Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Coming Home

I'm on my way home and spending the night in St. George, Utah before I drive home tomorrow. What an event this year. Talk about a learning curve for everyone: runners, crews, and race staff. The race was a success and it remains to be seen what will happen with the original course, but more on that later. I'll have 10 hours of driving to process my thoughts tomorrow, with a decent night's sleep too. 

This year,  despite all the changes, was a special one for me. It really bothered me to miss it last year, my gut told me I needed to get out and see Ben, and of course everyone else too. 

I was telling the medical team about how I couldn't come out last year because those pigf@$&*^#%$ wouldn't let me off work, so I quit! Which, looking back, is sort of true in a sense. Any job that doesn't allow you to do the things you love most is NOT worth it!!!! 

We stayed quite busy, with lots of interesting stories to tell, and some that I can't tell, but I was entertained. 

My friend Bob Becker who is RD of the Keys 100 absolutely kicked ass, wearing the number 69 to match his age. And so many more great performances, throughout the pack. The people in this race are so inspiring. 

I will write a real blogpost with the details and pictures once I get home. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Badassery...

What is Badassery?

Funny how the "Bad Ass" phrase gets tossed around by ultrarunner types. I've been seeing it a lot lately. Cat sent me a message to tell me she couldn't make my talk last night, she had a boot camp workout with her daughter and said "maybe it will make me as badass as you". Ha. She has a pretty bad ass herself, she doesn't need a boot camp class but she's doing it to be with her daughter.

Spoke at Runners' Roost last night and there was a good turnout despite the heavy downpour that happened just before 6 pm, but by the time we all left the store to go for the group run before my talk, the rain stopped. I showed my Badwater Double Slideshow, something I had to dust off. It's been 3 years since I ran it, and about a year since I last showed it to anyone. There were a lot of questions about Badwater, and I forgot how much interest that generates. I had planned to talk more specifically about ultras and preparing for them, but I let the questions guide the discussion instead. It worked out well.

I did want to talk more last night about the notion of Badassing it...people get so caught up in the achievement, the numbers, statistics, that they forget about the essence of the experience, and that is what I always want to convey. I ran across Death Valley to be a tiny dot in a landscape full of colorful rocks and stars. I wanted to be in that place, and traveling through it on foot, in those conditions, which make it that much more intense and enjoyable.

And really, it's not at all about being a bad ass.

Getting distracted by shiny objects like trophies, awards, and records takes the focus away from the real inner strength you develop as you push yourself past the limits you thought you possessed. I see it a lot, especially in young male ultrarunners, though women are also prone to this. The idolatry thing, getting all caught up in the eye-popping amazement at someone else's achievements, usually defined by some small number of hours and minutes it took the object of your mesmerization to finish a given course relative to your own finish, or by a large number of miles, vertical feet, or other statistic. Worshipping that person like they are some kind of superhuman, or a god, or some sort of divine being that you would kiss their feet should they even speak to you.

But just because someone possesses these characteristics or talents of speed, endurance, intelligence, determination, stubbornness, or luck doesn't mean their formula or anything they do will work for you. That includes shoes, gear, training plans, food, rituals, home life, you name it. Getting over the idolatry thing means you stop comparing yourself to others. Yes the people you worship are made of something different, AND YOU'RE MADE OF SOMETHING DIFFERENT TOO, that's up to you to discover on your own and it will be different from ANYONE else, that's a sure thing. But idolatry will only take the focus off of what you need to do to be your own best self.

Ultrarunners go through stages of self-discovery in which they develop and encourage badassery amongst themselves. It's like a rite of passage, testing your physical limits, and your mental limits. It's important to go through these phases because this is where you learn so much about yourself, and your potential. It's incredibly powerful and empowering. It delivers you from the idolatry phase to the self-actualization phase, where you are comfortable in your own skin and confident in what you can accomplish. This is where you become your own athlete. You pursue what appeals to you, and that is where you shine.

Someone asked me last night what I learned about myself in doing the ultras I have done, and I replied that I learned that if I set my mind to something that I decide to do, I can do anything. And the other side of that coin is that you can't fly by the seat of your pants, it takes a lot of learning, research, studying, and planning to do an endurance event.

Unfortunately along the way many new runners discover the number one rule of badassery: Stupidity always trumps badassery. So if you don't learn the lessons from the school of hard knocks, you will never make it, and might end up winning a Darwin Award along the way.

Or if you're like the Canadian guy who placed third at Hardrock this year, who got struck by lightning, shattering his headlamp on top of Handies Peak, you're just lucky enough to avoid the Darwin Award. Definitely deserves a nomination. That's not bad ass, that's stupid. The fact that he placed third doesn't make it okay. I'm glad he finished safely. But I also hope he realizes just how close he was to being dead.

My friend Kirk just finished his 20th Hardrock. That's considered badass. And Lisa Smith-Batchen just finished a quadruple crossing of Badwater. That's also considered badass. It's also something I would loved to have done, but financially I can't do it unless I made some pretty extreme sacrifices, which I'm unwilling to do. I know if wanted it bad enough, I would do it, but I guess I don't. I am happy with my road double. I'd love to just stay out there all summer and run as many roads in the park as I could and try to see everything.

But none of us who have become our own athletes do these things to be badass. That is the last thing on our minds. It's an inner effort, an inner challenge, but it contains so much positive energy and it's the essence of living, doing what you love the most. If that's badass, then I guess we're all guilty, all of us ultrarunners.

So in that sense, there's not nearly enough badassery going on. More people should find their inner badass. Finding what drives them, what they love the most, and pursuing it with their full dedication, passion, and energy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Keepin' It Sub-G

I've been wanting to get up to the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park all summer and I finally had a day to do it. Forcing myself to wake up early is not too much fun but I happened to wake up at 3 am all by myself, thanks to the hot flashes, so it was the perfect opportunity.

I wanted to get up there before sunrise so I could top out above treeline while the light was good. And it was...

Last week I took 4 days off from running because my legs were so sore and dead. I rode the bike one day and that was it. It was a good call. I ran increasing distances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, took yesterday off, and today I wanted to get a short hill workout in without pushing the pace. It's been raining a lot with thunderstorms in the afternoons but I knew if I got up early enough I could get a good workout on the Longs Peak trails.

I rarely run trails anymore because of my painful, weak ankles. I can't even hike much because of the uneven surfaces, at least not on really technical trails. But I miss it and every year I try to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park to get back on the trails I used to love so much. I can usually tolerate the well-worn trails. But there's one more problem...

I am terrible at altitude. Back in the days when I used to train for the Leadville Trail 100, my running buddies used to call me G.B., short for "Gooney Bird" because every time I got above 13,000 feet I was so hypoxic I would be goofy.

This was the first time I've been above 8,000 feet this year except for one trip to Como at 10,000 feet. And I haven't been running trails. I wanted to do this for the vertical and the scenery, to get an easy run in, with a lot of hiking on the uphills. I started out at 5:15 am and it was just light enough that I didn't need my headlamp.

As I climbed up to treeline, it looked like they did a lot of work on the trails, after last year's flooding. There were a lot more waterbars and steps cut in the trail. Those are harder to run than smooth trail, but I was powerhiking up anyway.

My ankles did well, except for a few places on the downhills where the rocks were loose.

But the goofiness started early, once I got above treeline I was a little lightheaded and nauseated. I took some gels and those helped.

First I went toward Chasm Lake to see if the columbines were out. They are, but not as many as last year at this time. They might be late with the cool, wet spring we've had. There was a huge snow drift just before the bowl below Chasm Lake and I decided to turn around there, since I was goofy and alone, and there was a good 1500 foot slide down to Peacock Lake with a lot of big rocks. I headed back up to the main trail and continued up to Granite Pass.

By the time I got up to Granite Pass at 8 am I was freezing my butt off in the wind and my hands were numb. I didn't think to take my gloves out of my pack, because I was G.B. And by then I couldn't even take my pack off because my hands wouldn't work to unfasten the buckles.

I had considered going up to the Boulderfield but decided to not go any higher, 12,000 was plenty high for me, and it would take me forever in my lightheaded, spaced out state. I knew I needed to stay below the Gooney Bird threshold.

I went down toward Boulder Brook but stopped before treeline, when I found a spot that wasn't quite so windy, just below some rock knobs. I took some photos and sat down to drink some water, put clothes on, have another gel.

On the way back up I felt great. It took me less time to climb back up to Granite Pass than it took to come down. I was freezing though. Once I got over the pass and descended a few hundred feet, the sun was intense, and I started to hot flash, absolutely pouring sweat like it was 110 degrees, except it was no more than 60 degrees up there. I stopped again to take off most of my layers. I was running but it was an awkward stride, because I was lightheaded and didn't have the best balance on those rocks.

I finally started to feel sub-gooney again when I got back in the trees and it was much easier to run without rolling on the rocks and twisting my screaming ankles. Finally made it back to the trailhead by 10 am and drove back home. It was only 11 miles, 3400 feet each of gain and descent, but just what I needed. My quads didn't feel like jello, either, so maybe I'm finally getting used to the vertical.

It was a good change of scenery and refreshing for my mind, too. Later this week I'll be at the opposite extreme in Death Valley. But first, a few more runs. Tomorrrow night I'll be speaking at Runners' Roost in Fort Collins, showing my Badwater Double slideshow and talking about ultras.

All the sore spots have pretty much gone away. My hip feels fine now, and my left knee is almost normal. I'm hoping to get a good 35 miler in on Thursday before my road trip starts. I'll have the opportunity to rest up a bit during the Badwater trip since I won't have much time to run, and when I get home, I can hit it hard for the final 7 weeks or so before the taper. This summer is going to fly by. Like a Gooney Bird.

More pictures below:

Hidden columbines.

Peacock Lake and Columbine Falls.

Looking east toward Twin Sisters.
Looking northeast toward the Mummy range.

Rock Knobs below Granite Pass.

Approaching Granite Pass from the east.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sleeps With Ice Packs

This is getting to be routine...

Somewhere between 1 and 3 am lately I always wake up pouring sweat and the sooner I can cool myself down, the sooner I can fall back to sleep.

With monsoon season approaching it is not cooling down at night the way it does the other 10 months of the year. Mid-June to mid-August it doesn't really cool off that much until closer to sunrise.

When I wake up like I did again tonight, it's still warm and humid outside and opening the windows doesn't help.

I've tried drinking ice water, standing in front of the little cooling unit we have in the bedroom window, going to the kitchen and opening the freezer door and standing in front of it, or tonight, ice packs. I brought this ice pack up to the bed to try to cool the sheets down, and then I placed it on top of me. That didn't work so I got up.

Iris had to know what I was doing, of course, when I went into the other bedroom.

As I write this, I am actually sitting on an icepack. I will take it back to bed and cool the part of the bed where I sleep, and maybe that will work tonight.

If that doesn't work, I'm digging out the coffin coolers from the garage and immersing myself in ice water, like they do at Badwater. I knew all that Badwater experience would pay off someday!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heat Wave and Drama in the Hood

It was a good call to take a few days off, things already feel better but I'm not going to push it, I will take at least this full week off from running. Not that I won't sneak in a few things on my feet...I'm leaving in a week for Badwater and it's been hot here, 99 degrees the other day felt great outside. In the house is different, we don't have air conditioning except in the bedroom and out in the woman cave, so the basement is the only comfortable spot and that's where the girls hang out.

I've been using ice on my sore spots and I even took a little ibuprofen to get the inflammation down, and it all seems to have helped. I am very tempted to go up to Estes Park and hike the trails below Longs Peak soon, get my high altitude fix before I leave for the desert. I finally got on the bike this morning, it felt good, but it was already hot and I only rode for an hour, but it was on hilly terrain. I am being a slug other than walking the girls, but it feels good.

We've had neighborhood drama around here, there's only one rental in our neighborhood and it happened to just get occupied by some very strange new people last week. We've all been watching. There is something strange about people who just moved into a neighborhood, then shoot illegal fireworks off at 12:30 am the night they move in, and have lots of different cars and people coming and going at all hours, even after they've moved in.

They keep their curtains closed most of the time, parked an ugly trailer full of cardboard boxes outside the house, had a pit bull off the leash and wandering around the yard, and claimed it's a service dog when confronted by one of the neighbors, and they have things like big helium tanks or propane tanks that they moved into the garage, and a lot of other junk. Their garage looks like some hoarders have been living there for the past 40 years, but they've been in there less than a week.

The entire neighborhood is on edge since they moved in, and we're hoping they will get kicked out before they either blow something up or the SWAT Team arrives. So far we can't even tell who the actual residents are because we've seen so many different cars and people. Just really WEIRD.

I wanted to go up to Estes this morning but I woke up too early, set my alarm for 4 am and went back to sleep, but slept through the alarm, so I didn't go. If you don't get up there early enough, there are too many people on the trail, it's hard to find a parking spot, and you miss the best light for taking photographs. I'll try to make it up there next week before I go to Death Valley.

I've been having a productive day here, getting some work done and getting things done around the house. I got Iris out for a walk extra early this morning and we caught all the sprinklers going off on our route. She loves to bite the water in the sprinklers and tries to hit every single one in every yard along the way. It's a game- get the sprinklers- and she is totally drenched by the time she's done, and of course she shakes all the water off on me!

The garden and plants are bouncing back after the killer hailstorm. The raspberries are having a great year, and I replanted the beds with tomatoes, peppers, and beans. The flowers in front are starting to come back and the yellows, golds and oranges are starting to dominate as the early season blues and purples fade.

We're supposed to get hit hard with monsoons starting next week, but we'll see if that's an accurate weather prediction. I will be happy for rain, for several reasons, to water the yard so we don't have to do it, to keep the fires from starting up, and for me to run in. I want to be ready for any kind of weather in Cleveland, and September is the rainiest month. A good long run in the rain would be perfect after this nearly 100 degree heat we've been having.

I hope I get enough rain to be sick of it and ready for the heat again by the time I leave for Badwater!

Monday, July 7, 2014

3 am Hot Flashing is Not All Bad

My legs are trashed. I need to untrash myself. I woke up in the middle of the night hot flashing again, and when I got up, I realized I have little aches and pains that hurt all over.

All these little nagging things have caught up with me. I took an easy week 4 weeks ago but it wasn't all that easy. This hip flexor thing is annoying and my left knee is doing something weird, it feels sore under the patella, and my right ankle is a little swollen. And I feel strong on my runs, on the hills and in my endurance. I don't feel like I have the speed yet, but with the miles I've been doing and on tired legs, I'm not surprised. I need to take a break and let my body recover so I can get the results I want before September.

I'm looking at another 2 1/2 months of training before NorthCoast, or two months, not counting taper. I have time. I am going to take this coming week to ride the bike and back way off on the running miles, maybe not run at all, and just let everything settle down. I need fresh legs to help me develop the speed and stay uninjured, and if I continue pushing it, one of these little nagging things or something else unexpected could become an injury. Yesterday as I was running I rolled my right ankle on a perfectly smooth stretch of trail. That probably means I'm tired and not paying attention. Vulnerable.

For the next two weeks I will be busy and then taking my trip to Badwater, working the race and driving back. I am going to take advantage of this time as a mid-summer break and not worry about the training, let things heal up and run when I feel like it. Then I can come back and hit it hard for the end of July, the month of August and early September. I know that with the strength I have now, the speed is the only missing piece. I think I can get away with just one more long run all summer.

One of the many lessons I've learned over the years is that you have to believe in your base. It will carry you through a lot of things, and it's a cushion to fall back on when you need to back off and rest. I also believe in my speed, and I know it comes back when my legs aren't completely trashed.

Hot flashing at 3 am isn't all bad when it gives you a reality check. I think I'll limp back to bed in the air conditioned room now.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Holidays Bring Out the Darwin Award Candidates...

Nothing like a holiday weekend to bring out the Darwin Award candidates.

Today was my shorter run day, it was hot and I slept in late. I slept until 9:00, I don't remember the last time I did that. I guess I was catching up on lost sleep from the 4th. It was 91 degrees when I started at 11 and 95 when I finished after 1 pm. It felt hot today, I packed ice around my neck the whole time and still I was hot.

There's a tularemia outbreak and the Parks & Rec department posted signs all over the lower Power Trail warning people to keep their pets on the path, on the leash, away from dead animals, and out of ditches and other water holes that might be contaminated.

I was running south along the Power Trail and there's this one bridge near the golf course that has a ditch below it. There's water in it, and it's gated off to keep people out. There were signs posted today about tularemia everywhere. Including on the gate next to the bridge.

There was this guy with a dog, the dog was off leash, soaking wet and shaking off the water on the trail as I approached. There was a woman riding her bike northbound and I heard her say to the guy, "Did you see the signs about tularemia?" I didn't stick around to hear the end of that conversation. I'm sure he saw the signs. He's an idiot, on two counts: for exposing his dog to tularemia, and for having the dog out there when it's 95 degrees.

Things were quieter last night but there were still some people shooting off leftover fireworks on nearby streets. I woke up hot flashing and was awake for a couple of hours, but went back to sleep.

Tomorrow it's back to reality. Long holiday week and weekend are over, gotta get back on track and keep the momentum going. And it will be my rest week from running. I'll get on the bike and give my legs a break, and give the hip flexor a chance to heal. This month is going to fly by, I can tell already.

We did have fun for Isabelle's birthday. The apple carrot peanut butter pupcakes were a hit with the girls, and Iris sang happy birthday to her sister.