Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer Vacations

We spent this week in Colorado Springs. Certainly satisfying to pull off this trip as the idea came to us in 2004 while in CS when I ran the Pikes Peak Ascent, a gruelling 13 mile jaunt up to 14k elevation. The surrounding area seemed a perfect spot for a family vacation.

Here are the highlights:
  • Thrilling drive on the highest highway in the US up over the Rockies and across the continental divide
  • Amazing rock formations at Garden of the Gods (and it's free!)
  • Amusement park-like experience of a waterfall at 7 Falls
  • Great variety of eating experiences: local mexican place in Craig where the whole family ate fajitas for 25 bucks; old-style Italian in CS where the decour had certainly not changed in 50 yrs; grass-fed beef at Conway's Redtop burger joint--a step back into the 70s; and finally a little Hunan Chinese place in Evanston.
  • A hike to Barr Camp--actually a mile past it--on the famous Barr Trail up Pike's Peak with oldest son: 16 miles round trip. The only negative is that running several miles downhill has totally trashed my legs.
  • Lots of talk time with the kids--I love how trips create close-quarter situations which switch up the normal family relationships. We laughed at all kinds of things and enjoyed each of child's unique personality, something that seems to come out more on a trip like this.
Near catastrophes:
  • Lost brakes just outside of Craig, CO but it worked out--no crash and a local guy in a tiny station fixed it the next morning (note: Craig is a rather ugly town, almost impossible to walk anywhere)
Vacations with older kids have several advantages (and some disadvantages I won't mention): less fighting, more willingness to try new foods, easier to do difficult hikes, and when tired of them you can send them to the pool for some alone time.

Next year's trip: Grand Canyon or Highway 101 to see coastal redwoods

Monday, August 03, 2009

Born to run

Thanks to Middlebrow and Dr. Write I started reading Born to run in earnest over the weekend. What an amazing book. So many things to like--exploration of the strangely exotic Tarahumara Indians, splendid little bios with juicy details on my ultramarathon heroes [a rush to hear details about events that I witnessed--the three Tarahumara Indians I saw racing the Wasatch 100 while helping at an aid station, Ann Trason who I saw while pacing someone at Wasatch) great writing, AND some kick ass passages, the kind you read and then kind of sit up, "Did he really just say that?"

For example McDougall describes the contrast between Scott Jurek (multi winner of the Western States 100--most popular/lucrative 100 in the states) and Mike Sweeney (a Badwater top runner--a 135 mile race in Death Valley) who are currently, in the story, running the Badwater race:

"Mike Sweeny was leading the field...Sweeney's crew was operating beautifully. As pacers, he had three elite ultrarunners, including a fellow H.U.R.T. 100 champion, Luis Escobar. As nutritionist, he had the perfectly named Sunny Blende, a beautiful endurance-sports specialist who not only monitored his calories, but hoisted her top and flashed her breasts whenever she felt Sweeney needed perking up."

I had to stop right there and share this passage with my wife. It's just too good to be true--Sunny Blende the nutritionist--and it's filled with the little details that make a story interesting. OR I merely liked it because the thought of a beautiful woman flashing her breasts at me at the end of a race sounded amazingly appealing.

Not to be beat, the next paragraph was another doozy:

"Team Jerker [they called Scott Jurek Jerker as a kid in part because he was so slow--he certainly got the last laugh] wasn't quite as well oiled. One of Scott's pacers was fanning him with a sweatshirt, unaware that Scott was too exhausted to complain that the zipper was slashing his back. Scott's wife and his best friend, meanwhile, were at each other's throats. Dusty was annoyed by the way Leah kept trying to motivate Scott by giving him fake pacing splits, while Leah wasn't too pleased with Dusty's habit of calling her husband a fucking pussy."

Shortly after this Scott starts to shake and vomit; he even takes time out to bathe in a giant cooler of ice. Still he winds up winning the race.

Lesson learned: A carrot, in this case breasts, is actually not nearly as effective motivation as a big stick in the form of crude playground taunting.