December 31, 2013


It's difficult to wrap words around a year that was, and impossible to project that forward. I'll say that this was a good year, though, and that I expect the next one will be as well.

I won a half marathon, full marathon, and 50 miler. And that, having known myself for my entire life, is just absurd. I won't give you the whole "former unathletic chubby kid" narrative, because you've heard it before. And I guess that's a good thing. We should be glad that people getting in shape borders on cliche, even as quite a few more could stand to do so.

And while those things are true, and I hold in my mind the memory of those races, I can't say I really derive any satisfaction from those moments. I was elated - and exhausted - and the end of each; but ecstasy fades, and you need new highs, higher highs, reaching for a brass ring that is always just outside your grasp.

Or, you know, not.

2013, in terms of running, was about validation, for me. To be blunt: I needed to know that I didn't suck at this, and perhaps more to the point, I needed other people to know it too. I needed the fast guys to talk to me as something of an equal, to hear pre-race whispers that I was the guy to beat.

Is this ego? To some extent, yes. But it's more a lack of one. That is, someone who has confidence in themselves and their abilities doesn't really need much in the way of external validation. They do what they do, and they enjoy it.

I'm getting there. Probably won't ever make it all the way, and to some extent, I'm ok with that. I have my ambitions, and I'd rather they not be extinguished. I want to run a fast spring marathon - which is to say, faster than the guys I run with have. Petty, maybe. But there it is. And I'd like to win some races, run faster times, etc. So, in short, I still want the same things I wanted last year.

But there's a difference, which doesn't really show in terms of my training or racing. It's much less quantifiable than those things, wholly unnoticeable if you're not in my head. And, well, here I am, and welcome in. The difference is the focus, which is more on the process than the outcomes. That is, while I'm running more and harder, and racing better, that's all just sort of incidental to the point, which is that I really enjoy my daily indulgence of miles. It is a lot, usually. Double digits pretty much every day. Oftentimes pretty hard, too. But I haven't dreaded a run in a long time, no matter how gnarly, and I certainly haven't regretted one. Put another way, it's the reaching that's become the goal, not the ring.

The goal then, such as it is, for 2014, is to keep that up. Process-positive focus and consistency is the way forward, not berating one's self over a perceived need to be perpetually better. Which is not to say that "better" won't happen, or that I don't want it to happen.... just that, yeah, I said this was hard to get words around.

There are some conflicting notions at work here, and that's difficult to express in a comfortable way. It's difficult because we want to make sense, to craft cogent arguments. When that fails, the delete key beckons. We don't want to seem so transparently contradictory, even as being so is innately and necessarily human.

So all of that said, 2014, huh? Let's be chill about it.

December 29, 2013


The sky this morning was a robin's egg blue, pastel with whimsical white wisps drifting across. A quiet aesthetic until an SUV nearly runs a light and hits me - and I mean me, not my car this time, because I'm running, as I do. We exchange pleasant fuck yous and exasperated looks and then are on our respective ways, cheerily again. Someday, I'll learn that shouting profanity at people in large vehicles is not a wise life choice. Someday, though, was not today.

Perhaps I was tired? That would be an out, of sorts, an excuse that, if I didn't know my tendency towards juvenile language under any circumstances, I might take. (Didn't I get a degree in English? Don't I proofread things for a living? Shouldn't my vocabulary be so extensive that "fuck" is phased out? Nope.)

But I was out late last night - shocking! - at a bar - shockinger! - drinking water - as expected! There was a rather awful sludge metal band playing in one room, and a chubby white guy with ass-length dreadlocks playing early 90's rap, for the most part, in the adjacent room. When the band stopped playing, a swarm of denim jackets invaded the rap room; the DJ responded to the influx of PBR and cigarettes with Lil' Jon. The response was rampant enthusiasm, somehow. I didn't know that my life wouldn't be complete without seeing some guy with a Goatwhore patch on his (sleeveless, with red-painted metal spikes on the shoulder) denim jacket "get crunk", but now I can't imagine life otherwise.

Soon after, I went to bed. Then, I got up and went to work, on very little sleep. Then I ran. Then I almost became roadkill. So now we're caught up. But, I'm out of things to say, because my jogging exploits are far less interesting than a crew of would be Motorhead roadies dancing furiously and wholly without irony to "Get Low".

So thanks for that, Lawrence. Thanks for your lovely denizens and townie bars.

December 26, 2013

Eight and Rising

The closest thing to a local ultra-star we've got, if Omaha counts as "local". I'm saying it does, since two of her wins this year were in Lawrence and Kansas City. (I won the marathon in Lawrence, when she won the 50. Her min/mile pace was 4 seconds faster than mine. So, yeah. I should probably mail her my mug too. This is the part where I'd make an excuse about a wrong turn, except she took one too. Nevermind.)

She's got a Pearl Izumi sponsorship now, and is targeting some higher profile races with much stronger competition. Still, she hasn't lost an ultra yet, and I think her's is a name to watch, in the years to come. Also, just sayin', we talked once, in real life, post-race. Something about almost stepping on a copperhead. Basically makes me a running celebrity by proxy.

December 24, 2013


Lentils and red beans are an odd mix with blueberries, but since I was going to eat all three, why not together? Apart from the usual manner of reasons: taste, texture, normality, etc. Apart from those things, for which I had no concern, there was no remaining reason. None, at least, that superceded my primary directive in all food preparations - brevity. That is, putting everything I'm going to eat in a bowl, all at once, and downing it, with no regard for culinary or aesthetic sensibilities.

Pleasant? At times. Efficient? Very.

In this case, not wholly unpleasant, but yes, quite efficient.

I ate the whole mess cold, because, yes, heating it would take a minute or so, which was about how long I planned on spending eating, so certainly I couldn't double my food-attentive period with an equal amount of time spent cooking, or rather, heating things that had already been cooked, or did not need cooking at all. I did so and looked out at the snow, and my footsteps in the driveway. They appeared to be those of a much taller man - or at least, someone with very large feet - owing to the fact that I tried to step in the same foot holes every time, but usually missed by a little.

Satisfying, though, in the way that food tends to be, post-decent effort. In this case, 3 easy, 3 rather hard, 3 easy. Cheating, slightly, in using my a treadmill at my gym. Then, while there, doing some cursory strength work, and turning down the chance to mangle myself with a 200-lb ball of concrete, which was being hoisted by several much larger individuals. They chided me for not running longer. I chided them for not lifting heavier. And so it goes.

Cold lentils and treadmill miles, and really, I'm quite pleased with it all. Simple things, right?

December 23, 2013

Whitener Christmas

Walking in the basement of my office, I pass the coffee machine, that is nothing like what you're picturing while reading that. This is not a pot, or a small scale brewer of any kind, but rather, a massive thing, the size and dimensions of a soda dispensing machine. It produces something that is alleged to be coffee, for nominal change, at the push of several buttons.

You can get coffee. This is straightforward.

Or, you can get it with "whitener". Not cream. Not non-dairy creamer, even, with unspecified ingredients. No, whitener. Use your imagination. I dare not.

If that sounds appealing, but you'd really rather have it as a frothy mess, you can get a latte, or something called that, which is "whipped" with whitener.

Walking by, there is a wet floor sign. A mess underneath, brown, tan perhaps, coffee which had been whitened, yes, I think. Had been? Was? Is? What is it now? Coffee still? I kneel and prod at it. Look around and, when I confirm that I'm alone, I sniff. Taffy. Coffee taffy? To the touch and smell. Almost. But not quite. Not quite because there is no reference point for this. But wet? No. That much is clear. And so I can only conclude that this whitener is also a solidifier.

I won't be trying it.

December 22, 2013


At a group run the other night, discussing my training, such as it is. That being, for the most part, as much and as long as I care to go. No soreness ever, really. Durability is perhaps not the best talent, if you're choosing one, but it does count for a lot. One is rarely without a hobby, at least. I was slightly hurt at this time last year, however, a "stress reaction" in my left foot. Probably three times since, I have managed to get some smidge of soreness there, including last week, after my icy trail race. Nothing major, and it's gone now. I didn't - and don't - think that this indicates any long-term structural damage. Why?

Because of an episode in an alley, leaping down from a curb. My foot was still tender, on that night, and so I pushed off with my left foot, and landed on my right. I nearly tripped over myself, after all of a two-foot journey. I spent the rest of that run, and the rest of this week's runs, intentionally landing on my right foot. Not because my left hurts - it doesn't - but simply to note how awkward it feels. And it does feel awkward. There are a numerous little dips, turns, and technical sections at the Clinton Lake trails, where I frequently run. And I've noticed now, having tried to do the opposite, that I habitually "plant" on my left foot. That is, anytime there is a harsh landing to be had, either on or amongst rocks, or stopping my momentum at the bottom of the hill, I assign my left foot the task. Landing on the right, in such situations, feels horribly awkward.

What I'm working towards, and beginning to incorporate already, is a more agnostic approach. Ideally, I'd run through and over obstacles, paying as little mind to them as possible, altering my stride not at all. Neither chopping nor loping, aiming to artificially place my left foot as the stabilizer, so that I can then push off with my right. As much as possible, run over things as I would if it were a sidewalk, a road, a smooth dirt path. Land organically, without forced or unbalanced stress.

I'm quite happy to have discovered this. Not merely because I think it ought to improve my running, on technical trail, or keep my left foot free of the intermittent soreness that seems to find it. It's just fascinating, really. Fascinating the movement patterns our body chooses, decides are most efficient. Which, as I found leaping from that curb, is not often wrong. But "most efficient at the moment" is not optimally efficient. Of course, given the choice, we'd all have the latter. Fascinating, also, because this was unknown to me for quite some time, for hundreds of thousands of steps. We think, often, of imbalances in running in terms of weak muscles. But I wonder, how many are like this? Lapses in coordination, movement patterns which have worn a rut? For me, and for others, these must exist. How many of them do we see, but fail to observe? As I said, fascinating.

December 19, 2013


I am aware, in some sense, in some world, that I once had a bottle of water to my left, placed on a desk. It was some sort of sparkling water, one my favorite indulgences. Which, yes, is suggestive of how ascetic my lifestyle tends towards. I'm listening to this, the best reviewed album of the year, by most any measure (from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to Metacritic to the guys on the metal internet forum I post at), from mainstream critics to those who focus wholly on loud things.

Its interesting. Black metal influence, shoegazey. Soaring and emphatic. Bursting with energy. The cover (both the color and lack of bleak nature scenes) and general brightness of sound (relative to black metal in general, which is, well, black) make me want to call it grapefruit metal. Although, I don't like grapefruit (it's one of the few fruits I truly dislike), and I do like this. I think the surging sensation of it would make for good running music too, but I've not tried that.

December 14, 2013

Ice is Slick and Hills are Steep

The official Kansas Road Running Records are, first of all, a thing. Not a thing dealing entirely with people from Kansas, and the fastest times run by them, but rather, a thing dealing with the times run on Kansas soil. By anyone. Or, you know, pavement. Whatever.

Regarding my spring marathon, I thought, perhaps, that a nice goal time would be whatever qualified for their "Honor Roll". I thought that, until I checked, and saw that the "open" (aged 20-34) standard for said honor roll is 2:32.

Well, nevermind.

(Not nevermind forever, necessarily. Although, if we're being honest, yeah, forever sounds about right. The standard does drop to 2:45 for the 35-39 bracket, which seems much more likely to me. But, whatever. Projecting a decade's progress/regression/being eaten by coyotes/hit by a bus/etc. is fruitless.)

Better to talk about racing in the present, which, hey, I did that today. 10.35 miles, I'm told, though the distance was never going to be the challenge. That, rather, was the ice covering the hills. I fell, I think, eight or so times, though I stopped counting. Hit a tree stump with my right shoulder, and couldn't really swing that arm for a few minutes. Cut up both knees a bit, watched the blood trickle, then freeze. Humorous, really, after the fact. Though I seem to recall, based on my shouted profanity during the race, that I didn't find any of it so funny at the time.

But, so it goes. I said yesterday that racing was the ultimate exercise in presence. And this was that, for better and worse. Exhilarating, at times. At others, I was quite sure I was going to be impaled on a tree. I did survive, however, despite my struggles with verticality. Even managed to finished second, behind a guy who, if memory serves, I'm now 0/1847291 against. You know, roughly. But hey, he's run a 2:32 marathon. (Not in Kansas though. So he's not on the honor roll either. We can sit in the back of class together, in that.)

December 13, 2013


A slog around the golf course behind my gym. Six miles or so, slow. Legs fatigued from yesterday's 5 easy-6 tempothresholdhardish (with some fast folks)-5 easy. Air wet, a sort of omni-damp, directionless. Rain is top down; this simply was. Up. Down. Foward. Back. Just on you. In you. The sky brown, or tan, really. Sepia, maybe. Shot through a soft filter. Like a dust storm but, you know, the opposite. Wet. It looked like nostalgia but felt very present.

Racing in the morning and there will be mud, maybe. Ice certainly, perhaps enough that it cancels out the former. The hills will be there in either case, not caring if they're slick or jagged, giving zero shits about you, trying to scale them. But I'm going to try. Hopefully faster than anyone else who shows. If not, among them. Close, at least. Stroke volume maxed, tendons and muscles straining, sucking down the biting cold. It will look like hell and feel like heaven, because there is no present like racing present.

We'll see. I'll let you know.

December 9, 2013

Heartland in URM

The December issue of Ultrarunning Magazine features three Kansas races, Heartland being one. (Heartland gets the damn cover too, if you can believe it.) I'm going to indulge myself, in pointing out that the name on top of the 50-mile finishers list is mine.

1. Alex Beecher, 25 7:59:59

From the article: "Among those stories was the all-out sprint to the finish by first-place 50-mile runner Alex Beecher, 25, who achieved his goal of a sub-eight-hour finish in 7:59:59."

There are all sorts of reasons I shouldn't care this much. It's just running, yeah? And not the biggest field, obviously. Over half dropped too. And really, still an hour off the course record. Would've lost a plenty of other years.

I know all that, really. Rob Krar I'm not. But for someone who won't ever be that level of athlete, to get your name in a real magazine, on shelves and in mailboxes, with the number "1" by your name.... I mean, not to be needlessly profane, but fuck, man. Sometimes that word just works.

It's just running, yeah. But it's also what I spent the last three years working towards. A trophy in my bedroom and my name on a glossy page aren't the most important things in the world, no, but they're tangible reminders of those miles and my progress from 10:54, to 9:01, to 7:59:59. I'm not telling you this matters, really, or that anyone but me should care. But I am telling you that I do.

December 7, 2013

December 7, 2013

Ran twice today, but only for a total of 11 miles. Pretty low volume, but more miles that degrees, roughly, and some decent hill climbing, with the kind of intensity only desperately wanting to return home and get out of this brutal cold can produce. I'm ok with this.

I also managed to get in 5 hours at work today, and I'll knock another 5 out tomorrow. Overtime is mandatory and substantial, this time of year, so it pays to get out in front of it, if I want to race next week. And I do want to race next week, to state the obvious. 10 mile trail loop, with what I'm told is good competition, and good bean chile after.

This, though. This right here. Coldest sporting event I've ever attended, and probably the most dramatic too. Can't really talk but that's cool.
A full weekend, and more to come. Listened to a couple good albums, and met a few former customers to chat about life, things, etc. Funny and actually quite charming that I did something well enough for people to remember even a year later, and for them to tell me it mattered to them. It does to me too, of course. And maybe I'll write more about that soon. I probably should, if I can find the words.

December 5, 2013

Picky Bars Smooth Caffeinator: Unsolicited Endorsement

This is both what I'm talking about, in a literal sense, and what I'm talking about, in that it's the first energy/protein/recovery/whatever bar I've had to get coffee flavor right, to not hide it behind, well, other stuff. Which isn't to say that this tastes like eating roasted beans - though I do that often, and it's delicious. Mostly, you taste chocolate and hazelnut, balanced with a vague sort of dried fruit texture and flavor. There are whole nuts and a little crisped rice too, so the whole thing isn't mush.

The ingredient list is as follows:
Organic Dates, Hazelnut Butter, Organic Agave Nectar, Rice Protein (Protein from Whole Grain Sprouted Brown Rice), Organic Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, Hazelnuts, Organic Chocolate Chips (Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Chocolate Liquor, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Soy Lecithin (non-GMO), Organic Vanilla Extract), Cranberries (Cranberries, Sugar, Sunflower Oil), Organic Apricots (Organic Apricots, Organic Rice Flour), Fair Trade Organic Coffee, Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Safflower Oil, Natural Vitamin E (to preserve freshness).
The bar itself looks like this. About the size of a quarter-deck of playing cards. Compact, and fairly dense. If you're inclined towards mechanical satiety - that is, eating for "stomach fullness" - this probably won't do the trick as anything but a tiny snack. But if you, like me, have the stomach of a 90-year-old, then the caloric/nutrient density is a bonus. I ate one with a largeish apple for lunch, six hours ago, and certainly wouldn't prefer to eat right now. Probably, the best application is as long-run fuel, for those who prefer something heartier than gels; or immediate post-workout snacking, for those - like me - who hate eating post-run.

Short version? I'd order again, for sure, and I'm slightly irritated that I can't buy these at any nearby groceries. Oh well. If you'd like to order this, or any other flavors, you can do so here. Also of note, if it's not perfectly obvious, this is a wholly unsolicited endorsement. As in, I got these with my own money. As in, I'm neither famous nor fast enough to get free shit. However, I do eat food, though most is pretty basic. It's hard to write "reviews" of sweet potatoes, apples, and beets, though, so I thought it worth mentioning that I found a coffee flavored bar that actually tastes awesome.

December 3, 2013

Opportunity Cost

Reading a lot about running lately, as I do, because I am somewhat obsessive, or rather, decidedly so, and unable to moderate my interest in things, to limit it to the mere indulgence in the act itself. And so I find myself ordering long out-of-print books by Osler and Henderson, digging up Let's Run threads about and by the late John "Hadd" Walsh, and generally spending far too much time on something I already spend far too much time on.

Though to be honest, it's not so much the time, as the mental energy, the neurosis, the feeling that, on every run, there is something else I should be doing, which is not to say not running, but rather running differently, faster, longer, etc., somehow other than what I am. Progress is nice and I've enjoyed a year of it, but how can you know, really know, if what you're doing is best, is optimal, isn't leaving, in Hadd's words, toothpaste in the tube?

You don't know, and crucially, can't. So you fret, and you read, and you fret even while plowing through a 40 mile weekend, and then a 15 mile Monday, because it was all rather slow, wasn't it? Well, except for the five 400s I managed on Saturday, on something of an urge, and the few miles on Sunday spent around half marathon pace, and then the hills on Monday. All of the miles, other than those, were really rather easy. Easy and slow. And so those other things happened, though perhaps they should not have, or perhaps there should have been more. Perhaps all this volume is silly or perhaps it is wholly insufficient.

I'd say that I digress, except that this, whatever this is, really, is the point. And I should also say that this, this point, if I'm going to call it that, is a happy one, or at worst, necessary, the result of some rather profound need to obsess, not over things, but a thing, that I've got. So, if not this, then something else. Perhaps better, but probably not. This, at least, is an obsession society has decided one ought to be congratulated for, even if they will suggest, kindly and gently, that we could, perhaps, eat just a little more.

But it's good, really, and best at the end of all those miles, deeply and thoroughly bonked, damp with effort and bliss. Running the sort of volume that I presently do may not, ultimately, make me fast (wherever that line is, it's hard to imagine I've crossed it), or even faster. But it feels good, always. And that's not nothing.

November 29, 2013

Black (Metal) Friday

I didn't buy any gifts (sorry folks) but did pick up my 20$ gift card from a local sporting goods store.

Drank a cup of good coffee, went to another shop, drank another. Ran the 7ish mile trail loop I just raced, went to the gym, lifted, did 3 more plodding miles. Quads are sore from running 3 flat miles yesterday, which really does confirm I don't do enough fast running.

Listened to this album, for probably the 20th time this week. It's great work music for me, but really, who doesn't want a deafening cacophony of riffs and growls while editing Investigational Ophthalmology?

Thankful my legs work and that good coffee is good. And thanks for reading as well. I throw a lot of stuff out there and more than a few of you keep coming back. I appreciate it.

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Lessons

Ran the Run Lawrence Thanksgiving Day 5K this morning. It was cold, windy, and very instructive.

The lessons:

1) Ran a minute faster than last year, not really pressing, except for the first 800 or so, which translated in to an overzealous first mile. Another sign of progressing fitness, however. That's good.

2) Still 2:30 back from the leaders. People who run college cross country and track are fast. People who just finished running college cross country and track are fast too.

3) Nabbed 2nd in my age group anyway, which is now 25-29. Those high school and college runners who whipped me? Too young. Hopefully, the older I get, the more my peers slack off. That seems to be my best chance at continuing to win small gift cards. (I'm also declaring myself 1st overall in the ultra-shuffler division. Pretty sure neither of the guys rocking the Wisconsin or TCU gear would claim that title.)

4) Speed and endurance are different things. I train the latter almost exclusively, and so, in short races, my legs just can't go. Some work at or faster than 5K pace would do me some good, especially if I want to manage a respectable (flat road) spring marathon. Pleasantly jogging 70-100 miles a week is a good start, but I need to get my ass to the track.

5) If I were a high school girl I would be really fast, because I beat the 6A cross country state champ by two seconds. Am I celebrating beating a high school girl? A freshman? A 14 year old? God damn right. If she's the next Abbey D'agostino, I'm getting it put on my tombstone.

November 25, 2013

My Hair Can Fly

Photo credit to Mile 90 photography. They always manage to make me look as good as I can look, wearing tights under shorts, gasping during the final hundred meters or so of a race. Good runners and good folks as well.

On the other hand.

November 23, 2013


Third in a race that goes ten deep with fast guys I know, and maybe a handful more I don't. Happy with it. More satisfied, to tell the truth, than with any other recent result. Finish between people you know are fast, and I guess you can't help but feel okay about yourself, your training, and your present fitness. Maybe you even start to think you could be a little fast too. 

Faster, certainly, than last year, when I ran this thing 3 minutes slower. And I guess that's the best part. Wherever you are, relative to other folks, you always want to beat the shit out of your ghost from last year. And I smoked him. 

November 18, 2013

Racing Saturday

10K this Saturday, and looks like it might draw the kind of field I'd asked for a little while back. A few people I've lost to before. One guy I've never beaten, and won't, unless he breaks a leg, mid-race. (I should note, here, that he's a cool guy, so I'd rather this not happen. He trains more and harder than anyone else I know, despite being talented enough to beat everyone around here on half the time and effort. So I'd rather he stay upright. And kick my ass.)

But I'm as interested, honestly, in who might show up. A few road kids, trying their rock-hopping legs for the first time. A couple ultra-specialists, stepping down. Maybe. I've heard talk and read some things on Facebook. And I hope it happens. I hope it happens because running is fun, is satisfying, is a lot of very nice things that you either know or I can't properly tell you.

But racing is what it's about.

It's not better, always. Sometimes it a lot worse, in fact. A bad run is a bad run. You move on and get out the door the next day. But a bad race sits on your shoulders and tells you that you're less fit than you thought, not training as hard as you thought. It tells you that you've wasted hours, days, weekends, for this? Fuck, man. Maybe you're fraudulent, putting on this "runner" thing as some kind of ploy, an attempt to garner Good for you's from co-workers and pats on the back from other fitness hobbyists.

And I raced like shit, last year, at this event. Went to the well and there was nothing there. Don't know why, and that's the worst. X is wrong, you do fix X. But you have to solve for the variable first.

So. I don't know. I know that I'm training more and better and my races say so. I haven't had a bad one yet this year. Won a handful, finished near the front in the rest. No reason to think that won't happen on Saturday.

But I want to see. To stand at the line, in the freezing cold, look right, left, see people who care, who work, with whom I run often, sharing miles and conversation. I like these guys and I like this trail and I like running hard. It's all good, so long as I am, on that morning.

November 17, 2013

Night Moves

Out on the sidewalk, concrete that is cold and hard, like the miles, like the night sky that seems stretched across some expanse behind, a black sheet hiding infinity. 10 miles is 10 miles, though, and things are mostly as they are. That night sky is not a singular thing, but rather depth incarnate, neverending nothing, until it does, maybe. There are clouds fleeting across its face, and the moon, full and bright. A halo of light extends from it, framed against the clouds.

It is bright and the cars go by, their headlights brighter. There are houses out here. Lights are on in a few, off in others. Most don't have occupants to turn them on. There are signs everywhere, advertising. A ghost town that hasn't yet drawn a single breath, which never had life to begin with. A coyote runs by and seems not to notice me.

From the outskirts to the center, one night later. 10 more, after 10 in the morning. A long day. Pickups when I can, shuffling when I can't. The brick breaks things up, and I hop on to the grass when my feet begin to protest. There are hills. Faintly, there are sounds of music, of shouts, of dim echoes of sobriety drowning in it all. A homeless man walks by, using a PVC pipe as a cane.

Turn up a hill, down another, through a parking lot. Trash cans tipped, garbage everywhere. Near the lake and I hear voices, a boy and a girl sitting together in the dark, holding hands, talking. They laugh as I see them, their intimate moment made performance. I wave because I don't know what else to do, decide a second later that I shouldn't have, then that it doesn't matter. Up another hill and a drunk student is wobbling back and forth, making exaggerated hitchhiker thumb gestures towards the road. People honk but no one slows.

Near home, a mother and her daughter, walking in the neighborhood. The girl is no more than 5. She points at me, and with the honesty of youth, asks loudly, Why is he running? Because he likes it, says her mother. I wonder that point for the miles that remain and think that her mother's answer is probably the best one, but that there cannot be a best one, because I make things far too difficult for that. I finish, though, and sit and bathe in my bliss and think that she is not wrong.

November 16, 2013

Saturday Morning

Bricks are nice and so is good coffee. Walking over the former to get to the latter is a pleasant way to spend a late morning, after a few hours of staring at a computer screen, trying to decide if one need specify that Western Australia is indeed in Australia. The mind works best when moving and when stimulated by caffeine but I had already decided to err on the side of specificity, in this case.

November 15, 2013

Friday, or Not

The sidewalk extends for a few more blocks and it is made of brick so those blocks are interesting, blocky blocks, walking with feeling, texture. Angles roll and things move and are not uniform and the breeze is faint and cool and there are clouds but they are light and so the sun can penetrate them. It's nice.

Back inside there is yellow paper taped to the wall beside the bathroom asking someone to see someone about breaking a two dollar bill, if possible. Inside the bathroom there is a bowl that previously held some sort of re-heated lunch soaking in the sink. Paper towels are all around.

Things move on and happen but barely do I participate. Wading and watching, mostly. I do have a Larabar which I love dearly and altogether too much if we're being honest and then a decent apple and spectacularly awful cup of coffee but it was work coffee so I knew what I was signing up for.

Fridays still feel like what they are even when they entirely different, even when the weekend to come will not be a weekend properly, or even a weekend at all, really. Instead there will be work and more work and Saturday and Sunday will be little more than a prelude to Monday and maybe nothing more than an extension thereof, really, nothing more than one long Monday, three days of one day.

Probably the sun will not notice this, however. Probably things in the world and on the world and wholly outside of the world will go on, go on as they do, go on as they must and were always going to, really, regardless of how much proofreading I do or do not attempt in a given period of arbitrarily designated hours.

Neat, that.

November 14, 2013


When discussing coffee, and preferences regarding it, it is important to note that a distinction between things is not the same as a value judgement. Establishing something as being wholly "other" is merely to say that it is in fact different, fundamentally so, neither better nor worse. It is to assert, simply, that while perhaps there is value in places that serve pumpkin spice lattes, there is also value in places that do not, that those two things might co-exist, but in so doing, exist separately. All culture need not be popular culture.

November 6, 2013


There was, I think, a gold SUV, running a light. The car beside me continued and they looked likely to crash. They both swerved and avoided it; I slammed on my breaks. The driver behind me did as well, but not soon enough, given the rain.

A collision, which seemed mild at the time, only slightly harsher now, in hindsight. A crunch, a head snap, and then sitting. For a moment. For several moments. Giddy, almost. Adrenaline and I thought for a moment that this feels like racing. I laughed a little because it felt good, and then I got out of my car.

A large dent, back-right half smashed in, glass, plastic, strewn. He looked somber, asked if I was ok. I asked if he was. We both were. Waiting, in the rain. Cold and damp and I hadn't brought a coat because I was just going to the gym, to my treadmill. The officer arrives in minutes and things get sorted. I am oddly giddy, jittery, and this all feels fun, dramatic, interesting. People look as they drive by as I have done many times.

The treadmill still happens, and then a little more, outside. Nervous energy to burn. Fight or flight and I prefer the latter. As the energy wanes and I come back to myself I am grateful, happy still, to be doing this, to be moving and to be able to move, to be fine, really, aside from a headache that I imagine coffee will largely alleviate. I think about a friend who very nearly died, several years ago, in a very similar incident.

The morning now and even post-coffee a mild headache persists, which is to be expected, but the coffee was very good nonetheless. I am thinking that I am certainly not racing this weekend, and that, probably, I will instead watch a great deal of football, watch people sustain impacts more severe than mine, several times over, to the delight of millions. I am thinking that there is an element of hypocrisy there and perhaps a tinge of barbarism as well but that I don't care to expand on those thoughts.

Things, though, are good. A brush with something that could have had a very much not good conclusion illuminates this more than usual. Also, wear your seatbelt, kids.

November 4, 2013

Half Committed

Shoes ordered. Because I'm sure you're dying to know, I'll just say this: Nothing, really. We'll see how I feel, a hundred miles in or so, and then I'll probably write way too many words about it.

Perhaps I'll give them a go at 13.1 miles this Saturday. I've said multiple times I'm going to race, but haven't actually signed up yet, and kind of.... don't feel like it? It's not that I wouldn't enjoy it. I would. Halves are fun, the "just right porridge" of distance running, to me. And it's not that I don't want to see how fast I could go. I want to know. Rather badly, to be honest. 

And perhaps that's the problem? Road races are cruel, in that they make you run - and run hard - the whole way. No stealing breaths on hills or overly technical sections. And the result is what it is. You are what you ran that day, not what you thought you could do, not what that one workout said you could hit that you totally nailed a couple weeks back. (Trail races are timed too, of course, but the times are inherently less meaningful, unless you know the course quite well.)

So, you go in, wanting to run it fast, to blow past your PR, because you think you're in that kind of shape. And if you don't? Fuck. Existential crisis. Or maybe just eat too many cashews. We all cope differently. I'd opt for both, probably. Maybe some figs too. 


October 31, 2013

No Candy for You

Halloween, never one of my favorite holidays, and long since given up. This year, though, I dressed up as a person trying to run fast, and then I tried to run fast. I think perhaps that I did a decent impression of it, but not quite convincing enough. The New York Marathon is this weekend, and I just can't stop thinking about the pace needed to compete at the front of a race like that. Imagining stringing together that many < 5:00 miles (faster than that, really, but I'm being conservative) is nuts, and quickly dissolves any illusions I've got that whatever I'm doing is "fast". Sevens! I'm flying guys!

Of course, you can only get the most out of what you've got, and my last name isn't Mutai or Kiprotich. But, there is a Mutai and a Kiprotich racing this Sunday, at the NYC Marathon, and I'm stoked. The race is going to be broadcast on ESPN2, live, and the field is mind-blowing. Every major marathon is, these days, but still. The bullshit meme about "anonymous" East Africans is only true if you let it be, so, here's a men's preview by Let's Run, and here is the women's race breakdown. Now you know.

Stacked field. A real course with turns and hills and no fucking pacemakers. And live TV, showing the whole thing. Stoked.

Music for the day, because, obviously. Yes, I prefer the AFI cover to the Misfits original. Yes, I know what that says about me. But this whole EP is great, really. While we're on the subject, I still listen to Black Sails at least once a week too, so, there. There it is. Judge away.

October 30, 2013


Season 3 of Salomon's trail running tv has begun. Episode 1 features Bernd Heinrich - the former American record holder at 100 miles, up until a month or so ago. His running credentials are stacked, beyond that, which they don't really allude to much. Neither does Heinrich. Instead, he climbs a tree, and is moved to tears by the simple - and yet, of course, terribly profound - idea of people pursuing their dreams, using running as a vehicle for self-exploration and actualization. If the rest of season 3 is similarly highlights awesome old guys, still being awesome, then I'm stoked.

October 25, 2013

Racing the Crowds

There are three 50-mile races this weekend, each within 50 miles of Lawrence. If one were so inclined, since two of the races are on Saturday, and one on Sunday, it would be possible to do two of them. No one is doing that, however, for the not inconsequential reason that it would be insane, even by the lofty standards of utlra-folks. Heartland, of course, was two weeks ago. A week before that was Kansas' largest 50K. One week after Heartland was another nearby trail 50K, which took place the same day as the Kansas City Marathon.

So there rises to meet this increased demand for long races an increased number of long races. So maneuvers the supposed invisible hand. Adam Smith's child, all grown up, working hard.

But while we have an increased number of racers and races, I'm worried, somewhat, that we'll have a decrease in actual racing. That is, with more races to do, fields will be diluted, and the area's better runners will see less and less of one another.

Of course, this is only a concern if you view races as competitive endeavors in a sense that is perhaps becoming anachronistic, that is, as an arena where people try to best one another. What we're growing towards is an emphasis on competing exclusively with one's self, as a means to... some end that I've not yet found, but nonetheless continue to pursue.

These notions are not inherently contradictory, of course. No native of Eastern Kansas was going to compete with the visiting Kenyans to win the Kansas City Marathon; they were, rather, attempting to run faster than they ever had. Heartland, for me, was about bending the trajectory that began there three years ago in a positive direction. Everyone has their goals, and they are all valid. The person racing against the cutoffs is racing every bit as much as those at the front. Really.


As both a "fan" and member of the local running community, I'd like to see certain people race; and yes, these people are typically running at the front (or off of it). I'd like to be included in those races, frankly, and see if I could hang. I'd rather that, and get my ass handed to me, than win races and wonder how so-and-so might have done, if they weren't running such-and-such instead. (Of course, if losing badly is the goal, I've got a 10K and half marathon coming up in the next month, both of which routinely attract some very fast people. I'll get my wish.)

Anyway, we'll see. The area's most competitive ultra is a 50K in February - not a busy time for other races. It tends to attract a strong local field, as well as some fast folks from Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa. I'll probably get my ass kicked there as well, which wouldn't be the worst thing. But that's a ways off. Something to worry about another time, or more likely, something not worth worrying about at all. It's just running, guys. And that's what I'm going to go do now. Peace.

October 24, 2013

Good Volume

Nine toenails, 14 miles. (Broken up as 3, then 8 shared, 3 again, with some standing around and talking to folks in between. Always nice to share your lunacy with other, like-minded people.) I kept the whole thing just a little south of 8-minute pace, cruising. Legs weren't peachy at the start, still fatigued from too many squats, box jumps, deadlifts, etc., yesterday, post-run. But the soreness was the right kind, wholly felt deep in muscle tissue. In terms of cardio, though, strictly "aerobic", entirely conversational.

Feeling good feels good.

Scott Douglas, somewhere, I think, commented that, at a certain level of volume, running less would actually be more of a challenge. Everyone has a different sweet spot, of course. But once you find it? Man. It just happens. I remember reading that, a couple of years back, and thinking it was nuts. Totally. I could muster some decent days, but couldn't string them together. Until I could, by virtue, really, of just doing it. You do more until you can do more and then you do a little more than that.

Not that I pretend to be any kind of an expert. In the grand scheme (whatever the hell that is), I'm terribly inexperienced and really quite slow. Also, my form is kinda shitty and I run like a dork. Though that's not very specific, my guess is your mental image isn't far off.

But smarter and fitter people than I am or will ever be espouse something similar. They probably have a more aesthetically pleasing stride as well, if that's your thing.

But that's enough about that, even though I haven't said much about anything, really. Here's a cool old running video, focusing on some older Kiwis. A better use of your time, even if it is a bit after-school-special in its tenor.

Toenail Down

My toenails all survived Heartland. One did not survive my office chair today, however. Fuck.

October 22, 2013

Real Running, Fantasy Basketball

Enjoyed running slow today. Got passed by a few people, each of whom gave me a look. I cover basically the same route, every day - because I like routine, I guess - so I see most of these people somewhat often. Usually, they don't go flying by me. Today they did. All good, though.

Meandered for 6, did 20 reps of some big fucking hill (a very specific workout, this), hitting both the up and down pretty hard. Then, wandered around for 6 more.

Nothing complained, and my heart rate stayed as low as my effort level would indicate. Low, except for the hills, then low again, no more than a minute and a half later. Which is cool. I'll probably take tomorrow pretty easy, then see what a "tempo" effort gets me on Thursday.

I also had my fantasy basketball draft tonight, because I'm one of the five people around here who really likes NBA basketball. Kyrie Irving figures to be my highest scorer. Sadly, you don't get extra points for doing this to people, or I'd be even happier to have him.

October 21, 2013

April Showers

Race shopping. Realized, for the first time, that I'm now in the 25-29 age group.

It's been this way since May, of course, but small-ish trail races don't tend to divide things up by age group. You're either the winner, or not, and that's basically it. There's something fundamentally honest about that, but perhaps a little harsh, as well. Not that the two things need be separated, of course.

Anyway, road marathons do tend to separate things that way, and every other way. Top 3 overall? Sure. Top 3 in every age group on top of that? A lot of medals to go around. But it's all good. Things to shoot for.

And that's what I'm doing. I've signed up for the Eisenhower Marathon, in my childhood hometown of Abilene, KS, on April 12.

If you're thinking that that's a long way off, you're right. But I like long-term goals. The second I finished the Hawk Marathon last year, my goal was to win it this year. My Heartland win happened two years ago in my imagination, before it became real last week.

Life has its horizons, but they're not worth much if we don't envision things beyond them.

So, the rest of this fall will be relatively chill, in terms of distances raced. Nothing longer than a half. That's my self-imposed ban, anyway. I feel good, after Heartland. But feeling good is good. No reason to ruin it just to see if you can.

That's not to say that I'm getting lazy. The idea - instead of attempting to artificially extend my peak - is to use my post-Heartland fitness as a big foundation, so that, come February and March, my legs can handle some serious intensity.

We'll see.

October 18, 2013


The first day of the year that could be accurately called cold, I think. A good reminder that running is best in weather that isn't really good for much else. Mid-30s feels pretty good, when your internal temperature starts to rise.

And the aesthetic was nice too, at least for me. I know some people enjoy their sunny runs, but I prefer to wait until dark, or nearly so. And the later in the year it gets, the earlier "dark" happens. An extra bonus: Today came with grey sky, and mist. My favorite recipe.

I could do without someone lurching at me in their truck, though. Green light. Walk sign on. I'm cruising through the crosswalk, but the guy wants to go right on red, and wants to do it several seconds ago. So, he leans on his horn, and jabs the truck forward a meter or so, as I pass.

I don't envy cyclists their more frequent incidents with jackasses who feel they've got some divine right to do whatever the fuck they want, by virtue of being behind a wheel, and encased in a large metal husk. Funny how that turns anyone into a badass. Not funny how many people are hurt by that idiocy.

Anyway, that interaction added a little more pace to my run than my quads were happy with, and kind of ruined the vibe. So, I came home and watched a video of a bear playing tetherball. You should do that too.
Life is better now, right?

(The bear in question, and the sanctuary at which the video was shot, if you're curious.)

October 17, 2013

Shoe Shopping

It's an oft-repeated truism that, in order to run, you really only need a good pair of shoes. I've managed to do just fine with far less than that, recently. My venerable Hattori - which were never really quite "shoes", properly - are now beyond salvage. Their cushion - of which there was never really any - is gone. The upper is coming apart. The sockliner is worn away completely where the ball of my foot strikes. The combination of those things basically means that I'm running barefoot, even when I'm not. There's just no material left.

I've logged probably 99.9% of my miles since December in that one pair - probably a couple thousand, at least, though I never count - so I can't complain of a lack of value. The things cost me $40, and they worked. Or at least, they let me work. (Which is what matters, really: You are not your shoes.) And they saw me through Heartland, over 50 miles of toothy gravel.

Regardless, it's time to shop. Not a favorite pastime of mine. I enjoy the paucity of gear running requires, and generally, hate spending my money on anything that isn't coffee, fruit, or books. I'm not a minimalist runner in the sense that I think skimpy shoes are right for all runners at all times; but I am one in that I like running is the least amount of shit possible. Because shit is shit. Simple, right?

In related news, mandatory overtime at work, now and for the foreseeable future. I can probably spend more than $40 this time around.

Probably some updates later. Maybe. Maybe it's not worth talking all that much about. I'd rather mention, while we're here, that I ran 8 today, at a not-total-slog pace. Everything felt good. High volume training is cool like that.

October 15, 2013

Heartland: Obsessive Progression, Quantified

Previous Results
2011- 10:53:07
2012- 9:01:49

The former was my first ultramarathon, and, if we're being honest, my first marathon as well. I was, to be kind to my past self, undertrained and underprepared. But I was determined to finished, even after a too-fast start led to a too-weak IT band going rogue, rendering me an ambling mess for the final 14 miles. Probably, this is the most important race I've ever run. It laid bare weaknesses in me that I could neither deny nor - my psyche being what it is - tolerate. So I decided to fix them.

That's precisely what I set about doing. 2012 was my first year of truly structured training - having really just taken to running the previous year - and as such, my goal with Heartland was simply to execute a good, smart race. I let the leaders go, ran 4:15 out, but slowed somewhat, returning in 4:46. I felt that the race was an accurate representation of my fitness, but that, as always, my fitness needed to improve.

The Plan
In short? Run as much as possible. No tracking miles. Just get in 1-3 hours, every day, starting in February. Lots of hills. Lots of pavement. Two speedier sessions every week as well. Thankfully, I enjoy training and have basically no other hobby, so this wasn't at all hard to stick to.

I used the common distances of 5K, 10K, and 13.1 miles for the purposes of semi-frequent self-testing, via solo time-trialing (on the track, for ease of measurement). Given that I usually race on trails, I wanted to objectively quantify any improvements I was (hopefully) making. The goal was to get my 5K under 18 (nope), my 10K under 39 (38:19), and my half marathon under 1:25 (1:24:39).

But none of that would matter if my legs couldn't hold up for 50 miles, so I spent three days a week on what I termed "durability work" as well. Aside from some vanity lifting, this consisted of squats, deadlifts, glute/ham raises, side lying leg raises, and all manner of planks. Despite my relatively ambitious running volume, I incurred no injuries (not even a solitary forced day off), so I'd have to say this worked.

My final long run was the Hawk Marathon, at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, KS. Despite my going rather severely off course (To be clear: This is my home course, and it was well-marked. But I'm directionally challenged.), and running somewhere close to an extra 2 miles, I managed to run 3:55:15, and win. My long run ended up being even longer than planned, and I felt fit, so this was a good result.

The Taper
Remember that part about having no other hobbies? Yeah. I didn't run the Friday before. Does that count?

The Gear
A cycling shirt, so that I could use the back pockets, and avoid carrying a pack.

Nike split shorts. Because pants are the law.

A 0.5 L Platypus water bottle. As it's soft, it could fold up, when empty. I planned to run with it that way, and only drink at the aid stations.

Heavily used Saucony Hattori. I'm a devout minimalist zealot, but this turned out to be a mistake. More on that later.

The Race
My goal was to minimize the importance of the race itself, somewhat, by focusing so wholly on the preparation. Simply, I wanted to do the work, show up, and not fuck it up.

Goal 1) As always, finish. Hopefully without an existential meltdown. Goal 2-9) Win. Goal 10) Run a fast time.

Given my priorities, I started at what I felt to be a fairly relaxed pace. One runner came with me, and we ran together for the first 16 miles. They were certainly more pleasant miles, for having the company. (I'm awful with names, but I believe this was Chris Perry, who ended up having a great run, finishing in 8:48:37.)

I reached the turnaround at 3:50, by which time I had opened up a small lead. Unfortunately, last year's muddy race had given me a false sense of of security, regarding the gravel. Simply, my shoes, basically slippers to begin with, were getting shredded. Large portions of the sole were already missing, and they could not likely sustain the return trip.


I asked, not expecting an affirmative, if the aid station had duct tape. Thankfully, they did. My Dad (and crew for the evening) quickly taped up my shoes, and I was off again, with my redneck rockplates.

Still, I ran very conservatively back to the next aid station. There were still a lot of miles to go, and I wanted to be sure that my improvised shoe solution would in fact work. Once there, I ate two figs, and popped a couple Ibuprofen.

With a mild sugar rush and not-so-mild pain suppression fogging my mind, I decided that this was fun again, that my feet felt fine, that this duct tape was working perfectly (it seriously saved my race), and that I should push it, just a little. Get to the final aid station, see where you stand, I told myself.

I cruised in and looked down at my watch, which read 6:48. I knew that I had run to this aid station at the race's start in 1:10, so I quickly downed two cups of ginger ale, and decided I could finish in under 8 hours. Maybe. Possibly. Certainly, I would try like hell.

The 8 miles that followed were some of the most satisfying running of my life. Every time I asked my legs for just a little bit more, they responded, and with very minimal pain. Even my feet felt just short of awful, rather than downright necrotic. Every 100 miler I passed (and their pacers) offered encouragement, and, in a few cases, commented on the daring fashion statement my shoes were making. One pacer (in a pink tutu, I believe) probably best summed up the absurdity of it all when she said: "Holy shit!"

The final 4 miles, by my hazy math, would require slightly sub-9 minute pace. Hills behind me, I thought this reasonable, and found the challenge invigorating. So, I told myself, simply run as hard as you can for 5K. At that point, the finish will be so close that adrenaline will take over. I hoped.

I hoped, and turned on to the finishing stretch of pavement with a little under 3 minutes to go. Fucking sprint. Or, you know, what passed for sprinting, at that point, for someone with basically zero natural leg speed. Still, I sprinted, and in my mind, I was David fucking Rudisha (not his real middle name, sadly), rather than some floppy haired jogging enthusiast with duct tape on his tattered running slippers.

2013- 7:59:59

The Aftermath
Potatoes. A lot of potatoes.

In short? Run as much as possible. No tracking miles. Just get in 1-3 hours, every day, starting now. Lots of hills. Lots of pavement. Two speedier sessions every week as well. Thankfully, I enjoy training and have basically no other hobby, so this won't be at all hard to stick to.

October 14, 2013

Perpetual Motion

The thing about race reports is that the deal entirely with things that have already taken place.

Heartland happened. It went well. I am genuinely pleased to have won the race, but more so, that the two years of work that went into making it happen worked. I'm not really interested in romanticizing my training, however, or dramatizing my "journey". 

It's not that I'm not proud of my progress, so much as I always just assumed it would happen. Three years ago, I told my roommates I'd win this race one day, despite having never run further than 9 miles, at the time. I believed it, because I'm fucking nuts, basically. But here we are. 

And where are we?

Back in the gym. Getting my legs moving and trying to coax some strength back in to everything above my waist. Home, searching ultrasignup for another race. A 50k in two weeks looks cool. If my legs get back under me in that time, I'd be fit enough to hammer a fast one, and it's a flat course. Maybe a 6-hour ultra in November? Or a road marathon? 

Can't say. I can say that every good race can be turned into one hell of a workout if you just sign up for something else right after it, and I'm probably going to do that. 

For me, that's really the entire source of satisfaction from a race well-run. I'm not really ever pleased with my performance, as much as I am pleased that it moves me one step closer to some ever-improving ideal version of myself. Essentially, the better I do, the better I think I can do. Those imagined prospects quickly drown out past accomplishments, and I plow forward.

I never catch the carrot, but fuck, I do really like carrots, so I guess I better keep going.

October 13, 2013

Heartland, Briefly

The narrative of most any successful race is essentially this: I ran as hard as I could for as long as I had to. I finished and it was hard but ultimately gratifying.

Heartland fits the template. I ran hard and led the whole way. I won comfortably in 7:59:59, sprinting like hell to make finish under 8 hours. The middle miles lagged a bit, and the gravel shredded my shoes to the point that duct tape was required to keep them and my feet together. (Just a day later, and my feet are fine, however.)

I have a lot more to say, not about how the race unfolded specifically, but about peri-race things. When I can organize them somewhat, you'll hear more.

For now, I'm just gonna chill.

October 11, 2013

Killing Time

Time is both uniquely hard to kill and yet supremely vulnerable when we'd least like it to be. No shit, right?

Time flies, allegedly, when fun is being had.

Today has felt its length. Is feeling it. Tomorrow will be no different. The race starts at 6, and I will be totally, horribly lucid for every moment, from my inevitably too early waking to the shuffling, ambling start. 

And then? 

Jogging. Glancing. Who's going for it? Do they know what the hell they're doing? Chill. 

Miles to go, but time, time.

Time killers today:

Overtime at work.

Browsing a bike shop, where it was noted that, to my supreme amusement, my arms were too big for the "race cut" jerseys. (I'm 5'10, 140 lbs. A bike shop is the only place I'm anything but a stick. Maybe I should hangout more often?)

Rice and beans, apples. Carbs. No running today though, so no appetite. Pre race stomach didn't help. I got down roughly 1,000 cals today, total, gave up. Is this how cyclists eat every day?

Read some things, watched some things.

Now? Writing this. No shit, right? 

October 9, 2013

Pre-Race Non-Thoughts

Trying to find something to say about my pending race, because I feel like there should be words here for it. 50 miles is a long way, long enough to appear something of an impossible stunt to my new coworkers, who haven't been introduced to ultramarathons as things that exist. But I don't have much to tell them, nor do I have much to tell you.

It is a silly thing I'm about to do. No arguing that.

And yet.

It should be a beautiful night. 

Things are good. Fitness is better than ever. Nothing hurts. 

I'm not nervous, not scared. It's just running. It might hurt, though. Almost certainly will, in fact. And? 

Not excited really, either. No anxiety at all. No nervous energy. It's just a run. Go cruise. Let the hills do the work and turn your legs over. Chill. 

You run 50 miles the same as you run 5 - one step at a time. Bullshit cliche but the race goes through a lot of pasture and so there will be plenty more bullshit to come. I'm just getting comfortable. Anyway, neither your legs nor your mind can cover the distance at once, so don't try. 

So... No goals? Time? Place?

Honestly, I've got them. I'd like to run fast. Goal is 8, or a little under; and I think I could flirt with 7, if everything clicks. If that happens, looking at the rest of the field, I guess I'll probably win. 

But shit, I don't know. And truthfully, honestly, my only real goal is to have a sensation-filled run. I want to feel. Good? Bad? Everything. I'm looking for an endorphin bath, not a belt buckle.

(Sitting here for thirty minutes. Can't think of a tidy or profound ending. That's it? That's it.)

October 3, 2013

Prairie Ode

Stealing this from the Heartland race packet, which is, in turn stealing it from William Least Heat Moon:
There are several ways not to walk on the prairie, and one of them is with your eye on a far goal, because you then begin to believe you're not closing the distance any more than you would with a mirage. My woodland sense of scale and time didn't fit this country, and I started wondering whether I could reach the summit before dark. On the prairie, distance and the miles of air turn movement to stasis and openness to a wall, a thing as difficult to penetrate as dense forest. I was hiking in a chamber of absences where the near was the same as the far, and it seemed every time I raised a step the earth rotated under me so that my foot fell just where it had lifted from. Limits and markers make travel possible for people: circumscribe our lines of sight and we can really get somewhere. Before me lay the Kansas of popular conception from Coronado on - that place you have to get through, that purgatory of mileage. 
Hiking in the woods allows a traveler to imagine comforting enclosures, one leading to the next, and the walker can possess those little encompassed spaces, but the prairie and plains permit no such possession. Whatever else prairie is - grass, sky, wind - it is most of all a paradigm of infinity, a clearing full of many things except boundaries, and its power come from its apparent limitlessness; there is no such thing as a small prairie any more than there is a little ocean, and the consequence of both is this challenge: try to take yourself seriously out here, you bipedal plodder, you complacent cartoon. 

September 26, 2013

Heartland, Again

Doing Heartland again. The 50.

Inspiration is where you find it, not in rationality, or the pantomime thereof.

I've found it on the night running I've been doing lately. Long, flat, cruising runs. Two to three hours, not fast, except when the legs ask for it, not slow, except when they ask for that instead. Running out of town until there is nothing but the breeze and the stars and the faint sound of cars on nearby highways.

Heartland is that. It's nothing and nowhere. An aesthetic that appeals to me. Begin at 6 PM. Forge towards the sunset, dance through Sunday. Headlamps like fireflies with broken wings, crawling on the dirt.

An honest course. Open, expansive. There are no illusions. This is where you must go. The aid stations sing for miles, sirens on an ocean of grass.

Fitness is good, but fitness is no armor. Things will hurt. Familiar things, in familiar ways. Say hello, we've met before. Finished together. Remember that? A shared bond. This year, let's win.

September 25, 2013

Is Survived By

It's a hard thing, keeping genres straight, and who occupies what. Deciding what you like is hard enough without deciding what your respective genre allegiances allow you to like. Music is kinda fucked like that, though.

If you're a hardcore kid, you're not a metal kid. Unless, of course, you're a metalcore kid. In which case, I mean, everyone just calls you emo. Which is something else entirely.

The thing is, no one really knows what any of it means. Not really.

Picture me, a noted apple devotee, glaring across the produce section at that sick fuck buying pears. It's a bit like that. (Note: Pears are great too. Really. We can all get along.)

That said, this is a... post-hardcore/screamo/melodic-hardcore album? I think so. It's a good album too. I certainly think that. If you don't care for chaotic, somewhat arrhythmic arrangements, with desperately screamed vocals, then you probably won't care for it.

As always, people who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

Anyway, this is Touché Amoré's Is Survived By. It came out yesterday and of course Youtube has it. I saw them live last week and it was pretty great. I did buy the album and so here is my completely unsolicited and wholly unhelpful endorsement.

September 21, 2013


The thing about marathons is that they are really quite far. It's easy to forget this, when you associate so much with ultra-folks, and have in fact run a few ultras yourself. Easy until you run a marathon. It's far, you remember, and it hurts in its own right. You long for the aerobically comfortable ultra-shuffle, but no, no, you have to fucking go.

So if marathons are hard, then maybe, I don't know, ultras are easy? I mean, you get to go so much slower, right? Right?

The thing about ultras, though, is that they are really fucking far. Stupid far. The kind of far that you can't really get your mind around it, even if you've done it. Especially if you've done it. The mind has a way of blocking out the traumatic bits, and embracing the few seconds of holyshitI'mactuallyabouttofinishthis.

Mile 49.8-50 felt pretty fucking ace, so how bad could it have been, really?

I mean, other than the part, crouched by the side of some gravel path to hell - except hell is actually somewhere, and this is so far from anything like somewhere - promising yourself you'll never run another single solitary step in the rest of your life, that if a pack of starving wolves hurdled the barbed wire fence next to you, you'd just smile and ask politely that they consume your whole carcass, so as not to leave a mess for the race volunteers.

Another thing about ultras is that nobody ever does just one.

And the thing about fall in Kansas is that there are a lot of fucking ultras.

September 20, 2013

Past and Prologue

What's past is prologue.

It's one of Shakespeare's most famous lines (The Tempest), though it's not always - or even often - attributed to him. It's crossed over into existing as a sort of pop culture truism instead, and in so doing, having lost its original context, has lost a great deal of intent.

Typically, it's invoked as a kind of motivational quip. What's past is past. Our future lies ahead, and we can make of it what we will.

Forge ahead!


Or something.

The original context is a touch more bleak. The conversants are about to commit murder, and rationalize it as merely another domino pushed over. That is, past is prologue, inasmuch as it sets in motion the acts to come. Our past is not merely what comes before our present - it largely creates it.

We're not choosing to murder. I mean, circumstances have conspired such that we can't not murder. Right? Right. Totally.

Anyway, the latter option is basically how I feel about racing. There's a lot of anxiety at the start line, but really, the matter is largely decided. Sure, fueling and pacing matters (keeping your ass on course doesn't hurt either); but for the most part, you're going to run a time that represents your fitness. (In fact, accepting that fact can go a long way towards running a smarter pace. You can't outrun your fitness; and if you try, shit goes downhill quickly.)

I like this notion.

It robs race day of some measure of crippling fear, granting it instead a sense of discovery. How good is my fitness? Lets roll it out and see.

Moreover, it assigns real significance to daily training, which could otherwise seem something of a mundane grind. You're not just doing it because you're a crippled addict - though you are, and I am, and that's ok - but to achieve an end. You're writing the prologue for your next great act. (This is also true if you don't indulge in the everyday. Tragedy is a classic form, remember.)

But, I don't know.

Some of this - all of it? - is just my rationalizing my inability to take a single solitary day off. Half marathon a week before my target full marathon. Race like hell. Run the next day. And the next. Hills Tuesday. Trail Wednesday. Tempo Thursday, then right to a concert. Wake up twice last night to calf seizures.

Enough, maybe, to make you think about the story you're writing.

Maybe. But then again, maybe not.

Maybe the sheer force of forward momentum perpetuates forward motion, maybe you go because you go, do because you do, past is prologue, the next step could only be what it is because what has come before is what it is.

Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know but it's all good because the calf feels good, and so does everything else.

September 15, 2013

Hawk Marathon 2013

It is cold, nearly, or what approximates it. Perspective is skewed after weeks of 90-plus. But this is better. The sun has not yet risen and there are hints of stars still in the sky, flecks of presence offering faint illumination.

Waiting by the fire. There are other people about and I talk with them, probably too much. People deal with nerves in different ways and this is mine. Words flow and I shiver.

Sweatpants discarded, undershirt as well. The sun cresting the horizon and evaporating the dark. The day is clear and so is the task: Run like hell. 

Chasing a bike down the opening paved quarter mile. Turning on to the trail. The first taste of dirt, firm and sure. Rocks and roots and a comfortable cadence among them. Runners behind but already some distance. 

Diving onto the trail proper and I can see no one else. My effort is high and I am chasing the ghost of three and a half hours. 

Cruising and focused. Form tight and posture correct. No wasted motion. No lapses in effort. 

The miles pass and so does the first aid station. My parents are there and so are several other people I recognize. Good people.

Rocks and winding trail. Head down and there are red flags. More red flags. I pause and there is panic in my chest. My fitness is right and this cannot be. A 50-miler, having started an hour earlier, cruises by and points me in the right direction. She tells me I need to cross the road and I do. I have lost maybe two minutes but do not worry.

Smooth dirt on the shore and nearly halfway. The trail splits and I think, no, no. I pause again and there is not panic but indignation. I think that I am lost and so choose to do the loop again. I run it more slowly this time and I am sure that there was no turn, that I am going the right way. I have nonetheless lost ten, maybe fifteen minutes. 

The halfway aid station and I ask how many passed and they say maybe two, at most. There is only one, however. He is only just ahead and I can see him in fact. Let loose choice expletives, cursing myself, not knowing my own course. I say that I will fucking get him and I do, in no more than two minutes. 

Hit the aid station again, leading again, comfortably again. More profanity. Reckless running, wasting energy. Build the lead. Margin, margin, margin. Course record? No. Fuck no. Not a chance. Halfway there and I sent myself off, cost myself too much time. It would be a near thing in the best of cases but now it would be impossible.

Final aid. Parents again and there are cheers and support. I do not try to appear pleased. There are six and a half miles to go and I want nothing to do with them. Survive. Win. At least that. My mom tells me to pick my feet up (so I don't trip) and this amuses me. I pick my feet up but my spirits do not lift and I count down the miles, run from marker to marker. Get the job done.

Think back to the tape. The moment of supreme doubt. On course or no? Turn missed? Corner cut? I should have stayed. Should have kept moving forward but I didn't know, and had to. No course cutting. Better 28 than 24. 

I pass markers, 50 and 100 milers. All offer their own support. I marvel for these moments at my petulance. Enjoy the day. Good weather. Good trails. Good people. Good running. 

I laugh at myself because there is nothing else to do, cross the finish line, utter one word: Fuck, hands on knees, spent. 

Hours more at the finish. The best people and the best times. Disappointment dissipates and I am pleased, then elated, not to have won, but to have taken part in such an event for the third consecutive year. I eat a few strawberries and limp slightly. 

Noon the next day and I see the last finisher, help clean up. Immense satisfaction and no course record but really, who gives a shit? Times are arbitrary and experiences are real. Nowhere else I'd rather be, nothing else I'd rather do, no one else I'd rather do it with. 

September 14, 2013

Hawk Marathon, Short Version

This is not a race report. Not yet, anyway.

It is, rather, a modest suggestion that, among the things in the world about which you should never complain, winning a race is a pristine example.

The short version, then: No course record, but I did win the race.

No complaints.

September 12, 2013

September 12

There were clouds this morning that I did not see, but which nonetheless yielded rain at their breaking. The pavement shows no evidence of this but dirt has a better memory. Mud, maybe. No matter. Things are good and I feel good. The weather looks promising. I could do with a high in the 50s, rather than 70s, but after a couple weeks spent around 100, I won't bitch.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

September 10, 2013


The marathon I'm doing is on Saturday.

I am supposed to say something about how it's a marathon, and anything can happen. That hubris is punished severely. I ought not expect an enjoyable run, comfortable for the most part, cruising.

Perhaps I should invoke war metaphors, epic descriptions of odds overcome, enemies thwarted, pain endured. 

For instance, Zatopek, before the first Olympic marathon: "Men, today we die a little."

But, no. No, I don't feel that. None of it. No fear. No trepidation. No fight. There is no violence in me, regarding this race. What I feel is something other. Something calm. Something satisfied before we start because I know the work I've done, and the distance as well.

A marathon is undiluted sensation. It is life, extracted, concentrated, consumed, and then, all consuming. It is... soon. Very soon and yet not soon enough.

September 5, 2013

September 5

I think, but don't know, can't know, because this is my first time at this, axiomatically, that there is a very strong correlation between the amount of shits you give about the weather and your age.

I would further decry this slowly encroaching doom but I feel a nap coming on and the combination of those two things is enough to induce further anxiety so I'll just stop.

Finally: Today I had espresso and it was shit. They let anyone pull shots these days, damn kids. Back in my day, we pulled shots with a 500-lb lever using beans we ground that morning using a mortar and pestle carved from the skull of a dire wolf. We heated the water with pure tenacity, grit, and moxey. The resulting shot was as black as the void, with less mercy, and tasted like the spent ambers of first fire of man, tinged with Promethean promise and decayed godhood.

From these fires rose a culture that would call this "bootcamp fitness".

Night Lights

The night sky is a tarp pulled taut and pricked with holes which effervesce light in quantities too great to comprehend yet too diminished to illuminate the sidewalk which is clear anyway.

Cars turn on their brights sometimes and my stride stretches out in front of me, long and loping. But mostly there aren't any cars out here, even a few miles from town. 

A coyote trots by and pauses. We evaluate one another and I say hello as I pass. It does not move. There are plenty of rabbits and it is surely sated. 

At the top of the hill the breeze is cool as it is slightly from the north. There is a whisper of decay on its breath. 

Another car passes and it slows slightly. I am not a deer and do not bolt in to the road and so it continues on. I prefer when there are no lights. 

September 3, 2013

Choosing Narratives

There seems to be a bit of consternation lately over the present and future of running silly distances. Road folks want more money and trail folks seem to want less. Same for organization, corporate involvement, etc.

This is not an accurate explanation or take on the issue but it is, I think, sufficient.

Whatever you want running to be in the future, it will be. Run as fast or as slow as you want to on whatever terrain you like against tens or tens of thousands of people. Get a t-shirt or don't. Give a shit about the front of the pack, or hell, try to be a part of it. Or not. Be what you want. Do what you want. Tell your own story.

August 30, 2013

Don't Waste Good Time

Don't waste good time.

Probably the best training advice I've ever heard.

I'm also partial to the following exchange, from the same piece: 
Q: What if I get tired?
A: You will get tired, I can guarantee it. IT WILL PASS. Trust me.
Q: How many miles should I run?
A: I don't know, but more than you've been doing.

But I digress.

It's 100 degrees but fast guys are willing to gut out a six mile top-end aerobic effort, sucking wind, pouring sweat, accumulating lactate. Probably no one would do it alone; but no one is willing to be the guy that doesn't show.

Peer pressure and half-stepping but the conversation doesn't drop nor does the pace. A military guy leading the new-to-town ROTC kids on a jog yells Shit! as we surprise-pass him. Someone waves a hamburger at us. Air conditioning and water.

Finished, exhilarated. It's not a "long run" day and in fact, that right there was just a tempo run (if anyone can agree what the hell that is). I'm pretty sure Daniels' Running Formula has those runs on separate days... But there's more in the tank, so...

Don't waste good time.

Two hours later and I've lost more water than I could have ever imagined holding. Dream of winter until it comes then dream of this. Either works, though. Anytime is good time when your legs say so.

(From the same site at the top of the post, here are some Bill Rodgers training logs. Just unfathomable. Not that these have anything to do with the rest of the post, they're just too cool not to share.)

August 28, 2013


Ankle was crunchy today, energy a bit off.

Funny how 24 hours does that.

But, whatever.

Lethargy hits and holds on; you take a nap and eat some fruit and get out the door anyway. Run until you feel good. Run until the crunch is gone and the lethargy dissipates. Find the high and taste it just a little; don't gorge. Stop when you don't want to, when you could keep going.

Throw a few max effort squats on top of tired legs, shake them out, fuck around with kiddie weights a bit.

I like days like this. Days when you're working exhausted fibers and tendons, torched from the previous day's scalding effort, moving on to that next layer, and then the next. Hard days get all the credit; easy days are thought of exclusively in terms of recovery, which I think is a mistake. The idea isn't merely to recover; it's to provide additional stimulus while recovering.

Maybe there's nothing glamorous about what invariably feels like slow, labored shuffling, endlessly piled before and after intermittent bouts of exhilaration and intensity; but it's an endlessly satisfying routine nonetheless, a crucible of perpetual forward motion, because really, what the hell else is there?

August 26, 2013


Black jeans have specific circumstances to which they are best suited and I don't think it's controversial to say that Kansas summers are not those circumstances and someone did tell me that I could could probably wear looser jeans and maybe that would help but I don't know I just feel basically lost in pants that aren't certifiably emo and so if I have to be miserable a little when I walk downtown to get (hot) coffee then that's what has to happen.

Everything on the way is the work of a left handed god drawing with a grease pencil.

I drank the coffee though and ate some grapes later and I ran for two hours because VOLUME and I'm enjoying it so much I sort of don't want to taper, or peak, or whatever, don't want to stop piling on fitness and actually examine what they hell I've got.

The possibilities are endless but the reality is just that, singular, the one thing that does happen and thus the thing that will forever be the thing that did happen. Unless, wormholes and shit.

And it's all good. Really.

I know I sort of went on this whole thing about totally breaking the course record and ARGH COMPETITION. I thought I needed a goal to drag my ass out the door everyday, a carrot to chase because seriously, I fucking love vegetables.

So I don't know how this groove happened or how long it will last but I do know that the last few weeks I haven't been training to race but rather - if I may steal the perpetual answer of a fast guy I run with sometimes when asked what he's training for - training for life. Not, like, training because I want legs that fit in girl's jeans, or a resting HR in the low 40s, or even because there is some arbitrary distance I want to cover in some arbitrary time.

No, I'm running basically 2+ hours a day because that, that right there, right then, those steps, those moments, those car horns and NICE SHORTS! WOOOOOO, those brick sidewalks with the grass patches and the dog that barks and everything, everything...

But seriously though, I'm still going to crush that race.

Just, maybe, I'll be a little more chill about it.