Saturday, December 23, 2023

A Reflection on Four Years of Sobriety

And when you get to the point that you cry out for the Holy Mother and the Holy Father, “Help me!”, you’ll realize that you’ve never been alone. That they have been with you, holding you in love since before you were born.  If there was ever a moment where I could say that the Holy Spirit spoke to me, it was July 1st, 2023 about 1pm on Holy Cross Ridge.  I was scouting a section of the Holy Nolan’s line from the Holy Cross OHV Trail to Mt. of the Holy Cross.

 Looking back to December 23 of 2019 one day with out a beer seemed impossible. There is always a reason for a beer. But I made it that day. One whole day without a beer. When you say, “That’s it I’m not doing this anymore”, it’s like losing a good friend. Part of your identity, and the “this is me” idea that goes along with it.  You feel lonely. It seems pointless. You think to yourself, “Man, it’s not that bad, I can just have one or two every now and then.”

 That “friend” is not really a friend.  Alcohol is like that toxic partner, literally.  Your life is worse with them or alcohol in it, but yet, your dumbass keeps going back, subtly acknowledging that you do, in fact, like abuse. Every day without toxic partners is one day better than the one before it.

So, what happens when you step off the train? If you are expecting some immediate epiphany or instant nirvana of some kind, you will be disappointed. It’s not like that. The changes are slow and gradual and they build on themselves, just like your tolerance for alcohol consumption. You will feel alone. You will feel anxious. You will feel like you are missing out. You will be looking for something else to fill that void of your friend.  And just like every hangover you ever had, you gotta suffer all that. There is just no way around it. 

Think of sobriety as a grand adventure. You know what life is like when you drink every day, but you don’t know what lies in store for you in a life of sobriety.  Tolkien has a few great quotes about adventure. 

“Darkness must pass, a new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.” 

 “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”

 “The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow, if I can.”

Sobriety is the longest ultramarathon you’ll ever run. No hundred, two hundred or mountain multiday is harder than sobriety.  Cesar said, “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience."  The greatest ultrarunner in the world, Yiannis Kouros said, “Without patience, you will never conquer endurance.”  Patience is the name of the game. You have to wait. You have to accept every moment, every day just like it comes at you. You do yourself a disservice if you distort the lesson that you are getting taught in the moment by having that drink.

Make this your mantra, a saying from the Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei:

“Always aim for the ultimate, never look back, be mindful of others at all times and keep the mind forever set on the way.”

Thank the Holy Father and the Holy Mother, pray the Rosary every day and be kind to yourself, offer yourself compassion and grace just as they have offered it to you. Start your life anew, set out on your own grand adventure.

 Below is a list of books that I have read and recommend, regarding sobriety:

 Alcohol Explained

 Alcohol Explained 2: Tools for a Stronger Sobriety

 Alcohol Lied to Me: The Intelligent Way to Escape Alcohol Addiction

 Alcohol is SH!T: How to Ditch the Booze, Re-ignite Your Life, and Recover the Person you Were Always Meant to be

 We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life

 This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life

 The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering a happy, healthy, wealthy alcohol-free life

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

My post in the GVRAT Facebook group after finishing the out n back on May 27:

     My long march across vTennessee and back is over: 2000K or rather 1270 miles in 27 days is done. Thank you to Lazarus Lake, Steve Durbin, and #badmike for putting this together and challenging us to put forth our best effort. Thank you also to Vincent Antunez from Trail Toes Anti-Friction Foot and Body Products, Truxton Spangler, and Bill Henderson for their support. I could not have been successful without your help. Thank you also, to everyone who sent me text messages, Facebook messages, and comments on Facebook and Instagram. I even received a few post cards. Thank you.
     I am happy that this carnival ride is over. But I’m also sad. I think sadness is a natural feeling when things end. At the end of a movie, a book, a relationship, at the end of a period of your life which you have moved on from. But, with a new thing, a new beginning, there is also hope. Hope for something better, or at least more, and an expectation of happiness. We have to remember what Andy wrote in the letter to Red, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” During my runs I tried to keep in mind thoughts from folks like Laz, “…and my hope for each one of you is that you find something in yourself, you never thought possible.” From Ken, “You can do more than you think you can. You are stronger than you think you are.” And from Joe, “Just do the damned thing.”
     Like many of us, we signed up for this GVRAT 1000K virtual race because our goal races have all been cancelled due to COVID-19. Races like UTMB, Hardrock, Western States, among countless others. Me personally, I had ambitious plans in July to run the Val d’Aran and Ronda dels Cims 100 mile mountain races in the Pyrenees and run with the bulls in Pamplona. In August I was all set to travel to Chamonix. To take part in UTMB Petite Trotte à Léon (PTL) with two friends, a Canadian and a Frenchman. But all of those events were cancelled. The last few years I have taken as long as four weeks to go on pilgrimage routes in Spain, Italy, and Texas but due to travel restrictions I felt that pilgrimage walks in Brazil, Portugal, or Ireland would also be out of reach. At the beginning, my goal for GVRAT was to finish the 1270 miles, the out and back, in the month of May. A lofty goal, foolish even, which I was not sure I would be able to meet. This time running locally became for me an internal pilgrimage, or kaihogyo. A kaihogyo of the heart, of the mind, a kaihogyo of the soul. Mile by mile, day by day, running, reflecting, projecting.
     For those in the event who have more miles in front of them than behind them, don’t despair. Be patient and put your miles in. Challenge yourself each day to do your best. Adopt the John Grady Cole mindset, stick and don’t quit. Is it raining? Stick and don’t quit. Your feet hurt, you’re tired, the damned dog knocked the pancake batter bowl out of your hands? Stick and don’t quit. Your partner is going through a tough time and you don’t feel loved? Stick and don’t quit. Just keep sticking to your goal to cross vTennessee on foot. You’ll make it. Take heart in the fact that when you step out the door each day, press start on your Garmin, and wait for it to pick up satellites, you are becoming more human. The distinctive human trait is conscious free will. And by choosing to go out and work toward your goal, among all the other choices you could have made, you are connecting with all of humanity over the long arc of history. You have this opportunity to contemplate life’s big questions everyone has asked, “Who am I? How do I know? And What do I value?” You have this opportunity to connect with all persons throughout our respective national histories, our respective religions, our poets, and the characters of our national epic literature -- fiction or non-fiction.
     You can sail to Troy with Helen and Paris. Be with brash Achilles as he chooses immortal fame over long life. With Cesar crossing the Rubicon, alea iacta est. With Jesus at Gethsemane. In Roncevaux we can sing La Chanson de Roland. With the Light Brigade in Crimea. With Davy Crockett when he told the legislature, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” We can dream with Dr. King, become the masters of our fate with Mandela, and find our meaning with Frankl. Maybe even with Cpt. Woodrow F. Call driving a herd of cattle to Montana. Once we are done with this crossing, we can return to our respective homes, be among our people, and go to our place. Maybe a place like Lonesome Dove. We’ll sit on the porch with Augustus McCrae and spin the yarn until late in the night and tell our stories of Tennessee. How we stopped in Memphis and saw the Legendary Dale Watson and his Lonestars. And how we knew, when he told us, “honky tonkers don’t cry,” he was lying. How we slept on the floor of the washeteria in Wartrace after paying our respects to Strolling Jim. How we stopped at Jan’s house in Knoxville and she had dumplings on the stove for us. When we stopped at Bill’s mammas house, across from Tusculum University, and ate her famous cornbread. We’ll turn in, long after the oil in our lamp burns out. We won’t have to worry about Pedro Flores or The Comanche. Finally, we can rest.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Mollie Renshaw - Chapter 1

Mollie Renshaw
Chapter 1

The iPad played “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” on repeat for hours, before Mollie woke up. James Renshaw, her father, had been in the kitchen all night alternating shots of whisky and hits of cocaine, alone. He was passed out now, a Bud Light bottle lay spilt on the floor under his chair.
No one knew why James did this, but it happened frequently. He’d just sit his chair, stare, and play a song on repeat. Mollie figured he was sad, so she left him alone. James loved her, she knew that, he always said, “You’re my baby girl, Daddy loves you.” But he hit her too, from time to time.

“God, dammit Mollie, why’d you turn the fukin music off,” James said as he slapped the right, backside of her head. Mollie began to tremble. She’d turned her back to him looking to switch off the iPlayer. The music was so loud in the kitchen when she turned it off, the silence woke him up. “Daddy, I’m sorry, it’s just that it was so loud in here, I turned the music off,” Mollie said. She never turned back to look at him, just cowered a bit as she walked to her room with wet eyes. This wasn’t her Daddy, her Daddy was somewhere else, Daddy never hit her. As long as she didn’t look at him, she could lie and believe it.

James took another bump. He’d been feeling sorry for himself for the last 10 years, since Mollie’s mom disappeared. She’d been raped by one the Bandito gang members. James didn’t stand up for her. James never wanted to join the Banditos, but he got forced into it. He didn’t do too much. He’d just make a run of heroin and coke out of Monterrey to Houston, twice a month.

Life started out promising for him. He joined the Army at 17, with a waiver from his dad. Just before the 1st Gulf War. He bragged about being in the Battle of Wadi Al-Batin with 1st Cav, but really just drove a truck around to stirr up clouds of dust in a deception movement. The real action was from the northwest. However, it didn’t stop him from getting what the VA called, “Gulf War Syndrome.” Alot of folks just thought he was lazy. And I guess you could say so. However, James suffered from fatigue, headaches, memory problems, and broke into hives quite often.

He left the Army soon after Marlon was born, his son from his first wife. Marlon had black hair, just like his mother. He met Marlon’s mom in Killeen, after he came back from Iraq. She was what they called a dependapotamus, one of those women that hung around base, mooching off soldiers. She was about 10 years older than James when they met. He never really liked her, but he slept with her a lot. So did some of the other guys in his unit. James was never sure Marlon was his, but he married her, when he found out she was pregnant. With his dishonorable discharge for cocaine, Marlon’s mom ran off to find another sucker.

Marlon lived in the house with James and Mollie. He had a part time job at Kutzer Body shop, but made good side money selling meth. Marlon was smart enough, but apathetic. They’d lived in the house for about two years. James’ grandmother left him the house when she died, because he had the two kids. The house was a welcome change from the little travel trailer they lived in before, out at his uncles place. After two years, however, the house was just as filthy. If James’ grandmother were still alive, she’d have a foot in his ass, about how they lived, White trash Appalachia style.

“Mollie, get your ass in here,” James yelled. Mollie complied. “Hey baby girl, why don’t you let daddy take you to school, its 7:30 you know.” Mollie always liked it when her dad took her to school. He never made her wear a helmet on the back of the Harley, which meant she could wear her hair in a ponytail and not have to waste a bunch of time fixing it. She had red hair. It wasn’t crazy red, but more like a red-blonde. She had green eyes too. She always loved her green eyes. Her daddy said those eyes were green like her mammas, and her mammas mamma. James pulled up in front of the school and revved the motor rapidly, over and over, making the exhaust scream. Mollie always like that motor revving thing too. “I love you Daddy, see you after school.” “I love you too, baby girl,” James said as he sped away, squealing the tire.

Mollie was born as Margret Jean Renshaw in Nov of 2002, in Austin. She was a Scorpio. Daddy always told her she was named after his grandmother, Margret Jean Mc Laine. MeMe McLaine was feisty, and drank whisky every day, but she worked hard as a house cleaning lady. She died of a heart attack at 78. Mollie took after her great-grandmother in some ways, but mostly she was like her mom. Mollie’s mom was smart enough to know how to manage her temper and easily acted cynically, manipulating others to get what she wanted. That’s why she pissed off the Bandito, who raped her out of spite.

Ding, clickity, cling, was the notification sound Mollie set for Facebook messenger, but in school she just set visual notifications on. She didn’t notice the message from Joel about the dime bag he scored. Joel was her guy friend. He hooked her up with weed sometimes. Joel’s older brother had a friend named Miguel. One time, Joel walked in on his brother and Miguel making out so Miguel always gave Joel some weed, so he wouldn’t say anything to Joel’s parents.

In first period Mollie was in Texas History class. All seventh graders in Texas have to take Texas history. Her teacher was Amy Whitecotton. Ms. Whitecotton was 5’3. A heavy set brunette. She didn’t like kids or teaching. She taught for five years at Bruce Elementary in Houston’s 5th Ward. Under Bush’s No Child Left Behind, she was able to apply to the inner city program and the federal government paid off her school loans. On the condition she worked in the inner city for five years. Her husband worked for KBR (Kellog Brown and Root) and made the real money. With the no-bid government contracts and the 2nd Iraq War, he cleaned house. But KBR close up its offices in the 5th ward in 2010 and he was laid off.

Hayden dropped a note off at Mollie’s desk, just as the bell rang. It was folded up in the normal fashion of a young boy who’d never gift wrapped any boxes for Christmas. Hayden had a big crush on Mollie, but felt stupid and inadequate. He finally got the courage to tell her, but since he didn’t know her Snapchat name, he went old school with the note. His mom suggested the note. She’d come in from her shift at “The Office”. The Office was the name of the bar where she worked. The local guys bought her drinks and shots, most nights. On the night she suggested to Hayden to write the note, she was extra drunk. Her “love”, unrequited love, stopped in earlier that day, on his way back from the sale barn. That’s what sent her in the downward spiral that night. Every night she had a different excuse for getting drunk.

“Hayden, if you like this girl Mollie, you need to tell her. You don’t know, she probably likes you too,” his mom told him as she took a long drag from her Marlboro light. “Just write her a note, boy.” “But Mom, that’s not how it works these days,” Hayden tried to explain. His mom quit listening. Her eyes light up when she’d received a text from Jake. Jake was at the bar earlier and wanted to stop by later to “hook up”. Hayden walked down the hall of the trailer to his room. He knew his mom met guys at night, while he was sleeping. Hayden’s dad hadn’t been around for about five years. Note since the night when the cops came. Hayden was scared that night with everyone screaming, so he just quit remembering exactly what happened.

Hayden didn’t know it, but Cooper saw him drop of the note to Mollie. Cooper was instantly furious, an almost uncontrollable rage. He wanted to jump right out of his chair and whip Hayden’s ass, but Ms. Whitecotton called the class to attention. Ms. Whitecotton took attendance, so the State could get paid. When she called out Cooper’s name he was so mad he couldn’t talk. “Cooper, Cooper,” she said. “Hey boy, you got wax in your ears,” she said, looking at him with those squinty eyes and fat face. Cooper threw his books on the floor and jumped up, flipping over his desk. One of the kids in the back of the room pulled out is iPhone and started filming. “Get your ass out of my class you little shit head,” Ms. Whitecotton yelled. She’d gotten in trouble for cussing at kids before, but didn’t care. Ms. Whitecotton was having an affair with the PE coach, whose brother was the Superintendent, so she never got into any real trouble.

She grabbed Cooper and drug him out of the classroom, as he tried to take a swing at her. “Fuck you, I hate you,” Cooper yelled while being drug down the hall. The principal was in awe. He was standing in the hallway, watching the action. He’d just texted Ms. Billings about a lunch date. “I’ll be having you for lunch,” he texted, smiling as he pushed send. “Hey, boy, what the hell is wrong with you?” the principal yelled. Ms. Whitecotton handed Cooper off to the principal and began walking back to her class. Cooper got drug all the way into the principal’s office.

The principal, Mr. McGrath had recently been promoted to principal of Clinton Junior High. He’d always lusted after power but lacked real ambition. He only took the job to increase his status in the community. He cared about kids, but was more interested in using his position to influence single moms to sleep with him. He had always lusted after women. Mr. McGrath didn’t really understand how to deal with kids like Cooper.

Cooper could have been a good kid. He was smart, but angry. He lived out at the youth home on the edge of town. Cooper didn’t know much about his real parents. He’d been in a few foster homes, the type of foster homes that just foster kids to get income from the State. Every time things seemed to be working out, he’d get put in a new foster home. For some reason, it was always around his birthday. Finally when he was eleven, he ended up at the youth home. The older kids he roomed with took the little things he really cared about. The signed rookie card from Matt Harrison, who pitched for the Texas Rangers in 2011 World Series, they took that. He got that card when he lived in the foster home up in Colleyville. Some business men sent local kids to the game and he got selected. They also took his Tony Romo bobble head. He always liked that thing. Probably because it was given to him by Aunt Julie’s brother Michael.

Cooper always called his foster moms, Aunt. Michael took him cruising around in his truck some times. He was always throwing beer bottles at signs, on the backroads around Weatherford, just west of Fort Worth, blaring Pat Green on the CD changer. Micheal picked up the bobble head at the Pilot truck stop on I-30, along with two, twelve packs of Bud Light bottles.

Mr. McGrath hung up the phone with the house parents from the youth home. He wanted to see what should to be done with Cooper. They really didn’t know either, but gave McGrath permission to give Cooper swats. “Cooper, I’m going to swat you three times bud, so get ready to take what you got coming,” McGrath said. Getting swats wasn’t nothing to Cooper. He was used to it. He reveled in the pain. It wasn’t real pain. Not like the time when Aunt Christi’s boyfriend beat him with a 2x4 in Midlothian, because he didn’t fill up the ice trays. He was nine then. Cooper still had a scar on his forehead from that whippin.

“Okay, Mr. McGrath, do what you got to do, I’m ready,” Cooper said as he bent over the desk. Mr. McGrath swatted him three times. Cooper laughed a little inside, but mad a sad face when he turned to face McGrath. “Copper, you can’t be acting like this! Now get on down to the cafeteria for lunch.” McGrath said.

Mollie and Joel were sitting at the lunch table. “Mollie, did you get my message?” Joel said. “Nah, what you talking bout?” Mollie replied. “I scored some weed from Miguel, wanta go smoke after school?” he said. “Sounds good to me, I’m pretty stressed. Something was wrong with Dad this morning,” she said as her voice drifted away. Joel gave her his extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Mollie never really ate lunch, or brought one. James never had money to give her, so someone always brought extra. Today it was Joel.

Mollie was looking across at the commotion on the other side of the cafeteria. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but a group of kids had gathered around Hayden and Cooper. The kids were yelling and cheering. She never read the note that Hayden had left at her desk. The note that told her how much he liked her and how beautiful he thought she was. She intended to, but with Cooper throwing his desk upside down, she got side tracked. And, she couldn’t read it now, because she couldn’t find it.

“Hayden, after school, I’m going to kick your ass!” Cooper said as he glared. Hayden was shocked. He couldn’t figure out why Cooper was so pissed off. “Hey man, what the hell are you talking about?” Hayden replied, somewhat taken aback. “Mollie is my girl bro, I saw you drop off that note, with the little heart on it.” Cooper said. Hayden was pissed. He didn’t think anyone saw him drop off the note. He was probably more embarrassed, but he didn’t have a way to distinguish the difference. “Alright, bro, where you wanta get your whippin?” Hayden asked. “Across the street from school, over on those hay bales, by the tractor, I’ll see you.” Cooper responded.

Cooper didn’t have any “claim” on Mollie. He’d never even told her he liked her. He just decided he did, and figured she knew it. Mollie didn’t really know who Cooper was, except that he was the weird kid, who was mad a lot. Mollie was at that age where, she knew boys were interested in her, but she wasn’t sure just why. She viewed all boys as just any other person, just like her friend Joel or her girlfriend Hannah. Hannah and Mollie were in the Girl Scouts about two years ago. But Mollie didn’t come back to the meetings last year, after Marlon’s girlfriend died.

Through the rest of the afternoon at school, there were whispers of the big fight that was supposed to happen between Hayden and Cooper. It spread through the seventh grade like wildfire, and even the eighth graders caught wind of it: a big fight across the street from school, on the property owned by the PE coach’s dad, Mr. Trevino. Mr. Trevino had baled hay on the 100 acres across the street from the new school since he was a young kid. He father and his father before him did the same. Actually the land the school was built on, and most of where the town was built had at one time been owned by the Trevino family. As far as Mr. Trevino could remember and the family lore said that “The Trevino Family” owned that land, since the time of the Spanish. The “lore” was probably made up, but the Trevino’s had a lot of land, so it could have been true.

The last bell rang at 15:45 on Wednesday November 25th, 2015, for Clinton Junior High. It was time for Thanksgiving break.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Euforia dels Cims - 2019 - Take Two

  I started writing a long ass blog, but I did not feel like completing it. So here is take two.

What is Euforia dels Cims:
Ultra Raid in the Principality of Andorra by inseparable team of two people in semi-autonomy under the full moon.
  • 233 k (145 mi.) 20,000 meters (12,427 mi.) of elevation gain and 20,000 meters (12,427 mi.) of elevation loss
  • Departure from Ordino town centre on Wednesday on the morning and finish in Ordino town centre
  • 5 peaks upon 2,900 meters
  • 32 peaks or passes between 2,500 and 2,900 meters
  • Average altitude: 2,200 meters
  • 4 refreshment points (in the 4 accommodation areas) + arrival
  • A single dropbag (offered by the organization) transported from accommodation area to accommodation area
  • Briefing attendance is compulsory
  • Without marking of the path
  • The runners have a track
  • GPS tracker put at the disposal of every runner to allow theonline following
  • Euphoric panoramic views, some technical zones
  • The most spectacular feature: peaks, passes and path in crests allowing views 360 on all the massif of Pyrenees (the North of Spain and the region Midi-Pyrénées in France)
  • The most technical section: descent in rocky blocks or masses of fallen rocks
Why Euforia: 
     I don't like contrived "hard stuff" such as Spartan races, Survial Runs, Death Races, gimmick events, etc... I don't like the trend in ultrarunning where everyone thinks they need 10 pacers and 50 crew members. Euforia is pure. It's you and your partner and the mountains. No babysitting, no hand holding. Hours on your feet with out support, etc.. But the biggest appeal is the mountains, pure and simple.

How Do You Know You're Ready:

      Basically, you don't.  I wasn't sure when I got on the plane, but I saddled up anyway.

How Do You Prepare:

      You can't prepare in one season. It takes may experiences to have the right frame of mind to be successful.  Events like Vol State, the Salsa Walk 100K or 200K, Nolan's 14 Scouting, our Camino Santiago in 16.5 days trek last year, Hardrock or similar, Infinitus 888K.  The multi-day events with continuous clock really bring you valuable experience to prepare.

What Does Success in Euforia Look Like:

     Finishing of course, but beyond that, is character.  Did you make friends? Did you help your neighbor? Did you allow your neighbor to help you? Did you give into your struggle and act out, or did you accept your fate and continue forward?

What Was the Biggest Lesson You Learned:

     The lesson is always patience and acceptance.  However in this sense, its not over in 30 or 36 hours, it's 4 days or more. If you let the mountains come to you and unfold, without expectation, accepting each climb as it's presented, then you can always have the strength necessary for what's coming next.

What's Next:

     I'd like to give Tor des Geants a shot, PTL (Petite Trotte à Léon), and go back and finish the Nolan's 14 line. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Barkley Fall Classic - 4th Finish

     I must have run the Fall Classic Saturday.  I can tell because I'm gimping around everywhere I walk and I can't squat to the toilet or get into my car. 
     My feet are fine. No blisters, thanks to Trail Toes.  But my glutes, hammies, quads, calves are all revolting.  They are pissed off.  
     Gina, Kyle, and I rolled into Rugby, TN Friday afternoon.  We checked into the Pioneer Cottage, our place we have stayed the last 4 years.  We then drove over to Wartburg for the packet pickup and map review.  
      We were able to say hellos and chat with friends!  Tim gave us the low down on the course for this year.  This year we were to go up the North Bird Mountain Trail, to the Jeep road, across 116, to the power line.  Down Testicle Spectacle to the Church.  Then back up and over down meth lab hill to the prison.  The up Rat Jaw to the fire tower.  The big rule of staying in the power line cut on these sections of power lines was going to be enforced, strictly this year.  Once we reached the fire tower,then we were to head to the Garden Spot, along the North Boundary trail, to Jury Ridge, Phillips Creek, and down Bird Mountain Trail, to the yellow gate, and the last section was the same, the Chimney Top trail to Spicewood and back to the finish. Basically, the first two sections were flip-flopped from previous years.  
     This course change was a bit diabolical, as we were to soon find out Saturday morning. 
We arrived at the start area about an hour before the start.  Unlike last year when we arrived, 10 minutes before the start. 
     My plan to was run hard until we hit the trail, so I could get in front of the main group, trying to be in the top 30 or so. So that is what I did.  However, the North Bird Mountain Trail is "runnable" if you are pretty fit, so every one kept on running.  So, John did as well. After about 30 minutes into the race I told myself, "John if you don't start taking some walk breaks, you are going to blow up."  So, I started to take some walk breaks.  We finally got to Tub Springs aid station!  But being as it's all down hill to the highway, we had to run that section fast a hell too.  You don't want to be stuck behind the conga line of folks going down Testicle who don't know where they are going and haven't protected themselves from the briars.  
     I chatted a bit with a nice dude, who had just done the Breckenridge Spartan Ultra Beast and placed fifth.  But, was like, hey man, we gotta run!  
     Once we reached the highway, We had a nice hill to walk up, going towards Fodderstack and the power line of Testicle.  We turned left and i pulled the work gloves out of my pack.  I was already wearing calf sleeves, arm sleeves,  and tights that covered my knees. I told the Spartan race guy who was with me, "This is where the race starts, follow me."  
     I started bombing down the hill, slipping, sliding, and busting new heart rate highs.  At about the 3rd section, I ran smack into a small conga line of about 10 folks.  I said, "On your left."  But they didn't want to move.  One guy says, "Hey man, we are in a line here, you need to wait."  I said, "Naw bruh, we gotta move."  It was clear they were not sure where to go or how to get there, so I just blew past them.  Basically that put me in about the top 8 to 10 or so.  
     Things went well until just before the sign to turn left to the church and the second aid station.  I got this killer cramp in my right calf, and had stop.  The cramp was so bad, my foot was cramping.  All those folks started passing me.  I downed like 4 S-Caps.  
     I had two problems.  1. It was so hot and humid I was sweating my balls off and 2, those calf sleeves were cutting off circulation to my calves.  Mostly because my calves are so dammed big, the calf sleeves barely fit.  
     I got to the church just in front of those folks though, because they inclined right of the proper azmiuth, and I dropped to the creek and went up the creek bed for a bit and then to the road.  The map didn't show us having to go exactly to the road.  Either way, We all left together, but I started cramping on the inside of both thighs, as we were climbing back up tot the power line.  
     I needed to back off a little bit, but I know that to be successful at this race, you gotta put the hammer down, and never let up.  I made it back up to Armes Gap and dropped down Meth Lab Hill, towards the prison.  I was recovering from the cramping but was still pretty border line. 
     Once I reached the prison, we were able to get more water and I hit up some more S-Caps.  However, by the time I got to the ladder to go over the wall, my inside thighs started cramping again.  I didn't want to get on the ladder, because I didn't want to cramp up and fall off the dammed ladder.  I paused a bit, climbed over, cramped a bit and sat down on the other side and talked with Keith for a minute or so.  
     With the cramping subsiding, and a few more S-Caps, I went into the tunnel and sat down in the water, to cool off my legs.  That seemed to do the trick.  So I started up Rat Jaw.  I could see large group of folks above me, prob 15 or so, in another conga line, picking their way through the briars.  My first instinct was a to start hauling ass up the hill, but thought it would be better to keep a more steady relaxed pace and just wait until I catch them. 
     Just before where the power line turns left, I caught that pack, and went around them and started breaking trail.  The group splintered for a bit, but came back together, behind Rob Youngren, after we went over the capstone.  By this time, there were about 50 runners in the conga line, and I was somewhere about #8.  
     One guy reached the fire tower about 10 minutes before the whole conga line, and it was said they saw him taking unfair advantage by going under the trees to the left.  I don't know who that guy was.  
     Anyway, we reached the crowd of folks at the fire tower and began climbing up to get our punch.  As we were going back down the stairs, I thought, "Man I gotta haul ass back to Tub Springs, because I don't want to get caught behind all these folks at the aid station."  I really needed to make some shoe adjustments, but took off anyway. 
     I got to Tub Springs in good shape, got my water filled up, drank some Sword and was finally able to remove those dammed calf sleeves, arm sleeves, and put them all away in my pack with the heavy as soaking wet, leather gloves.  
     Onward we went up to Coffin Springs, over the gate, towards the Garden Spot.  About half way there is an old coal road that goes off to the right and some folks were wondering which way to go.  Little did I know,  a shit ton of those folks behind me, went down that coal road.  Which explains why only like 3 persons passed me from Garden Spot to the Yellow Gate.  Oh well.  
     I got the punch from Mike at the Garden Spot, after watching the eventual second place guy, run up the uphill to the Garden Spot.  I was thinking, "Shit, this guy is running this part, got dammit."  I busted my ass as we left there and got on the CT, where it's got the white blazes on the trees, in the top Northeast corner of the park.  But it was a quick recovery.  
     As I was running downhill, I was thinking, "Jeeze my feet are sliding around in my shoes and I need to tighten them up at the aid station."  Well, about 30 seconds later I took a hard tumble/fall and started cramping real bad again in my inner thighs.  I thought it would be best to go ahead and tighten up my shoes, now. So I did that and about 15 runners went by. Great!!! 
     I got up and ran to the coal ponds and wasn't looking and missed the left turn on to the true North Boundry Trail / North Bird Mountain Trail with the orange blazes.  No problem though, I knew it was wrong and turned around right away.  
     We cruised over to the Squire Knob aid station for our punch.  I counted the runners, and there were 11 in front of me, and about 4 at the aid station.  I made quick work of the aid station, but prob drank 3 bottles of water and one of Sword before leaving with two full bottles of Sword.  At around Phillips Creek, I was finally able to take a piss.  And boy it was yellow.  The eventual women's winner passed me just under the ridge before we met back up with the Cumberland Trail. 
     I cruised down the 12 or 13 switchbacks to the yellow gate, but stopped and got some water at the spigot at Big Cove Campground.  Some guy said I was in 8th place, and I figured that was prob about right.  
     I got into the aid station where Laz sends you out for the 3rd and last part of the course, but lost time dicking around with my water bladder.  I had put carbo pro powder in there before hand, but the tube got stopped up.  Really pissed me off.  I also had a hard time finding my drop bag with my poles, which after I got back on the trail, I thought, it was stupid to use them because they weren't truly necessary.  
     Tim Dines and I hiked up to Chimney Top but I was feeling weak and shitty.  I ate some fig newton style of bar at the aid station and it was causing me stomac upset.  So I stopped to throw up for a bit.  Tim took off.  
     Basically on the whole last section, I saw Tim and that was it.  I did finally catch Tim after stopping to chat with Kyle and Larry at the last aid station, on my way into the finish.  I passed Laz again and had just the short road section to go.  I thought for sure I'd catch at least one runner.  However, all the runners I passed were marathon finishers who either didn't make the cutoff, or didn't want to do the Chimney Top.  I did still haul ass all the way in.  However, I was 8 minutes slower than last year.  
     I milled around afterwards waiting on Gina to finish, ate my ribeye sandwich, talked with friends, drank some beer, vodka, and whisky. Gina finished about 12 and a half hours.  
     Kyle drove us back to Rugby where we all slept in, before driving back to Nashville on Sunday.  In  Nashville we had a great time Sunday afternoon.  We went to Printers Alley, to the Burbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar.  Then to Merchant's for drinks, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese.  Then to Rodizio Brazlian Grill, for all you can eat meat and a 36$ bottle of 8$ wine.  Afterwards, we stopped over at Legends Corner for a night cap, then an Uber Ride back to the hotel!  
    It was another successful weekend in Tennessee!  Gina and I have both finished the race 4 times, the whole 50K.  There are 7 of us left who have completed all 4, The Magnificent Seven.   Next year, I'm going to sign up as Yule Brenner.  The Pioneer Cottage reservations have been made.  If we finish next year, then Steve has a special award for us!  For the 5th year!  
     Now recovery!  Then more, Vert! More Miles. Get faster!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

John's Kaihōgyō

     UPDATE: 10/30/2017 - This will not be taking place this year.

What does Kaihōgyō mean?  It translates into English as, circling the mountain.   The wiki entry is here:

     I've been enamored with this idea for a few years.  I spoke with Gina about it in 2014 after reading John Stevens book: The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei.  

     I'm not looking for enlightenment per se, but discipline.  So these monks in Japan do a 100 days of a certain mileage going from temple to temple saying prayers, etc..  They do this for seven years and there is quite a bit of other things invovled that you can read about on the wiki entry. 
      I'll be turning 40 years old in November and I want to do something that is or seems impossible.  Because who knows how many years I have left on this rock.  

Enter, John's Kaihōgyō.

What does this look like for me?  It looks like this.  I am planning on starting Oct 30th 2017 and will finish 100 days later on Feb 6th 2018.  What will I do?  I plan to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.  I started back on snuff a few months ago, so I'll be quit before this starts and will start tapering caffeine at the beginning in Oct.  I've already stopped alcohol, so hopefully I can maintain since my goal is no alcohol until Sept 2018.  Here is the rest of my plan:

40K a day running/walking with 5K a day of vert (vert will be achieved on the TM)
40K a day on indoor bike trainer*
10K a day on indoor rower*
100 thrusters @ 95lbs*
100 Deadlifts @ 185lbs*
100 Kettlebell swings*
100 Burpees
100 pushups
100 situps
10 minutes of planks
40 pullups

Basically, this will be 6 to 7 hours a day of  "working out".

I have 2.5 months to buildup to this, so that is what I'll be working on.  From now until then.

I don't really know if I can actually do this, but outside of my "El Camino de Lavaca Pilgrimage" Dec 4th - 10th my schedule is open and I have purposely kept it so.  I wasn't sure if I would really commit to this, but I think that I need this in my life.  The items above with * may get skipped on the El Camino days, but I'll see about having these brought to me each day so I can keep my goal.  If not, 93 days of the above is still killer.

Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Looking Ahead into 2018

Gonna be brief.

10 years ago I started running, one goal was to quit drinking and be a good runner.

10 years later and I'm mediocre at both.

August 1st 2018, Gina and I will be running the Trans Pyrenees.

This is the greatest challenge either of us have considered.  200K of vert, 535 mile, 20 days.

I want to be my best.

Also, I have a personal challenge of 880 mile bike ride across Texas in late Feb 2018.

Did I mention the 888K Infinitus as well in 2018? I'm signed up for that.

I don't know if I can complete any of these 3 adventures.

But I do know, that if I want a shot, I gotta be better.

From Nov 1 to 100 days later, I will run 20 miles per day. 

I have to get ready.

I will not drink any alcohol until Sept 2018, starting Aug 1 2017. 

I'm working on some diet options as well, but will up veggies and reduce meat.

Wish me luck.  Long road ahead.