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August 4, 2008

Love The One You're With (Western States Diary)

When I decided to enter the Headlands 100, one of the first people I contacted was my sports editor, to see if it was OK to resume the Western States Diary that I had started in the spring. I honestly felt bad about the way the series ended, and wanted to update anyone who had been following along via the newspaper that I had dusted myself off and moved on with life following the race cancellation in June.

The result is the article that follows, which is noteworthy in a few regards:

1) I'm not a huge classic rock fan, but while writing this piece, the intro song was so firmly entrenched in my head that there was really no way around it. See – all this time you’ve probably thought that the writer chooses the song, when in reality, it’s the article and the song that somehow attract each other like electrons. I’m just the guy whose fingers operate the keyboard.

2) This piece is a perfect example of what I mean when I say that my blog is a training ground for getting mainstream media items published. If you’re a regular reader here, some of the lines and ideas that follow will sound very familiar, since they were essentially recycled from previous posts. And finally …

3) The article gives me perfect justification to include a picture of Beyonce - which is never a bad thing, really. Remember when I used to post pictures of Beyonce here at least once per month? I miss those days sometimes.

Anyway, the article follows below. I’ll probably have one more post this week in advance of this weekend’s race, and then I’m off to spend 100 miles in the Marin Headlands.


Journey of 100 Miles: A Western States Headlands 100 Training Diary

Part 9: Love the One You’re With

“There's a rose in a fisted glove –
And the eagle flies with the dove –
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey –
Love the one you’re with.”
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young


Over the years, I’ve come to believe that whenever God closes a door, He usually leaves a window open somewhere - the only trick is knowing where to look for it. In recent weeks, I’ve found this notion particularly applicable to my ultrarunning exploits.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – so indulge me in a brief recap:

In our last episode of this training diary, I announced that the Western States Endurance Run, the most prestigious 100-mile trail race in the world, had been cancelled by the wildfire rampage that swept across Northern California in June. Three days before the race, I was informed that all those months of training - the cold, dark early mornings, the endless miles running up and down canyons in Garland Park, the constant soreness and fatigue – was all for nothing. It all just vanished, literally and figuratively, up in smoke.

Needless to say, I was bummed out. I used the analogy of being left at the altar, which narrowly edged out a comparison to the Griswolds driving all the way to Wally World only to find the park closed. Either way, it clearly wasn’t the ending I was hoping for.

Not only that, but I had spent eight installments worth of valuable Monterey Herald column space extolling not just the Western States race, but all the virtues of ultrarunning, only to have the cancellation render the whole process meaningless. It was the most anticlimactic ending to a series since The Sopranos, and I felt like the poster boy for unrequited ambition. The door wasn’t merely closed, it was slammed in my face just as I stood on the doorstep. (I know ... I’m just full of analogies today.)

All of which brings me back to the open window.

Like anyone working his way through the grief process, I spent few mildly depressed days before accepting the fact that the 2008 Western States 100 simply wasn’t going to happen. However, I had done all of this training, and my body was ready to run 100 miles – so couldn’t I find a similar challenge someplace else? (Yes, this sounds like bargaining, which technically comes before acceptance, but trust me – this is the way it happened.)

Undoubtedly, I was still afflicted with a 100-mile itch – and as luck would have it, I found a couple of options to scratch it.

The most convenient alternate venue is a race called the Headlands Hundred, a 100-mile trail run through the Marin Headlands area north of San Francisco. It takes place on August 9th and 10th, and – assuming everything goes according to plan – next weekend, I’ll be there, putting my training to the test.

The Headlands race is only in its second year of existence; it’s one of several new 100-mile races to debut recently, in the wake of a steadily increasing number of ultrarunners nationwide – a boom due in large part to the enormous popularity of the Western States Endurance Run. Life’s ironic like that sometimes.

As far as my own involvement, Headlands has three very important criteria going for it: 1) It’s relatively close to home, 2) It contains trails that I’m familiar with from other races, and 3) It’s in an area of the state that’s not, as far as I know, currently on fire.

And while it doesn’t have the prestige of Western States, the course is almost equally challenging: it has 17,000’ of climbing (compared to 18,000’ at WS), long sections of difficult technical footing, and the same potential for accidents or medical maladies. Most importantly: it’s still 100 miles – which is an awfully long distance to run, no matter what the circumstances.

So to revisit my analogy of being left at the altar, let’s say the girl in the Western States scenario was Beyonce: irresistibly beautiful, wildly popular, and incredibly gifted. She’s the girl you’ve spent years daydreaming about, wondering if there’s any way you could ever be compatible someday.

Now the Headlands race comes along like Rihanna: a starlet who’s a little bit younger, not nearly as well-recognized, but still quite attractive and worthy of admiration. At first, you might not take her seriously, but after a while you start thinking, “You know what? This girl’s definitely got the goods.” You’re not settling for something inferior; you’re simply moving on.

Sure, this has all the markings of a rebound relationship – but sometimes the rebound girl is the one you were supposed to hook up with anyway. It’s like those teen movies from the 1980s, where a guy does all sorts of crazy stunts to land the unobtainable hot chick, only to realize that he was meant to be with the girl who was his best friend all along. Even though I spent all year preparing to complete a race in Auburn, I have a feeling that when I cross the finish line in Marin County, I’ll still find myself perfectly happy.

(Best of all, committing to this rebound relationship doesn’t exclude me from chasing after the hot girl/race again next summer – but that’s another story.)

I’ll report back after the race with an event recap, and share any lessons learned during my day and night on the trails. The race also has a simultaneous webcast for anyone wishing to follow my progress on August 9th: go to the Headlands 100 website click “webcast” for updates. (We’ll put a reminder in the Herald on August 9th as well.)

In the meantime, I’ve got one more week to make final preparations, and to get nervous and jittery all over again. I’ve found the open window –now all that’s left to do is make sure, when the time comes, that I’m ready to jump through.


Anne 8/4/08, 5:07 PM  

You know I have a soft spot for Rihanna's Umbrella, right?! (I've only got five different versions/covers stored on my iPod right now....)

Who needs to watch the Bejing Games when we've got Donald to track online. I hope everything goes as well as it should for you on Saturday.

209Mike 8/4/08, 5:28 PM  

Kind of forgot what I was reading after I got to Beyonce. I like the article (I actually cheated and headed over to your paper's website earlier to read it - got the bonus pictures here though). Good luck this weekend on the 100-miler. I'll try and check in on you every once in awhile. Don't forget to have fun.

21stCenturyMom 8/4/08, 7:36 PM  

Go Donald! Guess where I just offered to help out? Oh yeah - unless they have all the help they need I'll be out there somewhere!

Thomas 8/5/08, 5:50 AM  

Oh yes, I remember the good times with Beyonce. Why did you ever stop?

Good luck for Headlands!

Deene 8/5/08, 7:54 AM  

good luck at Headlands!

andyb 8/5/08, 10:26 AM  

I would have voted for the "Vacation" analogy - much better and not nearly as tired as the "alter" analogy. And I love the 80's movies reference - that is a great one! :-)

Good luck on your 100. I have read that it is a great one for a first 100 miler. I'll be running the 50 - haven't worked up to the 100 yet, hoping to do one next year (and thinking that Headlands may be my first 100, too). I'll keep an eye out for you.

Sarah 8/5/08, 12:05 PM  

Oh awesome! I'm so glad you'll have your chance at 100. Can't wait to follow along and read the recap!

Sarah 8/5/08, 1:54 PM  

So glad that you'll be joining us this weekend, Donald! Looks as if we'll have wonderful weather again this year.

Hope that you enjoy your time out on the trails of the Marin Headlands this weekend. We look forward to congratulating you as you cross the finish line of your first hundred - and we hope that you find yourself perfectly happy at that point, too.

Sarah (PCTR)

RunBubbaRun 8/5/08, 9:41 PM  

I'm sure you will do great at HeadLands.

Look forward to see how it goes for you and following the webcast also.

Rock on..

Gretchen 8/5/08, 10:26 PM  

Maybe sexy titles like "Love the One You're With" and Beyonce pics get more glances...? (Who's Beyonce again??) Nonetheless, as usual, it's your content that shines and you deserve the front page!!!
You rock Donald! I'll definitely be checking the webcast, and sending you good vibes all day and night. It's your big day--Love It!

Makita 8/6/08, 7:12 AM  

Sweet! I look forward to reading of your race report! Best of luck to you at Headlands! :)

olga 8/6/08, 9:32 AM  

Donald, I always loved your analogies:) so I will see you at the altar! Hope you walk straight the final stretch before "I do"!

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