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June 18, 2007

The Itch

(Admin note: I'm growing frustrated with Bloglines and other publishing sites when it comes to post layouts, fonts, photo placement, etc. So I'm just going to publish the short introductions to new posts for a while. I'm sorry - I know it requires another mouse click to come and read the whole post, which has always been a pet peeve of mine. I'll try to get back to normal operations soon. In the meantime, here's today's post ... )


Apparently, I’m a little dim. At least that’s what I learned on my nighttime trail run last week. More about that in a minute - but first, I should explain how I got into the situation in the first place.

Despite my ongoing and unyielding passion for triathlon, I’ve never fully let go of one other goal that’s been bouncing around my head for many years: the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, which will be contested again this weekend in the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California. It’s an itch that I’m determined to scratch.

I applied for the 2007 race, but wasn’t accepted in the lottery process. (Yes, the rejection hurt. Yes, I felt like a shunned contestant on The Bachelor. And yes, I wrote a post about it. I’m very predictable that way.) That lottery draw was the trigger that caused me to give my full attention to triathlon for this year – but if the coin had flipped another way, I would have spent the whole spring telling you about 6-hour trail runs instead of 70-mile bike rides.

And one of these years, I will. In fact, thanks to the “two-time loser” registration policy, I’m assured of participating in Western States no later than 2009. So the race has never strayed too far out of my consciousness – and that’s what brought me out to a late night trail run last Tuesday.

One of my fellow Carmel Valley runners happens to be a veteran of several Western States runs, and is always happy to provide me information and advice about the race. He broke 24 hours at his last visit there, and was lucky enough to have fate smile upon him again, as his name was pulled in the lottery for this weekend’s race. (Yes, that would be the same fate that kicked me in the teeth. Honestly, I didn’t really question the outcome - I figured there were countless things I’ve probably done to justify it. I trust Karma with an Earl Hickey-like obedience.)

So when I heard that he was planning some evening trail runs, I figured I’d abuse his generosity a little bit more, and invited myself along. I tucked the kids into bed, then met him and his pacers in a parking lot near the trailhead just as the last traces of light disappeared beyond the horizon.

That’s where we had the following conversation …

Him: Let me see your headlamp.

Me (handing it over): It’s the brightest one I have.

Him: Only 4 LEDs? That’s pretty dim. It probably won’t be enough for the race.

Me: Oh … OK.

Obviously, it wasn’t the most optimistic feedback I could have heard before heading into the darkness, but I was really just there to soak up the atmosphere of a runner and his crew preparing for one of the most difficult challenges in running.

The two other runners with us would both be accompanying our friend at Western States, but neither had participated in the event before. The evening run was essentially an extended coaching session, and an opportunity to practice race-night logistics such as what kind of lighting to use, what positions to run in relative to one another, and what sorts of gear and supplies would be needed.

Since I didn’t have much to contribute in any of these regards, I spent most of the run hanging back far enough that I wouldn’t interfere with their light testing, but close enough that I could overhear most of the discussions. As I drifted behind, and became enveloped in my own meager cone of 4-LED light, I couldn’t help but contemplate Western States, and my own feelings about watching the race come and go again without me there.

I wasn’t really feeling much intimidation or anxiety - because if there’s one thing Ironman training has taught me, it’s that with proper preparation and dedication, I can accomplish almost anything I set my mind to. It wasn’t uncertainty - because I’ve long since passed the point where running through the night or running for 30 hours seems unfathomable. It wasn’t even envy – because as much as I’d love to be going to Squaw Valley this weekend, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had (and those soon to come) this year for anything.

More than anything, it was an itch. Something that I know I’ll have to give my attention to at some point, but for the time being, I can probably ignore, and carry on just fine. However, it’s still an itch – which means that sometime in the not-too-distant future, I’m going to have to scratch it.

But before I do, I need to go shopping for a brighter headlamp.


angie's pink fuzzy 6/18/07, 7:56 PM  

(in my best peyton manning voice)

"scratch! that! itch!"

you know what i just got an itch for? bighorn 100. dammit, after i've said for two years i'd never run a 100, and after a miserable 6 months unable to get my lazy butt outta bed to train for a measly 50k.


you gotta do what you gotta do. with a bright enough headlamp, of course.

robtherunner 6/18/07, 9:24 PM  

I'll be throwing my name in the hat next year as well. I'm looking forward to the preview this weekend.

Darrell 6/18/07, 10:20 PM  

I have no doubt you will eventually stand at the starting line of WS fully prepared. It'd be cool if you and Rob both got in next year.

The tri-antula story was priceless.

Thomas 6/19/07, 1:16 AM  

Ok, since you left out that crucial bit of information, I just have to ask: what kind of headlamp DO they use?

Matt 6/19/07, 6:37 AM  

Oh that insatiable itch! Luckily, mine is only for an IM and an occasional Oreo Shiver from TCBY which I scratch quite often.

rick 6/19/07, 10:58 AM  

oohh good luck to all of us. I'm putting my name in the hat again this year. I have a 4-led Petzl myself, it's not the brightest but I supplement with a light handheld that's super powerful. I like the dual combination because I can use the spotter light to spot ahead or on the side. I can also use it to investigate "rustling noises" in the bushes. If you don't mind carrying a small handheld I'd investigate the dual combo. This past weekend my headlamp was dim because I forgot to change out the batteries but my handheld was fine by itself it was many times more powerful than the headlamps. I got mine's at Zombierunner

Phoenix 6/19/07, 11:28 AM  

Caladryl Clear is good for that.

Actually, I think its an awesome goal - and I'd place my bets on you towing the line in '08. Just cuz I think your Karma's probly pretty good right now just from mentioning Earl Hickey. I luv's me some Earl Hickey.

Sounds like an awesome run - made me want to go find my headlamp!

olga 6/19/07, 1:58 PM  

I am fine with one headlamp Petzl and never add hand-held. I go through the whole night with no changes (on fresh batteries). It does deem a bit, but not enough to bother me. Good luck experimenting - and getting in to WS!

matt 6/19/07, 2:56 PM  

i'd love to hear more about how your night-training goes. I am going to be doing some of that again on sundays. i'd like to find out more about the lamps they use, too. i use a petzl with 4 bulbs and have been okay with it, but would like to see more output.

i am pretty sure that '08 will be your year. i look forward to following the progress. good luck, donald!

SkiRough 6/19/07, 8:04 PM  

Okay, if you sign up for the Western States by the time I move out west for my PhD, I will train for it and run it with you! I sooo want to do it, but I've been waiting to move out to NYC first. But if you get rejected again I will register with you! :)

rick 6/20/07, 10:30 AM  

Hey Donald, in answer to your question. I use a Petzl Tikka Plus, 4-led light. At the time it was the most leds that Petzl had and it was fine because I only use my headlamps as backup. My main light is a Fenix LP 2. Super lightweight but extremely bright. I don't know specifics about lumens and such but that baby is one of the brightest lights out there, ask Olga:) I got it at Zombierunner.com. It is no longer on sale since it has now been eclipsed by newer models. I only bought it a year ago which leads me to what I noticed. The flashlights seem to get better on a yearly basis, they're like apple ipods with a newer version every year. Prior to the Fenix I used a Gerber LX 3.0, another great light but uses 3AA's and has a heavier metal body. This one looks like a winner, an updated version of my light.

Lastly, since you're close, I can send you my Fenix and Gerber to test out. I don't need it back until August.

Rodrigo,  6/21/07, 4:34 PM  

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

Mike 6/21/07, 10:56 PM  

damn, let me be the voice of reason here....doooon't scratch that itch!!! ;-) Seriously, that is very cool..i couldn't imagine being on my feet that long..ultrarunners pretty much rule!

Catching up on your blog...any of your daughter's awesome bday cake left!?! nice!

Wil 6/22/07, 8:36 AM  

MAN I don't know how you do it... amazing!

Anne 6/22/07, 8:43 AM  

I've always felt nauseous using headlamps, so I'm glad yours is just dim.

And thanks for the explanation on the new Bloglines format. When I saw you'd posted something like 15 posts in a week, I thought: What the heck?! Now I just see it was ajusting old posts.

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