Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wu Wei

Saihung thought back some ten years to a question he had asked the Grand Master as he was trying to understand the concept of wu wei.

"What does wu wei mean?" he had asked

"It means," his master had replied, "that everything you do seems spontaneous, natural, and complete. Nothing affects you. Nothing stirs up the emotions to interrupt the precious tranquility that you have constantly cultivated."

"Nothing affects you?"


"What if you were meditating and someone tries to kill you?" ashed Saihung

"If they come to kill me, fine. I shall kill them first."

"And then?"

"And then I sit back down to meditate."

"That's all?"


"Wouldn't you suffer for killing another?"

"Not in this case. They came to kill me. I merely interrupted them."

"Wouldn't you suffer within?"

"No. That's wu wei. One event happens, then another. If you are truly wu wei, then you are always placid."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Farmdale and Wu Tang Sword Style Circa 2006

I joined my Dead Runners' Club brothers at Farmdale this past Sunday. Temps were a cozy 15 degrees, skies clear, wind shrouded by forest cover. I took off ahead of the group, reasoning that my slow pace would make it tough to keep up and still be comfortable. The snow of the last month or so has since frozen solid making footing a bit more difficult than it was a couple of weeks ago, but still preferable to pavement. Went (stupidly?) straight up Blue Chevy Hill, losing a half step with every step gained, did a half hour or so on the back trail before forking north to the water crossing at Farm Creek. Clear ice right on the bank did me in, went down on my ass, bruised elbow, knee, but no cracked skull, so kept moving. As the maxim dictates: "If the bone ain't showin, keep on goin.'

Now, I've been at Farmdale several times and it's a testament to my lack of navigation or maybe just refusal to consult a map during a run that I do not know all the trail linkups. I ended up going up the dam face and finding the mountain bike trail system on the back side, hooking up with Dave, Larry, Scott, and Kim on Scholl's loop. Larry and Kim headed back and I decided to toss caution into the culvert and try and keep up with Dave and Scott, both much lighter, faster and more talented than myself. They were kind and I managed to keep up, we looped back to the dam, backtracked through Scholl's, finally illuminating how to weave through those upland prairie areas to connect to the access road and return on the back trail. All told it was a solid 2 1/2 hour run.

Started reading "Chronciles of Tao: Secret Life of a Taoist Master" by Deng Ming-Dao, a book which collects his three shorter novels into one cohesive work. More later.

Soundtrack: "Think Differently: Wu Tang Clan meets the Indie Culture" Picked this up for myself on a whim while christmas shopping. I keep looking for answer to "36 Chambers," but alas it never comes. This is a compilation of Wu style mid 90s (surreal to think that passes for nostalgia) beats rapped over by "indie" mc's. It's not exactly Wu, as RZA, GZA, and UGod are really the only clan that appear on this, but when they do pop up, it's worth hearing, for instance there's an amazing, albeit too short, tribute to ODB, and some spoken word interludes by Jim Jarmusch, just enough spark to keep it interesting. I'd say about 30 percent of this is golden, 50 is average, and 20 is throwaway. Sadly, in 2005/6 from what I can glean about the state of hip hop, that's good enough to warrant a listen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Deer Run, Run

This past Saturday was the Deer Run, Run 8k race at Comlara Park near Hudson. I ran this race in 2002 but pf and a stress fracture respectively kept me out in '03 and '04. The course is set up in a European style cross country format, mostly double track trail, some open some wooded, and about 8 different barricaded jumps of 3 feet or so. The entire course was blanketed in 6 to 8 inches of snow and race morning was windy, I'd put the wind chill at around zero.

I started off slowly with Pam, jogging the first mile in a conservative 11:30, at 1 1/2 miles I picked up my pace some, passing 20 or so people in the next 30 minutes. In some of the open areas you were basically postholing through where snow had drifted slightly. My finish time was pretty slow, 51:25, or about 10:20 pace. My whole point was to basically have run and put in a few continuous running miles, but my thinking is that faster leg turnover might be helpful in terms of overall fitness and possibly even strength. I love those 3-4 hour run/hikes with lots of hill climbs thrown in, and I don't plan to modify long runs, but during-the-week workouts will have more faster tempo work and maybe the occassional fartlek thrown in. Building vo2 max a bit and pounding the legs with speed, as tedious as it can be at times, I think definitely has benefits.

Soundtrack: My buddy Rob recently burned all the old, rare Nuisance 7"s for me onto cd. Its been in heavy rotation since. "Sungod" is such a frickin' great tune.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Jubillee Rogaine

Yesterday morning was the Rogaine orienteering event out at Jubillee State Park near Kickapoo, IL. A rogaine is essentially a timed orienteering event where you try and accumulate as many controls as you can within an alotted amount of time. We had 4 hours to get a maximum of 25 controls. I met Pam out there about 15 minutes before the mass start, just enough time to get the map and sign up and really not enough time to route plan. We quickly decided to work on the southwestern quadrant of the park. Not good. Right from the start I miscalculate our starting point and we drifted off too far west on a nice chunk of single track. Ran about 20 minutes before finally getting oriented at a trial junction near a creek crossing. Ended up doing some decent (for us) rough navigating and managed to bag our first control.

The park was covered in about 3 inches of snow, which is just the coolest damn thing to run on, made even cooler by all the bushwhacking you get to do off trail, and we traversed open prairie, creek beds, climbed steep reentrants and scrambled through briars. This is so much fun you don't even care about the 20 degree temps and wind chills somewhere closer to zero. In total we bagged 7 controls for 14 points in about 2 hours 45 minutes. I feel that with more time to study the map we could've logged 3 or 4 more. I still have alot of practicing to do before I get competent at orienteering. I'll try and scan our map with the route traced tomorrow to demonstrate what happened and where improvements can be made. That said, there a million worse ways to spend a winter Saturday afternoon. I'm a convert.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Just Wednesday

Went out for a short run last night in the cold and flurries. No reason it should've gone well, been a lethargic week, but for some reason had a really fast, strong tempo run. This weekend is a 4 hour rogaine orienteering meet out at Jubilee. Should be a fun time. The pics are Keegan and I post glacial and two shots from this past July just southwest of Sedona, AZ in the Cococino National Forest.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


The Mackinaw River is one of my favorite spots in the world. This pic is one of coolest spots on the river. You hike back off a gravel road a mile or so to this hidden bluff overlooking a hairpin bend. Exact location undisclosed for selfish purposes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lemon Grass and Crisp November Skies

I had some comp time at work so decided to take off early today and put in some trail time. Headed downtown to the Vietnamese restaurant for the buffet, then north to Detweiller Park. For some reason I've never tried this trail system. What a shame I waited this long. It is not extensive in terms of miles, but there are some brutal climbs. I did the north loop of the Pimetoui Trail (not the Forest Park loop of the same name) which starts as a 150 or so foot climb, crosses the road, drops down into a creek valley through some stands of bamboo (Bamboo Creek, anyone?), then loops back about a half mile for the big downhill. I was pretty sluggish from the buffet so I hiked most and slow jogged the steep downhills. The bluffs were encased in late season sunshine, and temps, while not warm, were in the mid-40s. I loved the solitude and the views off the ridges of the bluffs and river valley to the east. Put in about 30 minutes there, skipping the southern trail system, and then headed 10 minutes or so north to Robinson.

Some kid put about 2 miles worth of trail in out here for an eagle scout project. He's got bridges over the creek crossings and they're working on putting bark down. I was out here a few weeks ago with Keegan and we got as far as the iron bridge before he got tired. Today I followed the Illinois River Bluff Trail all the way to Camp Wokanda, did a few of the paths there and then headed back. What a great concept to connect along the bluffways. You drop down into these huge basin ridges and it feels like you're in the Appalachians or something. The width of the ridge bottoms is unlike any other trails in the area. Typically the terrain is steep and your view of the next ridge fairly limited, primarily due to the youth of most of the stream valleys around these parts. I was so stoked to finally try this connector trail. I'm hoping they proceed with it and hook up Forest Park, Detweiller and Robinson via the bluff trail. My buddy has told me this is the plan, but of course one never knows about these things until they are actually completed. I put in 1:07 and headed home to a dinner of homemade chicken noodle soup and then took Keegan to the EC bball game tonight (win 64-62). Life ain't all bad.

soundtrack: Johnny Cash "When the Man Comes Around" (thanks, snyd)

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Recovery from Glacial has gone nicely. Went out to Forest Park this morning and put in a 2:24 run/power hike. The leaves are finally all down, providing a nice thick mulchy running surface and conveniently covering all roots and rocks. In a word, perfect. The temps have still been pretty moderate for late November. This morning was 38 or so, but with no wind it really was nice. Great run. Goals in the near future: 3-hour rogaine orienteering event at Jubilee State Park, 12-3; Deer Run Run 8k, 12-10; McNabb, Illinois Fat Ass 50k (not whole thing), 1-8-06; McNaughton Park 30 mile, 4-18-06.

I finished reading George Crane's follow up to Bones of the Master, Beyond the Temple of the False Lama. I was expecting the sequel to be a journey back to Mongolia with Tsung Tsai to complete the first book. Crane goes back to Mongolia (northern China) but without his mentor. Most of the book deals with Crane's Hunter Thompson-esque travels and misadventures. I would recommend skipping right to the last third, although his return trip is alot less illuminating than the initial foray into the mystical land of shamanism. Crane is an interesting enough fellow, but without Tsung Tsai the book lacks the spiritual depth and the ability to hold interest that Bones had. Crane tries too hard to be Henry Miller, one of my all-time favorite writers that he references several times, and Buddha knows, there was only one Miller. Crane ain't him.

Soundtrack: Bobby Darin, Bobby Darin Story , the original 1959 album on vinyl.

Whiskeytown, Stranger's Almanac- A bit on the ballady side but there's no denying Adams is a hell of a songwriter.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ham on Rye

Keegan and I went exploring around Robinson Park on Saturday. The boy scouts (god love em') were out cutting new trails and putting up wooden bridges. I guess they're good for something after all. I quit Webelos after one meeting, remembering the Groucho Marx maxim about groupthink. The trail is a nice loop cut through the ravine, I'd guess about 2 miles, but the cool thing is that there is now an iron bridge that links over to Camp Wokanda, where there are several miles. Despite an abundance of 5 year year old energy from KJ, we only made it as far as the bridge, about an hour total, so I have yet to explore the connector trail and the entirety of Wokanda's offerings. Still, I'm stoked about yet another place to run in the area.

Under the great Tulip Tree in Oakland Cemetery, cold Amber Bock in hand, I remember what I love about Charles Bukowski. It has been about 12 years since I've last read his stuff, having read virtually all of his novels and much of his poetry, and you know, sometimes the memory dulls what the spark of a writer can do to one's soul. I give you exhibit A, B, and pick a letter:

To The Whore Who Took My Poems -Charles Bukowski

some say we should keep personal remorse from the
stay abstract, and there is some reason in this,
but jezus;
twelve poems gone and I don't keep carbons and you have
paintings too, my best ones; its stifling:
are you trying to crush me out like the rest of them?
why didn't you take my money? they usually do
from the sleeping drunken pants sick in the corner.
next time take my left arm or a fifty
but not my poems:
I'm not Shakespeare
but sometime simply
there won't be any more, abstract or otherwise;
there'll always be money and whores and drunkards
down to the last bomb,
but as God said,
crossing his legs,
I see where I have made plenty of poets
but not so very much

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


On the 15th Pam, her son, and I went out to Jubilee for the orienteering event. We did the yellow course, spending most of the time trying to find direct routes rather than taking the trails. I still need work with the compass and rough navigating. There is another meet in early November north of Springfield at Camp Silca and I'd like to try it. Addictive.

I'm just now starting to get back to some light training since Glacial. I've only been out a couple of times since the race and then only for short, light runs. So far I've felt good, I don't think anything was injured newly in the race. The broken toe still pains, but it's manageable. This weekend I think I'll try a longer run, maybe 2 hours or so on the trail. This is the absolute best of time of year to run around these parts. The days are still somewhat warm, the evenings crisp and cleansing, and the trees, although supposedly not as stark this year due to drought, are at their absolute peak color right now. Not sure about running goals. I feel that a 50 miler is definitely doable, although what form that will take, I know not. McNaughton 30 miler in April is my next race goal, and a possible 50 mile later in '06 if all goes well.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Glacial Trail 50k

"Be like water flowing over the rocks-the water flows constantly, not stopping to consider its path around the next stone." -Takuan Soho

This is one of my favorite quotes about how to live life. Never did it take on as much literal meaning as this weekend at the Glacial Trail race. Maybe in his meditations Takuan visited the North Kettle moraines.

On a day when 40,000 people ran in the streets of the windy city for the Chicago Marathon, some of us were 150 miles north in the woods of east central Wisconsin for the Glacial Trail Trail Runs near the small town of Greenbush. I arrived with Kim and Keegan on Saturday afternoon at our hotel in Plymouth, just in time for a dinner of chicken and rice and the obligatory pint of Blue Moon (carbs, baby).

Race morning started for me at 4:00 a.m. when sleep decided to leave me to my nervous energy. Today was to be a test of faith and an experiment of the self. It has been only five months since I resumed training coming off last fall's fracture. Pam and I both were starting this event on much lower mileage than in the past. My long runs were 3, 3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2 hours, all on the hilliest trails we can find in this area and at a slow pace. Weekday runs were sporadic and only around 5k or so each. In addition to worrying a bit about being undertrained, my knee has been twinging just from walking for the last few weeks.

The morning air was slightly chilly, in the low 40's, but the day promised sunny skies and highs in the 60's, absolutely ideal conditions. After filling the bottles we drove out to the start at the fire station in Greenbush. We met up with Pam and Ron and headed to the start. Kim and Keegan saw me off at 7:00 as we shuffled off into the sunrise-bathed streets. My biggest concern, the IT band area of my right knee, was already twining within minutes of the start, but my feeling was that as things loosened up the pain would be absorbed for 7 1/2 hours or more, and if not, I would find a way to cope. The first half mile is on roads, from there onto a short stretch of trail that took us through a gorgeous stand of bowered pine, and then onto the Ice Age Trail, where we would spend the next 30 or so miles.

The plan was, per usual, to run the flats and downhills, and power walk the ups, keeping to our training pace, staying hydrated, and eating whenever offered. Got a scare about 5 minutes into the Ice Age Trail when I hit one of the 1000s of rocks and rolled my left ankle. I was able to take it in stride and keep moving, our hill training holding me in good stead as nothing felt injured and the pain minor. A nice way to start the morning and wake up.

Did i mention rocks? This trail is littered with them and demands focus and respect at all times, lest one violate this code and pay with blood.

We hooked up with old ultrarunner at mile 4 who hung with us and kept us occupied with chatter. The first aid station is at mile 7-ate a banana, a few pretzels, and refilled my bottles. I took a succeed cap at about 2 hours just to cover the electrolyte bases. We soaked in the beauty of the trail and felt strong between the 7 mile and Butler Lake aid station at 13.1 miles. The midway point is just beyond this scenic lake and it's here that I got my first twinge of hamstring trouble while descending one of the small hills.

At about the 18 mile mark I started feeling some real tightness in my hammies and Pam's IT band and legs were kicking in. We encouraged each other to stay strong and focused. Despite getting into that semi-meditative state of focusing only on the moment and the trail of front of me, tired legs made it difficult to pick my size 13's up enough to clear every rock. The result was stubbing the toes several times and almost (but not) going down. This resulted in two problems: The first being that each stub was hammering the hell out of my feet, and secondly was that my hamstring would completely seize up, making it tough to even walk without pain. This where my very limited long run experience came in. In my first 50k, at the six hour mark I tripped and went down. My legs were completely locked and cramped. I mentally panicked, thinking my day was over and all the training futile. Struggling to my feet (insert "Chariots of Fire" or some shit) I got to hobbling and miraculously after a minute the muscles bounced back and stretched, allowing me to finish. The lesson was to just keep moving and allow my body to adjust and regulate itself. I'd been there before, and knew what it felt like and how to cope.

At the 20 mile mark the ebbs and flows of energy and mood kicked in. The beauty of the forest helped alleviate the low points. The foliage, while not at peak, was plenty colorful, especially considering that back home things are still green. The last aid station came at about 24 miles, more banana slices and a few rice krispie bars (damn good) helped give a boost to the legs. Pam, the optimist of our team, thought a sub-8 hr. finish was possible, while I, ever the slacker, didn't know where we stood on splits but didn't want to jinx anything, thinking that 8:20 might be more realistic. I have to work on my attitude.

The home stretch was a beautiful power hike/occasional run up and down the hill of the kettle moraine forest, up and down the range of emotion. With three miles left we knew it was in the bag and the adrenaline kicked in. Pam picked up her pace and I followed. The last mile cuts through the pine cathedral where we started and onto the strees of the Greenbush. We walked the hill, always leery of pavement, but ran in the last 1/4 mile, knowing that we had our sub-8. Kim and Keegan were there at the finish and Pam and I crossed the line and collected the sweet finisher's shirts 7 hours 52 minutes after starting this spiritual journey.

What an honor and a blessing to be able to get out and do this, to feel wholly alive and energized. The only thing missing at the finish was Dad. He was there at the QQ finish, almost 2 years ago, just one month after his surgery and cancer prognosis, and on this day I have no doubts it was his spirit that was the sun shining through those trees and illuminating the way. Thanks to Pam for being an awesome partner in trail crime and Kim and Keegan for supporting my lunacy every step of the way. How awesome to see them at the finish. I have to say also, those two bowls of chili were the best I've ever had.

Enough fluff, now the damage: One day later I'm very sore and it's not a walk, but a hobble. The bottom of my right foot is bruised up and the second toe on my left foot is badly purpled and probably broken. Chalk it up as a sacrifice to the trail. It's all worth it and I coulnd't be happier.

I probably need to lose 10 or 15 pounds, do more speedwork, work up more gradually to long runs, figure out what imbalances are leading to these hamstring issues (probably being fat), and do more overall mileage. All things to ponder and work towards. But for today I am a slightly stronger person, changed in some subtle ways. Many lessons learned along the trail and many, many more to learn in my future. The journey continues...

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Discovered the awesome sport of orienteering last weekend. It combines several of my great passions: trail running, route finding, and contour maps. Last weekend I headed out to Camp Wokanda near Mossville for National Orienteering Day. I knew nothing about the sport going in, but learned how to orient a compass to the map, better read contour maps and to copy control points. How it works is you trace a predetermined route with nine control points onto your blank contour map of the forest. The maps are very detailed, showing grassy areas, open runnable forest, thicker forest, elevation, large trees and rootstock, ponds, paths, manmade structures, etc. The start goes off in staggered times, you simply try and find all controls as quickly as possible, using any route you choose. The controls all have a punch pin with varying designs that are recorded onto a control card, proving that you found each control. I started with the simple white course, finishing in 20 minutes or so.

Yellow is the next step up. I wasted a good 10 minutes bushwhacking on the hill behind the main building, not thinking the first yellow control would duplicate the first white, but of course it did. After that slight mix-up I fared much better, most of the controls were fairly close to trails, a few were off slightly into the woods on ridges, but overall not entailing much rough cross country navigating. I completed the yellow course in 51 minutes, giving up 15 minutes or so wandering around. There was also an orange course, the next level up, which i didn't have time to complete. Looking forward to trying a more challenging course that involves more route finding and forcing me to visualize the land more using the contour lines--skills that are acquired and only improve, I'm sure, with repeated practice. What a cool sport this is- give me more.

Sunday morning following the O' meet did a short 50 minute run at Forest Park. Was intending on 3 hours but the legs were just too weary. Highlight was running across a red fox bounding up a steep ridgeline about 100 feet in front of me off of Possum Path. Typically red foxes stay hidden from view, I consider myself lucky to have come over the knoll at just the right time, catching her in the middle of the trail.

I also found a great spot near Morton. Behind a public park (remaining unnamed) I found a small entrance into the woods. There is a trail, but it clearly is not maintained. There are about five serious blowdowns in the first mile, along with two foot bridges in disrepair, my best guess would date them from the 1950s or 60s. The trail climbs a ridge, crosses a grassy clearing, then almost imperceptibly enters back into the woods, down a creek ridge (dry now because of the drought) and then promptly dead ends. I bushwhacked about another half mile or so and came across a small wooden sign reading "indian headstones," marking the spot of three large rocks. This sign is on no visible trail and is quite hidden. I have no idea when it was put there or by whom, or even if they are actually "indian headstones," at all, but what a cool find. I suspect it's an old hiking path the park district abandoned at some point. Didn't look like anyone had disturbed the area in a long time, takes an idiot like me, I suppose, to tramp through poison ivy in search of secret spots. I'll be back for sure.

Keegan had a soccer game yesterday, dumping in four goals and having a ton of fun in the process. We followed that up with the Eureka College football game--they actaully won it 32-13.

Went out to farmdale this morning for a 1:34 run/power hike. Part of my taper I guess for Glacial Trail. For the first time in a long time there was a slight steady rain falling. The temps are still too warm to really feel autumnal. I love running in the rain. Started from the School St. parking lot, onto the trail on the south side of the creek, rosewood, stopped for a sec at devil's cliff, across the basin and back on Alt. Creekside trail. Beautiful rainy morning, just me and the deer.
Peoria Mtn. Bike Assoc. have a great map:

Had some slight pain in the back of my right knee, but nothing too severe. Going to agressively taper down the stretch run. Luckily, I am good at that. Glacial Trail 50k in two weeks. Can't wait to get out there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sunrise Over Pimetoui

It sucks to run sick. I knew last weekend had to be a long run, since we're down to about a month before Glacial Trail, but man had I been bombed out by strep and then an ear infection following that misery. I had the day off on Friday and went to McNaughton with hopes of doing a long run, but by one hour i was completely off in some other universe, it was all i could to do walk it in back to the blazer in 1:52. Not pretty.

Sunday rolls around and it's do or die. Got to Forest Park for my scheduled solitary long run just as day broke at 6:30 a.m. We have had no relief yet from the summer heat and this morning was no exception, shirt drenchingly hot. I used both water bottles knowing that my fat butt was going to shed some serious electrolytes. The sickness was still hanging around but oh so much better than Friday morning; I knew there was a chance of finishing. First loop was ok, still getting warmed up at 50 minutes when i hit the parking lot. Climbing the first hill of Pimetoui I was really dragging butt, not knowing if I'd have the physical strength to handle the run. Just as a I crested, the sun broke through onto the hill prairie at the top of the ridge. It was one of those moments when you just stop and drink it in for a moment, let things rejuvenate and thank the Gods that you're able to even be out here to bear witness while the rest of the city sleeps in like good sane lil' boys and girls. I say, "screw sanity."

Took an e-cap at 1:30, drinking steadily all the time, straight water after the first hour. Ate a banana before my second out and back Pimetoui section, and another e-cap at about 2:20. At four hours my calves and left quad started getting those shooting cramps. Nothing awful, but noticeable. Walked/slow jogged the last 30 minutes and completed my 4:30 run over the hills of our beloved Forest Park trails. Not sure about the cramping. It was hot, humid, and the steady climbs and descents might have just worn me down strength wise, although our 4 hour run went perfectly (it was a good 10-15 degrees cooler). Might have possibly been glycogen depletion, probably should've eaten more. Stupid, stupid, forget that extra nanner and cashews. Still debating where or not to do a 5 hour before the race. Pam is going out this Sunday, but i won't be ready. If i go, it will be mid-week next week. Going to play it by feel.

Attended my aunt Barb's mothers' funeral yesterday in Williamsburg, IA. Ate up the solitude on the drive out there. I love eastern Iowa's rolling hills and lush farms. Very underrated. Let em' think it's boring. It's been about 6 years since I've done Field of Dreams and the river road down along the Mississippi and the Luxembourg village. Perhaps it's time again. Is it heaven? Yup, could be.

Been reading Dan Millman's "Way of the Peaceful Warrior." The writing isn't always great and sometimes i feel like I've been or am where the mentor of the narrative is, so it's kind of annoying, yet a fun read about awakening to self awareness and the quest for personal enlightenment. Not bad at all.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


An arctic-like day in the waning light of mid-January. Light dances off the board level, coal black loam, now blanketed by the slightest layer of windswept snow, just a tracery hint of icy glaze. Asphalt road spine straight, his darkness the only break on this sea of former prairie. This cold, this thing, bites like so many charred hammerhead teeth, piercing my new windtunnel tested coat, its armor no match for these pearly whites.

It is the 21st century, the age of "improvement," yet this landscape calls the settler, still their domain, miles of barren speckled only by the infrequent century old farmhouse, shingles beaten and crumbling from the alternate abuse of a day like today and the scorch that dog days bring. Today is another day when these vestiges of any earlier time stand in defense of my plains, not yet subsumed by notions of what presently passes for progress. This brings a slight smile to my windburned face.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I've been down for the count for the last few days or so with strep and an ear infection. This little glitch forced me to axe this past sunday's planned 4 1/2 hour training run and substitute a bataan death march 45 minute run. The most I've been able to in the two days since that was two 30 minutes sessions on the elliptical. I'm still recoverin,g but shooting for the long run in two days at McNaughton. Film at 11. We're still trying to figure out when to sneak in a 5 hour slog between now and the race on Oct. 9. This will be a most interesting experiment. I feel undertrained in some ways, but my hope is that the legs will be fresher. If all else fails, we'll walk more than planned and look at leaves. Wait, we'll do that anyway. My entry fee is filled out and sitting in a stamped envelope on my kitchen counter waiting to be mailed. I'm such a wimp when it comes to commitment.

Alot has been written and covered about the gulf coast hurricane. The only observation I have to make is that aside from being obviously saddened to the core for the level of human suffering, I am equally as saddened by the immediate attempt politicize what happened. Let us show reverence as members of the human tribe for those whose bodies have yet to be recovered from the miasma. Dignity, please, before even political gain or coporate profit. Do the words dignity and reverence even remain in our vocabulary in 2005? As i write this, I'm reminded of an excellent interview on the topic of reverence done by Bill Moyers. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Takuan Soho

Revisited one of my favorite books, Takuan Soho's "Unfettered Mind." Takuan was a monk, calligrapher, gardner, tea master, and poet. Born in Japan in 1573, served as counsel to many of the Samurai of the day. My all time favorite quote comes from this book. I apply it to ultrarunning, being on the trails, whatever:

"Be like water flowing over the rocks--the water flows constantly, not stopping to consider its path around the next stone."

Takaun wrote several instructive letters to swordsmen of his day on strategy and focus. A few highlights:

"I do not fight for gain or loss, am not concerned with strength or weakness, and neither advance a step nor retreat a step. The enemy does not see me. I do not see the enemy. Penetrating to a place where heaven and Earth have not yet divided, I quickly and necessarily gain effect.

The accomplished man uses the sword but does not kill others--when confronted with his principle-they cower down. He uses the sword and gives life: while he deals with his opponent with a sword, he leaves everything to the movement of the other man, and he is able to observe him just as he pleases. "

Sunday, August 21, 2005


We were out at Forest Park today for our 4 hour training run. The morning blessed us with much cooler temps and sunshine if not lower humidity. Started at 6:30 a.m. My legs felt pretty tired for the first loop, 50 minutes or so, then miraculously gained strength as the morning went on. Took an e-cap at one hour, went across to the steep climbs of the Pimiteoui Trail. At 1:45 ate a banana, filled up with straight water in the bottle. We did the reverse loop starting with Wilderness and got back to the parking lot at 2:35 or so. Another e-cap and more water. Pam's ITB started hurting on the last loop, but things calmed and we finished strong. The hills out there are great for the quads, i'm feeling it tonight for sure, but the strength gained is huge. Finished in 4:06. Our strategy incoporates enough walking that I don't feel too beat up during the week. Overall I felt very strong for this run--maybe couldve used a bit more fluid intake, but all-in-all was very happy. When isn't a looooong run in the woods great?

Started reading "The Shaolin Grandmasters' Text" today, written by an order of Shaolin monks in Oregon to better explain the philosophies of this Zen sect. Promising read so far. I'm most interested in how Taoism affected the development of Shaolin and how it's incorporated today.

"The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Depositing Memories

It' s funny how the feel of a hot summer evening, the angle of the sun at dusk, can transform me back to childhood--back to running barefoot on the soft grass, hitting walnuts with my aluminum baseball bat for hours. These aren't just hollow images from the past flickering across the screen of the mind, but rather tangible parts of who I am as a person.

I believe every moment is sacred. I'm fully aware of my many shortcomings, and while oftentimes I fall short of my own ideals, even the underwhelming moments are meaningful, patches in the quilt of time and life. With each passing human year of this life I become more cognizant of the importance of being engaged, mentally and physically, as immersed as possible in my senses and perceptions of the world. Each day that Keegan grows is another day that he has changed forever. This isn't a negative thing, it's something to be savored, being able to watch this little boy make his way through the world. Every snapshot is a deposit in the memory banks. These memories can be retrieved from a private bank of reminiscence and reflection, going a long way in keeping the spirit strong no matter what is dealt to me in life. Of this I am certain.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

If Ya Luv Luv Show Ya Luv

Been training for the Glacial Trail 50k in October for the last couple months. We did a 3 hour in brutal heat at Forest Park, then two weeks later a 3 1/2 hour at McNaughton in much more tolerable weather conditions. I'm still running about 10-15 pounds too fat. Maybe I'm just not putting in the total mileage or intensity to drop weight. Or maybe it's the beer. So far the long runs have gone well, legs are holding up and the strength is coming back. The eight months off for the tibial fracture took alot of the muscle strength I'd built up. It's slow to come back. I'm gonna try this thing anyway, barring injury beforehand, since it's the race I was gunning for before the injury. Mostly I just want to see that trail in fall and the race is a good excuse to do it. We're planning on 4, 41/2, and 5 hour runs over the next 6 weeks. These long runs/power hikes will tell where things are with the training. I have no concern for time or racing anyone, just finishing, so no pressure in terms of distance covered or speed. This will be an interesting experiment to see where things are by early October. Keep em crossed.

I went back and re-read a few chapters of Ralph Wiley's "Serenity: A Boxing Memoir." I just love his writing style and he captures on paper what I love about the sport. Why "Serenity," you ask? Read it and find out. Another recommendation would be Joyce Carol Oates' "On Boxing," of which I had her autograph my personal copy when she spoke at ISU a couple years ago. You had all these arrogant professors and literary types fawning over her in the book signing line trying to impress her with their knowledge of her work. I get up there and we end up holding up the line for 5 minutes talking boxing. How frickin' cool is that, talking about the style matchups of swarmers and pure boxers with one of America's foremost authors. Rock n' roll.


Nuisance "Sunny Side Down" and "Confusion Hill." I've had these in heavy rotation lately. One of my all time favorite bands. There is nothing better than cranking "Harvest Time" on crisp October evening by the water, cold Pilsner Urquell in one hand, fishing pole in the other. I'll say it forever: Nuisance was a better band than Nirvana and Andrew Asp was a better songwriter than Cobain could've ever hoped to have been.

Rocker-T "If Ya Luv Luv Show Ya Luv." Fundamentalist Rastafarian Reggae from a white dude. Seriously. It's good, really good.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Psychogeographic Mapping

I've been kicking around the idea of the psychogeographic map, a concept that i first read about years ago in the writings of the Situationist International. My interest in the notion lies in how we experience place and interact with geography and topography of our physical reality.

Psychogeography concerns itself with how we experience and are affected by being in a place. Places and human experiences of them are never static--they are influenced by a number of factors: our mood, the weather, companions of lack thereof, and other mysterious forces that aren't as readily discernible, such as the energy fields or "vibes" of a particular space.

"Generative Psychogeography" or "algorithmic walking" is a subfield that deals with a particular way to experience a landscape. I ran across the concept in an article in the Utne Reader. Essentially, you hike in a fixed pattern starting from a random point: "first left, then second right, next right, repeat pattern." This is not meant to be strictly random wandering nor is it a wholly structued walking tour, but occupies a space between anarchy and the fixed, predictable patterns by which we typically move through our daily lives. The goal is to provide a completely fresh perspective on the landscape we encounter in our immediate realm of being.

The algorithmic logic will take you to places you may not otherwise encounter. In a typical landscap you may actively seek out obviously interesting features, markers, green space, objects of interest to the eye, but the algorithm imposes the idea that you immerse yourself in a space that could be easily overlooked, finding magic in the seemingly mundane.--a piece of stunning colored rock in a vacant lot, an old shack in a back alley that you may have overlooked for years as anything worth observing. Whatever it is, use it as a took to remake your own relationships with the geography.

From what i can glean, these experiments have mostly taken place in urban settings. My thinking would be to incorporate psychogeography, historical geography, meditative arts, history, and reflective writing into an integrated method of experiencing place. "interactive geography"

This methodology could apply to any rural landscape: fields, meadows, rivers, wooded trails, anywhere you can walk. Algorithmic walking could be instigated through a predetermined set number of steps or by a timed algorith. For example: "walk 100 paces, left turn, walk 50 paces, right 200 paces." Pacing would be at a comfortable hike so that every undulation, topographical feature, detail of flora, fauna, human marking, can be observed in detail and recorded by reflective writing, photo analysis, audio recording or simple rememberance by the experiencer of one's perception and feelings of the landscape during each segment of the algorithmic process.

Edward Abbey once wrote:

"Do not jump into your automobiles next June and rush to the country hoping to see some of that which I have evoked in these pages. First, you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees over the sandstone and through the cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark the trail, you'll see something, maybe."

This is the essence of interative geography. To scrutinize qualititatively, not just scientifically but through a qualitative response to the geography. This is where the integration comes in.

For example: I've been interested in prairie ghost towns in recent months. Near the Mackinaw River and Panther Creek confluence in rural Woodford County was located the village of Bowling Green. If one were to drive by this spot they would see a rock along the road inscribed with "Bowling Green-laid out in 1836." One may note the beauty of the trees behind this boulder, they may read the inscription and think nothing of it, or they may take a deeper interest and inquire of themselves, "What was Bowling Green?" "What happened on this spot?" "Does anything remain?" Interactive geography would incorporate a historical geographical model to these questions. Historical research indicates that Bowling Green was an early village that sprang up on a stagecoach line between Peoria and Bloomington, IL. It is mentioned and marked on several maps of the period and its location is pinpointed from the use of plats that indicate specific township coordinates. In fact, one can find a blueprint for the village's layout itself. We know there was a general store, a hotel, and several platted streets. The village ceased to exist when the railroad came through, thus rendering the stagecoach line obsolete.

Historical geography lends a deeper appreciation of a place like this and facilitates reverence for what once was.

Now, we apply the psychogeographical approach. Find the physical locale of the village, incorporate algorithmic walking over the grounds. What does this ground look like some 170 years after it was once occupied? What does it feel like? Investigate. Can any physical remnants of habitation still be found? What about energy? Meditative art or just one's psychological or emotional response to a space is just as important to me as what the eyes tell us. We use an energy pendulum to check for movement. There is a circular motion and some moderate heat that indicate an energetic presence. Would anything interesting manifest itself through audio or video investigation? Simply closing your eyes and drinking in the "feel" of the place, the sound of the wind through the trees and high grasses? What stories are there waiting to be exhumed? Were there Indians here before the white settlers of Bowling Green? What does the land say?

Free writing or flow of consciousness can, I believe, add another level of understanding of physical space. Interactive geography would seek to redefine perception, subtely remake how we view the world and celebrate the deep of place that illuminates our daily lives.

I believe it is possible to remake the landscape through perception, to alter consciousness in a way that provides understanding on many levels, to form a new bond and relationship with the spaces we occupy.

The Bowling Green example is one of starting from a fixed historical spot, but interactive geography can be practiced anywhere. Use algorithmic walking on a forested trail and see what you find. I've found gravestones, old fencelines, fossils, rusted cars, slabs where shacks or houses once stood, old bottles, animal bones, etc. Magic in the mundane. What are the stories of these physical objects? How do they inform our sense of the present? All questions i think are worthwhile.

Walking the grounds of a crop farm, I come across a 20 acre barren that an 1878 plat map indicates once was home to a "race track." I assume horse racing. The barrens are bisected by the tiny Mill Creek and are home to locust, orange osage and several large hardwood trees, a large swatch of varied grass, a large raspberry patch, and numerous wildflowers. I've found evidence of structures in the bramble. I scour the earth and love it wildly. My understanding is embellished by psychogeography.

The interactive approach can be applied to any random spot. Integrative investigation confers a meaning to places and geographies that may have previously seemed meaningless or devoid of significance. It reworks our conditioned responses to "place" and all of its' connotations. These ideas have real meaning to me, and in my view have great potential for casual change in how deeply we absorb our world.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Jah Give The Rainbow

The rest of the trip was relaxing. Drove back through the desert artist colony of Jerome, AZ., a definite must-stop if you're in the neighborhood, and really why wouldn't you be? Excellent brew pub amidst the shanties perched on the side of Mingus Mtn. Spent two more days in Laughlin with a side trip to the old mining town of Oatman, AZ. before flying home to (oh sweet joy) the humidity of the midwest. As much as the desert has its' beauty, to see hardwoods, greenery, and feel the sweat on your skin is an amazingly underrated feeling.

My soul brother Jake and his wife Tupa arrived last week from London. We took Jake out fishing last weekend at our old haunt on the mighty Mackinaw R. This summer's drought has left the river at a perilously low level. Despite the lack of accessible pools, we were able to catch a few nice smallies in the riffles on just a worm weighted with a couple slip shot. To my son's delight we also reeled in a few suckers and the exotically colorful, if not sizable, pumpkinseed.

Got back into training last weekend with a 2:26 run at Forest Park. Felt good to get back on the hills. I was humbled by just how much strength I lost from my legs during my time off for injury and how blessed it is to be allowed to get back out there. The journey continues. I felt some swelling in the right tibia area but aggressive post-run icing has so-far staved off anything serious. Yesterday I took Jake and Tupa out for their first trip to McNaughton Park. We did one loop of the Potawatomi in 2:10 or so, nice slow pace. I kept up a good rythm on the hills, the trail is in good shape, other than some overgrowth on the narrow single track in the creek bottom area. Great view of giant barn owl.

Books. Hmm, been reading a bit. Slogged through Jared Diamond's new one, "Collapse." Not as engrossing as "Guns, Germs and Steel" but still worth the investment. The highlight is where he details the societal collapses of civilizations such as Easter Island, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the Anasazi, the Maya, Greenland colonies, etc. If you have any interest in any of these from a historical, environmental, or archaelogical perspective, then the first 300 pages or so is well worth it. I think he bogs down a bit for my tastes when he gets into contemporary policy and modern societal analysis, but overall Diamond lays out a very structured and well-thought out thesis and argument. Worth the time despite the density.

I've also been reading "Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits" about a westerner's journey to the Chingnan Mountains to find Taoist and Buddhist monks still living the ancient hermit lifestyle. Awesome book.

Soundtrack: "King Django Meets the Scrutialists." Reggae, Dancehall, Dub, original.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Desert Solitaire

Returned from the trip out west last night. Went a little something like this:

Flew into Vegas spent one hour at Ceasar's, fled the city in horror.
South across the desert through Searchlight, over the mountain pass and into the blast furnace valley and Laughlin. Spent the night at the condo on Thursday night. Did a 30 minute night run at Mountain View Park, overlooking the Colorado River. The dryness of the air really affected me, but it was a beautiful night so I made it work.

Friday morning drove east on I-40 to Flagstaff. Love Flagstaff!! Hip little mountain town surronded by forest and has a great bohemian downtown district. Awesome vibe. Drove south on the stunning rt. 89 into and through Oak Creek Canyon, probably the most scenic drive I've ever taken other than the million dollar highway between ouray and silverton, co. You're enveloped by the sheer cliffs covered with stands of pine, dropping along the canyon walls to the floor and Oak Creek. Stopped at Slide Rock State Park and dipped into the creek. Crazy kids doing cannonballs off the slippery rock cliffs (hence the name). Did the Sedona thing. Spires of iron- tinged red rock eroded by millions of years of water and wind into a spectrum of craggy shapes and table top mesas. Took a jeep into the desert on rough roads southwest of Sedona. Juniper, agave, scrub oak, even saw a colored lizard. Unfortunately, no rattlers (heat of day) or javelina. Stark and brutal, yet inviting.

Back to Flag. Saturday morning I was up at 5:30, 6 miles up bumpy Schulz Creek Road and into the mountains of the Cococino National Forest above the city for a run. Did the Sunset Trail loop along Brookbank. Views of the San Fransicso Peaks off in the near distance. The first mile and a half gains 900 feet, a pretty good climb for a flatlander not in peak condition such as myself. Brookband turns into runnable, pine needle covered single track. Being a midwesterner, I'm always ecstatic to get in a run in the mountains. Ended up doing two hours and could have easily spent all day running in the clean air and ponderosa pine forest.

Drove to Grand Canyon. Touristy but worth it just for the sheer awe value. My first trip to the canyon, and i can safely say its' scale cannot be put into words. Reduces you to an insignificant speck in this vast universe.

Sunday morning was one of the highlights. I had seen an advertisement for a 5k near Flagstaff, so i got up early and went. The Nuratukya'ori 5k run was on the trails around the Museum of Northern Arizona. About 80 percent of the runners were Hopi Indians. At the starting line an elder gave a Hopi prayer and sprinkled the ground of the line with dust. The prayer didn't help my speed, but it did ensure a transecendent run. Chatted with several runners along the way and one guy kept letting out these awesome, guttural war whoops. Altitude, hills, hurting leg--still finished in 29 minutes. Slow, yes, but not considering it was me running the course and we were at 7500 ft. One of the highlights of the trip.

To be continued...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Three Feet High and Rising

My top 10 hip-hop albums of all-time. Why not?

1. "Fear of a Black Planet" Public Enemy chuck d, flava, and the bomb squad dropping beats never heard before or since. literally every track is a classic.

2. "36 Chambers of Death: Enter the Wu-Tang" Wu-Tang Clan

3. "By Any Means Necessary" Boogie Down Productions krs-one is simply the most intelligent mc ever.

4. "Paul's Boutique" Beastie Boys complex and beautiful.

5. "Straight Outta Compton" NWA

6. "3 Feet High and Rising" DeLaSoul

7. "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" Public Enemy

8. "Black on Both Sides" Mos Def

9. "Raising Hell" Run DMC

10. "Low End Theory" Tribe Called Quest

11. "The 18th Letter" Rakim

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Farmdale Folly

We decided to do a training "run" this morning at Farmdale Resevoir near East Peoria. Started at 7:30 in what was already some pretty good muggy heat at the main parking lot area just east of the dam. Ran along creekside trail on the winding single-track mountain bike trail, across the Farm Creek bed, then along the more rolling "tnt" single track on the northeastern edge of the park. Across the service road, just down from the n.e. parking lot, is some pretty gnarly trail. Ended up going straight up this elevator shaft hill probably a good 60+ feet--rivals anything in this area for an intense climb. At the top of this hill (blue chevy hill, for obvious reasons) is a '54 or '55 chevy that someone drove in at some point and decided to permanetly park in the woods.

About an hour and a half into the run we somehow got off into the open meadow area west of the back trail and wandered around aimlessly in the heat for 30 minutes or so. the positive here is that we ended up looping around twice to this open ridge with an amazing view of the interior of the basin, and we had some more time to concoct a plan for hosting a race, speaking of which, Pam came up with excellent concept for a trail ultra race. I'm hoping this will pan out, details to come in the future.

We finally found our way back to the service road, cooled our feet in the shallow waters of the creek for several minutes, and winded our way back to the parking lot. an intended run of 1:30 turned into 2:20, which actually works out pretty well in terms of training. Nice solid run. We didn't even hit the hilly mountain bike trails on the south side. if you could carry more water or the day was cooler, you could easily get 3 solid hours per loop, at least at the speed we go, which is admittedly slow. I didn't realize how huge the reservoir actually is.

Dip net fished along the pond shore tonight at sundown. Large, orbital orange farmer sunset tonight. Ended up netting 20 or so baby warmouth, hybrid sunfish. A good day despite the heat.

Reading an older book on Mongolian history. Just started last night.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Prickly Pear

Went down to Sand Ridge State Forest this morning and ran/hiked 2 hours with my training buddy, Pam. Well you don't exactly "run" alot there since for the most part the trails are multi-use well...sand...remnants of outwash from the Kankakee Torrent of 15,000 years or so ago. At least if i understand my geology correctly.

Started on the more hard packed green trail, cut through at backcountry site 10 onto the blue. About a mile in we ran across a snake on the trail; i'm thinking it was an eastern hognose, but my herpatological (?) skills are seriously lacking. The heat was brutal even in the morning, highs today 96 or so. Took two water bottles but wasn't enough. Stopped at a water pump near horseman's camp for cold spring water, helps the legs and the soul. The open meadow areas are crawling with prickly pear cactus, albeit not giant cactus because of the short growing season, but cactus nonetheless. Learned a little lesson about prickly pear. Don't touch, repeat, DO NOT TOUCH the damn things. I made that mistake and got about 50 mini thorns in my thumb and forefinger.

Overall a good training run/hike, hopefully aiming at the Glacial Trail 50k this October, the one i was gunning for last fall before the fracture.

Typing of cactus, watched the Edward Abbey video documentary "a voice in the wilderness." Abbey, the old anarchist desert rat, in my opinion an american literary giant. The Thoreau of the late 20th century. Finished "Desert Solitaire" two weeks ago and would not hesitate to put it up in my top 5 or so non-fiction american works. Written with passion, grit and immediacy.

"I'd sooner kill a man than a snake." -Ed Abbey

Thursday, June 23, 2005

bones of the master

Just finished reading George Crane's "Bones of the Master." about the Chinese monk Tsung Tsai's journey out of Inner Mongolia after his Chan Buddhist temple was destroyed during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950's and his trip 40 years later to find and give ritual burial to the bones of his teacher, Shiuh Deng.

"Tsung Tsai said that at fifty years of age the fox can take human form. At one hundred it can become a wizard or a beautiful woman. Fox spirit has three forms, three incarnations. From one to one thousand years the fox is brown. A bad spirit. Makes only trouble for people.

After the first thousand years he becomes black; fox who still makes trouble for himself. He knows path of dharma but is filled with desire. Just desire.

In ten thousand years he can become a white fox like a god.

Fox can make you healthy but sometimes fox can kill you. There are things you can't understand. Mongolia is a differenct place. You think village people are foolish. They are not. They are simple people. Dirt people. Natural people. You think they have babies, grow food, eat food and that's it. But they are true people and they know things you cannot. They know ghosts."