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?


March 6, 2016

Interview with Tom Schwartz - Coach of HS Phenom Drew Hunter

Drew Hunter (left) and Coach Tom Schwartz

What do you get when you mix a young runner that has unusual talent with a patient coach that understands the need for hard work and recovery? Answer: break-through performances and national records.

Young and extremely talented, Drew Hunter seems to be breaking down barriers at every turn. Prior to breaking the high school indoor mile record in 3:58:25, Hunter won the high school cross country championship in run away form in December. Then he shattered high school record for 3,000 meters by running 7:59:33, becoming the first high school runner ever to run under eight minutes. He returned to the indoor track in February to set a new record in the mile running 3:57:81.

Will he continue to perform at this astonishing level when he enters the University of Oregon in the fall? Or will he be beset by injury and burnout like other promising runners before him. If Tom Schwartz has anything to say about it, the former will hold true. That is because Schwartz, Hunter’s coach, has a training philosophy that is unconventional, and deviates from the typical “no pain, no gain” or high mileage approach so many coaches subscribe to.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tom Schwartz, otherwise known as the Tinman, about his unique training techniques, including the methods he has used to develop Drew Hunter, one of the best high school runners of all time.

Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in a small town and rural community 100 miles West of Chicago. However, I spend a lot of time in Wisconsin at my extended family’s dairy farms too.

I attended Forreston High School in IL. I attended one year at Southern IL University – Carbondale, where I ran unattached under Coach Bill Cornell, a 4 flat miler and NCAA Division I 880 yard champion in the early 1960s. I spent a lot of time in Coach Cornell’s office asking him to share his story about running with me, which was inspiring. I also asked a lot of questions about his training in the early 1960s, for I believed and still do that running 4-flat in the mile on cinders (a slower track by probably 2-3 seconds vs today’s tracks) was very impressive.

Coach Cornell taught me a lot about his philosophy of training. Essentially, he believed most runners in America run too many miles per week. He said often to me (and the team) that he reached national caliber level on 70 quality miles per week. His one distance run per week was a hard, hilly 10 miler on Sunday mornings. A couple of times he said to me that he could have run faster times had he changed his health habits.

Coach Cornell believed that weight room training was important for a miler, but not all the “garbage” that most athletes do. In his opinion, Dumbbell arm swings that mimic arm action of running and Step-ups with dumbbell weights in each hand were what him go from 4:06 to 4-flat in the mile. Also, he said two other factors made a runner faster: (1) being light weight – not carrying extra body fat, and (2) hard hill running during the Sunday morning 10 miler. For 30 years, now, I’ve continued value Coach Cornell’s words and opinions.

After my freshman year at SIU-Carbondale, I transferred to the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and stayed there from my sophomore through 2nd year of graduate school.

Following my Bachelor’s studies in Exercise Science, I continued at UWL in Exercise Science, was a graduate assistant, working in the Human Performance Lab and also teaching some courses. I was fortunate to outstanding mentorship at UWL, including Dr. Phil Esten, or cross-country coach, Dr. William Floyd, our exercise physiology expert, and other professors who were also welcoming of students who had questions. At UWL, I was a volunteer assistant cross-country and track & field coach, which was a valuable learning experience.

At UWL, I learned a lot from Dr. Phil Esten, who I considered a second-father due to his fine example of caring about runners and students and mentoring me.  His philosophy about the importance of running as a lifetime activity to the athletes he coached was a key factor in my continued love for the sport.

Phil used a conservative training approach; instead of hammering us with high mileage and brutal workouts, he assigned training loads that were doable. He believed that his job was to instill a love for the sport that kept us running for many years following college graduation, rather than throw our running shoes in the closet, gain weight, and never run a step again. He taught us that running lessons transferred to life and personal relationships too. Like most runners under Phil’s care, I wish that I could go back again, for it was great time in my life!

Recently, I started doctoral studies through Concordia University – Chicago in Health & Human Performance (a.k.a. Exercise Science). To complete a PhD, the program generally takes 4-5 years to finish: 3-years of heavy-duty academic course work and 1-2 years of research, plus dissertation writing and oral defense. As one might guess, I enjoy learning.

Can you tell me a little about your own experiences as a runner. Did you run competitively? What were your greatest accomplishments? 

I started running in middle school and was greatly inspired by our coach who was a really good runner in the early 1960s. He was a great role model. I ran cross-country and track in high school and college. I ran a lot of road races too, and continued to do so for 15 years after college.

By the way, I was a far better all-around athlete than runner. I excelled in baseball and basketball, and to this day I am confident that I would have been a very solid college baseball player (pitcher). I was a decent runner but not stellar. I struggled with lots of lower leg problems, starting at about age 16. I did not understand at the time why my legs ached and swelled so badly, and that problem greatly limited the amount of training mileage that I could run. It wasn’t until my junior year in college that an orthopedist diagnosed my leg issues as compartment syndrome. He said my condition was really bad!

An operation on both calves released fluid, but I had a lot of nerve damage already that persist for years. I’ve never recovered, to be frank, and my legs still ache badly every day. My training limit was about 35 miles per week in college and afterward. I know that was a big limiter in my running fitness. But, the lesson I learned about preventing injuries and doing a good job of scheduling training that is doable vs brutal has become a theme in my coaching.

As a runner, my times for various distances were moderate. In high school, I ran 4:32 (1600) and 2:01. In the summer after my senior year, I ran in a couple TAC meets and ran 4:26 and 1:59. In a road race the following year, I ran 4:23 for the mile. That was my fastest mile, as my leg problems became intense and my ability to train became more and more limited. In college, I was injured so often that my training logs seemed to be more time empty than full.

In my late 20s, I ran 35 miles per week and did water running and circuit training in the weight room. I ran in the low 15s for 5km and ran 4:01 in an open 1500m in the absence of speed work. Those were my best times. Yes, not super times, but it was what it was, given the limited training volume that I did. In retrospect, I estimate that I needed to run ~80 miles per week to reach top fitness.

How did you get started with coaching distance runners?

I started as a senior in college. I needed two credits extra to graduate, so I signed up for an independent course with my college cross-country coach, Dr. Phil Esten. I coached the steeplechasers during the outdoor season and wrote papers describing my methods, physiology, outcomes, and reflections. My steeplechasers performed well at the conference meet (1st, 3rd, and 8th place) and I was hooked. The next year, as a graduate student, I coached too, and that was the momentum I needed for the next 26 years. I coached a couple of years at Concordia University in River Forest IL and my athletes broke 13 school records (sprints, hurdles, triple jump, and distance events).

I’ve been coaching open runners since the 1990s, and I have written dozens of training schedules for high school, college, and national coaches from the USA and overseas. Most of the coaches never let their athletes or parents know that they aren’t writing the schedules, nor advising on race tactics, etc. A small number of coaches let the public know that I’m the one in the background consulting/coaching. Credit therefore goes to the Hunters of Purcelville, VA who tell the public that I coach their son and have been involved in developing Drew for a lengthy time-period. I adore the Hunters. They are like extended family to me.

How many runners do you coach at any given time? How do you interact with all of these people?

Typically I coach 20-25 runners at time, and for another 5-10 people I write their personalized training plans: they manage the details on their own. At present, I’m considering quitting my teaching job and making coaching my full-time job. If that happens, I’ll expand the numbers substantially. It’s a risky proposition for me to try coaching full time because I won’t have a pension if I give up teaching. And, I have a lot of medical bills and student loans to pay off right now, which is quite stressful on my family.

Many masters runners have credited you with renewing their running careers by reducing injury, minimizing fatigue and avoiding sickness. Can you explain your methods?

Yes, Andrew Duncan, Kevin Miller, Joan Hunter, and Tore Axelsson, to name a few, have credited me with reviving their running to a high level. Andrew and Kevin were not, in their own words, fast runners, in their prime, but became multiple national champions at the master’s level under my coaching. Tore did break 30 minutes, barely, in the early 1970s, but he had been struggling for years to compete a good level. I started coaching him at about age 52. By time he was 54 he set several Swedish national records on the track, won championship events, won European titles, and won two world titles in Brazil. For Joan, she reached 2nd place in the USATF Masters Indoor Championships in the 800m, right behind a gal who was a fast 800m runner and Olympian back in the day, as I recall. 

My methods? Hmm, how about unconventional. I don’t use linear periodization (think Lydiard or Daniel’s phasic methods). I don’t use high mileage. I don’t use really high intensity. I use very little goal-pace training. I focus on Stamina, which I define at use of Type IIa (fast intermediate) muscle fiber development, primarily. Most coaches target high mileage (for Type I, slow twitch) or fast reps/intervals for turning fast fibers in anaerobic/power bursts. I think such an approach, though produces quick results in the short-term, has limitations over the long-term. I always use multiple paces in my training schedule designs. I always use Stamina workouts for each training cycle too. I define stamina training as 75-90% of V.O2 max, by the way.

Do you have a preferred diet for runners? Can you explain?

My advice for runners is to eat healthy foods, including protein often but not loads of it at one time, veggies, fruits, nutritious health liquids (diluted vegetable and fruit juices especially). Be sure you are well hydrated before workouts. Replenish fuels and fluids as soon as possible after workouts. Pay attention to carbohydrate consumption: way too many runners have “bad” workouts because they are skimping on carbs / calories. I think this is very important!

You’ve been identified with the concept of critical velocity training. Can you explain what that is and how you have used it with your athletes?

Critical Velocity (CV) training, as I define it, is training at or close to 90% of V.O2 max (about the pace that a runner can typically sustain for roughly half an hour in a race). I assign intervals, such as 1,000m reps, at CV pace. I use math formulas that I created many years ago to derive the ideal CV pace. For the runners I coach, I prescribe CV workouts at least every other week, nearly year-round. Once in the main racing season arrives, CV workouts are assigned weekly. Example workout: 4-8 x 1km @ CV pace + striders, hills, or short intervals at faster than race-pace.

By the way, you can find the CV pace for your race performance level by going to my website (www.runningprs.com). Simply click on the Running Calculator tab.  Then, select a race distance (preferably from 3km to 10km) from the drop-down menu and input your time. Next, click on the Training Paces tab and voila, your paces arrive. My email: runfastcoach@gmail.com

What tips do you have for those of us competing in ultra marathons?

I coached at one of the best ultra-marathoners in the world, Mark Werner, a professor of statistics. He used to live in Boulder, then a suburb of Detroit, and now he teaches at the University of Cairo. Mark won some big races! Won the prestigious Mount Fuji half marathon race. Was the top runner United States ultra marathon team that competed in Italy.

The #1 suggestion is make your long runs count. Run one or two big workouts per week and everything else should be jogging and not that far. Build up to 3 to 5 hour runs every weekend, and inside of those runs have lots of stamina pace training, from marathon pace to CV pace. 

Simulate the terrain over which you will run in a race. If it's going to be a hilly ultra, train on lots of hills. If you are going to run a race on pavement, you better get used to running on pavement.

Focus on practicing the art of consuming fluid and fuel. Hydrate every 20 minutes, but not so much that you dilute electrolytes in your blood, which leads to hyponatremia. Fuel every 30 minutes, if you can, but not so much that you mess up your gut. Very important!

Thank you Coach Schwartz!

February 26, 2016

"Twas Always Thus"

OK, let's get this out on the table. This is a running blog. And many of you, I'm sure, are wondering how some of the material that shows up here is even remotely related to running. It's a fair question. So I ask you to use your imagination. Follow along with me this time, if only for a little bit.

Do you think for yourself? Or are your thoughts merely a reflection of being in life's trenches. How much of what you believe is what you have been led to believe?  

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Dead Poet's Society. In this scene Mr. Keating, played by the late Robin Williams (Oh Captain my Captain!), is talking with a fellow teacher. The two men are essentially debating the merits of happiness and freedom. Keating's colleague states happiness can only include the mundane, not the ethereal. "Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams, and I'll show you a happy man."

Keating shot back:

"Only in their dreams can man be truly free. Twas always thus, and alway thus will be."

Keep your hearts fettered my friends, and, as Mick Jones once said, stay free. 

February 15, 2016

What's Your Age Again?

Today I stumbled upon this quote:

“Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again.”

Think you’re getting old? Or are you just forgetting about how young you really are? One word on this. Run. Toe the line and go the distance. Age melts away under the heat of the clock.

Keep moving old and young people. Equalize.

January 31, 2016

Bandit 50k - Time to Play Again

They were only halfway through their pasta when I asked them. I knew the answer before I asked, but I needed to hear it said out loud.

“So, what do you girls like better, playing in a game or practicing?” Their response was unrehearsed, harmonic, and matter-of-fact. “Playing the game, of course! We hate water polo practice. It’s boring. Games are more fun, by far.” My daughters stood up and walked into the kitchen. I just sat there staring at the empty bowl in front of me. I realized, it was time for me to play again.

The last time I ran an official ultra was 14 months ago. The last time I ran in a 50k was over five years ago. I forgot how painful 31 miles can be. I got a refresher this weekend at the Bandit 50k.

Described as “one of the toughest trail runs around,” the Bandit 50k takes place in the Santa Susana Mountains east of the Angeles National Forest. The course is challenging but runnable, boasting 6’500 feet of ascent with a good mixture of smooth and technical single track mixed in with fire road.

I’m not sure what is better, signing up for a race months in advance or showing up at the race directors home to sign up the night before. I think I like the later because any race director that invites runners into their home has this sport figured out in my book. I knew it was going to be a good race when I showed up at Randy and Sarita Shoemaker’s home after 7 pm and they happily gave me my race packet. They even recommended I eat at Hook Burger, which turned out to be a great choice for a pre-race dinner.

Oh yea, the race. It was a fun day! One of my most memorable moments was high fiving 16 year old Felix Lawson near the turn around close to mile 15. As I reached out I saw him slowly remove his water bottle from his hand so he could give me a proper high five. We exchanged a couple of “good jobs.” He went on the win the race. Yes, at all of 16.

As I approached the turn around, I counted the runners in front of me, then made the turn and caught a glimpse of those behind me. I’ve learned not to dwell on other runners when running these races, but it keeps it interesting to watch as things play out. Anything can happen, and it usually does. By this time I was running in 5th place overall. The runners in front of me looked strong, I tried not to think about the runners behind me.

As the first 20 miles ticked away, I felt amazing, and started to muse that I’d found some secret form of training. Then reality set in. My lower back, left IT band, and both feet (Hoka-less) started screaming like spoiled brats to slow down. I came upon my friend and former running coach John Loeschhorn who was running the 30k. At 71, John was running strong as usual passing runners half his age.

The Bandit Ultra races include 50k, 30k and even 15k distances. Despite a staggered start time, runners merge on trail after mile 20. It was several miles after when I gazed upon the top of the long climb in front of me and noticed one runner in the distance who looked familiar. Could it be the one I saw at the turn around? I put my head down and climbed.

When I reached the aid station at the top of the climb, I noticed the runner sitting down. Knowing most of the remaining miles were downhill, I told the spoiled brats to shut up and deal with it. They didn’t, so I tried my best not to listen to them. By the time I reached the finish line, my body felt like it was slowly disintegrating. But I kept it together long enough to finish in 5:07 for 4th place overall and first in my age group.

I guess I found my playground again.

If you have never run the Bandit Ultra Trail Runs, I recommend you give them a whirl. You won’t forget the misty clouds that float over the Santa Susana Mountains near the top of Rocky Peak. The race, which started in 2009, has that old-school ultra charm and is supported by a group of over 100 die-hard and enthusiastic volunteers. It must be why sixty-five percent of Bandit runners are “repeat” and come back to run the course again.

January 11, 2016

I'm Stepping Through The Door - My Tribute to David Bowie

That he said this said so much. It’s there, in all of his songs, sewn into the musical fabric like a dark thread in his brilliant quilt of hits, ballads and esoteric masterpieces.

"My entire career, I've only really worked with the same subject matter," Bowie told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I've always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety — all of the high points of one's life."

The first time I heard David Bowie was in third grade. My friend Brett J, three years my elder, went to a Bowie concert and came back obsessed. I didn’t see the magic –at the time.

But slowly, over the years, I found myself going back to him. Listening to the lonely sounds of songs like Major Tom. These days I ask myself if Tom was abandoned. Or just on a mission, like all of us, trying to “make the grade” while hoping our “spaceship knows which way to go.” If you put aside the mental handcuffs for a minute and really think about it, Tom is really you and me, stepping through the door so we can, hopefully, float in a most peculiar way.

Because, we all know, if we don’t step through the door, nothing about life is peculiar, a concept which lurks inside the lyrics from Ashes to Ashes...

I never done good things
I never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue,
Want an axe to break the ice
Wanna come down right now

To say what he actually said, well that says it all. That isolation, fear, abandonment and anxiety are really the highpoints in life. Is this because it is only then that we are really living? To anyone who has run 100 miles, there is a connection here. For those who have not, well, you might need an axe to break the ice.   

R.I.P. David Bowie. You will never get old.

December 28, 2015

My Apathetic Confessional. Sort of.

It started out as it usually does, 180 degrees from where it is now.

This post, that is.

Yes, it started as an apathetic confessional. The year 2015, the first year since 2007 I haven’t run an official ultra. Then it swerved off topic when I saw a picture of my two daughters standing in front of the White House, a short stop we took during a college trip in February for my oldest. Would I see her much next year after she goes away to college? I wonder. Is this why I chose to spend less time grinding out the miles on trail this year? Could be.

I ask myself, after being away from it for over a year, will I ever go back to running ultras? The thought has crossed my mind. But then I came upon a picture at the finish of the Catalina Marathon in March with my friend Mike F. I remember meeting Mike a long while ago on St. Patrick’s day at the Harp Inn in Costa Mesa, California. I’ll never forget that night because Mike told me about the South Coast Road Runners. I went out to run with the group the very next week and met some interesting peeps. Some of them told me about ultra running, and I’m still running with these characters to this day. Would I be running ultra’s if I never went to the Harp Inn that night? Hmm….not sure about that.

Taking time away from running (or from anything) is good for the soul, or so I’ve written in the past. But is a year too much? I started to answer this here, but then I came upon a selfie I took this Spring wearing my Western States jacket with San Gorgonio Mt. in the background. I remember telling myself to never lose this jacket and, no matter what, to be careful when I use it. I received the jacket for winning my age group at WS 100 during my Grand Slam journey last year. Where it is now will be the subject of a future anguished post.

What is the big deal about racing anyway? Isn’t just being out on trail what counts the most? The thought was solidified when I scrolled to the picture of Cracker and Rob M in Cracker’s ’92 Toyota Forerunner. We were on our way back from our road trip to run rim to rim to rim in May. The trip was a highlight for me and a reminder that it isn’t just about starting lines, aid stations and race times. It’s about watching Cracker blow up on us because we forgot to remind him we would be in the bar at the top of Bright Angel Trail when we finished.

I’ve heard it said that taking time off from running can preserve your legs. This is a concept I started writing about until I saw the picture I took of my family on bicycles in Berlin with my wife shamelessly checking her emails. It was a long summer, and the first summer I can remember I didn’t run a single mile. I’ve since learned that magnesium depletion and the Achilles tendon are a dreadful couple, and can cause major strife to a runner’s tranquility.  Fasting on coffee and wine doesn’t help much with this matter.

When I really think about it, I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a runner. I think I would be drowning in a sea of narcissistic tsunamis. The thought continues to linger, until a grin sweeps across my face when I see the picture of Bino M’s white ass move into full view of my virgin lens.

No, I don’t know what I would do. But as runner, at least I’ve got a life raft to hold on to during these turbulent times.

Happy New Year Runners!!

December 22, 2015

Yucca Psychology

I wasn’t aware of this until I walked through a forest of Joshua trees yesterday, but it turns out there is certain moth that spreads the seed of yucca plants. It’s called, surprisingly, the yucca moth. What I find interesting is this moth lays its egg in the flower of the yucca. It is here where the larva feeds on the very seeds that the moth delivered, but leaves enough seed behind for the plant to reproduce and the species to perpetuate. I guess this moth knows something?

Now, when I was walking through this forest, I noticed how incredibly sharp the bayonet-like leaves looked on these plants, and I grimaced at the thought of how painful it would be to fall on top of one. I mean those shards could do some real damage.

Ok, enough of that. I’ve never fallen on a Joshua tree before, or even a yucca plant, so I'm wondering why the thought even crossed my mind.  I know some runners who’ve been stabbed under a toenail or fingernail by a yucca shard, but I haven’t. I guess the thought was passed on from an ancestor who fell on one way down the line.

Poor guy.    

December 19, 2015

The Circuitous Route

Thing is, when I walked out the door today, I knew where I wanted to finish my run, I just didn’t know exactly how to get there. What the hell. I figured I’d figure it out along the way. What good is a run without some form of doubt lingering in an anal retentive state of mind. Let’s just call it therapy.

I tried to keep the gear basic. Old school hand-held with water only, ball cap and headphones. The shorts with no pockets were new for me, but I was able to stuff the wad of TP under the elastic belt around my waist. Emergencies? Not a problem. All good until I glanced at my shadow on the trail and saw the TP flickering like a five foot birthday streamer from my ass. Why were those people laughing at me?

Ok, I have to admit it. I hate being passed by other runners. I don’t care if I’m doing an hour-long tempo run, or a five-hour long run. I just can’t let it go. So when this portly guy and his yellow lab ran by me on the way up the climb out of Buck Gully, I told myself to remain calm, to not get worked up. To consider this just a form of therapy.

As soon as he stopped to walk, I seized the moment and sprinted by him and refused to look back. Therapy assignment blown.

It wasn’t more than an hour later when I was startled by the sound of more feet seeking to dethrone my appointed pace. I know the term neurotic might be entering your mind now, but give me a minute here. There were three of them, two men and one woman, and they blew by me like a freight train. It happened so fast I just shook my head and told myself to ignore it. Why ruin my long run by chasing them, I thought to myself.

Then I looked up and noticed two of them were wearing Hoka’s, and now I was just a couple of feet behind them. None of them were carrying water. They surged ahead again, but I stayed with them. Next thing I know I’m running next to the lead runner complementing him on his pace. This, I assume, provoked the hammer to be thrown down by him, which meant the race was on. We quickly dropped his friends and continued to pick up the pace. I guess my training is working because, again, I refused to look back. Now that was therapeutic.

By now I realized I’d blown my goal of going easy and long. Today was, well, just long. And I still had not made it to my destination! Turns out I had to hit some city streets to make it all the way to this gem. But when I arrived, I realized all the neurosis was worth it.

From Newport Beach to Swallows Inn, San Juan Capistrano, 26 miles via the circuitous route.  Try it sometime, you just might obsess on it.

Keep it real runners.  

December 7, 2015

The Window Opens

I can't say how many times I looked up and saw it right there. Sometimes blanketed in snow, other times covered in clouds. Its prominence is the signature of the landscape I've come to appreciate in my own back yard. Yet, until now, I had never been there.  

Travis C hiked quickly. Being just a few feet behind him, I stared at the back of his shoes and didn’t look up. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just knew it would be futile to do so. Being an hour late for this run/hike, I was resolved to just keep my head down and not think about what was about to unfold. The top of Mt. Baldy is exactly 10,068 feet elevation, a scant 6’000 feet above us, and 6 miles in front.

The window opens, just enough for the truth to sneak in. It starts as just a passing thought. Then it recurs, and returns again, more formidably. Images, memories, an understanding, they all connect the dots. Revelations are just that way. They are what we see when something is revealed to us that has always been there. 

We reached the summit of Mt. Baldy and I looked across the horizon. I saw Saddleback Mountain to the south, and San Gorgonio just east. High clouds buffeted the sky, but made way for a glimmer of sunlight that cast a purple haze upon the horizon.

Jung said that routine breeds boredom, which leads to discontentment and, potentially, a loss of meaning during life’s journey.

Running towards Saddleback - 8'000 feet. 
If there is one thing I've learned along the way, it is to just run. Because it makes me content. It breaks up my routine. I use it to squeeze a little more out of life. To defeat boredom, even bring a little meaning through diversity. I realize, too, that if I'm looking for answers (which I always am), I'm more apt to find them on a mountain looking down from 10,000 feet on the Pacific Ocean.

The window opened, and then it occurred to me. It was just a passing thought, but more formidable now.

Cat (aka Mountain Kitty) far right.

November 25, 2015

Oh, To Be Drunk on Writing!

Ok. It’s been a record three weeks of zero blog posts here folks. My longest streak in eight years. And it’s not like I don’t have anything “running” to write about during this time. Quite the opposite actually.

Like, for example, the running of the 12th annual Saltwater 5000. An annual trek from the Pacific Ocean to Santiago Peak, the highest peak in Orange County. The hour we spent on the top of the mountain could be the highest I’ve been in a long, long time.

Or, for that matter, the pacing of a friend at Chimera 100 miler, where I watched my runner sink slowly into the darkest abyss after coming within 20 minutes of not making a cutoff. She struggled to breathe. She couldn’t move any faster. So we sat, briefly, to talk, and to curse the race director. She didn’t give up. It wasn’t an option. As daylight broke, so too did the darkest abyss, into many pieces.

Bradbury wrote that you must get drunk on writing so reality doesn’t destroy you. I’m either suffering from a writing hangover or just fallen off the wagon. Yes, prose may betray me for now, but not forever.

Keep it real runners.  

October 31, 2015

The Vision Thing

Sometimes it is hard to find a reason to write in this blog. After all it’s a running blog. Truth be told, I don’t always think about running. Hard to believe, I know. In fact if you read this blog with any frequency, you know I’ve been writing less and less. Maybe because I’ve been running less and less.

But something happened to me today that was pretty cool. I was out on a remote trail I’ve never run before. And my mind started to wander. It’s possible that the trance music had lulled me into a Buddha-like frame of mind, but I actually began to visualize myself running a really long distance somewhere in the mountains, maybe even in a race.

It has to start with this. To visualize. It's the magic wand from the hand of my guardian angel. It’s the flickering light that glitters at the top of a mountain. I want to hold it in my hand. So I keep moving towards it. I don’t know why I keep doing this shit. It’s magnetic. It’s emotional. It’s everything I want to have every minute of the day, but thankful to touch it whenever I can.

Visualization. There is no other method…for me anyway. I’m interested to see where this goes. I hope you are too.

Boo! Happy Halloween.

Go Bino!