Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Columbia Gorge Marathon 2015

The Columbia Gorge marathon was, easily, my best race in years.  Some of the things that contributed to that were obvious.  A few others, were not so obvious, but really have me thinking. 
I didn't carry a camera through the race, this was taken a few years ago.
As was this.
 It would be easy to say that the big difference in this race from all others was that I ran it with no watch.  Probably the most important factor, though, was that I was in much better condition for this race than I have been in years.  My training went really well, I was about 6 pounds lighter than I have been for most recent races.  I’ve always thought about running without a watch, and the fact that this course was all either uphill or downhill made it the perfect candidate to try it.  I realized that I spend a lot of mental time and energy either in the past or in the future.  I’m always calculating what my pace has been, what it should be, what it needs to be now, what it will need to be for the next x number of miles etc.  I had none of that on Sunday.  I’ve never felt more “in each mile”.  Mile 5 to mile 11 was almost all uphill.  There were a few times that I found myself thinking, “2 miles to the top….less than 20 more minutes then you get some downhill”.  But it wasn’t an amount of time that had any countdown to it, just an observation. I’d love to think that I could run with a watch and just use it for feedback.  Maybe that’s the goal.  
I don’t eat before races, period.  I’ve had conversations with so many runners about this that can’t believe someone can run a marathon without eating breakfast and a handful of gels during the race.  Well, in my 3 years away from marathons I have to say, some things have changed.  I couldn’t believe how much “gear” so many runners were carrying for a marathon.  It wouldn’t be fair to say I negative split this race.  I did, but the second half has more downhill and less uphill than the first.  Still, this was my entire consumption.  Coffee at 6:30 when I woke up.  2 cups of water in the 20 minutes before the start at 9:00.  1 cup of water at mile 11.  1 cup of water at mile 17. 3 Ibuprofen and a mouthful of water at mile 19.  A cup of water and a cup of gatorade mixed together but not completely finished at mile 20.  If you regularly have GI issues during races, I would strongly consider NOT eating.

My, in chunks, breakdown of the race goes something like this.  The first 5 miles, I really tried to just enjoy.  The views from the Old Columbia Hwy are just amazing.  If you’ve never been on this 5 mile stretch from Hood River to Mosier, I can’t recommend it enough.  It’s completely closed to vehicle traffic, beautifully smooth asphalt and absolutely gorgeous.  As we made our way through the Mosier Tunnels and dropped down into Mosier, I knew I would see Jeanne for the first time.  The weather forecast indicated that it might start raining during the race, so she had some alternative hats and shirts if I needed them.  As I ran through Mosier, I did a quick inventory, realized that everything I was wearing was exactly what I wanted.  According to Jeanne, I ran passed her and pointed from my head to my feet and said, “I’m perfect!”.
When I was "perfect".
 My goal for THE HILL was just to stay steady.  I’ve run it once before, though I couldn’t remember very much about it.  It’s 6 mile of up and it’s too early in the race to get aggressive.  By mile 5, everybody has settled into a pace and a place, and I just tried to make sure I wasn’t getting passed and stay under control.  I had hoped to be able to count places, since it’s an out and back course but the race allowed for a one hour early start to accommodate slower runners.  This early start was used by many people that should not have and it made counting places impossible.
I saw Lynn at the turn around, a car drove by and said something, all I heard was “cowboy”, and there he was.  Later, as he drove by me again he said something about where we were running used to be called Hog Canyon, but they changed it.  I really don’t listen very well when I’m running.  

6 miles of downhill was bliss but by the bottom I was starting to feel my quads.  I had one more uphill and then the last 5 miles downhill to the finish.  I’ve had good results with strategic use of Ibuprofen in the past, and I had asked Jeanne to have some ready for me at the bottom of the hill in case I wanted it.  We weren’t crystal clear in our communication about this the night before and I did want ibuprofen and she didn’t have any ready for me.  As I have stated before, she is amazing at taking care of me when I am running, and this was a very understandable mis communication.  I think I’m a pretty easy going guy, but my kids and co workers have both told me that I have a “look” when I’m not pleased with something that I have heard described as my “are you fucking stupid” look.  I was 20 steps passed Jeanne and realized I had probably just given that look and instantly felt awful.  I almost ran back to her to apologize, but instead stopped, stepped off the road and yelled back to her a “thank you”, that really didn’t make me feel any better.  I was starting up the hill to the trailhead, feeling bad because I’d been rude, knowing I had one more hill in front of me and realizing that the rain was going to start any minute.  Suddenly, there was Jeanne on the side of the road.  She’d dashed into a market, bought some ibuprofen and a bottle of water and driven a mile to get ahead of me just in time.  Now I could truly apologize, wash down some ibuprofen and get to the hill.
My best second half of a marathon ever.
 My only real funk of the day came around mile 20.  The little bit of Gatorade made me a little nauseous and the rain had started….and I was on the last uphill of the day.  I could sense I was slowing, but that sensation was hard to gauge since I was passing early starters and half marathoners.  Usually, somebody passing me, is my wake up call that I’ve slowed down.  I remember looking back and not seeing another runner close to me, turning back back around and in almost no time, I was being passed.  I thought, “wow, they came up on me quick” and decided to go with them no matter what.  They turned out to be a father, in his 50’s and son, age 19.  The son was running his first ever marathon.  I had told myself that under no circumstance was I to ask somebody the time, before mile 20.  Well, it was after mile 20.  I was now comfortably tucked in behind them and running much faster, so I asked, “do either of you have the clock time?”  The son said, “just a little over 3 hours”.  I thought on this for a minute and almost wished, now, that I hadn’t asked.  Because now I had to ask, “not to be a jerk but does a little over 3 hours mean 3:02 or 3:07?”.  The dad now helped me out, we were just about to the 21 mile mark and he said “we will be right at 3:05 at mile 21”.  I had a goal time of mid 3:40s and realized that I was going to be closer to 3:50 if I didn’t find another gear, and that meant leaving the comfort of drafting behind those 2 and really attacking the downhill to the finish.
And that’s exactly what I did.  I ran the last 5.2 in 40 minutes flat.  My quads have paid for it, I’m still hobbling a little 4 days after, but it was totally worth it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Running Around the World - McKenzie Pass and the Back Pack

Sisters as seen from Mckenzie Pass
 Earlier this year, I learned something that I can’t believe I didn’t know until now.  The Old McKenzie Highway, between Sisters and the McKenzie River, closes to car traffic every winter.  In normal years, there are a few weeks in June, where the road is plowed but still not open to car traffic.  I’ve seen pictures of cyclists on the road surrounded by 40 foot high walls of snow and ice.  From the minute I was aware of this, it became a must run.  An invitation went out to several runners to join in, but in the end, it was just Bo Camero and me, and no snow, at all.
Bo, and the Dee Wright Observatory
 With temperatures predicted in the 90s we considered getting a really early start, but the drive was already 2.5 hours to get to the east snow gate outside of Sisters so we got some extra sleep and decide to just deal with the heat.  It was hot, especially going through the lava fields, yes lava fields.  That feels a lot more bad ass to say than it really is, but there is no shade, for about 9 miles.  It was a tough run.  The elevation, heat, distance and having my new Ultimate Direction pack at an overfilled 6 pounds, trying to get used to it, made it pretty challenging.
View from the top of Dee Wright.
There were easily 100+ cyclists on the road, we were the only runners.  This resulted in a lot of words of encouragement, a few strange looks, a few jokes about where our bikes broke down and the most humbling experience of the day.

We were about 10 to 12 miles from the east gate, already over the summit and still 10 ish miles from the west gate.  We received numerous compliments all day but in pretty short succession, 3 things happened.  First, a large group of cyclist came around a corner, they were going slightly up, we were going slightly down and at a pretty good clip.  As the group rounded the corner the wave of astonishment was audible as it went though the group "".  They went by with waves and encouragement.  A few minutes later a young, very fit looking couple were really moving up the hill and as we passed the female, looking toward us said...."there are the real bad asses".  Just as our heads were about to swell out of our hats, we took a quick walk break to get some food out of our packs and eat.  As we were walking and eating, a woman rode passed going the same direction as us on a bike, how shall I say, not as well equipped for the ride as others.  As she passed she looked at us and with the sweetest, best intentioned old hippie encouragement said "way to go walkers".

Brought back down to earth, we worked our way down to the west Snow gate and met up with Jeanne who had dropped us off in Sisters and the drove around to crew us on the other side.  As people tell me all the time, yes, I know, she is a saint.  Also a bit a of a mind reader.  We were on a pretty steep downhill, both of us were feeling it in the hips and maybe Bo’s mind thought his body needed the distraction, because out of nowhere he said, “Man, Red Vines sound good right now”  Bo, is super healthy, vegan, so this seemed a little strange.  I said, “What?” and he replied “I don’t know, I could just taste Red Vines there for a minute…..and they’re vegan”.  I told him that was Jeanne’s favorite road trip snack, and we didn’t speak of it again.  When we met up with Jeanne and the car, we ditched our packs, and sat down for a few minutes and refilled our bottles.  I told Jeanne about Bo’s Red Vine hallucination and she pulls a package of them from the front seat.  He was pretty happy about that.

The Ultimate Direction pack is working pretty well.  I’ve got 86 miles on it so far.  My ‘round about’ goal is to get around 500 miles with it before the run down the California Coast next summer to complete my Run Around the World.  As of today, I’m 2,304 miles from starting at the Golden Gate Bridge. On my virtual map, I’m about halfway between Cleveland and Chicago.  Right now, it’s looking like a late July, early August 2016 run.  

The next big adventure is running the Barrel to Keg Relay (69 miles) solo.  Rumor has it, there are “several” runners signed up to run it solo, so that should be a lot of fun.  We get a 2 hour head start on the relay, so I’m thinking we won’t get caught until after mile 30.  Having just run in the 90’s for the first time this year, I’m hoping to get a few more long runs in heat before Barrel to Keg, then really hoping for a day in the 70’s on race day.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Running Around the World - The Americas

As I was starting to approach 20,000 running miles it started dawning on me that 24,901 was looming on the horizon.  Once around the world.  Since it will have taken me 13 years to do it once, I will probably need to be able to run through to my 70s to do it again.  So, I’m thinking I should make this one count.

That Makes Sense
I was born in San Luis Obispo, California in 1963 at French Hospital.  The hospital was originally the San Luis Sanitarium, it’s since been torn down and a real estate office stands in it’s place.  You may feel free to draw as many conclusions as you like.  1180 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo, California was the address of French Hospital and that seems an appropriate place to finish mile 24,901.

Sometime in the Summer of 2016, right now it’s looking like early August, I will coordinate a run that will start at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and finish 268 miles later at 1180 Marsh Street.

Milesburg, PA
 As of this writing, I am 2,686 miles from starting that journey.  This means that had this virtual run actually have been a true run around the world (walking on water notwithstanding), and had I started out headed west, I would be in the continental US.  I imagine I would have chosen I80 as a route and so, I would have just passed Milesburg, Pennsylvania.

Next update, including info about the route, when I get to virtual Cleveland, Ohio, 224 miles away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I'll Try Again: Pacific Rim One Day 2015

At some point, everything is a duck in a tree.
 I made another attempt at 100 miles in under 24 hours, at Pacific Rim One Day on Saturday March 21, 2015.  I failed.  I'm really fine with that word, failing.  I have an unfinished play that I started writing, in my early 20's, called Never Really Touching.  I finished a few others, while I kept working on Touching.  People I knew, in theater at the time, used to jokingly call it Never Really Finished.  At some point I wrote this, about the process:

"There is nothing in my life that I view in absolutes.  No answers to questions, there is no place to stand.  I never feel like “now I know”, or that I finally understand.  My life’s work is titled Never Really Touching, not as some romanticized play on words that someday I’ll really touch, but because that is truly how I view life."

I made it to 87 miles.  I know that is something to proud of, but it wasn’t the goal.  People that do endurance sports frequently say that they enjoy finding out what they are capable of.  I don't think we ever really find that out.  What we can find out, if we try hard enough, is what we are not capable of.  I have spent considerable time in the last 4 days, again, thinking of new ways to address the eating while running problem.  If I was never going to try again, I probably wouldn't bother.

I spent the first 20 miles mostly trying to slow myself down.  I wanted to be around 10 minutes per mile but was much closer to 9.  I would slow down as I started lapping runners and talk with them for a while, there are a lot of interesting people in this world, and some not.  I thought about where crows nest, and why we never see them.  Getting close to mile 30, I went through my first bad patch, nothing really wrong just lethargic, almost sleepy, I've been here before and I know how to do this.  My plan was all liquid nutrition until my body asked for real food, I wasn't going to force feed myself.  My Infinit drink is 220 calories plus electrolytes in 20 ounces.  In a perfect world that's 20 ounces per hour, but I can never seem to keep on that and always fall behind.  At mile 30 I ate a granola bar and at mile 36 some Coke.  That worked, I started feeling better and ran really well from mile 40 to 50.  My plan had been to get through 50 in 10 hours and I was around 9:57.  At mile 50 I sat down for the first time.  Drank some water, got a new bottle and made my first and biggest mistake.  During an event like Hood to Coast, I pretty much live on liquid carbs (the same drink) dried nuts and grilled chicken.  I wanted to have a variety of real foods available, and I brought grilled chicken to Pac Rim.  I've never eaten grilled chicken and then run right after, but at mile 50 I ate a handful of chicken pieces.  Mile 50 through 65 were a nightmare. I'm not sure how much else can be quantified from that point to the end.  I made it through the night, walking the razors of bonking and puking.  A pattern of eat and drink a small amount, lay on my back for about 20 minutes, walk a mile or two could get me back to slow running/walking for a few hours.  And then repeat that pattern again and again.  

Nothing else went wrong.  Weather, for the most part, was ok.  My legs held up pretty well.  I found some blisters when I finally looked at my feet, but I wouldn't have known they were there otherwise.  Some chaffing issues that hurt like hell after, but weren't much of an issue at the time.  I'm inclined to blame chicken, or myself for breaking a cardinal rule of trying something in a race that hasn't been practiced.  But I also know this could have happened no matter what I ate at that point, it just happened to be chicken.

So, I'll try this 100 in one day thing again, not til next year though.  I need 2 simple foods that I can practice with all the time.  And, I need to practice with them, all the time, not just 3 times a year.  It's going to be Justin’s Almond Butter (which comes in single serving packets like gels) and Fritos, and nothing else.  I'll keep using the Infinit drink, as I've had no real problems with it.....but I'm also going to start also using diluted apple juice.  Apple juice and fritos is pretty much the equivalent of my drink and I can find it anywhere, even gas station convenience stores, which I 'll eventually need for my solo California Coast run anyway.  I'll start using the almond butter on every run longer than 10 miles, which means I'll have a bunch of experience with it before I try again.  I'm going to have to train my stomach to be able to do this and trying something 3 times isn't practice enough.

I saved the best part of the weekend for last.  Some very dear friends travelled in for the weekend to support me, encourage me, run with me.  In some ways, it made the “failure” that much harder, but more importantly, it made me want to be a better friend.  Jerry and Julie Mullins took 3 different “shifts” with me.  I know they totaled 19 miles for the weekend.  Steve and Kellie Schellenberg ran the 10, post chicken, miles with me, which must have been horrible.  Then they took Jeanne out to dinner, which really did make me feel better.  Britt Sexton was with me til the wee est hours of the morning, and left me with Korean BBQ Pork Jerky, that didn’t taste so good at the time, but was AMAZING after.  I think I get pretty self centered on my own goals and ambitions sometimes and don’t take enough time to really support and encourage others.  I was really moved by these great friends this weekend and will remember it always.  

Jeanne is, simply amazing.  Other runners, on the course, before talking about anything else, would tell me how amazing she is.  And they only see a fraction of it.  I’ve got some fun run Summer plans.  I’d really like to run the Old McKenzie Highway before it reopens to car traffic if it can be worked out.  I won’t do anything big race ish until Fall.  And, next year, sometime, I’ll try again.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tight Knit Running

My dear friend, Steve, died last year.  Steve was a hockey player.  He loved jazz and among his many eccentricities, he could knit.  And not just simple stuff, he could knit sweaters, with hoods.  Steve had just started to run before he got sick.  He ran his first 10k and we were making plans to run a half marathon together, but sadly, that never happened.  For the 20+ years that I knew Steve I always thought that, someday, I’d like to learn to knit.  

A month ago, I started learning to knit.  It’s an odd hobby for someone with a short attention span, but then, so is distance running.  It’s very similar to distance running, in that you do a lot of the same thing for a long time.  You also spend the quality time in your head that only repetitive motion seems to encourage.

Given these similarities, I guess last nights dream was inevitable.  Maybe 20 or 30 people were gathering at a house.  Shack might be too harsh a description, but you wouldn’t let your child rent it.  These were runners, you could tell by looking at them and you could tell by all of their night before a race rituals and peculiarities.  The one ritual that seemed perfectly normal, in the dream, was the attention to knitting.  There was a woman that was seemingly famous for the fact that she knits, while she runs.  She had brought gifts for several of the people that seemed to know her well, hats and scarves and such.

The dream morphed into the race…..a road race.  It really had the feel of a multi day stage race, there was a greater willingness for groups to stick together for longer periods of time than you might find in a one day race.  It was very hilly, the roads were narrow and poorly maintained and the cars that were on them drove with a seemingly premeditated anarchy like in Venezuela……. or Arkansas.  The knitting lady, was exactly that.  She knitted and ran.  Nobody seemed to think it was dangerous, or even strange.  She ran in our small group for a while, but eventually that group stretched out and she ended up behind me. I couldn’t really tell, in a dream, how fast I was running, but it felt good to finish when the leaders were still hanging around the finish.  The finish line was in a littered alley way.  Dumpsters turned on their side and broken pallets everywhere, pretty technical.  The knitting lady finished a little after I did, I couldn’t tell if her decision to stop knitting and just run was part of her kick, or if it was just necessary given the terrain.

I’m about a third of the way done with the scarf I’m working on.  I’m already dividing knitting into thirds in my head the way I seem to divide everything, including miles.  I realized a few years ago that I have a real aversion to the concept of half way, and rarely ever divide things into halves and quarters, but instead, always thirds.  People often ask me what I think about when I’m running “for so long”.  My standard answer has always been, “the same things I think about when I’m not running”.  But, for a while, I may change that to “the same things I think about when I’m knitting”.  Like, are small square plates still called saucers…..and my friend Steve.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dawn to Dusk 2014

The objective is to run as many daylight miles as possible on the shortest day of the year, Dec 20th 2014.

Sunrise will be at 7:47 am, sunset will be at 4:34 pm.  This leaves a total of 8 hours and 47 minutes of daylight.  My goal for this is always 45 miles.  This year, I’m going to run a series of concentric loops starting and finishing at my house in Dallas, OR.

If you would like to run all or part of it, let me know.  There will be a warm house, a place to stash food/drink etc and I’ll probably put a giant pot of chili on to cook all day if you’re still around for sunset.  I can pretty accurately estimate the start of the first 3 loops, so let me know what you want to run and I can let you know about when to be at the house.
View from the Baskett Butte
 Loop 1, 18.7 miles, will head out Kings Valley Highway, cross 22 hwy and head in to the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge.  Even though Jeanne and I have seen a cougar here, this isn’t nearly as “wild” as it sounds.  We do have a good chance of seeing some deer, heron, nutria, osprey, maybe bald eagles and if we’re really lucky a ground carp.  Exiting the Baskett Slough area we will cross over 99 hwy down Farmer road, turning right on Greenwood road, cross 22 hwy again then turn right on Rickreall road.  We’ll follow Rickreall road to Ellendale and back in to Dallas to the house.  Loop 1 has a bathroom at the Baskett Butte trailhead at about mile 4.  There is a store with bathrooms in Rickreall at about mile 14, if you don’t mind feeling like you are stealing family treasures by using their bathroom.  6 miles of Loop 1 are on gravel roads the rest are on asphalt.
Baskett Slough Wildlife
 Loop 2, 12.8 miles, starts out the same as Loop 1 but as we exit the Baskett Slough (mile 6) we will turn right on Hwy 99 for 2 miles to Rickreall.  People sometimes get freaked out about running on Hwy 99, it’s fine.  The shoulder is very wide for this entire section.  Once in Rickreall the route back to the house is the same as Loop 1.  The same bathrooms as Loop 1 are now at mile 4 and mile 8.  3 miles on gravel the rest on asphalt.
This would be a good time to mention that loops 1 and 2 combined equal 31.5…...just a touch over 50k for anyone wanting to make sure they hit ultra distance.

Loop 3, 7.8 miles, will head east on Ellendale, turn right at Bowersville road, right again on Miller road and come back via La Creole road to Ellendale.  There are several bathrooms on Ellendale on the way out and bathrooms at the Aquatic Center at mile 6.  1 mile on gravel the rest on asphalt.  Total 39.3

Loop 4, 4.6, is my standard 5 mile run course with a small shortcut.  We head out Kings Valley Hwy for 2 miles, turn right at the Forestry Station on Oak Villa road, then right on Ellendale and back to the house.  1 mile of gravel, the rest asphalt.  Total 43.9

This will hopefully be my minimum mileage.  I have a 2.9 mile loop, a 1.1 mile loop and a .6 mile loop depending on how much time we still have left.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Crew, My Wife

She has seen me run on days when my very fastest seemed effortless, and she has checked me in to the hospital when it wasn’t so effortless.  She has seen me fit, tan and drenched in sweat and sunlight and she has seen me shit my shorts.  She has implored me to keep going when all I wanted to do was quit and she has, on rare occasions, insisted that I quit when I was too stupid to make that decision myself.

There are times I’ve come around a corner or into an aid station sooner than expected, and there are times it’s been much later.  I know the experience inside her heart and head at those two times are very different, but the expression on her face and her demeanor is always the same.  “You’re doing great, here’s your bottle, take some food, I love you”.

The other night I asked, “Am I really as much of a challenge to you as people think?”  She smiled and said, “No honey, you’ve got a lot of people fooled”.

I love you Jeanne Owens.