I have several blog-post projects that have sat terminally while I goof off watching DVDs and goofing off. I never did do my 2-part chronicle of the Red Rocks trail. My detailed post with photos of running in the dark, and all the lighting options and implimentations available never got done. And last but not least, my report on high-tech socks and the things that make them work or fail.
But at least I've gotten myself back to regularly attending the Tuesday and Thursday runs. I think I'm firmly in that groove. Now I need to work on the week-end adventure part. Easy if it's an organized race, but I need to galavant.
We ran at Red Rocks on Thursday. You can really tell the days are getting longer. It wasn't even dark when we started at 5:34pm.
I have been Living the Dream, these past few years. Sometimes, though, I wish I'd choose lazier dreams.
I still have a painful scab on my ankle from wear during the Turquoise Lake race. My legs are covered with tiny scabs from all the micro-cuts from running through all the sotol at Bandera. My feet hurt - and they shouldn't hurt at all, after a cushy winter break. I have a big mystery scab on my right thigh. Who knows when or how that came about. I know I'm not alone. Lots of little tweaks build up when you're over-active. It much more inherent in trail running and mountain climbing. I'm lucky all my limbs work so well. The more things hurt, the luckier I feel, and the more I appreciate every day. At Bandera, one of the guys at an aid station asked me how I felt. I answered, "I feel like shit! But I'm one of those people whose not happy unless I'm miserable." So the woman said, "Then you must be ecstatic by now." I answered, "Gettin' there, but not yet."
I was born in Norman, OK when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Unlike most people, and in spite of my current bad memory, I actually have several memories from my first year. I remember once being held by my mom in the living room. I remember when I couldn't walk, and I crawled around following my big brother and sister. They were mad and carrying-on about my parents who wouldn't let them watch Mickey Mouse. I remember the kiddie-gate that blocked-off the living room so we couldn't enter. I remember crawling in the back yard and the family dog came up and put its whole mouth around my little skull. It didn't bite, but it scared the bejeez outa me and I started crying so hard. Yet even today I remember the facial expression on the dog's face and it did me no hard, nor did it mean any harm. It was merely the only way it had to hug me. I remember standing in the front yard, back when I could stand but not walk, and my sister had a play-stove my dad made her out of plywood and painted black and white. The older bully from across the street came over and grabbed her prized dishes as she shreaked. Then he sat on the curb and broke each one, pausing between to relish my sister's hysteria.
When I was one-and-a-half, my parents moved to Kerrville, TX. I slept most of the way, but I remember that it was pooring down rain as we finished the journey in the night.
The house we originally moved into was scraped for a new Walmart, but today the Walmart isn't there anymore. That was a really cool house, but there were quite a few small scorpions that were found. My favorite cartoon was Popeye. They eventually bought a house. That house is still there, virtually like it was then, but much of the neighborhood has changed. Below the house was a field. We used it to play in several ant piles. We got really good at picking them up without getting stung. We would make them dance by putting them in a mess-kit and heating them on a fire, we'd pour gasoline on the hills and light them on fire, and we'd pee on them. You know - normal stuff like that. There's a house built in that field now. I loved horny-toads. They were like miniature dinosaurs. I liked pretending I was either a soldier or an Apache. As a soldier, I was often in trees and would get shot and fall dead out of the tree. (That's why I turned out the way I did.) As an Apache, I'd sprint barefoot across sharp limestone gravel without flinching - because Apaches didn't react to pain. There's a house built on the gravel field I used to run on and build my tipees on. We used to get sticks and play catch with water-mocasins. Those things get really pissed-off when you throw them around, for some reason. The mud-hole where we used to find water-mocasins and play with crawdeads and tadpoles is gone - scraped and paved as a dead-end on a street. But the fossil-bed remains. I grabbed some fossilized clams after the Bandera 100K. The hill above our old house is still criss-crossed by game trails with fresh deer tracks. Kids are still using the dense tree clusters for "forts". You can still climb all the way up to the same blue-green water tank. Up by that tank was a tiny cave and the ceiling was always in motion as it was always covered with a swarm of grandaddy-long-leg spiders.
For a guy who hasn't trained since November, I've sure managed to put in a lot of hard miles.
I've been so busy, but I squeezed this long trip in. Took Th & Fr off work and drove south over Raton Pass, then over to Texas where I stopped and ate at the first BBQ place I found. Yeehah! Fried okra! (Okay, Blogger insists on flipping this photo sideways, no matter what I do! This is a conspiracy, man!)
I love watching the land and vegetation change as I drive across the landscape. I love the vast oil fields near Lubbock, and the windmill farm of about 1,000 windmills, and south of there the land is chock-full of so much prickly-pear and mesquite it chokes the land. I stopped at a grocery store for lunch. It's great to have one place to stock up on apples, V-8, and bullets. Yep, they have .22, .40S&W, .30-06, .30-30, .45, 12 gauge,... So I picked up a box of fresh .40S&W from near the Fresh Produce isles and told the clerk they don't sell bullets in grocery stores in Denver. "What?" they said. "Then where do you buy them?" I told them you have to actually go to a gun store or sporting-goods store. I know, I know... I come from a strange place! Y'all have a good day!
I got to Bandera and found it to be a crowded tourist town. The speed limit was 30, but good luck getting up to 5mph. I got in with a little extra time to get my packet, meet some people, and eat dinner at the start/finish headquarters. That night, I drank three beers and watched a movie on my laptop, then went to sleep in the back of my CR-V.
In the morning, I managed to get to the start line 5 seconds before the start.
We headed out fast. Very fast. I asked myself, if I was sure, but actually, yes, I felt like I was going faster than I was because it was an extremely crowded start. The first five miles are miserable bumper-to-bumper. Too many fast runners suck on the downhills. When I put on the brakes, it's hard not to slip and crash. I don't know how they can run races putting the brakes on that much.
Finally, I was in a fast pack of about 6 guys. We were good and strong steady. We blew through the second aid station and I felt the blisters coming on. By mile 16, the blisters had turned my feet into hamburger. I had to stop and change socks. I was stupid to experiment during a race. Neither of the blisters on either foot had popped. One had blood in it. Both hurt like hell. It was too painful to stay up on my toes, plus being up on the balls of my feet just rubbed them more, so to reduce the pressure, I let my heals drop down with a thud each step. I also slightly twisted my feet to try to use the outsides of my toes and less of the ball of my foot. This really tired me out faster. I lost my agility. I was more clumsy. I fell three times the first lap.
My goal had been 12 to 12.5 hours. That goal was now trashed. But surely I could still do it under 13, right? Nope. 13.5? Nope. I even missed that. I finished the first loop in 5:40, but most of that had been accomplished before the sock change. My second lap was very slow, and I allowed myself to just have fun. I spent more time at the aid stations, I drank more, ate more, talked to the volunteers more... but strangely, I wasn't very talkative to other runners.
I tried to keep pushing myself, even as I allowed some slacking. Texas hill country is so cool. I grew up 20 miles north in Kerrville, and I've always felt sorry for people who didn't get to grow up in Texas hill country. It's a kid's paradise. In the race, we often ran through tunnels of oak and cedar/pinon. Then we'd climb up into sparcer hilltops covered in yucca and sotol with serrated edges and 15 foot stalks.
It got a little bit windy at night, and a little cold, but nothing worse than Colorado normally dishes out during summer.
I enjoyed the first 60 miles, in spite of my feet. The Last Chance aid station was my favorite, but not by a long ways - they were all so great. The pizza at Chapas was fantastic! Last Chance had beer and tequila. They made some great pancakes, too. Cross-Roads had lots of hot soup and a big, warm tent with lots of chairs (not something I'm used to using). The last two miles sucked. I don't know why, but all of a sudden, I was tired of running and really pissy. The last 5 miles seemed like 7 to me. But crossing that finish was a glorious thing. It wasn't long before I had a beer and was sitting in front of a heater laughing and talking to the other runners and volunteers.
I've been so outrageously busy, to be honest, I still haven't looked at the results. Justin M. said I was 27th, and Olga said I was 13:39. All I know is, like my "worst-case scenario" I had LOTS of fun. I highly recommend this race. Beautiful course, fun, short climbs, fantastic volunteers,... There just wasn't anything missing. It's a perfect race. I wish it was closer to home - it's even further away than Death Valley! Which makes me want to re-visit DV again, too.
I was reading Colorado Runner magazine and noticed I won 2nd-place Masters at the Rim Rock Run. I don't know if there was an award with that, but I was out west at Kokapelli for a post-race run and camping when the awards ceremony was going on. So one more reason for me to celebrate 2008.
Bandera 100K is next. Six days. I'm not sure I can properly recover from the snowshoeing. I wanted to do exceptionally well. Now a top-10 finish seems like a farce of an idea. But I'm not giving up hope. I've seen it go both ways - I aspire big and it fizzles badly, and I have little hope and end up with miraculous results. I know my pace/effort and will do my best and see what happens. Worse-case scenario: I'll have lots of fun.
Last Sunday, I took off the bindings on my snowshoes and attached a worn-out pair of Salomons. I sprayed the undersides with Dupont "Performance" Teflon grease. I use this as chain lube on my Trek, but it worked great the entire race to keep snow and ice from clumping. I didn't have to stop even once to chip it off like I did constantly last year.
I wore Drymax Maximum Protection socks underneath, and Hyperlite Stormsocks GoreTex socks over them. Both were brand new. This worked well as we ran towards the lake. Unlike last year's white-out, this year was just a regular storm, with snow and high winds. We could see the shores, most of the time, and there was no chance of getting lost. On the lake, there were a few "ponds" of slush that couldn't be avoided. The worst ones were over the tops of my GoreTex socks. So my great socks system simply filled up with water less than two miles into the race. The water was so extremely cold that my toes were instantly numb. Several seconds later, though, warmth crept back in. Then there was the second pond - even worse. OMG. I was seriously wondering if I'd have to DNF to save my toes. But eventually the water-filled GoreTex socks acted somewhat like a wet-suit that divers use. It felt cold, but not dangerous. As long as I kept moving, I'd be fine.
I started out too fast. I haven't been training or racing for most of the past three weeks, so I was out of shape. My pace was WAY too fast. It triggered the usual pulmonary edema and I was coughing before I was half way across the lake.
We were traveling straight into a strong face-wind. I don't know what the temps were, nor the wind-chill, but it was COLD! I'm guessing there were shaded pockets around 0F. Add wind and fatigue.
Wow, was it beautiful. The gusting snow made it more beautiful. The sun occasionally poked out, but mostly it was cold. Once we passed Mayqueen CG, it was several miles of deep-freeze that the winter sun never reaches on the shady side of Sugarloaf Mtn. My shoes were severely frozen. I had ice inside them that kept rubbing my ankles uncomfortably. There was no way to adjust them or empty them on the course. I was very sore before the race was even half over - and it just got worse. We spread out a lot. I was surprised that I was still able to run intermittently and regularly. I was not making good time. I had trashed my race at the beginning going too fast. Problem has been, I've been too meek and started back with very slow people and then I have to inconvenience several runners as I pass. So I wanted to be, not at the front, but near the same percentage area that I tend to finish. Well, they were too fast! There were so many amazing racers. Keri Nelson was there. She won the Leadville Marathon - ahead of the 1st-place male. So no surprise that she came in 2nd today. She and the 1st-place male actually ran most of the race together. Unfortunately, her snowshoes were 2" under regulation length. But everyone cheered her amazing performance anyways.
There were quite a few who had to quit, and some that didn't make the 7hr cut-off. This is such a very hard race. Racing 20 miles, with climbs, exposure to frigid winds and temps and water, you have to be an experienced outdoors person. There were even a few experienced people who flat-out said they'll never run it again. There were tears and moans. This is harsh. Races like this draw a rare breed of creature that thrives on extremes. I think many passed their limits, while others managed to stay barely within them.
I had a great time.
It took me about 10 minutes to get my frozen snowshoes off my feet. it took another ten to get my frozen ankle zippers undone to take off my tights. Something needs to change, but I'm not sure what. Many tried bicycle over-rubbers, but those add weight and don't keep the water out. So they ended up with ice underneath. None of the people who tried them liked it. Some others also tried GoreTex socks, and like me theirs filled up but acted like wet-suits - cold but not dangerous. Some used duct tape, some bags. I'm not sure what I'll do next year. Maybe I'll duct-tape bread bags over my shoes up to my calf - at least until I get across the lake.
I kept hearing how the bad economy means no crowds in the mountains. WRONG! December 30, Cottonwood Hot Springs said they had only the $160 cabin and a $50 dorm room bed. The back of my CR-V is WAY better than a dorm room bed. So I went looking for a desolate place to pull off. I need to start a new business making signs that say, "No overnight camping," and, "Day use only". Municipal, County, State, and Federal are all in cahoots to force everyone to pay into the local economies. In winter, with the roads only partially plowed, and 4' walls at each edge of the roads, I couldn't use my usual places.
New Years Eve, I bar-hopped Leadville. I was prepared to bail, because I didn't expect it to be much fun. Surprise - I had lots of fun. I met a couple from the Denver Metro area, and we got along pretty good. However, after running 10 miles that day and eating only one meal, I was tired. I drove east to the end of a road and went to bed by 11:20pm.
I woke up at 3am, 2009, sweltering. The temps must've been 45-50F! How can anyone sleep in heat like that? The sky was split with half a featureless gray void, and the other crystal clear and starry. I was obviously in the cloudy side. Jan. 1 was the highest winds I've ever seen in Colorado.
Not the best day to go to Cottonwood Hot Springs. Or maybe it was why they had a vacancy. I checked in at 4:30pm, soaked for nearly two hours, then got a "hot stone" massage for 90 minutes. Either I was abducted by friendly aliens, or I was on cloud9. I kept falling asleep. I really was having a hard time not drooling - that would have been embarrassing. Afterwards, I showered and went to bed.
This morning, I soaked for another 2+ hours. The water was hotter. I had to keep switching from the hot pool to the cool one. There were lots of cool old people (like me). I guess it's hard to be uptight at a spa.
This was the only pampering splurge I've had in a LONG time. I've been so stressed at work it's been hard not to snap at people when they start pulling corporate political BS, so this was more than just a luxury - it had become mandatory. I had hoped for three days of it, but I only got a day and a half. It'll have to do. Tomorrow, my 2009 Race Season begins. Yup! That soon. Another in a week. Back to the Go, Go, Go.
Overall, 2008 has been the best year of my life. I still haven't completed my mission: the Leadville Trail 100 Giving me hope, I had a grueling schedule that was not all that grueling to accomplish. This totally surprised me. I had anticipated several DNFs and poor speed from too much mileage. The opposite happened. The extra mileage seemed to make me faster. Or maybe I would have been even faster if I had only eaten right and run half as many races? Nah. The races gave me tons of experience. I think experience (aid station transition, equipment, what my body needs at mile 30, 50, 80) is just as important as physical conditioning. I lacked this experience badly. Milestones... A 3:30 marathon at Steamboat Springs that qualified me for the Boston Marathon. Winning my first-ever race award, 3rd-place in my division at the Estes Park Marathon. Finishing my first 100-miler, at Boulder, plus breaking 24-hours at the same time. Now, leaving this behind in 2008, the skinny on what really happened at the Leadville 100 that led to my 2nd DNF... I was going to make one long report, but I couldn't bear to type about it. In fact, I haven't been running withthe Denver Trail Runners because they kept asking me about it, and it's awkward to tell friends, "I don't want to talk about it." Before Leadville, I said I don't want to talk about it - I just want to do this. After yet another DNF, ditto, I don't want to talk about it. So please take this "skinny" and let's leave it in the past as shit-that-happens.
Picking up from the short post after the DNF, on Sugarloaf, in the dark, in intermittent freezing rain, with me weezing from pulmonary edema, I gave my pack to my pacer. LT100 rules allow you to use pacers as "mules" in rememberance of the miners in the 1800's. I wasn't moving fast, but I was moving steady. I knew that once I got over this last mountain, I was home-free. We were on the very steepest section of Sugarloaf. I was chugging in slow-mo'. I was wearing two caps, a NorthFace ballcap, plus my Mountain Hardwear GoreTex elmer-fudd. The MtnHardwear came off without me knowing. Here's where it went to shit - and it's unbelievable how precise eveything had to be for this mishap to occur... Another runner or pacer picked up the cap and caught up to us. The runner asked, "Is this your Mountain Hardwear cap?" I'm deaf in my right ear, and hard of hearing. The fact that I've fired many thousands of rounds through quite a few weapons in my life, and spent years as a machinist have degraded the hearing in my one remaining ear. I only heard "...Mountain Hardwear..." I had already said, "What?" about 50 million times already that day and was tired of it. The last few times, when I didn't understand people, I simply ignored them. If they want to be heard, they need to make themselves heard. I'm not deaf, and not THAT hard of hearing. So I ignored the comment about my cap. I was on my pacer's right-hand side, but he didn't know that. He thought I was behind and below him. He turned LEFT, never seeing me continue up the hill. He answered the guy, "No, this isn't mine, but I think it's my runner's. Wait, where is my runner?" He was absolutely CERTAIN there was NO WAY I was ahead or above him. And there I was, only six feet away, and getting further away by the second. My pacer looked left, right, downhill - holy crap!!! Where was Jeff?!?! Now a dozen feet away. So my pacer ran downhill - with my pack, with all my sport-drink, food, and other essentials. He searched laterally and below, but never for one second thought to look UPHILL. I was wearing two reflective ankle-bands. No one else on the course was lit like me. But I neglected to specifically say, like I'd meant to, "Look at my ankles. See those reflective bands? If you ever lose me, I'm the one with the reflective ankles."
My pacer went into panic-mode. With my pulmonary edema, was I passed-out? Had I crawled into the woods and died? He called the sherif and requested a Search&Rescue.
Meanwhile, I got half a mile up the hill. I needed my sport-drink and wondered WTF, where's my pacer? So I called back down the hill at the top of my lungs, with no trees between him and me down that long hill, but no response. So when the hill ended and there was a slight downhill before the course continued uphill, I stopped and waited. And waited. And laid down because why spend time-on-my-feet when not moving? And runners passed giving reports of my pacer frantically looking for me. The time ticked on...
Then Tim Fromm, Anita Fromm's husband, came by and offered the unbelieveable - he left his runner and went back down the hill to get my pacer. But my pacer had gone even FURTHER down the hill!!! Tim came back about ten minutes later unsuccessful. Even though unsuccessful, I will forever be in his debt for trying. He is my hero. Thank you Tim!
I did NOT WANT TO GO BACKWARDS down the STEEPEST section of Sugarloaf to retreive my pacer. Not in my condition, with pulmonary edema, and have to CLIMB IT AGAIN! But I did. I had to go the wrong way.
I found him, we had "words", he called the sherif to call off the SAR. I was so grateful to hear him say, without us even discussing it, that, no, we were not returning to Fish Hatchery less than two miles away, but instead continuing up and over Sugarloaf to a certain DNF at Mayqueen. I wanted every last step of the allowed distance, and my pacer was of one mind with me.
He felt MORTIFIABLY HORRIBLE! After those initial "words", I had nothing to say. Why would I? Water under the bridge. I had already come to grips on the walk backwards that my race was TRASHED, but heading back up I was worried that I would also lose my best friend. I realized losing a best-friend was a far worse loss than a stupid race. So I said, "I don't care what we have to do to deal with this, but that's what we're going to do - deal with it. Races aren't as important as people. The whole reason I supposedly do races is so I can meet people and be positive. If I let this ruin things with people, then my priorities are all wrong and I've failed my primary task." Races should be excuses to meet people, grow, and be positive in your own life and in the lives of others.
It's not WHAT happens that counts - it's how you deal with it. I can't claim I dealt with it very well. What my friend and pacer didn't hear, was my tirade on Sugarloaf BEFORE accepting my race was lost and going down backwards. I won't claim to be particularly noble, and in recognizing my lacking, I chose to limit my exposure to people asking me what happened. I didn't want to look back on unfortunate shit-that-happened. There's no good in that. It didn't change the fact that 2008 was the very best year of my life. I suppose if I had taken a different path, 2008 would not have been my best year. When I've posted exceptional finish-times, at my advancing age, I've often thought, "Wow, I'll never out-do that!" And then I do. I look at 2008 and think the same thing. I don't feel like it's possible to do better in life or as a person as I did in 2008. I can only hope that 2009 proves that wrong.