Thursday, July 31, 2008


No ultra that I've finished or attempted has been as difficult as the bar exam for me.
It was maliciously tricky.  During the morning session on the second day, while struggling to keep my attention focused, I vowed that if I could complete this test, I would complete Leadville this year.  

Leadville now seems simple and straightforward.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bar Exam Retreat?

I've been tapering...for the bar exam. Yes, tapering. I've been putting in between 5-7 hours/day since July 6. About 3/day in June. As this past week came to a close, I've been having an increasingly difficult time staying focused after about 2.5 hours. My focus would diminish and information would leave my brain as quickly as it got in. After several frustrating days, Marty suggested that, like with preparing for a race, the body and mind might just need to slow down. So, the past two days have seen only 3 hours of studying. Tonight, I'll review some flash cards I made.

Tomorrow, I'll get myself to a hotel near the exam site and do several things;
1) review flash-cards and some text I wrote for the essay portion,
2) "walk the course," i.e. walk from the hotel to the exam site to check for time and obstructions (and look for a Starbucks),
3) scope out a place to get lunch on both Tuesday and Wednesday (only 1 hour between morning and afternoon testings and nearly 1000 people from the bar exam alone trying to find similar sustenance), and
4) rest.

Like a run, I've made lists and packed my bags. Here's a peek at the bar-prep stuff for tomorrow afternoon:

from left to right: 2 book containing lecture outlines (I'll only open these if I really need to recheck something), Bible (if God could take a group of 3 million people who had been slaves for 430 years and liberate them in one day, and in the middle of such a colossal event send them off with full bellies, I'm thinking that regardless of the outcome of this exam, we'll be fine), a baggy filled with pens and admission card for Tuesday and a baggy filled with wooden and mechanical pencils & eraser for Wednesday (nothing else is allowed in the exam center), and stacks of flash-cards (with pink labels on top).

Close-up of the baggies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday sans Marathon, sans Pete, sans Running

I suspected it would come down to this: several weeks of NO running.

I knew preparing for the Bar would be consuming. Studying in June went well. I was even able to manage the studying quite sanely during the first week of July. Now is a different story.

I have five more subject to look at, and then all 12 to re-review. 6 days to study.

Here is a typical set of review books (mine are green and cover MN):

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flies, Branches & Feet

Today's run was up at Wild River State Park.  Not a marathon in length, but a marathon of fighting deer flies and mosquitos. 

Here's a nice view of Pete's back and flies hovering above and hitching a ride. 
At first, I would swat them off his back when there were more than 3.  After mile 5, I only swatted them off when I couldn't see his shirt any longer.

Finally, we got smart and started swatting them with switches:

This is me in my new GoLite Rush hydration system.  I need lots of liquid.  I like having one bottle of something other than water.  But, the waist pack drove me nuts at Afton last week.  This test run of the GoLite was very encouraging.
Problems: the water bladder sinks toward the bottom of the pack.  The Camelbak is constructed so that the bladder is held up.  Also, the GoLie has less insulation; the water got warmer (the temp of my back) faster.  Other than that, I enjoyed having access to stuff in the side pockets and the extra bottle was not too cumbersome to reach.

Feet: blister on heel did well today.  Now I have a seem rubbing on toes.  I need HELP with Socks!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Photos From Afton 50K

Pierre biked to the race, raced, than biked home.

The RD of the day, John.

Winner of the woman's 50k, Eve.

Steve, mentally preparing to run the run of his life.

 The traditional photo at the marathon point in the run.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I'm No Longer Mainstream

For years, I've been a subscriber to a certain national running magazine.  It was directly from this magazine that I learned about Mamo Wolde and the plight of his fatherless children. Who are here now; playing soccer [Tabor], enjoying chemo-free living [Addis], and trying to find a job [Aberash].  By the way, Mamo will be briefly appearing (.8 seconds) in a Coca Cola commercial created for the Olympics.  So, it would not be an understatement to say that this magazine has changed our lives.
Nevertheless, I am finding fewer and fewer articles that appeal to me.  Sure, it gives advice on how to run your first marathon, your first 5K, and the best running foods. But it does so in every issue.  I know, first time readers and all that.  But more importantly, it speaks to a type of running that I'm not interested in anymore; intense, career altering, all-out-sprint-to-the-end, put-your-best-face-forward type of running.  The monthly covers are a poignant testimony to this world/running-view.  Take a look:

Besides the airbrushed foregrounds and the photoshopped backgrounds, we often have to cover these covers so the little boys in the house don't see them. I don't want that in a running magazine. Some of these people don't even look healthy.

Here's what I like to see on a cover; real people.

So, I'm leaving mainstream running this month and not renewing my subscription to this national magazine. I'm not protesting. I'm not even asking them to change. I just like it when my children see a magazine filled with other runners who look like their parents rather than like starving, sweat-glistening actors.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"He sounded like your wife," said my wife.

On Sunday, while taking a practice bar exam, my wife noticed bulls-eye marks on child #3's arms.  Having just read a little brochure about lyme disease, my wife reasonably freaked out.  Actually, she responded very well.  She drove into town and showed my running partner, Pete.  Pete knows a lot.  

In the course of the office visit, or "store" visit, Pete and Marty started talking about my Afton 50K race the day before.  This led to a discussion of my enormous heel blister and its strange appearance.

Pete assured her that this was in fact not the first blister that I have had since running in Brooks Cascadias.  Pete told Marty, with astonishing detail, that I actually had a blister last summer.  Having so much intimate knowledge about me, Marty related that she felt like she was talking to my wife.

A good running partner is hard to find, but like my great wife, they're indispensable.
Child #3 is fine.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Read the Last Blog Before this One

OK. It was a tough day at the races. I completed the 50K while a large blister took over possession of my heel. Something like a leech. I get done, drink a few iced beverages - nothing alcoholic because it's prohibited in MN state parks - walk my body and watermelon-sized blister up to the car and discover that the Camelbak pocket that housed my car key is EMPTY!
The key is probably still out there trying to complete the 50K without me!

The spare set was safely at home on the hook (3rd from the left).

How to get that spare?!?!

My wonderful wife, who was at Target with all 5 of the kids, took them home, got a babysitter [a.k.a. a Star Wars Video], and drove down to the park with the spare.
Today was a great day to run a 50K at Afton.  I've got photos to prove it.  

But first... 

Every ultra-runner has one of those days when things don't go as planned.  We're supposed to roll with punches, take what we get and still come through victorious.  I'm not sure I came through victorious, but it certainly was a run to go down in the history books.

At mile 8, I felt weak.  Could be a number of reasons: studying every day for the bar and having to pry my legs out from underneath the desk; not sleeping well as I'm having dreams about the bar exam(a later blog); a few long runs in the last 10 days; a sore earlobe; the list goes on...

At mile 8, I also noticed a pain in my left heel that was unusual.  It felt like a blister.  Hmm... I've run 5 pairs of Brooks Cascadias into the ground over the past year.  Not once have I had a blister.  Even after running Chippewa 50K in ankle and knee-deep snoe - no blister.  So I concluded it couldn't be a blister.  At halfway, I checked inside my shoe for a rock or stick.  Nothing.  Nevertheless, the pain increased.  At mile 18, when it popped, I knew very well that this was a blister.  I've never experienced so much pain below the knee.  

Turns out that the blister is 2 inches long, 1.5 inches wide and covers my entire left heel.  The picture doesn't do it justice. Take a look:

So, what caused this abnormality? Could the culprit be...

No, these things are like good leather gloves.

The culprit?

YES! Look what I found inside on the heel!

A tiny strand of fabric that must have started rubbing from the start and just kept working its magic.