Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Snow Snow

"Cross training"

(Quotation marks because I'm not so good, and so I never felt like it was much of a workout. Still, I made it out and about Mount Vernon twice this week. The first night was spectacular, with arctic sky conditions, shifting grays and blues in the clouds, and crisp air. The second trip, not so much, with sand on the snow on the backroads even, but it was fun trying just the same. This picture sort of has a Mark Rothko thing going on. Or maybe I wish. I like it.)

Kulshan Trail, near home and looking much more woodsy than it is.

Woodpecker on the tree in my front yard--requires clicking to see. Red breasted sapsucker, I think. Someone once told me they get drunk on sap and then have sex.

Camera chills out.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Skagit Snow Run

Skagit River

Near Mount Vernon

New Gore-Tex Shoes!

Brrrrrrrr.....real snow cows

Illegal snow run on the river dike

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Squires Lake

I've never been to Squires Lake, and it's so easy to get to, maybe five minutes off of Exit 240. Squires Lake is one of the earlier acquisitions of the Whatcom Land Trust. The lake itself is only a half mile or so up a hill, but the Pacific Northwest Trail cuts through it, and so it's easy enough to leave the Whatcom County Park and then go run for miles on DNR roads, which is what I did today. Basically, I ran from Squires to Cain Lake Road, which is maybe 40 minutes with some slope, and then on the way back I detoured up a very steep hill that some hikers told me was either Saddle Mountain or The Beast. Overall, I had a slow easy weekend of running. On Saturday, I participated in the Fairhaven Frosty, which was a good good time. I ran with a good friend who never races, and we sort of goofed off, and almost came in last place, but a couple 70 year olds were still out there. Next time, I guess.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Conditions were perfect for the Seattle Marathon this year. The Space Needle looked almost alien in the morning, with fog circling it, and the temperature sat arond 50. My time was 3:59, and I think I ran poorly, for where I’m at right now. No big deal, but still, it's hard to get too far away from the clock. The reasons were several---I think my pre-race eats were off—no more Teriyaki combos the night before; my shoes were a half size too big; and I ran a bit too much the days before, though not marathons like some. Notably, I just hurt, a bit in the hip, some in the feet, and I was never inspired to push through the pain. I’m a trail guy--roads beat me up. All that said, my main issue was I didn’t really focus on how I wanted to run in the first place—I just went out and ran, and figured I’d see how it went. Hoping for the incidental good time.
This is a mistake--if I want to be completely satisfied with my race day efforts, I should prepare better mentally. I know this. Visualize success, and all that. The four C’s: Commitment, Compsure, Confidence, Concentration. (: That's from a sports psychology course I took a while back. (: I have a number of phrases I’ll repeat to myself when I’m on. I didn’t do any of this, which usually isn't a big deal, but now and again I leave a bit dissapointed, and that was the story with this year's finish at Seattle. I know I could've pushed through the pain, changed my tempo, but I wasn't mentally prepared to do so. Life is still good--no big deal. Live, learn, live some more. This paragraph is breaking the cheese meter.
My first half was totally lame, roughly 1:58, for all of the above reasons. Somewhere around mile 16, I decided to try to keep it under 4:00, which required sub 9s. I did it, but I had to work for it a bit, because the course is much harder in the second half. This wasn't that lame, although even here I could've ran faster, and was going just fast enough to come in under 4:00. I was totally geared for something longer. One thing I noticed was that when I thought about running faster, I was able to speed up considerably, but if I just ran, most of the time I wasn't kicking too hard. Age. If only I had more commitment, composure, confidence and concentration. Oh well. I finished strong and feel good now--obviously, something went wrong.
My favorite thing about this year’s Seattle had nothing to do with the run. I totally dialed it in for getting in and out of the race. I left MV at 6:20, sort of late really, and then stopped at Marysville McDonalds for coffee. I took the U. District exit, hopped onto 99, and parked immediately at the Seattle Center for $8. The whole trip took less than an hour. In past years, I’ve sat for endless minutes coming off I-5, worried about missing the start, or had trouble locating parking, or waiting in line to pay for parking at a machine. Also, leaving the race this year was a snap, with the garage sitting across the street from the finish line, and then one right turn out of the garage, and from there a straight drive on to I-5. Hassle free marathon!
Also, of note, this was my 8th Seattle, going back to the old Burke Gillman route in the 90s; my 6th in a row! what’s going on there?; and I’m pretty sure this was my 50th marathon. I might also say that I thought this year’s version of Seattle seemed a bit better organized than in some recent years, with lots of GU on the course, great volunteers, nothing to complain about. I do miss Ivar’s clam chowder not being at the finish. That’s a good Seattle tradition—there ought to be some distinctly Seattle touch. Maybe it was there and I missed it.
Up next—well, my calendar’s pretty open. I expect I’ll do the Fairhaven Frosty 10k next week with some friends, which is becoming a bit of a tradition for me in its own right. After that, maybe the Lake Samish half in January, probably the Bridle Trails 50k, and almost certainly the Honeywagon half in Everson in February, definitely a tradition. I’m tossing around all sorts of longer distance things for 2009, but nothing’s inked—it’ll be a challenge to match this year, which has been great.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rock and Roll Means Well

Friday night, 9:45 PM. Prefunk at the Hooverville, knocking down caffienated beverages with my not so innocent mates--Steve, Randy, Vaughn. Good times---we were talking and realized we were nigh on 20 years as accomplices. Exit soon after, suitably orientated, across the street to the Showbox SoDo for...the....[dramatic blog pause]...the Drive By Truckers. I've wanted to see them for about five years now--they're southern goth rock, more or less, and they officially rocked!! I think I liked them more than my friends, although they were into them for sure. I noticed some people were just kind of watching with the old hand on the chin, hmmm look. Whatever. Some were totally getting into it, and I was part of thatsome. For the encore, a gorilla came on the stage, and then the opening band, The Hold Steady, and then they went on for about 45 minutes, at least, with Let There Be Rock (their version) and a VH cover, Ain't Talking Bout Love. Perfect. My favorite song though was from their new album--That Man I Shot, all about a soldier in Iraq killing someone in self-defense. DBT are liberal, anti-war, and this song just blisters the ears and psyche in all the right ways.

Nothing notable running wise this weekend. I ran a hard 2.5 hours Saturday, and then wandered around the Nookachamps on Sunday. I have been doing some cool headlamp runs. I was recently charged by a deer, rolled my ankle coming off a tower, and got ridiculously wet on some other Friday night, puddle stomping on the ridge. Life is good.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mountain Masochist

Having grown up in Virginia and Maryland, and with family still there, I’ve been hankering to find a good east coast trail run. Virginia is one of the most beautiful places in the world when the trees turn color in the fall, and so I’ve had my eye on the Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 miler in southern Virginia for several years now.
I thought this would be the year, but then this spring several Skagit running friends in Washington State decided to do a field trip back to DC for the USMC marathon, which is the weekend before. Peer pressure prevailed, and I signed up for USMC. Still, as the summer progressed, I couldn’t get away from the notion of giving MM a try. Finally, with a late registration, and a bit of rearranging of flights and plans, I went ahead and scheduled both, turning the trip into a 9 day visit with the folks. I was quite worried about trying to do both runs, inside of a week, as that obviously is a little much. So....I ran USMC, but not too seriously. The run I really wanted to do, and finish, was the Masochist.
MMTR is hard. Hard enough, at least. It is longer than 50 miles, more like 54, or 50 “Horton” miles, named after the race founder and director for 25 years, David Horton, who seems to be a very good guy, with a curious habit of marking miles long. I think MMTR has 9200 feet in elevation gain, and about 7000 in loss. By east coast standards, the race is rather remote, traveling north through the middle of the George Washington National Forest, point to point. Some places just might be banjo country. My Dad, who accompanied me to the race, said it took him an hour to drive from one aid station to another at one point. MMTR is one of the most beautiful races I’ve done, because of the amazing red, green, yellow, and brown colors of the fall foliage, which cover hill after hill, throughout the race. Simply amazing, compelling smiles throughout the day.
MMTR has a lot of history, and you can tell that it has developed a family of supporters, both with participants and volunteers. Great pre- and post-race dinners, with many laughs. I really enjoyed the sweet tea, the grits, the southern accents. The dinners sort of reminded me of the annual rendevouses that Rocky Mountain trappers used to have in the 1830s, where trappers would come from all over to trade furs, share stories, eat, and party together.
This run has 16 aid stations in total, I believe—one bottle will do it. As you enter into each aid station, a sign lists the cutoff times, and so I was constantly doing the math in my head, figuring out where I was, and what I needed to do to increase my gap over the 12 hour pace cutoff. I figured I’d crash later, and the cutoffs are tough---the finisher rate this year was 72%.
I found the course to be very runnable, not that I chose to do so all the time. The first 7 miles or so are on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway (a National Park, I believe), and then after that the course shifts to old logging type roads, mostly. The race starts in the dark---I saw a shooting star during the first 6 or 7 miles, and watched the sun rise over the James River, with trees reflected in it. Wide temperature variations—cold in the morning, warm in the afternoon. Once you hit the trails, there are creeks to rock hop, and puddles to jump. The second half of the course is substantially more challenging than the first half, in terms of elevation profile. Mile 22 to Mile 29 is a steady climb up Buck Mountain (which rhymes with schucks), and after that there are still several other sharp climbs. Placards with inspirational bible verses, along with Rocky music, are near the summit aid stations. The pitch on the climbs is rarely knock-your-socks-off steep, but the climbs are steady. Also, during the second half, the trail turns into single track more frequently, with significant leaf cover over ankle rolling rocks. It’s fun. Seriously.
As for me, I started slow, and then began picking things up around the 3rd hour. I rather enjoyed the climbs—I’ve been doing lots of hills this year---and so I just pushed hard through them, doing ok, and enjoying the fall colors and the good spirits all around. My wheels came off a bit, though, when the sun came out in the early afternoon. I don’t do well with sun. I dragged tail through “the loop,” a single track trail somewhere b/w mile 30 and 40. I soldiered on. The final 3.5 miles were downhill, and at that point, I found a little bit of something, and just let gravity pull me in, right under 11 hours. I’m happy with my run—my only goals were to beat the cutoffs and finish, while checking out the Appalachian scenery.
The race was MOST special for me because my Dad participated, traveling from aid station to aid station, helping me out, and seeing what I’m into. He lives in Virginia, and so I don’t get to share this with him—the trails, the community, the life, and I feel he got a real sense of it last weekend. For this reason alone, this race will always hold a special place in my heart.
FN: New RD Clark Zealand and everyone else did an exceptional job with this race! It’s particularly cool to see how the race has gone techno, with a talking blog, sortable finishing stats, many race photos, great shirts, great race hotel, etc., etc. I expect I’ll be back, for this one, or maybe for one of the other many interesting races down this way.
Check out the fall colors

Approximately Mile 32

Mile 41, but really Mile 43 or so?

Done!....for now!
(All photos courtesy of Dad)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Appomattox & D-Day

After USMC and Harper's Ferry, my Dad and I made our way down to southern Virginia, and visited the Appomattox National Park and the National D-Day Memorial. Appommattox is where Lee surrendered to Grant, and the Civil War ended. Though coincidental, it seems fitting to post pics of my visit last week to this place, in light of Obama's election. And I like them. You can go in the McClean house, where terms of surrender were negotiated, and they had an in character Rebel soldier actor describe the events leading to the conclusion of the War. The other photos are of the D-Day Memorial, which is in Bedford, Virginia, located there in large part to honor the Bedford Boys, locals, who were a big part of the storming of Omaha Beach on D-Day, most of whom died charging the beach. I'm not a real war buff--that's more my Dad, and yet I found both places quite moving, though in different ways.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Marine Corps Marathon

I did so much in Virginia over the past 10 days or so, that I think I'm going to toss up a few posts. Starting with the USMC Marathon. The pics tell the story--lots of sites to see, big crowd. The marathon was fun, my second one. I started late--it took me at least ten minutes just to cross the starting line. Once I got going, it was a dodge and swerve thing, jogging mostly, through a cattleherd, stopping to take lots of pictures, and to pass out campaign literature. I had no intention on taking this race seriously. I called home, which the folks got a kick out of--"No one's ever called us during a marathon!!!"--well...imagine that! There I go, representing in the gene pool. My biggest regret is I didn't stop at the hot dog or falafel stands. One of my favorite race stories is buying fried chicken at a corner store with my friend Steve and eating it during Bloomsday, circa 1992. That was cool. This was one of those races. DC is made for it, with so many great sites to see. I ran the final ten miles or so, to keep my time under 4:30, b/c something in me refused to commit to the really large time. Whatever, I still hurt afterwards, and I am officially not into pavement much anymore.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Harper's Ferry

My brother and I went to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia yesterday, middled around, and hiked 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail. This is the least remote part of the AT perhaps, with part of the trail running directly through the three block town of Harper's Ferry. It is also headquarters for the AT support organization. We walked along the C & O canal--I think that's the name of the old canal---which parallels the Potamac River. Geographically, it was sort of interesting, in that we started hiking in West Virginia, after driving from Virginia, and crossed a railroad trestle into Maryland. It wouldn't be that hard to knock off Pennsylsvania in the mix as well--Harper's Ferry sits at the confluence on the Shennandoah and Potomac Rivers, which both form state boundaries.
The area was gorgeous, everything I was hoping to see in coming back this time of year. The fall colors of the deciduous trees are amazing, and a few of these pics hint at it. Rich reds, yellows, greens and browns coating the hills. We saw a deer, some geese, old rock structures, and we squashed a nickel under a train. I have other pics which I'm not able to upload right now, but it's good stuff. I'm looking forward to my Mount Masochist run, which will be in this sort of tree cover, I think. I'll be hurting--I ran USMC really slow this past weekend, and still I feel sore, because it was pavement I suppose. It was one big cattleherd through some great sites. Speed tourism.
Harper's Ferry is interesting for a number of reasons. It's a National Park. The town was the site of a battle during the Civil War, and the place where John Brown led a slave revolt against their captors. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as calling it one of the most beautiful places in the world. Getting beyond the history, which I really wasn't into that much anyway, it is a quiet little town which has the comfortable feel of a remote tourism destination, with pubs, craft shops, a rustic railroad station, the convergence of two Appalachian valleys, and a key stop for thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail. I stopped in at a really cool supply store for thru-hikers, the first floor of which was completely made of bedrock stone carved by the rivers. I told my folks that if I lived back here, it would be somewhere like this.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Weasel sighting tonight. Mostly white, black face, loping, same as the critter above otherwise. It looked sort of like a ferret. I now know that long tailed weasels ("mustela frenata") moult to white in the north, as winter approaches. I also saw the big porcupine again, on the same run. I'm sure it's the same one as last week---I bet it's there every night--it was in almost exactly the same place, and it had the exact same waggle. The porcupine's needles almost glowed in the dark--I didn't even need my headlamp to see it. Thinking of starting a wildlife channel. Probably will keep things to the blog for now. Here's a weasel distribution map:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Desert Solitaire

I finished Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire today. Written in the late 1960s, it is a non-fiction book about his summers as a ranger in Arches National Park, before the area became known. I think its fair to say that environmentalists list it way up there on the conservation literature book shelf, with Silent Spring, A Sand County Almanac, and Walden. It definitely has an anarchist feel to it--sort of reminds me of Jack Kerouac, but better, although occasionally tedious too. Abbey spends most of the time talking about Arches, but there are some great stories of Canyonlands, the Colorado River, and the locals. Recommend it.
"We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. I may never in my life get to Alaska, for example, but I am grateful that it's there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis." Ed Abbey, Desert Solitaire.
I've been thinking about wilderness and conservation philosophy a bunch this year--hence, the post. I took a course in college called History of Conservation, which was essentially a survey of some of the big conservation writers, which in turn is really a survey of eco-philosophy. It's been almost 15 years now, but some of our discussions still stick with me, and with all my trail running, are becoming of renewed importance. We spent a fair amount of time debating the value of preservation v. conservation. Abbey is on the more radical end of the spectrum, endorsing putting people in one place and putting wilderness elsewhere. Sort of an anti-people vision, and in fact the book debates the value of civilization at one point. A friend and I recently attended a presentation by Dave Foreman, one of the EarthFirst leaders in the 90s, who is now pushing for something he calls "rewilding," which as I understood it, is about rededicating major corridors across North America for the free passage of big critters. I'm not anti-people, but I do like wilderness. Notably, we do have a new wilderness area up here in Northwest Washington, called the Wild Sky Wilderness, somewhere north of Highway 2, and Rep. Larsen gets big props from me for pushing that through.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Two Porcupines

I headlamped two porcupines the other night, while running after work. They are slow, slower than me even! They were in separate spots on Blanchard, but not too far apart, so maybe they are Friends. One had its quills all up on end, and it looked huge. Picture by NPS, "public domain," via wikimedia, yadi yadi yadi oww.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chuckanut At Sunrise

I went up Chuckanut on Saturday morning--Fragrance Lake to Chinscraper, and then on the ridge, for just short of three hours. I ran horribly--it was more of a hike, and I wasn't much into moving fast. I've been doing a lot lately--this is a-ok. I started in the dark, at roughly 6:15 AM, and it didn't get light until 7 or so. It was nice getting up early, and driving across the valley floor with dark skies over the fields. I should've started earlier, to catch the actual sunrise from the top, but I was late. Still, it was a headlamp run for the first half hour, which sounds cool, and it kind of was, I guess--this "run" is sounding better as I write--but I didn't start out thinking headlamp run.
I heard a coyote screeching for quite some time before the sun came up, and not much else. Two huge crows flew above me at the top of C-nut, and you could hear the displacement of air as they flapped their wings. I spent a good five minutes watching a big redheaded woodpecker go to town on a tree. First I heard it, above me--it's actually in the picture below, looking upwards, but the picture is worthless for seeing it. Probably a Pileated Woodpecker, about a foot tall, though I haven't opened a book to check yet. I spent a good ten minutes picking mushrooms--I'm not sure yet if they're edible, but I'm working on that too. They look edible. Sunday night could be a kick. I was totally not into running, and it took me eight minutes longer than normal to "summit". I'm fine with this--I should be worn down, which I am--feel a little bronchially challenged. The point was to get out early, just get out, and then meet friends later for breakfast. I figure, to keep running and hiking the trails as I get older, the trick is to run easy and hike whenever that feels right.
So....low key running weekend, but....GOOD NEWS! My overflow entry to the Mount Masochist 50 miler in southern Virginia was accepted!!! So, in less than a month, I get to jog around the Shenandoah (or whereever it is) for 50 plus miles AND do the Marine Corps Marathon. I'm so lucky!! I'm a little worried, because this is a bit much to do in a week for me, disregarding the 100s. Still, I can't pass on a shot at doing one of the reputedly cooler 50 milers around, going on its 26th year now. I'll just go slow. Plus, I get to hang out with the folks, and some of my Skagit friends, who will also be back there for USMC.
Not sure if I'll do anything else this weekend, running wise. I might still go up somewhere this afternoon. So, regardless, it's an off weekend. My real Sunday focus is spiders and shrubbery control around the outside of the house. I'm trying to figure out if spiders are good, since they are insect predators, but I don't like their webs, and they ARE spiders. Also, I was gifted all sorts of veggies this week, so I might just have to get creative in the kitchen. Nice to gently enter into the fall.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baker Lake 50k

The Baker Lake 50k is my favorite race, period. If I was in prison, on death row, execution imminent, and they said you get one last ultra…I’d take Baker Lake. Not sure why, I just like it, and lots of people agree with me.
The run has big trees, old growth of the sort that the timber wars were fought over—very special stuff, with moss growing up from gnarled roots. They, the Trees, come at you almost immediately once you hit the trail. Then there’s the Lake, turquoise green, and the tall dam crossing it in the first mile or so, with mist or maybe fog rising off the lake. There are log crossings, creek crossings, and fall away cliffs. Bears are somewhere out there, but I’ve never seen them. Baker Lake doesn’t have a whole lot of elevation gain, but the trail rolls and rolls and rolls; there are just enough rocks and slippery roots to slow you down. I saw bloody knees, sagging shoulders, but usually with smiles. The run is in the fall, right at the change of the seasons, football time, and it seems like hot apple cider, hot cocoa, or a bonfire is appropriate. Sometimes you get sun, sometimes you get rain, maybe even snow. Sometimes, if lucky, Mount Baker comes out and crowns the lake, glaciers so close you can almost see the crevasses. This run is, btw, all the more amazing by the full moon in winter, with the night reflection of Mount Baker on the lake. The runners are of course all cool, and for me it’s particularly easy to roll out of bed at 6 AM and get to the start line with plenty of time to spare. So, I like it.
I had a great time out there this year, as always. The course was significantly revised due to a bridge outage—some wily beavers ate it, and there was no money to replace it. So, instead, we, the Runners, first went up high on this hill overlooking the lake, came back down to the main trailhead, and then did two out and backs, on the East Bank Trail. I walked the first five miles or so with the sweep team, taking in the foggy morning air, and then I felt like I had to run, so I took off. I had some trepidation on how I would run, two weeks after Wasatch, my feet still aching and semi-blistered. Still, once I started, the running came easy enough, and the whole event actually felt short, which I’m sure reflects the longer runs I’ve been doing this summer. Nice to have things click click clicking. As this was my fifth Baker Lake, I got a cool Baker Lake bag and entered into the "Hall of Fame," which is worth a smile. Kudos and thanks to Shawn, TC, and the Team, who all did a great job of continuing the Dutton family tradition of excellence for this first class trail run.