Start — it seemed so simple that morning. Terrifyingly simple, pull on shoes, pull on backpack, listen to the soft click-click-click of the “sticks” as we walked out of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and up into the Pyrenees. Psychological shards and artificial joints were put in mind’s recess for a while–sunrise awaited.
Each day started with no known goal. We had those many marathons and ultras and miles and miles of running, but here we were, bathed in our ignorance of walking. Voices around us talked of “needing” a minimum of 30 kilometers a day. How would we reach those goals with all there was to see? Vineyards and sheep; horses and mown fields; villages and solitary houses — all were to be seen and noted, not glanced at and vanquished. Mornings were for bread, cheese, and a nectarine or an orange, but never for a hurried passing through.
The arrows, flechas amarillas, the yellow arrows of the camino — the marks of blind faith and trust. They were on rocks in the dirt roadbed; on old chestnut trees; on buildings in the cities; on and on and on — until the last one was reached.
We passed these strange stone structures. In the U.S. they might be called “corn cribs”, here they are “horreos” — quite large, 30-40 feet (10-12 meters) long, slots in the sides for air flow to dry the corn. There were no days without learning; no days without seeing how life is without mass production all around you.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Spain — our 42nd day of walking. A day of great confusion, sorrow, tears, happiness, befuddlement, prayer, hugs, laughter…
The great doors were open. In a few minutes or an hour, we will never know how long, we went in. Our appearance — not dirty, not disheveled, but trail-worn and perhaps a bit wrinkled at the brow — gave us ushered passage up through the lines. “They started in St. Jean…”, we could hear the whispers; “800 kilometers ago…” we heard someone say. We were passed forward to where St. James would welcome us.
Two days of rest and we left to walk on to the coast. We don’t know when we decided to walk on to Fisterra (“Finisterra”–Latin for Lands End, Galicia, Spain). Someone said we should so we could see the end of the world. It was only another few days of walking, four or five days — we won’t be back this way; will we? No. Four days? Yes. Okay, in the morning.
A fitting almost end– a lawn and the hints of Fall. We had walked out of summer and into fall. We needed our long sleeved shirts in the mornings, but shed them in the midday’s sun. We paused in Corcubion — fixing one last meal. France, South Africa, Belgium, Australia, and the U.S. at one table; one last international table where each dish had felt several hands during preparation; one last “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” All would be asleep in the morning as we departed for the last day of walking.
The waymarker at Land’s End — 49 days, 600 and some odd miles — meaningless numbers as we tried to understand what we had done. Physically we could understand it. That was not the question.
In St. Jean-Pied-de-Port I heard the clerk’s question, “Spiritual or religious?” “Uh… spiritual, I suppose. Yes. Spiritual.” He checked the appropriate box with such a simple stroke of his pen. Now we were here on this bluff high above the Atlantic Ocean and could not get up to walk back to town. What had we done? Spiritual? Some days, some minutes, some places, certainly. Religious — same thing.
After a while we decided the answer was not immediately forthcoming and that was probably the best we would to that afternoon. We walked back past the yellow marker that pointed nowhere; paused to touch it — just in case — and walked back to town.
Sunday, as we listened to the bells of St. Mary’s, Kathy and I recalled the many times we heard the bells of churches, both big and small, and the cathedrals’ bells too, as we walked el camino de Santiago.
Voices from the towers
Those first few nights
they shouted and woke me
with their terrible din.
Days and miles passed.
Sometimes I would sleep
and not hear them.
Sometimes they would
gently wake me
all through the night.
They are gone now,
those bells on the hours
No more of Santiago’s big voice.
I hear it only faintly
–in the distance
There are two reasons I keep a cast iron skillet; for cooking corn bread or pineapple upside-down cake. Both can be cooked in pans, round, square, or rectangular, and a good product will result, but something will be missing from the taste (I have Arkansas roots).
1 9-inch diameter cast iron skillet
¼ cup butter (margarine might work)
1 cup brown sugar — don’t skimp
1 can (15¼ ounce or whatever it is these days) sliced pineapple — undrained
½ cup plain sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour (all-purpose flour would work)
1 teaspoon baking powder
7 maraschino cherries (one per slice of pineapple)
3 eggs, separated — let them set on the counter to get to room temperature
One picture of sunrise [optional] …
Preheat oven to 350ºF Melt (do not fry) the butter in the 9-inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly into the skillet. Arrange enough pineapple slices (dry just a little) to cover the bottom of the pan. Put one maraschino cherry in each pineapple slice. Set to one side. Beat egg yolks (medium speed) until thick and sort of lemon-yellow colored. Slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat well. Thoroughly mix the flour and baking powder (hint: do this before you start beating the egg yolks). Add the dry mix to the egg yolks–stir in the pineapple juice as you continue to mix (low speed). Beat the egg whites until stiff (has little waves and peaks). Fold the egg whites into the batter. Spoon batter evenly over pineapple slices.
Bake at 350ºF for 45ish minutes. I start doing the tooth-pick thing at 40 minutes. Remove cake from oven. Options:
(a) Cool cake in skillet for 30 minutes; turn over onto serving plate–remove skillet.
(b) Immediately turn cake onto serving plate; leave skillet in place to let any drippings drip, then remove skillet.
Great Olympic Adventure Trail Marathon, September 6, 2014 [ Goat Run on Facebook www.greatoatrun.org ] The finish area…
I agreed easily. I love “camera runs”–pauses for this and that and my mind barely on running. That would not work today. I would need to not pause, not search for old trees, mosses, ferns, and lichens; not look for eagles when I could hear chittering; not pause… today I need to run; in whatever shape running may present itself.
The years and miles have passed with my having retained just enough conscious awareness of their lessons that I am aware of certain lackings. I have some endurance, but it won’t be enough. I have some strength, but not as much as today’s climbs will demand. I have almost no speed–the three days of work each week have eaten into training time and speed is the least forgiving and most conducive to injury, so it was ignored. The word “racing” was banished from even the most creative of fantasies. No racing.
I should probably do this in some sort of chronological order.
In early May (2014) I saw an announcement for the Great Olympic Adventure Trail Marathon (GOAT Run) on September sixth. My first official paid-a-fee trail run was on the northerly end of the Olympic peninsula a not-so-short 29 years ago. Heart strings were tugged, memories rekindled, rational thoughts pushed aside, and another entry blank was sent in (okay, it was a Web registration–I miss getting to mail entry blanks).
Without using my fingers I can count June, July, August, and September as an almost four-month training period. By ignoring the idea that my three-day a week job is more physical this year than usual and just plain lying to myself about my current level of fitness, another not quite grand adventure is started. Kathy’s comment about poor arithmetic because the two-week taper means … never mind. The Goat Run is on.
The training, such as it was, sort of went well. There were “long” runs of 3-hours, 3½-hours, a 3:58 that was a good push, and a 4-hour, but nothing to drive away the nagging little fears that the old days of 30-35 mile longer runs two of every three weekends banished. Some days of good running only lead to introspection that enhanced the doubts. In the last few miles of the four-hour run I was on three miles of pavement to the house. I knew where the one-mile and the two-mile marks were—should I do just a tiny little test? Okay, not a push, but a hold steady, no kicking, just keep… 9:02, 9:11… Hmmm, elation is quickly followed by the voices that scream, “Sure, that’s good for two miles, but you can’t do that for several hours.” I agreed and shuffled on home.
The finale, the victory for those screams of doubt from the inner demons came on the Wednesday ten days before the marathon. I was inside the two-week taper and full of all the doubt, fear, dread, trepidation, and misgivings I could muster. I could blame it on Kathy being gone to her writing group meeting. She would have stopped me. I filled the CamelBak, stuffed a handful of Endurolytes in a pocket with the Milky Way bar, and headed for the forest — blah blah blah yak yak yak — a little over five hours later I was home. As I unlaced my shoes a voice from the kitchen put things in perspective.
What time did you leave?
John… five and a half hours… ten days out.
I know, but…
Naught that can be done now. (I just did that so I could use “naught”.)
The ferry crossing and the drive to Port Angeles were done. We met Josh and Iris Sutcliffe — e-people that became real people that became friends — a good meal, better conversation, and all too soon it was time to go.
A starting line where I knew no one–an oddity of old times, typical of today. At other times I could turn and look at where we would go. Today I did not know which way to look. Time to go. Even in the first mile there was no plan yet to be viewed. I made sure to be at the rear. The worst thing I could do was get caught up in other peoples’ pace and day. I needed to stay “inside” and wait. A strange annoyance, something never heard before, offered to accompany me. I had dumped a lot of ice in the CamelBak, fearing the forecast heat, before adding the magic powders (another untried something or other). The ice “rattled” when I ran. Bleah. I am hyperconscious of intruding in other people’s running. I slowed down so the noise would not intrude. I passed through the first aid station, slowing only enough to say “Thank you” to the volunteers.
The numbers game came calling as a sign saying “3 Miles” was seen and passed. I should not have worn a watch, but I was worried with cut-off times and, although I did not know what I would be able to do if something needed to be done, not only wore it, but had hit “Run” when we started. I glance down at the numbers: 33:23 — uh… I am running elevens? Uh oh. That is way too fast. The first half of the course has the most climbing. We are in sort of long rollies, but I can tell we are climbing. I also know I am not walking some of the things I should be walking. Ratz. I am running with “them” instead of with me. I am on the tail end of a train of six people. What to do? Let the demons come to the surface and have their say? This early?
Okay, as another eleven-minute mile passes I give up on the marathon and (only a couple of small voices of protest) decide to run for a decent half marathon time. A few climbs, a few almost flats, lots of little switchback things, and the train that slowly separates from me take me through the first half of the course. I passed the 13-mile post at 2:44:07 and pretend to hold that effort for a bit farther. At 2:45 on a conveniently placed climb I give thought to the rest of the day. I am very happy with the half marathon time, but I am in the midst of a beautiful forest instead of a finish line. What to do?
The doldrums in my mind screamed for attention between the 13 and the 16. There were three climbs, each about four miles long during this stretch. I was having a few problems, but could not isolate them. I decided my right hamstring, left sartorius, twinges in both shoulders, and a hangnail on my right thumb would probably bring me to a halt. I wondered if the sweep would have a means of getting me to a convenient dumping spot. The loud scolding from a Stellar Jay shook me awake. If I am still moving enough for a bird to notice, maybe … would I be on Plan B or C… anyone… H? Really? Okay. If I can get the shuffle going and roll on into the aid station at the sixteen… they’ll have a truck I can ride in to the finish line? No. No no no. If you can get to the sixteen, you are inside double digits. Oh. Okay.
The sixteen-mile aid station and a life-saver appears (not the goats). The kindest of the kind, a young woman I have never seen before is slicing oranges just for me. How did she know? I ate several, added a couple of pretzels, smiled at the goats (not longingly), noticed the spasms were quieted… hmmm. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. Off across the clear cut I went. The only ugly part of the course. Clear cuts are saddening for me. I love trees. I touch some of them as I pass. These stumps, all that is left of a life that had begun six- or seven-hundred years ago, distracted me from my misery and that helped. My mind returned to what was left to do. I am inside a double-handful of miles. I left the clear cut as the trail took me inside a stretch of old growth forest. Huge cedars and ferns, coolness and moistness could be felt. Some of my shuffling was almost running. I patted the CamelBak, wanting to know if I could drink more. Could I drink enough to decrease the deficit, maybe get a bit of energy back… a mile post…18. I am only two miles from the 20-mile station. A brief recollection of the profile flashes in my mind’s eye. All the major (as in “steep”) climbs are behind me. No? No no no… are you sure… no, between the 15 and 22ish I am never sure of anything.
Oh boy! Another orange slicer. Yay for strangers with sharp knives and a box of oranges. I drink a few cups of pink stuff, eat a few slices of oranges, and ask if they have enough I could fill the bladder. Yes, take all you need. There are only a few behind you.
What! There is someone behind me (other than the sweep)? I have been expecting the grim reaper to round a curve and catch me for several miles. There are “others” back there? I put the lid back on the bladder, bid farewell and headed down the trail. The last not-really-a-major-climb finally ended. The trail changed to an old logging road going downhill. A downhill whose help I could not accept. I could not run fast enough to appreciate the descent and having to hold back made the long ago mentioned right hamstring protest more than I could bear (I take wimpy to a new level every year). Since there were no cameras in sight I started sort of weaving from one side to the other, trying to avoid using the hamstrings for brakes, getting on down the hillside to… another road. This time it is a real road, gravel, but wide and… Aha! I am on the road that is alongside the creek that empties into Lake Crescent. I am inside four miles to go. I am … there is a truck coming up behind me. Glancing back, I decide I should step off or eat dust. Truck stops, guy with a badge asks, “What are you doing?” “Getting out of the way so you can go by.” He looks at me (remember I have on running shorts, running shoes, snazzy running cap, CamelBak, lots of salt stains) and says, “Is there a race going on?” Hmmm, well, there was until you destroyed my concentration and the whole thing is falling apart while you think you are doing some sort of harmless talking. “Yes.” “Okay, well, I better go. Have a good run.” “Thank you.”
The whole regrouping, restarting… ratz and phooey and… okay, you can walk, right? Right! Walk hard. When you crest the hill, switch to shuffle to jog to run, right? Right! A milepost–24–is 6:30 still within reach? I think so. The last aid station came in view. I had been listening to the water from a good-sized creek down there in the trees. I asked the aid station folks when the road would quite climbing. He muttered something about it flattens out a little, not completely. Oh. I left, tried to run, felt the twinges, switched to walking. A last bit of consciousness allowed me to understand I was walking uphill at under fifteens. Stretches of shade and a breath of cool air from the creek were godsends as I concentrated and walked as hard as I could. The idea that the creek originates in Lake Crescent and I was to climb all the way hit me about the same time I saw the pavement. A woman with a nice smile and cheerful face pointed to the left. I looked at another uphill section. I looked at her, asking does it ever go downhill? “A little, but you only have six tenths of a mile to go.” What!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I looked at my watch: 5:58 and six tenths to go. Really? I was standing there. I looked at her, “Really?” Out loud this time. She smiled, “Yes,” and sort of waved her hands, shooing me away toward the orange cones along the side of the road.
Smaller goals — cone to cone — run the downs and the flats, walk to the uphill ones… whoa, run two cones? Sure, piece of cake. There’s a guy in a folding chair, hmmm. “Are you going to point me downhill?” Smiles and points downhill. And then the whole thing goes away. The spasms stop. The endurance was almost enough. The strength was for walking and it was enough. There was no speed, but it didn’t matter. It is downhill to the finish line and there is someone there to hold me up again.
DODAR, nounish, “Delayed Onset to Dumb-Arsed Running”
With the onset of the sixth week of turning back to the car, bike, or house
because of the pain as I tried to run, the idea of having a doctor look at
my leg crossed my mind. The visit went okay, more or less–more because he
said there was nothing major wrong with my Achilles tendon–less because he
told me I shouldn’t do “that” again. The “that” had brought a smile to his
face. I think there was a bit of empathy too, maybe a smidgen of sympathy.
He had been listening, nodding in support, then smiled and almost chuckled
when I described what I done to create the “that.”
It was in late July, a wonderfully warm and almost windless day. We did
not want to wander here and there on our well-shaded trails. We wanted out
in the sun. We decided to go to Padilla Bay. There is a 2-1/8th of a mile
gravel-surfaced walking path alongside the huge tidal basin. An almost
flat ribbon with no roots or rocks to trip over, plenty of room for passing
or meeting other people, and, something to be damned and double-damned
later on, markers every 1/18th of a mile.
We don’t get many days with temperatures above 62ºF on the island. I
parked and we got out. The warm air (about 70ºF) plus the clear and
windless sky brought forth the illusive memory of muscles being warm and
flexible. I said I was going to alternate running and walking the eighths
of a miles to the other end. Forgetting, or neglecting, the idea that I
tend to always go out in a blaze of glory (followed by an early and
dramatic death) I started… wait! What’s this? I have my genuine
runner’s watch on; some rarely worn for trail outings. I was only a few
yards down the path. I stopped and returned to the “0” sign. I switched
the watch to stopwatch mode, clicked “Start” and blazed off in search of
the next eighth of a mile post. I arrived there just a few seconds before
switching from aerobic to anaerobic, the last remaining conscious thought
was to hit the “Split” button… and observe as the first recovery leg
What’s this? 59? Hmmm, add one and 59 becomes 60–a minute. I just did
220 yards (sounds a lot longer than an eighth of a mile) at 8-minute pace.
Wow? It is only about once a month that I do the one-mile long Partridge
Point Road with a watch on–just as a check to see what it is that I call
running these days. I am tickled pink to still see 9:00 – 9:15 without
turning red or appearing in need of the EMT folks. Hmmm, an 8-minute pace
and the first recovery leg is done and–hit the button and off I go.
61? Really? So, there is some spring left in the two limbs I have
mistreated the most. There are two Great Blue herons near the path. They
move through the water with no ripples, watching for their next meal,
graceful and silent–neither pays me any notice. The next post is near and
I click the button again. I am in totally awe of my ability to sit in a
two-second window of variation by the end of the 2 1/8th miles. The splits
were 59, 61, 60, 61, 59, 59, 60, 60, 59. An ego being easily inflated I
was immediately and overwhelmingly impressed. Said ego also allowing me to
ignore the slight twinge coming from the lower half of my left leg.
I watched another Great Blue Heron and a few other water birds, a
Kingfisher chittering as it dove, and waited for Kathy to arrive. I told
her my splits and said I was going to quarter miles on the way back. It was
just too nice a day to waste on easy running. She mentioned something
about that being way too fast for me–not having done anything remotely
resembling speed work in a long time. I (recall the “ignoring..” just
mentioned) said I was okay, hit the “Start” button and took flight.
The first quarter mile was great: 2:01 — recovery jog seemed a bit short
when the next post suddenly appeared, but I hit “Split” and took off: 2:00
— with a slightly enlarged and cottony tongue I recovered again — 1:58
and I am suddenly thinking maybe I should not do the next one. There is a
twinge down there in the lower part of the left leg…ahh, just one more
and the set of four is done and off I go. The ice pick was inserted just
as I passed the post. It was not left in. It barely caused me to break
stride. I slowed slowly and looked at my watch: 2:00 — the thought of
still being master of the steady pace on a flat course was interrupted by
the ice pick being jabbed in my left calf again.
I did the jog/shuffle thing back to Kathy. She asked how it went. I
immediately said: 2:01, 2:00, 1:58, 2:00 and started to say, but she
pointed at my legs and said how are they–you are limping. I said I think
I just did something dumb. Should have stopped with the outbound series?
Yes. How bad? Strained a little, not bad. We walked/jogged/shuffled back
to the car. When we got home it was, uh… difficult to get out of the
car? The ice pick was now embedded in the leg and abandoned. A small
voice said, “That was some really dumb-assed running you just did.
The long bulge of swelling on the lower Achilles tendon was tender the next
day. Almost forgotten methods of taping were recalled so I could walk
without pain, almost. I did some stretching, icing, heating, lit a few
incense candles, even mentioned it in the Rosary… all for naught. I
explained all this to the orthoped of the month selection. He was kind
enough to not laugh, but only chuckle when I replied to his question, “What
do you think is wrong?”
“Delayed Onset to Dumb-Arsed Running,” was my reply, “DODAR.”
First, the ego massaging — my book: Run Gently Out There
New listings (will be here for a weekish, then merge into the general list):
[--Last updates: 22 July 2014]
Running Books: A Clydesdale’s Tale: or How a Big Guy Trained For and Ran the Vermont 100 — Steven “Steve” LaTour A Few Degrees from Hell: White Hot Tales from the Badwater Ultramarathon — Scott Ludwig A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning — Don Allison, ed. A Walk Across America — Peter Jenkins Adventure Running — Jerry Schad Again to Carthage — John L. Parker Jr. And Then the Vulture Eats You: True Tales About Ultramarathons and Those Who Run Them — John L. Parker Jr. Born to Run — Christopher McDougall Bunion Derby: The 1928 Footrace Across America — Charles B. Kastner C.C.Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America — Geoff Williams Chariots of Fire — W.J.Weatherby Cross Country Running — Marc Bloom Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness — Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman Everything Will Work Out in the Long Run — Dave Urwin Fartleks and Flatulence — David Berridge Fat Man to Green Man — Ira Rainey Feet in the Clouds : A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession — Richard AskwithC Finding Ultra — Rich Roll Fixing Your Feet — John Vonhof Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning — Hal Koerner with Adam Chase Happy Feet! Foot Care Advice for Walkers and Travelers — John Vonhof Galloway’s Book on Running — Jeff Galloway Getting to the Point. In a dozen pairs of shoes — Brian R. Stark The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn’t Stop — Bill Jones Gil Dodds: The Flying Parson — Mel Larson Hills, Hawgs & Ho Chi Minh: More Tales of a Wayward Runner — Don Kardong Indian Running: Native American History and Tradition — Peter Nabokov International Ultra Training — Andy Milroy It’s a Hill, Get Over It: Fell Running’s History and Characters — Steve Chilton John McDonnell: The Most Successful Coach in NCAA History — Andrew Maloney and John McDonnell Joss Naylor, MBE, Was Here — Joss Naylor, M.B.E. King of the Peds — P.S.Marshall Lore of Running — Tim Noakes, MD Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: Advice, Plans, and Programs for Half and Full Marathons — Hal Higdon Meditations From the Breakdown Lane: Running Across America — James E. Shapiro Miles to Go: A Lifetime of Running and Bicycling Adventures — David Lygre My Life On the Run — Bart Yasso Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel — Jason Robillard North American Ultrarunning: A history — Andy Milroy Oh, The Places You’ll Go — Dr. Seuss [highly recommended by James Adams] Once a Runner: A Novel — John L Parker Jr. Relentless Forward Progress — Bryon Powell Run or Die — Kilian Jornet Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream — Meb Keflezighi, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Dick Patrick Running Across Countries — Russell Secker Running After Antelope — Scott Carrier Running and Being: The Total Experience — George Sheehan Running and Stuff — James Adams Running on Empty — Marshall Ulrich Running the Highway to Hell: The 28th Sultan Marathon des Sables — Graeme Harvey Running the Himalayas — Richard Crane & Adrian Crane Running Through The Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon — Neal Jamison Running Through the Ages — Edward S. Sears Running Your Best Race: Programs for Improving Speed and Distance — Joe Henderson Running Wild : An Extraordinary Adventure of the Human Spirit — John Annerino Running with the Buffaloes — Chris Lear Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind — Sakyong Mipham Ultra Running with Scott Jurek — Jim Whiting Running Without Fear — Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper Serious Runner’s Handbook – Tom Osler Shake Jogle & Roll: John O’Groats to Land’s End — Peter Rogers & John E. Turner Tales From Out There: The Barkley Marathons, The World’s Toughest Trail Race — Frozen Ed Furtaw The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing — Philip Maffetone The Competitive Edge : Mental Preparation for Distance Running — Richard Elliott The Competitive Runner’s Handbook — Bob Glover & Pete Schuder The Complete Book of Running — James E. Fixx The Death Valley 300 : Near-Death And Resurrection On The Toughest Endurance Course, Richard Benyo the elements of effort: Reflections on the Art and Science of Running — John Jerome The Last Pick: The Boston Marathon Race Director’s Road to Success — David J. McGillivray The Long Run — Matt Long The Longest Race: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance — Ed Ayres The Lost Art of Walking – Geoff Nicholson The Lure of Long Distances: Why We Run — Robin Harvie The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei — John Stevens The Part-Time Runner – Reg Harris The Perfect Mile — Neal Bascomb The Runner’s Complete Medical Guide – Mangi, Jokl, Dayton The Runners’ Repair Manual: A Complete Program for Diagnosing and Treating Your Foot, Leg, and Back Problems — Dr. Murray F. Weisenfeld with Barbara Burr The Running Foot Doctor– Steven I. Subotnick, D.P.M., M.S. The Self-Coached Runner — Allan Lawrence & Mark Scheid The Virgin and The Veteran — Cathy Henn and Kyle Henn Thirty Phone Booths to Boston — Don Kardong to the EDGE: A man, Death Valley, and the mystery of endurance — Kirk Johnson Training for Ultras – Andy Milroy Training for Ultra Running — Andy Milroy Ultramarathon — James E. Shapiro Ultramarathon Man — Dean Karnazes Ultramarathon Training — Wolfgang Olbrich Ultramarathoning: The Next Challenge — Tom Osler and Ed Dodd Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports — Timothy Noakes, MD What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — Haruki Murakami Why We Run-A Natural History — Bernd Heinrich Zen and the Art of Running: The Path to Making Peace with Your Pace — Larry Shapiro 12 Ultras in 12 Months: Or, My God, I am so very tired. — Stevev “Steve” LaTour 26.2 Marathon Stories — Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson 42 Peaks: The story of the Bob Graham Round — Roger Smith (1982), Paddy Buckley (2005)
Miscellaneous — adventure/endurance/nonrunning Annapurna — Maurice Herzog
Walking to the Mountain — Wendy Teasdill The Last Season (P.S.) — Eric Blehm
Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival — Joe Simpson
The Last Wild Edge: One Woman’s Journey from the Arctic Circle to the Olympic Rain Forest — Susan Zsinger
As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me — Josef M. Bauer
The Long Walk — Slavomir Rawicz The Long Walk — Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
The Curve of Time — M. Wylie Blanchet Seabiscuit: An American Legend –Laura Hillenbrand Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption — Laura Hillenbrand
The Boys in the Boat : Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics — Daniel James Brown
The Golden Spruce : A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed — John Vaillant
The Things They Carried — Tim O’Brien
Winterdance : The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod — Gary Paulsen
The Last Empty Places : A Past and Present Journey Through the Blank Spots on the American Map — Peter Stark
A very diverse trio…
And more to come — updates, corrections, or favorites are sincerely requested.
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 my run was ending and 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. “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.
Partridge Point, Fort Ebey State Park, Washington, USA — A pause at one of the memorial benches.
Visitors are often surprised at the number of surfers here–none today. This is about six miles into an eleven-mile loop.
The Pacific Ocean is straight out in front of you–about a hundred miles westerly. The water you see is either the Salish Sea, Admiralty Inlet, or the Straight of Juan de Fuca—just depends on your chart, map, or conversation partner.
If you could see the island, it would be Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, maybe. You can also see the southerly end of San Juan Island. Notice how all the whales stay submerged while pictures are taken.
Nootka roses, Douglas fir, Sitka Spruce, salal, gulls, hummingbirds, eagles, owls, hmmm… no owls today.
I suppose there is a reason one thought, or story, or memory comes to the surface of our senses at some point in a day’s run. A loose correlation of time, weather, effort, wind direction, shifting tides, and the number of chestnut-backed chickadees in the area may shift our thoughts from one story to another. The algorithm for determining what is going to come calling takes up too much space on the scratchpad of my mind and so, today, as with other days, the result is all that matters.
This morning found me listening to the crunch, crunch, crunch of frost breaking as I brushed the frozen grasses along the trail. I was running towards the upper bluffs–air just cold enough to wake the senses–fog wisps of breath trailing briefly. I glanced at the cloudless, barely blue sky. Today’s sky is paler than yesterday’s. Each day brings us closer to winter.
My passage interrupts chirpy voices and small winged-shapes flitting here and there in the firs alongside the trail. A passing group of chestnut-backed chickadees looking like Christmas ornaments as they hang upside down looking for food on the underside of branches is the source of the distraction. The summer just past had brought the fun of watching the newest chickadees learning to land upside down on the branch undersides. That is their food niche. Now they are showing me how well they have learned.
I look at the madrone trees, reddish-brown bark glistening, their newly formed berries bringing the bright red of ripeness that attract cedar waxwings as they pass through heading south. Each morning winter is about fifteen miles closer on its southerly journey. Each morning there is a different audience of birds as I run. It seems like the snow on the shoulders of the Olympic Mountains is a bit wider, the peaks of the Cascades a little more rounded with another day of snow.
Soon the only dry ground will be under the drooping branches of the cedars. Cedars? Olympics? What? The old women. Oh. Here comes today’s memory. It was 1986 in late summer …
Kathy (my wife) and I were going to run a twenty-something-mile loop in the southwestern part of the Olympic National Park in Washington State. We drove along the shore of Lake Quinault, deep into old growth forest. We passed a tree proclaimed to be the “Largest Western Redcedar in the World”, just over 19 feet in diameter and 174 feet tall. The largest in the world? Who would know, we asked each other as we drove to the trailhead.
We parked, pulled on fanny packs, and headed up Three Lakes Trail, our first running leg of the day. We were running under clear skies and the morning coolness was already gone. I rounded a bend in the trail and stopped. Kathy was stopped in front of an Alaska-cedar, or, as they are sometimes known, Alaska Yellow-cedar. Such deep beauty these old trees possess, wind-polished bark, trunks tall and wise, several hundred years in the growing. The sign-maker had been here too. “Largest Yellow Cedar in the United States.” The two of us could not touch hands trying to reach around it. One-hundred twenty-nine feet tall. We ran on.
Around another corner, up a small hill, past a few slim new Douglas firs, into a mountain meadow, and then I stopped, my turn to pause. Coming toward us were three old women, maybe not as old as the trees around us, but octogenarian old, each with a walking stick and a backpack that dwarfed their bent bodies. We stepped off the trail. They stopped and looked at us in our running shoes, shorts, t-shirts, and fanny packs. We looked at them with their hiking boots, long pants, layers of shirts, hats, dark glasses, packs, and walking sticks. My earlier thought of the beauty of the old trees seemed reflected in their eyes, in the color of their hair, the grey bark of the old cedars, in the lines on their faces, the wind-aged and sun-bronzed sculpturing of the old firs.
The nearest woman asked, “How far to the trailhead?” I glanced at my watch, converting our running time to backpacking pace, “An hour, maybe a few minutes more.” She nodded and said, with a touch of sadness, “Oh. Well, girls, I guess we’re about done.” About done? “How long have you been out here?” Their stories poured out. A grandson bringing food up on the Hoh, traipsing along the Bogachiel, five days camping by the glacier…. Grandson? Bogachiel? The Hoh? “Stop! Where did you start?” “At Hurricane Ridge, what’s the date?” “July twenty-third.” She paused, thought, and then replied, “We’ve been out six weeks.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. Six weeks? We visualized the days, weeks, and miles and miles and miles they had been wandering in the vastness of the Olympic Peninsula. We thought of our own run, four, maybe five hours. A touch of envy entered our conversation. We parted, returning to our run, but a few steps up the trail a voice came faintly across to us, one of those old voices, “I wish we were young like them, so we could run like they do.”
And I, turning my head, said, not too loudly, “I hope we are still coming out here when we are their age.”
I sat there on the bluff for a while this morning, reliving that day. From where I am sitting, I can look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Over to the west lies Hurricane Ridge on the north end of the Olympic Peninsula. Somewhere to the south lies the meadow where we saw the oldest Alaska-cedar and women who inspire. . “Old” lost its meaning somewhere along the way. We are still going out there.