January 29, 2015: This is not my home
I have a reason for not writing after getting so excited to start this blog. Don’t worry, I will somehow relate all of this to running, but first there is a story to tell. We were all set to make our lives in Duluth (my fiancée grew up there and I really wanted to live there), but things didn’t exactly go to plan. The job I accepted turned out to be something that wasn’t a good fit, and that really left us with no viable options. So we moved to Rhinelander, WI so I could begin practicing as a veterinarian. Unfortunately, we only stayed 3 months. No, I did not want to leave (again) but the clinic I worked for was falling apart. On my first day of work, they were on the front page of the local paper for all the recent violations they had been sanctioned for, one of them being the employment of a veterinarian who couldn’t pass her boards yet still practiced for over a year. My employers claimed they didn’t know, but I couldn’t help but be suspicious. Multiple incidents later, I was validated yet unfortunately my financial health was tied to a crumbling practice. So I took a job in Appleton, WI at a well-established and reputable emergency and specialty practice. Things are a lot better now, yet we live even farther south than before. Most people in America would think this is the Great White North. I just think that’s because nearby Lambeau Field is nicknamed “the frozen tundra”, but is more like frozen cornfield.
I’m trying to like it here. I like my job, so that is good. It is challenging, as I work from 6pm to 8am most nights. I’m learning a ton. I have a lot of support and good people around me, yet I remain unfulfilled living here, and so does my partner. She has 2 horses and rides endurance, which in a way exists in parallel with distance running, especially going really long. She only has access to pavement. The terrain for us both is limited, but we make the best of it. Have you ever just not been as motivated to run? For me, running isn’t enough. I mean, I started trail running as a means to get down mountains faster when I spent summers in Glacier and Alaska. It was always about the place, and the trails, and movement through beautiful places. Here, I am challenged to run for simply the love of it. Its getting better, but I need some Hokas for all these road milesJ
If I am honest, there are places to run, I just have to drive a little bit farther. There are limited miles of trails, so I just need to do more loops. Although this writing may sound like complaining to some, it is actually the opposite. It is a lesson in making the best of what you have. I have never been a career first type of person, but I made this choice because I knew it was going to be a springboard for the rest of my life. I don’t chase a high income for the sake of being affluent, but I know and understand the concept of a healthy financial situation being intimately tied to the level of freedom you have. I am speaking not of freedom in the conventional patriotic sense, but rather the ability to be free in your choices and not beholden to the public prison of debt and consumption. Not once have I moved somewhere for the job until now, and it makes me uncomfortable because I don’t have a lot of the things that make me happy as near to me. But I am trying to be happy with what I have, because when we inevitably leave this place, I sincerely feel that it will translate to being more appreciative of the things in front of me.
I actually had a little bit of a complex about being able to continue my blog, because I don’t really think that where I currently live is the Northland. I was excited to become part of something (the running community in MN) for the first time in a long time. To me, Wisconsin and Minnesota can be quite different, even though they seem similar at face value given their relative proximities and similar ecological paradigms. They are culturally disparate places as well, at least NE Wisconsin is. We find ourselves going back to MPLS or up to Duluth almost every chance we get. I am running the Zumbro 17 miler in April, and volunteering as well. But I am also showing up to running groups here as well, and keeping myself open to others so that I may not miss a good soul. So I am going to invest myself in the future, but not at the expense of the present. Either way, we are positive that we will be back, because it is a home for both of us. As someone who has always struggled with the concept of green grass being always and forever elsewhere, I should remind myself that the grass is greenest where you water it.
July 9, 2014: Thoughts on the Afton Trail Run 2014
I ran the Afton Trail Run 50K this past Saturday. It was my first ultra, and it couldn’t have gone better. It really makes me wonder what everyone else out there reading this blog thought about their first ultra. Did it suck? Was it painful? Did you even finish? I suppose the answers to these questions are likely to indicate whether or not you would do another. I know it is a common response for some to say “never again!” and then the very next day prowl the interwebs for their next chance at suffering and running long again. In my case, I loved it!
In the days since the race, I have tried to grasp what it was that culminated in such a wonderful experience. Honestly, I don’t think it was the training. My longest run was 23 miles, and that was a suffer-fest on a paved bike path near Grand Rapids. That would end up being the only time I had eclipsed 20 miles in my life prior to race day. I had a good 19 miler on all singletrack at elevation just before I left Colorado, but that was a while ago now. I had a terrible long run on the SHT and bike paths between Gooseberry and Split Rock State Parks. I planned on 26 that day but quit at 19 because it hurt so bad. So what was it, if it wasn’t the training?
I had a plan based on what I knew about myself and what I had heretofore been capable of. Again, I’m a little on the larger side of body types and wasn’t going to be setting any speed records that day. My aim was simple: to run comfortably on the flats and downhills, and to walk all the ups. Sounds simple enough, but sticking to that is always hard when you are stoked to run. I would also force myself to walk when I felt the heart rate rising, which I had to do a couple of times during the day. I also planned to make plenty use of the ample aid available and to make sure I stuck to a consistent intake of water and salt. I don’t own a GPS watch so I basically did it all by feel, and by golly I have to say that it worked. Yet, I can’t give myself all the credit and make myself out to be some sort of brilliant tactician when it comes to running races, because I don’t really know what I am doing out there anyways. I mean, I never had even run a marathon before (sidenote: almost anyone I had told of my plans to run 31 miles for some reason assumed that you can’t run that far without completing a marathon first. I just completed it 5 mile before the race was over on Saturday:)
Sure, I stuck to my plan, but I really want to give all the credit to the race organization and the volunteers. Yeah sure, its cliché to give shout outs to these folks but for the things you can’t control (see: heat & humidity) and all the things you can (the race itself), it really went off really well. I left feeling as if I was part of a family. I was so happy that day because I ran consistent for most of the day. I had a little rough patch that was limited to about 4 miles but that’s all. After the initial wave of the starting line I settled into a rhythm and didn’t get passed much at all. It was a new experience for me to be slowly picking people off incrementally. I ran with some guy named Andy who was Alexandria, MN and he was really awesome in sticking around and making good conversation. He did up the pace in the last 2 miles and beat me by 3 minutes, but he is an ultra veteran and I’m sure couldn’t stand being beat by a newbie. I don’t blame him. My patient partner Taryn had the dogs all day and volunteers made sure they had water at all times. Total strangers held icy sponges to my neck and I thanked them profusely for that. Ample aid stations allowed me to eat a lot. Volunteer photographers took pictures of my dogs and the ATR Facebook page later changed their cover photo to one of me in my blaze orange coming into the finish. This all made me happy, and I think that if you are happy, that you also run well. I collected a mental list of almost 30 bird species I either heard or saw throughout the day. I set some A, B and C goals for finish times prior to the race and came in 3 minutes under my A goal, so that’s like a big fat cherry on top for me in addition to all the great support and people out there that day.
It is now Wednesday, and my quads took a beating. I haven’t run since (although I’m going right after I post this because I can’t take it anymore). I actually feel a little sad, kind of like being hungover and in a state of reflection after a long night out. I want to do it again. I think that I am now hooked. I guess that this is how it all begins then, isn’t it? Thanks to all out at Afton this past weekend. I already miss you all.
July 3, 2014: New town, new trails, new friends!
This is my first post on Northland Runner! I am excited to write about the experience of running, and what it means to me.
I moved here recently from Fort Collins, CO after receiving my degree in veterinary medicine from Colorado State University. I was lucky enough to land a position at an area veterinary hospital to start out my career in a region that my gaze has been turned towards for several years. The folks out there never quite understood why I would want to move to such a “cold, dark place”, yet little do they know (and most of you do!). Interestingly, I would say that most of them came from either Cali, New Mexico or Arizona, the common denominator being the lengthy warm seasons and ample sunshine. For those that were from environs in the east, they came west to set off on their own modern pioneer dreams. I think it was hard for some to conceptualize the sort of “reverse migration” that I was embarking upon. Interestingly, I met no one who had actually been to this area. As voters in a recent popular magazine poll have confirmed, there is indeed much to do in the Northland!
I like to run, but I certainly do not come from running background. In fact, running was punishment for me while participating in more conventional sports (but not hockey-remember, I ain’t from around these parts). I actually used to make fun of people who ran. I used to say “hee hee, run for fun!” in my best post-pubescent snickering tone. And now, I run for fun. So I’m sorry, I take it back! I also come from more of a hiking/mountaineering background. I worked many summers in Yellowstone, Glacier and Alaska and began running down mountains as a way to get down faster. As it follows, I prefer the trails and am a decent downhill runner. But alas, I am slow because the great spirit made me a husky boy.
Writing about running is like trying to explain the meaning of life. It cannot be fully explained. To know, you must go out and experience it for yourself. It’s very personal, and the articulation of the experience will be different for everybody. To write about running is similar to having one of those epic runs that feel effortless. To capture the words that will most closely approximate the endorphin rush on one of “those” runs is akin to chasing your own tail in endless circles. And the pursuit of trying to nail that perfect training run, or race, or blog post is what keeps us going.
I am happy to share my words in my new town, while on new trails and with many new friends!