Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Healthy disagreement is an essential ingredient in my life.

I can take this too far.  I often do.  I give my best friends s about their idiosyncrasies.  I push buttons.  I incite anger and annoyance.  My methods aren't in line with everyone else's.  But I do truly crave the same understanding that seems so elusive for all of us.

The Yogger is one of my better friends precisely because he and I can have healthy disagreement without getting butt hurt.  I seek that from people, especially those closest to me and as a result I'm not terribly compatible with emotionally sensitive people.  My personal hell is a place where everyone agrees with me.  I find no fault with those who prefer to surround themselves with like minded individuals, as I'm certainly in tune with how important and necessary a support system is.  I need that too.  But I do feel that my own personal change and growth stems from my interactions with those who challenge me to think differently or at least to justify my perspective.

One specific topic of continual discussion with the Yogger is commitment.  Not from the standpoint of "Hey, Yogger, are you really committed to running 100 miles in 4 weeks?"  Or "How bad do you want 2 hours to the river?"  Those discussions take place too.  But the commitment I'm talking about boils down to the word marriage, or the concept of a contract (verbal or written doesn't really matter) to spend forever together.  I believe this contract, and working through the challenges associated with it to build something with one other person is one of the most important and relevant aspects of human existence.  I consider it the focal point of a life.

The Yogger feels differently, though I'm going to tread lightly on this because I don't want to put words in his mouth or make him seem any less of the man that he is.  He is one of those walk-the-walk types even if he refuses to talk-the-talk.  I admire that.  Meanwhile I disagree with him on the philosophical concepts of the contract.

I like that he keeps me on my toes.  I can't just hide behind marriage as a concept, based in religion, that society in general seems to accept despite the obvious realities about how difficult it is to sustain.  The Yogger seems to be very understanding and accepting of human nature, of how flawed we truly are.  He embraces his own flaws in a way I cannot, I tend to despise my limitations.  I am sure his approach about that is far healthier, but at the same time I have vigorous feelings about the importance of making a commitment and living it through no matter what.  At 37 I no longer believe these feelings are naive.

I do mean that.  I believe in no-matter-what.  I believe in no-excuses.

There are a few others who feel this way.  I'll mention skinnyrunner as an example, since I believe she is someone who put a lot of thought into her selection of a life partner and based that decision on the concept of forever.  Something she mentioned to me on our night run at Ragnar still sticks, it was a string of thoughts about how our bodies can fail, running may not always be accessible to us, and that a deeper faith and shared bond between two people can endure all sorts of changes, especially the ones we can't predict.  I think of my father who cared for my sick mother for 5 years, providing for her and supporting her as her body feel apart and eventually took her away from us.  This concept, this level of commitment, seems to be ever-evaporating.

I find it hard to not take sides when friends break up.  I find it hard to support anyone who makes a bad decision, leaving someone they committed themselves to for someone else, or perhaps for nobody at all.  I judge and I know this is wrong, but I consider it more human than cheating, more human than quitting.  We all judge.  We all make mistakes.  We can all choose if we want to make the best of what we have, of what we've agreed to, or if we want to run away and start over.  I know I am unnecessarily harsh about quitting.  You can read that in my DNF post.  Much of that sits on my shoulders.  But part of it is a reaction to a world where there seems to be no value placed on loyalty, reliability, commitment, finishing.  Part of my abhorrence of quitting is precisely because I see so many who are unwilling to approach anything with the intention of seeing it through until the end.

A perfect example of all of this is my dog, Hunter.  He gives me life lessons every day.  I adopted him over a decade ago, after a family took him home as a puppy and gave him back 2 years later.  I consider that unthinkable.  I knew when I adopted Hunter that I would be with him until his or my last day on earth.  I feel the same about marriage, if I ever propose again, it would be with the intention of living together until life ceases.  It sounds scary and I think it is.  But that's what it means to me.

Most people don't want that.  Most people are OK with drifting apart and moving on.  Most people think it is very human to mix things up, to change direction and to break a commitment.  I can be friends with most people even though I disagree with them.

I'm not like most people.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Running long is my way to find stillness.  Today wound up being Robinson to the river which was roughly 7am to 6pm with a few stops along the way.  The yogger is asleep.  Dr. Evil is asleep.  The American Hero is drifting off to sleep.  I am finally motionless (except for my fingers.)

The Yogger at breakfast on Friday, checking in with his baby mama.

The Iron Skillet just north of the grapevine was our first stop on the drive North.  It may have become the source of my stomach distress today.  Or it could have been the 6 beers I drank on Friday night at the Claifornia Club.  It's definintely one of those two possibilities.

Friday afternoon's shakeout run from the California Club to No Hand's Bridge with a stop at Robie Point (mile 99) for this photo on the way back (photo credit to the American Hero.)

The Yogger likes to foam roll his lats.  Who knew that mattered?

Dr. Evil on the eve of his virgin trip to the Canyons.

The yogger's calves.  Massive indeed.  Size 12 feet.

The American Hero.  This man is off the market, sorry ladies.

The reason we go to Max's for dinner (other than it is about 20 feet from our hotel room door).  Jurek, Trason, Twietmeyer, all of the legends of this town, in one frame.  Who needs any more reason to move here?

The California Club.  There's no place like this bar.  Anywhere.

A view of the CC stage.  I am bummed I have no photos of Barrymore to share.

Saturday morning, pre-yog in Foresthill.

The American Hero ready to dominate, representing his most prestigious win at AR25, also known as the race within the race and perhaps one day to be an officially sanctioned category at AR50.

Soderlund giving his pre-yog briefing.  "Some will go to the river."  I figure he taunted us into this.

The American hero on the bus to Robinson Flat.

The yogger and I sharing a bench seat on the way to the yog start.

It seems neither of us can take photos seriously.

Snow at Robinson Flat, but a lot less snow than years past.

The American Hero just wanted to get going.

So, off we went.  Airborne in the Hokas.

The first section of trail was brand new to me.  Actually, the only time I've ever even been to Robinson Flat was when I paced for Rod the first year I came up for the race (1998?).  It was fun today but slow going through the snow.  Once we got to dry trail, it opened up fairly quickly.  A lot of what I saw was very comparable to the trails from Poppy to Miller's Defeat and Dusty Corners.  So it brought back memories from last year even though it was brand new to me.

There is a lot of downhill running between Robinson and Last Chance.  I think this section was that beautiful stretch of trail just after Dusty Corners.  In the race I remember feeling very alone on this section, whereas in the training runs we are all bunched up and it's a totally different vibe.

Dr. Evil cruised right along all day and had no trouble at all with his first yog over 26.2 and his first long trail yog and his first time in the canyons.  Tough mofo he is.

This is our summer home.  The cabin at Last Chance.  There is a spring nearby with plenty of fresh water.  What more could a boy ask for?  The roof even appears to be intact.  I wonder what the asking price is.

It even comes with a car, although it's a bit of a fixer-upper.

Included in the package is a guest house.  Or a barn.  Or maybe it's a grow room?  We didn't venture inside.  I never noticed this gem before, having never really checked out the structure.

The American Hero decided to take a seat on some old mining equipment.

But he didn't know how to drive it.  It might need some work too.

Swinging bridge.  Note the crossing rules.

The American Hero couldn't decide if he was hot or cold so he kept taking his sleeves and gloves off and then putting them back on.

If you want to know how to race like a hero, just ask this guy.

A view of swinging bridge and the cables that give it the name.  It's a good place to take a dip in the river on a hot day.  Today was cold so we opted out.

After the tough climb up from Swinging Bridge, you reach the top of Devil's Thumb.  This is the distinctive rock that tells you the climb is just about over.

In many ways it feels like this view, at roughly mile 50 of the course, is the canyons giving you the finger.  As in, you're not worthy.  Unless you are featured in Unbreakable that is.

The aid station at the pump before Deadwood cemetery.  The American Hero opted for fuel and fluids here.  No water bottles were harmed this time, unlike during the race itself when he punctured his hand and a bottle during a fall.

The aid station for the race is at the top of the climb, at least a mile before the water pump.  But for the training runs, they put the aid station within reach of the pump b/c it makes things easier.

The water from the pump tastes better than any water you've ever tasted before.  Probably because you have to do some real work to get there and you know you've got some work to do to get back.  Or maybe it's the yellow jackets swarming around the spigot.  Or maybe the muscle power you have to use to get the water up from the ground.  No matter the reason, being here always makes me feel good.

More magic carpet on the descent past Deadwood cemetery and into El Dorado Canyon.

The bridge across the bottom of El Dorado Canyon.  Not quite as stunning as swinging bridge, but a welcome sight b/c the descent to this point is long and quite the quad burner.

On one of our training runs, the American Hero went down below the bridge to dip his hat in the water, slipped on the moss-coated rocks, and fell into the creek.  He couldn't get out without assistance.  It took me a while to realize this, watching him from the bridge where I took this photo.  I was laughing too hard to realize he needed help.  Meanwhile he froze.

Just to get some perspective on how short the bridge is, just a few steps and you're across.

A view of the downstream side of the bridge.

There's an aid station here during the race itself b/c it's a fairly long climb to Michigan Bluff.  During the training runs it's not so bad b/c you skip so much of the first miles of the real course.  During the race, it can be hot and humid so this aid station becomes a real life saver.

Arriving at Michigan Bluff.  The course really changes from this point on.

Although Volcano canyon is the 3rd of 3 canyons, it's really not nearly as brutal as the other two.  It's kind of like the baby sister perhaps.  A quick and merciful descent, followed by a creek crossing that usually means soaked shoes, and then a merciful ascent to Bath road where your pacer awaits.

The American Hero is at his best in Volcano canyon.  He has spent many hours here.

<sarcasm>The Yogger saw this and was disappointed he didn't think of it first.</sarcasm>

Because the yogger likes informing everyone that he is Here For Yog.

Cal 3 is known as Ford's Bar.  I think this is where I burned my throat in last year's race.  I remember feeling a massive low.  I find it funny how different I've felt at this point the 6 or 7 times I've been here. Sometimes I've felt unbreakable.  Sometimes I've felt like a completely cracked and hollow shell.  Sometimes I've been so out of it that I really don't care.  And that first time through, pacing rod, before I knew what 100 miles was about, I remember feeling a sense of wonder and amazement.

Rucky Chucky aka "The River" aka the finish line for any training run that doesn't include a wetsuit or an ambitious river crossing.  On race day, there is a cable and/or boats to ensure runners are able to safely cross the river.  Rod has a great photo of him walking across while the sun is starting to dip low, with my hand in the background.  I remember that moment, before I handed him off to Messner for the final push.  It was a moment where I truly understood how indelible this race is for the runner.

Note the yogger's selection of yellow poncho in lieu of t-shirt.  Gundy on the left, he dragged me through the last 15 miles to the river while the yogger yogged ahead and Dr. Evil and the American Hero drove down to pick us up.

And with that, it's midnight and I'm exhausted so it's time for me to try to rest.  Tomorrow we visit the Auburn Breakfast Company and then attempt to go 2 hours to the river.  After suffering through it today, in a bit more than 3 hours, I think my chances of a fast split are less than zero.  We'll see if the yogger can crack my 2:04 from last year or perhaps dip down into some respectable 2:02 or 2:01 type of times.