Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Of Rus and Corn Fields

I've always had an affinity for the Russian writers. Maybe it's the spirit of my grandfather, germanic in heritage, but born along the waters of the Black Sea coast in Bessarabia. He knew the Russian language, and I suspect, the Russian soul. Perhaps some of that genetic code found its way to my being.

While Tolstoy and Dostoevksy are the most celebrated, for me, Turgenev, to an even larger extent Nikolai Gogol symbolized what it means to be Russian, to be connected to the land in some almost undefinable way. This from his 1842 novel, Dead Souls:

"Everything in you is open, empty and flat; your low towns peep out like dots or marks from the plains; there is nothing to seduce and capture one's gaze. But what is the incomprehensible, mysterious force that draws me to you? Why does your mournful song, carried along your whole length and breadth from sea to sea, echo and re-echo incessantly in my ears?

What is there in this song, what is it?...Rus! What do you want of me? What is that mysterious, hidden bond between us? What do those immense, wide, far-flung open spaces prophesy? Is it not here, is it not in you that some boundless thought will be born, since you are yourself without end?...Oh, what a glittering, wondrous infinity of space the world knows nothing of Rus!"

To see that daily in my runs through the countryside. My good friend Jake is back from England, we were on the Mackinaw a few days past. I know Gogol there also. These are my plains, but the nature of the soul is the same.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Racing the Antelope

In his book, Bernd Heinrich delves into the evolutionary components of endurance of both animals and humans. Framed over the backdrop of the story of his own 100km record training and race in 1981, his is a story that offers inspiration. And maybe, some insight into why, in his view, we have literally evolved to be runners. All of us.

"My suspicion is that the effects of running are quite ordinary. It is the other states, all other feelings, that are peculiar, for they are an abnegation of the way you and I are intended to feel. As runners, I think we reach directly back along the endless chain of history. We experience what we would have felt had we lived ten thousand years ago, eating fruits, nuts and vegetables, and keeping our hearts and lungs and muscles fit by constant movement. We are reasserting as modern man seldom does, our kinship with ancient man, and even with the wild beasts that preceded him."

On the notion that "vision" is what separates from other predators and informs our running.

"A quick pounce-and-kill requires no dream. Dreams are the beacons that carry us far ahead into the hunt, into the future, and into a marathon. We can visualize far ahead. We see our quarry even as it recedes over the hills and into the mists.

It is still in our mind's eye, still a target, and imagination becomes the main motivator. It is the pull that allows us to reach into the future, whether it is to kill a mammoth or an antelope, or to write a book, or to achieve record time in a race.

Other things being equal, those hunters who had the most love of nature would be the ones who sought out all its allures. They were the ones who persisted the longest on the trail. They derived pleasure from being out, exploring, and traveling afar. When they felt fatigue and pain, they did not stop, because their dream carried them still forward. They were our ancestors."

"I believe our common hunter's heart is the ability to impart value far in excess of what seems practical. That's dreaming. That's a large part of what makes us human. If modern runners were drawn around a campfire in a warm African night, they would, like any Bushmen, poke the embers and relive the run all the way to the finish line and beyond. "

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jubilee Trail Race

Saturday morning saw the innagural Jubilee Trail Race 6 miler at Jubliee State Park. This is the first of a series of trail races put on by the new trail running group, CITRA. This was a fun race, double loop with aid at the halfway point, a few hills sprinkled in for good measure.

Ended up with a 52:19 or 32nd out of 73 finishers. Tim Broe ran this race and blazed it in 33 minutes. My idea to put up a couple of steeplechase obstacles to slow him didn't go over well (funny joke if you remember his Olympic trials).

Hardrock was this past weekend in the San Juans. Scott Jurek blazed it in record time. Keep in mind "blazed" is a relative term, translating into 15:00 miles. And that is the all-time course record. Someday, someday.

Interesting interview with Jurek found here:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Steamboat and More

Ran Steamboat a few weeks back. The 15k version. Fun race that loops twice up some nice hills through Glen Oak Park and finishes at the 4 mile finish. First time running it since 2003. As is typical, race morning was hot, humid, didn't carry a bottle but drank at every aid station.

Had for me what was a good race. 1:23:14, 8:57 pace, that's good for uh....347th out of 591 total runners.

My 2002 time was 1:18:16 in cooler conditions.

2003 was 1:18:36.

This indicates I'm not quite back to the kind of shape I want to be in, but progressing nicely.

I'm planning on running the Jubillee Trail 6 mile this weekend, the first in a series of trail runs organized by Dave Tapp.

Goals after that are up in the air. Maybe a fall marathon or 50k as yet to be determined. Moose Mtn. isn't happening in lieu of a trip to Tennessee. And then, all efforts go towards McNaughton Park 50 in the spring.

More Colorado: Pics are forthcoming. I'm lazy.

I will add that our slower hikes up into the park were productive, and we were actually able to identify lots of wildflowers in the foothills around Boulder and Highlands Ranch, the Montane environment of the trails at Grand Lake, and the higher subalpine and alpine of RMNP and Evans.

Here is what we saw: Lanceleaf Chiming Bells (like the bluebells of spring in Illinois), Wild Blue Flax (abundant), Blue Columbine, Showy Daisy (one of my favorites, member of the Aster family), Wild Geranium, Purple Fringe, Scarlet Paintbrush, Fairy Primrose (vibrant pink, another favorite), Wild Rose, Porter Aster, Pussytoes, Yarrow, Rocky Mountain Loco, Heartlead Arnica, Old Man of the Mountain (sunflower), Snow Buttercup, Alpine Avens, and Yellow Stonecrop.

I'm sure there were more, but those are the positive ID's.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Colorado 2007

Flew into Denver on Wed., and immeadiately hit the trail above Highlands Ranch. From Highlands Point you have a great view of Pike's, Evans, and Long's Peaks, not to mention pretty all of the metro Denver area from about 6,500 feet. Did five miles and felt the altitude a bit.

On Saturday we went up into Boulder Creek Canyon and tried some fishing, then on to Nederland for a look around. Ended up running that afternoon down in Golden on the bike path along Clear Creek, 4 miles in 90 degree heat.

Headed up to Grand Lake on Sunday, driving up Mt. Evans on the way, the world's highest paved road (?). Keegan and I did the extra 200 foot climb to the summit. Remarkable. I didn't get the time to do Bierstadt to Evans, next year, I guess. I handled 14,000 very well this time, and even Keegan was running above treeline with not much effort. Kids.

Grand Lake was awesome. Did 8 miles on the North Inlet trail, saw a huge elk herd grazing and on the return passed two giant moose not more than 20 feet off the trail. We put in some great hikes, wildflowers were in bloom, I'll put a list of all that we positively identified soon.

The one thing that shocked me was all the beetle-kill lodgepole pines. I mean, there were sections of Grand Lake where it looked like 75-90 percent were dead. Brown trees everywhere. The forest will look much different in 10 to 20 years. Huge fire hazard, too. On Monday a forest fire broke out near Granby but was contained.

Drove back on Wednesday over trailridge road back to Highlands. My first time crossing completely through RMNP, pass was snowed shut last time out.

So, didn't get to do Bierstadt or the Slacker half, but got in 35-40 miles on trails and felt solid every time out. Great trip. Pics to follow.

Finished reading McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men," which is a great book. Probably his most accessible book by a long shot. Anton Chigurh is a chilling character. Started readin "The Road" on the plane. As much as I detest Oprah, I'm all for this being a bestseller. Damn good read from, I still maintain, our greatest living writer.