Thursday, May 23, 2013

62 Miles - Just The Facts

Having completed my first 100k footrace, and having had a few days to reflect on the race, I am left at a loss for both words to explain the experience or any wise insight one might get from running such a distance.  Therefore, I can log some facts and hope insight comes later.

  • The Bishop High Sierra 100k is run outside of Bishop, CA in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable!
  • 104 crazies joined me at the starting line for the 100k, approximately 200 more were there running any number of other distances (20m, 50k, 50m) offered up that day.  
  • The day was warm with highs in the mid to upper 80's and a good breeze ensured that the exposed nature of the Eastern Sierra's would be a factor for the day. 
  • The 100k course began with a 20 mile uphill slog to the Edison Lookout at 9400 feet.  From there the course bounces along around 8000 feet before dropping back down to Bishop around mile 50.  The last 12 miles are an impressively challenging "up and over" of one last hill, that at least left me wondering why I didn't just opt for the 50 mile option and avoid this last kick in the teeth. 
  • The total course included over 9800 feet in climbing, lots of sandy roads, and vistas that stopped me dead in my tracks.
  • 13 hours and 32 minutes after starting this crazy adventure, I crossed the line and had another race distance to check off the list.  
  • Of the 104 who were signed up for the 100k only 74 finished.  Must have been a hard day for lots of folks. 
  • Well under the 15 hour cut off for the Western States Lottery, I get to sign up in for that option again and see if next year is my lucky year.  
Five days after the event, I am still a bit numb to greater reflection.  I am tired, my toe hurts, and I am busy with the other elements of my life.  What I do know is that I am happy I did this event and incredibly proud of the accomplishments.  I know the miles taught me a great deal and also now realize those lessons will unfold over time.  As a true sign of endurance, I will have to be patient for all of this to soak in.

One foot in front of the next, repeat!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Trail Might Be There, Somewhere...

The good news is that the drainage we were in headed towards the road to get out.  The bad news, the trail we were suppose to be on, the super secret, totally awesome discovery, will for the time being remain super secret, because we were not on it.  The plan was simple, a long outing in the Sierras, get in some good miles, find the new trial, have it be simple, get home, be done.  Right up to the "find new trail" part things were going as well as they could, miles, Sierra's, simple, and then...lost.  "Lost" may be too  big a word to use here, the good news about canyons is that they spit out, this one, the one without the trail, would take us back somewhere near the car.  So what happens when you are walking through the woods, sans trail, feeling lost but not worried?  You run the risk of really enjoying yourself and being fascinated with our surroundings!  For eons, this is how people traveled, not by 6 lane highways, or even country roads, but by dead reckoning, finding ones way, and finding out all that there was along the way.  It felt good to be off the path, felt good to be finding the way, felt better when the the way was found, but the journey was worth it.  So when the question was asked, "how was the run" the reply simple stated that we went old school and found our way home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ten Days and Counting

The balance is most certainly out of whack!  I have been 10 days without exerting myself beyond a simple walk around the block.  Call it a sign or just the symptom of going too hard, no matter what it is, I don't like it.  I miss feeling healthy, miss getting out, miss having the energy.  So what can I take away from a prolonged bout of sickness and lack of exercise?

1) I have the best wife in the world.  Either that or she really doesn't like my company.  Regardless, for the last few days, there has been a standing order for me to get to bed and get some sleep!  After a few of these nights, it is clear the lack of good quality sleep may have been a key factor in my recent mini health catastrophe.

2) Family vs. Fitness:  The mighty warriors on the U8 boys soccer team roared onto the field last Saturday for a great match.  There is no way their coach would not have been on the sideline cheering them on, dusting off scraped knees, and giving ample high-fives.  Following the game with Sunday's fifth birthday party and the Rainbow ABC theme was a non-option for my attendance.  These events may have prolonged my recovery, but they bettered my existence!

3) I can't remember who it was, but at some point over the last few years a medical provider either told my wife or me that, "it's time to either get better or stay hurt."  Doesn't give you a lot of hope to hear that as your dose of medical advice.  That is until you understand the statement.  We are all blessed with a wonderful brain living between our ears.  For as powerful as this tool is, it can also work against us and debilitate our road to recovery.  Positive thoughts have positive energy!

Maybe I needed to get a dose of bad health to get things back in perspective.  Work doesn't seem to be slowing down.  The demands of the family are every growing.  I am itching to get back on the road.  Time to decide whether it's time to getter better or time to stay sick?  Hopefully the road ahead will be straight enough to allow me to keep on eye on the balance of things.

One foot in front of the other, repeat.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Same But Different!

A week after logging my second 50 miler, I am still  struck by how different two equal elements can be from each other.  A quick glance of each run would indicate some striking similarities: Both were 50 miles in length, they both climbed just shy of 10,000 feet, both were in California, and both were hard!  Outside of these somewhat overly generic similarities the comparison goes in a very different direction.  As I previously wrote about, the first 50 was a race and a solo effort.  The second time for that distance was not solo, and I wasn't racing.  Which has, even me asking, one simple thing, why?

Over the weekend of July 16 and 17, I paced my buddy, Jason, for the final 50 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  It was his first 100 and my first experience with a long night-time pacing duty.  I picked up Jason at the 50 mile mark at about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon.  He was tired and in need of some calories, but for the most part ready to go.  We took off at a "2nd 50 mile" pace and settled into joking conversation and good forward progress.  It soon dawned on my what I had actually signed up for.  I was not only going to need to look after myself but I was also going to have to keep tabs on someone else who was getting more and more tired and punch drunk with each mile.  We made in through the first big climb and first couple aid stations in good time, spirit and condition.  After our first trip through the Tunnel Creek Aid Station we headed out on the Red House loop.  This included a pretty awesome drop in altitude and then the climb back up.  Our goal was to complete this loop prior to the night turning dark.  Although I symbolically held off turning on my headlamp until we returned to Tunnel Creek Aid Station, it was clear that this stretch really began our long night of running.  From Tunnel Creek we continued out the Diamond Peak Loop.  Here I became the brain for someone else.  By the time we finished the drop down to Diamond Peak lodge, it was clear, I was the only one eating on this run.  Getting calories into Jason turned into my primary focus.  The flip side of this was that I was not nearly as aware of the steep climb as I may have otherwise been.  I was shocked to see how Jason responded to some food!  Getting some calories down and then the climb behind us, we were running again and running well!  I detailed a very strict nutritional plan for him for each aid station.  Back at Tunnel Creek, we had 18 to go, seemed like we were almost home. In retrospect, 18 to go is nowhere near home!    Jason stuck firm to the nutritional plan, I only failed at not including a hydration component to his plan.  This wouldn't catch up with him until post race, although it is clear that in the last miles the failure to keep both food and water coming in took a toll on both of us.  With about 8 miles to go we were witnesses to a spectacular sunrise shedding light and a new day on the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Even fatigued, this event did not go unnoticed, we both stopped and took it all a word -  spectacular.  Feeling a bit small in the cosmic sense of it all we dropped off of Snow Peak and headed for home, in the daylight again.  No one came by us, we never really stopped to rest, but there wasn't much talking and it was clear finishing was all that either of us really had in mind.  And with that we finished.  For my runner, his first 100, a top 20 finish, a really cool belt buckle, and a need to rehydrate.  For me...well that is the odd part, we crossed the line and after logging 50 miles I kinda wondered off and headed for home.  How odd?  That need/desire/obligation to finish my duties pushed me to get Jason a chair, some food, and liquids.  He had some family there and after a bit, it was clear my job was done.  So, I drove home.  It was kind of surreal to have run so far and not have it be in connection with another result or even a race shirt.  It was a great experience and a great event.  Driving home it felt like I had just been out for a training run.  When I got home and tried to get out of the car, it was clear this had been a bit more than a training run.  But what it was exactly, well I am still working on that.  Needless to say, I got some miles in, which is always good.

To get back to my initial question: Why?
The simple answer was that Jason needed a pacer and I knew I could do the distance.  But that would be only a partial truth.  I am still fascinated by getting out there and doing it, whatever "it"  may be.  It hurt, actually hurt a lot, but it felt really good to ask the body and mind to perform and have them do such.  So why do it?  I don't really know other than to say, I am more interested in trying to do it than to stay and home and wonder what it would be like.  I don't think there is a balance out there, instead I think the scale is more of a teeter-totter going back and forth, keep it going but don't fall off!

One foot in front of the other, repeat

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hope Reborn

Maybe I am just a cheap date, but watching stage 1 of the 2011 Tour de France kindled a smoldering flame within for professional cycling.  Although still marred with the ugly truths, lies, and tales of doping, todays race was indeed just that, a race!  Prying my eyes open with toothpicks, I was there at 5:00am for all the splendor of the opening day of the greatest stage race on earth!  After months of news stories that read more like WWF fodder than cycling, I wondered why I even bothered to watch today.  And yet today, the race favorites got complacent riding mid pack and lost time in a crash and the greatest strong man on a bike couldn't sustain an attack within the last kilometer.  Clean or not, to my eyes, it was a bike race, where anything could happen at any moment.  The result of an exciting day one will hopefully be a Tour full of unpredictable twists and turns.

Watching today's stage reminded me of those things that I find most compelling in endurance pursuits.  The excitement of just a few seconds can carry you for hours, days or weeks to follow. In no way was the Tour de France won today.  However, those who think they can win are all now set to task.  That all so common cycling term of turning oneself "inside out" to get through the stage will be the metaphor for now.  The fitness factor has been diminished and the mark of man has been elevated.  Will those who lost time be willing to fight to get that time back?  Will the beneficiaries of todays split be able to hold on to the advantage?  Anything can happen at any moment and the heart will play a vital role in the determination of victor.  Digging within the soul is the reason we ask so much of the body, heart and mind.  It is impossible to know what gems of the soul exist if you don't go digging for them.  Reluctantly, I am back in the role of superfan, waiting to see who will be willing to dig the deepest.

All this early morning talk and action has me itching for a ride.  I wonder how high up the snow has cleared on Mormon Emigrant Trail?  Looks like it is time to do some shallow digging and see what kind of effort I can summon up today.

One foot in front of the other, repeat!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You Can't Do That!

Sometimes the best motivation comes from a sense of proving others wrong.  I came across this video clip while looking over the morning headlines.  Although, I am not arguing a political or economic agenda here, the endurance and willingness to fight on by a whole lot of residents of Grand Rapids is evident!  Quite frankly, I am sure this video, and a fantastic one at that, would have never happened had Grand Rapids not been labeled a "dying" city!  The lesson to take from this: Be careful who to discourage, they may come back and prove you wrong.
Keep on fighting Grand Rapids!  Your video inspired me to visit...hmmmmm, but when do I go,  

Anyone up for a fall marathon in beatiful Grand Rapids?

One foot in front of the other, repeat!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Put it in the Books!

Part of my goal with this site is to highlight the importance of balance.  For many, the struggle between career, life, family and other elements leads to an unhealthy imbalance of happiness and responsibility.  By maintaining the balance necessary to successfully maintain professional expectations, personal obligations and lofty aspirations makes us better in all of life endeavors!  Some might disagree that running 50 miles is an example of balance.  However, we are all unique and what floats your boat, may sink mine!  With that being said, I kick off "Principal Endurance" with a race report from my first 50 mile event!

Quicksilver 50
April 30, 2011

"Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards" Alberto Salazar

Couldn't have agreed more with that one last Saturday morning.  Prior to that point, my longest run had been a touch above 50k and that occurred while getting lost running the "Run on the Sly 50k" several years back.  Yet despite the lack of a really really long run in the training log, I felt pretty good that I had done an ok job getting consistent training.  When the gun went off, I started forward with three goals in mind: One - Finish the thing Two - Finish under the 11hr Western States Qualifying mark Three - Finish in 9:30.

Quicksilver County Park is a really beautiful South Bay park set in the hills southwest of San Jose.  There are not a lot of flat trails in this park and the course was several circuitous loops giving us all a great vantage point of what this park has to offer.  The race advertises ~8500+ feet of climbing all of which came in classic steep Bay Area kickers that tend to knock my sock offs!  There was a real lack of long sustained gentle topography for good running, but I was willing to make the most of it!

The first 10 miles clicked along pretty well.  I took off at a pretty easy pace just wanting to maintain a "good" feeling as long as possible.  From about 5-15 I hooked up with my buddy Eric Dube and we ran together for a bit.  He eventually found a rhythm too quick for me and I lost contact with him just after the half marathon point.  From 15-25 I found a great rhythm and really enjoyed my time out on the trails, had a few conversations with fellow runners, caught up on a pod cast or two, ate and kept the hydration up and came across the half way point feeling pretty darn confident!  The weather was perfect, sunny with a cool breezy, temps hovering right around 70!  Not a bad day to be out for a long run...

The pain cave is full of unexpected caverns and tunnels.  You never know when your path is on a collision course with one of the dark recesses that lingers deep in the heart of the beast.  Apparently miles 26-31 took me down one of those unexpected turns.  This was actually a downhill section of trail back to the start finish area where April was waiting with some words of encouragement and treats.  The downhills were steep and hard and after about two miles of this the quads were shot, the pace was slow and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten into.  At 50K runners come into the start/finish area and the 50 milers head out for an out and back to complete the distance.  Coming into this aid station I knew I had to keep the game face on, April was there with everything I had asked for, a few words were exchanged and then off I went.  I knew this needed to be a transition of few words and keep the focus on the next 20 miles.  I left the aid station in a slow walk, not really sure of what was ahead.  Soon after I came into territory unexplored by me before.  As the watch indicated my mileage was slowly creeping beyond any distance I had run before, I began to learn what 50 miles was all about.  Miles 32-40 were not great.  They were mostly uphill, slow, and the sun was starting to beat down.  It was hard to think back at how good I felt such a short time before and that I still had so many miles in front of me.  I practiced the ancient art of one foot in front of the other, repeat.  Around 40 I began to do the mental math of what I could salvage for the day.  Could I still beat the 11hr time slot, was I walking the rest of this thing, were there any spots to take a nap?

Shortly after 40 the trail eased a bit and I started to run again.  Key for me to this point was that I hadn't let up with the dedication to nutrition and hydration.  Slowly things started to pick up again.  By 42 I was running well and by 44 things actually felt good.  The last 10K was a blast.  I passed about six folks on the trail (two had passed me while I was struggling) and finished off with a few 7:30's to round out the day.  This type of recovery was something I had observed but never really experienced before.  I must say I shocked myself with what I was able to do with the last 10 miles.  Not only did I limit the losses of the down time, I finished a tad under goal at 9:23:59! My time was well within the Western States Qualifying time of 11hr.  Looks like I will be testing my luck at the WS lottery next year.

50 miles is a long way and the body paid a price.  I don't know if I was prepared for the mental euphoria that came along with the distance.  I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around this but I am really happy I did it...when's the next race?