Race Week

Another race week, but this time it's a little different. I'm travelling to Canada, so there are the logistical issues of flights, hotels, car rentals, and trying to get enough quality food and rest before Saturday.

I feel good. Nervous, but not the kind that is keeping me up at night. Confident, but not overly confident. I know it's going to be a difficult day and while I feel strong right now, 17,000 feet of elevation gain over 125 kilometers is going to be brutal, and I know there will be low points, but that is why I have loaded the iPod with some Ke$ha, just to show me how much lower it can really get.

A lot of little pointy things
The problem with race week is that I don't really get much else done. I'm supposed to be working on a new project, designing a new retail site, but the only thing I seem to be doing is overloading Google with race-related search terms. If you see "bear attack prevention canadian death race" trending on Google, you'll know where it came from. This race week is different from most others because I usually have something bigger and better on the horizon to take my mind off of the task at hand. Not this year. The Canadian Death Race has been that bigger and better thing on the horizon for the past seven months, and after this race, I'm not sure what will be next. To be honest though, I have watched this video a few too many times over the last week:

I don't think I'll have too hard of a time convincing my wife to take a trip to the French Alps

I ran Daly Ranch on Saturday morning, a progression run on trails that I'm familiar with, trails that I most recently ran a couple of months ago. I remember them being much more difficult. I felt light with elastic feet on the uphills, not pushing hard, and not as tired as I used to be on the same hills. I had to push on the downhills and flats, trying to keep my heart rate up to where it was supposed to be. This is good. My heart is not my limiter, and I feel strong. I can hear my wife right now as she reads this muttering her Persian superstitious prayers under her breath, biting her hand, and preparing the esfand seeds for the fire, hundreds of evil eyes popping as the smoke forms a thin layer just under the kitchen ceiling. I really don't want to jinx anything, but I think I'm ready for this.

Early morning fog at Daly Ranch
I went to the beach yesterday with my kids, and I watched my daughter, who goes through an overcoming fear of the ocean process every summer. I was probably the cause, pushing her a little too much, too soon, putting her on a foam surfboard when she was three and watching her struggle in the waves. I don't push her anymore. I just watch as she stands at the edge of the water, building sand castles and collecting sand crabs with her younger sister while her younger brother catches wave after wave on a boogie board. As she plays, the water covers her toes, feet and ankles. She kneels, washing the sand off of her hands and brushing the stray, sun-bleached strands of blonde-brown hair out of her face. She slowly wades in to her knees and jumps as the small waves reach her waist. She crosses her arms as the cold water rises and slowly walks towards the waves, finally ducking her head and washing the thoughts of Shark Week, her mom's sting ray warnings, and the big purple jelly fish I pointed out to her out of her head as she swims further out, turns and catches a roaring wave back to the shore, smiling in the green-blue foam of the whitewash. I will draw on her bravery.

I will also draw on the strength of my sister who is taking the first step on her new journey as she leaves Sunday for Stanford to undergo a battery of medical tests that, we hope, will be the first step to a new life, new lungs, and deep breaths. I will think of you and your journey often on Saturday through to early Sunday morning as I stomp through puddles and play in the mud during a long, slow jog in the mountains.

Thanks for reading.

Best Commercial Ever

This is possibly the best commercial I have ever seen. I'm a huge Kenny Powers fan, and I just bought five new pairs of K-Swiss. This marketing campaign is genius.

Oh yeah, HUGE disclaimer, don't watch this if you are at work, school, under 18, in a public library, or are one of the members of my family that I waxed poetic about in the last post...especially you, Grandma.

Family Reunion

Last week I took my two oldest kids to our family reunion in Southern Idaho. I have a great family, a huge family, something like 130 aunts, uncles, and cousins, and that's just my mom’s side.  We spent the week at Lava Hot Springs, a natural hot springs in Idaho, complete with scorching natural mineral pools and a water park with slides and Olympic diving platforms.

My kids loved the pools. My son rode the water slides about 40 times, just doing laps over and over, tirelessly climbing the hundreds of steps to reach the top of the slides, and confirming to me that kids love exercise if they don't think it's exercise, especially when there is a 40 foot straight down, stomach lifting slide as a payoff. My daughter loved the diving boards, jumping fearlessly off the 35 foot platform like it was nothing. She even talked me into joining her for a jump.

With a family this big, there is always enough people to organize a game of something, football, pick up basketball, I'm sure if they could make backgammon into a competitive athletic event, they would, and I hope they don't hear about chess boxing (I think we'd change it to Backgammon Wrestling). So, I was watching my cousins play a game of water basketball, which sounds harmless and tame, until you see the way my cousins play it, with a testosterone-infused combination of water polo, boxing, basketball, and crocodile hunter alligator wrasslin'. And these aren't small boys, they are meat and potatoes Idaho and Utah stock, tall, muscular, and athletic. I'm the oldest cousin and I stopped participating in these contests years ago. I know my athletic limits, and I seem to prefer jogging slowly over mountains. I was sitting there on the side of the pool, content to watch the carnage unfold, when I was asked to join a team of 5 for next game. They were one short, and so, against my better judgment, and risking months of training, I joined in. It was a tough game, no injuries, and we won best of 3. The only issue I had was that the blisters from the cuyamaca 3 peaks 50k that were close to healing were completely ripped off the bottom of my feet, leaving a couple bloody holes and baby skin on the bottoms of each big toe. I was going to email my coach and complain about these small issues along with the slight inevitable fever after hanging out with about 60 kids under the age of 7 and all the snot, spit, and undiscovered scientific wonders that come with that. I was even going to email my running partner who works at Life Technologies and ask him about DNA splicing to quickly regrow some fresh skin on the bottoms of my feet. What could go wrong?

Then I read Lucho’s blog about his Silver Rush mountain bike race and how he crashed and continued to ride in semi-consciousness and while his brain was bleeding. He even tried to talk the doctor out of making him drop. That is one of the disadvantages of having a tough coach. I can't really complain about some small blisters and a sore back while he reads my emails through eyes marred by internal bleeding.

I did have a couple of great runs in Idaho. Most of them were done early in the crisp mountain morning air while the kids slept. I ran through green fields, past a cemetery, cows, horses, dogs who barked then ran away and under a morning full moon. The runs were mostly slow and easy and I didn't really feel the 5-6,000 feet of altitude until I did a progression run. My legs felt a little heavy towards the end of that one, but I finished it fast and felt good sitting in the hot springs later that evening. My torn skin bloodied my socks, and unlike some, I won't be sending mine to the baseball hall of fame.

One of the highlights of the reunion was seeing all the small cousins gather around the computer to chat via skype with my sister Sharlie, who wasn't able to make the reunion due to the altitude. She is on oxygen full time at this point, and I know it was difficult for her to miss the reunion, but it was a special moment as her beaming face lit up the computer screen. She continues to inspire all of us.

We all sat and listened to my grandparents, who are 83 and 79, and have raised 10 children. They are full of knowledge and faith, and while I don't share in their faith, I enjoy listening to their wisdom. My grandpa has written a family history full of colorful characters, people who crossed the plains, outlaws, plantation owners from Georgia and polygamists from Utah. They crossed the plains, many dying on the way, and helped settle Utah, Idaho and Montana. I would love to dig up some of the old stories and delve deeper into the lives of some of these characters.

Glad to know that I'm not the only one in the family with a criminal record
As we assembled for our family meeting, my grandpa told us a joke to explain how they ended up with ten kids. When he was younger, living in a small town in southern Idaho, he lived next to railroad tracks. In those days, when the train would come to an intersection it would sound the whistle...they didn't have the gates that dropped and closed off the roads. So, when the train would come through town in the middle of the night and blow the whistle, it would wake up both my grandma and grandpa. My grandpa would stir and my grandma would say, “are you going to go back to sleep, or what.” he is a little hard of hearing, so he would always answer, “what,” and that is how they ended up with ten kids. Pretty funny for an 83 year old.

I'm so happy that my kids have the opportunity to connect with their family, especially their great-grandparents. I want them to appreciate what came before them and to draw strength from the blood of generations of strong, independent, pioneering people running through their veins.

Cuyamaca 3 Peaks 50K -- 20 Second Race Report

This was my last hard effort before the Canadian Death Race. My goal was to take the first 20 miles pretty easy and run most of the last 10.

I felt really good during most of the race. It was pretty hot and I went through 8-9 liters of Gatorade, about 20 salt tablets, and 8 GUs.

The aid station at the top of Cuyamaca Peak, the toughest climb of the day, was awesome. My friend Carl was up there handing out Otter Pops, and at the time it was a little piece of frozen heaven.

I ran the whole thing with Jess, who is in great shape for the Death Race.

It was great seeing so many people on the course and at the end of the race. Chris killed it, setting a new course record, and finishing 50 minutes ahead of 2nd place. I finished top 10 in 6:12. I'm happy with that.

I listened to Dr. Dre's The Chronic on the drive home, really loud, because that's the only way it sounds good.

Thanks for reading.

Course (it was designed to look like an angry Pikachu)

Cuyamaca 3 Peaks Elevation Profile

Guest Post -- My 9 Year Old's Race Report

After reading that chapter in Freakonomics about how kids' brains turn to oatmeal over the summer unless they are intellectually stimulated just a little bit, I have been gently encouraging (read: flat out bribing) my daughter to read and write over her vacation. I get that summers are for play, days at the beach or the pool, and some vegetative down-time before school starts again, and my kids definitely get enough of that; I just figured writing a little and reading a few pages a day won't kill them (contrary to the scientific studies I used to cite to my parents when I was a kid...thank God the internet wasn't around for fact-checking back then).

I told my daughter that I am going to be her editor, and if she writes stories for me, I'll decide how much to buy them for (up to $5, which is a lot in the news business these days). She ran a 4th of July fun run with my wife and I asked her to write about it. She came up with a race report that I thought was pretty good, in fact probably better than most of mine and a lot of others that I have read, though not quite as detailed as some. I wanted to share it with you all (the exclamation points, underlines, and emoticons are all hers)...

My Race

Waking up at 6:00 AM was the hardest part. My mom came into my room as quiet as a cat, trying not to wake my sister. "Come on," she said. I got out of my room as saw my things laid out for me, a tank top, my running skirt, my socks, and my running shoes. I ate a piece of toast, got in the car, and then we were off for the hour drive to the YMCA in Laguna Niguel.

My mom and I picked up our bibs. Our bibs were white with the number in the middle (of course), but behind the number was an American flag because it was Independence Day. And of course there was the name of the race on the top and the bottom, "Run in the Parks." The people who organized the race held six races: a 10K, 5K, 1 mile, 1/2 mile, 1/4 mile, and a 25 yard dash. My mom ran the 10K and I ran the 1/2 mile.

After we pinned our bibs on our shirts, my mom and I watched the 5K start and finish. I stared in awe at how fast the 5K winner ran. A 15 minute 5K. Wow. Finally, the 10Kers started. Oh, how loud I cheered for my mom. I waited for half an hour and then I saw the winners come in. I cheered for the first woman and she smiled and said hi to me (my mom told me later that she was a really fast runner named Michelle Barton). I watched my mom finish. She made it in the top 40 women. I counted :).

"Finally!!!" I thought. My race was about to start. My heart was pounding. This was my 2nd race ever! The 1/2 mile was a sprint, so it was really tough. I ran as fast as I could and after the first lap I got a side stitch. And at lap 2, a group of boys cut halfway across the field, so that really put me behind. When that happened, my mom's friend, who had stayed to watch me, cheered hard for me. That put me in such a good mood that I went from running kind of slow to as fast as I could go. I lost a lot of people.

My place was top 10 thanks to those boys :(, but 3rd girl. I was really unhappy with it at first, but then I realized there were 40-60 people running, so now I am proud.

It was a great race. I loved it, but next year I will do the 1 mile or the 5K.

Running Kauai

We just returned from a week in Kauai spent mostly at the beach, on family hikes, eating pork, and running. I was a little worried about my training schedule while traveling. The Death Race is less than a month away, and last week was going to be one of the heaviest in terms of running volume in my training plan, so I filled my pack with running clothes, a couple pairs of running shoes, a bunch of gels and Honey Stinger waffles, a handheld bottle, and a hydration pack. I also threw in some board shorts and a couple of t-shirts for the not-running part of the day.

I managed to get all of my runs in, logging over 70 miles during the week (with a couple of days off) in the humid and hot weather. One of my dreams is to run the Na Pali Coast, but I decided not to abandon the family for the day along with their only means of transportation, our pimped out Crown Vic rental car. I figured that in order to get all my running in and still have plenty of Griswoldian family adventure, I was going to have to be flexible. That included waking up at 5 AM (which wasn't that hard due to the time zone change) and do my longest run on the second vacation day.

My plan was to run the Kauai Marathon course, which is a beautiful course, especially when the roads are closed. They weren't when I ran it. I was trying to be safe, not wanting to take any unfamiliar scary jungle trails. Instead, I ran on the road, and most of the roads in Kauai, including much of the Kauai Marathon course don't have shoulders, so I spent the first 18 miles dodging sleepy tourists and anxious Hawaiians on their way to work. I was also charged at by a couple of squealing wild boars. They were piglet boars with tiny tusks, but I was still startled at these little squealing things running toward me, or maybe the squealing was coming from me, it kind of all mixed together. I stamped my feet at them and yelled and they ran away. The road turned out to be far more dangerous than any trail I have ran. I ended up veering off the main roads in favor of calmer backroads. I did take in a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise, though.

I decided that I would stick to side roads and traffic-less trails for the rest of the week.

In the quest to be flexible I did a couple of runs where I would leave an hour early and run to one of the local beaches where I would meet the rest of my family. This was a great way to get my running in and still have a lot of family time, all while being able to soak my tired legs in the beautiful waters of the Pacific. One of these runs took us to Maha'ulepu Beach which is a secluded, hard to find, and hard to drive to beach with a number of fun trails. I ran there a couple of times. There's a pretty cool trail that goes from Shipwreck Beach to Maha'ulepu Beach. The trail is sacred to the Hawaiians, and it even allows you to run on the Grand Hyatt golf course for a couple hundred yards (which is sacred to rich people). I was tempted to re-live some of my and my brother's adventures. We lived on a golf course when we were growing up and we used to mess with the golfers, stealing balls, playing football on the fairways, and dumping pudding in the cups and watching the reactions. I've never been a fan of golf courses; I guess it's the socialist in me.

The last run of the week was the hardest. It was a 17 miler, but I could really feel the accumulated mileage from the week in my legs. It was also one of the more humid days, and I ran the last five miles in rain, but it was good to be finished.

It turned out to be a great vacation, and if the Death Race is humid, hot, and flat, I should be just fine.

I'm running the Cuyamaca 3 Peaks 50K on Saturday, and this is probably the least worried I have ever been about a race of that distance. I'm treating it solely as a long training day. It will probably be hot, and with over 6,000 feet of gain, it's going to be a tough day, but I'm actually calm and excited about it. I'm not sure if the absence of my normal pre-race jitters is a good thing or a bad thing. I guess I'll find out on Saturday.

Now, something everyone loves...VACATION PHOTOS.

Poipu Beach
A difficult hike we had no business being on, but  we all made it.

My favorite restaurant on Kauai

Tunnel of Trees (Shoulder of Death)

Fantasy Island...not a fan.

Ratings and Recommendations