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.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Le Grizz in Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country
*I had this blog finished and ready to post on Monday.  I then found out that one of my dearest friends in the world had passed away on Sunday, and my life went a little sideways.  Steve had been very sick for quite a while so it was not completely unexpected, but shocking still.  He was one of the most generous people I have or will ever know.  Jewelia summed it up perfectly, “Damn, I thought the world felt smaller”.*

Le Grizz 50 Miler wasn’t part of my original 2013 plans.  I had purposely not planned anything beyond a Run Across Oregon, that sadly didn’t happen this year.  Once it became obvious that we would need to delay the cross state run I contemplate a fall marathon, but quickly decided that getting back into the Western States lottery was what I really wanted to do, and Le Grizz has been on my “must run” list for years.

There is some cliche that get’s carelessly tossed around about not focusing on the destination but enjoying the journey.  I’m not sure who is responsible for that saying but I’m finding that the older I get the more unsightly the journey becomes.  I’ve really battled through some hip issues this Summer.  It took numerous chiropractic and massage appointments to keep me going.  I even broke down and committed a cardinal sin for myself in getting xrays.  My usual saying is “amputation before xray”, but I just had this nagging feeling that I may be fighting something insurmountable like degenerative joint disease.  Alas, no, my hips are fine, just muscle imbalance which is remarkably unoriginal for distance runners.

I have a pretty good routine for the week before a race.  A little fartlek type speed workout on the Monday.  A 10 to 12 mile, very slow, run on the Tuesday.  Chiro and massage on the Wednesday.  Then light, easy 3 to 4 milers on the Thursday and Friday.  Monday, as I was walking around gathering up running clothes and shoes, my ankle twisted.  It hurt really bad at first, then seemed fine.  As soon as I started running on it, it was not fine.  I walked back to the house, semi freaking out.  I iced it, took some ibuprofen and decided to see how it felt on Tuesday.  I’ve made this mistake before.  There is an adage I’ve heard, better to race a little undertrained than a little injured.  I decided that nothing I would do in this last week was going to help more than running on a dinged up ankle would hurt, so I didn’t run all week.  I watched my weight slowly creep up, despite eating really soundly, and hoped everything would be ok by Saturday.

We left for Montana, Thursday afternoon, with hopes of making it Spokane that night.  We might have made it too, if my Bears weren’t on TV that night in the sports bar where we stopped to have dinner.  We made it as far as Ritzville, WA, which isn’t very ritzy, at all.  Friday morning I went for a three mile test run, my ankle was just fine.
Clark Fork River
I’m not sure I’ve been to a more beautiful place than the Clark Fork River through the Lolo National Forest in the Fall.  Jeanne kept having to tell me to watch the road, as it felt like my head was on a swivel looking all around.  We drove through some pretty desolate stretches of wide open spaces that reminded me of the Harry Chapin song Mail Order Annie.

“You know it's not no easy life you're entering.
The winter wind comes whistling through the cracks there in the sod.
You know you'll never have too many neighbors.
There's you Girl, and there's me, and there's God.

You know I'm just a dirt man from the North Dakota plains.
You're one girl from the city who's been thrown out on her own.
I'm standing here not sure of what to say to you
'Cepting Mail Order Annie, lets you and me go home.”

Friday night would have been fairly uneventful, check in to motel, make sure we knew how to get to the turnoff that leads up to the start and have a truly fantastic dinner at Three Forks Grille in Columbia Falls.  It would have been fairly uneventful were it not for the black bear that suddenly appeared in our headlights while traveling 40 mph on our way back from dinner!  So Friday night ended with a pretty big adrenaline rush.

I had practiced several long runs taking in liquid calories early in the run.  My plan was to keep on a very even intake of liquid calories for as long as I could, but most importantly, make sure I started with the very first hour.  I did really well on nutrition all day.  I never had stomach problems, the only thing I consumed other than my Infinit Nutrition drink was a granola bar around mile 25 and some coke around mile 34.
All that's between US and Canada
The course was more difficult than I had anticipated.  For the first 7 miles it was a mixture of paved roads and really nice smooth dirt roads and very flat.  As we passed by the short road from the start/finish and started heading toward the Canadian border we hit our first hill.  It was a little more than a mile long and runnable, but it was the first time I noticed that I was at a higher elevation than I’m used to.  I ran pretty well out to the turn around (mile 29) at the border.  I had hoped to stay on 10 min per mile pace to the turn around and was about 18 minutes behind that pace when I turned around.  Then the wheels really fell off.  Usually somewhere between mile 30 and 35 in any race, no matter the distance, I go through a really bad patch.  This was one of the worst.  I was sleepy, my hips hurt bad and I didn’t even feel like I could take advantage of the downhills.  The road, which was rocky dirt, was starting to catch my toes a lot and I almost took a header a few times.  I spent a few very slow miles contemplating taking some Ibuprofen for my hips.  Finally around mile 33 I gave in and took some.  A few miles later I drank some coke.  I’m not sure whether to give either or both the credit for my rebound but I did rebound really well.
Things in mirror are faster than they appear.
 My mile 29 to 33 split was around 14 minutes per mile as I suffered.  From that point in, my every 4 ish mile splits were 11:54, 11:45, 10:34 and 10:24 for the last five miles.  And that was it.  Goal time had been 9:30.  I spent about 4 miles trying to make my peace with finishing in over 10 hours, then caught some late magic and ended up finishing in 9:19.  With about 8 miles to go I heard wolves, which was crazy exciting and makes every hair on your body stand on end.  Jeanne and several others crews got to see a huge Grizzly run across a meadow.
My number fell off, but was found at the border.
I tried to eat some of the fried chicken they had provided, but it was being kept warm on a barbecue pit and it smelled and tasted like lighter fluid.  I talked for while with a guy from Spokane that had finished a few minutes in front of me, he had a huge group of people with him.  Once again, I had the greatest crew in the world.  Jeanne is still not recovered from her broken heel, but drove the entire course left footed and I know the road was much rougher on vehicles than it was runners, we could at least pick our way around the rocks.  She was perfectly understated in her encouragement, which is exactly what works for me, and never acknowledged my complaining, which is also exactly what works for me.  I’ll say it, over and over, she is way better at crewing these things than I am at running them.

We took a Pizza back to the room, watched my UCLA Bruins play the Cal Golden Bears, a matchup that seemed very appropriate.  I fell asleep at half time, but UCLA didn’t really need my help.

All that was left was the 13 hour drive home on Sunday, back through some of the most beautiful landscapes we have ever seen in our lifetimes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Running Arithmetic

Oregon Summer

It’s been 3,880 days since I started “running”, though I ran a lot before that official day.  I’m going to pass 19,000 miles today.  That’s only 4.9 miles per day.  It doesn’t seem very impressive when I look at it like that.  Averages are a strange statistic.  Humans have an uncanny knack for distorting averages.  A prolific serial killer, let’s say one that killed 45 people over the course of 10 years, would have only killed, on average, .002 people per day.  I always loved the idea that, on average, every human being has one testical and one breast.  People routinely ask me “how far do you run each day”, I usually mumble some vague, “oh, it depends on the day”.  I think, for a while, I’ll answer “4.89, even on days off”.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to 20,000 before the end of the year.  I’d only need to average a little over 7 miles per day, which doesn’t seem that tough.  I’ll get a little ahead of that pace building up to Le Grizz in October, but I also know my body will want a little wind down after.  I think I’m getting close enough to start a projection spreadsheet for arriving at 24,901, once around the Earth.  Something says that 24,901st mile needs to finish “somewhere”, but I’m not sure where that would be.  The ocean......well, AN ocean, makes sense.  My birthplace makes sense.  Someplace I’ve never been to before makes sense.  Fortunately, I’ve got a little time to think about it.  1,039 days, actually, unless I pick up the pace.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

50 for 50 Final

I’ve been trying to finish this blog up for several days, but in my advancing years, nothing happens as fast as it used to.  I turned 50 on August 1st and decided to commemorate it with a 50 mile run.  As the run would be without Supercrew Jeanne, I figured a loop route that had a few opportunities to get water.  I read somewhere about a person than did a similar birthday miles run and on each mile, reflected on the corresponding year in their life.  While that is cool, I wasn’t doing that, there’s too much better shit to think about.
It certainly is.
 My plan was for a 5:30 AM start, but I woke up with an unsettled stomach and didn’t want to start out a whole day of running looking for a bathroom.  It was close to 6:00 before I headed out the door and was met by a deer, in the middle of the street, just in front of the house.  Our backyard is on the deer superhighway through the neighborhood but I usually only see the tracks through the garden and notice the leaves missing.  Despite my delayed start I still ended up making a bathroom stop at mile 2.  If my legs gave me as much problems as my stomach does, I would quit running.

The first 10 miles took me from Dallas to Independence.  I really didn’t have much of a goal time, other than giving people some rough estimates of where I might be at a given time.  Still, I like to get the early part of long run done on a schedule, as you never know what can happen later.  I was pretty steady and on pace through Independence but my stomach still wasn’t cooperating.  I really got lucky on the weather, it was overcast and in the 70’s the whole day.  I’m sure if it had been hotter, the nausea I battled would have been much worse.  I made a quick bathroom stop and water refill at the McDonalds in Independence, (they are good for something) and then headed towards the Buena Vista Ferry.

It’s 10 miles to the Ferry and then another 12 to Salem before I had any reliable places to refill water. I stashed a bottle of Infinit, a bottle of water and a granola bar at the ferry.  At about mile 15 I had my only real moment of doubt and truth.  My stomach was really unsettled and I was already establishing a recognized pattern of not fueling enough.  I didn’t trust eating much more but knew that if I didn’t, the next 17 miles could get pretty ugly.  I thought through the option of heading back, that would put me back in a town in 5 miles, I could rest, have a bathroom available, regroup and if I felt up to it, figure out a different remaining 30 that was closer to towns.  I knew that as I was thinking about this, that the further I continued to run the more difficult the decision would be.  5 back vs 17 forward would soon be 10 back or 12 forward.  I don’t ever remember making a definitive decision to march forward, but I never decided to turn around and go back and gradually the decision was made for me. 
The Willamette as seen from the Buena Vista Ferry
 The last 3 miles to the ferry I actually started feeling much better and ran really well up the hill to Buena Vista.  I found my stash, refilled my empty bottle (I used 2 handhelds for the next 15 miles) and forced myself to eat the granola bar.  Crossing the ferry had a no turning back feel to it, if for no other reason that it was just as far to turn back now.

The five miles from the ferry to Liberty hill also went really well, my stomach was still bothering me but it wasn’t getting any worse and I was figuring out about how much I could feed it without it revolting and was getting myself into a pretty good head space dealing with it.  In this stretch through the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge I saw a mink which was really cool.  I also saw a mother hawk feeding two fledglings out of the nest.  They were sitting on a telephone pole just above me watching mom hunt.  

I had driven Liberty Hill a few weeks ago.  I knew it was about 2.5 miles from the bottom to the top.  I knew there were some pretty steep spots, but when driving it I remember telling myself, “you’ll only be half way at this point, don’t blow yourself up on the hill, walk the steep parts and run the not so steep parts”.  I never really felt like I was on a “not so steep part”, and laughed about how different a hill seems from a car vs running it.
Looking back down Liberty Hill
The downhill into Salem was rough on my legs.  I was closing in on 30 miles and my quads were really sore the whole downhill and continued to hurt once things flattened out.  I had a convience store picked out to refill bottles but still had plenty left for the last 4 miles into downtown.

I was getting pretty ragged, running really slow and hating running on sidewalks and having to stop for traffic lights as I came into town.  I had planned on stopping at Alcyone, where my daughter, Jewelia, works for some coke and a light lunch.  I really didn’t feel like eating when I arrived there at mile 35 so I asked for some turkey and some avocado on a plate.  I wish I had thought to take a picture, the plate was beautiful, looked like a plate of sushi.  I ate as much of it as I dared and probably drank more coke than I should have to compensate and was on my way.
Back across the Willamette
 I walked through downtown to let my food settle a bit and also so I could stop at Gallagher’s Fitness and say hi.  They were really supportive and encouraging, and with a little Coke in my system I made pretty good time up and over the bridge and through West Salem.  Jerry Mullins was going to try and run the last several miles with me and we had a pretty good plan for how to meet up.  I gave him a worst case and best case scenario for where I’d be at 2:30 and then as a back up plan, I’d text him from Holman Park (mile 39 for those not familiar with the infamous Holman Park).  I hit my worst case scenario spot exactly at 2:30, which considering that was based on starting a half hour earlier than I did, felt pretty good, but I didn’t see him there.  I also didn’t see him at the Independence highway turnoff, or at the cemetery.  I was now convinced that I’d see him at the golf course, take my last break, eat my last gel, fill up my water bottles and be ready for the last 8 miles.  He wasn’t there.  I took a quick break, filled my bottle and took off, not knowing what might have happened but resigned to finishing it on my own.

I was trudging down Rickreall Road when out of nowhere, I heard footsteps coming up behind me.  I don’t know how far behind me he started at the golf course but it took 2 miles of fast running for him to catch me!  It was awesome having company for the last six miles.  I was going really slow by this point, and I even messed up some math and had myself convinced that it was going to be close to 5:00 before I finished, which now seems ridiculous that I could have thought that, but we’ve all had that happen after enough miles.  Jerry and I parted a half mile from home.  It was only at that point that I realized I’d been wrong on the time.  I was going to finish very close to the time I had targeted, which was 10 hours.

As I walked up the driveway I noticed a bag hanging on the front door that said Happy 50.  Just as I was thinking how nice that was, it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought the finish through very well.  I had no house key.  We have a remote keypad for the garage door, but when I lifted the lid for it, I noticed that the red light that is supposed to light didn’t and sure enough.....the battery was dead in it. A walk around the house confirmed that yep, it was locked up tight everywhere.
I sent a text to Jeanne, seeing how close to home she was, but she was still 40 minutes away at least.  So, I tried to make the best of it.  I filled my bottle from the garden hose, sat down on the front porch and took off my shoes.  Took a picture of my feet and posted them on Facebook.  I was starting to get really cold and was really hungry.  To kill a little more time, I decided to investigate the birthday bag.  It was from Julie and Jerry Mullins and it was a big tub of blueberries!  I started eating them like crazy, and then thought, I’ve had an upset stomach all day, this is fruit, and I’m locked out of the house for another half hour.  So I let discretion be the better part of valor and stopped eating.  I was soon rescued and in a warm shower.  We were going to go out for dinner that night, but I just didn’t feel up to it, so Jeanne’s mom brought some dinner over and we had a little birthday party at home.
The obligatory feet photo
 I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about birthday miles.  Realizing that at some point it would start requiring the whole day to complete it, and the feeling that with the advance of age and the increase in miles, that time will sneak up pretty quick.  I tried to predict or set a goal for myself on how long I could keep running my age in miles on my birthday, but decided that so much of that is starting to be out of my hands and rests with fate, that it’s best to just be humble and grateful for each healthy year.

I have completely replaced my disappointment with not being able to attempt my Run Across Oregon with anticipation for Le Grizz 50 Miler in Montana October 12th.  I don’t know how much of the “Grizzly Bear Country” warnings are marketing and how much is real, but it does add a level of excitement to the whole idea.