Pausing to scribble

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Pausing is hard.  We want to keep moving.  Pausing to scribble at the end of each day’s travel is helped if I have a good desk.  This desk is in a side stream of the Smith River in northern California.  We are a few days away from flying to Spain; to España and our many days afoot.  In another distortion of time, we are one sleep away from donning the ‘packs for that first morning’s walk.Picture 028
The celebration.  The noise.  The smiles and music and singing are enjoyed, but our minds are on the Pyrenees Mountains just beyond all the Basque music, singing, colors, and joy.  As in so many strange campgrounds with a starting line awaiting in the morning, sleep is fitful, a bridge over the river Nive just a short walk down this stone-surfaced street in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France fills our mind.Picture 029
We knew about running.  Running was no stranger to our minds and feet.  It was this walking with backpacks that brings concern.  All our belongings were with us–our world was shrinking to one of essentials–something so familiar, yet, this time, so different, awaits.sunrise_sjpp
Sunrise, tomorrow’s, with only the hum from a power line to send us up and into…

———-Run Gently Out There———-

Just another day

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I was digging a post hole yesterday; not an overly exciting sort of thing to do.  A man drove into the parking area and parked nearby; also not something to raise the pulse of the average citizen.  He got out of the car and strapped on his gun belt and gun (a Colt .45, one of the few handguns I recognize); still not exciting since this is an open-carry state, but I did slow my actions a bit so as to keep an eye on him.

He reached back in the car and picked up two small yipping dogs.  I don’t know what kind.  My ignorance became totally unimportant as one of the dogs did the yippiing and squirming thing enough to escape.  Said escape involved leaping from the man’s arms, tangling the leash around the gun and jerking the gun from the holster… freeze frame time… dawg (no longer a nondescript dog) and gun did the (why don’t things go to slow mo in real life?) unsynchronized fall to the ground routine.

Dawg  and gun hit the ground at the same time.  Flinch–short intake of breath, continued freeze frame.  A short statement describing the dawg’s ancestry was proclaimed loudly by the dawg’s (and gun’s) owner.  He kicked the dawg a short distance and reclaimed his gun; retrieved a rag from the car and wiped the gun down.  He ejected the magazine (gawd, I hope that is the correct word) and… wow… jacked the round out of the chamber (what good is a gun that isn’t ready to shoot?); blew the dust, dirt, and spiders out of the barrel, slipped the magazine back in… chambered a round (I’ll pretend I could tell he slipped the safety on), and put the gun back in its (safe and secure) holster.

I am still trying to think of how to describe the grin he gave me when he noticed I had watched the entire episode of a moment-in-the-day-of-a-responsible-gun-owner; a somewhat exciting sort of thing to do.

———-Run Gently Out There———

Father’s Day 2015

A Last Call to My Father

I almost shouted into the telephone, “Hi, Dad! I won! I won!”

My father replied, “Does that mean you were second again?”

What? Oh. No. I was first overall. I won.

Three weeks ago I had called to tell him of the course record I had set at Le Grizz. Then I had to explain how I could set a course record without winning (I was second overall but won the masters division). Rick Spady, the overall winner, was so far out in front that he probably had no idea a race was going on somewhere behind him. I, in turn, had no idea of the assault I was mounting on the masters record for Pat Caffrey’s 50-mile course alongside Hungry Horse Reservoir just south of Glacier National Park in Montana. Larry Carroll and I had played cat and mouse for many miles. When I finally passed him that last time, I started running against the most challenging competitors I knew—the watch on my wrist and the unsympathetic demons in my head. It would be fun to pretend it was something romantic like the age-old “You do your best and the rest of the day will take care of itself,” but it wasn’t. I had simply raced my watch with little thought about how that would do in the overall standings.

I thought of that conversation and told him no. This time there was no one in front of me. I was the overall winner.

I was calling from a motel room in East Wenatchee, Washington, late Saturday afternoon. I usually waited until the trip was over and we were back home to call and tell him of the latest running trip. His interest was never at the level of excitement from years ago when I ran one lap or less—distances and events he could understand. He had never approved of this endurance stuff, these hours-and-hours-at-a-time runs—not good for your joints, he would say. Still I would call, perhaps still seeking his approval as any other aging child seeks a parent’s affirming nod. These last few years we had slowly bridged the gulf created those many years ago. It might be we had both learned along the way—surely he learned more than I—how was I to know of the abilities he had seen in me, tried to coax out of me during those years when I already knew everything? Surely his inability to talk was more the problem than my inability to listen.

This time, for whatever reason, I called before we started home. The 100k had started at midnight on Halloween, October 31, 1986. There were no aid stations. Kathy was up all night, stopping every three miles to feed and water me and whoever else was near. She was mysteriously correct at judging when I would want a dry shirt, a nibble of this, a drink of that, and all the while punching all the right buttons to keep the frayed ends of my mind together through that night.

Her mastery of my mind reached the peak as I took the lead at just past sixty miles and then labored through the paranoia- and anxiety-laden last few blocks as the course returned us to town and then the final turn up the two blocks to the finish line. I had won an ultra. We sat around waiting for the other events to complete. There was a 50k, 25k, and 15k being run on the same course. The staggered starting times made for quite a mix of finishers at the end. Finally everyone was in or accounted for, then various rounds of applause for awards, “oohs” and “ahhs” and cheers and laughter, rose and fell with each announcement, then finally died as the last runner was hailed.. Those of us from the 100k said good-bye or see you in a few weeks. Kathy and I headed to the motel, too worn out to consider the 150 miles back to Olympia.

The motel had an outdoor Jacuzzi—a Jacuzzi being a major selling point if we are not camping. After a shower and the requisite 47 minutes in the warm, whirling waters I decided I should call my father now instead of waiting. He should know of this one.

Hi, Dad! I won! I won!

Does that mean you were second again?

No. This time I was the overall winner.

Was this another 50-miler?

No, it was a 100 kilometers.

A 100 kilometers, how far is that?

Uh, just over 62 miles.

And you won?

Yes.

That’s a long ways to run.

Yes, my longest so far.

How long did that take?

About nine hours and fifteen minutes.

For the first time there was a conversation with all the old interest from the years of track and field—sprints, hurdles, and jumps. The years where my performances, though erratic on a grand scale and full of high potential, were more showcases of my bullheaded refusal to be coached than anything else seemed to be set aside. We talked for a few minutes, questions about the course, about the field, and so on; finally I said I needed to get some sleep before I fell asleep with the phone in my hand. His last words still echo so wonderfully clear:

Sixty-two miles; John, that’s a long ways to run.

Yes, it was a long night on the mountains.

And you won.

Yes. Yes, Dad, I did.

Good, that’s real good.

I didn’t have to pretend I could hear the soft chuckle of approval.

Bye, talk to you next time, Dad.

Good-bye.

Ten days later when I answered the telephone it was my mother calling to tell me my father had died that evening and I needed to come home.

Over the years I have been thankful many times for that last phone call with my father. We were left with many things still needing to be said, but we had said many other things. I am more thankful for what was said than I am remorseful for not getting to what we still had left to say.

———-Run Gently Out There———

Native Peoples Interlude

Trails have carried us to abandoned mines, logging camps, and a beaver pond one cold grey January afternoon. They have taken us to the historic Gila Cliff Dwellings and a sunrise on what seemed like the top of the Rockie Mountains just east of Pagosa Springs in Colorado. Somewhere in Maryland we got out of the car to stretch our legs–Kathy noticed a historic marker and a short trail took us to the birthplace of one Harriet Tubman. We learned long ago to pause long enough to see the writing on information posts, placards, signs, and such. Today’s gift was encountered on a run on some trails near Rosario Beach on Fidalgo Island here in Washington.  The story combines legend, history, and myth, Native American spirits, and visions of people gathered ’round a campfire to listen to an old story retold.

In case the words on the left in the first picture are not legible,
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“This is not a “totem pole”. Totem poles were made by Native peoples of the North Pacific Coast such as the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of British Columbia and Alaska. A totem pole is a record of lineage (family history). It uses a relatively standardized vocabulary of animals and people.”
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“Here in the Salish Sea (Puget Sound and Georgia Strait), Coast Salish peoples carved or painted the doorways and large cedar posts of their houses. Carved and painted posts were also sometimes used to mark graves. The designs often tell how the builder of the house became wealthy.”
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“This pole was made by Fidalgo Island artist, Tracy Powell; for the Samish people. It was raised here in 1983 by Samish families to celebrate their survival and honor their traditions.”
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I look at these lines of historical information and am thankful for that day in 2009 when Kathy asked, “What about North Dakota?” I said, “What about North Dakota?” She explained about the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Reservation needing volunteers. We left our beloved Pacific Northwest; paused at Chief Joseph’s grave over in eastern Washington, ran on the trails of the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico with Aldo Leopold’s words in mind.  We even took a picture at one of the bridges of Madison Country before finally arriving in Belcourt, North Dakota for a year full of new people, peoples, stories–myth, history, and legend–Native American crafts and skills, and a constant reminder to always pause to read the story pages along the way.

———-Run gently out there———

Normandy Revisited

norm_blogA June 6th reflection

—–Brown Shoes, Black Shoes—–

There are these two old men that I see wandering here and there, never quite entering my running environment for some reason. I have seen them when I am pedaling to the store, driving to the post office, or from a bus but have never encountered them while on foot. When I first saw them their number was three. Time being what it is, their age being what it appeared to be, a reduction in numbers was not unexpected, but I watched more closely during their next few appearances—yes, three have become two.

Of the two that are left, having no names to put with them, I know one always has on black shoes, brown corduroy pants, green flannel shirt, khaki jacket, and a herringbone hat with a blue ribbon that almost matches blue eyes that are undimmed by the passing years. The other wears brown shoes, khaki pants, and shirt—creased from the years of wear and many years of ironing.

On one bike trip to the store I was close enough to see the word “Normandy” on brown shoes’ baseball cap. I was flying on the downhill—too fast to stop, even though I was becoming aware of an emerging need. That word on his cap, two smiles, and a chuckle as I zoomed on by were all that managed to be recorded in the abstractions of my mental scratchboard that morning.

Yesterday as I turned up the last quarter mile of trail, I could see Kathy talking to, hmm, two old men. As I got close I could hear words, then a laugh, then black shoes pointed at me and said, “Better give the lad some room,” and motioned for them to move over. Kathy laughed, and I stopped. She explained they (brown shoes and black shoes) were picking mushrooms for soup—and they were showing her which ones not to pick. Minutes passed, old fingers, bent from age, pointed at white mushrooms, red mushrooms—tan and black were disapproved—a good “crop” this year, black shoes said; brown shoes agreed and sliced off a piece of a red cap for Kathy.

A part of my mind was playing with faces and numbers—1944 minus 16 (some 18-year-olds had lied about those last two years just to be in uniform) would be 1928, which would make them 82 years or so old. Okay, seemed to fit.

Mutterings continued back and forth. My curiosity killing me, I finally asked brown shoes about the cap. “Were you at Normandy?” “Yes.” “What outfit?” A pause, they looked at each other, then, “The 82nd.” Oh. There was an aura of quiet.  Me and my stupid curiosity and question asking—ratz—then Kathy said, “Sainte Mère Église?” Brown shoes looked at her, then looked at black shoes; both smiled.  He asked, “Have you been there?” Kathy replied, “Yes, 2004.” Black shoes looked at her, then at me. “2004, sixty years gone by. Quieter now, I suppose?” Kathy nodded. “Yes.”

Four generations have come and gone since brown shoes and black shoes were born. Kathy and I have seen two more generations. Just long enough to listen to someone pass on the knowledge of which mushrooms to pick for dinner—and other things along the way.

Wind, waves, and grasses

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Viewed from the bluff the waves don’t look all that menacing. They are rolling with six to eight feet of height above their troughs. There are two triangles that come into play. I am about a hundred yards in from, and about thirty feet above, the edge of the bluff. The edge of the bluff is about two-hundred feet above the water—and my mind goes away trying to guess at how far out my line-of-sight intersection point with the water is. Those nonmenacing looking waves are around a thousand feet away. Their white caps, the endless frothing and roiling would not be any sort of safe haven for a small boat.
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The grass when captured by the camera does not tell of the wind. A glanced at Web site told me today’s wind is steady at about 22 knots, with gusts to 30 knots. There is an option to have the wind speed shown in miles per hour, but I am comfortable with knots. The ship tracking Web sites all use knots to tell me how fast the large floating things will be gone. I sometimes turn down Water Tower trail, running hard to get to Brave Heart and Raider Creek–barely looking for cars as I cross to Kyles Kettle trail and hope to get to waters edge before the ship is visible from Partridge Point. That doesn’t happen very often–distractions come too easily with no goal but to be back in ninety minutes attached to today’s run.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.
I can still see the trees whose job it was to hide the old foundation. They did it well. Grasses and vines were called to assist; the greyness of aged concrete spoke of years gone by; beckoned history—until some well-meaning do-gooders came one weekend with clippers and shears and gas-engined trimmers and left a now bare and exposed naked to the world foundation that barely draws a glance.
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Down and around, the ship long forgotten, greenness surrounds me most every step. I run with no apparent noise. The wind whistles. Trees push and rug against one another; moans and even shrieks are heard. There are no snapping, popping, cracking sounds of branches breaking. The wind is not pushing that hard; is not from the right direction to cause a run to be cut short as a forest danger turns from possible to present.
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Frothiness Factor of 3.7 on a scale of 5.0, not something you will find in any science book, but it seems correct today. When the FF is above 3.0, there is a tendency to pause to watch… bobbing birds, a occasional seal or sea lion, a tug with a barge rounding the point and turning into the wind. No sounds come from all these things. The wind carries away all. The wind is today’s orchestra and choreographer… and I have stood too long, again.
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Rhodies. Rhodendrons, “rhodies”, are blooming all over my forest. The deep hued red of buds a day or two away from opening are just one branch away from the pink and white of fully-opened flowers. Bees, bumble and regular, small fliers of several sizes and many humming variations are magically heard in this pocket of quiet, tucked away from the wind as I turn past the lake. We thought winter was late in leaving. We thought spring was fickle in her arrival. I think the forest is a very busy place as all things assigned to pollination seem to be out and about.
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The yellows, Scotch Broom and gorse, dominate the hillside as an old tree, fallen and slowly changing from wood to dragon tell anyone the shelter of the woods is gone and the wind is still there. Fifteen feet from trail’s end, safely back from wind’s edge and the chickadees play. Two flashes of yellow, or is it yellow-green? It matters. Yellow would mean the gold finches are back. There is a nest here–another pause point, but they don’t return. Vireo? I will return and eat lunch here on Thursday. That will give me time to find them, or for them to accept me for the coming summer.
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There is a way to photograph the moving grasses so movement shows. I do not know how to do that, not with a still camera. The dull yellows and browns of winter grasses are turning to green. Tourists will complain of the trail being overgrown. I enjoy the grasses pulling at my hands as I pass. It is a small sacrifice. The park is mine five days a week and on weekends the visitors rarely venture more than a few hundred yards from the parking lots. For now I am concerned with these two triangles, once more in front of me, and the fact that my “I’ll be back in ninety minutes” seems to be just over two hours.
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———-Run gently out there———-

Recovery

I wish this were a “John’s wisdom will come shining through” sort of thing, but I know it is not. I was never at the elite level. On the other hand, I think that is a major fallacy of many advice articles–very few recreational runners ever perform at the mental and physical levels the top tier competitors do.

The folks that go into an event with the idea that anything less than a top five, maybe top ten for a championship event, finish being a failure are committing so much time and physical and emotional energy to each race, emerge totally spent and their recovery–just as their training–will seem extreme to most.

They push themselves into a “last resources used at the finish line” environment. The lesser runners sometimes do that, but it is more often because of going to the starting line somewhat poorly prepared (the just finish, just beat the cut-offs, don’t care about time realm). One group prepares themselves with total immersion in the needs of the day; the other embraces survival shuffles; often thinking a survived death march is a badge of grand performance.

In between… in between, uh, rest the masses? Some of us set goals that demand a lot of effort–keep in mind the psychological side of effort can be just as draining as the physical. It might be an effort level that will deplete the resources to get out the door for a while. I think the psychological aspect is just as important as the physical training, but it gets ignored; lost in the selection of gels, powder, pills, clothing gimmicks, and which sound list to use.

Sorry–this is something to be discussed while running side-by-side during three or four hours on the trails. Running has so many parts. When you get to that upper tier, some “least little things” can wreak havoc not to be recovered from that day and whose after effects will be felt for weeks.

Concrete examples in this nonelite household. We believe in active recovery. We run the day after–the day after long runs, as well as the day after races, i.e., if a long run or race was on Saturday, Sunday was a short run–just long enough to loosen everything up, get warmed all over, see how everything feels–nothing strenuous. Monday would be the rest day.

We ran Strolling Jim (40ish miles) on one Saturday and ran Coast Hills 50 (50 miles of trails) the following Saturday. We were not racing, just running at a reasonable pace. We wanted to see what consecututive long-run weekends would feel like. We thought of those two runs as a major psychological training lesson.

I came off a subseven-hour 50-mile time (6:31ish) with a 100k on a three-week horizon. We paused at a campground on the way home to get in the “just a few easy miles” run the next day. The next day was a rest day. The rest of the week was just easy stuff, tenish miles on Thursday and Saturday was a couple of hours. The second week–the middle week of the three–had three days with a lot of “playing” built in. I ran on routes with forest beauty and waterfalls, creeks and a meadow or two. The running might include “sprinting” to the next tree or switchback—anything to get the mind back into the enjoyment of small-goal segments.

The third week was back to nothing more than 45 minutes and nothing of hard effort. I knew the endurance was there. I sort of thought the mind was back. I knew I was not injured. Off we went to the 100k (I won :) ).

That is sort of what we did. I used a five-day run week. Kathy tended to run seven days a week. We were not elites, but we did win a few. There were quite a few consecutive weekends of marathons, marathon/ultra, or ultra/ultra, but most of them were just running. We never did get to the top of the ladder where there was nothing left to give.john_on_horse002

I have been accused of heresy for not running all out. My running, even the racing, was done with being able to enjoy the day, and the day after.

Sorry for the rambling, but it isn’t a well-defined thing for me.

———-run gently out there———-

Fragile and vanishing…

The caretakers, never in the majority, are losing ground to the users.Ant hill?If the users and caretakers are the same, as in an ant colony, Garrett Hardin’s musings will not come into play.

If you are small, but hardy, not given to large numbers and unable to run and hide, you might still be able to survive the innocents as they pass here, trample there, by making your home on the steep bluffs of an island–just out of reach, maybe.
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The signs saying “Property of The Nature Conservancy”, while looming visibly on the fence a mile or so away, provide little protection when officialdom is rarely visible. The spines, protective against wildlife, are but a small hindrance to malicious fingers.HPIM4553And, besides, I just wanted one leaf; just one little spiny ear–not enough to be noticed, nor missed–except by the brittle prickly-pear cactus affected. That might be what was said. Mightn’t it?

If, on the other hand, the numbers are scarce, cactusas in the case of this brittle prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia fragilis), Hardin’s worst nightmare–in its purest form–rules this commons. This plant will vanish. This will, quite likely, be its last spring. The innocents, though seldom far from a parking lot, will need justification for wandering this far. A conquest, even if only of a small plant, is needed with no concern for damage and a rush to extinction....
I have watched it for seven, maybe eight, years. The “Dead Tree”, a name we gave with no one’s official sanction, served as protective cover. The small cactus hiding on the away from the trail side; in false safety. That first summer, the small cactus was just a beautiful surprise found while running on one of the bluff trails of Whidbey Island. Its ten, maybe even a dozen pads (cladoles?) in varying shades of green and red; the celebratory year of yellow flowers was worth a second trip just so I could share what was seen on a solo run. They seemed safe on the downhill side of that long fallen windward-edge giant. As the dead tree has suffered decay and the visitors to the commons yielded to some perverse need to break a branch here; pull a loose piece of long dead trunk and toss it down bluff’s side over there, the small plant’s presence discovered, and its death begun.

The sunrise that went on and on and on...

An Orderly Series of Errors

There is an… No. There should be an order to the occurrence of errors. Mistakes should be arranged in a certain magnitude as the day develops, as the miles pass ever more slowly. The suddenness of the change from running to walking tells of the ignorance in which I sought shelter. There was no one to tell me running sevens (mile pace) for fifty miles was not to be done this early in the day.

The web of deceit awaits...
The web of deceit awaits…
I was eating well. Someone even took a picture of me dallying at an aid station and put it in UltraRunning. There I was, preserved for eternity, trying to gain weight as I ran my first 50-mile ultramarathon. The eating was not a problem that day. A lack of respect, based on the bliss of ignorance–there is that word again–let me leave the 40-mile aid station still running just over seven minutes to the mile. The debt collector, never a humorous sort, came calling about a mile later. He arrived with such suddenness that I actually fell off into the roadside bushes. I am never a pretty sight, sometimes I frighten small children or puppies–what could I look like with these spasmodic limbs and uncooperative joints as I tried to regain verticality? I crawled to a nearby highway sign and slowly returned to upright.

I started walking. In just a few steps normalcy returned. Aha! It was just a random cramp; just a minor inconvenience.

I have never had pineapple upside down cake at an ultra, but...
I have never had pineapple upside down cake at an ultra, but…
It wasn’t. The seven-minute miles became ten-minute miles with no pause at the in-between numbers. The brief flirtation with tens was short as 15-minute miles now seemed to be all-out running and that was the way things would finish.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.

“Do you want to change shoes?” I looked around at the three other runners. They all had a pair or shoes in hand to change to after the river crossing.
“Yes.” Kathy brought a pair of shoes. The wrong shoes. Everyone has some wrong shoes.If you look at a problem from a different viewpoint...If you look at a problem from a different viewpoint…

I absolutely cannot remember where I was going with this.  I know I sometimes repeat mistakes–argue which way we went at a certain fork again; causing some unneeded bushwhacking or two hours extra running when we finally turned around.  It helps that I usually run alone.  I live with the groans and the chorus of “why and why and why” from the demons, and run on.It wasn't that they weren't on the right feet.
It wasn’t that they weren’t on the right feet.

I have never run with my shoes on the wrong feet.  I did run a 10k on trails with one Saucony and one Brooks.  I don’t remember which was the left one and which was the right one.  I won age group; kept a straight face when asked if I always mixed brands.  I ran a couple of hours with no insoles one day because I forgot them.  That one has an easy solution, relace–tighter.  Don’t run long downhills in loose shoes.I think staying home would have been a better idea
I think staying home would have been a better idea

We left the house one day with snow coming down, wind picking up and we were happy with the thought the trails will be all ours today.  We ran a bit, paused to ooh and ahh and revel in the God’s own beauty.  Kathy was the first to notice the wind was moving the tree tops a bit more.  The gentle swaying was turning to dancing, some jerky and snow that had been clinging to the firs and cedars was blowing loose–clumps falling here and there.

It wasn’t long in coming.   Ceraawaack!  Shoulders are scrunched.  Neck is drawn in and both arms go over your head as you try to believe you can tell which direction the sound was—then silence.  “Let’s get down away from the ridge.”  “Okay.”  We dropped down, still hearing limbs breaking, wishing we were on a steep downhill trail and not the contour following one we were on.  The good fortune of knowing that forest meant we could turn down a game trail we normally did not run.  We just wanted down, away from the wind.  We went back the next day.  This time the oohing and ahhing was from looking at the trees and were strewn like pick-up sticks.The decision will be made by someone else.
The decision will be made by someone else.

I am cold.  You have been cold before.  It’s getting colder.  Run faster.  Where is the car?  I parked it down there and ran back up here.  I think I’ll stop when I get to the car.  I’m not going back to the car for a while (she said while running off up the trail).  I don’t have a key.  I know that, keep running.  You’ll warm up.

———-Run gently out there———-

Differing Days

There are days when I simply do not want to have to look down at my feet every step or two.   A deserted road with a center line whose end I cannot see might call. _evening 015
The mountains just across the water, the tendrils of smoke from a mill, or, perhaps it will just be the graceful flight of a Northern harrier searching the prairie for a snack–any number of gentle tugs will let my feet disengage from my conscious and time and distance will go away.
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Bends and curves will be rounded with no thought about–hmm, I suppose that is it.  I sometimes want a run with no thought to be called forth.  Some conscious awareness is needed for seeing geese, eagles, or bicyclists, and  hopes of not quite imagined things are always there.004
Hills, up or down, are just differing strides, shifts of effort.  A watch is just so I know when to turn back.  It has no duty today, no splits or paces to tattle or nag about. It the route is a familiar one, the watch is left on the top of the refrigerator to sulk. jul_17_18 017
Somewhere east of Tonopah was a road whose end we could not see.  We could see mountains that could not be reached if we ran all the rest of our days.  They set just above the ground, shimmering in the heat.  They might be real a hundred or a million  miles away or not at all.  We would flip a coin and the winner would get to run toward something not there, maybe.
Trails ask for more attention, more than just passing awareness, and fewer glances–if any–off into the distance.rain 025Wandering eyes, a meandering mind, and a switchback that has no concern for the state of my mind accounts for scratches from briars, rashes from poisonoak, and the occasional short flight through the air with little grace, ending with the “whoooompf” of the last bit of air leaving my lungs.
auntit_pat_ 053The far side of a valley is not a thing to contemplate as you descend a trail in open country. Rocks await the moment of errant eyes. On a good day it is just a short slide on a grassy hillside. On a more typical day it will be scrapes and bruises and maybe the bonus of cactus needles as a reward.
...On an almost weekly basis I pass under this “leaner”, sometimes pausing to look for signs of recent movement. When it finally falls I will return with saw and clear the trail. I have paused on the uphill side, letting my eyes and mind pretend I see what I will do should it decide to fall as I am coming helter-skelter down Boundary Trail. Our truce has been honored for seven years, but so has its muteness.
bluff_trail_dead_treeThere are trails that seem to live in a world needing neither strict attention nor allowing day dreams. They often add time to runs, but no distance.
—–Run Gently Out There—–