Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quick thoughts: Headlands 50K

  • -       Oh my gosh this race is hard. Despite ultrarunning’s normalization of the insane, from any objective standpoint 31 miles in the Headlands is difficult. There was maybe 2-3 miles of flat running yesterday. The rest was up or down. If you are contemplating ever running the North Face 50 mile, this race would be a great tune up or preview for the world of pain you’ll be entering.

  • -       The race directors and volunteers were great. There was incredible support out on course. Thanks in particular to the volunteer at mile 11ish who pried open my handheld when my hands were too sweaty to twist the cap off. Volunteer crews were yelling cheers after runners even as they were 100 yards out from the stations. Pure awesome. It was also fantastic getting some love from the SFRunCo and other fast folks as I jogged out of Tennessee Valley. Thanks so so much!

  • -       Ivan Medina is tough as nails. Galen Burrell practically skips up trails. It was a pleasure to watch them eat up trail over the first ten miles. After that, they were out of sight. They were a league of their own yesterday. Outstanding and inspiring performances yesterday, gentlemen!

  • -        I’ve never struggled up the Dipsea climb like I did yesterday. This was a disappointment as I usually enjoy this rambling ascent from Muir Woods. While it is continuously uphill, the steep pitches are punctuated by a few sections of lower gradients so you can recover a bit. However, yesterday I was in misery after only ten minutes of uphill. My stomach felt gross, my exertion level was much too high for a 50K, and strangely I had a headache. Worse, when you feel that bad with so much running to go, you succumb into real despair. At mile 17ish, at the aid station atop Cardiac Hill, I stopped for a couple minutes. I sipped a Coke and looked up the trail toward Pantoll campground. If I kept running from here - down Matt Davis to Stinson beach - I would be committing to running the full distance. ‘Live to fight another day,’ echoed through my head. Yes, I should stop, chalk it up as a loss, and jog back to the start. But, then I thought, ‘Hell. This IS another day for me. Who do you think you are, Mo Farah? Got some big Euro champs race coming up, eh? Didn’t think so. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, harden the fuck up, and get your ass to Stinson.’  Or something along those lines. So I got my ass to Stinson.
Photo courtesy of Pam Wendell
  • -       Those 28 switchbacks on Heather Cutoff were designed by Satan. He used his pointy tail and pitchfork to carve out a trail that progresses in 30 yard increments down the hill.

  • -       This makes three consecutive marathon to ultramarathon efforts where I've avoided vomiting. Slowly dialing in my metabolism and energy consumption. Maybe I’ll figure it out before I switch sports to team racquetball.

  • -       I think Rolling Rock is the greatest post-race beer. Does Rolling Rock sponsor athletes? If so, sign me up.

  • -       Later in the day, I caught myself jogging up the stairs from my apartment. Perhaps I’ll recover quicker then I thought.  See you in Bend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Running through Film


Here is a list of my favorite running scenes from film. I got to thinking about interesting bits of running in film up over the past couple months (excluding movies about sports). So, in no particular order, here are my favorites. Do you have any favorite running scenes from movies?

“Vanilla Sky”... Time Square Sprint

Glorious music from Radiohead welcomes us as we get the first glimpse of Tom’s Cruise’s descent into a Cartesian nightmare. Is this a dream? Faced with a frightening absence of people, Tom Cruise randomly decides to leave his Ferrari and go for a run. There are rumors that Cruise ran a quick two mile in high school. He certainly runs a lot in his movies:

“Great Expectations”... Kissing in the Rain

One of my favorite scenes in film, running or otherwise.  Honestly, I probably love the music more than Finn’s jog across town to say f*ck-all to social etiquette and win Estella’s heart.

“Gallipoli”... Archy's Last Run

“Gallipoli” deserves to be placed on any running list simply because it has the greatest pre-race pump up speech in the history of film. “What are you legs? Springs! Steel Springs!” Archy, an accomplished sprinter from the Australian outback, is shown running throughout the film. Besides winning his provincial championship, he also races a horse across a desert barefoot and wins. But the final scene of the film is stunning in its abruptness. The violence which ends the film is so sudden and vicious it leaves the viewer with a single conclusion. War is awful. In the end it generally involves old men telling young men to die for abstractions. 

“Glory” - Charge of Battery Wagner

I’m drawn to these moments in which, despite the extreme effort put into motion, all might be for naught. This futility is evident in the final scene of “Glory” as the 54th Massachusetts races across the walls of Fort Wagner during the American civil war. The scene is extraordinarily violent, but I’m most moved by the singing of Harlem boys choir in the movie’s red-tinted climax. As the shattered regiment of free black men breaches the fort’s exterior walls, we are given a single moment of hope that the attack will succeed. But the movie ends with a sudden drum roll of Confederate cannon.

“Fight Club”… Edward Norton and the lead salad

A slightly lighter note is Edward Norton’s sprint across town to stop Tyler Durden from destroying the world’s financial systems. Chuck Palianuk’s writing about ‘battery acid’ is a little heavy-handed, especially with Norton’s voice over. But it’s become an iconic line for millennial age runners. Norton’s character also threatens the police with a ‘lead salad’ which is just wonderful.  

"Chariots of Fire"... Race around the Quad

Everyone remembers the oceanside jog with the Vangelis synthesizer, but for me this is the film’s iconic run. It represents not only the fun amateurism that running used to be, but the quirky indolence of Cambridge. This is a real thing. The Great court Run takes place at Trinity College on the day of the Matriculation Dinner. Runners have 43 seconds to navigate the the 341 meter perambulation of the courtyard. In 1988 Coe and Cram tried unsuccessfully to beat the clock. In typical English fashion  every run is idiosyncratic: the Trinity College clock is governed by a hand-wound mechanical fly that is affected by air pressure, humidity, and the strength of the last person who wound the clock. Incidentally, the clock has its own website:

“Skyfall”… Parkour opening chase scene

In an age of CGI, it’s great to see some swashbuckling action as Bond chases his villain across a construction site and over some cranes. The fight sprints across steel beams, a crane, and even the diplomatic immunities of an embassy.