February 24, 2017

Earth's Curvature


 Mauna Kea Sunset
As the sun continued to sink, the bones in my fingers started to feel like freeze-dried, orthopedic stumps impaled in withering flesh-sticks. Ok, embellishment aside, it was very cold. And I didn’t expect it to be. My fingers are always the first to punish me when I’m cold. 

That we were standing at 13,796 feet above the Island of Hawaii made it all the more surrealI’ve never been a huge sunset connoisseur, whether its because I lack the patience to sit for the few minutes it takes to appreciate what nature serves up everyday, or I’m just distracted by life’s less meaningful machinations, but this night was different. 

The sky, cloudless above the horizon, started to morph from powder blue hueinto a butterscotch colored sundae layered with boysenberry and marmalade topping. I wanted to reach out and take a scoop, but my fingers weren't willing. We watched the scene unfold standing on the summit of Mt. Mauna Kea, the largest mountain in the world at 33,500 feet when measured from it’s base at the bottom of the ocean. 

From here the horizon bends with the curvature of the earth, while the clouds coalesce along into a dessert sprinkled with white telescopes. A first for me and something to remember. 




February 20, 2017

The Making of a Peace Sign


We gathered white coral rocks. Then gently laid them down on the black lava. As the circle formed, we noticed the line down the center was a little crooked. Liv made the adjustment, then we stood back to see what we had done. Nothing magic, but magical nonetheless. A first for me.




They posed standing inside of it. Then they lay down in it, above the two lines which signify palms outstretched, downward, like Goya’s peasant before the firing squad, in the circle known for eternity and the unborn child. Two teenagers, two young girls, teammates, friends.



What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?





February 11, 2017

A Cup of Coffee in Santa Barbara


I’m beginning to realize something pretty simple. Something so simple I think it is fair to say that children understand it more than adults. Which is not surprising given our hasty, consumption based culture.

To describe this from an adult’s perspective would be logical but misleading, because the essence of it is usually lost by the time we enter adolescence and begin the journey fulfilling our unquenchable need to define who we are “supposed” to be while stumbling toward discovering who we really are. Caught between these competing forces, we are oblivious to all that pushes and pulls us toward achieving more, having more, and ultimately being more. I’m somewhere in the middle of this struggle. You?

But what is “it?” Well, like I said, “it” is pretty simple. “It” is something most of us are missing every day. I’ll leave this to your imagination. Let me know what you think.

Today, for the first time, I had a cup of coffee with my daughter in her new town Santa Barbara. It was a simple thing, which I’m learning is the important thing.

Keep it real runners.
  

February 5, 2017

There is Truth. And there is Untruth.


Not sure why, possibly the tone of the airwaves, or maybe the slant of the day's storyline, but today I chose to watch a particular movie while running. The playback and treadmill were working swimmingly until the machine came to a screeching halt. A dreary scene, brutal torturing, a main character, me nearly catapulted over the machine. Ok, from this token running reference I now digress...

I don't remember seeing the movie 1984, but I vaguely remember reading the book back in high school. Thoughtcrime, newspeak, big brother, or my personal favorite quip from a newspeak committee member: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." 

For a more modern nugget, I kind of like the inter party zealot proclamation that there is "a huge network of conspirators prepared to commit any atrocity to weaken and demoralize the order of our society."

Familiarly, there is a transition taking place in dystopia. War, not waged to be won, but waged to be continuous, will keep the oppressed, oppressed. But now the enemy has crossed the line, has become so heinous and wicked, that "ideals" can no longer stand in the way of the opponent's destruction.      

Interparty zealot: 

"Until now, the war has been conducted with honor and bravery with the ideals of truth and justice in the best traditions of mankind... until this moment. Brothers and sisters, the endless catalog of beastie atrocities which will inevitably ensue from this appalling act must, can, and will be terminated.The forces of darkness and treasonable maggots who collaborate with them must, can, and will be wiped from the face of the Earth."

Maybe it all ends (or begins) with the possibility that "Power is tearing human minds apart and putting them back together in new shapes of your own choosing." 


January 20, 2017

Naked Dive


Video Filmed From Shoe

One thing about doing something for the first time every week - it forces you to think differently. Even when going for a simple training run. Not a very interesting activity when stuck in pre-programmed mode.

Your mind begins to wonder as you trot along on the beach, like how cold the water really is in January, and whether you could dive in naked without being noticed by the person a couple hundred yards up the beach, or the person looking down from the bluff. Then you ask yourself, why should I care?

Next your running toward the water, feeling the cold rush around your feet. Around your legs. Other things. Then you're fully submerged.

This is fun, you say.


January 14, 2017

Sphere of Influence


Like a robot programed to receive (as in never leave a well established routine), I moved along the same trail I trode upon dozens of times over the years. Anxiety was beginning to percolate between the gusts of wind that were nearing 45 miles an hour and pointed at my face. OK, actually the wind was a nice reminder that I wasn't laying in bed, or watching the talking heads on cable news, or another episode of Game of Thrones, for that matter.

When I reached the sphere, I went right, instead of left, something I've never done before. The program was overwritten. Up and up some more, until I reached Pleasants Peak, 3,860'.

Sixty miles in every direction.

Catalina Island From Pleasants Peak
 
Mt. Baldy






January 7, 2017

I Knocked On the Door




There was an agreement. They would carry only matches and candles. No flashlights. Too easy for their code. They talked during recess, before the bell summoned them back to their second grade class. The dreaded Ms. Hagan’s class. The witch. This time, they knew, they would venture deep into the abyss. This time, they decided, they wouldn’t turn back until they reached daylight.

According to UNICEF, a child’s brain is most responsive from birth to eight years. The years when billion’s of neural circuits are established through genetics, environment and experience. But what is it that makes us remember things we experienced when we were children? Experiences, it is said, are not just what happen to us, they are the raw material that we use to shape our identity, our self. 

What are your memories? When you look back to your childhood, what memories stand out in your mind? Do they tell you something about who you are? Or why you do the things you do?



They entered the tunnel, like always, by holding the metal gate open for each other. It was heavy, but swung open from the bottom with a sturdy pull. They knew matches burned quickly. They chose to bring candles this time, to give them more reach, more time to move into the darkness of the underground tunnel.

This week, for the first time ever, I knocked on the door of the house I grew up in. I ran on the trails I used to run on as a kid. I crawled into the storm basin where Matt P and I carried our matches and candles and entered the abyss.


I’ve said that many of the things we learn - our fears, insecurities, anxieties, self limitations - our weaknesses - we teach ourselves over a lifetime. But I think it is fair to say that the other things we learn - our courage, tenacity, steadiness, confidence,  our strengths – we also teach ourselves over a lifetime. Our strengths, like our weaknesses, our nourished by our own imagination.

As we moved further into the darkness, a sense of calm came over me. I knew we were safe, it was a strange confidence that could have only come after being two miles into an underground storm drain. We moved forward step by step with only a small candle to light the way. Eventually, we climbed up toward a tiny light above us, pushed open a man hole, and peered into the daylight. We were surrounded by hills, and had no idea where we were. 

   

Why did I enter the abyss when I was seven years old? Was I trying to escape from something? Was I just looking for adventure? I’ll never know. Looking back, like it is for a lot of kids, youth for me was a restless time. I remember standing on top of my desk in Ms. Hagan’s class like a recently un-caged animal (she was out of the room at that particular moment). To the relief of the other kids in the class, my mom graciously removed me from that school. I guess she didn’t like me reporting to the principal’s office everyday.


It didn’t occur to me what I would say before I knocked. But I decided to knock anyway, knowing that  words were the furthest thing from my mind. When I walked across the front yard, I remembered it was the same yard I walked across with my sister everyday after school, next to the park where a little poodle chased me after getting off the school bus, and up the street from the greatest playground of trails, tunnels and canyons a kid could ever imagine.  

There was no answer. So I left a note.  




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January 2, 2017

Hiking a Mounting to Ski Down

I've been thinking about this for a while. I've never hiked up a mountain to ski down. So, when the snow storm hit when I was in the mountains on New Year's Eve, I figured why not knock this out when the stars are aligned?

I used to snow ski a ton but got a little burned out on the crowds, the exorbitant cost and the hassle of getting to and from the slopes. It didn't help that my girls weren't keen on getting cold in the snow, well, at least for anything other than building a snowman. Which led me to the idea of missing the crowds and the shakedown all together by hiking up and skiing down.

Ok, the plan wasn't executed to perfection as you will see in the video. Mainly because I wanted to be the first one on the top so I could ski down on untracked powder. Yet, by the time I made it to the top to begin my dream run, the slopes had already been infiltrated. Was I disappointed? Not a all. I just headed for the trees where no one had skied (the morning after New Years eve didn't help my departure time). As you see in the video, I got my fair share of turns on untouched snow. This FTIE was very sweet indeed.

I hope you enjoy the video. And you have to turn up the volume because the song by DJ Krush is crazy!


December 31, 2016

2017. First Time I Ever [........]



Find new routes everyday. I mean everyday. Take them!

Ride life's waves...

Reach for something a little more in life, something real, not material...

Ok, sure, I wrote these words. And, yes, they sound pretty grandiose. But, to be honest, right now? They're making me feel little. As in small. Like I've been standing in the Emerald City behind a curtain, pulling levers and blowing smoke like the Wizard of Oz (fraud).

I've been thinking a lot about this. About how I can stay true to the words I've written. Doing something new. Riding new waves. Reaching for something more. Different. Running a few ultra's every year ain't cut'n it for me anymore. It did a few years ago. But now, I need more. Will I keep running? Sure. Racing? Why not. I'm not going to give up my hobby, which I still enjoy. But, like anything in life, sometimes you have to spice things up a little.

So, beginning in 2017, I'm going to do something I've never done before in my life. I'm going to do this not once. Not twice. I'm going to do it every week. Big. Small. Difficult. Easy. Running. Non Running. Doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that I've never done it. That's it!

Happy New Year Everyone!



December 24, 2016

Character Revealed

from left Mike F, Dave B, Cracker, Mona G, Larry R, Will C. Photo Rob M. 

Every year, around this time, a group of So Cal runners gather for a run that has become a 13 year tradition. This year, not sure why, they did it in reverse. It was a horrible day of slip in sludge. Dave B captured the event in embarrassing detail. Read about it here.

Every year, without fail, someone shows up to "Saltwater" out of shape, but runs anyway. It's just that kind of thing. Some don't finish (some don't even start). But someone always guts it out all the way to the end. This year was no exception. Great work Mike F.
        

December 11, 2016

Riding Life's Waves


They rise up. Sometimes it seems from nowhere. They are hard to see, until they are right upon you. Rising higher. Looming over you, making you feel so small. Then comes the decision. Do you turn to catch one? Do you take the risk of getting pummeled on the jagged rocks below? But something’s triggered you. A bad experience, boredom, the need for change. Whatever it is, it’s helped you overcome your fear. Your anxiety. Your apathy.

So you turn. And paddle into the wave. You feel your body rising up, on top of this force that seems limitless in its power. You feel the energy as it carries you forward. Faster. There is no turning around now. The power surrounds you and you let yourself go with it. It’s at that moment when you realize there is nothing better than to ride this wave. To see how far it will take you. To accept its risk, because with it comes opportunity. 

I was a “surfer” when I was younger, riding the ocean’s waves – to my heart's delight. Now that I’m a little older, I try to ride life’s waves – to my soul’s delight.

I hope you all catch some good waves in the new year.

December 3, 2016

Western States Lottery - I'm not Bitter




  Western States Lottery Stats:

4,246 applicants 

369 runners “permitted” by US Forest Service

less 119 “automatic” entries “granted” by WS board of trustees

=          250 slots available
=          2.5% chance of being selected (based on ticket system)
=          Genius marketing. But what are the motives?

I’m not bitter. Just a little frustrated. Submitting my application to the Western States lottery, anymore, is getting a bit futile. Outside of the “automatic” selections, which includes a list of categories that would make any politician blush, the remnants are getting kind of skimpy. And the “automatic” list, frankly, seems to be multiplying like cancer cells, gobbling up spaces the average hard working trail runner would otherwise have. What are the “automatic” entries you ask? Here’s the latest menu:

30 spaces for “Race Admin.” Trail crew etc.
24 spaces for “Golden Ticket Races”
20 “sponsor” slots
19 Top Ten Runner Slots
10 “raffle” winners
6 UTWT “elite” foreign athletes
3 “special considerations”
2 runners going for 10th finish
1 “trustee”
1 “silver legend”
1 entry for Gordy

Again, I’m not bitter. But I’m wondering if the direction this is going is away from the culture of the sport. Ultra running is about hard work, suffering, paying your dues, putting you time in on trail, sacrificing time with family, etc. In this light, does putting your time in mean elbowing your way into an aid station for three years? Does sacrifice mean locking in every “raffle” date in your outlook calendar? Shit, I’m beginning to feel like I should dress up like an Oompa Loompa so I can have the inside track to a “golden ticket.”

What the hell is a “Golden Ticket” race anyway? Well it’s a list of races, sponsored by the Western States “Presenting” sponsor, that provide entry to the top finishers in those races. Not a bad idea, but it gets a bit grey when I look at the motives here – attract more runners to races sponsored by the “presenting sponsor” so said sponsor can reap more marketing juice from their sponsorship of said races in a build up to Western States. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for profit motivated enterprises, but Western States is a non-profit organization entrusted by the Forest Service to administer a fair event per the course's legislative mandate.

Why, then, do sponsors – presumably profit motivated sponsors – control 12% of the entries to Western States? Is it because the event needs capital? From what I can find the race organization does not need money. It’s sitting on $149,209 in cash, after bringing in $382,587 in revenue and spending $425,228 in expenses in 2014 (the latest year I could find on record).

So, what…then…am…I…saying? I’m not saying as much as I’m starting to question the cozy relationship between the board of trustees and sponsors looking to maximize brand. All at the expense of the hard working runner who just wants a chance to “toe the line” at an event that bills itself as “the world’s preeminent 100-mile trail run”.

So I leave you with this. Why do I feel like I need to dress up as an oompa loompa when I know I’m going to be dressed down by a shoe company?

Really, I’m not bitter.





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