Wednesday, January 31, 2018

orcas island 25k

points at glenn: "hello, glenn!"
one thing that went well this day.
photo by glenn.
"sometimes you just have to dig in, be brave, and get ugly."
~ devon yanko
i got the ugly part right, anyway.

sitting here a couple days after the 2018 orcas island 25k, annnnd...i'm feeling pretty beat up.

i know this because i'm sitting, rather than standing, which is my usual posture at the computer.

to be fair, i can't say orcas didn't go as planned ~ because i didn't really have a plan. other than the usual "get around the course as quickly as possible," my "plan" for these things tends toward:

1. don't get hurt
2. finish
3. finish with a modicum of dignity

one out of three is better than none.

the first six miles felt fast, i thought...until i looked at the strava data. year over year (2017/18) i was slower five of the six miles and 4:47 slower overall. stupid strava data.

this didn't bode well, obviously, even if i wasn't aware of it at the time.

the 2nd six miles of the course includes a delightful, beguiling, sublime climb of Powerline, a section of trail so steep and long and special it gets the only capitalization in this post.

subtext: training for orcas comprised a metric ton of climbing, specifically with powerline in mind. every long, steep ascent was dubbed "good powerline practice," because powerline is powerfully motivating.

the mantra carried over even to the actual climb up powerline, during which i said to my friend bill, "you know what this would be good practice for? powerline. this would be good powerline practice."

with a grade of up to 41% literally staring us in the seemed funny at the time.

the higher we climbed on mt. constitution, the more snow we encountered. temperatures were above freezing, and the melt-off turned the trails into icy streams punctuated with wide, deep, slushy puddles.

"why am i doing this? no, really..."
administrative note: my toes were cold as frosty beers in an ice-filled cooler. but not nearly as enjoyable.

reaching the mt. constitution aid station is its own reward, as it means the climbing is mostly done, and you're about to get a gravity-assist for your trip to the finish.

plus, race photographer glenn tachiyama is just around the corner, poised to capture the moment you questioned every running decision you ever made...
post-game analysis: i was training-ready for this race. i didn't necessarily expect to do better than last year, but i did expect to feel better than i did, which was pretty bleah. every race is different, of course, and sometimes it's just not your day...still, it's a little bewildering.

on the other hand...this was the first time i pinned on a bib since last august. so, maybe some expectations-management is in order. maybe i should just celebrate the type-2 fun that was had, and look ahead to the next thing ~ which is a midnight sweep of the orcas 100 mile race on feb. 10.

that'll be some good powerline practice.
orcas island 25k


77/242 (overall)
5/19 (M 50-59)

hoka challenger atr 4

song stuck in my head the entire time: theme from "unbreakable kimmy schmidt"

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


"...roughly 850 feet of elevation gain per mile,
960 feet of gain in the last half-mile." ~ wta
we ran in a blizzard last week.

also, in warm, dry weather.

both during the same day, over a span of five miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

bill sepeda and i set out from the mailbox peak trailhead to get in ten miles and some steady climbing ~ powerline practice for the orcas island 25k.

the forecast called for standard PNW winter conditions: temps in the mid-40s with a 70% chance of rain.

we dressed accordingly, which is a shorter way of saying we brought everything in the closet except swim fins.

within a mile of steepening trail we were sweating buckets and peeling off layers like we were in hawaii.

within another couple miles we were putting layers back on as snow began falling through the canopy to the trail. 

we had no complaints, mind you: the trail itself was completely clear and, as noted many times, running in snow beats running in cold rain 10 times out of 10.

horizontal snow happens here.
the snow picked up as we climbed, which really was a hoot for us hydro sapiens. by mile four the trail was covered, and as we broke from the trees, we were hiking through a fresh four inches. 

the wind also picked up, which, unimpeded by trees, caused the snow to fall horizontally. this was less of a hoot, since the wind-whipped snow was now hitting us directly in the face.

increasingly obscured, the scree field became increasingly treacherous as we picked our way through it.

past one false summit, and then another, strong, steady winds were amplified by gusts that rocked us broadside.

climbing in these circumstances was challenging, but not discouraging. but it occurred to both of us that as conditions deteriorated, descending would be a different matter.

public playground open year-round.
photo by bill sepeda.
so, just a couple hundred feet beneath the summit i turned to bill and said, "you know, this has been a really great day."

"yup, i'm good," he replied, and just like that we turned for the cover of the trees.

by the time we got back to the trailhead, conditions were mostly as we had left ~ warm(ish), a waft of mist...and very quiet.

it was hard to reconcile with the howling storm less an hour and a few thousand feet above us.

twenty minutes later we were eating burritos at chipotle.

mailbox peak


hoka challenger atf 4

song stuck in my head the entire day: theme from "unbreakable kimmy schmidt"

Monday, January 01, 2018

the big empty

the big empty, illustrated...
“it was written i should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.”

~ joseph conrad, heart of darkness
2017 is a model of unfinished business.

the incompletion began in august, and gained momentum through all the -bers. each month i vowed i would return to the normal order of business, and each month i broke that vow.

why? you might ask, if you had lots of time on your hands and a dead cell phone battery.

no reason i can be sure of, i would answer, leaving both of us unsatisfied with the transaction. there would be a moment or three of awkward silence, and then we'd hurry to fill the void with something less important, like climate change or our rapidly approaching demise at the hands of an imbecile executive.
a lot of runners i know say they're out of sorts, off their game, or downright depressed. it's a theme i don't associate with this group, generally, and certainly not with the local trail running community. what is it we have in common that would hold us under these emotional waters? 

imma go out on a limb and blame 45.

for decent people everywhere, 2017 has been an onslaught. it's come at us so many ways on so many days, that for many it's impossible to process. for me, it's been a reliable source of dread, one i feel in my stomach far too often. and if i've been unable to keep the barbarians from the gates, i wonder if it's having a similar effect on others.

what i do know is, when i stay away from the news, and away from twitter in particular, my mood lifts. i'm not sure how to reconcile being a responsible citizen with unplugging from media, but do know i'm going to have to do a better job managing these competing priorities.

also, more napping.
the year began promisingly, with steady training ramping up to a hugely gratifying day in the marin headlands.

the rest of may and june looked good on paper...but they didn't feel good. in fact, they felt like a physical and metaphysical vacuum, void even of indifference and inertia. i'm no astrophysicist, over here, but that seems pretty empty.

and while there have been days of reprieve, days i thought, "all right, we're finally turning this thing around," those days turned out to be just a tease. 

the doldrums persist.
there are many "worst of 45" lists out there, all difficult to wade through. even cherry-picking a couple of particularly odious examples is a challenge, since there are so many that are so revolting.

but if we're to suppose one person could drive people to feel clinically bad, substantiation is in order. to that end, let's agree (because such things are so easily validated) that 45:

  • is a racist white supremacist fascist
  • endorsed a child molester for the u.s. senate
  • wants to take healthcare coverage from millions of americans, which will cause many thousands to die prematurely
  • continues to allow the u.s. citizens of puerto rico to languish without water or electricity
  • is in bed, financially (and probably literally) with russia

even this fraction of a fragment of a partial list would be enough to dispirit howler monkeys on crack, let alone conscientious people waiting in vain for a complicit u.s. congress to do the least it can do given the circumstances.
deep breath.
six-plus years into my little experiment in running, my father is certain the next run will be the one that ruins my knees, leaving me unable to walk evermore.

sometimes i just nod and say, "boy, i sure hope not." other times i quietly remind him of the evidence to the contrary in the medical literature. he'll quote a coach from the 60s, i'll reference thousands of years of human ambulation...and eventually we'll agree to disagree.

what seems most likely to derail me from this path is the continued absence of running mojo. or whatever syndrome that characterizes as "incomplete" a year which included two marathons, a 50K, and a 100K.

somewhere, see, i fell in with a bad crowd. many of them routinely run a long way over many hours, and recover from such things in a matter of hours or days. horrible, horrible people, they are, who somehow tricked me into loving this unconventional journey.

it's because of them, it goes without saying, that i have already begun planning to repeat my mistakes of 2017.

the downfall will start with a couple of 25Ks in january, a 22-miler and a 50K in march, and a 50K in may. after that there is loose and crazy talk of a 100-miler.

why would you consider such a thing? you might ask, if you were away from home with no access to netflix.

i can't explain it, i would answer, leaving both of us to contemplate an icily disinterested universe.
with nothing further to add and nothing better to do, i'll just leave you with a bit of twitter wisdom:


sorry for the yelling.

total miles: 1,342.7
total time: 241 hours, 1 minute
elevation (painstakingly extracted from strava): 164,600 ft.

185 running days

best shoes:
hoka clifton 3 and 4
altra torin 3.0
topo terraventure

song stuck in my head the entire time: "precious love" ~ james morrison
oh, i got so distracted
by people all around
whispering sweet nothings
filling my head with doubt
so i gave up 
i didn't take long for me to see 
the one thing that i was missing
was standing in front of me

this is precious love
it's precious love 
no, i can't let it go
this is precious love
and its teaching me 
to be a better man...