Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Flavian Amphitheatre or Amphitheatrum Lazaruium

     In the modern era, none of us are competing in the arena before an emperor or throngs of cheering Romans.  Although it's very clear that Big's Backyard is not "The Coliseum", it is "a coliseum."  Laz is no Titus, however one could imagine him to be an emperor of sorts as well.  What's ironic is someone using a nom de guerre of Hebrew origin, celebrating a race cast in the historical context of a "gladiatorial fight to the death", when it was the imperial Roman Flavian dynasty who not only built "The Coliseum" but also destroyed the Jewish Second Temple.  Laz has put together a simple concept in a race, with no gimmicks.  For anyone who's ever said they will never quit, please come to this event.  This is no obstacle course race with faux challenges.  This race is the most authentic spectacle imagined in regards to one's will to continue.
     The concept is very simple.  At the start of the hour all the runners start running a 4.166 mile loop, and must complete that loop every hour. At the start of the second hour, this process is repeated again, and again.  You must answer the bell each time, at the start time, or you are out.  Every one is in first place at the start of each hour.  This process continues until every one quits, except the last man (or woman).  It's only 4 miles per hour.  A 15 minute pace.  Anyone in decent shape can run a 15 min pace right?  If you've ever read Stephen King's "The Long Walk" then this idea is even more intriguing. 
     We started with 46 souls who, with steely determination, vowed to be the last man or woman standing.  I mean, with the inspirational shirt we were given, how could we not be inspired?  This is a re-print of the painting by Jean-Leon Gerome called Thumbs Down, or Pollice Verso.

     This event was scheduled to start at 0700, but Laz and crew decided to start it at 0645 to give the last daytime loop the max amount of light.   Materially it does not matter when it starts, you have 60 minutes to complete each loop.  At 0645 Laz rang the bell.  We sauntered off in the typical ultra-marathon way.  Which basically means there were a few claps and half the field began walking.
     To the Mike's great entertainment along with Laz and Bill, the race had begun.  I venture to guess that there were many side bets made throughout the day.  Who would be first out, who would be out on loop 4, etc...  I could only run.  I ran with a Garmin for the first few loops to make I knew where the mile splits were and the time that I should be at them.
     The Start of the trail loop had a short out n back on the road, which would take me about 5min.  Mile 1 was just past the log that you had jump over once you ran down hill from the Big house and turned hard left. About even with a big, round hay bale on your right, close to the fence.  You needed to be at the Big house at 55min after the hour and at 57 min after, the hay bale.  Mile 1.  Mile 2 was where a big rock was in the middle of the trail, after you passed the cave and crossed a dry creek.  That needed to be 11 min after the hour.  Mile 3 was where the lolly pop completes the circle and you run the handle back to the Big house, to the start.  You needed to be there at 24 min after the hour. Back to the Big house at 35 min after the hour.  If you did this, you could have 4 to 5 min to spare between loops.  As you can see from my splits here.  I was running about a 13:15 mile pace.   Not too fast, but not too slow.  Here is what the loop looked like. Based on my level of training since the end of June, that's the best I could do.  And really, why do you need 10 min to stand around every hour?
     As Loop 1 progressed into Loop 2 and so on, one by one, and slowly our motley crew began to dwindle.  Some of the runners, it was very evident that they would not last long.  Whereas others, when they were no longer running, you felt a bit bad for them.  Around loop 6 or 7 I tried to lure some folks into a mental trap.  On the out n back, I said loudly, to no one in particular, but hoping anyone would take the bait, "Man it sure is hot, I bet one of you just want to quit.  Prob just tired, huh?"  No one really took the bait on my trolling, but one guy mentioned he agreed about the heat.  I made a joke about why the devil don't live in Texas.  He don't live there because once he came to visit and was upset about the heat and went on back home.  Many woes befell each person.  Some may have had to poop, some may not have been able to keep the pace, some were laid to waste due to hydration or electrolyte issues. Some lesser men, stubbed their toe. :)  By the end of Loop 12, there were only 18 runners remaining of the original 46.  39% of the runners remained after only a measly 50 very slow miles. 
     We started Loop 13, with 18 jovial souls who may have been confident that they would, in fact, be around when the sun came up.  Still standing.  However, this fate was not to be.  I watched loop 13 and 14 pass, sizing up the remaining runners.  This road loop, was an out n back style, so you could see every runner.  It was dark and almost no one wore a headlamp. Until the moon actually rose, it was hard to make everyone out, exactly.  I noticed two runners, one male and the other female, running fast, way out front.  It just didn't make sense to me.  Why would the run so fast when they didn't have to?  I mentioned this to one of my compadres, and noted with glee, "By loop 22, the 10th road loop, the lady runner would be out."  I had numerous friends that were out there.  In the dark, shuffling, running.  I did not feel bad, except for my left Achilles tendon, and a blister on my right foot that developed on about loop 9 or so. 
     Gina crewed me all day, and had done so in 2014, the first time I tried this event.  She's basically a champ.  Every loop, every time, she had what I needed.  Mashed potatoes. Nobody can mash instant potatoes like my woman.  And she had 1.5 scoops of Carbo Pro, .5 scoops of Vitargo in a 20oz bottle.  I used the Clutch and the Amp soft bottle handhelds from UD.  The Amp sucks, the Clutch is good. Every loop, I'd be like, "Did you salt these potatoes?"  She'd be like, "Yea, I put a bunch."  No matter what she said, I said, "Gimme that salt shaker." Then I'd put salt on those potatoes until they glistened in the sunlight.  We bought Velveta cheese to put in the potatoes, but it made me puke so, no more queso.  I was fortunate that the Mike's kept her entertained between loops and her preparing for the next loop, or it would be tough to get her to help me, other than the fact that she loves me and that feeling is mutual.  Basically, crewing for this event is bullshit.  I'd never do that. I hate crewing.  I'm a selfish basterd.  
     I'd been dealing with plantar issues on my right foot  IT band issues on my left knee since late June.  So the night before the race I did a crap ton of myofasical release work.  During the inter-loopal period, I'd try to release my psoas, my glute med, and piriformis with a foam roller and other devices.  Also, I had Gina push my ankles to my ears while lying on my back.  Of course the Mike's got some nice laughs out of this move.  All of these techniques kept me going, so I'm not going to complain. 
     Out on the road we pined for the Sun.  May the God Apollo, lay his rays up us so that we awake from this nightmarish dream. This dream of never ending out n backs.  We lost many friends in the night.  The fast lady runner on loop 22, her beau on loop 20. Among others.  But not until the middle of the 24th loop did Apollo's chariot begin to make it's way across the sky.  At this time and since the end of loop 22, there had only been 4 weary travelers on the road.  In reality there were 4 travelers, two weary and two ripe as spring chickens.  Myself, I was a weary traveler. 
     Starting loop 25 us weary few, "band of brothers" answered the bell.  As John Donne graciously reminds us, "We asked not for whom the bell tolls, it tolled for thee."   I almost did not complete this loop. I knew I was done for.  But, a remaining spark, a faint spark, grew into a conflagration inside of me and I thought to myself, "I'm not going to time out on this lap."  With 17 min and a mile to go, I ran and did not stop until I reached the timing mat with 2.5 min to spare.  As heroic as I felt, within the next 25 min all was changed.  Loop 26 at about 2 miles in, I sat on a rock. I fell asleep briefly.  I woke up the instant that I fell asleep, walked to the next rock.  Just past the cave.  I sat on that rock and immediately fell asleep again.  I reversed the course, took off my bib, and walked in.  I ended up with 4th place and 25 loops.  In 2014, I ran 29 loops.  However, I was not disappointed.  This year, the race ended on loop 29.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What is Ultrarunning to You?

     This post is really a "call for comments" and maybe a bit more.  Some of us have been running/ultrarunning for 10 years, some for 5 and some for 20 or more.  What is enough?  Is 5K enough?  If you've run 100 miles numerous times, is that enough?  What is the next thing?  After 7 or 8 years do you, or have you thought, "Man WTF am I doing? Why am I still doing this?" 
     You got some runners that 5k is enough and they do them for 20 years, and thats just fine. Maybe they jump into a marathon or half from time to time.  Then you got some folks who run around for 6 days or 200 miles or walking for 100K etc...  It seems that there is no satiation to their quest of achievements.  Some folks take up the "next challenge" because it it truly challenging, and sometimes it's because everyone else has done it, so I want this on my bucket list. 
     Then there are folks who try to court sponsorship claiming that because of X,Y,Z factors, they are the most awesome and they have this story.  Whether it's contrived or not, I will leave it up to the reader to interpret.  Still others just go about their bad ass achievements and they aren't seeking any limelight.  They just deliver, and everyone else can stand there, agape.
     Where do you want your running to take you? To what end and for what purpose?  Is running the end you seek, or some other end?  Can you achieve them with out the fan fare and hoopla?  Does anyone even give two shits? 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Squashed Plans

     The last time I wrote in this blog I told about how I planned to do a canoe race and to ride my bicycle across Texas.  Well, both plans are squashed. I figured out by the end of Feb that the canoe race was not going to fit into my schedule.  I wanted it, too.  For some reason my pickup truck quit running, so I worked on it a bit and couldn't get it figured out. With the truck not running, it's pretty hard to haul a dammed canoe around in my G37. 
      The canoe race was not a big loss.  If I wanted to spend the money, I could have got the truck going but decided that I would table the boat race idea. I had slowly started dumping money into the bike anyway and didn't want to be carrying around a ton of debt.  One of my side goals is to be completely out of debt by 41 including the house.  So, no big deal. 
      The bike ride training was going good all the month of February and things seemed to be on track.  I even rode 150 miles down to almost Port Aransas.  I needed to get new shoes because the shoes I had were too narrow and were making my feet go numb if I rode for more than a few hours. 
       After the new shoes and cleats came in, I figured I should go and get fitted, since I don't know shit about cycling shoes and cleats.  I did that, and right away in early March I developed an IT band issue in my left knee.  After about 200 miles, I went to a different place which does fittings on a computer with some software.  I feel better, but the IT band is still nagging me.
      Reluctantly, I've decided to reschedule my bike ride across Texas until late October or early November this year.  Luckily I was able to change my plane tickets and not take a hit on those.  My most import goal of the year is another attempt at Nolan's 14, so I will be focusing on hiking and running from now on out. 
      After about 30 days, I'm hoping that I can get back on the bike with no knee pain and can work that cross-training into my schedule.  Ultra-marathons and mountains are what I like the most, so I'm eager to get started on my incline treadmill hiking.  I even broke out the hypoxico machine and did 30 minutes on it today as well. My diet is slowly taking shape; I'm hoping to finally get down to a weight which is conducive to hiking up 14'ers. 
      It is not always the case that one lays out plans and those plans come together.  I thinks it's all for the best.  I hate cycling anyway.  If you think walking for 24 hours is boring, try riding in a canoe for 24 hour or more. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Two Goals Till June

     I figured since I don't know much about cycling and even less about canoeing, why not try some epic adventures regarding these activities.  Two goals I have this year are to ride my bicycle across Texas and complete the Texas Water Safari
     For the cycling, I spoke with the owner of Action Bikes here in town. I'm sure he thinks I'm crazy, but I've dropped my bike off at his shop to get it fixed up with the things I need.  Such items as, lights, hand pump, good tires, and a rack of some sort.  Who knows what else.  I mentioned this idea to some friends who told me about two separate cycling groups, the Hill Country Randonneurs and the San Antonio Wheelmen. These groups have rides of various distances, so I guess I will link up with them.  I picked up a bike trainer off Amazon so I'll do some riding each day during the week as well.
     I'm not sure how long it will take to ride across Texas, but the distance from New Mexico to Louisiana, is about 860 miles. I plan on starting at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino and ending after I cross the state line at Orange, TX. After a some training I think I should be able to ride about 200 miles a day.  We'll see.  So about 5 days.  I plan on going Vol State style with little sleeping, etc...  Riding across the state just sounds like a cool adventure, so I'm in.
     The canoeing is another animal all together.  I don't know shit about canoeing.  I do know one of the guys here around town that has done the race 5 or 6 times and I was able to link up with him this weekend.  He was a wealth of information.  I'll be trying to link up with him as the year progresses and do some training runs.  In the immediate future, I'll be taking a canoe out on Town Lake.  I'm a member of the Texas Rowing Center and they have canoes to rent.

:::::::--------  Update, I started this blog a few weeks back. So as way leads on to way, already there have been changes.

Cycling - I got the bike back from the shop.  Rode pretty good over the last two weekends with a big weekend planned this weekend as well. 
Canoeing - I have a "learn to paddle" class scheduled for Saturday in San Marcos, TX which I'll ride my bike to and from.  About 70 miles.  I linked up with a dude who rents canoes, and has finished the race like 35 times.  After the paddling lesson, I'll go check out what he has for rent. 

Training -  What I'm doing?  Quite a bit actually.  I'm not at 100% of my target goals, but here is what I'm striving for.

0400 - Wake up, foam roll light stretch. Breathing exercise with Expand-A-Lung.
0430 to 0730 - 1.5 hrs on TM walking at incline.  3K row, 3K ski erg, 3k ft Versa Climber. Easy 3 miles with my dog to get her in shape for the summer. (or 1 hr bike) Various core exercies.
1130 to 1230 - Lunch - some rowing, ski erg VC, with heavy DL, GHD exercises and Heavy KB swings.
1700-2030 - Run. Spend some time at 90% max HR or above. Intervals, tempo, etc... Then 1 hour bike.  

Weekends until April will revolve around lots of cycling.   Up to 10 hrs in one day.  Some paddling, and vert training after April 

That's where I'm taking my training for now.   Doing a lot of twisting core work and Indian clubs for the shoulders.  Need to get in some push ups. 

These goals are totally out of my wheelhouse, but I like to do stuff that is challenging. I still have Nolan's 14 this year.  Three big goals for the year.  And if the cards play just right, a Hardrock to complete.  I'm a bit apprehensive, but that helps to sharpen my focus. 


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Snowdrop 55 Hr: Loopity Loop Loop

     Over the holidays I was fortunate enough to run the Snowdrop 55Hr Solo event in Sugarland, TX.   The race started on Dec 30th and ran through Jan 1st.  I ended up with 100 miles and a sweet buckle in about 35 hours. At .74 miles per loop, it took 134 loops to make 100 miles.

     The buckle is pretty sweet.  I'd been saying for at least 3 weeks I didn't really want to run the event.  My training had been slipping since early November, so I was feeling fat and out of shape.  I felt good skinning up the mountain up in Steamboat over Christmas, but I wasn't feeling running around in circles for two and a half days.
     Originally, when I signed up, I thought I could run 200 miles. That was back in August or September.  Little did I know I'd be faced with some work issues.  In early November my employer laid off a number of folks.  Two from my team.  Some guys I'd known my whole career.  One was my old boss who I'd worked for directly for eight years.  I guess I took it a bit hard.
     My flight back from Colorado was cancelled early Monday the 28th of December after being delayed for about 8 hours.  I wasn't able to leave CO until Tuesday afternoon the 29th.  Once I arrived in San Antonio I had to pack, load up the dogs and drive to Houston Hobby Airport and pick up Gina which happened to be about 1AM the 30th of December.  About 6 hours before the race started.
     We arrived at the race venue about 0330.  Thankfully Vincent from Trail Toes had already set up the tent for us.  We knocked off a few hours and woke up to start the race with everyone at 0700.  After about 2 hours, I stopped to send a few work emails and take a nap.  Around 1130 I got back out on the course.
     Being totally tired did not help my disposition.  In the afternoon, I thought that since I had plenty of time I should go ahead and finish the book I was reading on my Kindle. I was reading The Revenant.  The movie comes out tomorrow night! I've already bought my ticket.  By dark I wasn't quite done with the book.  I'd gotten over the fact that I didn't want to be at the race, and decided I should run a bit.
     Through the night I slept two different times for about 4 hours total. I spent time running with Vincent, Dimitry, Kelley, and Will.  I spoke to Matt a bit about his upcoming attempt on the TIR 200 solo.  Also, Gina ran/walked a few laps.  The night drug on and on.  But finally the night yielded to the day.  I pulled the Kindle back out and finished my book.  Once it was done, I picked back up with Catch-22 but didn't finish reading that book.  Pretty hilarious book about military life.
     I had another book on my Kindle called "How to Run Faster with Less Effort" .  I joked with some folks, saying I'm reading this book so that I can learn some stuff. :)  I wasn't really reading it though.  I got a few laughs from folks with that joke.
     Finally the total number of loops reached 110, so only 24 more to go.  I ran a few fast ones with Joe Fejes, who set a 48 hr age group record and reached  250 total miles in 55 hours.  He's the real deal. The RD Kevin Kline is a great guy and made a big spectacle for everyone who reached 100 miles.  He spared no expense whooping everyone up when I finished my 100 miles.  Here is a pic of us with the buckle.
     All in all, Kevin puts on a world class event.  I had a great time.  The food was delicious, hot chow, and ultra food.  A nice warming tent with TV's playing football games.  I think that I will be back next year.  Nice place to chill and celebrate the running lifestyle I guess I've been living for some years now. Life could be worse. :)  I feel like I crossed another mental hurdle with this event.  One of just accepting and getting shit done.  Whether it be on a boring .74 mile loop or not.  Thankfully I had Gina to make sammiches and I didn't have any blisters or ball chaffing.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Dear Brother: The Johnny Walker Commercial

     With one view, and the hundred or so that have transpired since I'm not so sure whether it's the video or the poem that strikes me the most.  I had two step brothers growing up, one I knew better than the other.  But, neither well.  I substituted good friends in a brothers place over the years, and my commitment to them has never wavered, however that commitment may not always be prominent.  I'll let you flesh out your opinions:

Walking the roads of our youth,
Through the land of our childhood, our home, and our truth,
Be near me, guide me, always stay beside me so I can be free.
Let’s roam this place, familiar and vast,
Our playground of green frames, our past,
We were wanderers. Never lost, always home,
And every place was fenceless and time was endless.
Our ways were always the same.
Calm my demons and walk with me brother,
Until our roads lead us away from each other.
And if your heart’s full of sorrow, keep walking. Don’t rest.
And promise me from heart to chest to never let your memories,
Die. Never.
I will always be alive and by your side. In your mind,
I am free.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Grand Canyon 2015

     Have you ever been to the big ditch?  If not, you should go.  This was my 3rd trip. Once in 2011, 2014, and now 2015.  After 2011 I fell in love with this blonde beauty, who didn't return my affections.  However the last two times I went because of my step brother Jason.  But since we're not really step-brothers anymore, I'll just call him my brother.  Last year, he completed a Rim 2 Rim and took the shuttle back.  This year he went down South Kaibab to Cottonwood, Ribbon Falls, and back up the Bright Angel trail. 
     The "funny" thing about the Grand Canyon is that once you drop off the rim, you're fucked. Mostly because you gotta get back out, on your own.  And brother, it's killer.  This year was also special because my friend and confidant, Gina made the Rim2Rim2Rim trip with me.  After last year Jason wanted to go back and complete the whole enchilada.  However, due to work and kid obligations, he was not exactly ready for an out n back. Kinda like all of us who've aspired to run big. And do big stuff under the power of our own locomotion. 
     When we were kids we'd watch wrestling and then go out in the yard and wrestle for hours, to see who was a tuff mutha phuka.  Hacksaw Jim Dugan and Ric Flair, you know.  4 thousand horseman. hahah.  Can you say choke hold? 
     We parted ways at Cottonwood.  Gina and I up to the North Rim and Jason to Ribbon Falls and back out.  Gina and I ran like hell to make it to Phantom Ranch before last call which is at 1530, and we made it with 3 minutes to spare. We met up with a buddy named Jay who also ran with us at Vol State. Us three ran together from Supai Tunnel up to North Rim and back to South Rim via Bright Angel Trail.
     When the cashier at Phantom Ranch Canteen said, "You can't take those with you." After I ordered five Budweiser thirty minutes before close, I replied, "Yea bruh, I got this."  We also bought Gina a headlight since she forgot hers, again. 
     We reached the 3 mile water stop as I was singing George Strait and quoting lines from Cool Hand Luke.  We heard a faint voice, "Hey John, is that you?"  I replied, "Well yea bro. Who else would it be. You alright?"  Jason said, "Yea man, I'm good, just tired."  I sent Gina and Jay along and hung with Jason for a bit, checking on his status.  All was well. 
     The crux and crucible of the Grand Canyon was apparent.  We chatted and he said he was okay, so I went ahead.  Was he in a bind?  Gott dammed right he was.  But, it was his time.  He suffered with the best of anyone who's ever suffered doing big stuff. 
     About an hour after we topped out, here came Jason.  In my view, he got more out of the trip than we did.  He got to stare into the abyss, and come out the other side with a new found confidence in how much suffering he really can endure. 
     We hit the pizza place for shitty pizza and shittier service, and then made our way back to the room to finish off the Fireball and fall asleep.  The trip was awesome,  I mean, if you can excuse the shitty "Mexican" food we tried all over the state.  Hey Arizona, if you wanta learn how to cook, come to San Antonio.