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 shorts...it 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 the...uh...parts 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 outrageously...fun. 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

Thursday, February 04, 2016


"they have weird rain here."
where'd you go baby buffalo?
what's become of old cotton eyed joe?
holed-up, lying low
long gone come a summertime snow

~ james taylor
this may have been my favorite day of trail running ever.

rain was forecast at the 2016 orcas island 25k, along with chilly temperatures.

instead, there was snow.

important meteorological note: running in snow beats running in cold rain 10 times out of ten. and twice on saturdays.

race notes: there's some climbing on this course. about 4,450 feet of it, according to the rainshadow running web site. i have no quarrel with this estimate.

you start out climbing, then give back everything you just gained. you reallyreally climb up the powerline trail, then give a bunch of that back. getting to the aid station at the top of mt. constitution? more climbing. all of which you give back over the last 5-ish miles.

the first time i ran this race, my quads hated me for the next three days. this time? no pain at all. throughout the race, i felt strong and relaxed and oops, i fell down. 

see the nice, gentle downhill that starts at about mile 8? man, that is some fantastic running. the trail is buttery soft, snow was wafting through the canopy, everything was still and quiet...except for the sound of me falling. ooof. i landed on my right side and rolled onto my back.

"are you okay?!" asked the nice woman running in front of me. "yup, i'm good," i said, popping back up again. because falling while trail running happens.

two minutes later: boom. down onto hands and knees.

"are you okay?!?" asked the same nice woman in front of me, perhaps concerned i was having some sort of cerebrovascular event. "yup, i'm good," i said again. "thank you for asking." because falling twice while running on a completely benign trail is a little embarrassing.
earlier i said something about this being my favorite trail day ever. that was my exact thought, in fact, while running the fall-down trail.

in retrospect, i think it's because i was in the zone the entire way. i was working hard on the no-kidding-around ascents, but the effort was effortless. there were a couple idiopathic falls, but they were of no concern or consequence. there was snow, which was beautiful, instead of rain, which is wet. my hands and feet got icy-cold at the top of mt. constitution, but they warmed right back up again within a mile.

at the bottom of the last descent, i started to feel the same leg cramp i got while running this section two years ago. then, it hit hard and took awhile to work out. this day it never really took hold, and i ran right past it. or through it. or something.

in no time at all i was finish-line high-fiving race director james varner, two minutes faster than two years ago.

soon, friends were crossing the finish line as well, getting their own high-fives. dry clothes were donned, food and beer consumed. photos, smiles, more finishes, more food. and beer.

finally, an exceptionally cool thrift shop shirt (with the 2016 orcas 25k logo on the back) was triumphantly pulled from a big box of shirts that went unnoted and unmarauded before the race. huge score.

standing here today, i can't think of a thing i'd change.

yup. best trail day...yet.
thank you, rainshadow cast and crew (especially those of you enduring the bone-chilling conditions at the top). none of it was possible without you. just kidding about the soup, colton gerhart.
2016 orcas island 25k

55/254 (overall)
4/24 (m 50-59)

shoes: altra lone peak 2.5
song stuck in my head the entire run: "baby buffalo," by james taylor

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

gear fail

waterproof: yes. breathable: no.
(environmental controls and other

accessories sold separately.)

there's no such thing as "breathable, waterproof" gear.

you get one or the other.

either way, you get wet.

life lesson: get used to being wet.

sad realization: after years of running trails in the PNW, with a closet full of gear to show for it, i'm still trying to figure out how to dress myself.