Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Acutely hipster

Worth it.
Four weeks post-Miwok, my hips are hurting.

I suppose I know why.

It's not because I suffered an injury during the race, or even during the miles I've run since then.

It's because I jammed all the training for a 100k event into a seven-week block.

If you search the internet for "7-week 100k training plan" you'll find...nothing. Because it's not something people do. Unless they're desperate or under duress. 

I was both, so, yay.

And now I have residual hip pain, likely the cumulative effect of too much distance and elevation in too little time. 

It might also be the result of not banking enough total miles to take on a 100k day.

Again, probably both. Yay.

I'm not complaining. My short-term goal was to get to the starting line with a chance finish...and that's exactly what I got.

Lesson learned? Most likely nothing. I did what I wanted to do, rather than what I probably should have done, and it worked out. If the same situation were to happen again (please, no), I would very likely do the same thing all over again.

Because I'm stubborn. Or stupid. Probably both.


Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Aztec Experience

Impressive Aztec headgear.
The Aztec Empire once covered most of northern Mesoamerica, spanning from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

Aztec art, architecture, and cultural influence* spread widely and across centuries—until the arrival of Spanish conquistadores, who were not there to deliver tidings of peace and goodwill. 

(The Spaniards were, in fact, there to extract as many of the local resources as possible, without regard to the actual locals.)

Euphemistic note: at this historical juncture, the Aztec civilization did not continue to thrive.
Somewhat less impressive
Aztec headgear.
Since the passing of several hundred years apparently allows us to relate such events with persiflage...

The Aztec Experience lives on at San Diego State University!

Not literally, one hopes.

Since our daughter will be attending SDSU very soon.
Coach Nieto on the left.
SDSU cheerleader on the right.
Short story shorter: Avery was accepted at SDSU and the University of San Diego. Over spring break she and a teammate on the Ballard High School competitive cheer squad went to tour both campuses...AND to try out for the SDSU competitive cheer program. In a very unlikely turn of events, both made the team.

Elaboration: the SDSU women's cheer team is an elite program, on par with, oh-I-don't-know, Alabama football or Duke University basketball.  The competition for the handful of open spots on the team is enthusiastic: more than a hundred young women tried out this year. And both our home girls made it? Extraordinary.
SDSU is not kind to out-of-state students, cost-wise. Apparently they have to pay for the pyramids and temples and huge stone monuments.
Whoops. Not the SDSU campus.

On the upside, though, I did get a nice SDSU hat as a gift with purchase. Avery's mom got an SDSU t-shirt. So it almost evens out.
Cheer practice starts July 20, so Avery and her mom are flying down July 17 to get acclimated. They'll both attend an orientation session, one for students, one for parents.

After a month or so, AG comes home for a week, then heads back down to campus.
Actual SDSU campus.

Fall classes begin Aug. 26.

It will surprise no one to learn...I'm not ready.
* If by "cultural influence" you mean wars of aggression, ritualistic human sacrifice, and vast slave-holding, then yes.
 Pick your own favorite elite examples, I have no preference.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Riches to rags to Randall: a Miwok 100k race report

"No horses? Perhaps you could
spare some S!Caps, then??"
“A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

~ King Richard III, Act V, Scene IV, Richard III.
"Chew the S!Caps."

~ Chuck Wilson, Randall Aid Station Captain, Miwok 100k
Advice about ingesting sodium/potassium capsules lacks dramatic heft.

In the context of a 100k trail race, tho, those three words were the difference between an inglorious DNF and an unlikely finish to a long day in the Marin Headlands.

In three acts, (or to recap, as it were) here's how my day went:

"I'm gonna PR!"

"I'm gonna DNF!"
Tsk. This guy.
He has no idea
what he's in for.

"I'm gonna finish!"


The actual running of Miwok 2019 seemed easier than in 2017 (which I described as "one of my best running days ever"). The weather was cooler, I knew the course, and (I thought) I had a fair idea how the day would unfurl.

Ha ha ha, nope.

The theory did hold for a little while. After the annual slow, conga-line climb up the Dipsea Trail, everything felt quicker. I spent less time taking photos, less time in the aid stations, and less time in between. After the first 50k, I was on pace to sneak in under 14 hours, which would've been about a 40-minute PR.

That's IF the stomach issues hadn’t happened.


Not for the first time, my stomach situation started to go sideways at about 55k. This despite the fact that I conscientiously ate before I got hungry, drank before I was thirsty, and swallowed an S!Cap every hour, just for laughs and redundancy.

"All the world's a stage, and all
the men and women merely players."
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
Noticing the first hints of GI trouble the second time through the Muir Beach aid station (mile 30), I started eating saltines, because someone at some point may have told me saltines magically settle upset stomachs.

I don't know who it was, but I'll get them, someday.

And though I was still moving well and passing lots of people on the climbs, my stomach was deteriorating rapidly. Now fully in a dither, I rolled into Cardiac (mile 35) like, "I'll have all the saltines, please." Because sometimes to make the magic work you have to say "abracadabra" more than once.

Seven miles later, at the Bolinas aid station, I realized saltines are something your mom gives you when you're a kid, and the magic is that they came from your mom.

My mom was definitely not at the Bolinas aid station. I checked.


Over the 6.7 miles between Bolinas and Randall, my body was in full rebellion. The stomach pain was relentless, I couldn't take on any fluids or calories, and my joints felt like grinding gears. It got so bad I couldn't even run the 1.6 mile descent into Randall.

My PR was out the window, of course, and any finish at all seemed doubtful. I took my drop bag from a kind volunteer, plopped myself into a camp chair, and for the next 45 minutes I waited for a necromancer. Or a coroner, I really didn't care which.

Instead, I got Chuck Wilson, aid station captain extraordinaire, and the ultramarathon advice of a lifetime:

"Chew the S!Caps."

"Swallowing them whole does no good when your stomach is shut down," he said. "Chewing them gets them into your system and immediately sends signals to your extremities. Your stomach will feel better, you’ll feel your joints loosen up again, and you should be good to go."*

Chewing up an S!Cap, which is basically a mouthful of salt, sounded as awful as I felt. And honestly, I doubted the whole proposition. But, as has been demonstrated countless times throughout human history, desperation makes people do desperate things: I chewed the S!Caps.

In the most ridiculously unlikely turn of events...this magic was real. Within five minutes everything Chuck said would happen, happened. I got up and slowly walked around the aid station a few times and felt better still.
"Glenn! Got any S!Caps??"
(Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.)

I sat back down, changed my socks and shoes, then got up and looked for Chuck so I could thank him. He was nowhere in sight. Still, I'm pretty sure he was real, too.

After about 5 miles (and a lot of climbing) I was flagging a bit...SO I CHEWED UP ANOTHER S!CAP! And almost puked. Within a couple minutes, though, I felt better!

The more time that passed and the farther I ran, the better I felt. Defying all logic, my time over the last 6 miles was nearly identical to 2017. 

And the last, most technical descent of the course before the finish? I PR'd it.

Best of all, I finished feeling human, rather than like a zombie.
A few days later, I’m still trying to understand why my day went so upside-down. Aside from the fact that anything can happen to anyone, any time, that is.

"I'll not budge an inch."
Taming of the Shrew,
Introduction, Scene I.
I did everything I knew to do to keep myself right-side up during a long event, and it made *zero* difference. And the thing that saved the day was a hail Mary I had no reason or right to expect.

I sit here shaking my head, realizing (yet again) that any finish, any day, is a gift.

And grateful that there's still a little magic left in this world.
(* Not an exact quote, but as near as I can recall from my debilitated state.)
Miwok 100k


222/254 (overall)

31/40 (M 50-59)

Hoka Speedgoat 3 (mile 0-49)

Altra Timp 1.5 (mile 49-62)

Song(s) stuck in my head the entire time: 

"Heart and Soul" ~ Hoagy Carmichael/Frank Loesser
"That's Amore" ~ Harry Warren/Jack Brooks
"Material Girl" ~ Peter Brown/ Robert Rans

Western States Qualifier: snagged.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Wave hello

"Dude! Did you miss me??"

That was a big one.

I just got hit by this year's first wave of Miwok Anxiety. 

It's like boogie boarding in choppy surf—one moment you're riding the wave, the next moment the wave is riding you...right down into the sand.

Boom! Welcome to the party, pal!

In 2017 the nerves started a full two weeks ahead of race day. Today, we're just nine days out.

This is progress, maybe.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"Who are those guys?" (a Yakima Skyline Rim 25K race report)

Deja view.

"Boy, you know every time I see Hole-in-the-Wall again, it's like seeing it fresh for the first time. And every time that happens, I keep asking myself the same question: how could I be so damn stupid to keep coming back here?"

~ Paul Newman in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'
I had never been there before, but there was something familiar about the setting for the Yakima Skyline Rim 25K.

The high cliffs overlooking the river, the trains across the water from our campground, a relentless pursuit over rocky crags, leading inexorably to a desperate leap...
"No, we'll jump."
"Like hell we will."

What could it be?

Today, after a little rest and a lot of food, I figured it out.
The YSR 25k is a simple, but great course. 

It doesn't seduce you with the buttery, forested single track typical of the Pacific Northwest. 

Rather, it hits you in the ribs with two hulking climbs and descents, linked together by a rocky, technical ridge line. It lays it all out in front of you without acrimony and says, "This is what I have...what do you have?"

Well, I'll tell you what I have, YSR course—I have two very ruined big toenails, thank you very little—both wrecked on your freakish descents. I'll think of you when I'm limping around the Marin headlands in a couple of weeks.

That said, I also have a bit more confidence heading into Miwok 100k, since the biggest ups and downs on that course don't compare to a Sunday on the trails in the Yakima River Canyon.
The first climb at YSR is about two and a half miles long, with grades of up to 45%. Along the way are four or five false summits that might make the climb seem less than it is.

But they don't. It still seems like one of the toughest uphills I've encountered on any race course, including Squamish and Backcountry Rise. 

And that was before I got to the second climb.

About four and a half miles long, at the back half of the course, this ascent indifferently stares you in the face nearly the entire time. Looking up at it was visually intimidating, if I'm honest, so I just kept my head down and focused on the next several steps in front of me.

This worked out better than curling up in a ball and rolling back down the hill.

Framed by the climbs on both sides, the in-between trail along the ridge line is no stroll in the park. The terrain is fraught with semi-treacherous rocks most of the way—but it is a welcome, mostly runnable break from the ascents.

As is often the case, the last descent is as hard as (if not harder than) any of the climbing. If you're an elite mountain runner you might be able to cut loose and fly down a slope like this, but [Spoiler Alert] I'm not an elite mountain runner. I'm a guy with a family and a mortgage and a couple of zombie toenails. 

A guy with a healthy appreciation for not being broken into unfixable pieces.

So the last descent took a while. And it hurt my toes.

"Don't they get tired? Don't they get hungry?
Why don't they slow up? Hell, they could even
go faster, at least that'd be a change!"
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Williams.)
The last three-quarters of a mile at YSR takes you back over the seasickness-inducing pedestrian bridge you crossed earlier in the day, across some pavement, up a little rise, and before you know it, viola! You're high-fiving RD James Varner and dunking your feet in the icy-cold Yakima River.

Denouement: nope, that's it. Like the course, there was no dramatic plot twist, no ambush in a Bolivian village. 

Just...the end.

I think I'll keep coming back here.
Many thanks to the cast and crew at Rainshadow Running for a reliably rollicking good time. Even more thank-yous to the volunteers, who really don't have to be out there on a random-if-beautiful Sunday (let alone Easter Sunday), but are out there dispensing joy, nonetheless.
"Kid, next time I say, 'Let's go somewhere like Bolivia,' let's GO somewhere like Bolivia."
~ Butch Cassidy
Yakima Skyline 25k


76/234 (overall)

1/16 (M 50-59)

Hoka Speedgoat 3

Song stuck in my head the entire time: 
"Panama" ~ Van Halen

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

When the going gets strange

"Take care, my friends. Travel gently and with purpose. It’s about to get weird."

~Michelle Evans
"Feed me, Seymour!"
I've reached the point in my Miwok training when I can't get enough sleep or enough to eat.

I'm eating all the foods...and losing weight. I'm napping every chance I get...and still feel sleep-deprived.

I rarely weigh myself, but when a scale recently and mysteriously appeared in our bathroom, I couldn't resist. 

Full disclosure: I'm under 160 pounds. I'm pretty sure I haven't weighed this little since I was a sophomore in high school. 

Additional evidence: I had to pull up my running tights about every 100 yards during Saturday's long run—which tells me I need to eat more or get new running tights.

DID YOU KNOW: Kodiak Cakes are loaded with protein and taste great right now, even though I hadn't eaten pancakes in years.

Also—eggs over hard, topped with guacamole, are the best things ever. Let's face it, though, there are few things that aren't better topped with guacamole.

I'm eating nutritional yeast in pasta, on sea scallops, and on roasted veggies. It's loaded with B vitamins and is currently delicious. We'll see how I feel about it after Miwok.

Chunky peanut butter with apple slices. Everything old is new again.

Trader Joe's Miso Ginger Broth with high-protein organic tofu (who am I anymore, really?).

TJ's Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce? I could eat that sh*t with a spoon.*

A ginger-molasses cookie after dinner? Yes, please. They're delicious, so I better have two, every night. And maybe some of that dark chocolate with raspberries.
My month-over-month mileage nearly doubled in March, and I'm on a similar pace in April. I'm going to keep redlining it over here for about 10 more days, whilst trying not to get hurt or chew off a couple of fingers.
Old after-dinner routine: leftovers for tomorrow. New after-dinner hustle: no leftovers, no tomorrow. "Are you gonna eat that??"

*Hasn't happened yet, but don't think it hasn't occurred to me.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The imperfect practice of patience

"Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth. Age is an honor, it’s still not the truth."

~ Ezra Koenig
Miwok 100k is fast approaching.

"Hi, I'm May 4! How's it going??"
And I'm hurriedly trying to make up for six weeks of training that was not so much lost, but more buried under emotional rubble.

Some running occurred over that time, but it was more about beating back the darkness than productive training.

Now, though, the weekend long runs have gotten longer and more challenging—in parallel the recovery is longer and more challenging. 

Running through the snow still hanging on at places like Cougar Mountain and Tiger Mountain, my mantra is "don't get hurt don't get hurt don't get hurt..."

It's not the most positive trail thought ever, but it reminds me to keep my head in the game. It's too close to race day to get injured, heal, and still be training-ready by May 4.

I'm grateful to have friends to run long with on Saturdays—even when I see on Strava they got out to run long again on Sunday. That's when the petty and pointless envy occurs. 

Because while all respectable ultramarathon training plans call for these long, back-to-back runs, my body calls for a Sunday rest day. There's more than one way to get hurt, I've learned, and one of them is to do too much, too soon.

If there were a way to trade a bit of this wisdom for the quicker recovery time of even five years ago, I'd make that deal in a heartbeat.

Admin. note: there's no such way.

So, I rest, and May 4 sneaks one day closer.