Oct 29, 2012

St George Success

Erik has been doing well at cross country meets.  He has a loyalty to his team-mates and really cares how the team does, especially since they won several meets.  So we waited to leave for St George until after his meet- the trade off for that was that we didn't have time to stop at Kim's.  Emily skipped some classes to join us, then did all of the driving from Reno to St. George.

In addition to spending time together and running the fastest course I know, this trip was an excuse to see Pam's distant dad.  We had a nice visit with Ron and Dianne then took him out to dinner at Olive Garden.  Ron has lately had a rough go of it with multiple foot surgeries in the years since his accident.  He may be able to get back to work in a month at Wal-mart.  He was a good sport going with to packet pick-up where we met Esther who had managed just-in-time to get a ride down on her own.  I thought it was important for the kids to know who Ron is, and he and Dianna seemed to really enjoy it. 

Pam used her clever web surfing skills to find a room at a local hotel close to the 5:30am bus to the start.  They have bon-fires going in the dark near the start,  but we didn't have time to enjoy them due to being stuck in a port-a-potty line that morphed into the starting throng.  The weather was just warm enough at the start and not too hot until later in the day.  There was even a strong tail wind! 

There is up-hill off and on from mile 7 to 10, and a couple of other rises, but overall there is about 2500' elevation drop.  Esther and Emily stayed together for the first few miles.  In spite of not many long runs, Emily had a strong second half and finished with a Boston qualifying time.  Esther had a solid performance, but it was a little off her PR.  Pam followed a full training plan leading up to this, and her worries about making the cut-off turned out to be needless. 

I knew from my workouts with the cross-country team and on my own that my longstanding goal of going under 2:40 was possible.  I kept telling myself to take it easy for the first 16 miles, as I was a little ahead of my goal pace.  I started ramping up the effort as I gained confidence that I wasn't going to bonk.  Every mile I would recalculate how much I had left in my legs, and what my finish time might be.  It was boost to see Zachary at mile 23.  He needed a workout as well, so he ran 2.5 miles with me.  I averaged ~5:35 per mile for the last 10 miles, which is faster than my flat 10 mile PR.  My 2nd half was over 4 minutes faster than my first.  I ended up 2:31:40 in 13th place, got a custom clock and $150 for the age-group win which will cover half of the gas but not the entry fees.  They told me at the awards ceremony that might be the age group record, which I wanted to believe, but was way off.  As early as 1982 a guy ran 5 minutes faster.  They report an age-graded score for your performance and by that I had the 7th best out of ~5700.  One of the guys 8+ minutes ahead of me turns 45 next year.  Pam said "then you'll just have to go faster."  Some dude in a hand-cycle finished in under 57 minutes.

That is likely the fastest I'll ever travel that distance, but I smile at how fast it is every time I think about it, which is frequently.  Ken joked I could qualify for the trials, so I looked up the standard- another 12 minutes faster on a course with < 1/6th this elevation drop.  Emily finished at 3:33:05 on her first attempt, which may have made Esther a little jealous.  Esther ran 3:50:14.  But at the finish she and Zachary were more excited to hear about the new age change for missions.  Which made Emily significantly jealous.  Pam was another success, exceeded expectations in a respectable 5:21:17.  Her feet and one knee were killing her, and she was worn out, but I think she ended up being the least muscle sore of any of us.  
Esther showed off her Utah driving skills and we made it to priesthood.  We had tickets for Zachary and Erik to attend in person in the conference center, while I went to the tabernacle, which was great.  We invaded Carl's, and enjoyed our short time with him.  Sunday most of us got back in the conference center for the morning session.  We saw our bishop in the parking lot, and got Esther back on her way to Provo while we motored home so I could work Monday.

It was great to have us all together conquering challenges and absorbing conference.  We did have some car trouble when a suicidal fawn outside Reno broke the glass in a headlamp.  The hood and radiator were dented but not broken.

May 21, 2012

Mac Hopes

I hope I'll age gracefully. I know it's inevitible, but I don't think about it much, perhaps beacuse I'm in denial. This was my 8th running of the Mac Forest 50k. 8 minutes faster than last year, but it was the farthest back I've ever placed at 6th. 

This is one of the few races I focus on each year, thinking of it as my home-course.  No one has ever won the over-all twice. The age group record is fast, but not as fast as I ran it at age 39. 

I pushed harder than I hoped to early on to try and keep the leader in sight.  There are stretches that often are rough- I often languish somewhat in "the maze" around the half way point and got caught by the guy who ended up 2nd.  There are stretches that usually are good- I don't hardly hurt the first 10 miles, the long steady uphill to Dimple has been good to me (I caught back that same guy there), and I pulled into the lead coming down Dan's trail through mile 20.

 I had this hope of hitting the Chip Ross aid station in first for my daughters, even if I wasn't going to be able to hold it. Turns out I couldn't even hold the lead as soon as the trail turned uphill on the back side of Chip Ross. So I adjusted my goals to limiting the number of guys that passed me. Andrew, then Lewis and Dan are all nice guys that I see frequently as these events, but I hate seeing them pull away.  There are stretches that have been good some years and bad others. 

I have this recurring hope that I'll feel strong through it, because that has happened before, even though statistically that's unlikely, especially since I was pushing earlier.  Heading up the horse trails was worse than usual.  The section from the gates to the high-point on vinyard mountain has been very long and horrible some years, and felt short and really great others.  At least I didn't vomit this year. 
It was fun seeing Pam and my girls on the course and at the finish.  They made daisy leis for me.  This left me motivated to train hard and push harder next year... after I take some time off.

Apr 2, 2012

thoughts on runnig free: Micah True

I've been thinking about Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco) who's body was found yesterday, 4 days after heading out for a 12 mile run in the Gila wilderness in New Mexico.  My sister, Brenda, has been following this as well, and I think she has been weighing the implications for those she loves that run, like me.  Well, probably more because of her son Berkeley. 
Caballo spent much of the last 20 years in Copper Canyon, which is a very inaccessible part of Mexico.  He apparently ran 25 miles a day--long, remote runs were his staple.  I think the concept of being trackable or carrying anything more than some pinole to eat would have been anathema to him.   Freedom consisted of him running in shorts, and a pair of sandals.
I think running was such a part of him and the tarahumara culture he worshiped, that if you told him he was going to die running he would have been happy with that and kept up his usual schedule.
Jim Fixx didn't start running until age 35 when he was 240 lbs and smoked 2 packs a day. His father died of a heart attack at age 43. Running probably deserves credit for him making it to 52 before having his fatal heart attack. Micah, I think, was also on a course of self destruction.  It's vague in Born To Run and I don't remember the details but after his boxing days it seems like he had some self loathing and there was alcohol involved. The tarahumara lifestyle gave him a much more full and peaceful existence. 
There are lots of great people that fulfill the measure of their creation without running a step.  And I wish to define myself as more than a runner.  But it has added to my life.  I love the beauty of trails through hills.  It's a thrill to get to an isolated high-spot, or to find a new route that makes a loop deep into the previously unexplored woods.  It's a challenge not to exceed one's limits because it is invigorating to probe where your limits may extend.  One of my most memorable runs was a 15+ mile loop high in the Trinity Alps on trails I'd never seen before with fabulous views.  The closest humans were the scouts back in camp.  I had to concentrate on my surroundings and the map and make some good guesses to put it all together. My most harrowing was when I ran out of reserve in the hills above Raymond WA where I got lost in the dark and rain on logging roads.  If I had found a dry pile of leaves I would have laid down and gone to sleep.
I think it's a low percentage of runners that die from something happening to them while out on a remote wilderness run, compared to the number of non-runners that have a lifestyle-related "natural death". Part of our mis-assessment of risk is based on highly publicised rare events. You never get headlines like "Overweight Smoking Non-runner Non-surprisingly Dies of Heart Attack Watching TV", but that's where the real risk is. That and the missed opportunities of living too bland a life. I've got a newspaper article on my wall at work that claims the most dangerous thing you can do to your child is put them in a car and drive them to football practice.

That's not to say that runners shouldn't be wary.  Apparently Caballo would give this warning before a race:"we don't want any deaths on the trails. Yes, The buzzards want that....We do not." But Berkeley and I are unlikely to be buzzard food.  Wear bright clothing, face traffic, and be careful crossing roads.  Tell someone where you are going, and when to start worrying.  Take a little more fuel and water than you'll need and a friend.  Study a map and take one with you, know your boundary features, turn around before you have to, maybe hug a tree.  A GPS watch is wonderful for orienting yourself when it has a battery charge, a view of the sky, and you know how to use it.  (Berkeley should get a Forerunner 205, unless you have cash to burn, in which case the 910 looks sick!  My next one will be a 310.)  Unfortunately, because of that, you are more likely to accept greater risks.  A cell phone with GPS is even better as long as you have coverage.  Search and Rescue can ping it for coordinates.  But you would have to carry that, which changes the freedom.  Copper and Gila canyons would not have cell coverage.   Also on the market are units that can put out a beacon picked up by satellite, same as a plane that crashes.  Those are independent of cell towers, but weight, cost, and my possibly self-deceived low perception of utility have precluded consideration of that.  If I break a leg when up Timber Mountain, cougars may get a meal, but I haven't seen buzzards.
Danelle Ballengee has a very different story: http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/microsite/article/0,8029,s6-238-511--14158-0,00.html She fell off a trail near Moab and survived >2 very cold days with a broken pelvis living off puddle water. If she had a phone with her (and coverage) or a friend, she would have avoided a lot of suffering. 

I enjoy running with family and other pleasant people.  But like Danelle, it isn't practical to find a friend with the same fitness level and schedule.  And runners tend to be loners, or introverts.  I thought of that with Zachary (and Gid) yesterday, whom I drug out for 6 miles.  About the only conversation we had was an argument about ways to get to Tolo.  But it was great being with them.  It was wonderful to be able to take Emily last week on my new solitary route around the headwaters of Jackson Creek.  And next month I'll have Esther as a training partner. Katie wouldn't be worth spit if I got injured.  Although she's not useless- I think of her as distracting cougar bait. 

I worry about the inconvenience to and sacrifice of search and rescue teams in situations like this.  I wouldn't take their service for granted, and really appreciate them.  Heaven forbid I ever need them, I'll hope they know right where to look and I'll trust they'll find me in time.  But if I'm dead, and I think Caballo would have agreed, I'll regret they missed any sleep on my account.

My choice is to run free or die.  And don't die.  Cabello lived large, and I doubt he begrudges his fate.  Berkeley has much more to his life than running.  He has a better sense of self preservation and will always make it home.

Mar 19, 2012

Excerpts From My Running Diary

The second week into the winter school term Benton County experienced serious flooding. Bridges closed, schools shut down, and Oregon State (which had taken two half days and a national holiday already) took a flood day.

With out school and nothing to study I met up with one of my high schoolers and went for a run. We decided to head downtown to check out the flooding. We had to take a few detours because the bike trails were flooded. J and I went back later to grab photos of what we had run through.

By Pioneer Park, this extends to the picture below:

Under the high way 99 bridge 

Kayaking on Brook lane

Fields by Country Club where I usually like to run


A few weeks ago the high school showed me a new run. You start in Peavy Arboretum and follow the dirt road up, and up, and up until you get to Saddle. From Saddle you head over to Chip Ross by Dan's Trail. Once in Chip Ross you make your way around to 29th and then it's two miles of road back to the High School. It's a hard but beautiful run. The only down side (aside from the +6miles of uphill) is getting someone to drop you off.