Tuesday, September 14, 2010


A thin sheen of stratus clouds gives shape to the faint glow of the predawn sky. I run eastward on a road that descends along a ridge at about mile six of my new morning route. With the gradual illumination of the convex horizon coinciding with my downhill acceleration I can sense, better than at any other time, my place on a celestial object hurtling through space – my speed adding to the vectors of earth’s rotation and orbit.

I welcome the buzz in my gut that wakes me up in the morning. I can’t remember the last time I set an alarm clock. For several weeks after Burning River I slept in. I had to rest and allow my hamstring to heal. Of course I didn’t just rest. I sought, and got, good treatment advice. My rehab routine took a little over an hour each afternoon. I’m happy to share the details of the program, gleaned from an orthopedics journal. The gist is to engage in dynamic neuromuscular work – not stretching or massage. Six weeks later my hamstring is strong and fit for another ultra. My anticipation of the Great Eastern Endurance 100K Run, along with the daily demands of shepherding children (mine) and young adults (at the college) causes me to wake me at about 5 am each morning.

I have been striving, since last summer, to run 100 miles well. The disappointment of a DNF could be cause for despair. It did cause me to reevaluate my fall schedule – which had been devoted to a steady stream of 100s. My thinking had been to simply run that distance until I did it right. [Doing a 100 “right” is the subjective experience of owning that distance. Its converse is the experience of a ragdoll tied to a beagle by a little girl; found, washed and wrung out by her mother; then gutted, filled with firecrackers, and exploded by her brother.] My new schedule puts off the 100 until next summer. The irony is that I feel more excited now. I’m running GEER in a week and a half followed by the Mountain Masochist 50, the North Face 50, and Bandera 100K. Instead of dread I feel a sense of urgency. I want to run fast.

I bounced off my injury at the national 100 mile championships and onto a new trajectory. So why don’t I feel like a flea unwittingly jangled onto the back of an elephant who was only scratching his head on my tree? Running 100s was an existential exercise for me, designed to prove that I am a prime mover. If my choice of race was dictated by comfort, or talent, or circumstance – then I didn’t choose it. That’s a problem for people. We imagine moving ourselves – all the while stuck to the back of an elephant itself spun by the earth itself spinning haplessly through space –every movement determined by the laws of physics. Yet there is something to being me that makes me want to try anyway.

Ultimately, my new race schedule leads me back to the real source of my angst: the Western States 100. Mountain Masochist and Bandera are both Montrail Cup races. Following those in the spring I could enter American River or Miwok with the same purpose: to win one of the few coveted slots that allow runners to avoid the low probability of a lottery pick for Western States entry. Why should I aim to run a race that has given me little except cut-to-the-bone pain? You can get a sense by reviewing the history of posts to this blog. It’s something between the two trite responses given to the question “why climb Mt. Everest?” by George Mallory and Joseph Poindexter respectively.

Because it’s there… and because I’m here.