Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Ultra Weekend in October

For the past several years, Pete has hosted an "underground" ultra run on the Ice Age Trail in western Wisconsin. The date is picked by 1) determining the schedules of the 2-3 runners, 2) guessing at the best time for the fall colors and 3) trying to derail the possibility for a PR at the Twin Cities Marathon.

This year, the 50 mile run will be held the day before the Twin Cities Marathon, Saturday, October 4. What better way to dash the possibility of breaking 3:45 than to run 50 miles the day before the marathon?

Would you like to join us in this annual tradition?

Check out Pete's
blog for the full story and history.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Video of Mamo Wolde - Olympic Marathon 1968 Olympics

Tonight, thanks to the inspiration of the blogger of 22 Words, I searched and found footage of Mamo Wolde running & winning the 1968 Olympic marathon in Mexico City.
Abebe Bikila had won the previous 2 Olympic marathons, but in this one dropped at 17 km. Legend has it that Abebe, Mamo Wolde's commanding officer, ordered Mamo to win the race in his stead. This video shows them running together, and then Mamo running solo and winning.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Twin Lakes to Winfield

Twin Lakes is an interesting mountain town.  It sits on the pass to Aspen (the one I've never taken), about 6 miles west off Highway 24.  There are 3-4 buildings on the main street/highway.  Two appear to be lodges, one small grocery-type store and possibly a fourth building.  I'm not certain what the hours of the grocery store are.  Last year, it was open at 11pm on Saturday night during the race.  This year, it was closed at 5 pm on a weeknight.  

Behind these buildings lie several dozen mountain-town style of houses.  These houses don't make any sense to me.  I imagine that the winters have lots of snow and are quite cold.  Nevertheless, most of these houses don't appear, from the outside, to be able to weather a winter in Key West.  Possibly cost is a factor.  Still, while not a professional builder, I think I could devise a low cost house that might stand up better than some of the ones I saw.   

If I were to have a house in Twin Lakes, or Leadville, it would consist of outside walls of concrete (pretty cheap), about 24 inches of insulation (still cheaper than timber), and it would be underground, thus allowing for a foundation and walls for the price of one.  I'd probably use the same material for a roof that everyone in Twin Lakes seems to prefer - tin.  

I digress.
I left Twin Lakes with a baggy full of food and lots of salt tablets. There were several pool of water to run through before the river crossing. It seemed as if there were volunteers at every turn this year. The river was no exception as a very kind man instructed me as to where I should cross, how to hold the rope and where the BIG HOLE was. It took 37 minutes to reach the incline section of Hope Pass.

At this point, I reset my stop watch and decided to 1) not look up for the next two hours, and 2) stop and rest after 15 minutes. I kept my head down and whenever it felt as if my heart was racing too fast I slowed down. I pressed on through 15 minutes and only stopped for a 2 minute break at 35 minutes, then a one minute break at 1:10:00. I figured Hope Pass would come into view by 1 hour and 50 minutes or so. At 1 hour 25 minutes, there it was. What a beautiful site!

I sat at Hope Pass far about 10 minutes to allow Allan Holtz to pass me. (Just kidding) He did walk by and encourage me to get going. I was just having too much of a good time talking to two ladies from Holland about their race this weekend. They came over to do the Gortex TransRocky 6 day stage race. Wow, what a great sounding run. I think that will be my Leadville race next year!

Leaving Hope Aid station, I reset the stop watch, put my head down, and estimated that it would take me 40 minutes to reach the summit, 600 feet above me. 20 minutes later, I was "on top of the world." I realigned my backpack and spent the next full hour running down the other side of Hope Pass. This was a very long hour! When the mountain stopped going down, I stopped running. And there was the notorious 2.5 mile gravel road up to Winfield. I reset my watch, put my head down and estimate that it would take me 40 minutes to reach Winfield. It took me 40 minutes to reach Winfield. I hate that road.

I saw Allan leaving the Winfield aid station as I was entering. Pete was waiting, and ready to pace me. He was ready to get me back over that mountain. But I was not ready. I had no desire to even try. I sat, ate some food, and thought that with a few minutes of rest, a small sliver of desire would creep in. None did. Not even a little, for a nano-second.

I pushed myself through the bar exam when I thought I could not answer one more multiple choice question. I've watched all 4 of my wife's C-sections; Gracie came via a G-section. That's G as in Georgia. I've put in a sink and toilet while struggling with pneumonia. So, I've concluded that it isn't that I can't push myself further than I thought I was able. It's just that some form of analytical, possibly logical, desire must exist for me to "go beyond." Saturday evening at 5:40, that desire was lacking. What I wonder is if that desire will ever exist for me on the Leadville 100 course at Winfield? If not, I can live with that. There are plenty of other 100 mile races.

I appreciate Pete for pushing me, but letting me make the decision for myself. I've learned much about this type of grace from our current church and from Pete. I find it unusual because Pete and I both grew up in the same baptist denomination; yet, I've learned much about accepting people (it sounds so PC-ish and wishy-washy to be saying that, coming from a conservative Calvinist) by watching Pete.

Leadville 2008 A Lesson on Limits

Saturday, August 16 was a great day to run the Leadville 100 mile Race Across the Sky, if you were a tree frog, a newt, or a fish. 

Being none of those, I’m pretty pleased with my progress and distance.  The quick fact: I did not finish... again.  In fact, I traversed about 4 miles less than last year. 

Nevertheless, there were several great aspects to the run; 1) I stayed ahead of last year’s pace by about 5-10 minutes every mile, and 2) I traversed the entire 50 miles to Winfield without my trusted, and distance-enabling running partner Pete.  I’ve become very accustomed to running with Pete and benefiting from his steady but relentless ability to “march” on.  The prospect of running without him was probably the most terrifying aspect of this year’s race.

So, how did it end? 
I left everything out on the trail. 
When I got to Winfield I was done. I knew it.  There was nothing in me that could have ascended the backside of Hope Pass.  It took me nearly one hour to run down that slope.  Along the way, I passed numerous runners coming back up.  Every step down was for me a painful premonition of what the return would be like, and I was done climbing hills.

Of course, today, with a stomach full of food and a decent night of sleep, I’m thinking that maybe I could have.  But at that moment of decision-making, I knew I had nothing left.  Nothing in me desired to climb one more ascent.  Pete did a great job of telling me that we’d make it back over Hope, that he’d help me make it.  But I knew what it had taken me to climb Sugar Loaf (and the climb up power line before going down power line that no one ever talks about), the incredible ascent on the Colorado Trail after Half Moon (all three of them), and finally, the hour forty minute ascent up Hope Pass.

The Run, Part I
The day started at 2:30am; dressed, ate some cereal, drank some coffee and out the door to Leadville, thirty minutes north.  Pete was up when I left.  In Leadville, the temperature was 42 and spitting drizzle.  I checked in at the corner of Main Street (Highway 24) and 6th Street, used the porto and sat in the van until 3:50.  Without a full crew, the start this year was anti-climatic.  Others were hugging, talking pictures.
My goal for the first section to May Queen was to get ahead of those who walk on the single-track trail around Turquoise Lake.  Getting to this first aid station in a timely fashion is an important first step in a long day.  The cut-off is 7:15am.  I wanted to be in by 6:30, but I did not want to go out too fast.  Well, God has a way of keeping me humble.  Between miles 5 and 10, I sprained my left ankle three times.  Now, I’ve sprained this same ankle many times, and to different levels of seriousness.  A slight twist is about a 2 on a scale from 1 to 10.  A full inversion leaving me unable to walk is about a 9.  Every year I succeed in several 3s or 4s.  

The first twist on Saturday morning was a 7, causing me to falter, skip, hop and then walk. The popping sound was louder than I would have hoped.  As I started moving more quickly again, I decided I needed to choose my steps more carefu… Ahh!! I did it again.  This time a solid 9 on the ankle-sprain scale. I stepped off the trail to get my breathing under control because it hurt significantly.  This time, it took more walking to get it to loosen.  After about 5 minutes, I was able to run again.  But every uneven surface was a challenge.  Wearing two headlamps helped considerably.  At mile 10, about 2 miles before coming off the single-track trail onto a paved road, I landed on a rock poorly again and received a sprain of about a 6 on the scale.  Once again, stop, hobble, walk, then gingerly run.  At May Queen, Pete reminded me to take some ibuprofin, so I took 400mg.  I never sprained it again.  The ankle remained very sore until Twin Lakes, and I had to be extremely careful every step.

Pete was a great crewer and a delight to see at each aid station. Even before getting to an aid station, I envisioned seeing him and looked forward to how he might attend to my needs. It might sound kind of creepy, but I’m certain that people who climb together or have running partners know this feeling.

I was looking forward to the march up Sugar Loaf because - it’s a smooth gravel jeep road (great for a sore ankle) that winds up and up and up with incredible views of the lake and other mountain ranges.  But, I had forgotten the several miles of not-so-fun trail before reaching the smooth gravel.  The gravel road was all I had hoped.  I settled into a 14-16 min/mile walking pace, put my head down and just started walking.  Lots of people were running up this road. Last year, and this year in training, Pete taught me much about the merits of walking up the inclines.  This proved true as I later passed about 70% of those running up Sugar Loaf.
While it was only raining during the first section, the march up Sugar Loaf included 3 bouts of hail, one of snow, and continuous rain.  Half-way up, the wind grew pretty intense, and I was forced to put on a jacket, something that I rarely do because I overheat very quickly.  Power-line down on the other side was not as sweet as last year.  The clay was wet and slippery, so there were several un-runnable sections.  I was, however, able to run some of the road into Fish Hatchery, and by this time, the rain had stopped.

Pete helped me through the aid station, and I took more food with me than I had at May Queen.   I walked the entire way to the first right turn toward Half Moon.  There, I ran 30 seconds, walked 30 seconds until I met John who was running telephone poles.  I adopted his approach.  I walked the entire gravel road up to Half Moon except for a few declines.  I took a 4 minute stop at Half Moon aid station.   I found that a cup of chicken broth, two cups of Coke, watermelon and a few M&Ms did me well.  The hike to the Colorado Trail was fine and I assumed that trail would be rolling and enjoyable.  Wow, had I repressed this section.  The first incline of the Colorado Trail was the worst part of the whole run for me.  It was rocky, steep and relentless.  I had to resort to a high altitude shuffle-walk, and still had to stop and rest a couple of times.  Once at the top, I knew there were two more less-daunting climbs before the long down-hill into Twin Lakes.  Those two climbs were really not less-daunting and did not leave all that much of a down-hill into Twin Lakes!!

Finally, the best part of the whole run – the 3 miles into Twin Lakes. Soft, pine-needle laden, rolling trails.  This ends with a 20 solid minute less pine-needle laden, less rolling and more steep run on a jeep road into Twin Lakes.  Down the embankment at Twin Lakes where Pete is waiting: check-in #277, get some food, water in the CamelBak, check-out #277.  Pete and I walk to his car, regroup.  I unload as much as I can from the GoLite pack to be lighter – only the essentials to get over Hope Pass.  At this point, I’ve been taking S caps every 15 – 20 minutes to stave off the cramps and keep my electrolytes up. In spite of the cold, I’ve been dripping sweat from the start.  Now, I load up on more salt tablets, grab my bag of food and set off.

Hope Pass, Part II  (next time)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday & Friday Morning

Thursday has been a low-key day. This morning, I went on a 4 mile run down Lost Canyon Road. About every 3 minutes, I had to stop and catch my breath.
But look at this view:

The first cabin:

After talking to some folks in the next door cabin, I took off to Leadville to sit for an hour before Pete arrived. Pete arrived early. We greeted, talked and both did some computer work. Then had lunch in town.

Pete wanted to get into the river again, so I joined him with my gold panning pan (which by the way, is not really a proper gold panning pan even thought I purchased it from the Natural Mining Museum. Evidently, a colored, large-basined, plastic pan with ridges on one side is the best.) to find my fortune on the Arkansas River. No gold, no fish.
Here’s Pete:
We did, however, succeed in getting very cold.

Tomorrow will include the medical check-in and final briefing. Pete and I will come back to the cabin to prepare drop bags, return to Leadville to turn them in and then a possible trip to some hot springs in Buena Vista. Then, early supper, early to bed.

Here's Friday morning checking in with Allan:

Today, we're sitting at the coffee shop checking emails, blogging, avoiding the drizzle and waiting for the opening ceremony to finish. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday Full of Gold

This morning: 4 mile run around a portion of Twin Lake, breakfast, drive into Leadville to the coffee shop with free internet, Provin’ Grounds, drink a double shot espresso and upload Tuesday’s blog.

Then, a drive down to Red Cliff to give Melitta her bag which she left in the van.
Here’s her host family in Vail (Brian, Melitta, Brenna and Marilyn) outside the only restaurant in Red Cliff:
I drove east out of Red Cliff up into the mountain on Shrine Pass, a narrow jeep trail, in search of the perfect panning spot.
That’s where I was:
Look what run is at the end of this month. I was right where they will pass!
No gold, but a beautiful spot to eat my cheese sandwich.  I later found out the correct way to pan for gold, so I probably dumped my fortune back in the stream right here!
Then, returned to Leadville for more coffee and decided I would try to find the secret gold panning creek that Larry and Shirley told me about yesterday; south of Twin Lakes to Granite, right for a mile, south along the powerline for a mile to a parking lot and creek. Guess who was there? Larry and Shirley. 

The photo of Larry and Shirley didn’t turn out. Sorry, Shirley.
Here’s Larry showing me a ring he made out of gold they found.
I met others who were gold searching. Here, Patrick and Robyn are sleuthing with an impressive machine that sure beats panning:
Here’s Steve and Paul. 
Paul is the pro and Steve was along to learn after being prodded by Paul for many years. Paul also showed me some different techniques and some incredible nuggets he found several years ago. They all do this as a hobby. None of them sell their gold!

Here are my instruments:
And here is the gold I found:
Probably won’t quit my day job just yet!     Wait, I don’t have a day job yet!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I began the day visiting the Leadville store and office... and buying some Leadville 100 shirts for the family.  Shhh.  Don't tell.  Here I am with the race director..and John.
Me and John:

There is no doubt that a vacation alone is less sweet than with my wife and kids. Certainly, there is more work; but there is more joy.

Nonetheless, I visited the National Mining Museum where a wonderful elderly woman gave me a map, and I purchased a PAN.  From there, I visited with the Visitor Bureau folks and headed up into the mountains behind Leadville. Standing in Leadville and looking up, there is no indication of the massive number of mines up in those hills.  The mini van (don’t tell the rental company) was basically an off-road jeep.  I stopped and looked at about 20 separate mines or pilings.  I passed up another 100.

Then, my trip up the mountain to explore old mines. The first one I saw:

I kept wondering what life must have been like back in the gold, solver, lead, etc. hey-day. It appears that the cabins all had tin roofs, the miners ate out of tin cans, and left no other traces of their existence. I also kept looking around at the beauty. I wondered if the miners, spending hours and days underground looking for treasures, ever simply enjoyed where they were. At 12,000 feet, surrounded by mountains with meadows for necklaces, looking down on blue lakes, looking up at white expanses of residual snow I felt pretty rich.

That's Turquoise Lake.  We run around the north side(right).  At the very tip is May Queen Aid Station, mile 13.5.

At the top an abandoned gold mine.  Lot's of fools gold which ended up in my pocket.
Turquoise Lake in the background.

At the top of one mountain, I found numerous nuggets of bright, shiny gold. On the way down, I stopped and talked with some professional rock hounds, Larry and Shirley. Evidently, real gold does not sparkle, is not in crystal form and is a dull yellow. Nonetheless, Shirley was a wealth of information, including the location of a secret creek where I’m guaranteed to pan out some gold. I’m going there Wednesday morning. Shirley also let me keep a rock with some beautiful copper in it. With a pocket full of fool’s gold, I can say I had a really good afternoon.

That's me literally trying my hand at panning.  I found lots of pebbles.
Here I sit in a small cabin between Leadville and Twin Lakes, about 10,200 feet up. I’ve posted below some photos of a few places along the Leadville course. But first, my day of traveling.

The whole family dropped me off at the airport this morning before they headed off to the Star Wars exhibit and movie at the science museum.  While I was waiting for my flight, a good friend from law school, Melitta, walked up.  It turned out she was going to Vail for the week.   She cancelled her van shuttle up and joined me in the rental car.  I hadn’t planned on going to Vail this year but now I may get to go twice as she left her camera and contact lenses in the van (yes, van; and a full on mini-van).

To save approximately $42, I booked a rental car on-line at the cheapest Denver car rental place I could find without employing the mob.  It turns out that while all the rental facilities are not right at the airport, this one is “off-site,” which is a nice way of saying that I should have packed a lunch for the trip to get the car.  Once there, the receptionist's unusually long glare at the computer screen led me to correctly assume that something was wrong.  It turns out I had booked a car for August 11, 2009.  Yes, in anticipation for next year’s Leadville race.  And, I had reserved a VW Jetta.  “Well, do you have anything else?” I asked, realizing that if there were no other cars, Melitta and I would have to return to the airport and then take a shuttle to one of the dozen other rental car facilities not “off-site.”

“Yes, we have one mini-van available. Would you like it?”  As visions of our 1986 maroon Dodge Caravan flashed through my mind, I asked, “Will it get me up the mountain?”  She was not amused.  It turned out to be a brand new Dodge Caravan with 3000 miles. It’s beautiful and it charges up mountains.

I dropped Melitta off in Vail and drove, with her camera and contact lenses, on the pass between Minturn and Leadville.  Incredible drive.  

Groceries for the week in Leadville, unpacked at the cabin, a quick trip into Twin Lakes, probably the only one before the race, and now here I sit.

I must confess that in the spring when I envisioned sitting in a cabin in CO by myself, I thought it would be heaven on earth. Honestly, I miss my family.  While it is more difficult to have everyone out here while preparing for a race, I miss experiencing the excitement and wonder of the mountains through the kids and Marty.  It is quite hollow attempting to engender awe by myself as I look at these incredible sights.

I don’t think it was intended that majesty be reveled in alone.  Put another way: I think majesty is best experienced with others.  I’ll post some photos of incredible sights - they will not do the real thing justice – and make plans to bring everyone out here next year.

Me along the pass between Minturn and Leadville.

A house in Red Cliff. Red Cliff is a very interesting little town that must be driven through at least twice in one's life.

The hill coming into (or out of) the Twin Lakes Aid Station.

The river crossing right after Twin Lakes.  It look pretty deep right now.

Looking up at the path up Hope Pass.

An empty aid station at Twin Lakes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beating Anton

My children made cards for me in preparation for Leadville.   The cards are endearing and will travel with me to CO.   

Last year, when I was at mile 42, Anton passed me on his way back.  I don't think the kids really wish Anton to do poorly; I think they just want me to do well.  Here's Grace's card: 

Notice # 3 on Emma's card:
Here's the real motivation behind Emma's encouragement:

Unfortunately, if I just run one mile of Leadville this year, I'll beat Anton.  Apparently, he's had some unfortunate injuries and won't be running.  

Finally, here's Eli's wish for me while out in Leadville:
That's me and Mr. Grimes panning for gold in a stream.  It appears that we found some sizable flakes; maybe even some nuggets.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Empty me of ...the poison of my pride.

This song has been on Sirius lately. "Poison of my pride" jumps out at me every time. Like pride, poison is rarely a good thing. The etymology of pride is vast, but simply put, there's good pride and bad pride. I find lots that fits into the bad side. I have to work pretty hard to populate the good.

So, to think that former American Idol candidate Chris Sligh would be singing a song about Christ just ... Well, my own pride could fill up the bad side of the "pride divide." But the words haunt me. Actually, they stun me.

Then, I checked out his other songs. I'm humbled. Pretty good theology for an American Idol contestant.

I'm not certain how to blog about this, but hearing my pride described as poison is significant. It is a very accurate description of the result of many of my thoughts; particularly thoughts towards others. I read about some runners who recently stopped to give aid to a heat stroke victim during an ultra. They sacrificed their run. Every day, I race by people because of my pride.

Leadville Here I Come!

I'm not the only Minnesotan attempting Leadville this year.  There are at least twelve of us!  While Pete lives in WI, I think he should be included in the list of Minnesotans.  Here they are:

We all plan to meet after the race ceremony on Friday for a Minnesota Picture.  What fun.

Last year, the entire family came out and we stayed in Vail.  While there, we read about a boy who bought a gold pan at the Leadville Mining Museum, returned to Vail Village and while sitting in Vail Creek panned out around $200 worth of gold.  Marty wouldn't let me sit in the creek and pan, even though I argued that the cold water would actually help prepare my legs for the race, and any discovered gold would help pay for the trip.

Well, this year, I'm going out to Leadville alone.  So...I arrive Monday afternoon.  Tuesday morning, the Leadville Mining Museum opens at 11am, and I intend to be their first patron.  Sure, I'll feign interest in the displays and exhibits.  But it's the pan I'm after.  Once I get it, I'm off to find the nearest, or at least the most-likely-to-have-gold-in-it, stream I can find.  

Oh, the race?  It starts on Saturday morning at 4am.  100 miles.  Out and back.  Two passes over 11,000 feet.  Hope Pass is 12,600 feet.  

To get ready for the race?  I'll do some stretching, I might run a couple of times, try to eat some pasta, get used to the altitude.  But if the gold-hunting is going well, I may just take the week to be an ultra gold panner rather than an ultra runner.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Still Trying to Study

Today, Eli and I went to Ace Hardware to begin some long-overdue yard work. On the way out, my eyes spotted a rack of fact sheets. And what should I see.....

More opportunity to study for the Bar Exam!!

For about 1 minute, I honesty wished I had found this before taking the Bar Exam. It might have helped.
I pulled it out to see what legal issues it might contain.

Only then did I realize that it was a guide to mixed drinks.

I bought it anyway.