Friday, June 30, 2006

Living With Nunavut

What started out as a gloomy, wet spring has finally blossomed into a gorgeous summer. Here in Tahoe we are spoiled and think that every day should be sunny and warm, and it usually is, unless it’s ski season, and then it should be snowing hard (and it usually is). I can accept running in snow storms during the winter as part of living in the mountains. Doing it daily through the end of April was really dragging it out. How much of March and April was spent running in shorts? None of it. I have rejoiced this month in running in a t-shirt and pair of shorts, and cruising along the slowly emerging trails.

I began the spring with the Bishop High Sierra 50K. This is a great race on the eastside of the Sierra where most participants are entered in the 50 mile distance, and even fewer participants partake of the 20 mile “fun run.” On the eastside, they like their trails long. The weather turned out to be perfect, sunny and ranging from 60 to 80 degrees over the course of my race. It can often be brutally hot in Bishop, and the day following the race was one of rain and snow in the higher elevations. I felt fortunate to have experienced neither.
I had heard it was a difficult course, but I failed to realize in my pre-race preparations that the 50K course lacked most of the elevation gain and steep climbs of the 50 mile course. Most of my hills were pleasantly gradual and required only walking breaks at intervals, rather than for the entire duration of a hill.

After about an hour and a half my ipod died on me. That’s a little early to lose tunes in a 30 mile race and I was heartbroken. Worse yet, it stopped right in the middle of Naked Blue. I spent the rest of the race singing the snippets of the song that I could recall, and pondering the question “what exactly does ‘unscroomy’ mean?” (I think it either means “obscurity” or is a reference to a shady character, as in, “I didn’t pick up that hitchhiker because he looked a bit unscroomy.”) After a “mandatory wet feet” stream crossing I reached the turnaround point and was surprised to discover that I was in 5th place. The return to the finish was all downhill, but I didn’t manage to catch any of the women ahead of me. On the other hand, I wasn’t passed either. I discovered that not having crew support really affects my fuel maintenance. Instead of Andrew standing there shoving food and drinks into me, I got all spacey and couldn’t think about what I wanted, frequently leaving the aid stations without enough to eat. Consequently I started to bonk in the last 5 miles. Some well timed potatoes washed down with a can of Redbull brought me back to life and I managed to cross the line still in 5th place. I enjoyed an excellent post race meal and massage in the shade, and cheered the 50 mile runners to their finish. How much of the replacement ipod that Apple sent me did I have to pay for? None of it!

After the BHS50, I really didn’t have anymore races on my schedule, and started taking the dogs for 3 mile runs on the trails behind my house. This is me, reveling in my Tahoe summer. (Ahhhhh.) Andrew and I are about to embark on a nearly 600 mile canoe trip through the Northwest Territories and Nunavit in Canada. I am about to spend 40 days paddling a canoe. I am about to get into seriously poor running shape. (But I’ll have buff arms!) Who needs to go on 20 or 30 mile training runs when you are about to get completely out of shape? And besides, the dogs love me right now.

So tomorrow we fly from the airport in Reno, change planes in Denver, and arrive in Edmonton around 8:00pm. The next day we fly from Edmonton to Yellowknife, where we will stay for three days and two national holidays (Canada Day and Fourth of July) to dial out our gear. On July 4th we take a bush plane to a lake in the Northwest Territories where we are left on our own in the wilderness. We will paddle from here, the headwaters, on the Thelon river to the town of Baker Lake on an inlet of Hudson Bay. Just us, the river, 24 hours of daylight, and about 100 million mosquitoes. How much of my summer training will be completed in the next 6 weeks? Yeah, that’s right, none of it!

But on other running notes, last weekend was the Western States 100, which begins about 15 minutes from my house, and ends about an hour away. This is driving time of course, not running. My friend Jack suffered a severe bout of nausea and didn’t finish (along with 44% of the race). Runners suffered through triple digit heat most of the way, and the men’s first finisher was disqualified after being helped across the line by his pacers, awarding the title to 36 year old Graham Cooper of Oakland CA. Nikki Kimball finished in 19:26 to take 3rd overall and her second women’s title in 3 years. How much of this years race in 100+ degree heat was really fun? Well, I know what I think, but on the other hand, maybe the raft ride across the river at Rucky Chucky was fun. Congratulations to all Western States runners!!

Embarking on a long wilderness trip is somewhat akin to running an ultra. You try to be prepared for everything. You spend all the weeks and months leading up to it getting yourself, and everything else, ready. When it comes down to it however, you know there will be things you weren’t prepared for. When they happen, you will take on the challenge and persevere. It’s an adventure. Encountering the unknown is part of the draw.

A friend whom we have never met in person, named Bob O’hara, sent us some information for our trip, and a flag to fly on our canoe. It amazes me to receive such gifts from a stranger, but I guess it shouldn’t. The adventuring spirit is within all of us, though in varying forms. We live to inspire and be inspired.

What Canadian provincial flag did Bob send us? Yup. Nunavut.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Escape From Prison Hill Half Marathon

On Saturday April, 29th I had the pleasure of joining about 130 other runners for the Escape from Prison Hill Half Marathon, in Carson City Nevada. The race had been suggested to me the week before by a local runner from Donner Summit, Jack Driver, who was racing almost every weekend in preparation for the Western States 100. A half-marathon of course, constituted an easy weekend for him.
I was trying to keep up my training after the AR50 and before the Bishop High Sierra 50K on May 20. I had definitely taken some recovery time after my first 50 miler, and had only managed one 20 mile run since the April 1st race. My training schedule called for 20-25 that Saturday, but I decided perhaps I would opt for quality over quantity. I entered the race that Wednesday.
At the 7:00 am start temperatures were about 50 F, with sunny skies. The race director promised rapidly increasing temps, and looking around at the runners gathering on the starting line I noticed that many were carrying water bottles. I had been indecisive about carrying my water bottle, but since this was a training run, and carrying water was part of training, I made a last minute run back to my car to get my bottle. Fortunately I had a rock star parking spot, so this only took about 30 seconds.
As the start countdown began, Jack and his friend Peter (also from Truckee) repositioned themselves at the front of the crowed. I preferred to start in the back, knowing that the crowed would keep me from starting too fast. (Something I have been known to do at times) The first mile was on a dirt road and was relatively flat. It gave us all a chance to get warmed up, and shake out into our natural pace and position before the single track sections.
The first big climb up Dead Truck Hill (I did actually see the dead truck!) was fairly gradual, and by keeping my pace quite mellow, I was able to run the entire way. As we came to the first aid station (around mile 3 I think) the views we would enjoy for much of the run began to materialize in front of us. We could see across the entire Carson Valley to the snow capped Sierra beyond. It was, both literally and figuratively, quite breathtaking.
After the initial climb began to let up, there were several miles of slightly rolling, but mostly flat trail. This was without a doubt the best section of the course, and an absolute joy to run! The footing was great, the trail firmly packed, and the views constant. I felt like I was flying down the trail, and truly enjoyed the speed of a shorter race.

One of the Many Hills on the Course

After a fun descent, I reached the halfway point and began my least favorite section of the course. It was made up of some dirt roads and sandy washes that just felt like a slog. When the final (and STEEP!) hill began, it was almost a relief just to be done slogging through the sand and poor footing.
The website for the race states that this course is ”an excellent way for those wishing to experience the taste of ultra-marathoning without the added distance.” When I first read it, I thought that a rather strange description. After running it however, I think they had this hill, the namesake ‘Prison Hill,’ in mind. This hill is essentially a mandatory walk for about a mile. The key, as with many hills in ultras, is to keep a decent pace while walking. I had no problem keeping my heart rate high in spite of walking, and even managed to pass a few other “runners.”
After reaching the summit, another fun section of the course ensues. A series of very steep sandy down hills, punctuated with a few short steep up hills, carry you through the next several miles. The deep sand allows you to keep some speed on these down hills, as much of the impact is absorbed with each foot fall. It is a rare treat for me to run fast on a steep down hill, and although I was still passed by faster downhill runners, I had fun.

The Hill Profile

The last two miles or so are along the Carson River, and are pleasantly flat. At one point I swerved to avoid a ‘snake’ only to discover that it was in fact a squiggly branch from a sage bush. I was glad I didn’t actually trip and hurt myself in my swerve! I finished strong in about 2:17, which I’m not really sure, but I think wasn’t bad for this hilly course.
The post race food was great and I enjoyed myself in the pleasant 75 degree shade at the finish line. This was a well run race, (I mean by the race director, not me!) on a great course, and I highly recommend you try it next year. I know I’ll be back!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The AR50

This winter I have logged many more miles than any since moving to the snowy Sierra. Training for a spring race up here is a challenge in my opinion, but I had chosen the American River 50 as my first 50 mile race. The race starts in Sacramento and, as the name indicates, follows the American River 50 miles to Auburn. This year’s race was Saturday April 1st, an auspicious date to say the least.

The adventure officially began when my husband Andrew and I set off from Truckee at 3:00 on Friday afternoon. Our intended destinations: race check-in and the pre-race pasta dinner. As we headed down the hill, light snow quickly turned to pouring rain, and “weather worry” began in earnest. My single previous race in Sacramento had been
CIM several years ago, where Charlie and I spent a depressingly slow day running through the pouring rain. It was not an experience I looked forward to reliving, especially because this would be a much longer day. Since Charlie was flying in from Seattle to be my pacer, I was pretty sure it would be the end of our friendship if this race turned out to be remotely similar to that experience.

The pasta dinner was your typical affair, with some pre-race advice and raffle prizes. The speaker for the evening was
Dean Karnazes. Having read his book, I figured I already knew all the stories, but he turned out to be an entertaining speaker and all in all it was a fun evening. Next on the list was hotel check-in and picking Charlie up from the airport.
I had spent hours that week getting gear ready for my crew (Andrew and Charlie) and myself. It was my first 50 miler and I was nervous. After twisting my ankle 3 ½ weeks earlier, my training hadn’t gone exactly as planned (I was working with the “extra long taper” theory.) I figured I had to do everything possible to make sure things within my power went right. Thus I had spent most evenings in the last two weeks at yoga class doing some deep stretching. I had loaded my favorite tunes (
Hot Buttered Rum String Band) into my new ipod shuffle. My toenails had been clipped, my calluses filed (but not too much.) I made a stack of PB&J sandwiches, mixed up the GU2O, and instructed my husband what to have at which aid stations. I was ready!

After a restless night dreaming about missing the start of the race, (does anyone ever dream about anything else the night before a race??) the alarm went off at 4:45. I made coffee and ate my usual bagel and cream cheese, with the addition of a banana and an espresso love GU. It felt almost leisurely for race morning since our hotel was only 3 minutes from the starting line, and I really didn’t see the need to get there more than 10 minutes before the start. It’s not like I had to warm up, stretch and do strides before the gun went off. (Sometimes I love the ultra mindset!)

Feeling good early in the race.

The start was beautiful, and the rain had given way to partly cloudy skies at sunrise. I didn’t even really hear the gun, (was there a gun?) but I moved along with the rest of the crowd as people began walking, and slowly running. I was all smiles as I moved down the bike path, “Jessica” (covered by New Monsoon) slipping bright and rhythmic through my earbuds. The adventure I had been preparing for was beginning!

With a few holes in my training regimen, I was nervous enough to start very conservatively. I ran slow and tried to just relax and enjoy the race and the scenery. I took my first planned walking break at 30 minutes. (I planned to do a 30/3 run/walk schedule for the bike path portion of the course.) It was like torture to stop and walk because I felt so good, and I have a hard time watching people pass me by while I walk. Everything I’d read and been told about ultras rang loud in my ears though, and I tried to remind myself that walking was smart. I kept up the schedule, and still the first two aid stations came quickly. The race already seemed to be speeding by.

I did my best to stay on the dirt shoulder of the bike path, knowing that my body much preferred the softer surfaces. People had warned me that the first part of the course could be fairly mind numbing, with long miles on the flat pavement and a lack of scenery. I thought they were all wrong! There were beautiful trees with purple flowers bursting out all over them, and everything was so green. It was a refreshing change from the snowy scenery at home. There were a lot of other runners out on the path as well, and most of them offered cheers and encouragement as they ran the other way.

One thing that I think really helped my race was breaking up the distance in my mind. I know from past experience that big goals can be so overwhelming that the sheer enormity of the task can cause you to give up unnecessarily. I had several ways that I broke up the race. My walking breaks were one obvious way of looking at things. If I thought to myself, “8 more hours of running” I probably would have cried. But thinking, “only 15 minutes until my next walking break” was a much less intimidating thought. Another set of smaller goals was the aid stations. Not only was there the reward of treats and goodies, but also the promise of seeing Andrew and Charlie cheering madly and shoving food at me. Sometimes the aid stations seemed far apart, but sometimes they seemed so close together I was surprised to be there. Finally, a friend asked me before the race how I could run 50 miles. My instinctive response was, “Well, I know I can run 20 without much trouble, so I’m just going to do that, do it again, and then go for a 10 mile run, and that doesn’t really sound so bad.” He laughed of course, but it makes sense to me.
Somewhere between the Nimbus Dam Overlook (mile 19) and Beals Point (mile 27.5) I started to hit some of the muddy trails. I had asked Andrew to bring my gaiters to Granite Bay (mile 31.5) because I had been told that’s where the trails start, and I was beginning to wonder if I had been misinformed. I made an effort to keep my feet dry and avoid slipping in the mud, as did most of the other runners. It was a fun challenge, and it kept my mind on something besides the increasing tightness in my hips and hamstrings.

At Granite Bay Charlie joined me to run the last 20 miles. I abandoned my trusty ipod for the lure of actual conversation and we headed off down the trail directly into a gigantic mud puddle, a small omen of what was to come. Of all the parts of my racing plan, having Charlie as my pacer was the smartest move and provided me with the biggest benefits. When choosing a pacer for a race, I highly recommend someone you are comfortable running with, and who is a good friend you have not seen in a long time. It felt just like old times to me, as we made our way down the trail, dodging rocks, mud and poison oak, all the while keeping up a stream of conversation that brought us each up to date on the other’s life. I had a few concerns that Charlie would have a terrible time and go home covered in poison oak rashes, never speaking to me again. I have the fortune to be immune to poison oak so I tend to run through it with a reckless fervor if it means avoiding puddles. My fears were mostly assuaged when at one point, while doing the moonwalk through the mud up a small hill, Charlie declared “There is nowhere else I’d rather be right now!” Perhaps this statement was merely an attempt to stem the tide of giggles pouring from my lips as I waded through what I termed “diarrhea mud” and tried not to fall onto the runner behind me. Nonetheless, I was in total agreement with Charlie. It was a blast!

My sprained ankle flared up between miles 35 and 40, and it had me a little worried. Some well timed Advil from Andrew came at Rattlesnake Bar (mile 40) and it seemed to do the trick. The sun began to peek out from the clouds, and the scenery along the river was spectacular. The last 10 miles was the one section of the course that I had run before, and I was starting to feel the lure of the finish line. Somehow I felt amazing, and Charlie and I picked up the pace. We abandoned the whole “walking on the uphills” thing, and started passing other runners like crazy. Every time I saw a familiar landmark I whooped with joy, declaring “we’re getting close!” Charlie actually started to whimper slightly that she was sad that it was almost over. I just laughed. I wasn’t really worried about that.

The hill up to Last Gasp was pretty intimidating, and we managed to run some of it, interspersed with some sections of walking. It was yet another time to break a big goal into smaller goals. At the Last Gasp aid station we both sucked down some of the best Coca Cola I have ever tasted, and headed up the hill. We ran the entire hill while vehemently cursing the pavement, and soon the finish line at the Overlook came into view. There was a short, but brutally steep hill just before coming into the finish area. After almost 50 miles I would have really expected to just drag myself across the line, but instead Charlie and I thought it would be a good idea to sprint up the hill. I was just so excited to be there I couldn’t help myself, and after all, the hard part was really over. I’d been hoping for a 10 hour finish, and I crossed the line in 9:28.

After the race Charlie and I went straight to the hose to wash off the mud and poison oak. I inspected a startling large blister on my big toe, and laughed with other finishers about the course conditions. Looking around, everyone was in good spirits, and no one seemed collapsed in pain. I inhaled a beer and hotdog, and basked in the post race glow of finishing my first 50 miler.

Washing off the mud and poison oak.

My highlights of the race were running with Charlie, the beautiful scenery, having music, seeing my crew at every checkpoint, and of course the aid stations and friendly volunteers. I felt that there was an excess of sugary items at the aid stations, but I guess it’s nice to have a variety, as you never know what someone’s stomach is going to find inviting. Personally I was a fan of the chicken soup, (no noodles) potatoes with salt, pb&j sandwiches, and fruit. I definitely enjoy eating while running!

That night at home I was unpacking the extra food. Andrew told me how impressed he was that I was still functioning and not just passed out on the couch. I gave him a knowing look and laughed. “Now that I had a good experience at this race, you’re in big trouble, crew captain!” He joined my laughter and just shook his head. Now my thoughts are occupied with choosing the next race.

Charlie and I enjoy a post race hotdog. Yum!

For another perspective on the race and some great photos, check out Scott Dunlap's blog!

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Alumni Meet

It was February 3, 2006, in Claremont California, the site of the 108th annual CMS Alumni Track Meet. Not only that, but it was my first track meet in about 8 years.

The idea of an alumni meet draws snickers from some of my friends. A day where old people go back to relive the glory days? A day where out of shape athletes test their mettle against students under 22 years old who have been training hard? Well actually, it’s just a fun day to socialize with old friends. Our coach does a great job of keeping the alumni from our college track team in touch with one another, and every February a group of alumni (and alumnae) returns to attend the annual CMS Alumni Track Meet.

This meet is an event in which we, the alumni, always emerge victorious over our collegiate opponents. Well, this only makes sense, as our team includes decades of All-Americans and NCAA champions. No matter that some of us quit running competitively after college, put on a few pounds, or haven’t thrown a hammer/javelin/shotput in a dozen years or so. Although I am still running, generally just the thought of running faster than an eight minute mile triggers my gag reflex. Of course it doesn’t hurt that we are allowed to enter six runners in a four person relay, and someone from our team is the score keeper. Still, I’m pretty sure it’s pure talent that brings us the win every time.

Mike, Charlie and Jason

The motivation for attending this particular meet lay with my friend Jason Rhodes. A school record holder and NCAA champion in our day, Jason was being honored with an induction into the CMS Track & Field Hall of Fame. Many of my college track friends, myself included, hadn’t attended an alumni meet in quite some time. When I heard the news about Jason’s induction, I figured it was time to get the band back together.

In the last few years of my running career I have focused on running farther, not faster. While I once thought qualifying for Boston was no big deal, I now think it’s very impressive. I look at my pr’s for 800, 1500 and 5K (all run in college of course) and think they must have belonged to some other runner. On the other hand, I once thought 90 minutes was a long run. Now I can be found out on the trails on a Saturday for four hours or more. The idea of a track meet then, seemed almost like an amusing adventure.

I met up with friends at noon on a typically smoggy Claremont day, to watch the hammer throw. Among the usual suspects were Charlie and her husband Mike, Darren and his girlfriend Sara, Jason (our Hall of Fame honoree,) Brad (who frequently attended CMS meets as a coach and timer,) and Nicole and her 2 year old son. Dave and Mark showed up a little later with their families.

Nicole and Alexander

After some debate, Charlie and Sara and I decided to run the alumni mile. This is an event specially squeezed into the alumni meet that the students cannot enter. Thus, it is an opportunity to avoid complete humiliation. Of course avoiding humiliation is never guaranteed, and a mile is still, in my opinion, a sprint. But to be honest, when you don’t have any real goals at a particular distance, you really have nothing to lose. (As long as you’re not worried about your pride.)

To my surprise, our actual race was a blast. My expectations were low, as I recalled an alumni mile I had run in ’98 that was extremely painful, and so slow that I think I purposely forgot what my time was. I crossed the line in 6:11, which is slow for a mile, but I was actually quite pleased. Who knew a race could be over so fast? Darren and Mike got the award for toughness by running both the 1000 loop, and the alumni mile. I think Mike may have regretted it though. We forgot to tell him how badly it hurt to breathe after inhaling deeply for five minutes or so during a race in the Claremont smog. Brad, going on what seems like a decade of being injured, gave play by play commentary over the loudspeaker. (Those of us in the back of the alumni mile didn’t really need to have it pointed out. Thanks Brad!) Jason ran the 300, during which he fulfilled his own race prediction of running strong in the first 200 meters. (The rest of the day was filled with his own jokes about the last 100.) Nicole, Dave, and Mark all chose not to compete. We gave a half-hearted effort at teasing them about it, but our hearts weren’t really in it. Competing wasn’t actually the point.

Coach Goldhammer inducts Jason Rhodes into the Track & Field Hall of Fame

My favorite part of the day was seeing people with their families. I would have thought it might seem strange to see my friends with spouses I’d never met, and children 4 and 5 years old, but it really wasn’t. It was beautiful. I loved seeing Jennie hold her son’s hand as they ran together down the straightaway in the kid’s 50 meter dash. We ate pizza on the infield at the end of the day while I watched Mark on the high jump pit playing with Dave’s daughter Shyla, acting like a total goofball for at least 20 minutes. It just seemed like we all belonged there, on that track in Claremont. It didn’t matter if we competed or not that day, if we were a spouse or a child of an alum, if we were a student or a coach or a parent. It seemed to me that we were all at home.

Darren and Sara

We finished off the day by sitting around Jason’s Pasadena home sharing stories. Some were classic stories, like the time Jason and Dave set Brad’s running clothes on fire, and the time a girl punched Darren, giving him a black eye. Some were new stories, like Nadeja's tale of Dave making her hike the Inca Trail on their honeymoon.
I don’t think I’ll be making the switch from trail running to speedwork on the track any time soon, but I still look forward to my next alumni mile on the track in Claremont, California, whenever it is.

Darren and Mike toe the line in the 1000 loop, at the site of what was once "the best damn dirt track in Southern California."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What Makes the Magic 2-9-06

A few weeks ago I had the unusual experience of finishing a 20 mile run with the exclamation, “Wow, I feel like I could do that all over again.” I don’t know about you, but that never happens to me. Really. Well, not on a 20 miler anyway. It led me to wonder, what makes a run one of those truly great runs. Some runs are just blah, some runs truly suck, and so many runs just are. My runs are a part of my daily routine (usually) and are so common that I rarely stop to think about how I felt about the experience. Occasionally I finish with a groan, grateful that it’s over. Frequently when I’m done with my run, my thoughts are already on to the things I need to do next: stretch, shower, get ready for work. But sometimes, and the frequency of these occurrences varies like the trail conditions, I finish a run feeling amazing. I smile, I feel like I just started getting warmed up, and I’m filled with energy for the rest of the day. Sometimes it is a 5 mile road run in the rain, and sometimes a 20 mile trail run. What are those elements that come together, causing you to look back on the run and smile?

Last week for example, I had a great run on Friday. It was my standard run on the road from my house, along Donner Lake, to Shoreline Park and back. What was so great about it? Hell, I don’t know. I just know that I ran hard, and at the end of it I felt so good that I briefly considered continuing the run, making my 6 miles into 8 or 10. I quickly returned from this state of delirium when I recalled that the following day I was supposed to run 22. But the fact remained that it was a run that left me with a contented smile, feeling stronger than when I had begun.

When I feel great physically after a run I know it has a lot to do with how hard I ran, how rested I was for the run, and what kind of shape I’m in. Maybe it means I was in great shape and well rested. I also recall however a few runs that followed several months where my butt was glued to the sofa. During those runs I shuffled along, barely able to get my 3 miles in. I was not fast or in shape. I was, however, doing that which my body had missed. In spite of the pain, my slow, out of shape self will always recognize the activity for which it was meant. Thus, a slow painful run can still be a great one.

I consulted Charlie to get an opinion on what makes a truly great run. Now, when I talk about Charlie you should know a few things. First of all Charlie is a girl. (Duh.) Second, Charlie is the best running partner a person could hope to have. I should know, since I’ve been searching for another running partner ever since we moved and our running partnership came to an end, about 10 years ago. As usual, Charlie cleared the fog on the question with a seemingly obvious answer. “I consider my greatest runs to be simply the ones I remember the most.”

The view from Cloud's Rest on a memorable run in Yosemite high country

I love this answer. I love it because it makes perfect sense, and because it seems obvious that in order for anything to be considered “great” it needs to withstand the test of time. Even though I felt great at the end of that 6 mile Donner Lake run, I probably won’t remember it in another week or two. On the other hand I am unlikely to forget that 20 miler any time soon. Not just because of how good I felt physically, but also because of the amazing new (to me) trails I explored in Auburn State Recreation Area, because of the people I met and ran with, because of the crazy creek crossings, and because I spent about 2 miles picking my way carefully through the mud in a vain attempt to keep my feet dry. Charlie mentioned several runs that I have to admit were particularly memorable. On one 20 mile run in Montana, while training for our first marathon, we saw a man walking a mountain lion on a leash. (Subsequent discussions of the run have led us to question whether it was merely a hallucination caused by running too far. But how often do people have the same hallucination? Besides, we were only at mile 5 when the lion appeared.) She also brought to light a particularly grueling 14 miler where we ran in the staggering heat of an inland SoCal summer with no water. I didn’t know anything about dehydration and electrolyte replacement back then. It has never taken me so long to recover from a 14 miler. So could that run really be considered great? Well, I certainly won’t forget it, and because I smile and laugh when I think about it, I would say yes, it was great.

Other great runs that Charlie has had include the first 20 miler she ran all alone, and a run with her husband where they saw 3 eagles. I remember almost every step of my first ultra, a 50K trail race on the Tahoe Rim Trail. I remember a 12 mile run up highway 40 to Donner Summit in a snowstorm, feeling like a complete bad ass for running uphill through the ever deepening snow.

As wide ranging as they are, these runs have a lot in common. Here is how Chuck summed it up, “I guess the link is that the best runs are those where you come out at the other end having truly enjoyed yourself - whether that was because of how well you ran, what you saw, the person by your side, or by a renewed sense of what people can achieve when something matters to them.” Exactly! All of these runs remind us, in powerful ways, that we are alive.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The following are my last 3 posts from my blog on tribe.
Missy Barron, may she live on inside us all.

Goodbye to a Friend 1-12-06

Dear Missy,

Today I found out that you are gone. How can you be gone? I really just met you, but I feel your absence so deeply. How can this be affecting me so much, be so painful? You managed, in such a short period of time, to create a connection in my life. It is a connection not only to you, but to so many of the wonderful people that I have met through you. It is a connection to dancing, smiling, laughing, singing, hugging and feeling the joys in life on a daily basis. I feel so fortunate to have known and loved you, but at the same time I also feel so cheated that you were in my life for such a sort period of time.
Before we met, I saw you at many Butter shows. I remember watching you, this beautiful woman in the front with a long scarf that seemed to flow with her movements. You sang along with every word, dancing with friends, dancing alone, and always with a smile that said you were having the time of your life. I spotted you at the rail during a set break at the Harvest Meltdown, and I said to myself, “There’s that girl again, I have to meet her!” Your magic just drew me in. And when I went up and introduced myself to you, you gave me a hug as though you had been waiting to meet me too. Our brief, sweet friendship began.
There is something special about sharing a passion with someone, especially a passion you can express together and with others. Dancing and singing with you at shows has been a highlight of my fall and winter. Thank you so much for coming into my life and sharing so many joyful times. I am in shock at losing you, and know I will be feeling this way for a while. All I can think is that my tribute to you will be to continue to find the joy in every corner of life, as you did, and to stay connected to that family of friends that we have. I know somewhere you are dancing with Lili, that beautiful smile on your face.

Lucky Charms 11-29-05

The sounds of construction from the lot next door drove me out of bed far earlier than necessary. The snow had turned to rain overnight, eliminating chances for the forecasted 3 feet we were hoping to get. I wasn’t sure what this would mean for my run. I prefer running with cold dry snow falling, rather than cold wet rain.
The heat from my coffee and the roaring fire kept me from putting my running clothes on right away. The street out the window looked like it was laden with several inches of slush. It was destined to be a morning with wet feet. I sighed loudly, and, coffee still in hand, went upstairs to find appropriate cold weather clothing.
Splashing along the road around Donner Lake, I pulled my baseball cap low to keep the rain from stinging my eyes. The snow on the shoulder of the road had actually melted back enough that I could run there. With the ski resorts still unopened, the traffic on the road was light, and I was only splashed by a few passing cars. I glanced up to check for approaching cars, and saw the rainbow. I smiled. In spite of the rain, I raised the brim on my hat. I let the rain pelt my face and pushed ahead into the fierce headwind. Whitecaps rolled across the lake, and I continued, doggedly in the opposite direction.
In truth, conditions were considerably better than expected. Two miles in, and my feet were still dry. On further consideration, I decided not to go all the way around the lake, because there would be two miles of unplowed road on the other side. I added an extension up old highway 40, to make the run 6 miles. At the turnaround I cruised the downhill until I reached the lake again, stretching out my stride to release some of the tension in my hamstrings. The last two miles the wind was at my back.

Running The Hurdles 11-18-05

I have made a commitment that I am trying very hard to break at the moment. You might think I would be trying very hard to keep a commitment, as would I, but all of my actions seem to indicate otherwise. You see, I need to run 12 miles today. Well, I have a huge list of things I must get done today, but running 12 miles is the commitment part of the equation. Instead of taking care of life, (laundry, clean the house, walk the dog, pack for trip…) so that I can have time to run my 12 miles, I am drinking coffee and writing.
Truly I think drinking coffee and writing are more important than doing laundry, but it is the mountain of laundry and not the unwritten words, that will keep the run from happening.
That’s not really true either. It is my rationalizations of my need to do laundry that will keep me from running. And who really needs to do laundry? Sure, we all need to have laundry done, but the actual doing of it is no where close to a requirement for human function.
What is it about a commitment to yourself, rather than to someone else, that makes it so easy to break? I feel selfish putting my run ahead of stupid things like cleaning the house because that is something that I am doing for myself and my husband. Running is only for me. But then, running is me.
The commitment of which I speak, is my decision to run the American River 50, a 50 mile running race along the American River from Sacramento to Auburn. Farther that I have run at one time by almost 20 miles, this one is monumental for me. This one will require consistent training. There can be no skipping workouts due to weather, work or other life duties. When snow blankets the ground, as it soon will, I will be driving down the hill to get in my long trail runs. I will be missing ski days with my friends. I will certainly be feeling sorry for myself. But don’t feel sorry for me. Be excited for me. I am on an adventure of uncharted territory for myself. Gotta run.