Thinning the Herd

Possessions shift as do the interests which necessitate them.

 

Once upon a time I was fresh out of high school, working in a guitar shop, playing in a band and obsessing about all facets of music. As a direct result, I began to collect guitars. A lot of guitars.

 

In my view back then, each guitar was an arrow in the quiver. Each one had a unique voice and a proper application. While recording or performing, having several to choose from was akin to having different members of a choir, each with a unique specialty to employ when appropriate. To create my best, I felt I needed to have that versatility at my fingertips. That’s just the way I approach things; out of respect for the activity itself, I am a servant to its needs.

 

Over the last ten years, though, my interests have shifted and my life has very different goals and purposes. I’ve happily given up gigs in coffeehouses and parties and traded them in for hours of traveling by foot through wilderness. Through this new world my mindset has changed dramatically. I like the idea of “traveling lightly and efficiently”. Carrying less and making it count is a fun goal, and I believe streamlining makes for a simpler, happier life.

 

So…

 

It’s time to downsize! I need more closet space and I simply cannot justify keeping that many instruments solely to have different tones at my disposal. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I am sure that the reason certain guitars are my favorites are because they jive with my natural musical voice. There are some others that sound great, but I just don’t feel the same sensation of “singing” with them. Therefore, I can do without them.

Here’s to a simple life!

 

 

 

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An East Coaster Samples the Western States Course

One week after our whirlwind trip up to run TrailFactor with Brad and Megan, Laura and I got to have yet ANOTHER friend meetup, but this time it was in our ‘hood. Linnea Marie was in town to visit family and we jumped at the opportunity to share one of our most beloved local trails: the Western States course!

We pried ourselves out of bed at 4, pulled ourselves together and headed over to pick her up. When we got there it was my favorite time of day, just when the morning air begins to lighten a little with potential for the day.

We chatted all the way up to Foresthill, where we met another friend who’s training for the big race, as well as a couple more familiar locals shooting for an umpteenth finish at WSER.

 

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We headed out and I immediately felt the deep connection to the mountain which always colors these runs. The air was crisp, the trail was beautiful, and the company was good. What more could you ask for?

 

It was fun cruising down to the creek crossings and trotting up to Michigan Bluff, then down again and partway up to the water pump. We wanted to at least hit 4,000′ of climb and it looked like that section would have no problem delivering.

The one thing I had forgotten is how long the ascents and descents are. In that area, you can expect to climb for a solid hour at many points in the trail!

 

Here’s an elevation profile from the run:

 

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All in all, it held about 5,200′ of vertical, awesome training!

 

At the end of the run we all guzzled ice cold drinks. It was HOT out there!

 

It was really great to get together for this run. Linnea is a warm person and is extremely interesting to converse with. It was also nice to sort of experience the wonder of running that trail through the fresh eyes of a first timer.

 

Linnea has since kicked a fair amount of ass, running wise. She ran a 50M race this last weekend, then volunteered for the other runners!

 

Laura and I are looking forward to this weekend, when we get to head down to San Francisco with a certain saucy ultrarunner and tackle the Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Miler. It looked as if my start date for my new job would fall immediately after the race, which would mean I’d back out and start the new job fresh (lots of climbing, etc). Now, though, it looks more like it’s been pushed back a week. I should be fully recovered by then; these days recovery is going much better and faster. At the very least I’ll crew and pace, while Laura and Megan show the Bay Area what they can do!!!

 

Run happy and healthy, people.

Kynan

TrailFactor 50K Race Report: An Unforgettable Race

Race morning we all woke up to the sound of heavy rain pounding the ground outside. It was different than any other race morning I’ve had so far, so I popped up as soon as my alarm sounded. I peeked through the shudders and said, “This will be a great day in the woods.”

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Clothes were donned, packs were stuffed, chafe spots were lubed, and it was time to go. Excited and still blurry from sleep, Laura, Megan, Brad, and I piled into the car and headed to the race parking area. I must admit, I was wondering how the race was going to go. I love rain runs, but I had never been wet for an entire 50K. Oh well! Doing it is the only way to find out!

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After meeting up with Angie and meeting her friend, we checked in and raced around the corner to meet our friends who were also running. Bryan was graciously willing to drive us up to the start to spare us the .8mile walk. What a gentleman!

The race start was like most trail race starts, low key and relaxed. People milled around, laughing and seeing old friends. Everyone was excited for the adventure ahead. It struck me that no matter where the trail is, there is a unifying love for it which unites us runners. You will find a common thread of support and joviality throughout the world, wherever runners gather for the purpose of tackling trails together.

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The plan was for us all to more or less stick together, but I had my doubts about that going in. It seldom occurs that everyone feels the same at all times through a race that long, and so usually a group splits up at some point. Brad was talking about a 5:30 finish too, which would have been great, but a substantial PR for us. Nevertheless, Laura and I have been running increasingly strongly lately since enlisting an ultra coach’s guidance, so it felt within the realm of possibility if we both had a good race.

We did not both have a good race.

The race began and the mob moved up the mountain, stutterstepping and walking when it made sense, gaining more and more elevation in a flurry of adrenaline filled wonder. Right off the bat the gap began to widen between the Bangle-Sauce team and us Matzes. As soon as the crowd thinned a little I could hear it. Ever so subtle, there is a slight difference in how DW runs when she is not feeling well. By “not feeling well” I mean that her epilepsy is acting up and although her medication keeps her from having outright Grand Mal seizures, sometimes there is an electrical shitstorm going on in her brain. During those times, she can force her body to move and decipher what’s happening around her through sheer will, but she’s working through a thick fog. Not looking back, not having to look back, I kept the pace manageable and my wife close behind.

I asked, “How are you?” already knowing the answer.

“Not good” she replied.

“Do we need to stop? It’s fine if we stop.”

“No, I can keep moving forward.”

“Let me know. It’s better to bow out and be able to enjoy things later than to burn out out here.”

“I know. I will. Right now I can move forward.”

Damn she’s tough.

So on we went, determined to enjoy the miles as much as we could for as long as we could. I hoped our comrades had blazed ahead and were having a blast, and we settled into a rhythm of steady forward motion. Our recent training has given us more uphill running power, and I was pleased to note how much easier some of the inclines felt than they would have several months ago.

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Even in less than stellar circumstances, the forest demanded appreciation for its beauty. It was utterly spectacular! I hope the pictures I’ve posted have done them even a fraction of justice, because it was truly a marvel to see. The lushness of Forest Park was unlike anything I’d seen before, and I’m already aching to go back.

The rain was not a problem at all. On the contrary, it was fantastic! I heard a runner celebrating that we got “free showers all day!” The creeks were fun to  splash through, the mud was a little thick and sloppy in a few spots, but overall it made for a very enjoyable run. In fact, it was a welcome break from the heat back home. (We just hit triple digits)

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Due to the thick forest canopy, our Garmins were completely useless. They lost signal so often that by the first aid station they were hopelessly behind. It was the first race we ran without ever having the slightest clue how far we’d gone. It wasn’t until the last aid station that we learned how far we had left. Less than six miles! We knew the last miles were downhill, so we shot off in anticipation of feeling some wind and letting gravity do some work for us! Laura had begun to feel a little better by then so she was leading at a speedy clip. For the first time in this race, we were hauling ass and firing on all cylinders. It was great!

The 5:30 mark passed and we wondered aloud whether our speed demons were gulping victory beer yet. The last miles felt better for both of us and every downhill felt like a rollercoaster. We turned a corner, saw the finish arch, and burned whatever gas was left in the tank. The roar of the crowd packed on both sides of the chute combined with the feeling of Laura’s hand in mine as we flew across the line in a moment of perfection. I am lucky to have been able to hold onto that memory; it’s one of my favorites of the trip.

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Brad had joined the ultra ranks. Megan had PR’d. Laura and I had PR’d. Megan’s friend Will PR’d by an hour and a half! Life was very good, and as I sipped a Lucky Lab IPA from my finisher’s pint glass, I soaked in the scene and felt fortunate to be with these wonderful people in this amazing place.

Now it is nearly two weeks later and I am still reminiscing about our escape to the PNW. It was a time filled with laughter and incredible experiences. We made new friends, saw some of our favorite people, and got to know a very special city. I am indeed a lucky man.

Run happy and healthy, my friends!!!

If Portland Had Sunny Skies, I’d Move There Tomorrow

The weeks before this trip were flavored by an underlying sense of excitement which grew a little each day.  Laura and I decided to travel up North to run a little race with some good friends, and the place was just a bonus: Portland!

The decision to go was basically based on two facts. Well not really two, more like 1 ½.  Over the last couple years, through a continued maze of blogs, texts, meetups, and Facebook posts, Brad and Megan have become two of our closest friends from the Loop.  I know you all have experienced it.  Everyone there is supportive and interesting (an incredibly rare thing in online communities), but there are some you just click with a bit more. Those are the people who you make special trips to see because it makes your life better.

We probably would have gone anyway, but the chance to be present while Brad ran his very first ultramarathon sealed the deal! This guy has been floating through marathons for years and finally wanted to test the waters of longer distance on tougher terrain. We’d been telling him it’s easier, but the glaze of dubiousness always covered his eyes when he replied. Now he was about to get hooked, and we all knew it!

One of the best parts of the weekend was that we got to stay with Senorita Sauce for the entire duration. She has the coolest cozy place for chilling and talking, with bonus gummy bears at the ready. Megan has a definite bubbly bouncy persona in her blogs, one which is only made funnier when combined with the clever sarcastic side you get to see in person. All in all, just a fantastic person to be stuck with for days!

Brad is a dude you have to know for a while to really know. He is a big fan of exact figures and numbers, but that quality is tempered with a huge heart.  Time spent with him is full of quick jokes and friendly ribbing, and whenever it’s time for goodbyes, it always seems too soon.

We had arrived and were getting to know Sauce’s Portland Crew (you know, thorough personal histories and theological discussions) when Brad and his friend Disco Stew arrived and we all proceeded to obtain the finest ice cream I have ever tasted. Salt & Straw for the win! It was then that I decided I liked Portland. A lot. Each place has a vibe, a combination of people’s energy and the city itself, which I suppose is a direct extension of that energy. Portland felt comfortable, creative, and relaxed.

To tell the truth, I actually didn’t want to have a set schedule ahead of time. Part of the fun was letting the weekend happen, and it did not disappoint. Saturday morning we met up with Annie and our new P-town friends (enormous dog in tow) and set off on the most amazing hike I’ve done. The forest was unbelievable! 12 miles of pure bliss, with the last 7 joined by Brad’s own local crew.

Forest Intro

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Sunday morning we pulled ourselves together and headed to a hometown breakfast place to meet up with Angie and her Hubby, who were a delight. It always amazes me how people we meet online can immediately feel like old friends, and this was no exception! We all gabbed and inhaled all sorts of breakfast vittles.

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Afterwards it was time to check out what the ‘Couve had to offer, so we toured the historic Fort and Land Bridge. There were historical signs everywhere, and I enjoyed learning about how Native American culture had helped to shape the region’s identity.

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Mildsauce was cordial enough to take us for a boat ride. It ended… regrettably.

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The oldest apple tree IN THE WORLD!!!

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Dinner at Annie’s was great. She graciously invited us into her home and fed us a huge load of delicious lasagna. For some reason I was ravenous, so in an uncharacteristically voracious move, I piled my pre-race plate high and devoured it all. The conversation flowed like miles underfoot, and I was sad to have to call it a night and rest up for race day.

Dinner

I’m going to pause here for intermission. The race itself held too much to fit here without feeling like that drunk guy, sitting at the bar, you know, rambling on and on to the bartender, who’s basically stuck there and forced to listen in order to be polite, even though he’s anxious to get the story over with and share some comments of his own, just sitting through the longest run on sentence in the history of monologues, maybe in the history of history…

Coming up:

THE RACE!!!