Happy Runner, Happy Life

I’m reading The Happy Runner and part of the book is about gaining some clarity on your personal running Why’s. This is what I came up with in 30 minutes. I reserve the right to edit at any point in the future.

Why do I run at all? I run because I like to get out into the forest on the trails. I like being close to the trees and to nature. The air is cleaner, it’s quiet, there usually aren’t many people. I like running to explore new places. I like running when I travel – I can see more of a new place on my feet. I like to learn routes in new cities. There’s some discovery appeal. The idea of serendipity. I’m open to the unexpected. I like to run uphill a lot. Mostly in the mountains. I don’t like running downhill fast because I’m scared I’m going to get hurt. When I was a kid I was running into our apartment in Berlin and slipped on a metal grate and fractured my ankle, then I used a pair of my sister’s crutches and proceeded to fall down a flight of stairs, fracturing the other ankle. I wheeled around in a wheelchair before I could hobble and scoot across the floor to get around. The final reason that I run is because my mom has multiple sclerosis. I’m terrified that some day I won’t be able to be active and so it’s a reminder of my own fragility and mortality. Running is freedom. I feel great after I run, like the world is full of possibilities and that thing that was so heavy on my mind before I went running is just a mild annoyance.

Why do I run each day? I’m mostly constrained by work and family obligations. If I have the time, I’ll typically seize the opportunity to go for a run. If I’ve been on my feet all day working (physical work, like in the shop or in the garden) I may not go for a run – on those days I get nearly as many steps as a 10K or longer just walking up and down stairs and around the house. I find it relatively easy to get out the door, I don’t ever dread going for a run. More often I’ll get to the farthest point out on my run and maybe take a brief pause to recognize that I’ve come halfway and savor the way home. If I had the time, I would run every day, but some days I have meetings or just a short window between responsibilities. In my 20’s I made a vow to myself to never run for less than 45 minutes. I’ve only broken that when I’ve gone running with my children or racing a 5k… wait… or a 10k 🙂

Why am I racing at all? I’m not right now. Ultra running events feel more like group runs, which I can muster only occasionally. I’m concentrating really hard when I’m trail running – it’s meditative. I’ve raced shorter trail races in the past and really enjoyed the tight pack running through the forest at high speed. It’s exhilarating. But I don’t enjoy it more than going for a long run in the woods by myself. In order to race longer, 50k – 100 miler, it takes more time and planning. I would rather listen to my body and run when, where and how I feel than following a training regimen. I planned to race a marathon in July 2019, but overtrained between cycling and increasing my running mileage. I didn’t have the foundation to do a hard 30 mile ride followed by a hard 20 mile run the next day.

Why do I have long term goals? This one is super tough. I’m sorry to say that I don’t right now. The past 3 years after running my first and only 100 miler I have only tried to be consistent – consistently balancing 20-30 miles / week + family obligations. I’ve tried to be overall mountain strong by lifting weights in addition to cycling about 40 miles per week. I feel as if I’ve been in maintenance mode. I climbed a bit more, Mt. Rainier in July 2018 and a few days ice climbing in Ouray in February 2019. I completed (partially) my goal of riding my bike from Portland to Mt Hood, then climbing and skiing it. This one may warrant a do over, but it was my second attempt and I got much further than the first attempt (I climbed and skied from Illumination Rock). Overall, the future plan is the problem I’m working on. I’d like to race a 100 miler (now that I know I can go the distance). And I’d like to do some multi-day linkups in the PNW. I also have climbing goals for the coming season for which a strong aerobic base and strength training will help. There’s one goal I can think of that’s been rattling around my brain for a while. I want to run the Zane Gray 100K in Arizona.

The book is great. First part is all about getting into the right mindset to have a long running career. It’s good. I just set a calendar reminder to register for Zane Gray 😉

The New Timer

I just finished reading Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. It resonated on so many levels: his East Coast Catholic school upbringing, blue collar family life among others. When I was in college I took an American Literature course that included a reading of The Grapes of Wrath.

Springsteen’s album, The Ghost of Tom Joad is the soundtrack to the novel. As powerful as Steinbeck’s writing is about the American experience during the dust bowl 1930’s, Springsteen’s modern take in songs like Sinaloa Cowboys and Across the Border bring it straight to present (late 90’s anyway) and draw the parallels to Mexican immigration of today. That album is one of his best. He writes quite a bit about his move to more social justice topics. I have a whole new respect for him as a writer.

Here are a few passages from the book that moved me.

Back east we usually experience the freedom that comes with a good snowstorm. No work, no school, the world shutting its big mouth for a while, the dirty streets covered over in virgin white, like all the missteps you’ve taken have been erased by nature. You can’t run; you can only sit. You open your door on a trackless world, your old path, your history, momentarily covered over by a landscape of forgiveness, a place where something new might happen.

In this life (and there is only one), you make your choices, you take your stand and you awaken from the youthful spell of “immortality” and its eternal present. You walk away from the nether land of adolescence. You name the things beyond your work that will give your life its context, meaning . . . and the clock starts. You walk, now, not just at your partner’s side, but alongside your own mortal self. You fight to hold on to your newfound blessings while confronting your nihilism, your destructive desire to leave it all in ruins.

In all psychological wars, it’s never over, there’s just this day, this time, and a hesitant belief in your own ability to change. It is not an arena where the unsure should go looking for absolutes and there are no permanent victories. It is about a living change, filled with the insecurities, the chaos, of our own personalities, and is always one step up, two steps back.

You simply can’t stop imagining other worlds, other loves, other places than the one you are comfortably settled in at any given moment, the one holding all your treasures. Those treasures can seem so easily made gray by the vast, open and barren spaces of the creative mind. Of course, there is but one life. Nobody likes that . . . but there’s just one. And we’re lucky to have it. God bless us and have mercy on us that we may have the understanding and the abilities to live it . . . and know that “possibility of everything” . . . is just “nothing” dressed up in a monkey suit . . . and I’d had the best monkey suit in town.

Those whose love we wanted but could not get, we emulate. It is dangerous but it makes us feel closer, gives us an illusion of the intimacy we never had. It stakes our claim upon that which was rightfully ours but denied.

The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t you run back inside, darling you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright
And it’s alright with me

B. Springsteen, Thunder Road, 1975

You’re not wrong

Through the open window the cicadas reached a crescendo, crashed, and slowly began their chorus again. The drapes billowed and waved, the humid air rustling the pages of a calendar pinned to the wall in the kitchen.

He sat on the couch in silence studying the texture of the wall, leaning back into the armrest.

“I should go.” he said. The truth as a tangible, concrete idea, existing as a platform upon which all things in the universe reside, waiting for words to be layered upon it. 

He thought of a summer long ago when he was a boy, fireflies blinking on and off at tree line. The smell of fresh cut grass and the cool wash cool of air sailing down the mountains at dusk. The world was magic and inexplicable.

Suddenly he felt his toes in his shoes, glanced down at the floor, then to the clock.  He had already stood up to leave, then felt the gravity of the furniture holding him down. Versions of ourselves have embarked on infinite timelines, consciousness is choosing which story to tell.

PCT to Mt Hood

I was up and out by 4:30 on Sunday to get to Bridge of the Gods and scope out the PCT as it climbs out of the Gorge and makes its way to Mt Hood. I think this area is prime for a longer link up with a short overnighter along the way.

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls was running and I paused to take some pictures before continuing the run. The trail was mostly runnable with a few rocky scree traverses, all very power-hikable.

Hello little friend

At around 3 miles I came to the intersection of Herman Creek Cutoff trail and the PCT. From here the PCT climbs steadily. I hit my turnaround time a little after 8am and 6.5 miles and then turned and booked it back down and to the car at Bridge of the Gods.

Burns from the Eagle Creek fire. The understory is coming back.

I took one bottle of Cytomax and 1.5 liters of water in a hydration pack in the Ultimate Direction FKT vest. Super comfy vest and the kit I’ll mostly likely be able to carry a bivy and tarp in to fastpack through to Timberline.

Table Mountain… I think.

I drank the Cytomax and a few sips of water… I ate when I got back to the car and didn’t feel like stopping from Dry Creek to the car (all downhill) .

Not the place to fall here. Very steep and a long way down.

These sections are also part of Christof Teucher’s Hatfield loops. Those are definitely on the punch list for this summer and fall.

Make it bounce

Sample size of 1.

I’ve been running in Altras for the past … 3 years? A mix of Torin’s and Lone Peak’s for road to trail. The latest Torin (3.5) had some nice updates. The mesh is nice and cool when it’s hot. The sole no longer extends beyond the upper so it looks less like a duck foot. After a 12 mile run 2 weeks ago, they started to just feel kind of flat. I was tired and my form wasn’t the best, but even running on asphalt, they just felt really firm.

So I started to think about something with a bigger stack height, something softer for long training runs on dirt/gravel/concrete/asphalt … which means moving away from Altra zero drop. I moved from New Balance to Brooks Pure Flow’s maybe 8 years ago and destroyed my calves and achilles. I think it’s common when moving to a zero drop shoe. It took an entire season to recover from the Plantar Fasciitis I had back then – mostly I just ran through it and iced and stretched it. I was sleeping in a boot on my right foot. It sucked.

Once I had the foot strength built up for run in zero drops I never went back. Using a custom orthotic in a zero drop shoe I would guess I’m getting maybe 3-4mm toe/heel drop. It’s been working for me – with the exception of the recent hard landings in the Torin 3.5. I always just thought I was sore from the running. That my quads and hips were just sore from the effort.

I picked up a pair of Hoka Clifton 5’s to throw into the rotation and see if they would work for longer mixed surface runs. Not saying I’m a fan boy yet – but I’m no longer sore when I wake up in the morning. I did a long 9 mile road/trail on Friday and didn’t feel any residual soreness on Saturday. I took Saturday off and then did a medium/hard (downhill) run on Sunday. I was running downhill fast (around 6:00 pace). And I was thinking my quads were going to be shredded running that hard – but Monday morning – nothing. It’s the Hoka cushioning (I think). I could be just adapting to the increase in mileage, but I really think I’m getting a softer landing.

I’m considering a Hoka for trails, but one thing I love about the Lone Peaks is the ground feel. I’m not sure I want to be that high off the ground.


Some strides for speed today. It was kind of a tempo run to strides to cool down. The biggest issue for me this training cycle as I start to increase load is to not get injured…so sleep, lots of calories, lots of stretching and foam rolling.

It would be fun to burn down a 10K at race pace… soon. The intensity definitely fires me up though. I actually like that burning lactic acid. Based on past 5K’s at race pace my lactic threshold is around 6:20-6:30. I’m going to see how true that is soon and see what I can do to push that down.