Saturday, May 24, 2014

heading toward center

"I am home. In the here. In the now."  

Thich Nhat Hanh

***********

this morning in the drowsy place between sleep and omg i have to get up, it occurred to me that one of our cats is a living work of art.

the palette of her coat is a riot of orange and white and black and brown. her face is perfectly divided side-to-side, orange and black.

she snuggles up and purrs and makes our little world a better place.

in the few moments it took this thought to coalesce, i further realized that all the lives around us are living, breathing performance art.

all these lives are unique and belong to no one but themselves. i believe this like i believe in gravity.

i don't see how i can continue being a carnivore.

Monday, May 19, 2014

post game

photo by matt stebbins.
the sun mountain 50k rambles over a gorgeous and civilised course high above the methow valley. 

you bound past fields of wildflowers, gawk at spectacular views, and jabber with agreeable people. 

for a first-50k (or any 50k, really) you couldn't draw it up any better.

until you get to the last five miles.

that's where the lovely and amiable and hospitable course turns vicious and beastly and mean. here's a comment from a 2013 participant...

"I cried climbing that last hill last year. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses when Glenn Tachiyama snapped my photo at that point." ~ melody mândrean coleman

it's not that the hill is steep, though it is, or that it ascends thousands of feet, which it totally seems to do. it's that looking up at it after already having run 25 miles is so visually intimidating that you just want to stand there and say, "oh, no. no, no. hell, no." that, and "are you f*cking kidding me?"

but of course you didn't come this far to be turned away, so you fix your eyes on the trail and you climb.

meanwhile, the runners who summited the hill before you are now bombing back down the trail past you. yes, it's an up-and-back. so, you step off the trail to avoid a mass casualty incident, then try to get back into some sort of climbing rhythm. sidestep-resume-repeat.

when you finally get to the top, there's a little temporary sign stuck in the ground that says, "runners turn around here." it seems woefully anticlimactic, but absent other options, you tap the sign, turn, and head back down.

the fight against gravity at this point is a life-and-death matter. gravity wants you to go down fast and awkward, regardless of the impact on your face and bones. your brain feeds back, "uh, this could get ugly quick if you're not paying attention," while your quads look for an opportunity to mutiny.

that's when the cramp started. inside my left leg, running from the knee up to the groin. there's never a good time for a cramp like this, but running a steep, rocky downhill is a particularly bad time.

a cramp like this and catching a toe on a rock simultaneously? muy no bueno. the adrenaline rush at that moment was eye-popping. maybe it was that, or just blind luck, but for whatever reason the trail gods saw fit to allow me to stay upright rather flying-flailing-falling many feet down the slope.

"whoa," i said, mostly because there was nothing much else to say.

the cramp became manageable just about the time the trail spit me out onto the road at the bottom of the hill.


at this point runners might be forgiven for thinking, "okay, this has got to be the finish, right? i mean, no one puts the finish line another mile and a half away after a hill like that."

they'd be wrong.

after an interval that feels like but is not quite forever, you're back on the trail that takes you to the finish line, where you high-five race director james varner and hold that high-five for at least a couple seconds before letting go, because it feels good and in its own little way, important.

***********
the sun mountain 50k is a brilliant event put on by rainshadow running. if you're in the market for such things, this venue, and james's events in general, are not to be missed.

***********
i'm tired today, but not destroyed. turns out my readiness for a 50k was enough after all. going forward, though, it would probably be wise to have a little more training cushion than "just enough, but not one step more."

sun mountain 50k
5:52:21
86/155
12/23 (50-59)

Monday, May 12, 2014

the long game

craving clarity. or beer. whatever.
now the years are rolling by me
they are rocking easily
i am older than I once was

and younger than I'll be
that's not unusual
no, it isn't strange
after changes upon changes
we are more or less the same

after changes we are 
more or less the same

~ paul simon

***********

welp, i'm all trained up for a road marathon.

trouble is, i'm signed up for a trail 50k.

part of me thinks, "dude, you're in trouble." another part thinks, "no, it'll be okay." 

this weekend, we find out.

my foundation to run 26.2 on pavement is built on many trail miles, and not quite as many road miles. i have yet to discover the equation in which the those miles add up to 31 on a tough trail course.

unless...!

unless we throw into the formula the "T" variable, defined as trail miles going by much quicker than road miles and generating far less mental fatigue. i think it's one of planck's theorems, or hawking's, or einstein's. somebody smart, i.e., not me.

the inclusion of the T variable changes everything. if i believe it, it can be true. to quote a trail runner far more accomplished than i: "i will start, and i will finish. the rest will be decided by the mountains." ~ gary robbins

it's not an exact quote, but close enough, and i stand by it completely. (minus the definitive "i will start" and "i will finish" parts. i choose not to incite/amuse the irony gods. they love to decide stuff when mortals speak in absolutes).

let's try it this way:

"i hope to start, and i hope to finish on my feet and able to drink a beer afterward. in between, the trail, the elevation, wild animals, and the irony gods will decide."  ~ me

there. that.

***********

after changes upon changes
we are more or less the same
after changes we are 
more or less the same

a couple years ago i was sure i'd never want to run a marathon. after running a marathon i was sure i'd never want to run farther. sunday, with luck, i will line up to run farther. in the brief time since i stopped hating running, there have been significant changes...but for some reason, i feel pretty much the same. 

probably because earth is a swirling, confusing place.

whatever. when all is said and done, in a world of infinite variables and a lifetime of finite moments, if there is clarity in even one of those moments...everything will be okay.

Monday, May 05, 2014

miles to go

"I will start, and I will finish. The rest is to be determined by the mountains." ~ gary robbins, before the UTMF 100

selfie by gary robbins.
gary robbins is one of the most formidable runners on the planet.

but he didn't finish the UTMF 100. not the way he planned, anyway. 

as crash davis sagely noted, "sometimes you win. sometimes you lose. sometimes it rains."

and, sometimes you hear a 'click' in your foot, and your day is over.

g-rob was right about one thing, though: the mountains determined the outcome. 

whatever form they take, they always do.