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Showing posts from June, 2011

These little adventures

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Like most people who exercise outside on a regular basis, I have standard routes. I'm beginning to learn the nuances of these routes, such as which off-camber corners force me to apply my bike's brakes, and which ones I can really let rip. I know which rocks to hopscotch on my usual eight-mile run and where to look out for deer. Standard routes are comfortable, convenient, and help boost me through tough days with their familiar challenges. They provide a great base for training, because I can compare times and how I felt and how I improved. Still, I find myself craving something different. Even if it means venturing just a few miles off that beaten path, to places where I have to brake on all the corners or purposefully operate below maximum effort because I have no idea where the hill I'm climbing ends.

Beat and I have been trying out new running routes. My recent run-loading has made it tougher to digest the idea of a daily trips to Rancho, so we've been testing out …

Training through the off season

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I can always tell when I'm having a bit of an "off" week, because I don't blog much. Busyness and heavy involvement in activities don't curtail my blogging habit; in fact, I tend to blog even more frequently when lots of good things are going on. But this week has been a tough one. Good, but tough. I am trying to delve into a new writing project that has been slow to launch. Meanwhile, I've decided to let any marketing efforts for my latest book simmer for a while, so during the days this week, I've found myself staring bewildered at a blank document on my computer screen with no justifiable distractions for my writer's block. And then there's the running. I put in a big (for me) week of trail running, with 17.5 miles on Monday, eight on Tuesday, 32-mile road bicycle ride on Wednesday, eight more on Thursday, rest day Friday, eight on Saturday and 23 miles today. That's a 64-mile run week, with about 15,000 feet of climbing (including the ride…

Signed copies available

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This has been one of those "waiting and waiting" UPS deals, but I'm expecting my first shipment of my new book on Monday. So I'll be able to send out signed copies of "Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide" starting next week. You can order signed copies for $15 plus $4.95 shipping at this link.

Here is one more excerpt from the book. This is from chapter twelve, "Savage Side."


I woke up draped in the silky sheets of a luxury bed, deeply sore.

General muscle and joint soreness is always accompanied by wide-ranging emotions. There is comforting soreness, the kind that comes in the midst of hard training, because it signals sought-after muscle growth. There is satisfying soreness, that post-race glow when a person knows they have met their goals and can finally rest. There is debilitating soreness, the kind that follows injuries, lapses in judgment or an insistence on pushing oneself too hard.

And then there is Divide soreness. Divide s…

Ick run

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I wanted to embark on a good long run today to kick off a big training week ahead of the TRT100. I was ambitiously thinking about something in the range of 20 miles at a solid running pace. I spent the morning inside my apartment completely absorbed in a project, and found it especially difficult to emerge from my tunnel when my planned 2:30 p.m. departure time arrived. I packed and prepped to leave, and vaguely decided to check the weather before setting out. It was 95 degrees in Los Altos. Wait ... what? I had yet to run in any real heat this summer. It's been in the 60s and 70s, at most the high 70s, during most of my outings since I moved here this spring. Well, I reasoned, it's as good of a time as any to get in some heat training. I decided it might be prudent to fill my 70-ounce water bladder to the top this time.

I decided to hit the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail because it's generally well shaded, and the overall mellow grade would allow me to run most of the 20 miles. …

All the live-long day

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So what makes for a tougher, more physically taxing day: An eight-hour trail run or eight hours of hard-labor trail work? I got this question a few times during our Saturday stint with the Tahoe Rim Trail work crew. And honestly, unless you're better trained for the effort of guiding 600-pound boulders down a 50-degree sandy slope for 100 meters without losing them in a clattering tumble while screaming "Rock! Rock!" ... I'd be inclined to say the latter is the harder effort.

We met up with the crew in a casino parking lot in Stateline, Nevada, and made our way up a brand new, yet-to-be-opened connector trail to the TRT. We donned hard hats, work boots, and leather gloves and marched up the beautifully sculpted trail until we reached a point where it resembled more of a mountain goat track along a rugged sideslope. This is the point where we set up shop. The only trail work I've participated in the past all involved minor maintenance — clearing away brush, choppin…

Book giveaway

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I've mostly stayed off my feet this week in a pre-emptive — though hopefully unnecessary —hurty-foot recovery plan to avoid plantar fasciitis. Instead, I completed three solid bike rides, one mountain and two road, all in the 25-to-30-mile, 3,500-feet-of-climbing range. Where I live, at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, there a few appealing routes that don't involve at least 3,000 feet of gain. I can either grunt up to elevation or spin through suburban streets and traffic, so I choose the climb, every time. I think the constant climbing has helped improve my strength as a runner, even though I clock significantly more hours on my bikes than on foot. Of course, riding bikes does nothing to help me improve the areas where I'm really weak, such as downhill running and foot strength. I'm in a unique position because I love ultrarunning races but don't necessarily enjoy training runs; and while I love riding bikes, I'm not all that crazy about racing them. I w…

Pacing is weird

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The sport of ultrarunning incorporates a particularly unique practice that participants refer to as "pacing." I can't think of a single other sport where an individual athlete recruits another runner, usually a volunteer or friend but sometimes paid, to shadow them on the course for a fair portion of the race and provide what basically amounts to emotional support. Physical support is discouraged and "muling" (carrying of any supplies) and short-roping are outright forbidden. A pacer can help with navigation (no, [insert fatigued runner's name here], that's a yellow ribbon, we go right. Yes, the ribbons were always yellow.) Depending on the runner, a pacer can also play the role of a relentless drill sergeant (What? Your feet hurt? Well you better start crying, because your feet are going to hurt a whole lot more if you don't pick up the pace soon), or soothing caretaker (I promise it's only three more miles to the next aid station. How many to …

The waiting game

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We arrived in San Diego on Friday morning and immediately launched into the pre-race rituals of eating, buying more supplies that are likely unnecessary, eating, fretting, driving around, going to a pre-race meeting, eating, staring blankly out the window, and eating. I'm here with four friends who are actually running the San Diego 100, so despite my crew status, I've been going through the motions as well, including the eating. It's 10 a.m. and I've already had two breakfasts, with a third on a plate just waiting for my stomach to clear a little space. I may or may not end up pacing 50 miles starting this evening. For now, all I can do is wait, and kill a little time. I actually enjoy having mandatory time to kill, allowing for guiltless reading of blogs, napping, reading magazines, and eating ... it may not seem like I have too many responsibilities, but true boredom is not something I indulge in very often.

I grabbed a quick picture of my friends Martina, Steve and …

100-mile stare

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I still vividly remember the first time I interacted with a runner in the midst of a 100-mile trail run. It was July 2007, on a rock-strewn trail just below Resurrection Pass on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. My ex, Geoff, was running the 50-mile version of the Resurrection Pass 100. I borrowed a mountain bike from a friend and planned to shadow Geoff's trail and cheer him on when I passed. Of course, I made the mistake of leaving about a 45 miles after the race started, so of course I never caught up to him (this is before I realized that I on a mountain bike had no chance of moving faster than Geoff Roes on foot, even in a self-supported 50-mile run.) It rained buckets all day long, until the muddy, rocky singletrack wore the borrowed bike's rim brakes to metal and I had to walk most of the descents. I was walking my bike down one of the last steep sections of trail when I passed a woman bathed in chocolate-colored mud and walking with a pronounced limp.

The organizers of the…

Slow and steady

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The day after the Canyon Meadow 50K, Beat and I went out for a long mountain bike ride. I call it long because, to most people, a 26-mile mountain bike ride with 3,300 feet of climbing is on the moderate to long side. When just went out for the fun of it; Beat wanted to ride the Fatback because it's been a while since the Fatback's been out, and also because we expected to run into mud from the weekend's heavy rain.

I was feeling slightly sluggish and had some residual tightness in my hamstrings from the race, but my Garmin stats showed a similar heart rate and speed, proving that, for the most part, a 31-mile run doesn't even force me to skip a beat these days. I like that about my fitness and also my general pacing. A 50K doesn't shut me down because, to put it simply, I don't run fast. Of course, "fast" is all relative, even when I just compare myself against myself. I do run fast compared to what I could do a year ago, but slow compared to what I&#…

Slip, slide, sprint

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The rain was hitting the window so hard that I could hear it over my 5:45 a.m. alarm. I slid out of bed and slumped through that sick feeling I get when I only sleep for four hours and rise before proper sunrise. Only there was no sunrise this morning, at least not in the Bay area. I asked for rain, and I got it. Record rain.

I gathered up my unusual race equipment — unusual for June in Oakland, at least: Soft shell jacket, tights, arm warmers, hat, gloves, and Brooks Cascadia shoes with Drymax socks. I do about 90 percent of my running in Hoka One Ones. But in sticky mud, the Hokas have about as much traction as a pair of skis. And today was going to be a mud day if ever there was a mud day.

We were halfway to Oakland when Beat asked, "Did you remember your poles?" And I realized with a tinge of dread that I had forgotten my hiking poles. The night before the Canyon Meadow 50K, Beat and I discussed the weather forecast and the typical condition of Redwood Regional Park trails…

Chasing the rain

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After three months of living in California, one thing I hadn't yet witnessed was a change in the weather. Oh, most Californians still talk about weather. Their senses are so refined that they can detect the difference between 68 degrees and sunny and 72 degrees and partly cloudy. They tell me this has been, similar to much of western North America, the coldest spring in a long time. There was that one day I rode the Fatback to the top of Black Mountain in a cold, windy downpour (March.) And then, mere days after we flew home from Alaska, the temperature nearly hit 90 degrees (also March.) And then there was that 50-degree evening in late May when I complacently climbed a mountain on my road bike without any warm clothing and suffered the worst chill I've experienced since February in Alaska. But for the most part, I'm almost starting to forget what it's like to be uncomfortable outside.

I admit that sometimes I miss the rain. After four years in Southeast Alaska, my mem…