Showing posts from July, 2013

Dot on the map

Between his family reunion and our trip to Iceland, Beat needed to put in a heavy week of work at the Google office in Zurich. I had a few deadlines to keep myself, but beyond that I had some free time to spend exploring. On Monday it rained heavily for most of the day. I had to complete a few chores such as taking the rental car back to the airport, buying a phone card, and figuring out the train network — somewhat time-consuming tasks in a foreign city. I've never been great with public transportation; I prefer to be independently mobile, even if it means walking for an hour or riding a bike dozens of miles. But Switzerland has an extensive train network, and it seemed worth utilizing while I'm here.

Still, any trip that looked to be less than three kilometers merited walking. I got myself hopelessly lost several times, wandering around wet streets with an orange umbrella pressed against my chin and clutching a waterlogged map in both hands. I went to a museum that was clos…


Beat and I flew to Zurich on Friday to attend a large family gathering for his brother's and sister-in-law's 25th wedding anniversary. The past 36 hours have been fun but exhausting, a whirlwind combination of jet lag, meeting uncles and cousins and Beat's father for the first time, excessive heat that we could not escape, and language barriers. People asked me how my German was and I'd reply, in English, "I can count." I can also sing a few songs and recite a personal introduction that I learned in eighth grade. Beat's sister-in-law actually held me to counting and we made it to funf (5) together before she accidentally skipped over to sieben (7), which is just as well, because I can never remember the German word for 11.

The heat here has extended beyond family meetings and being on the hot seat for my sad lack of language diversity. When we arrived in Zurich on Friday afternoon the temperature was 38 C — 100 degrees, with much higher humidity than I&#…


Beat and I spent several hours on Sunday finally putting all of our Iceland stuff together: Locating our flag-adorned T-shirts, rain gear and five *required* pairs of socks; compiling med kits and a surprising abundance of required odds and ends (including but not limited to an emergency bivy, two Ace bandages and a mirror);  and packaging little daily "lunch" baggies to discourage overeating of supplies in the early stages of RTP Iceland. The final verdict for my pack with all gear, seven days worth of food, and 1.5 liters of water: 27.3 pounds. Beat's pack was similar in weight. We'll probably have two of the largest packs out there, but I bet most of the participants — save for the most competitive runners —will have starting weights ranging from 23-30 pounds. Given we packed similar stuff for every day, I can already envision what each day will be like:

Sunrise: Wake up. Spend ten minutes mulling how I can avoid climbing out of my toasty sleeping bag. Inch my wa…


The knee issue was puzzling. When it comes to injury therapy, I can be skeptic. I don't believe in miracle cures. But there was no denying that I'd been struggling with limited mobility for three weeks; then I took an accidental and painful fall, and suddenly everything felt a whole lot better. I wasn't sure what to think; I called my doctor to possibly schedule an appointment, but he is out of the office until July 20. Because of lingering concern about stability, I went for a run on Monday to test things out. The joint felt markedly more stable than pervious weeks. There was no pain when I tried the higher kicks that are typical of a full run (rather than the ultra shuffle that I admittedly prefer.) With this new boost of confidence, I even increased my pace on the descent. Nothing. No pain, no wobbliness.

Today I went to see a massage therapist in Los Altos that Beat and I really like, Angelo, who works with a system of orthopedic therapy called the Hendrickson method.…

Ventana Wilderness: Cures for what ails you

I've had a "mid-July backpacking trip" on my mental calendar for months. I believed the timing would be good for a necessary shakedown for my big trips in August, for gear testing and to see where my conditioning stood. Since I hurt my knee, the scratch marks over these plans grew thicker with each passing week. Recovery just wasn't happened at the rate I thought it should. There were two main problems — range of motion, and stability. I couldn't bend my knee to a 90-degree angle or higher without pain, and I couldn't put much weight or force on the joint without feeling wobbly. These two problems aren't great for anything, but they're workable. After three weeks of no activity to low-impact activity, I began to wonder if the fix might require some long-term downtime. Maybe to get through the summer, I was just going to have to learn how to work with it — or at least, learn whether I could work with it. Perhaps a shakedown trip was needed to figure o…

Moving through the world

Sometimes Beat complains when I go too many days without updating my blog. I tell him I just want to avoid writing anything that sounds too defeatist or whiny. It's just been one of those weeks. Or months, I guess. Even at age 33 I find myself thinking things like, "I don't like July 2013. How many days until July is over?" As though the simple flip of a calendar page can turn everything around.

Not that I should complain. Work is going well — both Alaska newspapers and collaborative book projects (my own projects, sigh ... they need a boost. But it's hard to motivate toward creative projects when I'm feeling blue.) Beat is on fire at his job, and he's pumped about that. We have great adventures planned ... all the more reasons to count down the days in July. But I've been feeling frustrated about my physical state. My left knee continues to improve daily on an incremental basis, but the fact that it isn't 100 percent yet seems worrisome. I wonde…

Summertime blues

I have a mild case of summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, more commonly referred to as the "summertime blues." I've always been susceptible to this — overly sensitive to sun, allergic to lots of green things and bugs, find heat oppressive and too easily lapse into lethargy. "Most people are summer people but some of us genuinely are winter people," I try to explain, but am more often then not met with confused stares, especially now that I live in the Golden State. "Who doesn't like summer?"

I don't not like summer. I just struggle when it's 90 or 100 degrees and my favorite activity, going outside, becomes a chore. Outside isn't as much of a sanctuary for me in the depth of summer; it burns my skin, blisters my lips, dries out my throat, wears me down. I slow down and feel unreasonably stale. I spend days working indoors with beads of sweat clinging to my arms and legs, looking grimly out the open patio door at the white-washed…

From the sidelines of Western States

One question I am occasionally asked when I tell people I like this distance-running thing is whether or not I've seen the movie "Unbreakable." The answer is no, I haven't — and while one of the reasons for this is probably obvious to some, another reason was that I never mustered much enthusiasm for the mythology surrounding the Western States 100. Yes, I do understand why it's become its own legend — after all, it's the first. Back in 1974, Tevas Cup competitor Gordy Ainsleigh decided to try his own chances against the horses on foot. He finished the course in just under 24 hours and effectively invented the 100-mile ultramarathon. The Western States Endurance Run became official in 1977 and has since grown into most prestigious 100-miler in North America, attracting a deep field of ultrarunning talent and a lottery that brings in thousands of entries for less than 300 free spots. But — and I only admit this in the interest of honesty — I couldn't get …