Chasing Wolves

English: Engraving of a black wolf by J. G. Ke...
English: Engraving of a black wolf by J. G. Keulemans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a boy, my grandfather gave me a slingshot. I used it almost everyday in the open field near his house. One day I set up range with rusty tin cans and dirty old beer bottles near a giant oak tree. Perched on one of the long gnarly limbs of the tree was a dove. It was sitting so still, gazing down at me. I don’t know what got into me, but I grabbed a jagged rock, loaded it into the slingshot, pulled back as far as I could, and aimed at the bird.

The dove wasn’t like the cans, it didn’t just fall over when the rock struck it; instead its lightly feathered breast absorbed the sharp rock with a soft thump; the dove cried out with dull and painful murmur as it struggled to heave itself into the air. With its chest crushed, it couldn’t fly, pulsing wildly in the air as it tumbled into a patch of tall grass near the base of the oak. I sprinted over, watching it beat its wings back and forth against the dirt and grass, trying to inhale air into its smashed breast, its strength slowly fading from it, dark blood trickling from its beak. I remember looking into its eyes, they seemed to say to me “Why did you do this to me?” I had no answer. So I just stared at it, stunned. Slowly the stroke of the dove’s wings waned until it lay still, its outstretched wings facing the sky. The moment it died, I sensed the presence of my ancestors, watching me from above, scowling down with disapproval.

I felt heartsick. Something snapped deep inside my being, a flood of guilt and shame rushed into my soul. I felt dirty, sullied, unclean. I clutched at my chest trying to wipe the feeling away, but the stain remained.

I ran into my grandfather’s house crying. He gathered me up in his big carpenter’s arms and held me, rocking me back and forth in his burly armchair. My head against his chest with tears in my eyes, I told him what I had done. He let me cry for a while, and when I had calmed down, he told me this story:

He said inside everyone is a black wolf. And this black wolf is cruelty, fear, ignorance: everything evil. But also inside everyone is a white wolf. And this white wolf is love, courage, curiosity: everything good. At some point in everyone’s life, these two wolves start to fight. When the black wolf is winning, he said, you’ll feel the way you do now: confused, sad, unfulfilled. But when the white wolf is winning you’ll feel focused, happy, fulfilled. If you’re not careful, he warned, the black wolf can gradually take control of you, leading you down very dark paths. I knew that I didn’t want follow the black wolf; so,  I asked my grandfather what I could do to fight it. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, “To fight the black wolf, you must feed the white one, giving him more power and strength than the black one.” Then he told me to find the body of the dove, apologize to it, dig a grave for it and to bury the slingshot next to it. I did what my grandfather told me to do and I felt much better. When I patted the last scoop of dirt on the grave, I could tell that my my ancestors and the dove were pleased.

Sometimes when I’m alone on long barefoot runs on the remote trails of the  Oregon wilderness, I feel a powerful presence leading the way, guarding me from the black wolves prowling in the dark shadows.

Which wolf are you feeding?

99 reasons to run?

When I see the number 99,  I see two runners, one in the lead, the other chasing closely behind. I also think of balloons.

9 chasing 9
99 looks like 9 chasing 9

Then I hear that silly 80s song, 99 Luftballons. They are cheap, 99 cent store/DollarTree balloons. When I see them drifting up into the deep blue sky, I wonder how I’ll be feeling when I’m running the 99th mile of the Cascade Crest 100. Will I hear that stupid song? Will I hallucinate the red balloons? Or will I merely realize that the word “bed”, looks like a bed, with the b and d as headboards.

 

Why am I so concerned with the number 99? It’s not because Zues had 9 daughters or because Christ “gave up the ghost” in the ninth hour. Quite simply it’s because there are 99 days left in this year. For some odd reason 99 demands a list. So, here’s my list entitled, “99 reasons to run”:

  1. It’s fun
  2. It’s good for your soul
  3. It’s good for your feet
  4. It’s good for back
  5. It’s good for your knees
  6. It’s good for your toes
  7. It’s good for your blood
  8. It’s good for your mind
  9. It’s sort of good for your skin as long as you wear sunscreen sometimes or have dark skin like me
  10. It’s good for lungs
  11. It’s good for your heart
  12. It’s  good for forcing you to write a list entitled “99 reasons to run”
  13. It’s good for giving you a way to cheat on a list of “99 reasons to run” by allowing you to use the list in place of commas–see items 2-11
  14. It’s good for meeting people who can tell the secret of peeing while running an ultra marathon (This is no joke, I met a guy at the boring Ultra who told me his secret for pissing while running. He was awesome and full of useful information.)
  15. It’s good for proving to yourself that you’re stronger than you think
  16. It’s good for teaching you how to deal with defeat
  17. It’s good for goal setting
  18. It’s good for helping you mourn your grandpa’s death
  19. It’s good for getting home from work
  20. It’s for finding 16 dollars on the Tickle Creek Trail
  21. It’s good for your sex drive
  22. It’s good for relieving stress
  23.  It’s good for a quick blog post when you need to write one a day for the last 100 days of 2015
  24. It’s good for HostGator and other companies who enable runners to create blogs that they sporadically maintain
  25. It’s good for getting you off the warm cosy couch and into the icy cold rain
  26. It’s good for raising money to find cures and treatments for cancer 
  27. It’s good for Oregon brewers like Rogue Nation who make delicious beers for runners
  28. It’s good for sporting goods stores like REI
  29. It’s good for barefoot sandal makers like Barefoot Ted and Xero Shoes
  30. It’s good for physical therapist who treat overly ambitious barefoot runners
  31. It’s good for massage therapist who painfully untangle the knots in your left calf
  32. It’s good for trophy companies
  33. It’s good for the number 99, and for the number 33 because although my list is entitled “99 reasons to run” it only contains 33 items

Something else I like about the number 99 is that you can use in it place of “Goodbye.” 99!

Boring Marathon

Boring Marathon Oregon Barefoot
Barefoot runner Boring Oregon Marathon

It was a strenuous route and it was not designed for barefoot runners–photo shows the GOOD GROUND. In fact, I was the only one crazy enough to tackle the rugged roads in my 4mm Xero Shoes–known to everyone else as “flip flops.” My heart leapt when the first notes of the Star Spangled Banner drifted out. It was sung high school sophomore girl with braces. As soon as the song ended, the horn blasted. We started off at the Barlow High School Track, then ran on the scabrous, mountainous roads for about six miles until we reached Boring Oregon. Once we got to Boring, we ran for 7 or so miles on the lovely and thankfully mostly level and smoothly paved Spring Water Trail. We had to cross to two busy streets, luckily the volunteers were there pressing the buttons to get us safely across. Luckily, I only got caught at one light. And I wasn’t there very long.

The aid stations were great and the volunteers were all in top form handing out water or electrolytes and saying, “Looking good. Keep it up! You’ve got this!” I appreciated the encouragement immensely, especially  when facing the last set of grueling hills at mile 22. Despite the painful twitches and spasms firing through my quads and calves and sheer exhaustion, I carried on and achieved my goal of sub four hour marathon. I managed to come in 3rd for my age division, 6th for the men’s division, and 8th overall.

I will be back next year for sure (They’re adding a 50K ultra)!!!!

Huckleberry Half Marathon Barefoot

Barefoot Runner with Bigfoot Huckleberry Half Marathon Welches Oregon
Barefoot Runner with Bigfoot Huckleberry Half Marathon Welches Oregon

This morning (August 8th) I think I became the first person to run Huckleberry Half marathon in Welches Oregon with 4mm sandals. Whether I was the first person to run the event barefoot or not, I received an awesome Wooden Bigfoot Medal–it’s dangling around my neck in the photo and had a lot of fun.

What a great event! No one said anything about sandals until we hit the streets. Thankfully, a majority of the comments were positive.

Things people said to me as ran. “You’re a beast” (in a good way). “That guy’s wearing flip-flops.” “All the crazies are passing us!” (To which I replied, the key phrase is “PASSING!”) “Let’s catch the guy in flip-flips.” (His friend’s reply, “I’m trying, but I can’t.” And neither of them did. I dropped them on one of the many hills.)

Although scampering across the streets in barefoot sandals made me a celebrity, it also took its toll on my feet. After three miles, I discovered why no one else wore minimalist footwear: the Huckleberry Half is NOT a barefoot friendly route! The streets are  long slabs of jagged, gritty gravel.  The roads climb slowly then level for a short distance then fall again, then climb again, then climb some more, the result is a route that never takes its fangs from your legs. My quads and calves are still sizzling from the lactic acid and my tender feet and toes are battered from the ragged asphalt. It didn’t help that I hammered  my left heel on a rock the first mile. The 13.1 miles were a struggle. The run was much more challenging than I expected and my time was much slower than I anticipated. But it was well worth it.

The volunteers and other runners were fantastic. I‘ll be back next year, even it’s just for the novelty of having teenage cheerleaders swish their pom poms in the air as I cross the finish line. BTW, I ran it in 1 hour 40 minutes 56 seconds.

Boring Barefoot Marathon Training Day 20

I feel fantastic!!! Yesterday, I ran thirteen miles early in the morning and I felt great the entire day. I’m not even sore today. This marathon training program is amazing.  At some point, I’ll share my entire program in a post.

At any rate, today I went for a walk around the neighborhood and did Pilates. It’s a rest day.  I run intervals tomorrow. See you then.

Boring Barefoot Marathon Training Day 19

I should have more to say about my long runs. I ran thirteen lucky miles today. Each one was mostly joyous. I sipped some homemade energy drink and ate a PowerAid gel. The gel wasn’t tasty, but it worked. I’m well within in my target pace.

 

Boring Marathon Training Day 18

I spun the grey clay with my wet hands into a cylinder on the pottery wheel. It was perfect for a few seconds, then it collapsed because I held my fingers in one place too long. The clay responds to the slightest movement, especially when it’s wet.  It’s is brutally honest. As my instructor says, “It remembers everything.”

Today was a strength day. Tomorrow is my long run.

Barefoot Boring Marathon Training Day 17

I woke up feeling sad–about what I’m not sure. Even so, I forced myself out of bed this morning. It was nice to have a goal, even though the goal seemed more like a chore. The schedule is giving me some much needed discipline. After completing my morning rituals, I stepped outdoors with my heart rate monitor strapped to my chest and my GPS aimed at the heavens. Then I ran an easy 7 mile course, keeping my heart rate in my target zone (141). At the end of my run, I was surprised to discover a long sequence of 5s on GPS timer (55:55:55)–definitely NOT a speedy pace. The chain of fives must mean something. There were six of them. That feels slightly off, five fives would be more balanced. I’ll just have to run a little faster next time. But that’s not all concerning the number five. I found a five dollar bill on the curb by my car!!!! What’s up with number 5 today? The universe is telling me something.

Weird Running Time: 55:55:55

Weird Running Time: 55:55:55

By the way, I bought some raku clay for my ceramics class tomorrow. I also drove to Vancouver, WA in search of something that wasn’t there.

What does tomorrow hold?

 

Barefoot Boring Marathon Training Day 16

Fitness is a sexy bitch: Shit’s getting real! My right foot has been giving me slight problems. I’m running in the 4mm connect Xero shoes. They offer absolutely zero support and no cushioning whatsoever. They merely prevent the rough Oregon roads from chewing and stripping the skin from my soles. The thin sandals expose my soft toes to the sharp stone spikes cemented with clay into the trail. The angled rocks brutally smash into the tender, bruised point between my toes like a medieval morning star. When they strike, sharp bolts of agonizing pain fire my straight into my cerebral cortex forcing me to shout and curse, but not to limp. Luckily, my marathon training program offers plenty of recovery days, so the pain  isn’t stopping me from achieving my goal.

In other news, I bought a hydration pack for my upcoming long runs. Last week, I ran twelve miles, which is about as far as I can run without taking water and carbohydrate gels. The unwatered twelve miler brought me a little too close to my danger zone. After my run, my arms and legs were caked with salt, I could literally  scrape off the white crystals. They sparkled in the sun’s light. In the kitchen, I felt a little woozy and had to steady myself by clutching the sink.  My stomach was queazy.  Fortunately, it wasn’t anything that an orange, a banana, and a glass of water couldn’t cure. I recovered enough to work a full day afterward.

By the way, I ran six miles today.  Twenty minutes of my run was at 85% to 90% of my max heart rate. I felt great, but I was a little disappointed over the laggardly pace. I’m well within my target marathon pace, but I secretly I want to run much faster. I know I’m training for a sub four hour marathon, which I know I’ll achieve easily, but a part of me believes I’ll run the marathon in under three hours. 

All this marathon talk has me excited for tomorrow’s early ass morning run. See you then.

Boring Barefoot Marathon Training Day 15

I didn’t want to climb out from under the covers, but I did. I didn’t want to do my morning breath-work, but I did. I didn’t want to lift weights, but I did. In other words, it was yet another (test of) strength day.

Tomorrow I run.