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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What I've Learned by Running Less

I’m getting married in 11 days!  That really is the biggest news I have to write about.  Metaphorically and practically,  I always feel it’s better to be running toward something rather than running away from something.  And, so it goes that the beautiful girl that is always waiting just up the trail or road is going to say “I do” back to me.

The Backyard Project Completed
I haven’t posted anything here since March 10th but I have started several posts.  They have titles like “Vernonia”, “A DNF Autopsy”, “Short Cuts” and “What’s Wrong With Me”.  Several of them start the same way:
I told you, from the start, just how this would end.
When they get what they want, they never want it again.
Hole - Violet

I thought those lyrics would be a clever way to announce running a goal time at Vernonia, even though it wasn’t a PR.  It didn’t work out that way.  An ankle problem brought about by an ongoing hip problem ended my Vernonia Marathon at 19 miles.  

I was in the process of writing about everything that went wrong at Vernonia when some initial medical evaluations, looked really bad, so I stopped writing that one.  

When I got better news about my ankle, and a very real wake up call about taking care of my hip, I was either going to write about the many shortcuts that I realize I take in training or some sort of grand synopsis of everything wrong with me.

I’ve had several months at very low mileage. I spent a very fun Saturday participating in the Elijah Bristow 24 hour race, even if I stopped at 32 miles.  Regardless of any of these circumstances, I have always planned on an easy running July, focusing most of my time and energy on the wedding and getting the house ready for a reception.  But a funny thing happened on the short road to the forum.  I learned something about running.  I’m old!

I really expected that dropping my miles down a bunch would, at least, give my body a break.  I thought all of the aches and pains that I usually attribute to running would fade and I would have a few glorious, spry, nimble months before I got serious about training again.  To quote my grandson Elliott “...as it turns out….” those aches and pains are all still with me, and are obviously more the result of aging than of running.

If that is true…...then the honeymoon, both literally and figuratively, continues.

Monday, March 10, 2014

20 Thousand Miles

At the conclusion of Saturday’s 20 mile run I hit the 20,000 mile mark.  At conservative estimates of 150 steps per minute and 10 minutes per mile, I’ve run 30 million steps since I started running 11 years ago.  It’s 32,186 kilometers.  It seems so much more is accomplished in a metric life.  20,000 of anything makes me think of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I didn't know how far a league was, so I looked it up and 3.4523 miles equals a league.  Which instantly made me call bullshit, since that would be 5,793 miles deep…..but then I learned that it is only used as a unit of length, not depth.  It meant they travelled for 5,793 miles while under the sea.  I never read the book.

The next big milepost is 4,901 miles or, once around the world.  At current pace that should happen in the Summer of 2016.  I’m pretty set on hitting 24,901 at the site of the hospital where I was born in San Luis Obispo, CA.  I’m also pretty set on a journey run down the California Coast to get there.  Possibly starting at the Golden Gate Bridge.  Still a lot of time and miles to figure all of that out.

I meant to take a finish photo with Saturday’s running partners, Steve and Mindy.  Kellie and Jeanne were also there for the finish.  I even picked a semi photogenic finish line, for just such picture.  But it was raining, and I was too interested in dry clothes and coffee and marionberry scones and before I knew it everybody was gone and no picture was taken.




The Classy Side of Town
This meant that the only picture I have to commemorate the day was this one.  It’s from the fine Salem business establishment Hard Candy Gentlemen’s Club.  I can neither confirm, nor deny, whether any gentlemen actually frequent the club.  I do, however, appreciate how the sign embodies freedom of expression,  cultural diversity and economic prosperity all at the same time.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Years End, Years Begin

I’ve been humming a Tori Amos song for a week or so.  I love having her songs stuck in my head.  This one has been Pretty Good Year:

Tears on the sleeve of a man
Don't wanna be a boy today
Heard the eternal footman
Bought himself a bike to race
And Greg he writes letters
And burns his CDs
They say you were something in those formative years
Hold onto nothing
As fast as you can
Well still pretty good year

It has been a pretty good year.  I turned 50 without the sky turning into a poisonous garden, or falling.  I had an injury free running year that I feel good about the results.  Most importantly, Jeanne has agreed to crew me, for life.  We’re getting married in July.

I’ve blathered on and on about my realizing that PR’s are no longer a way to measure success, but I still know all of the times and splits and they still are the default goal for me in any race.  I almost popped a half marathon PR at The Cascade Half Marathon in Turner in January.  I missed it by 25 seconds.  My hamstrings were a wreck for a week, which is how I know I really pushed it.  I did PR 24 hours at Pacrim in Longview WA in March.  I had gone with a goal of 100 miles so I was a little disappointed with only getting to 77 in some pretty nasty weather.  I felt like I ran a very solid marathon in Newport in June, and then had a blast running 50 miles on my 50th birthday.  The highlight race of the year was Le Grizz 50 miler in Montana in October.  Spectacular scenery running along the Flathead River near Glacier National Park and one of my better performances in ultra distances.  I wrapped the year up with a Dawn to Dusk run on Dec 21st, covering 42 miles from sunrise to sunset and completed my 6th consecutive year of at least 2,000 for the year.

I’ve got plans for 2014 but none bigger than marrying Jeanne in July.  So far the “It’s about time” responses have seemed to outpace the “congratulations” about 4 to 1.  We will spend a week on Orcas Island for a honeymoon, which I’m also really looking forward to.

Running plans are a little bit lighter this year.  I should hit 20,000 miles run sometime in late February early March, so I’ll need to figure how how to celebrate that, with food.  I’m running the ORRC 10K Series.  6 races spread out over the year, with accumulated points to get all geeked out about stats and times.  I’ll run the Vernonia Marathon in April.  I’m not sure how much speed training I can get by then, but the 10k training and racing should help quite a bit.  My A race for the year will be Elijah Bristow 24 hour in Dexter OR in June, where I’ll stalk 100 miles again.  I haven’t really decided on a Fall race, but right now I’m thinking either a marathon or 50k feels right.
I have all sorts of resolution ish thoughts, regarding running and health.  More yoga and core strengthening.  More speed and hill work.  Being more proactive about chiro and massage, instead of using it to put me back together.  Better eating habits, less late night eating, more fruits and vegetables.  But I don’t really make resolutions or I end up disappointing myself.  Still I hope to keep these things in the front of my mind and do better at them.

So, I’ll start 2014 with my first video imbedded in a blog:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dawn to Dusk 2013




I’m going to do it again, regardless of the weather.  Dec 21 is the shortest day of the year, 8 hours and 47 minutes with sunrise being at 7:47 AM and sunset at 4:34.  The goal, as in years past....some successful, some not....is to run 45 miles from sunup to sundown.  Rather than go point to point, this year I'll do 9, 5 mile loops starting and finishing at our house.  The direction of each loop will be decided at the beginning of each one, by coin flip.