two weeks after that. ever since then it's been a steady slide into bleahhhhhh...

not sure what the cause is, but the symptoms are:
no speed
no strength
no flow
no energy
no interest

not every run sucks, but most of them do.

and i'm tired of being tired. so, i've started taking an iron/B-vitamin supplement, on the unsubstantiated premise that i'm iron-and-B-vitamin-deficient. a situation i can totally fix with a handful of magic pills.


there's still time to be ready for squamish. not readyready, but you know, ready-ish. at this point i will happily settle for ready-ish, because it'll mean i've broken out of this funk and actually feel like running again.

not just for the sake of squamish. but because it's summer in the pacific northwest, and it's mountain-adventure-running season, and mountain-adventure-running season is not something to be frittered away in a funk. 

because before we know it, 35-degrees-and-rain will descend upon us like the thousand nations of the persian empire.

and who wants that?

no one. that's who.

gotta run.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ruminations with a view

processing miwok.
photo courtesy of ian burton.
peggy sue: you know, the world looks a lot better from up here.
michael fitz: the world is fantastic. it's the ultimate absurd circus. i am shot from a cannon into the energy.
peggy sue: what are you shooting for?
michael fitz: maximum intensity.

~ "peggy sue got married" screenplay rehearsal draft
there was no summer in seattle in 2011.

we were three weeks into august before we got a decent stretch of warm weather, and i was feeling a steady, low-grade desperation to recharge my solar batteries ahead of the long, dark winter.

i wasn't a runner then. unless it was up and down a basketball court, i simply didn't like running. but i figured i could put up with it for a few nice days while they lastedjust an amiable three or four miles three or four times a week. i never intended to give up my comfortable, fluorescent-lit gym routine. 

so, there's no real explanation as to how a week turned into two weeks, and two weeks turned into two months, and two months became nearly six years. 

there's certainly no rationale for three miles turning into five miles, and five miles unfurling into 62.

all i set out to do was soak up some sun.
my thoughts go wandering to strange places in the hours and days after running an ultra.

stranger, even, than during the actual event (which can be plenty peculiar).

for a week post-miwok my brain played a distracting game of bumper cars, bouncing randomly between subjects and emotions, without the courtesy of a "curve ahead" sign.

one moment i'd be driving to work, singing along with a random song, the next i'd be tearing up over the cat we lost several months ago.

there are probably sound physiological reasons for this mental odyssey, but clinical studies of such things are scarce.

if they did exist, the abstracts would probably describe the subjects' biochemical reaction to intense physical exertion, and the associated impact on mental function. 

the discussion section would likely end with, "further study is required, but we conclude that the mind is a weird creature with a wicked sense of humor."
"i had a fairly intense low, but i've been mulling it over and it turns out this thing we do is just bloody hard."
~ ian burton, after his 2017 miwok finish
sun mountain scenery.
it's quiet in the methow valley.

it's a literal, physical kind of quiet...and something more visceral. something to do with peace of mind. 

every time i'm there i want to stay. every time i leave, i can't wait to come back.

whatever it is, i just know i breathe easier when i'm there.

i signed up to run the sun mountain 50k before getting word i'd be running at miwok. since sun mountain is just two weeks later, i figured there would be no way i'd be recovered enough to run 50k. so, i asked the good folks at rainshadow running to give my spot to someone else and volunteered to work the race instead.

turns out that was a good call.

when race day rolled around, though, i actually thought i was feeling good enough to run. more than a couple times that day i said, "you know, i thought i wouldn't be ready...but i think i could've run today."

yeah, i wasn't ready. i know this because RD james varner graciously let me run the 25k the next day (thank you, james).

it was a blast, but it was also bloody hard.

standing here t-plus two days out...i need a nap. and, full disclosure: the bumper cars are back. they're having a blast, too.

it was worth it.
sun mountain 25k


108/299 (overall)
11/22 (M 50-59)

salomon sense pro max

song stuck in my head the entire time: "defying gravity" stephen schwartz
the road winds 
between the hills and the pines
some days it can turn on a dime
road winds without a "curve ahead" sign
it can leave the sweetest things behind

~ keith sewell

Sunday, May 14, 2017


what you get is what you see
open up your eyes
let it set you free
it all works out eventually
you gotta keep on keepin' on
i can rock and i can roll
i know i want to move 

gotta take control
watch out world cause here i come
and i can't stop 'til i'm done

bring on the day
~ charlotte martin, bring on the day
the pre-race nerves started two weeks before miwok.

i only mention it because i can't remember ever having pre-race nerves.

maybe i was making up for lost time.

training didn't go precisely as planned, see, and as my previous (and only) 100k didn't go as planned either, i started to worry a little.

"i've rolled my ankle four times in the past month."
"why have i rolled my ankle four times in the past month?"
"it's gotta be the shoes. i can't run miwok in these shoes."
"i definitely need new shoes."
"yes, i should totally run a 100k in brand. new. shoes."
"i need a new hydration pack."
"no, i don't need a new hydration pack."
"they're on sale, though."
"no new hydration pack."
"i haven't trained enough."
"this is the most training i've ever done."
"maybe it's too much."
"shut up."
in retrospect, there really were several little pre- and in-game mistakes that could've sent my day sideways.

in no particular order:

• forgot the pre-race anti-chafe (and failed to correct this error, even though i had not one but two opportunities at the tennessee valley aid station)
• left my handheld water bottle in the porta-potty at the cardiac aid station (mile 2.8)
• didn't bring enough tums for predictable stomach trouble
• stomach trouble became more of a thing late in the race than it should have

the 15:30:00 cut-off at miwok is an hour and a half shorter than at the gorge waterfalls 100k. it's also more than an hour better than i ran at gorge in 2016.

did i worry about that, too? hahaha, you bet i did. which is why my goal time was a completely appropriate 15:29:59.


as it turned out, none of these things mattered.

because for all the worries and mistakes and things i forgot, i DID remember to bring my climbing legs.

and that made up for everything.
the race day alarm went off at 3:30 a.m.

that's early for me.

fortunately all the pre-race gear was laid out and the organizing of drop bags was done, so no fancy problem-solving was necessary.

all i had to do was dress myself, get the drop bags in the car, drive from bolinas to stinson beach, find a place to park, walk to the stinson beach community center, and drop the drop bags at the appropriate drop-bag drop-off place.

and start running.

somehow all these things happened without incident.

next thing i knew, RD tia bodington was saying, "on your mark...get set...bake!" or something to that effect.
this guy. major distraction.

and we were underway.

i remember a slow start, climbingclimbingclimbing in a konga-line of climbers. i remember the bagpiper at cardiac, but didn't remember my handheld until i was past the point of no return. didn't matter, i had another bottle in my perfectly good hydration vest.

i remember running around the marin headlands for quite a while, and stopping in my tracks when the golden gate bridge and the entire bay area came into view.

i remember running past john fegyveresi, one of the 2012 finishers at the barkley marathons. we had seen him the day before, picking up bibs at the san francisco running company. "i think i know that guy," i said. "how do i know that guy?"

eventually i figured it out. 

coastal trail, above pirates cove.
photo by the peerless glenn tachiyama.
he's shorter than i thought.

i remember pounding the steep downhill to the randall aid station, thinking it was much farther than the alleged 1.6 miles. the climb back up felt much more humane.

backbackback on the out-and-back toward the bolinas aid station, along the coastal trail to the matt davis trail, then downdowndown again. "is there a finish line anywhere in our future?" i asked the guy just ahead of me. he thought so, and so did i, but it remained maddeningly out of reach. meanwhile the pounding from the steep descent was rattling my brain every step of the way.

finallyfinally i passed a volunteer trailside who said, "you're almost there, just a hundred yards to the road, and a hard left."

i'm not gonna say i didn't believe him, but i didn't believe him.

turns out he was telling the truth.

cowbells, people lining both sides of the finish chute, a big red digital clock, and someone was hanging a finisher's medal around my neck. people were talking to me, but i have no idea what they said.

then i saw my friend glenn tachiyama there, and knew i was home. he said things, too. but again, no idea what. thanks, glenn. amazingly good to see you there.

i found a chair, and was done.

one of the best running days ever.
many thanks to my excellent friend ian burton, whose been-there-done-that miwok experience kept me squared away for many, many miles.

congrats to ian, jon lumb and john maytum, who turned in sterling running performances.

thanks, of course, to glenn and tia for the guaranteed entry into the race via the tribute to the trails calendar project. without which, i wouldn't have had the chance to run.

much gratitude to tia and the entire miwok crew for a brilliant, enthusiastic race day.
miwok 100k


204/297 (overall)
28/45 (M 50-59)

salomon sense pro max (mile 0-49.2)
hoka clifton (mile 49.2-62.2)

song(s) stuck in my head the entire day: "bring on the day" ~ charlotte martin; "here we are" ~ jimmy buffet

Friday, May 05, 2017


aid stations + drop bags

course map + cutoff times

mill valley safeway:
english muffins

bib: sf running company/ before 4 p.m. 

salomon hydration pack sale at 7 hills
(genius gear idea: buy a new pack and wear it for the first time at a 100k race. brilliant!)
i have a bad case of monkey-mindcan't concentrate to save my life. can't even manage to listen to a song all the way through without realizing at some point i really didn't hear any of it.

(gazes out window) squirrel!

geez. i need to get my head right.
flight check-in/boarding pass
rental car
ian's phone#
jon's phone#

headlamp/new batteries
"what i talk about..." murakami
everyone takes four pairs of running shoes on a three-day trip. i'm not unusual. at all.

gotta run.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

butterfly effect

i'm reading up again
on how to stay alive
when my friends get dead
time might not prove it
but i'm swimming toward the middle
without regret
~ arruda, mcmahon, and woodward
(the lion the fox the bear)
got my bib number today, setting off a kaleidoscope of butterflies.

maybe there will come a time when flying to a distant city to run a 100k will seem like no big deal.

this is not that time.

oh, i'm #290.
breaking gear news: i'm in trouble. my miwok shoe plan is in shambles.

i picked up some brooks calderas a few weeks ago, on the advice that miwok is not too technical and won't require burly traction. the calderas provide a sweet, cushy ride with lots of energy return...but in thoroughly testing them at chuckanut, the maunawili trail, and tiger mountain, i've rolled my right ankle four times. and i'm just not an ankle-roller.

so, while i like the caldera in some conditions, it's clear i can't trust them on anything but docile terrain. i have no firsthand knowledge of the miwok trails, but i'm guessing they're not entirely docile (and this is not an ideal time to be guessing).

in my last long training run (last saturday at grand ridge), i went back to my lone peak 3.0s. always great traction, but after 27+ miles my feet and legs felt beat up and worn down. i love the LPs for shorter distances (and wet conditions and sketchy terrain), but for me they're not the answer over longer distances.

new shoes, just before a big race.
oh, yeah. just like the pros do it.
to sum up, i'm now the proud owner of a pair of salomon sense pro max.

after a 3.8-mile recovery run in them i've determined...absolutely nothing. desperation predisposes me to like a cushy shoe with a wide toebox and a VERY comfortable fit, but let's keep it real. i need to run a few dozen trail miles in them to even begin to have a clue how they'll perform during a 100k.

but i don't have time for that. therefore, i'm planning to make an awesomely rookie mistake and wear them at miwok anyway.

update: a couple days ago i wore the salomons for a chirico threepeat: 1,760 feet up, 1,760 feet down each trip, on some pretty technical terrain.

conclusion: whew!

the shoes did exactly what i needed them to: stuck to slippery rocks, absorbed recurrent roots, and stayed under my feet rather than rolling out from under them.

my quads are still complaining about the chirico descents, but my ankles are very happy.

and, i now have confidence in a pair of shoes for a big chunk of miwok miles. i just have to figure out what to do the rest of the way.
gotta run.

Friday, April 07, 2017


"the most profound lessons about courage, strength, and character, i've learned from women."
~ me
until yesterday, the statement above was true. today i'm adding a man to the roster.

gary robbins.

that's him over there on the ground, (temporarily) destroyed by an all-in effort resulting in an almost-finish at the 2017 barkley marathons.

it should be noted that (practically) no one finishes barkley. forty of the best runners in the world have a go at it every spring. and most years, none of them get it done.

this year, though, the goal was in gary's grasp. he was two miles, a handful of minutes...and one wrong turn in the fog away. from gary's blog:

"...the fog had once again set in. As I went over the final bump on the course I knew I would hit a trail, go left, and run down into camp with maybe five minutes to spare, but the math added up, I was going to make it...

"I bushwhacked down the mountain at breakneck speed and found myself at a large river. The river was maybe fifteen feet wide and absolutely raging from all the rain we were experiencing. I took one step off the river bank and was already chest deep. I would never have made the decision to attempt to swim such waters under anything other than a highly sleep-deprived and stressed state of mind.

"I washed out on the other side maybe thirty feet downstream. I continued bushwhacking and quickly spotted the road into camp. I had less than three minutes left till the sixty hour cutoff. I thrashed my way to the road and put my head down and gutted out the hardest three minutes of my life to collapse at the gate, over-time, and from the wrong direction. I did not finish the Barkley Marathons, and that is no one's fault but my own."

any way you parse it, this last push was a stupendous, heroic effort. under any circumstances. but especially after 60 hours, 60,000 feet of climbing, on zero sleep.

the example gary set there adds to an already-amazing legacy, while also providing a helpful reminder:

unless i'm spurting blood, i can never drop from any race, ever again.

gotta run.