Friday, December 17, 2010

3 NJs do it again!

This week, 3 Non Joggers break it down and interview Yassine Diboun on the podcast. But that's not all: Carl the Mailman lets iTunes HAVE IT during an F-Bomb-riddled-rant.

Here ya go!

Friday, December 10, 2010

And introducing...

I am happy and proud and ecstatic to announce that the 3 Non Joggers have a very special guest on this week's podcast:

Amy Sproston, winner of the JFK 50 miler, Pine 2 Palm 100, Massanutten 100 and top finisher in SCADS of other ultras! Take a listen by following this here link!

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'll begin this post on a positive note: I love, Love, LOOOOOVE the PS22 Chorus. Seriously. I could watch/listen to their videos all day and night with tears streaming down my cheeks. And frequently have:

Director and teacher Gregg Breinberg has given these children an incredible gift: The ability to reach inside and call forth the innocence and beauty within us all.

Okay. Positivity intact, I can now move on to:

"Glee" is a sensation, a phenomenon, a 5 star hit for network television. It's also - in my opinion - a turd polished so brightly that you can see Jane Lynch's reflection in it.

"Seriously, Steve, I am the only entertaining part of that show."

For me, the show is so incredibly unaware of how hokey it is (save for Jane Lynch), I get diabetes even from watching the commercials. But this isn't about whether I enjoy/can't stand the 2000's version of "Coprock".

Who in the WORLD designed that logo?!?

In 1981 - aged 11 years - I discovered that I could sing, and sing fairly well. This was called to my attention (which at that point focused on why girls were starting to look "funny" to me) by the music teacher at my middle school, Nancy Guiterrez. Already involved in band, I quickly was learning that if you really want to alienate yourself from the young, developing ladies, joining the chorus would seal the deal like iron-cast welding.

But my love for music was as such, I didn't care.

I remember watching the middle school's production of "Westside Story" from the front row and - not thinking it odd at the time that 11-13 year olds actually grasped this tale of love and death - I got the itch to audition for the next year's musical.

For musical accompaniment, Nancy played every song on the piano throughout the play's duration. Again, not completely understanding the kind of physical and mental energy that involved, I took it for granted that, hey, EVERY middle school does an adult musical whose music is played solely by a single person.

I auditioned the following year for "The Wizard of Oz" and landed the part of Mayor Munchkin (in the musical, versus the film, he has a slightly larger role...LARGER! Munchkins! Ha! I am awesome). The hook was further set, and in 8th grade, Nancy revealed that that year's musical production would be "Fiddler on the Roof".

Yes: The story of a Russian-Jewish family during the era of the pogroms. To be performed by children. SOunds crazy, no?

Again, not knowing that there was anything at ALL odd about this, I got my chops ready through private singing lessons (thanks, Mom, for the support and driving and, well, everything!) and by late winter, when auditions were being held, I was prepped like a soprano Pavarotti to audition for the male lead, Tevye.

If I were a pre-teen...

I don't recall the actual audition, but I do remember that it came down to me and another l'il guy, whose voice had already changed. I. Was. TERRIFIED! After all, my singing range was that of an alto - Tevye, a 50-something milk farmer - couldn't hit a high C, right?

Despondent, I resigned myself to Nancy's eventual decision because, as stated, I didn't care which role I played. I wanted to perform, no matter how big or small my character!

And then I got the part.

Me and my pal, Melissa - who played Golde - pre-show. Yes, the whiskers are real, as is the gut. Naturally.

Looking back, again, Nancy, coached us ALL, and got us tuned to the point that yes, this show actually happened, and in a tight, humorous, and astounding manner. I honestly don't know how we pulled it off, but I have recorded evidence (never to be shown on this blog) that each note, every scene, and even the grand, final exit of Tevye and his family during the pogrom, was SPOT. Effing. ON.

I sobbed for an hour after the final performance, such was the release.

Nancy guided us towards stellar musical goals, not at all once letting us know that what we were doing was mind-boggling. And at our middle school graduation, blessed us - in decades ahead of her time - with lyrical passions from the Broadway show, "Fame":

We sang the body electric

Seriously. We are singing that song in this very moment

I remember parents being confused, even slightly offended, by the fact that 13 year olds were dealing with such hefty concepts as who we all are, and where we're headed as beings. And yet, our voices carried these melodies into the rafters of the gymnasium, unaware of the message we were sending. And lo, these 26 years later, the ears of millions are excited by the idea that little children can teach us all about the vastness of the human experience.

I don't know where you are, Nancy, nor do I even believe that you grasped what you gave us all, but these gifts...they'll never leave me.

And in time
And in time
We will all be stars

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I, like Huey Lewis, have some news.

Okay, for realz, for serious, this shit is ON(I have no idea what I just said, but I'm sticking to it):

As I'd mentioned, over the past 6 weeks, my friends Carl The Mailman and Gary have joined me in my basement on a weekly basis to record a brand-spankin' new long distance running podcast.

And here it is. Ladies, gents and otherwise, I present to you:

3 Non Joggers.

The title is in reference to the fact that Carl The Mailman™ cannot, for the life of him, call running "running". Instead, he refers to running as "jogging", to which I was quick to point out that NONE of us "jog": Two of us "run".

Very engaging conversation. And you can hear every syllable during episode one.

We're still honing our mad skillz (no idea what that means either), so there's a gradual learning curve you'll likely notice from episode one to four (like George Lucas, but in reverse). Overall, we're really happy with what we've laid down thus far.

Remember: You can check us out on iTunes and download the podcasts for your long runs, or drive to work, or when you're soaking in the bath, enjoying a fine port wine and feel the need to hear 3 bozos fucking around and - once in awhile - talking about jogging.

Er, running.

Make sure to rate us and leave comments on iTunes if you use it, as those ratings and comments will bump us up higher and higher in the "Sports and Recreation" category. YES, THIS IS A SHAMELESS PLUG.

We'd love to hear your feedback, show suggestions, or otherwise, so hit us up at and let us know!


Thursday, November 4, 2010


This is my dedicated and sincere promise that I'LL FINISH THE WESTERN STATES SAGA. Not being a fan of big-ass blogposts myself, I diced it up into a 3 parter, and then left it to die on the vine. So here we go...

Having found out that Hal dropped, Gary and I gave Kate's crew a call and found out that she was faring well. I weighed the decision to head out to Michigan Bluff (mile 55) to catch a few words with her against the fact that I was beginning to get incredibly tired. So I dragged a reluctant Gary back to the hotel to catch a few Zs and a hot shower. Well, two hot showers. One shower each. Just to clarify.

Not that there's anything WRONG with that

I checked the online progress and noticed that Hal's soon-to-be-bride, Carly, was WAY ahead of her projected 26-28 hour finish, likely rolling in around 24 hours. I wanted to catch her finish, not only to have an audio record of her crossing the line, but just in case - and this is the producer in me, not the friend - Kate couldn't make it. I needed an ending. Without so much of a "good night", Gary and I passed out from around midnight til 5AM, when we awoke and scrambled to the car.

Sure enough, we were at the track no more than 30 minutes (this is when I FINALLY got to meet the lovely, talented and sweet-as-hell Gretchen, who was kind enough to grab us coffees while we chatted) when in rolled Carly. I met her at the entrance to the track and then jogged across the infield to capture her finish. She looked so damned fresh, it was ridiculous. Hal was, of course, there to greet her, and we caught up on what had unfolded as far as his day went. He seemed in good spirits, although I did notice a slight limp as he and his crew swept Carly away to the car.

I tried to track Kate's progress, but the site hadn't updated in a long while. I texted Kate's crew and let them know we were heading back to the hotel, when Karen called and said, "Kate's doing well! We think she should finish in about 29 hours." Quickly gauging the time, I made the decision to get another hour or two of sleep and again, dragged a bummed out Gary from the finish line back to the hotel.

Kate's pacer, Glenn, and husband, Rodney, probably sometime around this point in the race. Photo by the lovely and talented Leslie Ames!

Right, right, right, left, left, right. This is how you get from our hotel off I-5 to the Western States finish line at the track. How do I know this? Because we drove there about 90 times over the course of 12 hours. And we were about to do it again, having caught another 2 hours of sleep.

Tracking Kate's progress, I knew we'd need to be ready to record by 8AM. I was kinda bummed I hadn't made the effort to meet Kate at any overnight aid stations, but I also knew that this would be an exhausting feat, and possibly fruitless due to the sheer amount of crew cars driving up and down 2 lane highway roads. But then, inspiration smacked me in the face...

I would meet Kate at the last aid station (Robi Point) and record and run the final 1.2 or so miles with her to the finish.

Gary and I parked and hiked through the neighborhood to the trailhead, congratulating finishers along the way, most of whom looked like the walking dead. I remember one runner staring dully into our eyes without so much as a blink when we went to high five him. Yeah, running 100 miles? Not so easy.

I couldn't BELIEVE how steep the downhill was to the aid station, which of course, means that Kate would have to climb it. I must say, the producer in me was ecstatic, knowing that I'd get some good sound bites from her on the climb, but the heart of the friend in me was breaking for her.

We greeted more runners coming through the aid stop (most of whom just blew right past it) and within 10 minutes, I see Kate's unmistakable stride pulling up the trail. This woman is an ANIMAL. I quite remembered that powerful hike from when I paced her at Headlands Hundred and could barely keep up with her the final 5 miles.

FLASHBACK TO HEADLANDS 100: Lookit that smile! I think we clocked 9 minute miles from mile 95-100. Photo credit goes to Leslie Ames..again!

I screamed, "Heya, Doc!" to which Kate flashed a big ol' grin. I told her I'd be running the final stretch with her, and I think she grunted something as she blew past me, determined to put the sword through the heart of this thing.

We jogged that nasty uphill for a bit, hiked for a few minutes, and Glenn told me that Kate had been passing people NON STOP the last 10 miles. Sure enough, we reeled in more runners as we made our way to the track. I was in awe.

"Hello, my name is Russ, and I'll be annoying you for the next 10 minutes..." Pic by Mr. Gary Vale.

If her perseverance and strength hadn't left me utterly dazed, what happened next drilled it home, and I am SO glad I have it captured on audio:

Glenn: "You know, if you make it to the finish in 6 minutes, you could break 29 hours."

Kate: "Really?!?"

Gary snapped this photo about 10 seconds after this information was delivered:

As you probably can see, Kate's strides grew longer. And faster. She was a woman on a mission, and no way in HELL was she finishing in over 29 hours.

Passing more runners, Kate sped to the track entrance. I told her I'd meet her at the finish line and sprinted across the infield as the announcement came over the speakers, "This is Kate Merrill...she could break 29 hours...".

This is where I began to do color commentary...and began to lose my shit.

She was HAULING ass around the track, passing another runner, and kicked into a new gear. All the while, I'm describing the insane mission as the crowd begins to stir to life, cheering for Kate to break 29 hours. And as she dashes to the finish, breaking this arbitrary number, I completely freak the hell out and have my own "DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES??!?!?!" moment.

Copyright Al Michaels

She was ELATED. The grandstands went berserk. I jumped around like someone had set my ass on fire. It was amazing.

The face of someone who has run 100.3 miles? Really? (another perfect shot by Leslie Ames)

A few weeks ago, along with my dear friend and co-podcaster Carl, I laid down the final voice over for the audio piece. I am now revisiting the material I've collected over the last (ulp) 7 months and face the daunting/exciting task of editing it all together. I expect to be amazed yet again by the determination of everyone involved, and it most certainly will not deter me from entering another 100 mile race.

Congrats to every runner, crew member, and volunteer from this fantastic event. You're all class acts, every last one of ya.

Monday, November 1, 2010

jz, part 3

Here it is: The finished product.

Photo by Summer Allen Gibson

I think jz would have loved it. This was seriously the most pain I've ever had getting tattooed. As I lay there on my back, feeling like 1,000 razor blades were carving my arm off, all I could picture was Julie in her bed, immobile, smiling, looking out her window at the changing fall colors.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ready to Rock

In the "biz" (showbiz, people - that's showbiz talk for..well, showbiz), there is different phraseology for simple, every day subjects, acts, and objects, no matter how extreme or mundane. Examples:

• "Confab": Meeting

• "Green lit": Approved

• "This show has legs": The show has potential

• "Showrunner": Executive producer

• "Ankle": Leave

But my favorite of these (ultimately douchey-sounding) terminologies is "in the can", mostly because I giggle like a wrinkly old man when it's uttered.

"Tee-hee! It could mean something dirty! But not dirty like what I just left in my underpants."

This is in reference to a single take that the director likes, or that a show/film is completed and ready to roll onto the large or larger screen (let's face it: With plasma screens in our homes, there are no small screens these days).

Welp, I am proud to announce that the running-based-podcast I've been working on alongside dear pals Gary and Carl The Mailman (hereafter referred to as such) are nearly ready to roll out. More teasers:

1. We have a personally written, and simply awesome, theme song.

2. We have - in our opinions - quite the clever name for said podcast.

3. Our microphones are taped to 18" long pieces of PVC which are in turn taped to camera tripods, except for Carl's, as he's running the sound board and computer. He looks all professional and grown-up.

4. The sound quality is spot-on.

5. Lastly, we are fucking hilarious. At least to each other.

The website will "go live" soon, as we will have enough episodes "in the can" (tee hee!) to launch in the coming few weeks. In fact, Annie's on the sofa at this very moment making the site look all perty.

So soon, VERY soon, you'll be able to download our yapping, stick it on your iPod or MP3 player, and zone out to the HILARITY that is our podcast during your long runs, while taking Fido out for a stroll, or when you just can't stand the dialogue of "Jersey Shore" any longer.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Off Season

As I sit here at noon, still in my pajama bottoms and sweatshirt (hey, I work nights, okay?), sipping my second cuppa joe, I am - for the first time - actually soaking in "the off season". And I'm loving it.

After a long spring and summer of training, my mileage will typically dip to around 45 miles per week, having topped off around 75 in July/August. I'll find myself with extra time on my hands and a lot more energy.

This is my body's time to repair and recover.

Normally, I'd be in a state of panic over this. "What if I lose conditioning?!?! What if I gain a few pounds?!?! What if, GOD FORBID, I WIND UP DOING THINGS OTHER THAN TRAINING?!?!?!"

Preach it to me, Doug

Life is about balance: Put too much energy into one aspect and the other pieces atrophy and wilt. We do it every day: Too much time at work, too much time studying, too much energy wasted on worry, one day too much of focusing solely on your family and then you wind up yelling at them to eat your f*cking french fries!!!! (starting at 6:25 - and TOTALLY offensive but hilarious).

Looking forward to an off season of restin' and exploration. Hope y'all get to take some time off too!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Welcome to: The future. No, wait, now it's the present. Damn.

"Cease to inquire what the future has in store, and take as a gift whatever the day brings forth."

- Horace

“I like men who have a future and women who have a past”

- Oscar Wild

It's rather an abstract thing, the future. We imagine it time and time again, and rarely - if ever - does it look or feel anything like what we dreamed up. Example: I recall a 5 mile run one morning in Los Angeles, along the singletrack trails in Elysian Park, hovering about 100 feet above the 5 Interstate Freeway, when Annie and I just found out her job was allowing us move to Portland.

As I scrambled along - filled with soaring joy and utter terror - images of what our future held began to flash: Possible friends without faces, jobs without locations, "whos, whats and whens" all flashing in my mind's eye. But never, ever could I have imagined the reality of what is now the present; with all of it's wonderment and constantly shifting strangeness.

So now, I have completely embarked on a new leg of this journey, starting with this here blog, and the (STILL AWAITING THE CONCLUSION TO, RUSS!) Western States piece I've recorded and am now editing. The next step: An ultra podcast, co-hosted with my buddy Gary and recorded/engineered by my dear friend, Carl (hereafter referred to as "Carl The Mailman, or "CTM").

I'm usually an overly-cautious creative guy (ask me about the 8 years it took to write a novel, or the collection of short stories that I've been threatening to self-publish for 6 years), but I figured, sometimes, you've just got to say "what the fuck."

"Remember that quote, from the movie I was in before I attacked Oprah on her couch?"

CTM and I headed downtown yesterday to check out mixing boards and scored one for hella cheap (kids' talk for "incredibly inexpensive"), and Monday evening, CTM on the board, Gary and I will lay down our first of - hopefully many - podcasts on ultra running.

I'm leaking this info to titillate my small pool of ultra running readers. I'm not certain of a launch date, but I know it's just around the bend, an arm's length into the future.

I'm not sure where this might lead me, but I know it's a half mile in the right direction. That's the best part about the future: It's up to us to form it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It's hard for me to drudge up the proper words to describe this, my third shot at 100 miles, at Pine to Palm. Where to begin? Well, as someone might say, starting at the very beginning is a very good place to start...

"The hills are alive, with the sound of...thunder..."

Thursday evening, my Dad, Annie, and I drove down from Portland to Grant's Pass, Oregon, about 30 minutes from the start of the madness. We stuffed our pieholes with incredibly sub-standard pizza (pro-tip: If you're burping up pizza 3 hours after eating it...yeah, it kind of sucked as far as pizza goes) and crashed out in our respective rooms. I want to say I watched the shit-fest that is "Terminator: Salvation", but I'm pretty sure that was Friday. Which ever, we awoke Friday, I stayed off my feet, and late afternoon, we headed to The Grange in Williams, where the race would kick off only 13 hours later.

I've echoed this a million times, so what's one more, but the ultra running community is ridiculously small. Crammed in the basement of this tiny hall (Hal, the race director, found out only a few days prior that the upstairs was being infiltrated by a dance troupe), it was like a high school homecoming: We hooked up with Kate and her crew, Gary and his crew, and a slew of friendly and familiar faces. All of us crapping our pants about the fact that forecasts in Southern Oregon were screaming about, "OMFG THUNDERSHOWERS AND STORMS AND RAIN AND GGGAAAAHHH!!!"

I am paraphrasing, of course.

Waiting in line for my swag and to get weighed in, I saw Hal's (now) wife Carly handing out fleece jackets, and she immediately smiled and said, "I'm gonna be at the mile 93 aid station - I'll see you there!" This pumped me up, having someone hinting at waiting for me (aside from my crew). She seemed as jazzed for me as I was about actually finishing one of these damned things. I introduced her to Annie, grabbed my goodies, and went to weigh-in.

No pressure.

Okay, to clarify: I visited my doctor in late July and weighed in at 162 pounds, fully clothed, which didn't surprise me, with all of the training I was putting in. I stepped on the scale and "179.5" popped on the screen! What the hell? I'd find out later that Kate weighed in 8 pounds heavier than she actually is, and Gary weighed a good 3-5 pounds LESS than he should have been. Ahhh, science!

Good heavens, Nurse Yakimoto, you're fatter than I expected!"

After briefing us about specific turns to watch out for on the course and other details, Hal and Ian bade us all farewells and good luck...until Hal turned to everyone and announced, "One last thing - does anyone have a birthday tomorrow?"

I sheepishly raised my hand, and Hal looked me square in the eyes.

"Tomorrow is Russ McGarry's 40th birthday, so if you see him out there, give him a slap on the ass, or rub his head and wish him a happy one!" Well, now, if that isn't motivating, I don't know what is! (Ann had contacted him earlier in the week and asked that he make an announcement. Hal replied that he'd embarrass me good.)

We headed back to Grant's Pass, dropped off Gary and his crew at the hotel, and Annie, my Dad, and I dined at a local brewpub. As we chatted, I have to admit: The course was scaring the living HELL out of me: 20,000' of up, 20,000' of down, peaking at 7,000' THREE TIMES? I live at 160 feet above sea level. I was lucky to merely choke down my turkey club. The two Dead Guy Ales I chased it down with helped steel my nerves a bit, but in the pit of my gut, a storm was a-brewing. Nearly as big as the one outside.

I actually slept fairly well ("Better sleeping through chemistry," my ultra-hero Bud once told me, holding up a sleeping pill the night before a 100 miler) and woke up with the alarm for once. Before I knew it, Annie had gathered all of our gear, stacked it in the SUV, and we were off to the start of my third 100 miler.

Pause: Shout out to my crew - Dad, Tom, Ondie, and Annie, my crew chief. Christly lord, I don't know what I'd do without you out there. You are amazing.

My poofy-morning face and my Pops/crew member, trying to figure our what's wrong with his son's mental condition

Play: A light drizzle played with our nerves as we boarded the SUV and headed to the start. Maybe this is as hard as it will rain, my lying brain kept telling me. Gary and I had freaked out the night before about the rain but decided that, hey, it's yet another hurdle we get to overcome. "GET TO" being the key words I ran over and over in my head.

As I meandered around the start, I found Kate, Carly reminded me, "I'll see you at mile 93, okay?", kissed my Dad and Ann, and suddenly, I was trotting in a pack of 131 runners, 6 miles up a road towards the first of three epic climbs. Seriously, I don't remember the countdown to "Go!" at all. I think Gary and I were too busy dicking around and joking about how trashed our quads were at the moment, and how we might be dropping in a mile. Yes, we are hilarious.

Miles 0-6: Drizzly, but nothing that distracted me. Hell, I live in Oregon. It's like I live in a bath tub with a shower head that has a slow leak year-round. Kate and Gary and I hung together and chit-chatted as the miles ticked away to the first aid station, which was water only. There was 11 miles to the next aid, so I made sure to fill my water pack, as the first big-ass climb was staring us in the face.

Miles 6-17, aka holyfuckinghellisthisreallyhappening? This first climb was all switchbacks on single track trail. I powered up as hard as I could, keeping my breathing level and below the red line. I managed to pass quite a few people, but Gary was off and RUNNING up this steep climb. He waved down to me on a trail just above, and that would be the last I'd see of him until we have lunch this Thursday. Dude was READY.

After about 41 days of climbing (I might be being a bit hyperbolic), I crested on the ridge. Holy. Shit. Even with the overcast, drizzling skies hiding the views, I felt like I was on top of the world.


Excitement burst out of me, as all I'd been running were climbs, and I do love me a good, technical downhill, and I knew that's what awaited.

I attacked those downhills with excited fervor, jamming on down, although the trails were at times like peanut butter, so charging downhill wasn't an option on certain sections. I passed a few runners and ended up at the mile 17 aid in excellent spirits, refilled, ate a couple of gels, and I was off, trotting down a slightly-graded gravel road towards Steamboat Ranch Aid, 7 miles away, feeling most-excellent and incredibly strong.

Miles 17-24: I'd passed a few runners who looked to be running on fumes already, which triggered a whispered prayer to the trail-gods to hold off that look for me until mile 83, when it normally hits.

I cruised up beside T.J., a mutual friend of another runner in the race, and we blabbered on and on for about 10 miles, cutting up and laughing the entire way. We exited a 1/4 mile piece of asphalt onto some singletrack that sneaked us into California for a few minutes before plopping us into the mile 31 aid station at Seattle Bar, the first time we'd see our crews.

Karen and Heather (Kate's crew) saw me first. No, wait, check that: Ondie, one of my crew members saw me first. I forgot about that. This was her first time at an ultra-event, and I can imagine the fact that I was laughing and bullshitting with another runner having just run over a marathon in the mountains likely confounded her. So I cruised in to Seattle Bar aid, got weighed (was down 3 pounds!), and Karen - waiting for Kate - tended to changing my socks while I planned for the next 11 mile stretch where I'd next see them.

Opting for two handhelds, I jumped up and headed toward the meadow where the trail continued when Kate came jogging in! Karen and Heather - her crew - exploded in to "Happy Birthday To You" for her, and kate looked up, saw me and...well, here:

Happy birthday to us!!!

So long , suckers! Oh, wait...who's the sucker?

Miles 31-37 After hugging, I thanked my crew and the workers, took off across the meadow for the next climb of 2,200' over 4 miles. This wouldn't normally suck so bad, as I banged the hell out of my legs all summer on hills, but we were starting at 2,000' and ending at 4200'...and then climbing to 6500'.

Yeah, having oxygen would have been an added touch.

Some parts of this trail were absolutely the steepest stuff I've ever encountered. I would not be surprised at all to find out that 100 yards at a time were somewhere in the 30% grade-range. With the slop, going uphill was like sinking in quicksand. I managed to pass 4 people during this section, merely because I'd spent the last 5 months going up and down hills. Without that training, I would have been screwed.

I at least would have enjoyed the "stewed" part

I landed at the mile 37 aid which was, quite amazingly, the most remote aid I'd yet encountered, but by far the best supplied: They were frying potatoes when I pulled in to fill up my water and handed me a (very welcome) hot cup of chicken broth. Up on that ridge, I'm gonna guess winds were somewhere in the 20 mph range, and my wet clothes were stuck tight to my shivering body. Leon and Betty, two runners I'd caught up with, all said our farewells and thanks as we headed toward - what we were told - was "a small uphill and then all down".


Miles 37-42/44 Leon and I sputtered a bit ahead of Betty, who was adjusting her clothing. It was then Leon revealed to me that he had 2 separated ribs last week and could barely gasp a deep breath!

"Dude, we're 39 miles into this thing! How did you make it this far?!"

Leon: "I don't know. But I'm dropping at the next aid station."

We came across a rather large (and very fresh) pile of bear crap, which helped our paces quite a bit. And the climb kept going, up, up, up, and we three cursed it from the depths of our frozen souls, and more up, then more up and then...

"THANK GOD!" we all exclaimed upon the sight of singletrack downhills.

Technical downhill is a personal favorite of mine, so I eagerly launched myself into it and battered away at my already crying quads. Bam! Bam! Bam! and down! down! down! we sailed, although the footing became tricky at times, as the dirt was pure slop. This added to the fatigue and slowed me WAY down. I passed another runner ("My quads! Gah!" he yelled) and just let 'er rip, clocking a fast few miles into the aid at mile 42, Squaw Lake.

As I charged in feeling like a million (muddied) bucks, I saw my crew patiently waiting, with Nick, Gary's pacer. As I trotted to them, they yelled, "You have to do a lap around the lake. Wanna change now, or after?"

I checked in with myself and realized I was really tired of being cold. I opted to change everything but my shorts (much to my crew's pleasure), strapped a trash bag over me (the drizzle was fairly steady now and temps were dropping) and took my lap around the lake. I actually power walked several of the minor downhills, just to give my quads a break, figuring they'd get more abuse in the coming 20 miles to Dutchman Peak, where I'd be picking up Brian, my pacer.

It felt weird to actual run. I'd been spending so much time managing downhill sloppiness and powering up incredibly steep uphills, I hadn't actually run a comfortable step since mile 3.

Me, looking for "Lieutenant Da-yan."

I returned back to the aid station, now at mile 44, feeling amazing and taking note to enjoy that feeling, as it would inevitably change. I strapped on a rain poncho and took off as quickly as I could, now - again - running a mile or so down a road to the next section of trail. I knew I was up against a hard cutoff at mile 65 (1AM), and it was now around 6pm. With the terrain I knew awaited, I'd have to boogie to make it with some cushion.

I found myself confused in the moment: The race was announced as "100 miles", then was altered to "101.5 miles", and was now bumped up to "103.5" miles thanks to our lake adventure. What the hell?

Kate's crew beeped and screamed to me that I run "like a girl". I imagine the getup I was wearing in the below photo didn't help. (note the eerily-appropriate sign in the foreground. Ohhhhhh...TELLING).

Uh oh.

I hung a right onto the trail just as Annie drove past, screaming encouraging words (I believe, "WOOWNFEUAJBSUOINDV!!!!!" was it, but I couldn't quite hear).

Then, the door slammed.


Mile 44-47 More intensely straight, uphill climbing, again, at or around 20% grade. This sucked the life out of me, but I just put down my head and powered up as hard as I could. Ahead, I saw another runner in a yellow poncho look down at me and smile, one that can only be described as, "What the hell were we THINKING?!"

Eventually, a pickup truck came rolling down the road, the driver all smiles, who said, "About 3 minutes and you're there!" I felt as though he told me I'd just won the Nobel Prize. I stepped back to keep from kissing him and sobbing on his shoulder and continued up.

I landed at the aid station to find the runner I'd seen ahead of me, Alan, standing at the table, eating.

"You want a partner?" he asked.

"Hell YES, I do!" I knew that night was coming, and the next section was singletrack trail. If at any point I needed company, it was then. I also wanted my mommy and my binkie, but no matter how much I whined, neither showed up.

Alan and I powered on, again, sucked into the uphills, stumbling now on unmaintained, overgrown trail, and once the sun completely set and our headlamps clicked on, we were consistently whacked in the face by low hanging branches. Something very Looney Tunes about it hangs in my memory.

Ladies and gentlemen, our story's heroes.

Winds were picking up, and we both announced how thankful we were for our ridiculous ponchos as we got to know one another. As I came to find out, P2P was Alan's inaugural 100 mile race. As we tripped, stumbled, laughed, shivered and steadied our staggering steps, I assured him that this was NOT your typical 100. The weather was incredibly draining, and in fairer temperatures, we'd be much farther along.

The uphills kept on a-comin', but we dragged each other up that trail until we reached a gravel road. After a minute of examination, we saw ribbons leading us down to the mile 53 aid at Squaw Peak. Running it in, we were informed that there was a 1.5 mile out and back to go up to the actual peak, grab a pin-flag, and return down as proof that we'd made it.

Okay, you're aware of the saying, "The wheels came off the train", no? Well, this is where the lug-nuts began loosening.

We climbed (again? Really?) up a dirt road for what seemed like 20 minutes. In fact, it had been 20 minutes. No way was .75 miles taking us that long. I checked my watch and noticed that cutoff was getting TIGHT. Wandering around in the dark for 10 minutes, we discovered that we'd missed a turn in the dark up a tiny piece of trail, which was marked only with a small ribbon.

Um, Russ, are these yours? Because you dropped a bunch of them.

Without minutes to spare, we continued onto more, 20-25% grade uphill for what seemed an eternity, switching back over and over until FINALLY, we reached the peak, snagged our flags, and headed down, our detour likely costing us 15 minutes we didn't have. I really wanted to run the downhills to catch some time, but they were so seriously steep, and the night was hiding rocks that could catch our toes so well, we opted to power-hike.

Finally back at the aid station, I told one of the volunteers, "Hey, can you make sure to mark that turn better? People coming in after us are running right to the cutoff at Dutchman." This was greeted by a confused stare.

Worker: "You missed it?"

Me: "Yeah, it's pitch dark back there. Please put down a glowstick or something."

Worker: (confused look)

Me (to Alan): "Let's move."

I hope I didn't come across like a douchey-ass, but as it turns out, MANY runners after sunset missed that turn, possibly costing them the race.

Alan and I were - what else - CLIMBING again up steep roads, constantly checking our watches. It appeared if we could keep a decent, steady pace, we'd hit the cutoff at Dutchman with 15 minutes to spare. Alan said, "We blow through the next aid station," to which I grunted or nodded or farted. Who knows at that point.

After about 30 minutes, a mini van came crawling down the road towards us, slowing as it approached.

"Hey, Mr. McGarry!"

"Hey, Hal!"

Now this was a classy race director. Hal put himself out there on the course to help shuttle dropped runners and lend morale/support to our freezing, soaked butts.

"Just keep movin', gentlemen!" he yelled as he took off.

Easier said than done. Looking at the course profile for this section, there were moments of climbing 300' in about 100 yards. This kept occurring over and over: Just when we'd be able to start running, God or The Devil Whomever would slam us down to a near crawl.

After an eternity, we saw the lights of the mile 60 aid floating above us in the dark. This fueled our drive, and I ran in my head over and over, "In and out, in and out..."

One of Kate's crew, Heather, was at the tent waiting for Kate, who couldn't have been more than 15 minute behind us. I grabbed a couple of gels and looked up at Alan.

"Ready?" he asked, and within 2 minutes, we found ourselves - predictably - powering up more steeps. Minutes later, an older runner shuffled past us.

"How are ya?" he asked.

"Probably the same as you."

He then laid out a litany of acidic complaints about the race I wasn't prepared to hear: How deceptive the 34 hour finish cutoff was (it was), how the course is FAR tougher than advertised (well, I dunno...I mean, yes and no) and how in 24 years of running 100 milers, this would be the only one he wouldn't recommend.

Yeesh. I just wanted to get to mile 65 in time. This guy wanted blood.

As his light faded up ahead, winds began picking up even stronger, at times blowing me sideways, chilling my soaked bones, and generally making it a really un-fun situation. Without stating it aloud, Alan and I were damned sure there was no way in hell we'd make it to the cutoff, not in this terrain and under these conditions.

Heather pulled up beside us in her Subaru and rolled down the window.

"You okay?"

Alan and I shrugged as if to say,"Who knows." And we really didn't know.

She told us we were doing great and to keep it up, but as she pulled away, I noted that the conditions were still worsening. I knew I was shivering under my layers of dripping clothing, and Alan was actually reduced to sitting down every 10-15 minutes as we slogged uphill.

"I know you're tired, but we can't stop. We'll freeze up here."

Now at 6800 + feet, the conditions had become interminable, and I knew the reality: We weren't going to make it, like dozens of other behind us, and we needed to hitch a ride up to the peak.

Next car, we're climbing in, no matter who it is. Seriously, it could have been a three-toothed local with "Dueling Banjos" playing on his 8-track.

You boys got some perty legs...

We saw the lights of an SUV bobbing down the road toward us, and I knew this was it, and I really didn't care. Our spirits were still relatively high, but the trail and the 19 hours of straight rain and wind had left us battered.

The car slowed, and lo and behold, my friend Paul - another runner from the race - was in the passenger's side!

"Hey, you okay?"

I looked at Alan, who smiled and held out his hand.

"Good job, man."

"Good job," I said, taking his grip and shaking it.

We squeezed inside and asked for a lift down to the mile 60 aid station, where I could call my crew and let them know where I was, but we were informed that the aid station was being broken down, as the last runner had come through.

Kate? I wondered.

Paul had dropped due to hyponatremia, an incredibly dangerous condition wherein you drink too much water to the point that your body can't absorb it. In fact, he told me, Annie had taken him in to our SUV at mile 65 to warm up until his crew could get him!

"C'mon - we'll drive ya up."

We drove down aways to flips around, and through the windshield, I saw the telltale lights of Kate's flashing vest blazing up the road.

"Hey, you!" I yelled, rolling down the window.

"Hi!" she shrieked, in stunningly good spirits.

"I quit! Fuck this!" I informed her. "Good job!"

At the top, conditions were out of control: The aid station tent had nearly blown away several times, and the air was that of general chaos. We immediately found Ann and my crew, hopped into our SUV, and proceeded down the mountain, through the fog, wind, and rain, towards Ashland. I say "towards" because there was no way in hell you could find your way around. We stopped several times and checked with other drivers, who were also lost and turned around. After a diligent go, my crew member Tom guided us down for what seemed like 15 hours to the highway, and up to Ashland.

We dropped Alan off at the finish line where he'd catch a shuttle back to the start, and his car. Another soul mate found on the trails. I consider myself lucky every time I befriend another runner while out there. It's like I'm forming a family one race at a time.

I'm left after this one feeling as though there was nothing I could have done differently. As Hal told me in a later email, "You can't train for that!", and it's true. I'm amazed anyone got out of that mountain range at all: 72 finishers out of 131 starters, many of them dropping before or at mile 42.

So now for a restful winter: A fatass 50k or two, time off my feet and to reflect on my third shot at 100 miles. I'm still not 100% positive that I'll give this distance another chance for awhile. The training is life-consuming, exhausting, and expensive as hell. Maybe a 100k next summer? Who knows. For now, I'll crack open a beer, kick my heels up, and enjoy the incoming winter rains.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

WS Report Part II: This Time, It's Personal

Okay, so I got super-lazy about scribbling a single, massive writeup of the race experience and have been kicked in the arse by numerous people for doing so. Apologies. (Thanks for the pics Karen, Leslie, and Gary!)


Race morning: 5AM sure rolls around early in Squaw Valley. Gary and I dragged our butts to the start, half dazed/totally exhilarated. The overall energy was enough to take your breath away (if the race itself wouldn't do that for you).


Kate said she hadn't been nervous until pretty much the very moment this pic was snapped. I spied Hal up front at the start alongside Geoff Roes and Anton Krupicka, joking around. Before I knew it, Greg, the race director, was up on a ladder with a microphone, informing us that race founder Gordon Ainsleigh would say one sentence, which he - somehow - managed. God love Gordy, but you give that guy a microphone...well, suffice it to say: Don't give that guy a microphone :)

I can only dream of looking like this when I'm approaching 70

The countdown from 10 seconds out started, and BLAM, off went the shotgun, and "Woo!" screamed a bunch of runners and crew members, and then...well, that was it.

Gary had hiked up to the first aid station to watch the pack climb up, so I opted to hide out in the restaurant area and try to catch some z's. I passed out on a bench in a tucked away area as I heard volunteers cleaning up the place. Gary phoned me to say he was nearly to the front door, so I roused myself, feet dragging, to meet him. I tried the front door.


I tried the side door.

Locked again. While I was asleep, the volunteers had locked everything up and taken off.

Gary was pacing on the other side of the windows, trying to figure out where I could get the hell out, and I felt like I'd seen this in a movie before.

Finally, I found a remote back door, gritted my teeth, grasped the handle, and...WHEW. Sweet release.

We'd planned on jumping in early-on at aid stations, but from the looks of things, access was fairly limited, and chasing Hal would actually be cutting it close due to his speed. So we opted to meet him at 2 accessible aid stations: Michigan Bluff (mile 55) and at the elementary school (mile 62). We hauled ass back to our hotel in Truckee, then grabbed our gear and raced down to Auburn, checked in to our hotel, and figured out Hal's approximate arrival time at Michigan Bluff, only 10 miles from the hotel.

Gary and I hung at the aid station at Michigan Bluff, enjoying the pomp and hugeness of the race (I've never seen more than 5 volunteers at an aid station - this place was HOPPING with both them and "fans"), meeting with and talking to crew members (one in particular was gregarious as hell. He invited Gary and me to stay with him if we were ever in Boseman, Montana). Then, the crowd burst into cheers - the leaders were pulling in! yay, Hal!

Wait. That's Anton and Spanish ultra-champ Kilian Journet.

Geoff Roes, Kilian Journet, and Anton Krupicka. It's not the heat, it's the stupidity...of running 100 miles.

They were in and out of the aid station in the blink of an eye. I have never, EVER before seen anything like the well-oiled machines that were their crews.

A few minutes later, the crowd began again to cheer. Go, Hal!

Oh. Wait. That's Geoff Roes.

Again, lickity-split, and he was gone. I knew when Hal rolled in, I would get precious few seconds with him, so I readied my recorder and braced myself.

Within 5 minutes, I saw Hal's telltale visor bobbing through the crowd, coming right at me. He weighed in, refilled his bottles, and I ambled up to him.

Me: "Sorry, man. I warned ya I'd be here."

Hal: "Hey, brutha!"

Me: "How's it going out there?"

Hal: "It's getting warm, but I don't think that's gonna change."

And BOOM, off he trotted.

Gary and scrambled to the car and floored it to the next aid station, only 6 miles away by trail, 3 by road. At the pace they were running, we'd barely be ahead of the leaders after parking and setting up.

Now THIS is an aid station: Music blaring, scads of onlookers, announcement upon announcement over the loudspeakers. It felt more like a party than a place runners would eventually be crashing out in chairs later on, whining and sobbing.

Down the street came Anton and Kilian: They weighed in, got new bottles, and off they dashed yet again. I was stunned. A few minutes later, Geoff rolled in, made the same, amazing transition, and - with a huge smile on his face (which would be a harbinger for things to come), off he sprinted.

I was a bit suspicious about Hal's race, as he hadn't snatched up any distance between the front runners. Again, I saw his visor trotting down the sidewalk to the school, and I gave chase as he weighed in.

Me: "Anything changed since I last saw you?"

Hal: "Nah. I'm just glad to be here."

He lingered a moment, then took off to an SUV where his crew handed him fresh bottles. But in doing so, I noticed something was off: Hal was walking. And walking. In fact, he walked a good 1/4 mile with his pacer to the next section of trail.

Again, we leaped into the car, this time, heading for the finish. We'd have quite a wait (remember: We last saw Hal at mile 62), so we grabbed a mid-afternoon meal and found our way to the track/finish, getting completely lost at the first stab, although I knew that we'd get VERY used to our way from the hotel to it eventually (exit I 80 south, cross over interstate, right, left, left, right, park).

Hanging out at the finish was surreal. As you know - if you run these races - the most you get at a finish is MAYBE a few hands clapping and a "Good job!" or two. Well, the grandstands were PACKED, tents were set up all over the infield with products to test, and music was pumping.

But seriously: If I hear "Running on Empty" once more time, I will give Jackson Browne his well-deserved black eye.

An announcement finally came: Geoff Roes had passed Anton and will be approaching the track in approximately 10 minutes. This blew my mind, as the course record stood at 15 hours, 36 minutes, and Roes was poised to finish close to 15 hours! The buzz was hilarious as all of the ultra-geeks (myself included) began nerding out.

If you too want to nerd out, here is Geoff's final mile approaching the track.

As Geoff entered the track, the place went berserk. He crossed the finish in 15:07, running a 7:30 mile the final mile. Unreal. And Anton pulled in only a few minutes later in 15:13, both of them crushing the previous record. I had a sinking feeling about Hal, so I went to the "Where's My Runner" tent to see where he last checked in, but their internet was down. I texted my pal/crew member Mariko to see if she could find any info, but as she saw, Hal had checked out of the elementary school, where I'd last seen him.

I grabbed a few quick words with Anton (the best part: He was answering my question and his pacer pulled of his shoe. The, "DUDE MY TOE!" still echoes in my ears) and parked myself in a chair, exhausted.

50 minutes later, Kilian crossed the finish. I began wondering if Hal was still even on the course when I heard someone say, "Hal dropped at mile 80." What?

Apparently, he'd come into the race with an achy ankle, and I'd find out later from him that his running gait was compromised due to it. After 80 miles of running wonky, his hips were killing him, as well as the ankle. The only logical choice was to drop.

I hate to do this, but...


Thursday, August 26, 2010

FINALLY: My Western States report

It's flat-out bizarre, writing a "report" about a race, having not run it, having not crew or paced for it, but whaddya know: Here I am!

Gary and I headed down to Squaw Valley (God bless him and his Subaru) with media passes in hand to chase around Hal and Kate, documenting them for a piece to submit to This American Life (that enough links in a row for ya?). We made it down in 11 hours, dumped our junk and gear at the hotel in Truckee, and grabbed some dinner. After some good ol' fashioned, restless sleep (on my end - man, were my wheels turning/grinding), we woke up to meet Kate and her crew near the start in Squaw Valley for packet pickup.

Ugly, right?

She seemed more than ready to run the race, and I shadowed her every step through the pickup process. MAN, Western States does it right! Check it out:

After snagging some sweet schwag, getting weighed and her blood pressure taken, Kate was off to relax. Next up, following the Big Dawg: Hal.

Me, as far away from Hal I would get for the entire day

Hal opted to swing by packet pickup towards the very end, as he wanted to conserve energy and knew people would be wanting to catch up. So I shadowed him through pickup (he dropped some GREAT sound bites for me - dude knows the drill), and while he was (pictured above) getting his BP read, the volunteer asked him if he'd run the race before. Hal, being the most excellent dude that he is, was sheepish and humble.

"Yeah...I've finished it as well...ahead of 400 people.

Once those duties were polished off, Hal headed back to home base, and Gary and I ran a 10 miler with Leslie before showering and eating home made pasta at Kate's condo.

Okay, let me take you back about 6 years, when I first began running: I became particularly obsessed with running trails (because it's the ONLY WAY TO RUN) and became a member of an online forum that now, speaking frankly here, sucks. But back then, there was an "ultra running" group, where I'd first befriended Kate and Leslie. Years later, we would meet by fate and happily become intertwined in one anothers insane endeavors.

Thing is, what got me interested in running a 100 miler was a race report from Western States by a runner called "Mudrunner". It was heroic, humble, hilarious, and...another "h" word I can't quite dig out. This was "the moment". I actually said aloud, "I will run 100 miles."

To use Hollywood terms: CUT TO:

Dinner at Kate's condo.

Drumroll please.

While we're eating, I meet Kate's pacer, Glen, who is in from Vancouver, Canada (he'd be running the final 40 miles with Kate as support). We chit-chat, I ask him if he'd run Western States, he answers yes, in 2004, but he'd paced a friend a couple of years ago, when he and Kate had met.

Something sparked in my wee brain.

Me: "Are you 'Mudrunner' online?"

Glen: "Yeah. Why?"

I was sitting face-to-face with my inspiration to run a 100 miler. AT the 100 miler he'd reported on.


Me: "Holy shit! I'm Rustyboy!"

Glen: "Holy shit!"

Me: "I met Kate and Leslie by chance on the trails a couple of years ago. I was all, 'You're KateMD! And YOU'RE Fatozzig!"

Glen: "Wait - Leslie is Fatozzig?!" he asked, poniting at Leslie. "I KNOW YOU TOO!!!!!"

to be continued

Monday, August 2, 2010

Forest Park

Jeff: "I am SO lucky to put my arm around this sweaty guy YET AGAIN!"

I find it difficult to write a race report for marathons, since I run about 2/week while in heavy training, so I'll quickly sum up yesterday's:

1. Jeff and I hung together for 24 miles, yammering away. I'm sure I talked both ears off about Western States.

2. Jeff pulled away at the 4 hour mark, leaving me with my own thoughts...which involved Western States.

3. My attempt to finish in "4:20" to get a photo of me standing beside the clock, pretending to toke on a joint, was missed by 8 minutes due to the fact that I'd banged the hell out of my quads on a hilly long run Friday.

4. There are really evil trail bandits in Portland that move course markers at every race. Wendell (the RD) has no idea how to beat them at their game.

5. Working a 7 hour shift after a marathon - on your feet - really is miserable. And knowing you have 15 miles the following day doesn't really help.

6. I had a blast! So nice to do a training run that's supported and with other people.

7. Seven! That's a good number to finish a list with.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hello! Hello! Hola! I'm at a place called...


- Bono

As of right now, I'm supposed to be around mile 30-35 of the PCT 50 Miler, out by Mt. Hood. I, however, am not. This is not because I'm a coward -

- it's because for about 10 days, I've had this stuffy-head-feeling goin' on, and an annoying, omnipresent ringing in my ears. Wednesday afternoon, on my way back from running errands, I started getting the feeling that planet Earth was moving, even when it really wasn't. This sent me into a panic, which - as we know - is the best thing to do when you don't feel well. So Annie, with her amazingly calm demeanor, suggested we check out an urgent care clinic, just to see what was going on.

Turns out my blood pressure was 170/100! The doc suggested we head to the E/R and see what's what. So we did. And let me tell you, if you're having a near panic attack, and your BP is extremely high, THE E/R IS THE LAST PLACE YOU NEED TO BE.

And this was just the admitting nurse

My BP was 190/100 at this point, so Annie got them to fast-track me to a room. Within minutes of being out of the lobby, my pressure had dropped to 170/90. EKG, CT scan, strength tests, all of that shit, and what did they say?

"Hmmmm. You should see a doctor."

Um...aren't YOU a doctor?

So yesterday, I met my new Doc, and he flat-out rocks. Also a runner, when he asked if I exercised, and I told him I'm training for a 100 mile race, he muttered, "You people are (effing) crazy!"

We aren't crazy...okay, maybe this guy is. But just a little.

(sidenote: He went to feel the glands under my arms, but I was sweaty and therefore apologized. Said the doc: "No need to apologize. I look at buttholes."

He told me that I have an acute, benign case of vertigo and that it should go away after a few days. I'm still a wee bit "spinny", but nothing like where I was, and my BP is back to normal. BUT, I'm not out by Mt. Hood, running the PCT 50, which is a mild bummer.

To help throw me a pity-party, please press this button.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wow: jz, part 3

From the nether regions of the universe (and beyond), my amazing friend reached back to me once more, again placing her hand on mine.

Without my knowing it, Julie put me in her will, and I received yet another gift from her today - on this overcast, warm, wonderful summer day.

jz, you rock!

Friday, July 2, 2010


I've taken this past week to digest what my Western States experience was, but the only summation I can wrangle is:


No, not "WoW"

Kate and Hal were incredibly accommodating, allowing me to chase them around with my recorder at packet pickup Friday before the race, where they were weighed in, had their blood pressures taken, given a shitload of amazing schwag. Seriously. I would have gladly taken the killer backpack, technical shirt, and jacket and headed home.

Without going into too much detail, I was able to snag Hal at the mile 55 aid station and at the mile 62 aid as well for a couple of words. As for Kate - I ran the last 1.3 miles to the track with her, recording away. What I ended up getting seals my thoughts that this piece has true potential.

Oh, and I finally - after 3 years of "knowing" one another online - got to meet with a weary, yet somehow still smiling Gretchen around 4AM, as Gary and I wandered in a sleep-deprived state at the track. As I quite suspected, she flat-out ROCKS!

Gary and I returned Monday late evening, beaten and bedraggled. Of course, this meant we woke up the next day and hammered out a hilly 23.5 miler, giddily recapping what we'd just been through.

(Side note: Best moment of my time with Hal - as his blood pressure was taken, one of the volunteers - a middle aged woman - asked him if he'd run Western States before.

Hal: "Yup. 8 times."

Her (smiling): "And how many times did you finish?"

Hal (sheepishly): "Six."

Her (with an impish, "good for you, little fella!" grin): And what was your fastest time?

Hal: "16 hours."

Her: "HUHN?!?")

Saturday, June 19, 2010


'Scuse me - I have credentials

One week from today, Gary and I will be in Squaw Valley, picking up interviews from Mr Western States, Hal Koerner, bearded superhero runner Anton Krupicka, my ass-kickin' pal Kateand Western States founder Gordon Ainsleigh. Then, Saturday morning at 5AM, my bud Gary and I will begin the 30 ishhour process of following both Hal and Kate, from aid station to aid station, for the duration of the race.

It's weird to have reached this point for the piece (in case you missed the entry...EXPLANATION). It's kinda surreal. I imagine it will be slightly more surreal at 4AM, in the middle of nowhere, when I'm punch-drunk and bleary-eyed, asking Kate, "How do you feel?" Somehow, I think our conditions will be similar.

Monday, May 31, 2010

50 KM...and then some

It was that time of year: Time for the running o' the Forest Park 50k ri'cheer in P-Town, USA. Last year, I had stomach issues late in the race and bonked around mile 27, dragging ass to the finish in 5:24. The trail conditions otherwise were pure perfection: Dry singletrack, partly sunny skies, hell, I even sweated rose petals and farted rainbows, it was so ideal.

And then, there was yesterday.

The weather itself wasn't the issue. The skies opened up just BARELY for a light, mid-race sprinkling, but temps bounced between 55-65 and the sun poked and peeked it's way out here and again, lighting up the beautiful canopy of bright green spring leaves above us.

Now ask me about the trail conditions. Go ahead. ASK. No, wait. I'll build up. That's better story-telling.

"Make 'em wait for it, runner-boy. And bring me a scotch."

At the start, I chatted with my buds Gary, Nick, and Brian: Gary was opting to run the 20k version, as he'd kicked some serious ass running a 12 hour a few weeks ago and was carefully coming back to higher mileage. Nick toed the line for the first time at an ultra, and Brian was back for his second 50k since last year, when he rolled in only minutes after me for his first ultra-finish.

The new RD made some announcements. Best I could tell, he was saying, "jdufiuslhhvkwdvbcuxu;DJDHIhf'ngivd;jj...", but I did manage to hear that there was a slight course change. Instead of taking a cutoff trail to aid station one, we'd go an extra 1/4 mile, then turn on a firelane and do another extra 1/2-ish mile to the station. As this is mostly an out and back course - and because I am an absolute math wizard - I calculated that, yeah, this wasn't 31 miles this go-round. Sweet - and we didn't have to pay extra!

With all of the fanfare that ultra starts provide ("Ready...set...GO!" a few whoop and hollers, then silence), we were off. Young Nick and I hung together, rambling, chit-chatting, bullshitting, for the first 2 miles, but I could smell it on him. He was itching to go faster. Knowing my own pace, I bid him adieu, and off he went, bounding up the hill for the 1200' climb to aid 1.

I was about to yell down the trail to Brian when suddenly, I heard his voice over my shoulder. Running the next mile or so together, something dawned on me: A few weeks ago, I'd fallen asleep and come up with the PERFECT pacer for Pine 2 Palms 100 Miler in the fall. I'd wrestled with remembering who I'd thought of for days and days, and BOOM! I realized it.

"Want to pace me for the last 40 miles in the fall?"

I wondered if I should had waited to ask until later in the race, when he'd be more delirious, but what the hell.

Brian(without hesitation): "Yeah, man!"

WHAMMO. Takin' care of business. What has two thumbs, holds a hand held water bottle, and can multi-task?

THIS (slow) guy.

"Running 50k as a fun run? Illogical, Captain."

Brian was inching away, so I let him take off and told him to kick some ass. But coming back down were the 20k runners, and lo and behold, there was GARY, in 5th place, big-ass grin on his face.

"YEAH!" we both yelled, high-fiving with all we had.

I continued climbing to the first aid station, downing a banana and a gel, refilling some H2O, and off I dashed.

I fell into a rhythm and ran with a few really cool peeps for quite awhile: Timmy - a father in town visiting his daughter at PSU; Peggy - a preschool teacher from Astoria (who knows my ultra bud Kate), and Chelsea, a full time grad student, who somehow holds a full time job AND runs ultras, and Charlie and Erik, two work-partners with a running problem.

We all yo-yoed as you do and hit aid two. About 1/4 mile down the firelane was where I'd run into Ruben last year coming back up, in the lead ("I knew it, you bastard!" I had yelled) and I wondered where he was. Charlie, Erik and I headed down the firelane, noticing that the mud was getting thicker and more prominent, and in the exact same place as last year, I saw Ruben running up, his sleeveless, button down, mechanic's-looking shirt open in the wind, flowing behind him.

"McGarry!" he yelled.

"Go git 'em!" I responded as we high fived. HARD. I'm pretty sure the folks at the start/finish 12 miles away heard the crack.

We were now running a 10k lollipop loop, which was PURE SLOP. There was a lot of stopping, hopping, walking at this point due to not wanting to bust my ass. Charlie, Erik and I hung together, and I kept picturing what was about to come: a .4 mile downhill that at one point is about 35% grade. With the sloppy conditions, I knew what was coming and warned them.

Me (as we hit a 20% downhill which is pure mud): "Man, wait until we hit the steep stuff."

Them: "Ha ha ha!"

Me: "..."

Them: "Seriously?"

Okay, I'm not a skier, or snowboarder. In fact, I'm more of the, "I'll meet you in the lodge for whiskey toddies" kinda guy, the skills of which would not help me in the least for the downhill.

"Hey, guysh, wheresh the lodgsh?"

There was not a single piece of non-muddy, slick trail and honestly, if your center of gravity tilted so much as an inch too far forward, you'd tumble ass over ankles down this thing. So I took a seat and began skidding down, roots, rocks, and vegetation making their way up...well, you can well imagine.

I think that .2 miles took about 8 minutes, but we landed on Leif Erikson, a wide, flat fireroad, and greeted the change of terrain with wild enthusiasm.

We trotted on the rolling road for about a mile, then found the climb that would take us back to aid station 2, which was now aid station 3. Charlie and Erik took off ahead on the steep, slick incline, when suddenly, I dreamed I saw Gary standing on the trail.

"Damn, I usually don't hallucinate until mile 65," thought I. But then the hallucination spoke.

"Good job!"

Gary had finished the 20k in 1:43, placing 5th. And here he was, cleaned up, and waiting to tackle the mile-long climb with me! I was only at mile 17, but I needed perking up as my legs were burning due to having to stabilize for miles and miles on the murky trail.

I hung at the aid stop with him for a few minutes as a gift to myself (it's the little things) and took off down the 1 mile downhill, passing Mo - who was looking strong as hell - and hanging with Patrick, yet another first-time ultra runner.

The downhill is a 1.1 mile, paved fire road, so the banging pretty jostling. I told Patrick, "Aren't donwhills supposed to be fun?", to which he responded, "This SUCKS!"

Hitting the singletrack, we hooked a right and just like last year, my stomach started bothering me. Not wanting a bonk-repeat, I downed two gels with a ton of water, just to get the fuel in before the nausea took over. We ran together for quite awhile, Patrick experiencing for the first time all of the pain of an ultra. Mentally, I reminded myself that however crappy I was feeling would pass, and sure enough, my stomach lightened, my legs stopped burning, and we were well on our way to the last aid station.

Mo was about 5 yards behind us, jamming away, earbuds blaring, so we scooted to the side and she swooped past us, telling us to poke her if we wanted to pass.

Yeah. Like I'd see her again.

I needed to stop and get a salt tablet (or something - my brain was failing me at this point) and watched Patrick fade off into the woods, clearly over whatever crap feelings he'd had earlier. I reached the firelane and ran the half mile to the final aid stop, walking up to the table for water, when I encountered my second, "non-hallucination" of the day Miki, working the station. Having not seen one another in 2+ years since The Big Basin 50k, where she'd rolled her ankle in the first mile. Badly. In fact, she's just NOW getting back to high mileage, she told me. Way to go, Miki!

The rest of the race was a 1200' decent to the finish, so I started hammering those downhills, hammer, hammer, hammer...OWWWWWW!!!!

My right, lower back was pinching, likely due to stabilization issues due to the mud. This, in turn, made it difficult to fully inhale, which in turn, began causing side-stitches. I began a "Run until it hurts, walk until the stitch goes away, then run again" program that actually was working, because when I ran, I could run hard for about 2 minutes, walk for about 20 seconds, lather, rinse, repeat.

I began smelling the barn door a mile and a half from the finish, when I came upon a family of hikers, their 2 year old son wailing and crying.

"I know how ya feel, buddy," I said as I passed.

Hooking a left, I had about .8 miles to the finish and began hauling ass. I started tricking myself into running scared, so as to not get passed in the final half mile. I hit pavement - indicating I had a tenth of a mile left - and picked it up. Passing Annie and our friends Kimi and Carl, who were along out of curiousity and for support, I saw Nick standing at the finish. He screamed, "YOU'RE SO SEXY!" and held his hands out, so I took my water bottle and lobbed it about 10 feet at him, missing my mark completely. I hit the finish in 6 hours and a few seconds, turned around, seeing my buddy Charles videoing my finish as well. I gave him a grimy, mud-covered hug and found out that Nick had finished AN HOUR AND TEN MINUTES ahead of me. Daaaamn.

Me: "What's your secret to such a quick finishing time?"
Nick: "White hats make you faster!"

Brian was hanging at the finish as well, having beaten me by 25 minutes (WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!?!). I broke the news to his fiancee that he'll be spending 12 hours dragging my ass up and down a mountain in the fall, which she seemed receptive to (thank god), and Annie, myself, and our friends headed out for a late lunch.

Team Russ wears only black

And as for the mud?

I swear, there is skin under there somewhere