Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

This is the only trident I earned, but Murph, I'll use it and my middle fingers in your honor.
My mom invited me to run a Murph with her and her xfit box and what the hell, I said yes.  Murph is a hero WOD, where you run 1 mile, complete 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, and run 1 mile.  Ideally you do this with a weight vest but that's Rx and you can scale as needed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cross Country Bike Ride, Day 1

April 22nd is Earth Day, and it's also my bike tour shove off anniversaries.  In 2012 I set off from Yuma for Flagstaff, Arizona and in 2014 I took off from Washington to go across the country--all by bike.  Arizona was a miraculous success--namely that it was incredibly dangerous and remote and I was too stupid and arrogant to know any better, but I survived and cemented Arizona in my mind and heart as a wild, rugged, terrifying and exhilarating place.   Those four days that it took for me to cross the desert on my beloved bike were some of the most formative of my life and I knew that if I had survived Arizona in the late spring, I could survive any bike tour.    I had my heart, legs, and tires set on a cross country excursion.

A year ago today and 2 years after Arizona started to impart her many lessons, I stop to celebrate and reflect on a crazy year gone by.  Below is the write up for Day 1 of my cross country bike trip. Enjoy the preview of the upcoming book!

Monday, April 13, 2015

so there I was....

I was just coming out of a really really rough, dark, consuming, obliterating depression and I finally had some energy and believed that I would be around in three weeks so any steps towards anticipating life next month wasn't arbitrary.  I bee-bopped down the street, jumped over puddles, sang, laughed at dogs (rudely to their damn faces), and chipperly greeted the convenience store clerk as I swaggered down an aisle.  I had entered the little market to get a banana, which I thought would take the edge off the jitters I had, and I walked the aisles narrating my thoughts and ridiculous actions aloud. 

I didn't see any bananas, spent a long time agonizing over if I should get a jar of spaghetti sauce for dinner (as in to eat just a jar of spaghetti sauce), and decided against it.  I made one more swoop through the little market, saw a few packets of self rising yeast and thought it would be great to bake and boil my own bagels (I live in a TINY apartment with no kitchen so this would involve the herculean feat of borrowing/getting pots, using a community kitchen, actually cooking).  As I reached out to grab this yeast and embark on the journey of home made bagels, I realized that two days ago I didn't have the energy to LEAVE my tiny ass apartment and didn't believe that the entire universe held even as much opportunity or promise as a bagel. 

My hand fell back to my side and I walked out of the market, a bit more soberly than I waltzed in, but felt ok about how this wide strange universe has more wonder and mystery than we can ever even imagine on our darkest or our brightest days.  Hang in there.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hark! A book!

I rode my bicycle across the United States this past spring and summer and strangely found the energy at the end of the day to write massive amounts about my daily experiences.  Every day I woke up, broke camp, pedaled east, reached depths of loneliness and freedom on the road, met interesting humans, found a place to make a camp, rigged a hammock, and then tapped out my day's thoughts and miles on my trusty iphone. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Will Gadd! Thanks for the ultra inspiration and perspective

I'm not sure if it's mostly a Hawaii-Canada phenomena, but there is a skewed importance on a rivalry between our two great nations (Hawaii and Canadia).  Every year a whole crop of amazing runners come from all over the world to run HURT, and the podium is always chock full of Canadians.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What I Saw of HURT 2015, Crew/Volunteer Report

Friday before HURT was a new set of pre-race nerves.  I have never been so calm or disengaged since I've started HURTing in 2010.  This is because I haven't missed a HURT since 2011, but I had no plans to be there this year.  When I got back to my apartment Friday evening with the sick realization I had absolutely no where to be until Wednesday, I asked the Internet and gods of procrastination to bless me with a cheap ticket to Hawaii.  Fortune smiled upon me and less than 10 hours later I was on a flight to Oahu to watch some of my favorite people on the planet run, crew, manage, hobble, and tackle the HURT 100.

I made it to the Nature Center with the help of several HURT friends (one asked around to get me a ride, one lent the truck, a third drove to HNL to get me) by 1 o'clock--seven hours after go.

The Nature Center Aid Station is aptly named only because on this weekend every year the Hawaii Nature Center graciously lends its grounds to the race's use.  Otherwise, the place is an un-Nature Center...transformed to a mega hub of activity, wifi, iPads, junk ultra food, and dozens of people either running or running the madness.  

Runners come down the trail, and through a thick canopy you can start to see the brightly dressed runners before they reach the aid station. The runners shoot across a bridge, cross the Makiki Stream bound for the Pacific, round the ramp and tramp into the aid station, where crews and volunteers tend to these people in varying states of physical wreckage.  

It is quite strange to watch people come and go and see such change in a single person after 4 to 6 hours.  You wish them well and send them off fed, encouraged and at least at a jog away from you and then sometime later they show back up filthy, hungry, exhausted, injured, and often with plenty of emotion.  

In your life, stationary at an aid station, you serve as the stick to which their progress is measured.  It might seem ridiculous to run 20 miles (or 40,60,80,100) only to end up exactly where you started and to a pure physicist, it might seem that the runner went no where at all.

I don't have much understanding of these things, but if quantum physics says that a particle can be two places at once, let it also say that a runner making round trips to and from Makiki went way far and also went no where.  It's really only discernible if you compare them to us who stand to serve and watch.  

And that's what I did this HURT.  I showed up a little after noon and watched friends and trail mates pour in off the mountain in that parade of destruction.

My relationship with ultra running has taken a few major course changes.  I DNFd last year which gave me so much to think about and so much freedom.  That 1st DNF has also made me fearless in the sense that I don't care to throw effort or pride around to impress anyone and I think it's forced me into less races (good because if I'm not there for 100% reasons of excitement it's probably not going to be fun) (bad because I miss lining up).  Also, my philosophies around life and toughness and strength have shifted radically with those lessons from that black eye DNF at Northburn as I've had to view my decision to DNF as a direct application of my developed strength.  I finally said no to self destruction and had enough backbone to have a middle finger in case someone said I was weak or a fuck up (no one did because it's both not true and no one is really that concerned with what I do).

I am also recovering from a solid little injury and I think if/when I make a start line of an ultra it will not be something I can ever take for granted.  I see now how much I did just assume would be for always and unalienable.  Health is ephemeral at best--we humans live such short little lives and our bodies can take abuse but can also be changed forever. Performance is going to peak somewhere and PRs, podiums, piles of race numbers and belt buckles are not nutrients needed for cell function and life.  We don't have some membrane that allows that kind of awesome to diffuse in without conscious thought.  Those things, those achievements from a dedicated application of your body's abilities, take risk and effort and stars aligning and a body and mind to cooperate and can disappear even as you continue in life as a runner or not.  Damn I took all that for granted.

I digress.

I was beyond happy and grateful to be at HURT in the capacity of everyone's crew.  People came in and I got to scurry and fetch drop bags, offer ice, refill bottles, offer a heartfelt hell yeah, and send them back out.  I had plenty of great company in these tasks--all labors of love as well.  I caught up with friends I haven't seen since before moving from Hawaii and was very glad I made the flight.  It was great to be back with HURT.  

I'm also really glad I went because when I crew I'm reminded how much it takes to get runners from point A to point A.  When I've asked people to crew or pace, I've known how much of a pain in the ass I'm asking them to go through on my behalf, but it's wonderful to be reminded and go through that role in person. 

***Michele, Mom, Everett, Pops, Aunti Margs, Dave Snipes, Andi and Don, Doug, Matt C, Mosi, David Jones, Wren, Ryan B... Thank you for having crewed and paced me over the years.  Thank you.***

Best part of showing up to HURT was getting to see my ultra brother roll through the Nature Center.  Doug Long cruised in smooth as a vanilla gel and it had been too long since we'd seen each other.  I ran up to hug him and then switched immediately to crew mode.

He was over heating (easy--not our first rodeo in hot weather) so I made him an ice bandana, considered finding him a sports bra to shove more ice into, decided to hold off, and calculated his calories.  Doug was fueling properly if he was 50 pounds and sedentary and his lethargy was proof. We ran the numbers and cackled but it was also an easy enough fix.  He ate pretty much everything plant based on the aid station table and sat in the shade.  

Doug and I agree on many things about ultras, but he and I surely have different strategies for aid stations.  I prefer to get in and jet out in the style of a bank robbery and Doug seems to go at an aid station like one might the DMV: get comfortable cuz it'll take a while.  I was ok with it because we got to hang out a little more but as his impromptu crew, I wanted to give him the best chance possible at a "good time."  Mostly I just back-seat-ran his race out of concern if he stayed at an aid station longer than a minute it could add up to approach cut off times but ultimately knew he knew what he was doing and I didn't push too hard to kick him out onto the trail.

Things couldn't have worked out more perfectly from my crewing/want to see friends point of view.  One of my next favorites rolled in to the Nature Center and I got to alohaing and tending to Andrew--raddest baddest Texan I've met and my friend from Northburn.  I sat him down and introduced him to Doug.  Andrew was quicker on the turn around and Huddy and I had a little bit of cajoling to do to get Doug up and out of there (now fueled up as though he was a 250 pound lumberjack in frigid temperatures) and to leave with Andrew.  They'd both run almost entirely alone, and ultras really are best enjoyed with friends.  I hoped they'd get along and was pretty pleased with things as I watched them take off for their third loop.  

40 down and 60 to go.

The leading men flew through not too long after, third loops now recorded and their loop times the envy of probably everyone who knows what the hell a hurt loop is.  Michael Arnstein was all business and sprinted in and out of the Nature Center before anyone could offer him watermelon.  

I was especially happy to see Michael zooming through at the top and looking great.  I know he's climbed a long road back to the start of any race and his return to HURT was perhaps more meaningful.  I won't put words in his mouth or assign anything to his achievement of being in the starting field, but he made hurt history with his first hurt finish--no where near first place like he's capable of but absolutely a class act with mud war paint and a gracious sense of humor about a course direction mix up.  Mike seemed to have nailed the course direction down pat and led the men's race from loop 3 on--but not by much.  

In third place was Nick Hollon--another great friend and Badwater accomplice. Nick didn't seem too excited about 3rd place, or much else, but he got back out there and I hoped in his 20 miles, our four hours, my stream of tending to more broken, more unexcited, more suffering runners who came in after him that he would be in a better place.

Round and round.  People came in and took respite and picked themselves back up and back onto the rocks and roots and climbs.  I felt the flight's affects and was in mild pain, but as I watched the progression of racers limp in, I watched their pain with new eyes--new since my herniated disc and new since that Northburn DNF.  I couldn't quite understand WHY people do this shit.  Seriously I looked at everyone and thought them all crazy and short sighted--perhaps all guilty of extreme hubris.  Really? You're going to destroy yourself for a belt buckle and bragging rights?  You know bragging always makes you look like a douche hole right?  You know tough isn't the pain you can take but it's your buoyancy relative to whatever shitstorm you find yourself in, right?  You know that not quitting because you're afraid of what people will think makes you afraid?  

On and on.

I watched an ultra with these outsider eyes for the first time in my life because before that, anytime I saw, spoke, heard ultra and the goriest, grittiest, most bone grindingest finish stories I had nothing but stars in my eyes, masochist dreams in my head, and words of adoration.  I slayed many a sacred cow that day.  The runner who ran 35 miles through aid stations on a broken leg just to finish? Idiot.  The person who pisses blood and has all kinds of the rhabdo monster going on and refuses to quit? Do you have health insurance? Seriously? Idiot.  

This much is clear:

Ultra running, our honeymoon phase is over.  

That was loop 3.  Loop 4 people came in and went.  Doug and Andrew stuck together for a whole loop which made my focused crewing very consolidated.  They were both very much fatigued and Doug was naptastic again.  Huddy and I approved a 10 minute nap plan on the cots after a lot of food. 
I thought of my friend who always had questions about ultras and countered my ULTRAS ARE AWESOME lunacy with texted pictures of funion wrappers and Dr. Pepper bottles strewn about on a morning spent sleeping in.  In this way I think there was a cosmic venn diagram--Doug binged on lots of aid station gourmet (also with plenty of caffeine) but still managed a food coma nap.  The volunteers who manned the soup were exceptional--people anticipated what my runners would need before I could scurry to get it.  As the guys racked out, Huddy and I talked loop math and knew they had a great run lined up if they got up and out of here in a timely manner.  

Ten minutes on a cot--when is that ever too much?  Surely too quick for Andrew and Doug and they took a bit to come back to life (soup, change shirts, more food, fresh lights) and they got up and at it.  

I walked with them around the ramp and up to the bridge across the Makiki stream to watch them disappear down trail.  Loop 4.

Not too long after Mike Arnstein ran into the aid station to end his 2015 HURT race as this year's champion.  Eighteen minutes later Alex Nunn came in for his second podium finish here with an incredible performance.   Nick took third and handily.  

For everyone else, the hours of 1,2,3 am were ugly.  I wasn't out there but I've been there and there's that saying nothing good happens after midnight.  That saying perhaps describes best pizza delivery but it is also really on point about running all day and night.  Hallucinations, roots that jump up to grab you, sleep running, a torrent of what the fucks and serious examinations of life choices that lead you to that point, aches, pains, and so many more miles to go.  

I crashed.  I founda cot, set an alarm for well before Doug and Andrew's ETA and while I ran approximately 0 miles, HURT has a way of getting everyone involved exhausted. 

I was up around sun up and I got to watch the parade keep on cruising.  With sun up, people came into the Nature Center defiant of the shit they ran through all yesterday and all last night.  They were perhaps bowed with fatigue and nagging injuries and bodily misalignments but for most everyone that showed up to that 4th loop's end and that had the allowed time to finish, they got back out there for more.  

Did you know that the runners were all cordial and gracious and could accept help and be thankful for it at 60,80,0 miles in?  Did you ever see someone in serious pain offer a smile for some flat Mountain Dew or a kind word?  Did you ever watch something so self indulgent as the accepted continued discomfort to finish become so beautiful and hopeful? 

One HURT loop is 20 miles; it is 5,000 feet of climb up and is 5,000 feet of climb down.  One loop is a 7 mile leg over to Paradise, a five mile leg to Nuuanu (an aid station infamously hard to get to and pronounce for out of town runners) and a looooong 8 miles back to Makiki. One loop is sometimes the last fucking thing you'd ever want to do but runners would smile and pick themselves up and make as much forward progress as their bodies still let them.  

Did you know the human body is smart and will shut down to protect itself before it's destroyed by its own lunacy? In many cases this is true. Ultra running makes a person say, yes, I hear and see and feel you on that one, body, but you fuckin' listen to me.  There is an accessory out there with our name on it if you just listen to me and give us 20, 30,40, 0 more miles.  Did you hear me?  A belt buckle. And bragging rights over all other human bodies.  

The body is not convinced and the physical traumas don't dissipate with that plea bargain, but instead slow the mind on its quest for self esteem or adventure or quantitative toughness or the perfect accoutrements to fasten one side of a belt to the other to keep pants up at hip level.  Yes, that's it.  Or for love of running--body says you know if you had just run for 7 hours yesterday we could run everyday next week and STILL had a gnarly 7 hour run...

Still they kept showing up and heading back out.

Loop 5. Loop 5 is magical.  Loop 5 is when you have a loop and then some in you still and you have finally earned a victory lap. Loop 5 is often an 8 hour affair and 0 percent of it is relaxing until the runner is around the bridge, down the ramp, and kissing the sign that means they've finished.  I cannot imagine what it would feel like to make it 99 miles and get timed out, and that's what people agree to test out when they step off for loop 5 around mid morning Sunday.  

Hustle and grit and bargaining and risk and pain and all that suffering with a chance of no buckle.  People could have the audacity to call it a failure.

I watched some incredible people get up and get out for that fifth loop--again defiant in all the greatest ways a human can be defiant in a selfish pursuit.  Political activism for social liberties, equality, freedom, and nonviolence of course are more noble yet, but for a single human to act defiantly on his or her behalf because of a really long run... I still don't know how much it's worth but defiance when practiced can be applied and I think people who've endured and done so with good humor can be counted on to be good, enduring people when you need them next to you.  

Doug and Andrew made it through the night and were in good (enough) spirits. They had plenty of time, they had each other, they had 40 hurt loops done between the two of them (Andrew kicked in 4 of those).  I sent them packing and again watched them cross the Makiki Stream and disappear into the trees and rocks and roots with fists over head like rock stars.  

Behind them, pure grit showed up.  A woman came in to DNF after her fourth loop because she missed the cut off time.  She let me talk her into the fun run--only seven more miles to Paradise and it's an unofficial official 100k finish.  She agreed and I refilled her stuff, got her some food, told her my name so she could cuss me with specificity while she was back out on the trail.  

Lady, I'm proud of you and hope you find it was a good choice to get back out there.
You might say, why the hell would you talk someone into more arbitrary suffering when you're now of the camp that thinks it's all bullshit?  Well, it's not bullshit.  And if 7 miles is the difference of a claim to DEFIANCE and to a head held up because I can stand in there and suffer long enough to earn empathy and understanding and strength, who am I to deny anyone that? Who am I to deny even myself if and when the day comes that I get to show that?

She stepped off for her last leg of HURT 2015 with her pacer and knowing full well those 7 hiked miles would ask of her pretty much everything she had left and maybe 5 hours in pain, pain, pain.

A couple more of my favorite HURT repeat offenders came through and all of them made me tear up as I watched them limp in, gather briefly and step off for LOOP 5, filthy, exhausted, pained, and with the pressure of a relentless clock.  Starchy Grant, Alex Garcia, Mike Garrison, Ken "all day" Michal...congrats a thousand times over for stepping off for loops 1,2,3,4, and 5. You guys probably made me cry the hardest but everyone I watched go across that bridge for loop 5 reminded me why I fell in love with ultras in the first place.

Doug and Andrew made it back with hours to spare and it was excellent to have played a small part in getting them there.  My proudest stroke of crewing was that I introduced them and they ran 100k together for Doug's third HURT 100 finish and Andrew's first. 

Time elapsed at 6pm Hawaii Standard Time (that's 6 sharp not 6:02 Hawaii time) and 61 people finished this year's HURT 100.  

Sixty or so other people made it to Hawaii, found the starting line, and found the combination of dumb luck and strange strength to not get to mile 100.  It's a loop course so, in pure displacement terms, no one went anywhere anyway.  It takes a little quantum physics to realize that a DNF is a win as it's also a shortcoming.  

Ultra running, I do love you and the strange company you keep.  Take me back?  I think so.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bike tour gear: hammocking across the USA with ENO HAMMOCK REVIEW

Biking across any expanse of land will ask a lot of a person and her gear.  There isn't really volume on a bike to have sentimental items, superstitions, or luxury BS.  If it's getting packed, it's getting used. In my case, I needed to sleep out safely in 20-30° weather to wake up refreshed to do it again the next day.

I chose to use a hammock system as my tent with amazing down quilts that nicely compliment a hammock and make them usable all four seasons.  Details and in depth reviews below.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bike tour gear: hammocking across the USA with Hammock Quilts gear review

Biking across any expanse of land will ask a lot of a person and her gear.  There isn't really volume on a bike to have sentimental items, superstitions, or luxuries.  If it's getting packed, it's getting used. In my case, I needed to sleep out safely in 20-30° weather to wake up refreshed enough to do it again the next day.

I chose a hammock system as my tent with amazing down quilts that nicely compliment my hammock and make it usable all four seasons.  Details and in depth reviews below.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bike tour is pau, bring on the epilogue

I rode my bike from Long Beach, Washington to Hampton, New Hampshire and had 20 miles by crow's flight until I hit the Atlantic Ocean.  I stalled on that penultimate day and camped inland instead of making that hour and a half push to THE BEACH.  I needed one night more to collect myself and to come to terms with the fact that I was going to see the ATLANTIC and end this ride.