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.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

what are you prepared to do?

"Never start a 100-mile race that you aren’t 100% committed toeverything and anything it takes to get to the finish line. It's easy to be committed on a perfect day, where nothing goes wrong. But you must commit to face down anything that may come. Commit to walking it in. Commit to sitting in the chair for hours and getting back up. Be all-in. Because if you aren’t, when things go sidewaysand they willyou will give in before you need to. You won't see your immense ability to fight, you won't see how deep your reserves truly are."

~ devon yanko
"my glasses are fogging up. oh, wait. I'M NOT WEARING GLASSES."

yeah, weather was a factor at the 25th running of the chuckanut 50k.

for me, i mean. not for the winner, max king, who set a new course record. 3:33:11, or some such thing. ridiculously fast any day, but especially so on trails that were swampy, slippery, and sodden.

there was rain and fog and (reportedly) hail, but still, over 400 runners hung in there and got it done.

chuckanut isn't a 100-miler (obviously), but i kept devon yanko's advice in mind 
when things got a little tough. when i wasn't moving as easily as i wanted to, and when my legs hurt more than i thought they should. i was prepared to walk it in, if necessary, and accepting that prospect affected my attitude. i ran more relaxed, smiled more, and finished about 9 minutes faster than in 2015.

and i never fell in the mud, on a course where there was lots of falling in the mud going on.

i did roll my ankle pretty good at one point, and swore loudly to no one in particular. apologies to any runners around me who may have been startled.
chuckanut is a great early-season test, but this year it was also a base-builder for miwok

and while miwok isn't a 100-miler either (obviously), it is 100k...and the last one i ran nearly wrecked me.

may 6 is barrelling at me like a, uh, big barrelling thing. 

gotta run.
chuckanut 50k
224/414 (overall)
12/37 (m 50-59)
shoes: brooks caldera

song(s) stuck in my head the entire time:  
"spirit in the sky" ~ norman greenbaum 
"corinna" ~ taj mahal 

Monday, February 27, 2017

kettle bells

i thought of him often on saturday.

because fort ebey was john morelock's park.

so it was bittersweet standing at the starting line below the overlook, getting ready to run the fort ebey kettles marathon on the trails he called home. 

i missed seeing him there in his park ranger jacket, smiling a little nervously, as people he didn't know (but who certainly knew him) orbited admiringly around him.

i thought of him when things got a little tough on the second loop of the marathon course, and remembered this line from his book: "you simply have to cope—continue to cope."

that thought settled me down when i was feeling achilles pain for a few miles; it reminded me to suck it up when i was tired and not feeling particularly good at the last aid station.

i simply had to cope, and not let small hurdles turn into something bigger.

not surprisingly, his advice was good.

at the 2015 fort ebey 20-miler.
thanks, john. always.

running at fort ebey never disappoints. there aren't any huge climbs, but the course's 5,500 feet of elevation will sneak up and bite you. because there's no flat out there—you run up or down the entire day. and while the trails are generally PNW soft, there are long sections of roots and tight little turns happy to help you fall on your face.

in other words, it was a great day.

many thanks to the folks at northwest trail runs for a challenging 26.2 to start the year. eric bone and his team do a great job, every time.
fort ebey marathon
12/41 (overall)
2/8 (m 50-59)
shoes: altra lone peak 3.0

song stuck in my head the entire time:  "now that i know" ~ shannon mcnally

Friday, February 24, 2017

chuckanut redux

i'm on a roll.

first miwok in may, now the chuckanut 50k in march.

i signed up weeks ago, but was buried on the wait list. figured there was no way it would move far enough for me to make it.

it did!

my racing schedule is setting up nicely leading up to miwok, which is my "A" event for 2017.

all i have to do is stay healthy.

annnnnd...i just jinxed myself something awful.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


“on your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” 
metaphysical thought experiment
me: whoa. this is not how i thought today was gonna end.
coulda-been me (in a subtle but discernable international accent): not to worry, my friend. you're in good hands.
me (shrugs, nods): i have no idea what that means here, but...okay. (frowns) you're taller than me. why are you taller than me?
coulda-been me: a few years ago i underwent an experimental stem cell therapy intended to treat some forms of cancer. since it was funded by our foundation and was risky, i couldn't bear to see it tested on others. so i tried it on myself first. in addition to eventually curing those cancers, turns out it also optimized the patient's growth potential. apparently i was always supposed to be 6'1" and...voila!
current me: you have a foundation and you're curing cancer. and you're taller than i am. boy, i made some poor life choices, didn't i? what else am i missing?
coulda-been me (frowns a little, briefly): currently i'm managing the family's interests and our humanitarian relief efforts from offices in paris, stadt, and rome. it's a lot of work, but the rewards are endless.
me: you look fit. you still have time to exercise...
coulda-been me: it's remarkable what one can get done before the sun comes up...if one has a healthy diet, limits alcohol and sugar, and gets to bed at a decent hour.
me: so i've heard. (stares into the distance) maybe i should've slept in more. i just thought i'd feel more rested at this point in my life.
coulda-been me: action. reaction. as you well know.
me (nodding distractedly): no arguing that. 
me (deep breath): what happens now?
coulda-been me: now...i go back to my life, which is expected to last another 60 to 90 years. you, on the other hand...get another chance.
me (frowns quizzically)
coulda-been me (nods): you get to run miwok.
me: damn, man. don't ever scare me like this again.
Tribute to the Trails Calendar Race Entry Winner!
Congratulations! You've been selected as the winner of a guaranteed race entry to Miwok 100K! The Race Director, Tia Bodington, who generously donated the entry, is cc'd on this email. Please contact her and she will set you up! To be clear, you've won a guaranteed spot and are still responsible for the entry fee.
If you don't think you'll be using the entry, please contact me ASAP as there are many more entrants who would love to run the event.
Thanks for supporting the project and the trails!
Glenn Tachiyama
as reported previously, i wasn't selected in the 2017 miwok 100k lottery. 

but thanks to glenn and his tribute to the trails project, i got another chance.

which means i'm a few steps closer to being the person i could have become.

metaphysically speaking.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

and if not...

"don't worry! as long as you hit that wire with the connecting hook at precisely 88 miles per hour, the instant the lightning strikes the tower... everything will be fine."
~ dr. emmett brown
the line between "fine" and "oh, fuck" is indistinguishable.

one moment you're feeling good, cruising along a beautiful trail, the next you're dunked in a cold lake wondering what the hell happened. right, marie norris?
running happy on orcas island.
photo courtesy of glenn tachiyama.

a couple weekends ago i ran the orcas island 25k, and on that day everything went right. 

the weather was dry and cool, the climbs up powerline and the mount constitution switchbacks were fun, and even though the course was longer than last year (yay, free running!), i still cut three minutes off my previous best time.

the weekend was spent in the company of great friends, much good food was eaten, post-race beer was drunk, and hilariously inappropriate board games were played.

peace of mind from those three days wrapped itself around me like a heavy quilt on a cold day, and for a while the howling of winds that had nothing to do with the island receded to manageable levels. 

all of that lasted, oh, halfway through monday morning. because that's what mondays do. still, for a little while...everything was fine.

then the next weekend happened.

and john morelock died.
"ignore the hard, the steep, the heat—it is going to be there, you just have to pass on through. you simply have to cope—continue to cope."
~john morelock, author of "run gently out there"
i cried for him.

when the "john, you'll be missed..." tweets and FB messages started popping up on sunday morning, and the inevitable became real, tears deferred for months wouldn't wait any longer.

in a facebook post on nov. 14, 2016, john casually revealed he had peritoneal cancer, for which there is no cure.

over the next several weeks, as if nothing in his life had changed, he resumed his daily postsmost often gorgeous photos of pacific northwest waterways, wildlife, trails, and mountains, accompanied by deft observations on the state of the world.

john's accomplishments as an ultrarunner and his gift for language made him a role model for an aspirant like me. his book, "run gently out there," is a guide to living expressed through the metaphor of long(long)-distance running (or maybe i'm projecting). re-reading it, once again i find myself shaking my head in admiration of his lissome prose.

john was a kind, generous soul with a steely core. he was a defender of our wild outdoors, stood with standing rock, and had no tolerance for the politics of ignorance. simultaneously, he warmly bragged on female athletes breaking records and barriers around the world (an act that's become a political statement in itself).
john running gently on the PCT.
photo courtesy of glenn tachiyama.

on january 29, john posted on FB for the last time. 

noticing his silence, countless friends began posting on his wall their shots of trails and trees and lakes and deserts. he was deluged with the kind of images he loved, from people who cared about him.

on february 4, 2017, he crossed one more finish line...and began his next journey.

those who miss him continue to cope.
"the sounds from the chopping board are muted in my half-lit room; garlic is peeled by hand, potatoes are sliced instead of chopped, the beans are snapped, not cut. i raise my head and see the hillside's solid white coat of frost, soon to be gone. what the moon had reflected on, the sun will now drive away with its first rays of light on another thanksgiving morning."
~ j.m. #rgot
orcas island 25k
45/270 (overall)
1/14 (m 50-59)
shoes: hoka challenger atr 2

song stuck in my head the entire time:  "long time gone" ~ the dixie chicks

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

bend the arc

“we are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. we are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. in this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. procrastination is still the thief of time. life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. the 'tide in the affairs of men' does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. we may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: 'too late.'”

― martin luther king jr.
it's been 50 years.

fifty fucking years since dr. king spoke with desperate power against the outrages of his day. and somehow, 50 years later, his words still describe our current, very strange circumstance.

that's some progress, isn't it?

the approaching inauguration (if by "inauguration" you mean "desecration of everything good you ever believed about america") reads like a pilot for an insultingly lowbrow pseudo-documentary.

it's amateur-hour here, people.

and, regrettably, it's situations like these in which lots (and lots) of real people get hurt and die.

as noted by boston globe writer michael cohen...

"We have a president-elect fully prepared to violate the Constitution. We have allegations that his advisers might have worked directly with a foreign government to win the presidential election and who could also, potentially, be blackmailed by that same government. We have a Congress indifferent to these potential crises and focused instead on repealing legislation that will literally cause the premature deaths of thousands of Americans. It’s a disorienting and surreal moment in our history..."

standing here today, the urge is strong to run out and to stop this disaster before it's too late. apparently, though, we've exhausted the constitutional remedies that might have headed this off.

apparently we're obliged to strap in and ride this thing down.
"the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." ― MLK

i used to believe this. but today, what feels true is that an indifferent universe sits back and watches the pendulum swing from one extreme to another, with only fleeting moments of equilibrium.

what feels true is newton's first law, which sums up to "a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force."

it may very well be time to help bend that arc.
"O God, rather than rest on speeches and letters, instead may they serve as energy for the work still to be done. May they be fuel for the inner fire needed for us to help dreams be realized." jeffrey nelson