Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Season Review...aka...

...Eliot pretends to be a runner.

Executive summary: I ran a bunch this year. Longer version follows.

Well, getting hit by a car last year put a damper on any pursuit of triathlon, and running turned out to be the most achievable discipline to get back into, so I signed up for the Boston Marathon this year and structured my season around it. I wrote about that wild day shortly afterwards, but I haven't taken the time to write about any of the other races I did. I dunno; it seems easier to write about triathlons individually than running races, as the race report from a 5k would be along the lines of "Hurt lots for about 17 minutes. Didn't win." As such, I've lumped them together into a montage of sorts. In hindsight, it was a fairly eventful season from a variety of perspectives.

February 17 - You Gotta Be Crazy 10k - Verdi, NV

Time to get back into the race swing of things after a 9-month hiatus...ugh. It's called You Gotta Be Crazy because we used to have this thing called winter and this race was in the middle of it. Now it usually falls on a nice sunny day. It's a hard course with some significant-enough climbs on each lap and a big false flat, so it's not necessarily fast.

The race features a 5k and a 10k that start at the same time. One of our fastest local runners, I incorrectly assumed, would be running the 10k (I didn't think to ask him), so I go with him at the start. We are clear of everyone else pretty soon, and then he drops me like a baaaaaaaad habit, and then I see him at the finish line after peeling off after 5k. BASTARD! I'm now officially on my own in front of the race.

I spend the entire second lap simultaneously recovering from going out fantastically too hard chasing Brandon and preparing myself to vomit without breaking stride. Never puke, but manage to stay clear of the chasing hordes. Get the race win, a rad start to the season, and something a smidge under 37 minutes for the hard course. Yay!

Death face on the last climb

Our awesome friend Becky

March 17 - Leprechaun Chase 5k - Reno, NV

Can't seem to locate photos, so I'll be as descriptive as possible.

Cold Reno morning. Weakling masses (1500 of them) wear warm green shit. 8 of us buy gold speedos and rock those fuckers proudly, as a group. We are the Pot o' Gold, and nobody fucks with us. Drink whiskey before the race, as a group. Heckle aforementioned masses heartily, as a group. Heckle the chasing leprechaun heartily, as a group. "We've got your pot o' gold right here, you big sissy."

We do not run as a group. I run a high-16, a PR for me, especially given my blood alcohol content, and finish 2nd. Had no chance to chase down the winner.

Go to nearby Irish pub. Drink beer, as a group, without changing out of speedos. Retreat to our house, nearby, as a group, and start on the cocktails at about 10am. I BBQ 4 pounds of bacon in our front yard, still wearing the speedo, starting several grease fires. Driving motorists slow and gawk. I wave.

Asleep by 1pm. Majestic day.

April 15 - Boston Marathon - Boston, MA

I race well, except for breaking my foot at mile 19. 2:47 is still a nice PR. I've already written about the race here, along with my thoughts about the bombings. Here are some photos.

Happy and fast

We shall call this "Broken Foot Face;" no longer happy or fast

So Boston ended with a nice trip to Maine and the realization that I wouldn't be doing much of anything for a few weeks and wouldn't be running for quite some time.

This didn't feel so nice

May: hahahahahaha not a chance

June: hahahahahaha not a chance

July: hahahahahaha not a chance

August: hahahahahaha not a chance

What I can say about those intervening months is that starting fresh provided some nice perspective. Milestones like pedaling the bike trainer for five minutes or pushing off the wall in the pool with both feet, were momentous and wonderful, but I had no expectations of rapid returns to anything resembling fitness.

September 28 - Lost Sierra 50k - Graeagle, CA

On a Friday afternoon, our regularly scheduled plans for the weekend fell apart, and I knew that a neat trail race was happening the next day. I hadn't exactly run much since Boston, but I'd kind of wanted to do this race, so at 6pm, I said "fuck it" and threw my gear together. We left Reno at 5am and drove to Graeagle, and I paid the penalty for race day registration and tentatively laced up my shoes. There was a 14-mile option, but the "50k" option (actually 52 or 53ish km) seemed like a better flavor of destructo. Besides, I had nothing to lose.

Yay fun

I started at the front of the pack, fully aware that again, I had absolutely nothing to lose, so I figured I'd just see how things progressed. Within the first mile, there were three of us, and we three ended up being the overall podium. Ben went off the front at about mile 5, Adam dropped off behind me, and I ran approximately 26 miles of the race all by my lonesome self.

The course winds through the spectacular Gold Lakes Basin and surrounding mountains, and it's pretty fookin' hard. This was the first time I'd ever run a step longer than a marathon, and the 26-mile mark went by without any acknowledgement or drama. I just kept running.

Some blisters I had incurred during my only substantial training run the week before the race (a highly impulsive 21-mile mountain mission) fired up pretty early, and the last 8 or so miles of the race, all downhill, were nothing but damage control on the blisters. Mind, these were silver-dollar sized blisters on each heel, so this was less than pleasant.

With 5 miles to go, an aid station told me Ben was only 3 minutes up the trail, so I gave it everything I had, which wasn't much. I figured that if I was exceptionally lucky (AND Ben was having an exceptionally bad day), I might catch him, and that I at least had second locked up. So it came as a romping surprise when Adam appeared on my heels out of nowhere and blazed by me like I was standing still. I told him to go catch Ben, which he nearly did, and I had nothing left in the tank to even consider going with him. Besides, the persistent "squish-squish" in my shoes with every step was starting to get old.

Your podium

The three of us all ended up faster than last year's winning time, so it was a strong day for Reno runners in Graeagle. I managed 5:12, which is largely a meaningless time given the course. This is certainly the longest or farthest I've ever run, so that's cool. I hobbled to the ambulance to get my blisters bandaged and retreated home to lick my wounds.

The aftermath...this was the small one

September 29 - Mexican Tequila Mile - Golden Valley, NV

This was the day after Lost Sierra. I'll be damned if I miss a running+drinking race, so I grimaced through fucked legs and legendary blisters, got some tequila into me, and gleefully finished dead last. Hey, someone's gotta do the dirty work.

Triumphant return of the speedo; three of us represented!


Pobrecito Mannie

Still had an absolute blast.

October 13 - Bizz Johnson Marathon - Susanville, CA

After the impulsive thrashing I gave myself at Lost Sierra, my secret goal of smashing Bizz Johnson seemed to be more of a stretch with every passing day.

The morning before the race, I decided that racing the way I wanted to race would land somewhere between Impossible and Highly Destructive, so I pulled the plug. I was super super bummed about this, but I suppose discretion is the better part of valor, and I only pulled the plug after finding a couple of consolation races.

So I'd have a late season after breaking my foot anyway!

November 17 - Big Sur Half Marathon - Pacific Grove, CA

This was the first of two races I found after pulling the plug on Bizz. I really like the half marathon distance, especially the necessary recovery compared to a marathon, but I haven't raced it much.

Near the end

This race has an awesome course and is deliciously close to my cousin's house, so it was a no-brainer of sorts. I put in a good few weeks of specific training and raced well, finishing something like 16th amateur out of 7000+. Big PR of 1:16 and change, and felt great throughout. Well, not great, but the correct flavor of pain. You know what I mean.

December 8 - California International Marathon - Sacramento, CA

This was the second consolation race I planned after Bizz. My recovery from Big Sur took about a week longer than I was counting on (let's chalk it up to less-than-optimal training prior to Big Sur), but I figured I still had enough in the tank.

And then, no matter what you do, if you get sick race week, it's bound to be ugly. I woke up Tuesday morning with a scratchy throat, soldiered through til Friday, and then the wheels came off. Recovered a bit on Saturday, decided to go get my bib and see how I felt in the morning.

Woke up Sunday feeling OK, so decided to go ahead. The race started at 24 degrees, and would only finish at 31, so this counts as a kind of cold that does not produce smoking fast times. At least for little sick old me...

Already smashed at mile 10...ruh roh...

I feel like a rockstar for the first three miles. And that's about it. I hit the wall at mile 6 instead of mile 20, convince myself to pull out at mile 10, keep going, convince myself to pull out at mile 13, keep going, convince myself to pull out at mile 15, keep going, and then there just aren't too many miles left, so whatever.

I'm through the half in 1:19, but run the second half in a somewhat-hilarious 1:33 to finish in 2:52. Shit, I ran faster than that at Boston with my foot in a few extra pieces. When the 2:43 pace group came by me somewhere in the Dark Miles, it was so loud and rapid that I thought I was getting run over by a stampede of malnourished rhinoceros.

The only silver lining was drinking hot Irish coffee at the finish, redeeming myself after a week of no caffeine and no booze all in one go.

Slowest marathon to date...note to self...don't run sick. Idiot. Not quite the way I envisioned ending the season, but not much to say about it now. Well, what I can say is that the mental ramifications of skipping the race I only found after skipping another race would likely have been worse than the extra 4 days I was sick the next week. So really, in the long run, I made the right call. I just shouldn't have been planning to run fast :)


I'm not sure what next year will hold for me in the world of sport. I really want to get back to triathlon, so we'll see how that goes. I do enjoy running and it sure as hell takes less time to train for than triathlon, but it's not my true love. I'm also under no delusion that I'm any sort of elite runner, so it's not like I'm going to quit my job in pursuit of a sub-1:00 half marathon...

Cheerio from the end of 2013 and may you all have good seasons of racing, training, working, family, travel, and whatever else you gypsies may be into.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The Fed

We recently moved offices, and our new digs have some pretty cool urban views. This is the Federal Courthouse across the street (coincidentally, also where Murphy completed her Indoctrination a few months ago).

The whole enchilada

And some detail

The artificial horizons provided by nearby buildings do some interesting things with the light here. When I daydream at my desk (hypothetically speaking, of course), I frequently find myself staring at this building.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Desolation: The Big Lake

A morning view Lake Aloha, in all her jigga-pixel-thank-god-for-stitching-software glory, with something like 130 frames at 150mm:

Lake Aloha and Pyramid Peak (click for bigger)

This is it for this trip to Desolation...it holds a special place in my soul...

PS- this is posting on my birthday, and I'm in Ireland, so...yay!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Desolation: The Night Sky Provideth

As the wind kicked back up at the Spot, we finished dinner, gathered our layers and camera gear, and started a slow circuit of the lake. We had all night, but the limiting reagent here would ultimately prove to be tolerance of the wind, which ratcheted gradually from Noticeable to Fuck You.

Anyhow, I had scoped a few cool spots under the cover of daylight, hoping to minimize rocky tumbles into the dark and cold lake in the middle of the night. And fortunately, those spots provided plenty to keep us occupied.

Not only was the Milky Way on display, but the moon was out, and there was also higher-than-normal meteoroid activity. This party could last quite a while...

Eventually, the moon set, the wind got ever more obnoxious, and I finished my trip around the lake.

Good night, moon

After this fairly lengthy session characterized by creativity and shivering, my sleeping bag started to sound pretty awesome, so I dove in and called it a night.

And besides, the resplendent Milky Way just gets so boring sometimes :)


Monday, December 23, 2013

Desolation: The Blue Hour

Our afternoon at the Spot was characterized by heat and wind, one of which makes for good swimming, and the other of which makes for quick drying. As the sun set and the light began to shift from Unremarkable to Photo, we were graced with a rapid shift in temperature, which was pleasant, and also a rapid calming of the wind (also pleasant). Unfortunately, the combination of those two phenomena resulted in an instant inundation of mosquitoes, all of whom had been hiding all afternoon, and were thus ravenous. This was not pleasant.

What WAS cool about the mosquitoes is that it brought the bats out to play. Three bats appeared out of nowhere and started sniping the mosquitoes left and right, and even dipped their wings into the water to catch the skeeters that took evasive action.

This frenzy of activity coincided with the stunning alpine blue light, so the photo frenzy started to kick into high gear. Before long, swatting skeeters became a full-time pursuit...little bastards.



...and right

The respite from the wind was short-lived. It kicked back up, scaring the mosquitoes back into hiding, and the temperature also kept dropping. Thus, we had dinner, bundled up, and waited for the show to start. Rough life.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Desolation: The Little Things

While Chase and Nate and Evan fluffed around during the windy and warm afternoon at the Spot, I wandered off and kept my camera close to the ground. In seemingly harsh environments, hardy life abounds.

Sticky icky

This poor bugger got his jaws locked into a nylon cord; didn't want to give up

More big views to come...stay tuned, you vampires.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Desolation: The Spot

Our auxiliary adventure on this trip to Desolation took us to a little jewel of a lake perched high above Lake Aloha. Lauren and Ethel stayed at the cabin, so this was a boys' trip, which would normally be dangerous, except that we're a pretty tame crew.

This lake isn't exactly a secret (it's on the map...), but it's not exactly well-known, either. It kinda feels wrong to spray its name all over the the internet (well, the corner of the internet that all seven of you visit), so we'll just call it the Spot and you can trust that if you ever find yourself there, you'll be glad that you're there and that two hundred other people aren't there at the same time.

The Spot; does not suck

There's only one way to commemorate one's arrival at the Spot.

Welcome home, Chase

It really is a jewel. Tiny, crystal clear, and freezing cold, it sits along a ridgeline between Lake Aloha and the Tahoe basin. It's got views in nearly every direction, and the stream outlet on the east side makes it feel a little bit like an infinity pool. The terrain off to the east side is also a tad on the steep side.

Remnants of an old avalanche far below

Exploring the surroundings of this oh-so-sweet lake can easily consume as much time as is allotted, as the rocky terrain hides all sorts of neato nooks and crannies.


As the Spot is unforgivingly (I apparently made that word up) exposed to the brunt of the Sierra's harshest storms, the few trees up there score high on the whatever scale combines "gnarled" and "hardy." I don't know exactly how this scale is laid out, but I do know that Justin Bieber is on the opposite end of it. Curiously, in my perfect world, Justin Bieber is on the opposite end of a LOT of things.

All sorts of pointy

I found a particular shred of a tree that was a) still alive, and b) so thrashed that I was able to climb inside of it to make a few photos. It was a remarkable tree, but no surrounding angles on it did it any justice, so inside was the only viable option.

And a more comprehensive look (click for bigger)

Whiling away an afternoon up here is a delightful indulgence, and as is common when the photo-geeks are in full force, the daytime is really just a placeholder filled with swimming and beer until the going gets serious.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Desolation: The Cabin

This summer [author angrily shakes fist at backlog of photos], we escaped the hubbub of life in Reno and spent a couple nights up in Desolation Wilderness and thereabouts. Besides Murphy and me, our crew included Chase, Lauren, Evan, and Nate, which, unless you're affiliated with any of these people, is a totally meaningless sentence. Anyhow, our goal was to enjoy the playground that is the greater Desolation neighborhood and to return to Reno better people for having done so.

Chase's parents have an awesome little cabin along the far end of Lower Echo Lake, just shy of the wilderness boundary. When I say that it's a little cabin, I don't mean that it's a $6M Tahoe chateau that we call "the cabin" because that makes us sound so grounded, especially when we're within earshot of poor people. It's a little one-room cabin in the woods, which I would generously estimate contains 300 square feet. Wait, hang on. 310 square feet, as we need to count the outhouse. There is running water (spring-fed, pure, and cold), but there is no electricity, so the nights are lit by lantern and occasional fire pit action.

As basic as it is, it's perfect in every way. It has served Chase's family, their guests, and prior owners well as both a getaway and a jumping-off point for additional adventure. I relish being invited there, every time, simply because it serves its purpose so well.

And it's a great place to leave gear when we go on side missions. Which are frequent. This time, we have planned a mission for the night after our arrival up to a very special spot in Desolation, so that gives us a night to hang out at the cabin, eat some good food, and kick back while the night sky does its thing.

First, though, allow me to introduce you to the cabin. I've made it look as spacious as is humanly possible.

Welcome (actually, this was not a simple photo)

From the cabin, many delicious sights (and quick hikes, if you're so inclined) are within easy reach. Granite and storm-battered trees abound.

Still standing

And many a fine meal have come out of the "kitchen."


The cabin is within about a 45-second walk of the cold and clear waters of Lower Echo Lake, but there will be no swimming tonight. Mainly because we're at 7000' and the air cools quickly without the big bright warm thing in the sky.

Thus, our common nighttime activity is to sit back, have a beer, and watch the world turn.

Home sweet home (also, iPhone flashlight on the photo assist)

In my mind, the cabin serves three great purposes. It is hotly anticipated as we approach, as it means that good times and good friends are about to intersect. It is warmly appreciated when we're there, simply as there's not much to complain about. And it is a welcome sight upon return from any adventure, as it means fresh socks, a cooler full of fresh food, and a plunge into the lake.

So now that you know about the cabin and why it's awesome, we can move on to our trip up into the mountains. Stay tuned!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tuolumne from Above

Here are a couple stitched panoramas I made from the top of Pothole Dome as darkness approached Tuolumne Meadows.

Wider [3 photos at 90mm] (click for humongo)

Start counting animals [7 photos at 300mm] (click for humongo)

The amount of wildlife cruising around in the meadow at any given moment is pretty ridiculous. Didn't see anything carnivorous, but maybe they just hide better.

Thanks again to Team Theilen for having us along for a sweet getaway!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pothole Dome

Our final evening in Yosemite was delightfully frittered away atop Pothole Dome, an awesome vantage point above Tuolumne Meadows. Why there? It's as good a place as any to watch the day end and to carefully balance open wine bottles on uneven granite.

A short scramble up from the road, Pothole is easily accessible and, while it's not gigantic, it doesn't take much elevation gain from Tuolumne to have a worthy view. Our agenda was fairly simple: be present and enjoy doing so.

Perched on the side of a cliff for this (and thanks Riley for being such a good lightstand)

Of course, with the current crew, that meant that a few dozen pounds of camera gear pretty immediately got scattered about.

Battered tree in front of Cathedral

There are worse ways to spend an evening than laughing with friends in a beautiful setting and having a glass of wine. I made a couple cool panoramas of Tuolumne Meadows, but those will have to wait for the next post. I'm not stringing you along, I swear...they're just not done.

Theilen crew

Even for an old guy, Matt is showing no signs of slowing down, skipping down the slabs with a big backpack and a toddler balanced artfully. Darkness growing quickly, we retreated back to TPR for more fun, happy to have avoided the typical circus of Yosemite Valley and to have enjoyed the high country.

Tuolumne panos up next!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Big Rock

Point a big lens at any given rock in Yosemite, and you're bound to find some climbers on it. The meadow below El Cap is filled with skyward-gazing-binocular-toting-carbon-based-life-forms, most of them oohing and aahing at the anonymous and oblivious climbers thousands of feet above.

Our beach time at Tenaya was punctuated by occasional musings toward the climbers on Polly Dome, which included Matt, Riley, and Erin, meaning that we were slightly less gawky as we were at least checking on our friends.

Work the crack

Topped out

Yosemite rock is also pretty dang photogenic, all texturey and cracky and flakey and stuff. Fair warning for ~15MB download if you click the photo below.

But a speck (click for humongo)


Past Detritus