Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Waimanu Dreamin'

This was the first week in months that Drew, Kati, and myself have been off on the same week. We kicked it off by surfing at a break I have never been to. Drew pointed out the jagged rocks barely sticking out of the water and explained the areas to avoid being stuck. I noticed there was not really a good place to get in/out of the water. He told me to time it and then paddle as hard as I can to avoid being slammed into the rocks. I was feeling a bit nervous because there were some pretty big swells rolling through, breaking in shallow water. After staring at the waves for a few minutes I took a few deep breaths and scampered across the rocks to wait for the right moment to dive in. I barely made it under the first wave as it crashed into the rocky shore. Out of breath from paddling as hard as I possibly could, I made it out unscathed. I hear a WOOO, and then see Drew flying down the face of a wave. Due to the shallow reef, the waves were breaking a lot faster than I was used to. I saw a wave coming my way and paddled, paddled, paddled, stood up and immediately lost my balance. I took a tumble and realized it wasn't as bad as it looked. I was feeling stiff but after eating it, some of the intimidation lifted and I loosened up and had some fun rides.

The unspoiled beauty and remoteness of Waimanu Valley make it one of my favorite places on earth. We brought along our boards and fins, seeking to ride waves any possible way. The highlight for me was paddling up the stream deep into the Valley, navigating through mangroves and brush. Spectacular!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ramblin' and Gamblin'

I have only run in a few races over the past year. My lack of competitive attitude has for the most part kept me away and has at times been a moral dilemma for myself. The main reason I run is for the solitude and sense of being it brings. I feel a part of the landscape I am running in almost dissolved and blended in with the surroundings, free of time or desire. I used to wear costumes or run in events under goofy pseudo names to make myself feel better about it. Over the past year of running strictly on my own I have been able to put things in perspective and develop a peace of mind about races. To me being competitive means being shackled by the same mindset as a greedy CEO or politician. I know that may not be the case but at least that’s how I feel about competition. Is there a difference between putting that much tenacity into running and that of climbing the corporate ladder?

In December while back in Virginia I ran the Bear Creek 10 miler. What a wild run through snowy,muddy,narrow trails with several frigid creek crossings. Participating in the event rekindled my love of running in races. Not for competitive reasons but for the power of running to bring people together. I thought how cool it was for a bunch of people to gather on a Sunday morning and go through a romp in the woods. To me that is celebrating life! Richmond has a great running community, people who are just stoked on it. I remembered how cool it was to be a part of races, running with and not against people. For the first time I ran completely detached from the outcome and ran with the surroundings, noticing the curves, twists, contours of the trail and felt the icy water as I crossed creeks. I felt like a kid and there were about 100 other people out there having a similar experience, sort of collective effervescence. In a way races are about people gathering together and celebrating the joy of running. It would maybe be more appealing if more people saw it that way as opposed to having the latest gear or worrying about shaving seconds. The key for me was being completely detached from the outcome and free of desire. I tried to just experience the moment. That was indeed a revelation. I left those Piedmont trails feeling as wild and joyous as ever.

(Before the start of the Bear Creek 10 in December)

I felt like I did in the days when I first started running. I wanted to keep this positive outlook so I signed up for the Big Island Marathon in December knowing I would have moments of cynicism that may prevent me from signing up at a later date. Thank you Kahlil Gibran for writing this:

“Your soul is a battlefield upon which your reasons and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite. Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.”

Leading up to the Big Island Marathon I have had some solid weeks of running, 20 mile trail runs in Volcano followed by paddling in Hilo Bay for a few hours. I have come to love paddling just as much as running. They are similar medians that leave me with the same joyous feeling. The ocean and mountains are my two greatest inspirations. Despite not being able to run every other week due to my work schedule I was in decent shape and looking forward to the marathon. I was in the middle of a work week and was graciously let off to run by my supervisor Chris. The night before I made it into Hilo around midnight after being pulled over and surrounded by police cars. I just pulled out of a grocery store parking lot after buying some bagels for my pre race breakfast. I was so exhausted I forgot to turn my headlights on. I can imagine what the officers thought after seeing me with a muffin in hand and droopy eyes. I explained my situation and was let go with a warning! I managed a few hours of sleep in my van before waking up to catch the bus to the start. I barely remember anything of the bus ride except sitting in a daze. At the starting area my mind was humming like a full moon as the trees sighed in the stillness of dawn. I had no competitive aspirations, just wanted to run hard from start to finish. I loved running down the Hamakua Coast as the sun was rising. There were some pretty spectacular views of the ocean and jagged coastline that gave me inspiration early on. I thought of Jenn who was also running a marathon back in VA the same morning, and was also planning on hammering from the start. I felt uncomfortable from the start at the pace I was running but saw some humor in it. I wanted run a hard half marathon and just try to hold on for the second half. A strategy that was flawed from the moment it entered my mind, but again I thought it was funny so I went ahead and did it. The first few miles I was out of control, hooting, hollering, and singing. It seemed whenever I was having a low something, someone, or some thought would pump me up. Near mile 8 a husky puppy darted out of a bunch of banana trees and ran behind me for a few yards. I immediately thought of Ribbit and became manic and picked up the pace even more. Me and Ribbit have the ability to make one another hyper and out of control, and I thought of our wild runs through the mountains in Oregon.

(Ribbit on the slopes of South Sister)

At the halfway point I am pretty sure I went through faster than my PR of 1:16, but who knows I did not have a watch. I was starting to feel pretty crappy when I saw friends Drew and Kati on the side of the road absolutely loosing it, cheering. That was a breath of fresh air that I breathed in for a few miles. I was trying to stay positive, thinking of things that inspire me. The surf film Litmus has been highly inspirational in my life for years. I was thinking of Derek Hynd who seeks new perspectives and new ways to ride waves. Exactly the madman spirit I needed. The way he rides waves has been impactful on my running, he does not give a damn!

By mile 20 I felt like I was on a sinking ship, a sinking ship that was burning. I saw Drew and Kati again near mile 21 and they were still losing it which pumped me up but by that point not much could help my situation. I was just trying to dodge bullets, waiting for Stagger Lee to appear from behind every bush to gun me down.

Luckily that did not happen and I was able to run in the last few miles at a much diminished pace. I was ready to be done but it felt good to be a little reckless.
I really dread attention especially for running, something that is so personal to me. I would not mind winning an award if I did some noble deed, but for running? I felt a little silly afterwards, probably is a reason why I wanted to high tail it away from there immediately afterwards. After eating a Ken’s House of Pancakes I felt tremendously better. After eating I wanted to get back to the finish to cheer others in and see people finish. All in all I had a blast, for me it’s all about the experience and it was most great sharing it with 900 others.

There was a really funny/melodramatic article written calling me “The Ghost”

Disclaimer: Drew made this video that mocks me, the race, and I think running in general.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Looking for Mt.Analogue

Mt. Analogue is a metaphorical novel by French spiritual Surrealist, Rene Damaul. The characters set out to find and explore a mountain which connects our world with a higher realm of existence. They believe that such a place must exist geographically. “The door to the invisible must be visible.” They set out in the ship Impossible and believe they will find the land they are looking for when the sun's rays hit the earth at a certain angle, uncurving the magical field around the island where the mountain lies. After aimlessly floating around they finally reach the comically named city of Port o’ Monkeys. Lately I feel like I have been tooling around in fucking Port o’ Monkeys just like the characters. For me the book offered some valuable insights with passages like this:

“You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again... So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully. There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know. . .”

The winter funk is lifting, whisky bottles out the door, frozen highways melting. No matter the latitude winter is felt, the shadowy forms in the road ahead always appear larger in the winter, even in Hawaii. Here the draught is over, the sky has broken open once again and the brown withered plants are turning green. Inspiration is everywhere, hanging from the trees and floating through the air. Spring rejuvenation is falling from the sky making the Volcano air pure and my heart sing. Misty foggy weather is my favorite to run in. I feel like a prehistoric madman running through lands of some forgotten time, full speed without a care in the world. Dissolving into the trail into the ferns, into the mist, floating into oblivion full speed ahead!

(Photos from around the Island in honor of Spring!)

After getting off of work on Thursday, I signed up for the Kona Brew Fest Run for Hops 10k which was on Saturday. Friday night I drove over to Kona and slept in my van under the silhouette of Mt. Hualalai rising on the horizon. I sat up strumming my banjo and reading Parabola articles on Ecstasy and Divine Bliss. “I have tried caution and forethought; for now on I will make myself mad!” –Rumi. I laughed myself to sleep and woke up early to the sound of the ocean. I went down to the ocean and jumped in the chilly dawn water to wake up. It was a short run to the starting area at the Kona Brewery. It was a crowded event with lots of characters walking around, a nice sight to see. I was super excited, there are not many races around and when there is one it usually conflicts with my work schedule. At the start I felt like a lunatic, readings from the night before fresh on my mind. Especially the article titled “The Wide-Spun Moment”- Dancing on the edge of madness. That was me alright, I went out fast running the first 5k hard then took it easy for the second half. I forgot how painful a 10k could be. At the end it was a sub 35 minute 10k, fun fun fun. Whenever I am on that side of the island I go into Kona Bay Books and by the time I leave my head is spinning. Running, books, and beaches, not a bad way to spend the day.

In the end Mt. Analogue ends in mid sentence leaving us to discover our own way of being, question marks swimming around like fish in my mind. We are all sailing around on “Impossibles” looking for our own Mt. Analogue