Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Koans and a Growler: 10 miles on the path to Zen (2/23/14)

Finishing straight
photo by Joe O'Leary
Race: DH Jones 10 Miler
Location: Amherst, MA
Goal time: 1:08:37
Actual Time: 1:09:19

This is the second year I have run the DH Jones 10 Miler.  After last year's battle through the hills, I feel perhaps I have learned something:

The Muddy Road
Shaku and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl" said Shaku at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Shaku, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Shaku. "Are you still carrying her?"

Miles 3.5-5 are on a dirt road.  It's the first time you can actually step into a comfortable pace.  The first 3.5 are such roller coasters.  One moment you are running up such a steep hill that you think it'll take all day; the next you are on the backside thinking you are fast enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

The clock is ticking here, while it's generally uphill, it's less steep than other parts of the course.  I was passed around mile 4 by Mike McGrane - a much faster BAA runner than I.  But, for some strange reason, I thought I'd stay with him (or, try to beat him).  This of course failed and through miles 6 and 7 I was on this chase - still carrying him...

Great Waves
In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

"Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land."

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

The last few miles were bits of survival up steep hills, peppered with blasts downhill.  Briefly, I thought I might have a chance at a personal record.  This fight for speed was driving me up hills that maybe I should have backed off and saved for the down hills.  In fact at mile 9 I charged up one of the last hills.  On the way down that same hill back to the school, I was being passed by people.  (My 220 lbs usually isn't passed down hill.)

Instead of travelling with the waves, I was a Boston Lobsterman trying to fly into the teeth of a hurricane.  Risking tomorrow's catch for a little cash today...

Nothing Exists
Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"

Robert mentioned that this race is not for a big guy like me.  Yet, it's still hard to not run what you think you are capable of.  Between the ice and the hills, I will be slowed down.  On top of that racing has not been a priority for the winter, so my training has yet to get to a point where I want it.

It turns out I ran faster than even last year's race.  Without training for this race and tired from last week, this should be a moral victory if not a real one.  If I am not training for racing, I should not anger at a race that means nothing to me.

But, is that enough for me?  I hope to one day to chop down the entire forest of attachment.  One day, I can become Shaku and O-nami and Dokuon.  One day, I can remove myself from the attachment of time in a race - absolute of training and terrain.  But now the clock still ticks and I feel its glare like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg: "dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground."

SRR Shoutouts

Kath was 3rd overall
Robert won his age group
SRR Open and Masters' women each took 3rd in the Team...

Finished up taking home a growler of Amherst Brewing's Cascade IPA -
in the end I preferred their Saison I had with dinner.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

20 in and 20 done: Martha's Vineyard and a lack of motivation (2/15/14)

Keiran and I at Off-shore with our age-goup and clydesdale medals
Photos taken by Urvi

Race: Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler
Location: Vineyard Haven, MA
Goal Time: ??:??
Actual Time: 2:24:46

I didn't really have a goal going into this race.  I sort of wanted to break 2:20.  But I had no idea.  So, I figured I'd start out with Tinger, Culla and Barry and then see how it turned out.  By a mile and a half (into a 20 mile race), I realized that was a mistake...

Then, I figured I could just keep running around 7 minute miles.  But, the fact is there is a pure lack of motivation going on here.  I've dedicated my early season to running shorter goal races in April, May and June.  Because of this I was not ready to race a 20 mile race.

"Then why'd you sign up?" someone asked.  good question.

Marc and Emma at mile 4.5

By mile 10, I found I had a complete lack of motivation.  If I ran hard the rest of the way, I get what a few seconds faster?  I don't get my PR...

Culla at mile 16

Tinger at mile 16
 By mile 15, I was just flat out tired.  I looked at my watch and said well at 8 min/miles that only 40 minutes...40 minutes? crap... that's forever.

I pulled it together and sang War Pigs to myself for the next few miles.  There is a big turn at 17.8 miles.  Now you know you're going to make it. (And, more importantly, that much closer to Larry Santos' clam chowder.)  I picked it up a little bit.

Amy braving the snow @ mile 19 (Seth Tank trails in the background)
At 19.5 there is one last turn toward the school.  Any motivation I had was summed up here.  I had two people in front of me.  I did my closest thing to sprinting and reeled both of them in to up my place from 43rd to 41st overall.  1st in the Clydesdales / 6th in my age-group.

Nichole with her age-group award
 SRR Shoutouts -
Keiran was 6th overall and 1st in his age-group with a 3 minute PR
Nichole was 3rd in her age-group
Alison had a nearly one hour PR
Shark Tank won the Filly category..

"Now I'M driving the bus!"
Harrison was driving us home...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

That Day in '75: Snowshoeing the Minuteman National Park (2/9/14)

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
~ "Paul Revere's Ride," Longfellow

Trip: Battle Road and Fiske Hill Trails
Location: Minuteman National Park, Lexington, MA
Cycling Distance: 26.73 miles
Snowshoe Distance: 3.04 miles

There are a couple of times that I've written about the beautiful Battle Road Trail in Minuteman National Park.  Once was a trip in '08 with Felix and Caro. And once in doggerel borrowed from Longfellow.  But this time, I went in the snow.  The trail is not plowed so various skiiers, shoers and people walking in improper footwear still hike the trail.

Trail Map.
I would Hike from the Ebenezer Fisk House to the Paul Revere Capture Site and back

The Trail

Josiah Nelson is a virtually unknown first.  Around Midnight of April 18, he left his house to speak to some riders.  He asked them if they knew anything of the British advance.  Unfortunately for Nelson, they were British troops (the same who would capture Revere).  They hit Nelson and he would be the first casualty of the American Revolution.

On the Trail

Paul Revere Capture Site
Listen my children and you shall hear,
Of the midnight capture of Paul Revere
Hop House?  Yes please: IPA

Thorning Boulder.
Mr. Thorning, a local farmer, holed up behind this boulder and surprised a flanking column of Redcoats -
further slowing the Redcoat retreat from Concord.

Random Ancient Hydrant

I took the Fiske Hill Trail back to my bike

Canopy of the Fiske Hill Trail

12 Miles back to Boston -
it took me 15, since I stopped at Trader Joe's

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snowday and All is Well: Shoeing the Fells (2/5/14)

At Wright Tower
Trip: Ride and Snowshoe
Ride Distance: 11.77 miles
Snowshoe Distance: 3.61 miles

Snow Day!  I rode out of the city into Medford.  I then unpacked my snowshoes and traveled into the great "wilderness" of the Middlesex Fells.  (2500 acres in the midst of Suburban Boston.)

Bellevue Pond Trailhead

Baskje Ostarije loaded up to go home

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

Watch that First Step: Candlemas, the Super Bowl and Groundhogs (2/2/14)

Making the turn for home

Race: SuperSunday5
Location: Kendall Square, Cambridge
Goal Time: 32:30
Actual Time: 31:41

In the dregs of winter, one can often wonder: Will this ever end?

Early February becomes such a traditional time to dread the continuation of winter.  So much so that in Western Europe there are several traditions about weather and the Christian feast of Candlemas.

In England there is an old saying from sailors:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, 
winter will have another bite. 
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, 
winter is gone and will not come again.

If that is true, we could be in trouble.  Sunday was a beautiful day.  The weather for the RaceMenu SuperSunday5 was perfect.

Of course the French argue the opposite:

Quand la Chandeleur est claire,
l’hiver est par derriere; 
Chandeleur couverte 
quarante jours de perte


The Germans actually have a crazy Candlemas tradition.  If a hibernating animal comes out at Candlemas and sees its shadow.  Interestingly, a bunch of Germans settled in Pennsylvania.  There, they found lots of these weird ground rodents.  AHA!

If today was a bellweather, it was unhelpful.  It was neither good nor bad.  Middling run was not seeing my shadow, nor was it was it clean and bright or Chandeleur couverte.

Felix did come out to see me at mile four - crutches and all.  That was awesome!

Laurie and her family are in our thoughts...

Can't believe how bad the Broncos were