Thursday, August 30, 2007

Motley Crew

Last night, Ann, Julie, and my friends Jen and Dave came to casa de Rustyboy for our first crew meeting about the race. Sadly, my sis' couldn't fly out from NYC for Thai food and beer to discuss the run with the rest of the crew, but I'll be inundating her with info this weekend in Chicago when we meet up.

As I sat answering questions, asking questions, watching Julie and Ann figure out my approximated splits from aid stop to aid stop, I began to think:

100 MILES?!?!

The reality began setting in as we poured over elevation charts, figuring which climbs would be the toughest at specific miles; who would be pacing me when I hit said climbs, what I would need when daylight disappears and night sets in, and on and on.

FYI: 100 miles is a long f*cking distance.

I know, duh, right? But as the run grows closer and I have to begin considering what goes into which drop bags (REI is gonna learn to LOVE me!), how much nutrition I'll want to take with me, what kind of liquid-carrying-systems I'll need at specific times of day, it's dawning on me: What an adventure I'm embarking upon.

Crowded around my coffeetable last night, I looked into the eyes of those whose hands I'll be placing myself in, and to them, I say this:

My deepest, warmest thanks. I would never have asked this of anyone but the 5 of you. I asked this of you because of the trust and love that I share specifically with each of you. You'll be my support, my brain, the pat on the shoulder when I ask for it, and the swift kick in the ass when I need it.

You'll swap out grubby socks, lance blisters, refill bottles and remind me to eat. You'll be my guides, my distraction, my cheerleaders, and my shoulders to cry on.

You'll say things like, "When did you last pee? What color was it?", "Just puke it up and let's keep going.", "Get a move on, candyass!", "Where does it hurt?", "What do you need?", and "You're tired/sore/bonked? I didn't drive 4 hours to watch you drop out. Unless you're bleeding, you're running."

And, at the finish line, you'll know I couldn't possibly have crossed it without you. The victory will be as much yours as it is mine.

That said...

100 MILES?!??!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Big Basin

Last week, Ann and I signed up for the Big Basin Redwoods trail run. I'll be tackling the 50k and Ann will rock the 17k.

I don't mean "rock" as in "Dude, you totally rock that hat!". That kind of talk makes me feel pukey.

I've never visited the Redwood Forest in the 10 years I've lived in California, which is a crime, I believe; an actual one, like a moving violation or something. Ann camped there her entire childhood and has regailed me with tales of soft, shady trails, cool temps, and lush, green surroundings, so we're heading up in a couple of weekends so I can fall in love with it and never desire to step foot in smoggy, hot, dry, brown Los Angeles ever again.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Pacer's" report

I don't like the term "pacer" for someone who runs with you for support. "Support runner" seems more in line, as you never actually dictate the pace for your fellow runner; you encourage and offer moral support.

So "support runer" it is. Ignore the title of this entry.

Today, Ann and I ran the Bulldog 25k in the Santa Monica Mountains. I've run the race twice before, and it is an ass-kicker, with (roughly) 3,000' of elevation gain, maybe even more. Ann had mentioned wanting to try it earlier in the year, so I told her that I'd run alongside her if she did. Five clicks to later, we were both set to tackle Bulldog!

We arrived early enough to watch the 50k runners take off an hour earlier than our own start. Before we knew it, we were toeing the start line (actually, we were about 100 people deep in a big blob of runners) and off we went!

Chatting and joking, we wound deep into the canyons where the old set for the camp from M*A*S*H is located. Ann was starting out conservatively, which was smart. We fell back in the pack aways, but I assured her that we'd be seeing the people passing us later on as we whizzed by them.

We hit the climb for Bulldog, which in actuality isn't AS horrible as everyone claims it to be (I don't recommend sprinting up it, though), power-walking past handfuls of runners here and there. I tried to get Ann to run the shorter, flatter sections, which she did, without so much as a complaint, using the old "let's run to that tree up there" method. As it turns out, my girlfriend is hardcore.

We crested on the ridge and noticed we were passing a 50k runner! Yeesh. A long day was awaiting her, as she had an hour's head-start on us and was this far back, only at mile 7 or so. I kept minding the time, out of curiousity, and calculated we were on course for a sub-3:30 finish! I held in the info, though, and merely stated that we were making excellent time and to keep doing what we were doing.

Two minutes later, the male 50k leader raced past us - he was SMOKIN'! It turns out, he'd miss breaking the course record by 2 lousy minutes. I imagine after he was done crying and icing his legs, he'd have a lovely afternoon.

More shuffling uphill, more hydrating, a few Gu's here and there, and we hit the descents, where I knew we'd make up a ton of time. Ann's incredibly quick on the downhills, and even then, 11 miles into the race (and at the longest distance she'd yet run!), her steps were quick and light.

I'd hate to use the word "hardcore" here again, but c'mon: Girlfrien' has some wheels on her!

*snaps fingers above head twice*

She complained about a sore hamstring that's been bugging her the past few months, so I gave her an ibuprofen which did the trick in a matter of minutes, and down, down we went, hitting the final aid station with 2.5 miles to go. I knew then that our time was going to be excellent, most definitely under 3:30, and even though her legs were beat to death, Ann pushed and ran every last flat and downhill we encountered, without so much a word of encouragement to do so.

I wish there was a word to describe someone with this sort of tenacity, strength and will...."hard"-something would work...

The last 1.5 miles of the course are punishing: Nearly all uphill, save for a stretch of flats, but on she ran, steady as a clock. As we broke out of the woods, I described to her how much further we had and what to expect; that we'd hit the asphalt road and climb to the parking area where the finish is. Still cheery, we joked some more, and I have to say, I have never laughed as much or as hard as I did during this race. Face it: She's hysterical, even under physical diress. And covered in dust and sweat. With a little bit of chocolate Gu on her chin.

We trotted up the final incline, took a hard turn with about 150 yards left to go. That's when I asked: "How much have you got left?"

"Yeah?" she smiled, picking up the pace. "Yeah?" she asked again, and sped up even more.

She crossed the finish just ahead of me in 3:21! Unreal!

We ate some pizza, downed a Coke, and before we knew it, were on our way back to my place for Indian food and showers.

While I was out picking up the food, my apartment manager shut off the building's water as Ann stood in the shower, conditioner in her hair. She currently is slumped, knocked out on my bed, with a head full of dried conditioner.

That's hardcore.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Keep on movin'

I just checked the race's site, and HOLY SHITE, they moved the s'umbitch!!!

It's been a horribly dry year out west, and the forestry-folk couldn't guarantee that the National Forest wouldn't be closed due to fire-safety hazards, so the RDs have shuffled the race course to the Cuyamaca Mountains , up the road a piece. It appears to have a bit smaller elevation gain/loss, which is lovely, BUT, instead of the race being out 50/back 50, I'll now be running two, 50 mile loops! Gah!

Good news: Save for my sister , my crew/pacers are supposed to meet with me this week so I can debrief them.

Bad news: I have no idea what to tell them.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Seriously, I had an experience yesterday that was soul-shaking...

I decided to run an out and back totaling 25-27 miles on mountain trails as one of my two final, big motherfuggin' runs before my taper. Let's face it: It's hot. Scary hot, all over. I'll spare us all the lectures about global this-and-that and eco-somethin'-DeCaprio/Gore, but it's blazing out there for us all. I scoped the weather for Santa Monica, location of my planned mountain run, and saw that it was to top off at a comfortable 78f degrees on Saturday.

I arrived at the trailhead fully prepped: It was 8:45 AM, 68 degrees. I had with me my trusty Nathan pack (holds 2 liters of water), my UD handheld (20 oz) filled with Perpetuum, 5 Gus, and 3 Clif bars. Seriously: What could go wrong?

*cue creepy, decending music sting*

The first 2 1/2 hours went amazingly. My legs were strong, so strong that I had to reel in my pace quite a few times. I was drinking, fueling, singing, sailing, and when I reached my turnaround point at Will Rogers trailhead (mile 14 or so), I filled my pack and bottle, rested a minute or three, and trotted back up the steep ascents without so much as a care in the world.

*cue creepy, descending music sting*

The sun rose in the canyons and not an ounce of shade was provided. I continued along, happy as could be, sucking down fluids, muching on gels, when I felt the first blast hit:

I'm irritable.

This is the first sign of dehydration for me. Actually, the very first sign was that I'd downed about 60 ounces of fluids (with electrolytes) and hadn't peed more than once in 2 hours. The sun beamed down upon me like God's searchlight as I trotted up the steeps and glided down the descents.

My handheld went empty. "No worries", I thought, as I had at least 1 1/2 liters of water in my pack, and several bars awaiting my consumption.

Then it hit: THE heat.

Temps topped off at *92*, far above the predicted 78 degrees. I guzzled from my water pack. I revelled in the shade. At one point, I lay back and chewed on a powerbar, looking out at the mountains, smiling and humming in the shade of an Oak.

I had no idea.

Within 30 minutes more of running, my pack's water bladder emptied! I STILL hadn't peed, now at 3 1/2 hours, even with heavy fluids and electrolytes. I found myself on familiar singletrack that is rarely traversed by hikers and mountain bikers, and that's when the panic hit:

Oh MAN. I'm ALONE and starting to feel woozy.

My cell had zero reception. I thought of calling Ann to tell her to contact the rangers that I'd be looking for a ride but had no available service. My head began swimming. I downed a gel and drank down the last drop of my fluids to chase it.

I was confused an irrational. Whenever I opened my mouth to talk myself down, I slurred my words and couldn't think of others. I remember consciously thinking about being airlifted, about IV fluids, about collapsing in a heap on the trail to be found dead days later.

Then, I slapped myself out of it and faced the reality: I had 4 miles left. I had been running for 4+ hours and had several more to go, no water, and in this heat, I knew few hikers/cyclists would be out. Without water in the next 30 minutes, I'd be screwed.

Press on, Russ. Press on, I told myself.

I kept hiking/shuffling.

My lips were dried like raisins. I emerged from the singletrack to the familiar jeep trails, hoping to find help. No one. A single biker loomed in the distance. I screamed, "HEY!". He turned his head, paused, and pedalled on over a ridge.

Shit, Russ. Press on.

I focused only on left, right, repeat. Other negative thoughts treaded water outside my mind, but I pushed them aside and focused on the matter at hand: Find hikers, get water, get to the trailhead, kick my own ass for not being prepared.

I tromped down a loooooong series of switchbacks and came to a junction where I knew I'd find some sign of life...and I DID! I saw a handsome man about 200 yards ahead.

"Hey! HEY! i'm behind you!!!!!" I rasped, at the top of my lungs.

I sprinted up the trail and saw a group of 5 hikers with him about 20 yards ahead.

"HEY!!!! WATER!!!!!"

They paused, and then I remembered the magic word that captures any human being's attention.


The incredibly sweet family on a day hike supplied me with 2, 16 oz water bottles and well-wishes. I assured them I was going to be fine (I was sure I was lying) and sent them on their way down a different trail.

1.25, VERY EXPOSED MILES, to go.

I ascended the jeep road, more coherent but exhausted (the bars in my pack sounded less than satisfying) when a hiker approached. I weighed the option of asking him to get a ranger, but then, he offered me his water.

His name was Adrian; a young guy on vacation from Seattle, who was on a day hike. He poured his water into my handheld and kept my attention, letting me hear his history as an athlete, understanding of my situation, and awe at what I'd accomplished for the day. Then, he muttered those magic words I had no idea I needed to hear:

"Do you want some juice?"

I imagine my eyes shot out from my head when he asked. I guzzled down his "fruit juice" box, chatted with him a few minutes longer, and suddenly, I felt like myself for the 1st time in an hour. I stood and said, "I gotta move on."

Adrian shook my hand and smiled. "No problem, dude. Karma. It's all downhill from here."

My brain recovering, I replied, "Next time, it will be me helping you. Promise."

I (painfully) shuffled my way to my car where I refilled my water bottle, drank my carb-replacement mix, and sat in the shade. And lost my iPod Shuffle. Meh. They still sell 'em. No biggy.

I learned many lessons that day, about myself, about being over-prepared for long runs, and about the amazing brotherhood that is humankind.

To the man that sat with me on the trail, comforting me, keeping a watchful eye, I say to you, from the bottom of my soul, thank you. And I quote from Rocky 2:


Friday, August 17, 2007

I was introduced to Holly by my friend Julie, who, I've mentioned, was the kick in my ass that got me rolling in the world of running. Holly is a fantastic physical therapist; laid back, personable, funny, and possesses the singlemost important trait a PT could offer me:

She doesn't tell me that running ultras is stupid.

This morning, I went for my second visit with her, just for a tune-up. I expect to be stretched and rubbed by her at least once more before the 100, and as I lay stretched on her table, her fingers drilling into my tweaked lower back muscles (I bent over last night to pick up my laundry basket and - surprise!), I remembered something I learned in massage therapy school a few years ago:

Take care of yourself. Nuture yourself. Be soft to your personal needs, and this, in affect, will soften you to the needs of others.

Too often, we're in a million places all at once, instead of within ourselves. We tell ourselves we "aren't good enough", that we failed, that next time we have to "try harder".

I had a dream the other night: I was in a pool, doing laps. Now, as you may or may not know, I'm a lousy swimmer. In the dream, I was trying to remember all of the stroke form-stuff I'd read, looked at, watched on DVD, etc, and I was clunky in the water; slogging along, out of rhythm. Then, suddenly, I relaxed in the water. My stroke became fluid, even, my hips rocking back and forth and at one point, my feet never once flutter kicked, yet I stayed afloat with arms long and languid.

I finished this peaceful lap, turned in the lane, and started back towards the other end of the pool, and at that moment, my dream went from 1st person to 3rd person. I saw my body softly gliding along the water's surface, gentle, calm, and at peace.

We all find ourselves beneath the water; thrashing, trying to stay afloat, battling the current, when all we need to do is relax, float to the surface, and enjoy the experience.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I've been tagged by Steph, so here goes...

Job's I've Held: Oh God. This is gonna be weird...

Comedian, children's show performer, barista, TV writer/producer, production assistant, bartender/juicemaker, boardgame question writer, Tshirt silk screener (2 days!), sandwich maker, freelance massage therapist...and I imagine there are more if I put my brain into it.

Movies I can Watch Over & Over

This Is Spinal Tap, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Young Frankenstein, Running on the Sun

Guilty Pleasures

Painting my toes and wearing sundresses.

Places I Have Lived

Chicago, Nashville, Los Angeles

Shows I Enjoy

I don't have television, but I love MASH, The Prisoner, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Office, Extras, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiam.

Vacation Spots

Seattle, England, Scotland, Ireland

Favorite Foods

This regulary changes, but one constant remains:

Bacon double cheeseburger

Websites I Visit Daily, all of your blogs,, and I can waste countless hours on wikipedia.

Body Parts I have Injured

plantar fascitis (left foot), sciatica (right leg), I struggle with both knees with tendonitis, and strained my ITB (right leg).

All the aches and pains: Ain't nothing free!

Awards I've Won

I got a trophy for the Pinewood Derby in Cub Scouts...but I think they gave one to everyone.

Nicknames I've Been Called

Rusty, Ralph, and "NICE DRIVING, *SSHOLE!!!!!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

photo by Ann

I've been wanting to tip my hat to a special someone, and why not now? I mean, the internet is always open.

My friend Bud, ultrarunner extraordinaire, wrote to me today (responding to a panicked email with the theme of: SHIT, AM I READY TO DO 100 MILES?!?!?!?) with:

This is a selfish endeavor. Dayle (his wife)
puts up with my long training hours and my being tired
afterwards, my many meals of carbohydrates - I owe her big time for putting up
with all this stuff.

I would like to take this moment to thank my girlfriend, Ann. Not only has she been patient with early weekend wakeups (we've delayed only 2 Sunday runs until late afternoon so we could actually have a weekend day together), and not only has she dealt with my bouts with irritability, aches, pains, and other nonsense due to overtraining, she has also joined me for nearly every weekend back-to-back long run I've done in the past 4 months.

This woman has also been there cheering me home for 2 ultras, snapping amazing photos along the way to document my idiocy.

She's trotted alongside me (and vomited alongside me) for many-a-run, is running with me for at least 13 of the final miles of the 100; nerds out about nutrition, hydration, pace, and what the online splits are for the Hardrock and Badwater races, talks me out of anxieties, freaks out with me about the unknowns of racing high mileage, pats my back when called for, and kicks my ass when needed.

Ann: You are an amazing woman and a dear and wonderful partner. I realize that what I'm putting myself through affects not only me but you and our relationship. Please know: I appreciate your patience, your understanding, your love for me AND your enthusiasm.

You believe in me and my dreams. Thank you.

So let's poop our shorts together at mile 96 in celebration. Whaddya say?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

On my quest to avoid any-and-all catastrophes during the race, I'm now experimenting with sockwear. Normally, I wear black or dark grey technical socks, most of which are advertised as "trail running" socks, in that...well, they're dark and don't show dirt, I imagine.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought 2 pairs of Injinji socks, which have have separated toes, to avoid rubbing and, thusly, blistering. Not being tough enough of a kid to pull off these when they hit the scene in the 70's, this was my feet's virgin journey into the 5-toed unknown.

Once on, I couldn't stop laughing.


Today was my second run in them, and I really do enjoy the comfort they provide: No chafing, and if dirt does manage to get into my sock, the grit doesn't rub in between my sweaty toes.

However, about 2 1/2 hours into today's 4 hour run, a pebble worked it's way into my shoe. Having forgotten what my sock of choice was, I removed my shoe, looked down, and started cackling as I flexed my 5 little piggies in their individual blankets.