Monday, March 31, 2008

A Smattering of Multimedia

Podcast Interview:

Based on many of my links and comments in this blog, most of you probably realize that I am a big fan of Scott Dunlap's blog, A Trail Runner's Blog. In fact, most of you are probably fans yourself. Mark recently remarked that "we can't get enough of this guy," and although my response on Mark's blog was a bit cheeky, he is ultimately correct. Scott's blog is popular for a reason! Today Endurance Planet posted a podcast interview (here) with the ultra blogger, providing some good insight into how Scott became a runner and blogger.

T&F Video:

After some hints from Lisa about how to actually get the youtube video into my blog (I'm an idiot, I know!) I've posted this video about CMS Track 2007 just to practice my new skills. This probably won't be very interesting to you unless you are a current T&F athlete or an alumni of the Claremont Colleges. (I ran track for CMS from '92 to '95.) The video quality isn't amazing, but the editing is quite good, and I think the music works really well. My favorite part comes after the credits when you can merely glimpse some of the antics of Coach Goldhammer himself!

Finally, here's how I spent my spring break, which explains why I missed my long run that weekend. Oops. It was worth it though!

It's the view from the stage of a Hot Buttered Rum Show. That's me on the far left: red hair, brown shirt.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm Back! (And plan on running 100 miles!)

After a winter off from running, and a spring of diving back in, I am finally getting around to posting to my blog. I sort of feel like I’m talking to no one here, since I personally would give up reading anyone who hadn’t posted to her blog in 3 months. I have, however, received of late several comments from folks asking “Where the hell are you, Gretchen?” So, thanks for letting me know you are still out there!

My biggest news is that I am an official entrant in the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. Yup, that's right, I am going to try to run 100 miles.

When I was in highschool, and I though 8 miles was a really long run, Ann Trason was busy kicking the butts of men and women alike on the Western States 100 course. I didn't have any clue what that was all about, but it seemed like such a romantic idea, and I loved the fact that a woman could sometimes be the winner of the entire field. What was ultra running? I didn't know. But Ann and Western States planted a seed that I am finally starting to water, 20 years later.

Several blogs I have read lately address the ever-present question of why we do this crazy thing that we do, be it running ultras, competing in triathlons, or climbing mountains. I know athletes have been asking this question for centuries, and will continue asking it as long as this planet is ours to explore. We all have to come up with our own answers to the question of why, but I also see a clear similarity among most people’s thoughts on this topic.

In particular, several posts on Claire’s blog, Who in Their Right Mind?, got me thinking about why exactly I want to run 100 miles this year. Claire is a triathlete, and her question focused more on "why do 3 sports at once instead of just one?" Her own response to the question though, touched on an idea that I think is true for many of us: the suffering endured in the process of pushing our physical and mental limits is rewarding. Yes, that’s right, it’s the suffering we like. Scott Dunlap also touched on this thought in his recent post on the Rucky Chucky 50K, noting that sometimes he wants it to be as hard as possible. After running out of water with several miles to go he said, "In fact, somewhere inside I was giddy knowing that I was stripped down to the most ancient of human conditions – nothing but your will, two legs, and fortitude to get you to the finish. I often wonder if we all have a secret desire for this to happen on occasion, just to prove to ourselves we can do it without all these fancy gadgets and aid." I knew exactly what he was saying.

Having identified myself as a runner since the age of 11, this is by no means the first time I have pondered these questions. After reading Claire’s post, I recalled a journal entry I had written on the topic in which I felt I had reached some real conclusions about why exactly I loved sports like running and rock climbing; sports that caused other people to give me that funny look and say “You’re crazy!” You know the look I’m talking about.

During the summer of 1998 I worked at a wilderness camp in northern Minnesota as a canoeing and climbing guide. I had just run my marathon PR at Grandma’s Marathon: 3:26, still my PR a decade later. Two summers before, I had spent 5 months backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail. It was also the summer that I met my husband. I was 24, and it was a good time for getting philosophical about the questions of life, and actually coming up with some real answers.

So I went looking for the journal that contained that particular entry, thinking I would recycle that entry and post it here. Two hours later, every corner of my house has been scoured to no avail, although I did enjoy perusing a number of journal entries from my younger days. A brilliant way to spend a Sunday that was set aside specifically for doing taxes.

But what I recall from that journal entry, is that my conclusion on the matter boiled down to essentially this: We do it because it reminds us that we are alive. Yes, the endorphins are great, yes I love the adventure of exploring new trails, being in the outdoors, the community. All of these things have their own rewards, and are part of the whole experience, but I don’t need to run 100 miles to experience those things. The truth is, pushing my own physical limits as far as I can makes me feel alive like nothing else.

I watched a documentary last night, “Steep,” about the pioneers of extreme skiing. (I lost a ro-sham-bo with my husband on this one, I wanted to watch “Across the Universe.”) I enjoyed the movie though, and would recommend it, even if you are not a skier, because it really looks at this same question of why. Although frankly when I meet an extreme skier (not unusual here in Tahoe) I give them a funny look and say, “You’re crazy!” Seriously, wanting to run 100 miles looks pretty sane compared to the stuff in that movie. My favorite quote from the movie was a skier, in response to the question of ‘why’, saying “The closer I am to death, the more alive I feel.”

I don’t think ultra-running is about being close to death, but it is true that the harder I push myself, the more alive I feel.