You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything.
I was thinking about this stupid fear I have of rolling my ankle when trail running today. And I realized that in none of the races I’ve done this year – have I ever heard of anyone rolling their ankles and getting hurt. So either A) everyone is in complete control and never exceeding their ability, e.g. pushing too hard and losing control or B) it’s a stupid contrived fear that’s holding me back in a warm snuggy blanket of safety because it’s something I fear.
A) is wrong because I know the people in the lead group and they’re completely out of control and running like mad.
I ran in thunder and lightening today in Forest Park. If you run toward the storm, in the direction it’s approaching, eventually you’ll pass through it. I squeezed my fist periodically to squeeze the water out of my gloves as I made my way. I was working hard and grunting loudly coming back over the Burnside Bridge — there was no one around except one drenched indigent man smelling like an ash tray as I passed him. I wonder if being homeless in a thunderstorm is like climbing an exposed ridge high in the mountains when the weather is moving in; you’re trapped, there is no shelter, no place to hide.
What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it. – Krishnamurti
First really wet and cold run of the Fall season. It reminded me of the months to come and the amazing feeling of warming up from the inside…from your belly out to your fingers and toes.
The observation that I returned to all day was the variety of mushrooms that I found along the trail in the Tillamook Forest on Saturday. Color, form, size. I’m not sure I saw the same type of mushroom twice.
If I had to qualify the difficulty of the race… it was more difficult than Mt. Hood 50 miler. Not as hard as Leadville 100 (bike). It was a very difficult day. When I realized what I was signed up for, at about 8 miles in, I adjusted my goals to 1. Not get hurt, 2. Finish, 3. Time. It’s difficult not to go into analysis when the race doesn’t go according to planned – so I’ll just stick to my experience.
I was up at 3:45am on Saturday making coffee and toast. I grabbed my bags and set off West toward the coast in my rental car. Once I turned off Rte 26 toward Tillamook, the rain began. It rained off and on all day with a couple of hours of mist and breaking clouds/sunshine in the early afternoon. We started at 7am in rain and darkness – the sun came up about 25 minutes later. I stashed my headlamp at the first aid station – around mile 2.5. The trail was … I would posit about 95% singletrack with a few road crossings. The footing was extremely technical for the first 20 miles. The course consisted of 2 out and back loops. 20 miles for one loop, back to the start, 12 miles out and back in the other direction. The second loop was actually 14 miles and had the biggest elevation gain of the course.
As I neared the start/finish at the end of the first section I had an interesting exchange… with myself I went through the DNF / bail scenario. I could have easily bailed and gone and taken a nap in the car before driving home. That idea was churning in the forefront mentally as I approached 20 miles. But there was something else…something deeper, not an explicit thought, more of another observer listening to the self-doubt and whining (whinging?). And that part of me never paused, never glanced over to the Forest Center where people were waiting. That was the hammer watching; and I was the nail.
The climb up from this point was crushing (or so I thought). It was 15% grade in places. I was pushing on my knees with my hands and power-hiking up. I ran where I could, the surface a very nice runnable bed of spruce and fir needles. When I reached the top of this climb, I descended for about 20 minutes of steep downhill running; a very fast, pounding descent. I reached the aid station and checked my mileage. 26.2. I just ran a marathon, I thought – and now I have a 10k remaining.
I occasionally take a caffeinated gel on long runs if my energy levels are low (I mostly try to stick with a timed eating schedule), I don’t ever drink caffeinated soda (yes coffee). Most ultra aid stations late in the race are stocked with Coke (Cola). Given that I was turning around immediately and ascending the 2 mile hill I just came down, I opted for Coke. I chugged 3 cups, ate a caffeinated Espresso Clif shot, took a piece of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some Pringles – had my bottle filled and started walking up.
I hadn’t listened to music all day but carried my shuffle in a plastic baggy in my run pack. I was so mentally consumed with my footing, not rolling my ankle and trying to move quickly over moss and leave-covered rocks. At 26 miles though – I knew I needed to get up this climb fast and make some time on the descent back to the finish. I put my earbuds in and started powering up the climb. Very steep. Very difficult. Very caffeinated. This music was perfect and got me through.
From the top of this climb the next few miles were very runnable and I made good time to the finish. I ate a cheeseburger from the grill back at the forest center and then walked back to the car to change and drove back to Portland.
7 Clif Shots
1 Package Clif Blocks
Pieces of peanut butter/jelly sandwich
Nuun / Water / Coke
I have a time to beat for next year.
That was the first time I’ve raced in the dark and thought it would be fun #2 – a little suffering with the pace on Leif Erikson and then more suffering climbing Fire Road 1 followed by more suffering on the singletrack… but it turned out to be fun #1. Fun fun. Shocking.
I was running Mt. Tabor before sunup a couple of years ago but there was only a short section that was all trail. Tonight I was race pace in the woods on single track for about 5 kilometers.
Imagine flying through the forest just above the ground following a single beam of light illuminating just 2 meters in front of you. You can’t see anything in your periphery, and are completely focused on the beam of light and the surface beneath it. It’s like that. Fast. Surreal. Flying through the forest in the dark.
We started with 5k on Leif Erikson (an improved but rocky fire road) as the sun started to go down. I made a half-hearted effort to turn on my headlamp, mostly to have it on before I needed it, but couldn’t get the correct beam setting – the button combination is weird with double and single hold presses to get the proper beam (it’s a new Petzl Tikka+). I finally got the brightest most dispersed beam just as we turned to start the climb up Fire Road 1. Essentially a wall. I ran until I blew up, then power hiked to recover, then ran again until I blew up, wash, rinse, repeat until done.
Going up that climb and looking back and seeing all the headlamps coming up behind me was beautiful – the bobbing lights in a row all the way down the hill. Very cool. There was so much moisture in the air that the headlamp was useless as we ran through little clouds. Same as driving in fog. The light just illuminates the moisture. The headlamp was clicking down a few notches and wasn’t staying where I wanted it to – the angle grooves were too light and a hard landing would cause it to jump down a few clicks. We started to descend and I pulled out my spare headlamp and turned on the focused beam – not sure how many lumens it is (Black Diamond … something) but it was perfect. I held it in my right hand and pointed it ahead on the trail, and kept my headlamp pushed back to give me a little more dispersed light. It was a pretty good setup.
At one point I passed a runner coming up from the side of the trail – he had run off the trail into the woods. Oops! Everyone’s pace definitely seemed to slow when were in the woods. I passed a couple of people – but made an effort to keep everything under control and not roll my ankle like I did last race. I couldn’t see the slope changes, but could feel my heart rate going up, so I assumed I was climbing a hill. So much fun for a Wednesday night.
Inhaled a huge bowl of green chile chicken soup (super spicy yum) and cornbread when I got home and started the process of winding all systems down for the night.
50K on Saturday. It’s my treat. I plan to enjoy it.
Digging the Nick Mulvey lately. Some of it reminds me of Ali Farka Toure.
I vividly remember when this lesson manifested itself to me… which ultimately means you reach a level of understanding so that you can incorporate the lesson into your life. The opposite being the lesson that keeps presenting itself to you in creative ways until you have the epiphany and understand the lesson. I’ve found this is how life works.
It was just before my first 24 hour mountain bike race in West Virginia and I was working on my bike.. and working on it.. and working on it. I was adjusting the suspension to get the dampening and rebound just perfectly dialed in… and I was turning the 8mm hex wrench and then … I turned it too far and the inside tube of the oil chamber sheared off. I pulled out the wrench with the threads of the aluminum tube still attached… and suspension oil gushed onto the ground and I realized I had gone too far.
Such a great lesson.
It’s about backing off and allowing things to be unfinished, messy and imperfect. It’s also about trying to determine where the edge lies. Always a tricky proposition. Best taken on a case by case basis.
This is going to be a high mileage week with only 2 races. Wednesday is the Trail Series in Forest Park (which may be in the rain and dark according to the weather forecast). And Saturday’s 50K at Elk Mountain. I haven’t had any really long runs in a few weeks, I have a good base and a season of racing behind me. I’m not so much nervous as a little tired of racing. Maybe I’ve gone to far — hard to tell.
I think this will be my last ultra of the year before I wind down for the holidays and rest (and ski).
A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus? If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.
- Arthur C. Clarke
24 miles in 3 days has left me tired and sore in the legs. I did yoga with the kids tonight; both to get them to settle down for bed and to stretch out my legs. Just getting them to slow down and think about their breathing: inhaling deeply and forcefully exhaling helps them settle. Flat on back with knees bent, palms down, breathe a few times… then onto belly and up to cow pose, then back to plank, upward dog, downward dog, cow pose, then child’s pose and relax. That’s pretty much it. I had us all doing sun salutation during the summer, but the start of school has compressed our morning schedule.
I was thinking about this concept of overspin on my run today; in a prop plane there is a situation where the engine can no longer control the rotation of the propellor and it begins to spin faster than it normally would (if it were still controlled by the engine). My brother the aviator is the one who explained the concept. The risk in overspin is that the speed of the prop exceeds the materials strength of the propellor. If that happens, the propellor can shear and then really bad things can happen. Take away any analogy from that you like. My takeaway is that you just need a larger engine. Flow control.
Good lunch run this afternoon. We ran the arboretum loop with what I think has been coined the “Rivard addition” – just a tiny quarter mile drop and climb back up to the road after the lookout…always the hard way though – if there is a hill, why not run up it?
From the new office coming across the bridge – it makes this route a 9 miler. The (mostly flat) city running pre and post make the 2 additional miles feel zippy.
I ran with D and A today. It was nice to have company — not super fast but lots of chit chat and running closely on the trails. Good to work on the pack running technique. I was thinking at one point if we bumped feet we’d probably all take a tumble ass over heel down the mountain.
Gazing up at the vapors on Council Crest.
Soon it’s going to be time to put sunglasses away and seal the hatches for the winter. In Portland it’s as if we close the submarine hatch and spin the handle closed until the Spring. Our little Portland submarine.
Knocked askew a little bit this week; but re-centering. Sometimes the paths we’re traveling intersect, roiling waves like an ever expanding Euclidean mesh. It makes no sense to me.
You should be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because they will eventually enrich your practice.
-Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind