Sunday, February 28, 2010

February in Review and some KOL

February was a great month for my training and was much stronger than January. It still was not as consistent as I would have liked but it seldom is.

Total summits of Mt. Doug = 53
Total Elevation = 22,500 feet
Total Mileage = 135 miles

I wanted to finish February with over 60 summits but it didn't happen due to some schooling conflicts, late nights, and long weekends in the books. I am definitely going to improve on this consistency this upcoming month and keep pushing. I would love to break 100 summits this month but that is over 4 a day and I don't know if my legs can handle it. With only 11 weeks until I hit Utah, and I start bagging 2-5,ooo foot prominence runs at high elevation, I am going to need way more training in these few short months. I am a bit worried about transitioning from sea level to 5-12,000 feet as well. From what I read the first few days will be alright but after a week or so at higher elevation I will breakdown a bit. Should be a good experiment to help prepare me in the event that I run a 100 miler in the mountains while I am training at sea level.

Thursday saw one of my fastest Mount Douglas Gutbuster training runs with me coming in at a smidgen over 54 minutes. The run started fast and I felt good and so I went with it and really pushed myself the whole time. I really flew on the downhills making serious tracks and shaving most of the time off the descents.

Saturday saw one of my slowest runs of the Gutbuster course. I have never ran the course in reverse, surprisingly, and decided to give it a go. Since Mount Doug is a glacier feature known as a "Roche Moutennee" it is an asymmetric mound with a gentler slope facing the north or the direction of ice advance and has a very steep south slope where the glacier plucked rocks from the lee side forming steep ledges like the image below.

The typical route summits the mountain on the North side of Doug first, then the north side of Little Doug second, and the third summit is up the steep south slope. When you run the course in reverse you summit the steep south slopes twice and the third summit is up a gnarly steep side of the mountain known as the bedrock buster. This reverse course was a real butt kicker and I saw one of my slowest course times at over 61 minutes. I did have a bad day and was running with a stomach full of less than tasty lunch that was definitely not rocket fuel. You gotta have the rough runs to appreciate the good ones. I think I will start incorporating more of the reverse runs because of the nasty steepness, it is a nice variation on an already technical course.

I had so many songs playing in my head this past week as I plugged away at my training runs that I really struggled with picking one to showcase for this post. There were three in particular that were excellent and I decided to go with some older Kings of Leon. I really like the earlier albums from KOL and find all of their stuff great. There appears to be quite a group of people who think they sold out with their new album but I don't see it. I see a band that evolved to a slightly different sound and then saw a wave of success in the states that hadn't always been there. I like their new stuff almost as much. I think this song "King of the Rodeo" is a classic. For some reason these guys kind of remind me a tad of CCR or Seven Mary Three though all three are quite different it just has the same southern feel to it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Running, Exams, and Taking a Spill

Last weekend was the worst. I slept 4 hours in three days and basically studied for my thermodynamics in igneous petrology exam the whole time. I did a few experiments as well which means heading to my lab at 2 in the morning to pour out melted rocks etc. So suffice it to say I didn't run for three days. I took the exam and I didn't do as well as I liked which brings me to my thoughts while running today.

I was cruising on the trails and was still a bit tired from the weekend cram session. The blood began pumping and I began to settle into my running groove. At that point in my run I began to think about the exam I took the previous day. Suddenly each and every question become clear and the answers came flooding into my mind. Unfortunately many of the answers that came to me while running were not the ones I put down on the exam. So my epiphany was that I need to devise a way to take exams while running. I think I would do much better on any exam if I could take it while running. The blood is flowing, the scenery is inspiring and the stress is not there (perhaps I could just dictate the answers and process for coming up with them into a digital recorder and send it to the prof). Another interesting point is that the answers didn't come to me in the time after the exam and waited to become apparent until I ran today. Even though I had been out of the exam for 24 hours the answers still weren't there until tonights run. Perhaps for the final I will go for a two hour run before the exam rather than flip through my notes for the hundredth time. I think I will do that and do better for the final.

My run tonight wasn't the best to be honest. The stress from the exam, (bad diet from sneaking some comfort food to keep me company during the sleepless nights including root beer) and my sleep schedule is still a bit wacky, which may be the main reason tonight's run lacked a bounce in my step. I was almost three minutes slower on my 7 mile run than Thursday's run of the same course. I was cruising down a fast section of trail when I stubbed the right toe on a root and it was so unexpected that I ate it hard. Luckily I had on mountain bike gloves because I landed on my palms hard. Next I rolled hard onto my left arm which would have destroyed my i-pod had I wore it today. I barrel rolled several more times before my momentum ran out and I made it to my feet. Instantly my lazy brain tried to get me to just head back to the car and call it a day. I fought the urge to quit and made my final summit and descent. I am glad I finished instead of let the fall beat me psychologically. I don't fall often but when I do they are always bad, unexpected, and abrupt. I know where that root is now and will never forget it.

I had the Bonus Track "Imperial" from Rupesh Cartel's new album "Anchor Baby" in my head. Rupesh is a synth group from Stockholm and have been one of my favorites from the genre since 2005. Perhaps because I am Swedish I tend to gravitate toward groups from Sweden like The Knife, Rupesh, Code 64, Elegant Machinery, Michigan and many more. I wonder if there is something in my genetic code that predisposed me to like Swedish Electronic music, probably not. The song is good and was in my mind when I wasn't obssesing over my exam.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Golden Hinde and Wheeler Peak

I thought I would post a few more running destinations I am interested in pursuing in the next few years.

Wheeler Peak
Location: Eastern Nevada
Elevation: 13,063
Prominence: 7,563
Distance: Depends on how I decide to attack it but relatively short.

I decided to put Wheeler on for several reasons. First it is truly a remote mountain with the nearest town being Delta Utah. Secondly this is a monster at over 13,000 feet and number 12on the contiguous 48 states ultra prominence list at over 7,500 of prominence, and lastly another mountain oasis in the desert with terrain ranging from desolate to alpine. I think this hulk of rock is very runnable and also appeals to me just because of it's size and aesthetic. I would love to hammer this mountain in the late Fall or early Summer. You actually run through a bristlecone pine forest, some of the oldest trees alive, many over 2000 years old including the felled Prometheus a nearly 5000 year old tree cut down for research in 1962.

Location: Strathcona Park Vancouver Island
Elevation: 7,211
Prominence: Not sure perhaps 3-4000
Distance: Once again no clear numbers on this but I assume 20-30 km one way and 40-60 km round trip

I think that this is one of my immediate goals and I hope to run the summit in the next Summer or two. The Golden Hinde is the Vancouver Island high point named for Sir Francis Drakes ship that sailed along the coast of the island in 1579. The biggest challenge with this run is the distance to the mountain (usually 2-4 days of hiking) and then the class 4 routes that must be taken to make the summit. Class 4 is un-runnable and I will be forced to climb a chute to the top like everyone else. After 6-7 hours of straight running this may prove challenging and dangerous. My goal is to do the whole trip in 20 hours from trail head back. I think it is achievable and I am not sure of the current speed record but I bet that it is more than 24 hours round trip from the trail head. I would need to hike this first before I run it and learn the convoluted paths just to get to the base. Once I checked it out I could try to run it. This would be ridiculous to attempt in less than a day but I think it is doable if it was well planned with some form of support most likely friends camping out along the way for a sort of aid station and maybe even another friend on the class 4 approach ready to lend a hand and a helmet for the final approach. It is said there is so much up and down just to get to the base that you easily cover 7,000 feet just to get to the base. I would love to summit it though.

I have a midterm on Monday so I will most likely not do much running this weekend but may squeeze in an hour or two depending on my studies. I had a super fast Mount Doug Gutbuster route time of 56 minutes which would be good enough for about 25th out of 60 runners. The winners are usually in the low 40's. I wasn't even racing and so I think I could get a sub 50 now. I will definitely race that course this year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

13 Miles and 4,000 feet in the Gowland Tod Range

Yesterday I decided to do a training run on the Half Monty course in the Gowland Tod range. You couldn't ask for better weather with temps in the low 50's, bright sun, and light breeze, conditions were perfect to run the 25 Km's from McKenzie Bight to Caleb Pike and back.

I grabbed a 16oz water bottle after filling up on my new love; corn tortillas filled with avocado, grilled onions and peppers, tomatoes, and black beans with some lime and cilantro (rocket fuel). I quickly drove to the McKenzie Bight access and set off on my lone 25km journey along the east ridge of the Saanich Inlet. My legs felt great and I had tons of energy which I quickly utilized to run to the top of the first major climb. It is about a 3 km climb of nearly 1500 feet. The climb is gradual and just about perfect for taking small light steps on your toes. Within about 20 minutes I found myself at the Squally Beach overlook, a beautiful spot with views from Saltspring Island to the north and Mount Finlayson to the south. My legs felt great and were spinning up the trails with little effort. My breathing was smooth and controlled and I could tell it was going to be a great run.

The next 5 km of trail snakes its way up another 800 feet or so and weave in and out of cool refrigerated canyons. The final push to the top of Joselyn Peak was smooth, I even passed one of my students that I got into running. He was so focussed on his run, and his music was so loud, that I don't think he realized it was me as he zipped past in the opposite direction. His form was great and he was really moving. I suggested he become a trail runner almost a year ago. I could tell he would take to it and I thought it would definitely be a better addiction then his current love of that cleverly named poison we all know as "energy drinks". It was great and inspiring to see someone I influenced, running 10 km away from anywhere, zoned out, and floating along the trails weightlessly.

I hammered up Joselyn and started my run towards Holmes Peak. I had never ran beyond that point before and so I got confused and took a trail that lead me on a side ridge and I set off in the wrong direction. When you are flying down a steep hill sometimes several Km's can scream by before you realize your error. I should have realized the mistake when the trail began to fade away and large portions were submerged. I popped out on a road and located myself on the folded map I keep in my pocket along with my emergency T.P. I talked to some hikers and found where I went wrong. I had to run up the 500-700 feet I just ran down to pickup the the main ridge. I now lost 30 minutes of time that should have been spent heading toward Caleb's Pike. I gave it one final push but with the sun dipping low on the horizon and 11 Km of tricky trail running left I had to opt out of the full 25 Km and settle for 21 (I will nail the 25 next time).

I turned around and ran the correct trail back up the ridge heading back towards McKenzie Bight and as I was approaching Joselyn again I felt a terrible pain on one of my tendons or bones on the bridge of my left foot. That was the first time I ever had an injury there. Each step began to be quite painful. I gritted my teeth and found a pace and stride that minimized the pain. I ran out of water at this point but with only a few more km's of rolling trails along the ridge I would be entering my final descent in a few minutes. It was now getting cool as the sun finally faded below the ridge. I tightened my shoes and decided to just power my way to the car. I leaned back and let my legs spin under me and gravity did the rest. Within a matter of minutes I was off the ridge and to the main bridge. The last Km or two was good and I felt strong other than the foot. I really could have ran another 10 km if I had more time and my foot wasn't killing.

I saw my car a little over two hours after setting out on my lone attempt at the Half Monty. I was super happy with the first half of my run up to the point where I took a wrong turn. I ran strong and powered up the hills effortlessly and never had to stop at all. Just 3 weeks earlier my run was more power hiking than running. All my hard work on Mount Doug and my hill repeats are paying big dividends. I can't wait to run peaks in Utah and I am so motivated to whip this wimpy body of mine into mountain running shape. I can't wait to be on the summit of my first major peak run this Spring! My foot killed for all of the drive home and I expected to see swelling and bruising when I took off my shoe but there was absolutely no sign of injury. I iced and popped some ibuprofen and within a couple of hours my foot felt great. I have no idea what the problem was and I still can make it hurt if I apply the right pressure to it so I am taking today off to make sure it is OK and will start running again tomorrow.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am a sucker for good Synth music. Most of the synthpop faded with the 80's and though Depeche Mode has hung around the majority of bands that saw popularity in the 80's are long gone. There has been a small group of artists that have continued to make this genre of music even though there is little money and a small following. I like that these artists are still making it for the love of the music and it seems a little more pure because it isn't influenced by labels etc and is generally underground. Fans of this music are scarce but I think it is a great genre and very runnable with endless sounds and directions each band takes their sound. While running yesterday I had a song called "Forget" by B! Machine in my head. It is a cool song with simple electronics and baseline and the vocals are really unique. I have loved the song since 2005 and it still gets plenty of play. I have been on a B! Machine kick lately (all though just a short one a lot of his stuff is a little melancholy) and that is why it was in my head, it really had nothing to do with my run or thoughts during the run it was just playing in my mind as I hammered out the 20 K. It might be a bit out there for most people but I dig it. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

List of my future and goal events - King's and Ibapah

I always see fellow runner’s blogs with lists of races they are going to participate in for that year. Many of these dedicated runner’s have races lined up almost every weekend from early spring to late fall. I am inspired by these lists and I am excited for the time in my life when it makes more sense to participate more in these events, mainly for camaraderie but also to put my training to the test.

I decided that though I don’t compete in these events at the moment I can still put together a list of runs I am planning to do in the near future. My events so far are all unorganized and as far as the enrolment goes I am the only one registered. The date for each event is TBD and the entry fee is whatever it costs for me to get to the trail head. Aid stations are whatever I can carry while running, and running partners are hard to scrounge up for these types of events so most likely will each be solo.

So here goes my list. It is long so I will try to post in phases over the next while showing a spot or two per post.

King's Peak

Location: Utah

Elevation = 13,528’

Prominence = 6,348’

Distance = 28.8 miles

This is Utah’s high point, an ultra prominence peak (peaks with more than 5000 feet of prominence) and since I am a Utah boy and a sucker for the Uinta Mountains I chose this as one of my top destinations. This can be run in one day but is a long day due to the hefty chunk of elevation and altitude. I don’t think I will be able to get to this monster this year because of my timing for being in Utah is too early and would mean plenty of deep snow still. This is a classic alpine trail starting in the coniferous forest and then leaving for the barren alpine tundra above about 10,000 feet. I could really see this as being a great run with a nice mixture of rolling trails, boulder fields and scree slopes. This could easily be incorporated into a longer 35 mile loop taking in the views of Upper Red Castle as well.

Ibapah Peak

Location: Deep Creek Range Western Utah

Elevation = 12,087

Prominence = 5,229’

Distance = 13 miles

I have been interested in this monster monolith south of Wendover for some time now. There are several reasons this mountain is so high on my must run list. It is a very remote mountain seeing only a limited number of ascents each year. It is an ultra prominence peak. I like the runs that start in desert and end up in higher alpine elevations. It is a nice way to get to experience a large variety of climates, terrain, and scenery in a short few miles. This is a run of extremes, from extreme elevation differences to extreme temperature differences. This run would require a certain amount of preparation and some support in the event of an injury, dehydration, snake bite etc. You would need a couple of back-up plans just in case.

These are just two peaks that I am very interested in running and look forward to the time when I can tackle them. This week saw some weak mileage and not as many summits as I would have liked but I was walking the edge between injured and over-trained so I listened to reason and ran about every other day in anticipation of Spring Break which starts tomorrow. I hope to get some great runs in, including a long one in the Gowland Tod range tomorrow. I hope I have a strong injury free week.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Great first week! And what is it I am trying to accomplish here?

This week was a strong beginning to what looks like a great year for this passion of mine. I think I also have decided more than anything why I am ramping up my training this way and what it is I am trying to accomplish by running this way. First though my stats from the week.

Total hours ran = approx. 7
Total Days ran = 6
Total miles ran = approx. 30
Total Summits = 14
Total Elevation = approx. 7,000 feet up and same down

I feel this has been a consistent and reasonable week with a good mixture of mileage, hours, and elevation for the first week of a training phase.

I think it is important to understand why you run and what it is you are trying to accomplish by running. Up to this point I haven't felt I have quite found myself as a runner but the last few months everything has clicked and a light turned on. So what is the goal or point of my running?

I have played around with being one of these guys who runs every organized event offered. This means I could sign up and spend hundreds of dollars, that I don't have, to start jumping into various events around the island including marathons and road races, but this honestly isn't that appealing to me. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy racing and competition, but I don't enjoy crowds, I don't enjoy flats, and I really hate roads (especially flat ones). I think that if I race anything this year it would be the Gutbuster Series, the Full Monty, and several other smaller trail events around the island like the The Great Walk or the The Great Lake Walk. These events have smaller entry fee's, less runner's, and more of what I like which is gnarly terrain and die hard passionate trail runners. Ultimately my interest in running has zero to do with competing (at this time anyway, but perhaps when I become a better runner with some extra cash I will race and be influenced by racing more, it is hard to tell).

So what I am training for and obsessed with is running to the tops of Mountains or more importantly areas with major-relief. Not just little hills like Mount Doug where I train (at a whopping 698 feet above sea level with my summit attacks being about 500 feet each) but I am talking epic mountains that rugged mountaineers and hikers alike flock to, mountains with Ultra Prominence (greater than 5000 feet of elevation gain).

What another great breakthrough into what is driving me! It feels like all my thoughts, training, reading, and diet have all culminated into this realization that my reasons for pursuing this crazy obsession is to quickly propel myself skyward until I run out of slope. This is super appealing to me for many reasons. I love exercising my will power over my body to encourage it to do more than I ever thought possible, and peaks are a perfect catalyst for this scenario. I love taking in breathtaking views and scenery, but when I'm hiking I feel I am being held back or limited by my clumpy boots and hefty pack and I am limited by slow progress as to what I can see in a given day. Hiking feels like you are clumping along out of place or a visitor in the mountains, but quietly running and pouring yourself over the terrain is so much more intimate like you are part of your surroundings. Running peaks and mountains allows me to see and experience so much more of the wilderness in the same amount of time (I guess I have always liked to optimize my time expenditures because of a lack of time). I enjoy the pain of running hills both up and down. Just like the saying "if you make pain your friend, you will never be lonely", I welcome the pain of each strenuous climb and quad trashing descent. I like that peaks represent goals or objectives; places you know you have been and experienced, and so each run takes on it's own personality linked with the mountain and conditions surrounding the journey. I could keep going on and on, but suffice it to say this is where my passion for running and my goals and objectives lie.

It is a little sad that it has taken me this long to discover these truths about myself. I am just happy I am now sure what I want out of these experiences and now I have a steadfast direction I am heading. In the past I have kind of thought maybe I like running so much because I wan't to be a marathoner, or maybe because I want to get faster etc. It is so obvious now, but I have enjoyed running, and always knew I was going to get into endurance trail running because I love the wild so much and there is no better way to experience it than developing and tuning myself into an endurance trail runner who could actually move with the land quickly, quietly and efficiently. Running to these majestic precipices would then lead to me optimizing my experiences and making each outing meaningful and epic. This is what makes me lie awake at night thinking about all the things I would like to run and do this is exciting and that is why I run. I am so stoked to be where I am today pursuing my goals by eating right and running free on the trails.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

12 summits and 2 to go!

I am super happy with my running this week. I am right on course to wrap up the week with my goal of 14 summits of Mount Doug in 7 days or an average of 2 a day. I am super stoked and even though I am just getting started I can feel that my tanks weren't completely empty to begin with and I still have some fitness I am drawing from.

The greatest part about today was the fact that I didn't have to power hike at all and ran all 1500' of vert nonstop (3000' in the last two days). I also was flying down the hills pretty good and I enjoyed that as well. I have been focusing on forefoot striking on the down hills (you have no choice to forefoot strike on the up hills because of the steepness). This requires really pointing your toes as you run down the hill to allow your toes to make contact first. I think it really helps to absorb the shock and my legs aren't as beat up as they were last year when I was running lots of down hill every day. It made me think that my little sister who is a talented multifaceted dancer would be good at trail running because of her leg strength and her ability to keep her toes pointed and absorb shock. It would be fun to see how she would do as a trail runner but I am afraid she would be hard to sway into running.

Vye has been exercising at night and I keep telling her that I am going to do core work with her but I always seem to find myself falling asleep at about 11:00 when she begins her workout. I have to give her major props because it is challenging to take care of the kids all day including watching a friends of ours son most days. She then works on strength and toning after the kids are asleep, the house is in order, and we have had some time to spend together, and by that time of night I am so knackered, but she finds the motivation to workout. I am super proud and inspired by her. Being a mother and finding time to be an athlete seems like such a challenge and yet so many women do it. Vye has also been doing a lot of photography lately and it is awesome to see her excel at something she is so passionate about. She would really like to learn how to photo trail running events and I think that would be awesome to have her there to not only support me but to photo the runner's and the event. It may be a nice niche to play around with in the future, combining several of both her and my own talents and passions.

I have a hefty week this week as we lead up to the reading break the following week. I will have to ration my time wisely. Reading break should be a great time to cram for a midterm and then run some longer 2-3 hour runs at the Gowland Tod range or Thetis Lake and I hope to have some serious mileage and elevation during the break.

I often run without music (like an i-pod) because I really enjoy silence and have come to appreciate the sound of my labored breathing and clumsy feet as I tackle the trails. I do often have various music playing in my head sometimes because I have recently heard the song but other times because a song just popped up for no reason. This evening a new song called "Childhood's End", from an awesome electronica band I have loved for years called Leiahdorus, popped into my mind. The song is from their new album and I think it is really cool. I wish I could have seen these guys at the synth festival in Salt Lake city in 2005 but missed it. They are from New Mexico and often perform at Burts Tiki lounge and I would love to see them one of these days. I hope you like the song and all their other stuff is great also and worth checking out if you are into finding new music like I am.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Science - Run - Music - Repeat -- and some insight from my youth

Higher reaches of the Mill Hollow area.

A view of Mill Hollow Reservoir in the Uinta Mountains in Utah.

This week has been great! I have had three main themes running through my life the past 5 days; science, run, listen to great music, and repeat. My runs also have all been repeat summits of Mount Doug which has been awesome. I was a little down last month which always seems to be directly correlated to poor or inconsistent running. I need to run to be happy and I find genuine joy in running on trails in the mountains.

When I was in third grade our school gave young students a chance to go to a week long camp in the Uintas at a place called Mill Hollow. This small Summer Camp was like any number of youth Summer camps filled with nature hikes and boon doggle. We also had free time each afternoon to play around the little mountain retreat. My best friend at the time, Anthony Wood, and I formed a small posse of like minded souls and we created a sport we called "stump jumping". The goal of the game was to scramble as far up the side of the wooded mountain slope as possible and then to run down the steep stump choked hillside with reckless abandon as fast as your legs could carry you. We didn't just do this to go fast but we also showboated by launching off from logs, stumps, and rocks to see how much hill could slip beneath your airborne body before the bone jarring landing, often times jumping many meters at a time. We then got creative and began to jump over our fellow school mates by placing them under a lofty precipice and then using our downhill momentum to hurl our adolescent bodies over the brave volunteer.

One thing I realized today as I was flying down the trail at dusk is that I am exactly the same today as the small tow-headed third grader that I was then. When I was younger I found myself the happiest when I was in the woods flying down the side of a mountain that any normal person would call insane. What a great piece of insight to realize that I am still a happy boy who loves life and I am still a boy who is happiest while playing in nature. I don't have money to enter many events (even though it is something I would like to do more of) so my running isn't really influenced by races or bragging rights. I run because it makes me happy because of how playful and innocent it is, and because I need to spend some time each day being who I really am, and that is a big kid who likes to go fast in ridiculous terrain. Now that I am older I can say that I still make that playfulness and that adventure part of my daily routine. I truly am lucky to have such a great opportunity to run up and down mountains and trails right outside my doorstep.

The last three summits of Mount Doug were pocked with small victories again. I am finally getting my uphill endurance back and I am running to the summit without power hiking (at least on the first summit) which is awesome. I also added a third summit to the mix today. I know I was only supposed to summit 2 times a day this week but because yesterday didn't allow me to get out I figured throwing in an extra summit today was fine. The third summit was a bit painful but I forged on ahead and made the summit right as sunset on this awesome 55 degree clear sunny day. I am even seeing a few cherry blossoms out hinting at the nearing spring.

All I can think about is running up summits everywhere and I am putting together a list of all the summits I would love to run in the next year or two. I should post mt summit list and see how many I can nail in the next two years.

Music has been important this week and I find that after hours of spreadsheets and diving into my data it is the perfect release from stress that comes from experiments and results that are straying from my hypothesis, and the solutions I need to solve the problems. I have been listening to a lot of poppy and upbeat "springy" songs and groups lately which is quite different than the melancholy music that dominated last month. The other day as I was in the car my wife had left a CD playing with a bunch of different songs on it but the one that was playing when I hopped in was "Running up That Hill" by Placebo which is a remake from the Kate Bush eighties classic. The song has a "chug-a-chug chug-a-chug" type beat that actually feels like you are chugging up a hill. I always have ran to this song whether on my ipod or in my head on my runs I purposely leave the ipod at home, but since I have become obsessed with running up hills this year I found the song only fitting to represent this post. I think Placebo does a great cover-- I like the arrangement and think it has a raw power and emotion to it. It is a great song to slowly run up any hill to. I don't think that Kate Bush had ultramarathoners in mind when she wrote the lyrics but that is what I get out of it so I am sticking with my interpretation. Here is a live Placebo and old school Kate Bush live version.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2 days in and 4 summits toward my Mount Doug Experiment

Since I was inspired to start bagging summits of Mount Doug after reading Krupicka's post GREEN MOUNTAIN PROJECT two days ago, I am happy to report that I have ran the first two days of February and have 4 summits of Mount Doug. These summits are just infinitesimal victories but are definitely firing me up for the future. I am taking a very cautious stance and trying not to overdo it like I tend to do with everything. So I am restricting myself to just two summits a day for this first week while I build back up to mountain running strength.

Yesterday was a mid day run in which I ran up and down the south slope of Doug two times. It was painfully slow and included a fair share of power hiking but I am just starting out and don't see any reason why I won't be running the full climb in a week or two. I have battled with injuries, heart issues etc. since September and I know it is from my usual plague of too much too soon. I am trying to actually be wise and build slowly this training phase. After starting my run yesterday a light rain soaked the rocks and cooled me down and the run was quite refreshing. I was surprised to find several other runner's cranking up the same slope at the same time as me. It is nice to come across other lone athletes working toward their higher goals.

Tonight's run started as a clear and crisp evening as the sun dipped down to the horizon. I decided to run up the east side of the Irvine Climb part of the route of the MOUNT DOUG GUTBUSTER series. This route was my favorite last year and I easily summited via the Irvine climb hundreds of times. I haven't really frequented the trail since moving further away from the mountain last June so it was kind of like being reunited with an old friend. It is amazing the amount of detail I remember about this trail and I can basically run the route blindfolded and know where each foot plant goes and where each rocky outcrop is located. After a pretty good first summit I took a breath at the top and enjoyed the setting sun over the Olympic Range in Washington and over down town Victoria. I then bailed off the south face planning to ascend via the previous day's route. The descent went fast but I could feel my legs getting fatigued by the time I reached the point where I was to turn around to run back up the South slope. I gave the second climb a good effort but alas found myself power hiking the last half to the top. This summit was completely different than the previous, apparently some low clouds blew in from the Georgia Straight and were streamlining around the top of Mount Doug. It was nearly dark and the cold fog and wind swirled around me leaving a vacant imprint in the shape of my body as I whizzed through the thick bank. The summit was cold and windy and if I hadn't just been to the top 30 minutes earlier I would have sworn it was a different day. I took a minute to enjoy the grandeur that each summit evokes before finally returning back down the steep south slope.

I love the summits of mountains and I enjoy what being on top of any high prominence represents. Summiting means that you are at the highest point of your little universe there is no possible way you could run up to a higher point. It is a nice thought to know that the extreme effort that comes with propelling the human body up the steep slope of whatever peak has finally come to an end. A summit is a finite point in space, a goal, and a perfect destination. Peaks also give the summiter a strong sense of accomplishment and have the ability to empower. The view is inspiring and refuels the soul and spirit and also gives a boost of moral and energy to power the arduous journey back to wherever it was that you slithered out of the lowlands to reach the mountain at the start of your journey.

Of all the pain and suffering that accompanies long distance and particularly trail running it is the burn in the quads from running hills that I find the most enjoyable, if that makes sense. I love the feeling of the lactic that builds up as your legs are spinning down the mountain. It is like a slow buildup and really begins to burn the lower you descend. I guess I am weird but I love the pain of running hills (as long as it is just the burning associated with lactic and not injured muscles or joints).

The last few days a song by Jonsi (Icelandic musical genius of Sigur Ros) and DJ Tiesto (one of the most popular Dutch trance DJ's) called Kaleidoscope has been playing in my head and i-pod almost on loop. I think this song has a sound that could easily accompany someone on the beginning of an epic journey. I think that the beginning of a journey is always somewhat dreamlike and full of hope, before the reality of the challenge changes the mood of the journey. Since I am embarking on my own journey towards new fitness and strength and setting records for summits up Mount Doug the song has really helped to inspire me and keep me focussed and motivated. Give it a listen, it is a bit slow but that is how I like to start any journey of epic proportions, partly to pace myself but also to enjoy the twitterpation associated with the newness of something not experienced before. Enjoy! Original and High Contrast Mix (Faster).