Sunday, December 23, 2012

Low Key Week, Except For The Sprained Ankle

This has to be one of the most boring weekends in a long time. On Thursday I pulled a bonehead maneuver and tripped running dogs downstairs in my building. I was rewarded with a sprained ankle and some rug burns on my arm. No running for a few days, although tomorrow I'll test the waters a bit.

Update: Arrgh! 4 1/2 miles and now my ankle feels broken. Christmas day and I can't even walk. Bonehead maneuver 2...

I probably needed the break anyway. My body needs rest seeing how I've tortured it  for the past 51 weeks!
Hopefully I'll feel re-energized after a few days off. 

I'll do some light running, biking and core work outs for this week and then start hitting it hard again January 1st.

I signed up for the Oakland Marathon in March, San Francisco in June and thinking possibly the Santa Rosa just to make sure I get a chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2014. The costs of race registration have gotten to a point where they're breaking the bank. The good thing though is I have a premium membership with "Strava" and I can still compete on a virtual level. It really helps with the motivation. I'm going to start hunting down the leader board ladies and gentlemen going into the new year. 

I have to say it's been quite an experience getting into running this year. I hope to get a good balance of running and bike this year and with the racing experience over the last few months, I'm feeling more confident and hope to take it up a notch.

My New Years resolution is get a better grip on life, financially, athletically and just pull myself together and become more disciplined and dedicated to my goals.

I've met some amazing people over this past year. I feel inspired and bit humbled. The North Face Challenge Marathon was a huge event for me. It was the toughest and I felt like I was involved in something so much bigger than anything I've ever experienced before athletically.
Yesterday I received a package containing a cool running hat and note congratulating me on placing in my age group! That was a good feeling.

Update: "Buzz Burrell" 60 year old trail blazer, who kicked my ass at the NFC 26.2, facebooked me back today and congratulated me and said "let's meet some time when I'm up that way"! FUCK YEAH! That was a nice Christmas present.

Well there you have it...a very boring week aside from the dogs we've had all week which, has made it somewhat lively at times...

Here's our favorite guest "Charlie"!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finite Existence and Riding Ronster Style!

Today the plan was to ride with my friend Ron over to the Marin Headlands (some serious climbing) then, on to Tiburon for lunch and hoping to do this all before the rain came.

The reality of our "finite existence" seemed to be the ongoing theme repeating it's self over and over in my head today. Along with the tragedy in Newtown CT. yesterday which my mind is finding it impossible to come to terms with, It has finally come to a time where revisiting an old dark shadow from the past would be impossible to avoid.

I have not ridden the Marin Headlands since the mid 90's. I did run a Marathon there two weeks ago. "The North Face Endurance Challenge". So, when Ron mentioned this week about doing a ride there on Saturday, I decided it was time to go back there again to enjoy that scenic and challenging place.
Courtesy Rons Photo

The Dark Past: 
Through the late 80's and into the 90's there was one particular friend of mine who I basically rode to the Moon and back with. For a period of two years we rode every bike century and a couple of double century rides together. We joined the same bike club and kept up a close friendship together with his wife and my wife riding with us a lot of the times.
He had a bit of a crazy side to him. Loved the downhill speed and was always trying to do one better on the descents.

As it goes so many times in life, friends get involved in other people and places and my life and work situation forced me to drift away from the the bike people who together with, I had spent so many years rolling through thousands of miles of beautiful Northern California.

Around July 1997 I got a call from one of the old bike group members. She was shaken to the core and was barely able to get out the news to me that my friend had died in a horrific bike crash going down the backside of the Marin Headlands descent.
This was the first time that "a friend" had un-expectantly passed away. It was a reality check, a wake up call and realization how death could be so devastating to people who are close.

Over the years I just could not bring myself to revisit the site where he lost control of his bike and met an untimely fate. It just weird-ed me out and I had to put it out of my mind for for probably too long...Until now.

As we began the climb from the Golden Gate bridge I began to feel some anxiety and queasiness... We descended down the backside and eased into that infamous turn...

As it turned out as I rode my brakes and took it all in. I felt only a sadness and actually looked at it analytically realizing how this happened and how easy it could happen to someone who took these type of extreme chances in life.
I thought how much I missed those times riding with him and experiencing the challenges together. He was with me when I won my first race, first century and first double century.
Such a tragic thing in such a beautiful spot. I forgot about how majestic and serene this amazing place can be.
Here I am now riding with another great friend (who I don't worry about as much).

The good thing is, I've moved on now. Come to terms with something that has been hidden away for too long.
Such is life. We get past these horrible moments in life and do the best we can to not let it happen again.

Everything must pass...

The Ride: Ganghem Style with Ron

I met up with Ron at Sports Basement, as always so good to see my friends. Since the weather held no promises, I think most of the sane people decide to stay home and keep dry.
Not a Hell of a lot of tourists crisscrossing the bike paths or the bridge way. It was quite cold but after the Bridge we began the ascent to the top of the Headlands and warmed up pretty quickly.
I was surprised at how much easier the climb was on my one speed. Probably from all the running and building a lot more core strength in the past few months.

Seeing the bunkers, gun turrets and feeling the echoes of the war years gone by brought back those feelings of finality and futility. What's that shit all about I think to myself. I don't get it. This human drive to annihilate one another and ourselves. I'm so lucky to not have gone through all of that like my father did...Wait a minute...I am and we are all still going through this. It never ends...

Man, I just want to get off my bike now and RUN! I love this area and all the beautiful trails.
Finally we head down towards Sausalito and out along the bike paths sloppy from the "King tides" we've experienced this week.

We make good time rounding the loop and as we come back into Tiburon Center I realize I'm getting a flat in my rear tire.
We decide to stop at our favorite halfway restaurant "Casa Manana". Great call. Delicious meal. I fix my flat and it's getting really cold and starting to rain, we head out.
At this point I'm ready to be done. I don't do rain very well. I actually promised myself I would never ride in it for the rest of my life...I lied!
We blasted through Sausalito and up the grind to the Bridge. I was passing a lot of riders so I knew I was making good time.
When I crossed the bridge I only saw one person coming towards me. Pretty amazing for a Saturday!

I met up with Ron back at Sports Basement. The last time I did this ride with Him I adopted a dog at a mobile adoption event there and this is what I went home with...

My little Layla at Sports Basement, almost exactly 2 years ago.

This time I rolled in and lo and behold...Doggies!

Unfortunately or fortunately how ever you look at it they were someone else's dogs so, not a chance for me to claim them.

Oh well, you win some you lose some.

We did close to 50 miles for the day, got completely soaked but it was well worth it and I was able to move through a painful memory and come out the other-side with a better perspective and a shot of confidence to boot!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Year Of Personal Goals Completed

A week ago today I had the great fortune to participate in the North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon. It was an event where I finally reached the pinnacle of personal success following a year of hard work, sacrifice, pain and some pretty neat accomplishments along the way.

As I wrap up a year long foray into the the world of running (something I never would have thought I would experience or be interested in the least). I'm happy to say that this year has truly been a life changing adventure and  turned out to be one of the tipping points and created a giant change in my life. 

Since my early teens when I suffered the embarrassment of coming in dead last in my small towns annual 4th of July four mile running race, after which I swore to myself I would never ever run again and turned to the bicycle and guitar as my go to escape vehicles.

Jump ahead a million years...

One year ago I just happened to be on a 24 hour fitness "expletive deletive" treadmill due to the fact all the crappy lifecycles were occupied as usual! I thought to myself?

"I wonder if I can actually run a mile"?

Cyclists in general hate to run. At least that's what the consensus seems to point to.

The next time at the gym.

"I wonder if I can run 2 miles at 8:30 pace"?

Then, the following week while heading into mile 4 on the treadmill.

"I wonder if I can run a Marathon in six months"?

"I wonder if I can run the Boston Marathon when I'm 60"?
"Who's this -Dean Karnazes-"

...and so it begins...

Cycling, in the beginning really was all I needed. At the age of 17 I saved up all the money I earned bagging groceries, flipping hamburgers and mowing lawns to finally accumulate enough money to head down to "Quinn s Service Station" in downtown Hingham (New England) and finally purchase that (crappy) french racing bike I'd had my eyes on for the past year. Even though it was a big piece of shit right down to the stupid uniquely French threading and parts, I found my heaven!
I'd ride 10 miles to and from Burger King and everyone would think I was crazy. I started riding into Boston during my days off without telling my Mom and Dad then cruising the city streets just for the thrill. 17 miles there and 17 back! I felt like the Cat's Meow...

When I finally got to California I landed a job as a "Bike Messenger". At the time I thought, I've found my dream job. Little did I know. You can't make a living on it...Next!

I got an almost real job and started club riding and racing at an amateur level through the 80's. Around 1990 I fell back into my involvement with writing and playing music...oops drugs/alchohol, got deeply in debt, began driving a cab which had me "spinning my wheels"for a decade, gaining a considerable amount of weight (borderline obese) and sliding into the deepest darkest depression which nearly killed me!

On top of it all I had put a lot of personal problems and issues which I had been dealing with most of my life on the back burner but, unfortunately were simmering, growing worse and finally coming back to bite me big time!

...and so began the rebuilding. Inspired, determined, I began again with losing 45 Lbs. in 3 months, club riding, racing, centuries, double centuries and so on.

From 2002 to 2007 became my personal apocalypse inter-weaved with some grandiose athletic achievements, amazing musical creativity and culminating in a life threatening illness which took me 2 years to come back from followed by the 2008 financial meltdown, another huge bout of depression, shutting down from friends and family, working myself to the bone for nothing, moving from building to building, salary cuts and on and on and on...

Then came my dogs...

That changed me. Innocent, loving, honest beings that needed me in every way. They loved me un-conditionally, they were there in good times and bad. This all happened at the right time. They took the focus off of my own misery and somehow in a strange way forced me out of myself and on a new path filled with some optimism, satisfaction and the  true person that I think I could be if I just put in the effort.
Sometimes I think if only I had children I may not have had to go through all this bullshit.
Unfortunately, genetics, my horrible self image and so many other issues tossed up just an overwhelming amount of red flags and killed that idea from the get go!

Here I am now. Some new direction, personal tragedies, including losing my beloved younger brother which is something I just can't seem to come to grips with (that just cut the legs out from under me), more and more beautiful animals in my care, a best friend who has been with me for almost 40 years, a whole new Universe of running, personalities, inspiration, adventures, discipline and hopefully onward and upward.

Maybe I will spend the rest of the month contemplating, building myself back up mentally and  physically and just flow with where 2013 takes me...

Who knows...

I just have to thank so many of you and you know who you are because I annoy you frequently. I'm working on it all and maybe by the time I'm laying in my deathbed I'll have figured it all out.
In the meantime...Enjoy the ride...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

North Face - Chasing Mindy...Rebel Girls Tearing It Up!

"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Night before NorthFace Marathon
I hear the the loud belch from "Mindy the Foghorn" and I think "thank Dog we haven't hit any rocks yet".
I had been rabbit hunting "Mindy" or as I like to call her "Rabbit One" since around about mile  6 or 7. Rabbit hunting consists of keying into runners that run at about my pace or a little stronger. Most  of these rabbits (my title for them) end up being 20 to 40ish age women. Guys that run my pace most times tend to be weary of me and seem to know or feel they're being hunted down in fear of being vanquished which varies their pace too much. Woman I think feel less intimidated with this friendly old fart seemingly trying to keep up with them. The conversations are better too. The chattier the better. The banter keeps my mind off the pain in my body and is somewhat soothing like listening to music. I guess in almost 40 years of marriage I've grown accustomed to a woman's voice in one ear at all times. Women in a most consistent way have a metronome like rhythm which helps me stay on pace. At least that's how it feels. Woman are better to look at too, of course. By the way when these woman "chick me" in the end, they get the title "Raven" which means they've become warriors and choose to slay me! Such are the games I play in my head to get me through the many miles. I've met many, many Ravens in my year of running...

Around the first half Marathon split I passed Mindy for the 10th time and mentioned that we were making really great time for what we had already had to endure. Our split time was around 2:25. I told her to keep up the pace and we would do a 5 hour finish. She exploded with glee over the information!
"I was figuring I'd be out here for at least 7 hours"! she exclaimed.
Within the next 2 miles I realized how "Core" of a chick Mindy was.
She was a multiple "Leadville 100" Veteran mountain biker/runner from Colorado and began rapid fire list of her athletic accomplishments, her passion for her dog, outdoor life and good friends. As we moved along she would stir up conversation with many people we passed and just had a beautiful colorful personality.
We talked about racing diet and how I was now again suffering with nausea which seemed to be ebbing at this point after drinking some warm chicken broth and potatoes with salt. She laughed and said that most things just make her belch really loud! Around that time she let one rip which could easily be heard by every mariner within 100 miles!
Even though I would gain on her on most of the climbs, (I have a pretty long climbing stride). I could still keep track of how far she was behind me as she periodically signaled everyone around her.

As we finally crested the endless climb and began our descent down to what I believe to be "Pirates Cove" the real trail running began. Slippery, muddy and treacherous and this was just the beginning of a many miles of slop running.
Mindy would just be going on about how much fun this was which finally began to make me laugh and lose some of the anxiety about getting through all this. Before the turnaround there was a long, long descent which was just plain ridiculous! It was bascially a river of endless mud and moving water which we had to negotiate our way down with many runners returning up! I then realized how tough this would be on the return trip.
I had a high point on my way down when I looked up and saw the great "Sarah Lavender Smith", Bay area famous Ultra Runner/Writer. "Sarah's Blog Here"

I called out "Hey Sarah"! as I careened down the chute. I heard her say my name but didn't catch what she was saying as I turned my attention back to saving my own life. 

One observation at this point...I noticed a lot of runners had that "dead look" coming up the mud trail. A telltale sign that my wall was coming soon. When I finally made it to the bottom and the Muir Beach turnaround, I spent some time making sure to fill up on more chicken broth, potatoes, and some fruit. I also started hitting the cola, knowing I was soon going to be in need of sugar and caffeine.
In the time that I spent at the rest stop my rabbit Mindy was long gone back up the chute. The climb was intense and long and every step and foot placement had to be correct. At times I actually had trouble pulling my feet out of the mud suction. I also noticed I was developing hot spots on my left baby toe and under the ball of my foot. Obviously blisters from my Cascadia running shoes that I chosen to wear. I'm glad I did just for the fact of the fortified tread and extra sole protection. Just wish I had had another week or two to break them in before this run. The other issue I had in which was driving me crazy was that my shoelaces kept coming untied. Unlike my Pure Grits the laces were not crimped on the Cascadias and the moisture was allowing them to slip loose and now they were just covered with mud.
I'm learning more and more about these little things that need to be learned and the little skills you develop from experience. Trail running is an "art" and I enjoy this aspect of it. There are so many things to learn in so many way's. It makes me feel like how I feel when I'm writing music. It's all about details and creativity unique to oneself.
Let me change direction a little and mention someone I met earlier in the week...

I watched a trailer for a movie about Nikki Kimball that was truly inspirational. As I explored her resume...Shit! Amazing and it really hit me the balance of Mind, Spirit, Science and Reality!
I have so much to learn about life, people and human spirit and in this running, as like when writing music, I'm just seeing the tip of the iceberg...

I thought about her words, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek and so many more athletes that have inspired me in such a short time. A Universe and I'm in it now with both feet, like this viscous pudding in which I'm now up to my ankles in as I stand here...and begin again, chasing Mindy...

...After what seemed like an eternity I break away from the crowd behind me and push to the top and there she is! My silly wabbit! 

At this point I become self-centered and the pain is breaking me down. My hamstrings scream, my blisters are now full blown volcanoes of pain...I put the pain in it's place. I know what I need to do and  I center my focus into the core and push harder. I'm not even sure of the conversation with Mindy and somewhere through the running river of mud I lose her but when I finally get to the last major rest station i quickly go for exactly what I need and go! 

There she is! Rabbit number two. Since my brain is shutting down now I develop facial aphasia and for the life of me, I cannot remember her name so, I'll call her pink! (Pink jacket, with braids like Sarah Lavender Smith).

I strike up a conversation and I see in her very young face the "Death mask". She's finished and ready to be done with it. Her tempo is excellent as she negotiates the mounds of mud already traveled so many times.I talk to her about the wonderful future she has and at such a young age to be this focused this intently on her passions. 

I tell her about Sarah who she reminds me of and  my kidding Sarah about her braids with the catch phrase "Be afraid of the braid"!

I sense I'm melting down and lose track of what I'm talking about as I push even harder now as I pass the running zombies and "cat and mouse' them. Anything to keep me moving forward

I glance at my Garmin at the last water break, 4 miles, I grab two cola's and hammer down the last 2 mile descent as fast as possible. Flexors, hamstrings, blisters, back and ankles scream for me to stop. All the rabbits are gone and I'm on my own...

I think about my younger brother who is gone from this world, my wife who is wondering if I'm OK and the feast that awaits, my dogs waiting to greet me and lick off all the mud, my older brother, my Dad who is so proud of his middle son and I push. "Do not stop"..."Run"!
Maybe if I'm lucky I'll win my age group?

I see the road to the finish, the people cheering...Don't stop!

I'm a basket case, all systems begin to fail but I sprint with whatever I have left and I cross the finish and bow my head as the medal is slipped over my hat and around my neck.
I'm "shell shocked"...I made it.

I limp like a lobotomized Lizard through the slop to get my bearings. The idea of hanging out to meet some of the Ultra finishers, pick up my race shirt and converse with anybody is far removed now. I'm done. All I want is my free beer, by drop bag, the warm shuttle bus and cell reception...FINITO!

I finally track down my bag and realize I'm wearing my coat around my waist already. I zip up and struggle to the beer tent.
Suddenly I hear "HEY"! It's Pink! My rabbit two. She jumps up and gives me a huge hug!

Wish I could only remember her name. I think to myself. "I hope she has a wonderful life" and that short time we were together in a moment in time sharing our humanness will stay with me to my final day in this world...I'm so grateful. I wish her well and point to the beer tent...we snap a moment in time.

"HEY"!  It's Rabbit one! Mindy! Again, I'm lucky twice. I think, this is so cool. I just wish my mind was clear and I wasn't so trashed and able to think of something to say and I think she's feeling the same so we hug and snap another moment in time...

I love these "Rebel Girls tearing it up". 

What I expected from this challenge and what actually transpired are so far removed from what my mind was telling me a month ago.

No matter what your expectations are in life. Open yourself up and just let things happen the way the Universe intends...relax and just let things flow.


Onset of hypothermia at the start. Ankle deep in mud soaked to the bone.

Dean Karnazes counting down.

Tiny Hispanic girl who I kept running into for the first 12 miles and lost her soon after I met Mindy. Hope she made it OK. So many of her family there for her send off.

How beat up some of the 50 milers looked.

Realization of how ridiculous the climbing is in "Real" trail running.

The guy who beat me in my age group. Hated him for it till I read his resume! Holy Crap!... 
    Buzz Burrell 
He kicked my ass Big time!!! I am humbled before you. I wanna be like you when I grow two years!

So much more I could tell you...

Race results link