Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne is one of my very faves. I've been listening to him since I was a little kid, when I first heard him sing on the late '70s No Nukes album. Running On Empty is hard to beat for a running song, or for driving state to state, cassette in the deck. Jackson is in the Rock Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and his music is widely covered.  He co-wrote Take It Easy, which the Eagles made famous. Just the same, he doesn't seem to be quite as well known now as he used to be.

On Saturday, I caught him on his solo acoustic tour at the Queen Elizabeth in Vancouver. Pretty special for me. I've seen him once before, with his band, at the Gorge, back when the Gorge was more of a pilot project. That was a rock show. This show was just him, unaccompanied, with a row of guitars to choose from, and a keyboard, taking requests from the crowd, talking about his songs and causes. He's very much the activist--always has been. Greenpeace. Nukes. Plastic. Surfing. 2.5 hours, with an intermission, a dark stage, with a single spotlight.

The setlist included all the classics, and it might've been a snoozer if you didn't know his songs, since his band wasn't there. Drums and bass help, and his songs are particularly meditative and melancholic sometimes. Since I do know them though, it was about as good as it gets. And 5th row seats! Seeing a rock star at age 63 handle himself so well seemed  instructive on how to age with grace professionally.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I really looked forward to not running Chuckanut this past week.  Usually I do run the event, and it is always a great early-year measure of fitness. RDs Krissy, Ellen and their crew put together an amazing event, with smiles everywhere to be seen. Chuckanut was my very first ultra. This year, I opted instead to run two 50ks earlier in the month, and then take the opportunity to watch the "track meet" which this race has become, and volunteer as needed. I've never really done this.

I showed up around 7:30 AM and chattered with friends before the start. Good pre-race chatter. Great weather--a little wind, no rain, 40s during the day, a little cold at the start. Once everyone took off, friend Rich and I zipped down to Aid Station 1, aka Dean's Place, to watch the leaders come through.  Thereafter, we grabbed the Topeka Scramble at Tony's, and then rushed back to Clayton Beach to watch the leaders come through again. And then off to the finish.

It's amazing how fast the leaders were, with 10 persons under 4 hours and new course records for both men and women. The whole thing was VERY fun to watch unfold, and had us racing up and down Chuckanut Drive in the morning, just to see the leaders come through at different locations. It was exciting.

Later in the day I worked the walkie talkie, calling in the numbers of finishers, and watching the runners come around the last corner to the finish. I really enjoyed this too. I've had my tough days and good ones at C-nut, and I know the wonderful feeling you get coming around that *last* corner towards Fairhaven Park, no matter how you've ran. Especially for the first-timers, of which there are many in this race. My first year I "ran" with a sprained ankle, determined to finish no matter how slow or bad (and I was both), after signing up and backing out for different reasons the previous two years. 

Pics mostly of volunteer friends below, as well as the winners finishing. More photos of the race at this link.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gorge Waterfalls 50k

I had a great time at the the brand new Gorge Waterfalls 50k on Saturday. At the start, James said it may well be the most beautiful 50k in the U.S. It is as gorgeous as any I've run. Simply spectacular, really.

The course is point-to-point, about an hour east of Portland, and includes a shuttle bus in the morning from the finish to the start line. Since I stayed in Portland with Rich, it was an early rise to get to the start. Beware of the Chevron gas station, midway, that advertises low gas prices, but has a fine print sign below that says the price is applicable "with car wash." Music was Talking Heads "Take Me To The River" and Drive By Truckers "Lookout Mountain."

So, you start the race. The trail climbs up and down the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, from Wahkeena Falls east to Wyeth Campground. There is a big 1500 foot climb right at the start. I pretty much walked this, very much towards the back. For the day, probably somewhere between 5000 and 6000 feet elevation gain, and equal amount of loss. So, a fair amount of up and down.

Waterfalls everywhere. Unreal. There are probably 20 waterfalls in the first third of the course alone, some very big. You run by them on narrow trails, maybe over a little footbridge, and then do it again, and again. One waterfall you run behind, as in the picture below. I brought a camera, but it didn't do the greatest job, Casio. There should have been a division for finishers with cameras, and those without, because if you had one, you had to stop and try to take pics.

Rocky single track. Sometimes very rocky, the kind of trail where the rocks eat ankles. Sometimes it is cliff running, with steep falloffs to the left. I worried a bit about catching a toe, because you could fall a long way, sometimes. The Columbia River was frequently in view.

James and his crew simply did an amazing job. He picked a great place for a run, and then totally delivered, with great markings, support, and a post-race fire with finisher cowbell to boot. Every finish line should always have a cowbell--well done.

I spent the first 10 miles in tourist mode, stopping to take pictures liberally. When the rain kicked in--and it really did--I started to pick it up. My hamstrings stayed tight most the day, but I was able to move faster for the last 20. My time was already scorched, but The Course made sure I got a good workout just the same. This is a pretty tough course, for all its natural beauty. I think it is basically an hour slower than Chuckanut.

I had to be in Portland for work, and so the race was a natural for me to do. Pretty cool to see that so many other friends made it, including the Skagit crowd. Glad I caught up with Seth, who is going to be gone for a while. And there was a wonderful little celebration involving the world's biggest bag of Skittles. And really good cookies at the Finish Line.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Invest In Youth 6 Hour Fund Run

Several good event options yesterday, including a Honeywagon in the north and a Hillbilly in the south. I really love the Honeywagon, but this year I opted for another favorite, Kendall’s annual YMCA Invest In Youth 6 Hour Run on the Centennial Trail in Snohomish.

The course is a simple 2.5 mile out and back, for five mile loops. I stayed out there the full six hours, clocking a very casual 33 miles. It's fun to stick it out to the end with these timed events, to max out the distance on the last-hour shorter loops. Great weather--maybe the best all year---except for a rogue 10 minute hail storm, where the hail just seemed to attack me, bouncing off my arms, indignant. I just kept going, locked into my tunes.

The first two laps I ran with TC, where I got more info on Shawn’s most excellent Alaskan adventure. One later lap with Dave Dutton, just back from a wonderful recovery from eye surgery. Amazing stories, good company.

Stan on the clipboard, tracking lap counts. Kendall running with his daughter, and then later minding the soup and making those famous Mile 67 grilled cheesers. Alex Swenson and Tim Stroh, knocking out the big miles in 1-2 fashion. They probably lapped me twice. Encouraging hellos roughly 15 times with friends like Steve and Rob, as we’d pass each other going and coming. It’s sort of amusing the different variants on hello you develop, all in good spirit.

The registration fee is fully donated to the YMCA. I really like the YMCA, because they do a ton of good work in the community, especially for the kids. I’ve been a member in Bellingham for a long time, which has acquainted me more with the organization’s good works. Our YMCA has an amazing amount of community support.

Next up-the Gorge Waterfalls run.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Skagit Centennial 100-Mile Run

Here's a great story about a legendary event, held on July 16, 1983, in the Skagit Valley. 

Runners Go The Distance
Nineteen runners entered and started Saturday from Cascade Pass but only six finished the first-ever Skagit County Centennial 100-mile run this past weekend.

Among those six were the Skagit County delegation of Stan Nakashima and Roberto Garcia, third and fifth place finishers respectively.

Garcia, bothered in the last 20 miles of the race by a swollen knee and blisters “on every toe I have,” had a compelling reason to finish the race.

“I told the newspaper I’d finish,” said Garcia of Mount Vernon.  “Me and Stan were together until the West Mount Vernon Bridge and I told him to go on.  He thought I might quit.

“Stan said, ‘you have to finish-you told the newspaper.’ I thought about quitting but I couldn’t.”

Garcia, who had never before run a race longer than a marathon, said he walked the last 20 miles but he still finished in 23 hours and 18 minutes.

The winner, Steve Barr of Victoria, British Columbia, ran all the way in.  He finished in 16 hours, nine minutes and 50 seconds – at approximately 3:30 A.M.

“I ran the Western States run three weeks ago and I was a little slower then,” Barr said.  “The Western States is Squaw Valley to Auburn, California –cross country through the Sierra Mountains.

“This was a little easier – but not too easy.”

Barr allowed that he got enough fuel along the way – “plenty of food and 24 beers.”

Come again?  Beer?  Doesn’t the alcohol take something out of a runner?

“No, I don’t get drunk,” Barr assured.  “In a race like this you don’t run that fast – about an eight minute mile.  And I don’t like pop or anything sweet.  I drank some water, too.”

“It was a little warm out but it could’ve been worse.  There was a cool breeze.”

Dallas Kloke, the race organizer, suggested that Barr’s time might be one of the fastest in the country this year.

“Hope so,” Barr said.  He predicted he wold be able to walk normally again in a couple days and resume running in a couple more.

Ike Fesler of Lake Stevens finished second in 20 hours and 56 minutes – at the more reasonable hour of about 8:15.  Nakashima, of Lake McMurray, powered mostly by water, placed third in 21 hours and 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to break 24 hours,” Nakashima said.  “My left foot got swollen and in the last eight mile to the finish it hurt bad.  But I wasn’t going to quit.

“I don’t know if I’m going to do this any more.  I’m glad it’s over.”

Nakashima meant he was not planning any more 100-mile races.  He did say he plans to enter this weekend’s Capital City Marathon – only 26 miles 385 yards – and may run in the upcoming Skagit County Centennial 83-mile relay as a solo entry.

“I’m not sure about that one yet,” he said.  We’ll see how I recover.  Now I fell terrible.  I went to visit someone afterward and sat down on the porch and it was real tough to get up.”

Nakashima said he alternated running and walking, with more walking toward the end of the race.

“The last five miles were really tough because there was a lot of hills (on Highway 20 to Deception Pass),” he said. 

Kloke said he was happy for the two Skagit County runners.

“Only four of these guys had ever run 100 miles before and a lot of them found out it was a logt tougher than it seemed,” Kloke said.  “But these two guys have got guts.  They don’t have talent compared to Steve (Barr) and there were other better runners who dropped out.

“But they (Nakashima and Garcia) gutted it out.”

Garcia did not seem inclined to rush out and enter another 100-mile race soon – if ever.

“It’s painful,” he said Sunday evening.  “I don’t know if I’ll do it again.  I think I’ll run more marathons.”

But Garcia was still satisfied that he had finished – fifth or whatever.

“Like I told Stanley – I just started running this year,” Garcia said.  “They tell you if you’ve never run a marathon you should train six months and I did in three.

“I’ll feel better by Wednesday or so.  But I’m not going to work the first couple of days this week.”

The fourth-place finisher was Skip Kilgore of Long Beach, Washington.  He ran the course in 22 hours and four minutes.  At about 1:30 Sunday afternoon, the race’s oldest entry – Harrison Smith, 56, of Redding California – became the sixth place finisher.

“He spent the night in a motel in Mount Vernon,” Kloke said.  “Then he got up in the morning and finished.  He called about 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon.”

Two other runners reported in with incomplete results.  John Prewitt of Salem, Oregon, ran 80- miles before dropping out and Jim Phillips of Tacoma madie it 66-and-a-half miles.

“The rest of them I guess were too pooped and didn’t call in,” Kloke said.

“I don’t know if we’ll do this again,” he added.  “IT was mostly for the centennial.  We’ll see.”

Skagit County Centennial 100-Mile Run
1st – Steve Barr (16:09:50); 2nd – Ike Fesler (20:56:00); 3rd – Stan Nakashima (21:11:00); 4th – Skip Kilgore (22:04:00); 5th – Roberto Garcia (23:18); 6th – Harrison Smith (time not available).  Other results: John Prewitt (finished 80 miles); Jim Phillips (finished 66 ½ miles).