September 17, 2016

Visions. Grandeur. And The Tahahumara.


A few weeks ago, with visions of grandeur and a renewed sense of purpose, I sat down and laid out a new training plan for myself. Oh the possibilities! The images came flooding into my cranium. They were like a wave of morphine enveloping an addict. I pictured myself waltzing up the most gut wrenching climbs. Weightless and stealthy, like a Tahahumara Indian out of Born to Run. Yes, with the right training program, I chanted to myself, I can mold my body into anything and break new barriers I never thought possible!

Funny thing is, all this was in my head. And my head hadn’t consulted with my body. When it did, after doing a couple long runs, there was, well, a little push back. It’s not like these visions were naïve, or foolish, like my body is saying, just a little premature, like the “I” is saying.

I don’t know what is worse. Having visions of grandeur with not quite enough to back them up, or just not giving a shit about the possibilities that lie ahead. I know what I believe.

What do you believe?

P.S. This question isn't just about running.

August 21, 2016

Life Would Be So Simple


If only we were all just inanimate objects. Life would be so simple. Oh, yea, I forgot. Life wouldn't exist. Hence in-an-i-mate. There are times, though, when I feel a lot like an inanimate object. One that has been in motion for a very long time, until confronted by this unbalanced force. And following such unbalanced force, one that is now, comfortably, at rest.

Well, here's to remaining in a state of rest.  Until confronted by the next unbalanced force.

Inanimate or not, one thing running has taught me? We're all subject to the law of motion.  

August 14, 2016

But I Still Have All My Toenails...


“Oh, I think it’s time for my pedicure,” she uttered as we reclined on the grassy knoll waiting for our girls water polo team to play. Unfortunately, it wasn’t more than an hour earlier when I was noticing my own toes, probing them with my fingers for any loose tissue. It had only been two weeks since the large blister was lanced at TRT 100.

Blisters, I’ve learned, are best left untouched for an indefinite period of time after they’ve been “lanced.” Time enough for the dead skin to slowly, and naturally, work its way off the appendage. Any “probing” can accelerate the process, I’ve learned, and can create somewhat grotesque looking lumps of flesh that hang from the toe. It’s rather unsightly to the average onlooker.

As her eyes moved from her shiny toenails to the half-living-half-dead flesh that covered my toes, I realized the probing I’d done was not well timed. Left only where gaping holes in spots that looked conspicuously ghoulish.

“But wait,” I clamored, I still have all my toenails!”

August 3, 2016

July 27, 2016

Top 10 Running Shoe Lacing Techniques


Problems getting those shoes to fit perfectly? Try one of these out for size.

Cool display of varying methods to lace your shoes. How many times have you tied your shoes the exact same way? Time to mix it up folks!





July 23, 2016

Grand Slam Drop Rates



It seems a bit counter intuitive, but it makes sense if you really think about it. That Wasatch Front has the lowest drop rate for GS runners of all the Grand Slam races is really about survival, fitness and cut offs.

If you are running the Grand Slam, it might be helpful to know that if you make it past Western States (26% drop rate), there is 9% chance you'll drop at Vermont, a 29% chance you'll drop at Leadville, and only a 7% chance you'll drop at Wasatch. Of course take these stats for what they are...just stats (based on the last 10 years of Grand Slam runners, excluding 2008 when Western States was cancelled).

What is the biggest take away here? Well, I put them together to prove a hunch that I had since running the Slam in 2014 - that Leadville is the hardest of the four and has the highest drop rate.

Here's my two cents.

Make it through Western, you have a good chance of going the distance. But your biggest challenge is Leadville, for several reasons. The first is altitude. My guess is most slammers, coming from around the country (or the world for that matter), don't have the time to properly acclimate to Leadville's 10,000' starting altitude. This is a huge factor that, combined with Leadville's 30 hour cutoff, creates a insurmountable hurtle for nearly 30% of all runners who never make it through this gauntlet.

The secret? Acclimate! If there is any possible way, spend at least two weeks at 7,000' or higher before Leadville. Hike a lot. Get high and reap the platelets. You'll pay the price if you don't. Leadville is a very runnable course, but not if you don't acclimate. You've got to get over Hope Pass and back, and getting this done takes more than guts. It takes more red blood cells. Wasatch, a much tougher course, is at a lower altitude and gives runners 36 hours to complete, six hours more than Leadville.

One other tip for all you GS runners. Don't worry about running between races. Just get out and hike, stay on your feet, and enjoy the outdoors. It's a long summer and you need to give you body some time to rebound. By the time you reach Wasatch, you will have much more fitness than when you started Western States. Let the journey take its course, and enjoy the ride!!

Keep it real GS runners!

   

July 21, 2016

Tahoe Rim Trail - There Are Moments

Mona G, Will C, Yours T, Al C. 
He took the scalpel from the package and held it, hesitantly, over my left foot. As a new volunteer, he was unsure of himself, worried about the pain it might cause. But there was no pain, just a quick lance, lots of fluid oozing, and the blister the size of a grape on my big toe was no more. Another volunteer quickly applied a wrap over the loose skin. It was a team effort at the 50-mile aid station, with my friend Mona G in the middle of the scrum barking out orders.

Last weekend I completed the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) 100 mile endurance run. It was a weekend of firsts. My first 100 miler since completing the Grand Slam in 2014. The first ultra my father and brother came to watch. And the first time I’ve come so close to not finishing.

Pre Nuclear Fuel Rods
I’m not sure if it was the average elevation (8,300’), 20,000 feet of climbing, technical trails, dry-to-the-bone heat, or my new-fangled cross-training program with not-so-much-weekly running, but this race kicked my ass! From mile 50 to 60 I was teetering from faithful survivor mode to DNF zombie mode.

One minute I was swearing to myself that I’d never, ever run another 100 mile race (now a routine), and the next I was rationalizing that every runner needs at least one DNF, and why shouldn’t this be mine! But I knew my Dad was waiting for me at the finish line.  So, with that, I resolved to grind through the misery even if it took me until the 35-hour cutoff.


Marching into 50 mile aid station

In terms of difficulty, I place TRT in front of Angeles Crest and just behind Wasatch Front. It’s challenges are many, but the coup de grace is the Diamond Peak climb, which is presented to runners twice – at mile 30 when the heat of the day is reaching a crescendo, and mile 80 when your body feels like it just woke up in a bed of spent nuclear fuel rods. The beast is 1,850 feet straight up the face of a ski slope laden with sand and an elevation of 8,540 feet. No switch backs, no plateaus, no relief.
 
Spent Fuel Rods - Mile 80
Questions floated in the balance during this race like so many other meaning-of-life obscurities. Was I born with this need for pain? Or was it nurtured during my early years in catholic school? Why do I push the envelope when most people my age are pushing pencils? Do I need a therapist? Then, in the middle of the night, I ran into my friend Dave B with his pacer high on a ridge. At least I wasn't alone I thought.    

Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States, the tenth deepest in the world. Not unlike the highs and lows experienced during 100 mile race, the lake is a picture in contrast, with deep blue waters surrounded by turquoise shorelines and bright sandy beaches. Seeing it from high upon the rim trail as I ran through the forest was something I won't forget.

There are moments. Moments that I hold on to after moving through the mountains all day and all night, under the beaming sun and rising moon, when I’m ready to just sit down on a rock somewhere and say to hell with this, when the raw trickle of endorphins move through my veins and keep me climbing toward the top of the mountain, when the city lights flicker far below to make me feel like I’m on top of the world.

Once making it through the lowest lows, I started to feel up again and began the process of picking off a few runners. Again, it dawned on me that finding my strength would ultimately happen if I had the patience to work with my weaknesses and not let them control or define me. Its a game of patience being in the elements when your body is struggling and your mind is fragile. It's life in one day. You just have to keep moving forward as good and bad happen. 

After climbing Snow Valley Peak (9,000’) for the second time, I began the long 7 mile descent to the finish line. It was a good feeling to have completed the last climb and have only a downhill section to get through. Despite hours of punishment, my legs, surprisingly, were holding up enough to allow me to push the pace when another runner came up on me. With the finish line so close I couldn’t let anyone pass me.

At the finish with RD George R, Will C

When I reached the coveted 100 mile finish line in 25 hours and 17 minutes my crew was waiting. I can’t describe how good it felt to see them and just sit down and not move for a few minutes. Yes, finally, it was over, and another moment was captured.

The TRT was easily one of the toughest races I’ve ever completed. It was also one of the most organized and well-run races and by far the best marked course. During the 25 hours I was on trial, not once did I feel concerned about being on the right trail, a common occurrence on other courses. Whenever I wanted to ensure I was on the correct trail, I’d look up, and within a minute or two I’d see a trail marker. It is a first class event and I recommend it especially for those of you seeking something a little less mainstream with a higher margin of difficulty.

I’d like to give a hearty shout out to the volunteers, all of whom did a great job keeping us runners fed, hydrated and moving on our way. But most importantly I want to thank my crew Mona G, Alfred C and Will C for keeping me motivated during the low points. This was the most difficult day I can remember, and I don’t think I would’ve finished without knowing you’d be there for me at the finish line!

All photos by Mona G. 

July 6, 2016

Altitude is Everything


Greetings from Big Bear, California where flies in the summer buzz like WW2 Spitfires in combat mode and are kind enough to take the time to have a conversation with you when you're most vulnerable to hearing voices that exist only in your head somewhere high on the Pacific Crest Trail. Altitude...natures dopamine canister. Come get some!



June 21, 2016

That Which Emerges from the Sky




If I were a superstitious person, I would be wondering about some pretty strange things that emerged from the sky this last weekend.

Its all about the journey.

KIRR









June 15, 2016

Road Tripping

17 hours of driving, 40 miles on trail in Lake Tahoe, full night's sleep at 8'900', hail storm, speeding ticket, and lots of music. Not a bad way to spend a weekend!

Keep it real runners!  



















May 23, 2016

Trail Work Somewhere on the PCT

Hiking Up to PCT from Fobes Ranch

"You mean you didn't volunteer just because you wanted to?"

I had a feeling this question would find its way into a conversation last weekend. And sure enough it did, when some of the other volunteers learned that I was doing trail work as part of a requirement to run a certain ultra marathon.

Doug Cutting Fallen Tree

Of course I've been meaning to do trail work on my own time, for my own reasons, not just to satisfy another ultra race application. But I haven't, so there I was, yet again, doing trail work, to "check the box." (seeking redemption now).

I shouldn't feel bad, I guess, because, well, um, I was out there, right? I look at it as a fringe benefit of our sport to those who use trails. We are here to give back, and its part of our sport's culture. But how many of us give back without being asked to? (redemption fleeting now...).


Trail Captain Don in full PCT Recline

It was a great time regardless of intentions. A group of 11 of us met at the Paradise Valley Cafe and drove out to Fobes Ranch. Once occupied by the famous Timothy Leary, the ranch sits inconspicuously in far away canyon in a place known as the San Jacinto Wilderness. We hiked several miles up to a closed section of the PCT where we went to work cutting fallen trees, picking rocks and pummeling rogue weeds. At 6'500 feet, we had stupendous views of the Coachella Valley while we worked.


Selfie to remind myself it's good to give back

I've run on the PCT so many times. It was nice to give something back to it, even if it was just a little bit. And as Bob, my fellow volunteer said, I'm always welcome to give more.

Keep it real runners.



Hiking Out on Public Trail

May 15, 2016

Harding - Joplin - Santiago Loop

Today’s run came to me after waking up and drinking my first cup of coffee. It’s been like this for me this year. I don’t know why. Planning training runs – something I used to obsess over – is like so not interesting for me now. Hell, do I need to plan what kind of sandwich I’m going to eat next week? Or what song I’m going to listen to on my way to work tomorrow? I don’t know, I’m beginning to think planning is a disease of an OCD economy. Is it crushing our inner-bohemian-hunter-gatherer instincts?

Ok, I just watched a two-hour interview with Noam Chomsky so I’m a little stirred up. Lets move on to the run. It started as an out and back. From the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary up Harding truck trail to the top of Modjeska Peak and back. No big deal, something in the range of 23 miles or so, with a healthy climb of about 4,000 feet.

But then I started to think. How boring is that? Run back on the same trail I ran up? Again, it’s been that way for me this year. I’ve started out on a run with a clear idea of where I’m going. Then my inner-gatherer kicks in. A loop is always preferred over and out and back. And an A to B is always preferred over a loop. But A to B’s entail logistics (which can be hard in areas with no cell reception).

So that was the decision. Mid-Harding. Make it a loop. Up Harding, across Main Divide, down Joplin and Santiago truck trail, then back down Modjeska Grade road to Tucker Wildlife location where my Jeep was waiting.

Plan or no plan. Time on foot. It’s all that matters.


May 14, 2016

New Balance 860 - A Review


The Boston Marathon.  Starting line. Sacrifice made. Promise kept. A runner’s dream. No excuses now. No quitting now. Adrenaline. Endorphin. Emotion. Then elation. It can’t be explained. Don’t try. You’re there. So run. Simply. Run.

If I were to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon again, I would do so using the New Balance 860. Why? It’s one of my favorite road shoes. It passes the taco test. It gives me room and keeps me on my game. Best of all, it goes the distance.

I’ve run in a lot of shoes. Hundreds at least. Lots of brands. Most end up in a Goodwill donation heap after a couple of runs. The best looking ones are usually the worst. Such is life. But then there are the few.

Like the New Balance 860. Like all the shoes I’ve owned and kept around for second, third and even fourth purchases, it passes the taco test and keeps my planter fasciitis from flaring up.  It does this with a T-beam plastic shank in the midsole, which helps give the shoe excellent stability.

Another positive feature of the 860 for me which may indeed be a negative for others is the wide forefoot. I can’t stand shoes with a narrow toe-box because – you guessed it – I have a wide forefoot. Running in shoes with a narrow forefoot and tight toe box not only makes my feet feel like they are being suffocated, it creates breeding ground for developing a neuroma.

As one who has rolled his ankle umpteen times, including during a 100 mile race, the stability of a shoe is critical. It’s like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is weak, it doesn’t really matter what you build on top. Eventually your gonna get screwed.

The 860 has three separate types of foam with varying densities to maximize stability while maintaining a comfortable ride. The shoe also hosts a free moving strap that supplements the lacing system from the base of the shoe at the mid foot. It all adds up to a steady-eddie feel that keeps the ankle rolling visions and episodes at bay.


It’s always a little disappointing when you purchase a shoe as a distance runner and the shoe itself can’t go the distance. You know what I mean. Like when you wear a shoe for a couple of runs and the sole starts to dislodge from the base.  Or the tread pulls a disappearing act after the second or third long run. Not the case with the 860s. I’ve run with the shoe for many months and it has held up quite well. This is my experience with shoes from New Balance in general which I think is an all around solid company.

So, for my seriously finicky feet, the 860 is a keeper that isn’t headed to the donation heap anytime soon. The version I've run in is version 5. Version 6 is now available with some enhancements. Who knows, if New Balance comes out with a trail version of the 860, it could become my sole companion.

PS -
I need your help! As you can see, I don’t write this blog for money…hence no annoying pop up advertising. However I do write to encourage and inspire others. My only way to know I am succeeding is getting feedback from and building a following of readers. If you have found value in this blog post, please leave a comment below and/or follow my blog by entering your email at top of page or on Twitter by clicking here.  

Thanks for your support. You keep me motivated!!

Will C

April 9, 2016

Fear as a Motivator



The world fears a new experience more than it fears anything. Because a new experience displaces so many old experiences. And it is like trying to use muscles that have perhaps never been used, or that have been going stiff for ages. It hurts horribly.

D.H. Lawrence

Indeed, fear is a great motivator. It will always elicit a strong response in us, more so than, say, happiness, or jealousy, or pride. Maybe that is why, when it comes to motivation, training for and finishing something we’ve never done before seems to trump improving on something we’ve already done before.

Maybe it’s time to get scared again.

Keep it real runners. 


March 20, 2016

Idiocy Becomes Me


In trail running there are moments of grandeur and then there are, well, moments of idiocy. I feel one must keep these in balance to call themselves a real trail runner.

I’ve decided I’m not going to bore you with “grandeur” in this post. There is only so much one can take of this stuff. Then it turns cliché. You know…the running all day under the hot sun while battling pain, fatigue, dehydration, chafed nipples and whatever other peril crashes down on me. So awesome, right? No one cares.

Idiocy is more interesting. Most recently I was hiking up a long hill in thick grass. My head phones were on and I was listening to Loop Guru radio on Pandora. I don’t know, maybe it was the Far East rhythms that lulled me into this foolish act. I must have been in a deep yogi moment because I looked down as my foot was descending upon a coiled rattlesnake.

It was very surreal because I couldn’t hear anything other than the sound of sitar’s and a deep harmonic rhythm so when I finally realized what was happening I kind of just stepped back and watched the snake’s tongue flicker and its body slither.

Why I was hiking in grass with head phones on in the middle of the day after seeing a snake the day before confirming snake season had begun I’m not quite sure.

It’s best to keep these things in balance, right?

Idiot.