Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fatass 50k

For those not in the know (you know? No?), "Fatass" races tend to be put together in the winter months, long after race season has subsided and we all pack on those lovely extra pounds from grazing, boozing, and in some cases (coughcough) both, around holiday-time.

Kate and I had planned on running a 50 KM (and in looking more closely at the mileage, Kate, we did more like 53k!) so this past Saturday, and lo and behold, we did. For we have "followthrough". See?

Parking at Forest Park's 53rd Ave trailhead, leaving my car at that, our turnaround point , loaded to the roof with cookies and cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, and chicken soup, Kate drove us to the start/finish trailhead at Germantown Road. After some last minute typical runner-panics ("Do I have my keys? My wallet? Did I remember to grease my nipples? [that one was mine]"), we set off in the cool morning temps on our adventure on the winding singletrack, Kate up ahead: The leader of our twosome.

We were greeted within the first hour by snow: Big, looping flakes, tumbling from above the barren treetops, and it was such a treat to run in the fluffy stuff. I can't count the number of times we both sighed, "Thank GOD this isn't rain", but I know I at least thought it about 598 times. Divide that in half, and you likely have the number of times I uttered it. I am a mathematician.

We caught each other up in our lives, having not really spent much time chatting since the 100 in August, stomping through the slop and muck and generally having a grand ol' time, although my gloves had become wet about 10 miles in, so I began losing all feeling in my fingertips. This was a tad distracting, but I knew we'd reach my car soon, where a pair of fresh, dry gloves awaited.

As we approached the Firelane 1 intersection, two runners were headed down the trail towards us. After passing by, Kate and I said at the exact same time, "That was Tom!" We passed about 8 other runners on the trails that day, many of whom are elite stars in the sport of ultrarunning. Oregon is loaded with talented long-distance weirdos. And I say that with all of the love in my heart.

About 20 minutes later, we reached my car, hopped inside, and ripped opened our goodies. The soup I'd brought had cooled quite a bit, but Kate's hot chocolate was SCALDING and sooooooo perfect. With my hands thawing by the vents of my heater, we wolfed down our food and then, relucantly, opened the doors.

Holy. Crap. The winds were somewhere in the neighborhood of 30MPH on that ridge, and we both were shivering like a couple of virgins on prom night. Knowing that the quicker we returned to running the warmer we'd get, off we trotted, back towards the direction which we came, this time, with me at the helm and Kate behind.

I had a feeling around mile 22-ish that my pace was a tad fast for Kate, so I checked in with her, and she replied, "Hey, I'm keeping up so far!", so we stayed at my pace (I calculated with 1/4 mile markers all along Wildwood trail that we were doing around a 10 mn mile) and kept trucking. Which is when the rain started.

It wasn't torrential, but it chilled us to the bone, so we picked it up and ran harder. I think the last two miles we were cruising pretty damned hard, hammering the downhills, scrambling the uphills until we reached Kate's car and the "finish" in just under 6 hours.

The winter storm hit Portland/NW Oregon within 5 hours after we finished. Timing is everything, I suppose. Now, the streets are so covered wit ice, getting to Forest Park will be next to impossible until the weekend.

Glad we snuck that one in.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You know, or perhaps you do not, I love finding out what peoples' first BIG concerts were. My friend Dave and I - completely by coincidence - share the exact same first concert, even though we met 20+ years past the performance date. And I just found out last week that my Dad's first concert was Janice Joplin, in 1968, at The Fillmore in San Francisco. He alleges that she drank an entire 5th of Southern Comfort during the performance, and the more she consumed, the better she got. Not shocking to hear, but truly amazing that he was there to witness it.

I've sat lock-jawed and wide-eyed through concerts by Prince, REM, Duran Duran (cough-cough), Jimmy Paige and dozens of other legends as they've taken the stage and hammered the house into the floor. But one Sunday, 3 years ago, a close friend called to see if I was available that night to catch Bruce Springsteen at Dodgers Stadium, as he'd won two tickets on the radio.

I like Bruce. Many of his songs blow my mind, yet I do not consider myself a fan. But that night, wading in the mass ocean of 50,000+ fans, he set the stadium lights ablaze and invited everyone to sing along to a little diddy you might know.

To this day, the most amazing concert-going experience in my life. So...what's YOURS?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It seems that I have come up with a writing challenge for myself. This pounced upon me as I wove through the streets of Portland last night, walking home after my bar shift:

As I discovered upon the recent (and loooooong time coming) completion of the first draft of my first novel, I have a lot of shit I've started writing, yet haven't finished. Or, in some cases, continued beyond the kernel-of-the-idea phase.

Like drunken sex that carries on for far too many hours: It's time to finish. Well, I've heard of this phenomena. Sounds...horrible. Anywho...

I plan on burrowing through the sorted shorts/dangling longforms/stream of consciousness junk that I've pecked away at over the last years and will give myself a short deadline with which to complete it/them. Sounds like torture? Yeah, it freaks the hell out of me, but I believe setting up this exit ramp will help me get off the freeway in a more timely fashion. And in one piece.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This morning, I went for a hilly run at Mt. Tabor Park here in Portland. I was meeting up with "Ruben": Another runner from a trail running group we belong to called TRAIL FACTOR. I type this all in caps because each time someone from the group sends an email to everyone, TRAIL FACTOR is capitalized each time the words TRAIL FACTOR FACTOR into the message.

Ruben greets me, and I clearly have some years on him. He's an incredibly sweet and cool cat, and I'm always up for makin' a new friend or three, so off we trotted up the road for about a mile's jog before hitting the TRAILS of the park.

Okay, I'll stop the all caps thing now. Okay, one last one.


The climb was subtle, but there, and I couldn't help but notice we were running at a speed slightly faster than my normal short run pace. Ah well. Things will slow down when we hit those massive climbs in the park thought I, gracefully skipping over road construction pot holes and following my partner into the park.

We get to talking, not necessarily about running at first: School, jobs, loving the Pacific NW, and then the first major climb rears it's ugly, muddy head. I was immediately reminded of an episode of The Simpsons wherein Homer agrees to climb a mountain sponsored by an energy bar. One of the people sponsoring the climb points out the window and it's revealed to reach miles into the sky. The man tells Homer, and I am paraphrasing, "Yes, riiiiight next to that one." The camera pans back to reveal a larger and even more ominous mountain beside the original towering giant. He then adds, "Uh huh. Juuust to the right of that one." Camera again pans back to reveal a monstrous mountain that completely dwarfs the others, stretching into the clouds.

That, my friends, was only slightly less steep than this first climb.

Ruben trots up the trail casually at a pace I myself would label "a slow sprint". I even tell him I need to walk a few seconds, which he happily does with me until it tapers back to something that would remind a human being as not-a-means-of-torture. Winding up and up, we finally hit the top and are on level loops around a central park when we begin talking about ultra marathon running.

Me: "Is that shirt from the local 50k I've heard about?"

Ruben: "yeah! It's really fun. I was in the lead until the last few miles."

Me: "jdhfpunf;oiwhrvudu[dcjnv!!!!!1111eleventy" (as my jaw had hit the ground, I was incoherent)

Me (finally getting it together): "What did you wind up placing?"

Ruben: "Third. I finished in 4 hours."

Me: "lASKDCkfgjkgjfkkgjriig886hrvhvhrifhinrcr!!"

As it turns out, I was on a hilly training run with, someone I would at least deem, an elite trail runner.

We returned to his place 45 minutes later, my legs burning from the intense speeds (at least for this old man) and enjoyed some snacks while watching Californication.

I bid Ruben farewell and promised we'd run together again, maybe for a long, slow run (please God, please - long and slow this time) and I returned home, muddy and humbled, with legs that felt as though Bruce Lee had swung by and kicked the living shit out of them.

I hadn't noticed the race trophies on his mantel until just before I'd left.

(post script: I just checked the website for the results from the 50k at Forest Park that was run in May. Guess who won the damned thing.)