Thursday, October 22, 2009

I spent a lovely long weekend back in my hometown of Chicago: "Sweet Home Chicago", "The Windy City", "The Second City", "The City with Big Shoulders", and "The City with way Too Many Nicknames", to quote an old comedian friend from years back.

Me Mum still lives in the same house I grew up in, and it's always a trip to head back as an adult and encounter the same side door, tiny kitchen, bright living room, staircase that I used to slide down on my little butt (pictured here)...

...bathroom where I'd get stickers for brushing my teeth every day, and my first bedroom, but this visit, Mom and I took a step outside the box (literally: the house looks like a brick box).

We drove to the apartment building a few miles away where I spent the first 6-8 months of my life (the upper, upper left corner behind my very pregnant mom was our unit), then clocked the distances from there to the school my mother taught at (about 1.4 miles), and from the apartment steps to our new home's front door (somewhere in the range of 5 miles). Why did we do this? Because my mother didn't get her driver's license until several years after I was born. That's right: The woman WALKED everywhere. With either me in her belly or on her back: To and from work, then to and from the old apartment to the new house (to work entire days redecorating, stripping wallpaper, and painting, of course) and back, logging somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles/week for a few months.

Yeah. I think I know where I get the endurance thing from.

I went for two runs while home, and traced the same winding footpath on the Salt Creek trail system that she traversed daily, trotting along beneath colorful maples and oaks, imagining my very young self looking about as she hiked along, gazing in wonder at the towering trees and incredibly un-shy deer (one walked right in front of me during my 8 mile run. As in, it saw me, looked me dead in the eye, and ambled across the path, 5 feet in front of me as if to say, "Meh. PEOPLE."). It was then that it hit me in the solar plexus like a falling piece of timber: THIS is where I learned to love the woods. THIS is where my tiny brain first began it's passionate affair with silent contemplation, surrounded by nature.

Needless to say, it blew my mind a little.

The rest of my visit was filled with uproarious laughter with old friends, enough Italian food to wipe out an army (I wish I had a reference to an army the Italians defeated, but I'm drawing a blank), and deep talks with mom. Opening myself to learning more about my past certainly teaches me armloads about who I am now. I'll continue this exploration for the rest of my days.

It's good to come home again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


That is how many steps it is between one Starbucks in the Pioneer Square Mall in downtown Portland to another.

And two escalators.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm finally posting some photos from Hundred in the Hood - first, the night before the race, where water, beer, and This Is Spinal Tap were all in order:

Me and Bud at mile 29 or so. This is right before I took off with the water pack that didn't work and had to come sprinting back. Ohhhhh, the DRAMA! (I'm pretty sure he's telling me I need to pee more right here)

MY CREW!!!!! Annie and Mariko!!!!


Liam (reading, waiting for my sorry ass to drag in)

Coming in to mile 55 aid. I cannot believe how fresh I'm looking:

This is how you know that someone truly loves you: Ann, addressing a hot spot at mile 55. Those dogs were stinkin':

A kiss goodbye before heading out for another 20 miles until I'd see them again. Both of us being reality TV producers, the original kiss wasn't captured on-camera, so we did a 2nd take for posterity's sake:

Man, what a blast. I'm getting all itchy for my next go at 100!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Once upon a time ago, in a past life...

...I wrote this blog post. Man, I barely even recognize this guy:

TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2005

It's this simple, kids:

I am going to run 100 consecutive miles.

Someday. Not tomorrow, not even this year, but mark my words, these legs will pump out 100 miles without so much as a few minutes of sleep. It's something that in the past months I've decided that I must do.

I'm signed up for and running a 25k mountain race on August 27th (only 15.7 miles, but in the Santa Monica Mountains, so plenty of elevation changes and hazardous trails), but I see a 50k in my near, near future. From there, it's only another 20 miles to a 50 mile ultra-marathon, and well hell, while you're there, might as well tack on another 50 for an even 100...

I know it sounds crazy, but it's something, one of the few things I've ever considered, that I have to do. Of course, talk to me when I have blisters the size of half-dollars on my heels at mile 56...

Monday, October 5, 2009


I am utterly blown away by my recovery from the 100. This is absolutely the healthiest I've ever felt after an ultra, and it bests my longest run by 35 miles!

I took off last Monday and Tuesday, aside from a 20 minute walk on Tuesday to keep the blood flowing. Wednesday I did 3 miles on the elliptical and then 5 on Thursday, as I was feeling strong. Friday I cranked out 5.35 on Wildwood trail at a comfortable 9 mn/mile pace, and yesterday, a nice, easy 3 on the street at an 8:15 pace. I swear, I'm feeling stronger than I did during my taper, which, I believe, is most excellent news.

So, of course, I'm now scouring the web for winter races and next year's 100.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"My name is Russ, and I'm an Emergency Responder - can I help you?"

Following my passing the final written exam to become a certified running coach last autumn, I was required to become CPR/first aid certified to back up that training. You know, in case I send someone on a tempo run only to find them in a collapsed heap on the side of a trail, so that my only reaction wouldn't be to silently tip toe away from their twitching corpse.

I found a class that was only a mile from my home, instructed by an amazingly friendly and personable woman who had me repeat the phrase, "My name is Russ, and I'm an Emergency Responder - can I help you?" more times than I care to recall. This, she explained, is the perfect way to introduce yourself when you think someone is in physical trouble: Firstly, you're giving your name to the person. Secondly, "Emergency Responder" could mean any variety of things - doctor, nurse, EMT. It sets the person at ease. Thirdly, "Can I help you?" is a simple yes or no question; easy to answer, and if they don't answer, welp, you kinda can fill in the appropriate response.

Somewhere around the 3rd hour of that 9 hour day, I became keenly aware that such tactics might be implemented on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. I questioned the Constitutionality of such a practice but caved. She'd broken me. My mind was hers, and there was no returning: I was a changed man. Was the burlap bag over my head and fake electrodes attached to my fingertips necessary? I have no idea. After all, I was merely the student.

Flash forward 2 months: On an out-and-back trail run at Forest Park, I reached the midway point at a trailhead around my mile 5 and paused a few moments as a reward before heading back. I remember shaking out my legs before chopping down in quick steps back to the trail, and was maybe only 10 seconds back into running when I heard the following sounds echo in the canyon. Ahem:


I spun around and found myself sprinting back up toward the winding road that passes the trailhead, and without even thinking found the words, "My name is Russ, and I'm an Emergency Responder - can I help you?" running from my lips. I emerged onto the road and saw a car, completely flipped over on his hood, in the center of the two lane road. An older man was standing beside the car, with it's smashed windows and still-spinning tires. And as I sprinted to him, what do you think the first words out of my mouth were?


He had no immediate injuries, just a cut on his hand from climbing through the decimated driver's side window. A man and a woman emerged from their cars and approached. And what were the first words out of their mouths?

"My name is ____, and I'm an emergency responder. Can I help you?"

We guided traffic around the wreck and dialed 911. Within minutes, paramedics had taken the man aside, wrapped him in a blanket, and began to examine him. I thanked my fellow ERs and headed back on my run, in utter shock. I will never take for granted the training I received, and how prepared for an emergency I was. Or am.

Although late at night, I sometimes awake with a start, the statement so burrowed into me being whispered like a hundred Hail Marys.