Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas. Getting back at it.

I haven't been running or blogging in quite a while. I've been getting in the weekend long runs and have done 3 events since November, but working two jobs has not allowed me to run like I would like. Maybe I just needed a break. Anyway now I have one good job and I'm starting my new years resolution early to get back into good shape. I know nobody reads this blog...but it is a good way for me to be accountable to myself. Also Lisa bought me a new digital camara that is small enough to take running, so I'm hoping to take a few photos during my runs to help make the blog postings more interesting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Long runs help clear my mind and feed my soul.

This morning I stepped out for an 18 miler. It looked like rain, and it had been misting a little as I dropped the boys off at school, so I stuffed my Golite Wisp into the pocket of my two bottle waist pack, filled my bottles with perpetuem grabbed the phone and my iPod and hit the street. I've been trying to do one of my long runs on the road every week to prepare for the road marathons I've got coming up. When I run I generally listen to podcasts. My favorites are phiddipidations, Endurance Planet, This American Life, and now Morning Stories . My sister Jill, while training for Disney half marathon, was listening to morning stories and told me I have to give it a listen. I was hesitant. I had my favorites already but I thought I'd try it. I am very glad I did. Some of the stories are sad, joyful, and funny. They range in topic and content but they are all stories worth hearing and feeling. It is amazing that as humans we are unique but at the same time connected by our individual experiences. Even though separated by time and space there is a sense of familiarity, in a macro sense, listening to the stories of others. When I listen to Morning Stories I feel myself relating to complete strangers and find that their stories inform me and my story. Maybe these stories have a bigger impact when we're out pushing our mental and physical limits and are venerable to such emotions. You know, like when you cross the finish line of a race and have an overwhelming urge to cry because you see your kids or your spouse. You're exhilerated, exhausted, happy to be done, and sad it ended all at the same time. I feel when I'm on a long run all of the "stuff" that is life is stripped away and I get closer to what's at the core of me. What is really important to me is very apparent as it becomes where my thoughts focus and I feel joy in thinking about it. For me it's always family. My wife and kids mainly, followed by extended family and friends. In a word, Love, and the connectedness of being a husband, father, brother, and friend. My place in the world is clear at those times. And so I return, soul fed and mind clear.
We're heading to the mountains this weekend. We're looking forward to the cooler temperatures and the star filled sky. We'll get the woodstove heated up and I'll spend an hour readying kindling for future visits. Bob and I are going on a run at some point which should be nice in the cool weather. The boys and I are looking forward to Lisa coming home from Hume Lake this weekend. We've missed her all week! We will have a late birthday celebration wiht Bob and Holly Saturday night which will be great...Is that Tri tip I smell?? Happy Trails. Mike.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fall is in the air. Happy Birthday sweetie.

This morning I stepped out the door for an 18 mile road run. The driveway was dotted with evidence that it had rained at some point in the early morning. It has been so long here in Southern California since we had rain that it almost made me shout with joy when the drops started falling about two miles into my run.
Off in the distance I could see the sun peeking through the clouds while above me was shrouded with that, it's going to rain for a while look. There's something about the changing of seasons that is magical.
As the wind blew leaves off of trees and its coolness chilled me, thoughts of warm fires, hot cocoa, and sharing time with my family while the snow falls outside filled my head. I pictured walking hand in hand with my wife Lisa while the boys glanced back occaisionally to make sure they weren't too far ahead. There's two blocks of houses near our street that go all out at Christmas time and we always stroll in the chilly air perusing the years offerings. Or of the times we would sit in the front room of the Pine Mountain house with only the light from the woodstove and the ihome player illuminating the cocoa mustaches of the kids and the sounds of Bing Crosby's White Christmas filling the air. We leave the front light on outside and watch from the warmth of the front room as the snowflakes put on a show. Lis and I could do that for hours, while the boys, after two minutes, tire of sitting on our laps and being cuddled and start asking, "Why are we doing this??" Gotta love 'em.
It rained for nearly an hour while I ran my route that I call Tour De Camarillo. The sky put on a show the entire time, changing constantly as the rain ceased and the sun regained its hold on Southern California. It's always great to have the time to be out in nature and reflect on great memories. By the end of winter I'll be longing for BBQ's and sitting out front on the porch until 9:00pm as the sun finally sets.
As I'm writing this the wind is really picking up and the sky is growing dark. I recieved a call from Bob saying that it snowed in Pine Mountain this morning. I can't wait to get up there and crank up the woodstove. We'll sleep in the front room right in front of the stove the first night until the heat reaches the bedrooms the next day. We'll get out the Bing Crosby and get ready. As the boys grow bigger and stronger we're able to contain them less, but we live for those precious moments that will become the memories for next year at this time when Fall is in the air once again.

It's Lisa's birthday Sunday!!!!!
I am so excited that this weekend we're going on a date to dinner and a movie. She'll be missed next week while at Hume Lake, so for this last weekend together before she leaves it's fitting that we have her Birthday to celebrate. Today as I ran and revisited fond memories it made me feel so blessed to be married to her. We've had so much fun in nine years of marriage and continue to have a great time with the boys and other family members. Honey, I love you so much. I hope your birthday is a celebration of your life and the life we've built together. You are the perfect wife and mother. We are lucky to have you. Happy trails. Mike.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

24 miles, good company, and Diet Coke???

Okay, I don't even like Diet Coke. Those two empty cans in my cup holder?? Oh those, well...
After running with the Blues in Sycamore last week I was asked to join JR, Wendy,(Happy Anniversary)Greg, Annie, Mark, and Patty for a run on Saturday. We met at the top of Reseda at 6am(yeah I wish I worked days!)and were going to do something in the 22-24 mile range. I was excited to have people to run with, especially a group of such accomplished runners. In my normal circle of training partners/friends I am as accomplished in our sport as the others if not more. With this new group...not so much! When the conversation turns to, "remember your first..or was it your third Badwater when you..." Okay. Time out. I'm in over my head! But seriously it was a treat to run with this group. We had a great time and covered 24 miles in just over 5 hours. Minus a couple 3-5 minute rests under big shade trees and two stops for water we ran the entire way. We started at the top of Reseda and ran down some ridge to some houses(in Brentwood maybe)and back for the first 12.5 miles. Then we refilled our bottles at NIKE and headed down WestRidge Trail to the Pacific Palisades and back up to NIKE once more for some much needed water. It had been a while since I ran a hilly 24 miler and this one felt great. Thanks to Wendy for sharing your sour jelly beans! The last four miles to the cars was nice with that feeling of accomplishment that running 24 hilly miles in the warm temps will bring. It's amazing how good a Diet Coke can taste. Greg and Annie brought a cooler of ice cold Diet Cokes for after the run and they were a big hit! I'm looking forward to putting in a lot more miles with my new friends as they prepare for the San Diego 100 next month. From what I witnessed on Saturday they're going to have a great race.
There's something to be said for spending the morning high above a busy city running in the mountains with a group of folks that share a common passion. There seems to be almost an instant bond between ultra runners. Whether training or racing most are kind, giving, and have a good sense of humor. Throw in a Diet Coke or two and you've got a recipe for a memorable Saturday morning. The first of many...I hope.
Happy Trails

Labor Day 2007

AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

-Walt Whitman Song of the Open Road

Typically on Labor Day weekend we have what we've called in the past "a running weekend." That is we try to get in a couple of events, one being out of town and requiring a hotel stay, so that it really feels like a holiday and not just an extra day off to be too busy. This year was no different. We started off Sunday in Sycamore Canyon with The New Basin Blues Running Club to partake in their annual Sycamore Sunday race on the Lasse Viren course in the beautiful Santa Monicas. I was not intending to race, just going on a run with friends then enjoying the great food afterward prepared by Presidents Ken and Jeanie Berry.
We showed up at 7:30am on Pacific Coast Highway to a long line of cars waiting for the park to open. I came in the wrong way and when I tried to "weave in" got yelled at and honked at by numerous drivers. Surely these were not runners! About 8:00am approx. 25 runners crossed the busy highway to the start of the race. I didn't know anyone that was running so I just mixed in with the crowd as we gathered around Helga who was explaining the race course etc. The course was one I was familiar with as I am lucky to do quite a bit of training in this area. It is hilly, but all very runnable, and I expected to just have a good training run and maybe walk a little or not. Soon after Helga gave the ceremonial, "3,2,1,go!" I found myself running with JR Young. We were actually 3rd and 4th in the standings at this time. We set a good pace and introduced ourselves and started chatting. We had both run long training runs the day before and were not interested in racing, but just having a good time. Two other runners were directly behind us the first 3 miles. We accused them of drafting and asked jokingly if they would like us to carry them the whole way.
A little over 3 miles and we turned up Wood Cyn. As the hills increased in frequency and duration we found ourselves pulling away from our shadows. All of sudden the two guys who didn't want to race were occasionally glancing over our shoulders. "Is anyone there?" "Nope." We continued on for another 4 miles only slowing to walk the notorious asphalt hill just out of Ranch Center. By this time we were 7 miles from the ocean and temperature climbed into the high 80's. We stopped at the Sycamore Canyon Rd. junction to soak our hats and refill our bottles at the faucet. We waited for the water to cool down before indulging. Hey, we're not racing! As we were enjoying the cool water JR spied a runner descending the last hill closing the distance we'd opened up. Suddenly we were off. (We're not racing though!) "I hope she stops to use the water." "Yeah...she'd have to in this heat...Right???"
The final 6 miles of the run were mostly under the canopy of the giant sycamore trees that give the canyon it's name. It's a gentle descent towards the Pacific and we were glad to be out of the hilly part of the course. JR and I were starting to feel the effects of 20 training runs the day before and a sub 10 minute mile pace through the hills and searing sun. He encouraged me to "go ahead, take off and run your normal pace." "My normal pace is about 2 minutes per mile slower than this!", I said. As we neared the finish we continued to look over our shoulders for the elusive runner we knew was somewhere close behind us. My knowledge of the course allowed me to provide turn by turn updates, as our legs were now needing encouragement. "4 more turns and we're done."
As we rounded the final sweeping corner off in the distance we could see the beautiful yellow gate that marked the end of the road for our "training run." Like two nervous horses in the starting gate we wanted to go, but we'd run together the whole way. Who would have the courage, endurance and will to win? Just then I looked over at JR. "Tie for 3rd??" "You bet!", he replied.
We crossed the line together proclaiming to Helga, "We're tying for third!!" She had to dig around in her bag for a second third place ribbon. She pinned them both on us and we walked back to our families and the BBQ satisfied, strong, and content from a job well done. The refrain of our song of the open road would resonate the entire weekend. Happy trails.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Grand Canyon/Disneyland 1/2 Marathon Weekend

Running on the trails gives us all a chance to reconnect with our ancient selves. We were designed as "bi-pedal locamotors", that is, we were born to travel on foot. Many of us have forgotten or lost touch with that side of ourselves as we settle in to the demands we have placed upon ourselves saying, "this is what society expects or forces me to do." There is no doubt that we have become comfortable in our existence. It is no surprise then why only a tenth of 1 percent of all the people of the U.S. will ever experience the uncomfortable nature of training and running a marathon or similar test of endurance. I would argue that they are worse for it. Dr. George Sheehan writes, "Success rests in having the courage and endurance and above all the will to become the person you are, however peculiar that may be. Then you will be able to say, I have found my hero and he is me." We were not meant to sit on the couch. We are part of the natural world and, although most of us feel a disconnect with it, have a place within it's hierarchy. Only by getting out there and experiencing it under our own power can we fully appreciate our place within it. I am not recommending that everyone go out and become a trail runner or ultra marathoner immediately, rather I would suggest that they do what my sisters are doing. Have a goal. Train. Achieve success. Repeat. Get off the couch and get outside. Walk or run, it doesn't matter, either way you will be in the process of getting to know yourself and reconnecting with the world and the way you were designed to move through it.
There is hardly a better place to become acquainted with the ancient self than the Grand Canyon. Last year I was lucky enough to travel across the canyon and back on foot. Running through such a dramatic landscape is surreal. It is as if the Canyon takes on a personality of its own. It can be moody, peaceful, and down right angry. On our journey from the South Rim to the North Rim it rained the entire six hours. From the pre dawn start we could see rain pulling the clouds down into the canyon and the flashes of lightning somewhere below illuminating the darkness in this enormous expanse. The thunder rumbled low and echoed off the steep canyon walls. It's as if you're being warned to stay away and enticed to enter all at the same time. Once in the canyon the rain fell with increasing intensity. Soon steep canyon walls became 100 foot water falls and shallow creek crossings became flash floods trapping many in our group for over an hour. 4000 feet below the south rim the mighty Colorado River roared, brown with mud and debris. A brief rest at Phantom Ranch and we began our ascent up the North Kaibob Trail that would lead us to the North Rim some 6200 feet above.
Half way up the trail we met some hikers in a tunnel seeking refuge from the constant downpour. They were taking days to do what we were doing in just over six hours and out of generosity and sympathy shared their lunches with us. When we reached the north rim at 8200 feet we were water logged and cold. The temperature was in the 30's and most of us were at some stage of hypothermia, but happy to be half way done. We hitched a ride in a pick-up to the Lodge where our shaking hands made eating soup a chore. After a hot shower and rest we would be ready to complete our journey back to the South Rim.
This weekend I chose not to return to the Grand Canyon in order to support my sister's Jill and Lacy as they began their journey to conquer the Disneyland 1/2 marathon. I am very proud of them both and have full confidence that will indeed know success. I can only hope that they continue their training and push themselves out of their comfort zones. I hope that they find the courage, endurance, and will to to become the person they are and are able to say, "I have found my hero and she is me."
Good luck girls. I am proud of you!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Training/Bulldog Recovery

It's nice to be training again. For a while there I was working two jobs and had no time except for the weekends. I know a lot of people have the same constraints when it comes to finding time to run during the week. Over the last couple of years while I was finishing my degrees I got used to putting in 60+ miles a week. I was running on pristine trails everyday! I was in great shape back then. Now, I'm back to training like that, but I think I will have two jobs again soon which will cut back my weekly miles somewhat.

I took Sunday off. Well, we walked around Disneyland for 8 hours, but no running. Following the Bulldog 50k I had one sore muscle in my left quadriceps.(Rectus Femoris) Other than that I feel great, but I am taking it fairly easy to let that sore muscle heal. This week I've been training in a park near the kids school. It has been frequently closed due to Mtn. Lion issues, but it's open again. There's nothing like running somewhere where you're not on top of the foodchain! The park has great trails with really challenging climbs that are spaced out just right to keep you in the aerobic zone barely. I ran close to 70 miles last week including the race and this week I plan on a long run Saturday in the Santa Monicas and Sunday I'll join the New Basin Blues for their annual Sycamore Sunday which will include a half marathon on the Lasse Viren course for the most part. I'm trying to get back into good 50 mile shape, so the back to back weekend runs will become a staple of my training. I'm trying to find people to run with. For the past 4 years I've done about 95% of my training alone which works wonders mentally. I found that I became very strong mentally from pushing myself so hard during training and never giving up. I typically like to train hard and race easy, probably because by the time the race comes I'm so starved for attention I'll walk and visit with anyone! I'm planning on racing more and training less. Constant taper.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bulldog 50K August 25, 2007

First of all a big thanks to Nancy for letting me in the race. Life just wouldn't seem right if August went by and I didn't run the Bulldog 50K. Four years ago it was my first ever race and I haven't missed a year since. For me it's like returning to the scene of the crime. That race is the first place all my hard efforts in training paid off. That's the first time I thought, "I'm going to die, but that's alright, at least then I'll get a rest!" Since that first eventful finish I've been hooked. Last year I was lucky to have a contingent of friends running the 25k and met up with several other friendly faces that I knew in the 50k. This year I drove alone. Waited alone. I did briefly visit with Kathy Kusner (Where's Moose??) and another guy I ran the Grand Canyon with last fall. But the atmosphere is always friendly as runners become anxiously talkative.
The weather was clear and cool in the morning. I'd hoped for fog like years past but was just happy that I was healthy and there. Eric Clifton was there as was Michelle Barton so my chances for victory, for at least the moment, seemed dashed!! I quickly settled into my normal middle to back of the pack spot and was surprised at how effortless the first few miles went by. About three miles in I turned around to see Conrad Daniel who I hadn't run with since the Tahoe Triple in 2004. Needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do. He had never run the course so I had a good time playing tour guide as we headed up Bulldog road under the rising sun. The 50K is basically a double loop in Malibu Creek State Park and the namesake for the race is a 4ish mile exposed climb up to where there is actually a breeze and a great view of the ocean. The first loop is usually done in mild to moderate temps while the second...well it's usually pretty hot. Conrad and I were so busy visiting that the first loop went by without a care. We did get passed by Fred Pollard who was kind enough to visit with us for a little bit as we climbed. Fred was just coming off badwater and Leadville and in great shape. Coming out of Tapia park and through the water crossing we found Ken and Jeanie Berry manning the aid station at mile 13.1. It's always nice to see good friends waiting with ice cold Coke and a smile! I reminded Ken of how I'd proposed to his wife at this very aid station two years ago as she sponged me off with cool water as the temps soared to 110 degrees. "If I had a nickel!" she commented. One more climb up the Tapia Spur Trail and we were at mile 15 and the last aid station before the left turn and the familiar territory of the second loop. At this point in the race some were giving up their numbers. They'd had enough. I hope they come back strong for next year.
The second loop was hotter than the first but unlike years past the breeze miraculously found it's way down the canyons to us. Feeling blessed and in good company we climbed on. Kim French with the OCTR group was also making her final ascent up Bulldog. She didn't know us, so we convinced her she should finish the race with us! Now three strong we started down for the Corral Cyn aid station. Lots of ice and Coke. With Conrad promising to buy at the next aid station we headed down the trail, past the elephant(you did see the elephant, right?)and down into Tapia where we avoided the rocks and plunged into the water crossing for a refreshing break from the heat. The last climb was done and the finish line was in sight. We ran in three strong with some pacing from my son Shane. Seven hours and eleven minutes of memories. Thanks to all the volunteers and to Nancy for putting on a great race. Thanks also to Conrad and Kim for sharing their time.

We'll see ya pilgrim. Whaa haa???

Well, there are a couple of reasons to start this blog. One is my friend Mike "The Duke" (you know who you are) decided to move back to Kansas City. I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would want to leave this trail running mecca we call home. Maybe he got sick of the Thursday night 12 milers up on the Ray Miller Trail, coming off Overlook and getting to the the final decent, 2.9 miles of trail heaven, nothing but ocean, stars, and the deception that running by flashlight brings. At times we'd literally have to stop and take a moment. Not that we're emotional or sentimental, but we are runners and there's something that overcomes you at times like those. Brilliant stars, moon shining out on the ocean. From 800 feet above on a single track trail with little more than 15 feet of visibility you can't help but feel like you're flying. It is those surreal moments, captured in time, that we remember and list when asked, "why do you run?" But, you know he's not the sharpest tool in the shed! Actually he's going to be running with some good company. The Trail Nerds and Bad Ben got him into this crazy sport and will surely be glad to have him back. It was a pleasure to train with Mike and run with him as he did his first 50 miler at Leona Divide this spring. He'll be missed. Cheers Mike.