Sunday, November 1, 2009

Scary Times at Carkeek 12 Hour Run

Halloween weekend has a new tradition for some of us in Seattle - Carkeek 12 Hour Run - the toughest 12 hour run out there! The nice thing is (as in most timed runs) you don't have to run for all 12 hours. I did this last year, and ran six loops, or about 11.58 miles for an elevation gain of 2580 ft - not bad for an in town park! This year, I chose to spread my 12 hours out over the course of the day with five loops - three in the morning and two at the end of the day, with some napping, shopping and baking in between.

The start was at dark thirty (6 am) and we were gathered round a nice bonfire roaring in the firepit, overlooking Puget Sound (which was not really visible at that hour). My friend Tracy was hoping to go for all 12 hours. As for me, I had considered the option of starting late, but I rarely get to run in the dark, and this year, with glow sticks out on the trails (marking the major turns), it would be a bit easier to navigate. After a pre-race briefing, Sam said "Go!" and off we walked.  I stayed with Tracy (or should say, I hung on to Tracy!) and we had a nice up and down trot through the darkness, coming in to the aid station at about 30 minutes. Coming through the fish hatchery the third time, I heard a rustling of branches above me, followed by a spray of water and a "whomp whomp" sound. An owl was waking and not liking all these people so close to its nest. I heard that someone behind me got attacked, but not so bad that he couldn't relish in the excitement of it. It was really appropriate for Halloween! At the end of the third loop, I left Tracy and headed home.

I showered and napped, and prepped for a ChiRunning class for the next day.  Donn and I went to the U District Farmer's market, where he got a giant rutabega for carving. Apparently they used to do that in merry old England, before pumpkins were brought over from the New World. While a pie baked in the oven, I applied some "makeup", put on my "headgear" and went back to the final hours of the run. I had my Vibram Five Fingers on, but took my La Sportivas along, and planned to decide which to wear once I got there.  I stopped to pick up firewood (the checkout gal told me I scared her) and made it to the park in time to see Tracy come down to the aid station. I had just enough time to set the pie down and take off with her - in the VFFs. She said she was walking a lot, so I had no worry about whether I could keep up with her. We encountered a couple of other gals who were walking, and formed a nice conga line on the trail. I got several compliments on my makeup and headgear, and if my stride was too choppy, the headgear bounced and hit me just above the ears. I've discovered a new body sensing technique and will be marketing it as a training tool! The pace was nice and easy and Tracy called it a day at 21 loops, or 40.53 miles with 9030 feet of elevation gain!

After a job well done, a leg soak in the Sound, and good coffee, we all parted for our respective homes and Halloween.

I had fun on the way home watching people as they reacted to my makeup and head gear. Donn carved a beautiful rutabega, and, unfortuantely, no kids stopped by to get scared at our house. Oh year....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Korima from Seattle - Caballo Blanco's Talk

Last Tuesday night, I went to hear Micha True, aka Caballo Blanco, speak at Seattle Running Co. He's the "mythical character" who lives among the Raramuri (aka Tarahumara Indians) in Copper Canyon, Mexico and has become well known through Chris McDougal's book, Born to Run. In this book, the author chronicles his journey into Copper Canyon, where he meets Caballo Blanco and learns about the indigenous people who live in the caves and canyons that form Copper Canyon. These people are known for their endurance running, and Caballo, an ultrarunner himself (5 times at Leadville 100) establishes a race for villages to compete against each other. He invites runners from the "outside world" to run one of these, with hopes it will bring awareness of these people to the rest of the world. The book carries the story of the race throughout, as well as McDougal's own journey into helping him solve his own running issues through minimal or barefoot running. His thesis is complete with research studies backing up his claim that barefoot running is the best way to go. The book, now a bestseller, has gotten almost a cult following with people determined to throw away their bulky, built up running shoes, and follow Chris in sandals, Vibram 5 Fingers, or barefoot. In fact, Vibram is having a hard time keeping up production as the shoes have become so popular!

So, naturally, at this talk by Caballo Blanco, 1) the house was packed (people were standing in the cold, watching through the store window!) and 2) I noticed Vibram 5 Fingers on several pairs of feet. I don't know if these people were expecting to hear him talk about minimalist running, or if they were just wearing the "race Tshirt", so to speak, or if they truly enjoyed wearing their Vibrams and won't put anything else on their feet. I enjoy a weekly run in my own Vibrams, or other minimal shoes, so I don't fault these folks for theirs. But it was just funny (to me) to expect to see them and there they were....

But Micah wasn't there to talk to the wealthy about the many options we have for shodding (or not) our feet. Rather, he was there to talk about the people he's come to love and the conditions in which they live. While he spoke, a slide show played, showing beautiful scenery of the Copper Canyon, and of the people who inhabit that area. They live very minimally ("when it all comes crashing down around us, these folks will be okay because they're already treading lightly on the earth" he pointed out) and subsist mainly on what the earth gives them - corn being the main staple. If there has been a drought, then they have a bad year, and don't eat so well. It's vice versa if the rain gods have been good. They live at 8000 - 9000 feet, so winters are fairly chilly, as their caves don't have central heating. Caballo first learned about korima (gifting) when, after pacing a Raramuri at Leadville (they were brought there by someone promoting their running talents), he asked for donations for sweaters and blankets to take down CC, and filled up his pickup truck so full he had no room to sleep! In return, the Raramuri kept him fed and allowed him into their homes and villages. After a year or so, he built his own little house (with the help of some of the locals) and spends most of his time living down in the CC with the Raramuri as his neighbors.

Today, the Raramrui are exploited by the Mexican government as a tourist attraction, and they suffer from malnutrition, lack of education,etc. Infant mortality rate is high, with tuberculosis being the main cause. Caballo's mission, so to speak, was to raise awareness of this culture that has been around for the last 10,000 years and to seek monetary donations to help them preserve that culture while meeting basic needs. His talk was well received, and Seattle came through, raising well over $500 (and $500 was matched by Scott Dunlap's company NearbyNow)! Way to show the korima, Seattle! As expected, some folks wanted to know what he wore when running. (He prefers sandals - anything cheap, but right now he likes Hi Tec Vitarroz.) But he reminded us we should run in what works for us individually. His main mission is to see that his neighbors are cared for by the rest of the world - and he got one step closer to that goal last Tuesday night in Seattle.

Friday, September 25, 2009

time on my hands

Facebook is down yet again and has been all afternoon and evening. What did I do before FB? I read blogs. And I blogged more. AND I got more other stuff done.

This all reminds me why I don't watch TV. Facebook is a lot like TV. It sucks you in and it becomes harder and harder to tear yourself away as you get involved in the daily (sometimes hourly) dramas and happenings that go on in others' lives. It's a quick look into friends' lives, changing moment by moment, with little need for sustained attention. You sit down to go through the latest updates of your friends and when you look up, two hours have gone by. That's two hours of your life you lost without noticing. And you wonder why your hips hurt, why your back is stiff, why your eyes are tired. And when FB is down, not available, frustration ensues. What do you do with all that empty time on your hands. What did you do before you got on FB, only a few short months ago? You lived those hours and life happened, with you as a participant. Time to live.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Burning Man 2009

Brevity is not my strong point so this is going to be a good exercise for me. The band Donn plays with (and I used to) Orkestar Zirkonium, was invited to play at Burning Man 2009 for the burn. I was lucky to go along as support (sous chef to the fabulous Erin Brindley). We left town Wednesday Sept 2 on the Mellinium Tortoise, aka Mel with Colin at the helm. There were 11 of us riding in this converted Greyhound bus - it was made into living quarters and had a dining area/ living room with a Mac, kitchen, bathroom, queen size bed, bunk beds, and a recording studio. Every bus should have a recording studio! The bathtub served as the pantry for non-perishables, and the fridge was stuff to the gills. We hauled a trailer full of bikes and water behind us, and our first stop was Eugene. We fueled, ate dinner in the Value Village parking lot (looking like proper gypsies) and headed to camp for the night, getting lost on the way. Getting lost on a bus is a lot different than getting lost in a car - your options for turn around space are a lot more limited. Jerry phoned Dean, the campground host, who met us at the gate on his Segway. He could really get around and puff on his cigarette at the same time! There we met three more people bringing our total to 14. Amazingly, we all fit and it was rather comfy!

Thursday we were on the road again heading towards Klamath Falls. We passed through some beautiful forest land and I kept an eye out for great trails! After fueling and lunch in the gas station parking area (we pick the nicest spots!), we headed on towards Gerlach and Burning Man. Going into CA, we remembered the fruit in the tub and when the inspector came aboard, she just looked in the fridge and declared us good to go. Whew! Later down the road, about 20 miles north of Alturas, Colin happened to look in the rear view mirror to watch the tire de-laminating on the trailer. Oops! He pulled over, put out the road hazard triangles, and proceeded to change the tire, only to discover there was no lug nut wrench for that size. So Anne started flagging down cars; one guy stopped on his way back from Burning Man and gave us a bottle of wine he said he made, but he didn't have a wrench. Meanwhile, Matt decided he needed to get a run in to get rid of his hangover, so he took off towards Alturas. The rest of the band members who weren't working on the tire got out their instruments and started practicing by the side of the road. It was all very surreal and added to the gypsy-like appearance. A forest service truck pulled over and they provided a wrench and some company. We managed to direct the sparse traffic around us, and finally, near the end, a CHiP pulled up to direct traffic and see if we were okay. Thanks, guy! He asked if the guy running down the road was with us and was he okay. Well, how can he be a drummer and be okay??? We took off, picked up Matt, got a new tire (and wrench!!) in Alturas and ventured forth.

The drive through the pass and then the desert was very beautiful with a nice moonrise. We got into Gerlach, the last town bfore Burning Man, about 9, where we fixed dinner and shopped the stands of Burning Man necessities. I got some goggles and a nice desert scarf and Tamara scored a cool pair of pants for $5! Finally we got back on the bus, and headed to the entrance. There we showed our tickets and they made us get out of the bus, and put our hands on it while they pretended to prepare for some bodily inspection. It was all very carnival-like and a little frat boyish. Next stop was another point where they "oriented" us virgins, having us roll in the playa dust, etc. FINALLY, we were allowed to go forth and find our camp, which was in Nectar Village. Sari, who had been there a couple years before, was very excited to get going and perform, despite it being midnight. Band bikes were unloaded, people changed into whites, and they took off to tour the playa, leaving Colin and me to find our exact location. Our host, Grady, directed us to the camp, where he and Colin immediately put up a shade structure. We shared camp with Gamelan X, a band from the Bay area that does Indonesian (mostly) percussion based music. Poor Colin had driven all day and was totally whipped but hung in there and got stuff set up. The band returned about 3:30, and left again, on foot this time, to play around the camps. I went to bed, stuck in my awesome earplugs (blocked out the constant bass beat of the electronica from the DJs on the playa and the art cars), and did not hear Donn get in the tent at 5:00.

Donn and I were up at 7:30, and I was in desparate need of an espresso! The propane hadn't been turned on and I didn't want to wake Colin, so we hopped on our bikes to tour the camps and buy and espresso at Center House. That and ice are about the only two things you can buy there; all the rest is self supplied or gifted. On the way there, we ran into my friend Dan, who goes every year, and Foxy, a first timer and mother of Master Nashwan. It was a fortunate meeting, as I had no idea where Dan was camped and I wanted to spend some time with him! We got my espresso (Donn brought caffeine pills) which was REALLY REALLY good and put me in the best mood ever, and rode back to camp. There, people were slowly coming alive and awake. The day was loose and free, with some going around to see stuff and others hanging out. I rode around and found Dan's camp, and visited a while. I was still getting oriented (I'm slow that way) so I didn't take in as much of the art as I would have liked. I did love riding my burner bike around as it made me feel like a little kid again! And I made lots of trips to the bathroom. The playa is laid out like a hemi-wheel, with the spoke streets numbered like a clock, every half hour, and the radial streets as letters starting with "A" in the center. Our camp was at 8:00 and Fossil (8 o'clock and F). The porta johns were on all the spoke streets every two blocks starting between Chaos and DNA. The theme this year was Evolution, so all the streets were named aptly.

Friday night, there was a marching band contest at Center House, and Orkestar Zirkonium was one of the five contestants. The band members rode their bikes to Center House while we support folks walked, but somehow we all ended up there at the same time. The contest was lots of fun and in the end, they took second to March Fourth, a fabulous marching band based out of Portland. If you have never heard this band, you are in for a treat. They will get you up out of your seat and onto the floor - such awesome energy! OZ played afterward and lots of folks danced and enjoyed their energy. Ivan's friend Jenna showed up with a gallon of whiskey, which was passed around the band, and disappeared quickly. I only took one slug as it helped clear up my nose from all the dust. But others weren't so frugal and consequences ensued later. We caught a ride on the Birthday Cake art car where the band played while it rode around the playa. It was a great way to celebrate Sari's birthday! Unfortunately, one person wasn't able to keep his whiskey down and he was whisked back to camp in another art car. Good thing we had walked, as we managed to get all the bikes back to camp. I had a blast riding Josh's bike, a little girl's sting ray complete with banana seat and coaster brakes. I even zoomed past Donn on his adult sized bike. I want one!!

Another late night to bed and then we were up early again. This time I had coffee in camp; it was Saturday, the day of the night of the big burn. I rode over to Hushville (Dan's camp) where I found Scot (Master Nashwan) and Foxy napping, but no Dan. I visited with them til Dan came back. Then Dan took me to meet God, who was holding a discussion with a rabbi who had stopped by. I sat on a couch and chatted with another fellow who was also a burn virgin. The rabbi sang a beautiful chant in either Yiddish or Hebrew, and then rode off. A woman came out of a tent and announced that gale force winds were headed our way in a couple of hours with major dust storms. I decided to hightail it back to camp to batten down the hatches and warn others. There were several minor dust storms going on already, and as the day progressed, they got worse. We spent a lot of time just hanging out in the bus, while others went out on to the playa in white-out conditions. Josh and Paul looked like old men when they returned, with white hair and faces. Sometime during the day (I think it was Saturday) Colin hopped an art car and lost his night time glasses, which were hooked on to his kilt. He was doomed to wearing sunglasses, but after trying on several of the campers' glasses, Donn's came closest to his prescription. So we were okay (sort of) if he had to do night driving.

That night, the dust was blowing strong, but the storm was predicted to die down by 10. The band had to be in position about 8:30, so after they dressed and Sari passed out our badges which would get us in the inner circle (!!), we processed towards the man. About halfway, the band split into two groups. Ours was the lead group, and visibility was down to about 5-10 feet. We pulled up next to some brightly lit art cars, and the drummers started playing, thinking this would attract the other group's attention. Several long minutes later they started to appear, coming towards us, but then headed off in a different direction. I ran out, got them and led them to the rest of the band. Whew! We made it to 3:00 where we waited for the procession to begin. Security checked our badges several times over, so it was quite the privilege to be in the inner circle. The dust storm slowly died down, our torch bearers appeared, and the band marched and played around the perimeter of the inner circle. It was really fun to tag along and dance, and at one point, a guy dressed completely in a drum major outfit appeared out of the crowd and directed the band! When the circle was complete, we settled down in the dust to watch the fire performers. They put on an amazing show; I hadn't seen anything like that since my first Trolloween in 1998 (the fire marshal put the kibosh on that!). At some point, we were asked to move further into the circle, which put us much closer to the fire. Soon, the fireworks started and before I knew it, the whole structure was ablaze. At one point it was so hot, everyone had to put on goggles. I was sitting next to Paul and we decided to lay down, which seemed to work, as it put us under the heat. It was quite a fire show - beautiful to watch!

The next morning I wanted to get to Center House for an espresso, but the line was really long when we got there. Donn gave me one of his caffeine pills at the usual dose for him, which sent my heart rate sky high! We rode out to the temple and checked out the scene. It was very heavy, emotionally speaking, with different people or groups mourning over lost friends and lovers from the past year. There was a beautiful poster of Shane McConkey, the extreme skier who died last December. I could only take so much, so we went out to our bikes. There were so many other bikes that ours were hard to find but my beautiful streamers and hi rise bars came through and we were on our way. We stopped by the slide, which was sort of a super slide covered in astro turf, with various objects (sleds, sheets, whatever) to slide down on. At the bottom, which was abrupt, there was a stack of cushions to crash into. I had knelt on enough astro turf in high school, as a drill leader at Band Day, that I had no desire to slide on it. Plus there was a sign noting that there were on average twelve injuries per day. Donn decided he had to try it. He found an old plastic sled and walked up to the top, where, eventually, he hopped on and slid down. It was a successful slide, and the cushions needed restacking. He helped put the last cushion high up on the pile, and something slipped, knocking his glasses off. I watched as they landed in two pieces, breaking at one side of the nose bridge. I grabbed them, and said 'dude, you're f**ked!' and then 'oh, we're f**ked!' They were meant to be Colin's back-up glasses - oops! We headed back to Center House to see if they could be repaired, but Playa Hardware was closed down so no luck. We got back to camp and told the tale, and Colin said no problem! He took Donn's glasses and fashioned a new nose piece out of wire and knots. It looked a little wonky on Donn, but it worked!

That night the band processed to the Temple and created lots of good energy. As we approached, they quieted down, as this burn was a more somber affair. Not everyone understood that but enough did that they weren't that obnoxious. There was a procession, which we couldn't see much of since we were towards the back of the crowd, but then flaming parachuters started appearing in the sky. That was totally cool!! I don't know how many there were but it was more than a couple! Soon after, the temple started burning, along with all the memorials that were put up. When it was about done, we stood up and the band processed out with Ethiopique. Very fitting. The River Boat art car owner asked Sari if the band would come play on it, so we headed that way, where we rode around the playa for a while. Afterward, we eventually ended up at camp and got ready for the long drive home the next day.

The bus got packed the next morning and we were on the road by 8:00, after goodbyes to Grady et al. We only sat in line to leave about 1.5 hours, and Sari gathered some playa dust in a baggie while we waited. The ride to Ashland was fairly uneventful, except when Colin tried to turn the bus around on the road between Klamath Falls and Ashland. Just didn't happen. We stayed at Emigrant Lake campground, and broke open that bottle of wine the burner guy gave us. It tasted a little funny, but Donn drank most of it. Apparently, he was really funny (I went to bed); who knows what was in the wine? He doesn't remember much. The next day we were on the road early and made it back to Boeing Field by 7:00 - ahead of schedule!

It was a fun trip and I want to return next year, early, so I can take in more stuff. I didn't take many photos of the art but there are some great ones out there. My pics can be seen here. And last, here's an interesting article about Burning Man. I'm looking forward to my next burn!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cougar in the snow...

I got to join Chris and Tracy this morning for a short 7 mile run at Cougar. I've been rehabbing a sore posterior tibialis (result of protecting the opposite hip) and got the full go ahead from PT to start running - 3 min on 2 min off. I had already gotten in a couple of trail runs before that 'go ahead' while we figured this thing out and I've been working hard on my core strength and balance issues. So, with Tracy being slightly injured (knee) and in taper for next weekend, and Chris recovering from a longer run last weekend, I figured I could keep up. Or at least they wouldn't have to wait for me too long at the junctions.

Snow was predicted and we drove through some decent rain to get to Sky Country, but when we got up higher near the trailhead, all was dry, but cold. We set out towards the north side and soon the precipitation started, in the form of ice. I was having a blast running through it and really enjoying the moment! As we looped around and started heading south, the snow was really coming down. The plan was to head to Shy Bear Pass and decide whether to turn back or continue with a loop along Deceiver and then back up to Shy Bear, and home via Fred's Railroad and Old Man Trail. We were all feeling good and I was focusing on good form - landing under my center of gravity, listening to my glute to tell me if I was overstriding (great post by Rooster on this), and eating when I needed to. The climb back up to Shy Bear was a little challenging on my tight gastrocnemius and soleus, but I managed to grind it out. I walked when I needed to and overall I stayed ahead of or with the gang. It was fun to "break trail" on freshly fallen snow! Plus I could check my footprints to see what I needed to shore up, as in the Sandpit Exercise.

We got back to the car and a winter wonderland in about 2 hours. I love that Sky Country isn't a popular destination and there were only three or four cars there, including Tracy's. I took some photos with my cell phone to record the snow and then we were off to Starbuck's where I "discovered" they don't have short drinks. I ordered a double split shot dry cappuccino, and they wanted to know what size. How do you make a "grande" cappuccino without turning it into a latte??? As you can tell, I don't frequent Charbucks much but after a run like today, it really hit the spot. It's a good day - I hear the snow is headed our way. Bring it on!

Sky Country - this all happened while we were out running!

Tracy lovin' the snow!

Chris is done running and wants a hot drink!