Recipe for a Successful Western States 50k

A good way of combining training, camaraderie, challenge and fun. The following ingredients will be needed on each cycle as noted.

3 hours, Vespa
2 hours, Sports Legs
1 hour, S-Cap
1 hour, 100 calories
Water
Determination

1)  In a large SUV bring six bubbling friends to a low roar while a recruited husband-driver navigates mountain cliffs and curves to the trailhead start. Bring SUV to 70 degrees F as outside temperature drops.
2)  At trail head remove participants and add one dose of Vespa and Sports Legs. Mix with enough water to fully dilute Vespa concentrate.
3)  Place hydration packs, arm sleeves and gloves on previously prepared runners.
4)  Arrange runners for quick photo before setting off on trail. Start GPS and timer.
5)  Scale first climb at warm-up speed.
6)  Turn occasionally at summit to admire view.
7)  Continue down the trail at running pace bringing to a low heat. Adjust timing for high-altitude.
8)  At 1 hour add one S-Cap and 100 calories as desired. Repeat every hour.
9)  Continue running down the trail. Stir loose rocks and twigs gently.
10)  At 2 hours add second dose of Sports Legs. Repeat every two hours.
11)  Continue running down the trail. Admire canyon views. Avoid adding large bunches of poison oak.
12)  At 3 hours add second dose of Vespa. Repeat every three hours.
13)  Continue running or walking uphill. When participants are near boil, add additional water.
14)  At aid stations refill all ingredients as necessary. Thank volunteers.
15)  Continue down the canyon trail. Avoid jarring to prevent fall.
16)  Dip in cool water at the river crossing at the base.
17)  Drain shoes. Continue up the trail until feet are tender. Add Determination.
18)  Repeat steps (5) through (17) two more times being careful not to overheat.
19)  Beat cutoff timer to finish.
20)  Celebrate over burritos, pizza, etc. Garnish with beer.

Training Day One

These legs I’ve trained for years now
This heart and mind and soul alike
This bag well packed, supplies in store
To run terrain that sane ones hike

The start climbs steep to outlook ridge
Casting shadows on the canyons below
And view of lake with tree lined edge
Lies gentle ‘neath peaks topped with snow

Now backside of the mountain crest
Feet flutter over loose scree shale
Jump high to clear the granite hurdle
Descending faster down the canyon trail

The forest calls to me once more
The dirt, the roots, the tripping rocks
Where serpents lay and mind games play
In dappled light and shaded spots

More canyons lie ahead today
More climbs, cold river crossings too
And beat my feet and heart will be
When once the day is finally through

Yet still I thrive in unsure steps
Thin air, harsh sun and sweat stained sleeves
For when the challenge calls to me
My best, true self is finally free

Island and the Storm

Is it wrong to talk about good times when a swath has been cut across Oklahoma? Is it disrespectful or uncaring? While people are ravaged with suffering is it selfish to reflect on a weekend that is perhaps one of the best of my life?

It’s a question that bears consideration not just today in the aftermath of an EF4 tornado, but really, every day, when you consider the day to day life struggles of people just trying to survive. Every day there are those dealing with health issues, and loss, financial struggles, and home life struggles. There are deadlines, and projects, and grocery shopping and laundry.

And yet, I still gloat about my fantastic new retirement life. Somehow, I feel that I’ve earned this right after years of my own struggle in the workforce. Just like when I would gloat about my new husband, after slogging through years as a single woman, and handling life’s struggles alone.

So I gloat. I post photos of me lying on a beautiful beach and title it, “Monday at the Office.” I publicly delight in my midweek runs, or my slow quiet mornings with coffee, or my middle of the night Mad Men marathons. All the while there are friends struggling with their own private storms.

Is it thoughtless? Maybe. Does it spring hope for others trying to break away from the grind? I’ve been told that it does, but honestly, if it were me still tied to a desk it would just make my eyes burn green with jealousy.

Still, I have to believe that we are not made to wallow in a life of misery. Where there is hardship, and struggle, and even today, overwhelming suffering, there is still a life that brings hope and joy and fun and love. It’s there, running parallel, right alongside the suffering.

So today I won’t elaborate on the details of riding an electric bicycle up an island mountain where we hiked to the top surrounded by blue sky and blue ocean. I won’t gloat about the picnic lunch we packed, or the bison we saw, or the three mile downhill run. I won’t revel in the wetsuit bike ride to a quite bay that danced below the surface with kelp and wide eyed hungry fish. I won’t tell you about giggling with friends, or sharing a Monday at the Office moment either.

If I were to speak of such things I may appear heartless. But that’s not how I feel today as I wait by the phone for a deployment call from the Red Cross. I feel very full at the moment. Filled with sadness, compassion, and love for all those who have lost so much. I am filled with a need to do something to help. And at the same time, I am filled with the desire to bask in the afterglow of an incredible island weekend. It’s life. It’s two sides of the same coin. It what makes me human. As I celebrate the joy in my own life, I am equally saddened by the grief felt by others.  No man is an island.  No woman either.

Running with Snakes

The morning phone call left my husband unsettled. Our investment banker was unsettled also. They are both less comfortable with risk than I am, but it is this trait of mine, my vague attraction to risk, that helped drive us to an early retirement. That coupled with long, steady years of working and saving, as well as believing and trusting that the Universe loves us and wants us to be happy.

By the time the phone call ended I was happy. It was a late start, and I needed to put in twenty miles, something I hadn’t done in over a month, but none the less, I was happy to be parking my car at the trailhead and running up the first hill by 9:00 am.

I was quickly rewarded with the sighting of a bushy tailed fox. He was running up the trail ahead of me. He stopped to watch me as I fumbled for my iPhone camera. Sitting upright like a dog on the side of the trail with big ears pointed towards the sky, he tipped his head curiously at me. By the time I’d readied the camera he’d lost interest and was running over the ridge and down the rough hillside. So I continued on.

The uphill running was going smoothly. The recent addition of an asthma inhaler to my pre-run routine was proving very effective. I felt light and strong, running up the two mile hill with little effort. Returning downhill was equally relaxed, hopping over rocks and roots with stableness and agility, without a thought of last year’s ankle sprain.

Back at the car I grabbed my second water bottle and headed towards the next hill climb. This one was less steep, but longer, crossing the river on No Hands Bridge at the bottom of the canyon and then running four miles up the mountain to the Dam Overlook. Again the uphill run was coming without great effort, and I was pretty happy with my performance. That was until I saw the first snake.

He was lying across the trail, half in and half out of the weeds. Anyone who has ever run with me knows that snakes make me jumpy, and I was pretty sure this one was a rattler with his diamond shaped head and fat body. Stopping twenty feet from him, I was able to get a photo before backing away and letting him slither across the trail and down the hill. I was glad that we both had the same plan in mind. Leave each other alone and get out of each other’s path.

Still, this sighting left me a little shaken. My running slowed for the last half mile of the climb as I diligently searched for other snakes along the trail.

I didn’t see another one until I was through the Overlook and halfway down the next three mile decent. This trail to the river was a fully paved asphalt road that had been closed to cars and was now used by bikes, hikers and runners. With the road wide open I could see far ahead so that I could run without feeling like I was going to surprise an unsuspecting snake.

I spotted this one far off sitting in the shade of a tree on the left edge of the road. He was big. He seemed a little agitated with his head and rattle tail raised, both waving opposite directions in the wind. Staying far away from him I snapped a quick photo. Thank goodness for iPhone zoom and cropping features. I gave him a wide berth and continued down the road.

What should have been a nice, relaxing downhill run was now an all-out search for snakes. The adrenaline rush was taking its toll on me, and I could feel my energy waning as I hit the river at the bottom and began the climb back up the hill I’d just descended. Every spot of shade was a potential hiding place for a snake. I was getting tired and nervous thinking about the narrow single-track trail that lied ahead. Should I find a different route back to my car? Is there a way to run mostly city streets back to the river confluence where my car was parked?

I found Shade Snake half way up the hill making sure to stay far away. He was laying down this time, fully extended. It looked like there was blood near him, but I didn’t get close enough to get a good look. Besides, I was getting tired and my focus was fading.

A couple of cyclists rode up behind me and I asked them if they’d seen the snake.

“The dead one?” one of them asked.

“What? It’s dead?” I replied, shocked.

“Yeah, someone cut its head off,” the same cyclist answered. “It’s sad.”

“Yeah it’s sad,” I answered.

The three of us proceeded up the hill a bit further to find a mountain biker bragging about the snake he’d just run over.

“He was lunging at my tire, so I ran over him,” he said. “I don’t normally expect to see them out here on the road, but if he’s going to get in my way I’m going to take care of him.”

I wanted to yell at Mr. Mountain Biker. Get in your way? The road was twenty feet wide. You’d have to aim at him to get in his way. No wonder he was agitated earlier. Mr. Mountain Biker had been messing with him on the way down the hill. I felt sorry for the snake. It just seemed wrong.

Back at the Overlook I filled my water bottle, had a bite to eat and convinced myself that I would be fine on the trail. These snakes were not aggressive if not provoked, but I was still worried that there would be a family member of Shade Snake out there hoping to avenge his death.

And something was happening to my breathing. It had been about four hours since I’d used the inhaler and the Albuterol was beginning to wear off. Plus it was getting hot, and the snake induced adrenaline was exhausting.

I thought the last four miles down the single track and fire road trails would never end. Every shadow or twig was a snake to my mind’s eye. I was jumping at every little rustle in the bushes. The smooth, calm running of the morning was gone as I resorted to a run/walk routine for the last mile. My breathing was raspy and my chest felt heavy.

Relieved to finally reach the car, I grabbed a bottle of ice water I’d backed earlier that morning when my biggest worry was which retirement account to take my monthly distributions from. My breathing still labored so I decided to give the inhaler another try. Two pumps and instantly I was nauseated and dizzy. I had to sit down. I had to get out of the sun. I found a shade structure and sat on a large rock under it. I started to see spots. I thought, this is what passing out feels like. I knew I needed to get closer to the ground so I sat in the dirt with my back against one of the structure’s supports. I was still watching for snakes.

While I sat there a pair of hikers with backpacks and long walking sticks wandered by and asked if I was okay. I bobbed my head, yes. Still they persisted. Did I need water? They had extra. Did I need them to call someone? No. No. I declined, but they stayed with me until I had called my husband and they were convinced that I really was alright.

Strange. Strange day. As I sat there catching my breath and recovering I scanned emails from my phone. A friend of mine had just heard that her brother-in-law had committed suicide. Crazy day. Sitting there in the dirt I was grateful for my own life, even if it was a little complicated with finances, asthma and snakes.

What Will I Say

What will I say to you today?
Here are some roses and a hug
Maybe I’ll say it with kiss on the cheek
Or lots of ribbon and bows
Thank you for being there
For being fair, for always caring
For unconditional love
Even when I was difficult to love
You are the perfect mother for me
You grew me strong. You grew me proud.
You taught me to respect myself
And others
You made me thankful. You made me kind.
But what will I say to you today?
Probably just, Happy Day
But with a tilt of your head
And smiling eyes
In your own sweet way
You will know what I really meant
Happy Mother’s Day

Soar

Fountain Spout, Salty Tear
Distant Wind Chime, Blue Sky Clear
Morning Fog or Frosted Wind
Feathered Peacock or Blue Dolphin
Color cards in hues of blues
How is one suppose to chose?

Robin’s Egg, Ocean Mist
Breaker Bay, Pebble Drift
Lay it flat or tilt it up
Surround it with Buttercup
Little Dipper, Swan Sea
Forget Me Not, Tranquility

A blue upon the ceiling paint
by lore repeals the passing haint
Gentle Sky, Cotton Grass
Waterfall or Beach Glass
But when I lay me down to rest
it’s Soar I find soothes the best

The Saw’s Lament

Perhaps come winter they will appear
Break through the frozen ground
With hope and new vigor
Perhaps the last remaining stand
In a grove where once
Their colleagues soldiered side by side
Reaching upwards towards the sky
Light-winged friends
And good fortune
Perched within their guard
Will save that place beside themselves
For one new life to start
Perhaps the sound of chain and blade
Will dampen in the wake
Of trembling earth and silence shattered
Of homeless families scattered
Who watched them split and sawed to dust
Perhaps the earth will not detect
One, or two, or three more gone
Nor the warmth be blamed upon
The one last tree that I cut down