Friday, June 28, 2013


Yes.  Yes he does.
 Little motivation on this Friday afternoon.  It's gonna get hot and I am feeling a bit fatigued.  But, I gotta keep moving.

Training notes:
Done with the race a week thing and not going for another 24 mile road run anytime soon (I hope).  It's hill time.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Solstice - 5k Recap

Got home from work at about 6:00 and Kattie gives me some options for the first summer evening of the year (trying to keep things within the 30 bones budget we had):

1. We run the local Salem Summer Solstice 5k at Minto Brown Park (what!?  we're going to race?! tonight?!  I'll put this wine back in the fridge...)
2. We go have drinks downtown with friends (not a bad idea given how Friday and the week in general went)
3. I race she doesn't and we drink less (worst option, by far)
4. We just go for a workout together and stay home ($0, most fiscally responsible option)

We agreed to option 1.  Within a few minutes we are in running clothes and frantically making the 5 minute drive over to the park.  I sign us up and we warm-up a bit.  10k-ers take off 5-10 minutes later than 7pm start time and 5 minutes later we're off.

I take a spot behind the lead pack of youths and one slightly older dude vowing to keep them in sight for awhile.  After a mile, I hear a yell from behind.  Shit, I missed the turn!  I turn back and ask where the course goes and a guy looks at me dumbfounded as I realize the chalk on the path indicates I was on the right path.  I take off again and the yeller (a good friend!) apologizes profusely.  Another 400 yrds. or so and the kid in front of me is lying in the grass so I hit the brakes a bit to investigate.  Other people (spectators) are there so I take off again.  I thought all those long trail events were complicated this 5k in the park business is whacky!

I motored along and closed in on #2.  I thought he'd do something about my presence but evidentally this youngster was already gassed out... it was an easy pass with a few words of encouragement to the lad.

#1 guy started looking back now and I was considerably far behind him.  As we got down to the the last mile along the river he began looking over his shoulder once every 30 seconds or so.  I closed in on him just a bit but I don't know what he was so worried about, he was safe the whole time.  I got a kick out of all the head turning though, made me wish I was closer to him when it started.

I held on to the pace through the finish and got a 17:41.  I had a old-timey sundae in my hand and mouth by minute 19:00 and it was awesome.

Kattie did well too with a 24:25.  Good enough for 2nd in her age group.  She was excited about going sub-8 pace.  I am proud of her!

We had a blast, it seems option 1 was the best decision we could have made!  A wonderful Friday night in the park, racing, with friends, ice cream and ribbons!  It's going to be a great summer!

Monday, June 17, 2013

White Salmon Backyard Half Recap-a-Rama

To all my imaginary fans from yours truly I give you another delightful race re-cap.  2 in one month?!  Yeah, just for you super fans, I did race twice and promptly write a dull tale about both of them in a timely manner.  This report comes from the hills opposite I-84, high above the mighty Columbia River in what we locals simply refer to as "the gorge".

I sort of half-heartedly signed up for the race immediately following the 10 mile race in the mountains of Southern Oregon.  Racing is kind of like drinking in that way, sometimes after a good pour you just get thirsty for more--forgetting how much trouble too much can do to you.  Anyway, I wasn't really sure it would work with my schedule to make it up there but after a customer, Tony at Gator Creek Gardens, in nearby Carson said he'd take a pickup load of plants if I'd drop them off on the way I was pretty well committed to showing up for the party.

It sounded like a good challenge and a "down-home, no frills" style event.  Just the kind I've grown to love.  I was excited to give it a good shot.  So I did some hill repeats a couple mornings, got in a solid puke pace track workout and generally conditioned myself to a state of feeling like shit on the Thursday before the race.  I took advantage of Friday by staying up late, eating a burger and you guessed it, drinking way too much wine.  It was some very fine wine though...

On to the race now:  As the 10am start time neared and the day was heating up I wrapped up a conversation with one of my heros, fellow Salem-ite, Eb Engelmann (what that guy's been up to as a 71 year old is truly and inspiration--incredible dude for sure).  I approached the start line and I was in my now usual state of "how the f am I going to place where I was hoping (top 20) with all these apparent hot shots (dudes bearing singlets with shoe stores on them, team uniforms, gianormous quads and pencil thin wrists) in the horserace?"  I don't put a lot of pressure on myself but these anxious thoughts always seem to have a calming effect anyway as I usually conclude with "shit, screw it, I'll just run 'my' race."

Well the RD yelled "go!" and we took off briskly through the town streets for a bit before entering a little goat trail that quickly began to tilt upward.  Up and up we went.  Some super runnable ups and some brief steep ups.  I ran them all.  I figured there were at least 10 guys in front of me and a bunch of really smart pacers right behind (that would soon be in front of me).  Well, I was wrong.  I passed one or two, maybe three guys and no one ever passed me in the climbfest that was the 1st 8 miles.  I worked hard but really focused on being steady and enjoying the trail which went through dense woods, oak scrub, clear cuts, meadows and had view after view of the gorge and Mt. Hood's gnar North side. 

Things began to tip downward here and there around mile 9 and I took advantage of that by rolling my ankle pretty badly.  It cracked and sent some tingles up my leg but I just kept going telling myself out loud: "Just keep going!  Keep...  go..."  The pain didn't worsen (or improve for that matter) so I just went with it best I could:  my somewhat smooth strides now a little more choppy as I moved more cautiously.  I had another runner in sight now and he was moving even more cautiously.  Clearly, he was a roadie or buttery grass x-country runner as he seemed quick but uncomfortable on the rocky decent trail.  I overtook him with a few miles to go.  Not long after a dude that I'd passed after running together back in miles 7-9ish went whizzing by me.  I didn't bother trying to hang with him as I was just trying to hang on to my wheels as it was.

The last mile had a steepish little incline that spit runners out on the roads and the roads were a raging inferno of black asphalt for parched little me.  I hopelessly rounded a couple corners until the finish rolled into view and I crossed the line to a screaming crowd of 10-20 people.  Just like that it was over, 1 hr and 43 minutes after it all started on this very same street corner.

I looked around and thought "where are all the other finishers?"  There were just 4 sweaty dudes shaking hands and doing the post race congrats stuff.  I'd arrived 5th?!  No way.  It was confirmed when I started chatting with the guy who got in just front of me.  I then met Yassine (1st place finisher) for the first time in person after all the emails and calls we'd exchanged when he coached me for a while last year.  Awesome guy, it was nice to catch up with him and meet his family.

I stuffed my face with fruit and drank more water before eventually making the trek back down to the valley where I weeded in the onions for a bit and then drank beers with a work crew undoubtedly boring them with this very tale about a foot race in the Gorge.

I can't wait to go back to the gorge and explore some more!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

relentlessly boring training commentary post

Over time, or more precisely, over the last year and a half, a seemingly obvious statement has become more obvious:  racing's fun and training is the slightly less fun (albeit enjoyable, most of the time) means to getting desireable results.

Decent overall fitness and a lot of willpower can get decent results but as one approaches those in the front of the pack it becomes more and more apparent:  the people ahead of you trained harder and smarter than you did.  Maybe they put in more time, maybe it was more miles, maybe they pushed it harder at just the right times, maybe they recovered better, maybe they ate better, maybe they went further out of their way to train in race-like conditions and terrain.  Look, the list of ways to train harder and smarter goes on but seldom is it raw talent alone that places one over another: at least in the front.

I've found myself finishing in the top 10-15 at a few local, but fairly competitive races I've joined in this year.  I've trained a bit more than I did when I first started running and found a formula that combines quality and some quantity that really seems to work.  It's been really encouraging to see the improvement. 

What's slightly discouraging about all of this is where I've arrived as a result of this improvement.  Now, as I look at finishers ahead of me, I see hardened training machines and I am both inspired and nervous when toeing up to compete.  Will I, or do I, have the commitment it takes to take the next step?

While I stated that I've indeed found a training formula that works I have only one problem:  life.  I work in the family biz 6 days a week and a 12 hour day is not unusual.  I've got commitments at to my family and home like any other happily married person and father of a dog and two cats (don't laugh, I make sure they are fed and know that they are loved).  I want to train more but when I make the extra effort (take the time) I feel selfish and can literally see things begin to unravel at work and at home (tensions/comparisons to co-workers and weeds in the yard).

It's tough to find balance.  Right now I just feel lucky to get out at all.  As a result, every run now has a purpose: strength, turnover, recovery and even a few that are just for fun/social.  I'm trying to add a bit more racing to my schedule at the moment to see how well I can race, recover, push it just a bit, recover a bit and race, then repeat.  July will be tougher than June but with my "A" race in August I am going to have to work hard to carve out the time (read: get up at 4 am) to put the hay in the barn.

I hate reading these types of whining posts from other dork run bloggers but I felt like writing these thoughts would help me realize where I am at and where I need to go.  It did that.  Sort of...

On another note, my wine drinking habit has risen to new levels of achievement.  Kattie is now gainfully employed (on the only 2 days of the week she didn't work before--what was formerly known as the weekend) by a top grade vineyard and winery called Domaine Serene.  As an added benefit of her expressing her awesomeness to customers there she gets quite a load of spendy wine on top of her pay.  Needless to say we have been stashing some like classy people do and pouring the rest into our souls like bosses do.

Monday, June 3, 2013

smooth as fine wine, tuff as granite

Kattie and I made an unusual move and told the workweek "that's-it" a few hours early on Friday.  We packed up the wagon with a bunch of shit we didn't need and none of the stuff that would have been most handy (i.e. playing cards!) for a weekend in a yurt at the Valley of the Rogue way down in Gold Hill, OR.  That's right southern Oregon... folks, it's a-whole-nother country!

Simply because we could, we stopped in Cottage Grove for a snack and the ice tea Kattie craved.  It was cooler than I thought it was with it's old, somewhat lively downtown.  Just a few meth tweakers lurking about but not too bad.  We stopped off again at Canyonville which has the nicest rest stop on I-5.  It's appears to be owned and operated by Natives who run a giant casino there.  My advice: skip the casino but be sure to relieve yourself there!

Next it was into and through Grants Pass for groceries.  The hills along the freeway were a raging inferno of fire but gave us no trouble while on the scenic route in town.  We grabbed more necessities (food) and made our way down to the yurt that would be home for the weekend.  Chatty senior neighbors quickly made us feel very welcome to what we dubbed the "senior circuit" as the age of our neighbors averaged around 108.  Needless to say, around 7:30 p.m. it was very quiet which is nice because Kattie and I can't manage to stay up much past that hour anyway.  Especially when drinking.  Which is often.  Let's be honest and transparent.

The next day I got up for a run in the brisk morning weather.  I took Pete, the dog, as he usually keeps the pace very mellow but that morning he insisted on 7-7:20 min/miles which isn't too bad but a bit faster than I had planned.  I dropped him off back at the yurt after 4 miles and ran the rest of the River's Edge and Greenway Trail for a total of 8 or so I-pod measured miles which was consistent enough with my plan to run for about an hour of flat stuff.

We had a delicious breakfast and hit the road with only one plan: drink wine from Southern Oregon.  After some time lost in Deliverance-ville's gravel roads we finally got on track and arrived at Cowhorn where we had some very nice wines in a spectacular setting.  From there we went to eat in Jacksonville which may well be one of the best places on this part of Earth.  It's a very cool historical place with not too much kitchy-shit and lots of neat ol' stuff (homes and such).  There was a wait at C-St. Bistro so we went around the corner and passed the time drinking more at Quady North which serves up some great variety and really great wine.  Probably my favorite stop of the day.  After lunch we went to Krissel which is indeed in bum-f-Egypt (they call it White City) as we were told.  It's a modern place with a nice view and more good wine.

After all the tasting--which is code for drinking as I am no spitter, I enjoy every last sip of every "tasting" served--I was wine-zonked and couldn't wait to eat dinner (sausage we picked up in Methville... I mean Gold Hill).  It took everything we had to stay up for a smore while the senior circuit's lights went out but we did it before hitting the sack.  While dozing off I wondered how well this race prep routine would pay off...  Seriously?  At least of bottle of wine in me and I just topped it off with sausage and a smore?!  Oh well...  "it is was it is".  Whatever that stupid saying is all about.  Well, honestly this isn't the first time I've "prepped" like this... click off:  sleep.

Race day (finally, Jesus, I was beginning to convince myself that this was a travel-blog written by a lowly alcoholic senior citizen with a drinking and driving habit):  we were up early for the hour or so drive down to Applegate Lake.  We arrived to the beautiful Hart-Tish park 45 minutes or so before the start and did usual pre-start routine of: bathroom, changing shoes, registration, bathroom, walk Pete, bathroom, etc.  During each step of this routine I couldn't help but notice who all was there:  it seemed several of the legendary mountain running gazelles of Ashland had made it out for the showdown.  Fast women and a slew of fast dudes who run laps on Mt. Ashland until they are hardened off enough to waste competition in national level races.  Surprisingly, (but only because I had no idea he was going) Don G. was there too so the Mid-Willamette even had at least one fast horse in the race.  Honestly, I didn't get nervous about how it was going to go, my brain just sort of shifted gears: forget placing top 10 or whatever and run my race--PR mode I call it.

After a slight delay we were off and running on a rolling little jaunt in the woods that tilted mostly upwards.  I ran through some of the poison oak, which was everywhere, to pass a dude that looked like a classic case of dash and burn (if I could judge a book by the cover, which--as much as I hate to do it--I am getting better at with a few more races under my belt).  Mile 1 passed and I knew it was relentlessly up from here to mile 3ish.  I passed a fast looking shirtless local dude, then a very fast girl (who wasted me at the Mac 50k), and came up on Jenn Shelton who I knew was super fast.  I kind of parked it behind her thinking she knows a lot more about this sport than me.  But eventually she sounded labored and I was ready to move on.  Ran with Don G. next before he pulled over and insisted on me going by.  Eventually, within the last couple hundred feet of this big climb, I kept running and reciting the mantra "not gonna walk a step, you don't do that in 10 mile RUNs, that's an ultrarunning-thing, and besides it might feel too good anyway."  Moving right along I caught up with another LSFD (local shirtless fast dude).  He too was laboring hard and I eventually slipped by him before the course tilted down to a truly runnable angle of uphill.

I could end the report there at about mile 3 as nothing changed from a racing standpoint from then on.  I could not see anyone in front of me and fairly quickly I lost site of anyone behind me.  I might as well of been out there alone.  It was rolly and pretty damn techical with rocks, roots and sharp turns for miles before giving away to a nice descent back down to the lake.  It was thrilling single track that required a lot of attention to avoid falling off into what often was a very steep hillside (not the kind you could stop on without hitting a tree or rock).  The plant geek side of my brain did a nice job distracting the rest as it was dazzled by new and unique flora including groves of manzanitas, madrones and fragrant-blooming california lilcas among other smaller gems including several silvery colored perennials.  The Siskyous are a botanical wonderland because of their East-West orientation that bridges the wet and temperate Coast Range with the drier peaks of the Cascades.  Anyway, enough plant chatter, after completing the descent I pushed fairly hard in the last 3 miles along the lakeshore and frequently looked over my shoulder as I felt my pace was something that was decent at best.  As it turned out the next person was 2 minutes back so my worries were only motivational.  The guy in front of me was 2 minutes ahead so not a lot pull motivationally from that direction either.

The finish was on the beach and it was beautiful and fun.  I was done after 1:21 which was good enough for 8th OA and 3rd in my always competitive age group.  This really great day was made better by the fact that Kattie ran her own race (5 mile Poker Run) well enough to be 1st in her age group and 7th OA (correction 8th OA, Zielinski's sweep 8th!).  She was not so lucky with the hand she was dealt however.  We said we'd stop at the casino and quickly double our winnings if either of us came home with prize money but without any winnings we just stopped and relieved ourselves there again.

Whew, long write up for the weekend's events.  I just don't get out much anymore...
another running shot from early on in the race.  same clothes as last time so it looks the same except for the bib#.