Monday, November 4, 2013

Moving Forward

If movement through mountainous terrain teaches us anything it is that our action, although familiar in its form, is constantly changing and adapting to the reality of what is underfoot.  We learn to be fluid in order to more efficiently negotiate technical, unyielding paths that are leading us to our momentary summits, only to turn around and repeat our steps backward.  We practice this movement again and again, sometimes on the same routes sometimes on different ones, in order to refine our craft to its simplest form.  In the midst of the ever changing paths before us, the rhythm of our breath and sound of our feet plodding along provides us with the consistency needed to move ourselves forward. 

After taking the month of September off to let myself heal, both mentally and physically, I entered October with a new plan for training and racing.  I realized that my free wheelin' training from before just wasn't working great for me, and so I needed to make some changes that would help me perform well, the main one being a need for some level of consistency.  So, for the month of October I settled into a routine that incorporated a temp/interval day, a speed work day, a couple of long run days, and one day off.  This plan allowed me both the disciple of structure as well as the freedom to tweak it as I saw need.  Also, the day off ensured that I would be able to put in a proper effort when it came time to do my speed and tempo days.  Now, I know this "new" plan is nothing ground breaking, but it seems to be working so far.  As my body adapts to it, I am sure that there will be need for change and refinement in the future.    

Chamoun cruising down from Baldy.

As it is right now, I am happy with this last month's work.  I ran to a third place finish as the Saddle-back Mountain Goat Marathon this past weekend, and I hope that is a sign to the success of my changes.  I felt that I ran the race well, except for forgetting to drink enough water (amateur mistake), and I know the areas I need to work on for the future.  That, coupled with constantly receiving updates from Strava that Chris Price has broken one of my CR's, tells me that I will always have work ahead of me, and I am excited for the hope of improvements to come. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Running in a Rut

Do you remember the first time you ran a big race, or, if you are not a runner, the first time you embarked on something challenging?  With weeks of preparation behind you, you may have toed the line ready to set out on a brand new journey with no more expectations than those set upon yourself; your own personal goals.  And when you finished and you know you gave it your all that was all that mattered.  Not the place, or your time, but that you had accomplished some great feat.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to that.

Fast forward now to this last weekend.  I toed the line of The Rut 50K in Big Sky, Montana feeling a bit off.  For me, the race was over before the elk horn even sounded, and as we all took off, I watched in apathy as the lead group distanced itself from me.  The week leading up to the event I came down with a slight re-occurrence of my good friend mononucleosis, which left me feeling fatigued even though I was tapering like crazy. I just wanted to run this race hard, but it seemed like the universe had other ideas. I thought of not running the race, but once you have gotten the time off from work, driven all the way up to Montana, and payed for the thing, there is not really an option of backing out.  So my hands were tied, and I thought that I could probably just hold on for a solid finish.  Well, that wasn't totally the case.  The course was spectacular, and without much adieu Mike Wolf and Mike Foot throw the racers into the deep end.  Within the first mile you are already faced with a steep single track trail that requires nothing short of total hands on the knees, nose to the ground euro-hiking.  Here I found that I could not muster up much energy on the uphills, and resolved to make up for it on the downs.  This was going perfectly, and I was having a blast on the technical downhill until I took a wrong step and SHAZZAMED  my heel on the pointiest rock I could find.  As if to add insult to injury, from then on even the downhills sucked, and I had to change my foot strike for the remainder of the time.  This only compounded my apathy towards actually racing; then and there at mile 4 or 5 I decided I had no chance.  So I just plodded along for the rest of the race.  The course was nothing short of amazing.  There was so much awesome single track and the off trail ascent and descent of Lone Peak on exposed ridge line with howling winds in a chilly 30 degrees was exhilarating.   It is indeed a proper mountain race. 

So now I sit here, back at home, thinking about my performance.  I think about what I could have done differently in the months prior, or in the race itself, and I wish, like other times in life, that I could have a re-do.  I am tired of coming back from races with an excuse for why I didn't do well, and only wish that I could go out and perform like I know I should be able to.  I guess all I can do is to keep trying and hopefully figure out this racing thing eventually.   Please don't give up on me yet.  

I apologize for such a depressing blog post.  Here are some pictures of the trip to Montana with my Mom that will hopefully cheer it up.

Mmm, Birthday creation from Jess: Brownies topped with peanut butter.
Yellowstone Lake
This guy was not as happy to see me as I was to see him.
Came home to a package from Chacos containing my new custom sandals. Check it out at

Sunday, September 8, 2013

8000 Meters.

I spent a lot of good time in the mountains this week, particularly on Thursday for the 8000 meter challenge.  The event was awesome, and it was great to get to know the other outdoor retailers in the So Cal area.  Krissy was, as always, very inspirational to listen to and full of tons of great energy.  Thanks to Patagonia for organizing our team (of two) and getting us into the event.  It was an honor to be a part of it! and without further ado, This week in pictures:

Post dinner night run.
Morning espresso in the Fox Den.  Photo courtesy of Michael Ryan.
First to the Peak: Baldy

First to the top of San Gorgonio...notice a trend.

First to the top of San Jacinto.
Spent the morning in Palm Springs.  Hot Hot Hot.


I swear there were more people in the event other than Mike and I, but I didn't take a picture of them.  Thanks to all of the great people we met along the way, and who took part in the 8000 meter challenge.  And a special thanks to the Palm Springs Days Inn for unknowingly allowing Mike and I to bathe in your pool the morning after. :-) 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Healing 8/17 - 8/24

Saturday 8/17
AM: 8 miles down at sea level.  The knee was feeling good with a little tightness in my right quad.  Easily knocked out 6:30ish/mile pace.
PM: 4 miles +1,000 ft. on Sam Merrill Trail before my new knee taping technique fell off.  Felt good without any knee pain.

Sunday 8/18
AM: With a better tape job, ran up to Inspiration Point via Castle Canyon.  I felt a bit sluggish. 10mi +2,500 ft.
Ran to work and back. 8mi.

Monday 8/19
AM: Took it easy on the knee: Ran the long way to work and back home. 11mi.

Tuesday 8/20
AM: Ran with Chris up to Muir Peak via Castle Canyon. 12 mi +3,000 ft.
Ran to work and back.  8 mi.

Wednesday 8/21
AM: Ran lower Steep and Cheap loop.  My time from the top of lake to top of S and C was 23 minutes, which wasn't super fast, but not slow for my first time in almost a month. 6 mi + 1,500 ft.
Ran to work and climbed at the gym after work. 4 mi.

Thursday 8/22
I procrastinated all morning, got to the track late, and quit after 2 hard mile repeats and one easy mile. I often lack discipline on the track.

Friday 8/23
Finally got out into the mountains again for a proper long run.  I originally intended to tag Baldy, Dawson, and Pine via Bear Canyon, but when I got up to Baldy I saw that there was a fire on the base of Dawson Peak.  So I ran down the Ski Hut Trail and then up to the Notch and back to Baldy (2nd time).  I had a little bit of quad cramping about half way through, but other than that no real issues.I just took my time.  20mi +10,000 ft.

Saturday 8/24
I intended to run, but the task to put a camper shell on my truck turned out to be a whole fiasco, taking much longer than I had intended.  Oh well.

It felt good to put in a more solid week of running than I have in the past month.  I am feeling great, and I have since been able to run with out pain and no knee taping.  Discipline, patience, understanding.

Week Total: 94 mi. +18,000 ft.

Monday, August 19, 2013


It began, probably, before I could tell you, but with hours to think instead of running I have my own hypothesis.  At some point it went from a nag in my left knee to a real injury that I had to deal with, and that point happened a few weeks before I wanted to acknowledge it.  Easier said than done.  Its a process, coming to grips with an injury, a process akin to coming to grips with losing something that meant a lot to you.  All of the normal problems arise at different times: denial, depression, questioning, frustration, anger, denial again, self examination, hypothesizing, deciding running is stupid anyways, a little more denial, and ultimately acknowledging and accepting that I do indeed have an injury.  These are a list of words that were much easier to write than the process of understanding an injury was for me.  It took me weeks to finally admit that perhaps I should take a few consecutive days off from running. 

With the down time during recovery I was allowed time to really think, and I eventually came to the realization that sometime philosophy has a real tangible relation to ultra running.  In this instance I began to draw conclusions between some writings of Rousseau and my own dilemma.  For Rousseau and his arguments against the enlightenment one of the biggest violations to the natural state of the human being is the act of being dishonest with one's self due to the desire and admiration of qualities of those who where exemplified in his era.  In other words he claims that the comparison of other outside ideals with ourselves causes us to ignore our own natural state, and strive to be something we are not.  For Rousseau this untruth to one's self came out of comparison between people, but perhaps in ultra running it takes its form on the expectations we place upon ourselves.  We set goals, sign up for races, feel pressure to hit certain (somewhat arbitrary) weekly mileages.  We read blogs of other runners, push ourselves to train harder, and all at the cost of our own bodies.  Ideally, most of the time this pushes us to be better at what we try to do, but sometimes our bodies react differently, and when injuries occur we have our choices to make.  For me, I decided to tell myself that my knee pain was a minor problem, and would go away in a week, Big surprise: it did not heal because I continued to focus on my goal performance apart from the needs of my body.  We find that truth does not come until we refuse the desire to perform for others, and thus learn to run each step as ourselves, taking each step merely as a means to move our bodies forward.

All is not lost in the world of injuries though, I have been climbing more consistently and harder than I have in a while.  The dishes are done, and I have re-awakened an unyielding desire to be back in the mountains.  I am back running again after taking a couple of weeks off, and as Dr. Leo Marvin would say, it all about "Baby Steps". 

Mt Ashland Hill Climb: Watching not running

Spending time with the Fam.  Picking blackberries at the family ranch.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

When Fun-Hogging Becomes a Problem

 I woke up to a dark room and the sound of my alarm buzzing and ringing.  Blurry eyed, I searched the dresser, hoping to push the snooze button for nine more minutes of sleep, but by the time I found it I decided I might as well stay up.  I shuffled from our messy room, knee aching, mouth dry, to the kitchen to heat water for coffee.   In the kitchen, I grabbed a cup, filled it with water, and sipped it as I blankly stared at the ever growing pile of dishes in the sink.  After coffee, I ventured out to the garden to check on the drip system my mom and I installed a few weeks ago before hoping on a plane for Hawaii.  Everything is working well, and the tomato plants have engulfed everything.  By the sight of our bolted lettuce plants its apparent that I haven't had much interaction with the garden for the last few weeks aside from ever-so-often picking its fruits.  Our house is not much different.  A laundry basket full of clothes, yoga mats spread out on the floor, shoes and climbing gear strewn about.

The last few weeks seem a blur.  Went up to Western States to pace my friend Peter, then to Hawaii with my family, and now, the first couple of weeks back I have been trying my best to venture out into the mountains at every possible moment.  The result: my knee has been sore for a few days, my big toe is wrapped in climbing tape, I have splotches of poison oak popping up on my limbs, and our house has been engulfed by our tired decisions to let our "future-selves" put things away.

I have begun to wonder if this is becoming a problem. So many of our day-to-day chores have been neglected, and I wonder if future Erik and Jess will ever come around to pick up the piles of gear.  Even now, as I am writing this, I am becoming restless, knowing that there is something that I could be doing instead, and I feel like I have to answer the urge to go for a run.  Perhaps I am in denial about my addiction, but until the stage of acceptance I am going to go out and, as my college room mates would say, "buy the world."  And now off to some more fun hogging.

Peter Cross, Rucky Chucky River Crossing, Western States.

Monday, June 24, 2013


The past two weeks have been more of a re-grouping of my thoughts, and with the longest day of the year already here and gone, its time for me to look forward to my ambitions for the next couple of months.

I woke this morning thinking, "Summer is only a few days old, and I am already exhausted."

Perfect! With more sunlight each day there is more time to be out doing things, training, climbing, running, and so here are my goals for the rest of the summer:

With my next 50k not scheduled until September I have to have something to reach for in to more near future.  I want to put a lot more time in doing (what I would deem) "proper mountain running".  In the immediate vicinity this would mean spending more time up around Baldy and out towards San Gorgonio.  Outside of the immediate vicinity I want to spend a few weekends up in the Eastern Sierras (if I can get the time).

 With all of that mountain running there are a few things that have been bouncing around in my head, of which at the fore front being a few FKT's (fastest known times) in the Southern California area:

- Mt. Baldy (Bear Canyon Route) : This one's recent popularity seems to be tied to Anton Krupicka's accidental FKT a couple of years back.  Nonetheless its a solid route.

- San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek Trail : This one is a bit less active, but it is also a proper route.

- Cactus to Clouds  : This one I would have to wait till it cools down in the Fall, but I thought I would throw it in anyway.

- 9 Peaks Challenge: this one doesn't have a well established FKT, but I would like to try to put up a solid effort on this route.

Most of these are one way FKT's, but I have been also playing with the ideas of extending the suffering a bit more and pushing for some solid Car to Car times, we shall see.

Now, I know these are very lofty goals, with all the other things that I  have going on this summer, but I figured if I wrote them out I would have to, at least, push towards them instead of just keeping them in my head.

Other than the FKT's I have the honor of pacing Peter at Western States this weekend and Dominic at the AC 100 in early August, followed by the always enjoyable Mt. Ashland Hill Climb.  So, it seems I have plenty on my plate to live out summer to its fullest potential, wish me luck.

Here is an obligatory picture to spice up this post: