Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How do I look?

In 1972 when I ran one lonely mile in the dark most every morning, it didn’t really matter how I looked. As a matter of fact, 42 years later, in 2014, it still doesn’t matter much to me. But the way most runners look when they run has changed a whole lot over time.
I ran my first race in tennis shoes and my first marathon in a pair of tight-fitting polyester shorts that zipped up the front and had a big pocket. No doubt my feet were better off when I bought a pair of ‘’real’’ running shoes, but the bottom half of me did just as well in a pair of ordinary shorts as it does today in high tech capri tights.
The more the years accumulate, the less I seem to care about how I look when I run. In fact, I find it fun to look a little goofy. I recently ended up with a pair of big, round, very red sunglasses. I love them because they fit well. I have a very small head and most sunglasses end up sliding down my nose.
I’ve been told that these red sunglasses are bad news. My daughter says they don’t match anything I wear and she insists that they make me look silly. I’ve decided to take advantage of this assessment and wear them every time I run. I also make a concerted effort to speak to every runner I pass, wishing them good morning, or whatever is appropriate, and watching to see if they reply, and if they smile.

One of my best running buddies (She shall remain unnamed.) likes to match, right down to her socks.  I make a conscious effort not to match. I don’t have to think much about what I put on, and she gets to, well, look all matched up.
One of the things I like about running is that, when you get right down to it, all you really need is a good pair of shoes. However, these days it is possible to arrive at the start of a race decked out in your pink compression leg sleeves, Nike Pro combat compression tights, plus, if you are a woman, in a skinny little black running dress. Beneath it all you could be wearing under armour panties and a shock absorber bra. If you have to ask what this kind getup will cost you, then you don’t really need any of it.
Comfort counts most. Make sure your shoes fit well and the laces stay tied, even if you have to tie double knots.  Replace your shoes when they break down to avoid injury. Wear socks that are thick enough to provide some padding. Make sure shorts or tights don’t rub in the wrong places, and layer shirts to be prepared for changing weather. A hat or visor makes sense for protection from high-altitude sunshine. Wimps like me usually start out with gloves in cool weather, and shed them after a mile or so. At the very least they come in handy for wiping a drippy nose.
And don’t forget to wear your goofy glasses.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Felix Wong: living his dream

Two years ago Felix Wong ran the Davy Crockett Marathon in Crockett, Texas, on a Saturday. His time of 3 hours and 12 minutes was good enough for first place. The next day he ran another 26.2 miles in the Big D Marathon in Dallas in 4:40—not good enough to win.  But he had such a good time that last September he decided to do another back-to-back marathon weekend.
            “I hadn’t done a marathon in 18 months and I hadn’t averaged more than 30 miles of training a week, but here was an opportunity too good to pass up,” Wong insists. He’s working on running a marathon in all 50 states and here were two, in two different states, on two consecutive days. He finished 18th overall in Bismarck, North Dakota, then jumped into his car and drove to Billings, Montana to compete in the Montana Marathon the following day.
            He drove alone, immersing himself in the study of Mandarin on a CD, and enjoying the great scenery.  “No distractions,” he says. “I’m brushing up on my French so I spent some time on it as well.” He’d planned to camp out on his trip but work deadlines forced him into more traditional lodging.
            Who is this guy, and what makes him tick?
            Born of parents who grew up in China and emigrated to Canada before moving to the U.S, Felix grew up the second of three brothers in rural Southern  California. His world opened up when he bought a bike for $5 at a garage sale and discovered the freedom to go.  He borrowed a “better bike” to do his first century ride as a senior in high school, an experience that made him more than a little saddle sore and cemented a lifetime commitment to long distance exercise.
            A degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford led to a stint in the semiconductor industry, and seven years ago to relocation to Fort Collins, Colorado where he consults and has time to indulge his love of  outdoor sports and travel. He chose his new home carefully, researching scores of towns in 19 states and Canada until he found the one that matched up with his list of qualifications.
            The hardest thing he’s ever done? The Tour Divide bicycle ride from Canada to Mexico, 2,700 miles in 27 days including encounters with wipeouts, wrong turns, and starvation. At one point he found himself so desperate for food that he flagged down a car. The Pepsi and half a hamburger he was given lasted him until another traveler took him home for dinner. The following day he subsisted on tortillas, soup and peanuts before he found a town with a grocery store. “I learned to be better prepared,” he said.
            Wong has completed three dozen marathons, two hundred-mile runs and countless shorter runs and long distance bike rides. He returns to California several times a year to visit family and touch base with a major client. He never regrets the time and effort he invested in escaping the California rat race and choosing Fort Collins as his home.
            To enjoy Wong’s delightful descriptions of his adventures go to


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Race Across the Sky--Leadville 100 Trail Run

So many stories.
            Every one of the 798 starters at the 30th running of the Leadville Trail 100 Race Across the Sky on August 18 has one to tell. And so do the hundreds of race organizers, volunteers, and crew members needed to make it happen.
            Of those who tackled the unforgiving monster at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning—a course that traverses 50 miles of high altitude Rocky Mountain terrain and then asks you to turn right around and do it again— 360 made it within the 30-hour time limit.            
            Those of us who haven’t run this race can’t know how they really felt—in their bodies and in their heads and hearts. But it was a privilege to be there, to be allowed a tiny peek into these ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing.
            The finishers ranged in age from 19 to 60-something. Fifty-five were women. They came from 18 countries and 41 states, and they brought with them their spouses, parents, children, dogs, friends, and gear—from special food and drink to clothing for all kinds of weather, hiking poles to navigate the tough terrain, and Tylenol to ease the pain.
            As a group they represent the epitome in athleticism, discipline, willingness to hurt, love of challenge, and fierce determination. As individuals they come alive in their diversity.
            Robert the young “fruitarian” from Tennessee with a carful of hundreds of apples and bananas who swore his new-found diet cured the pain in his knee.
            Chris from Maryland, who hadn’t a clue about altitude, paced by his 16-year-old son and supported by Karen, his wife. “We like to share each other’s dreams.”
            Three Fort Collins runners made the cut. Doug Nash completed his fourth LT (Leadville Trail)100 in 29 hours 25 minutes, supported by his wife, Marji, experienced crew manager, who made the complex route-finding, parking, re-supplying with food, drink and clothing job look simple.
            Nick Clark, third overall in 17 hours 11 minutes, explained the challenge of consuming enough calories to maintain energy while running uphill at altitude and not choking or throwing up.  Alex May came in at 29 hours 42 minutes.
             Starting on the return trip from Winfield at the 50-mile mark , runners are allowed a pacer to run beside them and provide moral support, carry a water bottle, and during the night, provide extra light and watch for obstacles in the trail. A few go it alone, but most welcome the company, and pacers get a taste of what it’s like out on the trail. When their 10 or so miles are done, they wave their runner on, ,thankful to be finished with their part.
            For most, the sun had risen again by the time they caught sight of the relentless clock at the finish line.  And most walked toward it, some more gimpy than others, accompanied by their pacers, friends and family who had lived through their runner’s experience on the sidelines.
            At the awards ceremony every finisher got called up individually to receive the coveted silver and gold belt buckle. Like graduations, it takes a while, but like graduations, it ranks right up there with life’s memorable moments.