06 July 2012


"I asked one of the tribal elders when I was born, and he said, 'in the summertime.'" --Crocodile Dundee

And this is what it feels like: as though winter, or any whiff of a cool breeze, is little more than a memory or a wish. And still, I'm sure Australians would laugh at me for complaining about the heat. It's only 90 degrees at night, after all.

I'm sitting on my little green couch, sipping a cold Budweiser from a case that was meant for Sarah's birthday picnic this coming Saturday. I don't usually drink Budweiser, but when I do, it's because I'm too lazy to walk down to the liquor store and buy real beer. I'm on my fourth, for the record, and Ken Burns' "America" plays on TV while I type.

The heat plus the run of forest fires in Colorado has made running a bigger challenge than it usually is. With all the smoke from the burning, the news media is warning people that the air quality is abismal, stopping just short of telling us all to stop breathing. Yesterday, the 4th, the air was so bad we lost sight of the mountains. I had friends tell me it was like being back in Los Angeles. Still, I grab my water bottle, and drive into the hills to find a trail that isn't on fire.

Running, by nature, is a solitary sport. Even when out with a group, a runner soon retreats into his or her thoughts. That, or we slip in the ear buds and start trotting away to whatever Lady Gaga mix we've prepared for the morning. Yet every once-in-awhile, I'll get a text or an email, or some note of encouragement that makes me feel like I'm running not alone, but with all my friends and family.

For example, John (little bro) recently sent me a running-related present. It was so unexpected that I let it sit on my lounge table for three days before learning who it was from. Every day, I looked down at the deodorant-shaped object with trepidation. Was it one of those promotions from a website I signed up with? Was it something I ordered when I was drunk? Was it poison? (this last question I took seriously). But not until I found John on Facebook chat one morning did I find out the truth.

"Did you get the running lube I sent you?" He asked.

Of course I did. Thanks, little brother.

28 June 2012

2012 Colfax Marathon, pt 2

The day before the race was cold and miserable, with rain and wind and just about everything else you don't want to run in. But by 4 am on race day (when I woke up), however, it was clear skies and warmer temperatures. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

My original race goal was to finish under 4 hours. I've been chasing that time ever since my first marathon back in 2000 when I finished at 4:08. Subsequent marathons have not been so kind, often seeing me finish well after 5 hours. But those past races, I thought, were run with little training. This time I was well prepared.

As I lined up with the other runners at my speed, I sipped the last drops out of my bottle. "If I can hydrate early," I thought, "then maybe I won't lose everything half way through." The gun went off, and I tossed my empty bottle of Hot Squirrel into the trash bin as I trotted over the starting line.

Mile 2 saw me at 21 minutes, which is about where I wanted to be: 10.5 minute miles; taking it slow and warming up. I stopped at the port-o-let to relieve myself. "Excellent--kidneys are working and I'm processing my water." It was as valid concern. If I couldn't pee it meant my body wasn't doing anything with the liquids. Actually, this was pretty much my only concern.

Between mile 2 and mile 10 I was cranking out sub 9-minute miles and feeling fantastic. Sarah met me at the 10-mile mark to take my warm-weather clothing and give me a huge emotional boost. (Thanks, Sarah!)

The next 7 miles were all uphill, and I was feeling the ache by mile 18, when the course finally changed to a long descent. I stopped again, thankfully, at a bathroom, for a much-needed break. Then it was downhill all along Colfax, into the football stadium, and back along Cherry Creek heading towards downtown Denver. And I was thirsty the entire way.

I felt desperate for fluids, and at each aid station (placed 2 miles apart), I guzzled down cups of water and sports drink. Each mile got a bit slower: 9:30 pace . . . 10:15 pace . . . and when I met the volunteers at mile 22 it happened. I bonked. I was out. I couldn't keep running. Hell, I could barely move forward. I felt like I was wearing shoes filled with sand, and my vision wobbled. The horizon before me seemed to sway as though I were on a boat. There were 4 miles left. I had run for 3 hours and 40 minutes. If I could run a 10 minute-mile to the end, I'd meet my goal.

Those last four miles would take over an hour.

As I walked, hobbled, stopped, collapsed, and walked along the now-sunny streets of Denver, I had two thoughts repeat in my head: keep moving forward, and don't puke! I would do both, but the latter only until I crossed the finish line at 4 hours and 45 minutes. Sarah met me there and helped me from one shady tree to the next where I exuberantly expelled the contents of my stomach. Just like my training runs, my body seemed to have stopped processing liquids, instead deciding it was a good idea to just keep them in my belly--you know, for later.

But that didn't stop me from drinking my victory beer. No matter that I got to see that victory beer again very soon after.

09 June 2012

2012 Colfax Marathon, pt 1

Training for the Colfax Marathon had been going well. I had increased my distance regularly in the weeks leading up to it, even knocking out a 20 mile run the week before. The only thing bugging me was how, on my longer runs, my stomach would revolt. Violently.

Now, before I get into the messy details, let me remind you that this marathon is serving as little more than a training run for my first ultra marathon, the Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run. (good god--even typing it makes me nervous) My thought is that if I can just keep upping my distance, mile by mile, I'll be able to jog along at a slow pace and before you know it, have 50 miles under my belt. Well, my body thinks otherwise.

It only seems to happen when I run more than 12 miles at a time. I'll feel good--great, even--the first 8 miles. I'm taking in food and water and Gatorade (which I will now refer to as Hot Squirrel) all the while. But then the dizziness begins, and by the time I stop I'm weak and feeling nauseous. At this point I know what's coming. There's no stopping it. A little tickle begins at the back of my throat, and soon after everything I've consumed during the run comes out. Everything. That's the surprising part. It's like my body didn't even DO anything with all the water and Hot Squirrel I was downing. For the next three to four hours I spend my time moaning and trying to rehydrate, all the while my body is staging a mutiny.

So it was with the marathon.