Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vert Libre: Changes - Fall Running

The running is so different this time of year. Races done and the big miles logged. Once overgrown trails cut back by the dry tail-end of summer and new chill of fall. I know I should be resting but legs and singletrack yell "speed" and push me along with reminders that this run - today, right now - could be the last one before the snows put things to rest until March? April? Heaven forbid, May? And though the edge is a little rough and my waist a little more full, the PR's still come. So free is the running, so relaxed, my legs find the contours of the trails like they never did in the heat of the season. Up the valley, I see the full grey clouds dropping snow, and the forecast says they're coming this way. Time to see how fast I really am.

Vert Libre: free-form poetry and observations from the trail

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Twenty @Run_Junkie Tweets from October 2009

For those intelligent folks disinclined to follow the Run Junkie Twitter feed but who have just a dash of voyeur in their souls, I offer this executive summary from the last month. Here they are, such as they are: the top 20 tweets of October from @run_junkie.
  1. Beautiful early evening run yesterday through campus and around The Dish at Stanford. Pretty stout little loop.
  2. Yes, it dilutes things a bit. But why should it bother me? "Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?" - NYT: http://bit.ly/19SWYY
  3. Palm Drive - Stanford: http://twitpic.com/mi0r6
  4. In Palo Alto with the family for the big 20th college reunion. Stopped by Zombie Runner, of course: http://twitpic.com/mhn2j
  5. Something Buddhist about latte art. Impermanent. http://twitpic.com/mcpfu
  6. For a bookish ultra runner, how great to get a nod on the Ulysses "Seen" blog (1st paragraph)? - http://tinyurl.com/yjw7uwv
  7. New blog post: Race-Day Demons and Their Long Shadows http://bit.ly/rw7JN
  8. Bowling shirts & boner minutes. Coyote Two Moon 100 opens applications - a Chris Scott event not to be missed: http://coyotetwomoon.com
  9. 1700 in the bowl as Western States 100 application period comes to a close. It's going to take some good luck in Dec to get a golden ticket.
  10. Nice run in the fall sun on some brand new singletrack. Hard to beat it.
  11. Lance seems to be France's White Whale, one hopes they don't meet the Pequod's end. VeloNews: http://bit.ly/13UIc6
  12. Can't go wrong following Hicham El Guerrouj's example. "Exercise and company: Fitter with friends" | The Economist - http://shar.es/1l6qQ
  13. New blog post: 10 for '10: Goals for the Season Ahead http://bit.ly/l5us5
  14. Didn't run this morning. But I did spend 2 hours "cross-training" at the new pump park in Hailey. http://twitpic.com/l4v2l
  15. "Growth in Mountain Biking May Put Western Park Trails Off Limits" - NY Times: http://bit.ly/19LtNC
  16. Western States study: Quercetin does not affect rating of perceived exertion [or finish time]: Res Sports Med. 2009 - http://shar.es/1j9pM
  17. Snow piling up atop Baldy. This didn't happen until mid December last year: http://www.sunvalley.com/Su...
  18. Sitting at Costco in Twin, eating pizza and wondering Rocky or Coyote
  19. New blog post: Reflections on the 2009 Season http://bit.ly/27ouhF
  20. Name's in the WS hat. Feel like I should hit the sauna, just in case...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Confronting Race-Day Demons and Their Long Shadows

We all have a race-day demon. Some of us are quicker to admit it than others, but for each of us, by the time we toe the line at an ultra-distance event, the specter of some past failure or some past breakdown haunts our psyches. For many runners, these demons float away as soon as the gun goes off. For others, they rear their heads post race. And for some, like me, they travel with us many miles and many hours along the trail.

My big demon? It's mile 39. It was at that point of the Grand Teton 50 in 2008 where things started to descend quickly into a nutritional DNF a few miles later on. And even though I've had some decent finishes at a number of harder and longer events since then, I still feel some level of relief every time I get past mile 39 in good shape.

And that's the thing about these demons. They can have long shadows that can cast across race after race, even training run after training run. We simply have to learn how to deal with them until they eventually fade away.

Training was my proving ground - The lab where I was able to build up a new calorie, fluid, and electrolyte plan that helped me toe the line at my first 100k with enough confidence that the demon of the Tetons, while not silenced, was somewhat muted. Race after race since then, the demon has been increasingly small and quiet, until at the 2009 Wasatch Front 100, mile 39 came and went without much notice (editors note, Wasatch was not without issues).

Of course, it's still something I occasionally think about, and rightfully so. The Teton DNF was a pivotal moment in my would-be ultra life, and one that could have easily been the death knell of the distance for me. But defeat (especially born of inaction) casts a longer and more indelible shadow than any sort of race-day demon that toes the line with us. By taking it head on, race after race, we weaken it until it dissolves completely.

I hadn't thought much about this topic until I read a piece in the most recent UltraRUNNING by Stan Beutler (UR; Oct 2009; pg 41) who chronicled his successful return to this year's Bighorn 100 seven years after a harrowing, near-death experience with hyponatremia in the 2002 race.

With great heart, he writes:
"When I crossed the finish line in this year's 100-mile race, I felt gratitude, more than triumph, relief, or any other emotion. I was grateful for the chance to make it all the way back."

That's what tackling our demons does. It brings us back, full circle. Yet, we return not as the same person who began the trip, but one who has grown mentally, physically, and maybe even spiritually in the process. Of course, most of our demons pale in comparison to Mr. Beutler's but what they all offer us is the chance for growth and the ability to look ahead knowing the future is ours to make.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

10 for '10: Goals for the Season Ahead

With off-season life all bon-bons and foot massages and easy chairs, and my 2009 season summed up (here), why not move on toward goals for 2010? At no time will they seem more attainable than as I sit here sipping an Americano and eating some chocolate, so here they are, in no particular order. Some are pretty global; some pretty specific to local training.
  1. Run a challenging 100 miler in under 24 hours. (PR 25:34, Wasatch)
  2. Run Bald Mountain Trail (Sun Valley ski mountain) in under an hour. (PR 1:00:46).
  3. Run Bald Mountain Trail in under 59:00.
  4. Run Carbonate climb (trailhead to mineshaft) in under 26:00. (PR 26:37).
  5. Write, and get published, more long-form pieces on ultra-running.
  6. Write more poetry, running-inspired or otherwise
  7. Find some level of relief from the full-price of shoes, equipment, and calories
  8. Take more planned easy weeks during the heat of training
  9. Get more group runs in with friends
  10. Get at least two long runs on trails I've never trod

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reflections on the 2009 Season

Yes, there are a number of races yet to be run this year - but not by me. So, it seemed time to reflect on the long 2009 season before it faded away in my memory as planning for 2010 takes hold. Here, you'll find my "best of" list for 2009. I thought about including the "worst of" as well. But, in the balance of things, it seemed a little petty and belittling to what on all accounts was a really fabulous 2009. (The truly inquisitive can still glean the season's downsides in my Attackpoint training log).

Best race:
A toss-up between the Wasatch Front 100 and Pocatello 50. For pure effort and grit and successfully working through some tough times, it's Wasatch (see Best turnaround). For pure performance, it's got to be Pocatello.

Best race schwag:
The chock-full and esoteric Coyote Two Moon goodie bag, which included one very nice Patagonia Slopestyle Hoodie.

Best hike:
Idaho's Hyndman Peak (12,009), with my wife.

Best photo:
A tired AJW bringing up the rear in a training run post Western/Hardrock double.

Best video of someone else's race:
While it's hard not to give this to the AJW/Kevin Sullivan Leadville regurgitation special, it has to go to the pacer's view video of Kim Holak's Hardrock (below):

Best song:
Blitzen Trapper's Furr, which played a key role on one of my winter long runs, and which I played over and over during the night at the Bighorn 100.

Best sensation:
Entering the shaded woods of Bare Ass Pass at Wasatch after the baking heat between Big Mountain and Lambs.

Best quest for vertical:
The climbs up and runs down the snowy slopes of Sun Valley's Bald Mountain ahead of March's Coyote Two Moon 100k.

Best turnaround:
Getting past the early-stage GI meltdown at Wasatch and making it to the finish in decent shape and still OK time.

Best hardest track workout:
A Brad Mitchell special that finished with a 20-minute "tempo" with AJW and Brad leading the lightning charge. I stumbled home afterward with a tingling face and drank 32 ounces of chocolate milk.

Best training run:
The April quadruple Carbonate/Vorberg loop. 32 miles with 6,000 feet of climbing that felt about as effortless as it gets. Also inspired Best running-related poem.

Best running-related poem:
I didn't write too many this season, but the hands down winner was the This is Just Say knock off, which actually made it on the wall of my wife's office.