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.