April 30, 2012

Capitol Peak 50 Mile: Face Down in Mud and Tequila

I signed up for this race looking for something new. A new course. A new state. A whole new experience. When I crossed the finish line covered in mud, dazed and light headed, I realized l got my wish.

The Capitol Peak 50 mile ultra run takes place in Capitol State Forest, a 90,000 acre state-run park located on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. It is a multi-use forest with active logging operations and hunting. That’s right, logging and hunting. I heard the some weird noises out there. Loud noises. Now I know why.

Being a So Cal runner I pride myself on running through the elements. You know, heat and dehydration. Some mountains, a rattlesnake or two. I knew Capitol Peak 50 would be a little different. Cool, wet and far from home.

One of the things I noticed right away about this forest was the green. Green leaves, green tree trunks. Green tree branches. Green ground. Everything green. It was surreal. Like running in a ginormous terrarium.

The race started under a typical gloomy northwest sky and meandered beneath thick forest canopies, along several high ridges and through some open meadows. With a total elevation gain of over 7,000 feet, this was a gorgeous course. Chalk full of scenery you will only find in the Pacific rain forest. But beneath the beauty lurked one deviant beast...the mud.

To summarize here, one moment I was laughing out loud, another moment I was screaming expletives. Arms flailing and out of control, then on all fours groveling over wet brown grime. Getting traction was easy, until you lost it. Run…walk…slide…flail…contort. Run again. It was fun, frustrating and at times frightening. All rolled into one ball of something new. It must be why I perked up when someone yelled tequila shots! at the mile 42 aid station. I looked over at some party girls standing next to a make shift mariachi bar. I’m pretty sure I said not for me and what the hell in the same breath! Have you ever had a tequila shot when your heart rate has been 150 bpm or higher for over 7 hours? It’s a whole different kind of buzz. Cringe! Then back to the slippery slope.

Despite many slips, stumbles and mud hugging slides, I still hadn’t gone down hard. In fact I was feeling a little victorious around mile 48. And it was right about then that I recall a loud screech and the air rapidly exiting my lungs. Blink. I’m face down in the mud gasping for air.

To my body's regret, my mission to find a whole new experience was accomplished. But my conversation with local runner Gavin Woody after the finish said it all. Gavin and I ran together for much of the couse. I mentioned out of the blue I was training for UTMB in France this August. Turns out he's running UTMB too. Still recovering from my face plant, I asked Gavin what he thought about all the mud on the course. "Oh that was mild, he says. "You should come up here when we get some real mud." 

No Thanks.  

Time: 8:48:02. Place: 16th  overall. Third age group. 

April 20, 2012

My Weaknesses

It has been said that while pursuing knowledge, one accumulates a little more each day. While pursuing the truth, one takes away a little more each day.

Many of the things we learn - our fears, insecurities, anxieties, self limitations - our weaknesses - we teach ourselves over a lifetime. The seeds of who we become are sown in our own life's experiences, and the water that nourishes them is our own imagination. Something happens to you when you are a child. A bad experience. A good one. Maybe a frightening one. Then life moves on, and you adapt. Maybe for the better. Or, maybe for the worse.

Which brings me back to weakness. Or more specifically, my weaknesses. I'm not fretting here, because we all have them. The question that I ask myself sometimes is whether I am aware of my weaknesses. Or do I keep them stuffed in a little box inside of me like a jack-in-the-box, winding them tighter and tighter every day until, heaven forbid, one bursts open and surprises the hell out of me. It's happened.

I wish I could say that I've dealt with all my weaknesses head on. But the truth is I haven't. Which brings me back to running. There is something about running, it's effect on the weaker side of who I am, that makes me want to come back to it. Because when I run, my fear of failure, my longing for vain and selfish things, the insecurities that lurk inside of me that I may never conquer, my faults and my failures - all these things - they just melt away. 

April 12, 2012

Fresh Tracks

After a winter of very little snow in the Southern California Mountains this year mother nature showed a little bit of kindness to the mountain resorts. Big Bear got several inches of snow Tuesday and several more inches are expected tomorrow.

After putting some fresh tracks down on the slopes yesterday, I put down some fresh tracks on trail this morning. There is nothing like being out on a mountain trail covered in fresh snow under a clear blue sky, in total solitude. If nothing else, its good training for the mind. I suppose training on snow is good when I might have to deal with it during a race.

It looks like its going to be UTMB in France for me in August!

April 1, 2012

Running Through Turd Blossoms

Following a frustrating month of February when I injured my groin (doing too much too fast), March looked like it was going to be another disappointing month. I didn’t have enough real training time and had to cancel my entry to run Old Goat 50 miler. This was a set back for me, mostly because I pride myself on running and training smart and avoiding stupid training mistakes.

Suffice it to say when March rolled around I looked down and felt like I was standing in a field of proverbial turds. Not able to run, I began the month only able to cross train -  cycle, elliptical and the like. I was feeling down, broken, dejected.

It has been said that sometimes flowers grow from turds. Turd blossoms, as they are known in Texas, rise up from the most despicable conditions; conditions that make grown men cower, even cringe. How is this so? How does a beautiful flower grow from a pile of cow dung?

As the month progressed, I simply focused on hours instead of miles. Sure, I wasn’t running for several days on end, but I was getting my hours in. By the second week I was able to do some climbing and easy running. By the third week things started to fall into place. The groin injury moved from the left to the right side and now just lingers in the background. March results? 64 hours, 237 running miles, 60 elliptical miles and 30,000 feet of climbing.

What does all this have to do with turds and blossoms? First off, I think things happen for a reason. As runners, all of us should understand that our bodies are servants of the mind. When the mind makes demands, the body responds. When the mind demands too much, the body, like any servant, breaks down. Then the mind is taught a valuable lesson -  to listen and to respect the body. From this messy process grows something quite stunning.