Woke up still working off the end of this damn flu. Today is definitely the best I’ve felt all week and the morning run close to home with dog confirmed that. My calves are still a bit sore and my breathing isn’t totally back to normal, but I’ll take this positive upswing as a plus before heading out to California for the inov-8 retreat. I catch the mid-afternoon bus from Boulder to DIA with unfortunately only an option for the longer (multiple stops) ride. The usual AB bus takes an hour and is actually the most pleasant way to get to the airport given how far out of town it is. On the other hand, the ABA bus takes close to 2 hours and stops seemingly everywhere it possible can along the way. About an hour and a half into the ride, I’m getting hot and fidgety and have to remind myself of the number one travel virtue: patience. Patience and flexibility goes a long way when you travel a lot, with light luggage further increasing the chances of an effortless trip. Effortlessness can be induced as a mindset to accompany any trip. I used to be good at it. I carried very little when I traveled, always with a book handy and when I ran out of pages I was content to just sit and contemplate. For whatever reason I’ve tended to complicate my travels more these past several years. Perhaps age plays a role and sitting on crammed buses and planes wears on me more. The specificity of traveling for a race and demands of high level sports are also naturally more complicated with the need to carry more gear and food for the events. The drifter in me is still there, but I have an equal pull to settle down somewhere that has only truly manifested itself over the past few years. To read, I brought The Names, a book by N. Scott Momaday, an autobiographical account framed in the naming of places and people. Deanne picked it up for me at the CU library before I left in light of a recent conversation we had about the colonial naming of places. A particularly troubling one relating to our sport is of course is Squaw Valley. I won’t go into much depth about it here as it’s an extensive conversation, but the origins of such terminology are worth thinking about and discussing.
Alex Nichols, Peter Maksimow, both from Colorado Springs are my roommates for the weekend. The three of us wake up groggy from a late arrival in Big Sur and head to the Bear Lodge where we are staying for a copious breakfast. Other than a photoshoot at 2pm we have nothing on the schedule for the day. Leaving at 11am, we decide to go for a short run on the Pine Ridge trail which starts directly from the lodge. We are not feeling particularly sharp as we grunt and sweat our way up the hill in the hot California sun. I’ve met both Alex and Peter before, but don’t know them well. Peter has a personality to match his facial hair- quirky, nearing whimsical. He’s friendly and offers up some quality off-beat humor. Alex is quieter, but equally as whitty. He takes about 10 minutes to tie and re-tie his shoelaces before each run. Peculiar character traits such as these provide for plenty of entertainment and banter. The track is smooth and switchbacky, classic California. We work our way up to a junction with a sign pointing down into the canyon that reads Ventana Camp - 1 mile. I jokingly ask some rangers picnicking if this was the way to the Sierra Madre. Little did I know the joker was about to get punted. The camp is a perfect turn around point, but instead we decide that making a loop out of our run is more appealing. If we can bushwhack up and across the canyon, we’ll reach a buffed out trail we could see on the approach. Somehow, neither Peter nor Alex protest my enthusiastic proposition. We cross the creek and ascend a couple hundred feet up a steep, loose bank before making another 200 foot dicey descent to another smaller creek. Logically, we should decide to turn back right here, but before putting much thought into it we’re already plowing up the next climb which looks to be about 800 feet. This shouldn’t prove to be too difficult, but the brush gradually thickens going from short grass (and poison oak) to denser, thicker, thornier bushes, finally leading us into head high manzanitas. The summit we had in sight, is nothing but a sub-peak while the ridge stretches up further ahead. Forward progress is painfully slow. Our legs, arms and hands are shredded with thorn cuts, our heads are light, our morale is low. We do our best at salvaging our effort by traversing over to one more vantage point, which only leads to much of the same. Peter has a packet of energy chews that he kindly shares with Alex and me. The drop of sugar temporarily stabilizes our insanity as we decide to turn back. We have nothing on us save my iphone. I manage to send out a message in spotty reception to notify the crew back at the lodge of our delay. Four and a half hours later we are back at the creek. We’d taken a gully down instead of the ridge to try and ease our descent, which only resulted in some sketchy, steep and loose downclimbing and a lot more cursing. Alex and I both drink big gulps from the stream, opting for momentary relief over potential giardia in the future. Reaching Ventana camp once again is a relief. We were never lost, but moving was incredibly painful and slow. We all agree that this qualified as type 3 fun- with 1 being fun in the moment, 2 not fun in the moment, but fun looking back on it and 3 is never fun. Mainly, we just felt extremely bad about missing our afternoon commitments, making it back to the lodge nearly 7 hours later. Of course, the scratched up limbs and slew of shit talking that ensued made for good entertainment, especially when you add a bunch of rowdy Brits in the mix.
Our “punishment” for yesterday’s shenanigans was a very early morning shoot with Ryan Edy, Joe Petini, Eoin Treacy, and Singlespeed Matt. I use the word punishment lightly because other than the early wake up call, the trail and session is a lot of fun. We got some great light and glow coming off the ocean and Ryan captured the magic with some brilliant monochrome flair. Following the shoot we headed up to a house rented for the weekend overlooking the ocean. We broke out into small groups for some shoe and gear education, as well as interviews and a social media and marketing presentation. Lots of good insights came out of the sessions, with some particularly high geekery for me in the shoe department. We were lucky to have Graham Jordison, run us through some of the upcoming models’ new features. Graham has designed every shoe ever made by inov8, which when you look at the line and breadth of creativity over the years in multiple disciplines, it’s truly astounding. For the first time this year he will be getting help from another designer, Matt Head, who will bring some fresh and interesting new ideas to the development processes. I can’t divulge much about what’s in the works, but lets just say that the new Mudclaw is going to be something else and the most excited I’ve been about a shoe in a while. After the sessions, a group of us head down the steep 1-mile road to the beach for a bit of running and scrambling on the coastal cliffs. Matt Brown puts us all to shame on the uphill sand dune race. You’d think a bunch of runners would be able to take down the Singlespeed. Not a chance. It’s a beautiful evening and I’m stoked to see many of the crossfitters join us on the outing. I was curious how the crossfit and running crowds would mesh over the weekend, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Crossfit is pretty far removed from what I do. They call the gym, the box. Going into a box sounds like the antithesis of running in the mountains. The first thing that struck me though was everyone’s sheer athleticism. While this seems like a given that crossfitters are athletic, witnessing a workout in person is really impressive. Pat Barber, who’s been practicing crossfit for the past 10 years, told me that in competition there are no set standards for what you need to train for. Rather, the idea of the competition is the ultimate test of fitness. You could have rowing, weights, running, and pretty much anything else added to the comp that organizers chose. An example, in the last comp he did, they had everyone perform an all out 2000 meters on the rowing machine, continued into a half marathon on the same device with no rest in between. That’s pretty damn hard. More so though than just the pure athletics, I was impressed with the crossfitters eagerness to learn about mountain running. After the beach, we head back to the house for a cooking contest. I pair up with Singlespeed Matt hoping his sand dune prowesses will rub off in the kitchen. We make a coconut Thai peanut curry sauce, over grilled eggplant, which turned out pretty good. There wasn’t a bad dish in the house though and accompanied by a couple or more beers it made for a great night.
Hit another early morning shoot. The fatigue is getting to me a bit. This is the third morning in a row I’ve been awaken in the middle of a dream by my watch alarm, startled and not quite sure where I am. I guess four or five hour nights don’t really cut it for me especially coming off the flu. Upon our return to the lodge, we got in on a rowing comp and class lead by Shane Farmer. It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve sat on an Ergometer, so my technique is definitely a little rusty. I rowed in France for the university team. I have some fond memories of those days. For the comp, runners are paired up with crossfitters for a 500m all out interval followed by 20 air squats, the whole process repeated twice. I come half a squat short of beating Nick Hollon and get pretty worked in the process. Good times. Alex, Peter and I then tried to run the ridge over to the beach. We stayed on trail and dirt road this time, but didn’t make it down to the ocean, as we need to be back for dinner. A recent burn, hit the area pretty hard last month. It was saddening to run through neighborhoods devastated by the fire, a reality that all three of us are much too familiar with.
Woke up at 3:45am after a couple hours of sleep for a ride with Natalie White to the San Francisco airport. We ran into some heavy traffic outside of San Mateo with Alex, Peter and I making it to check in with only 40 minutes to spare. Miraculously, it was the smoothest airport experience I’ve ever had. We got to the gate with time to spare, no delays and even got some breakfast. That just never happens. When I got home, I cranked out a short run, followed by some writing for iRunFar. Being sleep deprived isn’t my favorite state.
Caught up on some work and sleep. Felt a bit run down today and eager to get back into a routine at home. Temperatures were cold on the run and it snowed lightly for most of the outing. Kept it short and sweet. Snapped a polaroid shot of my neighbor cutting wood when I got back. I hate that the flash always engages automatically on the Instax camera and I can’t stop it. I don’t like flashes much and while the auto fire isn’t a big deal in good light, it’s annoying in low light.
Deanne needed to fill out some financial aid paperwork that was due today, which required our tax return. So, we rushed off to CU and spent 3 hours filing taxes, through Volunteer Income Tax Assistants, their free tax site. Bureaucracy is one of the things I hate the most in life. I am amazed and extremely thankful to the volunteers that run these tax sites. Ron, one of the volunteers, told us he’d been doing this for the past 26 years. I barely survived 3 hours. TK pointed me to this short clip How Far Will You Go For Greatness? The video presents some interesting ideas about flow and certainly something I think about a lot. It’s a shame about the over-dramatisation of the clip, with the over-the-top music and the lighting because all the participants are as core as they come. I don’t really get why so many outdoor films have to be overdone and dramatized like that. Most of what people are doing in these videos is heroic enough without the need for the excessive embellishments. Hopefully, the book doesn’t follow a similar style.