Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lance Armstrong Panics UltraLandia!

Mr Trail Safety gets Lance Armstrong's attention for 1/10 sec.
Lance Armstrong wins a fat-ass trail race! Circle the wagons, Mabel! Lock and load the PowerBars!!

Hold up here. 35k is not an ultra, its a sub-marathon of 21.748 miles. Furthermore, its a Fat-Ass, which used to mean "no fee, no aid, no whining". No telling what it means now. He's got a way to go yet.

Armstrong was a rip-roaring bastard to Floyd Landis, Greg LeMonde, and anyone that stood in his way. To have him compete in a sport with weak/non-existent doping protocols [because most races can't afford it] is pure parasitism.

That said, over the years there have been flurries of excitement as various tri-geeks strap on a 50k with great fanfare, then quietly disappear after their first 50mi flameout. As Bill Rogers commented on a 1994 CBS "Eye On Sports" Leadville 100 feature: "Its 12+hours, and most of the runners aren't even half done yet. In an Ironman, most would be heading for the finish by now"

Go ahead, take that buckle! Everyone's a winner here!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Red Rocks 50: The Dropdown Was The Upgrade

"I don't drink Lite Beer, decaf coffee, or shoot blanks"…RD Luis Escobar prior to the Red Rocks 50 free-for all.
Red Rocks 50's first 12mi out n back was like taking Salma Hayek out on a date and getting an ice cream cone. The next section was where she rips off her human face revealing a ravenous crocodile.

The third section down to Romero Cyn turnaround is where she eats you. Slowly. And thats what I avoided when I took the late downgrade to the fat-n-girthy 36mi “50k” at Mile 23.

We all started with good intentions etc, and gradually the more-talented pulled rapidly away from me. No bullshit story from the Late Halogen Epoch was gonna keep them down on the farm once they’d seen Hokas.

I didn't have the game needed that day. Period. More on that, in a bit.

THE USUAL RE-RACE FUN


Patrick Sweeney administering an esoteric oath. Interpreter: Mr Trail Safety, for the beer-impaired.
Photo by Nancy Kaplan, don't hold it against her.
The Dirtbaggers held their usual Beer Mile, and it was astonishing to see people pounding down cans of whatever swill and bust out the mile. I totally leave that to the experts. No doubt it helped many the next day. They all passed me too. 

FINALLY THE BEGINNING

The half-marathon, full M, 50-mile, and the newly added 50k/36mi Dropdown assembled in the near-freezing dark. All of you from latitudes north of anywhere will snort, but it was a brisk 33F in that grove. RD Luis Escobar appeared in full running regalia with a shotgun. I'm sure the newby half-marathoners wondered WTF was going on, but that's the biz at at a Luis event. 

Mad props to the halfers who were curious enough to drive all the way to hell and gone in the SB back country for their first trail event. But just to calm them, the first mile was on curated asphalt.

The shotgun had already gone off, and the shivering bolted down the road. I was drafting in the wake of heat and vaporizing estrogen, but kept my Gristle Visions To Myself.

BORING RACE NUMBERS, SPLITS AND SHIT

On the long approach up the Forbush Trail to Camino Cielo I had time to crunch the numbers. It wasn’t looking bright n shiny. Despite what Lisa said about keeping happy thoughts, I was a heartless estate appraiser. I’d missed the Camino Cielo [23mi/noon] cutoff. Then I was behind cutoffs for getting down to Romero [31mi/2pm]. I’d miss the return thru Camino Cielo [39mi/4pm]. I would be out in the dark, freezing my geezer ass off. Fuck that shit.

I turned around, nosing forward into a brisk breeze, anticipating a semi-daylight finish. This was a delightful change from the incendiary summertime experiences I’d had here. And I had time to think about all of it.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: COMEDY AND RUNNING PORN

I hove back into the Gibraltar Dam[17/45] Aid Station, ably captained by Micah “218-KOI” White. Micah is all business and low-key hilarity, with his lovely wife, and Ben and Alexander as his Very Tall Assistants. Paused there while Micah and I recited from Ancestor Scroll of Ultra-Memory, punctuated by fart-jokes and such.

“You guys ever hear how Micah came to be called 218-KOI?” Of course not, too late now. 


A long time back, Micah had brought home two teeny koi from Walmart in a plastic bag for his young daughters. Turned out they were boy and girl. They grew, and the tanks got bigger. then one day, the koi took over. They exiled Micah & family from the house, waterproofed it, and ran up a $3,000 water bill when they turned the house into a 3-bedroom swim thru aquarium. Then when they’d mate, the male would slam the female to the bottom, to release the eggs, causing the house timbers to flex alarmingly.

Ben looked thoughtful at this. “I tried that once, didn’t seem to work…”

Sometimes chocolates and flowers have the same effect. In any event, one fine day, Micah and the Koi had The Conversation. They were moving. The van pulled away, and the Koi angrily thumped the sides of the house as the girls stared wide-eyed from the family car.

THERE IS NO FINISH

Putting the final touches on my SKT Special Day, I lurched across the finish line, passed by 50-mile finishers with way more talent. That’s what 5mph looks like from the 3mph cheap-seats. Crista Scott trapped all the horror with a GoPro as the temperatures continued their merry plunge to 32F. I was over-under-done, and very happy to be done with all this. 

I got to meet a lot of really nice people, some of whom I'd only been pen-pals with on social-media. Its embarassing to be recognized by name and I'm grinning thinking "fuck me, what's your name again?"

Now it was back to the campsite, knocking all that down before total darkness, and thence to the delights of Chinese in Santa Barbara, awash in pots of tea. Otherwise it’d have been a cold and skanky night in a tent trying to warm up in a pile of sleeping bags.

But that’s another story altogether.

BULLSHIT DIAGRAMS AND CHARTS

Because you don't give a fuck.
36.9 mi SKT Times To Greatness


Red Rocks Fat n Girthy 50k. Out n back Left, Out n back Right.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Ray Miller 50k: Inwardly I'm Smiling

Inwardly I'm smiling. Photo courtesy of Louis Kwan. Don't hold it against him.

After yesterday's Ray Miller 50k, I've only got two stiff legs. I've achieved a certain level of accomplishment when I heard shouts of "show us your balls!" seconds from the finish. But that was after I’d hurt the vert, run my own race, and had a great day; well in the future after the rosy-finger dawn rose over the whine-dork sea.

The race is one of a cluster run that day at Pt Mugu State Park: 30k, 50k, 50 miles and 100k. Something for everybody, and if getting like worked hard, RD Keira Henninger will deliver, in spades. The 50k course is a lopsided 3-leaf clover and stem, in an approximate clockwise direction. If it was run counter clockwise, it would easily add 2 hours to the average finish. Keira has other things to do besides wait on your sorry ass, so be grateful. I was very glad I didn’t strap on the 50-miler. This will have to wait for a later date. Meanwhile, here's a diagram and chart—weird science.
Ray Miller 50k course. Pretend to understand it.
I’ll spare you, gentle reader, the usual broccoli and ball-bearings of the typical race report. Suffice to say I felt I was a 60-watt light bulb in the harsh-light of day. The race course has vistas broad and intimate, and you'll have plenty of time to ponder Life's Mysteries.

Instead I got to meet guys like Jim; who is one of the fiercest uphill power-walkers I’ve yet met. A waterskiing accident 30yrs prior tore the fuck out of one his legs, and left him with no downhill running to speak of. I passed him twice, yet at 28 miles he roared past me on the uphill Fire Line Trail, and was never seen again. Fucker aced me out of the top podium spot in my age group. Not that I’m resentful. Nope.

Or another guy named Luke, who told me that he discovered this very blog, and had lost the previous two weeks of his life reading every post. This was early in the race, and he promptly disappeared into the La Jolla Canyon loop to well-deserved early finish. 


You fight like you train, and this was painfully obvious. I was having many dark thoughts about my upcoming Red Rocks 50mi, end of November. I’ve made decent progress in the short training season of this year; that’s the game I brought to the race. That, and the inexorable hand of time.

So, after making all the checkpoints in reasonable time, and looting as necessary, I put my shortening stride to work getting this fucker done. The volunteers were happy to see me, and happier to see me depart without unleashing impromptu vision-tests. The finish line came into sight, and I was greeted by more worthy finishers heckling me by name, and it was good.

Well after I finished, I discovered that I’d gotten 2nd in my age-group. This hasn’t happened since 1991. Fucking-A! 


More weird science:

Garmin & Strava ruthlessly remind you how slowly you're really traveling. Pretend to be impressed.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lost Hunters W Rebar Hiking Poles

The best Lost Hunter Story of 2014 was a father/son combo, about 1.5 miles below the Mt Wilson summit on the Kenyon Devore Trail. Dad was carrying both .30cal deer rifles. Son was splayed out on the trail. They'd started that morning from Short Cut Saddle on Hwy 2, which was 9+mi away. Taken a wrong turn, etc. Hoping to call a friend at the top for a ride. That's when I noticed that their hiking poles were 4' sections of #8 rebar.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kodiak 50k: BearBak'd To The Max


Guillaume Callmettes, 2nd place 100-Mile God, listens to the low-ball comedy of a late 50k finisher.

THE RACE

The Kodiak 100 Ultras are set in the Big Bear region of the San Bernardino Mts, elevations from 6-10,00’. 

The races are the 100mi, 50mi, and 2 50k variants: Front [first 50k] and Back [last 50k]. I opted for the Back 50k, which I’ll refer to as the Kodiak BearBak’d Rear 50k, strictly for its aspects of intimate punishment and acquaintance. You’ll get your mountain-money’s worth here. Mountains, dry mountains. Take note.

The Kodiak is still fine-tuning itself. Its an old-school ultra— with minimal markings, and necessary aid-stations with lean but adequate offerings. If you’re looking for your first Care Bear Ultra, with strawberries, vegan-chow, gluten-free what-the-fuck ever nosh; look elsewhere.
Get ready to spend a lot of time out there by yourself. Its that good.

This shit is tough, and you’ll get served. Ditto any notions of conquering the course, which is a persistent delusion. Go in under-prepared, and this is your fate; try getting along with it instead.

The weather was a balmy 70+ during the day, and dropped to the 40s at night. And yet people were eating shit, moaning about the heat. It was the low ambient humidity at elevation too.

Now, let’s go to the lies and bullshit.   

[All mileage is referenced to the 100-mi distances. Subtract 69, and you’ve got the back 50k mileage-points]

START AT MILE 69: Now here I go again, I see the Gristle visions.

The Rear 50k started at Mi 69/Snow Valley. My spirit-animal told me this was a positive augury.

The big fun was at the Siberia Creek water-only aid-station [Mile 75][1]. This was hosted by SoCal’s worthiest ultra-bobs & betties from the Dirt Bag Runners, Pacific Mtn Runners, and NB Sponsored Athletes & Brand Ambassadors, including a high-pitched heckle bird that made incomprehensible calls. 

Possessed by the spirit and muse of comedy, I approached the partiers in Full Stunt Mode— right arm thrust down the front of my shorts, protruding in clenched fist out the leg, as miming a braying, snorting rampant dick, complete with elephantine sound-effects. Smartphones and GoPros were tracking this faithfully.

I felt a draft. No matter, on with the show! Evidently Mr Happy tumbled from his sleepy bower, and was waving to the crowd.

Eyeballs were popped, camera-warranties voided, and memories of many couldn't be unseen. It brought a staggering halt to many erstwhile worldly people, who pride themselves on Having Seen It All.

“I didn’t need to see that, ever”

Evidently it was bigger than a baby’s arm holding an apple.[2
]

Jesus wept.

Afterwards it  was all business. I put away guyish things and commenced the climb up out of Siberia Creek; a steep 3 mile gain, but is rewarded with spectacular vistas that aren’t on tap in the San Gabriels.

Mile 79/Champion: Tri-Boys 3

I’d first noticed The Three Tri-boys on the bus ride to the start. They were young triathlete pudwhackers; lean, fit and cocky to have their prancing moment at the their first ultra. Lots of bonhomie, not much gear, certainly caps or head gear. They were going to get a fine education that day.

When I caught up to them at Champion, things weren’t looking so ducky. Two guys, 1 bladder pack, 1 caps, and a building look of butt-hurt. I’d bellowed by number coming in, which prompted a chuckle from Nick Nudell, Ultra MD. The boys looked up, and weren’t too happy.

“Gentlemen, lets go, we’ve got work to do”

The next 6 miles saw a rapid unraveling in the Boys; only one had a bladder pack, the other a little dinky twisty-bottle. WTF. Finally, I interfered and began asking hard-questions about their gear. Turned out that the other Tri-Boy had made off with the other bladder pack. That’s a beat-down right there.

They had no electrolytes or salt; were in deep shit, and I told them so. I’d been pounding down electrolytes, knowing that I’d left my salt caps in my jacket pocket like an idiot. I handed the worse-off one some beef-jerky, told him to just let it melt in his mouth, to get salt and protein. When they got to Grandview/Mile 85, they were to suck down as much electrolytes, salt-caps as possible. Otherwise they’d be goners. They stared and nodded.
[3]

Grandview/Mile 85

This commences a downward loop to Aspen Glen/Mile 87.5. Fucker goes on forever. Fortunately they looped this one, because coming back up would’ve been a total goat/mind-fuck. Which was being saved for later when you got to Coyote 93/96.

Good news: I saw TriBoy #1 surge up the PineKnot Trail, having gotten his shit together. He was much happier, and thanked me for my help. He was welcome— I’d rather get in his shit, rather than seeing him go tits up and get in real trouble out there.  Then it was back to trotting up as fast as I couldn’t go.

Grandview/Mile 90.5

Looted as much as I could drink and carry. The Skyline Trail is a serpentine fuck along the ridge. Its really designed for beginning MTB’ers who swarm Big Bear in huge numbers. Any notion of straight lining this shit is choked by brush heaps and the likelihood of being dimed-out by witnesses. So there you go. Have fun with it, if you have the legs for it. The real mind-fuck was yet to come.

Coyote: Mile 93/96

This says it all. I was leaning up against the cooler sucking down Shasta Pseudo-Sprite, thinking “fuck all this shit”…the aid-station dude mentioned without malice that it was an easy out-n-back to the turnaround. My mumbled answer: “I just popped a stiffie”. And out I went. And eventually made it back. Thence on down to the finish.

Happy 100-milers, 50-milers passed me going down the Knickerbocker Road. I lurched in sometime after 9-1/2 hours, fucking glad it was all over. As I crossed, RD Matt Smith asked if I’d really run the whole thing in my big hat. Fuck yeah, thinking about the hat-less sufferers out there…

CONCLUSIONS

The weary was offset by the smiles and high-fives of friends and ultra-acquaintances, and knowing that I’d made my accommodations to a tough course and done OK with what I brought that day.

I missed getting a podium-Participation Award of some sort. My last remaining feeling was shattered, which was ignored by my truculent spirit-animal, snoring in the corner, surrounded by shredded bones and scraps of my wishful thinking.

Only one of these is right for the occasion.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Mileage in 100-Mile notations. I started at Mile 69, you do the math. 
  2. The French film classic “Boudin Sauvé des Eaux,” [1933] references this: when Boudin escapes 'from holy padlock' and heads for 'a future of independent, vagrant liberty.' 
  3.  I know that two of the Tri-Boys 3 finished, caught up to TriBoy 1 at the finish and gave him the props for a job well done

... And necessary improvements to the Kodiak Ultras

  • The website is a mess. Gray text on a black background may be notionally badass, but its a chore to read through.
  • Aid stations need distinct signage of exact mileage. Use the 100mi as a reference.
  • Course ribbons need to be a bright something— lime green tends to blend in with foliage. Various turns need to be better marked.
  • Website map is muddled. Directional arrows showing line of travel would help. A specific street address for the start/finish line would be nice. Also an enlargement of the start-finish map area would be nice. Most of us don’t live in Big Bear. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

AC100: The Once And Future Race



[updated 8/17/15, 10/20/15]

Registration for the  2016 Angeles Crest 100 opened and closed in less than 10 minutes Monday, Aug 3. The 2016 Race is Aug 6-7 2016. This is a winning plan for filling a parking lot, but fatal for a legacy 100 like AC.

There's only one reason—its all about the money. Let's look at the moving parts.

The entry qualifications are laughable: finish one 50mi race before race day. Straight outta 1986. That's pure sucker bait, but I'll call it a swindle. Some ultra-bob does a flatland Care Bear 50 on carpeted trail somewhere, and he does not have a fucking clue what awaits for him in the San Gabriels. But he's "qualified".

There were 66 DNS [401k Division] in 2015
Out of 238 signups: 172 started, 98 finish, 74 dropped/missed cutoff/wtf ever. Sixty-six DNS is a spectacular achievement, out-pacing previous years averages of 25 or so. 2014 had 40. Do the math: 25-40 DNS every year means $10,000+ in pocket, no accounting etc. The roster is front loaded with multiple DNFs and barely-qualified. It's a perfect money-funnel. We're in the big leagues now.

No waiting list. And no refunds. No answers.

I'll Ask The Awkward Questions

Following the 2014 entry-scrum, I posted the following ideas:
  1. all entrants must prequalify with 2 50s or 1 100, using the list of races that WS100 had already figured out. Right now it's "get a 50 done whenever" before race day, like it was in 1986.
  2. there would be a functioning waiting list to mop up the 25-40 DNS I'd noticed over the last 2-3 years.
  3. Move the sign up date to at least 30 days after close of race. Right now it's THE DAY AFTER. Which means that every pacer, weenie n wannabe at the finish line will be jacking off to do it. Even WS100 waits 5 months before the entry-draw.
A good friend pointed out to me that THIS IS THE BUSINESS MODEL.

RD Ken Hamada was enraged that I had gone public. I didn't care. I thought an original Legacy 100 had morphed from a massive mastodon to a Pygmy elephant, a side show.

When the 2015 race sold out in 7min, the interwebs triumphed. Ken no longer had to wait for months to fill the race. And he didnt have to answer to impertinent old-timers who asked awkward questions. There are 1,000 people lining up to take your place.

There's more, I'll cover that in a bit.

Bottom Line

Ken doesn't care about you. But I'll leave you with this visual nugget from the 1995 race-brochure.
Its about Quality. Screenshot from the 1995 AC100 brochure, way before my tenure as the RaceBook editor.


2017 AC100 Update

The official 2015 AC100 Race report was posted on the Ultrarunning website 10/10/2015. It was the usual strangled syntax etc, with this cryptic paragraph at the end:
"The 2016 AC100 closed in less than 2 minutes. [ital mine] We had a very high demand for entry during the 2016 AC100 Registration, causing the servers to crash during the registration process. Due to the high demand for the race, we are making the following changes to the 2017 AC100 Registration Process: (1) 2017 AC100 Registration will be a lottery. (2) Runners will be allowed more time to enter the race, beginning at 12 PM on Monday following the end of the 2016 AC100, which will eliminate the “rush to enter” the race and overloading the servers. (3) Solo runners will have priority.

There are no further details, which is standard. But seriously. Allowed more time to enter? 12pm Monday following? ITS STILL A PANIC BUY IN. And with the hilariously low qualification standards, I expect a bumper crop of 2016 DNS, aka 401k Class. 
Well played!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Born To Run Ultras: Notes From The Blue Loop


For whatever reason, I seem to show up at BTR after some existential crisis. This year my taper started on March 2, when I found out my brother, while out on a training ride, had been been killed in by a careless driver in the UAE. See for yourself how all your #RunStrong memes hold up for you. So yeah, I did the 30-miler, crossed in 7-something, and am OK with it.

Obligatory Running Bullshit: News, Weather and Sports

Weather was perfect for running, but harsh for all the hippies in their shorts and Luna sandals, who were shivering in the cold and damp of Thursday night rain. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were brisk, sunny and breezy—a far cry from the scorching heat of the past two years.

The 2015 BTR Ultras featured two new events that bracketed the extremes in human potential: 
  • The 0.0 Non-Run, and the 200-mile event. Over 60 people paid $40 to do nothing, noon Saturday. Laugh all you want, that paid for additional shitters for everybody
  • The 200 field of 17 kicked off on Thursday night, as they fled a volley from the shotgun I fired into terrified air.
Meanwhile, the remaining 400+ in the other events had to wait. The100 kicked off on Friday night, shortly after the conclusion of the unofficial Beer Mile, which is another portal to stupidity of a different proof. And finally, the 60/30/10 mile events were all chased out of the start at 0600 Saturday with their own shotgun blast, just like previous years.
The titles got shorter as I got back into all this. The times didn't improve much. I leave that to the experts, who fucking shredded it, and were properly adored as befits this oral culture.

Oncoming Clown Cars

We hit the Pink and Yellow loops. On Saturday afternoon we hit the Blue Loop with the First Annual BTR No-Talent Show, where it all went off the rails. I was empaneled with fellow judges Todd "Hebrew Hammer" Kaplan, and Greg "What Are The Odds?" Lowe, by Ms Crista Scott, MC.

We judged a veritable flea-circus of acts ranging from still-life tableaus to ensemble pieces featuring impassioned singing about licking in all the usual places, accompanied by gymnastic choreography. The Applause Meter was an increasingly warm and sweaty Tecate beer can, with the numbers appearing on the back of an indifferent Jack Daniels Extended Family bottle on wheels. Hey, if its on the table, it gets used. Grand Prize was a hefty Solar Shower, that went to a good home.


Social Notes

  • PBR, America's Favorite Yeast Infection was trending upwards, while Fireball had declined noticeably.
  • Course maps, Garmin, Strava and GPS data was mysteriously absent
  • There was a higher proportion of Texas Tornadoes in the pre-dawn music mix
  • Saturday morning began at 0430 with multiple shotgun blasts, presumably to wake up the hungover soreheads at Dirtbag Runner World.

Finally, I'd like to thank GOD, Dr Sevende Sandia [obscure Mexican Mystic], my Pilates coach, and all my support groups in the 310 area code. 


Namaste, And Shit®™.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Leona Divide 50: The 34.99 Markdown Special


420 Prankster, Leona Divide 50/50 finish line. Green Valley, CA.
My sub-optimal 2015 Leona Divide 50 performance began with staying at a Motel 666 with hot-&-cold running hookers. The other was having half of my life collapse on my head a month earlier. I got both before charring the gnar, and hurting the vert.  

The 0130 booming wakeup of “When Doves Cry” is a surefire performance-enhancement. Didn't fully hear the Barry White deep sub-bass later, but I'm sure it did its job. All this was covered in the Brecht-Weill operetta "Eine Kleinischen Fückshackke" of 1928, starring Ethyl Murmanskaya, but you weren't paying attention that day in class.

Pre-Race and Scenic Comments

The Race Start was delayed while some guy droned on into a mike, probably being paid by the word. Meantime I got to check out all the current ultra-talent that was going to do better than me. Some bettie was all kitted out in a Spiderman gimp-suit, with holes in all the right places. And we were off.

The current race course is far more scenic than the one of 1990s memories—better vistas, more single-track and stellar vistas in an overlooked part of northern LA County. Its an out-n-back with a spur, long grinding climbs that will pick your pockets entirely on its own terms. Caveat emptor, et fex.


I watched as many smarter than me hit the 50k turnaround and came roaring back like champions. Little did I know I was going to be taking that route later.  

The weather was mild by current SoCal standards—low 80s, with a very low humidity index. Its always a surprise to meet the heat this time of year, but here we are. Want lies and bullshit, watch Fox News.

Freefalling Into SKT Magnificence

I was off-center in my basic orientation due to cartographic vertigo. Eventually I let that go, and just concentrated on my increasingly limited stride. Time was eaten up in larger increments. My best section was between 17-26 miles. Clearing the 26mi aid-station was essential after tanking up as fully as possible. The full-volume Journey and other 80's slush was not inspirational, but that's me. Getting away helped a lot.

Long story short, missed the 50-mile cutoff at 32.6mi by a yawning 45min gap, and was dropped down to a 50k finish. This was a total relief. That or a DNF. Yeah, I walked it in, and felt like a million dinars. A spectacular 35 mile 10+hr finish, and that’s all she wrote.

Post-Modern Moody Whining Here

Things would’ve been far worse if I hadn’t done the full 3-day cargo-load before. Wheels would’ve fallen off miles earlier. Training issues are paramount here, but fully self-reverential excuses will be made, hashtags will be flung, and sponsors placated by any means necessary.

And shit.  


Gregory Peccary, in full tapir-mode [left].
Then Dennis and Larry being wildly inappropriate, back when it was still fuzzy bunnies and rainbows.
Leona Divide 50/50.

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Favorite Ultra Things

Julie Andrews would be proud.
Sunburn on noses and black flies that’ve bitten
Bottles run dry and woods that I’ve shit in,
Rattlers coiled up and ready to sing
These are a few of my favorite things

Comments on salt and trail-head poodles

Hairballs and GU-packs and DNFs that are noodled,
Lo-mileage coaches that fly on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Long tortured debates on mountain money,

Why LEDs and flashlights are so gosh-darn funny!
Early departures from motel bed-springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites

When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply channel my favorite Ultra things
And then I don't feel so bad

[originally written May 2005]

Sunday, February 08, 2015

SOB50 Shades Of Clay


I didn't choose it, it chose me.
'All happy ultras are alike; each unhappy ultra is unhappy in its own way.'
Dr Sevende Sandia, obscure Mexican mystic
Normally this story begins as One Man’s Challenge—the original plan of a 50-mile ShoppingKart Odyssey; and was thwarted when the cart did not leave the Gelson’s lot. And therein lies the story of redemption, and how the sport of ultrarunning was spared irreparable harm as a result. Read on. Or skip ahead to the fart jokes and trail porn further down.
Scenic Chavez Peaks on a sunnier day.

 PREQUEL to The Morning Skinny

The Sean O’Brien 50 was my first 50-mile race since 1999, where I DNF’d at Leona Divide. On a wild notion I signed up for it, the course was the same one I’d first starting trail running on in 1990. Course begins and ends at Malibu Creek State Park—a 14mi stem with a 22mile loop through Zuma Cyn, then back to the barn. The 100k, 50k, and marathon were run with wave starts on variations of the overall course. Everybody got their money’s worth.

I’d soon find out what was right, and what was left. I’ll break your heart right now and tell you that I didn’t make the slow-clap walk to the podium. You’ll adjust.

Two Strange Days.
THE DUMP

Prior to the race, I carbo-loaded like the Olden Gods did in the last century—with a 3-day build of Carbo-Pro mixed in mango nectar, cranberry juice [64oz ea, w equivalent water], and finally Gatorade [32oz ea, w equivalent water]. It left me wobbly, jittery and brain-fuzzed. It did not give me speed, psychic abilities, or make me into the Dalai Lama. It gave me enough calories that the first 30 miles were going to be relatively pleasant.

THE NUMBERS

Cutoffs were serious. Race management didn’t want stragglers and jerkoffs out on remote sections of the course. Miss the cutoffs and you were dropped down to the next race [50k or Marathon]. That’s not what I came for, the numbers were tight, and all my training runs were slower than the cutoffs. Holy fucking shit.
  • 13mi:    0930 / Kanan Dume 1 / arr 0900
  • 22mi:    1200 / Bonsall / arr 1100
  • 37mi:    1600 / Kanan Dume 2 / arr 1500
  • 44mi:    1800 / Corral Cyn 2 / arr 1705
When I hit Kanan Dume 1 at 0900, I popped a stiffie! Things were starting to look doable. Up and over to Bonsall, I was running an hour ahead. The long, grinding section out of Bonsall up and over, then down into remote Zuma Cyn. And this section is hard. Then up and back to Kanan, then the long inbound hump n bump back to the finish. I knew this course forwards and backwards. 

WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN?

Nobody. The misting started early afternoon, and the soon the clay began to metamorphose into various types of congeal. By 37, trails were slick, and I’m certain that many found themselves under-dressed for the occasion.

SO I PROMISED YOU TRAIL PORN

At Kanan Dume 2, the aid station that had been, to paraphrase Mickey Avalon, pretty damned skippy were now hungry like a hippie. It was down to basics like potatoes and solids, all the spendy gels had been hoovered up by the 26.2 and 50k set.

Of course my bib number [069] attracted some passing attention. One example— from an equally aulde and wizened trail veteran who’m I’ll call “Dave Emmons”

“Nice number, Lar…”
“Thanks Dave. I didn’t choose it, it chose me”
“And why’s that?”
“Because I’m a dedicated vajitarian…and as we all know, its the only religion that puts 2 smiles on my face…”
Of course he knew the script exactly, but motion ceased on the punch line, the rain was forgotten, and everybody had a laugh.

SKID MARKS ON MY HEART

The next section brought the worst of the mud. In one stretch there was no drainage, and a face-plant was narrowly averted. Consolation prize—a double fistful of mud in each hand, which after gripping bushes and vines to escape, was removed on every other sodden bush that wasn’t poison oak. But since I’d seen this on on a muddy wet training run 3 weeks earlier, it was no big deal. I didn’t melt away.

THIS IS THE END

By 44/Corral Cyn 2 it was drizzling and foggy on top. My gaiters had popped their velcro by this point, so dirt was coming in the shoes. To stop now would be totally useless, just kept on. Fog was thick and patchy, so our small mid-pack peleton made tracks back down the Backbone Trail where we’d started with high hopes of finishing that morning. Made the creek crossing, back through Tapia Park, up and over the notch into Malibu Creek SP. By this time we could hear the noise and fury of the finish.

“Lets run this fucker in for the last 100 yards and look like heroes.” 

So we did. 13:25 thru the pylons.

POST-CRYPT

Kept walking right thru the finish area, and back up to the camp site. Took the coldest shower ever to get the mud, grit, slime and salt off. Why so cold? Token-dispensor for the shower was out of order. All you got was cold. Which was bracing. Fell into the tent after eating Greek yogurt, dill pickles and Triple Ginger Cookies. Slept reasonably well, all things considered. And when the misty-gray dawn appeared, began to move slowly again.

Things I Forgot About

  • The neuroma in the left foot that decided to wake up after 10yrs dormancy 6 miles in. Flare, as in HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS HURTS flare. 
  • The left calf muscle that I'd torn 3 yrs ago flaring up somewhere around 36-40 miles. They both calmed down and I didn't wind up in the shit. 
  • Forgetting to deliver on the fart jokes. 

Musical trivia:

Tunes that took up extended residence in my head that day.
"Century's End" by Donald Fagen
"Man Of The World" by Mary Coughlan
"My Dick" by Mickey Avalon



Hotel Bibler when it was sunny & bright the day before.
Hallucinatory imagery from the race, when it was still young and beautiful.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

2014 In The Rearview Mirror

Every neighborhood has its shrine.
A year ago I was pulling out of a crash dive of injury and illness where I wasn't running at all. It also occurred to me that I took the wrong ten years off from ultras. No, I didn't wind up with cancer like one friend of mine. I just got served with reality.

By March, I was progressing well enough to hold down a 20-mile run—until I broke my left wrist in an airborne fall on a trail that ended with a loud SNAP. Thanks to Rainer and Dave, who splinted me, then drove my whiteout self to Huntington Memorial ER, where it got cast up. And to Catherine Schulz who was my advocate in the ER, who could talk doctor-talk with the ER MDs. Few are this lucky. Would've been nice if I could've washed that arm before it went into the cast, but it didn't go all rank on me.
In the Huntington General ER, an hour after I fractured my wrist.
I'm being clown-slapped to keep my mind off the break. The drugs came later.
Broken bones are completely new to me. My progress wasn't just set back by the 5 weeks in a cast—add another 5 weeks to what my conditioning was like before this all happened. Then imagine toeing the line at the BTR50k 3 weeks after the cast came off. Nobody missed their podium-call on my account. A summer of ass-kicking out on the trails and at various races followed.

Fast forward to Jan 2015. Its been less than nine months since I seriously began to re-train for ultras. Everything has changed. But it beats sitting at home digging loose change out from my sofa.
Alison survived cancer, a double mastectomy, and a bruising run-in
with the US medical-insurance complex. I just fractured my wrist.