Well, its come and gone. A summer to remember with lots of new friends and a wealth of knowledge about my favorite sport. Its kinda sad to write about this because I've put so much energy into it. Without a doubt this truly has been the best summer I've ever had. Its had its share of difficulties but I know years later I look back and reflect fondly of the great adventure that was my first 50.
Wow, over 800 miles have been logged since I started this blog early in late spring. And it all came down to Saturday's performance. But I guess when I write it out like that it becomes obvious what the results would be. Scott and company really did us all a first class job of preparing us for our task and after 800 miles, of course I was ready. Baring injury there should not have been doubt in mind mind that I was prepared.
Its amazing how my perspective has changed over the years. From someone who couldn't believe they had just run a few miles without stopping, to someone who can run 50. Every non-runner seems to think that running long distances is some crazy. From that perspective a marathon seems unbelievable and ultra's, well, those people are nuts. I always knew I would eventually try longer distances but I still had that non-runner perspective. "yeah, I'll be that crazy one day." But the fascinating thing is, something a non-runner will never truly understand or believe until they do it themselves, is that its not hard.
That's right. It's really not that hard. It just takes lots of practice. Like anything else. Put in the time and the impossible becomes possible. So each time I complete a new distance, my paradigm shifts. I find out that the way I feel at the end of a marathon is the same way I feel at the end of the 50 miler. It's not like I'm exponentially tired and hurting. So now that I've done 50, I look to the 100. Is it crazy? I used to be one who thought so. But now I think its possible. And not only possible, but I have it in my sights. On the list for next summer. And the crazy thought that the non-runner in me is thinking, the same thought about the 100 before I ran the 50, is maybe I could do more than 100. Will I finish I 100 and think, "wow, that wasn't that hard, I need to go farther." I think its absurd now, but there's the little twinkle in my eye and a smirk on face that is beginning to reveal that maybe I don't think its that crazy anymore.
To be honest, I think I got inspired to do all this because of a macho desire for bragging rights. I think there's something inherent in me that wants to prove that I'm a tough guy. It does boost the ego a bit to be sure. But lately I find I really enjoy running. I'm quite addicted to trail running; something that road running could never do. And I think it was because road running was for all the wrong reasons. Speed and Ego. Trail running is about being connecting with nature. Taking the time to remove yourself from everything that is man and just be a simple animal running free in the wild. I know that sounds pretty hokey but nature is pretty fantastic without any help from man and to experience it on that level in such a primal way...
well, its a religion of sorts. It's time to think and time to not. Time to resolve conflicts of the mind and time to zone out until your thoughts are just reactive to the terrain. It's therapy for what ails the modern man/woman. Spend a few hours with a group of ultra runners and you'll see they're the most humble down to earth people you'll ever meet. I hope to be that way some day. Still working on the humble part.
So clearly from my rambling one can tell that I must have had a good time on Saturday. The race went well. And I wish I could say that there was some cosmic earth shattering revelation that came forth during the run that has forever changed me, but not yet. In fact, it was all rather matter-of-fact. It just happened. Time went by and then the race was finished. I accomplished my goal and that was that. It wasn't some great struggle where I had to drag myself to get across the line. I guess that will be reserved for the 100?
Saturday is kinda a wash on the memories so I'll try to sum it up the best I can. Jenn drove me to the start at 4 am and just as we were pulling into the park a coyote ran in from of her car. It avoided being hit and we then wide awake. I see Cathleen and Kevin and the beginning and wish them luck. The race begins and half of the group goes out slow and half are gone from site in a matter of minutes. Oh, its pitch dark outside and we all are running with either flashlights or headlamps. I use a flashlight and I'm glad I did as I soon realize that with a headlamp you need to move your head to expose new ground. With a flashlight you have the flexibility to expose anything with a flick of the wrist. We enter the trail after a few minutes of access road and I'm immediately behind Cathleen(notice this is Cathleen with a C not K, two different runners). I hang behind Cathleen for a while because I know it will keep me from going out too strong. But after a while I ask to pass and run my own race. Soon I'm all alone in the dark out in the middle of the woods. This is so much fun but my nerves were on edge because at any moment I could trip, fall and injury myself and it would all be over. I find that trying to pull stuff out of my camelbak and then wrappers in the dark while running was very difficult but I managed to do so without killing myself. I get to the first aid station and Brian is there. "How are you feeling? Can I get you anything?" It was great to see him out there but off I go back out into the dark. Then its up Wilderness Creak for a little climb and down, down, down the other side. I thought it would be lightening up by now but it hasn't. I get all the way to the 900 aid station to see Sean there as a volunteer. Sean used to run with our training group but injured himself. I was so glad to see him out there volunteering. I know I need to do this one day because races are possible only because of the volunteers. Off I go up west access into Squak Mt. Up, up and up. Eventually I'm running behind Van Phan(regional champion) and realize that I might be going a little too fast. She's and front and there's a guy right behind me. It finally starts to lighten as we summit the central peak and this is where I discover that the guy behind me is Michael, the same guy I ran my first ultra(R2R) with. We let Van go on but from here on out Mike and I run nearly all the race together. We take it easy going up hills to conserve our energy and again take it easy going downhills. Coming down off Squak I see Jim, Heriberto, Francis, Tracey, Alley, Cameron and Jerri. I think in that order. Its great to see them all looking strong in their 50k race. On we go back into Cougar Mt and about 3 miles before the loop end I start getting tired. I think it was all in my head as it lasted about 3 miles after I headed out from the start area. When I went through I see Jenn, get a kiss and head on over to the food. Brian and Micheal are there and they both say I look great, doing good. Michael asks jokingly, "is it everything you thought it would be?" As I said, a few miles after the start of my second I begin to feel better. Way too good in fact. Its like I'm starting with a clean slate. My legs feel great and my mind clear. I get to the 900 aid station for the second time and realize that did it faster on my second loop(due to the dark no doubt). Squak goes by for a second time and we bid a fond farewell(maybe not so fond). At the 900 aid station for the 4th and final time we discover that many have dropped out and that Uli has won in 8:17. It has long been appearant to me that I will make the 13 hour cut-off but now I find out that it has been extended due to the course difficultly. So we head out on our finally 8 mile sin high spirits. After some climbing we get to the last section of downhills and I decide to open up. I had been walking all the uphills for a while so I felt I couldn't go any slower and no was the time to use whatever strength I had. So I flew down the hills like the jackass that I am. I believe this is what got me to finish in under 12 hours. We get to the last aid station with 3 miles to go and 50 minutes to make under 12. It sounds easy but the last 3 miles is almost all uphill. I hand off my camelbak to a friend of Mikes and hit the trails feeling light as a feather. In the last half mile I had to give myself a peptalk to get myself running uphill so I could beat the clock and in th last quarter I was running full speed ahead feeling great and knowing that I had just finished my first 50.
So that's it. Jenn was there to give me a big hug and kiss at the line. I tried to hang around for a while but the weather turned sour and I was started to get hypothermia.
So, now I look toward Sacramento and hopefully Boston.
Today's run was exactly what I needed. It was a good long run. The second longest I've ever run but most definitely most most technically difficult course. Cle Elum takes its runners up 18 miles of ascent until it finally crests and begin its descent for the next 13. I had been dreading the course since I first laid eyes on the profile map but it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought. There were moments when the grade was terribly steep but for the most part it was just a gradual rise over 18 miles and when you got to mile 18, its was almost all downhill from there. Toward the end of the course it does start to get rolling with short climbs scattered here and there. And then the last mile is all down hill again.
I say its what I needed because in that last couple miles I knew I could easily run for hours more if I had to. And it felt great. I was of course tired. But tired in the mind, not the legs. I wanted to finish the race because I knew it was about done, that's what I had planned on running and I really didn't want to run more. But I could feel it in my legs that they had plenty left. And if I had to do it, I could have gone on. It was what I needed to know three weeks out from my big run. I discovered I was ready to tackle something much bigger.
We did a tempo run tonight. We went out reverse on the big loop and did three nine minute repeats with 2 minutes in between. I took it real easy so I wouldn't ruin my Saturday run at Cle Elum. In the last minute of the last repeat I did pick up the pace. It felt good and as it was very short-lived I believe it will have no affect come Saturday.
Today's run was the usual recovery run out at Cougar. Michael was the leader out there today as Brian is preparing for the Cle Elum 50k next weekend. Kathleen and I resolve to go easy but quickly find we are both feeling quite good despite the previous day's tough course.
We've been using a recovery formula and it seems to be helping immensely. In fact, last night, just hours after I finished my run i felt ok to run again. Michael took it easy on us and managed to remove any difficult climbs. After 14 miles both of us were ready to be finished.
One other item of note. I decided early on in the run to try no walking up hills and was strong enough to do so. Even though the biggest hills were cut out there was still a considerable amount of climbing that had to be done and I was able to run it all without stopping no matter how slow it took. It was a minor milestone in my training and I was very pleased.
Oh, and the weather is starting to cool. Oh and as I think of it, I saw Uli Steidl. He won the Seattle Marathon last year and Kathleen says he's ranked #14 in the world for runners.
Today's was arguably the most scenic run we've encountered which is made obvious by the many pictures I've posted. It was also a great refresher course in running karma. I ran a little too vigorously downhill and it would prove to me later that although it may be fun and seemingly easy it still takes a toll on your overall energy level. My joints and muscles would be the victim of my over zealous actions. AGAIN.
What can I say? I love running downhill. So when the group was running down a fairly steep section of trail and I was hot on the heals of the other runners I politely asked if I could pass. And then with people on my heals and without anyone in front to keep me sane, I let gravity take me. I kept my breathing normal but I was flying through the trail. The entire time I'm doing my very best to be focused and practically praying that I don't fall on the rough terrain. I managed to get to the bottom of the slope about 30 secs to a minute before anyone else and it felt good. That is of course until we had to go back up. Then I quickly noticed how much it takes from you to run that fast no matter how easy it is. I suppose it was good to do this. The perfect reminder to be conservative on the downhills so soon before the actual race. Hopefully this lesson will be fresh in my head come race day. So I paid the price in order to play a little and show off like a jackass. So the day started early. I meet Kathleen again and we drive up and meet the others at the west summit parking lot at 8 am. Once there we car pool to a remote location that Scott claims will only take 30 minutes. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes. The group also addresses Scott our concerns with the cutoff times for the big race. He assures us that there's plenty of time, we all look great and it'll be different come race day. I guess we have to trust him. He may have "perpetually optimistic" sense of time but he certainly picks the best places to run.
So we head up. The first few miles is up. For the last couple weekends my calves burn terribly. I'm not entirely sure why, it may be cause of the two styles of shoes I'm wearing between the week and its ends. It maybe the heavy Wednesday workout. At any rate, it is so bad that my feet go numb. Its painful and disorienting. I'm thinking I need to stick to one shoe from now on. It makes me stop frequently to allow the blood to flow but eventually we reach the top and my legs warm up. Once at the top we are just below the Cathedral Peak. Its impressive so I snap off as many pictures as I can. We then head down a out and back route to turn this 18 miler into a 22. This is where I run like a jackass. Once at the bottom we head on over to Deep Lake and then its back up the long hill to Cathedral Peak again. This climb was not enjoyable. Mostly because of the dirt kicked up from the runners in front of me. It was a warm day and no moisture on the ground to hold the soil down. This also caused us to drink more than we should. The climb was over shortly though and we headed on our way around the lake which would loop us back to the trail head. For the most part it was Kathleen, Jim and I as a group. The rest of the trail is just the average run-of-the-mill gorgeous until we get to the falls. We take a short break to enjoy the scenery and its off again. This is where I start to get tired. My joints are beat and I lacked inspiration. I really just wanted to be done. And eventually we were. We done we headed over to the river and took our "ice bath."
Tonight I meet up with my Northface training group at Discovery Park for a repeat of last week. A 4.25 warmup loop with a 2nd shorter loop at tempo 10k pace. We all chat it up a bit before heading out and then decided to do the reverse loop. This week I decide that I want to stay up front. I try to keep my breathing easy but I want to show that I've got speed. The group is lead by Michael, then it's Travis and Jim and then me. After about a mile or so we hit a downhill section of stairs and I fly by everyone because I choose not to run the stairs but rather the dirt next to them. From here on out I'm right behind Michael. I've created a nice lead from the others and decided that I should allow myself to slow down a touch. We then hit another set of stairs but this time going up. I manage to finish in before Travis and Jim but they pass me shortly after as I recover from the climb. I stay behind them until our second loop where we all pick up the pace a little bit. I decide to hold back until the last quarter mile where I'm try to pass them. At the beginning of this second loop, Michael stops to tie his shoes. I forget about him until about a half mile later his flies by me like I'm standing still. He joins decides to hang out at the front with Travis and Jim. So I follow them about 50 yards behind until I think we're about a quarter mile from the finish and then I pick up my pace considerably. I catch them within a minute and we all are charging through the forest at a very fast pace. Not a 10k pace. Everyone has decided to lay the gauntlet down. Travis eventually lets us go and its now just Michael, Jim and I. I get the feeling that Michael is just having fun, its no big deal for him. Jim I suspect is pushing hard but I can't hear him breathing. Not over mine that is. Its at this same moment I realize that we were certainly further out that a quarter mile. I'm breathing hard and every little hill we hit makes me want to give up. I nearly do on a couple times but manage to keep pushing it. I'm astounded by Jim who seems to be running with ease when I'm giving it all I have. I make it to the end, maybe 30 yards behind him and him 30 behind Michael. I congratulate him on such a fast run. This is a guy whom I've run faster than every weekend out on the big runs so I never suspected such speed from him. My guess is that he's more of a road runner. Anyways, I ran well for the majority of the run until that last bit where I let my inner jackass take over. I know that I'll regret the pounding I gave myself but I had fun and it was a good workout. I can see now that the training has really provided me with a strong base and when I do attack another road race I should have great results.
On that note, I had registered a week or so ago for the California International Marathon where I hope to qualify for Boston. Today(9/6/07) I purchased my flight and hotel room for the race. Its all set. All I have to do now is keep training hard, and then run a 3:10:59 marathon. NOOOO Problem.;-)
Tonight I had to run without Penny. Jenn is out of town and I can't leave Cody alone or else he'll howl until I get back. No destructive behavior, just howling. Something about his pack leaving without him. So Penny has to skip a week of running and I get a chance to run my "normal" speed on Tuesday night for a change. I felt really good and in just a matter of a quarter mile I was in front of everyone except the young kids(must be college or high school) who run in an entirely different league than the rest of us. I keep repeating to myself to keep my breathing easy and to go slower but I feel excellent and the speed comes easy tonight. On the return, I see Toby and Hershel coming up behind me. They catch and pass me on the staircase. Now I am taking it really slow because I've no need to push myself up this hill( I get plenty of that on the weekends) but even if I was trying they still would have passed me. They accent up the staircase was impressive. I get up the hill feeling tired but not too bad. The rest of the run is at a fast but easy pace. Other than that, just another boring Tuesday night run.
Wow, today I didn't want to get up to run. Yesterday's run really took a lot out of me. It was by far the hardest run we've done yet. It was the longest distance, longest time and I think the most technical. I usually think on the way home from a run that I'll get home and end up napping. But usually I get home shower and eat and then end up doing something productive. Not yesterday. I was just out of it. No energy. So when the alarm went off this morning I glared at it with heavy resentment. Sigghhhh.
But i get up anyway and by the time I get to Kathleen's I'm feeling better. We both have that big grin on our faces like, "I can't believe we're doing this." But we are.
We get to the trail head and as I said yesterday, there's Brian and Michael and it was great to see that same grin on there faces. It's that grin that admits one's humanity. One that says, "yeah, yesterday kicked our butts too." We all start gibbering about the difficultly of the course and the practicality of finishing in time. Then Brian says something that's music to all our ears.
"I think we'll just do ten today, that sound good?" Does it ever. Even the elites get tired. So we all head out. Oh, did I not mention that again its just Kathleen and I out of the trainees. Week after week we're the ones out there busting our asses. In the others defense I don't really know that the others aren't running. They very well might be. But they're not out at cougar.
So Kathleen leads the way for the run and we take it at a nice slow pace. After the first 15 minutes of warming up we settle into a nice grove. Its not as bad as we thought it would be and we stay positive. And to our delight Brian charts a course that removes practically all the hills on the course. Its an easy 10 miles today and we're done in under two hours.
What possesses me to go out and run like this? Why do I do it? Sometimes I ask myself that question, it's not just friends and family who ask it. Saturday night I believe that question rolled around in my head a little. But the big question that was on my mind, and apparently everyone's mind after today's run, was not "why do we run?" but rather, "how can we finish the Northface 50 miler in the 13 hour cutoff limit?"
When we saw Brian and Michael the next day they both admitted that they had serious doubts about people being able to finish this course before it was shut down. They only ran 21 today and still came out of it feeling troubled by the time limit. They questimated that it would take them 5 hours to complete the first loop. They know that the second half will be considerably harder. If they have doubts, well, I think we need to seriously consider them. We ran for 6:37 minutes today. That was half the course. One complete loop of the 2 loop event. This means we'd need to do a negative split on a 50 mile course. I've never done a negative split on a 5k much less on a marathon so its an obvious assumption that I'll not do it on my first 50 miler. Now it may have taken me over 6 hours to finish the course today, but it shouldn't have. Had all things gone as they hopefully will on race day I think I can easily take off 30 minutes.
First of all, we took it real easy today so that we'd finish strong with a positive attitude of which we did end up doing. Secondly, we we're in charge of finding our own way through the trails by using the map. Brian usually leaves markers but today we did not have that luxury. And I'm glad that we had to, cause Brian's been a crutch for us and today I finally felt like I learned the trails out there. It came at a price though. I got us off the proper route. We ended up doing the loop backwards for half the course. The course criss-crosses at one point and we took the wrong direction. Then later on we missed another turn and ended up running about a total of a half mile more than we should. So if you factor in all the stopping to look at the map, I think you can easily take off a half hour. Then we ran out of water. I think that's the THIRDLY item. It was a warm day out there and we ran out of water at around 19 miles. Fortunately for us, when you cross over from one mountain to the next, there's a construction site. We ran up there and practically begged them for water. They made our day by pointing toward the water cooler behind the door.
So yeah, I think I could have reduced my time by a bit. But lets say that I'm able to take my time down to 5:30 for one loop. That leaves me with 7:30 hours to do the next. Seems alright, right? Wrong. The first loop will start in the dark. That's right. It starts at 5:30 in the morning and at that time of the year, it'll be dark.
--Sunrise at that time of year will be 6:15. So I'll be running in the dark for 45 minutes.
This is a correction to the sunrise time. The chart I found said to add 1 hour to the time if we use daylight savings. So it looks as thought I'll be running in the dark for two hours. --
And then it'll take time for the sun to offer any help. So I figure the first hour I'll be going extra slow. So 5:30 on my first loop. Doubtful. I suppose going slow in the beginning will help me warm up. But let's figure that there's probably no way that I'll finish the first loop sooner than 6 hours.
So there you go. That means I'll have to run the second in 7 hours. Seem like a good margin? Maybe. But At the end of today's run I was beat. Light-headed and starving. The second loop is going to be tough. Tears will happen, I'll do more walking than running I'm sure. Did I mention that there will be leaves on the ground hiding the rocks and roots making it more likely that I'll trip and stumble?
So after all that, its no wonder why there is now talk of impossibilities. Of discouragement. Even the elite doubt our success. Perhaps Scott will push the time limit. Maybe. Maybe not. But in the face of that I'm still happy to try. I love it when people say something can't be done. Its just what I need sometimes to help push me to succeed. I don't feel that way all the time. The goal has to be realistic. I mean its not like we're doing the Badwater race(135 miles through death valley). Now that's crazy! To me, this course is possible. It will be tough, I may not finish in time but I'm going to try my absolute best to do so. Others may get discouraged but to me when someone says I can't do something, I swear to me its a slap in the face and a toss of the gauntlet. Sounds like a challenge to me.
I ran tonight for a couple reasons. I really want to push my mile total a little higher up. So I felt that adding a slow Thursday would be best. I also wanted to get Penny out more than just once a week. She's getting stronger but she'll never be ready if all I ever to is run once a week with her. I decided just to run out of the condo and head north for about twenty minutes and then turn around. Penny was absolutely terrified of course. Too much going on. Cars, and buses and motorcycles and people and everything scary in this world. So I pulled he for a couple miles and then she pulled me back for a few. It was a much quicker run back than out.
I usually run with the Redmond Footzone club on Wednesday's but I'm taking my training for the 50 miler very seriously and Scott has requested that for my 4 weeks of peak training I run with them on for workout night. I'll miss my friends over in Redmond but I have to be focused for this race.
I head on over and meet everyone at the park. We meet up and its Brian and Micheal(another SRC employee) leading the bunch today. We do some stretches and head out. One 4.2 mile loop of easy running and a second smaller 2.8 mile loop at half marathon pace. I don't know about everyone else, but I felt they were all going a little fast. I felt justified in my pace, hanging out in the back because i was joined by Brian. Seems he was just taking it easy too. We chatted it up and it was cool to have a conversation with him, although it was about nothing significant, it was cool just to have that time. Brian is just a real nice guy. I've said this over and over already in my blog. Its kinda odd, cause imagine if you liked to play basketball and you got to on a regular basis play one on one with LeBron James. In some ways you're a bit start stuck that you get to play against him. But on another level, he becomes just another guy, who's out there sweating and aching and even walking up the huge flight on stairs that is so steep and long that we all fall victim to its mighty grade. Brian says humbly with a smile, "its funny, no matter how strong you think you are, sometimes..." I actually can't remember the exact quote so I'll not put words in his mouth but needless to say, he was saying that sometimes he gets tired too. So here I am, running with a young runner LeBron James(he wouldn't say so) and he's becoming human and real and just another person. Running is such a great sport. What other sport allows you this luxury? Or might I add, where else could I have the luxury of doing this? Seattle is absolutely one of the best places to be a runner. Scott has a great community of runners at the SRC.
So we were running, yeah, and then the second loop comes up. I thought we had entered the second loop but I thought we'd stop and give ourselves a little breather before we did our tempo portion. So we were probably three quarters through the first mile, maybe more, before I decided that we must be on the second loop and that I had to pick up the pace. And then of course I was behind everyone and felt the need to catch up. So I ended up running faster than I wanted. And I ended up burning out faster than I wanted. Burning out? I shouldn't be burning out, I should just be doing a moderate pace. And that's the funny thing. Everyone else was running strong. I think they were going a bit fast for a half marathon pace. These are people that Kathleen and I run faster than every weekend and they were running faster than us now. Maybe they're stronger on the flat stuff, maybe they're more recovered cause they didn't run on Sunday? I don't know. At any rate. My legs felt heavy and I had no speed that night. Kathleen played it a little better I think. Sounded like she had heavy legs too.
We finished up and did more stretching exercises and that was it. I have to say that the Footzone club actually has a stronger Wednesday workout. We'll see next week what they have in store for us. One thing I did prefer was the stretching before and after, and the hilly workout course of Discovery Park.
Ran with Penny again, still trying to work her up to good health and perhaps some trail running. I'm skeptical that she'll be able to trail run. She just doesn't have the fire that Cody does when it comes to running. For her it has to have a purpose. Like so many people who say, "Yeah I run, when I need to catch something, or I'm running away from something." But Cody ran cause he liked being beside me and would have gladly ran until his legs fell off. Penny runs to chase squirrels or at bicycles that pass the park.
Tonight she ran well again aside from slowing down when we were trailed by another runner. She kept looking back and slowing us down. Then the other runner would pass us. Once they passes, Penny would speed back up and we'd pass the other runner. This cycle went on a while until the other runner noticed the pattern and stopped to let us get ahead of her. Penny than ran well for the rest of the run and actually pulled toward the end. It seems Penny completely recognizes that for the first half of the run we're running away from a place that she considers safe. So for half the run she drags and I have to occasionally pull on her leash to get her to keep up with me. But as soon as we start heading back, I mean the moment we are physically starting to get closer to her safe place, she knows. Maybe its from smell, maybe its from the big calculating bean that's rolling around in her big pit skull. Its not like we go straight out and back. Its a very organic route but Penny can tell when we start heading back and when we do she picks up the pace and now that she's getting healthy, she pulls me. I know she's getting ready to run more, but I'm still cautious not to take her on a workout night.
So that was our run, we took it fairly slow, which is good cause its not about speed on Tuesday nights, just the time and mileage. On a side note, Kiwi was at the SRC shop. Kiwi is Brian's dog who we run with on the weekends. She's this little spastic border collie mix that never seems to get tired. I didn't see Brian but I was happy to get to introduce Penny to Kiwi as I hope that in a couple weeks Penny might be out running with her on Cougar Mt.
Well, its another Sunday and so that must mean we're out at Cougar Mountain. But things have changed. I'm a new man and I have confidence out here now. The dreaded Cougar Mt. can't discourage me anymore. I've conquered it and I will forever be the victor. And all that blah blah stuff.
Kathleen decided to join me this week with her new found confidence from the day before. Seems she's just one week behind me. We get there and its just Brian Kathleen and me. Small group. And I believe this is why Kathleen and I are the strongest. We show up nearly every week and put the necessary miles in. So Brian heads out. We're going to do the reverse course today to break things up. I let Kathleen lead the way. And Brian is almost immediately gone from our sight. There will be no sight of him for the rest of the day. Seems he wants to run his own pace today and remind us just how superior he really is to everyone else. We really are lucky to get to run with this guy on the weekends.
Kathleen's pace is good. And I'm encouraged by it. Glad to see her having a good run out here. After about 7-8 miles I loosen up and could probably go a little faster than her pace but its not necessary and probably the wrong thing to do anyway. I remind myself that today is about recovery and I should take it easy. The run goes by fast and I'm recognizing the trail, even as we go in reverse I see that I'm becoming familiar with the trails, where to turn, when to hold back and when to open up. Earlier on in the training I had begun to dread Cougar because I thought it was boring and I feared becoming too familiar with it. But I find its actually more exciting knowing the trail. Almost like when I used to mountain bike. Trying to have the perfect bike ride without touching my foot down on the run. Well now I'm trying to have that perfect run. One where I feel strong the whole way through. One where I feel like a wild animal running skillfully and effortlessly through the trees. My lungs relaxed, my legs light and my feet quick.
Lately I've begun to notice the physical changes to my body. My calves are thick. So thick I can't touch index finger to index finger, thumb to thumb. My ankles no longer show the definition of bone, but rather go straight down to the foot. All muscle. And my feet are muscular too. Is that possible? There's muscle on top of my feet. Its all a bit surreal to me as I've always been a bit of a skinny punk. So to see this much muscle mass on my tiny frame is hysterical. But its cool in the sense that its the by-product of being a good animal, out there running through the wild. This is what legs should look like. I swear I'm not bragging, its just freaky, I've run for years but never have I had this much muscle. Trail running sure does have its benefits.
I signed up for the Sacramento Run on Dec 2nd today. This is a race that I've been wanting to do for 4 years now. Fastest race in the US. If I can qualify for Boston, this is the race to do it. I think I have a good chance. better than good. With all this trail running I've built up a lot of strength and endurance. When the race is over I'll take a couple weeks off to recover and then I'll do speed workouts. Boston will be mine before the end of the year.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
It was a small group today. We all met up at the west summit parking at Snoqualmie Pass. There we were told quickly by Scott that we'd all car-pool up ten more miles to the Stampede Pass Trail head where we'd begin our 20 miles run for the day. So Kathleen and I jumped into Kevin's nice Land Rover and got to actually hang for a few with our fellow trainees. I never hear a thing anybody says once we start running so I feel like I'm a little out of touch with my fellow runners. It was nice to chat it up and even though I haven't spoken much to them there was a strong sense of family in the group. Everybody is punishing themselves out there every weekend and I think with that comes immediate respect for one another.
So we get to the trail head as Scott goes through his speech about micro-managing the trail. Run when you can run, walk when its steep, counter rotating through the switchbacks and always use electrolyte tablets. It sounds simple but each week he tells us it sinks in more and becomes more intuitive. I find myself flying through the switchback turns like I'm riding a roller coster, a product of the counter rotation. I find I stay hydrated and my legs don't lock up, a product of proper hydration mixed with taking the tablets every hour. I find the hills aren't so bad when I break it down into little sections, this portion walk, this portion run, instead of wearing out trying to run the first straight mile up and locking up the legs. So each week I listen intentively even though I've heard the same speech 11 times now. Scott has been a great coach. He's really the first coach I've ever had. All for just $40. NorthFace really gave us a invaluable bargain.
Anyways, as we all begin to head out, I am humbled that everyone kinda looks to me to lead the pack. Besides Brian of course. But yeah, go figure. It seems I'm getting a reputation amongst my group as one of the stronger runners. Hell Kathleen and I have been refered to as the Dynamic Duo. Jim said I was "inspiring last week." That's a lot of pressure to live up to. But really, I haven't been pushing myself terribly out there, I just do what's asked of me and its really paying off. On my road running nights I always seem to kill myself trying to go fast and it never does me any good. But out here I slow down and just try to enjoy the run and maintain. So I guess I'm the leader of the bunch. Of course it feels great to be the strong runner. It makes me think that maybe I can compete at a higher level. And then I come back to reality once a big hill comes up. What was I thinking.
Throughout the run I stayed right on the heels of Brian. Catching up to him every time he made a marker for the Cascade 100 mile Ultra. Every time Brian stopped to lay down a marker we would all eventually catch up. Then we'd move on and people would spread out. It was this way for a while until we got to more technical stuff and Brian and I lost everyone. I got to a marker that was kinda hard to see so I decided to wait for people to catch up to me, to be sure they saw the way too. I waited for at least two minutes before they showed up. At that point, Travis, who I call "The Viking" passed us. He had started a little later than us. Usually he's out in front with Brian. Well, today, I kept catching him. I don't know if he was injured, taking it easy or what. He said that I was blazing. And Kathleen was right on him too. I ended up falling back a little and finishing with Kathleen. We actually finished just a couple minutes behind. So that amounts to the "it was the best of times." And the reason why I fell behind, well, that was the worst of times.
Man, there's nothing like having to take a two-sy on a run. Ugg, my stomach started hurting around 10 miles. I contemplated pulling over and taking care of business but I just could never find a place suitable. Well at 14 miles I found that place and exorcised the devil. It sucked cause my legs felt great and I was positive but my stomach just keep getting worse. I was hot on the heels of Travis and Brian and not even trying. It's like Karma was telling me that with leadership comes humility and I needed to remain humble. Well I was humbled. So with my little squat-fest, I felt revitalized but had lost a few minutes in the process. Even still, only Kathleen had passed me. At 14 miles out, Brian, Travis and I had about 1 minute on Kathleen and over 4 or 5 minutes on everyone else. So I did my best to catch back up. I tried not to go too fast, just picked up the pace a little. I then fell and slid a little. Marked up my hand and right leg. I got up and continued. After probably a mile and a half to two miles I got back to everyone. Kathleen had managed to catch Brian and Travis too. She was having a great day. Which is good cause last weekend she was very discouraged. Travis headed out first while Brian made markers and we snacked. We eventually caught Travis again and then we were all a group for a while. Then slowly Travis and Brian picked up the speed and I couldn't hang with them as my stomach started flip flopping again. I backed off and eventually Kathleen caught back up again and we finished as a team about two minutes behind them.
Man. If I had just had a strong stomach that day I'd have finished with the leaders. Oh well, it's still great to know I'm improving and catching up.
Tonights run was out on the Powerline Trail. Its my course as I've said in the past. I didn't feel very strong and Andre provided a good challenge but I still managed to finish first again. Andre beat me up all the hills and pulled ahead a couple times to stopping points where the others could catch up. So if he hadn't stopped I might not have finished first. But on the down hill portion of the course I always go much faster and gained a minute on him. I took it really easy on the downhill as I'm beginning to get shin splints. Even then I was still the fastest downhill. I'm not entirely sure why no one else in the group is able to run downhill fast. It's not like I go extraordinarily fast. Maybe they don't want shin splints? Anyways, got through another workout. Looking forward to another spectacular weekend.
Tonight I ran with Penny. Its the second time I've brought her with me on my Tuesday night run. I've been concerned about her health and lack of exercise lately as I can see cellulite all over her body. Since Cody got hit by the car she has got very little exercise. Cody can't go on long walks and I've been just too busy to make the necessary time to get her to the park. We a two weeks ago I thought I'd try taking her to run with me and she did great up to the half way point when she decided she had enough of it. She put the brakes on and when I stopped trying to drag her, she lay down in the grass. It was a long run that night in which I had to walk run at a very slow pace to allow Penny to avoid a heart attack. It was the first time I came in last in that group and there are some slow runners there.
Well, since then I've forced myself to take Penny out running a couple times(short runs) and to the park a few times. And last night on her second appearance at the SRC club she was ready for the challenge. She pulled me for the first half mile before she settled down. Then she ran happily next to me for the rest of the run. With any luck Penny might turn out to be a good trail dog. At this point I'm going to try to work her up to as many miles as I can on the urban runs and if she can handle 10 then maybe I'll take her out on the trails. If Cody was still capable he'd most definitely be up to it but Penny is not as interested in running.
Well, aside from that, last night was uneventful. Just a slow pace run to start the week. I felt a little sluggish from my strong weekend runs. Tomorrow night will be a workout and I'm still not sure if I'll bring Penny to this one. I think she needs a day to recover.
Although yesterday's run provided better scenery, today's was more inspiring for me. First, it must be mentioned if you hadn't noticed, I crossed the 1000 mile marker. Now I long ago crossed that marker, but in the blog as I mentioned at the beginning a few months ago, I only accounted for the miles that were tracked in my GPS when I did use it. I started this blog just over 4 months ago and in that time I ran over 500 miles. I've tracked every mile since and I can now officially say I've run 1000 miles. Yup, I could run 500 miles and I did run 500 more.
So it was a rainy day. Rainy day at Cougar could set one up for a depressing run. But I showed up thinking I was going to have a good day. I felt my legs were still fairly fresh despite yesterday's 5 hour run. Kathleen decided it was best to take the day off from running so I was on my own. Only 3 other guys showed up and then of course there was Brian, the only other runner who ran the day before. He decides he wants to take a short cut to the trail head instead of taking the usual boring access road. the short cut is very steep and there's absolutely no warm up. After about a half a mile I'm nearly hyperventilating and decide i need to take it my own speed. So I let them go. I probably would not have cared much but we met up with some County workers who said that there had been a lot of bear sightings that weekend and to be aware. YAY!! So I'm running alone on a wet, technical course. Aside from being a little nervous I manage to find my stride and relax. My breathing got good and I began to really enjoy myself. It been a long time since I ran alone, and felt alone. When I do run solo its on the Burke-Gilman Trail and you're never alone out there. So I felt great running with my thoughts and then the greatest thing happen. I caught the others. They stopped to lay down a marker at the next intersection and took a moment to let Brian take off his jacket. They claimed that they "had just stopped" and "were about to talk smack about me", "no, no," Brian said, "I was about to tell these guys that this is your recovery run, that you ran yesterday for 5 hours." "5 HOURS?!!" , "This is your recovery?!" and "Cool." That's what I needed to make the rest of the run easy. You see, Cougar has kicked my ass nearly every time I've gone out there. And its the location of my race, the 50 miler. So its been very discouraging. How can I run 50 out there if I can't run 20? Course I know I'm running fatigued but it still wears down on you and makes you doubt yourself. Well, here I was running with three strong runners who had not run the day before and I was holding my own. And it felt great. For the rest of the run the 4 others would get ahead of me and then I'd catch them as they were making the trail marker(this is usually done by laying three fern leaves down in an arrow shape). So I was never more than one minute behind the group. By the end of the run, I actually caught up to them and finished the last half mile with them.
I left feeling great. I had finally run Cougar strong. I didn't always feel great but I always felt positive. I can see I'm getting stronger and that all the training is finally paying off, which is good cause the race is just a month and a half away. Just 48 days.
Hey, I'm back. Yeah, it's been a few weeks since I've been able to jot down my thoughts on running. I went on a running hiatus for a week and when I got back work was super busy and I just never could seem to get around to writing about it. Besides, it seems there's only so much you can write about running before it all sounds the same. Well, today's run was extraordinary so it deserves a post, with pictures no less.
So the day started out the same, met Kathleen at her place and she drove up to the trail head. We get there and Scott runs through a few items worth mentioning like running technique and hydration. Then we all head out, Brian in lead of course. Scott wanted all of the 50 milers to run somewhere in between 4-5 hours. It was an out and back course so we figured we'd run about 2:40 out and that would get us approximately 5 hours. We headed up and immediately I could tell that finally i was feeling strong. After weeks of feeling sluggish with fatigue, I was back to feeling fresh. Unfortunately Kathleen was not feeling as good. But she's a trooper and she stuck with it the full distance. I had only run a half marathon the week before, she ran a full. And she was out the very next week running a very difficult course for 5 hours. The girl has guts. After a few miles I can see that I'm going a little fast for her though so I slowed up and ask her if she wants to take the lead so she can set the pace and not feel dragged along. She then shows me that within 5 minutes she was stung by a bee. "Are you allergic?", "yeah, but it won't hurt my running.", "you sure?" , "yeah." OK,... so we head out, she wants me to go ahead and run my own speed, doesn't want to hold me up. I do but I feel like crap. How can I leave her behind. Fortunately two things happen at this point. The first is the course levels out a bit which allows Kathleen a break from the climb and she can keep the same pace now and then when the hill does come back the tree cover clears and I'm able to pull out the camera and take pictures. This allows me to stop take pictures and let's her catch up. This was the mode of operations for the rest of the day. I'd run my own speed and then I'd find a good place to take a pic and she's catch up. She was never far behind, maybe 20 secs. And I wasn't disappointed at all because this place as you can see from the pictures was absolutely heaven on earth.
Our first grand view is Kendall's Katwalk, a man-made path blown out of the mountain side with dynamite. The view is spectacular. By this time we have caught up to two other runners, Dan and Tim. We ran with them for a few miles but they decided to turn around at the 2 hour mark. At that point, aside from Brian(the elite), Travis(the viking-call him that cause he's tall built and blond) and some new girl(professional soccer player), it was just the two of us running out. It was kinda encouraging to know we were the strongest of the bunch that day heading out the furthest. When we get to the 2:35 mark, we meet up with Brian and company. I ask them how far they went and he says maybe another quarter mile up hill. This makes me very happy cause I've been stopping to take pictures and the strongest elite runners only got a half mile in front of me. Not bad. So we decide to turn around and its mostly downhill here on out. Oh, btw, Kathleen's hand is now HUGE. Its swelled up from the bee sting and she says its throbbing and very painful, no doubt it looked it. Again, she's quite the trooper. On the way down I fell twice, first one I hit my knee and had to take a moment to shake it off. Second time I fell in front of a group of hikers. I had just passed them and then turned around on a switch back when I fell and slid a few feet. This one didn't hurt and I got up immediately, brushed myself off only to look up above me to see the group all staring at me in horror. Hehe, nothing like an audience for a crash. We got down off the trail and I felt great. Sure I was a little tired but my legs still felt strong and I felt positive. Scott was waiting and told us that everyone else had headed off to go soak their legs in the river. So we did the same. Figured out this time that if you keep your socks on it doesn't hurt nearly as much. This has been by far the prettiest run I've been on so far but according to Scott, its only #3 in his book. He says we'll be running the others soon. I can't wait.
Ran with Footzone club. We were supposed to do a 1 mile warm up, then 7 1 mile repeats with 1 minute of rest in between. It was hot and by break #2 the group decided they only wanted to do 5 repeats. I was a little disappointed because I was feeling good and was looking forward to the challenge. Everyone talks about this workout as being so difficult. You're suppose to run it at a 5k-10k race pace but due to the heat we all decided that the half marathon pace would be best. So I figured I'd run a 7 min mile. This is actually faster than my best half marathon pace but its been a while and my speed has improved. So I ran 7 min miles. And I realized immediately that it was a nice conservative speed for me. Heidi and Jim were naturally in front of me for the first 3 repeats but I could tell they were tiring fast. But I still felt great. By the 4th repeat I was running past them and the first to finish. Yet I was still doing my 7 min mile, not going faster. So on the last repeat I actually did try a little harder as we should have done 2 more and I finished with a 6:30 min mile and while my breath was short, my legs felt good. I was a good 30 secs ahead of Heidi and much more with the rest of the team. I don't know if it was that I've lived in warmer climates for the last 14 years or just all the endurance running I've been doing but I was able to run normally when all the others were having trouble. It did feel good at any rate to run so strongly. My legs have been heavy for weeks and I finally feel as though they're well rested and I'm ready to tackle more mountains. Good thing too as this weekend I'll be running on both Saturday and Sunday, Snoqualmie Pass and Cougar Mountain. I should also finally reach the 1000 mile marker on my current mile total.
Today's run started out with big questions. Would we make it? Would yesterday's run ruin our ability to complete a grueling 23 miles in the mountains?
I headed over to Kathleen's place and picked her up. On our way down, not really knowing the way, we saw the SRC van pull up behind us and we were able to join the caravan to the starting point. We're becoming familiar with a lot of the faces now in the group and its just another little running family like my Footzone, and SRC except these people are HARD CORE!! After a quick restroom break at a gas station we all get to the trail head and with very little ado, we head out. The first 6 miles was all just rolling trails next to the white river. We actually had to run down in the basin for a stretch because the trail was damaged. We met Scott at the first of two aid stations around the 6 miles mark and he gave us electrolyte tablets. "take 1 every hour he says as he gives us a little stash to take with us. The tablets help your body process the water back into your muscles and help you avoid cramping. They're great! I used them first at the 50k. So after refilling our water bottles we headed out and up. The next 8 miles was all, and I mean ALL up hill. Aside for maybe a couple hundred yards it was climbing for the next two hours. Over 3000 ft of elevation change. We did a lot of hiking(walking) but amazingly we ended up still passing other runners. And it went by fast. When we finally reached the top we came across a mt. biker who told us that our next aid station was just about 3 quarters of a mile downhill. So with that exciting bit of knowledge we headed downhill fast running toward bottle refills and WATERMELON! As I bounded downhill giddy with expectation a small root catch the tip of my toe and pull me down. I have to say that I'm a champ at tucking and rolling but one of these days my luck will run out. My speed was enough that I rolled once and was sprung right back on my feet in a hockey stop. Were was my camera man. It was such a cool ninja-like move. I manage to escape the fall with just a minor scratch on my knee. That and I broke the seal on one of my water bottles. Oh well. Five minutes later we were at the aid station. Scott's SRC van with goodies. We stopped for a couple minutes and were told we still had to got up to the summit of the mountain. The loop was just 1.5 miles. So we refrained form eating anything until we returned. Up we went for another 15 minutes to reach the top. The view should have been spectacular but it was a bit cloudy. So we headed back down on the access road. This would be the rest of the run today. Nothing but access road for 7 miles. So we knew at this point we had done it. We would complete 33 miles of trail running in one weekend. We got back to the van, loaded up on snakes and headed back down. Gravity is so nice sometimes. It took us all the way down to about a miles left were we then had to apply some effort. I actually decided to pick up the pace with about a miles left and when I finished, I finished strong. Today I wore my Gaitors and let me tell you, they work. Nothing got into my shoes and it was wonderful. We soaked our legs in the river again and ate lots of watermelon. Most of the runners here have peaked in their training for the White River 50 Miler in just a few weeks. Kathleen was talking to a few of them and apparently they all were saying that the two of us are very strong for were we are in our training and they're all very impressed. Big Smile there. It's encouraging to hear that. And these are seasoned trail runners. I think joining up with Scott was the best choice I've made as a runner. He is just whipping us into shape.
This weekend is going to be a tough one. Today I picked up Kathleen and headed out to Cougar Mountain to run the first half of my first very tough weekend of training. Tomorrow will be 23 miles up at Crystal Mountain again. We get there and there are lots of runners, nearly a hundred I think. Scott is there laying down the rules of the run and there are some running celebrities. We ended up getting a nice pair of trail running socks instead of a shirt as part of our entry and $15 of our entry goes toward maintaining the trails up on the mountain. Nice deal. I'm wearing my new trail running shoes for the first time but decide to leave my Gaitors off for this run. Gaitors being essentially spats for your shoes that cover the top and prohibit loose debris from falling inside the shoes. We head out and jeesh is it humid. This is the first time I really sweat since living in Seattle. But its not too bad. We had decided that today we needed to try to take it as easy as possible as to save ourselves for tomorrow. And we almost did just that until around 4-5 miles when Kathleen decided she wanted to pick up the pace a little. This girl is a competitor. So we picked it up just a touch but still were very conservitive. I had seen Sherry and Michael(runners from the Footzone club) before the race and we ended up passing them. But we ended up passing a lot of people. The training we have been doing has really strengthened us to a new level and even maintaining a conservative pace we were stronger than a lot of runners out there. Its a very good feeling. At any rate, it was still a tough race. Lots of climbs and toward the end both of us were thinking, "I hope we don't regret this tomorrow". We finish the course in 1:58 which considering our slow pace was great. We heard afterward that a lot of runners had seen a black bear out on the course. I missed it, oh well, not sure I would have wanted to see it anyways.
Wow, tonight was a hot run. It was at least 97 degrees and nobody wanted to do a workout run. So we decided to run through the dog park where we could have some shade. We all went out terribly slow and most people were carrying water. I didn't. When we got to the dog park I headed toward the front. I was running a very comfortable pace, one that wouldn't make me overheat but I still seemed to be leaving everyone behind. I think many years of running in Florida and then California had trained me how to run in heat. The others who have lived up here for so long were stuck at a snail's pace and actually cut the run short. Jesse, John and I were the only ones the ended up doing the full run. I did really pick up the pace however on the way back once there was about 1 mile left to go and John tried to keep up. I think it must be a combination of the trail running and my experience in the heat cause I felt great and the heat was of little consequence. OK< so now I feel like I'm bragging. Don't mean to.
Well, Tuesday night's run is getting so uneventful compared to my weekend runs I don't really have much to blog about. I was able to go out and run conservatively for a majority of the run and then picked it up a bit at the end. Its over a week later as I write so nothing stands out as anything to remember. I hope this doesn't mean the end of my blog. Acck!!!!
I'm hanging up my street sneaks, and getting myself a pair of trail running shoes with spats! Well, maybe not entirely, but man oh man.
Crystal mountain was spectacular. We started out at about 2500 ft(I think) and climbed all the way up to 5700 ft. The run took just over 6 hours. I hitched a ride up with Kathleen and we started out with about 20 other runners. I think we probably ran for about a mile on relatively even ground before it headed up. And up is an understatement. I couldn't get the smile off my face as we climbed. It was crazy, and I was just thinking, "I'm running this?" It got so steep at one point we had to climb a staircase. I took my camera, so I had a great excuse for all the times I needed to catch my breath. And I took a lot of pics. Not as many as I'd like. I could have spent all day up there but I didn't want to hold up the line.
Eventually it was just Kathleen and myself running as a team. Most of the other runners were with another group who were in their peak week of training for another 50 miler on this very course coming up later in the month. So we just climbed, and climbed, and I think we did some more climbing after that. In total I think we climbed for over 3 and a half hours, possibly 4. The views were just breath-taking. I used to love hiking in the white mountains back in NH and now I was getting to do the same thing but combine it with my love of running. I don't think there was one moment of this run when I didn't have a huge grin on my face.
Nearly as long a marathon, and certainly more challenging than any I've ever done, I felt positive the entire time and strong. It just proves the point that running is mostly psychological. If you just stay positive your body will carry you along.
Where was I? Oh, we were climbing. So we climbed some more. We climbed so high that we came across patches of snow. IT WAS AWESOME!! When we finally got to the top Scott was waiting with lots of food. I practically dove for the watermelon. After two pieces of that I went for a quarter of a bagel, then half of a PB&J sandwich, then some BBQ chips, then a twizzler, oh, and a bit of Coke. If you wanted it there was also orange slices and bananas but seeing as I've never had any food during a race aside from goo and an occasional orange slice I felt it smart to stop there. But boy did it feel good to have a feast at the top of the mountain. We hung out for a while and chatted it up with Scott but had to eventually get moving back down. This part was much easier, mostly downhill from here. Just 9 more miles. We took it slow at first so that the food could digest a bit but then picked it up when it was nothing but downhill and about 6 miles to go. Gravity pretty much took care of the job the rest of the way and for the most part it was easy. I have to admit that I was starting to get a little beat up and fatigued by the end. But when we finished I really felt strong and in great spirits. again, more watermelon waiting for us. Now Scott suggested we head down to the White river and stand in it for a few minutes to give our legs an ice bath. The river is about 34 degrees. My legs were fine with the experience but my feet really hurt. Of course, after a couple minutes they went numb and the pain went away. It the next day as I write this and my legs are not sore at all. I'm looking forward to that ice bath next week when we go up and do the second half of the course.
OK, so Its nearly a week later that I'm finally getting down to making this entry and I have very little recollection of this run.
I'll make it short because I want to write about the run I did yesterday. It was the same old same old run but I think for once I managed to actually take it easy on a run. The trail running on the weekend is very tough and it's making me become more sensible on my other runs. So I plogged along just to get through it. I'm getting really bored of this course. But of course I get to socialize afterward with pizza and beer so who's complaining. I do remember taking it very easy all the way until the last stretch when I decided to open up a bit. But it was done in a very measured way. I was proud to see that the recent increasing in training gave me a lot of strength at the end and I was going pretty fast when I finished.
Today's run was out at Tiger Mountain. It was my second trail run with the SRC training program and I think I was in much better shape than my first. It wasn't nearly as hard. Or was it that I was just more prepared to walk/hike this time. And my pin in my ass didn't show up as badly although it still was a factor. We met up again at 9 am at the High point Trail head and were given maps by Byran. Another experienced ultra runner who ran out and marked the course for us. I started with Kathleen from the 50k and Kathleen, a friend from the Redmond Footzone club. We immediately hit the bathrooms on the way out so the majority of the party went on ahead. So with one other guy(I can't remember his name) and the two K's I headed out at a leisurely pace. This course started with a few minutes of flat warm up, which was a nice contrast from last week. But then we hit "Poo Poo Trail" and it was nothing but climbing for the next few miles. Man, it was tough. We just took it slow, run, hike, run hike, until eventually after what seemed eternity we started our decent.
OK, call me a bit dork, but this type of running reminds me of the chapter in the Lord of the Rings where Stryder, Gimli and Legolas track the Orcs in attempts to rescue Merry and Pippin. NAY!!, I am not a dork, I am a geek for knowing the actual names. At any rate. There's something primal about traversing miles of mountainous landscape at a break-neck speed. Almost as if you're life depended on it. I absolutely love trail running. I'm finding that I'm a bit of a dare-devil on the down hills. I think growing up on skis taught me how to read the right lines and fly down hills. When we got to them, I would put a lot of distance between me and the other runners. And I swear, just for Karma's sake, I'm trying to go at a conservative speed. After about 3-4 miles our group of 4 actually split and it was 50k Kathleen and I running as a team. I can't express enough how good of a runner she is. She really is tough and keeps a great pace. And she's willing to tackle anything just for the challenge. Here's a very badly taken picture of her taken at around 9-ish miles, maybe?
The trail changes constantly and you're faced with many different types of terrain. From wide open trails covered with a soft bed of pine needles, heavy with tree cover and eerily quiet; to the thick overgrowth of vines and weeds that rip across your legs and hide the dangerously muddy rocks and roots below. Sometimes you're hiking painfully slow uphill as your heart pounds deeply in your chest and you pray for mercy and an end to the suffering; then moments later you're flying downhill like a crazy stallion fiercely calculating every step and screaming to yourself, "YES!! NOW THIS IS RUNNING!!" It's like mountain biking for the sane. Still able to get the rush of timber by your ears, still able to accidentally check an unforgiving tree but a speed that has fewer consequences. And the workout. It's a great one. My legs are wonderfully exhausted after this run. Not painful, but rather glowing weariness that hints toward future strength.
At any rate, we finished the loop and decided to run for a little more so we could get the 16 miles needed. We just ran around the base trails for about 25 mins. Overall it was a great day for running. I felt tired at the end but still strong. Hmm, only 34 miles more
Did I ever mention I hate hill sprints? No really. I mean I HATE hill sprints. Tonight we ran out along the Sammamish River trail and turned a new way to get to our 3 hills. There's a community in Redmond where the group has picked three different hills starting with long and not so steep to short and very steep. We run 4 sprints per hill for a total of 12 sprints. By the 12th one I'm hyper-ventilating and practically in tears. Its sprinting and of course that means going as fast as you can. But I think I take it as a personal challenge to be up front every time. So I give it every last bit I have. Maybe not the smartest thing to do. Cause I think optimal training says you go fast but not 100%. But I don't know how to do that. Just not capable in a sprinting format to hold back. I don't know, maybe next time we do them I'll try to be more sensible. Nobody else is practically puking or hyper-ventilating when we do these. It was also emotionally tough today because the last time I ran a hill sprint Cody was out there with me. MAN, he loved hill sprints!! He absolutely loved chasing everyone and trying to, as a team, get to the front of the pack. And of course now he may never get to do that again. He's hopping around on three legs now and doing much better from his accident but it will be quite some time before he gets use of his leg, if he ever does. So there was a cloud of sadness over me while I struggled with the hills. Next run is out at Tiger Mountain. 16 miles of very steep trail. Look out legs its time to hurt.
Tonights run. Well, it was pretty uneventful. Went out, actually managed to run conservatively and not hurt myself. I started out chatting with Alison a little about last Saturday's Squak Mt. Run but eventually she pulled away from me, my lungs too exhausted from that run. It was just the same old run, but I did manage to bring my camera with me so I could capture a picture of the infamous Staircase. It doesn't look very intimidating in the pic, I'll agree with that assessment, but running full speed down it can get crazy. Also, what you're seeing is not the full staircase but only a fraction of it, it starts up around the top of the pic and continues well below with varying grades of descent. I managed to get to the last step seen here before I did my wonderful dive into the dirt.
I've done a lot of running, but today's run was especially awesome!! It was my first run in the 16 week training program hosted by SRC to prepare me for my 50 miler that I signed up for on Oct 6th. We ran just over 12 miles which in itself is not very difficult but given the terrain it was pretty tough. It ran along the actual course of the race so its ideal training.
I get there and meet the other runners. The majority of which are doing the 50k race and not the full 50 miler. There are just 4 of us doing the full. We're given maps by Scott and some light warm up excercises by Alison. Scott is the owner of SRC and an accomplished ultra runner. Alison is also an ultra runner and just so happens to be the person I had my grand fall in front of just a week and a half ago.
So enough of the briefing. Its been a week since I last ran. Life finally caught up with me and told me to slow down. My body just couldn't handle what I've been putting it through. Running, working, drinking, socializing, and very little sleep. It all finally caught up and I got a cold. But I was due for a good break and I think a good cold was the only way I could see fit to stop running. It gave me a chance to spend time with my new girlfriend Jenn. She just sort of came out of nowhere. And she's fantastic. But my rest week wasn't all fun. Life has a way of balancing out all the good and bad. So to balance out the sunshine that Jenn has brought to my life, it seems that something really startling was in order. On wednesday Cody and Penny escaped the confines of the Condo and ran out in to the busy Lake City Way. Penny managed to avoid incident but Cody was hit and needed to be rushed to the emergency clinic. He's home now and doing fine. Bruised and battered but still the same happy dog he's always been. He did loose control of his left front leg due to radial nerve damage but hopefully within 4 months it shall return and he'll be right as rain. If not, then we'll amputate the leg but he'll still be Cody. So after a very eventful week full of highs and lows, I was very ready to get out and do some running.
It was just what I needed. In single file running through the woods on single track that reminded me very much of my Mt. biking days, we slowly ran around the Squak Mountain Park. It started with nearly 3 miles of accent and then balanced off with the reverse side. Going out was tough but manageable. Coming back was brutal. The hills added up and my legs grew tired. I ended up walking a lot of the uphills but it was good practice. Chances are i'll be hiking a bit of the race. Some of the course is just too steep to run. The real struggle was something I've not experienced in a long time. It was a heavy ache in my ass. That's right. My ass hurt, and badly. I broke my leg over 8 years ago and I still have the rod and two pins. Climbing such steep hills was applying pressure on the pin in my hip joint more than usual and the muscle was doing its best to adapt. I think it was also still a little sore from my Cannon Ball Dumb fall in Volunteer park. At any rate, it hurt and may continue to hurt until I build up some tolerance to it.
Coming back down the last side of the course we encountered a portion of trail that was very overgrown. So much so that you could barely see what you were stepping on and I nearly tripped and fell once. We were also lashed by the growth on either side and by the end my legs were thoroughly scratched up. It would continue to sting well into the next day. But it was so worth it. Running through the thicket was exhilarating. It took a level of trust in your ability to keep your balance and find your line. I really love the adrenaline rush you get when you throw caution to the wind and fly down the hills. Unlike urban running your mind is constantly calculating. Once again I feel like I've narrowed in on my passion, finding a way to make it far more enjoyable. Trail running combines my love of nature and my love of running. Now if Cody can just get better, maybe he can come out there with me and the pass time would be perfect.
I hadn't planned on running today. Not really. On Tuesday I said I was going to take the rest of the week off. I just felt that I've been running myself down. I took Wednesday off but by Friday I was missing it. So when John from SRC sent out a email asking people to run, I decided I'd join in. It should have been a really easy run. Just 10 miles. But I was out really late Friday night and didn't get much sleep so 10 miles seemed a lot further. And we kept a really fast pace of 7:45. Not exactly a long slow run. It was myself, Forest, Mel, John and a guy who's name I can't remember(sorry guy). We started at Madison Park on the east side of Seattle and worked our way down Lake Washington Blvd. We didn't quite make it to Seaward park(about 2 miles from I think) before we turned back around. It's the same route used during the Seattle marathon that I did back in November of last year. After running 4 of us headed over to this cool little breakfast bistro called the Hi-Spot on Union and 34th.
On a side note. Yesterday I signed up for my first 50 miler. I got an email from Kathleen yesterday about the Northface Endurance Challenge. She said she was really interested in doing the race and that we should both sign up. I had been thinking the same thing as I had seen the promotion for it earlier in the week at the SRC store. So we both signed up for it and the 17 week training program hosted by SRC to help us get there. I'M SCARED!! Its great. What an amazing accomplishment it will be when I've finished. Its going to be the hardest thing I've ever done and no doubt I'll hate myself during a good portion of the second half but as soon as I cross that finish line it will all go away. And I'll have company throughout it all. So it's going to be great. Oct 6th. Can't wait.
Sometimes when I'm feeling especially proud of myself and my ego starts to show, karma just has a way of taking me by the shoulders, shaking me real good and obvious, then throws me to the ground like a rag doll.
Tuesday was a very humbling running day. There were a lot of runners that night and I started out easy letting all the faster runners pass me. I was feeling ok but i could tell that the general pace of the group was faster tonight. Sean must have been feeling better cause he was out there in front. When we got to the downhill portion of the run I decided to pick up the pace as I usually do. I don't know, maybe it was passing all the people that got me going but I went crazy when we got to the staircase. I let gravity take me, I let sensibility leave me and there was only one place to end up. I flew by almost all the runners and ripped off my sunglasses as I needed to focus on the ground before me. Each stride getting longer and faster as the stairs flew by. There was a voice inside screaming at me to slow down but there was another voice that was proud that I was this great agile runner that could navigate each step so magnificently until the right corner coming up just, wait, damn, can't, SHIT, THUD!!!
Fortunately I had just passed my last wooded stair so all I crashed into was good solid earth. And I suppose even more fortunately I'm very experienced in falling and have an uncanny ability to roll out of just about any fall. However, by that point I honestly must have reached close to 12-15 mph and hitting the ground at that speed, regardless of being in a roll or not, is bound to hurt a little. I was holding my sunglasses in the hand that took the fall and they snapped into 3 pieces, shattered in my hand leaving a few cuts. At the moment I was able to just pop right up grab my glasses parts(or some of them) and continue running without holding up any of the other runners. I ran on thinking the only thing I had hurt was my pride.
Or so I thought. My breathing started to deteriorate and I slowed down considerably. All the runners that I had so foolishly passed were now joyfully bounding by me with the "that's what you get" jump in their steps. I eventually had to sit down and catch my breath. I'm still not sure if it was the wind getting knocked out of me? Was it I wore my legs out going so fast downhill? Was it the ultra and not recovering that had finally catch up? Was it all these thoughts that were filling my head and making me pity myself. At any rate, I eventually caught my breath and ended up taking it very slow all the way back. Going back up the stairs I found the remains of my glasses and walked the stairs without any effort to try to run them.
I made it back with the majority of the runners all done. And I then began eating humble pie. Lots of good nature laughs and I was at the head of the pack with the jokes.
This is typical for me I find. I was being a jackass, consciously knew this and karma came around and showed me my way. I guess you could be more practical and down to earth about it all but I like to think that anytime I am a jerk, life has a way of showing me which way to run.
Oh me Oh my, what a lucky guy am I. Today I headed out to meet a few runners at Alki beach for a long slow run. I didn't really know who was going to show up aside from my new friend Kathleen whom I met at the 50k race last week. I coordinated with Mel from the SRC to meet at the Alki Tavern at 9. I get there and its just Mel, Hanna Kathleen and me. So if you ever see one guy hanging out with 3 pretty ladies and you think, "what's his special power?", it's called luck.
So anyways, it was a nice run even though it was lightly raining. Most of the time I ran side by side with Kathleen and we talked about running in general. Why we like it, what our families think about it and all the usual comradaries. I really didn't get to talk to Mel and Hanna much even though they were right behind us. Just too deaf to hear anybody unless they're right next to me. And I would like to have talked with them both because lets face it, they're two single attractive girls. I'm the dolt chatting it up with the only taken girl in the bunch. But Kathleen is super cool, extremely good runner and it will be great to have someone who likes to do ultras as a training partner. And that's what we agreed to try to do, meet up on the weekends for long runs(20+miles) .
This was a really cool run. Because of the rain we couldn't really see the Olympic Range but its usually a gorgeous view from Alki Beach. We turned around at Lincoln Park which was this great natural beach as seen to the left. All in all it was a great morning spent running with friends. Why do I do this running thing one might say? I'll give you three reasons. ;-)
I headed over to the Footzone club and most everyone was there tonight with some new additions. We were even joined by Brandon. Brandon was the original club coordinator when I first started and one hell of a fast runner. He works for Asics now and is very busy so we only see him every so often. Its workout night so the group split up after about a half mile. One group went to run hill repeats(no thanks) and the other half stayed on the trail to do intervals(still no thanks) . At two miles everyone but Brandon and I started with intervals. We just continued at our comfortable pace and turned around at 3 miles. We talked about him not being able to run as much as he'd like because of work and he was just maintaining a certain level of fitness. Coming back I noticed Brandon lagging just a bit. I wasn't sure if he was just holding back or if he actually was having a hard time keeping up. Around two miles left I picked it up just a bit and we separated. He caught me at about 3/4 miles remaining and commented that I had picked up the pace but we weren't really going that fast. But then I did really pick up the pace and laid the hammer down so to speak. I don't know why I felt compelled to do this. It was a pretty rude thing to do when running with just another person. I think the thought of racing against and beating someone who is clearly a better runner seemed at the time a good idea but its not like I think in those terms when running. Its something in the gut that wants you to be challenged. I think I was trying to instigate a race out of him and either he didn't bite or couldn't. For whatever reason I finished first and felt like a real jerk for it. Anyways, a few of us headed over to Whole Foods and got dinner. Malia sparked my interest in a Half iron man triathlon on July 8th. I haven't yet decided. It would mean buying or renting a wet suit and putting in a lot of swimming in the next month. I could do it, but it seems like a lot of work.
Kevin Gosselin is influenced by sci-fi and fantasy art, comic books, anime, the masters and too many contemporary artist to fully list. Amongst the most influencial are Remington, Frazetta, Darrel K. Sweet, Thomas Eakins, Norman Rockwell and J.W. Waterhouse. Kevin has always been inspired by realism but has grown fond of the low brow illustration style fine art scene. Coming to the realization that most every traditional art (figure sculpture, still life and landscapes) has in some way already been done, Kevin has now leaned his art toward the fantastic. It is only by digging in to his own mind that he can possibly create something that has yet to be seen. For this reason Kevin is exploring the designer toy scene. It mixes his love of sculpture, illustration and fine art and is the perfect output for his passions.
Kevin Gosselin grew up in the tiny New England town of Northwood, New Hampshire. Although heavily influenced by many genres and artists, Kevin owes his career in the arts to two major influences. The art of Iron Maiden cover artist Derrek Riggs and his twin brother Keith who always knew he wanted to be an artist. It was only by following the career choices of his brother that Kevin decided to go to art school to develop his skills. Both brothers attended an Honors Art program at The Boston Museum School of Fine Art their senior year of high school and then moved to Sarasota, Florida to attend Ringling School of Art & Design.
After earning his Bachelors in Fine Art and Illustration Kevin got what he considers his real art education while working for the great Robert Antovel at Art & Frame of Sarasota, the best art supplies store in town. After picking up the framing trade Kevin moved on to what would be his masters program. Kevin was hired as a painter by Hagen-Wallace, a props shop for Feld Entertainment. Here Kevin learned how to paint faux finishes and would eventually find himself in the sculpting department where he would discover his true passion.
Again with the help of his brother Keith, Kevin advanced into another career. After college his brother taught himself web design and he passed along the knowledge to Kevin and they both were hired by Hydrogen Media. At the height of the dot.com era, HMI was a powerhouse collection of talent. But all things must pass and Kevin was part of massive layoffs. After a year of freelancing web design Kevin accepted what would be his last job. For seven years Kevin acted as the production end of a small Marketing Firm in Tampa Bay Florida. It would be here that Kevin would develop his web and graphic design skills but also his strong desire to remove himself as far as possible from the world of corporate advertising. Finally realizing where his passions lay, Kevin decided to redirect his efforts to his true passion for the arts.
Kevin lives with his super cool, beautiful wife, daughter and two dogs in Seattle, WA. Up until his decision to pursue fine art Kevin was, and intends to still be, an avid ultra trail runner. He spent many hours running through the mountains of Washington and completed ten marathons, three 50ks and one 50 mile ultramarathon. Kevin has blogged extensively about his passion for running which can be found here.