Monday, September 21, 2009

I love my friends

The reason I know they are my friends is that they all want the best for me. I am crazy, everyone knows this. I am also an athlete, a survivor, a quick study, a high school record holder as a swimmer. I am a kid who played in water, loved it, respected it, and watched it move for as long as I can remember. I take it all into account when I figure out what I want to do. And when you go to do something crazy, ALL the people who really love you come forward and either offer opinions or straight up tell you what to do. The same sort of thing happened when I launched my own business. It is going wonderfully, and I am so happy that I have found a way to make my parents happy. Honestly it means more to me than making a decent living and slowly earning "freedom". I was always the kid that they feared for, not because I simply had no mental artillery, but because sometimes, I just skipped out on target practice so to speak. :-) My parents, Mom especially, had to suffer the anguish of watching what she is convinced is a super smart kid not achieve some great purpose in life. That annoyed me from age 5 to age 21. Then, I had to admit that I felt me same for my own daughter who has limitless potential as far as I can tell. I want so badly for her to be happy. I don't care how she does it but I want it for her more than anything. I don't care what she does, I just want her to have good life according to her. I'd like to think that my mom has less stress now because she knows I am happy. I love my job, I love my life. The route by which I came to here is a rocky one, but I am here. And I will keep doing what I do here living the life that has worked for me so far.

I am a hippy, kinda, I am not really driven, but I can be inspired. I am the only person in my family that does not have a masters degree, and in no uncertain terms I can tell that I'd rather eat excrement and die before going back to "formal" school. School and I do not agree. As you all know, I do what I do. I have just always lived, because that is what I do. I love life, and sometimes doing seemingly crazy stuff is a way to celebrate that.

My daughter, my parents, my siblings, my friends, you all mean a lot to me, damn near everything in fact, and you always will. I'm going to have a pow wow tomorrow with some folks whose opinions and knowledge I have come to value. Then, we shall see. But I will make a decision based on the odds as I see them at that time. I think I have a pretty good handle on the consequences of falling out at the top of the series of rapids above big pillow, ledges or the top of frank bells. It is something I don't want to do, in fact, I don't want to fall out tomorrow at all if I go. There is no place at all minus maybe windy flats or the bottom of frank bells where a swim is no big deal... I have been told full well by folks that KNOW what they are talking about that a river in flood stage can mean death because of the way the water moves a layer or two down. Like a rip tide but with a chemical imbalance like Jack from the shining. I get it.
I love living, I plan of doing a lot more of it for years and years. But I am not going to refuse to live at any point in time if I think that something that is going on "insane" but probably something you could live through if you go. My dad talks about the Gauley as a "bucket list" item. My sister has already done it. Well, I want to see the french broad raging. If things look good when I wake (by this I mean a big group with lots of guides and people I trust in a large group...) well, maybe we put in.

Nov. 21st, 2009 update. Um, we did not. it was like 16000 cfs or something insane like that. A few days later we did rock it out at 6-7000 somewhere in there. That was way fun. I still want to see 10000 some day, but no more than that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dear God how I MISS IT!

At this very moment, 12 of my friends are in two vans somewhere between Blowing Rock and Spruce Pine. They are this year's incarnation of Norm's Maggots. A most dominating force in the South East Running Relay world. I cut my teeth back in 2004 at Hood To Coast Relay and continued that trend with an Asheville (basically Norm's Maggots) relay team called the Evil Doers for 2004, 2005 and 2006. "Evil Doers" was a clear poke at G. W. Bushes BS. Anyway, the tiny town of Asheville would scrape together 9-12 local runners, go out to Portland Oregon and stack up against the best teams of runners throughout the USA and typically come in top 40 and as high as 19th (out of 1000+ teams mind you). Not too shabby for a little city that isn't even in the top 200 cities in the US by population, and I daresay probably not in the top 300. The final year, 2006, I served as Captain and created a true Coed Team. We always wanted one, but never had enough girls. There are all sorts of divisions, "open" (people of any age) Coed (must have 6 women minimum) submasters (all runners 30 or over) When I was 29 I was the lone reason that we did not win a top six award in "submasters". We always ran as "open" But had women, and 40 year olds and all sorts of people. Anyway, Norms Maggots finally won 6th in the coed division in 2006 when I was captain... But the drama that surrounded me being captain made all of that a phyrric victory. I have to blame most of it on my ex girl friend and a guy on our team. It took a lot of composure to survive that weekend. I did manage to have fun though. That is what matters, that and getting the first medal for an Asheville Hood to Coast team was nice as well. It was funny, we all partied so hard that the next day, only myself and my ex girlfriend stumbled down to the shoreline to collect our awards. Me... in a Hot pink Mohawk that I fashioned just for the relay... Jesus I was a cocky badass that year... But I had my reasons.

Let me back up a minute. Every Tuesday, Norman Blair, Owner of Jus' Running and "lifer" in the sport or "activity" of running has been hosting a Tuesday track workout. Norm Has run over well over 100,000 miles in his life, and might hit 200,000 before it's all over. In his younger years he did things that few humans ever will in terms of running. He is truly an amazing person, but he isn't going to tell you about it unless you force him to. Anyway, he is a great guy, with a huge heart. Both Physically and metaphorically, so go get some shoes or gear from his shop. SERIOUSLY.

Back to the story, the Maggot workout leaves from the Shop on Merrimon ave. and a mile and a half later you find yourself at UNCA's track where you may do two more laps if you like to round it up to 2 miles even. At that point you are given "the workout" which is usually 6000-6400 meters of run like hell interspersed with 2000-2500 worth of stumble jog suck wind and get ready to run like hell again. Then, you get to haul your broken and tired body back to Jus' Running a mile and a half away. It is nasty, it is hell on earth, it is typically the hardest workout you will do all week. And for folks who don't ever do track workouts, or do them alone without the eyes, legs and lungs of your peers to press you onward, it's harder than anything you have ever done save an actual race where you leave it ALL out there. Anyway, if you want to become a "serious" runner, Norm's Maggots is the best way in town for you to make that happen. It's got something for everyone, from the newbie trying to go from a 30:00 down to a 25:00 5K all the way to crazy fast folks trying to go under 14:00 for a 5K. The only groups this thing does not service is world class Olympic athletes and folks more than 50 pounds overweight... But all the way up to AND including semi pro folks who do show up at races and win decent money... Yup, this one's for you.
I LOVE running relays. They are, in my opinion, the most amazing thing that you can do as runner. Individual races are fine, I have done the Boston Marathon... it's cool, I LOVE shut in ridge Trail Run, It is so challenging and visually stunning. But nothing beats these relays that are roughly 200 miles long and use 12 folks. The format is simple, there are 36 legs, you go in order. If you have 12 folks, god bless you, each person runs 3 times. Hood to Coast Relay is 197 miles or so, If you don't have 12... well, everybody just runs more. H2C starts at Mount hood and goes, you guessed it, to Seaside Oregon. Do the math, and as you can see, each person on a "full" team is facing an average of 16.5 miles each. Some get a little more, some a little less. Anyway, you arrange your team according to the abilities that they have. I am a sprinter and a downhill runner... I personally got to run down mount hood twice. Which I count as an honor and a badge of courage, because it does destroy your legs. One time, we wound up with 10 folks and injuries setting in on others. I ran 4 times and polished off 23 miles I think. It was painful, I was not particularly fit for that one. In fact, 2006 was the only time that I was really fit.
I will go back and run hood to coast again, I swear it. It is really fun, and a great experience. When? who knows, but I will. Those races taught me how to survive running hard 3 times within 24 hours.
Now then, back to my 12 sweaty, tired, aching friends winding through the mountains of western North Carolina in the pitch black.... Back in 2005 the blue ridge relay was started. 10 teams came together and participated. H2C is always the week before labor day, BRR is always the week after it. I had just killed myself in H2C and was not going to do the BRR just two weeks after (though some maggots actually do this some times). Norm's Maggots won the first year and beat the other 9 teams. They ran a crazy 208 hilly miles through a much rougher course than hood to coast. In 2006 I once again said, no I am running Hood to Coast and must pass on the dreaded double. Then in 2007 while launching my own business I proceeded to get totally out of shape. The Maggots had won again in 2006 and were looking to defend the title. I was out on a date on Thursday night and I was... to be honest, getting drunk and enjoying the company of a young woman. Gary, the Captain of the Maggots called me with a situation. They were two runners short and he was looking for someone to fill the gap. I told him the following.
1. I WAS getting drunk,
2. I was going to have a lot of "relations" that night and would not get much sleep.
3. Yes I would be there at 8:00am on Friday morning and be ready to roll but I wouldn't be worth much.

I woke up that morning and dropped the young lady off at her dorm room... um yes... and then I went to CSV and got " the essentials" that I did not have. Those were as follows.
1. immodium. (you just need it for this kind of relay)
2. Duct tape ( for your feet if anything goes wrong)
3. String cheese
4. Tums.

I already had "endurolytes" which are salt pills. You take those and drink a lot of water to fix the hang over and it's nasty effects on the body and also it helps from leg to leg during the race.
So, I turn up at home trust bank all disheveled and post hook up at 8am... And I ask the "rookies" on the teams if they have the essential items and list them... oh it was sooooo cute, they are looking at me like I am crazy. Before it was all over, they all needed these items (and it was not pretty sometimes). Anyway, I ran myself sober during the 2007 relay, we won again. 2008, I was put out of commission by an injury but toed the line with my Maggots woefully out of shape. I ran smart and did my little part, but the team was uber stacked and we ran away from the competition again and smashed our own record by almost an hour . In 2007, with only 11 runners I helped keep other folks from suffering the 4th leg agony but didn't make us faster. In 2008, to be honest, they would have ran faster if there were only 11 and left me at home, but the 12 is a nice team concept. And I KNOW how to do these sort of relays. I was there for my knowledge, not my legs.
That brings us to right now. For some reason, People scheduled Asheville Half Marathon a week early, and thus it went to the same weekend as the BRR. Asheville Half is one of my biggest races of the year. I simply can't walk away from it and what it means to my business. This meant that, for the first time since 2003 I could not do a running relay.

I ache for it.

Hauling ass through the night, no noise except for the slap of your feet against the road, your breath visible in the head light in front of you. Just pounding forward, Scared for your team, running for the record, grinding your flesh in carefully and painfully measured portions into the all important clock, running to keep your team ahead of the team that is there to challenge you (because in Blue Ridge Relay, there is always at least one) Then after the painful lonely unknown, a light ahead, the exchange point, you lift your knees and heels and drive the whole suffering mass of one leg down and one leg to go homeward, screaming "MAGGOT!!!!!" at the top of your overdrawn lungs to let your team mates know that the Maggots relay is coming and it's time to send another of your 11 friends tearing up the road in their quest for the team's greatness.
At 8:00 tonight I called Matt Roane, one of the team members to get an update, the first van ran smart and was 2 minutes behind team Mizuno, this years big threat. Team Mizuno= a super star team of guys from all over the southeast trying to be the first team other than Norm's Maggots to take the Blue Ridge Relay, which has now grown to over 100 teams. The second van took over and extended a 10 minute lead over team Mizuno. Word is one of team Mizuno became injured or is getting Ill. The Maggots are weathering well.
Obviously, I hope my maggots all ran smart and persist through the night. Trials of Miles and Miles of Trials, not to mention trying to not get lost in the dark. I just wish I was there... Oh well, back to work.
I made a silly video of last years race from the Maggot point of view. Well OK, the Prancer Maggot point of view.

Hopefully The Maggots Defend the title... Either way the relay record is going to fall. I give it a 98% chance of this happening. The record pace is a blistering 6:19 per mile over hills and some gravel, it's not all paved. Some of the mountain passes are a pain to walk never mind run. That was good for 21 hours and 53 minutes...
This is an edit to last nights post.
The Maggots did defend the title. They did so despite a wrong turn that cost 10-13 minutes and then a train that cost them more time (can't cross the tracks till the train passes). Despite all that, they still beat the record from last year. Team Mizuno put up a hell of a fight, I didn't hear the official time they ran but i may well have been within last years record. They had the lead at times but were eventually vanquished by the disciplined and methodical hammering acceleration that only a seasoned Maggot team can administer.