Thursday, September 24, 2015

Glory Days Runs (ARFTA Content)

I was making my way down Toll Gate Trail between the Land Trust parking lot and the trailhead near my apartment to wrap up an easy run around the Waterline Loop when it hit me yet again.  This was a Glory Days Run.
Every now and then, on a particularly enjoyable, strong, or just noteworthy run, such a realization will take hold.  These are runs to be cherished, runs that will be looked back upon on some unassuming day at an unexpected time with a pleasant nostalgia that only those who have been there can fully appreciate.
Dancing down the rocks, doing my best to soak in the full experience of this most recent Glory Days Run, a flash of insight became apparent.  Just a couple weeks prior, I had the incredible privilege to bear witness to one of the most profound celebrations of Glory Days Runs in recent history.
A Race for the Ages, by its very design, defied expedient description.  Sometime in the witching hours of the last night of the race, Christian Griffith and I crept around the course, discussing this very fact and lamenting how difficult it would be to recount such an event with any adequacy.
The simple fact is that upon further reflection, I am forced to admit that I cannot.
Each race report is truly riveting, each picture nostalgic, and each comment thoroughly enticing.
But effectively encompassing the experience in a simple report eludes me. 
My own story of going out too fast, sunscreen stinging my eyes for the first 50k, talking smack with Case and Carl, having Lauren prove to be a prodigious crew keeping me alive and on track after my steep (if not predictable...) mental slide into that ultra pit we all know so well, and making a 40-mile push in the heat to sneak in for a 100-mile buckle, was all a big, solid, and profound race experience for me, but the event at large was so much bigger than my own little run. 
As I continue to wrap my mind around the weekend, the best depiction I can provide is that of a nearly unfathomable collection of Glory Days Runs. 
Circling the course with Ann Trason, Great Kings of the Road from days of yore, current multi-day elites like Joe, and legends in their own time like Ray the K and Don... how could an uppity young ultrarunner turn down such an alluring race? 
But all of this was the known appeal. 
Perhaps the moment at which I realize what a momentous gathering we had fallen into was during a slow, nondescript lap with DeWayne Satterfield (a legend in his own right, no doubt).  We had made the turn to go by the baseball field toward the 180-degree turnaround and noticed a group of four "seasoned" gentlemen making their way back from the turn.  DeWayne casually pointed and said, "You know, if you didn't know it, you'd never guess that there are three sub-14 hour hundred milers RIGHT THERE." 
And he was right.  By all appearances, the group of hexagenarians and septuagenarians was simply out for a leisurely stroll, talking, laughing, and sharing war stories, but their combined running resume is astounding, and at least with respect to a couple of them, if Dr. Satterfield hadn't made his comment, I never would have known. 
However, even in light of the almost incomprehensible level of Glory Days gone by for the legends on the course, perhaps just as staggering was the slow realization that there, in that very race, regardless of past accolades and accomplishments, nearly all participants were having their own Glory Days Run.
From getting the pleasure of running David Wingard's 100th mile with him (in 8:47!), to seeing the joy on the faces of those who just wanted to get out there and make a splash one...more...time..., to seeing four generations of Cantrells on the course together, this truly was A Race for the Ages, and I suspect that I'm not the only one who will look back at it as one of my Glory Days Runs.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Running Up Dill in the Rain

​ The rain had intensified to "frog-choker" status, but this was merely a passing mental note; the rain could be enjoyed more appropriately during a later stage of the run.

The business at hand was making it up Dill.

There was nothing out of the ordinary, save the pleasant sensation of rain impacting, soaking, and dripping off.  I guess most folks don't understand, maybe even can't understand how enjoyable a run in the pouring rain is.  Truth be told, I don't really understand it; I simply know it, but pondering who understands and even enjoys the oddities of running would be more effectively pursued once back on level ground.

The business at hand was making it up Dill.

A quick glance up, and the assessment made, neither good nor bad, that about another 150 yards of the hill remained, and a car heading downhill, headlights barely visible through the torrent, meant that I'd need to veer over to one side or the other.  The driver had a strange expression looking at the drenched pedestrian, but soon enough she was down, turned onto Owens, and but a distant memory, eclipsed by an abnormal fascination with the way the water was dripping off the bill of my hat almost at two exclusive points with approximately equal drip rates, but the fluid mechanics properties of apparel could of course be more closely examined later.

The business at hand was making it up Dill.

A tight achilles, a rough heart-rate guesstimate, and an overall internal status check relative to some ambiguous point 5 minutes prior (or was that 45 minutes prior...?) were just a few of a thousand other fleeting thoughts and moments on the way up Dill Street.  In a paradoxically long blink of an eye, though, I turned left on Toll Gate, and the business of making it up Dill was done.

I couldn't help but reflect upon how counter-intuitively enjoyable climbing up the hill had been, especially in the context of training, and I briefly allowed my mind to go down the rabbit hole of extrapolating an enjoyment of running up Dill Street to the rest of life...

...but ever so quickly, the implications of the mere 1000 feet of Dill Street were, at least for the remaining handful of miles, put on the backburner...

The business at hand was making it down Toll Gate...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's a Funny Thing, Running...

Running is a funny thing.
What other sport wears you out to re-energize you?
What other activity convinces otherwise professional, respectable, or at least somewhat civilized people to don extravagantly loud, ludicrously expensive, and sometimes scandalously revealing gear to prance around town?
What other distraction can consume your entire being and yet leave you speechless when asked about your thoughts while participating?
We pour our all into this sport, beat ourselves up, break ourselves down, and rebuild ourselves time and time again, but we almost paradoxically struggle with an answer to the inevitable question of why we are so engrossed.
That's what makes it great.
There is an allure to a departure from the confines of normalcy, a mystique to an inability to explain, a beauty in futility...
Be it effort, luck, or providence, we have all found our way into this funny thing, and at times we (or at least I) need to be reminded of how truly resplendent it is.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eating of the Mileage

It's been an exciting and intriguing few weeks in the ultra world...
Hardrock and Vol State have held the rapt attention of many, while the Race for the Ages, Leadville, and UTMB loom ever so enticingly on the horizon.
It's easy to fall into the trap of feeling a little bored with the daily grind, to lose sight of the all-encompassing experience inherent with something as seemingly mundane as a daily afternoon run, the simple eating of the miles.
Aerobic base-building, eating up all the long, slow miles one can get, has never been the most glamorous, sleek, or sexy part of a running cycle, at least at first blush...
But it has a way of endearing itself if given a chance...
Neighbors greet, drivers wave, even once-barking dogs now lazily trot up for a pet and a friendly sniff; all have come to recognize us as part of their environment after a while, just as much as we come to recognize them as a part of ours.
The eating of the miles has transitioned from simply being a part of a process as a means to an end, to being a goal unto itself.
That's not to say that goal races and events are to be abandoned...
The eating of the miles is still a part of that process of preparation, and races are undeniably exciting events to those who are prepared...
We've just got to keep some perspective on the joy that can be found in the systematic eating of the miles.

I'm anxiously awaiting my next ultra, but I'm also pretty stoked about getting to run this afternoon, too...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Running With the Rain

The rain looked like it might hold off; even if it didn't, conditions were as close to perfect as they get around here, so with shorts donned and shoes tied, the run was underway.
The first few miles went by as they often do, joints gradually loosening and muscles warming to the task.  The pockets of rain in the area had chilled the air noticeably, providing an ever-so-slightly cool feel and sweet smell.
There's irony in the fact that for a sport so inherently internal and mental, it's the external and physical world around us that can create such a rich and nuanced experience time and time again...
A car making an overly tight turn brought reality back into focus a few miles later; ultras gone by and yet to come, adventures planned, and people loved had been the dominant thoughts for more than a few minutes by this point...
...funny how that rich and nuanced experience provided by the external physical had allowed for a fully captivating internal odyssey...
Sooner than expected, the run had come to an end.  The rain finally started, and with it, the rest of life that is so paradoxically enhanced by the run's temporary escape. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Running Respite

More often than not, the world at large acts intent on showing us the worst it has to offer.

The news is rife with riots, wars, disasters, and hate.  Those in power (and those wishing to appear in power) seem dodgy at best and downright subversive at worst.  The people we know and love are, well, people, complete with all the imperfections unfortunately inherent with membership in humanity.
But there is good in this world.
In fact, there is quite a bit of good.
The news will often hide it, those in power (and those wishing to appear in power) try to exploit it, and the people we know and love sometimes overlook it.
But it's still there.  Persistently, constantly, unrelentingly there.
We just have to be able to see it.
It would be silly to try and state that running is ultimate mechanism by which we see such goodness, but it would be equally silly to simply dismiss the notion that it is a lens through which we can view the world.
In a time of 24-hour news cycles and hyper-connectivity that never allows for time to process, running slows things down and unplugs us, letting us wade through the cacophony that has been blasted into our minds.  The simplicity of taking the next step, combined with the beauty of the environments around us has an amazing ability to lift our spirits and let us see the wonder and the majesty that is our world.
What's more, running is one of the few facets of life that we can almost totally control.  We control when we run, where we run, how far we run, how fast we run, etc., etc., etc., and perhaps this control of something as seemingly trivial as running can help us get a grip on those parts of life with a little more gravity than putting one foot in front of the other.
Maybe we have a skewed perspective, and maybe the benefits are a bit overstated...
...but maybe we would all be better off if more people would go for a run...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ease of the Difficulty

Running has a way of invoking a strange flavor of nostalgia.
Most aspects of life can generate some moments of reminiscence, but the act of running seems to allow a contradictory, almost paradoxical set of circumstances to come to the fore.
Yesterday's run wasn't particularly long and certainly wasn't particularly fast, but it was rather warm.  Having not been training with any real rigor over the last couple months, the heat was enough to provide a non-trivial amount of difficulty, both in terms of the run itself, and in terms of simply getting off the couch and stepping out the door.  At the end of the run, however, as is typically the case, the enjoyment of such exertion had become the predominant point of note of the run.
That's not to say the physical difficulty was lessened, and that's not to say that the mental challenges associated with starting and continuing the run were in any way nullified or forgotten.
It's simply to say that somehow, after stepping up to face the challenge, an inherent comfort with that challenge seemed to manifest itself.
The extrapolations of this realization apply to much more than a mere Monday afternoon run.  Hard workouts, road races, marathons, ultras, they all present their own unique challenges and difficulties.  They all require some level of stepping up to the proverbial plate, but they also seem to allow, even provide, a certain serenity once undertaken.
Truth be told, this concept of tranquility within a challenge reaches far beyond running itself and into many aspects of life in general.  Burdens are not necessarily lessened, but once shouldered, are somehow more manageable if simply allowed to be.
How to get to the point of quietude within hardship is still something of a mystery; the miles and miles of running over days, weeks, months, and years are definitely a large factor in the running subset of this idea, and presumably, the day in and day out plugging away at any aspect of life could provide the requisite analogous experiential base upon which to build such a remarkable form of nostalgia.  Knowing, understanding, and remembering tests of yore are surely how this comes to be.
The mechanism of it all is perhaps difficult to decipher, but once achieved, how remarkable of a catharsis can be provided...
Any challenge could be easier to face.

The ease of the difficulty makes itself known.
The ramifications are truly fascinating...