Monday, October 27, 2008


David Foster Wallace, a far better craftsman than most of us, once wrote that the wind in the cornfields by his B/N home sounds "roughly the way light surf sounds when you're two dunes back from the shore." I figure this to be an apt metaphor. It was 16 miles on country road. The field corn stands browned by the season, by the changes in light and temperature that visit us, a sound not unlike Wallace's description is all that's in my hearing range. Undulations here like the last few seconds after you've shaken out the bed sheet. That is to say, not rolling so much as wavy. Not flat, as they that don't turn off the main road would have you believe. In the next field stands a solitary, majestic bur oak--the old timers call these "plow trees," left for shade in the middle of crop rows. Most are gone, yet a few of these old, huge trees still hang on.

It's a solid run early, these are the runs of the new season, the ones that steel you for the winter to come. 40's, clouds to start. At an hour twenty I turn down the county road towards the river. Sun emerges, dancing off foilage. Then shadowed out. Partly cloudy, partly sunny, mostly cloudy, I've never understood. Over the bridge, the river is up, but not enough to challenge the banks. Where it should be, really. Healthier than it is during those evaporative summer days, but calmed from last month's floods, back in a natural rhythm, at least what passes for one in these times. I drink this in in the few seconds it takes me to trot over the bridge.

Up the hill, definitely a hill here. No waves. Past the elk farm, then the tree farm, water at the turnaround a mile of rolling (not wavy) hills later. The way back for runners is often into the wind; today is no different. Fifteen minutes of headwind then back into the river valley. Mostly sunny wins in this stretch, for that I'm grateful. Trees dance again. Your fingers don't freeze in the valley, not on days like this. Back into the headwind, I don't really mind, past men undoubtedly hunting in these bluffs. Not me, not today. Just running.

Energy lags a bit, small snack, then homestretch. Here's that small bridge, you know, the one that doesn't look like a bridge anymore but just a road with guardrails over this small section of creek, the real bridge was ruled too risky, so they hauled it wholly into town and put it over a section of this creek with no traffic, car, foot or otherwise. A real bridge to nowhere. I'm glad they kept it, but there is something sad about a worn out, depression era bridge left to just sit, not allowed to serve its purpose.

This thought carries me up that last swell of former prairie, those last two dunes open up into ocean, my ocean--the one where the wind sounds like surf, but isn't really.

Friday, October 24, 2008


October nights get longer, it rains, and when it does the rain is colder. Rains of summer are no problem, they're refreshing. Sitting on the concrete garage steps, running shoes at my feet, hearing the pelting on the driveway. If I run, it will be cold, I'll get wet, maybe soaked through if this picks up. It isn't 80 anymore. Showers don't refresh, they just penetrate.

There's a world series game on, a good live title fight coming on VS. I can get up early and do miles before work tomorrow. Back inside. Round one is good. Is the rain letting up? Basement sliding door open to check. Eh, maybe a little, but still a soaking patter. Round 2, this is heating up. Two Mexican fighters is almost always good and I am a fan of Cruz. Bell rings. Sliding door again. Slight letup? Maybe just imagination.

If I run, it will be cold, I'll get wet, maybe soaked through.

Thiry minutes later back in the garage removing wet shoes. Thirty minutes I'm glad I was out in that rain. Even made it back in time for round 12. Cruz won a split decision.

View From Devil's Cliff

Pics courtesy of Marvin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Farmdale 2008

The Farmdale Trail Runs are my buddy Dave's races that he puts on each year--8 and 33 mile versions. This is the third year I've helped out, running the Devil's Cliff aid station. Dave puts in a lot of work on this race and it's top notch. For me it's really just an excuse to hang out with ultra folks and be in the woods all day.

I went out Friday afternoon to help, but really most of the work was done already (funny how that happens). Ended up hanging out a bit, and we rode up on 4-wheelers to Devil's Cliff to stash supplies. Race morning I hung out with my friend Pam at Devil's Cliff until 10:30 when Marvin Doyle showed up to run things the rest of the day. I ran backwards from the start/finish on a fun run, ended up hooking up with McNaughton buddy, Jerry Davison and pacing him on his third loop. Jerry is a big dude who has lost a ton of weight and is really stoked on the whole ultra thing.

It was darn near a perfect fall day. I didn't run the race proper, but had my fill of fun working the aid station and running in the afternoon. Devil's Cliff is always a joy.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Running after dark on the first really chilly night of the fall. The first night I've worn two layers on top. Something about the coolness puts an extra spring in the middle miles. Glancing up at that nearly full, perfectly luminous moon doesn't hurt either.

I pass an old man out for a late night walk on the edge of town. He smiles and says, "What a night, eh?" "Indeed, look at that moon." Words of recognition in passing. At the nursing home I run by the embers of a small fire, table with roasting forks, the smell of hot dogs still in the air from a weiner roast. Another mile further and the first smell of woodsmoke of the season. Comforting. Warmed up by mile five, but fingers cold regardless. Home to warmth, high from the night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Autumn Comes Ripping

Chlorophyll departs and we discover the color underneath. In what seems like but a night's time, out come the reds, oranges, oh the yellows, all the indescribable shades in between.

So I ran Saturday with Dexter from Deer Creek out at Farmdale. I did two hours and fifteen minutes, he did more. Saturday was hot, but we started early enough to avoid any of that mess. The afternoon was Eureka College Football and a bonfire/hay rack ride outside of Hanna City. Beautiful

Sunday morning's run was one hour. We run when we can, but fall mornings may be the best runs of all. Pumpkin hunting at Ackerman Farm outside of Morton in the afternoon, then taking in the foliage at my favorite spots in the Mackinaw River Valley. I swear I'm going to put on a road ultra out there someday, maybe a fat ass type race with little aid. Lots of dirt roads with little traffic.

This Saturday is Farmdale. One of my favorite days of the year. Helping Dave out on Friday, captaining Devil's Cliff on Saturday during the race, then running the course a bit in the afternoon. Conditions look to be perfect.

Almost forgot this morning's run. Slightly overcast, dark to start, forty-nine minutes. Jayhawks on the Ipod.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Harvest Time '08

"Harvest time is finally here,
it's time to open some beer
Color green is all around you"

-"Harvest Time" by Nuisance.

Big rain in September means late harvest in October. It's late this year, but the bean cutting and corn harvest is finally on. For me as a runner, this means a couple of extra weeks of golden bean fields glinting in the morning sun. We all love the mountains and the forests, but, I tell you, if you don't run early into the midwestern countryside on an October morning, you aren't fully living.

Yesterday morning's sunrise came on like a tide, rolling in on a hot pink wave, washing over the browned point on the field laden horizon, pausing in all its electric glory for an all-too-brief few minutes, then dissipating in the surf of morning clouds. I was there doing my miles, witnessing.

These are just words, get out there and feel it. Yeah, the crops are coming out, in a few weeks, it will be colder, I'll need a stocking cap. The fields will be earthen bare and a little bit grayer. But today they aren't yet completely. Today is harvest time.

50k Epilogue: You know for me these races are just something to do to use an excuse to put in the training time. It's just hella fun to get out there every now and then in an official race and run with like minds. Recovery is still going well, running every other day, maybe 4-7 miles at a time. Semi long this weekend, then run a bit @ Farmdale after working my customary Devil's Cliff post in the a.m. After that, a fall and winter of periodic, hopefully healthy, long runs. Can't wait for the snow.

There are some pics on the RR website from Rock Cut. Damn, sometimes I don't realize how little I resemble a "real" runner. Ah well.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hobo Recovery

Recovery has been stellar so far. Went for a short walk on Monday night, took the kid out for a 45 minute walk on Tuesday morning, and ran three easy miles this morning. Minimal soreness. No injuries. The usual small aches, but I fully anticipate to be back doing long runs within a couple of weeks.

I forgot to mention ultra friends Adam and Mike in the earlier post. Adam ran a 5:24, great time, and Mike, fitting in a 50k between two 100 milers, went under 6:00 and gave me a New Belgian Dark Ale at the finish. I owe for that one.

Books. Tapering is a good time to get some reading in. I read "Moneyball" for the first time. If you're at all a baseball fan and have yet to read this book (maybe I'm the only one?), do it now. One hell of a fascinating read. I've since ordered a couple Bill James books. You will think about the game differently.

"God's Middle Finger" by Richard Grant is another fun read. The author travels through the "lawless" Sierra Madre and into the drunken anarchy that he claims is Central Mexico. I have to wonder how much is hyperbole, but a worthwhile book even if much of it is, just for the great historical background and crazy anecdotes.