Showing posts from June, 2013

Authentic experience

I'm working on getting my knee back, and I believe motion is important for this. Swelling went down, but the joint remains partially frozen. Bending hurts. It improves every day, which keeps me optimistic, but progress seems slow for a bashed knee. On Tuesday I successfully coaxed it to spin rotations on Beat's bike trainer, and on Wednesday I went out for a relatively flat road ride. Today I decided to climb a hill — my benchmark, Montebello Road — and I was taken aback by how tough it was. I didn't realize how much I was compensating for my sore left knee by putting all of the power into my right leg. Also, I couldn't stand out of the saddle. Any time I shifted pressure to the left, I got a shot of sharp pain.

So I effectively one-leg climbed in the saddle, and the effect left me feeling like I hadn't ridden a bike up a hill in a year. Like all of my strength had drained away, all of that hard-won fitness smothered by a minor and easily obtained injury.



I avoided my blog for a few days out of embarrassment, or maybe just to avoid starting a post with the phrase, "You know, maybe some of us just weren't born to run." I thought once the pain subsided, I might feel better about my chances at PTL in two months. But no, no ... I still feel like a gimpy little deer who wandered into a tunnel only to see the lights of a fast-approaching freight train.

On Saturday, Beat and I headed out to Santa Cruz for the San Lorenzo River 50K. Beat had been sick all week and nearly stayed home, but I was feeling better than I had in a while. My training runs were going well again after a few weeks of somewhat mystifying respiratory and nausea issues, and I was feeling particularly strong during bike rides. Confidence levels were still low, but I was getting there. At least I felt confident that I had the strength to bust out 31 miles.

But at mile 2.5, I went down. There was a brief distraction from a group of six or seven who were  passing…

Hunting for mojo

Since I came back to California a week and a half ago, I've been on the prowl for my mojo. It's been a stealth hunt, stalking from a distance so as to not terrify the little guy into darting off a cliff. Pennsylvania and the Laurel Highlands left their mark. I found myself becoming terribly winded just walking up the stairs of my apartment building, and difficulty breathing at night led me to wonder if I was figthing a respiratory infection. Needless to say it wasn't a heavy week of training. I backed off considerably. I think I only did two trail runs last week, one four miles and the other nine. (Despite promises to myself to keep track of all of my training ahead of PTL, I temporarily lost my GPS watch in a drop bag that disappeared during the Bryce 100 and I didn't even bother to write anything down, so now I have no idea what my numbers have been for the past four weeks.)

Physically, my running isn't in all that bad of shape right now. On Monday I accidentall…

My dad

My dad took a nasty fall on the Pfeifferhorn a few days ago. Pfeifferhorn is a beautiful triangle-shaped granite peak in the Wasatch Mountains, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps — which is how it got its name. The summit ridge amounts to little more than a pile of boulders loosely stacked to a razor-sharp point, which demands sometimes precarious scrambling with exposure to big drops. A snow cornice still covered the main route, so Dad climbed around on the more rugged side of the knife ridge. At one point he lost his footing and/or hold, and went down onto a lower rock, breaking his trekking pole, exploding his hip-mounted water bottle and smacking both of his forearms. Later that day he described his injury — swelling and rampant bruising — and I couldn't help but think, "sounds like a broken arm." I appealed to my mother to see if Dad might be willing to get it checked out.

"I thought the very same, and will be watching it," she wrote. "Your Dad just rolle…

An education in bad ideas

It wasn't surprising that the Bryce 100 cut me down to jagged pieces. My internal system was a mess. Heart rate was erratic, respiratory system continued cranking out phlegm and withholding oxygen, and my digestive tract would not get back online. It took me an hour to eat a simple Subway sandwich the evening after the race, and although I recovered my appetite for some meals following that, usually I just choked down what I could while feeling nauseated the whole time. I was planning to return to California on Monday, but I couldn't face the 12-hour drive. I could barely get out of bed. Things were bad.

On Tuesday, I needed to work on deadline for the Alaska newspaper company I contract for, so I knew I'd need to remain in Utah one more day. Despite only achieving sleep in fitful bursts, I'd had enough naps on Monday to feel somewhat rested, and awoke with renewed optimism. At this point, I'd convinced myself that some of my struggles in Bryce and the aftermath w…

Let me learn from where I have been

Wind ripped over the ridge, blasting us in the face with coarse particles of sand. It was pitch dark; no comforting glow of light pollution could be found, and the stars were obscured by the dust cloud swirling through the air. True to the desert, the night became quickly cold, and we made it to the upper reaches of the Pink Cliffs just in time to pull on long-sleeve shirts, puffy coats, and beanies. I insisted on changing my socks again and Beat used the time to scour the aid station for something warm to eat. The table was covered in red dirt but otherwise blown clean — there were a few petrified peanut butter sandwiches, and some gritty potatoes. The wind was blowing gale force and the chill while sitting still felt Alaska-like — except for instead of snow, the blizzard was made of sand. Three exhausted-looking teenagers huddled beside a flapping tarp, looking slightly shell-shocked. "They're probably very nice Mormon boys and this is a service project they got roped into…

For all my sweat, my blood runs weak

May 31 was Beat's 44th birthday, and true to form, he went looking for a hundred-mile race he could run to celebrate. He found the Bryce 100, a new event covering a hundred miles of trail on the Paunsaugunt Plateau, along the rim above Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah. Admittedly, I can be a hard sell on hundred-mile foot races (my requirements: They should feel like they're going somewhere, like a journey. They must be rugged, climby, or have otherwise difficult terrain. In other words, not too runnable — I fear the prospect of actually *running* a hundred miles. Little to no pavement. Also, must offer dynamic scenery.) So I was excited about the prospect of the Bryce 100, which offered all of that in my childhood backyard. I spent most weekends in my early 20s backpacking and hiking the canyons of Southern Utah, but for whatever reason I hadn't visited the Paunsaugunt since I was a teenager. In my memory, the place was like a ride at Disneyland, with rock…

Keep the earth below my feet

Bryce 100 — it was tough. There were a lot of moments to love in my 34-some hours out there, but perhaps my favorite came just minutes after I mumbled, out loud, to myself, "this is the most horrible slog, ever." It was mile 98 or so (out of 103.) A dirt road sliced through an open meadow of pale green grass, with only small hills and stands of thirsty ponderosa pines to interrupt the otherwise unbroken horizon. Somewhere beyond our sightline were the rippling orange hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, but we hadn't seen anything like that for miles. Just the interminable dirt road, and the dusty blue sky, and colors washed out by the fierce light of the afternoon sun.

I was walking with Beat and two of our friends, Steve and Harry, although at the time we were strung out along the baked dirt. Everyone was experiencing an advanced degree of discomfort, mainly spurred by altitude and heat, but I was the only one who was almost completely incapable of running. This dirt road was end…