Monthly Archives: December 2013

Le Grizz 50-miler, October 2012, Montana, USA

Prelude (similar to Quaalude, might put you to sleep).

What to do–having gone through six or seven months of training that never seemed quite right; watching a summer that was slightly out of kilter almost every day; priorities shifting in every direction but the one that was needed–I did what was expected.  I ran myself into the ground, earned one more DNF, and indulged in the usual analysis on the way home.  That is what I did.

Meanwhile, over there on the other side of the console, chief consoler and ego rebuilder was plotting with little consultation needed.  Late Sunday evening; not even twenty-four hours after being declared dead, totally lacking, and bumbler extraordinaire, when all was unpacked and we couldn’t even see the mainland, Kathy said in a very calm manner, “You should run Le Grizz.”

“Uh…. , sure, okay, why not?”

There followed some silly-arsed reasoning about the excellent 34ish mile training run I just did (see CC100 DNF) and I knew the course (6:31 and 7:24 the previous two trips) and we liked the Glacier National Park region (we do) and I only had to run 16 miles farther in the same amount of time to be … uh… to be what?

“Uh…, sure, okay, why not?”  I sent in the entry blank, with check.

I did a couple of long pavement runs just to recall the thrill of irritating every nerve and tendon in your legs by the monotony of running with the same cadence for hours and hours and hours and … hmmm, she said something about ten and a half hours.  Can I run a 10-hour fifty?  Probably should try to just finish the dang thing, mend the ego and so on, right?

“Uh…. , sure, okay, why not?”

And so it was that we were eastbound over the Cascades

Eastbound, fall colors in the Cascades

Fall colors on Stevens Pass, US 2, Washington

The prairie (the Palouse)

and across the Palouse (like prairie, but in Washington)

Montana rocks

on past some rocks in western Montana

Kootenai River, Montana

stopped at the swinging bridge across the Kootenai River

The bridge that swings

walked across (and back), eventually getting to Hungry Horse Reservoir

Hungry Horse Reservoir from the dam

and driving out to the clearing near Spotted Bear, about 55 miles out in the woods… bear country.  Le Grizz, remember?

Going around the lake

took a picture of the South Fork of the Flathead River

Our temporary back yard

put up the tent


met some people from Ohio and Montana and Washington and Arizona and…

Patiently waiting... waiting... waiting...

stood around [me in shorts/white cap] in the middle of the dirt road for a while waiting for Pat Caffrey to shoot the starting device.  He did, and as in two previous years, Kathy drove off down the road while I used other means of covering ground.

This is as close as you'll see me.

The silliness of it all.  I was running along quite happy with how relaxed and casual the whole deal was when some guy announced, “Dead on 10:30s,” loud enough for all to hear.  He had one of those large, multi-dialed, Technicolor, fully illuminated, argyle colored GPS things.  He went on to explain that piece of electronic crap was set to go “Ding!” every mile.  I looked over, thought about the 10:30s and backed off, trying to figure out how to let him run off into the foreground so I would not give chase.  I was trying to live with the 10-hour fantasy.  He was in 8:45 land.  I ran off the road and hid in the bushes for a few minutes, studied flora, fauna, and did something I will not describe here, but, all in all, it worked.  I could not see, nor hear, him any longer.

The car with all the doors locked... mean mean mean is she.

Kathy was there every three miles.  She is a nice person, but she always has the doors locked–offers food, something to drink, a dry shirt, maybe, but she will not let me get in the car.  Left out in the rain, on my own, all I can do is continue towards Hungry Horse dam.

Some ego massaging takes place as I exchange names and where-are-you-froms with a couple.  They read my fantasy column and it is really neat to have someone say, “I have always wanted to ask about… ”  They were from Ohio and just giddy from running in the northern Rockies.  We talked for a couple of miles, but something unexpected happened at the halfway point.  I was at 5:01:12.  I knew what was in front of me for the next five or six miles and the fantasy of ten-hour (or 9:59:47.8) awoke and said hello.  We parted company and I picked things up a bit.

By the 35-mile point I had a 12-minute cushion on ten hours.  I also had a problem.  The only thing I could keep down was Fig Newtons™, maybe a gel every fourth or fifth mile… not near enough to run at the effort level I was doing.  I adjusted, told Kathy the ten-hour was gone.  I would try for something above total fade.  I locked my eyes on the back of the next person up the road and pulled him, then her, then her, then him… and so on, passing the last person I would pass as we got to the dam.  (Some of the white spots just above the dam are caps on runners.)

The white dot in the middle is me crossing the dam.

I was hoping to stay inside 10:30.  The fun of what does the watch on the wrist say versus what does the official clock say crossed my mind several times.  Ten and a half hours… how much have I slowed.  I walk very well and I was putting in running one-hundred steps on the ups, trying to stay conscious of effort.  If I could keep the effort up, the mind stays awake and effort and concentration feed off each other.

But… big but… I did not know how far out I was.  Big sigh.  Finally, as most hope had faded, and all I knew for sure was that I would finish, a woman in a blue car slowed and said, “You’ve got about two tenths of a mile to the trail, then two-hundred yards on the bush whack and you’re done.”  I looked over at her and asked, “Really?”  She pointed (we were rounding a curve), “Yep, trail is by that pick-up.”  I checked the lake for a moose, said hi the gentleman by the pick-up and turned in the direction he was pointing; went to the left of the aspen, past the big rock on the right, up the hill, hanging on to the bushes, and came out by the driveway to the parking lot where the screaming throng was gathered.

Kathy was waiting, hugs are always good, jokes about the differences 25 years can make, but it was done.  10:19:16 it said on the clock.  Smiles, barbecued (maybe) chicken, and toes that tingled and wanted out of the shoes.  It is done.


The larches were changing colors all the way across until we got back to the last pass on the Cascades.

Larch trees and a forest fire from long ago

They don’t come to the wet side of the mountains.  They look like many evergreens (conifers), but they change color

Larch trees in the fall

and shed their leaves (needles).

their needles (leaves).

Appropriately, a ridge of clouds and rain greets us as we cross the last pass on the North Cascades Highway and head for the island.

Back into our Cascades, two hours to the house.  Thank you.

—–Run gently out there—–

Winter Solstice Run — a few years back…

Winter solstice passed a few days before Christmas, almost at the same time that the moon was in perigee—the closest it gets to earth during each orbit.  At perigee the moon appears to be some 12 to 14 percent larger than usual. Winter solstice is the unofficial start of our regular night runs on Wednesdays.  As others are sitting down to dinner, we are looking for lights, gloves, and fanny packs.

This particular evening, we had left the house about thirty minutes before dark to get into the woods to a trail on the easterly side of the mountain. Frost from two mornings ago still sparkled in shady areas.  We crunched along the trail, running upward toward a meadow crossing, checking watches frequently.  Stop, I whispered, we’ll wait here.  How soon? Soon.

We had barely got still when the show started.  The top of the rising moon was almost red as it caught the setting sun’s last rays.  The shadows that had run from the sun not an hour ago were now being reborn by the moon.  The moon’s shadows—always magical, even more so in the woods—would let us run without flashlights for a while.

We started up the trail and turned onto the first forestry road, striding our way through pools of moonlight.  The thickly wooded forest would hide the moon on the trails, keeping it dark away from the road.  So we ran on the open road for a few miles, before finally deciding to turn off down one of the trails.  We stopped then.  It was time to go to work.  We had to decide what to start using.

We each had on a headlight; each had a flashlight in a sheath on the fanny pack belt.  I had two more headlights and several more flashlights in my backpack.  The early sunsets give us time to do night runs without staying up all night.  The night runs give us time to test all the new things we might need for later in the year night races.  Kathy had a green 3-LED to try; I was trying a hand-held with green LEDs too (but with the choice of 4 or 10 LEDs lighted) and a new headlight.

We had finally become comfortable running with our headlights after those first runs when we took turns blinding each other before we got used to the idea that you don’t turn to look at the person you are talking to—unless you turn your light off first.  Headlights are also great for seeing things that aren’t on the trails.  You hear a noise, you turn to look directly at—wow, look at all the eyes starring back at you.  The record (held by Kathy) is finding five pairs of eyes belonging to a family of raccoons crossing the road.

We turned on the hand-helds and started down the trail.  I was switching back and forth from 4 to 10 lights, headlight on, headlight off, just doing some serious evaluation when I ran into Kathy.  Why are you stopped?  I hear something.  Is it big?  I don’t know.  I turn off my lights.  What are you doing?  I hear better in the dark.  Turn the light back on.  Look, over there (as if I can see which way she is pointing).  No, over there (see, I told you).

Bobcat?  Bobcat!  Wow. A glimpse of something spotted and short-tailed is all we get. Gone, I say calmly.  All gone.  We listen and hear nothing but our wildly erratic breathing.  We adjust things; I change to a single bulb blue-white hand-held, turn the headlight from bright to medium, and we head on down to a well-used creek crossing.

At the creek crossing, we can see several sets of footprints: deer, elk, raccoon, and a largish one we pause over.  In our woods there are two things you should recognize:  poisonoak and …

Cougar?  I think so.  You want me to pretend I can tell how long ago it passed through here?  Maybe feel the print for warmth or something?  It is about the same size as my hand.  It is on top of one of the deer hoof prints.

We start up the trail away from the creek, reciting all the things we know about cougars, mountain lions, panthers, catamounts, pumas, and woolly mammoths (just in case).  We can hear our heartbeats above our footsteps as we move.  You always remember the wrong thing.  I point out that they are predators, that predators are stealthy; therefore, we won’t hear one if it is stalking us.  Oops, that didn’t help.

We run up the other hillside, undoubtedly the fastest we have ever run getting up that stretch, back onto the road, and pause to catch our breath.  We assume we’ve left the cougar, or whatever, far below.  We decide which way to go and start on around the mountain to the next cross-trail back to the other side.  I change to my dual-bulb headlight because it has a light-up-the-sky switch and get the new flashlight back out.  Of course, the green LEDs lead to the question of which lights would a cougar see better:  the white, blue-white, or green?

About two-hundred yards later, we both hear something moving through the brush just uphill from the road—recalling the won’t-hear-the-predator theory—a remarkable calm is exhibited as we shine the lights on the hillside.  Another first for us, a small porcupine comes meandering through the brush.  We laugh, watch it for a minute or two, and then, just as we are about to start running again, we hear something big just down from the edge of the road.  Big?  Sounded big.  Yes.  How many lights are in the backpack?  Two more headlights and three hand-helds.  Get ‘em out.  All of them?  Yes.

Imaginations are strange things to have with you in the woods.  We have often wondered what the animals in that part of the forest thought about us as we passed through the night.  Two strange creatures with eyes that light up the road both frontward and rearward, and in their paws, eyes on both sides too.  One green one, one white one.  It was just after solstice on the night of the full moon …

Run gently out there.

Solstice, Venus being bright, Geminids are coming…

Winter approacheth.

Viewed from the Pacific Northwest region, Whidbey Island in the state of Washington to be almost exact (like an “exact approximation?), Winter Solstice for 2013 takes place 9:11 a.m. PST on the 21st of December.

Some will refer to Winter Solstice as the shortest day of the year, which is not entirely correct.  In a literal sense all days are of equal length. In a figurative sense it is the hours of light (daylight and dark) that many think hits a least value on solstice.

Today’s sunset will take place at 4:18 p.m. PST.  Tomorrow, the sixth day of December of 2013, our sunset will happen at 4:17 p.m. PST. For the next ten days sunset will happen at this same 4:17 p.m. PST.  Finally, on the sixteenth day of December the sun will set a minute later and start on the never-ending cycle of setting-later-each-day-for-while journey.

Meanwhile, in the eastern sky the sun seems to be later in its arrival each morning; finally crossing eight o’clock on the twenty-second of December– the day after winter solstice!  While sunset is already getting later each day, so too is sunrise occurring later each morning.  Its latest arrival being 8:02 a.m. PST on the fourth of January, 2014.  Finally on the fifth of January the time of the sun’s breaking the eastern horizon recedes by a minute and, though three months away, the lengthening days bring thoughts of spring.

Latest sunrise:  8:02 a.m. PST, 28 Dec ’13 through 04 Jan ’14. Earliest sunset: 4:17 p.m. PST, 06 Dec ’13 through 15 Dec ’13.

The shortest period (hours:minutes) of daylight bounces back and forth…

  • 17 Dec : 8:21
  • 18 Dec : 8:20
  • 19 Dec : 8:21
  • 20 Dec : 8:20
  • 21 Dec: 8:21 — Winter Solstice at 9:11 a.m.
  • 22 Dec : 8:20
  • 23 Dec : 8:21
  • 24 Dec : 8:20
  • 25 Dec : 8:21 — Christ is born, the days become longer.
  • 26 Dec : 8:22

Further reading…

Venus being very bright, tonight is brightest…  just after sunset.

A meteor shower, Geminid, is coming soon: