Monthly Archives: March 2014

dizzy daze–41 miles of looping

I’m celebrating a milestone birthday this year, and have decided to mark the occasion with a nice 50 miler in July.  My dilemma is that this requires some conscious training.

For the better part of the past five years, I’ve run marathons and 50k’s often enough that I’m more or less “trained” for them.  It’s convenient – I don’t really have to think twice.  If it fits on the family calendar, I can do it.  But adding another twenty miles or more makes it a new ballgame.  I’ll have to plan for this.

At the beginning of March, while running a marathon in the Redmond Watershed, my friend Brian Pendleton gave me some great advice.  The White River 50 miler can be viewed as a 50k plus another twenty miles of hiking.  The more significant climbs are ones I’d probably want to walk.  And with a net ascent of about 8700 feet, it will be important to build my base mileage up a bit.  The other suggestion from Brian was that I consider doing the crazy Dizzy Daze run, put on by our friends Betsy Rogers and her husband Matt Hagen.  It’s a 12 hour event – the goal is to cover as many miles as you want (or that you can) between 7am and 7pm.

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That’s what brought me out to Green Lake this Saturday morning in March.  I wasn’t sure what sort of effort I’d be able to coax out, so just decided to relax.  In fact, I relaxed so much that I ended up starting about 40 minutes after just about everyone else.  That’s a nice thing about timed events – starting late doesn’t have to be a big deal.  It’s about the miles you cover.

As luck would have it, Brian showed up at about the same time, so we set out together.  We spent the first several loops running/walking and swapping stories.  The week’s rain had let up, so the conditions were great. 

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I did my middle loops solo – keeping a steady 9:15/mile pace.  After doing this three or four times, I was ready for some company again.  Solo loops around Green Lake can be sort of like watching paint dry.  But spending it with friends make the miles much easier.  We saw our friends Leslie, Lee, Stan, Monte, Paige, Ross, Rick, and Lisa on the course.  There were other friends who volunteered (hey SRL!). 

We spent the next two loops circling together, and passing the time.  Brian’s goal was to call things good at 50k (he was going to do the Cupcake Run the next day, so needed to leave something in his tank).  I was aiming for about 41-42 miles.  That would be ten more than I’d covered in a day before.

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Brian’s wife and friends had set up a “rogue” aid station roughly at the midpoint of our 3.2 mile loop.  They’re raising money for the ALS Association (Brian is living with ALS), and were out there cheering us on just when we could appreciate it the most.  The last time around was a bit tougher.  Brian’s IT band was bothering him, and my feet were hurting.  We can look past the immediate aches and pains, and focus on our goals.  For me, it’s about getting ready for White River.  For Brian, I think it’s about getting to event #200 (12 more to go).

We parted after he’d completed his miles, and I did my final two loops alone.  About halfway through the final loop, my GPS clicked over the 40 mile mark.  I’d never imagined I would do something like this.  You can argue that these are (very) flat miles.  And it’s true that there are going to be tougher runs ahead, as I prepare for White River.  But I was happy to have covered these 41.6 today.

Please consider giving to the ALS Association.  They fund continuing research towards a cure, as well as treatment and services for people living with ALS.  Do this in honor of people you know who have been affected by this wicked thing, or in honor of our friend Brian as he runs towards marathon/ultra #200.  Pictures provided by Christy Hammond.

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chuckanut–running the ridge

The Chuckanut 50k is a northwest favorite.  It usually draws a good field, and the course has a bit of everything. The scenery feeds your heart, but parts of the course might make your soul cry a bit.  There is over 5000’ of ascent and descent – which you will remember when you’re trying to take that final flat 10k fast. 

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climbing up the chinscraper – photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama (http://www.tachifoto.net/).

I’d signed up for Chuckanut on kind of a whim, thinking it would be a great stepping stone on my to longer runs.  Drove up Friday afternoon, glad that I was staying about five minutes from the start.  It was nice to coast over about 30 minutes before the start, without a worry.

They sent us off at eight on the dot, all 400 of us packed into the narrow interurban trail leaving Fairhaven.  As we set off, I got to see a bunch of familiar faces – Chrissie out there doing her first 50k (just three weeks after breaking her tailbone!), Gunnar from work – intense and focused on the trail as he is at work.  I chatted with Barb and Lisa during that first stretch too.

By the time we reached the first aid station, the pack had spread out quite a bit – which made the single track climb that followed much more relaxed.  I settled into a steady walk (up the hills) and easy run (on the more level or downhill parts), knowing we had some hard miles ahead.

The hardest part of the course for me is the three mile stretch up Cleator.  Two years back, this had been an icy slog.  This time was much easier – we’d been blessed with great weather.  I reminded myself to be patient, but was very happy when we made the turn on to the Chuckanut Ridge Trail, around mile 13.1.

This is possibly one of the more fun places to run in this part of the country.  We run along a fairly narrow ridge, nestled between a long drop on the right, and one that would involve less-than-fatal injuries on the left.  Even those of us who don’t like heights will find this scramble liberating.  You focus on getting your footing right, while trying to enjoy the view along the way.

The run along the ridge, and then back on the Lost Lake trail reminded me why I was out there.  Along the way I thought about my friend who’d wanted to be out there, but was ill.  We’d shared some miles, and stories together.  I hoped he’d be out on the trails again soon – things had been tough for him lately.

When we came to the base of the climb to the Chinscraper, I was tired, but felt pretty relaxed about what was ahead of me.  The climb was longer than I remembered, with the steeper parts slowing me to over a 20 min/mile pace.  When I reached the final climb, I pushed hard – making up this time without having to use my hands to help.  Better than last time – felt good, but I definitely paid for it on the long steep downhill that followed.

And it was sorely tempting to pound down those hills.  But having done this once before, I remembered having spent my legs doing this last time.  So I downshifted and hoped I’d have something left during the final 10k.

I wouldn’t have guessed that my fastest mile splits would come so late.  I was on the edge of losing faith, but somehow managed to keep moving.  Each mile got a bit faster than the last.  Down below 10, 9:30, 9, then below 8:30.  It didn’t feel fast, just hard.  But it was great to keep moving.  Rounding the final turns before coming out into the open air I was able to dig even a bit deeper. 

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pushing to the finish – photo by Ather Haleem

I crossed the finish in just under 6:22 (chip time), and felt better about my effort than other recent events.  I put on some dry clothes, enjoyed some wonderful lentil soup, and watched some friends finish. 

charts and graphs for running geeks

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The splits mostly reflect the course topology, but comparing the first and last 10k makes me feel good.  By the orange line (indicating pace) you can see that there was a bit of walking involved.

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watershed moments–reflecting beyond these 26.2 miles

I’ve logged hundreds of miles in the Redmond Watershed Preserve.  This started when I was training for the New York City Marathon twelve years ago – the terrain is mixed, and the hills don’t dominate. 

Following my muddy 50k foray at Lord Hill the weekend before, my marathon goal for Northwest Trail Runs’ Spring Run for Fun was just to finish.  I was still recovering, and had just two more weeks before the Chuckanut 50k

Running the marathon in the Watershed may not have been the wisest choice, but I’d call it a guilty pleasure.  It’s a chance to get together with good friends and do some miles on trails.  That’s what gets me out of the house on a wet winter morning.

38 degrees and rainy didn’t feel like so much pleasure  when arriving at the rainy Watershed.  Some of the more creative runners got into the ranger’s office, and started up the heater.  At the time it felt as decadent as a good cabernet paired with dark chocolate.

We started together, all of us crowding the Trillium trail.  Once we got moving, we felt warmer, which is usually the case. 

I took that first loop a bit too briskly – and knew it at the time.  The memory of a sub-four hour time here in 2011, stoked some delusion, but that was a different time, in different weather. 

I’d settled into a better pace during the second loop, and about midway through fell in with friend of mine.  We spent the next six miles or so talking.  We talked about training – aiming for Boston Marathon qualifying times, speed work vs. threshold training, building up volume.  As we started loop #3 together we started waxing a bit philosophical.

Through a series of conversational twists and turns, we started talking about death.  There’s an irony to speaking about death when you’re running a marathon.  After all, running requires a vitality that the dead simply cannot muster.  On the other hand, sometimes in the later miles, you might feel as though the reaper is sneaking up on you. 

In this case, we’d happened upon this topic because it’s part of life.  I recalled a recent article written by Roger Angell in the New Yorker about aging.  It’s a good read – seems an honest and sometimes humorous take an often inevitable part of life.  In this philosophical vein, we agreed that while neither of us fear death per se, the decline that can precede it is a different story.

Then he shared with me that he’d been diagnosed with ALS.

I was stunned.  He’s run over 25 marathons and ultras in the past twelve months.  With good fortune, he’ll complete his 200th lifetime sometime this year.  And in addition to being accomplished in the running community, he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. 

He talked about how unpredictable a path ALS takes in the body.  There’s no telling how it will progress, and what the effects will be, or how long he has left with us.

About fifteen or sixteen miles in, we hugged and he ran back to join another friend. 

He’d shared some very human feelings of fear and sadness.  But being out on the trails each week pursuing number 200, while spending the miles with friends contemplating what all of this means,  seems a great example of what psychologist/philosopher Viktor Frankl calls the “will to meaning”. 

Much courage, much grace – seems fueled by love for things big and small in our lives.

As I completed my own race – legs tired, feet hurting, and body chilled, I reflected on our conversation.  And I’m still doing that.

Words sometimes fail us when expressing feelings about life’s harder turns.  But love doesn’t.  Share it, and keeping covering the miles together.