May 20, 2012
Sharing and not caring.
This is about books.  I read them, think about them, and read them again.  They hold more than a monetary value.  Pages, chapters and words of artistic freespace shape life as I know it.  While this blog and other avenues of social media provide a window to who I am, they are not exactly enriching my life.  The Facebook NewsFeed will never measure up to a chapter written by Scott Fitzgerald.  Go ahead, feed the next social media takeover.  I’m sticking with books … hardcopies of books.  
A few weeks back, I was unfortunate enough to lose a book to the dark abyss of a fly-by-night friendship.  Like black holes, your inability to see fly-by-night friends does not disprove their existence.
I told her that she should read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, that it was a defining book for me, and that I could bring her my favorite copy.  She agreed and offered me a David Sedaris book in return.  In the moment, it seemed like a great idea.  As far as I know she never read past chapter 2.  And following several vain attempts to contact her about returning it, I’ve given up. 
If it was a Hemingway, I might have called the cops.  

Sharing and not caring.

This is about books.  I read them, think about them, and read them again.  They hold more than a monetary value.  Pages, chapters and words of artistic freespace shape life as I know it.  While this blog and other avenues of social media provide a window to who I am, they are not exactly enriching my life.  The Facebook NewsFeed will never measure up to a chapter written by Scott Fitzgerald.  Go ahead, feed the next social media takeover.  I’m sticking with books … hardcopies of books.  

A few weeks back, I was unfortunate enough to lose a book to the dark abyss of a fly-by-night friendship.  Like black holes, your inability to see fly-by-night friends does not disprove their existence.

I told her that she should read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, that it was a defining book for me, and that I could bring her my favorite copy.  She agreed and offered me a David Sedaris book in return.  In the moment, it seemed like a great idea.  As far as I know she never read past chapter 2.  And following several vain attempts to contact her about returning it, I’ve given up. 

If it was a Hemingway, I might have called the cops.  

May 16, 2012
The End of My Career

Dakota Jones, you crack me up.  Shared from: iRunFar.com

May 14, 2012
Nomad? You’re mad!

When did we start telling each other we aren’t runners?  

Are we not descendant of nomadic peoples who, out of sheer basic instinct, survived on moving great distances in search of sustenance?  Our ancestors were expert runners, walkers.  It’s hard to believe we would live the lives we do if they weren’t.  I’m sure some people can scoff at the notion, walk to the fridge for some thrice frozen chicken tenders, consider themselves a highly evolved species, and continue to deny the primal urges of self-inflicted pain and its reward.  I’m sure there are some who unknowingly enjoyed running as children that become convinced by someone or something that they weren’t “built for running.”  I feel sorry for them.  And if you have scoffed, denied, and are an apologist for your non-running self.  I hope this finds you well and offers a new perspective.

It seems the runner of today is all but forced to turn his back on mainstream society and rebel.  Most people I’ve talked to about running marathons and ultra-distances usually get wide-eyed, start humming and hawing and end up asking me something to the effect of “You’re a masochist, aren’t you?” “No, I’m just a skeptic.”

People tend to make a big deal about running when they meet a runner.  “How far did you go?” “What’s the longest run you’ve done?” “Have you ever run a marathon?” “You should qualify for Boston.”  I think unconsciously most are trying to find a reason to change, a reason to run again.  Sometimes I think people are just looking for something to believe in. 

May 14, 2012

"The only good race pace is suicide pace … " -Steve Prefontaine

May 12, 2012
Rest: The struggle and the reward.

San Diego, CA - 5.12.12

Reacting to last weekend’s walkabout, my entire body rebelled against the thought of running.  I spent Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday fast asleep on the couch, and I made a pact with myself that I would “rest” until at least Thursday.  Surprisingly, my legs weren’t completely trashed from the near 70 miles of running and speed hiking.  My feet, however, were not well.  I had a blister the size of a jawbreaker on my left big toe and others bubbled on the tips of other toes.  Perhaps the Saucony Peregrine is not the long distance trail shoe for me.  I know that now… 

Nevertheless,  I had to let my feet heel and give my legs a chance to recover.  AS much as I hate it, I needed rest.  It was easy going the first two days as I devoured everything in sight and enjoyed a few pints of Firestone Walker (new favorite brewery), but I started to hate the idea as the week weighed on into Tuesday and Wednesday.  By wednesday I was practically counting calories and looking at whole wheat bagels as if they were McDonald’s Big Macs.  I got super introspective and started questioning my running motives.  

Why do I even like running.  Most people hate it.  Why do I put myself through the pain and repetitive trauma?  What’s the point?  

Wednesday night I got a killer sports massage that hurt like hell.  I was too busy moping around avoiding beer and bagels all week to foam roll.  Well my IT band paid the price for an hour and half.  I got what was coming to me.   Some say that massage is the secret to recovery, and I’m a believer.  Thanks to Wednesday’s hour and half of “pleasure pain” I’ve been tearing through Fartleks and hill repeats.  Today I went out for an 8 mile tempo at 7 min pace and was able to hold on without taking a single GU.  I’m feeling strong and ready to take down a 20 mile long run tomorrow morning.  Here’s to rest, longevity, and injury-free training cycles.  Time for a Firestone Walker.

May 6, 2012

Running From the Border: Illegal Alien Style

Pacific Crest Trail. Campo, CA to Julian, CA

Early last month I decided to run from the US/Mexico border in Campo, CA to Julian, CA in 24 hours or less.  The thought of doing such a thing came to me by sheer compulsion, three pints of ballast point, and an ultrarunnerpodcast.com episode.  I started planning a month ago.  All I really knew was that I would need lots of water, some sort of electrolyte replenishment, and something close to 400 calories per hour of moving.  Thanks to the internet I was able to glean a few more tidbits of knowledge on ultralight backpacking to round out the plan.  Water was of course my biggest concern … well that, and freezing my ass off in a lightweight bivy overnight.  I decided early on that I would do my best to minimize sleep and any stopping for that matter. 

“We were wilderness running. Power hiking. Kind of backpacking, but much faster. More fluid. Neat. Almost surgical. Get in. Get out. I call it fastpacking.” -Jim Knight, UltraRunning Magazine 1988.

To get ready, I made a rough list of things I would need.  Never having attempted this sort of minimalist hiking, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I threw in a bunch of Hammer Nutrition bars, Clif Bars, and Gu packs for fuel.  For comfort I added a pack of diced alaskan salmon and some Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (I prefer Nutella but the jar would be unnecessarily heavy).  At any one time I was able to carry 100 oz of water, which I found was good for about 5 hours of daytime “scrambling” at moderate effort.  For shelter, I found a lightweight bivy sleeping bag made by SOL outdoor survival gear and packed a long-sleeve baselayer and running tights.  I also packed an emergency blanket that I could use as a tarp but ended up not using it.

The trip started at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.  The trail marker is about a hundred feet from the makeshift barricade of border demarcation.  I thought it both isolationist and ironic the day before Cinco de Mayo.  Anyway, enough about made up holidays.  My friend Christina had driven me to the trailhead.  It was about 1:30 pm on Friday afternoon.  She asked me, “Are you sure you have everything?” “I think so.” “This is crazy.” “Isn’t it?! See you tomorrow.”  Watching her drive down the dirt road leading to Campo, I fumbled with my gear making some last minute adjustments, waved at the patrolling border patrol agent and started running north.  Julian was roughly 65 miles up the trail and the plan was for Christina to meet me in 23 hours at Julian High School.

First Leg. Campo to Lake Morena. 20-ish miles. 5hrs30mins.

Campo to Lake Morena was a lesson in water conservation.  The southern portion of the PCT is very dry during the day and far from any sort of 7eleven-type convenience store.  There was maybe one small stream crossing where you could dip for some water.  I opted out of that and bummed a sip of water from an SDG&E worker sitting overwatch on the trail as the power company pulled a stretch of power line.  I made it to Lake Morena with both 20 oz handhelds bone dry and about 5 oz of water left in my bladder (60 oz made by Platypus).  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  The water fountains at the campsite seemed so amazing at the time, so sexy.  After filling up, I found the next stretch of trail and a good log to sit and eat dinner.  I had the pack of salmon and a Hammer Nutrition recovery bar.  I don’t think I stopped for more than 15 minutes before I was off.  Running still felt good and I was in good spirits.  

Second Leg. Lake Morena to Boulder Oaks. 7-8 miles. 6hrs30mins.

This part of the trip flew by.  I listened to a Led Zeppelin soundtrack the entire way.  The sun was setting.  There was a full moon on the horizon, and I was starting to think about running through the night.  If it was bright enough I wouldn’t even need to waste my headlamp batteries.  Boulder Oaks campground was closed.  It was completely dark, but I was able to find a water spicket to top off my water.  Changed into my tights and baselayer to keep warm through the night.  I knew where I needed to go based on the map but had trouble finding the trailhead crossing Old Hwy 80.  Slight detour.  Slightly more painful setback to be lost at night.  Crossing under Interstate 8, just south of the Buckman Springs exit, I shot off a text to Christina “crossing under the 8 now.  going to push up to mt. laguna tonight. will sleep there.”

Third Leg.  Boulder Oaks to Mt. Laguna.  15-ish miles. 14hrs.

The full moon was an emotional plus.  I could see most of the loose rocks and exposed roots without my headlamp.  Early on I was still running 40 minutes, walking 20 minutes.  The original plan.  But that plan went out the window after my first and second near falls traversing a narrow ridgeline trail along Fred Canyon.  The right side of the trail was soft sand and a steep drop-off into the base of the canyon.  I speed hiked most of the night  and stopped to bed-down after feeling dizzy and nauseous from lack of sleep (about 10hrs of moving).  It was hard to get good sleep.  It was cold, windy, and incredibly bright from the full moon.  I spent three hours of concentrating on keeping my eyes shut.  I had my Buff scarf pulled over my eyes to keep the light out.  Any sleep I might have got was interrupted by uncontrolled shivering. 

 ”Pack light, freeze at night.”  

Waking up, I fumbled around to pack my things and get moving again.  I knew that was the only way I could stay warm.  It was maybe 40 degrees and the wind was gusting through the canyon.  Dog tired, I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t think about running until sunrise.  Don’t think I didn’t want to.  Speed-hiking was fast enough.  Dark, cold, and lonely.  I started to hallucinate around 4 in the morning.  Plants looked like hikers in the distance and sometimes bushes would startle me, mistaking them for people lurking on the side of the trail.  My headlamp made for terrible depth perception and cast unusual shadows on the trail that messed with my mind further.  Compounding the frustration,  later in the night, when I went to stow away my gloves, I noticed my pack was partially unzipped.  iPhone and sunscreen lost.

I cursed myself for a good hour as I continued on.  I knew I had lost it and that it was “somewhere” on the 5 mile stretch of trail I had traveled since I had woken up.  But I couldn’t waste time, energy, or water on finding it.  There wasn’t a signal out there anyway.  Thanks AT&T.  I made it up to Mt. Laguna by day break and found a cache of water a “trail angel” had left at Burnt Rancheria campground.  Further up the trail at Desert View picnic area, I stopped at water fountain and ate some breakfast (Hazelnut butter pack, Hammer nutrition bar, Roctane GU pack).  It was about 5:30 in the morning and the sun was starting to rise.  I gave running a try again.  Not bad. But with a full bladder of water, my legs were only good for 15 minutes of running at a time. 

Fourth Leg.  Mt. Laguna to Julian. 25-ish miles. 22hrs45mins. 

At this point I’m completely focused on making the 23hr meeting time at Julian High School.  I kept wondering what Christina was thinking after I hadn’t sent an update this morning.  Would she show up on time?  What if I was late?  If I was late, she might really think something was wrong.  I had to be on time or early.  I decided to run for 30 mins, walk for 30 mins until I couldn’t go any further.  It was hard going at times, and I started to hate every stretch of trail that didn’t go NORTH.  I hated most of the trail at that point.  The PCT skirts the Sunrise Hwy just close enough to where you can see cars whizzing by.  But there was no bailout there!  It was a steep 20 foot climb to get to the highway.  The thought crossed my mind to get up to the highway and start running a more direct route, but I knew there was a bailout at the Sunrise Trail head parking area.  Finally making it onto Sunrise Highway, I had about 2 hrs to go 10 miles.  Easy day if I wasn’t wearing a 5 pound pack full of lukewarm water and hadn’t already been running for 20 hrs.  Any semblance of running form was gone.  Imagine Roger, the alien from American Dad, running and that was me shuffling up Hwy 79.  6 miles to Julian.  Of course, it had to be all uphill.  Why the hell wouldn’t it be?  

I think I had 2 miles to go when Christina drove up next to me on the road and picked me up.  ”Well you almost made it to the school!  How do you feel?” “Destroyed.” “Oh, okay.  Well do you want to go back or eat in…?” “I want a beer…and an apple pie.”

April 17, 2012
Mindfulness: getting to know my running self

San Diego, CA - 4.17.12


Last year I attended a career transition seminar to see what sort of effort it would take to leave the military behind, start a new career, and begin living my life.  The last day of the seminar was a sit down interview with the guy giving the talks, David Sona.  In between all the expected inquiries of work ambitions and life goals, he stopped to ask me: “What do you REALLY like to do?”  I told him that I really liked to run but that I wouldn’t consider myself a “runner” in the truest since of the word.  A runner to me at the time was someone cranking out sub 5 minute miles in a singlet and slit shorts.  I never considered it as an actual lifestyle I guess.  The me last year rarely saw the forest for the trees.  David looked at me for a moment and asked, well how much do you run?  I told him it was somewhere around 6 miles a day 5-6 days a week.  Then he asked what’s your 5k time?  I told him around 18 or 19 minutes at the moment.  Nodding his head and smiling he told me:

"Consider yourself a runner.  I imagine you leave the jogging to your buddies trying to run off last night’s beer hangover.  I imagine if you really worked you could be a good runner.  That’s why I think you should forget about finding a job for the moment.  Either stay in the Navy, go back to another boat, or get out and apply to a top business school.  Either way you’re going to succeed.  That’s who you are inside.  Serious runner’s rarely let themselves fail … Now should we order some breakfast?  They have some really good omelets here."

Since that talk with David my world has been turned upside down more times than I care to explain.  There aren’t many constants in my life at the moment, but there has  been running.  Week to week, month to month there’s running.  It is that reliable friend, that unrelenting foe, that generous benefactor.  I  don’t know if I’ll ever make running a career.  In fact, I’m almost certain I won’t.  It’s just not in the cards.  What I do know is that, for now, I’m all in.

March 31, 2012
El Cajon Mountain - Lakeside, CA
Last month I stumbled on the King of the Hill trail running series while snooping around Meetup.com, looking for people to run with.  Knowing next to nothing about the races they put on, I decided that sub-marathon trail races would be a good way to tune up for my first 50K.  Only, the King of the Hill races aren’t your run-of-the-mill “tune up” runs.  No, this group, led by Joe Decker from GutCheck Fitness, goes out of its way to find the hardest trails out there and, oh yeah, they like to throw in 4 to 5 “fitness” stations along the way.  If you don’t read between the lines before signing up for one of these races, well too frickin’ bad buddy.  Get ready for 50 burpees, 50 pushups, and 50 star jumps on the steepest grades of CAT 5 trails.  It lives up to the billing.  Complete insanity, a “Gut Check.”
This morning was the El Capitan Trail 12 miler.  The majority of the course is run on jeep access trail with the last half mile to the peak on confused, single-track rabbit trails.  You could say it is an uphill course (the uphill is what trashes you).  
The race started promptly at 8am.  But before any of us were allowed to run past the starting line we had to knock out 10 Burpees (see CrossFit).  With that out of the way and the clock already started, it was time to run.  The El Capitan trail begins with some quiet switch backs up to the main access road.  Reaching the main trail, I was greeted with some open straight-aways and undulating terrain (not so bad).  Not so fast! At about the “Mile 2” mile marker, a group of volunteers stop me and order/tell me to do 20 more Burpees.  I laugh at them and get the exercise done.  Already, I’m completely alone on the trail.  The leaders are far out of sight and there are three guys about a minute behind me (that quickly changed to one).  Once I was able to escape the Burpee nazis,  I ran further up the trail knowing good well what lay ahead of me.  The next 2.5 miles were entirely uphill with some grades approaching 40-45% at some points.  As if that weren’t “extreme” enough, Joe had placed three signs on the hill, each reading “10 push ups. 10 star bursts.”  WTF?!  I’m doing pushups and jumps on the part of the trail some have dubbed the “Million Mile Climb.”  Well it didn’t get any better from here, but thankfully it didn’t get any WORSE.
Jumping ahead to the turn around.  I found myself struggling to keep straight on the single-track rabbit trails at the top.  This so-called trail is a collection of sage brush, thorn bushes, and limestone boulders.  If it weren’t for the pink ribbon course markers, half of us would have run right of the edge of the mountain (some guys nearly did!).  The downhills were a welcome break from the relentless climbs of the first half of the race.  I rocked down the mountain with little regard for safety, giving a “Howzit?” or “Good Work!” to all the guys I passed.  I was feeling good at this point and grateful for having scouted the trail out last weekend.  I finished at just over the 2 hour mark (2:00:30), my goal time starting out.  I had ripped my bib off my shirt doing burpees and sliding through the bush, so before I left I made sure the girls at the finish had me down.  They told me they had me.  I was 7th overall.
Now where can I find the beer and sandwiches you promised?

El Cajon Mountain - Lakeside, CA

Last month I stumbled on the King of the Hill trail running series while snooping around Meetup.com, looking for people to run with.  Knowing next to nothing about the races they put on, I decided that sub-marathon trail races would be a good way to tune up for my first 50K.  Only, the King of the Hill races aren’t your run-of-the-mill “tune up” runs.  No, this group, led by Joe Decker from GutCheck Fitness, goes out of its way to find the hardest trails out there and, oh yeah, they like to throw in 4 to 5 “fitness” stations along the way.  If you don’t read between the lines before signing up for one of these races, well too frickin’ bad buddy.  Get ready for 50 burpees, 50 pushups, and 50 star jumps on the steepest grades of CAT 5 trails.  It lives up to the billing.  Complete insanity, a “Gut Check.”

This morning was the El Capitan Trail 12 miler.  The majority of the course is run on jeep access trail with the last half mile to the peak on confused, single-track rabbit trails.  You could say it is an uphill course (the uphill is what trashes you).  

The race started promptly at 8am.  But before any of us were allowed to run past the starting line we had to knock out 10 Burpees (see CrossFit).  With that out of the way and the clock already started, it was time to run.  The El Capitan trail begins with some quiet switch backs up to the main access road.  Reaching the main trail, I was greeted with some open straight-aways and undulating terrain (not so bad).  Not so fast! At about the “Mile 2” mile marker, a group of volunteers stop me and order/tell me to do 20 more Burpees.  I laugh at them and get the exercise done.  Already, I’m completely alone on the trail.  The leaders are far out of sight and there are three guys about a minute behind me (that quickly changed to one).  Once I was able to escape the Burpee nazis,  I ran further up the trail knowing good well what lay ahead of me.  The next 2.5 miles were entirely uphill with some grades approaching 40-45% at some points.  As if that weren’t “extreme” enough, Joe had placed three signs on the hill, each reading “10 push ups. 10 star bursts.”  WTF?!  I’m doing pushups and jumps on the part of the trail some have dubbed the “Million Mile Climb.”  Well it didn’t get any better from here, but thankfully it didn’t get any WORSE.

Jumping ahead to the turn around.  I found myself struggling to keep straight on the single-track rabbit trails at the top.  This so-called trail is a collection of sage brush, thorn bushes, and limestone boulders.  If it weren’t for the pink ribbon course markers, half of us would have run right of the edge of the mountain (some guys nearly did!).  The downhills were a welcome break from the relentless climbs of the first half of the race.  I rocked down the mountain with little regard for safety, giving a “Howzit?” or “Good Work!” to all the guys I passed.  I was feeling good at this point and grateful for having scouted the trail out last weekend.  I finished at just over the 2 hour mark (2:00:30), my goal time starting out.  I had ripped my bib off my shirt doing burpees and sliding through the bush, so before I left I made sure the girls at the finish had me down.  They told me they had me.  I was 7th overall.

Now where can I find the beer and sandwiches you promised?

March 31, 2012
Hiatus

San Diego, CA - 3.31.12

March has been a long thirty-one days.  Changes are happening all around me, and the day-to-day grind of embracing and dealing with it all has slowed my life to a tired creep.  I haven’t written in a few weeks.  Call it writer’s block; call it emotional downturn; call it the consequence of a life spread thin.  In the past weeks, I’ve pondered the many things that work to distract our so-called American lives.  Busying my mind are things like why we choose to squander portions of our income for a one in a billion chance to win a 100 million dollars, why we define our lives on Facebook news feeds, and why we continue to perpetuate the unfortunate half-truths of biased media moguls.  Madness! March has been utterly distracting.

March 11, 2012

Half-Naked Speedwork at the Undy 5000

Mission Bay Park - 3.10.12

Saturday morning started with a short trail run in Tecolote Canyon with the Dirt Devils.  Most of the group was signed up to run the Undy 5000 in Mission Bay park later in the morning, so the trail run was just a good way to tack on some extra mileage.  We ran 3 on the dirt, jogged another 3 to the race, and waited to run 3.1 more.  I’ve been running with the Dirt Devils for about 3 weeks now and I each time I show up to run with them I feel a little more a part of the group.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a super easy-going group of people (most ultra-runners are), but it takes a little longer for me to get comfortable.  The Undy 5000 was part 5K race, part charity fundraiser for the fight against colon cancer.  The race was directed by a member of the Dirt Devils, so naturally the team got a group together to participate.  At first I wasn’t sure if I’d run, but one of the girls convinced me to show up.  I decided: why the hell not?  I got my application in and contrived a way to run in the least amount of clothes as possible (this was after an email asking runners NOT to run in just underwear).  As it turned out, I was one of the most naked runners out there, well besides Katie and her tightie-whities … super hot haha.

The course ended up being super flat and fast, and I crossed the finish line about a minute ahead of the guy who finished second.  I ran a 17:57 (about a 5:45 pace).  What a great way to start the weekend!  On top of that, another member of the Dirt Devils, Heather, and her friend Jaime both took first-place in their respective age groups.  Going back to how insanely close-knit the running community can be, Jaime actually grew up about 10 minutes away from me.  I never would have known that had she not asked me to pace her on some of her Sunday long-runs.  We might get some work in next weekend.  I was busy running the San Diego Half Marathon this morning (more to follow on that one). 

I guess what I”m trying to say in so many words is:  Get out there and run.  The world is waiting…

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