March 30, 2011

Crossing the Catalina Channel

Last weekend I accompanied a stand-up paddle boarding team that raced from Catalina Island to Dana Point California -- 39 miles across the Catalina channel. The two-man team consisted of my brother Al C and Keith.  The crew boat was captained by Greg P who was supported by his son and first mate Daniel P with me serving as head swabby.    I filled in by grabbing the board during the many transitions along this trek, downing Red Bulls on the hour and scarfing whatever food remnants I had leftover from my 50 mile race the day before.  It was a great effort by Al and Keith who paddled a combined 8 hours and 42 minutes, much of the time in a difficult head wind,  and came in third place in the Masters two-man relay division.  Good job guys!

Al C

March 26, 2011

Old Goats 50 Miler -- Race Report

Knowledge is patience. Patience is knowledge. These were the words I kept repeating to myself at the Old Goat 50 miler.  Over and over.

Going in I knew this was going to be a big hurdle.  Old Goats is the second race I entered that is part of the Southern California Ultra Grand Prix series.  A reported 13,423’ of climbing and descending, a lot of technical trail and several stream crossings.  According to the Old Goat website, the “race ranks among the toughest fifty milers in the country”.

This course is nestled in the Santa Ana Mountains, a mountain range that extends for 36 miles between Orange and Riverside counties.  We started out of Blue Jay campground and headed “out and back” for 20 miles through a pretty technical single track.  This was the hors d’oeuvre served to the runners before they were offered up the 4000’, 8 mile climb from the bottom of Holy Jim Canyon to the top of Saddleback Mountain.

I need to say cheers to Charlie Nickell for standing in butt cold water to help all the runners cross a creek before we hit the Candy Store aid station.  Wearing a wetsuit and booties, Charlie stood in a stream for hours to help the runners get through a rather rapid section of the creek. How many people do you know that would do this?

As I made my way up the 4,000’ climb of Holy Jim trail and then Main Divide, I continued my mantra, knowledge is patience and patience is knowledge.  And as I approached the summit, I realized it was beginning to work. Saving my energy on the climb, I had the strength to motor through the last 15 miles.  On another note, have you guys ever listened to the song Rise by Eddie Vedder?  It was in my head for much of these 15 miles.  It’s such a cool song I hope you give it a listen.

9 hours 10 minutes and 7th place overall.  I actually felt good at the finish!

Knowledge is patience. 

March 21, 2011

Run Ultras - Why Do I Do It?

The moon breaks through the twilight.  Its light glows on the path before me. Over my head looms the night’s sky and in front of me the steely blue horizon is fading. I notice a tiny yellow star, twinkling.  Then it finally occurred to me why I’m out here. 

This week I signed my name on an application, licked a stamp and dropped an envelop in a big mail box on the side of the road. I drove away and looked in the rear view mirror. I could feel the skin tingling on my back.  That feeling of anticipation, kind of like jumping from a cliff to a lake far below. I’m now airborne, and there is no turning back.  Exhilaration seeps in.

Inside the envelope was an application to the Angeles Crest 100 mile run.  But sealing the envelop was my decision to run at least six ultras this year as part of the Southern California Ultra Runner Grand Prix. This is a “points earned for races completed” series of ultras with 19 races from 50k to 100 mile distances.       

Sometimes people ask why.  Why do you do 50, 100 Miles?  Ok, yes, its a little different, I’ll admit.  What are the alternatives, golf?  Tennis?  Enough said there. I used to like surfing, but found it to be a little boring, waiting for the waves and all.  Cycling?  Way too much emphasis on equipment to be a genuine endurance sport for me. Swimming? Great for kids.

Viktor E. Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps, men suffering in horrid conditions “experienced the beauty and art of nature as never before“.  In this book he writes “If someone would have seen our faces on the journey from Auschwitz to a Bavarian camp as we beheld the mountains of Salzburg with their summits glowing in the sunset, through the little barred windows of the prison carriage, he would never have believed that those were the faces of men who had given up all hope of life and liberty.  Despite that factor—or maybe because of it—we were carried away by nature’s beauty...”

Frankl published more than 30 books on theoretical and clinical psychology.  He maintained that the primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud believed, but the  discovery and pursuit of what we find meaningful.

So what does all this mean? I’m not really sure and I wish I had the answer. Maybe being carried away by a moonlit path or a steely blue horizon, or feeling the simple exhilaration of sealing an envelop, has something to do with why I do this.  Maybe I've come to realize that it's the simple things, those I used to take for granted, that matter the most.          

I hope you are carried away by your own moonlit path.  

March 13, 2011

Japan Disaster: Send a Donation

Now is a good time to send a donation to help the victims of the worst disaster that has struck Japan since the dreaded American atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  All you have to do is send a text and you can donate $10.  The American Red Cross raised over $32 million in a similar campaign after the Haiti Earthquake.

How?  Text to the following number: 90999 and type in REDCROSS.  I did this and immediately got a reply asking to confirm the donation.  It's as easy as that.

The Salvation Army, which has had a presence in Japan since 1895 is also providing relief.  Text QUAKE or JAPAN to 80888 to donate to SA's relief efforts there.

You can also visit these organizations websites at the following links to make a donation via credit card.

The Red Cross

The Salvation Army

March 8, 2011

This Sport Needs An Enema!

Can somebody tell me what kind of a sport we compete in when somebody dressed up as a [insert here] gets all of the press?

One of the most interesting things about ultra running is the lightening rod effect Dean Karnazes has on the sport.  The guy is not considered by many to be an elite runner in the sport (although he has won races) yet he attracts more attention than most if not all of the “elite” runners.  What is the beef here?  Dean makes money in a sport that is not considered a money maker?  Or is it just the media attention?  Since money follows the media my guess is its all about the money.

Which brings me to this post. For those ultra runners who complain about Dean, you should stop for a second to remember that every company selling you products is making money off of you!  That’s right, you!  PROFIT. Take a look at Montrail for a minute.  Glance through their “team” member websites.  Everyone of them – hook, line and sinker – is pitching the product.  They're even pitching the Montrail website!  So who is in it for the money?  Why do we have sponsors in our sport?  Why do runners seek sponsors?  For the money! Is there a line between sponsored “elite” runners and Dean?

Of course ultra runners that win the races should get most of the media attention and the money. But when you think about the general population who think running 100 miles is a throw back to Forest Gump and read People Magazine for the news, are you surprised they don’t?

Like the Joker once said, “Never rub a man’s rhubarb".

Yes of course I would like your comments! 

March 6, 2011

My Neuroma

Lyrics not to be confused with My Sherona.  No, this song goes something like this...

What the &%$# is wrong with my foot!  It feels like it is on fire.  And we’re not talking about a small brush fire here.  Holy crap I’ve got another 20 miles to run.  What am I going to do?  I wish they carried fire extinguishers at the aid stations. Every time I take a step my toes feel like they are going to explode.  Did someone stash a gaggle of fire ants in my shoe? Running gods can you hear me?!  Help.  Me......

This, of course, is the scene I’m trying to avoid at my next 50 miler just three weeks away. But this, of course, is the predicament of one runner with a neuroma on his right foot.  I thought it was just a rock that I had stepped on a few weeks back.  The burning, ugly feeling that enveloped my toes and forefoot was downright rude to me and had no sympathy for my trail savvy feet.  The burning, ugly feeling only showed itself on the longest of trail runs, but then started rearing its obnoxious head on the simple little runs during the week. Burning, ugly feeling, you're going to do this to me now? Oh boy.

So when I showed up at the podiatrist with shoes in hand I wasn’t surprised when he said it wasn’t a broken bone.  What?  Doctor please tell me I didn’t come here to find out I don’t have broken bone.  No, you’ve come here to learn about a neuroma, and that you have one in your right foot.  Neuromas suck, because they cause a burning, ugly feeling.  And it feels like your foot is on fire....Thanks Doctor.  Actually the guy was pretty cool, and he injected my foot with cortisone.

That was what he did.  What I did was rotate several shoes through several runs. I found out that certain shoes cause the neuroma to flair up, and others don’t. Unfortunately my go-to trail shoes I’ve worn in the last few races—Montrail Mountain Masochist—seem to trigger the darn thing.  My New Balance 760s, a road shoe, don't seem to trigger it.  So until such time as this $%#@ thing packs its bags for good, I’ll be running in my 760s, which of course were discontinued this year. The good news to all this? 760s are available all over the internet at half price!  Thanks running gods!  I new you would look out for me!