Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Up, Up, and Up

In Oregon now after 5 days in Juneau. Going to MHW/Montrail meetings before heading back to Colorado on Thursday.

It was pretty sweet to have a little Juneau getaway. The weather miraculously was really nice while I was there. In 5 days it only rained for a few hours and was sunny more than half of the time!

My first morning there I woke up and looked at the mountains. Mt. Jumbo was the mountain I could see from my friend's house where I was staying and right away I felt the draw of the alpine. I "needed" to go up there. Quick breakfast and that was where I went. Up, up, and up.

After craving steeper terrain for over 2 months (in Colorado I haven't found much of anything that climbs more than 7 or 8 hundred feet per mile) it felt like pure bliss to be climbing at a clip of 1,400 ft. per mile. Up, up, and up. Hitting the snow felt even better. And when the snow got deeper, that felt even better.

On this morning there were still some clouds, but once I got above 3,000 ft. I was above all of the clouds and could see only snow covered mountain tops in every direction. I felt more nourished by the mountains and the landscape in that moment than I can possibly describe with words. I could have left Juneau right then and been happy with my trip. But then I just kept getting more and more nourishment.

70 more miles of mountain running, lots of sunshine, and dozens of social engagements later and my time there was done.

I don't know exactly why I went there, or what it was that I was looking for, or what it was I found, but whatever it was I know that I liked it. And the great thing is that I also find myself more excited to head to Colorado on Thursday then I have been about being there yet. I haven't really accepted Colorado as "home," but I feel like taking this trip to Juneau is going to help me do this much more in the coming weeks than I have been able to so far.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeward Bound

Hopefully my Mom (who thinks New York is my home) and my girlfriend (who thinks Colorado is my home) don't read this, but I'm heading to what I consider home later today for a 5 day visit to Juneau. My bags are packed and I'm ready to go. There even looks to be some decent weather forecasted for the next several days up there, something which could easily be considered a miracle for Juneau in October.

Juneau has what I consider to be the best mountain/trail running of anywhere I have ever been. I'm jittery with excitement to get back in those mountains for the first time in almost 3 months. Word is that everything up above tree line is snowed in, but I am craving the alpine above Juneau so much that I suspect I'll be pushing through as much snow as I need to be up there.

Also, I have 6 friends up there who are planning on running either the 50 mile or the 50k at the North Face San Francisco race in December. Juneau might be more represented at that event than any city outside of California. My hope is to run with all of them in the next 5 days.

I also am looking at this trip as an opportunity to gauge if my general weakened physical state in the past 6 weeks is because of the altitude here in Colorado. I'll be in Juneau for 5 days and Oregon for 3 days after that. 8 days at much lower altitude should give me a decent idea of how my body is feeling as compared to how it has been feeling here and how it feels when I return here. I've been coming around and feeling better and better the past few weeks here so I feel confident that in time I will feel as strong as ever here, but this next week will be a good test of whether the altitude has been the cause of what I've been feeling or if instead I have a nagging illness or something similar to that going on.

And beyond all of this running stuff, some of my best friends in the world live in Juneau. I'm looking forward to lots of time with them... making food; sipping coffee; being outdoors; drinking a few beers; and talking a lot about life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Fine Day At The Office - NF 50 Southeast Region Race Report

I've never been one to take money (the acquisition of money that is) very seriously. I've only worked a handful of 40 hour weeks in my life. I've never been able to justify sacrificing the value of having more free time in trade for having less debt or more money saved for the future. I put my happiness and satisfaction in the current moment ahead of perceived happiness and satisfaction in the future. I think the notion that it is our civic duty to work a 9-5 day; week in and week out; for years, is an antiquated notion that is a significant contributor to some of the ills of our society. I don't think it's a coincidence that the average American works more hours in a year than those of all but a few developed nations and that Americans are on average more overweight and more depressed (to name a couple things) than the people of every other nation on the planet (at least according to multiple studies).

OK, I've gone off on a tangent here, but the point is that I've never been able to find a whole lot of excitement in doing things primarily for the sake of earning money, and thus it comes as no surprise to me that it ended up being somewhat difficult for me to take my race in Georgia very seriously this past weekend.

I've never run a race (until this past weekend) in which my primary reason for doing the race was to earn money. This time though I decided that I would give this a go because I'm fairly broke right now and I knew I would have a great shot at winning some of the $2000 prize money up for grabs at this race.

And so this was my main focus starting the North Face Southeast Regional race on Saturday. And just as I expected it was a bit harder than normal for me to feel super excited while running. That's not to say I didn't have fun. I felt really good the entire day (except for one 2 mile stretch late in the race when I was short on calories and felt dizzy and weak and just wanted to lay down for a nap), but I kept finding myself feeling really apathetic about it. At one point the route was not marked properly and I ran about 7 miles off course. As it turned out this was a stretch of course that we were supposed to run later in the race so they improvised on the fly and just had those of us that ran this 7 mile loop in error not run it again later in the race when we were supposed to. The funny thing was that even at first when I thought that I was basically going to run 57 miles I didn't really care. More than ever in any race I've done I just felt like I was out there for a run, not necessarily a race.

On the surface this probably sounds like an unfulfilling experience, but the reality was that I really enjoyed running a race that I felt so apathetic about. It made it really easy. I was able to stop and enjoy the views in the distance a couple times and I spent more time at aid stations than I ever have in a race.

In the end I finished more than an hour ahead of the 2nd place finisher. My time (7:42) wasn't very fast at all but I was very happy with how it all went. The course was very enjoyable to run. Much flatter and more smooth than what I'm used to racing on. Although my altimiter showed over 8,000 ft. of climbing though so there certainly were hundreds of small climbs that added up after 50 miles. Also we were on singletrack the entire race. Not even one short stretch of pavement or dirt road.

In all this turned out to be a successful race in every way: Nice payday; beautiful trails; relaxing pace; my parents drove down to the race from New York; and I was only gone from home for about 36 hours!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Human Express

Thanks to everyone for your advice after my last post. I strongly considered all of the suggestions for needing rest. I did, I promise. And then I went up to Wyoming and ran 58 miles of the Pony Express Trail with Karl yesterday.

In case you haven't been following Karl Meltzer's current journey he is running the entire Pony Express route from Sacramento to St. Joseph, MO. He is currently averaging over 50 miles a day and has been at it for 28 days with only one day off. Only twice in that time has he logged less than 50 miles in a day!

It was a great day of running. Perfect weather. Really scenic views and lots of great conversation with Karl and his crew (especially Krissy who ran the last 20 miles of the day with us).

Before heading up there I thought it was very impressive what Karl was doing. Now it seems almost impossible to me. I felt good yesterday but I am tired today. Not sore, but fairly tired after running for 10.5 hours. I might go out for a short run before the sun goes down here in a few hours but if I do it'll be no more than 30 or 40 minutes. Karl? Well, he got up at 5am again today, and for the 27th time in 28 days hit the road at sunrise for about 10 hours of running! I don't know if I could have run for 10 hours again today. I probably could have but I'm not sure I would have had the mental tenacity to do so. If I found the mental strength to do this I can't imagine my body would hold up very well. My guess is that I might be able to go 4 or 5 fifty mile days in a row before my body just couldn't go anymore. Maybe a week at most. Several years ago I rode my bike across a huge portion of the country averaging 50 miles a day. I was pretty well exhausted by the end. That was on a bike. Doing this on foot just seems nearly impossible.

The crazy thing is that for Karl this seems relatively easy. He just gets up and starts going and keeps moving and then he finds himself 50 miles down the road around dinner time. After a big dinner he goes to sleep and gets up and does it all over again. Really impressive. It's one of those things that you almost have to see first hand to believe/understand. I feel fortunate that I got a chance to see it, even if I'm too tired to do much of anything today.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Physical well being is such a fickle thing sometimes. All week last week I was feeling like I had really found my stride (sorry for the lame pun) in my running, and also in my physical and emotional well being in general. I was running more than I had run in weeks and I was feeling really good most of the time. I ran 130 miles in an 8 day span and it seemed like my body was responding really well. And more than that it felt like my mind was responding really well. Running was becoming really fun again (for the first time since I was in France) and I was feeling really excited about life in general. And then this Tuesday I went out for a run, intending to do 12-15 miles easy, and my body just felt horrible. I ended up running only 8 miles that day, and have only run 4 miles total since then. I'm still feeling good about life in general but my body is for some reason really worn out right now. I've had some fairly severe pain in my lower back and just today I feel like I'm coming down with another cold or illness of some sort. Luckily I'm running a race in a week since races always seem to cure my ills.

This past 5 weeks is the most I have been challenged in my running in almost 18 months. I'm sure there is a reason for this, and I'm sure there is a lesson in this, but right now I'm too close to it all to see it as clearly as I need to. Maybe I just need an extended break from running, but right now it doesn't feel like that. I've been pretty good in the past (I think) at knowing when I need a break and it just doesn't feel like that right now. I guess time will tell.