Monday, November 19, 2012

Dawn til Dusk 2 (the plan)

In 2009 I ran Dawn til Dusk 1.  I called it that with every intention of there being more Dawn til Dusks. 

Well, here comes Dawn to Dusk 2, with a few modifications.  I can’t do it on the exact day of the Winter Solstice.  If I could, I was going to subtitle it The Mayan 45 Or ‘til the End of the World, Whichever Comes First.  Ok, It’s a little long as titles go, but it would have made for interesting strategy trying to get the 45 miles in before the world ends.  As it is, I’ll have 8:47:44 to complete this years 45 mile course, which will happen on December 15th, 2012.  That’s a minute and 16 seconds more than I would have had on the solstice, assuming the world didn’t end first, of course.

The view from mile 27 ish

The 2009 course started in Corvallis and ended on the 45th parallel in Keizer, Oregon.  This years course will start in Dallas (yes, Oregon) and serpentine through wine country before finishing in Keizer.  In total, I’ll cross the 45th parallel 5 times, with some sort of celebration at each crossing. The official start will be 7:44 AM and if I don’t make it to Keizer by 4:31 PM it will be an official  DNF.  Finishing early just means an early beer and burger.  

The course map is here. If you’re interested in running all or parts of Dawn til Dusk 2, let me know, we’ll figure it out.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mile Stones

I’m riding the positive energy wave of the best 4 months of running I’ve had in a several years.  I’ve realized, just lately, that I ran injured to some degree for the last 2 years.  Never truly giving myself time to heal, before I would twist my ankle again.  The decision to stay off trails has been the most positive decision I could possibly make.  It is truly a joy to just run again.

It was almost Halloween ish
 I ran only my second official 50k last month at Autumn Leaves in Champoeg Park, Oregon.  In fact, my previous 50k PR was my 50k split at PacRim 24 hour a few years ago.  As I approach 50 years old, I know that have very few PR’s left in me and I really wanted a 50k PR under 5 hours.  The weather was pretty miserable, cold, wet and raining but I ran very consistent splits the whole day and finished in 4:52:45.  I sometimes measure success on long runs by the “dips”.  How many times my performance dips and how long they last is usually the difference between a good long race and a bad one.  I really only had one dip at Autumn Leaves, around mile 21, I was starting to feel some fatigue and the wind and rain picked up to the worst of the day.  I spent about a mile in the doldrums but got my shit back together pretty quickly and ran a very solid last 9 miles.  I’ve had so many race disappointments lately that it felt really good to have a solid performance like this.   

When I feel good, I plan, a lot!  But I’ve still got some unfinished business in 2012.  I have a 4 year streak of at least 2,000 miles in the year, but I’ve got my work cut out for me to make it a 5th.  If I reach 2,000 miles this year it will also put me over 17,700 which just happens to be the the circumference of the earth at the 45th parallel, which is a silly stat, since using that method and logic, you could run all the way around the world in one day if you were near enough to a pole.  But, I’m kinda fascinated by the whole 45th parallel thing anyway, more on that later.

2,300 miles in 2013 will get me to 20,000, which will make the next big mile stone 24,901, once around the Earth.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Farewell to Trails

“War is not won by victory.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

I suppose, it must also be true, that war is not lost by defeat.  It is difficult to argue with the score card.  To date I have started 5 trail races.  All 5 have resulted in injury, 3 in DNF’s.  I feel I’ve given it a fair shake.  23% of my training miles this year have been on trails. And yet, less than 2 miles in to MT Hood 50, I rolled my left ankle, again, and went down in a cloud of dust.  That’s 23% of my time running on a surface that I don’t enjoy, just so that I can get better at running on a surface I don’t really enjoy.

I love running, period.  I love running on roads.  I love running from one town to another, noticing first, the houses getting closer together, then seeing the “reduce speed” sign as the precursor of the town limits sign.  I like convenience stores, fruit stands and water from hoses.  Sometimes I like counting cars, or telephone poles, but most importantly I like “stealing miles”.  Where you get lost in thought, only to “snap out of it” and realize that the last time you were aware of the fact that you were running was a few miles ago.  This never happens for me on trails.  For me, trail running is like playing whack-a-mole, where every root, rock and clump of grass must be accounted for and acknowledged.  It’s like being responsible for a toddler around a campfire.

Sitting around with an ankle that looks like it swallowed a grapefruit, it’s easy to ask myself “why?” The simplest answer is Western States.  Before I envisioned ever wanting to run further than marathon distance, I knew about Western States.  When I missed qualifying for Boston by a minute and 26 seconds, I declared in a semi drunken stupor, “fuck it then, I’ll run Western States instead”. Finally getting in, last year, and then not finishing only made the obsession to get back stronger.  

It’s time to let go.  The quest for Western States is making me select races that I don’t really enjoy, and making me train in ways that I don’t really enjoy.  It’s adding anxiety to something that usually keeps anxiety out of my life, running.  Worst of all, the trail injuries mean “down time”,  something that roads have never done.  I’ve probably been fortunate to escape the over use injuries that many runners deal with.  All of my injuries have been of the fall down go boom variety.

This weekend, I’m going to go scout out the southern section of next Summers Run Across Oregon.  Hopefully, that will take my mind off running until next week and I’ll be able to start training again.  

When you run to solve problems, you have a problem, when not being able to run is your problem. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Valsetz to the Beach 2012

Valsetz to the Beach 2012
 When I first started planning Valsetz to the Beach, and targeting late June, I remember looking at the clear cut areas and thinking about how hot it was going to be without any tree cover.  As it got closer, I started worrying about how much it was going to rain and how cold it would be at the top of the pass.  As it turns out, neither were worth worrying about, we caught the most perfect weather a runner could hope for.

Kellie, me and Steve in Falls City, last semi civilization.
Steve and Kellie arrived at our house a little before 7:00 AM and promptly started listing the things they had forgotten.  Technically the listing started with a text message sent while they were in route, that they had forgotten gloves.  We ended up forgetting quite a few things too, but I usually just make sure I have shoes and shorts, I figure I can improvise the rest.

We stopped briefly in Falls City to take a few pictures, and then headed “into the hills”.  The normal friendly chatter in the car was only interrupted a few times by comments like “where are you taking us?”

As planned, the four of us to walk the first mile together, from the locked gate into the ghost town of Valsetz.  Valsetz was a company owned mill town in the Oregon Coastal Range.  When Boise Cascade decided to close the mill in 1988 they literally erased the town of Valsetz too.  It had once been home to nearly 1,200 people.  In 1988, the mill and the entire town, houses, stores, the 2 lane bowling alley, everything, were bulldozed and burnt to nothing.
This is the only thing resembles a structure left in Valsetz.
With that, Steve and I were off, while Kellie and Jeanne hiked back out to the car, and then drove the 5 mile detour around the old lake bed.  By any conservative planning, they should catch up to us before the turn up Gravel Creek at mile 7.  It’s slightly downhill to Gravel Creek, it was early, cool, we were talking, I knew we were running pretty quick.  Steve had a Garmin on and he would check it every mile, at about mile 4 he asked if I wanted to know how fast we were going, I said I knew we were going pretty quick, and we then had a long talk about pacing strategies for long events.  We talked about his upcoming first attempt at a full Ironman in October and before we knew it, we were at Gravel Creek before the car.  Jeanne and I had decided this would be our first “stop”, of course that assumed the car would be waiting for us, not the other way around.  Before I could worry too much I heard the sound of tires on the gravel road and here they came around the corner.

Uphill on gravel.
Downhill on gravel.

The few miles up Gravel Creek are absolutely beautiful, with several bridges crossing the creek.  We also got our first taste of “nowhere to run but on loose gravel”, this would only get worse.  Miles 9 to 11, were a beast of a hill, made all the more difficult by miles of very loose gravel.  Making our way around Suncrest point it was difficult to get any real traction, and felt like it took us forever to get to top (not really the highest elevation), but we surprised Jeanne and Kellie, so we were at least faster than they expected us to be.

The view from Suncrest Point
Steve had originally planned to run about 14 miles with me, but he was feeling good and I think the views just sucked him in, so he decided to keep going.  Running through Black Tent Saddle we were running in and out of the cloud line.  At times it was awesome to have no view, but a cold mist in your face, then we’d come around a bend and could see for miles.  I never did ask what the temperature was at the top, we were cold when we stopped and fine while we were running, so we didn’t stop much.

I felt my first serious fatigue around mile 17, mostly in my hips and lower back.  As difficult as the uphills in loose gravel were, the downhills were even worse, and all that sliding around starting taking its toll.  At some point I remember encouraging myself, “only a few more miles and then you get sweet smooth asphalt to run on”.  Steve ran the first 21 miles with me, which was awesome, it left me just under 5 miles to Ichwhit Park on the Siletz River, where I was planning to take a small break, change to road shoes, have a little lunch and then have Kellie run with me for the next 6 miles.

I was so happy to come down the last gravel hill, happy with the thoughts of sitting down for a bit, getting some different shoes on, but as I came into the parking lot at Ichwhit, something seemed amiss.  I wasn’t really expecting a heroes welcome, but I clearly wasn’t the most obvious concern.  Everything from the Subaru was scattered about in the parking lot, because there was a screw in the back left tire, and they had just put the spare on.  I tried to just relax, change my shoes and eat something, confident that everything else would be taken care of.  I was relieved that this happened once we had reached “civilization” and not in the middle of the Coast Range.  We had cell coverage now and Jeanne was busy finding the nearest Les Schwab location, one of the greatest customer service companies ever.
That's road crew!
 Kellie and I set out for the beach, we talked a lot more than Steve and I do.  Steve is one of my best friends and we have plenty to talk about, but we trained together for so many years, that I think we also got comfortable just running in silence a lot.  We have started many marathons together, though we’ve never finished one still running together.  I remember once talking about how we just ran 20 miles in a marathon together, with nothing more said other than an occasional acknowledgement of pace.

Kellie and me entering Taft
Siletz highway has little to no shoulder, and winding turns so plenty of blind corners.  The people working in their yards, no matter how shirtless or toothless, seemed very friendly, the drivers on the road, not so much.  We even saw a troll driving a rust colored Toyota, honest!  I really struggled for the first few miles after I ate.  This problem never seems to have a solution.  Eat and suffer, or don’t eat and crash.  I know the answer is to find some magic compromise, there is a reason why many people say “got my nutrition dialed in”.  As we got closer to Highway 101 and the last 3 miles of the journey, Kellie decided she was going to run all the way in with me.  I immediately took this as a condemnation of my slow pace, and that she hadn’t had enough of a workout yet, but maybe she didn’t mean that.  She did tell me that she needed to think of something to say, that would convey her admiration for what I was accomplishing, without stepping over the boundaries of idolatry.  Yeah, she really didn’t say it that way, but that’s how I heard it.  I suggested a quote from the movie Zombieland, “I'm not great at farewells, so, uh, that'll do, pig.”
With the greatest crew ever
We made it, even picked the pace back up to something close to decent for the last 3 miles.  I had planned on finishing the 35 mile run in the ocean, but there was some new urgency to get the car in for a tire repair before they closed down and the ¼ mile walk along the bay and back would have made it pretty tight. 

I soaked my legs in the Siletz bay for a few minutes, took some pictures, drank some chocolate milk and Jeanne was off to get the car fixed.  I can’t say enough about how much easier and fun these journeys are with good company.  Steve and Kellie both running further than they originally planned was a treat.  All of the planning and recon outings with Jeanne are what really make these trips fun.  

Steve and Kellie
So, all in all, a very successful trip.  We got lucky on the weather, nailed the logistics, and while I’m not in the condition I’d like to be, I was very pleased with how I ran.  AND, we found a very cool new (well, new to us) breakfast spot on the coast, Nelscott Cafe.  

Finished at the beach
 Now, 6 weeks to get ready for PCT Mt Hood 50.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Plan - Valsetz to the Beach 2012

Last Spring, I wanted to run to the beach.  I didn’t want to run Hwy 22/18 to Lincoln City so I started looking at alternatives.  I wanted a long run, something 30+ miles.  I considered the last 30 or so miles of Hood to Coast ending in Seaside.  I even looked into the last 30 or so miles of the old Hood to Coast Route Ending in Pacific City.  As I asked around, someone suggested that they thought there was a route from Valsetz through the coast range.  

The Upper Valsetz River

I had only heard of Valsetz, the ghost town, from stories.  Valsetz was a company owned mill town in the coastal range.  When Boise Cascade decided to close the mill in 1988 the literally erased the town of Valsetz too.  It had once been home to nearly 1,200 people.  In 1988, the mill and the entire town, houses, stores, the 2 lane bowling alley, everything, were bulldozed and burnt to nothing.  There is plenty more to read and learn about Valsetz, but it seemed like an incredible place to start a journey.   
Where We Begin
 Armed with a cache of maps, and fantastic sidekicks, the best route has been discovered.  

Jeanne and Elliott - The Fantastic Sidekicks

...and he works for pancakes.
 On June 23rd, 2012, we will start at the headwaters of the Siletz river just west of where the town of Valsetz used to be and finish in the Pacific Ocean at Taft, where the Siletz enters the sea.  The Siletz is 70 river miles long, our route will be 34.5.  The first 7 miles will follow the upper Siletz through Valsetz and begin down the Siletz Canyon.  

The North Fork of The Siletz
 At mile 7, we turn up Gravel Cree, which is much more scenic than the name implies, and over the next 3 miles cross the creek several times.  Then comes the biggest climb of the day, up and around Suncrest Point.  From there, it’s across the Black Saddle ridge line and then mostly downhill.  The last 8 miles are on paved roads, until we hit the sand in Taft.  The majority of the run will be on timber company roads, which means some combination of dirt and gravel.  Some areas are still heavily forested and beautiful, other areas have been clear cut and feel like you’re on the surface of the moon (well....if the moon had tree stumps everywhere).  I'm hoping to work out some GPS tracking as almost the entire route is out of cell range.  The route is set, now more planning....and training!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Black Shoes and The Weight

11 days to Eugene Marathon.  I’m not ready.  I’m not where I want my fitness to be.  Part of my concern is my weight, most of it is these black shoes.

The Weight.  It’s one of my favorite songs.  It’s also near an obsession.  I know I’m not fat.  In fact, I know it probably pisses most people off to hear me complain about my weight because I’m thinner than most people I know, including runners.  There is, however, no escaping the fact that the more I weigh, the slower I am.  Maybe it’s just turning the cause and effect train around.  The harder I train, the less I weigh AND the harder I train, the faster I get.  I always feel under trained from where I want to be.  I also know that somewhere in the neighborhood of 145-148 pounds is my ideal racing weight.  I’m going to be over 150 for Eugene, probably even 153 ish.  I can’t seem to get below 155 for more than a day or two.  I used to have a “5 pounds in 10 days” trick.  For the 10 days before a big race, I cut out all beer and bread.  In the past, that used to drop me from 152 to 147.  Hopefully this time it will drop me from 156 to 151.  The Weight doesn’t bother me on long runs, it just comes along for the ride.  It’s on tempo runs or speed work that I really notice it.  It feels like I’m pulling a cannonball behind me.

“Get your cannonball, now to take me down the line
My bag is sinking low, and I do believe it's time
To get back to miss Fanny, you know she's the only one
Who sent me here, with her regards for everyone”
The Weight, Band

I’ve worn the same Asics 2000 series shoes for 8 years now.  They change the model number every year, though the shoe itself doesn’t change very much, which is fine with me.  Every January I can usually find a great deal on last year's model and I usually buy a few pairs.  This “great deal” is usually $70 to $80, a new pair cost over $90.  This year when I went looking for last year’s model I couldn’t find any in the usual places.  I finally did find 1 pair, Asics 2160 size 8.5 black.  It might not seem I pay much attention to what I look like, but it doesn’t mean I’m unaware.  These shoes are hideous looking, but they were $49.  Now, I’m convinced they’re slow.  When my Mom used to take me to get a new pair of Keds, I would go outside and run and jump in them before she bought them just to affirm that they would, in fact, make me faster.  I think these new black shoes are only going to be used on slow runs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Travelling Through Bad

Sometimes you have to travel through bad to get to good.  My very abbreviated journey through a bad running life patch, ends up working out like a bad patch in the middle of a run or race.  It seems to start with a kernel of belief that it you will get through it, even if you don’t know how or when.

After a fun run to the Baskett Butte on Thursday and a scouting run over parts of an upcoming local 5k course on Friday, I was ready for a long run on Saturday.  I parked 5 miles from where friends would be starting at 8:00 AM.I left myself 42 minutes to cover the 5, though I know they never start on time.  I ran at a very comfortable pace and came in at 8:02, feeling really good.  I haven’t run with a group in a long time, and the 10 miles with friends went by very fast.  The 5 miles back to my car was into the wind and I was feeling a little fatigued but still felt really good.

Good enough, in fact, to notice evidence of how illiterate we’ve become.
I live near here?

See, you really do have to travel through bad to get to good, some times.  I finished at the old Eola Inn, now a Rockin’ Rogers, still with a lovely view of the dump, unless you aim the camera correctly.
The Willamette, still very high.
This week is back to a schedule, with a slightly improved frame of mind.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How to Get Out of a Running Funk

The Dalles
 I have no idea.  I suppose the best answer is to run out of it.  It’s been a rough year, physically, that’s probably part of.  It’s been a crazy wet winter and early spring, that’s probably part of it too.  Although I really enjoy running alone, I’ve probably spent too much time running in my own head.  I’m probably over the apex of my running performance life.  At 48 years old, I think deep down, I might be realizing that my fastest times are behind me, and none of them are as fast as I hoped they would be before this happened.  Maybe this just happens to everybody at times.  Running has been awesome for me, because it very rarely feels like work.  This is the first time in 8 years and 16,000 miles of running that I’ve started regularly dreading workouts.  I’m fine physically.  In fact after a year filled with a torn shoulder labrum, three sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis and other assorted ailments, I feel as good right now as I have in a long time.  My race calendar is a little lighter this year than past years, but there is still plenty to keep me motivated.

There is the weight issue.  I never really got down to racing weight, ever, last year.  I hovered around 156 pounds all year and only got down to 154 for Western States.  I can usually get under 150 for races.  I ran Autumn Leaves 50 miler in October at 158 pounds and swore I would never race at that weight again, it feels like pulling an anchor around. After taking a few low mileage months through the Winter my weight hovered around 160.  Lately I’ve been between 155 and 157, but with Eugene Marathon 4 weeks away, it looks like I’ll be racing in the 150’s.  Maybe this comes with age too, I don’t know.

2 things have really troubled me, and ultimately forced me to take a few days off and really think about why I am doing any of this.  One, I’ve cheated, and I’ve done it more than once.  I run a weekly 10 mile tempo run, on a track.  It’s just 40 laps, all supposed to be exactly the same time.  Ideally, those laps should be 1:57.....but consistency is the key.....if they were 2:00 but consistent, that would still be a quality workout.  A few times in the last month, I’ve cheated.  Somewhere around mile 6, when it starts to get hard, I’ve stopped my watch and stopped running for a while, enough to allow my heart rate to drop and get some oxygen through my body, then started up again.  Might not seem like a big deal, but it is.  I’ve recorded the times in my log as if I ran them legit.  I’ve even shared my times with others as if they were legit.  The second thing happened on Sunday.  20 mile run planned, and the wind was 20 mph and cold.  I headed out, into the wind, so that I could get a tail wind coming home.  The first 3 to 4 miles, it was just incredibly cold, then the rain started.  40 degrees and a hard wind driving rain, right into my face.  At the 7 mile mark, I could not convince myself to go another 3 miles into the wind.  I started bargaining with myself, “what if I turn around now, take the tail wind for a few miles, then figure out where to add another 5 ish miles to the route after I’ve warmed up etc”.  I turned around at 7.5, but I knew I was lying to myself.  I knew I wasn’t going to add 5 somewhere else.  I knew as I got closer and closer to home the magnet would just get stronger.

So, I’ve taken 3 days off.  I got a fantastic massage on Wednesday.  Deleted this week’s planned workouts in my schedule.  Last night I ran what sounded fun.  I ran to the Baskett Butte and had Jeanne pick me up at the trailhead.  I didn’t wear a watch, the pace felt playfully fast.  I saw a red tailed hawk, some osprey, a white tailed kite and a small herd of deer.  Tonight I’ll run what seems fun too.
More troubling than failed workouts or low mileage or aches and pains has been the fact that for the first time, running has not been an absolute joy in my life.  I’m going to find the joy, miles and times will just have to come along for the ride.