Sunday, March 22, 2015

chuckanut 2: payback is a, uh, word that really doesn't apply here...

"this is great, this is really f*ckin' great. we're in some pretty sh*t now, man."

~ bill paxton kvetching in 'aliens'

(also, my brain before the chuckanut 50k.)


i'd like to say i went into the 2015 chuckanut 50k burbling with confidence.

i was as trained up for it as i could be, minus three sort-of-important weeks lost to a soleus injury. still, i was able to pile up some pretty good miles after that setback, and might very well have felt good about that.

except for the sense of dread that ensued instead.

maybe it was the entirely unpleasant experience at the chuckanut mountain marathon the summer before. maybe it was the three weeks lost and the niggling pains that accumulated while i was trying to make up for lost time.

either way, on game day i was not in the best place, mentally. there was no burbling going on. but at that point there was nothing left to do but line up and see what was what.

the first 10k pace on the interurban trail was entirely too fast. i was running with friends from seven hills running shop, folks with more than a few ultras in their repertoire. for them, no big deal. for me, when those first 6-ish miles were done my thought was, "that went by way too quick. this may be cause for concern."

because that's when chuckanut really starts. up up up the fragrance lake trail to the two dollar trail. in between, a couple of aid stations, at which i topped off the tank, fuel-wise, hoping to avoid the nutrition/hydration gremlins that swarmed me the previous july.

it's probably worth noting, before we get too far into this, that rain was happening, as it had the day before. which is to say, mud was also happening. it wasn't a factor as we ascended cleator road, but right after the third aid station, entering the ridge line trail, mud got real.

"come on! come on you bastard! come on, you too! oh, you want some of this? f*ck you!"

~ bill paxton later in 'aliens'

(also, my brain in the thick of chuckanut.)

ed. note: the chuckanut ridge line trail is fun. if your legs are under you and your proprioception is intact, you can have a blast on this technical terrain. if everything is wet and muddy you can still have fun...but now there's an element of danger going on. if this wasn't plain enough, it became clear when my feet went out from under me on a rocky drop-off. my right knee impacted first, followed by my left hand. immediately the hand went numb, and i thought i had broken something.

the self-diagnostic went something like...
"we're a little shaken here, sir, but still intact. we're good to go."
"stand by, captain. sensors are down, we're blind as a bat."
"i don't know if you've noticed, wrist, but we're on our feet and moving. get back in the game, or tell us it's time to shut this thing down."
"stand by...fingers working, numbness breaks! we're good here!"

toward the far north end of ridge line, heading down yet another steep, rocky section, a young woman was down and distressed. it was hard to tell, in passing, what the situation was, but she was crying hard and her friend was asking if anyone had a tensor bandage. to me that added up to something like a low-leg fracture, but who knows? in any case, we got word aid was heading up from the trail below, so we reluctantly pressed on.

the mud turned into soup heading south on the north lost lake trail. every uphill step included a semi-slide back. every descent was an exercise in staying upright. this routine continued around the south lost lake trail to the aid station at the base of chinscraper.*

(* steep climb gaining back all the elevation you gave up descending ridge line, over a much shorter distance. think climbing stairs in a tall building, but with mud and switchbacks and glenn tachiyama taking your photo when you've really had enough of this #%@$%# climb.)

for fun, at the top of chinscraper you turn around and give back all the vertical you just fought for. down cleator, down the fragrance lake trail, down to the interurban. all that's left is the 10k back to the finish line, or as one chuckanut veteran put it, "the longest 10k of your life."

he was right. it went on forever. in some parallel universe, i'm still running it.

unless you throw yourself down in a heap and refuse to continue (or suffer some other demoralizing condition), eventually even the longest 10k of your life comes to an end. considering my attitude at the start of the day, crossing the finish line felt like a bit of vindication. over what, i'm not sure. self-doubt? niggling pain? dialogue from throwback sci-fi flicks?

or maybe just the memory of a previous day that didn't go so well, and a new, more positive memory in its place.

whatever. i'll take it.


chuckanut 50k

shoes: altra superior 2.0
food: a fistful of Vfuel and huma gels, a couple fuel 100 electro-bites, and some trader joe's candied ginger

i am remiss not to mention the great volunteers at every aid station on the course. their enthusiasm and encouragement was much-needed and incredibly welcome. also thanks to race director krissy moehl, who puts on one heck of a race. and finally, thanks to krissy's mom, peggy, who is a hoot. have fun at neil diamond, peggy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

the no-win scenario

"i think a moderate 10k recovery run is pretty good after a 21-mile training run. don't you?"


"shut up! who cares what you think??"

"you do."

"fuck you, i do not!"


(what it's like to be me, on a tuesday.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

let's do this

"to see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. that is the purpose of life."

~ from "the secret life of walter mitty"


life is merely a travel journal.

page after page, we're all just the sum of the places we go, the things we do, the people we love, and who love us.

my aunt died about a month ago. melanoma would finally have its way, but not before being stared down and shoved back for years by a strong woman. at the end, surrounded by her three best friends, she said simply, "i'm tired," and slipped away to begin her next journey.

her journal of this life was full to extraordinary. as evidence, her memorial was attended by kin of all descriptions ~ children, brothers, and sisters all, by birth and by choice. dozens of them. a couple hundred, in fact. skiers, hikers, runners, gardeners, musicians, champagne drinkers, and church-goers. all brimming with stories and smiles and tears.

you couldn't be among the assemblage without thinking, "she did something right" and "this was a life well lived" and "we should all do so well."

i drove to spokane for the service, to herd cats, share support, and hug as much family as could be accounted for. they came in from points around the country, which is why many of us hadn't seen or been seen by the others for a long while. it took all of about 60 seconds for the time and miles to melt away. we were family once again, animated, vulnerable, and wide open.

for a brief time we found each other, drew in close, and felt we were where we were supposed to be.

i wouldn't presume to know if that's the purpose of life, or death. but to be the reason so many came together and to help them feel this way, even for a short time...that's not bad. not bad at all.

bon voyage, corinne.


Step in front of a runaway train
just to feel alive again
Pushing foward through the night
aching chest and blurry sight

It's all far so far away

It's so far so far away

~ junip

Monday, January 26, 2015

greek non-tragedy

i'm injured.*

and by injured, i mean, "temporarily unable to run or climb hills/stairs without uncomfortable pain in my right achilles-ish area."

in short, i have a running-related boo-boo.

this is not to be confused with a serious or debilitating condition that might warrant actual sympathy.

having said that, i'm injured enough that my participation in the orcas island 25k (a mere 5 days away), seems unlikely. 

glimmer of hope: since today is only monday, there's still time for an unexpected, inexplicable recovery.

i'm elevating and heating and wearing a compression sleeve and taking l-glutamine and smearing on arnica gel. also, trying to schedule appointments with the chiropractor (done) and the sports massage therapist.

so, i'm saying there's a chance.

either way, in the grand scheme of things, missing a race due to injury is nothing. the overriding goal is to continue running for many years to come. so (barring rapid and preternatural improvement), taping up everything below the knee and running the race anyway would be unwise, unreasonable, and uncalled-for.

i'm surprised i would even think of such a thing.


* achilles strain? achilles tendinitis? soleus? shin splints? i don't know. i experienced this injury two and a half years ago, and neither a chiropractor, a primary care doc, nor a sports medicine specialist were able to provide a differential diagnosis. recovery took nearly a month, but ultimately i was pain-free in time for a goal race in hawai'i.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the happy scam

well, so much for 2015...
happy new year.

whatever that means.

see, even though most people are out there pursuing happiness, talking about it, wishing it on others ~ i don't get it.

even harvard medicine is in the happy business. from this morning's email:

"Discover the positive steps you can take to defeat the daily threats to happiness and add greater satisfaction, meaning, and joy to your life."

Positive Psychology

"You don't have to pursue happiness. Make it come to you — starting today!"

happiness, with an exclamation point. from the smart folks at harvard medical school. whose tagline is "trusted advice for a healthier life."

thanks, harvard. whatever.

if your goal is constant state of smiley bliss...get used to disappointment. or get some really good drugs. because that state doesn't exist in nature.

what does exist?

peace of mind.

you (and i and everyone else) could realistically achieve peace of mind in 2015. and even if you fell short, you wouldn't have to be disappointed. because if you fumble peace of mind and kick it around awhile and trip over the cat and slide across the floor on your can still get up, brush yourself off, apply some neosporin, and discover in the process that your peace of mind was right there in your hands the entire time.

it's weird like that.

how to achieve peace of mind: let it go. whatever "it" is. it's out of your control anyway, so quit worrying about it. viola! peace of mind. caveat: if it's in your control, whatever "it" is, then you can do something about it. start doing whatever can be done...viola! peace of mind.

deprive discontent of oxygen and viola! peace of mind.

that formula again: let it go. or do something about it.

do one or the other and there's a good chance you'll find yourself experiencing a subset of peace of mind, one that's fleeting, but still kind of fun...happiness.

disclaimer: all the above is what i tell myself. i would never presume to say it'll work for anyone but me, because i'm weird and we're all weird and everyone is weird in different ways. what i will say is, "it works for me."

Friday, December 26, 2014

road hard, still wet

the road, rising up to meet me.
thankfully, not face-first.
"growing up i always thought quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be."

~ john mulaney

"fortune favors the prepared mind."

~ louis pasteur


reflective observation: quicksand takes many forms.

many of which capable of dragging down the unwary and the unlucky. 

tromping through treacherous terrain, fortune favors those who travel with a vine.

this kind. not this kind.


if only i were as fast as the manner in which 2014 has flown by.

uh, i'd be pretty damn fast.

as a general matter, though, i don't need any more "fast" in my life. i need some slow. i need our little corner of the world to step back, take a deep breath, and hold on a minute while i absorb and process. somehow i don't see that happening.

scientific observation suggests that 2014 went by faster than any year in recorded history. not really. i can't back that up.

because the year went by the way it did...i didn't run as much as i intended to. my goal was 1,500 miles. but even as i was typing it out, one year ago, i knew it was a stretch. sure enough, with a few december days remaining, i'll be very fortunate to hit 1,200.

c'est la vie. on the upside, i did reach the rest of my very-modest running-related goals.

first trail marathon: 
first trail 50k: 
at least one organized event per month: 
(32 months and counting. not that i'm counting.)

as was the case last year, i saw some spectacular sights in 2014, things i would never have seen if not for the running. i roamed around some of the most scenic islands our little planet has to offer (oahu, whidbey, fidalgo, and orcas). i ran past saguaro in arizona, and bougainvillea in lanikai. i reveled in the beauty of washington state parklands from bellingham to the issaquah alps to the methow valley.

on the downside, i also went through a months-long slump where running felt like a slog. my energy was low and my legs just felt kind of...blah. physical? mental? i don't know...but i do know it didn't keep me from buying more running shoes (thanks, seven hills running!). either way, with the daytime hours finally heading back into the light...the doldrums have lifted. i'm enjoying running again, i feel much stronger, and i'm looking forward to kicking things up a notch in 2015. 

a new list taped to my computer says things like "chuckanut 50k," "sun mountain 50k," "san francisco marathon," and "oregon coast 50k."

if i can check off a few of those in the coming months, it'll be a very good year. more specific goal: four events of 26.2 or longer. twice as many as in 2014.

i have much work to do.

full disclosure: in the back of my mind the idea of a 50-mile event has begun percolating. i believe i have it in me to handle the distance...but i'm completely unclear how my life would allow me to prepare for it.

three dogs, two cats, two kids, a house, a job, and a loving wife all demand and deserve a full measure of attention. sitting here, it's hard to imagine where a full measure of 50-mile training would come from.

still, it's there. persistent. and percolating.

related contextual note: watch a few of these gorgeous videos from project talaria and see why the pacific northwest is the best place on the planet. for running. and other things. really.

there are many other topics suitable (or more suitable) for a year-end post. i've written much in the last 12 months, for example, about gun violence. and injustice in our "nation of laws." and homelessness.

segueway: there's a homeless man living under the bridge a hundred yards from our house. i share this because we live in a nice neighborhood in a prosperous city in what we tell ourselves is the greatest nation on earth...and there's a homeless man living under a bridge. a hundred yards away from here.

i've spoken to him many times. his name is darryl, and he's a quiet, pleasant man. living under a bridge. a hundred steps away.

it's winter, and it's cold at night, so i worry about him. i take him fleece blankets and sweaters and gloves and food. i think he loses these things over time, so i take him more. we chat, and it occurs to me that he's probably wrestling with a degree of mental illness. occasionally he mentions he'll only be in seattle for a while, until the government gets him a new body.

then we change the subject. i ask him if he needs anything. "a couple bucks," he sometimes says. i give him whatever i have in my pocket, tell him to stay warm, and that i'll see him soon. he shakes my hand, and says thank you. he always says thank you.

i mention this only because it's quicksand, and i'm unprepared, and i don't know what else to do.

as noted above, quicksand takes many forms. and to one degree or another, we're all in it.

time to run.

Friday, December 19, 2014

truth and deception

awesome visual chronicling courtesy of glenn tachiyama.
you could do a lot worse than bookending your year with a couple of rainshadow running events.

i started 2014 with the orcas island 25k, and ended it with another 25k at deception pass.

in between, across many months, were some reallyreally good miles (and some not-quite-as-good), but none were more enjoyable than the 15.3 at deception.

unlike february's 20-miler at fort ebey, for example, there were no howling winds flying through the strait of juan de fuca. unlike the hillbilly half, there was no gunfire flying through the trees overhead. 

and unlike july's marathon at chuckanut mountain, at no time did i feel like i was hanging on for dear life just to finish.

to sum up: while all miles are good in their own way...these were exceptional.

the DP 25k course is a bouquet of six lollipops spread out over deception pass state park. water views are everywhere ~ some from high above the shoreline, some right down on the beach. overall the route is very runnable, with about 3,100 feet of elevation to make it even more interesting.

you get to run around places called goose rock and bowman bay. you pass 'pass lake' and run across the breathtaking deception pass bridge ~ twice. from that vantage point you see deception island and strawberry island and if you're lucky, a huge bald eagle sitting in a tall tree situated far below your feet.

you parkour over downed trees across sweet single track trails, and skitter over slick rocks scraped clean the last time glaciers roamed these parts. and you do it all with a smile on your face, because running around like feral children is lots of fun.

with less than 5k to go i started feeling a little, uh, devitalized. thankfully, a gel and some water turned me right-side-up again in what felt like seconds. maybe it was the gel, or maybe it was the placebo effect ~ either way, i finished feeling strong, with no post-race effects in the the days after.

which got me thinking: maybe the way to bookend 2015 would be...the deception pass 50k.*

(fast voiceover): *assuming i stay healthy, time permitting, with the kind permission of the missus, see store for details, void where prohibited, member FDIC.

this is the part where i thank the volunteers and the folks at rainshadow running. because they did a great job and they always do and we've sort of come to expect it but hold on a minute because the fact is...'s kind of a big deal. 

no event of this size and complexity is easy. they make it look easy, but you know that means there's a ton of heavy lifting done by a lot of people to make it look that way. before, during, and after. not to mention that they turned out at oh-dark-thirty the very next day to do it all over again for the 50k.

if we agree (and i'm sure we do) that every mile is a gift, and every moment counts...rainshadow running gifted me many miles and amazing moments in 2014. you could do much worse than that, but you can't do much better.

i am endlessly grateful.

deception pass 25k

mental difficulty: (insert beach-y ukulele tune here)

perceived exertion: see "this guy" ------------------------->
jaw-dropping views: plenty
fun had: sideways 8



64/285 (overall)
4/38 (50-59)

or, "rocks below, do not throw people." i mean, obviously.