Monday, May 16, 2016

McDonald Forest 50k: Numero Cinco

Well, I don't race as often as I once did and I am not a gifted--or creative enough--writer to make training updates/run-babble exciting enough to share with the handful of people who read this so the blog's a bit slow these days...  but I am still here and still running.

I just looked back a bit and this blog pretty much started with a 50k race report back in 2012.  I've continued to run and jot down some thoughts here on that same race, McDonald Forest 50k, every year since which is pretty neato for a regular ol' dude like me.  2016's event would be my fifth consecutive running of the race.

When you run the same(ish--ok, this may be a stretch as the course has featured several semi-dramatic changes each year) course, with the same(ish) crowd, on the same(ish) weekend year after year you start to build a relationship with the whole ordeal that is pretty special.  Here's how it went this time:

Pre-Race (boring!):

I went into the race with a winter full of longer, slower, and bigger vertical weekend runs and many other workouts/training blocks were often interrupted by bouts with illness--mostly cough/sinus stuff but even a couple of flu type deals which I guess is a parental right of passage when babies go to daycare/germ factories.  This constituted the training build up for the Backbone Trail adventure in early March.  I got back after that trip and got sick again before finally seeing a doc for some antibiotics that had me feeling somewhat relieved of symptoms at last but with a battered set of lungs.

I still had hope that in 2 months I could use the base from the winter stuff and sharpen things up with a good dose of quality workouts beyond the "treadhills" I ran all winter in the garage.  I had an inclination to sign up for the Mac but it was a done deal after a surprise FB message hit my wall from the world's greatest running blogger Pat T (of cult classic site "Mountain Made, Molehill Paid") that showed he had registered for the event and he even wanted to "put a 6 pack on it."

Just when my morning runs were starting to see some daylight I was forced back into darkness and up even earlier, often around 3:30 to be up and rolling around 4 or so in order to be at work by 6ish (summer hours).  That's always a brutal transition but I pulled off a few longer weekday runs and "shorter long runs" (in the 2hr range) on weekends that were encouraging but my optimism was always shadowed just a bit by the constant flow of "life stuff" that a busy Spring shipping season at work always brings on top of an already full plate.  I missed more than a few runs that probably wouldn't make a big difference in my fitness overall but at the time seemed like critical pieces to the puzzle.  That can create a stress that only a runner knows and only a long time and confident runner can shrug off in the moment.

Come race day I deduced that the Mac would serve it's perennial purpose of inspiring me to just do whatever I can during a hectic time of year and I shouldn't have any expectations (good or bad).  Just finish feeling stoked no matter what.  Which is a fine place to be mentally anyhow no matter what the race or how the training goes...

Race Day:

One thing that was super "cool" about this year was the weather which was hot all week (like 80s) was expected to take a quick turn over Friday night and we could expect highs in the 60s and possibly some rain.  Like clockwork the thermostat was dialed down and the rain came in over night with some thunder.  It was dry skies (wet ground) at the start but someplace earlier on it began to rain and did so constantly through my eventual finish (and beyond).

Even cooler than a little cold front moving in this year was something else coming in for the event:  Michael McGraw, my faithful Backbone Trail adventure partner, jammed over from Outer Mongolia (Joseph), Oregon for the big event.  It was so fun to share this experience with him.  I initially thought he was a bit crazy to drive 6 hrs for such a down home little 50k it later occurred to me that this gig perfectly matched his laid back attitude and desire to run challenging kick-ass courses.  He did awesome in the race and in the pre and post race daddy duty assistance (my wife, Kattie, had a very busy weekend on tap).

Race (Jesus, it's about time):

The race itself was pretty amazing.  I don't profess to be some kind of "soul-runner" but this thing went down in about the most hippie fashion I can muster.  I've mentioned a couple paragraphs back that my less than epic training (I don't know if I'll ever feel I've obtained epic status there) helped me pitch the expectations out the window.  Screw it.  This would just be a celebration of running joy (hippie term), friends (hippie for "competition"), and beauty (hippie for "trails").  So, that no expectations attitude coupled with the fact that I don't currently own a functioning wearable timepiece of any sort (can't even find the trusty Timex, yet alone the power cord for my Garmin) put this gig firmly in the "RUN PURELY BY FEEL/RUN YOUR OWN RACE" category.  And that is about as hippity-dippity as it gets.  Bro.  Dude.  DUDEBRO.

The runners yelled "BONZAI" 3 times at the start and the Forest became alive with all the energy released.  Oh man...  there it is again, sooo hippie.  Then the bang of the gong and we were off.

picture taken by Michael Liebowitz

I went out with the front-ish runners and after a few easy miles ended up in 3rd after a couple guys who were a hundred yards up or whatever.  The pace was likely brisk but the trail is easy and the effort felt appropriate.  Without a watch was fine for running a trail race but a big change when it came to fueling.  I needed to think about things and pay close attention to my energy levels to guess when it was time to fire some gels and salt tabs down the hatch.  This was weird at first but then became pretty instinctual; kind of a nice departure from the robotic/automatic timing I usually try to stick to when fueling for races.  I would never recommend this on a completely new race/route but it worked well for me here and fit even better with my hippie-soul runner theme for the day. 

After AS1 at 8 miles or so I didn't see 1 and 2 anymore.  I don't think they stopped at all.  I did stop but not for long, just enough time to be way overly friendly, "Water?  Oh man, that would be sooooo awesome.  You guys are awesome.  Thanks everyone!  Thanks for filling my bottle duuuuudesss!" (The teenage kids looked at me like: "uhhhhh, weirdo.") 

On the long climb up (which I ran all of but was very cautious to not push because it's too early for those antics) to the top of Dimple AS2 (14ish miles) number 4 runner was closing in a bit.  He continued to close and caught up to me down in the Maze's mud and steep treachery (quite fun actually).  We bopped along together in there for awhile which was nice.  I like company when it's slower going due to the technicality of the trails.  He was running really well and eventually pulled a way a bit.  Then I stopped and did a quick backtrack when I thought I missed a turn which probably put him further ahead.

I finally poked out of the twisting, muddy Maze trails for some words of encouragement from Dennis and Sharon before rolling down to AS3 for more "Hey everyone!!  Mr. Happypants is here!  Whoooweeee.  Coca-Cola?  Cool, ALL ABOARD THE COKE TRAIN!"  The older folks laughed (like sophisticated people do in situations were they don't know how else to address the weirdness) and again the teenagers just looked at me like I had 2 heads or something.  I turned to head up the road/trail to the top of Extendo and realized, unexpectedly, number 3 guy (one of the original 1-2 guys) was there at the AS too.  I left the station alone with a big huge "THANKS EVERYONE" but he promptly joined me for most of the climb before I lost him back in the muddy singletrack of the Maze section.  I tried to be steady throughout this section as I knew I'd be taking the last really big climb (Alpha Trail) pretty easy with some longer stints of hiking before arriving to AS4 (26ish miles).  I've learned that the last 5ish miles can be quite enjoyable if that hill is played right/cautiously.

I arrived at the last AS feeling pretty tired but not nearly as bad as I have felt in all previous years.  I was expecting to see Kattie and Alyce (now a year a change old!) there but didn't notice them after glancing around.  I had my "duuuuudes" fill the water bottle again and for the first time in the whole race I asked the AS volunteers "they're aways up, yeah?"  They said, "maybe 6 minutes."  Which actually just put me in a state of relief knowing I was going to finish this puppy the way it had been going all along.  On my own.  No chase.  Well, to make me feel invigorated they suggested it would be a chase but I just said "only if he loses a damn leg!  THANKS EVERYONE FOR EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE WORLD!"

The last 5ish miles were awesome.  I ran every step up the last climb and all of the following miles felt effortless.  It even bordered on an outer-body experience at one point (but I won't go too far down that hippie path...)  I blazed the last mile (downhill, mostly, so that helps) smiling and whooping that I was going to get a podium finish in a race that means so much to me after all these years.  I couldn't believe 3rd was happening in a race that my not have big names running it but always features some of the best local talent--guys that work hard at their training, run smart, and race this thing like it's their Olympics (and honestly would likely scare the shit out of national level talent runners if they were to go to the "big dances").  Provided I didn't lose a leg it seemed the race was settled and "just stay upright" became a focus for a little bit in the last half mile.

Then I heard the sweet sounds of the bluegrass band and knew the finish was close.  I jammed over the bridge and crossed the finish backwards (tip of the hat to a local character perished during the Mac that famously ran the entire PDX marathon backwards). 

Kattie and Alyce made me feel like I was on top of the world with their excitement and I was so happy they made it to the finish in time after missing me at the last AS.  It was after a few minutes that I thought for the first time that day, I wonder what time it is...  The guy behind the computer at the finish line heard me ask Kattie what time it was and said, "you finished in 4:15:50something."  4:16!  I really had no idea I was getting a course PR (it was very similar to the '14 course for comparison purposes), I kind of figured the 3rd place was due to a bit slower crowd or some other factor but that's a pretty good time for a 50k with 6800' of elevation gain and plenty of technical sections along with the faster/smoother stuff.  Further stokeage to my already off the charts stoke. 

Since becoming a dad I also like to add a new category to the whole age group thing: Dad.  If you don't think it's worthy of a separate category that's fine but it's a game changer more than going from 29 to 30 is (from my perspective)...  anyway, best I can tell I was first dad to the finish line.

I got changed and grabbed MM's stuff from the car parked aways away from the finish but didn't make it back to the finish in time to catch his impressive 4:36 finish.  He freaking rolled the thing up for a first time in the area and first 50k in 3 years (he's largely moved on to 50+ mile craziness it seems).  We eventually got drier and warmer with a bowl of soup and cookies and called it a day picking up our tasty finisher beers on the way out of the Forest.

The event was epic.  Thanks to everyone who helped out.  Special congrats to my friend Dennis as he retires as RD for pulling off another fun day in the woods.  Looking forward to next year already.

vroom.  airplane wings at age 33.

Additional notes: Wore Nike Wildhorse, old fraying brooks shorts with pockets and singlet.  Ate 10-11 gels (mostly Vanilla GU with caffeine plus 1 or 2 Hammer from AS when those ran out), 9-10ish Salt Stick salt tabs (I was worried about my right calf as it felt almost like a cramp was coming for much of the race so I just kept them coming at a warm weather rate).  Drank 3/4 of bottle (16 oz?) between each AS.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lessons Learnt On BBT Adventure

Quick list of takeaways from the trip and the actual run last weekend on Santa Monica Mtn's Backbone Trail.  I wrote a bit about the actual adventure here:

1) when the most reliable way to get back to rental car/starting point involves thumbing a ride from a random German tourist after walking a few more miles down the canyon road, arriving to Hwy1 and cell phone reception, dialing and getting a ride from an old stoner pal who is just the same dude he's been since way back when (complete with him blazing a bowl all the way down Hwy 1 just like the good ol days), and THEN signing up for an Uber account and getting 1st Uber ride ever for the final leg YOU KNOW YOU'VE NAILED ALL THE PLANNING.

2) follow your bowels: we accidentally nailed one not so obvious turn (unmarked per usual) by succumbing to our bowel movements. we saw a trailhead parking area and bathroom, ran down the access trail to destroy some toilets only to then see a sign right next to it reading "Backbone Trail".

3) bring TP/napkins:  They don't weigh much and when wet grass is the only natural alternative it's just, well, wet and grassy.  if there are bathrooms they are probably locked when you need 'em.

4) print the maps and study them. both people. multiple times. adventure partner MM seemed so on top of it (and he was, especially compared to me) printing little intersection maps and such that I got really relaxed and.... didn't do anything really.  oops.

5) technology is pretty cool but not when your screen and fingers are all wet. the BBT feels quite remote and some parts actually are (sort of) but it's all in LA for the most part. so i thought, like any Hollywood superstar, there wasn't a problem my cell phone couldn't handle/get me out of.  i spent more time fighting dropped pins in Cuba (google maps would zoom way out and drop pins wherever a little drop of mist hit the screen) than i wanted to.  this really boils down to #4 above.

6) the trail running world is tiny and friendly. we came up on a group of 3 runners to: "are you guys the ones running the whole thing today?" how did they know?!  they helped us not get lost 3-4 times until we really out did ourselves and got too lost for them to be able to reel us in.  we later learned that they were Ellen (a fellow SWAP "teammate") friends.  cool catz.

7) having a conversation about quitting is hard for some people to do within their own mind.  try doing it with another person (even someone as awesome as MM). 
"what'dya think?"
"I don't know man" (translation: we should stop here)
"it's gonna be late and dark and all..." (translation: we should stop here)
"ok, let's just go a little more" (translation: we should stop here)
"you feeling good" (translation:  I am a bit tired)
"yeah, I am alright" (translation: I am fucking tired)
"I don't know how good the phone reception will be" (translation: we should stop here)
"yeah, hitching a ride in dark is no bueno" (translation: we should stop here)
"ok, well, let's just keep going" (translation: we are stubborn grown up men)

8) more time in shoes=more funky smell. i always assumed there was some maximum level or funk that a shoe could possibly hold that was attained after 2 hours or so. wrong. it get's worse. way worse.

9) safety's numero uno. it's true just like mom always said. use your head.

10) even "incomplete" (because there's no such thing as "failed") adventures get BURGERS AND BEERS.

11) Airbnb profile pics (both host and digs) can be a bit misconceiving. Just an observation. The cats were real though. She forgot to mention sweet nighttime sounds of domestic disturbance across the narrow alley from time to time.

12) a pho place in the back of a run down convience store is actually a really good place to get a pre-adventure gut load up. so, just keep going past the tampons, cat food and Twinkies and order up!

13) you can try to run when you are (or have been) sick but be prepared for some revelations about your condition. it's just part of life though, no reason to stress about it. just kick back and go see a doctor every now and then (like once every 5-10 years?)

14) if you only have one car/ride park it at the finish and figure out how to get to the start... wait, actually just have 2 cars for the point to point adventure.

15) more time. we were under the gun to get in and get out. more time (had it been available) would have been super cool whether that time was spent prepping for the run or just going for a swim in the ocean it sure would have been nice to have.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Adventures on the Backbone Trail


Three years ago I wrote up a big ol' training plan to run the Backbone Trail ( -- good info and maps but the race is unfortunately now defunct) in Southern California while I was down there for Christmas.  I got off to a good start with the plan but eventually the training fizzled, I got back into my usual routine, and I ran a series of winter races culminating with a 5k dressed as Santa Claus on the flat streets of Palm Springs (versus 68 miles in the Santa Monica Mtns.)

I'd put the Backbone on the back burner since then.  Life's changed a lot in the past 3 years and it seemed that eeking out a respectable 50k finish was about as much as my further limited training schedule was going to allow me to accomplish.

But sometime last fall I just got on this adventure running streak and it led me to believe that maybe I could get in more long runs over the winter months and go for something bigger.  With that, the Backbone Trail plan was resurrected.

I wanted more time to adequately prepare but March 5th was as late as I'd be able to push it off before getting too far into nursery harvest season at work.  The months of March, April and May are perennially a very tough time for me to make much headway when it comes to training as it's exhaustingly busy, long days and I am typically wiped out and short on time.

With a course and a set date things were coming together.  My wife Kattie was not fond of the crewing idea once she learned that crewing would consist primarily of sitting in a car on the side of a canyon road all day long (not too far from beaches with restaurants and such).  She also was not keen on the idea of me going all alone.  So I mentioned to David Roche that perhaps another SWAP "teammate" would be interested in coming along.  It wasn't a half hour after mentioning it and Michael McGraw, an accomplish ultra (like 100 miler level) dude living in Augusta, GA was onboard.  I was pumped.

We sent dozens of emails back and forth and even had a 50 mile training weekend together as we prepared for the adventure ahead.  We were both aware of the FKT set years ago by M. Hartell and thought that on a good day and with a good effort we may be able to get within earshot of accomplishing a slightly lower time.  While that was good motivation to train a bit harder it was never a priority over finishing, having a good time, and just getting out and exploring a beautiful new area.

Planning was pretty straightforward: we'd fly into LA from our respective locations (PDX and Pasco, WA--MM had relocated to Joseph, OR in the interim), rent a car, stash water and limited supplies along course at major road crossings, sleep in an airbnb, run the trail, get a ride back to rental car, sleep, fly home.  Accomplishing all this between Friday morning and Sunday morning put us on a tight timeline but with work winding up for me and a new job for MM it was the best we could do.  We were determined to make it happen.


And for the most part, we did make it happen.

We flew in, stashed water (and got to see some of the incredible beauty along the route), slept in our airbnb, got up and ran.  But it was there that the adventure took a different turn.

By different turn, I mean the wrong turn.  The Backbone Trail is a remarkable trail that makes a pretty logical line across the canyons and ridgelines of the Santa Monica Mtns.  I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that the trail is even in really good shape and offers a lot of diverse running terrain ranging from smooth buffed out trail, rocky technical trail, shaded woodlands and exposed vistas.  But it is also a menagerie of trails, roads and fireroads that together form a series of tricky, unmarked or poorly marked intersections.  While we had prepared somewhat for this our lack of expertise in the area cost us quite a few wrong turns and several minutes of standing around.  We'd get some momentum going and then realize we'd missed yet another turn or have to stop for a minute or more and see which way was the right way and all the  momentum would have to be built back up again.  We kept our spirits high (and were even doing well on time despite our costly mistakes) but it kind of felt like just starting a 4 am workout over and over and over again.  A bit creaky and not a lot of flow (which is important to running a good run, to me).

We eventually made it to Kanan Rd. (mile 36.9) and by then had long recognized that we were going to be finishing long after our planned time.  This would have been fine but there were additional problems/challenges associated with a 7 o'clock finish.  Our ride back to the car was far from secured at this point as various options had fallen through somewhat last minute (one while we were on the trail).  Finishing in the dark with no extra clothing and not a lot of extra calories without a secure ride out of a pretty remote area with questionable phone service did not seem like a worthy pursuit--in fact it seemed foolish.  So when we got to Kanan we decided to keep going... but fully recognized that we'd likely not be taking on a whole lot more than the next section or so.

We arrived at Encinal Canyon TH which is mile 43.4 with ~48 miles on the GPS (though it was pinging at a low, low rate and was therefore probably around a couple miles shy of the actual distance we covered given all the switchbacks and poor service areas we'd gone through) and decided there that it was likely the last easy place to thumb a ride down to Hwy 1 and get back to the comforts of the rental car, burgers and beers.

I wanted to finish what we had set out to accomplish but I was fully okay with the decision made.  I had to admit to MM back at mile 25 that this wasn't my day, that I hadn't been feeling really good.  I'd been feeling pretty sicky all week long and during the past 2 months I have been quite sick with a series of colds and infections (cough, sinus/head, cough, sinus/head, repeat).  I made the best of it and did the best I could to train through it all with this goal on my mind but I could feel its effects and while I felt strong I had low energy levels and my breathing was especially laborious.  MM was a bit of tough one to read as we discussed pushing on a little more or heading down the canyon with our thumbs out.  I mean, I know he's a mentally tough dude who doesn't give a shit about a little discomfort or even a little risk but I think he was satisfied with the effort we'd put in and knew that getting to La Jolla Canyon/PCH at 7 or later with nothing but a soaking wet t-shirt and cars going by at 70mph was not a good place to be at any expense.

I learned a lot from the adventure and I hope to share it soon in another post.

Cheers!  And thanks for all the support!!  Dream a big dream and go for it because if you don't you won't!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Adventure Season is Upon Us

Still here.  Little to report but felt the need to check in at the old bloggity blog.

So...  September/October harvest parties are kind of a real thing.  Maybe there are farmers that actually dec out the barn with pumpkins, hard-cider and hay bales but there's a much more quiet celebration that is probably more common for the rest of us dirt churners.  There is this subtle realization that things are slowly winding down with each acre harvested.  Suddenly there are days where work is a little more optional and there's just a little bit more freedom in the form of free time.  This time is spent reflecting on the season (also known as drinking), being with family and for at least one farmer (yours truly) getting in some adventure runs.

The mornings are crisp again, fall colors are right around the corner, and snow's just flirting with the high country's rocky floor.  It's the perfect time of year for some running in it's carefree and woodsy adventuresome form.

I made it up to Silver Falls after a summer of very little trail running for a couple of fun workouts to kick off the season's eventual ending.  The place is honestly not the most incredible place on earth but I just love it every time I get up there whether it's Perimeter Trail, Buck Mtn Trail, Lost Creek Trail or whatever.  It's twisty and fun and it's all under the canopy of beautiful forest with hardly a soul around.

I had a weekend run that was an outright failure and took a week just sort of recalibrating and relaxing.  That week culminated in my first pacing duty with my buddy Gordo (Gordon Freeman) up at Mountain Lakes 100.  After third wheeling all afternoon with his super badass and hilarious crew of Emily and Sarah I ran the last 29ish miles through the night with him.  It was absolutely mind boggling to me to see his stoke nearly unfettered after 70+ miles and many hours of running when I joined him.  This same stoke just sort of carried him on in at an impressive pace and I really didn't have to do much other than tag along and remind him to get some gels and that his calves were quite sexy even after staring at them for nearly 5 hrs.  He nabbed a nearly 2 hr. PR on the shores of Oallie Lake under a brilliant moon at 2:30 AM and I got to do my first nighttime shuffle of such time and distance.  It was really surreal being out there on the PCT and witnessing such a feat firsthand.

Last weekend I got together with Jeremy Long, arguably the runner king of Tillamook Forest, and Brian Donnelly, adventure king extraordinaire, for a loop on Elk-Kings Traverse.  It did to me what it did to me nearly a year and a half ago--I am so beat in the quads I can't walk in an unrobotic manner.  I pushed the downhill a bit and got my money's worth.  We had unbelievable views on a perfect morning.  Scored!

Next up?  More strides during the week as I work to find some efficiency again and build speed.  And hopefully more weekends that are big on adventure.  I'm looking at something like this for the upcoming weekend:

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Since my first Sardine summit a couple years ago I've been looking to get something like this pieced together.  It would be a long time idea ticked off and I am sure it will lead to more ideas in a favorite area of mine.

There you have it.  Quite a boring update without races and such but life's busy and time to race is tough to find at the moment.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Recap time: July '15

Short recap on running shenanigans since the Mac50k.

Weekday training was in a funk for a bit but has been pretty consistent for summertime. Sure I've missed a couple planned days here and there and substituted the old 1/2 hr run when I couldn't get it all done more than a few times.  Work and life continue to throw monumental loads at me and my running suffers as I struggle to find the time (and I'd rather rest than anything).  I can see clearly now why many runners disappear when they have very young children, but I won't fade.

Mostly just been rolling around the farmlands of NE Salem at o'dark thirty but I've had a couple fun adventures worth sharing here. 

A while back I got out for a neat 20 mile circumnavigation of 3-Fingered Jack with Don G. that was pretty inspiring.  I'd love to go back and do it again in the late fall--maybe even after a trace snow has fallen.  That would be epic.

On Father's Day I was able to get up and do the Summer SolstAss event I've long wanted to check out just cause I liked the pictures I'd seen.  I did the 25k (16ish miles) that featured 4900' elevation gain as a pretty honest effort with some time spent taking in some of the best views I've experienced while running.  There were wildflowers, woodsy creeks, canyons, jagged technical ridgelines and pristine mountain views.  All incredible.  I finished "first" though it wasn't really a race in 2:25.  Awesome to meet the great people, the Yelas, that put the thing on and run in such a beautiful "hidden gem" not too far from home.  I'll definitely go back and do that loop again.

Went to Idaho to visit family and got in a nice adventure in with Jeremy Humphrey.  It was low on miles but decent on vertical and ridiculous with views.  We jammed up from Boulder TH to Jug Mtn (a favorite of mine as it is the prominent peak viewed from Kattie's childhood home) via Louie Lake and then rolled down the backside to explore Buckhorn and Kennally Ridge before returning via or near Rapid, Vic, and Boulder Lake.  The following day I ran up Bear Point Rd (?), a forest service road that goes all way to the top of Brundage Mtn which is the local ski hill.  Unfortunately, I had was short on time and turned back way shy of the summit but was able to explore Payette Rim Trail on the way back to the meadow where I parked (Bear Basin).

On the 4th of July I participated in Brundage Mtn Cat Track 10k which started at 6000' near the lodge and ran up to 7640' to turn around at the top of the Bluebird Chair.  It then bombed down the same route for a total of 10k.  I finished in 46 min and change for 3rd overall.  I had no lungs on the climb as some allergies or the altitude (which I've never had trouble with before) that had been bugging me all week really manifested on this run.  I arrived in 4th to the top and was closing hard on 2nd place by the finish.  The guy that won was wearing Crocs, so that was a first for me (getting whooped by someone in sandals).  It was great fun though and a cool way to kick off the holiday.

The 12th, yesterday, I did the Mt. Hood 50k.  I signed up for it on a whim after the Mac gave me some stoke for the distance. Honestly, I was less than super excited to run that kind of distance once the big day came around.  But I liked the course, wanted to check out a new area, and so I committed to doing it once I knew we wouldn't be working the usual Sunday harvest crew this weekend.  A tad flatter (advertised as 2400', though I saw one Strava account said 2800') than most 50ks run on single track it featured a fit and fast crowd which made it quite fun.  I run a lot of 50ks that involve a hefty dose of vertical and seem to attract 100 milers in training and what not.  I don't know how to describe it but it's a different type of running fitness that involves sheer strength and grit to get through 7000' 50ks.  Think power hiking and lots of low grinding gears.  This was different, this was a runner's race so I was interested in seeing how I stacked up (especially given my looooww volume of training of 35-45 mile weeks for a long time now).  We went out pretty quick but I felt comfortable.  At the turn around I deliberately dialed back as we made the climb back up to the high spot thinking these guys are crazy and someone's gonna blow up, not me.  Steady did it, no one was coming and no one was getting too far away according to AS volunteers.  Going back down the long gradual descent was fun but I still tried to hold back just a bit to make sure those flat 11 miles to the finish where doable.  Once it flattened out and repetitive flat running kept going on and on (I didn't think it was ever going to end) I could feel a lack of mileage in my legs.  They were hurting and I was just holding on eating salt tabs and gels to pass the time.  I managed a 3:40 time and 6th overall.  2nd AG, and I am willing to put money on 1st dad as there was not a lot of obvious dadfactor in the other 5 guys previous finishers.  Kind of funny to see all these team/club singlets at a trail race the day I busted out my SWAP uni.  There was Reed, Bowerman, and one intriguing one called Jaccuzzi Boys Athletic Club.  Anyway fun and tough day.  I am done with 50ks for the year, I think.

Superfans, (mostly wife, 3 mo old that doesn't know any better and sleeps through distance running events, and mom) I appreciate your support.  Kattie, please continue to kick me out of bed at 4:40 while I try to reset the alarm and skip the run...  Alyce you don't know how much you inspire me to be an inspiration to you (does that even make sense? whatever you know what I mean).  Family, thanks for not working me quite to death in our business and allowing me to pursue such ridiculous endeavors from time to time.  Thanks also to David Roche and the SWAP team for the inspiring adventuresome pursuit of badassery you live out everyday, I can't reduce my pursuit to anything less and not feel like a chump with you guys around. 

Live while you're alive!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tina and Ike: Continuing a Proud Tradition of Going Back for the Beatdown

With each beatdown I can feel myself getting better at getting beat down. 
                   - Deep Deep Post-Race Thoughts by Yours Truly

In typical (and increasingly obsolete because everyone apparently thinks a Strava file is worth a 1000 words) race report format I'll start with the pre-race backdrop and then get into the memorable details from my 4th McDonald Forest 50k.


Who gives a shit what happened before the race?  Your training went like this, your key workouts were nailed or missed or whatever... nobody cares right?

No, if I care enough about it to write it out you'll just have to bear with me.  In my last update I was kind of ringing the "whiny but fuck it" bell claiming that moving and fixing up 2 houses during the work's busiest harvest season was just soooo hard.  Sure I was almost whining with the standard "I am just happy to get out and run when I can" song but I really meant it when I said I could care less about races.

If I wasn't 100% committed to being uncommitted to training and future races when I wrote that down March 30th I was just few days later when I had the most incredible day of my life.  On April 2nd my wife Kattie gave birth to our first child, Alyce Day.

No words.
With only a few glimmers here and there my lackluster training had gone from dim to dark.  It didn't matter at all.  I was all in as a dad and husband--everything else could wait. 

With that I'd made up my mind to go down and try to have fun in the Mac 50k's 20th year anniversary race.  It would be a race fueled by poor diet, less sleep, and goose eggs (0s in the log book and those egg shaped Easter candies).  I'd like to add "dad strength" to that list but I think that's just starting to come to me.


Another objective was to focus on fueling (David's idea).  So I kicked off the second coming of Thanksgiving with 2 Picky bars along with my usual pre-race slice of toast with PB.  Then I spent some time figuring out how to pack more than 4 gels in my pockets.  I fit 7 or 8 and figured I'd get to my goal of one every 25 min with supplements gleaned from Aid Stations.

I didn't have a GPS watch that was charged as I've mostly just been carrying the phone on runs lately so I strapped on the trusty Timex with primer splatters all over it as my key technology piece for the day.  (Consequently, I don't have any record of pace or that I was even really there;) ).

Before the start the family of deceased local runner Alex Newport-Berra said a few moving words about the race, the forest and what they meant to their son who's life was ended way too early in a tragic fall.  I had met Alex at least twice and while I definitely didn't "know" him I could instantly tell that he was not only a tough and fast dude he was also definitely someone special.  As a new dad watching his mother cry while trying to be strong and publicly remember him (the day before Mother's Day) was nearly bringing me to tears.  Certainly the most emotional start line experience I've ever had.

Then we were off.  I kept trying to be smart and stay cool knowing that 31 miles is a long long run compared to anything I'd done in training.  I also knew that some course changes meant a tough back half of the race would be even harder this year.

Going through miles 12 or 13 were a lot like last year.  Smart and fun but going pretty quickly.  The only change was I was pounding gels which I started to consume about 30 mins into things.  Stay in front of the bonk and it won't catch you I told myself.

Then the course got into it's most technical portions (some of which were new this year).  I was running close behind eventual winner Jason Leman but when it got steep and twisty on a descent he was gone.  Long gone.  So I navigated this long (both mileage and time-wise) section between A/S alone and started feeling a bit darker about things. 

I was out of water and in somewhat of a dark place mentally at the mile 19 or 20 A/S.  It was hard to leave there knowing there was still so much course left to take on.  I can't remember exactly where but I passed someone somewhere in there but it did little to pick me up as he looked to be in poor condition.  It doesn't take much to pass someone who's just sort of zombie plodding up the hill and I knew that as we joked about having better days.

Then I latched on a ways behind Mike Rosling who is a really admirable runner and great guy.  I was somewhat encouraged to be running near him as I know he's in excellent shape (for a road marathon which is different but fitness is fitness) right now.  We passed another guy who looked like he was wilting a bit.  He looked ripped and fit (like everyone did, I think I was the only dude with a shirt on, hiding my softness) but a bit cooked.  I eventually caught up to Mike and he left the final Aid Station a bit before I did.  I got to see Kattie and Alyce there and while I wanted to just jump in the car and cuddle I was given a little boost as I set off for the last "little bit" (Kattie's words).

I passed Mike, trying to get him to just "jog this f-ing thing in with me" but he insisted I just go on my own.  Another really badass looking dude that caught up to us at the Aid Station was camping in my shadows until an ever slight downhill section came along and he ramped it up.  I jumped in his 1 minute long shadow and pushed the last 1.6 miles best I could.  It helps that it's one of the best tracks on the whole course and has a overall downhill to make you think you're really killing it.

And that was that.  4:40 minutes had come to an end and netted me 5th place.  It's not my fastest time (I finished in 4:28 last year) but it was a slow year for everyone given the course changes that added a bit more climbing and what seemed like a lot more technical single track.  The winning time was 25 min slower than last year (with 2 of the top 3 runners being repeats).  5th is the best I've faired out place-wise in 4 times that I've done the race.

I can say that the focus on fueling is the only thing that allowed me to hang towards the front and even move up a couple places.  My talent is zilch (I've had to work really hard for whatever skill I do have in these legs and lungs) and my preparation was probably 1/2 of what many other top finishers had done (short, flat and relatively infrequent).


Got my bearings, drove home, drove to Portland to take Kattie's mom to the airport and went to IKEA.  Getting out of that place alone (Kattie rushed out with Alyce to feed her) was the hardest thing I did all day.

2 days later I feel great, ready to ease back into more running.


Thanks for reading and caring superfans!  Not a lot of plans for upcoming races or running thrills but I'll let you know about them here!  Go gettem'!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring's here. And it's nuts.

I am so busy with other shit right now this blog (which always kind of sucked) sucks more than ever.

I am running pretty well these days and on a simple routine that involves a pretty simple loop or two out on the Pratum/Labish farmlands (FLAT).  It may seem boring, certainly not sexy mountainous stuff or really beautiful trails, but I  am really digging the time I get to run most days as just a nice break from hard days at work and home projects galore.  Running seems easy when life's all ramped up.

I could care less about upcoming races and plans.  Just moving for fitness and to be a better athlete/person.

I really enjoyed this post by Will Gadd who has always been a good motivator for me:

Go move superfans.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

holy shit it's 2015! what happened to January?!

I haven't posted in a little while...  since Thanksgiving.

So, I'm just filling the void with a very very dull update...

December was great.  I ate everything in site, loved Christmas season more than ever, and worked through a rough spell in running.  I don't remember the exact problem(s?) but I messed my back up a little at work and things went downhill for a bit.  There were also lower leg issues that may or may not have had to do with a brief return to track workouts.  Anyway, I quit that loopy track shit cold turkey.  (Mmmm, turkey.)  Relaxing about things and cutting back to the basics seemed to do the trick and I finally feel like I've recovered from a pretty crazy fall running/race schedule (for me).

So, what else?

Life's hectic (and freaking AWESOME):

1. My wife and I are gearing up for baby numero uno.  Due in 10 weeks!  Yeah, so, we are freaking out and really praying that it's just a puppy that comes out on the big day.  We could teach it to shit outside and "stay" and in a couple years it could turn into a manageable 2-3 yr child...

2. Some preliminary nesting chores had just begun to take place as we prepared for our new little human (science suggests it probably won't be a dog) to join us in our old little house when quite suddenly we found out we'd be nesting someplace else.  A ten year plan that involved my grandparents moving from the original Zielinski homestead of 4ish generations was kicked into high gear and made into a 2-3 month plan.  We are really excited about the new place but moving them then us is a huge task.  Lots of work to do on 2 houses as we move into one and sell the other.

3. Logging the miles: trips for work and fun to Baltimore, MD and McCall, ID over the past month.  I know compared to all y'all jetsetters this looks pretty amateur but I don't get out of the county much anymore.  It's true--no matter how much I'd like to consider myself a worldly voyager.

4.  Work is crazy.  The madness of harvest/Spring is here at least a month early and no end in site (June lull?  Maybe.)  It feels good to be pushing the pace all day but damn working hard is hard.

And, as of late, I have nearly forgotten about running as a competitive endeavor:

1.  No races anytime soon.  Not even a rough schedule for the year.  This would have drove me nuts a year or so ago as I considered races the primary reason I must awaken and run before the sun rises everyday (ok, almost everyday).  If I didn't so it so-and-so would and man, then what?!  But these days I am really liking just training for training's sake.

2.  I keep up on and follow friends' races and results and just get really stoked for them.  I mean, these are races I would love to do and see what I could do but strangely I am not even the slightest bit jealous that I am not there or whatever.  It's weird, I used to wish that I had more free time to go out and be in the race scene like some folks seem to be; you know those people with flexible or at least consistent schedules and an endless budget for race entries.  But now, I just pop in look over the results of some of my favorite races and shoot a friend a message to congratulate him/her on their effort.  That's good enough.

3.  Training is going pretty good despite all the interruptions life keeps hurling.  I just take what I can get and it seems like it's working.  I am focusing on pushing things a little more.  That's too vague for you?  Well when it's fast I go comfortably fast and when it's super easy I go super slow.  I guess I've found myself working on 3 gears of training-high, medium and low (not just high and low, no medium or high and medium, no low--as I have had a tendency to do from time to time).  That made no sense.  I hope you're not all stupider for reading that.

4.  I am not completely directionless, I am just not laser focused.  I am signed up for the Mac 50k but my sights are really on a creating a fast/strong self by mid/late July.  I want to fly and climb the best I can for a race then.  Maybe I'll build on that with a fall marathon but that idea literally popped into my head yesterday and could be gone tomorrow.

Ok, gotta go.  You, dearest superfan, hold on.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gobble Gobble: My First Time Partaking in The Great American Phenomena of the Turkey Trot 5k

Since this blog is basically just a pile of race reports I thought I'd make a quick note about Runacopia 5k that I did on Thankgiving.

I'll just paste in my log notes to keep it brief:

felt like garbage on warm up jog downtown.  questioned racing entirely but not before I could register myself.  did a few strides felt just a bit better. race was pretty non descript just paved paths, streets, bark path, one tiny hill and a bunch of turns all over the place.  few faster guys so I wasn't alone on a time trial but there was little changing of places.  I was able to surge at the end as I was just starting to settle in to the pace with only .75 mile left.  kind of an off day but fun and a PR at a distance that i've never had a solid go at (still room for lots of time shaving!).  cooled down with Mac in the park.  said happy thanksgiving a bunch of times to a bunch of people then jogged home.

16:44.  2nd OA.

Additional notes:

cool to see all the people out having fun (costumes, kids, runner types, non-runners, strollers, old, young, etc.)

Later that day I ate my heart out.  Not a ton of any one dish but there were so many dishes it all added up.  Thanksgiving is such a cool holiday.  I hope yours was special too!  Thanks for reading and being so damn awesome!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hell of NW Trail Run 10k

A friend, Aaron, sent me a message that he and Don G. were carpooling to a local trail half and 10k, Hell of the NW Trail Runs, a couple of weeks ago.  I told him I couldn't as I was working and honestly I didn't even have the urge to race at that point in time.  Then a nasty ice storm moved into the area and wreaked all sort of havoc on the course and all the roads approaching this hamlet in Coast Range delaying it a week.  When I heard the news my legs and brain had kind of switched gears--easing back into training after a short break is boring and it can be tough to get motivated to push things again--so the a little trail 10k suddenly sounded like a fun idea.

Don G. was still game for the half and unfortunately Aaron had to work.  So the two of us shared a ride down to Alsea, which is pretty close to the middle of no where.  We arrived to classic Coast Range fare (hills, huge trees, moss and MUD) amidst thunder showers and light rains.  We both knew very little about the event but there were lots of familiar faces in the crowd.

The half took off and with it slightly more than half of the crowd.  10 minutes later the 10k-ers took off.  There was not a lot of room before the course entered single track so I darted off along the river to secure a spot that was not directly behind someone on the first climb.  The climb was incredibly steep (as promised by the RD) and was quite slick, especially after being torn up by the halfers.  The top of the ridge came and the lead was pretty secure so I focused on gathering myself and not losing it while descending back down the ridge.  The trail flattened out at the base and then took a long gradual ascent up an ancient logging road made of very chunky quarry rock (awkward but at least in wasn't slippery!)  At an Aid Station 3.7 miles in the 10k racers turned around.  I stopped and took a cup of water and chatted with the volunteers.  Nice friendly people who no doubt got soaked!

It was a familiar route back towards the ridge but the course cut left instead of heading back up to the ridge top.  It chased the river through the woods in a meandering way.  One thing about flat trail is water doesn't run off so it was quite slick as were the wooden bridges.  Surefootedness was as much work as building speed but I love that stuff.  Keeps things fun!

I finished in 43:34.  I jogged around a bit and hiked down around the famous Alsea Falls.

Don G. came blazing in with a nice half time and 2nd place overall.  We ate brats from the nice post race spread they had.  It began to really open up and pour again so we packed up and got out of there.

Just the workout I needed and a cool new spot checked out.  Not a bad Saturday!