Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Mileage + more

I finished 2012 with just over 1,400 miles run.  I was hoping for somewhat more (and had planned to kick in a bunch of miles this week), but flu and cold weather conspired against me.  So, this past week, instead of the 40-50 that had been planned, I got in 4.  That's right, 4 miles.  And I didn't do anything else.  I was sick as hell, with cold and hot spells, muscle and joint aches, a cough, headache, and lots of clammy sweat.  Thankfully I had no stomach issues.  But I couldn't even get my swim or biking on.  For a few days I found it to be psychically distressing.  Yet as the week progressed, I became much more philosophical about the issue of mileage and workouts.

During my days off, I realized that I sometimes treat my annual mileage like I used to treat races (before I stopped doing most races).  That is, I put too much emphasis on a specific number.  Whether it is a number that represents a time, or a number that represents a distance, I have a tendency to care a bit too much about  digits.  So I stopped.  Sort of.  I'll always keep track of what I run.  But I'm not going to go out with a target in mind, or having to beat the previous year's total.  I am happy just running.  In fact, I love it - maybe too much.  For example: minutes before I was wheeled into surgery last year for some work on my knee, I told my friend, Marisa, that if the surgery didn't go well, that I didn't want to wake up.  I couldn't bear the thought of a world without running.  Kinda pathetic?  Maybe.  But it is the way I felt (and feel, maybe).

Running connects me to myself intellectually and physically, yet also on some kind of instinctual level as well that is neither of the mind or body.  There are times during a run where the mind is apparently unaware of anything that is going on, and the body just keeps moving in an effortless manner.  Is that being in the zone, running on autopilot, or going on some basic instict that keeps putting on foot in front of the other without troubling the mind or body with the process?  I don't know, but I really like it when it happens.  And it happens pretty often.

I think I'll leave this line of thinking right where it is and move on to thoughts for the New Year.  For the year 2013 I hope to do the following:

1) Give a lot more of my things and money away to people, groups, causes and charities that can use help.
2) Buy less, consume less, desire less, and need less.
3) Continue to eschew organized racing in favor of solitary running (there may be a few exceptions).
4) Travel more
5) Be more present in my relationships with friends and family
6) Dump cable TV (that may be difficult as well, to be honest).
7) Find a way each week to help someone out.
8) Finish major writing project (it has now been just under a year)
9) Spend a lot less time on Facebook and other time sucks.
10) Be less self-critical (something many of us could benefit from).

Finally, if you want to know a good read for runners, go get 'Running with the Buffaloes.'  It is a fantastic book about the 1998 CU Buff's CC team's season.  It is an amazing inside look at how top teams train, work together, race, and deal with injury and loss.  It is available in hard copy or Kindle through Amazon.  And remember, if you do go to Amazon, access the site through links on pages of charities like - a farm animal sanctuary that can use the help.  It doesn't cost you anything, but by linking to Amazon through their site, the charity gets a tiny percentage of your purchase as a donation.

Have a great new year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow, Swim, Run

Ah, snow.  Gotta say that I am not a fan of snow or ice.  Either one makes running difficult.  But together they conspire to create an impossible/impassable obstacle for an over 40 runner.  It isn't that I'm afraid of falling.  It is simply that I don't want to fall now much more than I didn't want to fall when I was in my twenties.  For some reason, falling after 40 sucks just a bit more than it did in my younger days.  So, when the ground gets slick, I put off running and hit the pool.

I got in three days of swimming this past week.  I really love the change of pace and should do it more often. But the roads and trails have their own alluring nature that calls to me as a siren does to a Greek sailor.  I have a tendency to eschew all other activities when the weather allows, lace up my kicks, and head out the door.

Yesterday, I thought I finally had a good window.  I set off for the easy 7.5mi Lecompton Interchange loop. The first 2.5mi were good, with only a couple of detours to avoid ice/snow.  But once I got farther out, I had to run in the snow-covered grass beside the path.  About 3/4 of a mile of that and I said 'eff' it - not aloud, mind you - just internally, to myself.  So the 7.5 became 6.5 with some snow and grass running thrown in.  It kicked my butt slightly.

Today was much colder, but I wanted to get in a decent run.  I put on my trail shoes (Mizunos, of course), and popped over to the river.  It took a bit of time running (about 2 mi) before I finally warmed up to where I was comfortable. The trails were frozen solid in the a.m. hours.  Every now and then I'd crunch through some bike-rutted ice packs. But mostly it was frozen ground.  On the way back I finally encountered an interesting little hill.  It was covered in ice.  I attacked it, and found the experience much like trying to go up an escalator that was moving rapidly in the other direction.

There is something about the River Trails that always buoy my spirits.  I don't know what it is.  Running through the frosty woods today felt like something out of a Disney movie.  It was like an enchanted forest -beautiful, but (due to the cold) with a slight whiff of danger (maybe).  I finished the run feeling wonderfully at ease.

This afternoon will entail a little bit of shopping for last minute Xmas items, reading, and a nap.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Only Planned Race For 2013

So I got talked into entering a marathon; next year's Hawk 100 Marathon, that is.  I thought about doing it this year, but was volunteering at the race and opted out.  Several other Hawks did the race and still volunteered, making me wish that I had done it.  Or did I really wish that?

I generally don't race.  I used to.  But I found that when I did I cared too much about the outcome.  Even if I ran a good time, if I didn't meet my goal and PR, I was really disappointed.  So, one day I stopped racing and began to simply enjoy running.  Running by myself has become my favorite thing to do.  Running with others is my second favorite thing to do.

As the race grows closer, we'll just have to sit back and see what I really plan to do.  I think it'd be fun to do a trail marathon race as an actual registered participant.  At least I think that it seems like a fun idea right now...

I got back from a 23 hr trip to LA yesterday.  Literally, the whole trip, flights and all took 23 hours.  I wouldn't recommend that anyone reading this try that.  It was for business, and business got done.  But it was a lot of ass-time in a plane seat, a car seat, and a hotel bar and restaurant.

Double Eagle:
On Monday, before I flew off, I took a run out along 6th St near Wakarusa.  Heading west up the hill toward Queens Rd, a bald eagle flew right over my head.  It was a gorgeous sight - and one that I have never experienced outside of the River Trails.  A few hours later, on the way to the airport, I again saw a bald eagle as the bird flew over my car on the highway.  I felt doubly blessed for the day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Disc Golf and Trails

I'm getting ready to head out for a short recovery run before the weather turns really cold later today.  I had a nice week of 3.5-8 mi daily runs.  The weather was cooperative.  I also played the best round of disc golf I had ever done.  It was over par.  But it was over par in the mid-single digits (6).  I had one approach that may have been the best I've ever done.  We do a lot of running and walking for disc golf,so I always feel as if I get a second workout on days I play.

Anyway, I met a large group of runners at Clinton at 7 a.m. yesterday.  We split into two groups and set out for a 10mi out and 5mi back run (basically out 10 on the white course and back 5 on the, more direct, blue trail).  It was a good run, if a bit slow at the outset.  The conversation was great, and the weather, cold yet not unpleasant.  I ran with the lead group until Lands End, about 6.5 mi into the course.  Then, I somehow missed the continuation.  I latched on to the second group until the 10 mile marker.  At that point I figured I'd just run the final 5 miles back on my own.  So I took my leave and shortly thereafter passed a sign that signalled that there were actually 6 mi left to run.  Honestly, the difference between 15 and 16 miles is not that great.  But ten miles into a run, it is a little disheartening.

Since there was nothing else to do, and because I didn't really have to be anywhere, I soon got over my surprise and settled into the return run.  I am not a fan of the Clinton trails, but I found that there were parts of the return run that I really enjoyed.  The miles ticked off pretty quickly, which was good, because I actually started to get pretty cold on the run back.  I had gotten pretty sweaty, which led to me being pretty soaked, which led to me needing to run faster to generate more heat, which led to more sweat.  Vicious cycle...

When I got home I took a seriously hot shower and ate a couple of steamed vegan tamales as my reward for the run.  I promised myself that I would take Sunday off.  But now it is Sunday, and there is no way I'm taking today off.  I might take tomorrow off and swim in the indoor pool 100 yards from my back door because it is supposed to be seriously cold.

Friday, November 23, 2012

40 mile week

For most of the past couple of months I've done 8-10 mi runs on the weekends and then 3-5 mi runs during the week.  My longer runs are almost exclusively trail, with the shorter excursions being almost exclusively road.  This past week I mixed it up a bit.  I did my normal 8.5 river loops on Sat and Sun.  Both runs were pleasant. I ran Sat with a friend who I had not run with previously. As they say, he acquitted himself well.  He normally does long barefoot (truly barefoot) runs.  I cannot abide with that, but I was glad to see he was at least outfitted with some skimpy Merrells for our jaunt. Sunday I was back to my preferred way to run - solo.

I normally take Mondays off to recover, but this past week was so lovely that I went out for a 3-ish recovery run.  I did the same Tuesday as well, having little time to spend outside.  On Wednesday I had an a.m. meeting scheduled, but said wtf (to myself), and did a 7.5 road run from my house to the Lecompton Interchange and back.  I don't know why, but I love that run.  It involves running near highways, but the wide open spaces make me feel alive. I spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon in the aforementioned meeting.

Thanksgiving showed up at my house with mild temperatures - though the winds were high.  I pulled on some shorts and my Mizuno Wave Aspire 8s and set out for the SLT paths again.  Instead of heading for the interchange, I went toward Clinton.  At the Parkway, I turned and ran into the state park for a bit to add some more distance.  Once I had enough to get me over the (arbitrary) 10 mi distance that I wanted to run, I turned and ran for home.  Doing two road runs in two days was something I noticed.  My knees and shins weren't overjoyed with the experience.  Overall, though, I was pretty happy.

I spent the rest of the day and night having ongoing Thanksgiving fare (all vegan) with friends at Lake Dabinawa.  I took today off.  Tomorrow it is back to the river.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

J Tree

I got to do some nice hiking in Joshua Tree last week. We got in some rock climbing as well.  I only took my Mizuno trail running shoes, and I'm happy to report that they worked very well for the hikes - with the only exception being really sandy areas where the low-cut profile of the shoe let to sand getting in.  Overall, though, I had no complaints.  In particular, the shoes held on to the grippy rocks in the park as if they had glue on their soles.  I was immensely pleased.

I did get to do a quick 5 mile shot up to the Griffith Park Observatory upon my return to LA.  That run never ceases to be one of the best courses in the US to run.  I always enjoy the heck out of it.  My new Mizuno Wave Inspires continue to be my favorite road shoes to date (and I've had quite a few that I've really liked).

I did the Sanders Saunter course at ClintonNorth Shorethis morning. I felt really good, so just cruised it.  The trails at Clinton are nice and challenging,and give you a good return for the effort expended. The day has been amazing.  It was (and is) windy.  But I'll take sunny and 70F anytime I can get it in November.  The whole run was shorts and t shirts, and no chills to speak of.

Tomorrow it is supposed to get pretty cold.  I plan to hit the river early and knock out an easy 8.5 before the rains settle in.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Eye on the prize at the Hawk Halloween Run

It was a nice week for running.  In the early part of the past 7 days, the weather was warm, which led to hot, sweaty runs - the kind of training I like to do.  The latter part of the week was cold.  I had a run in the rain - nice.  I also did the Hawk's Halloween Prowl and Growl run. My prize for the race was a bottle of Rogue beer.  I was a bit overheated, and it was a bit freezing (never a good combination), so I left theparty early and went home to take a hot shower.  The run, though, was wonderful.  At night, you get tunnel-vision on the trails. My headlamp kind of sucked - operator error: I needed to replace the batteries - so it was a bit more challenging than I thought it would be.  Still, though, it was fun running and chatting on the course at night.  

This a.m. I took off for another chilly run.  I think I saw more deer than ever on the 8.5 mi river loop.  I saw very few runners or cyclists on the trails.  It struck me as odd, because while it was cold, the sun was out, the wind was minimal, and the trails were clear.  I found it to be a great day to enjoy the crisp Fall air.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekly running report

I had a lovely week of light runs T-F.  There was some cold, some wind, a couple of deer doing it one morning.  But really nothing too eventful to report.  Wednesday after work I played a full round of disc golf.  I'm starting to do that more and more.  It is fun because it combines throwing and running (or walking if you don't like to run) between holes.  It is kind of like a biathlon for people who don't like shooting or skiing.  I find that I am constantly amazed at the skill level of some of the guys I play with.  Luckily for me, they are patient teachers.

On Sat I popped over to run with the Hawks at Clinton at 7:30.  It was cold, but not freezing.  We were just doing the route of the upcoming Sanders Saunter, so it didn't seem as if it would be too taxing.  There were two new girls and a guy who were joining the regulars for the first time.  For some reason, I led for the initial climb to the top of Sanders Mound.  On the way down, the new guy took the lead.  He was going at a pretty good clip, but had to keep stopping to wait for the group to catch him in order to know which way to go.  So, after about a mile of that, I took off after him and the two of us left the group behind.

We ran about an 8 min pace on the trails (I think I normally race those trail between 8:30 and 9 on a good day, and train around 10-11 - they are seriously technical, at least to me).  Up and down the hill, over rocks and roots, he told me about his training for triathlons.  He is, it turned out, mainly a swimmer, and a decent runner.  We chatted about various training techniques.  Then he mentioned his sponsors.  I was thinking 'great, I'm being dragged around the course by a sponsored 19 year-old triathlete.'  Not something I encounter every day.  But oddly, it wasn't too hard to hang on yesterday.  I even contributed a bit to the conversation (although, I was happy that he liked to talk so I could spend a bit of time sucking wind in his wake).

Today I hit my beloved River Trails at 8 and knocked out the loop in about an hour and twenty.  The weather couldn't have been better.  I ran into a friend coming the other way on his bike.  We stopped and chatted for a bit.  I love biking the trails, but there is something about running them that dwarfs the bike experience.  It really is the zen-like quality of running in an ever-changing wood. The trail's distance and course remains unchanged, but the surroundings fluctuate with the temperatures, the humidity, the time of day, the seasons.  Each run offers a new experience.   I try to clear my mind and think of nothing.  Usually I fail and ponder problems and solutions.  But I never fail to go into the zone where I lose myself in the run.  And that is what makes the RTs my favorite spot.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Eagles Have Landed

On my way to run this a.m. I was listening to a program called 'Acoustic Storm.'  Just as I tuned in, the Eagles were doing a version of Take it Easy.  It really is amazing how much music affects our memories, because in a moment I was 16 again, and transported to a corner in Winslow, AZ where my buddy Dave and I had stopped to rest on our way home from San Diego.

I seems incredible today that parents would let 15 and 16 year-olds drive across country in a broken down Karman Ghia with a driver's side door that was tied shut with a rope, and with a massive F2 Windsurfer strapped to the roof.  But our parents trusted Dave and me enough to let us make the trip for three years.  It was an amazing time to be alive.  We were really 'out there' alone.  Two kids with a shitty car that needed to be pushed (and then pop the clutch) to start the engine - we always parked on flats or facing downhill.  We had no credit cards, no cell phones, not a lot of cash, no a/c (which made driving across the desert hot as hell).

But when I think back upon those cross country trips, I don't recall anything bad or uncomfortable.  All I remember is a sense of freedom and adventure.  It was a time when you really would be out of contact with parents and other friends for a few days.  It was really wonderful.

It is ironic that now, with cell phones and credit cards, safer cars, better services, and more comfort, that no parent in his/her right mind would let their teenage sons (or daughters) drive across country alone (let alone go into Tijuana unchaperoned on several occasions).  The early 1980's may have been the last, best time for teenagers to know any sort of real freedom and adventure.  My thoughts only....

On to running.....

I had a couple of lovely runs the weekend.  On Sat, the rain and thunder beat me a bit, but led to an exciting and quick knockout of the river trails.  Sunday I took the same trails a bit faster (somehow), even with several stops to marvel at how beautiful the area is after a major storm.  I got to see a duck take off on the river.  I love when wingtips repeatedly strike the surface of the water.  Then, almost exactly at the halfway point in a drainage depression, the green and yellow leaves that had fallen created such a blanket I had to stop for a few minutes to appreciate what I was seeing.  The covering followed the stream bed and was so thick that if I didn't know where the wheel ruts were, I would have tripped up.

I was mainly running a 9-10 min/mi pace.  Between miles 6.5-7.5, though, I got an unexpected burst of energy.  I threw down, and completed the mile in 7 min 29 sec.  The final mile was also somewhere in the 8 min realm.  I'm usually stronger as I go, but rarely just get some weird burst of speed.  It was a welcome, if unexpected, feeling.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

CC domination and cold zen run

This morning before running I stopped by the Haskell Invitational.  It was an October morning with a blustery wind, grey skies, and a chill that seeped through the seems of my jacket.  I stuck around for the 9 a.m. race -  which seemed to be varsity boys.  I love watching the start of CC events when the pack of men or women thunders off of the start and then funnels into a much narrower lane after 100-200 yards.  It is exciting to see.  It was kind of fun running from place to place to catch the runners as they went by.

By mile 1 some guy from SMNW High School was in first by quite a ways.  By mile 3, he was even farther ahead.  What was interesting is that 5 or 6 of his teammates were the next 5 or 6 runners.  If it wasn't a team sweep, it was about as close as you could get and not have one.  SMNW put on a super impressive display.   It is rare to see domination like that in a meet.

I left after one race because I was freezing.  I went to the Merc and then popped home to knock down a cup of Guyaki Mate before once again leaving the house for the trails.  When I got to the trails there was literally no one around.  I was 5 miles in and running with only my thoughts to accompany me before I ran into my first cyclist.  It was really wonderful.

As is my m.o. lately, I eschewed my Garmin and my mp3 and just ran.  I thought about the story I've been working on, dishes to cook, places to visit, and a bit about running.  It is wonderful to think about running when I am running.  My thoughts this morning centered around my personal dislike of running races, even as I admire and respect the people who do run ultras and cross country.  It is a bit of a dichotomy.  For me, running is about as close to spirituality as I get.  I am usually solo, and usually prefer being so.  I'll take my Garmin every now and then and worry about time and distance, but the device seems to somehow taint the experience (as does the mp3 player - which I also use occasionally).  When I run, I try not to care.  I try not to try.  And sometimes, like today, I succeed.  Right after the start of the last mile (around 7.5) of the River Trails, there is a mean little hill.  It is so mean that I usually am thinking about it for a half mile or so before hitting it.  Every now and then I'll just do the fast ultra-runner walk up it (usually not).  But today, with about a half mile left to go in the run, I realized I had passed the hill without even noticing it or that which preceded or followed it.

The realization was like a revelation to me of the power of being one with the run.  The run flowed through me, and I became part of it, and it part of me.  I was so surprised that for the next quarter mile I considered turning around and running that portion again to try to see how different it would feel on this day if I were cognizant of what I was doing.  But the approaching finish beckoned, and I decided to forego a repeat simply for repetition's sake.

I never fully warmed up in the run, and even experienced some chills between miles 4 and 6.  I wore a hat, gloves, a long sleeve running shirt with a long sleep sweatshirt, and long, light running pants (sort of loose tights - if you'll excuse the oxymoron). I felt as if it should have been enough.  I think, perhaps, I got too chilled earlier in the a.m. and never fully warmed up before hitting the trails.

I'm going to follow the weather a bit more closely before setting out tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Running with the gazelles

Last week was a mediocre week for the thump-thump-thumping of sneaker-shod feet.  I think it was my first sub-30 mi. week in a long time.  Travel and a bit of jet lag from three back to back to back trips finally caught up with me.

But Saturday and Sunday more than made up for the malaise of the preceding days.  I got up early both days, drove my Element to the start of the levee, rather than the river trail head, and took off from there (the levee).  Adding the extra mile at the inception and conclusion of the river trail loop made for some added speed.  It is nice to start and end a trail run with a sub-8 mile.  The added distance in addition to the slight speed workout really made for a nicer run.  It always takes me a mile or more to warm up into the trails.  With the levee in front, by the time I hit the trails, I was ready to go.  I think the 10.5 rather than the 8.5 will now be my more standard go-to distance for that run.

It was also nice to share the trails with some of the top college CC guys and gals in the country.  On Sunday, several teams that had competed at Rim Rock on Sat showed up for some running.  I found myself in the company of seriously graceful runners on several occasions. It was fun and enlightening to see the running form of top-notch talent.

It was also a bit inspiring.  I felt great both days, and knocked out some good times.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Not a lot to report - but a scintillating read

It has been a while since my last post.  I've been doing a bit of travel (work-related, sigh).  But I have kept running.  In Lawrence, I've mainly done the River Trails every chance I get.  On the road, I've run through the night in Indy, 2 miles in a Japanese garden in Dallas, and along the water in the Inner-Harbor in Baltimore.  All have been good, but none as good as our own trails here in Lawrence.

I did the full 8.5 mile loop on Mon and Tues last week before I jetted off to Charm City.  On day two, I saw a few snakes - one of which I couldn't identify even after looking at pictures of all know snakes in Kansas (kinda gave me the heebie jeebies).

Lately,I've been running without using my mp3 player or GPS watch.  I just grab a water bottle, a Hammer nutrition gel or some type of sports bar, and hit the trails.  It is nice a liberating to run without time or words or song distracting from the activity at hand.

I ran into some Vega-types over the weekend and did have the chance to ask them to sponsor (or at least donate product to) some of the Hawk events next year.  It is looking good for that.  I'm hoping to ask a couple of other industry companies I know to do the same.  It's be great to have some nice Vegan products for runners at the races.

That's it til later...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

River Trails

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. I've been working on other projects. Sometimes I wonder, what more is there to say about running? But then I realize that, like running, I write this for myself. It is a record of my thoughts and experiences of the world through running.

Psychically, the past couple of weeks have been tough. Physically, though, things are, once again, returning to normal. With the three day Labor Day weekend, I'm hitting the river trails every day. The 8.5-9 mi jaunts seem different every time I do them. Yesterday was a mud fest. I ran in the rains of the depleting Hurricane Isaac. It was seriously muddy, yet wonderful I never saw another person until the parking lot at the end - my preferred way to run, like the cup - Solo.

Today the trails were packed down a bit as the sandiness had dissipated with the rains. It was a completely different experience. There were a number of cyclists and other runners. While that is always a bit of a drawback, the trails felt so good underfoot that, at times, I barley noticed I was running.

I'll hit them again in the a.m. for my first 3 times in 3 days on those trails. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Week's weak start, strong finish

On Tuesday I was exhausted. I had been going to bed by 9 pm, and getting up at 6:30 am (super late for me). But I was having energy issues just walking up the stairs to my office. And these energy issues had been going on for a while (see pvs blog). I slumped down into my office chair and dialed the doctor. I had a physical scheduled for September, but I moved it up to ASAP. So on Thursday I had my blood taken and then I peed in a cup, so that lab work could be completed in time for my appointment next Wednesday.

Against the advice of my friend, Marisa, I did small runs and rides the rest of the week. I felt bad during and after each one. I was (and still am) worried about thyroid, anemia, etc...

Then on Friday, things changed a bit for the better. I did a three miler in the a.m. I didn't do it fast, but it felt automatic. That is, I felt as though I could go more and more.

Saturday arrived and I decided to hit the trail at the river. Intellectually, it seemed to be pushing things, but physically I felt fine. I knocked out the loop with no problem. I took it easy the rest of the day.

Today I awoke and hit the trails again. I was doing a pace faster than I have done in months. I passed a group of three runners who had started ten minutes ahead of me. I then passed a guy who was running at the pace I normally do when I'm doing the trails. I ended doing the full loop in about 8 and low change per mile - faster than I normally train.

When I completed the run, I felt so good that I pulled my bike from the back f my Element, put on a helmet, clips, and shorts, and took off to do another circuit on the velo.

I'm keeping my doctor's appointment for the week. I want to know what was/is wrong. But I do feel as though I've emerged from a dark place with a bit more strength.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Coleen's Sweaty Ass Run

I haven't been feeling it lately. Whatever it is,it has departed. Very likely, the added daily biking routine, added without any extra supplementation has knocked some breathing, recovery, energy, etc out of my legs. I've been examining it for the past week or so. Yesterday, prior to heading out for Coleen's, I even had a conversation with a neighbor about how I just didn't feel up to the long run yesterday. I had risen at 7 (and hour and a half later than normal), had gone back to bed at 9 a.m, awakened at 11 a.m., had gone back to bed at 2 p.m., awakened at 3:30 p.m., and had finally gotten out the door to drive to the run around 4:45p p.m.

It was too bad that I felt that way. I had been planning to do 30 miles at the run for months. But from the get go, every lap felt tiring. I was exhausted and spent. I felt like I normally do after running a lap at the river, yet I had just begun. My stomach was upset. I felt nauseous for much of the evening.

After 15 miles, I thought about another lap to make 18, or another to make 21. But I felt as though I would possibly be doing damage if I did either. So, reluctantly, I bailed. I didn't mention to friends at the run about the distance I had planned to do. In some ways the run was disappointing. In other ways, however, it was rewarding. I got to run a couple of laps with Jay 'Blazing Hawk,' who was training for the Hawk 100 mile race. I also got to run for a bit with my friend, Indi, and also my new friend Rikki. It is always great to see the irrepressible Coleen as well.

The biggest reward I got out of the run, however, was simply knocking out 15 miles. I have never run that type of distance when I felt so bad at the outset. At the start of each lap, I just steeled myself to try to go forward and simply did it. As night fell and the temperatures dropped dramatically, I had a couple of 1/2 mile stretches where autopilot turned on and I just floated along in the dark. But I was feeling foot pain, knee pain, and stomach aches by then, and it became increasingly hard to push it all away.

On the drive home, I passed a sign on K-10 that informed me Lawrence was 12 miles away. As I drove that 12 miles, I thought about just how long that distance is. I had run farther than that in the course of the evening. I needed to chill-out, get some rest, and live to crank out 30 another day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Beautiful run this a.m. It is nice and cool. Last night I actually slept with the windows open.

Over the weekend I had two very difficult runs on the River Trails. Both days I bailed and only did right at 7.5 miles. I just seemed to lack energy/enthusiasm and had a little difficulty breathing. On Sunday's run I stopped about midway. I didn't walk or anything. I just stopped, stood still, and listened and looked at the nature around me. In my mind, I spoke to myself and said this is why I run. I just needed to remind myself that it is OK to feel shitty some days. Don't over think the run. Just do the run at a pace that works at that moment. And, as soon as I had internalized the message, the run got much better. It was still hard, and I didn't find the flow or auto pilot that I normally try to find. But I was somewhat back on track.

This week is short runs Tues-Thurs, followed by Coleen's on Sat. I'm throwing in a lot of biking each day as well. It doesn't seem to affect the runs.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

29 - 3 = what I got

I followed my buddy, Eric, on a mountain bike ride on the river trails the other day. People who know me know that I used to be obsessed with biking. I biked around France, biked across Kansas more than a few times. Did North Dakota. I also used to take long rides every weekend. Then one day I stopped. I remember coming home one day after a road ride with some buddies. We had had a pretty close call with a jerk-off driving a pickup pulling a huge, rusty old trailer. When I got home, I decided that it just wasn't worth it anymore. Road cycling was just too dangerous.

So for the past few years, I only take my road bike out on paved trails and backstreets. I mainly ride an older mountain bike around town (sometimes a folding bike I own as well). But I steer clear of main arteries and 2-lane highways.

I love to run the river trails. And, sometimes when I'm done with the run, I'll pull out my Cannondale MB 400 and ride the reverse of what I just ran. On my weekly day off of running, I also have a tendency to hit the trails par velo.

My old Cannondale has 26" rims. The other day when Eric joined me, his new 2-wheeled whip had 29" rims. I am going to sound a bit like a rapper, but where rims are concerned, bigger is better. Every time Eric barely accelerated, I immediately fell behind and could not catch up. And he wasn't even trying to lose me. He kept stopping and waiting for me - which was slightly humiliating.

Well, Eric (who some of you know as Banjo Hawk) headed to Scottsdale for the rest of the week and left his new Specialized bike with me. I took it out yesterday afternoon (I ran in the a.m.) and knocked over a minute a mile off of my best time. And that included stopping twice: once to watch a flock of wild turkeys, and once to talk to the tame deer that I always see out there.

I may have to drop some green on a new 2-wheeled trail machine. I own 4 bikes at the moment (down from 5). I want to encourage sustainability. But I needs me some 29s. What a world one problem!?!

So, here's the plan: If I do get a new ride, I will donate one of my other bikes to someone who really needs one. Last week I gave a super nice camera to a high school class that needed one. I hadn't been using it enough, and thought why not? I felt better for having done it, and have not missed the camera at all. Actually, maybe I'll just donate a bike whether or not I go blow cash on a new one. Well, I'm going to end this blog right here - no more speculation, no more blathering.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Running, the TDF, David Bowie

I had, luckily as usual, a lovely weekend of runs. Saturday reared its hot little head, and I drove out to Clinton to run with a surprising number of friends. I thought that the Lunar Trek practice run the night before would have pared the field. But, like me, there were many who opted to run in the a.m. instead.

Alex Beecher, Kurt Schueler, and I did a reverse of the normal out to Land's End and back. We went out on the blue and returned on the white. Coleen and company were doing anywhere from a few extra miles up to a full marathon. I figured that the 10-ish miles that comprised the loop and the Sander's Mound were plenty for me. On the return, I kept up with Kurt and ALex for about a mile, and then told them to go on. I'm decently fast, but they are FAST. I also like to run alone and listen to Sat a.m. NPR. So I pulled my trusty MP3 player out of my pack and enjoyed the solo run back to the start.

When Sunday came, she arrived with a bit more bite than Saturday. I was a little hung (really just slightly) from a staggeringly good wedding party the night before. While I had gone to be at a reasonable hour, my inhibitions about imbibitions had waned at the fete, and I had mixed a solid amount of beer and wine, without a corrective amount of H20.

Still, I set off on my favorite trail (the Lawrence River Trail), and had a great run. I took the 7.5 mile short-cut rather than the 8.5 full distance mainly because I didn't think I had brought enough sports drink. I did move another snake off the trail so that it wouldn't get run over by a bicycle (that is becoming oddly de rigueur for me on these runs - and I am not a snake person).

I got home in time to see Bradley Wiggins win the TDF. The tour was more exciting because of the breakout riders - Froome, Sagan, and van Garderen. I'm such a sucker for le Tour. Even though so much of pro cycling has been tainted time and again (and may be yet again, it a huge way if USADA is to be believed). The TDF is still an amazing event.

I finished the day at Marisa Ford's place with vegan rice pasta dish and the movie, The Man Who Fell To Earth. I had never seen the flick before. But with a cast that includes David Bowie and Rip Torn, how can you go wrong?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Garry Gribble's, Running, and a New Varmint

So I go into Garry Gribble's yesterday in order to take part in their awesome sale for Trail Hawks and Run Lawrence members. There is a lot of nice stuff. But I have my eye on a shirt that a staffer tells me is 'the most comfortable shirt' he has ever worn. It is some sort of white wicking cotton shirt that does indeed look very comfortable. It is not on one of the mark-down rack. But once I try it on, I know I'm going to buy it. So, for once at a sale, I am happily upsold. I love Garry Gribble's. We are fortunate to have the local chain in Lawrence.

Lot's of hot weather running, but I have lowered my weekly mileage into the 30s. It is just too freaking hot. I'm writing this at 6:15 a.m., and I'm wondering if I shouldn't already be out on the road. I may do at least 16 of the Hawks' 32 mile night run on Friday. But I am going to be looking at the temps before making a last minute decision.

Finally, my buddy, Mark Robison, of and I were out late last week, and saw our first badger in the wild. Neither one of us had ever encountered one. It was really magnificent. I didn't even know they lived around here. I thought they were found more in northern reaches like Wisconsin. Anyway, new animal to check off the list.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot

There was a lot of running that took place in the heat this week. My favorite run occurred on Saturday (yesterday). I awoke around 5:45, and was at the river trail head an hour later. It is strange that on days that are going to be seriously hot, 80F feels more like 85F. It must be the stupid heat index, but mentally, it really does mess with the mind. As soon as I began running, though, I knew that I'd have fun knocking out the 8mi and change. And I did. I finished the run looking as if I'd jumped into the river. I was 4lbs lighter than when I started. But I felt great.

I hung out with Eric "Banjo Hawk" Henry on Saturday night, playing a bit of guitar and pedal steel. We agreed to meet in the morning for a slightly shorter run. Well, at 6 a.m. he called and said he wasn't feeling that well. So I changed plans and decided to go knock out 7mi at Clinton North Shore. The run (I finished a couple of hours ago) was decidedly not fun. I'm not as much of a fan of the Clinton trails as I am the river. I ran face first (even as I was waving a stick in front of me) into more spider webs (with spiders in them) than I had ever encountered before. Honestly, it kind of freaked me out. The highlight of the run was seeing the same fawn that I saw a few weeks ago. It looks bigger and stronger. It isn't particularly scared of people - not a good sign for a deer.

I am hopeful that we will get some slight respite from the heat and sun in the coming days. My mileage has had to hover in the low 30s rather than the low 40s. It is just asking too much to elevate the mileage in triple digit weather. Until next week...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

River Trails Run/Bike?

I was finishing up my second round of the river trails on Sunday when I encountered a snake. I never worry about snakes on the RT, because, while I've seen many, all have been of the garter or black varieties. So as I don't stop, and continue to hop right over the little guy, I see the markings of a copperhead. He/she looked a little darker than the ones at Clinton, but it was unmistakable. I'll be a bit more careful in the future.

After decent runs on Sat and Sun,I decided to take Monday off and bike the river trails instead. I hadn't done that in some time. As soon as I began, I was reminded why bikers love that trail. It is like the best roller coaster one could ever ride. As a kid, we used to take our bikes out to the river and try to complete the circuit without ever putting a foot down. Being older and wiser (and with wisdom, sadly, comes a bit of caution), I made it through putting my foot down twice. I think I'm going to add some trail riding back into the mix. I used to be such a bike nut before the running bug bit me. It was nice to feel the machine working so well under me on the trails.

Final thought: See Moonrise Kingdom.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Short and Sweet

It has been some time since my last post. Nothing to worry about. With the exception of this scorching week, I've managed to have a couple of weeks in the 40 mi range. Highlights of running: two coyote encounters (one in my back yard as I was heading out), a hot 8+ on the river trails last weekend (and a hotter one tomorrow a.m.), running through all the water sprinklers that have been on practically non-stop since last week.

I've been doing a lot of reading, and quite a bit of writing elsewhere, and that has precluded posting on this blog. I will try to get going a bit more shortly.

BTW - The Lagat / Rupp duel last night in Eugene was fantastic. What an awesome 5000 team to go to the Olympics.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Peace and Quiet

I spent last week living and running alone. I was still connected to people through phones and social media. I also went to my office each day to make sure people were buying what I was selling. So I did see people. But instead of staying at my house, in my neighborhood, with my neighbors (all of whom I really like)I spent the week care-taking the country house of a couple of friends. And I found that I liked the solitude I experienced even more than I thought that I would when I agreed to watch the house.

In the mornings, I'd arise, feed the kitties (literally, they have cats), then go to work. I'd put in the required number of hours, doing a job I enjoy very little (but sadly, am pretty accomplished at doing). Then, in the late afternoon, I'd drive over to the river, change in my car, and hit trails. The solo runs last week were some of the best I've done in some time. Running late in the day is not something I normally do. I found it a bit difficult to get started. Then it was hard to warm up. Breathing in the heat was a bit labored. But all in all, I found that perseverance paid off. I messed around with different paces. I wore minimal shoes one day (Merrill Barefoot), just for the heck of it. On my final run I decided to take off at a pace I didn't think I could sustain. Each time I felt more tired, I pushed harder and increased my pace. And, at some point, it all went away. All the exhaustion, the pain, the doubt faded into a background fuzz like tv tuned to nothing. I had headphones on, but couldn't tell you if I was listening to NPR or my own playlist. Everything just went away as I ran.

When I looked at my watch at the end of the run, I had knocked 6-7 minutes off of my regular time for the distance. It was near a race pace, with no taper preceding the run, but rather runs each day of the same distance.

Over the weekend, I thought I'd head out to Clinton and click off a few miles on the more technical trails. When I arrived at the trail head, there was a canopy set up. It was full of food and water for people running 40 miles for the 40th birthday of a woman I know only though running, named Gen-no. She and a bunch a friends (most of whom I know) had set off earlier to get a jump on the day. I took off on the same loop but in the opposite direction, figuring that I'd run into them. It was a beautiful day. There were deer everywhere. I see so many deer that I normally don't comment on them, but yesterday was special in terms of proximity to, and number of the animals. I had no issues with breathing, pace, or form. I listened to NPR and cruised along. About 3 miles into my run I did come across the group. My buddy, Coleen (who had celebrated her own birthday, coincidentally, the day before), Gen-no, Alex Beecher, a couple of other guy I recognized, and then Gary all passed by as I sang Happy Birthday (I, obviously, was going too slowly if I could belt out a tune). Gary asked if I would turn around and join them, but I demurred. I had been having such a lovely week of running, and other than when doing runs over 20 miles, I prefer to run alone. I finished an uneventful 10 miles in good time, and was glad that I wasn't trying for forty. Late in the day I did get word that most of my buddies had completed the birthday run. I feel fortunate to know such committed people. That type of running takes a mental as well as a physical strength that people who don't do it probably can't understand. As much as I run, I still try to get my mind around a feat like that as well.

The pool next to my house was set up for long course over the weekend. It is such a treat when they do that. You can just go, and not have to turn every 25 meters. So, seeing that, I couldn't resist. And, after a 2/3 mile swim last night, I once again headed out to the River Trails this morning. I got up early, and hit the trails early in order to beat the predicted storms for late morning and this afternoon. As it turned out, I was the first person on the trails. And, while not as bad as Clinton in the a.m., I was responsible for clearing about half the trail of spider webs... with my face. In the twilight-ish light (wrong time of day, but that is what it felt like), the trails are a bit creepy. Whenever I'm out there alone with darkness descending, I always think about the mountain lion that my optometrists wife swears she saw nearby. She had been on a triathlon training run, and had seen a big cat trailing her. It kind of freaked her out. And years later, the story still freaks me out a little as well. About 4 miles into the run I was finally passed by a cyclist going the other way. And after that, I saw 3 or 4 more as I made my way back. Their presence took away the heeby jeebies, and also cleared the trail ahead of spiders - nice.

So, as I ran this morning, I thought more about what I should do. Most people hit mid-life and buy a Porsche (or something). I've hit mid-life, and want to get rid of everything, move to the desert, and read, write, and run. I feel the need to down-size. I want to strengthen the friendships and relationships (particularly running and writing) that matter. I want to create a type of job that I enjoy (and I think I can do that). And I want more peace and beauty in my life. I'm tired of worrying about quantity; wealth accumulation and risk-avoiding longevity. I'd rather have quality. Maybe I've needed a few seasons of discontent in order to define what really matters. Maybe I won't do anything about the way I feel. But maybe I will. And that is what will get me out of bed.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Syringes and Sultry Weather

I'm writing this shortly after jabbing myself with a hypodermic needle. I wanted to get my thoughts written down before the drugs kick in....

OK, people! Really?!? The above statement is half true. I did just jab myself with a hypodermic needle, but it was empty. I was on my way to filling it with a feline insulin product of some sort, while entertaining the cat destined to be the injectee with a finger loaded with a soy butter as a treat (I was trying to distract it). Somehow I missed the bottle of medicine and pushed the needle into my finger instead. It didn't hurt much, but I did feel a slight pinch (lol).

Anyway, it all turned out fine. Basically, I'm hanging out at Marisa and Chris Ford's house in the country while they are on vacation. They have a lovely place on an idyllic little lake. Several kitties are also in residence. One, Mika, needs injections a couple of times each day, so it is a little involved.

Being in the country is a nice change of pace for me as well, though. I have gotten a bit of reading done, a bit of writing, and have watched a lot of the second season of the tv show, Shameless, on Hulu. I've also knocked out some running.

In the ridiculous heat and humidity, I kicked out some trail miles at Clinton yesterday. Before the run, I bumped into Coleen, Indi, and one of their other friends (who I have run with, but crappily, can't remember her name). They were heading off for 10-15 miles, and I was planning on 7 ish (in order not to overdo it after last weekend). Dang it was sweaty. I kept thinking of the Chevy Chase line about hitting a water buffalo. But all in all, it was a lovely run. On the way back from Land's End, I ran into Indi who was heading back to the trail head in order to change shoes. It was great to run together and talk for a bit. She's getting ready for a 50 mi, and then the 100 mi, Rocky Raccoon race in Feb. I'm just looking at a wimpy ol' 50k at some point in the next month or two.

So, after a night spent in a massively windowed bedroom, awakening every now and then in order to watch fireflies flashing beneath the thick canopy, I woke up this morning and decided to hit the river trails for another jaunt in the sultry weather. After giving Mika a hit of go-go juice, I made it to the trail head by 8. Coincidentally, I saw Coleen's Element parked at the entrance. She was nowhere in sight. I figured I wasn't going to see her on the run.

I set my watch and headed off into the woods. It turned out to be one of the best and strongest runs I have done in a couple of weeks. I wasn't feeling it at the beginning, but that's not unusual. About mile 3 I really warmed up into the run. I was listening to a great radio show about a woman who feigned an Irish accent in order to get a job. She had to keep it up for the next 2 years while she held the position. I love doing accents, so I was particularly intrigued by the story. At one point in the run, I also had deer on both sides of me. Normally they are off in the distance.

For the second day in a row, I finished a run looking as though I'd come straight out of a pool in my running clothes. But I felt great. Tomorrow, I'll hit the same trail again in the a.m. Then I'l do some lawn work before heading to my parents' place for a Memorial Day lunch. I've thought about the holiday more this year than in years previous. I never really write down my full thoughts and feelings in this blog, preferring to stick to running and things that connect me to the sport and to others who love it. I write my other thoughts on paper. It is a more personal experience.

Enough of that. I'm going to put a bit of alcohol on the little stick and call it a day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Wall - Better When Done By Pink Floyd

'Soul' - My favorite graffiti along one of my running routes. This picture does not do it justice.

44. 44. 56*. No those aren't the first few digits in call to the EU. They are the number of miles I've put in over the last 3 weeks respectively. 12x12 will get you there as well, but no run I did actually involved the #12. The anomaly, the 56, is not something I set about doing , it just happened (and I kind of wish that it hadn't). I'll explain the asterisk later.

I saw on the Hawks yahoo message board, that Gary planned to do a 23 mile long run at Clinton on Sat. I have been almost exclusively running on either the River Trails or back roads near my house. So I thought, why not? My mileage is up. I haven't found to outer distance I can run yet this year. I'd like to find an easy (relative term) 50k at some point in the next few months and knock it out. So the 23 mile run sounded good.

I met Gary at the Corps of Engineers trail head. We were quickly joined by Alex and Micah. We set off at a comfortable pace. The plan was to do the white trail out and back - 11.5 each way. I would describe the run out as uneventful. It was a very pretty day. We saw some deer. No copperheads (which actually surprised me). No trips or falls on the rocky terrain. Micah peeled off somewhere on the way out and headed back. I ran third and listened to Gary and Alex chat as we ran along.

At the turnaround point, we stopped for a couple of minutes to reload our packs and bottles with water and suck down some gels. Then we set out for the retrace of steps back toward our cars. Around mile 17 Alex and Gary stopped to pop up to campground 1 to grad some more water. I, uncharacteristically, wasn't feeling very good, so I told Gary that I planned to forge ahead, and that he and Alex would quickly catch up. I couldn't put my finger on why I started to feel bad, but I knew something wasn't right. My legs started to feel tired. I forced through mile 18, then 19. Gary and Alex caught me somewhere in the 19-20 mile range. I told them to go ahead, I was fine, but just going to run slower than they would want to go.

Alone again, I started to feel pain in my knees, back, and ankles. My muscles hurt a bit, but mainly felt tired. I ate more and sucked down more fluids. But things went from bad to worse. Somewhere just shy of 21 miles, I finally learned what it is like to 'hit the wall.' Everything just stopped. I wanted to lie down and take a nap. I actually considered doing so. But I had just enough sense left to put one shaky foot in from of the other and start walking. The final two miles may have been the slowest walk I ever took in my life. But, I told myself that I had nowhere else to be, and that I should just try to take some time and enjoy nature.

Enjoying nature, by the way, is a bit difficult when your mind, body, and spirit have been chewed on and spit out by the gods of running. But, between agonizing steps, I did see some more deer (the run included more than I had ever seen on the Clinton Trails). Upon entering a clearing, I was confronted by a carpet of butterflies. Each step I took caused hundreds (thousands?) to fly up. There were so many, that as they took off, I was pelted by them. It was a very surreal and wonderful. I felt like crap, but I was aware that this was an experience I should try to savor.

I trudged along, tripping every now and then, because I couldn't concentrate or lift my feet much. It was a little scary, to be honest. With about .5 miles left, Gary, who I'm sure had grown concerned with my absence, came back down the trail to find me. He joined me on the slow finish back to the parking lot.

It took me the rest of the day to recover from the run. I have never had that type of failure on a long run. And I've gone longer many times. The Clinton Trails are quite a bit harder than the river ones, so that may be the reason. I hope to get out and do them again soon in order to address the issue.

So, the reason for the asterisk after the #56 at the beginning of this post is that, while I covered 56 miles last week, I technically ran only 53 or 54 of them. So I'll let history (because I'm sure we can all agree that this is epic;-) judge the miles covered.


Emil Zatopek. Wow, he was a great runner and a pretty humble, nice guy. He had alternately a hard and charmed life spent mainly behind the Iron Curtain. The book, Running, is not well written or translated (I can't be sure which). But it does convey a lot of information about the life of this amazing athlete. You could probably find a better source of material. But there was something charming about the no-frills nature of the book, and the matter-of-fact way Zatopek's life is portrayed.

Billy Mills. Wow, he was a great runner and a pretty humble guy, nice guy. I saw the movie, Running Brave, and learned a bit more about our hometown hero. The film, embarrassingly stars the non-native American, Robby Benson, in the role of Mills. KU is also so obviously not KU, that it is also a bit uncomfortable to watch. My favorite line came when one of the characters made reference to 'the Quad.' If anyone at the real KU knows where this 'Quad' may be, please let me know. Because having lived in Lawrence, for over 30 years, I've never come across it. But I do the the movie props for telling a really good story that needs to be heard and remembered. Billy Mills went through a lot in order to achieve what he did. I hope people do learn his, and Zatopek's stories. Since they happened in another time,I worry that their histories will be, well,for want of a better word, history.

Finally - on Friday evening, I popped over to Free State High to watch some of the 6A regional track meet. The top few (3-4) winners of each event would advance to state. The long runs were impressive. SM West has a girl named Alli (and I apologize for not knowing partial or full names) who crushed the competition in everything she entered. She ran seemingly effortlessly, and she pulled 100+ yards away from the other girls in the field, and then proceeded to lap a few of the runners. Amazing. On the boys' side, there was also a guy from SM West who could bring it. He pulled away in his races, though not by quite as much as Alli. The top boys also were lap-happy with the slower runners, who gamely hung in there and finished to generous applause from the crowd. Another neat event was the pole vault. I normally hate HS pole vaulting, because no one is very good. But again, there was one kid (from Lawrence HS?, maybe), who was seriously talented. The crowd loved him for his attempts, both made and failed. Even I, who cares very little about the event, was a bit taken by the combo of guts and grace required to do the event. I wish all of the qualifiers the best of luck at state.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Berries Blooming and Biking Buddies

The past half fortnight was, at least, interesting, if not all that much fun. I organized a garage sale with my buddy, Terra. Friday and Saturday we moved a lot of usual suspects, and a few uncommon ones as well. What made the garage sale interesting is that during the sale, we were online marketing each item individually on Craigslist. I sold my Gazelle trainer that way (purchased 6 months ago as a low-impact way to recuperate from knee surgery). We also moved some chairs and books that way as well. The most interesting use for something I sold came with the purchase of a stack of microfiber cloths. I used to import those as well as other espresso and barista equipment for use by commercial coffee establishments around the US and Canada. A woman showed up who obviously knew what they were, and purchased all of them. When I inquired what she planned to do with them, she told me that they would be cut into strips and then sewn into washable children's diapers for a group of needy children in Ethiopia. That was pretty cool. I found some more later and called her so that I could donate them to her. Anyway - good sale. Enough about that.

In the past couple of weeks I've blown by the 30 mile/week club, and firmly joined the 40 mile club. As a club, it is a bit more exclusive (although the dress code remains the same). I found every run (7-9 mi/day) to be a joyous experience. I took Friday off from running because I thought I should, not because I felt the need to do so. I also only took my Garmin 210 on a couple of the runs. After so many years of doing it, I have a good idea of my pace, and I know the course distances anyway, so I can figure things out by looking at a clock - duh! I am finding, that lately, as I go farther, I care less about the mechanics, the speed, the distance, and the noise that good runners normally focus on. I care more about the experience.

Case in point: today I popped out on my favorite trail (the Riverfront Trail) for a typical run. I had knocked it out yesterday afternoon as well. I felt great, and took off at a pretty good clip. I recall very little of the first half of the run, other than noting how awesome the berries were looking (Here's an aside: if you want great berries, hit the river trails before or after a run with a bag or bucket. There are huge amounts of the berries, and they are ripe and delicious). I was in a kind of reverie. I was moving quickly, yet effortlessly. I stopped, at one point, to check out a nice-looking abandoned bike about 4 miles out. I had noticed it the day before, but thought its owner was probably answering nature's call. That was obviously not the case. I looked around for a bit in order to make sure there didn't look like a struggle or something bad had occurred. Thankfully, I could find nothing that looked amiss other than the bike. So I motored on.

At the outer edges of the trail, I wanted to know where all of the ancillary trails for bikes went. So , instead of just doing the circuit, I started with a trail and followed it to where it joined a trail I knew. I then did that with a couple of others. It was fun and interesting to get all of the connections into a map in my mind.

Both of the above instances of stopping or going off of the planned course, are things that I didn't do previously. Last year (even though I gave up racing), it still would have driven me crazy to pull myself out of a route - especially to follow some uncharted territory. But it felt great today.

Somewhere around mile 6 in my run, my buddy, Eric Struckoff, came barreling towards me on one of his insanely awesome Cyclocross bikes. Eric is a monster cyclist who has a lot of trophies in his closet. He is well known as a race promoter in this area, and was the founding director of the Pro/Am Tour de Lawrence, which brings thousands of spectators and teams from all over the country, into the city each year. I got to see his ability up close when in 2001 I rode on a self-contained tour across France with Eric, his wife, and a couple of other friends. The guy was happy to tackle any mountain we came to with 60 additional lbs of gear packed along. Anyway, we paused on the trail to chat a bit (something again, that I never would have done previously). We talked about the berries, some wild grapes, the state of the trails (fabulous), and life as a geneticist (his occupation). I lifted his bike, which weighed about the same as one of my running shoes. Then we set off in opposite directions.

I finished the run with a ton of fuel left in the tank. I thought about popping out for another circuit, but opted against it. I want to run good miles the next couple of days. And doing 2-3 circuits would definitely require taking a day off tomorrow. So I quit with the audience (me) still wanting more. And that was just the start of, what looks to be, a beautiful Sunday.


I'm reading a book about the life of Emile Zatopek. I'll give a short report as soon as it is done.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nice River Trails

What a nice weekend for running. It was hot and muggy, so it made you aware of the run and the effort that you put into the practice. Yesterday was a slow 8.5 ish mile run along the river trails. On the way back, I ran into a friend who, with some others, was working to maintain and repair portions of the trail. This morning, surprisingly, I did a much faster 7.5mile run over the same trails and got to see the amazing results of their labor. They really did a great job and fixed some portions that needed attention. I also got to see one of the massive trees that line the trails that had collapsed (must've been last night) onto two other massive trees, and is currently suspended by them. It is worth checking out somewhere between mile one and two on the running side (mi 7-8 on the biking).

I didn't see any snakes over the weekend, but did see a group (herd?) of deer yesterday on the trails, and a fox in my yard last night.

My weekly running is now solidly in the 30 - 40 mi range. I'd like to get it to the 40 + range for the Summer and Fall by June. So far no injuries, and my knees are holding up well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When in doubt, run it out.

With my legs still a bit sore from Saturday's 17mi, and Sunday's 2mi (recovery run), I didn't have a lot of hope for the run this a.m. I had given my legs a break yesterday, and did pulls for a half hour in the morning at the pool. I did a Biofreeze rubdown last night, and hoped to feel adequate for a decent run this a.m.

And what a decent run it was. I took off heading west, but turned south after looking at some slightly ominous clouds (they later disappeared). I felt pretty good, and experienced almost no soreness initially. So I decided that a 5 miler would be a good move. As I neared the 5mi loop break off, I thought, you know, I feel so good that I should go for six. So I took a left down a dirt road. As the six mile loop was going, I noticed that I could feel some lactic acid building. But instead of feeling bad, it felt shockingly good. So, when I had the opportunity to add another mile, I did so.

I didn't break any speed records. But I did knock out a 7mi run at a sub 9 pace when I would've been happy with a 3-4mi run. I'm hoping to do something similar tomorrow. But first, Biofreeze.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Term and the Long Run

Runderful - adj - a word used to describe a great running experience. The word is usually followed by an exclamation mark.

Someone must've thought this term up before me. But if not, it describes how I feel between 1 and 4 hours every day.

Such a good week for running...

I didn't do anything that was personally noteworthy, in terms of running, until yesterday. But the week, on the whole, was wonderful. The mornings were sunny and cool without too much wind. Monday and Tuesday, as mentioned in a previous post were spent with quick beach runs in St. Augustine (actually Vilano Beach just outside of St. Aug): lots of sea shells crunching underfoot, random dolphin sightings, and gorgeous sun-speckled waves. Upon returning to Kansas, I spent the rest of the work week knocking out runs on my 4 mile course that crosses over pavement, asphalt, and gravel roads (gravel being my favorite surface, seriously).

For Saturday, I wanted to see what form I am in for a longer run. Since my knee surgery last Winter, the longest couple of runs I had done were half-marathon distances. I was able to knock those out with little difficulty at between an 8 and 9 min/mile pace. Neither had been a race, so I generally don't push myself too much on training runs. So Saturday, my plan was to do a couple of 8.5 - ish mile loops on the River Trails. I thought I'd take it easy on the first loop, and then either crush or survive the second - one never knows how one will feel in running from day to day.

Before the run, I stopped off at the Farmer's Market. It was 7 a.m., and I was one of the first people there, which meant I had the pick of the choicest produce. Since I was a bit anxious to get running, I did a quick circuit of the market, and bought a few vegan baked goods, some awesome looking kale, and radishes. Then I made tracks for the trails.

For the first circuit, I took off with a raw bar, a gel shot, and some water. Because it was warm, I had also thrown in a few potassium tabs, vitamin Cs, and an oregano salt cap. The first 8.5 mi proved to be beautiful, yet uneventful. I finished the loop, changed shirts, and replenished supplies in under two minutes, and set off again. I try not to stop on long runs (with the exception of Coleen's - which has a vegan smorgasbord after every 3 mile loop), because I get cold and stiff very quickly. Getting cold and stiff only seems to be a good thing if you're dead, though you'll never really be able to report otherwise....

Anyway, I set off again. I had no real issues. I didn't increase my speed, because I didn't want to induce the weird calf cramps I get in runs right around mile 10. I held my pace right up until mile 11, when I was pretty sure the cramps weren't going to hit. I wasn't setting any land speed records, but everything was in order. At mile 14 I got a weird tightness in my right hamstring - a muscle that has never bothered me. I stopped and walked for 100 meters or so, and it went away. At mile 16, I tripped and rolled my ankle. It really hurt. I was mainly irked that I had stopped paying attention to the trail, and had allowed that to happen. I started to limp the final mile, but then thought does it really matter?, and took off running again. If my ankle was screwed, I'd deal with it on Sunday. One quick jump over a black snake and a few minutes later I popped into the parking lot for the second, and final time.

later in the day I felt a little tightness in my quads, but nothing major.I have felt both better and worse after some longer runs. So I think I'm on track for a nice little solo 50k sometime in the future. I hope to increase my weekly mileage from the typical 30s into the 40s and 50s for a few months. I plan to have a couple of 20+ long runs coming up in the next 2-4 weeks, and then see where I want to go from there. As usual, I'm not really working toward any specific goal. I never have a race in the future that I'm targeting. I just like to run. I really respect my friends who run, set PRs, and sometimes even win races. I just find that the race situation puts too much psychic pressure on me. While races invigorate and inspire others, I find training for a specific event (other than Coleen's), to be a bit oppressive. Maybe all races and runs should be like Coleen's - run 3 miles, break for 5-15 minutes to eat and chat, then repeat the process 2-15 times. Yeah, that sounds about right....

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

St. Augustine

I spent a chunk of last week, last weekend, and this week in St. Augustine, FL. If you are going to be stuck in Florida (not my favorite place to be by a long shot), St. Augustine might be the best place to be. It is the oldest city in North America, and has a unique feel - something like New Orleans meets Cape Cod.

The first few days in the city, I didn't run, but instead swam in the hotel's pool. The last couple of days, we (my friend Marisa and I) switched to a hotel on the water, and I got to run along a beach that was tens of miles long. The beach had almost no people on it at any time. It was great to set out and just keep going. I wore my new Merrell Barefoot shoes. They held up nicely. Other than the Nike Free disaster of a few years ago, I have never worn minimalist shoes on runs. But I figured the sand would save me, and it did.
Marisa on Jacksonville Beach, where we stopped on our way to the airport 

The high point of our stay on the beach was spotting a group of dolphins just offshore. They were swimming along at sunset. We walked up the beach with them for a short time until they finally disappeared. Since we were there on business, we did do quite a bit of work making sure our stores attending the trade show knew about our products. Being part of the natural products industry, we did run into several companies that offered great new products. Chicago Vegan Foods, for example, has stunning cheeses that we sampled. A Spanish company offering a range of teas called Help was also interesting. We hit most of the vegan restaurants in St. Augustine. We also visited the lighthouse on the island, the art district, and the gorgeous Flagler College (that is one nice place to go to school). While I did miss out on a lot of wonderful running in Kansas over the past weekend, at least I did it in a pretty idyllic spot.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Running Weekend Well Wishes

While I will be running elsewhere this weekend, I want to take a moment to wish all of my running pals bon chance in this weekend's various races. In particular, a shout out to the closest thing I have to a regular running buddy, Chris Ford (who I'm sure will appreciate being referred to as a 'thing'). Chris is going for a medal (to add to his medal drawer - no kidding) in the Kansas Half Marathon on Sunday. Also, heartfelt best-wishes to Indi, who is going for a substantially longer run at Free State this Saturday (tomorrow). You've trained for it, Indi. Now go out there and enjoy it. I'll give a report on sand between my toes, and side stepping Portuguese man-o-wars next week. And don't forget to check out Scott Jurek's new book. It got (and here's a surprise) a glowing review in one of the trail magazines. And honestly, it probably deserves it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Weather Watching and Running Ruminations

I'm sitting in the dining area of my house. It is a nice place, just off of the kitchen, with south facing sliding doors that lead out to the back yard, and beyond that, Free State High School. In the sky above the school, clouds sail past. Today is a time for vigilance. It is one of two times in history that the National Weather Service has issued a dire warning about violent storms and tornadoes over a day in advance of the event(s). Honestly, I'm not sure I like having that much warning. It gives the inhabitants of the designated areas too much time to ruminate over the day's potential outcomes. Give me a couple of hours notice instead. I can move make my plan and call friends and family to ensure that they are aware as well.

So, to get the weather out of my synaptic passages, Chris Ford and I popped over to the River Trails and knocked down the 8.5 mile loop. I had planned to head right back out and do it again, but ended up chatting until I had cooled off too much to want to tackle the trail again. Chris is getting ready to kick out a really fast KS 1/2 marathon run next week. He wanted a decent run at a mellow speed to start his week of taper. So we did a pretty easy 9 min/mi pace. No snakes on this jaunt, but we did get buzzed by a huge owl, saw a blue heron take off, and ran around a bunch of frogs on the trail. All in all a lovely morning run. I finished the week at 35 miles.

I grabbed a pair of Merrell Barefoot kicks at Gary Gribbles after the run. As everyone knows, I am not a minimalist guy when it comes to running shoes. But the Merrells are really comfortable and look great. So I went with style over substance, eschewing a more comfortable pair of Nike Frees in favor of the Barefoots.

Now a brief interruption: Last week I put up the longest post I've ever written. Thanks to all who read through it and emailed me. I realize the post was nutty long, but it needed to be. I will try to keep them to a more manageable length in the future.

Speaking of that... So as part of the Cal running experience, I did knock out a 4-5 mi run through Palm Springs' main drag during my stay. Since it is a desert oasis and gay mecca, I thought I'd see a lot of people out in the early a.m. Oddly, that didn't happen. I pretty much cruised down the town's main drag alone. At the same hour in Vegas, you'd be trampled by runners (a very counter-intuitive thing that I discovered a few years ago). There were even more in places like P-town. Very odd...

Anyway, the PS run was fast, because most of that burg is flat. It really was great to see everything looking crisp and clean. Breathing was no issue, because the desert is dry and the town isn't high above sea level. Back in LA the next day, I had an odd asthma attach on the Griffith Park run. I got over it. But it did give me pause.

A couple of documentaries everyone should see:

Bully - the new doc out in limited cities at the moment, but expanding. It is very moving.

The Cove - I finally got up the courage to watch the outrage perpetrated on dolphins by the Japanese. It makes me glad that my credit card gives bank to the Sea Shepherds every time I use it.

Until next week (or I feel like posting again) - run for pondering, pleasure, or purpose.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Pilgrimage of Sorts

The lovely Griffith Park Observatory - Exactly 2.5 miles of running from where this picture is taken.

In life, I rarely get to do what I really want to do. I think that holds true for most people as well. We go to jobs that we don't like much in order to buy things that we don't really need, but which we have convinced ourselves that we can't live without. Most of us in this position have at least evolved to the point where we work to live. I'm always sad for people who live to work, because it usually (but not always, as my friend, Alyssa, pointed out) means that something is lacking in their home or personal life that they would choose work over family and friends. And I envy the lucky few (and there really are very few) who truly love their jobs. These few usually have great family and friends supporting them as well.

Last week, I got to do something that I had wanted to do for a long time. In truth, I only knew that I wanted to do part of what I did. But as the days unfolded, what I received was even better than what I had initially planned. I had felt mild trepidation at the commencement of my undertaking, but fell into a near ecstasy as I went deeper into the journey.

Here's how it all began:

I had booked a flight to LA to spend some time with my buddy, Roger. We see each other quite a few times each year; usually several times in LA, and once in Lawrence at either Xmas or Thanksgiving. I'm kind of adopted into his extended family, and spend time with them (particularly his aunt and uncle who live about 100 yards from me in Lawrence). Rog lives in the guest house of someone you would have heard of in the Hollywood Hills, exactly 2.5 miles as the winding roads travel from the Griffith Park Observatory (which is always visible about 3/4 of a mile away as the crow flies). The GPO run is one I have written about many times on this blog. It begins with a steep .5 mi downhill, followed by 2 mi directly uphill. The return trip is the reverse. It is a brutal, yet beautiful run through, what feels like, countryside, even while in the heart of North America's largest city. After a few days my shins are splinting, and my knees are waiving the white flag. Yet I embrace the run as one would one's ugly baby. It is mine, and I love it despite its faults.

As it turned out, a couple of weeks before my visit, a tragedy occurred in Rog's life. It was a good time to go and support him. We discussed what he might want to do. A while ago, we had driven out into the high desert to a state park to look out over hundreds of acres of poppy fields. It had been a pretty spectacular sight. Rog thought that a trip like that might be a good idea. I thought so as well. Get out of the city, and get his mind off of what had happened. I also suggested the Salton Sea, with an outside possibility of Salvation Mountain, and an even more outside possibility of visiting a place called Slab City.

When I arrived in LA, Rog graciously picked me up at LAX (and it was gracious, because picking people up at LAX sux). It was super late on a Thursday night. We drove along the interstate through light traffic. We passed the closed entrance of Griffith Park and headed up into the hills. But honestly, I don't remember too much more. I had been up since 5 a.m. CST, and it all seems a blur.

Friday arrived with a cloud nestled (I'm not sure if I like that word) in between the hills. It almost seemed to be drizzling because the air was so, ummm pregnant, with moisture. Rog isn't a big runner, but his is seriously fit. He said that he would bike along next to me while I did the GPO run. We popped the run/bike ride in about 44 minutes. We stopped at Trails - a stunning outdoor cafe at the base of the park for vegan and vegetarian fare.

The rest of the morning was spent running errands, stopping by Rog's studio, and hanging out. Lunch was at the wonderful vegan eatery, Green Leaves. We spent the afternoon at the pool, house, and studios of James and Moritz. There were a few others there as well, including Rog's great friend,Doug. James and Doug were working on some costume pieces that you will soon see in an upcoming episode of a popular TV show. We chatted poolside, drank a little wine, had some tortilla chips, got some takeout, and then called it a night.

Back at Rog's place, we decided to wake up early (a very relative term where Roger is concerned), and head to the Salton Sea. Roger called an industry friend, who's working on a movie you would've heard about, and set up a place for us to stay in Palm Springs for the night on our way home from the Salton Sea. So, 'early' the next morning we departed.

To get to the Salton Sea from LA, you head to Palm Springs and turn south towards the Mexican border. The drive is both ugly and spectacular. The highway heads through some seriously industrial areas (one place in particular had a huge American flag oddly planted on the top of an enormous mountain of rubble and detritus), over a mountain pass, by a casino or two, and then opens up into a valley where the drive down takes you through the largest array of wind turbines on planet earth. It is really spectacular.

At last we reached the Salton Sea. Coming upon the Sea was somewhat emotional for me. It was a place that I had wanted to visit for years (since hearing about it sometime in my 20s). The Sea has been around for millennia as a dry lake bed, as well as both fresh and salt water inland seas during different periods of time. Its current state, as a salt water body, measuring 35 miles by 15 miles, was created by accident in 1905, when canals and gates designed to bring water from the Colorado River into the dry 'Salton Sink,' failed. For 18 months,the Colorado River stopped flowing in its normal course, and flowed only into the Sink, creating what we know as the Salton Sea. The current Sea is smaller than some that have preceded it in the same location. The, much larger, Cahuilla Lake is known to have existed through both archaeological sites and oral traditions (Cahuilla Lake, named after the indigenous population is known to have supported a community of up to 10,000 Cahuilla people. Today there are only 3,000 descendants).

The Salton Sea was a huge tourist attraction in the 1950s, and continued to be so through the 70s, when a couple of back-to-back storms devastated the region and destroyed much of the development around the Sea. The Sea, which sits at 227 ft below sea level, is about 30% saltier than the ocean. It used to be home to many different species of fish, but now only supports the hearty tilapia, of which there are some 400M in the Sea. Tilapia corpses, in fact, litter the coastline of the Salton Sea. The number of them is shocking. And as you wander along the beach, you begin to realize that much of the 'sand' upon which you trod is actually tilapia skeletal materials. There is a great ranger station, facilities, camping, boat launch, and kayak rentals in the Sea's welcome center. There are also other access points, including the semi-deserted town of Bombay Beach.

Roger along the banks of the Salton Sea.

Leaving the beach area, we drove for miles alongside the Sea. We passed a spa, a scary-looking border patrol checkpoint, and the town of Niland, CA (more on Niland coming up). From Niland, we turned left off the highway and proceeded up an increasingly deteriorating road into the desert.

I want to take a moment to comment about my love for the desert. While I like nature in most of its forms, I feel most comfortable in a high or low desert environment. I prefer desert to forest, stark to lush, barren to bountiful. I don't know why, but put me out in the middle of nowhere, and I am most at ease.

So I was feeling pretty good with my surroundings as we came upon a place I thought I might never live to see, Salvation Mountain. For those who don't know, Salvation Mountain is the result of 30 years of tireless work by a man named Leonard Knight. The mountain has been featured in documentaries, news articles, and even the wonderful film, Into The Wild. The mountain is built to praise God, and bring God's love to people. Over the years, Leonard has used over 60,000 gallons of paint to create and maintain the monument. As Rog and I walked across the sand and dirt to get a better look at the mountain, a man approached us in a friendly manner and began to tell us about the history of the place. He also informed us that Leonard had been ill since December, and hadn't been back to view his work until today. He pointed to an old man who I instantly recognized as Leonard, sitting on the tailgate of an old pickup under a makeshift awning. The man kept telling me to go speak with Leonard, and I kept saying that I really had nothing to say to him. Finally, Rog suggested that I go over and shake his hand, and he (Roger) would take a picture.

What ensued was an amazing encounter, much of it video recorded (I will try to get it posted at some later date. I am unable to load it at the moment). I walked over and introduced myself. I sat down in a chair next to the tailgate, and thus began a conversation between an art-loving atheist (me), and a saint-like believer who had spent a major portion of his life eschewing comfort and possessions in his quest to glorify God. He said that he didn't want people to look at the mountain as art. He wanted them to see it as a message and an homage to God. I found it very difficult to view it (even in a religious context) as anything other than a fantastic piece of art. One thing that I loved about Leonard was his passion. I could see it so clearly in his watery blue eyes. His message was all about love, with no condemnation. I was a bit blown away to be next to someone who had that kind of passion - you simply don't encounter it very often. We talked about some other things as well, but I was a bit concerned about him. He still had on his medical bracelet, and his forearm began to bleed,seemingly on its own while we spoke. He handed me a couple of postcards as I was getting up. I was grateful to receive the gift. Rog and I made a donation to the fund to help the site, and then set off to walk on and into the great work.

Rog at Salvation Mountain

The mountain itself is rather fun to walk on. Since it sits in an incredibly harsh environment, over the years it has had a lot of coats of paint applied to its surfaces. The result is that the surface is slightly spongy, like a rubberized high school track. It is, in some ways, much like a grand cathedral. The main section of the mountain serves as the cathedral itself. But, and this is something I hadn't know about, off to the side, there are several small rooms, like chapels. These 'chapels' (my name for them, not Leonard's) are also painted and decorated, and are made of a combination of dirt, wood, paint, and hay bales. The moment we discovered these chapels and I entered the first, I had an odd ecstatic experience. I couldn't help but hold my arms outstretched and upward, with a big smile on my face. They were so beautiful (to me, at least), and so unexpected. Leonard's vision seemed so much more impressive. It didn't just address the grand scale, but allowed and encouraged personal reflection and contemplation.

We probably took a hundred pictures of Salvation Mountain. I have only posted a couple here for brevity's sake. I know that Leonard might disagree with my description of the mountain, but it really is an amazing place to visit, whether you look upon the site as art or as an offering of praise to God. I look upon it as an incredible, and ultimately (unless serious efforts are undertaken to preserve it) transitory work of artistic genius that I was fortunate enough to see in the course of my life.

Before Rog and I departed, a woman as well as the man that we first spoke to, stopped us and asked if we would be interested in going to an end-of-season formal at a famous outdoor 'club' in nearby Slab City called The Range. As it turned out, the Winter population of Slab City leave as April begins. To celebrate this, the city's residents have an annual formal. We declined their offer politely, because we had evening plans in Palm Springs. But I can't say how touched I was to have been extended an invitation to their event. As you have noticed, it is very easy when faced with the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, and Slab City, to write or speak of them in an ironic way. But that would be doing them, as well as the writer a serious disservice. But even as we were walking back to the car, we were invited to partake in the hot springs just outside the entrance. If we needed swimming suits, they had a bunch they would provide, or we could go naked. We decided to go into Slab City first, and then think about hitting the springs on the way out.

We entered Slab City, not without a little trepidation. It is a place that is seriously off the grid. It has a sketchy reputation. It is what remains of an old military base. When the buildings were razed, the slabs remained. Some of the residents live in the city year round. Some are very transitory. Others live there all year and work to make the place a good place to live - removing trash, creating a members website for inhabitants and supporters of the place, creating bulletin boards (both physical and electronic), creating clubs, nightclubs, and a real sense of community. There are no facilities (ie plumbing, sanitation, electricity...), so each resident has to be pretty self-sufficient. There is a couple who live in the city who sell and install solar panels. Most of the supplies - food, water, booze, etc... have to be brought in from nearby Niland, CA.

The Range - Slab City's wonderful nightclub.

We had been treated well by the people from Slab City that we met at Salvation Mountain. And, while we didn't stop and speak to anyone else in Slab City, we did get a few friendly waves. We saw some art cars, some wonderfully decorated trailers and sites on the main drag, the old guard house that now welcomes visitors (pictured above), and the wonderful Slab City sign and bulletin board (also pictured above). We passed the non-denominational church that would hold services the next day. And we passed people camping in tents. It was all very moving. A community comprised of pensioners, misfits, probably a good number of drug addicts (if the film link below is to be believed), drifters, dreamers, outlaws, and wanderers; all living together off the grid and giving life to a place in one of the harshest environments the US has to offer.

I spent the day thinking that it is so much more interesting to read about what happens after Eden, than what happens in Eden. Slab City embodied the thought. It certainly wasn't Eden, but it was a damn sight more interesting.

On our way out, we paused by the hot springs, but opted out. It was getting pretty warm, and we needed some food and water for the trip back to Palm Springs. We pulled back into the town of Niland. Niland may have been the weirdest place we experienced on that March 31st. The town seemed to me to be the most impoverished place I had ever been in the US. It was a town of run-down houses as trailers. It had some businesses along strange frontage roads along the highway. By saying 'frontage road,' I'm making it seem more developed than it is. We grabbed lunch at one of the town's cafe's, Bobby D's, because it said that it offered salads. As we entered, we experienced the thing that happens in movies where every single person in the place stopped what they were doing and stared at us. But quickly a harsh-looking guy (Bobby D?) told us to sit wherever we liked. He was surprisingly soft-spoken. He took our orders, made perfectly fine salads, and charged us very reasonable rates for the food we consumed. While we were eating, we looked at the photos on the walls of the cafe. They were mainly pictures of the area during the terrible flood in 1905 that created the Salton Sea. Houses and railway trestles were inundated and swept away. It made me think that, in some cases, it was probably a bit like what we saw with the Japanese Tsunami tidal waves of last year. Except in the case of the Sea, there were few photographers and limited technology on hand with which to record the disaster.

As we drove out of Imperial County and the Salton Sea recreation area, I actually felt as if something had changed. There was so much desolation, but at the same time so much beauty. I had met and connected with someone that I could only describe as a truly holy man. I had been in his cathedral that was every bit as impressive (and in some ways more impressive) than the greatest cathedrals in the world. I had seen the fabled Sea; a triumphant creation spawned by a disaster, that now is again slowly fading away. I got to see one of the great off-the-grid spontaneous and diverse communities in existence today. And I got to do it all with one of my greatest friends in a time of sorrow. To paraphrase Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp), who visited Salvation Mountain and Slab City before his ill-fated trip to Alaska, and subsequent posthumous fame in the book and movie, Into the Wild: 'happiness is only real when it is shared.'

I will write more about Palm Springs and running there, back in LA, and a great week of runs in Lawrence when I return to the regular format next week. Please check out these websites for more information about places listed in this post.