Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's official!

The list.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I love running trails. I do. And if you've been following me, I know you know this: The fresh air, the beautiful views, time away from technology and the modern day; only my shoes, my water and my will to deal with...

...well, those things and the decapitated deer head I came across.

Obviously the prey of a local mountain lion, I turned a switchback to discover the severed, and severely gnawed upon, head of a deer this morning on the trail's edge. No signs of struggle were apparent, nor was the remainder of the deer. Ann and I actually spent 10 minutes discussing how the head would have wound up on the trail and concluded that the lion was most likely trying to pull the head from the body and eventually did, violently tossing it from the ridge above to the trail below in the process.

It was quite the violent scene to come across but also served as a sobering reminder of what life in the wild involves.

Ain't no Burger King in the woods, kids.

Well, eventually, there will be. Right beside the Jamba Juice and the Starbucks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Badwater

OK, so the 2nd/3rd-ish sporting event I follow per year started yesterday at 6AM.

Badwater

Jorge Pacheco, who held a strong lead (and who has kicked my ass on many-occassion on training runs and in races alike ) has dropped to 3rd somewhere around the 130 mile mark, and it looks good for Valmir Nunes to take Scott Jurek's Badwater record and destroy it: He's on course to break 24 hours, which is unheard of!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

As promised, I took my new pal Nathan out for a spin on Saturday.

Go ahead and read the description on the web page; please note the existence of an ultra runner named "Dana 'Mud n' Guts' Miller". I can only assume he didn't deem himself "Mud n' Guts", which brings to my attention: When you're a famous athlete, do you get saddled with a nickname, no matter how little you personally find it applicable to your persona? What if Dana is a member of Up With People (making him him quite the talented minstrel)? Golfer Jack Nicklaus most certainly didn't pick "Golden Bear" himself, did he? If so, did he have ANY idea what a "bear" means to a member of the gay community? And his being "Golden": wouldn't that make having sex with him, like, winning the Oscar of the bear sect?

I digress.

LOVE the pack! Zero bounce, plenty of storage (I packed in my cell, 4 Gu's, 1 Clif Bar, 3 electrolyte capsules and had plenty of room left over), and constructed with lightweight material that kept it much cooler than a camelback.

I was out for 3 hours, 42 minutes with it and a handheld, and I had fluids still remaining when I finished. My only issue is that the back of my shirt kept rising up periodically as it bunched up beneath the pack, but this was easily resolved by tucking in the back of my shirt (GENIUS!).

Also, I had yet another shoe-blowout: After 3 weeks, my Asics 2120 trail shoe's sole peeled right off, just like the Sauconys! The hell is going on here?

I actually blamed global warming last night, on a myriad of levels. I'll spare the details.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Okay, trail geeks, yesterday I received my Nathan hydration pack, and it's embarrassing to admit, I tore open the packaging like a rabid dog on a toddler, strapped it on, and went ballistic with excitement.

"LOOK AT ALL THE STORAGE POUCHES AND OMFG IT HOLDS SO MUCH WATER AND THERE'S NO FRICTION WITH THE STRAPS!!!111!!!"

I'm giving 'er a try this weekend on a 4 hour run. A full review will follow.

Also, I received this email the other day:

Denis to me Jul 16 (4 days ago)
Russ,

Thanks for your application. Will you be going to the Pre Race Dinner? Please reply to this email.

Denis T.


My confirmation for the SD100! Holy shite, it's for realz, yo!

Whoa: I'm so excited, I said "for realz, yo!".

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

During my run this morning, I was passed on a steep uphill climb by about 15 cross-country high school runners. Their 30-ish feet thundered past me at an impressive pace, and I recalled my school years as an athlete:

I was never an athlete.

In fact, when I was 5, my gym teacher, Ms. Neibher, told my mom that I "wasn't competitive". We're talking dodgeball and cartwheels here.

In high school, I opted out of gym class my junior and senior years and took a study hall instead...which I ditched with impressive regularity. I suppose I got a psuedo-workout trying to evade the Truancy Officers.

In college, I gained about 10 pounds due to frequent inactivity and continued to avoid exercise at all costs. Finally, at 21, I began hitting the gym, dropped the weight, and kept active with weights and cardio machines. I'd reckon to guess I logged about 10 miles/week on treadmills and the like.

Then, 3 years ago this past April, I met my friend Julie, who had, just 2 days earlier, run the LA Marathon. As she hobbled in to the story editors room, I voiced my amazement that anyone could run a marathon. Her reply?

"You kidding me? You could run one."

And that's all it took.

10 months later, I ran my first 50k. 6 weeks later, I ran the LA Marathon. I guess she was right.

So, from an incredibly unathletic past, I now find myself regularly finishing in the top 25% of the pack in ultras. Kind of amazing.

Maybe I'll give Ms. Neibher a jingle and see if she wants to hit the track with me sometime.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A watershed moment:

Last night, Ann and I walked down my street to Cafe Stella. It's a beautiful French joint with excellent food, atmosphere...and Chimas on tap.

Work has been stressful for us both, so we let loose: Ahi tuna and steak were ordered, beers were poured...more beers were poured...and then we poured ourselves onto my sofa, watched the Badwater doc "Running on the Sun", capped off the night with a whiskey and turned in, knowing full-well that 7 hours later, my alarm would be ringing and we'd be heading to Temescal Canyon for our respective 2 hour and 2 1/2 hour runs.

You can guess where this is going.

We both cracked our eyelids at 8:15 and uttered, "Unnnnnghhhhh...". The Hangover Fairy had payed a visit! Hurrah! Dragging ourselves out the door, coffees and homemade breakfast sandwiches in tow, we drove to the ocean, hit the trailhead, and realized, "Oh SHIT, this is gonna suck ass!"

It hurt SO BAD. SO.BAD. We ran together for about 30 minutes before I realized, "Man, if I puked, I'd feel a helluvalot better." I told Ann, to which she replied, "Me too! If I hear you puking, I can puke too!"

This is the part where it gets gross. And surreal. But mostly gross.

I ambled off to one side of the trail and gave it a go. Just water. Dammit! Ann, however, had great luck digging deep and getting out most of her breakfast. I was actually jealous of her puke. So I gave it another go. More water. Shit.

Somehow, we separately completed our runs. All I could do when I finished my 15 or so miles was sit on the curb beside the car and shake my head at how stupid I'd been. We then consumed McDonald's cheeseburgers and ice cream because it was the blandest, saltiest, greasiest thing we could think of eating.

Quite a defining moment in our relationship, to say the least.

SCOTT JUREK WINS!!!!

A new course record at Hardrock, beating Karl Meltzer by many-a-neck!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hardrock 100

The runners are off - Jurek, Denesik, and Meltzer are neck and neck. My friend Bud's about halfway down the field!

Insane!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Today marks 100 days until my first 100 mile race - kinda cool to say, eh? I suppose the fact that I can never say that again (without being a complete liar, I suppose) kind of astounds me; how I've planned, trained, taken slow steps towards this goal, and now the magic 2 digit countdown begins only hours from now.

I'm pausing to reflect: How do I feel? Anxious? At times. Prepared? Not quite yet. I've got at least two 40-50 mile long runs I want to hit prior to the race. Scared? I'd be a massive liar if I didn't say yes. Excited? Again, massively lying if no was my answer.

I fully expect to machine-gun-through all of those and the other ten thousand emotions out there on the trail come October.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Had a fantastic 22-23 miler yesterday, starting out at the famed Will Rogers trailhead (thank you, George Michael, for making the bathrooms here so world famous), traversing the Santa Monicas to Trippet Ranch in Topanga Canyon, and heading back, all in 3 hrs 45 mns.

What's great about running near the ocean is the temps tend to stay about 8-10 degrees cooler than where I live, just east of Hollywood, and the marine layer hangs around to provide cover pretty much until 2:00pm, which yesterday, it did ever-so-nicely.

As I wrapped it up around 12:30 (yeah, I actually kept my promise to hit the trails earlier than usual on a weekend), I was washing off my feet and toweling away the caked on layers of salt, when another runner, obviously done conquering the hills, strolled up to the water fountain.

Asked I, "How long did you go today?"

Him: "About 8 miles. How about you?"

"I think about 22.5, but I'm not sure."

His eyes swelled: "What?"

Me: "Well, I just dropped an application for a 100 miler in 3 months in the mail, so I can't mess around."

Him: "Ohhhh...you're one of them."

"Them" meaning "ultrarunners". I had yet to have been told I was crazy by another runner, and truth be told, I'd been waiting for this day for years.

Being called crazy never felt so good.

Thursday, July 5, 2007




Here we go!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sunday, I was running at Temescal Cyn, beneath a canopy of trees that lead you to - when we aren't in a drought - a lovely waterfall, I saw a woman standing in the middle of the singletrack. I yelled, "Comin' up!", and she scooted to one side, and that's when I saw her sternly speaking to a large-ish man who had backed as far away from her as possible. He truly looked like a 6 year old caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Or playing Wii out of turn. Times have changed after all.

It's then when I smelled smoke.

"Are you smoking?!" she demanded as I trotted past them.

This hiker, a mere 8 miles from ground zero of the Griffith Park fires, in an area of forest that's seen 2 inches of rain in the past year, decided to, during his commue wih nature, light up. The young lady was still laying into him as I climbed beyond them. I figured the point was being made, so I continued up while yelling over my shoulder for him to please extinguish his cigarette.

Every weekday morning when I drive my way into Griffith Park for my morning runs, I am still awed by what has happened and what is left behind. I posted awhile ago, on a different blog, immediately following the fires, my reflections on what had happened. I include it below with one added memory:

In the past 24 hours, I've watched over 800 acres of Griffith Park burn. The footage and photos are devastating to LA residents and confusing to others across the country ("What? There's a park in the middle of Los Angeles?"). Throughout the myriad of feelings I feel welling up inside of me, I'm pausing to reflect on a park that, over the last 3 + years, I've run - literally - thousands of miles in.

Once, I encountered a homeless man, beard to his waist, carrying a cardboard suitcase, sloughing up an incredibly steep incline. I remember considering, "Lucky bastard - what a great place to live!"

Another time, I came across a cross-country high school runner who'd strained her Achilles tendon during a group run and was camped out in the shade, wincing in pain. Another runner and I advised her, "No running for 6-8 weeks." She replied, "Bullshit!", and we both understood where she was coming from.

Time and again, I found myself being passed on the Griffith trails by ultra running champion Jorge Pacheco, who nearly broke the 100 mile world record, missing it by less than ONE minute(!). His wife, Maria Lemus - another ultra running machine prone to running Griffith - and I eventually began to recognize one another. At the Avalon 50 miler this past January, while walking past her on my way to the hotel, she smiled and said, "Hey - HI!"

I recall a week prior to Christmas, running my 2nd long run of the weekend (of 3 hours, preceeded by Saturday's 4 hour run), out in the woods as the sun began to set behind the peaks and hills. I clomped along The Old Zoo trail as darkness settled in and heard the caressing voice of Nat King Cole singing "The Christmas Song" as I looked down the ravine at the park's mile-long display of Christmas lights.

My first 2 rattlesnake sightings were at Griffith. Actually, one week ago, for the first time, a rattler shook it's tail at me. You don't forget that shit, let me tells ya.

One morning, bright and early, 2 men on horseback approached me and wished me a good morning as I stepped aside. Once they were clear, I started again to realize that one of the riders, bearded, wearing a baseball cap, was one Steven Spielberg.

2 years ago, during my first run over 3 hours, I stopped after a steep ascent and squatted at a trail's edge, completely out of gas and an emotional trainwreck. I said to myself, "What - are you gonna live here?" and hoisted my body back up, continuing another half hour to push through, possibly, the most emotional moment I've had as a runner.

I know the next time I strap my shoes on, grab my water bottle, and hit the trails in Griffith, I will not see what I'm used to seeing. It probably will be shocking, stirring, disturbing, and absolutely amazing.

I also know that from death, something more beautiful can - and will - emerge.