Monday, June 30, 2008

Race Therapy

Earlier in the weekend we heard about a local 20 Mile trail race to be held on Sunday. The race, The Burton Creek Trail Run was put on by the BIG BLUE ADVENTURE SERIES and held just north of Tahoe City. So at about the time I thought I would be finishing one race, I instead toed the line (with a number of other Western States runners) for another race. There is something about running with intention that is therapeutic and therefor this was just what the doctor ordered. Despite a pair of unhappy quads, I was able to get myself moving thanks to a pair of SKINS COMPRESSION SHORTS which held my quads in check and my MONTRAIL STREAKS which always make me feel fast. The course was beautiful, forest, meadow, single track...perfect. I ran the race in 3:37:56 (a 10:54 pace for the 20miles) which is good for me but surprising me due to how sore my legs were from all the miles on Saturday. Despite the disappointment over the cancellation of Western States, the weekend produced some quality mileage (55) and some good hill work (20,000 feet of elevation change) capped off with the 20 mile Burton Creek run. Hopefully this will position me to be in good shape for Vermont, now just three weeks away.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A little hang time

As the disappointment of the race being canceled, our energies turned to trying to enjoy this time we (Karen and I) had been given. It has been a long time since just the two of us had gotten away so this was an unexpected an badly needed gift. Saturday began not at 3:00 AM as we had planned but instead more like 9:00. Yes race cancellations do have their upside. After coffee at our new favorite coffee and juice stop, Mountain Nectar, I went for a run while KB took a walk over to the nearby Squaw Valley Resort where she was greeted by a very different crowd then the one staying over in the village. While Karen was walking amongst the rich and famous I headed back up Emigrant Pass. On Friday they asked us to keep off the trail beyond that point so I decided to explore. Heading back down the main access road I jumped off and explored some of the other service roads that took me up to to the top of some of the other peaks that encircle Squaw Valley. Once back down at the bottom, quads throbbing, I decided I better get in some real running so headed out on a nearby bike trail that meandered along the Truckee River towards Lake Tahoe. Although the run was absolutely beautiful at times my mind would wander to wear I would be if we were actually racing that day. Robinson Flat, Devils Thumb, Michigan Bluff all places that would have to live in my mind for another year.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Moving On

There is a Japanese proverb which Running Times Magz. and Scott Jurek made popular in running circles which translates "Stumble seven times, get up eight times". Long before the Japanese used it, Solomon said "They may trip seven times, but each time they will rise again" -Proverbs 24:16 (NLT) Either way the Proverb is appropriate to those who participate in the sport of long distance running, arguably more so when your surface of choice is trail. This spirit of "Perseverance over defeat" filled the air in Squaw Valley in the days following the cancellation of Western States.

With the wind shifting to the south, the air in Squaw Valley improved considerably Friday morning giving us all a chance to get out a run a bit this along with the announcement that we would all receive automatic entries into next years race, lifted peoples spirits and began to get people to think about moving on from the very somber place many of us were on Thursday. For me Friday marked the official beginning of training for Vermont although at this time the whole idea of the Grand Slam was still very much up in the air. Rick, Gabe and I decided to head up the 2,600 vertical feet to Emigrant Pass (this we decided is a cruel way to start a race) and and continue on before turning around at about 7.5 mile mark and heading back. The rest of the day was filled with rare one on one time with Karen (something we just don't get enough of) concluding with a dinner the Western State folks put together in about 36 hours. This time was filled with stories about where you were when you heard the race was canceled and how you would explain to your spouse you spent all that money to get here and all you have to show for it is one expensive T-Shirt. Everyone said they would be back for next year and how this experience would make that much sweeter to get across the finish line. Updates on the fires that were engulfing Northern California indicated that two fires had actually moved onto the Western States Trail and that 100 miles down the road in Auburn the air quality had gotten so bad you could hardly see across the street. If there was still any doubt in anyones mind whether the WSER board had made the right call this pretty well ended it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We are not in Control

Late last night we were told by a member of the WS 100 board that this years race had officially been canceled. It had been hinted at earlier in the day, but even so the news hit runners with a feeling of disbelief. I still can't put words to how I feel after pouring so much of myself into preparing for this event over the past five and a half months (as well as for the Grand Slam which is now also up in the air) The amount of time, money and emotion that has been spent by myself along with the 369 other runners will yield... nothing, nothing but a T-Shirt from a race that never happened.

One of the hardest things for me is that there is no one to blame for this, no place to target anger or frustration. I know being angry or frustrated about a race being canceled may sound petty to some, especially when people are fighting to save their homes, and I will be the first to agree that is where our thoughts and prayers should be. Still it hurts and in a way you feel cheated, and I don't know about you but when I'm hurt and cheated my nature wants to place blame (it's something I'm working on). The race was rightfully canceled because of over 800 wildfires that are burning out of control in Northern California, three of which burn within a mile and a half from the trail. These particular fires are not even being faught as they are in very remote back country and there are more pressing fires that are threatening entire communities. The smoke from these fires blankets California from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada and has reduced visibility to, in some cases , less then a mile. The air is so bad you can taste it in your food and at the end of the day, your clothes smell as if you've been at a camp fire. Even walking around Squaw Valley today it would burn your eyes something fierce. The authorities are telling people to stay inside.
The whole situation is just further proof (as if I needed any) that we can prepare and prepare, but ultimately we are not in control. Although it hurts, there was no other choice for the Western States 100 Organization,.There's nothing that anyone can do, it just is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Training is officially over

Yes that's right, it's now June and Western States is just four days away. I'm currently acclimating in Squaw Valley at 6,200 feet. Went for a short four mile run this afternoon and had an awesome massage this evening. Oh how I love tapering!

First and formost, my apologies for the long gap in posting, I guess blogging became just another thing on a never ending to do list and lost out to family, our store, training for the Grand Slam, and other interest, including some daily time with God. I will make every effort to keep up with this going forward.

Well to bring you up to speed on what's been going on the last four and a half months. I have run over 1,100 miles including five ultras (Psycho WyCo 50K, Three days of Syllamo 50K x 2, Rockin' K 50 Mile and Free State100K) in preparation for Western States. I lost over 20 pounds on the infamous "spider diet" (no you don't eat spiders) and have been blessed to stay injury free.

It feels as though the training plan I put in place has served me well and I feel about as good as I've ever felt heading into a race. In addition to the 14 day rotating schedule of training runs that included hill work, speed work and back to back long runs on the weekends.I also included once a week weight training, yoga and plyometrics.

I have also gone through a range of emotions relating to why I want to do this and what I hope to learn when it's all over, but in the end it comes down to two things.

1) I hope to rediscover joy in the daily routine of life. I have over complicated my running in recent years in much the same way I over complicate my life. I tend not to invite God into my daily "agenda" until things are falling apart and suddenly there I am, at the end of myself running to God looking for help. This is true when I screw up in life in much the same way I go looking for God around 70 miles into a 100 mile run when it's dark and I am hurting. Through living my life this way I developed this twisted view of life that the most I could hope for was that I would endure the inevitable pain and darkness life dishes out in the same way I endure a race. I have come to believe that God desires more for us then to simply endure.He wants us to enjoy the life he's given us and to worship him by putting Him at the center of all we do.

2) The second thing I hope to gain through this journey is greater humility. While doing something like this could easily become a very self focused endeavor, my goal is to make this about more then just me as there is no way I could ever do anything like this on my own power or abilities. This is about a God who provides strength, A family that is patient with me and supports me. It is about our store, Great Plains Running Co and our great crew that keeps me motivated and allows me to be away from the store for these four events without worry, it's about my Dad, it's about finding pride in being from Topeka, it's about encouraging people to make healthy lifestyle changes and finally it's about me letting go...letting go of years of trying to do it all on my own power, creativity, etc... letting go of selfish ambition and looking only for ways to please myself...and letting go of me being lord over my own life. I pray that through this process of letting go I will become less important to me and God along with all the wonderful people who he has placed in my life will become more.