Monday, March 26, 2012

Octopus Trail in the Rain: March 25, 2012

A group of ten of us gathered at 6:30 am this morning at the Westridge Fire Road in Mandeville Canyon to run the "Octopus Trail."  The Octopus isn't really a single trail.  Rather, it is a collection of trails stitched together, crossing East to West from Mandeville Canyon, through Sullivan, Rivas, Will Rogers and finally Temescal, then returning by more or less the same route.  The 20 mile run has something like 5,200 feet of climbing and, of course, descending.  Like many runs in the Santa Monica Mountains, it traverses all sorts of different micro-climates with different vegetation and different terrains.

The run took something over six hours, but that includes about two hours of stops to re-group, eat, drink and, of course, take photos.  While it rained nearly the entire run, my new jacket kept me comfortable until very near the end, when the wind and rain finally penetrated the "water-proof" material.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mt. Wilson in the Rain: March 17, 2012

It was 40 degrees and raining steadily when we began our run from Chantry Flats at 6:30 Saturday morning. The first few miles passed by pleasantly. Dom and Jack ran ahead up the narrow trail through the forrest. Kate and I chatted about running, competition and the fact that her dad was about to run his first marathon, at age 57, the following day. Annie ran a bit behind us.

The five of us re-grouped at the bench, perhaps half way up Mt. Wilson. I felt completely comfortable up to that point. While it had been difficult to get out of the car and step into the rain, I did have on a long-sleeve sweatshirt over my technical shirt, and a beanie. I remember feeling just fine within a minute of starting the run. It was a bit cold, but cold is good when you're running uphill.

From the bench on, however, I began to feel increasingly cold. Stopping at the bench didn't help, and after that I hung back and talked with Annie for the next section. As we approached the summit, Dom and I went ahead, and the increased effort kept me warmer. Towards the top, the trail turned into a small stream, and there was no choice but to allow my shoes to get completely soaked with the cold water. The rain turned into sleet intermittently.

I started to get worried about hypothermia at the top of Mt. Wilson, and even gave some consideration to bailing out and taking shelter in one of the buildings at the top, but decided to finish. The trail down Mt. Wilson was wet and narrow, and I'm a poor downhill runner in the best of conditions, so my pace was slow, and as a result I got even colder.

Shortly into the decent I started to feel the symptoms of mild to moderate hypothermia. About a mile from the top, I began hyperventilating uncontrollably, and my vision started to get a bit weak. Fortunately, Dom and Jack stayed with me. Dom, who knows the trail so well after winning the Angeles Crest 100 last year, took the lead, chatting and whooping. Jack stayed behind me, making sure I stayed on course.

I don't really remember that much of the decent. I know I felt a bit dizzy right before we got back to the cars. I got into dry clothes, and we headed off to Starbucks for coffee. Within a few hours, I felt almost completely better, although I was quite careful the next few days to stay extra warm. And, most importantly, next time I go out in weather like that -- and I have every intention of doing so as often as possible -- I'll dress for the occasion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Five Decades of Sub Three Marathons

Apparently, I am now one of about 40 people who have run sub-three hour marathons in five different decades.

1. Mission Bay Marathon, January 14, 1979: 2:54:50.
2. LA Marathon March 9, 1986: 2:45:50.
3. LA Marathon, March 4, 1990, 2:41:49.
4. Austin Marathon, February 17, 2002, 2:43:10.
5. Napa Marathon, March 5, 2012, 2:59:15.

The photo at the left is from March 5, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Art of Running

My High School English teacher, Richard Daukas, suggested that running is an art form. I agreed with him then, and I agree with him now, more than 30 years later. Running allows me to express myself. Like other art forms, it has minimal utilitarian value. And, while some people like me feel driven to do it, many other people just don't "get it." That is ok. There is no need for everyone else to get it. But it is sure is nice when some people do.

As with other art form, running can bring joy both to the artist and, if done right, to an audience as well. Watching Kilian Jornet run down the Alps or the Pyrenees is like listening to Bach or Brahms. Kilian possesses incredible skills, but beyond that he displays an energy and shear joy of running that is a pleasure to watch.

While Kilian is perhaps the most skilled downhill runner on the planet, I've seen that energy and passion in runners of much more pedestrian talents. My friend and training partner, Jack Rosenfeld, exudes the same shear passion for running as Kilian, even though his abilities are more modest. It is my privilege to see him run on a regular basis. The photo show here is at the end of his first sub-three hour marathon. Although many have run faster, few have worked harder or deserved it more.

One of the key elements of running is understanding that you can only really compete with yourself. No matter who you are, there will always be someone faster and someone slower. All world records eventually fall. And, if you see running as solely about getting from one place to another, you are missing the point entirely. Certainly, doing your best is what it is all about. But it is your best that counts, not whether your best happens to be faster or slower than the next guy.