Monday, August 25, 2014

Visions, dreams

Short hill repeats on Sugar Loaf Hill last week in the near suffocating heat and humidity. I think so this is how it is in the jungles of southeastern Asia?  Its almost hard to catch my breath after I crest the sandy hill each time and gaze out at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, forever nonplussed by any of this. My heart races bam bam bam bam bam bam bam as I turn to head back down. Today taking the narrow steeper stretch of hill fairly fast to get a bit of a feel for how I may run some parts of the terrain at Iron Mountain.

I catch site of yet another lizard that scurries like a hallucinated flash across the trail and think "the lizards are getting fat."  This amuses me, and makes me feel a bit more at peace with my surroundings. I always feel more of a communion with the animals and to some extent the vegetation when I'm running in adverse conditions such as heat, rain, snow, etc. The line that separates us becomes a bit more blurred. Life and death are essentially the same for them as it is for myself.

An easier run Sunday as the calendar tells me its less than a week until the big race. I mix in some sprints on the way back. Get in some pushups and weights later in the day. Natasha texts me that night  "what if I don't finish?"  I respond something to the extent that don't worry we will... but she reminds me of a friend, a good ultra runner who didn't finish 2 years ago. Which puts my ego a bit in check and gives me a moment of pause. Though I'd rather not think along those lines at all and instead occupy my mind with visions of running thru deep, dark woods on top of the ancient, rocky Appalachian Mountains... feeling perhaps a cool breeze tingle my skin as the late summer afternoon passes by like an ephemeral dream I had a thousand years I move forward like a flying ghost unbound by the 3d world.

Finished reading Dharma Bums again. Scenes of the boys hiking the magnificent golden, gnarly trails out west.

Me trying to get the spirituality as right as I can going into the event. Hoping the physical and mental parts have been honed and are ready for action. Storing up energy. Waiting for it all to uncoil like one mad spring let loose to wail on and on...up, down, and across the unforgiving, rugged miles and miles and miles

Rumbles in the belly. Starlit visions. Purple dawns await.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

11 days

Until the Iron Mountain 50 mile trail race. Looking at elevation profile maps and aid station lists on their website. Cut off times. Names that conjure a mythical, dark romantic lore about them... Skull's Gap... Hurricane Gap...Rowland Creek Falls.  Making hotel reservations and travel plans. Thinking about what I might put in my drop bag. Counting down the days.

Getting in a few more harder threshold runs. 5 on Sunday in 36 minutes and 10 on Sunday in a buck sixteen in oppressive heat and humidity down in Brunswick County. Ancillary work almost daily. Pushups, free weight. Sit ups, planks. Lunges.

Telling myself to finish the deal.

Tapering. Easy 4 mile run today. On the inner island dirt roads... somewhat overgrown late summer look of higher grass and overgrown weeds. Brief recollections of harder runs done here much earlier in the year. Today...smelling the roses. Soaking it in. Enjoying the act of running in its most basic simplicity. Being outdoors. Healthy (though I'm slightly concerned about some low level pain on the outside/ bottom of right foot- initially bruised on a rocky trail way up the Blue Mtn in PA).

Eating a lot. Fresh fruits. Reminding myself to get pistachios like Michael suggested. Conversations with those who wish me well.

Trying to silence any doubts. Enjoying the journey.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sickness, the Sun and Dragonflies

The liner notes to Jane's Addiction's album Ritual de lo Habitual contain a sentence that some 20 years later I have never forgotten. "Sometimes in order to realize you are well, someone or something has to come along and hurt you."  A quick invading stomach bug was the something that hurt me Tuesday... perhaps brought on by the exhaustion of running and travelling the past 2 weeks.

But later in the evening I was feeling a little better and was able to hold down solid food. Went over to the beach for a little bit and on the walk back home was captivated by the massive orange fuzzy ball of the sun setting to the west. My first thought was I have to go for a run

Just a short run, but a run nonetheless. Again captivated or almost mesmerized by the magnitude of this enormous orange circle that was kind of fuzzed over at the edges as seen thru the late day haze...slowly dropping into the tree tops and woods on the back side of the island.

And as I would move into vantage points that would obstruct more of the sun I noticed countless dragonflies filling the skies. They appeared to have come out of nowhere and were flying haphazardly all about. Fortunately they seemed to have no interest in humans. Maybe all the rain this summer has brought them all out?  Nonetheless it was such a curious and mystical site to see... and to be running through.

Run lasted 20 minutes and in that time space the sun safely slid below the tree lined horizon to the west. Was some of the best 20 minutes of running I've had in good while.

Monday, August 11, 2014

home in Pennsylvania

I told some guests I was sitting with at a party yesterday that I had run from Franklin Township to Nesquehoning and back (about a 30 mile round trip). Get a kick out of the incredulous looks, and answering the inevitable follow up questions like "how?", "why?", "are you nuts?"

Back home running last week in Pennsylvania. Running with ghosts from my past. Old courses I (we) ran during high school cross country and track practices. Or along routes I did when I lived back home after college and got back into running a lot. At times I can feel them loping along side of me. I can hear whispering lilting melodies that ride the gentle breezes. Its like time can condense and fold back in on itself creating a quasi duality where the present and the past are fused as one.

Got to the end of Born to Run again last night where the protagonist known as Caballo Blanco tells a spellbound audience just who exactly he is and perhaps why he does what he does. I got it, and get it today. All the running. But I cant really explain it or synthesize it into words. Suffice it to say this is where we need to be.

It was Emerson I think who said he "never trusted a sedentary thought."

Ukes run last Tuesday night with Paul. He was talking at the time so I had to cut him off and ask for a moment of silence as we passed Kathy Jo's old house. I tear up just thinking about. I'm not sure why. But its times like that I hope we truly can communicate with the deceased on some medium. Its dark til we get done. Saturday we do a similar run with his 12 year old son Alex. He guts out a 6 mile run admirably. Big hills. I make shadow puppets behind his head as we run.

Found trails the one morning that snake up and around the Blue Mountain. Single track, steep, rocky in places. I have to really pay attention to the red trail markings on trees and rocks on the upper trail as to not get lost. I think about ducks in Dharma Bums...Gary Snyder explaining to Jack Kerouac how fellow climbers use them to mark the easiest paths to take over rocks. I'm pretty thirsty on the way down as I open it up and fly like an animal on parts of the trails. Stop and drink with cupped hands out of a spring in the woods.

I come upon clearings in the trees and am blessed with 20,30+ mile views northward back beyond Jim Thorpe and into the Poconos, and southward down and across the Lehigh Valley. I think about all the times I looked at this mountain as a kid (could even see from the living room window of my old house) and how now I was almost on top of it. Running. For a moment I wished I had a camera... but perhaps views like this are only to be seen by climbing on up oneself. Purity.

Capped it Sunday with another run on the towpath to complete my first ever 100 mile week.