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?

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?
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?
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.


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. 


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.


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.