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Halloween 2007

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007


Quote of the Day: “Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.”

- Groucho Marx

What was I for Halloween?

A sore, grumpy putz. It took me all day to get into costume but I pulled it off.

OK, first, for those of you that are curious, yes, I was sore today. If by “sore” you mean having battery acid coursing through my veins and even my earlobes hurting, yes, by God, I was sore.

Putting on socks was like making strudel in the dark.

Squatting onto the toilet was akin to advanced calculus taught in German. Really tough, painful, and the probability of success was negligible.

I had a tough day at work I don’t even want to write about so I’ll skip right to the evening where I was a Laz-E-Boy warrior, pretty much trying to keep the spittle from dripping off my chin.

My beautiful daughter dressed up as Cleopatra and then bounded off with her friends. I would not see her until later but thus is the life as a father of a teenage daughter on Halloween. I think I got a short hug which was worth the 90,000 volts of pain as she quickly hugged me before anyone saw.

The boy donned what he always wears on Halloween. It’s a black hooded cape with a mesh face and glowing eyes underneath. He, too, disappeared with his friends which left Carrie, Buster, and me to hand out the goodies.

OK, it was Carrie. I sat in the chair and held Buster’s leash when the little ghosts and goblins came to the door. Buster, of course, barked and got his stupid hackles up every time Carrie opened the door. He strained against the leash which sent more voltage of pain through my body.

A far cry from past Halloween nights.

As a kid, I was always Superman. Always. And since we were poor, Halloween was the one night where we would get a candy windfall that would last a month. With my kids, not such a big deal since they can go to the candy box in the kitchen and get just about anything they want whenever they want.

What? We have to go out and get candy door to door? Why don’t we just stay here and eat what we have in the house? It’s better than the crap other people give out.

Then there was the year in Monterey when I took Stephanie to a house that was having a party. But they were foreigners so it wasn’t a Halloween party, just a regular get-together party. They had no idea of the concept of Halloween. Do you know what it’s like to try to explain to an Asian man why I was walking around my daughter in a costume and expecting him to give her some candy?

Or the year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on Halloween and all the costumes the people wore. That night I got back to my house late, sore, and had to go over to friends’ house while all the kids trick-or-treated together.

Or the year I called the radio station and got the DJ to unknowingly accuse my best friend of punching the clown. It is explained here.

Or the year my brother was visiting us and when he answered the door with candy bowl in hand, he asked a little kid what he was dressed up as, the kid gave a really smartass answer. Something like “I’m Hulk Hogan, what do you THINK I am?”

Chris was speechless but later said he was stifling his answer which went something like “I THINK I’m gonna kick your little ass…”

But probably the best memory is the year we took our toddlers to the mall in Washington and realized we had dressed them up as a lamb and a lion. They konked out cuddled up to each other in the stroller and it was perfect.

Free Advice for Today: “Change your car’s oil and filter every three thousand miles regardless of what the owner’s manual recommends.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

No comments are allowed on this one ... sorry

CrossFit Day 1: The Sniveling

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.”

- Samuel Johnson

So this is how it’s gonna be, huh?

8:45 PM and I’m busting a hump just typing and trying not to fall face first on the keyboard and kjdsjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk….


CrossFit intro workout #1 of 4 complete.

Sad thing among many: I didn’t even have to get up early. The workout was at 5:30 PM because that’s the only time the trainer could do it so I don’t even have the “I’ve been up since zero-sick-thirty” excuse.

Here’s what I’m gonna try. I’m gonna try not to go into too much detail with the workouts because what’s worse that going through a testicle-rupturing workout? READING about a testicle-rupturing workout (I could have just said “reading about one” but I wanted to get a second instance of “testicle-rupturing workout” in my blog. Ooh, there’s the hat trick!)

I showed up tired because I worked through lunch, I worked almost constantly the entire day, and I don’t think I’m quite recovered from you-know-what. I honestly don’t know how people can work out after work.

The trainer, who will from here on at be referred to as “Tawny,” had me perform a few warm ups of the usual suspects (push-ups, sit-ups, etc.). When she got to the pull-ups, I groaned a bit.

“I’m not exactly what you would call ‘good’ at pull ups.”
“It’s OK, I’ll teach you how to kip.”

Whoa, stop the bus! We can KIP?

(“Kipping” a pull up means you swing your body in a serpentine motion to gain momentum, making the pull up easier, but it takes some coordination to get it right).

I explained to her that for the first ten years in the Marine Corps, I was allowed to kip but at the ten year mark, they changed to dead-hang pull ups and never had I maxed the pull-up portion of the PFT since. Back when I could kip, 20 pull-ups was a joke.

When I cranked out 15 kipped pull-ups (the first time I’ve done it in a decade but I still knew how), she looked at me kind of funny.

“You are the first person I‘ve ever trained that knew how to do that without any coaching. Normally I have to spend a long time showing clients how to even come close to doing it right.”

That ego-boost was short-lived though because next we did dips on the ring.

“If there is anything I’m worse at than dead hang pull-ups, it’s dips.”

At this, I surprised no one. I got to about four or five and then had to go to the alternative method of jumping up off the ground. And the bitch of it was I knew I would feel it big-time tomorrow even just for that pitiful display.

After the warm-up, Tawny showed me how to squat which I promptly dorked up ten ways to Sunday. See, they have very specific details of how they want every part of your body to move for it to be dubbed “right.”

She could have saved herself a lot of time if she would have just said “Push your butt out like you’re in prison and arch your back like your in a porn movie.”

This is why I am not a trainer, people.

Anyway, I don’t think I nailed the squat but it was time to go to the deadlift. This is another movement I thought I had some knowledge of but it became very evident very quickly that I knew exactly bupkis.

I did worse on this one than the squat but Tawny was very polite in not making it too obvious that I had the athletic ability of a wet stump.

The next exercise was a little more successful. It was the press and after watching her hold the bar on her chest and thrusting her elbows forward, I got in the same position but noting that I have the flexibility as the aforementioned wet stump, my elbows kind of stayed down no matter what I told them to do.

“Like Tawny, you rubes!!!”

They don’t listen, THEY don’t listen!

Thrusting the bar above my head, Tawny told me to push my head forward for what she calls a “curious turtle” and from that point on, I couldn’t get the thought of a variation on that visual out of my head.

(For those of you that must know, it’s a little euphemism for when you REALLY have to go to the bathroom. Number 2-like. You get the idea.)

By this point, I was sweating on the medium setting. That would soon change.

“OK, are you ready to do a workout?”

My thought was “I just did, didn’t I?”

I have a long way to go, folks.

Here’s how it goes. 21 squats, 21 deadlifts, 21 presses, 200 yard run.

Then the same thing but 15.

And then 9.

All this timed and just over 16 minutes later, I wanted to repeatedly staple-gun my groin just to divert the pain from EVERY other point on my body.

Is it normal to almost faint on your introductory lesson when you are supposed to be somewhat fit to begin with?

When I returned from my last 200 yard run, I swear, this is what Tawny said:

“You can get a drink of water or lay on your back to stretch it out…”

By the time she said “…back…” I was splayed out.

A couple of things she said afterward that I will take on face value.

She was concerned yesterday when I called and I told her I was an ultra runner. She says that normally ultra-runners will come in and they are too skinny and frail for the workouts. I seemed to be built sturdier and I agreed that I was not your average build for what I do and that was part of the reason I was there. I wanted to lean up and gain strength.

I told her two things that she should know about me. I have no ego and that I do what I’m told. I am hard-headed enough to show up even when in dreadful pain and do what is expected. It’s one of my gifts.

I also told her that I was there to learn and to work and to that, she said that if true, I was the perfect client.

She asked about my race and I told her a little about it and how I was a little concerned that I was starting CrossFit so soon, unsure I was sufficiently recovered to do this. Only then did she tell me that I did better today than the average. She would not have put most people what I did on the first session and definitely wouldn’t have added weights to the deadlift.

I believed her and if you don’t, keep it to yourself.

So there you have it, first class in the books and I’m really tired. Not painfully so; that is reserved for tomorrow but I have time to recover. She can’t meet in the morning and tomorrow night is All Hallow’s Eve and her kids would hate her if she wasn’t home early.

Thursday morning was taken up so she told me to run tomorrow and meet her again on Thursday at 5:30 where we will tackle lesson 2 of 4.

Looking over the whole thing, so far so good. The workout was as tough as I thought it would be the first time out and I definitely got a workout. I soaked a shirt (not my shorts but thanks for assuming) and am not as sore/tired as I thought I would be the first night. I even hit that point where I probably would have called it good before the end of the workout and without a trainer, “good enough” would have prevailed.

We’ll see how Lacto-World treats me tomorrow.

Free Advice for Today: “Every once in awhile, take the scenic route.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Holy Moley

Monday, October 29th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn’t want to give up power.”

- Arthur C. Clarke

Welcome to a blog splatter of my day.

OK, I ran for the first time since my DNF on the 20th. I ran the 7-mile loop and it seemed like a joke. The first five miles was so ridiculously simple it almost seemed like a waste of time. I purposely took it really, REALLY slow because I was worried about my depleted core but running five miles after doing 56 really seemed hokey. I’m not bragging, just a comment on perspective.

Why do I talk about “5 miles” when I mentioned I did 7? Because I ran out of zip after 5 and crashed. I recognized it right away and know where my threshold is. I can run for almost exactly one hour before I need refueling. I know it sounds silly after running 16 hours that I would be a wet noodle after an hour but during those 16 hours, I was constantly fuelling myself and today I didn’t so the car ran out of gas at the 5 mile mark. I walked it in from there.

It gave me a lot of time to think and I realized I had not properly thanked my wife for everything she did for me the last couple of weeks. She bought my long list of supplies, listened to my harebrained schedules and plans for the race, stayed up late the get everything ready, woke up early to get everything packed in the car, drove me out there, and waited at the aid stations worrying about me until I dropped.

So I decided a short stop at the cash machine was in order. I get cash out so infrequently that I always almost forget my PIN but the memory gods were with me and I pulled out $40. I then stopped at Costco and bought two dozen pink roses.

I know, ladies, but I’m taken.

I took the time when I got home to thank her and tell her not only that I was thankful for what she does but WHY I was thankful. The details of that conversation are private but it was had.

In other news, my son’s class was required to design a mole-themed project. I’m not sure of the details except that they had to play off the concept and name of the little furry animal and after much annoying debate and brainstorming, he came up with….wait for it…. HOLY MOLEY.

Then he and my wife got out the crafts and sewed together a bean-bag mole (beans inside) and put little silver wings on it. They made a halo out of a yellow pipe cleaner and there you have it…HOLY MOLEY.

I wept.

On the daughter front, she won’t let me get an AIM account and chat with her since, now with her new laptop, she spends an inordinate amount of time chatting with her friends. She said she would not accept my invite.

I wept.

And last but not least, I will be attending my first Crossfit class tomorrow.

$225 for the first 4 instructional classes and then $100 per month after that. All I know is that I’m going to be sore, cranky, in pain, miserable, achy, grumpy, and probably more than a bit surly but I also better be looking like the king in 300 instead of the King Blue-On-the Shitter for that kind of money.

Free Advice for Today: “When you and your wife have a disagreement, regardless of who’s wrong, apologize. Say, ‘I’m sorry I upset you. Would you forgive me?’ These are healing, magical words.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


San Diego 100 Race Report

Sunday, October 28th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “Only the shallow know themselves.”

- Oscar Wilde

I was somewhat awake before the alarm went off at 0233. Habit had me setting it so that I could get three snoozes in but I didn’t really need them. It was time to get up and start a most unique adventure. A hundred miles…in a row.

I got in the shower and my angel of a wife got up and started prepping things like coffee, breakfast, last minute packing, ice, and a million different things that were absolutely critical and that I didn’t have to give a second thought to. The last couple of nights we had spent hours making lists, packing, and going over plans. This morning, it was all about execution.

Paola showed up right on time at 0330 and let herself in.

She joined in the general prep and watched me down the oatmeal I so desperately hate to eat.

I then ate some egg beaters, toast, orange juice, and coffee. I knew I could eat just about anything and it would be some of the last “real” food I would eat for a very long time. Later, my stomach likely couldn’t handle such decadence as solid food.

I’m finding out these races have so many facets to them and one of the big challenges is one not many people would instantly consider. It’s hard to get enough calories and fluid into your system when the only entry point is through the stomach which tends to stop playing when you start running the long tough miles. Kind of a catch-22. You must eat and drink massive amounts of food to get the calories but this act upsets the stomach and it shuts down.

We got the car loaded up,

… said goodbye to the dog,

… and headed out to the campground where the race began.

An hour later we emerged into the parking lot and the first thing I noticed was that it was a private-parts-shrinking cold. I mean see-your-breath cold and I had shorts on. Wait a minute, this is San Diego, right? WTF?

We shuffled up to the cafeteria where they had held the dinner last night and they had some coffee. The runners kind of shuffled around nervously and I drank a cup of coffee and stretched. Carrie offered to go back down to the car to get her sweatpants and my bag.

It was about a half hour before race time my nerves frayed during every passing minute.

I looked over and saw David Goggins, the Navy SEAL who got third in Badwater this year and was completely zombified at the end when I last saw him. He was much more personable today when I introduced myself to him.

Here is part of our conversation:

Viper: “Is this your first race since Badwater?”
David: “No, it’s my 5th 100 mile race since then.”
Viper: Silence
Viper: “So, you must be, uh, ready, trained up for this one.”
David: “Either that or overtrained.”

We both laugh. Him legitimately, me feeling totally stupid.

I told him it was my first 100-mile race and then he gave me some advice.

“The race for you doesn’t start until mile 60. Take it easy until then and then ramp it up for the finish. When you get more experienced, your race starts sooner. Mine will start at mile 20 and then I get going.”

I really appreciated this advice but he falsely assumed I was racing. My race doesn’t START until 60? I hope to MAKE IT to 60. This is the ultimate example of a “two-line” race which means I hope to start the start line and then the finish line. What ever timeframe ticks off between is of no concern, as long as I made the time hacks.

But I understand, he was competing and good on him. I just hoped my run would end AFTER his. If I finish before him, it will only be because I never made it to the end.

I kept an eye out for Olga. She is a super-runner who had just finished her 10th 100-mile race and was pacing a friend. I had never actually met her but I had been reading her blog for a long time, not even remembering how I found it. Like these things happen, you somehow start reading a blog from a link from another runner’s blog or website and then after awhile, you forget the connection and you find yourself tracking someone you have never met.

I had been lurking on her site, tracking her 100-mile adventures when I noticed recently that she planned to pace someone at this race. I finally came from beneath the shadows and sent her an email, trying not to sound like some wretched lurker.

I asked her some advice on the race, seeing how it was my first, and discovered another tendency about this culture that I’ve heard about, suspected, but kind of forgot: when you ask for help, these people shower you with it.

Before I knew it, I had an unofficial coach with daily emails and advice I scrambled to follow. Drink HEED, here’s your pace chart, eat this many salt pills at these times, switch over to solid food at this mile… and on and on and on.

She even offered to come back after her runner finished and run me in to the finish line.

And I had never even MET this woman before!

She had missed the dinner last night where my wife and I were supposed to meet her. Her plane was delayed and she was not able to get to the brief so this morning was the first time we were to make her acquaintance.

She walked in and I crossed the room to introduce myself. When she recognized me, instead of a handshake, she gave me a big hug. She was this excitable little Russian woman (“Olga”, go figure) and I think we both had that strange feeling of knowing a lot about each other due to reading each other’s writings on the Internet. Sign of the times.

It was less than 10 minutes before the start and we all wandered out into the dark cold to head toward the start line. By the time we got there, I was a little stressed to see that most of the field was already lined up. I looked at my watch and there was less than 5 minutes before 0600.

On the way out, we had stopped by the Pilot and grabbed the walkie-talkies but when we turned them on, they did not work. We fiddled with them all the way to the start line but I ended up just handing mine to her and telling her to try to get it solved by the first aid station.

By the time I got to in the group, the countdown had begun.

Holy crap, that was fast.


My fist 100 miler.


Am I ready for this?


Someone yelled “Mommy!”

My goal was running 15-minute miles for the first half and then slowing to 18-minute miles the last half. That would put me in at 27.5 hours which left me plenty of cushion for the 31-hour limit.

It was easier than I thought it was going to be to run slow starting off because we were all bunched together and it was dark. Once we got to a single-track, we were all in a big long line.

I got to the first aid station as the sun came up and was feeling wonderful. I had done plenty of walking and was hardly feeling any stress. That’s what you want, a nice gentle start and saving everything you can for when it starts to get REALLY tough.

I made it into the first aid station in 1 hour and 9 minutes. My goal was 1 hour and 28 minutes so I was going WAY too fast. Carrie and Paola were waiting for me in high spirits and everything was right with the world.

This was the first chance I weighed myself and I came in at a whopping 201.6 pounds. This was due to the massive amounts of food and liquids I had stuffed my body with over the last few weeks but still, it was a little distressing to top the 200 mark. That would change soon. I was down to 197 at the next station and then 194 at aid station 4. Then we kind of let the whole weighing thing go since the thirst for knowing took back seat to just plain rest at each station.

The next few legs were very calm. I had talked to some people but ended up running quite a few miles with two men name Joe and a woman who was married to one of the Joes. Her name was Nicole and I very much enjoyed spending hours with each of them, chatting about our various adventures. They all seemed strong, had a great crew, and I had no doubt they were going to finish. In fact, they did according to the final states. They made the 31-hour cutoff by about 20 minutes.

They had said only one had ever done the distance and planned at about 28 hours which seemed perfect. I hung with them for a bit but then we started yo-yoing back and forth and after awhile, I was coming into aid stations that they were just departing.

My food plan was going well. My medicine plan was on schedule thanks to my great crew, and after a couple of hiccups, we had the pattern down. I would come into the aid station and they would have the chair waiting. They would strip off my Camelback to fill it, give me a bottle of HEED (that tasted horrible) and give me whatever was scheduled for that stop whether than be Ensure, salt pills, or just Gu.

Carrie and Paola got some advice from Olga to have me eat more salt so they had chips and pretzels at about every stop and I ate them like my life depended on it. I guess I needed it if I was craving it that bad.

During one of the legs, I had taken off before the Joe-Joe-Nicole trio and was sorry I attacked this particular portion alone. It was steep and very hot, up on a ridge hugging the road below. It was in the 90s but I felt OK, especially just walking a lot it.

I caught up to Xy (pronounced “Christy”) Weiss, a flamboyantly dressed runner also known as “Dirty Girl” which is the line of brightly colored gaiters she produces. She is pretty much a staple at these long races and I had seen her at the Bishop. Her moniker turns heads though, like the time she was in the airport with her kid and someone yelled “Hey, aren’t you ‘Dirty Girl’?” That had to be a GREAT scene.

It was along this stretch that I came across an older fellow bent over with his hands on his knees. I didn’t know what to do. It was early in the race and while it was hot, it wasn’t race-stopping hot. But he looked really bad and I wondered what I should do for him. When I asked, of course, he said he would be OK but I felt bad just leaving him there.

I asked him if he needed water and he said that would be great which to me, was a bad sign because if you accept water from a stranger, you must really be hurting.

I unhooked the end of the tube of my Camelback and let my water pour into his water bottle until it was half full. I bid him farewell and went on my way. I was confident he could make it to the next aid station and then he could decide for himself if he was fit to continue.

I was starting to worry at the 30 mile mark because I had peed exactly twice and that was during the first two miles. Those two were clear but that was all the liquid I had pounded before the race. I had gone a long way and drank ungodly amounts of liquid since then with nothing to show for it.

I ended up only peeing two other times during the rest of the rest and both times were forced, not to mention a dark amber. That weighed heavily on my mind because I know my body was creating toxins and they weren’t getting flushed out.

The hours rolled on and on and I hit some pretty nasty climbs as my legs started to talk to me. I had no specific injuries, just overall fatigue. It became increasingly irritating that I would trudge up a long uphill with the singular thought that I could jam down the other side only to find the downhill was full of big ankle-breaking boulders and I was often reduced to walking down just as I had walked up.

The most common question I get about running ultras is how I can tackle such distances. I can’t, is my answer. A hundred mile race is not a hundred mile race. This one was 16 small races end to end. In other words, you LIVE for the aid stations. You run to them. You look forward to seeing your crew and for me, that’s what keeps me going.

Certain other people (OLGA!) do not put much value in aid stations because they (she) doesn’t want to waste the time there, break concentration, etc. I have a different approach: I love them. The only time hacks I want to crack is the cut-offs so if I spent 10 minutes instead of 2 at an aid station, well, it’s my chance to communicate with the wonderful people out there sacrificing for me. I’ll eat the time.

The miles wore on and I tackled some pretty fierce climbs and covered many many miles. I was mostly alone and I just trudged along, listening to my music, and looked forward to seeing Carrie and Paola at the next aid station.

At one point, there were some day hikers who I don’t know if they knew what the hell was going on. I know I looked pretty bad and I got the curious looks I’m used to when I’m sloshing around out in the middle of nowhere.

I know I must have seemed to be bragging a bit but I was coming into an aid station and got on the walkie-talkie to give my crew a heads-up that I was coming in. I asked what mile marker we were at and I was told 26 and I noted that was a marathon, three more to go. When I said that, the hikers I was passing looked at me like I had cucumbers sticking out of my head.

Everything was going as planned. I was about on schedule, I had eaten what I thought I was supposed to, I had taken the medicine (Aleeve and Tylenol) on schedule, and other than fatigue and not-pissing, everything was going as well as can be expected. The sun was stating to set so the temps were down and I was trying to get mentally ready for the nighttime running. It loomed as a scary concept but I was confident it was just yet another challenge this day full of challenges.

Coming into Sweetwater, the aid station that marked the start point of the last leg before the halfway point, I had been a bit spoiled with some short legs and this last one was going to be 7.4 (an eternity at this point).

I geared up and set out. The nastiness of this was that it was uphill for half of it and then downhill on the other half. At this point, the only thing that was worse than the concept of 3.5 miles uphill was the reality of it.

I was reduced to walking all of that uphill portion, no questions asked. It was pure drudgery and it siphoned both mental and physical energy. I felt like I was just giving away time and that this was putting a serious dent in my pace. Monsters started to creep in my head and I trudged along in a low mental and physical gully.

The next thing that happened was that I realized I had made a potentially serious error. I had not thought about bringing my headlamp because I hadn’t used it since the morning and the sun was still up at Sweetwater. I realized that it would be dark before I hit the camp at the halfway point, my next aid station.


I finally crested the uphill portion and started the flat and downhill. I was passed by a walker and as I watched him crest the hill ahead, my mood sank. Even walkers were blowing past me.

A little later on I saw another runner/walker in the distance and I somehow caught up to him. I asked him how he was doing and he told me he was just trying to get to the next aid station because he was done. He had hurt his leg or his hip (hard to remember details) and he was calling it a day at the 50.

I was kind of shocked because I thought I was the worst off out there and in last place but here was someone who was ahead of me and quitting. He even seemed to be in better shape than me but I guess injury is not prejudiced.

He asked me if I was going on and I said that I was. I was not injured and I had to shave in the morning. I don’t know if he caught my meaning but I meant that I would have to look at myself in the mirror and if I gave one whip less than everything I had, I would not be able to look myself in the eye.

The sun set and it got progressively darker and darker until I was depending on moonlight and glowsticks placed along the path by the race organizers.

I didn’t immediately assign the proper level of value to these glowsticks and was still trying to squint to keep myself on the path, looking for the white powder marks on the path. In a sudden realization, I thought “Hey, glowsticks!”

I had seen the cyclists riding around placing them as the sun started to set and even saw them along the path before it got dark but I guess I was starting to lose it because it took me some time to actually start using them like a trapeze artists, swinging from glowstick to glowstick.

A couple of times I thought I had got lost because I didn’t see the powder marks and started to worry. Then I would turn a corner and see the green glowstick in the distance and I would have a rush of happiness and relief. I even started talking to the glowsticks and greeting them as I came up to them, thanking them out loud for showing me the way.

Speaking of losing my mind, I got scared silly a few times.

Earlier in the race when I was running with the Joes and Nicole, I pointed out how scary some of the ragged, half burnt trees would look at night. Well, what started out as a joke became a reality.

I was running along a path and it was dark enough to have to pay attention. I look over and I see a monster’s face in a cave-like hollow of a burnt out tree right beside the path.

I won’t sugar-coat this; I yelled.

It scared me so bad I jumped to the opposite side of the path with dinner-plate eyes.

I was coherent enough to realize I might start hallucinating but I didn’t feel that far gone yet. But criminy that face scared the shit out of me and my heart was racing. I rushed by but had to stop and take a look back to see what I actually saw.

It was indeed a burned out tree and at the base where it was wide, a perfect cave-like area had burned out making a little “sitting area” inside. The back of the stump-cave was a pattern of black and ashy white. I looked at I swear on a stack of Bibles that it still looked like a face. A ghoulish face looking out from a dark little cave.

Stupid moonlit shadows.

It wasn’t only the trees but also the shadows the moonlight cast. I would be running along and stop in my tracks. Right in the middle of the path, a trick of light and shadow made it look like there was some kind of small animal sitting in the middle. The only other creature (other than the stupid Tree Troll) I saw all day was a snake slithering across the path when it was light.

I stopped and would talk to whatever I thought I was seeing…

“OK, what are YOU?”

I would hesitate to see if it moved and then I would see that it was just a trick of the light and go on. This happened a few times during this last leg.

At this point, I felt like I had given up so much time that I was last in the race and that I wouldn’t even make the cut-offs, much less the time limit for the race. It was the dark talking to me and the beginning of the challenge that these races pose when all of the sudden, I realized I was running. I was actually running and was being distracted by looking for the glowsticks.

When did I start running again? I couldn’t remember but I felt fine doing a little jog in the moonlight looking for glowsticks. It was a strange and sudden realization and I marveled that I could be running after all my body had been through this day.

Off in the distance I could suddenly see the lights of the aid station. I looked forward to getting in but I was in another low based on the assumption I was in last place and was way behind pace schedule. My crew had not told me if I was on pace the last few stations so I assumed that meant that I wasn’t and they didn’t want to tell me.

I was having these dark thoughts when I saw someone coming the other way.



“Your wife sent me out here to help you in. She told me you didn’t have light so I offered to come find you.”

He had a flashlight and gave it to me to take the lead.

We got into the aid station and I thanked this stranger. I was focused on getting into the shower and minimizing what I knew to be the longest rest stop I would take the entire race.

I told Carrie to meet me by the showers with my change of clothes, a little irritated that they weren’t ready, Indy 500 pit stop style, for this potentially time-vortex of an aid station.

I had made it in at 13:13 which I didn’t realize at the time was a PR for the 50 mile distance, beating my old PR by 10 minutes.

The water flowing on me was beyond exquisite. As the water ran down my body, it was like waves of relief applied to every surface it touched. It was every bit the decadent comfort I had imagined it to be for so many hours.

The rest of the story is covered in “The End” but here are the stats I put together for this race:

Depart: 0600

Arrive AS1: 0709
Depart AS1: 0712
Time at AS: 3 min
Weight: 201.6 lbs
Distance: 5.9 miles
Leg Time: 1:09
Leg Pace: 11:42 min/mile
Overall Pace: 11:42 min/mile

Pedro Fages
Arrive AS2: 0832
Depart AS2: 0837
Time at AS: 5 min
Weight: 197.8 lbs (-3.8 lbs)
Distance: 6.7 miles
Leg Time: 1:20
Leg Pace: 11:56 min/mile
Overall Pace: 12:03 min/mile

Arrive AS3: 1003
Depart AS3: 1021
Time at AS: 18 min
Distance: 7.2 miles
Leg Time: 1:26
Leg Pace: 11:57 min/mile
Overall Pace: 12:16 min/mile

Paso Picacho
Arrive AS4: 1151
Depart AS4: 1205
Time at AS: 14 min
Weight: 194.8 (-6.8 lbs)
Distance: 6.0 miles
Leg Time: 1:30
Leg Pace: 15 min/mile
Overall Pace: 13:36 min/mile

Big Bend
Arrive AS5: 1315
Depart AS5: 1326
Time at AS: 11 min
Distance: 4.9 miles
Leg Time: 1:14
Leg Pace: 15:06 min/mile
Overall Pace: 14:10 min/mile

Milk Ranch Road
Arrive AS6: 1500
Depart AS6: 1510
Time at AS: 10 min
Distance: 5.8 miles
Leg Time: 1:34
Leg Pace: 16:12 min/mile
Overall Pace: 14:48 min/mile

Arrive AS7: 1645
Depart AS7: 1700
Time at AS: 15 min
Distance: 6.4 miles
Leg Time: 1:32
Leg Pace: 14:22 min/mile
Overall Pace: 15:04 min/mile

Camp Cuyamaca
Arrive AS8: 1945
Depart AS8: 1955
Time at AS: 10 min
Distance: 7.4 miles
Leg Time: 2:45
Leg Pace: 22:18 min/mile
Overall Pace: 16:30 min/mile

Arrive AS1: 2155
Distance: 5.9 miles
Leg Time: 2:00
Leg Pace: 20:20 min/mile
Overall Pace: 17:05 min/mile

If you notice, I kept my goal of 15-minute/mile pace, even counting the aid station stops, all the way up to the 7th aid station where I began to falter.

Please continue with this report by reading “The End” where I analyze more deeply what effect this race had on me.

I wanted an adventure, man, I got one in spades!

Other race reports:

Picture Sets:

Free Advice for Today: “Remember the three universal healers: calamine lotion, warm oatmeal, and hugs.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


The End

Saturday, October 27th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”

- Sean O’Casey

I know it’s out of the ordinary to start with the end but what about a 100-mile race is ordinary?

The sun set and I was a few miles from the halfway point. I had no major injuries but I was extremely fatigued. I was just drained.

I had pissed all of 4 times, half of which was in the first couple of miles. The other two were like apple juice… concentrate. I was “brown” despite drinking massive amounts of water all day; possibly the most liquid I had ingested in one day in my entire life.

Before I got to the aid station, I ran into a runner who told me he was done. He was hurt and just was trying to make it to 50 and quit. Up to this point, the Monster was starting to tickle the back of my mind that maybe I should quit at 50 but I wasn’t hurt and for some odd reason, when this guy told me he was definitely out, it gave me energy and made me realize I was not the most-suffering runner out there. It’s a funny thing that you can draw energy when you are not alone or think you are the lowest in the stack.

When the sun went down, I realized I had made the mistake of not bringing my headlamp for this leg but half the moon was shining down over a clear sky and there were glow sticks to guide me on the rolling path to the start/half/finish line where I would start the second and hardest part of the race.

When I made it in, my crew was waiting for me and cheered me on. I was pretty bad off but I knew I could get a shower, a change of clothes, and some food before I had to head off into the cold night.

In the shower area, there was another runner. He asked me “What was your problem?”

“Nothing, I am just cleaning up and going back out.”

“You are? I’m done. But good on you for going back out.”

Again, it was strange that someone who LOOKED more like a runner than me was calling it quits while I planned to head back out into the darkness.

The shower revitalized me and woke me up but I still felt the fatigue deep in my bones. I could not stop thinking about how I was going to make it another 50 miles. It just seemed so impossible. Fully rested and prepped, I barely made it to this point and now I had to do it again? In the dark? In the cold? Alone?

I put on a brave face and after the shower, a change of clothes, some BioFreeze on my legs, and food, I got up. Everything was fine except my mind. I was starting to believe that deep fatigue and had no idea how I was going to finish.

I headed out into the dark.

I was promptly attacked by monsters.

“You won’t make it.”
“You barely made it to here.”
“You have to go through all those hills, this time in the dark.”
“You’re going to be alone.”
“It’s gonna be 14 hours of cold.”
“You won’t make the cutoffs.”
“If you know you are not gonna make the cutoffs, why are you going to put yourself through the hours of worthless pain?”

Each time I tried to run, one of these thoughts would knock me back to a walk.

At first, I could walk but I started to degrade. My muscles were not working right, my mind was in full attack, and my stomach started to seize.

I stopped, put my hands on my knees, and threw up every bit of the soup I had just eaten and some stomach lining to boot. When I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, my headlamp showed a red smear of blood.

That can’t be good, I thought.

I could no longer subconsciously walk. I had to think about every step and it was like I was drunk. I would mentally put my foot forward and where I expected it to land, it would appear 6 inches to the side. I was like Bambi on ice.

This was more than inconvenience because there were some steep drop offs on narrow trails. I was starting to actually worry about falling down a cliff. In the dark. With no one around.

People started to pass me and when they asked how I was, I lied and said OK.

The degradation started accelerating. The voices in my head were starting to get louder and my walking more and more erratic. I started to feel a great loneliness. And a despair I have never experienced.

It was at some point that I decided the best I could hope for is to make it to the next aid station. I didn’t want to quit but I was no longer in control of myself.

I don’t care who you are, what you think, how mentally strong you are, you will come to a point where you will have taxed your brain to a point it cannot make rational decisions.

In a marathon, your body rebels and your mind takes over. Mind over matter.

But in an ultra, the mind eventually follows the body’s lead and goes too. So the only thing you have left is your pacer.

This is this is the big lesson, blinking in huge letters over and over. pacer, Pacer, PACER, PACER.

I realize now that the way “normal” people look at me for attempting to run 100 miles is now the way I look at people who try to run 100 miles without a pacer. It can’t be done. I foolishly dismissed this concept because I trained alone, don’t like to depend on anyone, and thought that a pacer would only annoy me, push me too hard, or generally be of little value.

I could not have made a more ignorant assessment.

Here is what happened. Yes, I was in bad shape heading out of the halfway mark but I went out raw and unprotected. Without a pacer, I was vulnerable and the most horrible monsters easily attacked a defenseless prey.

My warped mind succeeded in convincing my body that it was over. It allowed me to vomit. It allowed my legs to cramp. It allowed my motor skills to deteriorate. It allowed my lungs to feel like they weren’t getting enough oxygen. It allowed my consciousness to waver.

For two hours, I was attacked and reduced to a vanquished stumble. I was ready to go down but had to delay this until I was safe which was what I came to accept as the last aid station. I could have collapsed at mile 4, 5, or the end. The last shred of control was grasped and I put it off until I came into the aid station.

The lights were blurry. There were people but they seemed to move in slow motion and left visual trails behind themselves.

A guy who I had talked to at the halfway mark came up to me. He had found me in the dark before the last aid station and helped me find the halfway point since I didn’t have a headlamp. His runner had dropped and he offered to pace me either from the 50-75 marks or the 75-100 marks. We had decided that I would need him more at the end so he was going to drive to the 75 mile mark and get some sleep until I got there.

I don’t know what he was doing at this aid station but I didn’t even question it because I was in no shape to even put the mental effort into forming the question.

He said something I don’t remember as I stumbled to my car.

I’m not all that clear on how things unfolded at this point but I seem to vaguely remember leaning against the Pilot while my wife asked me questions. I turned to her and promptly collapsed in her arms.

Paula helped her guide me to the back seat of our car and they tried to lower me cross the back seat. The result was me falling face first like a log as my face hit a pillow and my legs stuck out the door.

I have to go off what I’m told at this point because I was gone.

The next thing I know, a strange woman has her hand around my throat squeezing my larynx. I coughed and my eyes flew open in a wild-eyed look. She assured me that it was OK and was just trying to revive me. I don’t know how long I was out but it wasn’t long.

I remember conversations going on around me.

An invitation to sit by the bonfire.

A statement that we were at the 28-hour finish pace and if I could go on, I could still finish the race.

The next couple of hours are snapshots.

I was traveling down a road in the dark. It would take me a second to realize I had dropped out and I would fade out, back to sleep with tears in my eyes.

I would fade back in, still traveling, laid out in the back seat. Gentle, subdued conversations between Carrie and Paola. I would realize I had dragged them out to this insanity and didn’t even finish. I would once again fade out, back to sleep with tears in my eyes.

We made it home, I assume, and with help, stumbled up the steps and was put in my own bed, still with the long-sleeve running shirt on and filthy socks.

As I faded out for the last time, I realized I was in my own bed.

Out of the race.

I should still be running.

Fresh tears as my eyes shut for the last time on this Saturday.

There are four ways to finish one of these races. The first three I knew about. The last one I didn’t.

1. Cross the finish line
2. Legitimate race-stopping physical injury
3. Give up. Say “Eff it!”
4. Allow the mind to talk body into #2.

The last one avoids the shame of #3. In essence, the mind says “If you want an out, I’ll give you an out.”

Once that happens, you’re done.

Free Advice for Today: “Remember that everyone you meet wears an invisible sign. It reads ‘Notice me. Make me feel important.’”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


A Promise Kept

Friday, October 26th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “The only people who find what they are looking for in life are the fault finders.”

- Foster’s Law

After the house-selling fiasco and debt-settling Nrivana, I made a promise. When all was said and done I really only wanted to buy one thing.

A computer for my daughter Stephanie.

Her’s had beshat the proverbial electronic bed a few months ago and has been mooching off the other two ever since, without complaint. That isn’t surprising because she’s such a wonderful little girl but what is also not surprising is that her old computer blue-screen-of-deathed it’s last freeze-up because Steph is the unfortunate recipient of 3rd generation hand-me-downs when it comes to computer, going from my desk to Alex’s and finally popping out the anus of computer migration to her desk.

Not this time.

She was due for a computer of her own so with the monetary downfall as of late, I got online and ordered her a brand new laptop.

What I got her was an AMD Athlon 64 X2 TK-55 1.8GHz dual-core processor, 15.4″ 1280×800 widescreen LCD, 1GB RAM, 120GB hard drive, dual layer DVD burner with LightScribe, 802.11b/g wireless, and Windows Vista Home Premium.

In other words, just what she needs. And deserves.

We had been waiting for it for awhile and with the fires, the delivery got delayed until today. I got home and there it was, out of the box but not set up. It took everything I had to wait for her to get home so I could get it set up with her. I didn’t want to leave her out of any of it.

The first thing I did was to get rid of all the crap they load on it as “package deals.” No thanks for all the Vongo, Vontage, Yahoo crap, and about a ton of other little extras that have no use.

The Windows Vista and IE 7.0 gave me a little trouble because not only do I not like them, I am not all that well versed in dealing with them so “cleaning” the computer was not as simple as if I had XP and IE 6.0 to work with.

We had made plans to go over to Paola’s house so we took it over there where I continued to strip away the crap and load it up with the useful stuff I’ve found on the net ever the years. Thank God Paola had a wireless network set up.

I split my time playing games with everyone and setting up her computer. At one point, I had finished all I could do for the computer and set it aside. After a lame riveting board game of “Survivor” which I was a total putz playing, getting voted off first of course, I suddenly realized I was still dead tired.

I curled up on the couch and the next thing I knew Carrie was rousing me to get up so we could go home.

My girl has a new computer.

Mission accomplished.

Free Advice for Today: “Never order chicken-fried steak in a place that doesn’t have a jukebox.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Running On Empty

Thursday, October 25th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “Reality is something you rise above.”

- Liza Minnelli

I’m still really, really tired.

I drained my tanks on Saturday, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Even under normal circumstances, that would takes weeks to recover from but then the fires hit and my insignificant personal problems were of no concern to anyone but me.

As an Officer, no excuse. Get back to work.

I was not allowed to be human. I had to be Spock. Everything is just fine inside my skin and how can I help those around me?

I talked to my Marines. One had two families living in his apartment.

Two had brought in their toddlers because school was out and they had no other choice. So we had little ones running around the office all day while the Marines, as a group, tried to keep them entertained.

One was nearer to the edge than I was and felt the stress between his duty to be at work and his commitment to his family who had been evacuated twice but was back in his house, although without power.

Yet another one was living in a van with his family as they lived between evacuation and returning home. The word on that changed minute to minute so he was taking care of that.

Everyone had their different situations and I had to handle each situation delicately between the official stance of “get your family safe, either evacuated or back in your house, and get back to work” and “take the time you need at this difficult time.”

For me, it wasn’t a choice. I was expected to be back to work. Period.

And I was.

Or as much of me that is left.

Free Advice for Today: “Help a child plant a small garden.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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What If We Get Invaded By Madagascar?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”

- Don Marquis

I went back to work today and it was tough on many levels.

First, I don’t feel that I mentally or physically recovered from the race on Saturday. With the fire drama, it just seems like one endurance event leading right into another one. I’m pretty much zombie-numb.

Work is a series of contingency plans. After trying to account for everyone and their status, we had meeting after meeting about what ifs.

What if the base loses power?

What if we get more civilian evacuees?

What if we get Marine evacuees from Pendleton?

What if we have to bring back the 5 companies of Recruits we send up to Pendleton? (which we don’t have room for because we always have that amount up there and by the time they get back, we have room because others go to replace them)

These are just a few of the thousand “what ifs” we have to keep ourselves busy with.

But the real insidious problem is the day-to-day tasks that we normally do. They are still required but if you call up and ask about them, the general reaction is “Really? The entire Southern California is burning to the ground and you want to know how many Ball tickets we have sold? Really?”

So here is the best thing that can happen. NONE of the contingency things happen and we ride out the week planning for events that never appear and then next week we will deal with losing an entire week of progress on the mundane responsibilities that will then be “behind the power curve.”

On a better note, I got home, vacuumed out Uranus because it was like someone had taken a full ashtray and wafted it around the interior of my car for about an hour.

OK, maybe that wasn’t a better note but this was:

When I got inside, Carrie informed me that our mandatory evacuation was lifted and she had the windows and doors open due to the air being somewhat back to normal.

And tostadas tonight. Sweet, sweet tostadas.

Free Advice for Today: “Refuse to share personal and financial information unless you feel it is absolutely essential.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Back To Normal, Whatever That Is

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Tuesday Night

OK, people, I think this will be the last “special report” with the fire business. The news has switched from giving burn updates to blaming and second-guessing so it seems that most of the danger has passed. Except the warnings that the regular winds coming from the ocean might turn the fire back but the news has to hope for something now that the spotlight will no longer be “imminent danger.”

It seems the latest conflict is that the military was ready, willing, and able to go up and dump water even when the civilian aircraft was grounded during the winds but whoever said thanks but no thanks. That “whoever” is getting their @ss reamed by the public now but they used the old “it’s too windy” and “we can’t have multi-agency air assets flying around a low-visibility area” and the ever-so-popular “we have to have one of our spotters along for the ride” but there weren’t enough.

Tell that to Mr. Burny McHousefire who lost everything.

As my wife pointed out, “I think the military knows how to drop something on something else, spot on, right?”

My cop friend stopped by with his partner and told me of all the houses nearby that were torched. We asked him where the most damage was done and he said monetarily, it was in one spot that had multi-million dollar houses go up in flames. But number-wise, it was another place where whole neighborhoods were gone.

I asked if he caught any looters and he said no but there has been a couple caught. They had better protect him from the public because ther’d be a lynchin’ a-happennin’.

Mike’s schedule has been 18 hours working, 3 hours of sleep, 16 hours working, and now it’s down to 12 hours so he says it’s tapering off.

As we were talking, Carrie hands me an ammo can (we were unloading the car when Mike arrived). High school buddy or not, Mike is still a cop and I quickly explained what was in it: all the cards I’ve received from friends and family over the years.

Yes, I save them in an ammo box.

I also told him I don’t even own a firearm, which is true, much less any ammo.

OK, let’s end this with the mega-popular random thoughts (I don’t really know if it’s mega-popular but they make me laugh)

- Is it weird that I was going to have my daughter play one last song on her piano before we evacuated, kind of like the quartet that played as the Titanic sank? I figured since the piano had survived 100 years and now was going to go down in flames, it should have a respectable farewell.

- Part of me feels gypped that I couldn’t relax after my big race like I planned and now have to go back to work which I expect to be extremely stressful.

- Another part of me is kicking that other part in the onions and reminding it that people in the area lost homes and are still living in a football stadium.

- The signing lady on the news was cracking me up. Her face was animated when she signed the updates and some of the faces she made made me laugh out loud.

- Although still upset by my DNF, I cannot relay how much less I hate myself after reading a comment on my Flickr picture of me at the race that said:

My friend, I dropped here as well due to an I.T. injury, at 9pm, and I saw you here! This course was INSANE! 50% of the field dropped, plus the winds, and then the fires!?

I ran with a sponsored runner for a bit who dropped at 50 miles (who has run Badwater and Western States) who said that this had been brutal.

Congratulations on a run well run!

- I think I’m going to take the plunge and do Crossfit.

- I also think I’m going to hang in the present for awhile and try to backfill my blog as I go. This real-time blogging stuff is cool.


Threat Con Minimal

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon

Well, folks, we seem to be over the worst of it and the worst of it, on a personal level, is a messy yard from the winds, a house that smells of smoke, and ash over most everything outside.

Pretty minimal compared to a lot of people around here.

I will be going in to work in the morning and hoping they will let me come back to my neighborhood at the end of the day.

We continue to watch the news, field phone calls and email, and just to keep us busy, I forced the kids out of their rooms and we all cleaned up outside. We raked, cut fallen branches, and swept soot. It was something to do even though the soot will probably re-settle.

There is sun today! And the news is full of helicopters dumping large amounts of water on the fire.

Do you think it would be cool if the next person that calls me, I just push the answer button, and scream “IT BURNS!!!!” and then hang up?

Would that be cool?

BTW, here is the email I sent out to just about everyone I knew with an email address:

Friends and Family,

Don’t worry, we are safe. Our home was in the fire line but miraculously, it skipped us.

Yesterday we were told to evacuate and packed up what we could in our cars (Truckasaurus would have been left to fend for himself) and then watched the news. We spent the day tracking the location and progress of the fires and would have bolted if we saw flame.

We did not lose power and have been holed up in our house for two days. If we leave, we likely wouldn’t be let back in our neighborhood for a couple of days. Also, the air quality is terrible; soot and smoke in the air, blotting out most of the sun. We have to keep the A/C on to filter the air.

We have food, water, electricity, cable, and most importantly, Internet!!!

I have no problem lounging around the house for two days, the kids are thrilled to be out of school, and Buster is beside himself because everyone is home. Carrie is the only one suffering after being locked in a madhouse with the rest of us for two days.

I’m keeping my blog updated so you can see daily postings at