Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ferry Run, Completed

The Ferry Run last Friday (actually now the 12th of August) confirmed, again, something I’ve known all along.  I’m just not honest with myself.
"some things in life you cannot measure by degrees"
The run seemed simple enough, 29 miles, really flat.  I had even scouted out the route by car ahead of time, carefully making mental notes to myself. I knew there was no public water between mile 7 and 16.  I said to myself that if I really needed water there were farm houses I could get water from. I knew this wouldn't work, I know myself.  It was hot, high 80's, no cover, my single bottle was almost empty around mile 12, but, “I don't like the look of that house” or “that one’s too far off the road” etc.  “That one looks trashy, I'll see what the next one is like”, this went on for a few miles, all the while not drinking the last few gulps in my bottle, saving them for when I really needed them.  Mildly dehydrated I came upon a house with sprinklers on.
Whew, barely made it!

I held my hat in the sprinkler to get it wet, then attempted to fill my bottle from the fan sprinkler going back and forth.  it was taking forever, so with my bottle half full I got frustrated and quit.  The water was warm, smelled funny and tasted worse.  I was now only a mile from the Ferry, so I convinced myself there would be water at the Ferry.  I knew there wasn't water at the Ferry, I'd checked it out earlier, but I was convinced, so convinced that I poured the nasty tasting water over my head, so as to not drink it by accident.
Looking South up the Willamette River, yes that's unusual.
There wasn't water on either side of the Ferry.  Jeanne came out to check on me around mile 15 and road crew me in, I was pretty nauseous and bitchy.  She informed me that there was absolutely no shoulder on the road until Lincoln.  I knew this, I'd scouted this out too, making a mental note that there was no shoulder for 5 miles.  At the time, that didn't seem very far, and just stepping off the road when a car went by, didn't seem like it would be a big deal.  Stepping off onto steeply sloped loose gravel every few minutes started out as annoying and quickly bloomed into outright frustration.  By the time I'd reached the Lincoln store at mile 20 I was ready to quit.  I started the "dismount", waist pack unhooked and flung into the back of the car, same treatment given to sunglasses and hat, and the complaints started pouring out.  She handed me a Coke and said, "drink some of this and lie down for a few minutes", and as has happened many times, like the commercial of life, I was reborn.
I'm not sure where I was, exactly, but I was 15,000 miles from where I started.
It wasn’t a pretty finish, but the last 9 miles were much better than the previous 9.  It’s a beautiful run, one that I intend to do again.  I think some consideration could be given to day and time of day that the 5 mile stretch of the Salem-Dayton highway with no shoulder is run.  Late afternoon on a Friday probably wasn’t the best planning.  I went passed 15,000 miles, somewhere in the middle of some hop fields and boarding the Ferry on foot with the other cars was a treat.

Ventis Taphouse was too full to get in, when we got there, but sushi is never a bad second choice.
Next up, Hood to Coast, which is more about social endurance than physical endurance, then Autumn Leaves 50 miler the last weekend in October.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ferry Run to Venti's

To celebrate the opening of the new Venti’s Cafe and Tap Room in Salem, I’m very loosely organizing a Ferry Run for Friday August 12th.  

Gallagher Fitness and Venti’s Cafe are co sponsoring a GFR/V2V, Venti’s to Venti’s Run/Walk every Friday for the next six weeks.  You register at the Downtown Venti’s between 4:00 and 7:00 PM then walk or run to the New Venti’s, earning you a $2 off coupon for an entre at Venti’s and a $3 off coupon for Gallaghers.

The Ferry Run will start at the New Venti’s at high noon, run through downtown Salem, out to River road in Keizer.  We will then take Wheatland Ferry Road, cross the Wheatland Ferry, .for free on foot.   Then come back on Wallace Road over the foot bridge to the Downtown Venti’s to register.  Then it’s just 2 more miles to the New Venti’s for eating, drinking and relative merriment.

The total round trip route is about 29 miles, a map can be found here.  I was planning to take about five ish hours to do the first 27 to the Downtown Venti’s then walk the last 2 miles in.  There is plenty of water along the course and numerous stores.  There shouldn’t be more than 6 to 7 miles without easy water access and about a 15 mile stretch from mile 7 to about 22 without any stores.  Jeanne will be able to be out on the course and we could easily arrange a water drop somewhere near the ferry. There could easily be ways for shorter distances too.

If you’re interested, email me at owensx41@gmail.com and we can coordinate etc.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Birthday Reflections

I don’t normally pay birthdays much mind.  In fact, I prefer something bigger to be going on so that my birthday isn’t a big deal.  For some reason, it’s feeling like a big deal this year.  

A brief recap of my 48th year:

Jewelia got married on the Oregon coast.  It was, in the interest of accuracy, the day before my birthday, but I needed some highlights.
Jewelia and Tyler
My first DNF ever came on my first 100 mile attempt at Lean Horse in South Dakota.  I felt like I learned so much from this experience and maybe I did.  And maybe there is just a lot to learn.
Where the Buffalo Roam
After only completing 55 miles at Lean Horse I felt like I had a bunch of training I didn’t use up and attempted a Boston Qualifier in Tri Cities in October.  It was probably my best marathon effort ever, but very strong headwinds for the last 10 miles proved to be too much.
7 Brides Tap Room
I took the month of November “off”, only running 70 miles for the month, then in early December found out I’d been selected in the lottery for Western States.  My training was going along so well, including a 35 mile run to 7 Brides Tap Room in Silverton, OR and then the first of three separate sprains to my left ankle, including one during Peterson’s Ridge 40 miler, my second DNF.
My ankle almost permanently looks like this now.
In between these sprains and recoveries I managed 70 miles at The Pac Rim 24 in Longview WA.
This picture is only here because Elliott is so cute.
Then came a very fun time at the Western States Training runs, Memorial Day Weekend.

I'll be back.
Followed a month later by Western States, which was the trifecta for DNFs.  

So, what have I learned.  Not much, unfortunately.  I wish I could point to one specific thing, either in training or on race day, but it’s been a combination of things, that mostly just boils down to train more and get more experience.  I do have the feeling of unfinished business for these three races, but am in no big hurry to settle any scores.  I’m going to run on a Hood to Coast Team, and event I’ve always described as more social endurance than physical endurance.  Then set all of my sights and training on running a 50 mile PR at Autumn Leaves in October.  PR is 8:46, but I’m really gonna shoot for sub 8 hours.  After that I’m probably going to give in and get the much needed surgery to repair a  torn labrum in my shoulder.  I originally injured it last November attempting a crazy stunt, even by my standards.  I injured it throwing a towel over a shower rod at a hotel in Pasadena.  My seasoned advice?  If you ever find yourself, freshly out of the shower, in a hotel room bathroom in Pasadena, just leave your towel on the floor.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Return to the Scene of the Crime

A weekend trip to Jessica and Aaron’s wedding brought me hauntingly close to the Western States starting line and the view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from the east, and the thin high desert air stirred up a fair bit of regret.  But first, it’s strange the things that spontaneously incite an emotional reaction.  I was on a quick morning run in Yreka, CA with Jeanne’s son Mitchell and dashed into a MacDonalds for bathroom break, and was confronted with this.
Van Gogh's Starry Night in a MacDonalds Bathroom in Yreka CA.
While fighting back a sudden rush of tears, I thought of the now very poignant line from Don McLean’s song Vincent, “but I could have told you Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you”.

Running in the hills around Carson City NV was very cathartic, I couldn’t help but think about Western States and what went wrong.  I also spent a good amount of time thinking about getting back to Squaw Valley.  I also just enjoyed a landscape very different from where I live and run.
View South from the Jack C. Davis Observatory
Ash Creek Canyon
Ash Creek

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cougar Sighting

I saw a cougar, and I have a witness!!!

Last night I ran to the Baskett Slough, Jeanne met me at the Baskett Butte trail head where we were going to walk a mile loop together. This was her first time and I was hoping we would see a lot of deer or a bald eagle.

We had barely left the trail head, hiking uphill we passed a girl bird watching, when Jeanne said, "what's that?"

I looked up the trail and seeing the back of tan animal sticking out of the tall grass I assumed and said, "oh, that's a deer"

As I was noticing the long tail, Jeanne corrected, "I don't think that's a deer". The cougar then turned out of the grass towards us, before slowly turning and walking up the trail and around a turn out of view.

I alerted the bird watcher girl, and the three of us walked together nervously for a bit.

We completed the loop, notifying the few other people we saw. One of them, a guy I see there regularly, said there was a sign up at the trail head that a cougar had recently been seen in the area. Well now it's been seen twice!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Altered Western States 2011

Several years ago in the Newport Marathon, I followed a shirt for a few miles that said, “After all the explanations and all the excuses, what you accomplished is exactly what you intended to accomplish”. I believe this.  I’m now 0 for 2 in 100 mile attempts.  Both times, ultimately, it was what I lacked in preparation that did me in.
Still believing.
I loved everything about Western States.  I loved the atmosphere, both human and scenic.  I loved the challenge.  I even love the knowledge that if I say, “the ice just beat me up more than I could handle”, to someone that wasn’t there, it doesn’t mean the same as it does to someone that was there.

Beautiful Squaw Valley.
We stayed 2 nights in Reno, at Jeanne’s niece and fiance’s house.  Jessica and Aaron were so gracious with their home and the mental distraction of others (not others also freaking out about an upcoming race) being around was an unexpected bonus.  We spent Thursday day up at Squaw Valley, attending the workshops and soaking in atmosphere and sunshine, then back to Reno for sushi....reverent pause.....then moved our base camp to Squaw Valley on Friday, including a little nap in the back of the new Subaru, which is the perfect race weekend vehicle we expected it to be.
A nap in the Subaru.
 The only time I ever have trouble falling asleep is the night before a race, unless I have a beer that night, but that’s a whole other scientific experiment.  I had been waking myself up at 4:00 for the whole week before WS to hopefully promote earlier bedtimes.  This didn’t work, I just got less sleep for the week.  The US Track and Field Championships were on TV Thursday night.  Not only did I stay up watching them, but that jacks my enthusiasm up sky high.  So, little sleep the night before, but I’m not sure that had much contribution to success or failure.
Awake at 3:30 and still lamenting over what to wear.  I don’t know why this is such a dilemma for me?  It should be fairly simple, but the added knowledge that whatever you start in is what you’re carrying for the first 4 ish hours does make you think about it a little more than usual.  I had clothes stashed in a few strategic drop bags and socks in all of them.  I made a bad calculation in my Infinit drink, again!!!  I brought enough, I just didn’t bring enough to have too much at each drop bag, and didn’t really think through, that if I don’t use it, there is no going back for it later, I’m learning, slowly.  They gave away (ha, strange thought given the entry fee) some Moeben arm sleeves, or arm panties.  I’ve never worn them before but I like the idea of removable sleeves instead of a throw away long sleeve shirt.  I’ve had several instances of starting in a singlet with a long sleeve shirt over.  Then a few miles in, you’re burning up and remove the long sleeve shirt and now you are sweaty wet in a singlet and it’s still 36 degrees, and that is cold like no other cold.  So, short sleeve shirt, arm panties and gloves seemed the right combination for the 38 degrees it was outside at Squaw Valley.  I had a funny altercation with the volunteer regarding what size arm panties I needed.  I signed up for everything medium, but I’m a tweener.  If I order medium, shirts will run large and I’ll get a tent.  If I order small, shirts will run small and it will look like I’m wearing by little brothers shirt.  So, the volunteer looks at my card, looks at me and says, “you ordered medium, but you might want a small”.  Thinking she was making a disparaging remark about my biceps, I showed ‘em off for her.  “Do you want to try the small on to see” was her reply.  They seemed too small, which pleased me so I took the mediums and went on my way.  They were too big, I was pulling them up constantly for the first 15 miles.
I knew 2 other, non famous, people running Western States.  One, April, I would know by face, we’ve run together a few times.  The other, Ric, I’ve emailed numerous times and have seen a picture and know his number is 286.  I really didn’t expect to see either.  We started in the dark and in all of the excitement of the start, moving up the trail with 400 other runners, barely a few minutes into the race I hear, “Chris?”.  April and I are side by side at the start.  We talk for a bit about taking care of our ankles and she gradually pulled ahead of me.  Half way up to Emigrant Pass, I was thinking about the chances of seeing April, and wondering whether I’d see Ric or not.  Then I looked to my left and there was 286.  Ric and I made it to the top of the pass together, but I pulled ahead a bit at the top and on the way down.

I could probably write forever about the snow and ice.  I’ve never run on either.  At first, it was fun. Even the first fall on my ass was met with laughter.  It wasn’t long before I passed the first injured runner, which sobered me up a little.  A few falls on my ass later, the fun had worn off.  I kept seeing stains on the snow that were obviously sports drink, and thought to myself, why would anybody be wasting their drink, when the challenge of carrying enough to the first aid station was a very real concern.  Then I fell forward and caught myself on my handheld bottles and had my drink squirt out, oh, that explains that!  Not too long after that discovery, I started following a trail of what was obviously blood.  I would catch up to the bloodied runner later, but it was quite a bit of blood in the snow.  The falling really took a toll, mentally and physically on me, especially the falls on the icy parts that hurt much more than on softer snow.  I was moving pretty slow, and with each fall I became more tentative.  In retrospect, I probably fell more often as a result of running tentative.  But my big time loss came on the Fall of the Lost Sunglasses.  It seemed like an ice cliff.  it was probably not a cliff by any definition, but it was steep and icy and seemed to go down forever, especially when both feet slipped out from underneath me and I found myself sliding down in “break up the double play” position. About 50 feet later I got both heels dug in and came to an abrupt stop.  At which time, my sunglasses popped off their perch above the bill of my cap and skied down the rest of the mountain alone.  I sat, frozen, for a while watching them vanish into the distance, then surveyed my options for getting back to the “path”.  A 45 degree angle back seemed the most sensible, but required me to carry both bottles in my mouth, leaving my hands free to assist in the climb.  This worked, though I occasionally needed to use a bottle to break a step in the ice/snow for my next step.  I’ve tried to calculate how much time this fall cost me, and I really don’t know.  I know I was pretty shaken and sore after it, and was so relieved when, after a few creek crossing in the snow, I got back on solid ground.
Ice burns.
There were some great opportunities to make up some serious time once we got out of the snow.  Long gradual downhills on forest service roads with great footing.  I just never really got my legs back.  I was unprepared for the distance between aid stations, and for the hill coming up to Mosquito Ridge.  I’m sure I saw the distance, 7.3 miles and I remember in the course description briefing somebody referring to it as “quite a haul” but I never really put the two together.  I got behind in water and salts and blew up on the hill.  I staggered into Mosquito Ridge and got weighed, I was down 6 pounds.  Dr. Mike was awesome, strongly encouraging me to stay in the aid station and hydrate and “get my shit together”.  I’ve paraphrased the speech he gave me to several people and I’m not sure I even heard it the way he said it, but I sat down for about 15 minutes, drank, took an Scap, thought, drank some more, peed and was on my way.

I ran better for a while.  Ric had passed me while I sat in the aid station, I called out for him, but no real sound came out of my mouth.  I caught up to him about a mile out of Mosquito Ridge, I had some decent momentum at that point and tried to encourage him to go with me, but he was hurting pretty bad.  After Miller’s Defeat I was staying ahead of the cutoffs but I wasn’t putting any distance between me and them.  I was starting to get a sinking feeling as I came into the Last Chance aid station, I was expecting to hear that I was about 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  I was pretty shocked when they said 10 minutes.  I didn’t get her name, but a young (everybody seems young these days) blonde girl working the aid station saw me deflate and did an incredible job of not only getting me out of the aid station but having me believe I was going to make it to Devil’s Thumb in time.

I didn’t make it in time.  I came in 12 minutes behind the cutoff.  The 36 switchback up to Devil’s Thumb were almost surreal, passing people that had or were in the process of literally quitting on the course.  The rest is pretty tail between the legs academic.  Jeanne and I spent so much time pouring over crew plans, drop bags, which aid stations she could get to and when and I never even made it to her.  We did head down to track to watch the 27 and 28 hour finishers coming in. That was very inspirational but I don’t think it’s what will motivate me on my next attempt.  Instead I think it will be the way I perceived the reception at Devil’s Thumb.  

Every single volunteer at every single aid station were amazing.  If I tried, I couldn’t come up with a single, small complaint about the organization of any part of Western States, I was truly amazed by the whole experience, so what I’m about to convey, I know, was all in my own little head.  Prior to Devil’s Thumb I felt received at each aid station as an athlete.  An athlete having a bad day maybe, but an athlete none the less.  The cheers had a tinge of pity at Devil’s Thumb, empathy is probably the correct term, but I didn’t hear it that way.  I had already, privately, acknowledged my defeat about 20 minutes earlier, this was just the confirmation.  It was hard watching them coordinate how and who to drive me back, I realize that’s part of their job, but it felt like I was inconveniencing people, and I hate that.  I know myself and I wish that the memories of watching others finishing would be my darkest hour motivation in the future, but it won’t.  It will be those very sincere, very well intentioned cheers for the fallen, that I don’t ever want to hear again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Dad and Western States

My Dad, Dale Owens
My Dad spent his last Father’s Day running a 5k at Mount Tabor in Portland, Oregon.  I don’t remember the exact sequence of events and it doesn’t matter enough to do the painful “research”, but I think he was in between 2 surgeries for the brain tumor that ultimately took his life.  Three generations of Owens boys ran that day.  2 things vividly stand out in my mind: Nathaniel was high school track and cross country fit, and ran the first half mile with me at about 8:00 pace, which was somewhere in between where I would run, and hanging back for Dad.  There were runners he knew and had competed against up ahead of him and he felt like a dog on a leash running next to me.  On a long downhill that winds back around itself, I cut him loose and told him to go.  Watching him take off at sub 5 minute pace weaving in and out of 8:00 minute runners was amazing to watch.  The course was a big loop followed by a shorter loop.  You pass by the finish with about a mile to go.  Nathaniel and I had both been finished for quite a while when my Dad and Mom came by the finish line together.  This turned out to be way more than Dad was capable of and with an easy “quit” in sight, I asked him if he wanted to call it a day.  “Nope, I’m fine” was all he said, with a smile.  As we passed the finish chute, a race official called me over and explained that everybody else was in and they were getting ready to take the finish chute down.  I explained the situation and my Dad’s tenacity.  He asked if I knew the remainder of the course as he was going to call the volunteers in, but that he would leave the clock running and finish chute up until we got in.  I assured him I knew the course and off we went.  The finish area was nearly empty when we got back, but a few volunteers remained as did the finish chute and the clock, 1:08 and some inconsequential seconds.

2 weeks before this Father’s Day, I ran Newport Marathon for the 3rd time.  I don’t remember what my goal time was but it must have been 3:40 as I clearly remember hand signaling 1 5 1 and a thumbs up to friends at the half marathon point.  I didn’t run 3:40.  Despite my good friend, Steve, jumping in and trying to “run me in”, my back tightened up and I “quit” around mile 18.  I was shuffling up the last hill (yes, there is a difference between quitting and not finishing) and my Dad was waiting at the top of the hill for me.  There was no parking available up there, so I knew he had walked to be “out on the course” for me.  He ran the last awkwardly steep downhill to the finish with me.  I remember being embarrassed to be coming in late.  I don’t know why I always insist on apologizing if my time isn’t what I told people it would be.  He didn’t seem to care.

I’ll enjoy Father’s day with my kids and their families this Sunday, then head out for Western States, which will be the biggest running challenge of my running life so far.  Dad would have loved this.  Jeanne would not be crewing alone, as there would have been nothing on this planet that would have kept him from being a part of it.  Dad had 2 great sayings, that rattle around in my brain all the time:  “It’s not what you do today, it’s what you do every day, that counts”, has been my training mantra for years.  “It’s not how fast you go, it’s how slow you don’t go”, I have only started really appreciating and understanding lately.

I have no idea what’s ahead of me, in the middle of next Saturday night, I’ve never been there before. But I know what Dad would tell me to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Western States with Training Wheels

We’re heading out on Thursday for a training run weekend on the Western States Trail.  I’ll be able to run the last 72 miles of the course, broken up over three days.  32 on Saturday and then 20 on Sunday and Monday.  They have over 100 people signed up to do this so far, which is cool, since it will feel race ish, but I’m planning on taking it real easy.  I’ll be able to run the part of the course that will run at night in the daytime, which seems like a good thing right now, we’ll see if I still feel that way after seeing it!

I’m taking a few clothing and shoe options, wow, that sounds like I should have purses for the ensemble.  Normal aide stations will be in place, so I should also get a good feel for distance between stations and where drop bags should be and what should be in them.

Jeanne will also be able to figure out which aide stations she can get to in time.  I realize some people do races like this with no crew at all, but a lot of planning needs to go into a crew of one.

I’ve decide to delay the decision on whether to use a pacer at least until after this weekend.  It would be nice to have someone that knows the course with me in the dark.  But I tend to lose concentration on where I put my feet when I have someone to talk to.  Sure, there are other factors like motivation etc, but not getting lost and not running off a cliff or stepping on rolling objects are bigger concerns in my mind right now.

It just occurred to me that I should find cool places to eat down there...........

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seattle Sunshine

This is mostly just to post some photos.  I was in Seattle for a very quick 2 days but had a fantastic run around Green Lake.  The kind of morning that you wish you could just run forever, because it feels like you can.
A cup of beer on a bench on a ferry.

Seattle at dusk after sushi.

Aurora bridge on morning run.

Green Lake

This Low

The good times, seem good enough.  I’m gonna try writing about the bad times, and hope to look back and say, “see, it wasn’t that bad”.  My running confidence is at an all time low right now.  I’m less than eight weeks from Western States, and right now, I feel like it’s going to swallow me whole and spit out my bones.  April should have been 300 miles, it was 142.

My left ankle is probably at 80%, but my right one actually hurts more then the left now.   I’ve messed up my right side pretty good, probably from compensating.  My shoulder hurts, bad.  It really doesn’t affect my running but it is another constant pain.  MRI reveals a partial posterior and superior tear of the labrum and tendonosis of the sub scapularis and supraspanitus.  Not really sure what that means, but what I heard was, “you hurt it, it didn’t heal well, you may need surgery but you can try physical therapy first”.

At the time I wrote the above, I had stopped doing the exercises I was supposed to be doing, hadn’t been to chiro or massage in several weeks and had stopped worrying about what I ate.  My general mood was, “what difference does it make, I keep getting hurt anyway”.  In the midst of this pity party I said the wrong (or right) words to myself.  I said, “even if I do all these things, I’m not going to get back to perfect in time”.  Then I thought, “when have you ever been ‘perfect’”.  Something always hurts a little, sometimes even a lot.  And with that, my pity party was, intellectually at least, over.  I started doing my exercises, got adjusted, got a massage, started eating better.  And within a few days, running was actually fun again.

A 20 mile night run last weekend was a bit of a struggle finishing at 2:00 AM, but 33 miles this weekend went really well.  I can still let myself get freaked out by how little time there is before Western States but for now, I’m trying to follow the best advice I’ve received so far.  “I think you have got to think about doing the best you can in any given week and let it take you where it takes you”.

10 miles down, 23 to go to get back to here.
It’s been quite a while since I logged 60 miles in a week but hit 63 last week.  Now I just need to string a bunch of those together.  I meant to include some links and complete endorsements above but will do it all here at the end instead.

Dr. Zohra Campbell for chiropractic care and yoga instruction and Kristel Wonderly for massage at Indigo Wellness Center have been fantastic.  I’m also very impressed with Jeff Blanchard, physical therapist at Therapeutic Associates.  And lastly, Cafe 22, whose only drawback is they don’t serve alcohol.
Cafe 22 burger after 33 miles!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ups and Downs

It’s been an up and down 9 weeks.  So much so, in fact, that it’s kept me from updating this blog.  Before I could finish writing about something good that happened, something bad would happen and I wouldn’t feel like writing about something good.  Then, just as I was ready to start writing about the bad stuff, something good would happen and I’d be right back in the same boat, only backwards ish.

So, with the help of my running log, and notes jotted or emails sent to friends. Here goes the last 9 weeks in semi abbreviated form.

5 Miles Per Bride, March 5, 2011

For several weeks, I could feel myself needing a long, point to point, run.  I hadn’t been over marathon distance since October, and the loops of my local runs were starting to wear on me.  My favorite part of long distance running is getting somewhere.  From the minute I signed up for Pacific Rim 24 hour run, which is a one mile loop course on March 19th, I knew I needed a destination run to offset that craziness.  The best destinations for me are always food and/or beer, so when I went looking for something 30 to 40 miles away, the destination became obvious, Seven Brides Brewery and Taproom.  Seven Brides Brewing is a great story:

“Several years ago, three dads and two uncles would gather on a Saturday in one of their garages to master the art of home brew. Before long, the salesman of the group said, “You know, this is good enough to sell.” So the friends set out to do just that.
The name “Seven Brides” actually came from the dads’ kids. Between the three of them, they have only daughters. With the rising cost of wedding nuptials, the guys decided they needed to sell enough beer to pay for their daughters weddings. Each of the girls has a beer named after her.”

One of those “dads” was Nathaniel and Jewelia’s chemistry teacher in high school, Phill Knoll.  Phill is also, I might add, a very good runner.
Shannon, Tracy and Paul at mile 8.
I got very lucky on weather, 6 hours of running and about 10 rain drops, total, on my head.  I ran the first 8 miles by myself, then met Paul, Tracy and Shannon at Oak Knoll Golf Course.  We picked up Denice and Jane 5 miles later in West Salem.  I had some form of company all the way to mile 22.  It really helped having a 14 mile distraction.  I stayed pretty steady the whole 35.  I didn't have much spirit for the uphills, in fact it was pretty laughable how quickly I "gave up" on some of them.  
Seven Brides! Mile 35.
I had estimated finishing at Seven Brides Tap Room between 12:30 and 1:00 and pulled in at 12:42.  Two young ladies were waiting at the door with a beer and water, saying "Are you Chris?  Phil (Knoll) thought you might need this"  Doesn't get much better than that!
Have to drink water too!
Maybe it was the distance, maybe I was just really hungry....but at the time, I thought that was one of the best burgers I ever had!

Fall Down Go Boom, March 9, 2011
Post crash
McDonald Forest has been a perpetual source of adventure for me and this night was no different.  It was misty, foggy, wet and dark, so pretty much like the rest of this Winter/Spring.  Coming down the mountain I was running faster than I could see and I’m blind as a bat at night.  While I was on the main trail and I knew the footing was ok, even if I couldn't see it, I could trust it.  Once I hit the technical section, I slowed to what seemed a safe pace given what I could see.  I was probably no more than 200 meters from being out of the tricky shit and stepped on a root I never saw.  My ankle turned and I went flying head first down the hill.  My head lamp ended up in the brush, fortunately the light stayed on and I was able to find it.  I was pretty messed up.  I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot.  I banged up my right knee, elbow and shoulder pretty bad.  To make matters worse, my already messed up shoulder made using crutches almost impossible, but more on my shoulder later.
Looks worse in bad light!
Pacific Rim 24 Hour, March 19, 2011

10 days after my crash, I was feeling well enough to give Pacific Rim 24 hour a try.  I did a test 10 miler the Wednesday before and everything felt good enough.  I had three basic goals and some things I wanted to work on.  My three goals in no specific order were:  Run between 100k and 80 miles, stay on course for as much of the 24 hours as I could without going so deep in the well that I needed a long recovery.  These goals were, in some ways, complimentary and contradictory.    I went through the first 40 miles pretty comfortably and was well ahead of the pace I wanted.  At this point I realized that I was either going to hit the 100k to 80 mile range way too soon, or would eventually be tempted by 100.  So I decided to take a break.  Physically, this hurt me more than it helped me.  Of course my little nap was curled up in the back seat of a sedan, but more on new car selection later.  My back really tightened up during the break. I got it loose again after the 40 mile break but took another one at 100k and it never did loosen up after that one. I decided 70 miles seemed like a nice round number in between 62 and 80 and that by virtue of the 2 breaks I accomplished the “staying out there goal” too.  My legs felt pretty good and I was still able to run at 70 miles. It was pretty humbling and inspiring watching the leaders go past me every 5 or 6 miles. By midnight there were probably less than 20 people still on the course and they were all studs.  The thing about a timed event on a short loop is that you are routinely getting passed by people that are in better shape than you, not necessarily more talented just better trained. It's pretty humbling to watch it go by, again and again.
Awesome picture Jeanne took of me crossing the bridge near midnight.
I Handled food and water really well. Even peed 4 times.  I still need some work on early pacing but am getting better and better.

Contacts, March 22, 2011

My crash in the forest confirmed one thing for me, my luck with running while not really being able to see, might have run out.  So, thanks to Dr. Huggett I am now an everyday wearer of contacts.  So far, so good.  I should have done this a long time ago!

Shoulder, April 4, 2011

My right shoulder has bothered me since hurting it throwing a towel over the shower rod in a motel in Pasadena, while there for my sisters wedding.  I finally broke down and went to my doctor.  His preliminary diagnosis is a torn labrum, but x rays MRI’s and Orthopedist still to come.  Surgery, if necessary can wait until after Western States.

Fall Down Go Boom the Sequel, April 10, 2011

Peterson’s Ridge 40 miler, became an 8 miler for me.  Stepped on a rock and sprained the same ankle again.  I tried to see if hobbling it out would help but quit at 8 miles.

Fall Down Go Boom III, April 23, 2011

I was recovering nicely from sprain 2.  I ran a pretty solid 17 miles the next weekend so I decided a guided trip through “the Maze” of MacDonald Forest would be a good idea.  Another step on another rock decided otherwise.
Very cool path during 17 miles in Bellevue, WA

I’ve got myself to current.  I’m taking a few days off to let my ankle calm down and think through some training decisions.  I’m really in need of some positive running experiences right now!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Eventual Milestones

I’ve been debating the merits of a treadmill at home for years.  For the majority of my years running, I’ve had a gym membership.  This gave me the opportunity to run on a treadmill when necessary.  “When” necessary really is necessary has also been something I’ve debated for years.  Coming back from an injury is a good time for treadmill running, as you are never miles away from being done, if something goes wrong.  Really, really nasty weather might be another, though I’m skeptical of this.  Ice is probably the only weather that should be used as an excuse for running indoors in the Willamette Valley, and we don’t get ice that often.  Running while sick is another decent reason.  I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, with the exception of maybe the first day or two of a fever, I go through several days of too sick to run outdoors but not too sick to run indoors.  So, really, this is probably not more than 10 days a year total.  That isn’t enough to justify a gym membership, which is why I canceled mine.  It certainly isn’t enough to justify purchasing a treadmill for the house, which is exactly what I just did!  

Why?  I was sick last week.  I came back from Vegas with Smoking Redneck Spotted Fever.  It drove me crazy to not run for 5 days, that’s part of it.  Jeanne will use it for walking when the weather is bad outdoors, that’s another part.  And then there is the “solving the morning running, bathroom dilemma”  reason, which may end up being the perfect reason to get one.  Time will tell.  I’ve added a new “surface” to my running log.  I started this year tracking surfaces run on.  So that I could see how many trail miles I logged.  I added a treadmill surface, though I really hope I don’t use it too often.  So, to date for 2011, after my 5 day hiatus, I’m at 288 road miles, 36 trail miles, 21gravel road miles and 7 treadmill miles.  This brings me to almost 14,000 miles since I started running.  I should pass that milestone this weekend.  All of this has me pondering things like “can treadmill miles really be counted in distance, since you don’t go anywhere” and “is the impact of body weight minimized on a treadmill, since you aren’t propelling your own body weight forward” and so on.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wrestling With What Defines Us

I didn’t run this morning.  It was on my schedule, 3 in the morning, 5 in the evening, a nice easy day after a tough weekend.  I felt really good after my biggest week and weekend so far this year.  It was a normal morning.  I woke up at 5:45, checked the weather (on my phone, which is also my alarm clock), 40 degrees and raining.  No real response other than thinking about what to wear.  My closet has a window, the blinds are always closed.  I don’t know why I opened them to look outside, I never do this.  Once I did, there was no getting dressed.  I told myself I’d make it up tonight, but I felt cowardly all day.
Mile 1 from Kings Valley Highway
My penance tonight, was 38 degrees and raining with wind.  That seemed about right and fair.  I took off for the Baskett Slough, with a wind at my back and light rain.  
I was really pleased with my weekend.  16 miles on Friday and 20 miles on Saturday and then a weekend at the coast with very fresh feeling legs.  I ran out and back on Saturday, very close to dead even splits.  As I was coming back on a country road just outside of town, traffic seemed unusually heavy for a Saturday morning.  As I got closer to the high school, I figured out why.  A local high school boy, Charley Engelfried, had died last week while wrestling.  He pinned his opponent, was declared the winner and then collapsed as he was leaving the mat.  He was pronounced dead soon after that, the cause, an enlarged heart.  I was running passed the high school, 15 minutes before the memorial service.  It seemed surreal to be nearly 50 years old, 18 easy miles into 20, running passed those on their way to mourn the death of a 17 year old boy.
The wind was really starting to pick up as I turned down the gravel road.  The ducks are starting to pair up in the Baskett Slough, I disturbed them 2 at a time today.  
Mile 3, entering the Baskett Slough
 The galvanizing force of a child dying is sobering.  Even people that didn’t know Charley, and I didn’t, speak with reverence when talking about “the wrestler”.  As I was running away from the high school, I wondered if he considered himself “a wrestler”?  I ran passed a house where my daughter Jewelia, who was 13 at the time, sold her first violin.  The parents were buying it for their daughter.  She had never played a violin.  The parents didn’t play either.  I wasn’t sure how they would, in any way, evaluate the quality and value of the instrument, so I told them what we payed for it, how long Jewelia had played it etc.  The parents asked if Jewelia would play it for them, she did, and they bought it.  I wondered if the girl still played the violin, I wondered if she ever played it.  I wondered if she considered herself “a violinist”?
A little passed mile 4, Baskett Butte trailhead.
The rain started coming down heavier as I started up the trail to the top of Baskett Butte, and as I climbed ice started to mix with rain.  As the trail turned toward the South, I could feel the wind that would be in my face the whole way home.  At the top of the Butte, the ice in the rain, driven by the wind stung as it hit my face.
Mile 5, the top of Baskett Butte, looking toward home.
It seems there should be a difference between what defines us and how we are defined.  For years, as a child, Jewelia had a hand written motivational phrase pinned on her wall.  “We can’t know who we are, until we know what we can do”.  I don’t know who said it, I’ve googled it many times with no success.  Being “The Wrestler” didn’t define Charley but I hope the hard work and discipline of wrestling helped him define himself.  Music doesn’t define Jewelia, but I know that every aspect of her is influenced by her love and commitment to her music.  Lawyer, father, salesman, artist, astronaut, runner are all just descriptions, aspects of us all.  It’s our pursuit of these things, our finding out what we can do, that tells us who we are.

I planned this run to be hard coming back.  I stopped to take pictures on the way out, with the wind at my back and daylight still in the sky.  Now, with darkening clouds in front of me, and a strong wind in my face I ran strong home. Attacking the hill coming out of the Baskett Slough, checking my watch at the 2 miles to home mark.  “If I hammer it, I’m home by 6:15”.  Tonight, thanks in part to thoughts of my reluctance to run in the morning and thoughts of Charley and Jewelia and everything that defines us, I ran well.  Tonight, I was a runner.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

3 Nights In the Forest

Western States will have many elements that I have very little experience with. First, there’s the 100 miles, more on that later.  I do very little trail running, very little hill running and very little night running.  So, when I found out about a group of runners in Corvallis that run up McCulloch Peak, in McDonald Forest, and then back down. I thought, trails, hills, night, Wednesdays in Corvallis, that sounds perfect.  Ah, the best laid plans.....

Night 1
I’d been nursing a tight lower back for a few days, I had voices in my head and outside my head telling me I probably shouldn’t, but the emails inviting me to come run seemed so nice and genuine and, I'm stubborn and self centered so I decided to run anyway.  The "group" meets at the Oak Creek Trail Head at 5:30 on Wednesdays and hikes/runs up to the top of McCulloch Peak and then back down.  I misjudged how long it would take to get there and arrived at 5:40 which is dark!  There were several cars in the parking lot, and only one trail visible, so I figured they may have a 5 to 6 minute head start on me.  I'll take off and either catch them on the way up or meet them on the way back.  About a quarter mile up the trail I came to a “T” with trail going in either direction, I guessed left, went another half mile ish and came to a fork, I guessed left again and ran for a little bit until the trail turned into a bushwhacked trail at best! “This can't be right” I ran back down to the fork and took off right.  It might be worth noting, at this point, that not only was it pitch black but very foggy, and there were glowing eyes in the woods.  I went up the right fork for a while and the trail just ends.  I see a little bushwhacked trail and follow it for a while but it's really overgrown.  It seemed doubtful that 5 to 8 people ran through here, but I got down on my hands and knees to examine the tracks in the mud just to be sure.  Deciding they hadn’t gone this way I turned around and ran all the way back to the original “T”.  I remembered that there was a little kiosk at the trail head, and thinking maybe there was a map and that I was sure it was less than a quarter mile back to the trail head, I headed back.  Yes, there was a map, but, it's really small, behind glass with condensation and I have no glasses on.  There was no way I could read it. I run back up to the “T” and head right, which is slightly downhill, get to another fork, one way goes up, the other down.  I choose up!  For the first time I'm now on a serious uphill, with switchbacks, so I'm now convinced I'm on the right trail and start to calculate how long it should have taken them to get to the top and at what point I should see them coming down and give myself a time to run to.  I get to that time and still haven't seen a soul.  Well, I’ve seen eyes, so, without departing into an meaningless discussion on whether woodland critters have souls, I decide to run for another 5 minutes and if I still haven't seen anyone, I’ll head back and call it good.  5 more minutes and no sign of anyone, 'cept the eyes in the woods.  I turn around and run the downhill switchbacks in the foggy black, successfully making it back to trailhead.  No falls, a few stumbles, no running off a cliff and no badger attacks, and also, no cars in the parking lot except mine.  So, by process of elimination, they must have gone right and then right....and then who knows?

I did get and hour and 40 minutes of peaceful solitude, running with the woodland creatures.....just not quite they way I'd planned it.

Night 2

I made sure I wasn't late to meet the Corvallis, run in the forest at night, group.  I was about 10 minutes early, and introduced myself to each as they arrived, 10 of us in all, plus 4 dogs.  They were all good looking runners, and very nice and friendly.  A few from the group are running Western States this year.  We started off down a forest service road, NOT on the trail that I started on last week, so I had no chance of ever going the right way last week.  The ascent, for them, was a mixture of walking at a pace I couldn't match and running.  I ended up running much more of it than the others because I just couldn't walk that fast.  1,600 feet of elevation in 4 miles was a grunt, to say the least, but the clear skies and a full moon were amazing.  On the way up I noticed that the batteries in my headlamp were dying and the light was getting dim, it wasn't really an issue going up because the pace was slower and I could use the light from others mixed with mine to see my footing.  We took about a 5 minute break at the summit, looked at the stars and the city lights, which was really cool, then headed down.  It didn't take long on the descent to realize I had a problem.  A, they were flying town the mountain, B, I couldn't see well enough to keep up.  I was staying within about a 100 meters, occasionally losing sight around turns.  At one point on the way down I saw lights in the woods to the right of me at about the same elevation.  I remember thinking that if that was them, they must be further ahead of me than I thought, because the trail must have turned back somewhere, so I picked up the pace as much as I dared.  My light was almost dead by this point.  The next 15 minutes was a surreal combination of, "I don't remember hearing a creek beside the trail on the way up.......oh, that stump looks familiar.......I don't remember a deep muddy section like on the way up.....I'm heading downhill and obviously east.....I'm at least going the right direction".....and then, an orange gate and a road.  Sulpher Springs road to be exact.  I have no idea where I missed the turn, although it was obviously just before I saw the “lights in the woods".  There were two houses a little ways down the road, so I headed that direction to see if I could get directions to the trail head.  Having made it to something resembling civilization, heading back into the forest didn't seem like a wise idea.  The first house I came to was inhabited by a very nice man named Gene, who was a retired Timber Faller, I'm not sure what that is, exactly, but he mentioned it about 24 times, so I remembered.  I asked how to get back to the forestry station and he said it was about 4 miles and gave directions that really didn't seem correct.  As I was debating following, what seemed like flawed, directions or heading back into the forest he offered to drive me to the trail-head, which I took him up on.  This meant several stories about logging in the old days and asking me if I knew several people, I didn't know any of the names he asked about.  By the time we got to the trail head, all of the cars were still there as were a few of the runners, they seemed genuinely relieved to see me safe and informed me that a group of 6 had headed back out to look for me.  My first instinct was to head out looking for them, but was wisely advised to stay put.  I thanked them and told them they could go, that I would wait for the rescue party to return.  

Then things got really strange.  2 guys with mountain bikes showed up, they were heading into the forest, on bikes, at 8:00 PM.  We asked them to let the search party know that I was back safe, if they ran into them.  Then a giant semi truck comes pulling up this dead end single lane
road, explaining that he was coming from Albany, looking for hwy 99 and got lost, making my getting lost look damn near normal.  This was a HUGE truck, the kind that looks like it could house a small family in the cabin.  He then proceeded to spend the next half hour trying to turn the truck around using the driveway of the forestry station.  There was no way he was going to make it without a bunch of cars being moved.  Cars that belonged to the people in the search party.  Eventually 4 of the search party of 6 returned, explaining that all had figured out that I had run down to Sulpher Springs road so the other 2 were going to go that far looking for me and then head back.  We were able to move enough cars for the truck to get turned around and he, at least,  was rescued, though I have no confidence that he'll get where he hopes to go.  The 4 left a note on one of the cars of the 2, said that they were heading home, and that I should feel comfortable doing the same.  I had told Jeanne I should be back to my car by about 7:15, the trail head is out of cell range so she didn't get any word from me til almost 8:45.  She was, justifiably, worried.  I owe a huge thank you to everyone, but especially Frank and John, who not only stayed out on a very cold night looking for me, but were very gracious in responding to my apology email and inviting me out to try it again.

Night 3

I know this isn’t very suspenseful but, I made it!  I didn’t get lost, I didn’t fall down and it was so much fun.  We started out in heavy fog, which makes the headlamp less of a light and more of a vapor machine, but about half way up we rose above the clouds and it was clear, warm and unbelievably beautiful.  As it turns out, the trail that I thought I missed last week, wasn’t even correct, I actually got off course even before then, so had I decided to double back, I may not have figured it out.  This is, and will be, a great weekly workout for me in preparation for Western States, provided I can stay unlost until then.