Thursday, September 20, 2018

20th Runniversary

This fall marks the 20th year I have been a runner.  I hung around after the first day of my sophomore year of high school to join the cross-country team, and in doing so I met two of the bigger influences on my young life: head coach Rick Bishop and a 16 year-old junior named Kevin Salverson.  Initially, I was not a competent runner, barely performing well enough to be junior varsity.  But I fell in love with the sport and the people I met because of it and so I did what seemed logical; I kept running. 

Running has, at times, been the most important thing in my life.  It has provided me an escape and a refuge from the difficulties I faced.  It gave me the space to mull over most of the important decisions I have made.  It has also gutted me, left me empty, broken, disappointed, and frustrated.  I’ve experienced highs and lows, joy and woe, life and death.  Tragedy and pain, success and happiness; I found it all out on a run.

I have sought running as a coping mechanism.  It provided solace.  It mended broken hearts.  It gives me the truest form of freedom I have ever known.  It has helped me deal with what I now recognize as depression and anxiety, providing me with a natural form of medication and therapy for both.  I have struggled with the competitiveness of it, with accepting my abilities and limitations, losing my patience and temper when reality failed to meet expectations.  At times the only thing that mattered was running fast and winning races.  Age and experience have fostered an appreciation that what truly matters is the run itself.  I have been gifted with the ability to do it.  After 20 years and approximately 30,000 miles, that is more than enough. 

Running keeps me grounded, humbled, satisfied, creative, and inspired.  Over the years it has taught me to be present, in the moment, conscientious of the immediate world around me.  One can only take what the run provides, and when that is acknowledged and accepted, running can be a truly meditative act that fulfills the soul.

It also keeps me connected to Kevin, that kid I met long ago in the commons of Central High.  I have felt his presence, in some form or fashion, on every run over the last 17 years.  That is perhaps the thing for which I am most grateful.  Running keeps me connected to him and the friendship, brotherhood, and youth we shared all those years ago, running around the high plains of southeastern Wyoming.

I once asked Rick Bishop about his coaching philosophy.  With no hesitation, he declared that he was less interested in developing state champion runners and more interested in developing lifelong runners.  Rick’s love of running was infectious, and I have never forgotten that conversation.

You certainly succeeded with this kid, Bish.  It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be fast.  It can just simply be.  As long as I am able to do so, I will run.  Until the wheels fall off…

1999 Wyoming State High School XC Championships

Woody Greeno Invite, University of Nebraska, 2005

2007 Silent Trails

2009 Twin Mountain Trudge

2011 Wind River Crossing

2012 Silent Trails

2013 Quad Rock

2014 Lake Lowell Half-Marathon

Observation Peak, Sawtooth Range, 2015

2017 Race to Robie Creek

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why Running? Simplicity.

As mentioned in my previous post, the list of necessary items for running is short.  The simplicity of that brevity is one of my favorite things about running.  It takes a body and mind willing to do it, and that's about it.  

I have dabbled in and enjoyed other sports.  I grew up on a basketball court.  I raced bikes, both road and mountain.  I rock climb, raft, ski, and backpack.  None of them mean to me what running does.  And part of that is complication versus simplicity.

All those other sports require some sort of gear, or a ball, or a team.  Gear can be cost-prohibitive, cumbersome, and potentially fail with varying degrees of calamity.  Ball sports require a suspension of disbelief.  It takes a group of people to agree that for whatever the duration of the game, the inflatable ball is the most important thing in the universe.  When one stops to really consider that, it's borderline whimsical.  

Running is cut and dried.  It requires no gear, tools, mechanization, or rule books.  It is historic.  It is rooted in biological evolution.  We can now leisurely do something that was once selected for by the environmental pressures placed upon our ancestors.  Running was once the very thing that kept us alive.  That's about as simple as it gets.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Unburden Your Running

Things one needs to run:
1.  Gumption
2.  Shoes (optional)
3.  Watch (optional)
4.  Shorts (optional, though strongly recommended and often legally required)
5.  If you're an old, balding, pasty man like me, a hat can sure be useful.

Things one DOES NOT need to run:
1. Literally anything and everything else.

Leave it at home.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Running for running's sake.

I haven't spent much of the last three years focused on running or racing.  Work obligations and travel have been the primary excuse, but laziness, apathy, and advancing old age have all played a part.  As I settle firmly into my mid-thirties, I find my desire to race, and the competitive spirit that always fed that desire, waning as the years go by.  It becomes harder and harder to get into that head space.  I have finally come to accept that.

Lately, I am running more.  I'm back to doing it for the pure fun of it.  It feels like the closest I've felt to the 15-year-old me who first started running 20 years ago.  That kid got his ass kicked by it and made the decision that underneath it all, it made him feel alive.  Two decades later, after wandering, searching, being lost, I feel like I have finally come back to the beginning.  Running just makes sense.  It's the only thing that ever has.

I do still have some goals.  I do still want to challenge myself.  But I don't want to lose myself or the purpose behind this in those challenges.  It is important to push the limits, try new things, be uncomfortable.  That is how we learn.  The point is to not get so caught up in the challenges that it festers as self-pity and self-doubt.

Slowly, piece-by-piece, I am attempting to rebuild myself, mentally and physically.  No longer will I compare what I am doing now, what I am capable of now, to my younger and faster self.  He had his time.  I value the present, being in the moment, more than I ever have.  I feel most in the moment when I am on the trail, clipping off an honest pace, and appreciating the act.  The rocks, the soil, the flora, the hills, the clouds, the sun, the one-foot-in-front-of-the- other of it is the essence.  I hope to do this the rest of my life.

Until the wheels fall off.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Again to Carthage and the Race to Robie Creek

I've considered whether or not to resurrect this blog over the last six months.  Updating a running blog when one is not running is obviously pointless.  I also have always struggled with how I perceive things of this nature.  Everyone and their mothers has a blog, and the truth is, I don't spend time perusing other blogs out there.  There is something very self-indulgent in this practice that has always bothered me.  To put my thoughts and training out there...there is a significant degree of narcissism involved.  I am not doing anything special, I can assure you.  I'm just another over-educated, white-collar, white American male with some spare time and disposable income who chooses to spend that time and money running around in small shorts like a dork.

The thing that truly bothers me with social media is how people choose to portray themselves online.  As one delves into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, one finds a smorgasbord of running selfies, before-and-after pictures of fitness progress achieved through crash diets (juice cleanses are hogwash, folks.  Eat real food), insane cross-fit workouts, and of course pictures of the strange and inventive (to say the least) things people eat as part of their "healthy" diets (as an anthropologist, nothing drives me more crazy than the "paleo-diet".  Also bullshit).  The issue I have with this culture is that it is 100% wrapped up in vanity.  I myself am certainly not innocent.  Of course you want to take a picture of the cool place you ran so Grandma and Uncle Carl can like it on Facebook (and your crazy ex-whatever can stew when they cyber-stalk you about how good you look and how much fun you are having without them).  But it goes beyond that.  I get the impression that a lot of people out there run because they feel they have to in order to look good, or to look how society et al. has determined we should all look.  It is nothing more than a means to an end.  And while there is certainly nothing wrong with people improving in whatever form or fashion they deem fit, especially if it makes them feel better about themselves, that type of running is often fueled by negativity.  Be happy with how and what you are.  If you hate running and are only doing it to meet some bullshit societal standard, then don't run.  Do something else you may enjoy more.  

Running is not something to ever be taken for granted.  After 17 years of running being part of my lifestyle (and at certain points, my life period), I have come to a place where it's something I do for me.  For my sanity.  Because I love it.  I appreciate the health benefits it provides, and I'm sure I will only appreciate them more as I get older.  But it has never been about looking good or pursuing health.  I started running as a teenager because I enjoyed the sensation I received from it.  I fell in love with the pain one encounters when pushing to the edge; the ragged breath, the cramping muscles, the stinging sweat, the tunnel vision.  And it's fucking fun to win races (there, I said it).  I still to this day get a kick out of that sensation: running to the top of a hill and looking back over the view, tooling around the Greenbelt next to the river, dropping the hammer at the end of a race and feeling that speed.  It's not as fast as it used to be, but it still sure is damn fun.  In essence, running is the thing that, now that I am an adult in an adult world with adult responsibilities, keeps me connected to my youth.  In some ways maybe to my childhood.  There is a freedom and innocence and simplicity to it that I absolutely cherish.

All told, this blog was never about sharing my experiences with others.  I am much too introverted for that to be the case (though a public blog, which lacks actual face-to-face interaction and confrontation, is a good way for introverts to express themselves).  I started this blog over four years ago as a way for me to track my training and experiences for myself.  Part training log, part journal. In a post-collegiate world, with no coach and no teammates, it became my source of accountability.  If I slacked off, it would show up on these pages.  And I would have no one to answer to but myself.  

Training gets harder every year.  To gear up for workouts, races, is tedious.  To pencil training into a schedule of full-time career, fieldwork, a marriage, kids (ahaha! I don't have kids), is difficult to say the least.  But I do still truly enjoy it.  It's that sensation that keeps me coming back.

I spent the latter half of last year healing my achilles, doing fieldwork, and indulging in all that the holiday season has to offer (mostly pie and beer).  I have been in the office more lately which has allowed the opportunity to focus more on getting in some training in preparation for a little racing.  The big one I was interested in is the Race to Robie Creek.  Now in its 38th year, this race is billed as the toughest half-marathon in the northwest.  Leaving Military Reserve on the edge of the foothills, it climbs its way up Shaw Mountain Road, topping off 8.5 miles and 2000 feet later before rapidly descending down into Robie Creek Park.  Every year there is a different theme and participants are encouraged to dress up and party while they run.  The race sells out in a matter of minutes, with 2300 people toeing the line on race day.  The fanfare and spectacle involved reminded me of a smaller version of the Bolder Boulder.

First race in a long time.  Again to Carthage.
This year's theme was "The Running of the Toads," celebrating all things Basque.  Boise has a strong Basque population, including our mayor, and the theme made for a fun starting line and course with people lining the road out of town and at the finish.  Basque music and dancing and "bulls" saw us off from the start at high noon (not sure why so late).  The first couple of miles are paved but do climb up and over the first ridge outside of town before dropping down to cross Cottonwood Creek, marking the beginning of the real ascent.  

By Cottonwood Creek, I had moved into sixth or seventh overall and was content to find the groove and simply get to the top as efficiently as possible.  That's essentially the extent of the climb.  Nothing exciting happened.  I got passed by a couple of other runners.  It started to get very warm in the canyon, so I ran through the aid stations content to douse myself with the water they provided.  The last mile to the summit is far and away the steepest.  I went from running 6:05/mile out of town to a 9:25 leading to the summit.  The climb reminded me of Pilot Hill.  They are similar in distance and elevation gain, with the last mile being the hardest.  Hell, I crested the top in 1:03, which I believe is right around how fast I summited Pilot Hill last year.

Once over the summit, I was looking forward to letting gravity take charge and get back to my strengths, namely running downhill fast.  I bombed down after a couple runners I could see in front of me, clipping off mile 9 in 5:22.  I settled down to 5:38 for mile 10 while I reeled in two guys in front of me.  I was not the only one feeling good at that point, and another guy came up on me.  We jockeyed back and forth for over mile 11 before the steepness, speed, and heat hit my legs like a ton of bricks.  I slowed over the last mile, managing a 6:13, and got passed by a couple guys at the end.  I was eyeing my watch, wondering if I was going to break 1:30 or not.  Going in, I figured 1:30 would be a good goal time.  I mustered a half-hearted kick to finish 12th in 1:30:16.  

Gora! Gora!
For my first Robie, and on six weeks training, I'm happy with the result.  I spent a lot of time training for the uphill, and while I felt strong on that, I could tell I am lacking some speed and could stand to work on my downhills.  Elizabeth and I signed up for the River of No Return 50K in June, so I will work on some tempo, extending my long runs, and maybe a little more downhill work to go with the climbing.  The great thing about Boise is the proximity to a fantastic network of trails in the foothills.  Lots of vert and hot summer temps will hopefully help me work on my two biggest weaknesses.  Heat and climbing.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

End of Summer Update

The summer has rolled on quickly and now that I find myself near its end, I realize how much has happened in such a short amount of time.  And so far, next summer is shaping up to be even busier.

First, as mentioned in the previous post, I finally moved to Boise at the beginning of July.  I came out without knowing when and where I might find employment.  We had money saved up for a potential long-term unemployment, and I spent my first couple of weeks in Boise on the job hunt.  I had a couple of major helping hands, and by the end of the month, I was offered and accepted an archaeologist position with URS.  The next day, we traveled out to Eugene for some Track Town racing!

Elizabeth ran her first marathon, running under her goal time and generally being awesome.  My achilles cooperated just enough for me to gut out a 17:08 5K and a win over a running flapjack.  That brought home the pancakes, so to speak.  Those who beat the flapjack received a "year's supply" of Krusteaz pancake mix or other Krusteaz products.  I'm not sure I would quantify what I received as a year's supply, but it was cheap as free, so I shall not look this gift horse in the mouth.

Another fun fact: before we left Eugene, we grabbed coffee and breakfast burritos and hung out at Spencers Butte, home to the challenge course where Elizabeth used to work as well as some very large trees that she loves.  I decided that was a great time and place to propose.  Thankfully, she said yes.  So yeah, we're getting married next year!

I will eat his brethren for breakfast.
Somewhere in there, we also spent a couple of nights in the Owyhee Mountains southwest of Boise.  We camped outside of an old mining town called Silver City, which we spent some time exploring.

Silver City, ID.

I started with URS at the beginning of August.  I spent a lot of the month on a project in eastern Idaho.  We were based out of Idaho Falls, with a short stay in Lima, MT.  The Centennial Mountains form the border between Montana and Idaho there.  I want to go back and explore.  The country isn't particularly high, but it is rugged and empty of people.

Living in a cabin in and RV park down by the river (Snake River, that is).
Sunset from Lima, MT.
Labor Day weekend, a group of us went backpacking in the White Cloud mountains northwest of Ketchum. Our ultimate goal was bagging Castle Peak, which, at 11,815, is the highest peak in the White Clouds and also the most prominent in the state of Idaho.  The climb involved a steep traverse of a gully that was mostly Class 3 with some Class 4 near the top.  

Castle Peak.
It snowed above 10K feet Saturday night.
Going up.  Photo: Monica Hubbard.

Terrible view.  Photo: Monica Hubbard.
Kim, Noel, Monica, Elizabeth, me, Landon, Katie, and of course, Stanley Dog.  Photo: Monica Hubbard.
Out of the mountains and on to Ketchum for burgers.
And with that, summer seems to be nearing its end.  I have spent a couple of weeks in the office, but I am on my way out to Washington on Sunday for a three week project on the upper Columbia River.  From there, I guess we'll see where things go.

As for running, I have been slowly easing back into it.  I definitely lost some fitness over the last couple of months, but the achilles, while not 100%, is good enough to let me get in a few miles.  I forgot how difficult it is to work running into a fieldwork schedule.  I have to be a little more dedicated to that.

I have scrapped all my racing plans for the rest of the year.  Between the injury and my work schedule, it doesn't make sense to spend money on registrations.  I also have an itch to just be outside.  Running can be part of that, but not all of it.

I will see how I feel in the coming months.  I did recently think that maybe it's time to consider a 100-miler.  It sounds stupid and horrible, but lately the challenge has seemed a little more acceptable.  I wonder if suffering through something like that might finally cure me of this need to compete.  

I'm open to whatever opportunities and challenges come my way.  I'm happy right now.  That's what matters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I finally did it.  I made the move to Boise.  After spending most of my life as a resident of southeastern Wyoming (lots of bouncing between Cheyenne and Laramie), I am now beginning a new adventure in western Idaho.  While moving to a larger city and searching for employment is somewhat daunting, I have one extremely good reason to be here.  And she is more than reason enough.  What I have experienced over the past two weeks leads me to believe that everything is in its right place and will work out just fine.

Running-wise, things are not great.  It took me several days after Bighorn to feel recovered enough to even attempt running, and that running was short and lackadaisical.  Two Wednesdays ago, I went for a six-miler in Cheyenne.  I felt great, ran quickly and fluidly, and was looking forward to getting to Boise so I could start the next training upswing.  The following day, my last in Wyoming, I stopped at Happy Jack on my way home and forced myself through 40 painful minutes that ended with me unable to move my left heel.  The next day was just as terrible, and just like that, I was a pedestrian once again.  The culprit?  My old nemesis, my left achilles tendon.  What aggravated it, I can't say.  It's just there now.  

I've been on the bike most mornings trying to do something.  Elizabeth and I escaped the sweltering Boise heat this past weekend with an overnight backpacking trip into the Sawtooth Range.  The hiking didn't cause the achilles to flare up too badly, so I ran a short 30 minutes on it this morning.  It wasn't 100 percent on the run, but felt like it loosened up over the duration of the run.  However, my ankle is again feeling inflexible, and with every flex, I can feel the crepitus in there.  So, more stretching, icing, calf raises, and biking for me.  Sigh.

Hopefully the running thing will come around.  That would be a nice piece to add to this wonderful Boise puzzle.

Elizabeth and me ready to get our hike on.
Ragan in front of Mt. Regan.
Helluva sunset at Sawtooth Lake.
Mt. Regan in the morning.