Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The 2015 SKT Trail Running Movie

Metaphor of my heroic struggle. Santa Barbara, Feb 1980.
Film makers will shit a brick and die when they learn about the 2015 SKT Trail Running Movie. Its a documentary about me, dammit. Yes, my heroic metaphoric struggle for world dominance—at the 2015 Sean O’Brien 50—pushing a shopping cart. With a thundering musical soundtrack too. Maybe with a stray dog at a dark finish line. You'll see me:
  • ...looking at the camera 
  • ...recounting a teachable moment
  •  ...digging deep, hiking the vert, busting the gnar, running my own race
  •  ...cracking manly jokes
  •  ...flirting w Aid-station hotties who are wearing balconette pushup halter-tops and 4” Maximum Drop CMFMs. And it's pouring rain. Don't ask why
  • ....bagging on elite dewds, etc for being over-talented, skinny punks
Cutaways to random various girlfriends looking regretful.

Diversity alert: Mexican girls commenting casually in Spanish, no subtitles. Mariachi music.

Aid station convoy entourage, with rub downs. Little umbrella. And it's pouring rain. A glancing mention of the new CR set by TBD… But never mind! It's all about me! Edit clips for motivational talks. See kids… you too can be a dick.

Voice over of a dead personage telling a joke at a forgotten celebrity roast, while the camera lingers longingly on somebody's girlfriend. Cutaway to boys rolling their eyes, making faces, hand-farts. Maybe a mention about how I got comped into the Idatard 100. This will be the main doc in the 2015 Trailrunning film festival circuit.


I’m in the Airstream trailer, right now. Let’s talk.
Buckle for the Idatard 100. Everyone's a winner.

Monday, November 03, 2014

SKT Mastery at the SJT50k


Latest addition to the Book of Ultra-Numbers.
I raised SKT Mastery to whole new depths at Saturday's San Juan Trail 50k, finishing 14min after finish cutoff. This is a career first. Back at the campsite, I got out the matches and built a fire. ‪#‎SlowAndShit‬
 

First time for everything. I was playing it pretty conservative for the first 20mi. Figured I could hit the last 11 in 3 hrs. Wrong-O. Stride tightened up, trail got a lot more technical up to, then down Holy Jim, then up Horse Thief to the Divide Road. It wasn't until the last 2 miles off the top did I remember something Andy Roth had told me [letting hips relax, rolling into the stride] that I was able to open it up. But then it was too late.

When I crossed the finish line, I joked with RD Baz Hawley that it was only 23 years earlier, I'd done the late San Juan Trail 50-Mile.

"And you're just now finishing!"

Remember the hunters? they weren't looking for deer...they were looking for stragglers.


Inwardly, I'm smiling.
Hotel Bibler, with Noah's Tarp in the background.
Weather was overcast Friday night. I'd driven down early afternoon to avoid getting stuck in traffic. I  And I def didn't want to do it later on Fri night [Halloween], or way early Saturday morning. As it turned out, it started raining 9pm Fri Night. Showers off and on Sat. In SoCal terms—the apocalypse.

Reading the weather predictions, I'd dug out the Noahs Tarp from storage, last used in spring 2013. Long story short—the supplied cordage is junk--clearly designed with lawyers in mind. Those had snapped in a stiff breeze. However: 550 Paracord solves all problems. While climbing trees setting it up it occurred to me that getting back up on Sunday morning post-race was gonna be tricky. A MoraKniv solved that problem too—no need to break my neck to retrieve 4' of cord.


Harsh Conclusions

2014 was my first year back in ultras in over twelve years. Yes, I did Born To Run 50k and Mt Disappointment in 2012 after a 10 year absence. Then I sat out 2013 due to illness and injury, brought on by poor training. I began to walk, then jog by late 2013, getting up to 20-mile weeks. Slowly.

In March 2014 the clock was again reset by 10 weeks when I fractured my wrist. Five weeks in a cast, I thought I was down 5, but in reality you're down twice that. Three weeks after the cast came off, I was shuffling to a slow 7:20 BTR 50k finish. Playing catch-up is a bitch.

Fortunately or not, I'd had a summer of generous-cutoff 50ks, and serious training runs up in the San Gabriels. Endurance was coming back, speed will have to be reclaimed. 

The Sean O'Brien 50mi in early February is going to be very interesting.

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Three Dimensions Of Shade


Beef chili in Saltillo ware, with wine-on-ice in stainless. Prompted by remembering the long camera-takes of Lee Van Cleef in "Good, Bad & Ugly".

"A man alone with his thoughts lives in a crowded house"

—Don Juan Castaneda, "Conversations With Maestro Sevende Sandia"

There is no cell reception in the San Gabriels. I was unwired for three days. $36, cost of a campsite at Chilao. But I'll charge hipsters $450 ea for the weekend, then taser them when they try to Instagram. And all greasy stains at the picnic tables are really bitter tears from the butt-hurt. 

The Three Dimensions of Shade

The Three Dimensions Of Shade

The San Gabriel sun is merciless. You've either found shade, or made your own. I've opted for making it.

I have a love-affair with 1" EMT pipe canopies. They beat crappy pop-ups cold. But you won't know this until your pop-up gets gusted into a gully, breaks its back, and you're left with junk. Bungee cords secure the shade panels. I double them up on the full-sun side, leaving the other sides open as needed. Then chase the sun from east to west. When something breaks, its only a part, not a complete system.

Slowing Everything Down To A Crawl

I began to think about things slowly again. How long does it take to do things correctly? Moving economically, without panic, I was completely set up in an hour. Three days later, knocking it down, I'd figured out ways to minimize unnecessary motion, in reverse.

By 10AM I was heading out on a short run. Once I got back, and got cleaned up, it was into the shade. Temps were already punching into the 90s. I didn't have anywhere to be. The hell with it. I took a nap.Then I read. Slowly.

I read crazy-assed articles in the New Yorker, in particular Lena Dunham's catalog of neurotic shit in "Difficult Girl". Is this fiction, or real?  As my Okie pal Larry Rich might say, "she's crazier than a shit-house rat". All signs point to the conclusion that this woman is useless. She seemingly can't do a goddamned thing. Her parents did not help her by letting her endlessly talk about whatever fixation popped up. She needed to a fill a barn full of hay bales, dig a water-line by hand at least 6" below frost wherever she lived, whatever. But sitting on your ass talking about shit just leads to more of same.  

And when reading paled, just sitting, listening to the wind blow, was good enough.

Ambient Campers

It was quiet until mid-Friday afternoon. Eventually more people showed up to claim a site. 

Top of the hill there was a full-on 5th-wheel trailer RV, massive pickup truck, and several other cars. A generator and Smoky Joe BBQ/incinerator rounded out the scene. The Mexicans above my site spent most of Saturday in low-keyed drinking with the accompanying drinking songs. The fizz went out when the ANF Cal-Fire trucks showed up and hosed down their campfire before it spread. They were packed and gone by twilight.

The metalheads next to me were still at it in a lo-volume way until 1AM, but they were harmless.

Gusts of high winds in the wee dark hours prompted fire paranoia. Then the thoughts of how do you distinguish signal-to-noise ratios in everyday thinking? I finally went back to sleep.


Driving out Sunday, got to see a rainbow of shade-making as people noted the obvious. Tarps, flies, and all staked, tied, poled to whatever they could find. Sometimes you'll see a solution you hadn't thought of before.

No Breathless FKT Prose Here

It's been only four months since my left arm came out of a cast, and I began training with any consistency. So yeah, I'm just a guy trying to cooperate with environment and circumstances to push it out a little further than I did last month. I leave the "crush and dominate", conquering rhetoric to others. This spring and summer I got through three 50ks: Born To Run, Shadow of the Giants, and Santa Barbara Nine Trails. The fact I'm uninjured gives me hope that I'm not screwing up—yet.

Friday: An 8-9mi out and back up to Mt Hillyer through the sandstone boulders without seeing anyone was very pleasant. And after three hours of the full photon-fury of the San G's, I was riddled with microscopic holes. Somewhere in the 3-hr range.

Saturday: A 15mi out n back from Eagle's Roost up past Windy Gap on Mt Baden-Powell. 5:40 or so.

Sunday: A 15mi loop out of the campground, again CCW up over Mt Hillyer, Three Points, then back down to Chilao. The interior of Sulphur Springs has to be the quietest place in the San Gabriels. The silence was absolute. Or the campers I saw as I ran down from Rosenita Saddle were still passed out and hungover. Geoff Cordner has written extensively about this patch of the range. He's not kidding. 

Postscript

Driving down the mountain avoiding the double-yellow, left-of-center GoPro motorcyclists, I pulled into the Starbucks at Upper Milfington in La Piñata, CA. Within minutes I was effortlessly back in the digital slipstream.

#SmugLittleFuckerArentYou

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nine Trails Of Vert

FIRST, A COMFORTING BROMIDE

Best way to recognition and applause in ultras is to finish last. All the people who weren’t there at the beginning will be thrilled to see you—because you didn’t wander off the course while jabbering into your smartphone and so on. But I get ahead of myself.

SPOILER ALERT: NEW MATH

Take note of the following numbers. 9 + (5 + 3) x 2. Not written totally correctly? Too bad.

Santa Barbara Nine Trails; thirty-five miles of asskicking vert. Luis Escobar, RD, now hosts this classic race, the gold standard in ass-kicking since 1990. Anybody who sneeringly references “California Carpet Trails” is welcome to try this race on for size. It climbs and plunges in the mountains above Santa Barbara. Technical out the ass; in both sunny and shady varieties. The smooth sections are on the various sections of Edison roads. They pitch up and down too. No character-debilitating shade here either; its photon-fury at its best. Wear that black t-shirt and be prepared to enjoy yourself. When you get to Romero Cyn at 17mi, turn around and run the whole mess in reverse. You’ll get your money’s worth.

NOTE AN INJURY HERE, PERHAPS AN INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE

Its a long way to the top, and shit. Baroque trail-duck on the Jesusita.
I’ll skip over the preliminaries, because happy races are all alike; every unhappy race is unhappy in its own way. Suffice to say that after the bracing send off of “If you fuck up, you’re never coming back and we’ll tell all other race-directors, etc”; the herd tore off up Jesusita Trail. 

Very quickly I was alone with my own dark thoughts. I’m taking injury-inventory. I’d sprained the fuck out of my left shoulder two weeks earlier while photographing at AC100. Was it going to spasm if I came down on it? I could barely lift it equal to my shoulder. Since no bone stuck out of flesh, no need to go to ER. I also had my choice of two forward speeds: uphill walk and downhill jog. It was going to be a swell day.

Fog burned off in about an hour. The cumulative we are climbing up a series of ascending canyons and ridges. Vistas of upended strata remind you of how insignificant your problems are. I’m sure trilobites and such had a few bad days now and then in that steamy geologic era.

9 Miles: GIBRALTAR, and the FIRST AID

The glittering portals of the Gibraltar aid station beckon in the morning sun following an asphalt downhill on Camino Cielo. No, its not Middle Earth magic, but rather the detritus of thousands of broken beer bottles sparkling like jewels in the morning sun.

And here I was asked about my special bib number. 69. 

“Did you choose that number?”
"No, it chose me. Because I’m a practicing vajitarian.

Dead silence. Everyone is meditating on the what lies at the bottom of their beer cans. But, they’re smiling.

“In my religious practice, I’ve discovered that it puts two smiles on my face”.


This was going to come in handy later.

SFX: CRICKETS AND TUMBLEWEEDS
 
I’ll just say there wasn’t a dry seat in the house. I looted some peaches, all the fluids I could haul away, and departed into the rising heat. Eight miles to Romero Cyn, then I could turn this fucker around and get it done.

I was touched by how many people knew my by name. I’m embarrassed by how many of them I didn’t remember their names. Oh, hi...and thanks. Jesus.

Ridge-line followed canyon crawl. Repeat, and vice-versa. My angst was in continual foot-placement. I’d found out how easily I’d broken my wrist in March. No time for fuckups here. This is where creeper gear is handy. Kilian Jornet I’m definitely not. My SKT endorsement is hanging by a little-white string here.

The short-stop water aid-station is 3 miles from Romero. I’ve already seen more than a few of Santa Barbara’s finest heading back to the SB9T Barn, lucky fuckers. Some lifetime far in the future, I’ll discover what its like to have running talent. In the meantime I’ll make do with dumbass perseverance. And down to Romero I went.

17.5 miles: ROMERO CYN, AND THE END OF SOMEBODY ELSE’S DREAMS

I lurched into Romero at about 5:45. Precision guesswork suggested I’d finish in 13+ hours. Meantime Caity McCardell and her lissome friends were suggesting I should put my feet up, take a load off, and generally be a lotus-eater. Standing while ramming calories and ignoring the badinage was easy. I only had three functioning brain cells, and they were in their separate trailers. Caity’s Satanic familiar Kevin Cody was the Lou Reed voice in this scrum, but I cared not, and shit. Still like the dude, though. 

Eventually, I was over under sideways done, and commenced the schlong and winding chode up and out. I left behind an unhappy soon-to-be DNF, who was later text-jabbering about wandering around in Montecito as an unclaimed, filthy ultra-homeless guy looking for a ride somewhere. Whatever.

I hit the short-stop aid station 3 mi back out from Romero. Here I fully exercised my DFL stature and looted as much water as possible. I’d run dry going into Romero, now I had 5 miles of corn-holing uphill heat dust and dreams ahead of me. Sat and left a greasy stain on the stone bench, thanked the lovely volunteer, and left.


Up and out. One ridge, after another. Another drop. Desperately trying to remember  what the fuck and how many canyons with pipes in them were there. One? Two? Its always over the next ridge. Look down.
Don’t fuck it up. DFL is OK. And being alone out there is OK. Just hit the cutoffs. Katy Perry has never set foot here. 


I can feel the ghosts of bandits and hideaways back here. Shit is steep, deep and final. I’m hitting the water, salt-caps every 40min, and when I start sweating its all in my eyes. I wipe my my burning eyes with my canvas hat, keep moving, and make sure my feet are where they’re supposed to be.

As far as I knew, I had 3 people behind me.

GIBRALTAR, MI 25: PREQUEL AND CUM TO GREATNESS

A mile below Gibraltar, I see Tyler Tomasello running towards me with 2 gallon jugs.

“We brought this down for you”

Me. What the fuck. Hell yeah.

“Who’s behind you?” 

I’m stuck for an answer. I’m guessing 3-4. Hell if I know. I’ve  been lovingly focused on my own suffering. He took off. I envy his talent, and lack of sweat.

I make the final climb to Gibraltar. Flop in the aid-station.

“You look pretty good”

This must be code and Creole for “you ain’t dead, and still moving” Evidently people have been dropping all day. Me, I’m in slow-suffer mode. My legs are OK, I’m not winded, but hey! I’ve been in talent-challenged mosey-mode all day now. I’m an hour ahead of cutoff, I’ve got 2+hrs of daylight left. Fuck it.

THE LAST FULL 9

Jesusita in reverse is revelatory. There’s tons of shit I’ve forgotten since the morning. Like it has at least four sections, each is way too long, and each section gets longer by the mile. Top section has a continuing series of technical challenges. That 18” step-down is something to be thought through, not scampered over. Stakes are high, I’m long in the tooth, and do not need to be jacked up for nothing.

EMERGENCY WATER: 4.7 MI FROM THE FINISH

I pass 3 people here, feeling like a larcenous bald man who’s just stolen a comb. Sorry, Jorge-Luis Borges. Guy and gal are sprawled by half-empty gallon jugs, dazedly mentioning that the water was 100º from being out in the sun. Too bad for them. I fill up and stagger on.

Another section. The finish line recedes into the gathering evening twilight. Oh yeah, the olive trees. The horse barns. The trail sections and the mowed hillsides.

A gym-rat and his yoga-boobed Pilates Betty hear me coming. They turn around, all clean and nice in their leisure wear. I remind myself not to lip off because he could be some Gigantor tech-weenie who hit it big and took an early Montecito retirement.

SHE: “Your almost there!” Brightly, trying to connect with my dirt-up-to-my-ass fucked-up self, bib number pinned to shorts, smelling of howling ass.

“Miss, those are dangerous words…”

HE: “You’re getting it done!”

“Thanks!” 


Its all I had. Talking hurts. Now, where the fuck is the finish line?

THIS IS THE END

Finally. The best form of the day is in the last 200 yards. I have no explanation why my stride opened up so it looked like I knew what I was doing. People were applauding that I wasn’t lost.

Done.

POSTSCRIPT

Luis asked me how many remained out there. I said may be five. Hell if I knew. I certainly didn’t know their names either, which was disappointing for their nearest.

Winner Tyler Hansen (33) 6:40:08, Final finisher crossed at 14:31. I was lucky, finishing in 13:01, I’m pleased to now that my UltraSignUp metric was 69.6. Some days, you just can’t buy that.

Full results and x-rays here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rocks Off On Mt Williamson

Puzzling Evidence of priapic symmetry.
Recently there have been reports of nubile young women, dewy ultrarunner wannabes, inexplicably lured off the Pacific Crest Trail from either direction. Perhaps they were getting lost, in the finest Chet Baker tradition.

The Judgmental Brothers had discovered enigmatically puzzling land formations on top of Mt Williamson. Ritual observance? Fetish object? Geo-directional ley-line indicator? Was this directional art for aliens? Or merely the lithic whoopie-cushion for pre-contact indigenous peoples?
Palmdale to the north. Sculpture points west, albeit foreshortened, enhancing its girthy aspect.

Descending the peak, view to the southwest.
Each expedition member was left with their own sobering thoughts as to the origin and purpose of these enigmatic land sculptures, far from the sight and purview of commentators and critics.


Leader Fails

Its mother loved it too.
Some of you are doing, or leading training runs on the AC100 course. Here's a checklist to avoid disaster:

LEADERS

  • If you're leading a group, then its YOUR responsibility to make sure you've covered all the details. EVERYBODY STARTS/EVERYBODY FINISHES.
  • how many know the route? How many newbies? Pair up experienced w/ newbies.  
  • It's gonna take more time than you think. If somebody has a critical appointment back in town, they'll be late. Guaranteed.

EVERYBODY ELSE

  • Know where you're going. Get the map—the RaceBook is full of them. Study it. That's why its there.
  • Take care of business. Proper dress/proper gear. Just because some Internet Kid Jesus runs with a garter belt and a squirt gun does not make it right for you
  • how much fluids/electrolytes are you carrying?
  • Are there any water drops on the way? Do you know where they are?
  • how many are in the group? You'd be surprised how fast you forget.
  • RUNNERS: The group may be slow, but save the speed for another day. Or find another group. All groups are not created equal. If you're not up to the task, STAY HOME.
  FINALLY: Save the "badass" bullshit for Race Day. That's when it counts.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Hyena Three-Day 100

Bialetti Sexto, Saltillo ware, flatware in vintage Swiss Army tool-roll. Chilao Campground, July 4 2014

The best way to preview the Angeles Crest 100 course is the Three-Day 100. It would break out as a notional 40/35/25. This is the best way to get a real sense of what the course is. Its formidable, unrelenting, and demands your complete attention. I’d done it back in ’96, and it gave me a realistic view of what was needed on Race Day.
 
Of course, Geoff fucking killed it. Now I'm busy writing my self-congratulatory memoirs with the aid of gin and bitters to take the bad taste out of my mouth. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

THE SET UP

We began putting together the Hyena Three Day 100 and invited a short list of friends. The short list is to maximize your effort, minimize drag, avoid chickenshit when other people's agendas start clogging up your day.

The base camp would be at the Chilao Campgrounds up in the San Gabriels to minimize driving chores.
“If anyone has specialized culinary prefs ie vegan, gluten-whatever, please handle it. Otherwise it's espresso, meat/poultry/veg/wheat/dairy-based madness.”

I handled infrastructure of canopy, stoves,lanterns etc. Everybody was responsible for their own tents, etc. This year I was sleeping in a rescue-tent that was intact, and in the bone-dry summer, a perfect bug-proof pavilion. It was free, and turned out to be perfect.

Christina and I arrived two days earlier to secure an optimal site. I would recon a short, troublesome section between Charlton Flats [55mi] and the top of Short Cut Cyn, where Poodle Dog Bush had been reported. These days were slow-motion drowsy, I figured I’d be getting my ass handed to me in due time, no need to be a hero.

DAY ONE: Start to Three Points [0-42.72]

Geoff and Jeanne were planning on doing the Full Ticket. I was opting for the Diet Slice 25. Christina had ideas of doing 25 with her 2 Rhodesian Ridgebacks, but opted out at Vincent Gap [14mi], when told that there was no water for the next 10 hard miles—4 straight up, and the balance exposed rolling downhill to Little Jimmy Spring. Jake and Pippa were looking for the car with nary a look back at Vincent after the long, hot run anyhow. Screw that.

Rainer was heroic in providing rolling aid. Otherwise we’d all be dust puffs in the wind. Try running 25 miles on 3 bottles. The open trunk with cold ice, Cokes, Gatorade and all the goodies was perfect.

We mounted up Mt Baden-Powell. Cresting the summit, the clouds had moved in, and a shower turned into a hailstorm. Geoff was well ahead of Jeanne and myself. We were hail-pelted, which actually made me very happy, not having experienced that since 1995. Jeanne opened up her stride and vanished after Dawson’s Saddle, aka “Keira Henninger Scenic Bypass”, leaving me and my stubby stride out in the middle. I finished out in 8:40, somewhat better than 2 weeks earlier.

The late start [0840] clipped Geoff and Jeanne’s day. Geoff improv’d a Plan B, which stopped the clock at Eagle’s Roost [31], and restarted it at Cloudburst [37] with a car shuttle to avoid the road-running section in the dark, when they finished at Three Points [42].

A hard day capped by Food Porn BBQ grilling eaten while it was still reasonably light.

DAY TWO: 3 Points to Chantry [42.72-74.55]

Geoff and Jeanne were doing the Full Ticket. I was poncing about on a 22 mile Richard Simmons Diet Lite plan. Rainer drove them up to Three Points, so they could experience the magic and majesty of the Fred Flintstone Scenic Wilderness. I ran from camp, flagged the alt-route around the Purple Poodle Dog Bush car-wash hell that is from Charlton to the overlook of Short Cut Cyn. Spoiler alert: Vetter Overlook Road.

There was some PPDB dropping down into the canyon, but it was mainly poison oak on the uphill approach for a short spell. Not in car-wash proportions, but present. You’d have to work at getting contaminated—like running naked or busting selfies.

At Short Cut Saddle met up with Rebecca who was crewing Marisol on their outing. I waited 30min for Geoff and Jeanne, Rainer hadn’t shown, so loaded up by the ladies, I took off.

Dropping down to West Fork, the temperatures climbed steadily higher. At creek bottom I took off my shirt, and gingerly dipped it into the shrinking pools. I didn’t have to fill my shoes with grit, but got the full body cool down I craved. A long walk with no speed up to Newcomb’s Saddle, then Newcomb’s Pass followed.

At the Pass, I had the yawns, and lay down on the picnic table and napped for 20min, being that wiped. It was completely quiet. On awakening I looked at my last 8 oz, looked at the greasy stain I’d left on the table, put the feet into forward, and grunted in to Chantry. Small children and mommies sped past me, and enjoyed their outing. I was headed to a shower, a cooler, and a ride as Christina was our ticket back to camp. Jeanne and Geoff were done 20min later.


More Food Porn Culinary Comedy ensued, with beefy sausages caressed by licking flames on an open fire.


Impromptu Echo Mtn Aid Station. You noticed I'm sweating like a pig. Photo by Rainer Schulz.

DAY THREE: Chantry to Finish [74.55-100.53]

We broke camp. Geoff, Jeanne and Christina were met by Rainer at the finish line, who would take them to Chantry. I’d meet up with Rainer to help him crew on Echo Mtn below Sam Merrill, at approximately 92 miles in. There is no shade on Echo Mtn. I had my best idea of the day and had packed in a 6x10’ section of shade cloth, which we rigged up at a wide spot in the trail. While we waited in the shade, Rainer and I had Quality Guy Time,  watching Fat Boy Droppers shoot past us on their MTBs. We were really impressed that they’d gotten rides from their moms to the top of Mt Wilson.

Geoff, Jeanne and Christina arrived about an hour later, totally beaten down. We got them into the shade, and they fell on the water, Coke and watermelon we’d brought in.

Now its a manageable 7 miles to the finish. There is no ready water at Millard. They hit that section in good time, and I met them at the Finish Line after missing them at Millard, and having a weird car non-start jumper cable episode. More shit for the week ahead, but fortunately irrelevant to the execution of the Hyena Three Day 100.

CONCLUSION

Make a plan, and stick to it.

Do the the 3-day in sequence. Don’t get sidetracked by other people’s plans and expectations that you’re going to crew them just because you’re out there.

Eat well, and sleep well. You’ll be burning 5,000 calories a day.

Make sure your car is in working order. Fill your tank.

Never dump water until you get home when all is said and done. This goes for showers too. You’ll need it, trust me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Adventures In Doctor Land



A Prescription Course In Miracles requires proper offerings to assure a good outcome.

Adventures In Doctor Land

During my last physical, the doctor unwittingly revealed a voodoo truth in the American psyche: the cure for death is always five years away from today. Tomorrow, it will be repeated all over again. In other words, don't do anything out of the ordinary, and you'll live forever. 

I had no idea how much fun it was going to be.  It started with the Self-Assessment Form in the lobby. Sample questions included 'Are you/have you': 
  • …smoke?
  • …own a gun?
  • …drink? how much?
  • …are you beaten by your partner?
  • …take drugs
  • …unprotected sex?
OK fine. I checked all that applied. Shortly I was called in, and was met by Sonia, a cute Latina. She was reading off the list doing follow-up, which were curve-balls. Since I was at bat, I gave it my all.
Did you smoke?
Hell yeah. Years ago. If it burned, I inhaled. Are you joking?

Drugs?
A very long time ago. Good luck finding anything.

Second-hand smoke?
Oh yeah, my stoner neighbor's fine-ass weed. Shit's expensive, I can tell.

How many partners?
Huh?
Sexual partners...
You just had to fucking go there, didn't you?
By now she's out-and-out laughing.
Any idea...
Aw shit. Really?
Yes.
I'm stuck, like a drunk driver at a DUI pullover. Pondering. The First One. A long gap. A list? WTF. Sonia's amusement is contagious.
Tell ya what. A number between 15 and 20?
That'll do. The doctor will see you now.
Oh boy. Doctor comes in. Nominally slender.  He's looking at my file. Then he looks at my left arm in the cast, a souvenir of the March 15 fracture. I'm within 2 weeks of it getting removed.
"How'd you do that?"
"Trail running. Took a fall on a 20 mile run"
"You know there are reports that say that anything more than five miles a day is not optimal. Besides, you're in the upper percentile of men in your age group"
"I'm sure. But that is a very low bar for comparison. One more thing— all my friends are fitter and faster than I am"

He gives me a stony look. Silence. I notice that he's starting to build a lard-vest in the torso. Red nose, with small visible blood-vessel bursting. Pale. Doesn't get outdoors much.

Thanks. I'll take my chances doing it my way.

And for all my Red State friends who watch the jowly FixedNoise fucks howl about Obamacare Satan, just remember that they're employees with full coverage.

Monday, June 23, 2014

AC100: The First Is The Last

Pre-training run espresso, Islip Saddle, June 21 2014.

Wrightwood: Mile Zero

When Uncle Hal was finished doing the Saturday pre-training run advisories, he said “Larry’s gonna be sweeping, got anything to add?”

“Yes I do. If I catch up to you, then your training sucks”

Nervous gusts of laughing followed. As it should be.


The herd is being thinned. There are runners who are not prepared, coasting on some kind of delusional fumes. If you haven’t learned that showing up without a real cap, wearing dark clothing, eating crap food and carrying insufficient fluids are not sustainable methods for surviving the early summer heat, you’ve got problems. Insufficient mileage? Got injuries you're not letting heal? That too.

The main pack thundered off into the distance. I’m left with my own unspooling colorful adventure; the business of getting back into shape. And the Acorn Trail pitches straight up for the next two miles up to the PCT.

The last five weeks have been exercises in recovered memories, mental and physical. You can kid yourself, but the truth of the matter is that forgetful is the default state of human consciousness. And all that shit is getting burned off with that muffin-top and rollover, mile after mile.

14-25

The first and only aid/assistance on this training run is at Vincent Gap, 14 miles in, at the base of Mt Baden-Powell. On Race Day, the aid gap before the next is precisely the same: 12 miles. It’s in the RaceBook, but nobody reads that anyway. You and your handheld are going to be empty recriminations very shortly.

The trail up Baden-Powell is a fistful of switchbacks up to the 9,200’ turnoff to Islip Saddle. Halfway Rock, 2 miles in; found me leaning into it face-first, enjoying its indifferent coolness. That was as much love as I was going to get, ever.

Since these are the mountains, surprises are also the default setting. A light cloud cover has moved in. The early-season roasting-lite you got five miles earlier is now chilled with a breeze, making it a June October Surprise.

My thoughts are now all about getting back to my car, curling up and going to sleep. The last five weeks of ultra-reentry are catching up to me. If I’ve got the yawns its time to eat something. Squeezing out a weasel-jizz GU puts some tinder on the fire. An Italian sausage or a pork chop would’ve been nicer, but there are no food trucks up here.

More surprises. I hadn’t been on this section completely in years. The multiple burns of 2002 and 2009 torched entire sections into moonscapes. The trail is littered with massive toppled trees, sawn to allow passage. Technical sections demand your attention. This is no place to fuck up.

What was once down rears up. Hit it and keep moving. Ridge-running and contouring are the order of the day, and I’m still freezing. After a series of false Windy Gaps, the real one emerges, and I know that I’m down to short-strokes. Little Jimmy Spring still produces ice-cold clean water out of the depths of the mountain. I sink a quart in less than 10 seconds, and am brightened.

Two Miles And Done.

The remaining mileage is rendered in the topo-map of memory. One mile to the access road, then the last mile through the trees, then open chaparral prior to the steep drop down to Islip Saddle, Mile 25. The parking lot below is completely shaded. My sun shower will be tepid. As I get closer I see a runner who’d obviously been stood up by his promised ride. I knew that my eventual arrival back in La Piñata would be delayed by another 90 minutes. That’s mountain running, and mountain time. 

Postscript 

On June 23 I learned that author Daniel Keyes died. His "Flowers For Algernon" was made into a "Charly", starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. The plot hinges on gains and loss of intelligence, and yeah, I think he got something started with Claire Bloom. In my process of rediscovery, I remember what I used to do, what I lost, and what I can do now. I'll still take it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

AC100 Last 26 Miles

This is a mile off the race course on Mt Williamson 50 miles back, but it's important.

The Last 26 Miles

This section is a lover who’ll rake your back, fuck you so hard that you’d stay fucked, then ignore your calls. A standout in a Race that’s pretty much the same way. Its harsh, demanding, and indifferent to your esthetic preferences. You learn to love it on its own terms.

Getting nervous? Wonderful. You’re looking at a legacy original mountain hundred, not a “backyard cheese-ball loop 100”, as Luis Escobar so eloquently described it.

Spoiler alert

I got my ass kicked. Its become the pattern for the summer: race, ass-kick recovery run.

Minutes after the start from Chantry Flats, I’m practically by myself, Jeanne is seeing this part of the course for the first time. Now I get to find out how much I really remember of the course. The ribbons start coming down.

Today, we’re lucky. Uncle Hal and friends are hosting an aid station at the 94 mile mark, 18 on today’s outing. This is huge. Otherwise its *maybe* finding water from a hose in Millard Cyn. Or pumping from an open stream, provided its not all Holistic Aztec Pond Scum. Or detouring 2 miles at the top of the Toll Road/Manzanita Bypass to get water from the tap at Mt Wilson.

We just have to get there. Cresting to Mt Wilson Toll Road. This is the last giveaway section of the race, down to the Idle Hour aid station at 83mi. Then it goes back into single track, down into Idle Hour Canyon. We pass visible remnants of the Last Golden Age—stone masonry trail work. Its a marvel in this penurious imperial era.

Idle Hour is quiet and a relict time capsule of that era. No water in the main creek. You can pump it from less obvious sources, but the drought has choked back the flow.

We start to climb out. I’m describing the Three Phases of Idle Hour up to Sam Merrill; the first ascent up to the drainage limits, the desert yucca switchbacks up to the ridges into the canyon oaks, then the final runs up to Sam Merrill/Mt Lowe Road junction.

At the Sam Merrill/Mt Lowe/Idle Hour trail junction, its a quiet pause in the shade. I’m wishing I’d brought another bottle. Suck down a GU, drink water, and hear the blood in my head. And its not even really hot yet. Its just that serious.

The Voodoo Section awaits. Exposed, technical, and unforgiving. No chatter from me here. All I’m thinking about is picking up my feet and paying attention. I catch a foot 3 times, each a warning. Passing over the wrecked nondescript section where I laid in the dirt after breaking my wrist three months earlier was uneventful. Got down to the Grandma Freeway section of the Echo Mtn/Lake Ave trail junction, turned up to the Cape of Good Hope/Mt Lowe Rd junction, jogging on the remains of the rail-bed.

Aid is in sight. I’m wiped. For Howie, who’d started and finished with two hand-helds, I’m envious. I'd shuffled out of Chantry w 3x28 and a 20 in the asspack. Thanks to Uncle Hal's Echo Mtn Rest Stop For Weary Runners, I was saved from perdition w/ a fast quart of Gatorade, ice, and Mountin' Dew.

Stopped again in el Prieto at that picnic table about a mile up from the Brown Mtn junction. I coulda homesteaded there, no problem. Had forgotten to fill one of the 28oz bottles. We ground out the last 3 miles, walked it up from the JPL turnoff to the finish at Alta Loma Park, Altadena.

Another 8 hr day.

CONCLUSION 

I'd forgotten all the other content between the highlights. All of it. This is a very dark section, in addition to the other dark section between Islip and Chilao [25-52]. Now my memory is being expanded. Seeing, then describing the course, can help somebody internalize the information, in a way that an impersonal GPS cannot.

All this reminded me how much more I need to work.

Monday, June 09, 2014

2014 Giants In The Shadows

LG prior to Shadow of the Giants 50k with Magic Race Number.
The lesser the accomplishment the bigger the picture. Action-selfie by Geoff Cordner. Don't hold it against him.

Everything you’ve read about this race* is true. Now its up to me to provide lies and embellishments.

Baz Hawley kept us waiting around prior to yelling “FUCK OFF” to start the race. In time-honoured fashion he regaled us with details about his latest medical procedures, presumably his Acute Mangina. He's retired more times than Cher, but nevermind. The assembled multitudes were busy busting out selfies, whiling away the boxcar waiting and nervous walking typical of these events.

The moment the race started, all the real talent ran away. Guys: this means you’re not taking enough time doing What Needs To Be Done. Ladies: this is where the fun starts—Barry White and Suntan Oil.

We all know where it goes from here. I did what I do best: boring the living shit out of runners unlucky enough who didn’t get out while the going was good. Utilizing most of my date-expired inventory from the Ultra Spank-Bank, the course was littered with bodies over the next 6:42 I was out there. When I arrived at the finish-line, the Magic Raffle was concluding. This is a polite term for towing away laggard runners’ cars.

The weekend concluded with an Arcadian camping interlude; wherein the Little Hyenas were joined by surprise guest Ms Heather and her wonder-dog Tündår. This is the basic storyline for the TV show “One And Two-Half Men”. You know, smart woman meets up with hunky dude and his two elderly, wheezy buddies who crack jokes about salad oil and sausage at a golden-twilight early summer BBQ. It’ll be on all summer.

_____________________________
*Shadow Of the Giants 50k. Now pay attention and try to keep up.


Monday, May 26, 2014

27 Mile AC100 Beatdown

The Scenic Mound between Kratka and Eagle's Roost.


[Mon, May 26, 2014]
This morning my brain is mud. I slept in til 7. Overall I had a good, tough day yesterday. My job was to sweep the course of marker surveyor ribbons put up by the training run front-runner. I’m so slow right now its the only honorable way to participate. Pre-start pix were taken, but I declined to be in. Its the runner’s show, not mine.


Yesterday's 27 mile Islip to Chilao AC100 training run was held under optimal conditions. That's not a typo. Weather was generally mild, there was generous aid from dedicated volunteers. God bless all of you. And it still kicked unholy ass. Wait until it really gets hot.

The first-timers, accompanied by veterans, experienced a very challenging section of the course that is always overshadowed by Mt Wilson and other glamor-betties. They are the wise ones who got to feel the lay of the land and the route that is beyond the grasp of a GPS or any other app.


For all those outside the elite circle who missed this to chase strawberries and a fine social scene up at WS camp, you've made a serious mistake.


I first did this section in 1990, as a newbie pacer who'd never seen the course, with 4 bottles and water drops at Cloudburst, Three Pts, with my runner. And I mean ran. I seem to remember a growing unease while sprawled on the Chilao pavement afterwards. Shit was getting serious.

But yesterday. At Cloudburst I was starting to hurt. It receded somewhat. I suppose seeing people dropping out made me not want to join that company. I was on the bubble of ass-hurt for a while, but then I was fully in the ass-hurt but still-moving zone. Then things got interesting.


My friend Jeanne, who’d volunteered to help sweep, hadn't seen the 3Pts/Mt Hillyer [49] section. If I took the cheater bypass cutoff at 3 Points, she'd be out there on her own. No cell service to inform Balmore & the other nice couple that I wouldnt be there, which would a total dick move.

The solution on getting past my own shit and insecurities was to focus on getting Jeanne through. She's solid, no whiny shit, and a joy to be out there with.

So, into the furnace. Mt Hillyer was a shit-show of solar beat down. I was walking a lot of it. Low conditioning etc. But the payoff came in the Fred Flintstone Scenic Wilderness, hitting the route, heading downhill, and pulling Garry Curry’s spare markings down to Horse Flats CG. By then we were OK.

We got back to the empty parking lot, flopped in the shade when Geoff and Howie showed up. They’d gotten a burger at Newcomb’s, and weren’t delirious-crazed like we were. Rude comedy ensued, and I hurt myself laughing at Geoff’s deadpan wit.

So it looks like the only way to get back into shape is to do it. Damn it. I didn’t expect to hurt like this. The empowerment workshops leave that part out.


Obsessive rock installation, Mt Hillyer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Born To Run 50k

The acid still hadn't worn off. Completely fried after Born To Run 50k, first event in nearly 21 months. Photo by Nancy Kaplan. Taken along side Hwy 154 N of San Marcos Pass, Santa Barbara Co, CA. May 18 2014 
The first 10 miles were young love-- it was all so fresh and new. I thought I'd met my soulmate, no thoughts of previous lovers.

The 2nd ten miles were inspirationally hard, and so much dialog and learning, but we got thru it, our love crushing and dominating.
 
As I finished, I became an impromptu celebrity based on my quiet mastery of SKT Method. I was cheered on as an inspirational meme by lawn chairs. Jumper cables were stowed away, the SAR team was told to take a hike.

The final 11 miles were bitter and judgemental. The harsh light of day revealed that we had nothing to say, because it was all about you. And I blame you. Literally.
And shit.
RD Luis Escobar, pre-race trail briefing. Or perhaps you weren't paying attention.
Born to Run ultras,  Los Olivos, Santa Barbara Co, CA. May 15-19 2014


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

G8R Boi

A BRIEF FORWARD, by Dr Erasmus Binkster

Canada has given the United States many things. That's because Canadians are naturally generous. For instance: Peter Jennings, Dan Aykroyd, Celine Dion, Wayne Gretzky, France Jolie. And Canadians are so generous, they only want Wayne Gretzky back. We can keep the rest. Including Avril Lavigne. 

Avril wrote a song, nay, epic poetry that speaks to the fragrant heart of ultrarunning. No kidding. Here it is. I'm sure you may see yourselve[s] in this dainty ballad. 

PS All of you out there with 15 year old daughters can skip the pop-quiz at the end.



G8R Boi

[with insincere apologies to Avril Lavigne]


He was a trail-boy, she was, like, a 10k girl 
Can I, like, make it any more obvious? 
He was a trail punk, she did road 10ks 
Like, What more can I say? 
He'd like to do her, she'd never tell, 
secretly she wanted his trail-jerky self as well. 
But all of her friends hiked up their tights 
They had a problem with his Petzl Lights. 

He was a gaiter boy, she said "see you later boy" 
He wasn't good enough for her 
She had a pretty face, but her head was in 10ks 
She needed to come back down to trail dirt 

5 years from now, she sits at home, 
Stairmaster to heaven, she's all alone 
She turns on tv, guess who she sees? 
Gaiter Boy, rockin' up at the old LT. 
She calls up her friends, they already know, 
and they've all got pacers at the WS100 show 
She tags along, stands in the crowd 
looks up the shorts that she turned down 

He was a gaiter boy, she said "see you later boy" 
Mega-miles not good enough for her 
Now he's a superstar, slammin' on Powerbars 
Does her pretty face grok that trail dirt? 

He was a gaiter boy, she said "see you later boy" 
Mega-miles not good enough for her 
Now he's a superstar, slammin' on Powerbars 
Does her pretty face grok that trail dirt? 

Sorry girl but you missed out 
Well tough luck that boy's mine now 
Predawn trails-more than just good friends 
This is how the story ends 

Too bad that you couldn't see, 
see the man that boy could be 
There is more that meets the eye 
I see the soul that is inside 

He was a trail-boy, she was, like, a 10k girl 
Can I, like, make it any more obvious? 

We are in love, haven't you heard, 
how we rock each others world? 

I'm with the gaiter boy, I said "see you later boy" 
I'll be the finish-line after the n0Rm-show 
I'll be at the trail-head singing the song we wrote 
about a 10k girl he used to know 

I'm with the gaiter boy, I said "see you later boy" 
I'll be the finish-line after the n0Rm-show 
I'll be at the trail-head singing the song we wrote 
about a 10k girl he used to know 


=============slow fade out here==========