Monday, July 16, 2018

Lived in Bars Journey Run

“Lived in bars
And danced on tables
hotels, trains
And ships that sail.”
Cat Power

This years journey run seemed to be a desired mileage in search of a plan. I had several different ideas in mind, but eventually decided on a plan that involved a train. And so, the day after the fireworks of July, I boarded a train in Salem headed north. An empty boxcar would have been way cooler, but an Amtrak to Kelso did just fine.

"He was waiting for a station just like some people wait for a train" Michelle Shocked.

Day one is usually an exercise in remaining calm, legs are rested and there is a real temptation to run too fast or too far when “fresh”. That wasn’t a problem on this trip. I never really felt great, running wise. Almost like my head wasn’t completely in the task. I made some strange errors, for me, misjudging mileage, forgetting my hat and glasses at a restaurant. I’m prone to blonde moments, I just don’t usually make them at times like this. I made it in to St Helens a little more worn out than 30 miles on fresh legs should have left me.

Day two is subtitled, the existential crisis in Scappoose. My stomach was really unsettled after dinner the night before and just a few miles in to the morning it was really bad again. I knew that I had 14 miles coming soon with no facilities anywhere, so trying to put this delicately for non runners. I needed some things sorted out before I pulled out of Scappoose. The last thing heading east is a McDonalds on the edge of town. I stopped, drank some coffee, ate a little and waited for what McDonalds is famous for. While sitting, waiting, I lost all my enthusiasm for this trip. I used the usual tricks, break it up, imagine how it will feel to arrive certain places. Nothing really worked. I finally left McDonalds physically ok to continue but mentally in a hole. Then came The Hill, and if your mind isn’t right when you start going up to Rocky’s going to get worse. And it did, for a while, then the views starting to captivate me, then I saw a cougar, then I reached the top!

The day was still a struggle, I was feeling a little off and couldn’t quite pull it all together. I changed my route a little as I was starting to run on fumes and really needed to get to some food. While I was waiting for food at mile 24, I realized I didn’t have 17 more miles in me on this day and started looking at alternate routes to get home. I ended up with 32 miles for the day and had veered west a bit. I stopped for the night in Aloha, had some sushi and a strawberry milkshake and sat down with the map on my phone and figured out what day three would look like. 

Crossing the Willamette

It was going to be 46 miles to get home. From the beginning of this trip, my plan had been to finish day three in time to eat, shower, rest and then put on a suit and tie and walk across the street to Formal First Saturday at Archive, one of my favorite hometown bars. I made one questionable route decision, a long gravel road with several free range dogs, but other than that, I was finally starting to get into that run all day rhythm. Usually on multi day runs, day three is likely to be the most difficult. This trip, maybe because it also brought me to the finish, it was the easiest.

The Finish!

I love the logistics and the planning that goes into an adventure like this. I was a little sloppy with my preparation this year, and on long hot roads, with nowhere to hide, it showed. I remember at one point thinking, who turned gravity up so high. Because I’ve run with an 8 pound pack before, I underestimated how much that slows me down. Because I’ve run in heat before, I underestimated that too. I even took the mileage a little too lightly. I’m pleased with my ability to adjust on the fly. I’m also pleased that even though I left myself a pretty daunting final day, I finished it. I did what I usually do on days like that. I make a firm commitment to start, no matter what. That always seems to be the hardest part. Then, once started, do the math, figure out a schedule, where you have to be by when, break it down into pieces and do one piece at a time. I think this, all the time, but don’t say it out loud very often. My Dad would have loved this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Once Around the World - Golden Gate Bridge to San Luis Obispo

My journey run down the California coast, to complete running 24,901 miles was amazing.  Finishing my first trip around the world at my birthplace, with my mother, wife and family members was truly special.  I’ve had a day by day report more or less completed for days but there is one part of the journey that I’ve wrestled with how best to report.  I’ve decided to just get it out of the way first, as honestly as I can and also take the opportunity to speak about “ambassador programs” which I’ve wanted to weigh in on for some time.
Minutes before the start.
My second night, I had planned to stay at the Pigeon Point Hostel.  I specifically wanted to stay in a dorm room rather than a private room to get more of the hostel experience.  In my grand vision, I would be sharing a room with a few guys that were bicycling the coast and/or from another country but spoke English well enough for us to share some of our life experiences.  As I mapped out each day, it became obvious that my only food option prior to getting to the hostel would require a 3 mile detour and would be almost 6 miles before I finished.  That day was already a 38 mile day and that really didn’t feel like a sound option.  My other option was a place that was 2.5 miles passed the hostel, which would be adding 5 miles to my day.  A week before I left, I wrote to Pigeon Point Hostel to see if there were any other food options that I may not be aware of.  Since I did not want to them to only suggest that I travel the 2.5 miles, I took the time to explain what I was doing and how I would arrive there.  I received 2 responses to my email.  The first informed me that my recon had been correct and that those were the only 2 options on Hwy 1 near the hostel.  But, they also informed me that they had some food, canned soups, dry ramen etc available for purchase at the hostel.  So, I had a back up plan.  I also received a very nice email from the Manager of the hostel.  My email had been forwarded to him and he wrote to me, admiring the trip I had planned, notified me that he had comped my stay and asked if I would mention and/or tag them in any social media or blogging that I did.  I had not, in any way, asked for this, though it was very nice of them to offer.  I am aware of how this works.  Many running friends of mine actively pursue sponsorship or, the new catch phrase, “ambassadors”.  They get some free product, and in exchange, they promote the product on social media.  I have mixed emotions about this.  On one hand, I think it’s a fantastic, grassroots way for small businesses to promote themselves without needing a huge advertising budget.  I do, however, question the objectivity of it.  I’ve worn 56 pairs of the same Asics 2000 series shoes, but I would have some ethical issues endorsing the product.  It has worked well for me, but I’ve never worn anything else.  It’s entirely possible that there are dozens of shoes that would be even better for me.  So, having graciously accepted my free night at the hostel, I posted, the day before arriving, how much I was looking forward to it.  I would not have done this without the implied agreement.  I also tagged the hostel upon my arrival.  I probably would have done this anyway.  As I will document later, the decision to stay at the hostel was probably my only bad planning decision.  This decision was only bad planning, because of my circumstances and what I needed at the end of the day.  It is absolutely no reflection on the hostel, but my hesitation on how to fairly and honestly talk about it highlights my feelings about ambassador programs.
Golden Gate Bridge
Day 1, Golden Gate Bridge to Pacifica
I really wanted to get Big Sur, Monterey and Santa Cruz lined up a day apart.  I also wanted to Stay at the Hostel at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, so I either needed to make the Golden Gate Bridge to Pacifica longer than it needed to be, or be ok with a 20 mile first day.  The 20 mile first day ended up being a great plan.  It allowed me to start at noon and ease my way into the journey.  I’ve run over the Golden Gate Bridge 5 or 6 times, but always early in the morning when there was very little pedestrian and bike traffic on the bridge.  Starting at noon, it was crazy crowded!  Lots of people on rental bikes.  You knew they were coming by the brightly colored handlebar bags.  These must be a safety feature for others, because the neon yellow printed handlebar bag almost always meant a swerving bike.  The section from the bridge through The Presidio and Sea Cliff neighborhood was slow going but the houses were wonderful to look at and I had fun guessing how much they must be worth.  Eventually I made my way to Land’s End Trail.  
Lands End Trail
 This was not part of my original route, but several runners from the area strongly suggested it.  It was beautiful.  The view back toward the bridge, which was still shrouded in fog was stunning.  I was a amused and disappointed at the number of people walking with their face glued to the screen of their phone, but I’ll take the blame for that.  Bad planning on my part, scheduling my journey run during the Pokemon Go craze.  
Looking back toward the bridge
 The run along Ocean Beach was, I’m trying to find a good word for it, dirty.  The day was kind of gloomy and overcast.  There was garbage seemingly everywhere, with disposable diapers and alcohol bottles topping the litter list.  I made a wrong “turn” from Skyline Blvd on to John Muir Dr.  It didn’t take me long to figure out I’d gone the wrong way and after digging out my glasses and consulting a map, I figured out I could keep going forward and get back on course.  I decided to retrace my steps instead just to be on the safe side.  The rest of the trip would have been pretty uneventful.  The unique, every house is exactly the same, quality of Daly City made a long uphill climb more fun and then I was coasting in to Pacifica when I fell.  It was near Sharp Park.  I had 2 turns that I needed to make and was trying not to get lost again.  I had the street names and directions in my head.  I looked toward a 7-11, which I didn’t need today, but was thinking about how I might need them on other days and stepping up a curb and wham!  I caught my toe on the curb and went down on the gravel walkway.  So, 18 miles into 250 and I’d already hit the deck once.
Day 2, Pacifica to Pigeon Point
One of the first things I did, when I was starting to plan this trip, was to reach out to local running groups along the way to get route advice.  Ron Little from Pacifica Runners was the first I heard back from.  His advice for altering my route slightly was tremendous and he and 2 other runners, Mor and Alan joined me for the first 15 miles of Day 2.  It’s always fun to run with new people, and they were all very knowledgeable about local history and had great stories to share.  These were easily some of the best miles of the whole trip. I know this might sound weird, but on my next trip to Pacifica, I’m eating at Taco Bell, that’s how well Mor sold it!  This was my first day to figure out mid day eating, without a crew.  The nice part about having crew is that you can schedule everything.  When to eat, where more water will be etc.  When you are running solo, you have to takes things where they are.  This day, I knew I had no food options on the road for the last 19 miles so lunch was at almost the exact halfway point in the day.  In long races, I’ve always had the plan to eat and then walk for a few miles after eating.  This has never really worked very well because once people start passing me, I start running again.  I was curious to see how I would handle the same strategy on a journey run without the worry of my place in a race.  It worked out really well.  I really had no stomach issues at all on the whole trip.  With an exception on day 7, I had the same mid day meal every day….eggs, bacon and bread (or tortilla).  I arrived at the hostel around 4:30, which was pretty close to what I had planned.  I checked in with Michael, a cool hippie guy listening to reggae almost too loud to conduct business.  I got my key, my towel and my bed sheets and directions to my dorm.  Each building seemed to have about 4 to 6 dorm rooms with a kitchen and small living room area.  I was the only person there, so I scouted around a bit, selected a bunk and took a shower.  My normal journey run routine is:  Eat something small, shower, sleep for an hour to an hour and half and then eat as much as I can make myself eat.  I went back to the office to see what small thing I could eat.  I got a can of lentil soup and some apple juice.  Ate that and took my nap.  When I woke up there was another guy in the dorm room so I said, “Hi, my name is Chris”.  He did the best he could to inform me that he spoke zero English.  Seriously, he couldn’t say “I don’t speak English”, in English.  My grand plan had been to meet somebody interesting, with a car, and offer to buy them dinner if they would give us a ride.  As I lay on the bunk deciding how I was going to approach convincing somebody to give me a ride to dinner another guy came in.  Late 20’s early 30’s probably and kissing his female companion goodbye at the door as she went off to a women’s dorm.  This seemed weird to me.  Were they traveling together and kissing at doors comfortable, but not sharing a room comfortable?  Were they just travelling as inexpensively as they possible could?  I suppose these were questions that I could have asked, but I didn’t want to know bad enough to buy both of them dinner.  I decided to wait for a better opportunity.  A few minutes later, another guy came in.  There was no kiss at the door this time but he also said goodbye to a woman, with a young child in her arms.  I really needed to eat, and really didn’t have the required energy to roam the grounds looking for a ride or to hitch hike.  I went back to the office and bought another can of lentil soup and 2 more boxes of apple juice.  I asked Michael what my options for coffee were?
“Yeah, man, totally, we have coffee” he said.
“Fantastic”, I replied, “where”?
“Oh, right here in the office, in the morning dude, it’s a dollar a cup”.
“That seems reasonable to me” I said, “what time is it ready”?
“7:30” and he handed me my change.
As I ate my vegan, low sodium, lentil soup, I added up how many calories short I was for the day.  I thought about how my first opportunity for food, water or coffee the next day would not be until mile 17.  I consoled myself with the hope that I would at least get a good night’s sleep.  I did.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Day 3, Pigeon Point to Aptos
I packed my pack the night before and slept in my running clothes, so that I wouldn’t have to wake anybody up at 5:30.  I drank some hot water, hoping it would have the same effect on my digestive system as coffee does.  I got myself together and was on my way.  My first 17 miles were pure hell. I realized as I struggled, that I was going to end up going 29 hours in between cups of coffee.  Davenport got me an egg and bacon burrito, coffee, orange juice and new water in my bottles.  While I was walking my lunch off I saw 2 grey whales come up for air!  A few miles later I settled into a real good rhythm, and ran really well for the afternoon.  This was the first day that the temps rose to something that could be described as warm.  The water jug that I had filled my bottle from had orange slices in it, which at the time I thought might be a nice addition. I was pretty disappointed to find out that it also had something “herb ish” making it almost impossible to drink. I came in to Santa Cruz a little dehydrated.  As soon as I saw a 7-11 in the distance I gleefully poured out both bottles of hippie water and filled them at the 7-11.  I had 9 miles to go to my hotel and several street turns.  I looked at my map and tried to memorize them, but the part of the brain that can’t do simple arithmetic late in a race, can’t read maps and remember street names and directions very well either.  I made a few wrong turns coming through town.  I didn’t really add too much distance but the constant stopping to dig out my glasses and look at the map again, plus the never ending traffic lights made these last 9 miles take forever.  My plan had been that once I got inside of a mile to go for the day, start looking for someplace to get food.  By food I mean two things.  The first being someplace to find after run food.  This one is easy, usually chocolate milk and a piece of fruit is plenty.   The second is someplace close to the hotel to find dinner later that night without much walking.  I did really well on both counts this day in Aptos.  A grocery store across the street from the hotel and a restaurant next door.  I got in at 4:20 only to find out that my room wasn’t ready yet.  So I sat, with my feet in the pool, drinking chocolate milk (Elliott joke….just burrowing in the sand) waiting for my room to be ready.  I got caught up on calories but was late getting clothes rinsed out and hung up to dry.

I posted this little side story on Facebook during my run.
I have bicycle all seem nice enough. And we've done an admirable job of sharing the road. But if any of you ever say anything like what I'm about to report, you need to check yourself. I stopped at a beachside state park to use the bathroom. As I was putting my pack back on a bicycle dude approached me. He was younger than me, fit ish, but then spandex can deceive....I was in a pretty good mood when the conversation started, but he must have hit a nerve:
Bicycle dude, "are you running on the highway?"
Me, "yep"
BD, "kinda dangerous, don't you think?"
Me, "I don't know, no more dangerous than cycling"
Me (trying to be nicer), "what direction are you heading"
BD, "north, riding Santa Cruz to Pacifica today"
Note....this is 60 ish miles, admirable, but the equivalent of a 15 to 20 mile run....he doesn't know it yet....but we are clearly in very different arenas.
BD, "how bout you, what direction and how far".
Me, "South, pigeon point to Aptos today, you've got some beautiful roads ahead of you".
BD, "today? What's tomorrow?"
Me, "Aptos to Monterey, I'm running from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Luis Obispo".
Note....this next question has been pissing me off for years, especially coming from cyclists.
BD, "are you running the whole time or are you walking any of it?"
Me, "are you pedaling the whole time?
BD, "what?"
Me, "bicycling 10-12 mph is the equivalent of walking...nobody ever asks you if you're ever in your small chain ring. Coasting...that's stopping to rest if you're running, nobody ever asks you if you ever coast. So, yes, to answer your question...sometimes walking"
BD, "sheez, well, have a nice day"
Me, "you too". I should have added..."enjoy that tailwind the whole way".

Day 4, Aptos to Monterey
My Birthday.  I got a late start, due to having to use a hair dryer to get my clothes dry.  The morning was pretty uneventful other than the headwind.  I’d had a headwind the whole trip so far, but the rolling hills along the coast gave me an occasional break from the wind.  Now, as I entered Steinbeck country it was really steady in my face.  My lips were blistered from the day before, and I thought they were chapped and wind burnt, despite the fact that I’d been applying Burt’s Bees lip balm, which I assumed had some sunscreen properties.  I stopped in Moss Landing for lunch, watched sea otters float on their backs cracking shells on rocks and ate a breakfast burrito.  While I had my glasses out, I looked to see what the SPF rating was on the lip balm since my lips hurt so bad it was hard to eat.  Zero. That would be a problem to solve, but I now knew that I had nothing along the road until I got in to Monterey.  I hit a huge low point, after lunch, around mile 21. The wind was relentless, and the fields of artichoke, cauliflower and strawberries seemed to go on forever.  
Strawberry Fields Forever

I was off the highway now and the farm roads were in horrible condition, almost like technical trail running. In the middle of my funk, I called Jeanne. She didn't answer, and I'm not sure what I would have said if she had, but I needed mental help. I spent about 2 miles contemplating hitch hiking.  A motorized vehicle would go by, my direction, every few minutes.  Many of them were pickup trucks, which are the perfect, safer for all, hitchhiker picker upper vehicle.  Each time I would say, turn around and stick your thumb out, but then I wouldn’t.  As I thought about it, I started having a conversation in my head.  “You’ve hitchhiked enough to know how this works, if they stop, there will be the obligatory questions like, which way are you headed and how far are you going”.  I questioned myself on what my replies would be, “Are you really going to ask for a ride all the way to Monterey”?  I knew that wouldn’t happen.  I humored myself with the thought of asking somebody to just drive me to the end of the artichokes, but I put the hitchhiking thought behind me.  Now, I just had the damn strawberry dilemma to deal with. There were miles and miles of strawberry fields.  The outside row, was always about 20 meters away from me.  Each plant, in that outside row had at least a dozen beautiful, red ripe berries on it.  I wasn’t hungry, but I wanted a strawberry BAD!  The further I went, the deeper the obsession with strawberries got.  I ran with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.  “Just get a berry, nobody is around”.  “No, that’s not right, they aren’t there for just anybody to take”.  “It’s one berry out of millions, they won’t even know it’s gone”.  “If everybody that went by, thought the same thing it would be hundreds, maybe thousands of berries, it’s still wrong”.  In the middle of this berry war for my soul, I rounded a corner.  A truck, loaded with boxes of berries must have hit one of the thousands of potholes as it went around the corner. There, on the side of the road, was a pile of strawberries the size of a dining room table.  I stopped, looking at them I said, out loud, “clearly, this would not be stealing”.  These strawberries were officially abandoned and now fair game.  It was hard to tell how long they had been on the side of the road, but there were tire tracks through the pile.  Much of the mound looked more like strawberry jam than a pile of strawberries and they were dirty.  Still, there must be a few good berries in there somewhere, and with that, I was on my hands and knees, digging through the strawberry mash.  I found 2, beautiful, large firm berries.  I stood up, rinsed them off with my water bottle and ate them.  They were, easily, the best strawberries I’ve ever had in my life!  My mood improved greatly after that. I was even happy to get back on Hwy 1, then off it again for the bike bath that I knew would be the last 8 miles.  I was on the bike path when Jeanne called.  I answered saying, “I’m better now”.  She asked what I meant and I quickly explained that I was in a bad spot a while ago, but I’m better now.  I told her I was 8 miles from finishing for the day.  She told me that she had a surprise to tell me about when I finished. As I put my phone away, it occurred to me I should have asked for hints regarding the surprise.  I began to wonder, is she going to meet me mid day tomorrow, coming in to Big Sur instead of the day after as planned?  I was hoping this was true.  Running without crew was getting tougher each day and I knew I had the Big Sur fire zone to deal with tomorrow.  I thought I was about 4 miles from being done when Jeanne called again. I told her I was still 4 miles from being done, but was doing fine.  She told me I was only about a mile from being done, which confused me.  She then told me that she had just seen me from the highway.  She had driven up from Paso Robles for my birthday!  I tried to argue that while it was awesome she was there, she was wrong about the distance.  As I turned off the bike bath into town I could see her walking up the sidewalk toward me.  I did the best sprint legs with 128 miles on them could muster.  A homeless guy was sitting on a retaining wall just in front of me when I yelled, “you are the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in days!” As I hugged her, he laughed, “I thought you were saying that to me, was going to be the nicest thing I’d heard in days”.  As it turns out, there are 2 Econo Lodges on the same street, 2 miles apart. I thought I made reservations at the South one, I did not. Jeanne figured this all out before I got there. Had I been on my own, I would have passed the correct one, ran 2 more miles, only to find out I had to go 2 miles back. Jeanne offered to spend my birthday night with me and then give me one more day alone on the road, if I wanted.  I did not.  I had wanted to experience multiple days on the road, alone.  I wanted to have to figure unexpected problems out without the luxury of a crew with a car.  I wanted to get out of a bad spot on my own.  I did all of that.  Now, I wanted my super crew.  We got sushi for dinner.  Lip balm with sunscreen and real (not hotel room) coffee in the morning.
Jeanne to the rescue
Day 5 Monterey to The Soberanes Fire
As I drank good coffee, I did my usual morning inventory of how my body was doing physically.  I rarely have blister problems and was really doing pretty good this trip too with the exception of the 4th and 5th toes on each foot.  Skin was macerating on the bottom of them and the pinky toe on my right foot had broken open and was starting to look infected.  I had brought tape with me, for my feet should they need it.  I have never taped my feet for blisters before and I knew that there was no going back once I did it.  I knew that from the time I taped them, they would have to stay taped until I was finished.  Afraid that I might make things worse, I decided against taping.  My lips were horrible.  Very swollen and blistered.  I knew, now, that I could keep them from getting any worse and we bought some medication to aid with the healing for the end of the day.  I didn’t even bother to inventory how my legs felt.  At this point, legs are never rested or fresh.  They are either fed or they are not. The night before, Jeanne had shared with me what she saw as she drove up through the fire area and she strongly felt that I should not try to run through it.  Rather than argue about something I had not seen on my own, we looked at a map and figured out how far we could comfortably get before we would need to make a decision.  16 miles into the day became decision time.  While I ran, Jeanne scouted forward and talked to some highway patrol officers.  She explained what we were doing and told me that one of them looked at her after she explained and simply said “please don’t.”  They then told her that all of the emergency personnel in the area were of the opinion that Hwy 1 should be closed to all traffic.Our primary objective for the day was to not get in the way.  Jeanne portaged me through the first fire section. It was pretty sobering to see scorched hills with flames still on them and the effort that was going into containing the fire. We drove through an area where I would have felt like a horribly entitled ass had I decided to run through it.  
Near Big Sur
 Eventually we came to an area that wasn’t burning.  There were no emergency vehicles around.  The shoulder was clear.  So I wanted to run.  I managed to get another 7 miles before we hit another fire area.  The highlight of the day was watching helicopters scoop water from the ocean and then disappear into the smoke on the mountain. The wind had shifted. The good news was I now had a tailwind. The bad news it was pushing the fire south. Our hotel for the night was now under an evacuation watch so we made the decision to cancel the next 2 nights hotel reservations and set up a base camp, well south of the fire, for the next 2 days. By the time we got all of this figured out and got settled in Cambria, I decided that 23 miles for the day was going to have to be good enough. Jeanne's intuition to come out early was a trip saver. This day would have come off the rails without her.
Still smiling ish
Day 6 The Highway 46 Spur
It's amazing how much better I run when I don't have to think. My first full day with rock star quality crewing was amazing. I knew exactly where water and food was going to be, everything was all ready for me, all I had to do was run. After spending a day watching tourist argue with emergency and fire personnel over where they should be able to go or park, we really wanted to stay well clear of the fire area. It was also very important to me, with so many meaningful people in my life coming together for the last 2 days, to get back to the original schedule for those 2 days. So, we made the decision to run inland to make up the miles lost through the fire. 
Looking more like home
 The hills here really started looking and feeling like my childhood home and I got some much warmer temperatures. I had a James Shapiro (author of Meditations From the Breakdown Lane) moment when I realized that my shoes had developed a squeak that sounds like voices behind me. The Eucalyptus trees were such an unexpected treat. They smell amazing in the morning. When my kids were little we used to walk to a park that was lined with eucalyptus. When they would refuse to come home, as it got dark, I would tell them that there were vampires in the trees and they better hurry before it gets dark. They all still refer to eucalyptus as vampire trees. I was now free from the backpack and only needing to carry one bottle at a time.  This ended up being my fastest day of the trip and that included a 1,700 foot, 6 mile climb.  Everything seemed back on track now.  I got in 34 really strong miles.  I finished earlier in the day than on any of the previous days.  
Crew and Coke, the secret to speed
 This really is the overriding “trick” to multi day running.  The more time you spend running the less time you have for eating and sleeping.  Regardless of how fast or slow a runner is, they will come face to face with this simple equation.
Day 7, San Simeon to Cayucos
I headed North out of Cambria, went a few miles passed San Simeon and then turned around.  I was now as close to the original mileage and location as I could possibly get.  (note….as I get ready to publish this, it’s with the knowledge that the fire is now threatening Hearst Castle, near San Simeon and that fire officials do not expect to contain the fire for several more weeks)  Jeanne met me at San Simeon State Beach, filled up my water bottles and then headed to San Luis Obispo to pick up Mom who had arrived by train the day before.  I was eating a sandwich in Cambria when we all met back up.  It was so cool having my Mom as part of the crew.  
Super crew

This was a perfect running day. It was misty in the morning, giving way to bright sunshine in the afternoon. The wind, now out of the North got stronger as the day progressed giving me a really nice push the last 10 miles.  It seems, no matter the distance, the brain knows when it’s almost done. I have no idea how many days in a row I can run like this, but I know on this trip, my body knew when it was almost done.  Later, I remember telling Jeanne that my legs felt like an old pair of underwear that have lost the elastic in the waistband.  We found some really good seafood in Morro Bay, and made 
our plan for the final day. 
Morro Bay
 Day 8, Cayucos to San Luis Obispo
Mom and Jeanne headed back to San Luis Obispo to pick up Jewelia from the airport while I headed South toward the finish.  Mile 9 was where the side roads ran out and I would be back on Hwy 1.  I thought it would be difficult to get to the highway before they got back to me, but that was my goal.  I ran passed a donut shop on my way through Morro Bay that smelled so amazing  I craved an apple fritter for days after.  I had just made it to the highway and was crossing the southbound side when I recognized the grey Subaru heading North.  Jewelia was now with them and she was the one that had seen me crossing the highway.  There were several people planning to be waiting for me at the finish.  I had been pretty conservative with what my arrival time might be but I was pretty amped to get done and it was obvious I was going to get in well ahead of my projection.  I told Jeanne I could slow down a little but if people could get there earlier, I’d really appreciate it.  It all worked out perfect.  There was a big crowd at the finish, everybody made it in time.  As I made the last turn, I wasn’t exactly sure if I was supposed to turn left or right.  I was just about to dig out my map when I saw my Mom and Jewelia running up the street to the left.  I almost caught them.  If I had any small regret on this last day it’s this.  From the time I finished, until much later that day, I had a lot of people around me, all very proud of what I had accomplished.  Usually at the end of journeys like this it’s just me and Jeanne and she knows exactly how to give me some unwind space.  In retrospect, I wish I had sat down on a bus bench, 2 blocks from the finish and let the previous 250 miles properly sink in, before finishing.  
1160 Marsh St. San Luis Obispo, CA
I love how supportive so many people are of my running adventures.  I can think of no better reason to attempt anything than this, I thought I could do it.
Thank you to everybody that has encouraged me, followed me, run with me, listened to every weird idea or even just said nothing and let me go my own way.
Thank you to Lynn, who in 10 years of coaching me has never once, in the middle of a workout, race or difficult run asked me how I feel. I understand now that when you are up against it, there are only two answers to that question, the truth and a lie...and neither are healthy.
Thank you to my wonderful parents for allowing me to fall down, a lot. All those stitches in the head were so worth it.
And most important, thank you to my beautiful wife Jeanne, whose amazing love for me defies common sense.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Once Around the World: The Plan

13 years ago, I started a love affair with running.  In the interest of accuracy, I didn’t really love it at first. But I was getting worse, every year, at all of the sports that I did love and running seemed like something I could get better at for a while.

In August, I will have run 24,901 miles since I started keeping track of my running miles.  24,901 miles is the circumference of the earth at the equator, so I will have run Once Around the World.  To commemorate this accomplishment, I’m doing a journey run that will start at the Golden Gate Bridge on July 29th and finish 270 miles later in San Luis Obispo, CA.
French Hospital as close to 1963 as I could find.

I was born in San Luis Obispo, California in 1963 at French Hospital.  The hospital was originally the San Luis Sanitarium, foreshadowing be damned.  1160 Marsh Street was the address of French Hospital and that seems an appropriate place to finish mile 24,901.

The days will roughly breakdown like this:

Day 1.  Golden Gate Bridge to Pacifica, 18 miles.  I’ll start around noon and use this day as a warm up day.  After this, each day will be between 35 and 38 miles per day.
Day 2.  Pacifica to Pigeon Point Hostel.
Day 3.  Pigeon Point to Santa Cruz.
Day 4.  Santa Cruz to Monterey
Day 5.  Monterey to Big Sur.
Day 6.  Big Sur to Gorda
Day 7.  Gorda to Harmony
Day 8.  Harmony to San Luis Obispo

I’ve decided to post daily updates to FB, but save a blog posting for when I am done.
I’ve done a pretty thorough job of figuring out routes through towns, but if anybody with any local knowledge would like to share, I’m all ears.  Also, if anybody living along the way would like to run part of it with me, let me know and we’ll see if we can coordinate it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's the End of the World as We Know It

It's the end of the world as we know it.  REM

Not really….but it sure felt like that for a while.  Another attempt at 100 miles in 24 hours has come up short.  30 miles short this time.  I’m going to make the autopsy report brief, because I’d rather talk about the amazing people in my life and future plans.  

Perfect running weather.
 I ran Pacific Rim One Day on March 19th with a goal of at least 100 miles.  I woke up feeling really good, which was a surprise as I’d been fighting off the flu for a week.  Jeanne was so sick, she had to beg to be able to come along.  She really is amazing.  The first 20 miles felt really smooth and easy.  I ran with Ken Ward for a few miles and then finally met Greg Pressler, in person, for the first time and we ran several miles together. Through 20 the only real trouble I was having was heavier breathing than usual.  That can probably be attributed to the flu, it just felt like I was working a little harder to breathe than I should have.  Around mile 22, Jeanne’s cousin Lori arrived.  She is training for her first marathon, is a bundle of positive energy and I figured she would run about 10 miles with me.  We talked and talked and talked and talked as the mile went by.  I hit my first low spot around mile 34 and I remember it occurring to me that she was probably over 10 miles.  I asked he how long she was planning to run and she said “26 miles”.  I was pretty shocked.  She figured a slow 26, in shifts, with me and the distance wouldn’t intimidate her on race day.  Pretty brave. 

Early miles
 Bo got there around mile 40, as I was starting to have some pain in the left ankle.  This has been a problem spot for me, on and off, for several years.  It flared back up on Dawn to Dusk in December and has really never completely gone away since.  I really started to struggle and at mile 48 decided that if I couldn’t get the pain under control and get back to “normal” running I would have to consider pulling the plug.  I sat down for the first time, drank some coke and took some ibuprofen.  When I got back up I announced that I would walk a mile and then run a mile.  If I couldn’t run a full mile normally, I drop at 50 miles.  The ibuprofen worked, the mile wasn’t that bad so I continued on.  By mile 54 it was back, and worse than before.  I was limping noticeably, and aware that I was going to do some damage in other places if I kept going.

Britt was due to arrive in about a half hour, so I made the decision to change into warmer clothes, take some more ibuprofen and try laying down for 20 minutes.  I was stiff when I got up but the pain was once again tolerable.  By mile 58 it was back and I knew I couldn’t just keep popping ibuprofen every 8 miles.  It seemed all that was left was to pick a suitable jump off distance.  I thought about 100k, but eventually decided that if I knew the end was in sight, I could tough it out to 70.
That's enough.
 Lori got some good running in, about 19 miles, but didn’t get to run a second shift to get to 26.  Bo and Britt got a lot of struggling miles.  I’ve done a little bit of pacing duty with a struggling runner and I know it’s hard on the soul.  I really wish I could have rewarded their efforts with a better performance.
Somewhere in the middle of the night I went passed 24,000 miles since I started running 13 years ago.  Which leaves the next big milestone 24,901, Once Around the World.

It’s been 3 weeks since Pacific Rim.  My ankle is slowly getting better.  I haven’t run more than 4 miles at a time and it’s all been pretty slow.  I’m getting back into a routine for core and strength training which is really at the heart of ankle problems.  I have a weak core and weak right hip that make the left leg do too much of the work.  In the past, I’ve addressed this problem only long enough to get back to running and then ignored it.  I am becoming painfully aware of the ravages of time, and the realization that this cross training can not be ignored for much longer.  I truly hope to update, in a blog 6 months from now, how I’ve stuck with it and how much it has helped.  For now, get healthy, get strong and get ready for Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in June and hope to be half as good at supporting Lori in her first marathon as she was for me at Pac Rim.

*Update:  Since it took me awhile to get pictures together, I’m now happy to update that I’ve been able to stretch my distance out a little and just this morning ran 6 miles at marathon pace with no discomfort…..onward.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dawn to Dusk 2015

I’m a little late writing up a report from Dawn to Dusk 2015.  Maybe I still can’t believe how amazing the weather was.  When you plan an event for the shortest day of the year, in Oregon, you expect bad weather.  During the 4 years that I have been doing this, Oregon has not disappointed.  And then, in the middle of the wettest December in recent history, one beautiful sunny day like a reverse oasis appears.

7:47, official sunrise.
 7:47 started with 4 runners, Kim, Bo, Eric and myself.  Making our way through and out of Dallas, conversations wandered all over, occasionally interrupted with exclamations that the pace was way too fast. We talked about fast food marketing, community theater, homemade energy gels and of course, how perfect the weather was.  Low 40’s, sunny and dry.
Mile 11.5, arriving in Independence
Mile 11.5 brought us into Independence, where we met up with Jerry and Julie.  They had brought drop bags for me, Kim and Bo.  Well, they brought a drop bag for me and Kim.  Bo packed a little more that would could be described as a bag.  The upside to Bo’s enthusiastic planning was we all knew that none of us were going hungry!  Eric got picked up about a mile later and the five of us headed toward the Buena Vista Ferry.

Well, we aren't going that way.
In the days leading up to Dawn to Dusk, Bo and I had discussed the possibility of roads being flooded out, so I had it in my mind that routes might need to be altered and, sure enough, the road out to the ferry was completely flooded.  We changed our route to the much hillier Old Corvallis Hwy, eventually turning around at a statue of a Sasquatch.  When I viewed our route on a map, I also learned that the house with the Sasquatch in front of it is also a coffee shop called Buddha2go.  I love Oregon.  We had been straight into a pretty chilly 10 to 15 MPH wind on the way out and it was nice to have that wind at our back heading back toward Independence.
Sasquatch Refuge
Independence was the end of the road for Kim and Bo (28.5 miles) and Jerry and Julie (17 ish miles) and meant I had 6 miles on my own before anybody else was to join me.  I ate some mixed nuts and took a few drinks of Coke, refilled my bottle with Infinit, made a bathroom stop and then, I was all by myself.  Looking West, the direction I was headed, the gorgeous weather was coming to an end.  Dark clouds were in front of me and I hit my only low moment of the day.  I usually have a little dip in attitude right after eating.  I’ve been working on this for years, but it still persists.  I was cold, 29 miles tired and it was starting to rain.  I called Jeanne and asked her to send a rain shell along with Mindy and Betsy, who would be joining me at mile 34.  Still I had 5 wet, cold miles to get to that point.  

A sign of better miles ahead.
Shuffling along and feeling sorry for myself around mile 32, I looked up and there were Mindy and Betsy pulled over on the side of the road and Mindy was jumping out with my jacket.  I faked good spirits, said I was glad to see them, which I was, and put on the jacket.  I told them I’d see them in a few miles and they were off.  I probably didn’t run for more than a few minutes with the jacket on before the sun came out, introducing an amazing rainbow and suddenly, I was fine.  The jacket came off, my mood was better and I felt really good from that point to the end of the day.

Mindy and Betsy were waiting for me at my mile 34.  Jeanne was hanging out with, an almost walking Lucas, so that Mindy could run the last 6 in with me.  I had planned a 40 mile route, and made provisions for bonus miles in case we finished early.  In my rough draft of the day, I had hoped to hit 40 miles at 4:00 PM and then make a decision about what to do with the remaining 33 minutes.  We hit 40 miles at 3:58.  Had I planned a 43 mile route, I’m certain I could have made 43, maybe even 44, but cold and wet and with a warm house, good friends and a hot pot of chili on the stove, I decided 40 miles was enough and opted for a hot shower.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Columbia Gorge Marathon 2015

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

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

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