Saturday, August 25, 2012
Saturday, August 18, 2012
I must say, I'm a little jealous this morning. You see, although my engine doesn't hum like it used to, I still consider myself first and foremost, an ultrarunner. My favorite running is far and away (could put the period here) being in the woods, with the starting line hours behind me, and the finish line too far ahead to realistically think about. Vicariously, I read running magazines and picture running those trails of Colorado and California for hours at a time. No bears or mountain lions in my daydreams. Maybe in a previous life, or maybe in the next one, I'll find myself on that side of the country and have that opportunity, but with my luck, I'll wind up being some stranded city slicker wondering why I'm stuck in such a God-forsaken place.
But, back to why I'm jealous. Today is the both the Leadville 100 Mile Run and the first half of the Pikes Peak Weekend. About a year ago, I wrote here about my experience in 2004 doing the Pikes Peak Marathon. Of all the 131 marathons and ultras I have done, that one still tops the list for awe, excitement, challenge, but mostly, personal pride. Boston was a race I was always be proud of doing. Running 100 miles in 24 Hour events has always been a thrill. But, going from training in relatively flat Alabama to go run up and down 26 miles of trail on a 14,115 foot mountain...well, that's where faith and trust come in. I trained at Oak Mt State Park, where the highest point is 1036 ft, and did my excessive "hill climbing" on a treadmill (Pikes Peak AVERAGES 11% grade for the first 13 miles!). On top of that, it takes at least 2 weeks for the body to make cardiovascular adaptations to high altitude. During those two weeks, your body is making hundreds of thousands of changes on a cellular level. But, some of us work and have a life and just can't give up two weeks to "adapt". Strategically, showing up in Colorado two days before the race doesn’t appear to make any sense - but logistically, it was the best I could do. If you can’t be in the thin air for 2 weeks or more, your next best option may be to just show up as close to the race as possible in your best shape possible, and limit your expectations while hoping that your body can function sufficiently well on 50% of the oxygen it's accustomed to processing. As it turned out, I didn't kill myself, and that was goal #1, but seriously, it was an experience I will always put at the top. I had a fantasy of one day going back to do the Double - the Ascent (13 miles UP) on Saturday, and the Full Marathon on Sunday. Sounds good sitting in my chair writing this blog, but those are days missed and gone. So today is the Ascent for those in Manitou Springs and tomorrow is the Marathon. Wish I was with you guys.
Also, this weekend is the Leadville 100 Mile Run. This "Race Across The Sky" is one of the Ultrarunning classics that I have known about since I began doing ultras. It begins in Leadville, Colorado, which is the highest town in the US - I believe about 9600'. The race is totally above that level, up to 12,600', for the 100 miles. Now, that has to do a number on your physiology. It won't make you "Everest" crazy, but I'm sure you'll hear voices from deep inside asking "What the hell are you doing?". The challenge of these 100 mile trail runs have always intrigued me, and I always find it interesting how the times are thrown around like we're talking about 5K times - "Oh, he finished in 23:04" - that's 23 HOURS!! Like staying awake, in the woods, up & down mountains, eating on the run, hallucinating, hoping you don't get lost. Doesn't get better than that. And this year, I've actually got a Twitter friend running (Now, there's a term I never would have used a couple of years ago). Eric lives in St. Louis and is a flatlander ready to run the toughest run of his life. He's also put his wallet where his mouth is, raising over $13,000 for the local Cancer Hospital. You can read his blog here and I'm sure he would still welcome any donations to his Life & Hope Fund.
And so, that's a couple of things going on this weekend in Al-World. To try to divert some of feelings of jealousy for all these runners doing their thing, I set out early this morning in the rain to do an epic long run...ok, only about 2 hours...but was turned back a couple of miles into the run by a thunderstorm that just wouldn't go away. When the time between the flash and the thunder is less than "one-thousand-two", it's time to head home. As Eric said last night "the temperature at Leadville will be between freezing and 8000-10,000 degrees if I get hit by lightning!".
Hope you all have a great weekend and you all have a great run, whether you're running high, low, slow or fast. I'll see you all on the roads - AL
"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world"
Saturday, August 11, 2012
"A lifetime of training for just ten seconds". - Jesse Owens
For the past two weeks, I, like most of you I guess, have been absorbed in the every 4 year spectacle of the Summer Olympics. With it being based in London, the hardest thing for me is avoiding knowing the results before I see it on the nightly recap. I mean, the plague could break out, or downtown Birmingham could sink into a giant sinkhole, and I wouldn't know it because I'm avoiding the news. I tried watching the NBC national news one night and they said they wouldn't spoil it, so you could look away from the screen and they would show the results without a voice over. Fine, but then later in the show, they're doing one of these sappy human interest athlete closeups, and Brian Williams starts off with something like "On top of the USA's monumental gymnastics results today...". Good grief, give me a break.
Like many people, I’ve spent the last two weeks soaking up as much of the Olympic coverage as I can and with that, NBC has given us an Olympic amount of commercials. The Olympic experience has reacquainted me with the “commercial break” bigtime. In the men's 10,000 meter race, a race that only goes about 27 minutes, there were FIVE commercial breaks! Nothing like getting into the flow of the race, seeing the Kenyans battling the Ethiopians, and the crowd going nuts for the home favorite, Mo Farrah, and his American training partner, Gaylon Rupp, beginning to make a move..."And we'll be right back"!!!...then I have to sit through 2 minutes of some new show ad starring a monkey.... A FRICKIN' MONKEY!! I could certainly live without the vast majority of commercials, but I understand the necessity of advertising to help pay the bills, and let's face it, NBC is still bringing this to us free. The days of free sporting events is gradually fading away, so I'll sit through some monkey Doctor commercial to see it free.
Of all of the commercials I’ve seen, Nike put together a series of (I think) 13 "Find Your Greatness" ads. My favorite was of "The Jogger". If you want to see the series, click here. It only takes about 5 minutes to see the whole series.
I think the nationalism is the neatest part of the games. I'm as patriotic as the next guy, but I really pull for an athlete who excels at what he does. Oh, sure I pull for the Americans (except for the basketball team - it doesn't make my patriotic muscles tingle seeing some spoiled rich professionals crushing lesser powers at a game we invented, but that's a discussion for another day). Does it matter if China wins more medals than we do? You better believe it does! I want to beat China at EVERYTHING!! But, watching a Chinese Archer shoot a bullseye in a driving rainstorm to win a medal, with the rain pouring off her visor sure got my attention. How many arrows has she shot in practice in the rain, in the wind, in the dark, when no one was watching? Then she steps up on the biggest stage and bangs a "10" so Al DiMicco in Birmingham, Alabama can say "Wow".
Usain Bolt of Jamaica has my attention too. Track & Field is my Bread and Butter of the Olympics, and Bolt's domination is inarguable. He literally plays with his competition. But, what got my attention was during an interview after his 100 meter win, he paused the interview because in the backround, the Star-Spangled Banner was playing as Sonya Richards-Ross was recieving her 400 meter medal. He's Jamaican...she's American...What class!
OK, one more class moment. In the Men's 400 meters, the Gold Medal winner was Kirani James from Grenada. It was the first medal of any kind gained by his island nation. Yes, that was a BIG deal, but the class moment was when immediately after crossing the finish line, he went up to last place finisher, Oscar Pistorious, to exchange his race bib with him. Oscar is the first amputee (a double amputee at that!!) to participate in the summer Olympics. Just a local side-note...Kirani Jones ran Track at the University of Alabama (but I certainly won't hold that against him).
It's almost finished. Sunday is the men's marathon - the Olympic high point for me. But, I have thorouly enjoyed it all ( a few less commercials would have been nice). It has been one great time and I'll be back in 4 years. In the meantime, I'll see you all on the roads - AL