Monday, July 14, 2014

Planes Trains Automobiles & Feet

"The strenuous life tastes better" William James

This story starts like many others, with an alarm clock going off way earlier than should be allowed...this time the fog horn sounded in my hotel room in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Heck of a way to start off the first full day of my 34th year on this earth, and it was going to be a long day.
Quick shower, finish packing, bus to the airport...all 31 bags accounted for and checked, quick breakfast of a veggie bagel sandwich, load onto the plane, nap, wake up in St. Louis.  Off one plane on to another, immediately fall asleep, wake up, still on the ground...hour flight delay waiting for a storm to move through the Twin Cities, finally plane takes off, crash again, wake up in Mpls.  One journey down, another about to begin...
I stood on the platform waiting for the train to take me from terminal two to terminal one, going over the events of the upcoming afternoon, it was noon now, drive to Target Center, drop off my equipment, then home to trade my work travel stuff for my running travel stuff, with the flight delay I was already an hour behind.
Train to my car to Target Center & home its only 1pm, quick cup of coffee (first of the day) by 130 back on the road this time headed 100miles south to Albert Lea.  I started my career in Albert Lea in August of 2002 and worked there until 2006, learned so much there and made so many great relationships that it will always hold a special place in my heart.  I was headed back for the first time in at least 3-4 years to host their Sports Hall Of Fame banquet.  An honor bestowed upon me after the long time host Orrie Jirele passed away unexpectedly last fall.  Orrie was going to be inducted into the Hall this year and I felt blessed to be a part of it, and knew I had some big shoes to fill as he was loved by the community.
Made it to the Lea in time to meet up with Bob Hamburg, one of the nicest men I've ever met, we chatted for a half hour-45 minutes then it was over to the radio station where I started to meet up with June another one of my favorite people.  When I was working there June was my second mother and has always stayed that way to me, can't express how much I appreciated her help when I was down there.
We chatted until about 5 then it was over to the Golf Course for the this time I realized I had not eaten since the first airport, nearly 12 hours ago!
Got to catch up with so many old friends from Albert Lea prior to and during dinner it was great to hear stories of what their kids are up to and relive old games.  I heard many stories about Orrie, how he filled every day with as much as he could, how he took time to be part of so many people's lives and how he inspired and continues to inspire people.
The banquet was great, fun to see so many people come back to the community and hear their stories, games played, teammates played with and how important it all is to them.  We wrapped up at 9pm and after saying goodbye to another one of my favorites and close friends Andy Dyrdal (who I rented a room from during my time in Albert Lea) it was time to hit the road.
Back on 35, this time headed north, quick stop at Subway to smash a foot-long as there wasn't a vegetarian option at the dinner, then on to St. Paul, swapped cars with Ali, she took over the driving and just like that we on our way to Duluth.
Greg, Mitch, Ryan and their families were well ahead of us and probably already in bed by the time Ali and I started north, it was going to be an early wakeup call again...We made it to Indian Point campground at 130am, pitched the tent and crashed around 2, only to have the fog horn sound rouse me at 440 (hey sleeping in compared to yesterday!) Quickly I pounded a bagel, put on my running gear and then Ali and I headed to Munger Inn to meet the guys.   

We were running the Eugene Curnow Marathon, a 26.2 mile point to point trail race starting in Duluth and finishing around Carlton.  Ali dropped us off and then went back to the tent to crash, the four of us stood around catching up, hadn't really seen the guys since the Grand Canyon and then after a quick race brief we were on our way. 

Greg and Ryan took off, while Mitch and I fell into our routine, running at the same pace chatting the whole time.  Laughing, remembering tales from the Grand Canyon, marveling at the views as we climbed Spirit Mountain overlooking the city and the Big Lake. 
There had been pretty heavy rainfall the night before and the trails were muddy with a lot of standing water in places.  We tried to dodge it best we could but then just gave in and embraced wet shoes...
Scampering up hills, sliding back down, laughing the whole way, mud covering our legs and shoes, splashing across freezing streams went Mitch and I as the sun began to climb.
Eventually we made our way to the dreaded power lines, a series of steep descents followed by steeper ascents, made all the more difficult as they had been turned into mudslides by the rain.
First one we got to I took one step and landed on my backside, Mitch was ahead surfing down trying to keep his balance while I slid down pretty much on the seat of my shorts.  If going down was challenging then going back up felt impossible, we struggled to get footing, down on all fours, slipping and sliding on the mud until finally able to gain some ground.
Laughing the whole way we made to the St Louis River that was roaring with the recent rains.  Mitch and I stopped to watch the rapids before crossing the bridge for the final three miles.  At this point I got a hop in my step and couldn't contain the joy I had at flying over this technical trail.  Mitch waved me ahead and I took off like a colt, hopping up logs and small hills, floating over the rocks and roots, mind totally in tune with my body, pushing a little faster, a little faster, what do I have left? 

Finally hit the black top and blasted up to the finish spotting Ali, Greg, Brit, Meredith, Ryan and all the kids at the end, a great way to end a great race.
Mitch followed shortly after, they all took off back to the cities but Ali and I were in Duluth another night, we hit canal park, got a great meal, saw a beautiful sunset and finally sleep called for my eyes and I dropped off under the Super Moon.
The next day Ali and I got up and headed back to the trails, we hit Jarrows Beach (had to show Ali how miserable it was) then climbed Ely's peak for the views of Superior in all spending 3 hours out on the trails before heading back to the cities. 

Weekend wasn't done yet, had to ring in 34 with the family and help Big Tom celebrate 67 with an amazing meal and great company of Gramps, Uncle Johnny, Momma Foke, Alex, and Nicole.  As I dropped Ali off she said I know I always have a good weekend with you because I am totally exhausted, I told her you can count me among the many inspired by Orrie, fill each day to the brim!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

33 And Counting

To travel, hopefully, is a better thing than to arrive-Robert Louis Stevenson

As I get ready to move into my 34th year on this earth, I found some time to look back on the past 12 months that made up 33...
I turned 33 in Indianapolis, on the road trip with the MN Lynx.  We got to Indy and were told we had to meet in the Coach's room for film and that we (the support staff) were to be there too as there was an issue with the baggage we were responsible for.  I showed up ready to throw the skycap guys under the bus for taking so long but it turned out they had a cake for me and sang happy birthday, a much better surprise than getting yelled at for the baggage being slow.
Later that month my buddy Cano came into town from Florida, we headed up to Duluth and ran the Voyageur 50 mile race, running through 48 degree temps and pouring rain for at least 8 of the 12+ hours we were out there.  Covered in mud, sliding down the power line trails, on our hands and knees trying to get back up the other side, it was a trip and one of the most fun races I have run.  During it I remember thinking, I wish this would never end, I don't want to go back to a normal life, I love being out here tasked with just moving from one place to another under my own power.  It was a beautiful thing being a part of nature and really just being, no phones or internet, people pulling you in different directions like at work just moving and focused on one thing and doing it to the best of my ability. 

Earlier that year I had become an ambassador for the Patagonia International Marathon, in September I flew to Chile and spent 10 days on my own in Santiago, Punta Arenas and Torres Del Paine.  I got to see places I never thought I would, met some great people, learned a lot about an area I didn't know much about and fell in love with the landscape there.  The whole trip was amazing, learning how to communicate without being able to speak the language, and listening.  Really having to listen to what people were saying to decipher something, rather than listening distractedly like we do here. 

8 days after the Patagonia 63K, I made it home to run the Twin Cities marathon with my bro (or at least start it with Alex and run the 1st mile before he took off)
Not sure how I got my body to point where it was able to do that, but I just dialed in and was able to summon a focus I didn't know I had and plow through 26.2 miles from Mpls to St. Paul in under four hours and then head into work game one of the WNBA Finals. 

And the Finals...Lynx swept through the playoffs capturing another WNBA Title and Alan and I got to be a part of it, riding in the parade (and getting confused looks from all the spectators 'who are they??' haha) and hosting the trophy presentation was amazing, the energy of the crowd and being on stage like that was a blast. 

A week later Sparky came to town and we blasted up to the Cabin, his first visit and now he's hooked (and how couldn't you be, it's the greatest place on earth) the following week I met up with Mitch and we ran the Surf the Murph 55K, starting in the dark and running by headlamp for an hour or so, my 3rd marathon + distance in 5 weeks...the following day I met Ali and remember her asking me about running the 63K in Patagonia she said 'Will you ever run another ultra?' to which I replied 'I did one yesterday...' haha

Wolves season started and I started to ski, pounded out the Double Loppet in January-February, 26.2mi City of Lakes Ski Loppet one weekend followed by the Mora Vasa Loppet with Matt (35K) the following weekend then up to Gunflint with Johnny, Ted and Stephen. 

Throughout this time Mitch, Greg and I were planning our trip to the Grand Canyon to run the Rim to Rim to Rim, a 46mile run from the south rim of the canyon to the north and back...what an adventure that was.  To prepare Greg and I ran the Trail Mix 50K in April, then we flew out May 1st, ran May 2nd and then Ali and I spent another 7 days touring the Southwest, seeing the red rock of Sedona, the canyon lands of Zion and southern Utah and then back to the Grand Canyon to hike down to the river and back up  in one day. 

The WNBA season started upon my return from the Southwest and I found myself tagging along with the team for their trip to the White House to be honored for their Championship, and getting to see Paul, Adrianna and Lil B out in Seattle.

Along the way, Big Tom and Little Sue both retired, Alex made it through his first season at Hamline and Paul and his family came for Thanksgiving, a very fun and eventful year...can't wait for 34...