Down on copperline

IMG_2046-cropGalloping Gertie Half Marathon

Gig Harbor and Tacoma, August 13, 2016

Once upon a time my home town was known primarily for a bridge that fell down, Almond Roca, and an arsenic-spewing smelter.  The smelter is gone now, and the bridge was replaced long before I was born, but the legend of “Galloping Gertie” still clings to the span across the Tacoma Narrows.  This run was originally meant as a diversion while I was visiting my Mom in hospice, but she couldn’t stick around and so I wound up running it in her memory.

It’s a warm sunny morning when I join the other runners congregating in the lobby of the Galaxy Theater in Gig Harbor.  The area has built up considerably since I was a kid, the start and finish located in a plaza of trendy restaurants with sculptures and hanging baskets of flowers everywhere.  It’s a leisurely morning for me as the half doesn’t start until 8:00; I have time for a cup of coffee at my hotel and a pastry and fruit cup from the box breakfast the hotel provided.

The first mile of the race is downhill.  Speeding down Pt. Fosdick road, I can sense as each runner around me goes from “Whee!” to “OMG, I have to run up this on the way back!”  The course begins to undulate, passes into leafy shade.  There are fir needles underfoot, wild blackberries along the edge of the road, then a long wall of cattails before the course turns left and climbs towards a tunnel.  On the other side we pop out into sunlight and are running downhill again towards the foot of the bridge. Wild rose bushes line the pedestrian walkway, packed with red rose hips and clung to by late season scarlet blooms.

The steel cables stretch to the towers overhead, the dark water of the Narrows glitters underneath.  These are the towers whose lights I watched from my bedroom window before the trees grew up; the train’s horn that I’d sometimes hear at night wound along the shoreline.  As I crest the span, taking photos, I’m passed by the 2:20 pacer.  If I have any strategy, it’s to hang out somewhere between 2:20 and 2:30, and that’s what I wind up doing for the remainder of the race.  Mount Rainier is just visible, a white apparition hovering in the haze above the hills.

Once on the Tacoma side I climb again, cross Highway 16, and then climb up through the tree-lined War Memorial Park.  (Can you sense a theme to this elevation profile?)  The next few miles are a ramble through the neighborhood overlooking the bridge, wood shingle homes with gardens that I envy with my Arizona eyes, overflowing with sunflowers and blooms of every color, especially green.  Several kind folks are out offering garden hose spray downs due to the heat of the day, which I decline politely: “I’m from Phoenix; this is nothin’!”

Somewhere in here I pass the 7-mile mark, making this my longest run since Rio back in May.  I’m taking short walk breaks on the hills now, as I retrace my steps back to the bridge and over to the Gig Harbor side.  Ahead of me, a runner yields to temptation and samples tart blackberries from the brambles at the side of the road, and I follow his example.

The heat may not match Arizona’s, but the sun is taking its toll and I’m happy when we drop into the shade of Pt. Fosdick road again, even though it’s a long uphill slog.  Tired of the song Candida that’s been running through my head the past 10 miles, I dial my mental iPod to Walk Off The Earth’s Happy.  It quickly morphs into: “Crappy!  Shuffle on if you feel like you really want to puke-a!”

“This is the last hill!” a volunteer promises, and then I’m routed through this zig-zagging course through the back side of an office complex.  Rounding the parking garage I see the finish line and just stop.  It’s like 200 feet away and I’m tired and don’t want to keep moving.  Somehow I pull my act together and cross the finish in just under 2:30.


She likes to mooove-it mooove-it!

This was a well-organized race with great volunteers.  I had to dash back to my hotel to check out, but got to hear some of the actually quite good band at the afterparty.  Swag was a good quality ¾ zip pullover with the race logo.  Scenery: see above.  Recommended.


Garmin activity


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It’s Only a Whimsical Notion

SAM_3843 - Copy

Rio de Janeiro Marathon

May 29, 2016

This race was a late addition to my 2016 plan, due largely because some running clubs don’t consider Rapa Nui to be proper South America; I’m glad I did, though, not least because of the needed bounce it gave me following my Shotover Moonlight disappointment.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro after an overnight flight from Houston, I have just enough time to decompress, throw on my running gear, and join the rest of the Marathon Tours group for an afternoon “warm-up” run along the Ipanema promenade.  It’s a holiday in Brazil, so the street in front of the hotel is closed off and crammed with bathers, walkers, strollers, vendors, skateboards, surfboards, diners, bicycles, children, parents, umbrellas, all milling about chaotically like atoms in a cup of warm tea.  It’s look sharp and every runner for herself as we dive and dodge to avoid collision!  The more ambitious runners head northwards to Copacabana, but I settle for 3 sleep-lagged miles up and down the beach.

Friday and Saturday are for sightseeing.  I pass on the hang gliding, not wanting to risk an injury right before a marathon, but I’m reminded this was something I really wanted to do when I was a teenager and not old enough.  Well, if I had a “bucket list”, that just went back on it.  Saturday night I join a small group going out to Anna’s, a terrific Italian place not far from the hotel, to load up on pasta.

Race Day

Yes, the race packet included spaghetti!

Yes, the race packet included spaghetti!

Sunday morning arrives dark and early, since it’s an hour’s ride to the start line.  Our tour guide has awesomely arranged for the hotel to provide us a grab-and-go breakfast well before normal hours, and the lobby that’s been haunted by Louis Vuitton models (no, really) all weekend is now filled with colorful runners.

The sun is rising as our private bus drops us off at Praça do Pontal park. I have to say this is my first race where I’ve seen surfboards wander through the staging area!  This being a small field of around 8,000, it’s easy to find a spot to cheer on the elites as they tear off half an hour before the rest of us.  Then I take a photo for a Brazilian lady posing putting on her lipstick in front of the starting arch.  You go sassy lady!

At last we’re off, flanked by a camera drone, and heading southward for a quick loop before heading back north towards Rio.  Suddenly there are cobblestones and people holding signs reading ciudad! and something else in Portuguese that probably refers to this half-block of mini-bollards the pack finds itself mincing its way through.

Most of the race course follows the coast road that runs between the high-rise hotels and the beach, with occasional jogs inland.  The first four miles, though, are undeveloped, with the sea to the right and a lagoon to the left, and a fresh morning breeze ameliorating the effects of the sun, already beating though still low in the sky.  Every now and then a food shack passes on the right, not yet open for business.  Surprisingly for smaller marathon, it takes a long time for the field to start spreading out, and there’s a lot of elbow bumping and general jostling.  (I later saw on Facebook where one of the official buses got lost on the way to the start, so some of the crowding could have been latecomers filtering up through the pack.)

About six miles in we hit the first hotel strip and suddenly I’m running alongside a city bus, and it’s a toss-up as to which one of us will win as a typical Brazilian traffic jam is in progress.  Then I’m through the first “built-up” stretch, up a freeway ramp and then it’s a climb to the blessed cool of the first tunnel, where it’s apparently tradition for runners to scream at the top of their lungs.  A few miles on, in the next tunnel, Beethoven is blasting.  We emerge on a cliffside high above the surging ocean and descend to the next stretch of beach.

From here on in the heat is in earnest, climbing to nearly 80 (F) by the finish.  There seem to be more water stations than I remember from the course map, and the volunteers are fairly aggressive about passing them out, or maybe I just look like hell in the second half.  Water is provided in foil-sealed cups, and sports drink in bags that must be ripped open with the teeth.  It takes be several before I get the hang of getting most of the drink in me, rather than on me.

At some point in here I had to go looking for a safety pin as my bib blew out one of its holes and was left dangling lopsided from my bib holder.  Note to self: learn to say “safety pin” in the local language before a marathon.  One of the volunteers does provide me with a pen, which I use to punch a new hole in the bib that I can thread onto the holder and be on my way.

Past the hotel at Ipanema, on to Copacabana and the final stretch of beach.  It’s very hot and surreal in these last miles; there’s tents, and a guy playing a grand piano, and pedestrians criss-crossing the course – I narrowly miss bowling into a man and his baby daughter idly turning figure-eights on a bicycle – and the only food station on the route.  Oranges, IIRC, and what look like pita crackers.  Just before the final tunnel and still a few miles from the finish, a knot of runners line the course, offering high fives and words of encouragement.

Around the beach to the peninsula and the green park and cheering runners and it’s a Xeno’s arrow kind of finish, the finish line always just around the corner, but eventually I cross it, melting and salty.  I collect my medal, fruit, and water, happy that I remembered to pack sandals in my drop bag, and join the rest of the group at the Marathon Tours flag.

5:26:43, not my best time, but not my worst either.

Some final notes

For all the zika scare, I didn’t see a single mosquito the entire week, either in Rio or in Iguazu after the race.  There was a 24-hour stomach bug going around the hotel that caused some runners to drop their distance, and others had probleIMG_1812 - Copyms with the heat, so your basic stuff that happens.

Although the expo has a separate packet pickup for foreigners, it’s really a local event; most of the pre-race materials are in Portuguese only, and one of the two official photography sites only accepts Brazilian-style addresses.

Contrary to what I heard at the time, there’s really no overlap between this course and the 2016 Olympic Marathon course.  The Olympic course is a three-lap loop that has its turnaround in the same green park where the Rio Marathon finishes.

Garmin Activity


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That Was Patrol, This is the War

Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon

February 20, 2016  Hill (1024x768)

To be clear. Before I begin, to explain why what I suspect will be a very fragmented race report is that way, I DNF’d on this one.  Did so spectacularly.  And yet I’m not embarrassed to say that this marathon kicked my ass.


My very first marathon was the Lost Dutchman, my 50th birthday present to myself.  Another milestone, for my 55th I treat myself to a few days in Tahiti, where it proceeds to pour rain for the next three days.  I spend most of the time reading and drinking coffee on my balcony overlooking the restless ocean, but do manage a short road run up the hill behind the hotel, in half an hour soaking my gear to where it takes 24 hours and the application of a hair dryer to undampen them.

Thursday & Friday

A little apartment on a hill overlooking Lake Wakatipu is my home for the next few days, or rather it’s my luggage’s home. After packet pickup and the mandatory gear check, I drop my rental car at the finish line at Moke Lake and join the other runners, Kiwis and Aussies all, taking the overnight option at Ben Lomond Lodge.  The marathon is run on the massive Ben Lomond sheep station in New Zealand’s South Island, the only time this private farmstead is open to the public.

Following a hearty family-style dinner and convo at the Lodge, complete with venison vindaloo and other delights, we toddle off for the night to the A-frame cabins, across a meadow that cries out for you to recreate the spinning Julie Andrews Sound of Music opening scene. NZ observes daylight saving time so it’s still dark when I get up the next morning and I’m not prepared for the sky full of stars here in the heights of the Remarkables mountain range, far from the lights of Queenstown.

With the pinkening of the cloud scraps in the eastern sky come the helicopters bearing those who stayed at Moonlight Lodge further up the mountain. In short order we’re all packed up and flying down Skipper’s Canyon towards the start line, the green-and-yellow hills, so similar in form to the mountains of the Sonoran desert, rising up from the grey foaming Shotover River, the pilot pointing out highlights of the race route as we go.  We’re still under a weather watch, a big storm system poised to break rain across the mountains sometime today.  If the race officials decide it’s too risky, the race can be halted or the marathoners told to drop to the 30K course at any time.  For now the morning is gorgeous, sunlight turning the tops of the hills, and I’m feeling ready.

Rainbow over Stoney Creek Siphon. Tiny figures of runners along single track.I haven’t been able to practice on all the same terrain that this marathon covers – in particular, the river crossings in Arizona generally don’t have water in them – but between driving up to Flagstaff over the summer and working my way up to 20 miles at the Aravaipa trail races around Phoenix, I feel like I can handle this. I expect to be slower than my training runs, but that’s OK.  I can finish.

The Challenge

The race starts on the rocky beach below Skipper’s Canyon bridge. A hundred-odd runners surge across the stones, then bottleneck on a short, steep, narrow trail bounded by thick vegetation; it levels out and is very cruisy for a few minutes, then opens out onto another beach, mixed stones, grass, and brush: not so cruisy.  Up another steep hill and then single track along a barren ridgeline, scree slopes falling steeply off to either side and nothing but the sky above.  After a while the course, marked by pink ribbons, moves to a trail halfway down a steep green slope.  A sheep, unseen uphill, bleats, and I laugh.  The field of runners towards the rear spreads out, and I’m mostly on my own with the occasional companion.  AWe dip down into a wooded area straight out of Middle Earth, and some minor stream crossings that are nothing compared to what will be coming up later.

Somewhere around the 10K mark, I think, I discover that the companions I’ve been keeping pace with are running the 30K, as they split to go ahead on the level, and I’m directed right to climb up to another ridgeline. I find myself on a near-vertical slope covered in huge tussocks of saw grass taller than me, with no track other than occasional glimpses of pink ribbon at the top of long wires.  It’s a time-consuming and sweary struggle to get through, and I’m exhausted by the time I get to the top.  Nevertheless I pick things back up and run the length of the ridge to the drinks station at the far end.

This is the top of the world, the view of green hills stretching beneath for mile upon mile, a brisk gale snapping the pink ribbons and spitting rain. The gal at the drinks station gives me the pep talk, points out the road that I’ll be dropping down to, and will eventually take me to Ben Lomond Lodge, the slightly-past-halfway point.  I’m concerned; there’s a cutoff time I have to meet at the Lodge, my time’s not been great and I’ve just lost a bunch of time coming up that slope.  I head down the slope towards the road, and it’s just as steep as the ascent, and although the tussocks are far smaller I’m terrified of rolling an ankle and sprawling head over heels for hundreds of feet.Forest (1024x768)

…and here is where my memory gets muddy. I think there were some more forests, some river wading, more climbing up to ridge trails.  Suffice to say this course doesn’t really have any “easy” bits.  At the next checkpoint the volunteers aren’t as encouraging.  “Do you want to drop down to the 30K course?” they ask.  I consider.  How far to the Lodge if I keep going? 5K is the answer.  The cutoff is really looking unlikely at this point, but for 5K I’m game… except it isn’t 5K.  It’s 5 miles.  There’s another dip down into forest, a mud pit where I sink to my knees and fall over, thoroughly coated, a river crossing higher than my knees, a ladder…. It’s raining, I’m too drained to keep up a running pace, ready to pack it in… and still no effing Lodge!

Finally I see a farm building up ahead and drag up to it. It looks different somehow.  A voice calls out, “Do you want a ride down to Ben Lomond?”  FML, this isn’t even Ben Lomond Lodge, it’s Moonlight Lodge!

And so the injured, the weary, and the less fleet of foot cram wetly into a couple of ATVs for the moderately scary ride to the finish line at Moke Lake, where there is coffee and sushi and a place to change into dry clothes; and where I give another runner a lift back into town in exchange for helping me keep on the left hand side of the road.

EpilogSadly awaiting the ride to the finish line.

I hope this recap doesn’t discourage anyone. The course for the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon is breathtaking, but way out of my league.  Note that the 30K option covers the same territory, but without the climbs up to the ridgelines.  I spent the week following the race exploring the white sand beaches of the southern coastline, an area known as the Catlins, nursing the nasty head cold I got from my frolic in the Remarkables, and revising my 7 Continents plans, since I wasn’t able to tick off Australia/NZ this year.

Tips if you go

On the mandatory gear list, “thermal” means thermal underwear aka longjohns, like you’d buy from WIntersilks or Land’s End. “Survival bag” is an insulating silver mylar bag (not a blanket) large enough to crawl inside.  There are shops on Shotover Street where you can pick up anything you’re missing.

There is no cell phone coverage at Moke Lake and no transport provided back to town from the finish. You can drop a car at the finish like I did, or bum a ride with someone.

The event is established and well-run, but there was apparently some problem that kept race confirmations from going out to some entrants, and blocked email from certain servers from reaching the director. This wasn’t a problem with the Ben Lomond Lodge or any of the other NZ businesses I had email contact with.

The course map for the marathon is released only a few days before the event, and then only in person (in order to discourage runners “scouting out” the route on private land), but here’s an elevation profile to whet your appetite:

elevation profile

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Up up up up to the heaviside layer

Flagstaff Summer Running Series 2015

ShoesMotivation is hard to come by in central Arizona in the summer, especially when you’re not training for anything in particular in the fall.  This year I signed up for the Flagstaff summer series to get a little break from the heat in the cool mountains up north.  With the exception of BBBS, these were all quickies where I drove up Friday night, ran in the morning, and drove back home the same day.  Here’s how they broke out:

May 9 – Run for the Mountain 5K – A late-season cold front dropped 3 inches of snow on Ft. Tuthill Park overnight.  It made for a beautiful and invigorating run through the pines.  Many people enjoyed the traditional root beer float at the finish; I appreciated the coffee!

June 6 – NACA Sacred Mountain Prayer Run 10K – No snow, but heavy rain the night before.  A tough slog as always up that first hill to the plateau, then frolicking through gooey mud patches to be welcomed back down the hill by the beat of the big drum.  Very nice long-sleeved tech shirt, which I wore on the run thanks to a little more chill in the air than usual.

June 13 – Blackout Night Run 13K* – OK, this Aravaipa event isn’t part of the Flagstaff Summer Series.  My friend D convinced me to slide this one into my schedule, bringing along my tent to camp a few hundred yards from the start/finish in Ft. Tuthill Park.  13K, a single loop, is the shortest distance on offer.  The new moon guaranteed awesome star vistas out on Observatory Mesa, the kind that make you pull off the trail and stare straight upwards gaping.

June 27 – Vista Hospice Run for Life 10K – I love running through this part of suburban Flag and envying everyone’s gardens.  Friendly residents come out to the curb to offer cheers, sprinklers, or squirts from the garden hose.

August 1 – Machine Solutions Run for Kids 10K – back at Ft. Tuthill again, and this time I manage to trip halfway through and do a Superman, scraping generous patches of skin off my left palm and both knees.  Two gentlemen help me get to my feet and I complete the second half of the course, winding through meadows crazy with wildflowers.

August 8 – Big Brothers Big Sisters Dave McKay Memorial Half Marathon – Flagstaff got an entire August’s worth of rain dumped on it overnight, requiring the volunteers to go out and re-mark the course before dawn.  (The two vehicles seen sunk in the mud at mile 6 may have been part of that effort.)  I’ll be up front and admit that I was not ready for this race, knew it going in, and was grateful not to be the last person off the mountain.

August 22 – Gaspin’ in the Aspen 5K : The weather was perfect for the last event of the series, a sprightly gambol through the meadows at the Flagstaff Nordic Center.  At around 8000 ft this course is a little higher in elevation than the other races in the series.  So yes, I did plenty of gaspin’!

Overall the series was a lot of fun, and a nice bunch of breaks from the heat down in the Valley.

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A Million Miles Away It Seemed From All of Eternity

Antarctic Ice Marathon

November 22, 2014

Dear reader, you have arrived at this page for one of two reasons: 1. you are a regular reader of my running blog, or 2. you have signed up for or are considering the Antarctic Ice Marathon, and doing your research.  Welcome!  Any questions you may have, no matter how trivial, plop them in the comments below and I will answer them!

The straightaway

Nine months, now, since I boarded the Ilushin-76 in Punta Arenas with my fellow runners, bound for the icy center of the Last Continent.  My how time flies when you’re procrastinating.  See, I’ve just found it so difficult to put into words, this experience that’s so outside the pale of my everyday life. The few days at Union Glacier Camp seem so much sharper, brighter, than what went before or after.  Writing about them using my usual, linear race report style just feels wrong.

Wasn’t it cold?  Well, yes; it was about 15 F/-9 C the day of the marathon, and that was the warmest day.  But that wasn’t my major overall impression of Antarctica.  I remember specific things, like adding a second thermal layer on the bottom after a checkout run, when my butt went numb after 5K.  Snow tracked into the sleeping tents never melted, and phones had to be kept inside your sleeping bag if you wanted it alive to wake you up in the morning.

What struck me most, and what stayed with me after, was the stillness.  The Absence not just of the background hum of electricity and traffic but of birds, dogs, insects, so far south that no life survives.  When the wind drops and the clouds lift, there’s just the rustle of your own clothing and the white plain stretching for miles to blue-etched mountains under an empty blue sky.  The sun circles high in the sky, never setting, and it all seems to take place in a timeless sliver totally disconnected from the world and its history.  Coming upon an aid station with hot drinks and biscuits in the middle of this nothingness was both surreal and absolutely fitting.

How was the course?  Was it tough?  I found it incredibly difficult.  Even though the course was groomed (and carefully checked for crevasses by the glacier camp staff), we’d had several days of blowing snow up until the day of the marathon, and so there were a few inches to maybe a foot of powder on top of the ice, which made it much like running in sand.  My calves and lats were protesting from the get-go.  Eventually the niggles built to where I just slowed it way down and made finishing without injury my goal.  It was my slowest marathon ever by a long shot, but when I neared the finish line, and all the happy drunk finishers came tumbling out into the cold from the party that had been rolling in the dining tent for hours just to cheer me in, it was the greatest feeling in the world!  It was after midnight and full daylight, and I polished off a bowl of seafood stew and hushpuppies and fell into my sleeping bag.

How long does it take to get to Antarctica?  Well, the private flight from PA to Union Glacier was about 5 hours.  As for my flights from Phoenix to PA –ugh, don’t ask.  It was fraught with unnecessary excitement, exacerbated by the merger of American and USAirways.

Did you see any penguins?  Yes, I did, just not in Antarctica – Union Glacier is too far south for any animal life!  Punta Arenas has several Magellanic penguin colonies and I made a trip out to the one at Seño Otway.  They are cute little boogers, especially when they’re making the cross-country waddle between the beach and their burrows.  I also took the tour out to the king penguin colony on Tierra del Fuego, although I don’t recommend doing this the day before a flight home as rough seas caused the local naval authority to suspend return ferry service for hours and we didn’t get back to our hotels till well after midnight.

A word now about the organizers.  The organization of this event is outstanding, from race director Richard Donovan and crew handling the logistics of getting two score runners there and back again with all the weather delays and other uncertainties involved in travel to the Far South, to the ANI staff at Union Glacier Station keeping you warm, fed, and above all safe, all the while doing a yeoman job of keeping the site pristine.

Oh, and a word about my fellow adventurers:  it takes a special breed of idiot to fly to the middle of Antarctica to run a marathon.  Most of them have far more inspirational stories than mine.  The camaraderie was great.

Finally, here’s a little video to give you a taste of my adventure.  Most of the photos are mine, but I slipped in a few by official race photog Mike King:

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Taper Town

Tempe Canal looking eastStand in the place where you live.

It’s taper time!  Meaning that I’ve run my last high-mileage week before the Antarctic Ice Marathon, and from here until the Big Day it’s all easy-peasy, starting tomorrow with the 3TV Half Marathon in downtown Phoenix.  According to my ARR diary I’ve logged 1003 miles so far this year.  Tempting as it is, I think it’s premature to pass judgment on my training, so instead I’d like to reflect, without judging, on the events of the past year.

About half the specialist cold-weather gear I bought last winter has since been replaced.  Tokyo showed me that the lined wind pants were fine for ordinary wear, but wouldn’t be comfortable for running.  I replaced the winter tights that kept creeping towards my ankles during the Soulstice trail run with a style with a closer fit.  The first wind shell jacket I bought turned out to be too heavy – again, fine for ordinary use, and I’m certainly not throwing it out.  My running gear is sorted now, although I’ll probably be futzing over gloves and scarves till the last minute.  Since the summer heat is only just now breaking as I type this (we are literally experiencing a 15-degree drop in temperature over this weekend), I haven’t been able to give my full kit a proper workout, so fingers are kind of crossed on that point!

I smashed the hills at this February’s Sedona Half Marathon, and feeling better prepared than for any race before, headed into the Tokyo Marathon – where I tanked.  In March I carried the torch for a pair of evening stages for One Run For Boston, feeling a little embarrassed by co-worker’s exclamations of “You’re running 14 miles, after work, in the dark?  That’s Ragnar crazy!”  I finished the last mile of the Whiskey Row half with one shoe off, one shoe on, thanks to a massive blister on my toe.  At the Bucket of Blood half in Holbrook I got lost – not unusual for that course – but had fun anyway splashing through the monsoon puddles.  The E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon left me drained, finishing with a Personal Worst after hours of staggering through the darkness repeating “Why do I do this to myself?  Why?”  Soulstice Moutain’s 7,000 foot start line led to my very first DNF.  If I may temporarily ease my ban on passing judgment, don’t ever just throw a high-altitude race into the mix without specifically training for it.

Not to mention all the every-day obligations and crises that get in the way of training, because please, who doesn’t have those?

So here I am, 17 days out from the Big Day that I first started planning for two years ago.   So now there’s a sense of relief, a sense of release, because my preparation is done, because there’s nothing left for me to do, except not screw things up between now and the 18th.  Don’t try any exotic new gels or socks or stretches.  Don’t drop a bowling ball on my foot.  And above all, don’t think of purple penguins dancing the hula!

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Once in a Lifetime

Into the Blue Again

Journey to the Bottom of the Earth

Monday evening I met with my longtime coach David Allison to go over my twelve-week training plan. Less than a hundred days left until the Antarctic Ice Marathon, and stuff’s getting real!  From the moment I first saw pictures from this marathon, I knew I had to be a part of that incredible landscape.

It seems most runners who do this race have some kind of fundraiser.  Mine has been pretty low key, mostly because I’ve always considered the connection between one person running for fun and another person making a donation to charity a little bizarre.  Since the beginning of the year I’ve been making donations to the Heifer Project, 26.2 cents per mile run.

This week I kicked off a series of incentives, drawing on my previous experience as a singer-songwriter.  For each $50 raised for Heifer through Journey to the Bottom of the Earth (not including my own donations!) I’m releasing a video of a song from my back catalog that’s never been recorded before, by me or anyone else.

(If you choose to donate, you can do so with the full confidence that Heifer will not use your donation for frivolous expenses, like high-tech web design.  I shouldn’t be dissing Heifer, but their fundraiser site has one fugly boilerplate.)

So – twelve more weeks! The race date is sometime November 18-23, depending on the weather in Antarctica. I plan on keeping this journal more up-to-date than it has been recently, and posting daily over on Facebook at Journey to the Bottom of the Earth.

Hints for this desert lizard on surviving the polar cold are appreciated!

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E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon – 8/9-10/2014

Matter of fact, it’s all dark

[She’s ba-ack!  Trying to get caught up on this year’s races with a few quickie posts.]

Venus in the east

Venus in the east

Just getting to the start line on Nevada’s remote Extra-Terrestrial Highway is and adventure.  In Las Vegas temps are in the low 100s and the short walk to the Hard Rock Hotel has already sweat-soaked my race gear.  In contrast, the air conditioned bus is absolutely frigid.  It’s a two hour drive to the middle of nowhere, then everyone tumbles out for photos next to the legendary “black” mailbox.

I’m not a big fan of sleep deprivation, so any event starting at midnight is a stretch for me, but surrounded by the excitement of all the other runners about to do this crazy thing (marathoners and the 51K ultras start from the same point), the late night fatigue falls away and I’m off at a respectable clip.

The full moon is excessively bright, washing the stars from the sky and casting the naked Nevada hills in stark daylight contrast.  Like many of the other runners, I’ll douse my headlamp later in the run, and ooh and ahh at the fireballs from the Perseid meteor shower.  (I counted nine throughout the course of the night, not bad considering they had to be as bright as Venus or brighter to overpower the light of the Moon.)

The first miles fly by, but the course is uphill for the first 13, and the late-night fatigue returns around mile 11-12 as one false summit after another presents itself.  Finally, at 2:30 in the morning, I reach the midway aide station, where they are just running our of jelly for the PB&J sandwiches but still have plenty other snacks.  Huge props to the volunteers, who were out there all night, and in temps that were perfect for runners but a little chilly for just standing around.  It’s all downhill from here – mostly.

Around Mile 15 the distant lights of Rachel, the first lights I’ve seen all night not attached to a runner or support car – come into view.  A huge sense of relief washes over me, until I do the math and realize I haven’t covered 2/3 of the distance yet.

Dawn is brightening the sky as I pass Rachel for a final out-and back, and the wheels gently but decisively come off.  I’ve got one sprint left in me, and that’s for the finish line; I’m walking the last two miles in.  I’m still a few hundred yards out when one of the ultras comes running up behind me.  “Let’s finish this together,” he says, and we do.

In brief: an unforgettable race, and one that kicked my butt.

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AJHS Rhythm Run – 9/21/13

Apache Junction, Arizona, USA

Band on the Run

Banner - AJ Rhythm Run

This 8K trail run at the Rodeo Grounds to raise funds for the Apache Junction High School marching band is new this year, and it has the setting and the volunteers to make it a successful annual event. The inaugural race suffered somewhat from a case of disorganitis, but hopefully next year they’ll get the publicity machine started earlier and attract the participation this cause deserves. So much better than buying band candy!

If you’ve run the Lost Dutchman 8K, you’re familiar with the terrain – hardpack desert along with lots of loose rock, sand, and gullies, and a noticeable headwind on the easterly stretches of the course. (With all that sand, I think I’ve found the place to train for Antarctica w/o having to drive to California or Sonora for a beach to run on!) The temps had cooled down to where it made a pleasant early morning run in the desert.

(Note to self: Going to Coach’s happy hour the night before a race is not a recipe for a new PR.)

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ARR I-Did-a-Green-Run 5K – 9/15/2013

Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Dragged a comb across my head

This is the “free” race that you get when you join ARR, along with the nifty running log/calendar. Having sat out the ARR Summer Series, this was my “big” kickoff for the fall season. Unfortunately a summer’s worth of staying up past my bedtime and sleeping in past dawn ingrained a bad habit, and I woke up less than an hour before bib pickup closed at Reach 11, forty minutes away! I have never dressed so fast in my life, and I don’t remember what breakfast was.

I’m glad I picked the 5K because my glutes were super sore from Sh’bam the day before (also from crawling around cutting fabric), and it’s still hot enough out here – 90 degrees by 9:00 per my car’s thermometer – that I felt like I was melting while picking up my post-race nosh. ARR organizers had to scramble at the last minute to redraw the course after last weekend’s rains opened small canyons on some of the trails, but it really wasn’t noticeable.

Official time: 30:24. Not a PR, not terrible. Two more races for September!

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