Monday, June 30, 2014

If All You Have Left Is A Walk...Then, Walk Dammit

Warning, this post contains the F-bomb. If that kind of thing bothers you, you should probably go somewhere safer. Maybe try http://vimeo.com/44895084.







When I gave my notice at work over a week ago, I told them I would not be available to work all weekend at Wasatch Back. I like to make my departures as devastating as possible, and didn't feel like the last few days of my employment would be best served lifting heavy tents out of a 100 foot trailer and doing trash runs from 3 am to 3 am the following day. Now that I had Saturday and Sunday free, I signed up for Logan Peak's wait list at the last second and got in. Ryan, Jon, and Sami also signed up and made it in.

I really haven't been running much the past month, but I figured I'd give it a go on the off chance that I would miraculously have a great day, pass all my friends, and score a new PR. A girl can dream can't she? Well, it didn't go super well. However, as part of Failure Club, it was a great learning opportunity  Here are a few gems of wisdom I gleaned during the process of failing miserably.

Lesson One: Don't ask stupid questions...I guess.

A friend had signed up for the race who said she couldn't do it. She offered her race entry on Facebook and I asked her if the RD would let her do that. She didn't know, so I emailed him. That was a mistake. I learned the hard way that you should never engage an RD in conversation the week before his or her race as they are likely to bite your head off and tell you that you taste like shit as they do it. I should have known better. I mean, managing an event with upwards of 100 to 105 people is really hard. Coming from a company that managed 27 of these events with 65,000 - 80,000 participants, I can verify that yes, asking about transfer policies the week before an event you had to quit your job in order to run is not a smart decision. I was going to ask why the RD never rents port-a-potties at the start line too, but instead I sucked it up and stood in line with 105 other people to use two park bathroom stalls covered in shit.


Lesson Two: If all you have left is a walk, then fucking walk, damn you.

There's something wrong with me. (No kidding, right?) No, really. I've been dizzy for the past two weeks. Maybe it's anxiety? Maybe it's cancer? Who knows, I have a doctor's appointment today to find out. I'm not pregnant. Anyways, I felt like shit running. I managed to pass three people after the first aid station, two of whom promptly quit and returned to the start in disgust. I walked with a nice lady (Heather) for the first half of the race as she was recovering from a burst appendix and I could just about keep up. I felt so dizzy and weak, I couldn't even run the downhills. This was pretty sad. I only run this race for the downhills. At one point, I seriously considered sitting down and hoping that a bear would come along and kill me. It didn't. Instead, Aric Manning came by and encouraged me. He did the HUMR bear pose, told some jokes, and reminded me to "Be Here Now." Damn, inspirational, jerk! Well, I guess it helped. It was really beautiful. There's a section you run through that is literally a giant meadow full of Mule's Ear sunflowers. The weather was cool (a miracle) and it was a pretty course. I kept moving forward knowing eventually I would hobble my way into the finish, where I had two beers waiting for me.

Lesson Three: Discarded gel packets that fall out of people's packs are like little trail prizes.  

I found a Honey Stinger gel on the trail, unopened. I ate it. You know what? It was really good.



Lesson Four: Even though you're pretty sure the tank is empty, check back every few minutes. You'd be surprised.

Honestly, I couldn't run the downhill into the last aid station. But I kept checking. I'd push a little, suffer dizziness and pain in all of my limbs, and start walking again. But, once I got to the aid station, I just said "Fuck It." This was my favorite part: a 4.5 mile technical downhill that freaks everyone out. I had added a playlist to my iPod called "Fucking Fast Downhill" which I turned on and then just took off. I didn't break. I sang out loud to my music. I passed a bunch of people. I screamed each time I almost stumbled. And, for some reason, I was able to do it. Maybe I was just smelling the beer, I mean, barn? Who knows. I had skipped the summit approach and made the race a 22-24 mile event. It hurt like hell. I can barely walk. But it's over.

Congratulations to Sami on kicking butt at her very first Ultra, Jon and Ryan for running a 28 mile mountain race faster than I have ever run a flat road marathon, Jim and Joel for looking strong and having fun, and Aric for coming back to racing with a vengeance.




Friday, June 27, 2014

June Sucks

The month of June sort of sucks. It's an insane month at work, racing season is in full tilt, birthdays and obligatory family holidays abound. I'm always a dollar short in everything I do. This year, June felt fairly overwhelming. I put my nose down and worked hard on the projects in front of me, so it was a surprise when something good landed on my lap out of the blue.

I was offered a new job at a company close to my house. I took it. I gave notice at my work on a Wednesday, the day before I left for a long weekend trip to Silverton, CO.

This is pretty much the exact reaction when I told my work I was leaving.

Silverton, CO is amazing. Ryan and I drove out early Thursday and met Jon and Sami in a little house that they had rented in downtown. An old mining town, Silverton has dirt roads, cute shops, and nice people. I loved it. We slept each night at 10,000 feet, drank awesome beer, and spent the days hiking and sight seeing. We climbed Mt. Sneffels (14,150 ft) and visited with HUMR friends. I took some good shots. This is my favorite.



I've worked at my company for a long time. It's even longer when you consider that most people only stay about a year there. For whatever reason, it felt like I was getting a divorce. I knew it was going to be good for me to leave, but I still felt broken up about it. There were a lot of tears. Mostly mine. I'm looking forward to more balance in my life, being able to spend some energy on my personal life, not answering emails at ungodly hours, or working weekends like a carnie at race locations. I hope I never have to share a hotel bed with a coworker again, or take a nap in a cardboard box inside of a trailer after going 36 hours with no sleep (all true stories). Yet, somehow, I still can't imagine what my life will be like going forward.



When I gave my notice, I also mentioned I would not be working our biggest race this weekend. They had a finite number of days to use me, and it didn't make sense to spend that time unloading a race trailer and setting up tents. They agreed. Now that my weekend was free, I decided at the very last minute to get into the Logan Peak Trail Race. I'll be running it tomorrow. 28 miles of mountain goodness and a fresh start to my new life. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and spending my weekends doing something really fun.



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Call of the Wild

At work today I was looking for inspiration for some writing and found this poem. It's "The Call of the Wild". Again, I hate poetry. I swear. I know I keep saying that. But this one reminded me of running. Not because all I do or think about is running and racing. It's the opposite. 

In fact, I think the concept of racing and running can be tedious. Take ultras, for example. I consider myself an ultra-runner. I've never run a 100 miler. Or a 50. I'd like to do it one day, but I have to figure out the right reason to do it. Do I run a 50 miler because it's "the next logical step"? Do I need to do it? Is it true what I've heard someone say, that 50K runners are Posers? Posers? Really?

Wow. No, that's not it at all. It's not even about running. I don't keep track of my time very often, unless I'm looking at race results. There's nothing wrong with keeping track of your time, either. Don't get me wrong. This isn't one of those "You suck and you should feel bad" posts. I just think running and racing are different for some people. For me, it's about getting lost and being found in the desert. In the mountains, it's about going forth and exploring. In the forest - feeling small next to giants. 

It's the reason why I slow down so I can listen to the aspens when the wind stirs. It's running through streams, taking in the views, and being alone. Occasionally I'll run on the road and it's why I never walk if I see a cemetery. It's about figuring things out; it's learning lessons they can't teach you at a desk, in an office, at a church, in a bottle, or a frosted glass. 



The Call of the Wild

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.


Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o'er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence, not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies).
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map's void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is, can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild -- it's wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?
(You'll never hear it in the family pew).
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.

They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --
But can't you hear the Wild? -- it's calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go.






Thursday, May 29, 2014

Celebratory Donuts & How did I get here so fast?

Here's the rule: If I do a race, I get to eat a donut. So...



Last weekend I randomly signed up for the Timp Trail Half. Ok, maybe it wasn't that random. I had nothing else to do. I've run it twice before and slogged through ankle deep, shoe sucking mud long enough to get my fill. However, this year's forecast called for less than 5% chance of rain. "Ok, I'll do it," I decided.

The previous years I've run this race I came in at 3 hours 26 minutes, and then 3 hours 12 minutes. I figured I should shoot for 3 hours. It's only a half marathon, and although there are big climbs, there are also some killer downhills.

So, Ryan and I got up at 3am and snuck into the Happy Valley area. Sitting in the parking lot, listening to the rain falling, I just couldn't believe it. It must be me; I must be cursed. Oh well. I was already there and have run in the mud before. I can handle it, I thought.

Fortunately, the week prior had been dry, so the course was in surprisinlgy good condition. It starts with a good climb and then heads downhill for a few miles on a road. I'd never noticed this downhill before because in the past I was always sinking in the mud on this section. I imagined Ryan getting to this point (his race started earlier) and thinking, "Lindsay's gonna love this!" And, I did. I found myself running really, really well. I felt strong and my legs moved fast and easy. I took in the scenery and found myself passing a lot of folks. I didn't even have my music on. I suddenly wondered, "Hey, I've been moving pretty well. I wonder how far I am? Three? Yeah, probably three miles in." Just then, I made it to the 6 mile aid station.

What? Seriously? That was...fast! And, really easy. I feel great! I ate some yummy grapes and took off while a handful of runners stayed behind. There were a lot of people doing the half wearing Hokas, carrying 2 liters of water, and many other provisions. It seemed like overkill. As I left, I turned on my music. Every once in awhile, my ipod will shuffle the perfect mix of songs. Today was one of those days.

My next challenge was a big climb up Dry Canyon. It was here that a lot of people I'd passed before caught me. I wasn't phased. I knew the race ended on a good downhill, so I just motored on. One more aid station, a bit of climbing, and I was on the high, flat section of the course just before our descent. A girl I had passed very early caught me and passed me. I had made some silly agreement with myself that I would beat her when I saw her at mile 3. Now, the chase was on. I kept her in my site and knew not to kick into high gear until I was closer. I cruised on some technical single-track, and finally made it to the last mile. This part of the course is steep. I turned a corner and there was my girl in front of me. She stopped,  just for a second, but she stopped to walk. Advantage: Lauck.

I took off and caught her. Then, a funny thing happened. I sort of caught and passed about a dozen other people casually cruising into the finish. I mean, like they were standing still! This was the best part of the course, people! A steep, killer downhill. Let it go! Have fun! I sort of felt bad about it. But, then I got over it. I wasn't gloating. I was just enjoying the descent. I crossed the finish in 2:49. I beat my goal and had a PR.

Then, I hung out, in Provo, and had a beer. In front of people. And children. I felt weird about it, like I was making a statement or something. I'm sure that's just me being paranoid. After all, there were other HUMRs there. I wasn't alone.



Ryan finished after a rough day of stomach issues in a respectable 5 hour marathon finish. We went home and I got my donut. It was a good day.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Where the sidewalk ends



When I was in the first or second grade, we had to bring our favorite book to class. We were supposed to read a chapter to the class and tell them why we loved that book. Each week, a kid would sit awkwardly infront of the class, in one of those uncomfortable formica chairs, and mumble through their favorite book.

The rest of the class would sit Indian style on the floor and zone out. Mostly, I would just think about the book I planned to bring when it was my turn. I knew exactly which book to bring. It would be my favorite author, Shel Silverstein. I owned about 3 of his books - which was pretty serious in 1988. Barnes & Noble hadn't been invented then. At least not in Plano, TX (which is ironic, now).

Back then, we 'rented' books. We 'checked them out' at the Library (Lie - Brair - Ree). We lost our allowance because we forgot to return books on time. It was terrible. But, I loved Shel Silverstein so much, that I owned his books.

A library, circa 1980.

Before I moved to Plano, at 4 or 5, I read my very first book - The Giving Tree. My mom was so proud. For some reason, I was too. I carried that fact around with me wherever I went. "The Giving Tree was the first book I read!" I would tell anyone and everyone. Like I was reciting my favorite color (teal), my favorite movie (Never Ending Story), and food (Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Cream). Why did we do that as kids? It was so important to define ourselves by what we loved. What great trait, right? Now, we generally define ourselves by what we hate (censorship, anti-intellectualism, misogyny, the religious right).


Anyways, my week came up, and I just knew which book and which chapter to read. It had to be Where the Sidewalk Ends. This book was actually a collection of silly drawings and poems. I was going to read the poem "Sick". This poem cracked. me. up. when I was a kid. It's a poem about not going to school. A little girl recites all these silly excuses for not going to school. The twist at the ends reveals that it is actually Saturday....ha! I just ate. that. shit. up. Here's how it starts:


“I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps.
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.


Anyway, my day to read came up. I brought in my book. I was sooooo nervous. I took my seat in the bad chair; those chairs that got static electricity that would shock you, remember? On those two little metal bolts on the back? Yep.


I told the class about my book, and why I loved it. I just knew they were in for a treat. I took a deep, deep breath, and opened to my chapter. And...Laughter. Hysterical laughter. From the class. I hadn't even started it. Why? BECAUSE FUCKING THIS!


THIS WAS THE BACK COVER OF MY BOOK! This "Portrait" of the author! Really? You let your publisher print a full sized, hard cover image of your face on the back of the book? Don't you realize children read this shit??!!

The teacher did her best to quiet the class, and I tried to start again, after telling the group in front of me to shut up. But when I picked the book up again, they just DIED with laughter. I couldn't even get through the first stanza. I think I started crying. We may have ended up taking the book jacket off, and trying later - I don't even remember. It was horrible. This beautiful thing I was sure the class would think was funny/clever/smart/hysterical, but I was so ... wrong. Seriously. The scenario that I had imagined was so far off what I thought would happen. It didn't go as planned.

Maybe that's why I went to the end of the sidewalk, and never looked back. Maybe that's why I left the road and headed off into the unknown, running in the dirt. Who knows. I've had a few really good beers tonight. Often, when I do that, I tend to time-travel back to those embarrassing yet pivotal moments in my life that I wish I could forget. Which is also one of the reasons that I ventured beyond the end of the sidewalk and onto the trails. When I run, those weird memories come flooding back. "Remember when you did that embarrassing thing? You Looked SO STUPID!" Gah...that's when I start running faster. That tends to shut things up for at least a few minutes. A few minutes of quiet where my brain stops traveling back in time.

Those are good moments.

So Naive. What a moron.




Monday, May 19, 2014

How much time do you think you have?

When I log into my blog, I try not to look at the two or three awesome blog entries that I've started and never finished. "I'll get to them one day", I always say.

I usually have two or three concepts in my head that I carry around with me throughout the week. I let them ferment and then wait for inspiration to strike. Like this past week, I headed home to TX to visit my parents. I thought this would be a great chance to do some beer reviews. And I have two beers I'm really excited to review.

...review coming soon!
But, the whole visit got me thinking. I hadn't been home in a year. My mom has been going through cancer treatments: chemo, radiation, some big surgeries last Fall. Then, this Spring, we got the news that her cancer had come back. It got me thinking:

"How much time do you think you have?"

Not visiting your parents when they are going through an illness doesn't come off well. Trust me when I say there were extenuating circumstances. There still are. Or, don't - I don't care. I'd love to visit more, but have been unable to deal with my abusive sister. It's a shame really. But, I can't fix everything, and some things are just not my fault. That's not what this is about. Or, maybe it is. There's only so much time, anyways, so why spend it trying to do the impossible?

My folks.
In any case, it was good to come home and see my mom. She looked good. And, it was fun to get some running in on my old trails. I ran at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve 4 times and felt like Super Woman. I remembered running here 8 or 9 years ago when I was starting out: I walked every hill. It was so hard. My legs felt so heavy and weak. Would I ever be able to do this? I remember crying one day to Ryan that I was "tired of being bad at everything I did." I seriously felt like a fish out of water. What was I doing there? So, it was vindicating to go back and run the loops over and over without stopping to walk. And I realized:

Sometimes you have to go back to where you came from to realize how far you've come.

I was also nervous because I finally got all inked up and expected my mom to cry if she saw it. She didn't. She liked it, and even talked about getting a butterfly on her chest after her chemo port is removed. That was pretty cool. I really hope that she does.
INK!

I've decided not to run the Bryce 50 miler. My heart is too heavy and the wind has been taken out of my sails. I know this is the right decision, but it is hard. Running a 50 is something I really, really want to do. And, I'm panicked: "How much time do you think you have?" If I put this off another year, will I even have another year to do it? What is it about the future that makes me think I will be less busy when I get there? Why do we think of the future in those abstract ways? We're always better versions of ourselves when we visit the future in our minds: stronger, more fit, leaner, faster. When it comes down to it: it's bullshit. Your future doesn't exist. Newsflash: we all die, eventually.

This is dark, I know. But hang in there. There's a silver lining, sort of. Thinking this way, being a skeptic, allows me to face some hard truths and look on the bright side. I might not get the chance to run a 50 if I miss it this time. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the races that I DO finish. Knowing that there is a finite number of miles I'll get to run helps me appreciate them more. Running a shorter distance doesn't have to be less fulfilling. Stopping to smell the wildflowers is OK. And, every once in a while, going back to your roots and seeing how much you've improved is a worthy pursuit.

I got cactus barbs in my fingers from this fucker.









Saturday, May 10, 2014

Beer Review: GOT

Valar Morghulis


This is the first installment of a new series on beer reviews and trail running. Each time I have the opportunity to review a unique brew, I will share it with you all. The review, that is. Not the beer - get your own.



This week, Ryan and I celebrated with some HUMRs at Slackwater after attending the Ogden Trails Network Shin Dig fundraiser at The Front Climbing Gym in Ogden. We split a new, limited edition beer: Ommegang's Game of Thrones Fire and Blood Red Ale.





When I saw that Game of Thrones had uniquely commissioned a beer, and that it was a dark red trippel with chipotle peppers in it, I had to ask Marcus about it. When he told us each bottle had a different dragon on it, and would I like to try it, I said...



First impressions
The beer had a strong bite to it, highly ascorbic and carbonated. The chipotle gave it a bitter note, although it was fairly smooth other than that. A deep red color with a rich mouth feel.




Why it was good
I love big beers. I want a beer that feels substantial and takes me a while to get through. This felt like some ancient ale that high-born people used to drink while their peasants starved. I think that is what they were going for, at least.

Why it was just ok
I do wish it had been sweeter. I was expecting something like La Fin Du Monde or Maudite. The chipotle just made it bitter and harsh.


What made it great
What made it great was being able to share the evening with great friends. Jon and Sami were there and they are busy planning their wedding. Jim had recently flown a small plane after 6 years away from the cockpit (ha, cockpit), and had some good stories to share from his recent race at Salt Flats. We had just attended a fundraiser for the Ogden Trails Network. It was hosted at a climbing gym, and what was really cool about these two worlds coming together? The fact that it was two worlds who not only use the same mountains, but two groups who are working to protect them. So often these days you'll find conflicting user groups who want access to the landscape around us. It doesn't always go well. It was really nice to see both groups actively working on sustainability, improvement, access, and maintenance. Below is the HUMR trail sign that our club was rewarded with for the 22nd Street Trailhead.