My Why (Part 1)

I battled some demons at Mt. Baldy yesterday.  I have been battling all kind of demons since July 2012.  Today’s demons were fears and self-doubt in my own abilities.  The plan for today did not include summiting Mt. Baldy (San Antonio); the plan was to run up to the Notch and then do the Triple Tee’s: Thunder, Telegraph and Timber.  Things started out fine, although I wasn’t running as much as I would have liked up the fireroad to the Notch–which led me to decide to only hike the uphills for most of the day.  We hiked almost all the way to the top of the first of the Tee’s, Thunder.

After leaving Thunder, the trail suddenly switched from fire roads to single track (more like half track) that reminded me of the scary section of the Kodiak 100–I believe it was the Siberia section of that race–that I paced Derick for, back in September.  That section of Kodiak was on a brand new trail, in the middle of the night; and we all felt like we were going to fall into the dark abyss.  The Triple Tee’s trail is a lot more stable, but in my mind, I started to freak out.  Then about 0.75 miles after leaving thunder, we came across large ice patches covering the entire trail.  We had left our microspikes in the car and I have never been on a trail with Ice before.  I was not in a good mental place and I convinced myself that I was not physically capable of crossing this ice section safely; so I decided to turn around and not attempt to cross the ice.  The new plan was to turn around and summit Mt. Baldy.  But my mind was not happy about this.  I am still getting back in shape after five weeks off from an injury and I was content with cutting the run short due to how tough it was for me yesterday.  I also have been battling not being consistent or feeling in shape since August 2012.  As I was struggling to go up Mt. Baldy via Devil’s Backbone–the easiest of the routes to the summit; and a route that I have done dozens of time with no issues–my mind kept putting negative thoughts in my head.  I was ready to quite a few times.  Fortunately Steve, who I was running with, talked me into continuing.  Though I resisted and kept trying to quit for the day, I got up to the top of Baldy, even running three sections of the final scramble to the top.

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The day at Baldy was important for me because I needed the mental kick in the ass, but I also started to think about what is different about how I approach running between when I was doing well and now.  I have not complete an ultra since Avalon 50 in January of 2013.  And my last four road marathons were my four slowest marathons ever–to be fair three of them were in consecutive days as part of the Tahoe Triple.  I also have not had the emotional or physical energy to put in the work needed to get back to where my running was in 2011 and the first half of 2012.  This is when I started to think about “My Why.”  One thing Coach Jimmy says about running 100 miles is that you have to know what Your Why is–you need to know why you are putting your body through extreme conditions for extended periods of time.  It was thinking about this that led me to realize that my drive has gone away–mostly a result of emotional exhaustion.

By the time we got back to the car, we had gotten over 17 miles in and tons of time on feet.  But most importantly, I had found a desire or drive to not only get my running back on track, but also determined to face my demons–getting back to this blog after a long break is great way for me to face them.

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Part 2 of this post–to be posted at a later date–will really dive into what My Why is.  This is more of a brief account of me hitting my low and trying to finally figure my way out.  I have had many lows–some of the lowest lows in my life–since August of 2012.  I have done tons of soul searching since then.  I have drastically changed major aspects of my life.  But putting it all together during a low point is the beginning of finding your way out of the cycles of lows.  I know I will have lows in the future, but the goal is to change the scale, such that my future lows do not approach the lows of the past 20 or so months.

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Hello Muddah Hello Faddah (A letter home from camp)

Dear Mom and Dad,

It has been nearly 20 years since I last went away to summer camp, but I am glad that I found one for adults.  Some things are different and some things are the same from 1993 when I was at Jameson Ranch Camp for two weeks.

The differences:

  • Indoor showers at WS Camp–thanks to the hotel room
  • Indoor sleeping at WS Camp–see note above
  • Beer at WS Camp
  • Facebook/iPhones/WiFi at WS Camp–wow technology has come a long way

The similarities:

  • Playing outside all day in the dirt
  • Meeting many new people
  • Shooting–well at JRC there was archery to participate in and at WS we heard several shotgun blasts near Devil’s Thumb

Day 1 of camp started out cold.  A lot colder than I expected or packed for, but fortunately Thomas let me borrow his jacket.  We met at Forresthill Elementary School and took a school bus to Robinson Flat.  There was snow there!  And then we had to hike up to Little Bald Mountain, in the snow.  The first couple of miles were fitting–since it was Memorial Day weekend, it felt like we were stuck in traffic.  Once we peaked around 7,000′ and started descending, the snow started to thin–by the time we dropped below 6,000′ the snow was completely gone.

I already knew it was going to be a long day and weekend–as it was only one week after Born To Run 100K.  The slow first few miles in the snow didn’t help.  We eventually got to the first aid station of the day (about 8 miles in), and it was amazing!  It felt like an aid station from an actual race (and all aid stations over the three day weekend were fully stocked).  Since it was not a race, I decided to try some things that I don’t normally try at aid stations: Rice Krispy treats and gold fish–both were winners in my book.

After leaving the first aid station and heading into the canyons, I made the decision to back off.  Running down the canyons were painful and I knew hiking back up would be tough.  I decided to conquer the canyons with Erin (it would also be good practice for me, since I was scheduled to pace her at San Diego 100).  Before hiking out of Devil’s Thumb, Erin realized she lost her camera, so we searched for about 5 minutes in the immediate area before deciding to go on without it.  Erin and I power hiked Devil’s Thumb, which gains about 1,600 feet in 1.5 miles.  We were passing many people and never got passed on the way up.  Erin and I had a similar plan for the hike to Michigan Bluff, but we got slightly separated and I made it into the aid station about 30 seconds before she did.  Helen’s entire crew and friends all regrouped at Michigan Bluff and proceeded together for most of the final 5 miles of the day.  We lucked out with the weather, as the canyons never warmed up and it was relatively cool the entire day; I even had to put my jacket back on when I got to Michigan Bluff.

Along the final segment, our group encountered Carilyn Johnson, an elite runner who took second at BTR 100K the week before.  I had only previously met her via the Twit-a-sphere, but when we started talking she was as friendly as she was online.  At the same time that we met her, in person, she also happened upon her pacer for States (another person she had only met online before).  For the next few miles, going into the final Canyon of the day, our even larger group had a fun time talking.  But the group really spread out over the final climb.  We got to Baths Road mostly together, but spread out even more when Andee and I decided to run every step from Baths to end of the first day–it felt like the end of American River 50, where I was forced into a walk on an easier section of trail but was able to finish strong running a road uphill to the end.  At last, we had finished the first 50KM of camp, and it had only taken us 7 hours and 40 minutes.  Exhausting!

That night we had a large group of Coyotes and friends meet at the Auburn Ale House.  We had previously discovered the Auburn Ale House thanks to Eric from URP, who had taken us there after showing us the trail section of the American River course back in February.  The place was packed and there was a slight drizzle outside, but we are Ultrarunners.  They found a large table for us outside (with a slight awning).  We may have been the only people out there but at least we got seated and could finally drink.  Their Imperial IPA was a great way to end day one of camp.

Day 2 of camp started out with more pain–and in new areas.  Instead of my right leg hurting (as it was during and since Born To Run), it was now my left knee.  Fortunately the pain subsided as soon as we got off the pavement and got onto the trails.  I ran with Helen the entire way.  It was really good to run with her, to get a good feel of her strengths and weaknesses–she is a strong climber and really good at steep downhills.  Helen can also move–we averaged under 12 minutes/mile for the day for the 16 miles of the Western States course–and that included not stopping my watch at the aid station.  At the aid station at Peachstone (8.7 into the run) I told Helen to go ahead as I needed a bathroom break.  I sprinted down the trails to catch her–it took a lot of effort to catch up to her and I was flying for nearly 3/4 of mile to do so.  For the first half of the day’s run, we had a nice Coyote train going, as Craig (our Canadian Coyote) joined me, Helen and Andee.  Day 2 was a lot warmer than day 1, but we lucked out with some cool breezes throughout the day.

The best part of the day was our 30 minute detour into the American River.  I didn’t go fully in, but Katie did peer pressure me (it didn’t take much) to at least get a majority of my body wet.  We ended the running segment of the day with a 3-mile hike up to White Oak Flat–not part of the WS course.  The Coyote train re-emerged and we picked up Katie, June and Thomas (our Alameda Coyote).  At one point I was toying with Thomas as he tried to run up part of the hill and I was able to power hike stride for stride with him.  But then I decided to seriously run the final 1.5 miles or so–after it mostly leveled off.  I was partially pushed/pulled by a new friend we made at the river, Mike.  He had the same American River 50 shirt on that I was wearing.  It was a good workout at the end of day 2.  After Katie got to the top, she turned into a human finishing line for all of our friends–they had to slap her hand to finish.  Katie’s energy level is amazing, and it was good to have around towards the end of the run.  When Helen saw Katie’s finish line, and a guy ahead of her, she made a move to successfully Chick him.  After finishing we had to wait around nearly an hour to catch a bus back to our cars.  When we got back to the hotel, we said bye to our friends who were headed home after the second day.

The night portion of our day included Pizza at Old Town Pizza–yum!–and then a panel at the community center including 5 people who have completed the race 5 times or more–one of them had 21 finishes.  The panel was a lot more interesting than I thought it was going to be.  It was focused and well organized and led–it stayed on topic and on schedule.

Day 3 started out slow as Helen and I were the last to start because her GPS watch could not find a signal.  At the trail briefing that morning we were warned to use the bathroom before leaving for Green Gate, as the first mile was in “Dueling Banjo” territory.  They said there will be a yellow pee line down the trail–sure enough, a mile into the run there was some yellow tape across the trail and tons of runners on the side of the trail making nature their bathroom.  Shortly after both Helen and I separated to relieve ourselves.  I waited for a bit but it seemed like everyone had passed.  I called out Helen’s name and did not get a response.  So I assumed she passed me while I was off trail.  So I started to pick up the pace to try to catch Helen.  I would speed up and then get into a long train of runners before slowly moving through the train and speeding up to the next train.  I was going a lot faster than I had planned trying to catch Helen and I was starting to tire out.  Eventually I got a train and looked a few people up and June was there.  I decided it would be better for both me and June to run together, at least until the first aid station, which was over twelve miles from the start–this was the longest between any aid station all weekend.  

The runners started to spread out more, so June and I were running together for a while when we caught two other runners.  We started talking and as soon as we mentioned Helen’s name, she shows up from behind us.  All this time, I thought she was ahead of me.  The three of us stick together through the aid station at Quarry Road.  Helen and I take off after that for the final 8 miles.  But first we washed off with a second application of Technu–the first 12 miles of the day were like running through a jungle of Poison Oak.  The Poison Oak was at times head high and covering the single track trail.  I applied Technu three times that day: before the run, at mile 12, and after my shower.  This is the section of trail that I get to pace Helen during the race–but it will be in the dark.

The two significant climbs of the day were after the first aid station.  Fortunately for me, my legs seemed to have gotten stronger (and recovered from BTR) as the weekend went on; I was on the verge of not running day 2 or 3 after a very rough first day.  Even with my legs recovering well, I still walked a majority of the final two climbs with Helen.  Leaving Quarry was a slow hike up to Highway 49 on a single track.  The trail was beautiful, but since it was the end of a long three-day weekend, it seemed like the trail (and the climb) would not end.  Eventually we started to hear cars, which reminded me of what the expert panel said the night before: that the best sound is hearing the cars at Highway 49 since you are so isolated from vehicular traffic before then.  After crossing Highway 49, we knew we were in the home stretch, with about 6 miles left:a nice descent to No Hands and the final climb into Auburn.  For some reason, Helen and I were under the impression that once we got onto the road for the final mile, it would all be downhill.  Sure enough, it was still up for most of the way, with it eventually leveling off and descending to Placer High.  At the very end, Helen saw a guy a little bit ahead of us and tried to pick up the pace to “Chick him.”

What a perfect way to end a long holiday weekend.  Spending the early afternoon covered in dirt and dried sweat, eating some really good aid station food.  At the end of each day of camp, the final aid stations each had their own specialties: day 1 was grilled cheese (I don’t know how I missed this); day 2 was hot dogs (I decided to skip); and day 3 was breakfast (eggs, potatoes, etc.).  Once June finished and we took some final Coyote photos for the weekend, it was time to head back to the hotel to clean-off (and apply more Technu) and head home.

Hopefully, I will be attending Camp more often in the coming years.

Love,

Jack

I know this post is a little late, but at least I got it posted before Western States Weekend.  Also, Carilyn has dropped out of States due to an ongoing foot issue since BTR weekend.  

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Who am I?

That deep question in life, “Who am I?” is sometimes phrased as “tell me about yourself.”  In business school, we learn it as your elevator pitch.  What can you say about yourself, that you think is meaningful, in 30 seconds to 2 minutes–or what you think your future client or future boss wants to know about you.

It is a tough question because it makes you evaluate yourself and then start playing mind games about your audience.  How you answer the question depends on where you are, who you are talking to, why you are being asked and are you comfortable with the person asking.  Is there just one elevator pitch for everyone?  Should there be?  What is my elevator pitch?

 

I definitely struggle with this question, whether it is my profile on a blog or other social media, if I am meeting someone for the first time and even when talking to friends.  What deep meaningful thing do I have to say to explain myself–do I really believe that I am that important that the person I am talking to will care what I have to say without judging me in a negative way?

I can tell you what I do for a living (or the many things I do for a living), but that is boring to some–though some people find my many “careers” fascinating.  I can tell you what I like to do–but I struggle putting my passion for running and photography into words.  After all, isn’t that the purpose of photography?  To express yourself without the need for words; and for running as well, let your body do the talking.  Also, some of my running adventures intimidate some of my non-running friends, and I am not trying to do that–I’m very modest when talking about some of my adventures and races to my non-running friends.  So what else is there to say?  I can tell you that I like to travel.  But who doesn’t like to travel–that does not make me an individual.  I can tell you that I struggle with expressing myself.  But you should never have a negative in an elevator pitch–or should you?

So that is where I came up with my “Me” for this blog.  Simple, yet I think it encompasses who I am: “I run, I live, I enjoy…the rest is just details.”

I originally wrote this blog many weeks ago because I was working on the website for my real estate business.  But I put off publishing it.  It is a Friday night now, and I find myself at home updating my LinkedIn profile–this is what motivated me to publish this.

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2 Promises: Beer and Dirt

What do you get when you mix a cattle ranch, ultrarunners, (Race Director) Luis Escobar and the spirit of the Raramuri? A one-of-a-kind weekend-long outdoor party. There was the Rarajipari (the Tarahumara ball race), shotgun blasts, a tattoo artist with a portable studio, salsa dancing, hula hooping, live music, internet radio playing Norteño music, camping, bar-b-que, a well-stocked bar, wild turkeys (the animal not what you would find at a bar), a mannequin dressed in a see-through teddy and a skeleton. Oh did I mention there was an ultramarathon that took place? The Born To Run Ultras.

From the moment we arrived at the nearly 10,000 acre cattle ranch in Los Olivos, we knew we were off the beaten path. How many races are so laid back that it isn’t about competition? Yes, there were some great performances from the top athletes. Like Tomo Ihara who flew in from Japan and won the 100-mile race in a new course record–and stopped to hula hoop at mile 90, which was a common theme of the 100-milers. Or Tiffany Guerra, a teammate of mine, who went into the day running with her friend, but was given the green light to run her own race–she came from behind and was the first woman in the 100K. She also looked so fresh the entire way, as she always does.

The only competitive nature of the entire weekend came Friday night during the Rarajipari. At check-in we were told to bring a $1 bill with our name written on it, and place it in a plastic bag–we weren’t told why, but be at the start/finish area with our running shoes at 5PM. Leading up to the weekend, there was talk of a 100 yard dash at 5PM on Friday, but this was gearing up to be something different. At 5 PM Luis was toting a shot gun and another Japanese runner, Tetsuro Ogata, was wearing a Luche Libre mask. I was standing next to a fellow SoCal Coyote, Lauren. When we all learned of what was to come, she says “they better not pick me.” And the very first name read is…”Lauren!” No worries though, Lauren is a natural athlete and it appeared that she was once a soccer player as she dominated her first round match. The ball race was setup with three competitors kicking–or dribbling like in futbol–a small wooden ball that is somewhere between the size of a baseball and softball. Each race was started by shotgun fire–Tetsuro shot a few and so did Luis. The race was about 75-100 meters long but with two u-turns. Also the loser of each round got a prize–typically Hawaiian chocolates, nuts or coffee, but also the occasional book or Saucony shirt. The entire campsite was watching and cheering on these race.

Unfortunately, no other SoCal Coyote was called, but one of the first round winners took off so a replacement race was needed. Steve and I volunteered for the make up race. I was wearing my Vibram Bikilas, since they did not gather the annoying foxtails that the typical shoes collect in those fields. At first it was hard to control the ball, and the harder I kicked the wooden ball the more it hurt my practically unshod feet. After the last turn, I had a solid lead over Steve, but I was a little tired and starting to lose control of the ball. Steve kicked the ball, from 25 feet away, and it crossed the line about a second after I crossed the line. There was a 10 minute break before the second round, but we were all hungry. We decided to start our dinner operations and then hope Lauren and I do not advance to the finals. Lauren decided to use a surrogate for her race; her daughter Cassidy. What do you know, Cassidy and I got called for the same race. We wanted to have fun and also didn’t want to win–so we could eat. But in taking it easy, I was able to control the ball better and coming into the final turn I was in the lead. Once again, I struggled with control over the final stretch, and the ball got caught in the grass a few times. I finished second and Cassidy third–though I did put up a good fight. In the end, 14-year old Cody won the entire event.

Good news! We could start cooking and eating. And were we in for a surprise. Another fellow SoCal Coyote, Rigo made some amazing salsa from scratch–Rigo also completed his first 50KM race this weekend. Our group was a little small, as 3 of our teammates were coming up later that night. But, the outdoor cooking/dinner just added to the entire experience of the weekend. But before we could eat, we were called back to the start line for a trail briefing–this is where things get interesting. This is my second Luis Escobar race–my first being Red Rock 40 in November of 2010–and I know how he likes to create an old-school trail race feel with minimal support and reliance on others. And he delivered the message to all of us so clearly. “There’s beer and there’s dirt.” “Look around, this isn’t wildflower, there are no good looking people here….” “Look around, this isn’t San Diego Marathon, there aren’t balloons and bands.” In the same respect as the welcome sign of “be nice or go home,” Luis said: “Be respectful to each other. Be respectful to the property. And be responsible for ourselves.” And my favorite line from Luis: “If you come to me saying I got lost, I got poison oak, I broke my leg—all of those statements begin with ‘I’, and you get to solve the problem.” Luis also reminded us, that although he had lost a close friend in Micah True, this was not a memorial. Maria–Micah’s girlfriend–and Guadajuko–Micah’s dog–joined Luis on the makeshift stage. Maria had tears in her eyes, hidden by her sunglasses; but she was in good spirit–I think she could feel the love for not only Micah but for her too. Maria and Luis both asked for people to give, even a little, to the Caballo Blanco Memorial Fund–as the money will go directly to help the Tarahumara.

After the trail briefing, the bonfire started and live music was being played. Beers and other drinks were flowing, even though there was a race the next morning. As the sun went down and the temperatures dropped, people gathered closely around the fire. The party that had begun around 5 PM with the Rarajipari lingered on until about 9:45 PM. This was the only time the music stopped all weekend, but there was a peaceful silence for 7 hours before meditative music started playing at 4:45; soon to be followed with more Norteño music. At 5:45 we were introduced to Mr. Chamberlin, the owner of the amazing cattle ranch that we were about to venture onto–he was toting the shotgun from the night before. Another friend of Micah was called to the stage to give Micah’s oath: “If I get hurt, lost or die, it is my own damn fault. Amen.” And with that the shotgun blasted.

From 2PM on Friday through 6 AM on Saturday, I had already experienced some the best aspects of my sport of trail running (or ultrarunning–depending on how you want to classify it). But then I got to experience nearly 14 hours on trail seeing my fellow people of the dirt throughout. Besides Tiffany and Tomo’s accomplishments, there were many other great sites and encounters. Patricia, a 78-year old woman using one trekking pole, hiked the entire 100K, even through the night. I first saw her near the end of my 6th lap. She passed me when I was sitting at Wild Bill’s aid station and I couldn’t catch her until she stopped temporarily with a mile left in the lap. She finished in 24 hours and 11 minutes–that is determination and dedication.

Then there is Ed, who raced the entire 100 Miler dressed as a Jester. Ed is racing 30 100′s this year, including running last week’s Zion 100 in 27:05. He finished BTR in 22:25 and then asked Luis what is the quickest way to the 101 freeway–he had to get to the starting line of the Pasadena Marathon.

Then there is Ethan, another BTR’er attempting 100 miles. Last year he DNF’ed–and had to write his excuse on the excuse banner. Ethan’s read: “#3 Mile 61 I’m just a grade A Pussy.” Ethan was anything but that this weekend. He completed his second 100, this one nearly 3 hours faster than his first. He even took a Hula Hoop break at mile 60–as many other 100-mile runners were doing. When I saw Ethan with 1-mile to go, he was flying–he had full range of leg movement as he was nearly prancing like a deer to the finish line.

Maria, running with the Guadajuko and the spirit (and bib number) of Micah completed the 50K. (Guadajuko only completed 20 miles). Then she danced the night away–this was a different kind of salsa than the one that Rigo made for us the night before.

There were the men in (sports) kilts and skirts–and nothing else, except maybe a pair of Luna sandals. They were way ahead of me in the races, so I didn’t see them while I was running, but I saw them after I had finished. They were party animals. One of them Hula Hooped for nearly 4 hours straight that night.

There was Mike, who wore a 27-pound pack for the 50 KM and used trekking poles. He is training for the 5-day long Gobi Desert March in the coming weeks.

There were Caity and Vanessa who completed the 10-mile race barefoot. Caity has the distinction of being DFL (let’s put it this way, the “D” stands for Dead and the “L” stands for last). Vanessa then shod her feet and completed two more laps to finish the 50K. I remember seeing them finishing up the first lap and they were essentially hopping from one cool spot on the trail to the next–it was really warm by then.

There were several dogs on course, include our Frieda. She ran with our teammate Kim for 30 of Kim’s 31 miles. There was another dog that joined Caity and Vanessa for their stroll on the ranch.

There was Cassidy who was running only her second race ever. She ran the 10-mile race and finished around the same time that Steve and I were finishing our first lap. After finishing, she took a quick break and ran part of the course backwards to run with her mom, Lauren, the final few miles of Lauren’s first 50K. Then Cassidy went for some more miles–25 miles in total, even though she previously has not run more than 14. She also so graciously used my camera to take some of the photos that you see in this post.

Then there was Kevin. All the SoCal Coyotes are lucky to have him and smile when they see him. He was not registered for the race. He was doing trail work in the Santa Monica Mountains on Saturday morning. After his trail work, he drove to Los Olivos in time to see me and Steve at mile 60 and walked with us through 61.5 and ran with us to the finish. He also brought up some camping supplies that we had run out of. Thanks Kevin! It was great seeing your face at 60 and your presence was much appreciated for the final 2 miles. Alison also joined us for the final 2 miles. She had a rough day in the 50k earlier but was all smiles–as she always is.

People were finishing the 50K, 100K and 100M throughout the night and into the next day. There was the father of little leaguer who finished mile 90 with more than enough time complete the race, but dropped out because his son had a game starting in 1 hour. Even Luis thought that was a legitimate excuse to drop out. I hope his signature on the banner reads: “Mile 90, I am a father.”

The finish line was a party–as it should be. Luis kept the Rarajipari going. He encouraged the salsa dancing and the hula hooping. The check-in desk for each lap had the full bar, which I took advantage of as soon as I finished my race. We had birthday cake for Tiffany at 1 AM, thanks to Alison–and the leftover cake was placed at the start/finish aid station. People like Tiffany and my friend Marshall helped pace people in the 100-Mile race even though they had completed races earlier in the day. Marshall ran a 50K personal best, then walked with me for my final 12 miles and then ran 10 more miles in the middle of the night with another runner. Tiffany picked up Ethan for miles 60-70 only a few hours after her 100K victory. All of this–the party, the fun, the love, the support–is the true spirit of running and why I love the sport. I love it for the people. We are different, but in the best possible way.

“Run Free.” — Micah True

“Dreams Come True.” — Micah True

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Instead I Choose

My good friend Kate Martini Freeman started a website about a month ago called “Instead I Choose.”  The concept of the site is to have the users post experiences of any kind where they made a choice between a negative and a positive.  The concept of the site, as well as Kate’s spirit (and I don’t mean her and Jimmy’s dog named Spirit), has continued to help me down the path of positive thinking and positive choices.  I was in a potentially negative environment all day yesterday–it lasted 12 hours, so I do mean all-day.  I could have easily let that environment get to me, but I made the decision to refocus–this is something I learned how to do in once of my favorite classes at USC Marshall during my MBA.  

Professor Joe Priester, taught a creativity in business class; but the class focused on readjusting mindsets, taking us out of our comfort zone, and most importantly re-focusing.  I can honestly say that Professor Priester changed my entire attitude towards life and that my running family with the SoCal Coyotes have continued to help me grow as a positive person.  

So after missing two days of running–one by choice as recovery and one by work–the plan was to do a 10-mile run today on the beach with 5 miles of tempo.  I know I am not fully recovered from my two most recent races–AR 50 and Ragnar SoCal Ultra Relay.  I could feel my quads were not 100% going in.  And most importantly I could hear those negative voices in my head that make choices seem so easy–GIVE UP; JUST JOG IT IN; IT WILL BE A LOT EASIER.  Instead I Chose a different way!

This topic also leads me to the conversation of Free Will.  Sam Harris wrote a good book on “Free Will” that is short and an easy read.  I agree with the premise of the book that to the scientific extent that there is no free will–but that does not mean we cannot make choices.  Our choices are determined by our background.  So if I did not go to business school or I did not take Joe Priester’s creativity class, I would not have the background in my mind to have the additional choice to dig deep.  This is only briefly touching on the surface of the book and interpreting what Sam Harris meant by the broad statement of no free will, but I will leave it at this for now.  

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Honey Badgers and 80′s Aerobics Party

These are the Honey Badgers.

Watch them run in slow motion…well, maybe not so slow.  Honey Badgers run relays with only 6 people instead of the typical 12.  It can be 96 inland or 56 and foggy in the middle of the night; Honey Badgers don’t care–they are badass.

Honey Badger captain Andee is badass–just read her blog.

Ok, enough of the fun parody of a parody–Ragnar was a fun event and I thought I’d have some fun with my blog post about it.  But the basic details are our team ran 203.5 miles (we actually ran 206.5) in 28:59; we were the 3rd best mixed ultra team, 4th best ultra team and 38th best team overall–out of close to 550 finishing teams.  I had the most miles at 38.4.  My first leg was at 4 PM on Friday in Corona when the temperatures were sitting steady at 96 degrees for my 10.6 miles.  I had two thoughtful acts of kindness by strangers moments during my first leg.  My leg started with a mile-long uphill.  About half way up the hill I was already hurting from the heat when a guy watering his lawn asked if I wanted to be hosed down…ah, yes please.  That got me up the hill and well on my way to my 27 kills for the leg (1 kill = passing another runner in a relay; I calculate my kills as net).  The second act of kindness was the sole Ragnar volunteer around mile 7 of my long leg.  It was in a small residential side street on an uphill.  She was waiting there with water and ice.  I put a chunk of ice in a plastic bag–this got me through the final 3 miles.  Wow, that was hot!!!

What a difference a few hours can make!  My next leg was a half marathon.  It was a little after midnight and the fog had rolled in.  The temperatures had dropped from a high of 96 all the way down to 56 degrees.  My leg started on a four-mile downhill, before rolling and finishing on an uphill.  I went out hard and then tried to maintain.  I was listening to music, which is something I have never done while running outside–music for me is strictly reserved for the treadmill.  But, after that first leg taking a lot out of me, I needed that extra distraction.  Even though I was saying hello and good job as I was passing people, I rarely got a positive return salutation.  I had 89 kills that leg.  I was passed within the first quarter-mile by a guy blazing down the hill, but I passed him around mile 5 when he pulled up with an injury–he was the first person to pass me in two legs.  I finished the 13.4-mile leg in just under 1:36–I was very pleased with this leg.  The decision to use music was a game-time decision.  I didn’t plan on doing it until 5 minutes before Neil handed me the slap bracelet.  I just held my iPhone in my right hand and hoped that I: 1) wouldn’t drop it; and 2) wouldn’t fall–which I almost did near the very end of my leg.

After a long night with four short naps (each, no longer than 30 minutes), it was day time again.  Andee was finishing up her final leg–she would be the first person to be done for our team–and she was the only one not to sleep the entire race.  One-by-one our team was finishing up.  I was third to last, so my nerves got to me a bit with anxiety.  I still had a 14.9-mile leg left and the marine layer was still thick.  I wanted to get my leg over before there was any chance of sun.  I got the slap bracelet from Meg in La Jolla, after she kicked ass on a tough final uphill in her leg.  And I started down another hill–I wanted to make sure I didn’t go out too fast, so I put a limit of 7:10′s with a goal of 7:30′s on myself.  I held on to the “fast” pace for as long as I could–but the sun did come out more than half-way through my leg and I kept hitting traffic lights, which messed up my much needed momentum.  With about 2-miles to go, I was hurting and slowing down.  Then something nice happened; I made a right turn into Mission Bay Park.  And there was a cloud cover and a nice ocean breeze.  That was all I needed–and the fact that I was done with traffic lights.  I picked up the pace as fast as I could and finished strong.  “Handing” (more like slapping) the bracelet to Steve.  I was done, but our team still had Steve and Dennis left.  I finished my third leg with a net of 47 kills–for the first time all day, someone had passed me without me passing them back; she passed me very early on and I never saw her again.

I knew Steve would run faster than he had planned.  I knew me running my last two legs hard would motivate him to do the same.  He hammered his final leg and that left Dennis.  As soon as Dennis took off, we headed straight for the finish line.  We figured based on the distance of the leg and how Dennis was feeling what time to expect him so we can run in together.  When that time had passed we figured he must be hurting.  Then 30 minutes later we started to really get concerned.  If I wasn’t barefoot, I would have run backwards to look for him.  But just when we really started to get concerned, Dennis appeared through the tunnel and the 6 Honey Badgers finished together.  What a great, fun and exhausting adventure!

The following weekend was Keira Henniger‘s Leona Divide 50/50.  The SoCal Coyotes operate an aid station each year, which is more of an outdoor party than volunteer work.  This year we partied like we were back in the 1980′s.  I’ll let pictures speak for me here.

As much fun as I had fun partying with my favorite people while helping some amazing athletes (we were located at miles 23.5 and 35), my favorite part of the day was when I got to run Alison in for the final 2.5 miles of her race.  She made it out of the final aid station before the cut-off and was on the trail headed for the finish line.  Kevin and I ran up to go find her and be her escorts back in.  When we finally found her she had a refreshing smile on her face–though she always has a smile and her nickname is sunshine.  Kevin and I ran with her for the first 1.5 miles before Louis and Jimmy joined in on the escorting fun.  All five of us made our way down the final hill.  She finished in a little over 13 hours, but all the Coyotes were there to cheer her to the finish.

I have now been running with the Coyotes for just over a year (I started running on Thursday mornings with them in April of 2011 and joined their training program in August of 2011.  My experiences with them are so hard to describe because they have been so wonderful.  I am constantly impressed by the on-going accomplishments (both in athletics and in life) of my friends and teammates.  This video was created by Adam Bowman and was the brainchild of our fearless leader, Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman. Enjoy the video.  I sure enjoy the group.

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A really good bad day

Let me set the record straight up front: I am very pleased and excited about my performance at the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run.  How could I not be?  I ran 2 PR’s and finished the last three miles of the race stronger than I could have imagined.

Getting to each of these three positives were tough.  First, my 50K Pr.  I came through the 6th aid station of the day at Granite Bay (31.67 miles) in 4:24.  My previous 50K best was 5:45 at the PCTR Santa Monica Mountains race in the rain and mud last November.  But, it was a painful 5 miles from the 5th aid station at Beals Point (26.53 miles).  Steve and I came through Beals in 3:34 (about 11 minutes faster than my initial race plan).  But my ITB was already bugging me.  I was wearing shoes with an 8mm drop although I typically train in shoes with a 4mm drop.  After about 3 hours of pounding on the pavement–and one short, technical downhill–my ITB was killing me.

My original race plan was to stick with one pair of shoes the entire way, but once I hit the trails shortly after Beals, I knew that I could not finish the race with my current shoes.  Luckily, I had packed my trail shoes in my bag that my crew brought to four of the aid stations.  I had to back off the quick pace between aid stations 5 and 6 to limit the pain–this section is a very fast section of trails, so backing off was the beginning to the end of my A Goal (sub 7:30).  When I got to Granite Bay, I changed into my New Balance MT 110′s and immediately felt better.  The pain, for the most part went away, but the damage–at least for the day–was done as the pain would come back later on in the race.

Besides mitigating the knee pain, I was also having issues with fuel.  I started off the day on top of my fuel plan, as I was taking a Gu every 22 minutes–this lasted 8 times, which is by far more Gu than I have ever had in my life.  But, I just couldn’t take another Gu after that.  It wasn’t that my stomach said no more, it was that I couldn’t think about taking another Gu.  But when I tried to switch to some other form of trail sugar, everything was too sweet–both Sports Beans and Honey Stingers.  I probably should have tried to get a few more calories from real food at aid stations, but I was so focused on getting in and out of aid stations that I was not thinking straight.  For the last 4 hours of the race I was taking less than 100 calories per hour.

Steve and I picked up a pacer at Granite Bay–Steve’s college teammate and good friend Paul.  Though Paul was running with us, I led the way followed by Steve and then Paul.  I typically run a lot stronger when I am in the front of a group.  For some reason, I do not drift/pace well off of others–only in the occasional speed workout can I pace off of someone else–as I typically fall off the back of a group by 20 yards and then maintain the same pace 20 yards back.  Paul stuck with us through Rattlesnake Bar (aid station 9 at 40.94 miles).  It was good to get another person in our group to keep the conversations fresh.  We continued to run the essentially the entire way while Paul was with us, with the exception of a few steps up steep/technical trail.

When we got to Rattlesnake the only thing I planned on doing was drinking some Ginger Beer that I had stored in a handheld in a bag.  I knew the contents were under pressure as I saw the sides of the handheld bursting outwards.  I knew what would happen once I open the cap to take a drink.  Yet, I did not turn the bottle away from me as I opened it–for the same reason that i did not eat solid foods at the aid stations; I was not thinking clearly.  After wiping the Ginger Beer from my face and then drinking some from my handheld and taking a quick breather, I was ready to finish the final 9 miles–and with a new pacer.  Phil, Paul’s brother, tagged in and followed us to the finish line.

Let the walking begin! As the day went on, and our time started to slip further from each goal, my energy level slipped with it.  Taking less than 100 calories per hour had a lot to do with this.  I was still hydrated throughout, but just didn’t have the energy.  As we moved along the single track, more and more people started to pass.  More and more often did we walk the uphills that I would have otherwise considered running.  I got to a breaking point.  No energy and my knee starting to hurt on every stride again.  I had to walk.  We were somewhere between 1.5 and 2 miles from the end of the trail and the start of the final 3-mile climb.  But I had enough.  So the walking began.  We continued to get passed.

Finally, I could see daylight–so to speak, as it was a bright day out–as I knew the trail was ending.  I still could not run again, but I started to truly grasp how much farther we had left to the finish line.  Our coach, Jimmy Dean, told us we had to run 90% of the final 3-mile climb.  I was supposed to lead Steve through mile 47 and he was supposed to pull me up the final hill.  I still had this in my head as we got to the flat parking lot that led to the final climb.  I started to slowly jog again on the wide open, flat parking lot.  And then the final hill.

Phil was feeling good going into the final climb–as we were unable to push him that hard for the previous 6 miles.  But, he was in for a treat.  The first half mile or so of the climb is on dirt and gravel before hitting a road for the majority of the final stretch.  The dirt/gravel part is also the steepest part.  So we began to run up the hill.  I was feeling better, especially knowing that we were in the final stretch of the race.  But I wasn’t sure if we could keep up the running for the entire hill.  About a quarter of a mile into the climb I forced all of us to walk, but for only 50-100 feet.  Once we started running again, we never walked again.  I dug deep, and despite not having any energy I had the will to finish strong.  We gutted out the three fastest miles since mile 31–not even stopping at the last gasp aid station.  Fortunately at Last Gasp (2.4 miles left in the race) the young men (shirtless and in tights) working the aid station ran down to us grabbed our water bottles and sprited to the aid station to fill them up; so when we made it to the aid station we just grabbed our bottle and left.

We finally made it to the top of the hill–and those three miles were fast enough to bring me back to the region between theB (B-Goal of 8 hours) and the S (Slow bracket of 8:30) on my pace card.  We made a right turn onto some grass, entering the the final stretch–the grass felt so good under my feet that I wished the final 100m was on grass, but it quickly turned into concrete–we were almost there.  I couldn’t dig any deeper but was able to finish strong.  Steve and I finished in 8:13.  It was a huge PR for me (10:02 at North Face) and it was Steve’s first 50 miler.  I was so glad to be done as both my knees started to really hurt over the last 5 miles.  But all the pain from my knees and the lack of energy from the three bonks all went away over the last 100 meters.  It wasn’t my A goal or B goal, but I cannot complain about a huge PR.  So the bad day completely disappeared with my final 3 miles and finishing time.  At the finish line Eric from Ultra Runner Podcast handed us a very good recovery Libation.

Since AR, Nike came out with their new campaign for their Nike Free’s.  The Free 3.0 is the only Nike that I would wear–even though I haven’t bought a pair in a while as I have been experimenting with other shoes.  But the Free 3.0 is still on my list of shoes that I would buy again.  Here is the long version of their commercial.

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