Archives for posts with tag: Born To Run

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This is the time of year when many runners dial back the mileage, partake in a few too many holiday indulgences and look back on the year that was.  Even though I had my share of struggles, 2012 was my best year as a competitive runner.  Here are some of the highs and lows:

Injuries:  I came across a posting on letsrun.com recently asking readers to share their goals for the coming year.  By far the number one response was, “to be injury-free.”  In no other sport are injuries as common as they are in running.  I bet even pro football players are injured less than runners.  I started out the year with a stress fracture in my lower right leg.  In June, I broke my wrist in a cycling accident.  I also had a strained tibialis anterior in my shin, a pulled muscle in my abdomen, and a couple of twisted ankles.

Am I doing something wrong?  Is running more than 50 miles a week bad for our bodies?  And the big question, why do we keep running if we’re just hurting ourselves?  Sometimes I feel like an unwilling participant in an abusive relationship and too much in love to ever consider leaving.

Want to know my number one goal for 2013?  To be injury-free.

Friends and Family:   My favorite races this year were not necessarily my best races, but ones where I ran with and had the support of good friends and family members.  In January, my brother Colin and I ran a half marathon in Florida.  He’s new to running (one of those Born To Run converts) and to see him set a new personal best was pretty awesome.  Also in January I ran a race in Forest Grove with Chuck, an old climbing buddy.  On the way home we stopped off for a well-deserved pint and a couple of our usual bacon blue cheese burgers.

Another friend, Greg was with me when I ran my first ultra in 2011.  This year I was lucky to have him as my support team at the Siskiyou Out Back (SOB) 50K and at the McKenzie River 50 miler.  In April, I fulfilled a lifelong dream to run in the Boston Marathon.  It was extra special having Yoshimi there to share a pre-race lobster dinner and a post-race Red Sox game at Fenway.  Running long distances is solitary pursuit.  Races should be used as an excuse to socialize with those we most enjoy spending time with.

Second goal for 2013: More races with familiar faces.

Adventures:  For me races serve several purposes.  They’re a competitive outlet, a motivator for everyday training and a setting to see how far and how fast I can run.  This year, however, I realized that you don’t necessarily need an organized race to have those same goals met.  You could just pick one of the hundreds of beautiful trails here in the Pacific Northwest and set off on a self-supported run of your own.

This past summer I did 30+ mile solo runs on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, the Eagle Creek/Wahtum Lake loop in the Columbia Gorge and around Mt. Hood on the Timberline Trail with my ultra running mentor, Jon.  On these self-supported runs there’s no pressure or expectations, just a full on wilderness adventure buzz.

Another goal for 2013: Less races, more adventure runs.

The Big One:  Last year on New Years Day it was cool and crisp with a rare winter appearance of that great fiery ball in the sky.  As I circled my way up Mt. Tabor I decided that my big goal for the year, the Mack Daddy, would be to run a 100 mile race.  From that point on, all the training I did over the course of the year was in support of that single goal.  My race schedule was structured systematically (10k, half marathon, 25k, 30k, marathon, trail marathon, 50k, 50 miler, in exactly that order) to slowly build towards the Javelina 100.  That may seem a bit anal, but I knew that running that far should not be taken lightly.  Everything went according to plan, expect for one aspect, the post-race recovery.  Afterwards I was both physically and psychologically spent.

To work towards one goal for so long and to accomplish it is truly a wonderful thing, but it also leaves you with a certain emptiness after the fact.  For most of November I completely lost the desire to run.  I didn’t want to think about running, talk about running or write about running.  I realize now that my body and mind needed a break.  The exact same thing happened last year around this time.  The mind has a curious way of turning up or down our desires to suit the needs of our bodies.  But not to worry, my friends, the brain has started pumping up the volume once again and my passion for running has now returned.

Reminder to 2013 self: Set big goals and then take big breaks.

Miles and Miles:  Three weeks ago I realized I was just 150 miles away from hitting 2000 miles for the year.  It hadn’t really been a goal of mine to run 2000 miles this year, but it’d be a shame to finish just short of that oh-so-sexy 2000 mile breakpoint.  So I decided to run everyday until the end of the year.  Some days were brutal: cold, wet and windy.  Others were pure joy.  The good being so much better after a bit of the bad.

Today is the last day of the year and I’m just a couple miles short of 2000.  It feels great to be so close and to have run so far.  Maybe I’ll wait until 11:30 and then do a few victory laps around the neighborhood.  Yoshimi can join be for the last 100 yards.  We’ll run with beers in hand and finish just as the clock strikes midnight.

Final goal for next year:  2013 miles in 2013, a 0.65% increase!

Happy New Year.

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Last week ultra running stud, Scott Jurek, was in town to promote his book, Eat & Run.  For those of you not familiar with Scott, he is one of the world’s most successful ultra runners.  In the last 15 years, he has won dozens of races, including classics such as the Hardrock 100, the Spartathon in Greece, Death Valley’s infamous Badwater 135, and the sport’s premier event, the Western States 100.

What I find even more impressive, however, is what Scott has given back to the running community.  His kind words and actions have inspired countless runners to go faster and go further.  Articles by and about Scott have motivated countless others to take up running for the first time.  He has volunteered at many races here in the Pacific Northwest and is known for hanging out at the finish line to cheer in every last runner.  As much as he has gotten out of competitive running, he has given back so much more, which is why I was honored to introduce Scott to a couple hundred of his fans at the recent event at Powell’s Books.

While Scott has always been well known in the ultra scene, his popularity with the public at large has grown enormously after being featured in Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born To Run.  At the event he discussed the recent death of the book’s main character, Caballo Blanco (Micah True).  A lifelong recluse, Micah died at a time when he was just starting to come to grips with his unwanted fame.  Hopefully his Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon will continue to be held in support of the local Tarahumara in northern Mexico.

I’ve always assumed that elite runners would need to consume lots of animal protein to properly recover from the intense training required to succeed at the highest level.  Yet Scott has been able to accomplish as much as he has living entirely on a plant-based diet.  In his book he explains how he went from being a fast food junkie to someone who has a thoughtful relationship with everything he consumes.  I don’t think I’d ever want to go vegan or vegetarian, but I’m still excited about trying out some of the tasty-looking recipes in Eat & Run.

Both in person and in the book, Scott comes across as a totally normal guy with a lack of pretension that makes the ultra running scene so welcoming and enjoyable.  If you are looking for some inspiring stories, some training tips and some yummy recipes, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Eat & Run.  And who knows, maybe one day you too will be running 100 mile races over mountains and through deserts fueled only by a plant-powered diet.

The winters in Portland are long.  And dark.  And wet.  To survive you need a plan.  Mine involves running, regardless of the weather.  Soon after moving here I realized that if I didn’t run in the rain, I wouldn’t run very often.  Yoshimi says there’s an expression in Japan, “It’s only water.”  It has now become my mantra.  That all being said, even the Rainy Day Runner sometimes need a break.  That’s why part two of my survival plan involves an occasional southern escape.  Lucky for me both of my parents now spend winters in Florida.

If you’ve never been to Florida, it’s very different from what you’d expect.  Sure there are lots of golf carts, strip malls and early bird specials, but there are also tons of older folk living super active lives.  These retirees are not just sitting around watching TV.  They’re walking, biking, fishing, boating, swimming, and golfing.  Everyday feels like Saturday and every hour like Happy Hour.  It’s something really cool to see.  Damn, makes me wish I was retired myself.

This has been the third January in a row I’ve gone to Florida and this year I thought it would be fun to do a race while I was down there.  I don’t know much about the Florida running scene, but I happened across an article in Runner’s World that chose Alafia River State Park as its trail of the month.  The park looked totally unique, so different from anything here in the Pacific Northwest.  When I heard the trail runs alongside alligator-infested waters, I immediately signed up for its Florida Challenge Half Marathon.

My brother Colin took up running this past year after reading Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run.  Cole and I both have addictive personalities and running has had a positive affect on each of us.  We talk about running over the phone, but never get a chance  to train together because we live on opposite sides of the country.  The Florida Challenge looked like the perfect opportunity for us to finally do a race together.

We spent some time with Dad in Naples and then with Mom in Venice (who needs Italy) before driving up to Tampa for the race.  Because of the publicity in Runner’s World more than 400 runners signed up for the race this year.  The local Floridians were shivering in the pre-dawn 50 degree weather, but for me it felt like a typical Oregon summer day.

The first half mile of the race was on road so everyone could spread out a bit before hopping onto the trails.  There wasn’t an elevation profile on the race website, so I assumed that it would be Florida flat.  And it was, but there were also lots of twists & turns and roots & rocks.  Spanish moss hung heavy from cypress trees while the narrow single track trail ran along algae green swamp water.  I didn’t see any gators, but I didn’t want to get all that close either.  There weren’t any hills, but there were plenty of dips, steep drops in the trail that sometimes required you to use your hands to get back up the other side.  They were like convex speed bumps and had a similar affect on pace.

After a strong start I started to fade at around the half way point.  My lack of training in the last few months became obvious.  I was able to fake my way through a decent 10K a few weeks back, but a half marathon is not so easily fooled.  I got passed by a women at around mile ten who seemed genuinely concerned when she asked, “Are you OK?”  I must have looked even worse than I felt.  The last few miles were miserable.  The dips made me feel like I was on a roller coaster that refused to stop.  I finished in 38th place, just before the day started to heat up.

The Florida Challenge was Cole’s second half marathon.  His goal for this race was to set a new PR(personal record).  He trained hard these last few months, focusing specifically on this race.  He started out at a conservative pace and got stuck behind a logjam of slower runners.  Eventually he was able to pass one after another(more than 50 in all) before getting back to his planned pace.  He finished the race looking strong and the first thing he said afterwards was, “I gave it all I got.”  The hard work he put in paid off.  He ran a smart race and PR-ed by more than 5 minutes.  I’m so happy for him.

On the drive back to Dad’s(where there were a couple of blackened grouper sandwiches with our names on it) we talked about new goals and future races.  One thing that’s a given is another race in Florida next winter.  It’s a new tradition worth keeping.  Our sister, Erin, is also a runner, but not a racer.  Maybe we can convince her to join us next year.

BEFORE

 

 

From as far back as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with books.  As a kid I’d stay up late at night reading and rereading all of my favorites.  When I inevitably grew bored with my personal stash, I’d then raid my parent’s collection.  Their bookshelves were stuffed with many of the bestsellers of the 1970’s:  Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Rich Man Poor Man, Your Erroneous Zones, The Thorn Birds, and Looking for Mr. Goodbar.  The one book, however, that is most deeply seared into my memory is The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx.  Its bright red iconic cover of a runner in mid-stride with calf muscles like twisted cables is an incredibly striking image.  The author himself actually posed as the cover model.  The book went on to sell millions and along with Frank Shorter’s Olympic gold medal in the marathon is generally regarded as the fuel that started the running boom of the 1970’s.

Jim Fixx wrote the book as a way to inspire others to take up a sport that had helped him to quit smoking and to lose 60 pounds.  He had no idea that his book would be responsible for starting a cultural phenomenon.  It’s been more than 30 years since the publication of The Complete Book of Running and now another best-selling running book has come along that’s inspiring a whole new generation.  The book is Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  If you’re reading this blog, I’d be very surprised if you haven’t already read it.  I’ve probably recommended it to dozens of friends and family members in the last couple of years and was shocked by how many of the non-runners have taken up the sport after reading the book.  A few months ago I convinced my employer, Powell’s Books, to do an interview with Christopher McDougall for our website.  I also suggested someone who would be absolutely thrilled to conduct the interview…ME.  I must admit that I was a bit nervous beforehand, but Chris (he told me to call him Chris) couldn’t have been nicer.  So without further ado, here’s the interview.