Friday, October 14, 2016

Finding Contentment

The weather outside sucks today. Okay, thats a fairly subjective statement. Its windy; like 40 miles per hour windy. Its drizzling AND there is a fire near our house. What?! I took Watson out for a walk in the smoke filled air, and even he did not enjoy it. He looked up at me, as the rain slapped us sideways across our faces, with a "WTF are we doing out here?" look. Thats what sort of day it is outside.

This is weather that I very rarely would have had to deal with in Southern California (where weather is more of an idea than a tangible reality). So, being here in the Sierras this past year learning that my plans and ambitions are somewhat dictated by the seasons has been a bit of a lesson slowly learned. Not only that, but other things get in the way such as money, time, work, and other "adultish" responsibilities, all of which help to shuffle Summer goals into Fall, and before you know it the snow is flying up high in the mountains and your SOL for any non-technical bi-pedal movement. "Better wax up those skis," everyone keeps telling me excitedly, but all I feel is the anxiety of not being able to accomplish the lofty ideas I've dreamt up while staring at everyone else' Gram feeds earlier this year. "The best laid plans..."(I'm not sure how that saying ends).

The other day (when it wasn't stormy out) I was running up Thomas Creek and came upon the most beautiful array of fiery fall colors. Such beauty that my up tempo run came to a screeching halt. For a moment I forgot about what strava would say about my pace and marveled at the scene before me. After too many poorly shot photos with no real focal point, I picked back up and focused on the rest of my run. This is the point in the blog where I am supposed to have some great epiphany that solves all my problems. Nope. I'm still wrestling to find some sort of contentment with not accomplishing any of my goals this summer.  I guess some years are like that. Nonetheless, the seasons move forward whether I like it or not. Summer is over, and Fall is marching toward a (hopefully) snowy Winter. What ever the season, the mountains sure are beautiful, here, right now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Colorado and the Power of 4

I started the trip by sitting out side of my house waiting for the mail carrier to drop off my shoes(which arrived the next day after I’d left). After the postal carrier didn’t have my package in his jeep I hoped in the fox den and headed towards Colorado. 30 minutes later I sat on the side of highway 80 with a flat tire and no functioning spare, waiting for the tow truck to drag me and my truck back to Reno. All of this was more than enough for me to rethink driving the thirteen hours out to Aspen to run a competitive 50k that I was thoroughly under trained for. Since injuring my ankle back in June I was only able to get in one (yes one) solid week of running before it was time to wind down and rest up for this race. So there I sat Thursday afternoon in the tire shop waiting room wondering if I should just stay home for the weekend.

The next day, after thirteen hours of driving across the western US, I arrived in Montrose, CO. I had decided the trip was worth it weather or not I was going to run well on Sunday. After Chris got off work we went for a run, and it was there, as I settled into a familiar rhythm of fox trotting a few steps behind a good friend, that my decision to journey out to Colorado for the weekend was validated. We ran on the local Montrose trails, making jokes and talking as if we still lived a few blocks away. 

The race, itself, was uneventful, other than it glaringly exposed holes in my rigorous week of training. I felt great on the uphills all day as the steep climbing played into my non-running strengths (hiking), but months of riding bicycles down hill and taking care of my tender ankle while running had left me completely void of downhill running muscles. So, after loosing sight of just about everyone on the first downhill I resolved to work as hard as I could on the ups, but not worry too much about the race results. I finished the race in 6:19.xx, about an hour behind first place. In the past I might have been super bummed about my lacking performance, but this race was different. I was happy to be back on my feet, pushing hard in the mountains, and to be with friends.
Steep Start

Running by myself after getting passed by everyone on the down hill.

After the race we all went back to the camp, ate some store bought fried chicken and macaroni, drank beers and stared into the fire as dusk turned to darkness. It was as perfect as any day could end. The next day I shuffled my beat up legs after Chris on the way up to Maroon Pass. We talked, enjoyed being out in the mountains together; I apologized for moving so slowly, he pretended like it wasn’t that slow…just like old times. Soon it was time for me to head back to Reno, feeling like I hadn’t gotten enough time with Chris, Elisa, and Penny, but living with a renewed vigor from sharing a few days together. 

Me struggling.

Why do we run in the mountains? Why do we do anything at all? There must be an infinite amount of individual answers to these questions, but for me, at the root, is the possibility to share our experiences with others, and for these experiences to foster deep seated relationships that ultimately help to define ourselves. 

Race/ Weekend Gear List:

Patagonia: Strider Pro Shorts, Cap 1 (cutoff) tank top, DuckBill Trucker Hat.
Inov-8: Terraclaw 220’s (even though I already put 500 miles on these kicks, they still felt good and snappy on race day!)
Julbo: Aeros - feels like I’m wearing nothing at all.
Drymax: Max Protection Trail Crew Socks - Kept my feet happy all day.
Naked Running Band - held all my water and gels keeping my hands free to power hike the ups and flail on the downs
VFuel: Started the day off with Ginger Twist in the bottle, and ate a smattering of Peach Cobbler and Cool Citrus the rest of the day. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Mid Summer's Injury

On an ill fated June morning I sprained my left ankle; and that is about as interesting as that story gets. I wasn't somewhere "cool", I wasn't doing anything worthy of a 'Gram post, I wasn't even running fast. I was on Nevada's version of California carpet trail, and for the four miles post sprain, I pretended to run normally trying to convince myself it wasn't so bad. I was unable to run for the next five and a half weeks, so I guess it was a little worse than I initially wanted to accept. I missed two races in that time, and was relegated to bicycle riding (which is the cool thing for injured ultra runners to do right now, so I'm pretty hip). The time off from running wasn't without its teaching moments though, so here are some things I've learned in the last month:

1. Ankle sprains take a loooong time to heal.
 Like WTF? Right? After weeks of limping around and staring at everyone's social media about how great the mountains are in the summer time, I nearly lost my mind with my inability to join in all the revelry. The fourth of July was the worst! I sat at home watching the live stream of the Mt Marathon race, eating chips and drinking beer. I'm sure that helped my ankle heal faster. Nonetheless, I eventually realized that the more patient I am with the healing injury the quicker it would heal up, which is probably something that I have learned with every injury I've ever had...and then promptly forgot.

2. You can go almost anywhere on a bicycle.
 It was that same realization I had when I finally finished a 100 miler: I can run almost anywhere. With a somewhat sufficient bicycle the possibilities to travel under my own power were endless! That is until you don't plan a route out very well and get yourself lost on a series of dead end fire roads somewhere near the California/ Nevada boarder. Unlike running, on a bicycle you can travel a relatively long way in a short period of time, and before you know it you are surrounded by the rolling northern Sierra Nevadas on an unmarked fire road, and have been out of water for hours.  My mom made me buy a smart phone after that one.

3. Baby Steps!
Just like Bob learns in the coming of age drama What About Bob, taking baby steps is the only way to deal with my new problems. So perhaps the first day my ankle felt good I shouldn't have hiked the steepest possible route up Mt Rose, and maybe I need to learn to move my feet a little faster on the downhills. Thank you Dr. Leo Marvin.

After all of this, its fairly likely that I will soon forget these lessons, and hopefully be gleefully trotting around in the mountains again without any ankle related worry in the world.  Cheers!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mendocino 50K Race Report

Saturday morning I woke to my buzzing telephone alarm signaling that it was 5:30 am and time to hunt down some coffee and food before the race. I glanced over at Jess covering her head in her sleeping bag and Watson snoring soundly in between us. I opened the door of the car and stepped out into the church parking lot that we’d pulled into just four hours before. The ocean air was damp and salty, and my right ankle was still tender.

The Monday prior to this I went on a quick flat run as the start of my taper week. Everything was going along as planned until, with about a half mile to go, I slipped on a rock and rolled all of my weight onto my ankle with a definite “pop”.  “SHEEIIITTT!” I thought as I gently trotted the rest of the way home. What a great way to begin the taper.  

 The rest of the week was uneventful, but having to work on Friday Jess and I didn’t leave Reno till around 6:00 pm. As if the trip was not going to take long enough, a surprise Spring storm was dumping snow on Donner pass making it slow going for quite a while till we dropped down in elevation enough for it to turn into rain. Keeping the theme of a proper taker week, my pre-race dinner consisted of gas station beef jerky and some trail mix (I’m so paleo!). After a long windy drive we arrived in Mendocino a little after 1:00 am. After a few passes through town we parked the car in a church parking lot set the alarm for 5:30 and passed out of a quick pre-race sleep. 

In the morning, trying to harness the advise of my college rugby coach, I groggily taped the shit out of my weak ankle and lined up on the shore of the Big River with all the other runners. 

Casual race start.

The race began casually skirting along the ocean front cliffs and along the roads through town. At one point we hopped onto a steep muddy trail, crossed a creek, and followed the ropes up the steep hill on the other side. “Hmm maybe this course will play into my strengths after all,” I thought. Nope. 

Zack Bitter, Yew Ferrara and I all came into the first aid together. I knew that there was a climb after, and knew this was my only real strength for the day, so I did what I could to work hard, but it soon turned into rolling single track and Zack and Yew trotted off. I just did not have the wheels to keep up. After that it was just me, my tender ankle and the plethora of poison oak to keep me company. The course here was spectacularly beautiful. Most of the single track winded through drizzly redwood forests skirted with brilliantly green ferns. 

The second climb of the race was a gradual fire road, and for a moment at the top I came into sight of Yew up ahead, but again he seemed to be able to float off once the trail leveled out. Damn. The last ten miles of the race were on a flat (I mean flat)  jeep road that follows the Big River back to the race start. I had planned to hammer these last miles out at about 7 minutes per mile, and for about 5-6 of them things were going to plan, but just before the last aid station my left hammy started to cramp up. From there on I stopped looking at the pace (which certainly fell off). I shuffled along the last four, or so, miles as my attitude toward my endeavor began to fade. With about a mile to go Michael Robert caught up with me. I didn't seem to have much ambition left, and so mumbled, “Go get em,” as he passed. I finished out the race in 4th place in 4:18.

Aside from falling apart at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I could not believe how beautiful it was, and although it may have been a little flatter that I would prefer it was certainly a good day to see what the legs had in them. 

 A big thanks to the race director for letting me jump in at the last moment, and to VFuel for stocking all the aid stations with yummy gels and drink mix (it was great not to have to worry about carrying any extra food as I knew every aid would have all my favorite gels on hand). 

Gear List:
Shoes: Inov8 Terraclaw 220 (Certainly my favorite shoe right now) 
Socks: Drymax Trail Crew Socks (to try to fend off the poison oak) 
Clothes: Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts (tried and true), and Capeline 1 L/S Crew Top

Naked Running Band (holds a soft water bottle to keep my hands free)  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Morning Run in Pictures: 2/22/16

 With a mid-winter thaw upon us,  I decided to go for a familiar loop. The backside of Church's ridge was more so wallowing in the snow than running downhill, but in the winter sometimes just moving in the mountains is good enough.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Snow Day

What to do on a snow day?
I woke this morning, read the avy report: Avalanche Conditions Are Considerable.  
Next Plan: maybe do some XC skiing.
As I drove in my two wheel drive pickup onto the freeway and looked at the white sheets of snow blocking my view of the mountains I decided I didn't feel like putting on chains.
Tertiary Plan: Run from Reno - Hunter Creek Trail as snow fell in oversized flakes blanketing both the trail and my face. I opted to go explore a ridge in the snow, saw some deer, and somewhere in the knee high powder post holing I lost my right microspike. My backtracking was for naught, as the falling snow quickly concealed my tracks, entombing my poor lost microspike till spring.
Back at home: Make coffee, listen to serial, and watch as the snow piles up outside.
Learning Winter's patience.