Saturday, December 19, 2009

Alexander Ridge to Lambs Canyon

Yesterday was an adventure! The short version goes as follows: Elk-1 Me- a big gash on the leg.

Long version is as follows:
I have a tag for a late season cow elk hunt that ironically encompasses the first 50 miles of the Wasatch 100 Course, the south-eastern boundary being I-80(Parleys Canyon) and a mile above the Lambs Canyon exit. So... to spend some off season time on the Course, and because that's where the elk are commonly found during the winter, Rich and I headed over to Alexander Springs to see what we could find.The elk were in abundance, but unfortunately, so were the hunters and all the elk we saw were running and miles away. That was no deterrent and we kept following the elk up canyon along the Wasatch course from Alexander to Lambs. As fit as we think we are, two legs with a 20 lb pack and a rifle in 18 inches of snow is no match for 4 legs and we didn't get remotely close. Regardless, it was a beautiful morning and just good to be outside.

Admitting defeat, Rich and I started our way back to the truck. There is a spot on the Course where the Lambs aid station is in sight and looks oh so close. You can see the volunteers bustling around, hear the occasional shout and cowbell as you come into sight and the adrenaline kicks in. A newcomer to the Course may think it's only 1/2 mile, but in reality the trail takes a hairpin turn back up canyon and takes you another 3/4 of a mile up canyon before turning back down to the aid station.

Rich and I were feeling a bit pooped, so at the hairpin turn, we just walked off the berm with the intent of cutting cross country through the snow and scrub oak, and avoiding the extra 1 1/2 miles of trail. Bad Decision. 5 feet down the hillside, my right leg started sliding on the 40 degree slope, my left leg bent so I could squat back and not pitch head first into the scrub, and I felt my left knee scrape over some snow covered rocks. Just a scratch and maybe a bruise I thought...until I looked down at the surgical style slice in my pant leg. Oh oh, probably more than just a scrape. I scrambled back up to the trail to assess the damage and this is what I found:

Oddly enough, it didn't hurt, and since we still had an hours walk to the truck, I rummaged through my first aid kit, pulled out my leatherman and 3/0 gut suture and went to work. Rich was offering all sorts of encouraging advice like "What the Hell? Oohhhh, I think I'm going to puke. You can't do that to yourself! I gotta call Lisa (his wife) to come pick us up cuz there's no way you're walking out on that", etc.Well, we made it out in fine form, I was only 1/2 hour late for family pictures (the last family pictures we had I crashed snowboarding 2 hours before and smashed my nose. At least this one wasn't visible) and I even managed to get a short run in today and the sutures held.

I hope that come Sept 10, 2010, things go a little smoother from Alexander to Lambs.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Balance UNICEF “Magic” Shoes – Your Vote Needed

I love surprises! And this week, I had the most amazing surprise – I received a pair of UNICEF branded New Balance MT100 racing flats. What, UNICEF partnering with New Balance you ask?? No, these are a one-of-a-kind, hand painted shoes by shoe artist YK.

First, some context. Then, what I need from you.

Several months ago my running friend Christian offhandedly suggested that I should try to run a sub four-hour, 50K trail race. He went on to advise that the perfect course for this would be the Goblin Valley 50K. Knowing that I would need every advantage to break four hours, I purchased a pair of 7.8oz New Balance MT100 racing flats. While I couldn’t quite get under four hours (4:05), I found the shoes magical.

I found the shoes so magical that I couldn’t help showing people at work. For the most part colleagues were polite and compliant when I said, “Hold them! See how light they are!!” Though, something about their facial expressions and how they held the shoes with extended arms suggested they didn’t fully appreciate the magic.

After four years with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF I’m moving to a new opportunity that will give me more time for family, running and skiing. This past week my team held a going away party for me.

You’ve been there. It’s the requisite work good-bye party with gift. You know the moment is coming where you get the gift and that you can’t let your face reveal how you feel about the wall plaque that you will never hang, that crystal something that you will never take out of its box, or the book of quotes and sentiments that you know just aren’t real (I find these books are problematic in that they raise the question, “if they really felt this way about me – why were they such a&&holes to me??”)

So it’s that moment, and I’m handed a wrapped gift the size of a shoebox. On top, a Barbie doll has been tied down with gold ribbon. I release Barbie from her bondage, remove the wrapping paper, and open the box. Brilliantly branded UNICEF shoes in cyan blue!! OMG? But how? From where? What does Barbie have to do with anything?? So many questions race through my mind.
We’ll the story is this… My brilliant colleagues wanted to give me something that represented my passions; running + UNICEF. “Magic” shoes adorned with the UNICEF branding work that has been so much of my life the past four years - simply f’n brilliant!! To do this, they commissioned YK to create a one-of-a-kind UNICEF shoe just for me! Definitely check out this link

But here’s my dilemma – and what I need from you. Should the UNICEF “Magic” shoes be displayed in my new office, a timeless icon that will remind me of the great people I worked with at the U.S. Fund. Or, should I race in the shoes, and feel that those with whom I worked so closely are right there with me on the trail, literally experiencing in a down and dirty way the joy that running brings me. What is your vote?

Thank you to all of my colleagues at UNICEF and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. The past four years have been the best four years of my professional career – largely in part because of you. It has been a privilege to work with you to create a world where no child dies of a preventable cause. Know that I, Jay Aldous, Believe in Zero

Sunday, December 6, 2009

North Face Endurance Challenge; Last – and best - race of the year

Being married, like ultra-running has its is challenges. Being married for 25 years… Well, let’s just go straight to an ultra-running cliché – there are highs and lows.

This past weekend I had one of those highs – being able to have the honor and privilege of running with my wife Adrienne in the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Championships in the Marin Headlands.

But first a little history… My return to ultra-running after 25 years can partly be attributed to marital tension and strife. It started a little over a year ago with the spousal nags. “Aren’t you ashamed of that spare tire around your waist? You wouldn’t be out of breath buckling your ski boots if you exercised occasionally! You used to be so much more attractive when you were fit!! Please don’t take your shirt off!!! Perhaps if you did something besides work you wouldn’t be such a grouch!!!!” So on September 6th, 2008 - I declared - “Enough!” I started running again.

Since then some cool stuff has happened. The spare tire disappeared. I can buckle my ski boots with ease. Shirts come off in the summer. I’m much more pleasant to be with. And, I have the pleasure of spending time with Adrienne running.

Over the past year we’ve done a lot of running and races together. The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 mile in New York. Jared Campbell’s Pocatello 50, Goblin Valley 50K, Moab Extreme XC 50K and the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco. Together we’ve had fun – and along the way we both have been getting faster.

So for our final race of the year, I asked Adrienne if I could pace her in an effort to place in the women’s masters’ category. Few people know this, but pre Jay, Adrienne was an accomplished marathoner winning in Las Vegas and placing in Athens (Greece – not Georgia) and Phoenix. Beneath the veneer of running for health, pleasure and socializing – there is a competitive Adrienne.

As the starting time approached, spousal differences began to surface. I like to get to a race 30 minutes before the start. Adrienne likes to arrive 5 minutes early. I’m all about a hearty breakfast. Adrienne has a sensitive stomach. I like to run light. If there is something she might need, she likes to carry it. I LOVE my Armani running shirts. Adrienne thinks I look like an idiot. I say go out fast and hang on. She likes to go out slow and bring it on. My philosophy is that the pacer is in charge. She thinks the one being paced is in charge. The beginning of a 50K, when you will be spending the next six hours together, is not the time or place for disagreements of this import and significance!

At the sound off the horn we were off. Each of us trying to show our point of view was correct; the pride behind our beliefs driving us along at a blistering pace. Aid station #1 at 4 miles – 32 minutes. Aid Station #2 at 8.2 miles – 1:08. Who was going to be the first to suggest we slow down and follow our plan to run 11:30 miles that would give us a sub six hour finish and a good shot at being the top women’s master?

As we brought down the pace and reconciled our differences, we shared the agreement that the Marin Headlands are a magical place to run; sweeping ocean vistas, lush forest with redwoods and ferns, flora and smells that are new to us. As we got into a steady pace we enjoyed each other’s company and celebrated how fortunate we are to be together - and running together.

At Aid Station #4 at 19.1 miles we started down the backside of the curve of euphoria and optimism that occurs early in a race. Adrienne began to feel the effects of having gone out too fast. My right leg, which has been troubling me for the past several months, began to go numb. It would take both of us working together to finish this race with dignity in the time that we had planned

I was impressed at how strong Adrienne was on the down hills. She would drop me and pass a number of people on each descent. I would slowly catch-up with her on the ascents and pull her up to the top before she would drop me again on the next downhill. We were a good team. With three miles to go we crested the last hill and knew that a first place Masters finish was hers if we could maintain our pace. She surged towards the finish as I dug deep to keep my right leg, which somewhere around mile 20 I had named ‘Pete, the peg-legged pirate’ turning. No way in hell was she going to drop me. Marital AND male pride was now on the line!

We finished in 5:50 with Adrienne taking first place in the Masters category and fifth overall. Adrienne bettered her time from the previous year by 1:10! Even peg-legged Pete beat his time from last year by 15 minutes. Our good running friend (and relative) Debra Scott, scooted along for an impressive 8:12 and her daughter Isabel, finished first in her age in the 10K component. A great day for all.

As Adrienne and I celebrated the race and the day – we acknowledged that we are a mighty fine team – both on the course and in life. Congratulations Adrienne on running a great race. And thank you Adrienne for being such a wonderful companion – both on the trail and in life….

Friday, December 4, 2009

Black Ice

This morning, Rich (aka Snuffy-as in the elusive Snuffleupagus. Much talked about but seldom seen) and I set off on another beloved Grandeur loop. The temp at the start was a refreshing 20 degrees. Add the lovely Parleys Canyon early morning gale force wind and the tears in the corner of my eyes were frozen in about 3.7 seconds. We took it easy to the top by the light of an almost full moon. Descending into Church Fork we prudently donned Yaktrax to help with the footing. Last weeks loop proved to be treacherous with long stretches of ice and I figured we'd need a little traction. The ice was so hard and so slick that we still shuffled our slow way down slipping and sliding through some sections. A couple falls, a bruised and bloody hip and a broken Yaktrax later, and I've decided my renewed weekly forays up Grandeur Peak will stop at week two until there is fresh snow or the temperature hits 65 degrees. I'd strongly advise anyone else to do the same.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Zion Traverse 50 miles - FKT

I have a lot to be thankful for this last weekend, including an incredible family and new niece to start with.  On the running side of life I had the great fortune of joining Jay and Jared Campbell on a 50 mile trek across Zion National Park.  I'm not going to post a detailed report about our adventure because Jared has a great post over on his blog about our run.  I will share a few details from my point of view though.

  • Zion National Park is much more diverse than I had imagined.  The main road through the park only gives visitors a glimpse of what is out there, wander off the beaten path and you will be rewarded.
  • The weather couldn't have been better.  Even though it was a little cold to start with the temperature for much of the day hovered around the mid 50's with just a slight breeze.  Perfect running weather.
  • 50 miles is still a long way to run.  I suppose that the distance just doesn't seem as formidable to me as it once did but I was reminded that it still deserves respect.
  • Getting the FKT (fastest known time) was just icing on the cake.  Spending the day running with friends through one of the most amazing places in the world was the real treat.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MRC in Manhattan - Day 2

Authored by Jay:

Frankly – I’m conflicted.

I love living in the Wasatch. In particular, I enjoy running and skiing in these beautiful and accessible mountains. Yet, there is a part of me that thrives on the big city life. I crave the diversity, energy and exposure to new ideas and perspectives that comes from life in a city like New York.

So for the last four years I’ve been living the dream – or perhaps more honestly stated – managing my conflict by living in Salt Lake City and working in New York City. But bouncing back and forth every week between Zion and Gotham has taken its toll – and I knew it was time for me to make a choice - the mountains or the City. For many reasons and considerations – the mountains had greater mass, and have prevailed. Farewell New York City

So how does a trail runner say good bye to the city they love? They honor and respect it by experiencing it in the most raw and intimate manner possible – they run around it with people they enjoy.

Running across the Brooklyn Bridge to start day 2

On Day 2 of MRCFarewell to New York run Christian, Erik, Greg, Peter and set out to circumnavigate the island of ManhattanOur run around the island of Manhattan started by crossing into Manhattan over the historical Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge built in 1883. Running over the Brooklyn Bridge has special meaning for me in that I commute to work by bike or foot over this bridge most every day of the year. Every time I cross the bridge I feel a surge of energy and inspiration as New York City welcomes me. This day, the lyrics to New York, New York got stuck in my head

Start spreading the news
I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New YorkNew York

These vagabond shoes
They are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New YorkNew York 

We then ran to South Street Seaport where our circumnavigation would begin. We chose to run in a clockwise direction. Almost immediately we passed the Staten Island Ferry. Next was Battery Park where the ferries to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty embark.

Staten Island Ferry and Lady Liberty in the distance

As we headed up the Hudson River we enjoyed stunning vistas of HobokenUnion CityWeehawken and the Hudson Shores of New Jersey. We passed through the residential neighborhood of Battery Park City and through the fabulous neighborhoods of Tribeca and the West Village towards Midtown. The bulk of the aircraft carrier Intrepid loomed over uas we ran past it. At an adjacent pier, the USS New York was being christened. Steel from the World Trade Center towers was used in the construction of this amphibious transport ship. 

Running on the Greenway and the USS New York

As we continued Uptown, we marveled at how waste disposal facilities had been turned into parks, abandoned railways converted into soccer fields, and trails carved into the cliffs along the Hudson. Several times we pretended we were home in the Wasatch as we ran on trails in Riverside Park. New York City truly abounds in recreational facilities and opportunities.

Standing in front of the Cloisters monastery 

We stopped to visit the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring medieval art. After a quick visit, it was time to refuel. Along a thorough way in Spanish Harlem we found a Dominican bakery where we feasted on guava popovers – the perfect ultra food. Next we ran along the Harlem River in High Bridge Park. Then through Harlem, savoring the spacious boulevards and beautiful brownstones.

Harlem brownstones and the U.N.

Following the East River back towards the tip of Manhattan, we briefly stopped at the United Nations so we could make claim to having run outside of the United StatesMRC goes international! From here we could see the Brooklyn Bridge, and knew that South Street Seaport was just a few hundred yards beyond. We picked up the pace for the final few miles and began to contemplate if we had just achieved the FKT for running around Manhattan sightseeing while eating guava popovers.

Smiles abound at the finish

As we rode back to the apartment on the subway we shared what had delighted and surprised us about our two days – and 62 miles of running through New York City; the friendliness of the people, the size and scale of the city, the cleanliness of the streetswhy no one manufactures guava flavored gels, the ease of running through a city of 8.2 million people, and, that we had been able to share such a remarkable experience.

As for me – what a wonderful way to say farewell to New York City

More pictures and video clips here, and a map of our run (34 miles in 5hrs 40mins):

View Manhattan Day 2 in a larger map

Friday, November 13, 2009

The MRC invades NYC - Day 1

The MRC is all about running in the mountains, getting dirty and having a good time.  It isn't often that you'll see a post about running on the pavement on this blog, but if there were ever an exception this is it.  You see, fellow MRC'er Jay is going to be leaving his post in New York fairly soon and invited the rest of us out for a farewell tour in and through Manhattan.  We did what any good friends would and said YES, we're in!

On Thursday, November 5th, Erik, Peter, Greg and myself boarded a 727 in SLC bound for one of the biggest greatest cities in the world.  To say I was excited would be an understatement, besides Peter and Jay the rest of us had never been to New York City and we really had no idea what we were in for.  Arriving at JFK rather late we were a little tired, but there would be "no sleep till Brooklyn" (sorry I couldn't resist) where Jay shares an apartment with two incredibly gracious and stylish roommates, David and Stevan.

Friday morning started with fresh espressos before we hit the subway for a ride over to Manhattan.  After arriving at our stop we climbed the stairs from the subway to daylight and found ourselves standing in the middle of Times Square.  I have to admit, it was a bit overwhelming at first with the lights, video screens and cabs streaming through the streets but once we started running we just flowed along with everything else.
Peter took a lot of video along the way and put together this great compilation of day 1 you can see below.

Just getting started in Times Square

From Times Square we ran up 8th Ave. to the southwest corner of Central Park then worked our way over to Broadway.  I tried to get the guys to stop for Shrek the Musical but they weren't having it.  Somewhere through here my stomach started reminding me that I had skipped breakfast so we kept our eye out for something good to eat.  Just a few blocks up we found the world famous, Zagat rated H and H Bagels.  I was pretty excited since we're unable to get a "real" bagels in Salt Lake, all we have are the kind that are steamed, but I digress.  Sufficed to say the bagel hit the spot and made for good running fuel.

As we kept heading uptown on Broadway the temperature started to rise to a comfortable 50 with blue skies above.  We were cruising along quite nicely up around 114th street when all the sudden Jay made a quick right in between some buildings, of course we followed and soon found ourselves standing in the middle of the Columbia University campus (or part of the main campus).  It really seemed quite odd to be running through a college campus in the middle of the skyscrapers in the city.

Erik, Peter, Greg and Jay getting ready to dodge traffic and a Columbia University building.

Next, we ran a few blocks north before hanging a left on 120th street and looming over us was the Riverside Church.  Built in 1841 the Baptist Church is both massive and beautiful.  So naturally we couldn't resist a quick peek inside, simply incredible.

Riverside Church, outside and inside.

After our quick stop we were still headed north and looked over in the direction of the Hudson River giving a quick shout out to our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant (currently hanging out in Grant's Tomb).  At 125th street we took a right, before running through Harlem and past the legendary Apollo theater.

Most people might think that running through Manhattan would be hard with all the people and street crossings, but really it was quite smooth.  I found myself playing catch-up with the rest of the group on more than one occasion when I would stop to look at something then sprint back up.  Kind of like doing intervals.

After Harlem we turned right again so we were heading back downtown on Malcolm X Blvd and directly into the north side of Central Park.  What an amazing place.  Within a matter of minutes we were cruising some dirt trails in the North Woods, hopping logs and trying to find our trail legs.

Trail Running in Central Park

The trail dumped us back out on the road where we cut across the grass to the Central Park Reservoir (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir).

Again we were awestruck, standing there for a minute taking in the spectacular view before we decided to do a lap around and take in the view from all angles.

Views from the Central Park Reservoir

Once the loop of the reservoir was complete we ran down 5th avenue passing The Guggenheim and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We made a brief stop inside the Met where Peter had me run a quick lap in an attempt to have me thrown out.  It didn't work but someone nearly went down on the long set of steps as we were leaving, perhaps karma coming into play a bit.

Greg in front of the Guggenheim and the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Moving on from the museums we stopped at Rockefeller Plaza and the highlight of the day for me, Grand Central Station.  I was in complete awe as I stood there looking at the magnificent interior of the station.  I suppose I was expecting something a lot less spectacular and I was unaware of the massive restoration effort that was finished in 1998.

Picture Credit: Diliff, for full resolution go here.

Moving on from there we went inside the Empire State building in an attempt to run to the top, but sadly we were denied.  By this time everyone was getting a little hungry so Jay suggested we run through "the village" on Bleeker street to make our way over to China Town where we could grab some noodles from a street vendor.  Once we were in the Chinese district we ran up and down a few different streets looking for some vendors but there were none to be found.  Jay thought this was a bit strange and as we found out later they were all somewhere else...  With no street vendors in sight we ducked in to a little cafe for some hot tea, noodles and dumplings.

Consulting the itinerary - Greg enjoying some noodles and dumplings

Completely fueled but a little stiff from sitting down for so long we ran down towards City Hall.  The closer we got the more people we encountered and before we long we found it impossible to run.  It seems we had kind of forgot that the Yankees had just won the World Series on Wednesday and the ticker tape parade was going on right then.  This obviously threw a little wrinkle in our plans but despite the mayhem we were still able to get over to the financial district, see ground zero and marvel at the amount of paper on the ground.  It also became clear where all the street vendors had gone.

Downtown during the ticker tape parade.  The next morning it was spotless, really.

The only part of the plan we were unable to complete on day 1 was to run across the Brooklyn bridge back to Brooklyn.  For some odd reason we weren't allowed to the leave the city on the bridge but people could come into the controlled chaos.  So we ended up crossing the East River on the less than spectacular Manhattan Bridge and saved the Brooklyn Bridge for day 2.  We ended the 28 mile journey on day 1 by weaving our way through Brooklyn and Prospect Park on the way back to the apartment, where we enjoyed a warm shower and a few refreshments before dinner.

Later that night we met up with Peter's brother and fiance for some scrumptious Italian food at Noodle Pudding that really hit the spot.

Just when I thought I was done seeing everything I could handle, Peter's brother suggested a short walk around the corner to the Promenade to end the night with this incredible view of Manhattan.  Does it get any better?  Watch for Day 2 and find out...

You can see all of these photos and more in my Picasa Album, and here's a map of the run:

View Manhattan Day 1 in a larger map

Fresh Tracks up Burch Hollow

Looking cross-canyon to Mt Raymond

There is something magical about being the first one on the trail after a fresh snowfall. I headed up Burch Hollow just as the sun was coming up Fri morning. The trail up Burch Hollow is lightly used, especially near the ridge where you are more likely to find deer and elk tracks on the trail than human footprints. This morning it lived up to my expectations. A fresh skiff of snow, silence, and deer and coyote tracks on the trail were all that I needed. What a change from one week ago dodging the morning rush hour mayhem of Manhatten. What an incredible experience that was! (more to follow) But, I'll take the solitude any day, hands down.
Just me and the coyotes

Monday, October 19, 2009

One of the reasons I run.....

I may catch a little flak for posting the following picture. If you don't like dead animals, then go no further.
There are many reasons out there to run. Stay in shape, see beautiful country, feed my competitive nature, spend good times with friends, and the list could go on. Always at the back of my mind is being in shape for hunting season. The average deer hunter is overweight and out of shape and won't hike more than 1/2 mile from the road, if that. Many hunters lament the lack of animals spotted during the hunt. It's amazing how many more animals they would see if they got out of the truck and actually walked a little bit!
I relish the opportunity to get out in the woods knowing that I will be far away from 99% of the other hunters out there. As a result, I see more animals, and occasionally even run into a healthy buck like the one below. Anyone care for some prime venison sausage and jerkey?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Neff's to Brighton

When we originally scheduled this run the expectation was that we would be running on trails covered in leaves.  A nice cruise through the Wasatch to take in the colors and hang out with friends.  

View Neff's to Brighton in a larger map

Well, Sunday morning greeted us with a steady rain and instead of finding leaves covering the trail we found a blanket of snow on the ground.  Fortunately for us the rain stopped shortly after we got under way and the sky started to show signs of blue.  I would never guessed right then but before the end of the day I would be happy I brought my sunglasses along.

Getting up to the top of Neff's we found we weren't the first group to reach the top that morning.  Standing in the saddle, taking in the view were traildancers John, Dan, Bob and Brian.  We hung out for few minutes before heading up along the trail, moving cross-country over to the top of Thaynes Canyon.  From here on the route was pretty straight forward and except for the occasional sections of deep snow we made a good pace all the way to Brighton.  Even if the colors didn't seem to be quite as spectacular in years past it was still a great day and a tough run.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Darker Side of Trail Running

While this blog and most other trail running musings chronicle and celebrate races, individual accomplishments and the joy of trail running, there is a darker side of running that is ignored. Much is written and shared about the positive side of running. But, the darker side is seldom discussed. This post is an effort to illuminate this darker side, and in particular, to find a voice for our orphan socks – invisible, forgotten and often mistreated.

Running socks have never had the respect they deserve. They are the front-line between our feet and the miles we log over harsh and varied terrain. Without complaint they absorb our sweat, fight friction no matter what the conditions, do their best to repel dirt and rocks, and suffer quietly when we fail to properly maintain our toe nails. Yet, do we ever attribute a great run, an endorphin high, or a winning race to our socks? No! We fail to show our appreciation and thanks for all that they do for us.

And then to add insult… For no fault of their own, and often a result of our own negligence while doing laundry or not watching our pets, our trail socks become orphaned. What was a pair becomes one. Suddenly alone on top of the dryer. Cast aside waiting for their mate to possibly be found. Gathering dust. A life of purposefulness ended. And how do we respond? We ignore them for a while. Then, if the mate is not found, we often throw these orphans away. A sad, unfortunate, and completely unnecessary end to a sock life.

How has this become socially acceptable? American’s donate more than $2.2 billion each year to prevent the euthanasia of dogs and cats in animal shelters. Yet, we think nothing of euthanizing our orphan socks. Hospice care represents a $12 billion a year industry. Don’t our single socks deserve similar love and care when perhaps their usefulness and ability to contribute is diminished?

Why do we treat orphan socks this way? How can we fight the stigma and discrimination that result from the value we place on having our socks match? Why must socks be paired for life? What has resulted in our thinking about socks becoming so rigid? Is it possible for us to become more open-minded regarding socks? Must all sock pairs match? Can sock mixing find a place in a world constrained by order and “style?” What if we ran with a comfortable and durable Darn Tough® Merino Wool on the left foot, and a Darn Tough® CoolMax on the right? A no-show and a 1/4?? Tan with green?? Don’t we have a moral obligation to these orphan socks to provide them with a life where they can continue to serve us?

Many of us feel overwhelmed and helpless to act on behalf of orphan socks. Yet, while perhaps the problem seems so vast and unsolvable, I have a 5 point plan that can help these socks, who for no fault of their own have lost their ability to protect our feet and absorb our sweat. Please join me in making a commitment to, and taking the actions required to both prevent socks from becoming orphaned and find mates for those that have lost their partner.
  1. Exercise good laundry practices. Several simple actions can prevent many socks from becoming orphaned in the first place. Never put a wadded or rolled sock in the laundry. Always make sure the sock is in its original shape before being laundered. This will help prevent a sock from becoming lodged between the agitator in the washing machine or caught in the lint trap. A sheet of Bounce® can prevent a polyester sock from eloping with a cotton undergarment. As socks are removed from the dryer, fold them over each other so they do not get separated in the sock drawer.
  2. Know your pets. Pets are the leading source of socknappings. Many pet owners are in denial about their pet’s role in breaking up sock pairs. If you think there may be a problem with your pet, consider keeping both your dirty laundry and clean socks in a location that is out of the reach of your pet.

  3. Utilize microchips in your socks. Consider placing microchips in your socks to help locate runaway, lost, socknapped, or misplaced socks. It may be worth the cost and effort to place microchips in your very favorite socks. I have done so in my Darn Tough® socks.

  4. Accept and practice sock diversity. Fight the belief that socks must match. Experiment with wool and polyester. Make a statement and mix a knee-high with crew. Welcome an orphan into one of your most beloved sock pairs. Celebrate the sock trio.

  5. Participate in an online mating service. Check it out. You’ll be surprised how many socks are seeking socks. Just today, there are eleven postings for “Darn Tough® Coolmax ¼ Sock Mesh #1492, lightly used in good condition seeking similar Darn Tough®.” If all of these sock owners took action, there could be five new pairs of Darn Tough® socks and ten fewer orphans!

Please join me in creating a better world for our socks… Remember, simple actions can have world-changing results. Preventing and helping orphan socks begins with each of us.

Celebrate the sock trio!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cats Among Us

I got a nice surprise on Monday when I was able to join my friend Scott, in town on business, for an impromptu lunchtime run.  We were short on time so I decided a quick run along the shoreline starting from the zoo would be our best option.  After reaching one of the upper trails above This Is The Place park I noticed a streak moving down the hill in front of us.  We both stopped in our tracks, jaws on the ground and watched as a bobcat bound through the grass about 50 meters in front of us.  It was truly amazing.  Turns out it was the first time either one of us had seen one outside the zoo and it was right there on trails we run all the time.

Photo: from jimandsue60

Of course this led to a discussion about the other cat we have yet to see in the wild, the holy grail of animal sightings, the mountain lion.  The bobcat hunts squirrels, rabbits, birds and the occasional small deer while the mountain lion tends to go after bigger prey.  Now, as far as I know humans have yet to be attacked by a mountain lion along the Wasatch Front (at least in recent times) but we all know they are out there silently watching us.  I still hope to eventually see a mountain lion, I just hope it's from a comfortable distance...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hundred in the Hood Race Report

The Hundred in the Hood

As I was planning my race schedule for the 2009 season, I read somewhere that Oregon was going to get its first 100m trail race. I have always thought to myself that if someone put on a 100m race in OR, I was going to do it. I grew up in Portland and I still feel a strong connection to the area and I have already done a 50k and 50 miler in OR in 2006 and 2007. I checked the date and it worked out perfectly because I wasn't planning on running the Wasatch 100 this year. I also noticed it was on the same general area of my first 50 miler I had done in 2007, the PCT Ultra 50 Miler. Another great feature was the course was going to be run on the Pacific Crest Trail which I knew from experience was really nice single track through nice older growth forest. The route was also two out and backs sections so it was going to be fairly easy to crew which was important because I was going to ask my wife to crew for me again.b

The were two aspects of the race I was worried about. The first was the course is flat, at least for the type of races I was used too doing. As I've stated in previous post I don't consider myself much of a runner, more of trail slogger. This course only has 12,000 feet of vertical gain. The question to myself was could I turn myself in too a 100m trail runner instead of 100m trail slogger? The next issue which I was less worried about was what kind of problems would come up with the race being put on for the first time.

Marge and I spent Friday before the race checking out the aid station locations, checked in for the race and then went for a short hike on the course. This turned out to be a great idea. The trail was very, very dusty. I decided that there was going to be no easy warm up in the morning, I needed to get myself into the top 10 or so unless I wanted to spend the first 1/2 hour choking on dust, not a great way to start a 100m race.

Race directors Olga Varlamova and Mike Burke set us on our way promptly at 5:00am, I let all the guys with sponsor shirts go ahead and slotted in behind two ladies, I was perfectly placed somewhere in the top 10, it was little dusty but not to bad. I can't image how bad it was back in the main pack, it must have been brutal. I could tell that the two woman ahead of me were determined about making time as there was absolutely no chit chat at all. In fact in the first 14 miles not a word was said between any of us running together. As I came into the second aid station at mile 14 at 2:20 in the race I realized I was 30 min. ahead of my schedule. I didn't worry about my pace as I didn't feel as I had pushed at all. After this aid station we would reverse course and head back to the start finish area.

The return trip was uneventful, I ran into the Horse Camp aid station mile 28 at 4 hours 40 minutes, now 40 min ahead my schedule. Marge took great care of me and I was off, I wasn't expected to see Marge again until mile 55. I was now basically back at the start finish line and was headed south for the next 37 miles then would retrace my steps and return to the start finish. It was starting to heat up but most of the trail was covered with shade and for once I almost looked normal instead of being covered head to toe in drenching sweat. The miles went quickly and I arrived at mile 44 aid station still 40 min. ahead of schedule.

This is when things started to get a little weird. When I arrived at the mile 44 aid station they asked me if the other aid stations had been set up and if they had water yet. They had for me but I guess for some of the front runners the aid stations had not been set up in time. Earlier at the mile 33 aid station the lady there had said I was at mile 28. I said that's funny because I left mile 28 an hour ago. She just looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about. Then I was informed by the mile 44 aid station attendant that the next aid station was not going to be there. No big deal I thought 10.5 to get mile 55 aid station was not going to be a big deal. I took a little extra time to fuel up and headed out.

I was still moving good and had expected to cover the 10.5 miles in around two hours. Two hours came and passed, I had run out of water and it was the hottest part of the day.I thought maybe I was just moving slower than expected, then I ran into another racer Mark Tanaka, and he was not happy . We both knew that we had to leave the PCT to get to the aid station at mile 55 and both had been looking for it. Mark's GPS was saying we had gone 14 miles since the last aid. We both realized we had missed the aid station. A few minutes later we arrived at the mile 58.5 aid station. Now 14 miles with out aid is no big deal if you know that going in, 14 miles not knowing kinda throws you for a loop. Plus now I had missed Marge with my lights, jacket and of course my energy drink and power gels. I was also really worried about her. Would they give her updates as to were I was? Would she try to come up the rough road to the next aid station and miss me somewhere? It was a bad scene with angry runners and the aid station people trying to do all the could to take care of people and get in contact with the missed aid station. I decided to try and focus on what I could control grabbed some gels and took off.

The next section of the course was spectacular, high alpine lakes and views of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness and of course Mt. Jefferson itself , and finally some nice rough trails and some climbing to make me feel at home. This took my mind off worrying about Marge and I moved along nicely. I hit mile 65 and the turn around aid station still 40 min ahead of schedule. It looked like I was hour to and half behind the front runners. The two girls I had run with at the start were running around 30 minutes ahead of me and I figured I was still somewhere around 10th place. On the way back I started to feel some pain in my left knee, not terrible but enough to make me worried. I started to slow down no so much from the pain but more from trying not to pound the knee too bad knowing I had a long way still to go.

As I neared the mile 75 aid station which was now marked as though a crazy person had been given 1,000 feet of flagging I was praying that Marge was there. It was getting close to dark, I had one very tiny emergency light, no jacket and was not sure what I would do if she wasn't there. She was! Wow what a huge weight off my shoulders, I have never been so happy to see Marge during a race. I decided it was going to pay off later in the race to take a good break and sit down for 10 min and eat some soup which is what I did. I was in good spirits and realized I had 7 hours to make my goal of 21 hours for the race. I knew I had a good chance of beating that time. Marge had me all set up and I headed out in feeling revived, my only worry now was my knee, would it hold up for the next 25 miles.

I passed two guys soon after I left Marge, than ran alone for the rest of the race.(in fact I ran almost the whole race alone) The 10.5 miles seemed to take for ever before I hit the next aid station. Its was one of those great aid stations that seems to really put you in a good mood. It was manned by ultra runners (you can always tell) Talking Heads was blasting on the radio, and they kept trying to get my to drink some booze which kept me laughing the whole time. After 5 min I figured I better get moving or I was going to sit down by the fire and start drinking rum and cokes.

The next two hours were very hard and I had a huge motivation problem. My knee was giving me problems but the pain was not that bad I just couldn't get myself to keep running. I kept talking to myself asking were the motivation was, where was all that drive I had earlier in the race, I actually felt embarrassed for moving so slow. I thought of the other guys in the MRC and how they fought through their low points in this years Wasatch 100, which just made me more mad because I really didn't have any major issues, so I didn't feel I had excuse for moving so slow. I think a good pacer could have been a great help at this point to say the least. I slowly started moving at a good pace again and was surprised nobody had caught up with me.

I hit the last aid station and was feeling better. I was 18:40 into the race and thought I still had a chance at a 19:30 finish. The aid station attendant told me I had 4.5 miles to go. I took off with a quickened pace thinking the race was in the bag, 4.5 miles of mostly downhill, no problem I thought with a smile on my face. 4 miles later I was sitting on the trail staring at my head lamp that was 5 feet off the trail in the bushes wondering if I would manage to find my water bottles. I had just taken a great rolling fall going downhill on a perfectly smooth trail. I picked myself up, found my bottles(but lost my jacket) and thought no problem .5 mile to go. Nope, wrong again, turns out the mileage from the last aid station to the finish was 6 miles. Oh well, the finish came soon enough, just not at 19:30. I crossed the finish line at 19:50, got a hug from Olga and buckle for going sub 24.

Even with the glitches I loved this race, the trail was awesome, scenery fantastic and the aid stations when functional, were great. First place overall went to Ray Sanchez in a time of 16:56, first place women and 6th overall went to Shawna Wiskey her first 100M race in a time of 18:26. 41 people went under 24 hours! Full results here. For a behind the scenes report check out Olga's R.D. report here. Its gives great insight to what R.D deal with. Thanks to Mike and Olga and all the volunteers. On a final note even though I told her of course, a big thanks to my wife Marge who come through with flying colors and not only took care of me but also many other runners as well. I can go with out a pacer but would be hard pressed to tackle a hundred without her.

Now its time to get back to a course with some climbing! Christian and I will tackle the HURT 100 in Jan.Can't wait

P.S The Swiss knot rocked, perfect for 102 miles!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One More Wasatch Report

Chasing the Cheetah

On a hot dusty Saturday afternoon sitting on the side of a trail completely whipped from swinging a Pulaski, I asked another Wasatch trail work “volunteer” if he had a goal for his race. He said both proudly and reluctantly that he was aiming for a sub-24 hour finish. I internally grimaced. He was a tall fit guy, probably a fast marathoner. I wanted to tell him that he should just be happy with a finish for his first ultra. Honestly, I felt threatened, I was just now going for my first sub-24. Until this year I had not publicly or privately aimed at a sub-24 finish. In 2001, before my 3rd Wasatch, I commented on the ride to the start that I had the race "figured out". “The Rocket” laughed and turned around seriously and said "Those are dangerous words." I got it. There are so many variables at play that a good race sometimes doesn’t happen despite the best preparation. With this in mind my first goal was to finish. The final time, according to Dave Hunt is just icing on the cake. So with my pace chart set for 23:48, Dave’s time from last year, I set out to finish, and hopefully Chase the Cheetah.

As is tradition, Wasatch Fred (Riemer) and “The Rocket” (Errol Jones), drove Erik, Christian and me to the start. Fred, who says that he is not responsible for anything, is responsible for introducing me to the Wasatch 100, and getting me to the start on time. For both I am forever grateful. On the ride to the start, Erik said that it would be great if we could all stay together. I wasn’t sure if he was expecting a bad day for him or a great day for me. At least we would all try to run together for a few miles.

Erik, “Armani” Jay and I all found each other at the start. Erik’s misfortunate drawstring break to his shorts minutes before the race was comical, but I really was worried that he might be running Chinscrapper bare-bottomed. (He ran the first 40 miles with shorts that would barely stay-up. The picture above shows him at Big Mountain running to change.) Christian it turned out was cutting it close (time-wise) in line at the Porta-John. (Shilling would eschew this as frivolous since there is plenty of time to take care of business just off the trail.) Within minutes though, Christian caught up through the tight traffic of runners on the first section of trail. By the first major climb, Erik and Jay took off ahead of Christian and me. As we climbed the temperature stared to drop, and there was a pleasant chill that I tried to remember and enjoy. The day was going to heat up. We passed a few ambitious folks who started out fast only to slow down. Christian thought he knew one of the guys that we passed, and asked his name. Christian introduced the two of us by first name. The guy asked if I was Peter Lindgren, which shocked me. I

certainly didn’t think that I had any type of name recognition, but used the ego boost to send us down the trail.

Christian and I ran the first 18 miles together to the Francis Peak aid station. We hit the aid station about 8 minutes earlier than I wanted, but with very little effort. We both fumbled around in our drop bags, got rid of headlamps, picked up supplies of food (gels, sports bars, etc.), and filled water bottles. As we got going again, Christian returned to the aid station to throw away his wrappers. I walked a little and he quickly caught up, and we were running again.

The sun was now up and we were both very conscious of staying hydrated. Christian drank a full bottle more than I on the initial climb, and I started to worry that my strategy of keeping my fluid status even and my energy stores up was already falling short.

The next 5 miles I kept pace with Christian, and we hit the Skyline Road aid station together. Rich was there and offered some cold bottles and encouragement. He told us that Goeff Roes was 5 minutes ahead of Karl, but with a salt-caked face. We couldn’t have imagined that Goeff would not only hold Karl off but destroy the course record.

We caught Shane and Carter shortly before Sessions. I was starting to have trouble keeping pace with Christian, and knew that I shouldn’t push any harder than what felt was an easy pace. I consciously let go of trying to keep up, but at the same time was able to keep the gap to a few minutes. During the section between Sessions and Swallow Rocks the terrain was hot and exposed. I regained time on Christian and was able to catch him at the Swallow Rocks aid station. We both enjoyed popsicles, and ice in our bottles. We were caught by “Uncle Dave” before Big Mountain. He greeted us as his two favorite nephews, put his arms on our shoulders and lifted his feet off the ground for a ride. After a few yards of being carried, and a few laughs, he was gone.

At the Big Mountain aid station, mile 39, I was met by Jessica, Astrid, Mats, Greg and Greg’s wife, Marge. They took care of getting a few things together and I was off with Greg as my pacer. While I felt pretty good, the day continued to heat up. I was not peeing. I downed my bottles pretty quickly, and then used an extra bottle of water that Greg carried to pour water on my head. We made it to Alexander Ridge in almost exactly the time I had

expected for that section. I caught up to David Hayes and left before him. In retrospect I should have hung around and had more to drink. I didn’t though and in addition to a headache, started to feel sleepy over the next several miles. I wondered if I had consumed too much free water and not enough salt. I wondered if I was starting to have cerebral edema from

hyponatremia. Next, I thought I might have a seizure on the side of the trail. That would certainly make an interesting story that I didn’t want to be part of. I took an electrolyte capsule from Greg to be on the cautious side, even though I had little to no peripheral edema. By the next aid station I got my diagnosis from the 12 year-old checking runners in on the scale, dehydration. My weight was down 6 pounds. My very excellent crew of wife and children, fixed me up with fluids and food, and again Greg and I were off for another climb, finally escaping the heat.

Christian I found out was still at Alexander Ridge dealing with his “damn stomach” (Betsy’s description). This was almost an exact a replay of his race a two years ago. This time though I knew that he would allow and make things turn around. Even with a few hours lead I thought he was capable of catching up.

Climbing up Lambs Canyon, I really started to fade. I was passed by three people, Betsy Nye, Mandy Hosford, and another guy that I would catch much later. It was little consolation, but as I climbed this 3 mile section, I was able to catch Corbin Talley. He was in pretty bad shape, so all I could do was offer feeble encouragement as we slowly went by. After some vomiting, Corbin seemed to get better and passed me at the top of Bare Ass Pass. Coming down to Elbow Fork Greg and I encountered two woman and a pack of no less than 8 dogs that were barking uncontrollably. I was glad to make it through the pack unscathed, and hoped that any hikers and runners to pass these morons and their dogs would be safe as well. We passed Corbin again just before the road. I thought, as a fast marathoner, he would for sure catch and pass on the road, but we never saw him again.

By Big Water, mile 62, I was 41 minutes behind where I thought I needed to be for a sub 24 hour finish. I was met by Jessica, Astrid, and Mats with smiles and encouragement. I put on a new short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve capilene top, that I quickly removed after the Millcreek aid station and had Greg carry the rest of the way to Brighton. While the day was too hot the night was proving to be very comfortable for running. I didn’t yet feel great, but I was starting to pee, my headache was gone and I passed Dog Lake without lying down on the ground for a nap.

At Desolation Lake, mile 66, I was now 49 minutes behind. By Scott’s, mile 70, I had only made up 4 minutes. I was still 45 minutes behind the pace. The good news was that my legs felt great. Greg kept encouraging me that we would make up some time on the ridge to Scott’s pass (mile 70). While we hadn’t made up much time, a few pieces started to fall into place. Greg started to work on my energy stores and gave me sesame seed cookies to eat. At this point I was still trying to eat nauseating gels. No energy in meant little energy to run. Now I had some fuel, and we were headed for 4 miles of downhill and another 0.8 miles of a gradual climb on the road to the Brighton Lodge. This was the now or never point, and I decided I had little to lose. I ran down the dirt trail as quickly as I could without breathing hard. Once we hit the road, I slowed down some, but was still able to pass one runner. This would be the last runner I would see the remainder of the race.

At the Brighton Lodge, mile 75, I quickly weighed in, changed my shirt, and drank a Red Bull. Greg gave Alan an update of how we had done and my general improving condition. Kevin Shilling gave me a bag of gum drops, which at the time I had no idea would taste so good or be as easy to tolerate. I hopped up and headed for the door, knowing that I needed to run the next 25 miles in 6 hours and 45 minutes or less to finish under 24 hours. This was substantially faster than the 7 hours and 8 minutes that was my previous best and the amount of time I had built into my pace chart. As Alan and I headed out, I had a sense of urgency to get going. Alan, who is 60 years-old, and has been with me the last 4 years on this section of trail was breathing hard. I knew that he would warm up, but immediately he was concerned that I was going to out pace him. We made the climb to Catherine’s Pass and Sunset Peak (10,500 feet) quickly. My legs were strong enough that I ran some of this section, which is something I have only been able to do in training, and never with 75 miles in my legs. The long downhill was easier on Alan, and we settled into a conversation. We reached Ant Knolls in 75 minutes. I was now only 10 minutes behind my projected pace.

Alan was already plotting his detour to cut around the mountain and let me go as fast as I could to Rock Springs and Pole Hollow. This would leave him 8 rather and 17 miles from Pole Line Pass. We climbed “The Grunt” a 380 foot climb that is not so long, but steep. Alan struggled to keep pace, but held close. I knew that I would need the company later on and didn’t want to lose my pacer altogether. Together we easily cruised into the mile 83 aid station, Pole Line Pass. I was now 3 minutes ahead of schedule with one of the toughest sections of the course that I would run alone.

Usually I am timid about running alone in the dark deep in the mountains, but I really enjoyed this. The glow from my lights lit a little world in front of me, and I was in a trance dancing along through the night trying to run as much as I could. The moon was rising in the East in an orange glow. There was some magic to being alone on the trail in the middle of the night. I was comfortable. I made the last climb to “Point of Contention” and was finally able to see Mount Timpanogos in the distance. At Rock Springs, mile 87, I was 9 minutes ahead of my pace chart. I picked up a few Ritz crackers with peanut butter. I stowed these for later, and headed off for “Irv’s torture chamber”.

“Irv’s torture chamber” looks to be downhill on an elevation map of the course. There are however 7 climbs that follow some very technical downhill runs in powder like dirt. “The dive” and “the plunge” are not favorites for most, but I personally love these downhill sections that may have had their last running as the course may be rerouted next year. This night I filled my shoes with their dirt, and decorated my shirt and face with some dirt on a couple of little spills. My count on the seven climbs was quickly confused as my brain was running on fumes. I met up with Alan again at the top of the Pot Hollow trail. I was happy to see him, and he could tell I was in need of a few calories. I tried to eat the Ritz crackers and was able to down 4 or 5, before my stomach violently objected. I felt great (vomitus euphorius?) and was able to run right along to the Pot Bottom.

With 7 miles to go I was 10 minutes ahead of my pace chart, and now barring disaster a sub-24 was in the bag. Alan was entertaining the idea of chasing down the runners in front of us. I was too afraid of blowing-up and opted for a cruising pace. As we hit the road with less than a mile, Alan pushed the pace. I struggled to make the transition to road, but was able to keep up. About 1/2 a mile from the finish, Alan asked if I could smell the barn. I told him that I wasn’t ready to be done. My legs felt great, I was running fast and I wanted to keep going. As I ran into the finish Jessica, Astrid and Mats were awake and cheering from their sleeping bags. I was welcomed in by Erik, Dave, Dave and Carter who had finished ahead of me. I finished in 15th place, running the last 25 miles in 6 hours 22 minutes for a total time of 23 hours 36 minutes. (Incidentally the guy doing the trail work finished quite respectably in the 30 + hour range, and looked happy as he crossed the line.)

After a shower I came back outside and slept along side Jessica, Astrid, and Mats under the moon and stars, occasionally waking up to welcome runners who were coming in. I slept well, satisfied and happy to be back in one piece with my crew.

At the awards ceremony John Grobben’s daughters solidified what I have known about this race. It is about the all people that all come together to pull off an amazing feat, and form the bigger family of this race. It is the friendships that mean showing up to trailheads on cold mornings at hours that are usually unspeakable. Not to mention sacrificing a day of work and a night of sleep to accompany a friend along the trail. (Greg and Alan I am again in your debt.)

I am truly grateful to Jessica for supporting this whole endeavor. I really couldn’t do it without her.

Best of luck to Greg this weekend at the Hundred in the Hood.