Monday, September 04, 2017

post-game, the squamish edition

do i want to continue seeing sights like these?
yes. yes, i do.
we’re not better or worse
only different at first
simply humans on earth
learning to shine
and when the day brings the hurt
when the night burns
i swear that’s where we shine

~ arruda, woodward, and mcmahon 
"if you want different results, you have to do different things."

it's true, and i'm in.

debilitating stomach troubles have become the new normal for me at longer race distances. and if i want to continue running these things (i do), i have to find a way to a better belly.

which is how i recently found myself in the office of sports nutritionist (and amazing ultrarunner) jess mullen. when it comes to race-day nutrition, she knows a thing or two because she's seen a thing or two.

on jess's recommendation, different results will start with different preparation a week before race day:
  • cutting down (or cutting out) caffeine and alcohol (a small annoyance, well worth it)
  • a few days of nexium to pre-calm my stomach (which was recently diagnosed with stress gastritis)
race day will include:
  • a long-burning, easy-on-the-stomach egg, cheese, and avocado breakfast sandwich 
  • more food (fats like nuts and cheese; complex carbs like fig newtons and hummus wraps) more often (every half hour whether i feel like it or not)
  • something other than water in the water bottles (like electrolytes! and sodium!)

i don't know if this prescription is the cure for what ails me during long races, but what i do know is my layman's solutions have failed hilariously.

what i do know is that jess's suggestions make good sense, and i like things that make sense.

it's good to be different.
update: okay, now i have a hamstring injury.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

stand for inspection

oh, yes, by all means,
build that wall mr. maginot.
u.s. citizens crossing the border to canada? no problem!

"where do you live?
"are you carrying any weapons?"
"what's the purpose for your trip to canada?"
"i have a race in squamish tomorrow."
"what kind of a race?"
"how long will you be in canada?"
"until sunday."
"thank you."

u.s. citizens crossing the border to the united states? not so fast!

"are you bringing back any food?"
"just some packaged food we brought with us into canada."
"why were you in canada?"
"uh, to run a trail race."
"what are the last four digits of your social security number?"

"uh..." (hesitates, silently reciting the entire number) "2376."*
{interminable silence}
"please proceed to the secondary inspection lane."

defining our terms:
"If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers."

my passport is in good standing, and i've gone through the process to obtain a global entry clearance. which means for the low, low price of $100, the u.s. government agrees not to consider me a threat to national security. in return, they get my fingerprints, all my personal data, and a satellite fix on my whereabouts at all times. so...good value! 

the cost, according to the marketing copy on the web site, is darn well worth it!

"Your time is valuable. As a pre-screened Global Entry member, you arrive in the United States, check-in at the Global Entry kiosk and you're on your way. So what are you waiting for?"
  • No processing lines
  • No paperwork
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Available at major U.S. airports
  • Reduced wait times
  • TSA Pre✓® Eligibility

note to self and anyone reading: never trust the marketing copy.

the CBP officer behind the "secondary inspection" counter was terse, unsmiling, and seemingly annoyed at his computer. he didn't let any of that get in the way of his questions, though. oh, yes, he had questions...

"have you ever self-identified as african-american?"
"do you have tattoos on your chest?"
"have you ever lived in independence, missouri?"
"were you born in scotland?"

i had a weird flashback to jack nicholson on the stand in "a few good men."
"are these really the questions you brought me here to answer, lieutenant kaffee?"

"have you visited europe recently?"
"have you ever traveled under a different name?"
"do you have a nexus pass?"

full disclosure: the answer in each case was a straight-faced no. "no, sir," actually. as absurd as the questions were, and as readily as incredulous, smartass answers leaped into my head, i didn't want to spend one moment longer than necessary in "secondary inspection" at the us-canada border.

after 15 minutes of this doltish third-degree, the interrogation lights suddenly dimmed, and we were allowed to continue on our way. 

i assume that's when officer inquisition suddenly stumbled across the marketing copy on the global entry web site, and realized the gravity of the mistake he had just made.
semi-serious epilogue: my wife and i are over-privileged white people. if we are "secondary inspected," it's an inconvenience and just a matter of time before we get to go on our merry way home.

imagine, for a moment, how a similar experience might go for people with fewer resources. people who don't speak english easily. people who are afraid of unhinged american authority.

in a similar vein, does anyone believe this kind of vacuous evaluation is keeping anybody safe?

what a waste. and a shame.
*FPO digits.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Squamish 50

some days you gotta dance
live it up when you get the chance
'cause when the world doesn't make no sense
and you're feeling just a little too tense
gotta loosen up those chains and dance

~ dixie chicks
turns out i was a 40-mile runner on a 50-mile day.

and though i may not have any right to be, i'm disappointed.

as noted previously, i felt only ready-ish for squamish. but as the race unfolded, i was convinced i was going to get it done. i was strong on the climbs, nimble on the steep, rocky downhills, and running the in-betweens.

i was feeling so good, at mile 23 i literally danced to the soundtrack playing at the corners aid station. fine times in the squamish sunshine.

yes, there is some scenery on this course.
my watch failed at around mile 31, which was weird since it carried me all the way through a much longer day at miwok. right about the same time i got stung by a bee. i'm pretty sure those events were connected somehow...but the bee is dead, and he's not talking. either way, not long after they occurred, other things began to go sideways.

i pulled into the mile-33 quest university aid station for a change of socks, shoes, shirt, and hat. i was also handed an otter pop by a very cute aid station volunteer who couldn't have been more than 3 years old. both put a smile on my face as i headed out to do some more climbing on a very climb-y day.

that's when the wheels very unexpectedly came off. i went from moving along well to "what the hell is happening?" within a couple-mile stretch.

as it has on more than one occasion, my stomach, which had been threatening trouble for several miles, turned upside down during that brief time. i was wishing it would also turn inside-out, but had no luck inducing it.

kind and concerned folks stopped on their way by to say, "are you okay?"
"i'm all right...i'd be doing better if i could puke."

yeah, i wasn't doing all right.

i would make best-possible time for five minutes, then rest for five minutes, totally drained of energy. people i had passed long ago now passed me, and i couldn't rally to go with them.

my friend ian burton, who i ran with for many miles this day, caught up and did the best he could to coax me along. 
who can say no to this guy?

"there's plenty of time. you can still hang out for a bit at the next aid station and get back on top of things."

it seemed a reasonable enough thought, but if i'm honest, i didn't think it was going to happen. whatever was going on with me was getting a good grip on my body. and though i'd been taking tums (and later pepto) to ward it off, eventually they just seemed to make things worse.

we made our way to the garibaldi aid station, and i plopped into a chair. note: this is always a bad idea for a runner with any intention of continuing on.

i sat eating ice chips, trying to get something, anything, down. ian patiently restocked and refueled but eventually, reluctantly headed back to the trail. it was the last i would see of him until the next day.

(the good news: ian finished in fine style on a course where any finish is a serious accomplishment.)

meanwhile, for me it was just a matter of time. as the minutes 'til cutoff ticked away, i sat in disbelief that i would drop just 10 miles from a squamish finish. but i had no more in the tank. shivering, foggy headed, legs cramping, i asked for a ride down the hill.
i could not be more grateful to the volunteers throughout the course, but especially at garibaldi. they were terrifically kind and attentive during my time in their company. i wish i could've reciprocated.

i'm also thankful for my friends daisy clark and dianna christopoulos, who saw me shivering on a park bench at the finish and covered me with blankets, coats, and caring. you guys are the best, and i love you both.
ed. note: standing here today, i feel remarkably good. my legs are not particularly trashed, and i feel like i could go out for a recovery run right now...except that my stomach is still kinda wrecked. doctor appointment tomorrow.
squamish 50 mile


topo terraventure (mile 0-33)
altra timp (mile 33-40)

song(s) stuck in my head the entire day: "some days you gotta dance" ~ dixie chicks; "sussudio" ~ phil collins

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