Showing posts from November, 2012

Have swimsuit, will run

This week has been an enjoyable one for running — empty trails, slopping through peanut butter mud, splashing into shin-deep puddles, skidding across wet wooden bridges, and feeling the cool caress of misty rain on a warm November afternoon.

This week has been a wet one in the Bay area. I'm not far enough displaced from my life in Juneau to be all that impressed by coastal California weather quite yet (60 degrees and steady misting rain for days? Southeast Alaskans call that "July.") But this particular weather system is the largest winter storm I've seen since I moved here 21 months ago, and may be the largest one here in many years. Scientists are calling this an "atmospheric river" — a conveyer belt of torrential downpours that threaten to soak regional hills and mountains with double-digit inches of rain and send flooding into the valleys. Scientific American ran an interesting article about "Megastorms" and the extent of damage such storms a…

I've missed these mountain benders

Even after I nearly crumpled while inching out of bed on Sunday morning, it was difficult to accept how wrecked I felt. Despite appearances otherwise, it's actually rare that I so completely thrash my body. As an athlete, I'm conservative to a fault. I'm always holding back on the throttle for fear I'll burn out my engine, saving gas for the next mile while never quite knowing how hard I can go. That's one of the things I love about a mountain bender, when the sheer difficulty of the terrain forces me to engage those uncomfortable high gears. Timpanogos ran my quads through a cheese grater, tenderized my calves and crushed my glutes between a vice. The result was that oh-so-sore, oh-so-smug satisfaction that I gave that mountain my best effort. 
My dad, with the exception of his minor knee injury, seemed to be in a lot better shape than me on Sunday. He read my last blog post and mentioned something about "whining" so I wanted to add a postscript in case…

Humbling mountain

Above 9,000 feet the powder became bottomless, a kind of fluffed sugar that scattered under our feet. I might as well have been driving a ruler into a bin of plastic balls for all the good my ax was doing, and every step only deepened the waist-deep trench that Beat and my dad had already cut. We were moving forward at a rate of about four feet per minute, which, to put into perspective, is a 22-hour mile. And still, the upward lunging and swimming was as anaerobic as I ever go, where every minute of gasping motion required another thirty seconds of rest. Beat and Dad had already expressed their skepticism about this exercise in futility, but I persisted, pointing up to the crest of the small ridge we were climbing and saying, "But we're almost there, and then we can at least see what's up there!"

We thought Mount Timpanogos would be an ideal place to stage a longer day hike on Saturday. About three weeks ago, a huge storm hit the Wasatch Front, and nothing has happ…

White Friday

Beat and I flew to Salt Lake City to spend Thanksgiving with a large portion of my very large extended family. Between aunts, uncles, first cousins, and their children, I think there were at least forty people crammed in my uncle's rec room. This was Beat's first big Mormon family Thanksgiving. We made jokes about eating green jello mixed with carrots and overcooked turkey, but the food was actually quite good and my family members kept the uncomfortable questions to a minimum. The funniest statement came from my 82-year-old grandmother, who, upon first meeting Beat, exclaimed, "Wow, you're much cuter than I thought you'd be!"

Before the pie was even fully distributed, my sister and some cousins and aunts started gearing up for their Black Friday shopping assault. Apparently this revered holiday tradition has now trickled into Thursday, and they were all planning to hit the stores in a few hours. In my opinion, Thanksgiving is the best holiday to spend with …

Pain in the neck

Something about the Mount Tam 50K sparked a "must run" stoke that has yet to dissipate. When I get up in the morning, I feel excited about running. I want to hit familiar trails and try to run faster; I want to seek out new routes and run longer. It's hard to say why my run stoke is so high right now, but it may have something to do with the fact that every time I've ridden a bike in recent weeks, I felt like the reduced-power slug that I probably actually am. And yet, somehow, whenever I set out on foot, I feel comparatively strong, light, and free. So I go for a run, feel great, and then the hidden knot in my neck tightens again. After every run, without fail, I've grappled with a stiff neck for a day or two. It's baffling, and annoying, because since when did a sore neck become a running injury?

This started at the Horseshoe Lake 50K, which was a little more than a month ago. I woke up the next morning with a sharp pain down the center of my neck, and ass…

City living

"I guess that's what happens when you give adrenaline athletes a bunch of jalopy go-carts and an incentive to go hard."

"People really rolled them ... in the middle of Market Street?"

"Some more than once. The streets were soaked so the tires were slipping out, and the wheels would get caught in trolley tracks and spin the cars all the way around. People were drag racing at stop lights, and ramming into each other like bumper cars. We stalled out on steep hills and had to push those things up the road."

"Wasn't there a bunch of damage?"

"Oh yeah. Some were totalled. Helmets came back cracked in half. Someone hit a bus. People were all bruised up and covered in blood, looking pretty forlorn. Everyone was wet. It was carnage, total carnage. But funny."

We turned into a dark alley splattered in street art, and I smiled at the mental image of a few dozen semi-pro and pro athletes set loose on the streets of San Francisco with thre…

Surprise PR

Some days, I'm not really sure what to think. One day, I was so stiff that I was barely able to walk after stepping off my mountain bike at the top of Black Mountain. And the next, I was sprinting down Wildcat Canyon effortlessly, like my feet had wings. One day I was half-convinced I might actually need to take a couple of weeks off, or else simply learn to enjoy myself inside my fitness hole. And the next, without setting out to do so, I carved four minutes off my best time on a routine but tough trail loop that I've run dozens of times in better shape.

The bike ride was Beat's idea. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon, there was a storm in the weekend's forecast, and he and Liehann decided to carve a few hours out of their work day to ride up Black Mountain. Recovery was slow after my hard effort at the Mount Tam 50K, and Beat was even more sore than I was. We were still walking like zombies when we geared up for the ride. The 2,700-foot climb was hard, harder than …

Crazy endurance eyes

There's something inherently primal about the Steep Ravine Trail after four hours of running. Really, most everything feels primal after four hours of running — the murmur of an overtaxed heart, the taste of salt on moist lips, the angry throbbing of a bruised knee, the gritty film of sweat and dirt on skin. But when I take all of that to the Steep Ravine Trail — located in a small canyon of a popular recreation area and a stone's throw from one of the most populated urban regions in the United States — I'm always transported back to a primordial jungle, vaguely tropical, shrouded in mist and a cloak of creepy silence.

There's a gurgling brook, thick-leaf ferns, and ancient redwood trees blotting out the sunlight. I listen for animal sounds — in this fantasy, it's not mountain lions or coyotes, but monkeys and mastodons — as I pick my way up a staircase of slimy rocks. Another human with hunched shoulders appears in my sightline, and I strain to match his steps an…

Autumn comes to California

I drove home from Utah on Tuesday, which allowed for twelve hours of guilt-free election monitoring courtesy of NPR. Although I despise campaign season as much as everyone else, I love election day. It's like watching an elaborate game unfold with all the emotions and surprises that go along with it. It also reminds me of the good old days in the newsroom, where election day was often the hardest, most stressful, and yet most fun day of the year. Election Day is the endurance race of community journalism. And even though I was behind the wheel of a Subaru shuttling a bunch of dirty bicycles home from the desert, NPR provided a welcome escape into the frantic numbers crunching and anticipation of the outside world.

Fatigue set in again after the drive. Or, really, not so much set in as settled back in. I'll be honest — it's become an interesting personal experiment for me. Where is my edge, and does it, in fact, exist?   Or is equilibrium possible? What I learn could prov…

Hollowed out

I cling to the perception that I'm a hopeless endurance junkie, but it's revealing that I spent my favorite hour of the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow unconscious. It was the darkest, coldest hour of them all, the one right before dawn. I'd managed to keep my internal diesel engine humming through the night, but as I climbed up Gooseberry Base for the twelfth time, even that began to sputter. Lactic acid flooded into my legs, and then the dizzy spells returned. By the time I hit the slabs, my body felt as spent as it did way back during lap two, and my sense of coordination was even worse, if that's possible. The bike lurched over ledges and I slammed my front wheel into boulder after boulder, utterly lacking the power to lift up my handlebars. Even when I relented to the push, I stumbled and hit my shins on my pedals. I hated the slabs, hated them with the piercing chill of a thousand desert winters. This icy hate is what now filled my heart at the end of every Frog Hollow …