Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reno Marathon Race Report

I'm really struggling with this race report. It was a fairly uneventful race, and I'm not one to invent drama in my writing where there is none solely for the sake of entertainment (OK, that's TOTALLY a lie, but I don't believe in doing that for race reports).

Anyhow, after the Napa Trail Marathon in late March, it took about two weeks before I started to feel recovered, and also about two weeks before my uber-blisters (missing heel) healed. I had been planning on going to run Boston, but I fell victim to the worst case of botched scheduling in recent memory (ok, well, as I'm writing this, that's no longer true, but back in March/April, it was). So Boston was off the books, which was a bummer, and the newly-resurrected marathon in Reno (aka Downtown River Run) was the weekend before Boston, so I sauntered down to signup on Friday prior to the Sunday race, handed over some money, and pledged to fling myself into the fray once again, a mere 3 weeks after Napa.

The course undulates from downtown Reno out to Verdi and back again, turning around about 500' higher than the start/finish and gaining about 1100' of elevation with all the rollers. A course like this is not particularly fast (and Reno's about 4500' above sea level anyway, just for some extra excuses)! Our secret bonus for the day will be a tailwind on the way out, which of course means a headwind on the way back in. Ouch.

Come race morning, I am feeling fully cognizant of my less-than-complete recovery and set my expectations accordingly. A couple minutes before the start, I strip everything off except shorts and shoes (because 'Merica!), point my rock-hard nipples toward the feeble April sunrise, and chat nervously with my friend (and certified ultra-stud) Adam on the line. Milling around under the world-infamous Reno Arch at sunrise is usually reserved for the alcoholics and degenerates, so we do our best to do their job justice and mutter incomprehensible platitudes.

With no watch or heart rate monitor, no timing clocks on course, and Frisky Puffs drenched in Stubborn Milk for breakfast, my official strategy is the oft-ill-advised "go out hard and see what happens." Sometimes it works, and sometimes...not so much. Hey, this is what makes racing exciting sometimes! For the two of you who might care about my nutrition, after my success with carrying a bottle full of gel at Napa, I decided to do the same thing here. I probably didn't drink as much as I should have, but it worked well especially as I didn't know what they'd have on course. Probably made it through 300cal and supplemented with water from aid stations.

So Adam runs with me for the first couple of miles and then trails off behind me. I run gleefully unencumbered with the wind at my back and no one to interrupt my rhythm all the way to the turnaround. Never bother looking behind me as it won't really change how I'm running if I get caught/passed/tripped/struck by lightning/etc.

Aforementioned rock-hard nipples (you're welcome)

As I had anticipated, the turnaround brings the headwind with it, but even anticipating it doesn't make it feel any better: it sucks. It also gives me the opportunity to gauge my lead, which is a couple minutes to Adam and then a couple more to the next pack of chasers. This means that if I don't blow sky-high, I might have a chance at winning the thing, but years of long-distance racing of various flavors has taught me that it's never over until it's over.

Sure enough, some of the uphills on the return trip, paired with the headwind, bring me to an awkward shuffle (and nearly to tears), but a few minutes of relaxing my stride a bit aids recovery and lets me survive until the next hard spell.

This thing heavy please help me not die

Again, won't invent drama, so can't say much more than "held off the hordes and finished happy and healthy." There was a bonus prize if the winning male broke 2:40, which I thought was in reach if all planets aligned, but they didn't, so it wasn't :) Mega-props to Ramona, the winning woman, who collected her bonus for sub-3:00. She is an absolute beast and about as humble and friendly as they come.

What I can add, however, is that police escorts are AWESOME. I had 2 police motorcycles putting along nearby for the entire race, and to put it bluntly, it's royal treatment! I felt like the dignitary in a motorcade. They even lit up their sirens when I made the last turn onto Virginia St before the finish, which was pretty cool. It was actually super helpful to have them in the last few miles after we rejoined the half-marathon traffic as they pretty aggressively cleared a path for me; my lizard brain wouldn't have done nearly as well.

Not your normal escort service

I also have to extend thanks to the race organizers and volunteers for being thorough, helpful, and cheerful before, during, and after the race. Additionally, major props to all the other happy was truly enjoyable to see everyone on the out-and-back course and exchange smiles, waves, grunts, and various other forms of feeble communication while we were smashing ourselves!

It was also fantastic to see loads of friends at the finish who were either spectating, running shorter races (and many as final prep for Boston), or volunteering. Reno's running community is full of awesome people who spread their positivity and generosity far and wide, so chapeau to you all for that.

I felt pretty freakin' fortunate to have started off my season with 2 great races; nothing that I'd expect but I sure as hell won't complain!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Socks 'n Coffee

Should I feel guilty that all three of these photos were taken from the safety and warmth of our house?


Godrays over Walter Peak Farm

Walter, Cecil, and Hidden Island



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Change of View

OK, the silence here was getting ridiculous, but not without fair reason.

We just completed a relocation back to New Zealand after nearly 7 years away, and holy crap, there's a lot involved in moving halfway around the world! The past couple months have been a whirlwind of logistics, packing, downsizing, shipping, selling, donating, paperwork, critical work projects, etc., and it's only now that I'm realizing how much time that took as we've now suddenly got loads of free time.

We were actually far more sorted on the NZ end than the US end: the push to get our freight underway and ourselves on the plane was pretty uncomfortable, but we had a rental house waiting for us here, so really all we had to do was show up. I'm also aware that there are several of you who left me voicemails etc that did not get returned, and you've all got Skype calls or Facetimes in your future. Promise.

It does not suck here. Here are a few photos from our house.

View west from the living room

Stormy Wakatipu

Walter Peak behind the flank of Cecil

It's not just the view from the house; we're spitting distance away from trails in pretty much every direction. This is about a mile away from our house:

Wakatipu from Jardine Park (click for bigger)

I'm not letting you off the hook with only the visual interpretation of "view;" this relocation also represents a shift for me in the pursuit of harmony as it involves work and life. My goal is to be able to better compartmentalize work while simultaneously extracting inspiration from the boundless opportunities this wild land presents. Challenge accepted!

I've of course still got lots of backlog that I'm promising to get through, but I figured a quick update on our whereabouts was worthwhile :)

We challenge you, all of you, to come visit this paradise. We've got the space for ya. Who'll be first?


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ireland XII: Dublin, Briefly

I realized (OK, I never really forgot) that there were a couple final Ireland posts hanging out there, so it's best to tidy that up, yeah?

After a couple weeks of traipsing around Counties Laois and Wexford, we made our way back to Dublin for something resembling 24 hours to catch up with a few peeps before making the trip home.

The city was still pretty well decorated from Christmas, and the weather was only kinda awful (it only rained hard for a few hours), so we found some good meals and some good sights.


Lights and lights and lights

Biggest bow east of the Mississippi, boy

The pub we landed at that night made toasties at a furious pace, and I was fascinated to watch the barmen and women switch effortlessly from pouring pints to slathering mustard. So I ate about four of them, and they were spectacular.

With a few pints in us for good measure, we wandered back to the hotel, ready for one last sleep before an easy trip home...famous last words.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Barren Black Rock

We didn't go to Burning Man this year; too many other fish in the frying pan. However, we jumped at the opportunity to make a quick trip to the Black Rock with a couple friends earlier in the summer. I'll leave the true purpose of the trip for another post, and I'll just take some bandwidth here to share a few photos from this special-ist of special places.


And then a few square photos...



I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's such a stunning landscape, and it holds a unique place in my heart. It's one thing to see it during Burning Man and with all the experiences that come along with that, but it's an ENTIRELY different gambit to see it without our 60,000 closest friends. I'm still not sure which way I prefer it, and it's important to me to live it both ways.

Stacked up


Enough of the square things.

Failed moonrise

We were looking forward to a great big old moon, but the clouds moved in and restricted it to little more than an occasional glow.

Unfortunately, it was only a 24-hour trip, but that just seems to be the way things have gone lately. When opportunity knocks...


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Souls of My Shoes

An open letter:

Dear Brooks-

See these shoes, the beat up ones off to the sides? They're my ninth pair of Racer ST5s. The box between them? My tenth. I've written about them before, albeit briefly, and this may not be the last time.

I only discovered these a couple of years ago, but man, have we had some good times together. I'd suffered through years of unhappiness with various models of shoe, and then I stumbled upon these magnificent gems. Much more than foot coverings, these lumps of foam and fabric have been a convenient vehicle for my soul. Normally, I'm not concerned about colors, but as long as we're on the path to enlightenment, it's worth mentioning. The orange ones? Epic. Both flavors of white ones? Not so much. These new blue ones? Hot damn.

I've seen night turn to day and day turn to night countless times atop these shoes. I've won races in them and had some spec-TAC-ular blowups in them. They've carried me through 100-mile weeks, and I wear them at Burning Man because they're so comfortable. I've run in these things on three continents, and there'll probably be more.

I've raced in these shoes at distances from Beer Mile to 55k, and in at least one triathlon where they've carried me to the day's fastest run split. Unbeknownst to me, I started Boston in them last year with a stress fracture in my foot. Very beknownst (yeah, that's not a real word) to me, I finished Boston last year with a Racer ST5 full of extra bones.

I've taken them on some steep trail runs (and races) where they probably weren't the best choice, and I've got the blisters to prove it. More than once, they've collected toenails for later removal from my socks. My Facebook friends get angry when I talk about the toenails or show photos of the blisters. I don't complain when they share stories and photos of their ugly babies, so they shouldn't complain when I show photos of mine.

I don't log my miles, and I don't run with a watch. Sometimes I forget how long I've been running in a pair, but they always let me know with subtle clues. That feel of a brand new pair is always justification that it was time. When one pair gets retired from running duty, I wear them around the house for a while, and then they get donated. I imagine them serving another lifetime in some capacity on someone else's feet, bringing that person happiness like they brought me, before they eventually go to the Great Shoe Pile in the Sky.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not my shoes. I'm also not my job or the car I drive (thanks Tyler). I readily acknowledge that I'm a transient soul, currently inhabiting a fragile sack of meat and bones. But every so often, that fragile sack floats a little more swiftly through this world because of your work.

So, thanks. Three years ago, I never thought I'd be waxing poetic about something as pedestrian as running shoes, but here we are. Now that I've exchanged roughly a thousand hard-earned dollars for ten pairs of these things, it's time that you know that this shoe has been around for some pretty amazing moments in my life, more so than your corporate accountants could possibly let you know with profit/loss statements. Oh yeah, and if you change them or stop making them, I'll burn your factory to the ground.

It's funny how an assembly of stitched fabric, molded foam, and industrial adhesive can be the one constant through thousands of miles. Fast, slow; healthy, sick; light, dark; these shoes have been quiet and faithful observers to my yin and yang. Running reflects life, and it's kind of cool when you think about how going with the flow and running against traffic aren't mutually exclusive.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ireland XI: Forest Fairy

Not too far off from home in Wexford rises Slieve Coilte, the tallest "mountain" in the area by a healthy margin. There's a road to the top, and on a clear day, one can take in a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

On our various trips to Ireland, I've run up the mountain, a lovely ~12mi roundtrip from home. While running up it this time, I paid more attention to some of the stands of trees (it's part of the grounds of the JFK Arboretum). What's cool about each stand of trees is that they're very homogeneous, and then a couple hundred meters down the road is another stand of different trees, again homogeneous.

As I careened down the mountain this time, the two remaining non-running-related synapses in my brain clanked off each other and made a spark of inspiration, and I vowed to return to the forest with my traveling model.

It was New Years Day before we had reasonable enough weather to go back, and "reasonable enough" was just another way of saying "light drizzle." With d^2 as faithful assistant, we wandered from tree stand to tree stand and let nature be our inspiration.

Even though it may appear that the weather continually improved through these photos, that's not the case. When it started raining hard again, we packed up, ran for the car, and retreated for tea. As you do.


Past Detritus