Friday, April 11, 2014

Yet another reason why my chances (for survival) look good for the Trans-Iowa Part X

Pre Trans-Iowa positive thought of the day…or ”puttin’ a positive spin on seemingly a hopeless situation.” 

Obese Heart Attack Patients Are More Likely To Survive After Treatment Than Normal Weight Patients

Date: June 22, 2007

Oxford University Press

Summary: Obese and very obese patients have a lower risk of dying after they have been treated for heart attacks than do normal weight patients, according to new research. Researchers found that amongst patients who had received initial treatment for a specific type of heart attack, those that were obese or very obese were less than half as likely to die during the following three years as patients who had a normal body mass index.

This is good news for me as I prepare for the upcoming trans-Iowa….

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why I could have won the Trans Iowa....but now I won't be winning.....

How I could have won the tenth running of the Trans-Iowa….But it would have been morally and ethically wrong. 

Whether it is in pursuit of summits or even victory on a bicycle; style matters.  The fastest guyz heading down to Iowa on the last weekend of April to compete in the T.I. will be pleased to hear that I will NOT be using Kershaw’s time-trial bars on my trusty Gunnar (or Kelly).  I put them on last night (rather than go for a training ride) and they initially seemed kinda cool, but my daughter mocked me sayin’ that those were for fast guyz not old fat guyz and then I couldn’t get them to stay in one position (no matter how tight I cranked the fastener bolts, both kept slipping down). So I did the right then and quickly gave up on the idea.  The problem with me is that I’ll do just about anything right now to try and figure out a way that I can finish that monster route.  As stated in a recent post, itz not the distance that is keeping me up at nights, itz covering the distance in the allotted time-frame.  I got enough miles in over the last thirty years to not be psyched out by covering a lot ground going nearly nonstop and unsupported, but to make 340 miles in 34 hours, that’s gonna be hard for me….

The last time I tried the Trans Iowa was in 2012.  I was just too tired to do the one last year as I was just back from Alaska and my whole body was racked with fatigue well into spring.  In 2012, I showed up to the race feeling good, so I took off hard and stayed with the leaders, but after about eight hours I was really starting to soak in the proverbial hurt-tank.  Quickly, I was dropped and then not long after being dropped, I unknowingly took a wrong turn and got hopelessly lost. After what must have been a couple hours or so, I finally lucked out and got to a small town, found a phone and contacted Guitar-Ted.  With his help, I was able to backtrack and get back on route but I was hopelessly behind in terms of making the time cuts.  I made the second checkpoint by just a few minutes and then basically fell victim to the Demons of Despair and Misery as I entered the sadistic realm of long long night time on the back roads of Iowa. 

G.T. mercifully sent Matt Gersib out to retrieve me.  I’m probably too bull headed to have made such a pick-up call, but when the sag-wagon appeared, I made no dissenting remarks.  Matt told me to get in the car and I complied. Had Matt not generously come to my aid, I probably would have crashed out in a field (or preferably a cemetery), languished in the supine position for a few hours, and then limped my sorry ass back into Grinnell well after the time parameter, and well after everyone else had gone home...

I guess my point is that this year my plan for success has to be to start the race at a reasonable pace, maintain that pace, and to NOT get lost…

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I be too busy to write......

 “You get to the top of a wall, there’s nothing up there. Lionel Terray, the great French climber called it ‘The conquistadors of the useless.’ Yeah, the end result is absolutely useless, but every time I travel, I learn something new and hopefully I get to be a better person.” 
–  Yvon Chouinard, 180 Degrees South  [Note: the idea of the conquistadors of the useless is so apropos when considering the material rewards one earns with taking on and completing the Trans-Iowa. 

Below are the ramblings of a man well past his prime. A man troubled by a race that awaits him in Iowa in just a few weeks away…

A man, too busy doing nothing worth writing about.  A very, very, busy man, a man too busy to take just a few minutes to reflect on the direction of his so-called “life.” Truth be told, what we have here is an aged-man who claims to have no time to write but admittedly also the same aged man that really has nothing really to show for being so busy. If he’s so busy, one may logically ask, “Where are the results?”  “What do you have to show for being so busy?” Think of a guy like John Kerry.  It would be one thing to submit an excuse on the order of; “I’ve been super busy working out a lasting peace deal betwixt the Israelis and the Palestinians. As well as figuring out a way for the average Syrian to live in peace” ; Or Mark Zuckerberg, “Please forgive my lack of writing, but you must understand that that I am brokering a super important deal between Facebook and Twitter.”  Or Bjorn Dahlie, (the best excuse possible): “Just can’t write ‘cuz I am battlin’ my way across the top of Greenland on my trusty skis and a small group of friends.

Too be honest, truth be told, itz a sad situation in that really nothing much has happened for me of late.  Can’t claim nothing of interest or even remotely impressive to report. No monumental, no earth-changing things have been achieved by the writer, of late…It’s a sad situation for a Man, (especially a man with one foot in the grave) to be devoid of meaningful results, to be devoid of important things to report, or even to be devoid of interesting retrospective comments on a life well lived. This lack of news to report, this inability to add to one’s overall existential timeframe, makes me think that I have become a man who is essentially already on the proverbial downward slope or at least existing in a kind of holding area.  A man that is not fired up for his next great adventure is a man that has thrown in the towel…think: Roberto Duran’s version of, “No mas.”

…. In any event, after months of pretty much just getting through it day to day, or putting on a brave face, or “playing silly games” that I associate with the banal artificial-constructs or daily mundane tasks of modern life, (punctuated briefly by periodically vicarious moments stimulated by my daughter’s ski and track meets) I have finally found time to write, but alas there is little of interest to share… Please understand that I am not blaming anyone for my recent harried, albeit uninteresting life-style, for the cages or prisons that we build, especially in this country, are largely self-built.  Even so, it is delusional for one to wish for self-actualization, even at basic very basic level, when engaged in activities that seem quite trite and meaningless…but I digress.   Finally I am able to put my ideas to paper. As alluded to above, there is not much to report…but there are perhaps a few noteworthy or semi-honorable struggles of which I have engaged in the last several months. Below is a brief summation….

In late-December, stalwart Eki, the youthful and most talented Peterson, and I made a decent effort to be the first to ride from Duluth to Grand Marais via the North Shore Trail but heavy fresh snow during the second day, coupled with very cold temperatures broke our spirit compelling us to bail after two very cold nights out. It was my third failed winter attempt on this route.  The North Shore Trail is significantly more challenging than the Arrowhead Trail.  On a happier note, Chris Finch and Cousin Jay, both of Duluth, did make the first winter ascent in late January.  They completed the route in four or five days completely unsupported.  Anyone that has tried the route, in any season or condition, knows that these guyz have earned serious bragging rights.  Bravo Mr. Finch and Mr. Gliddings! 

In late January, the Arrowhead 135 commenced on a pretty much regular or normal Monday morning given that itz winter and the fact that the geographical position of International Falls places it right next to Canada.  Even so, the temperature, (somewhere in the negative twenties at the start) inexplicably seemed to somehow “surprise” many of the bike racers, causing many to pull the plug.  For me it was a relatively uneventful race for the trail was solid, the skies were clear, and the slight wind beneficial or at least indifferent (except for a brief period of head winds, whilst crossing the lake to the half-way checkpoint).  In my world, I’d take a cold and solid-tracked trail any day over a warm and slushy trail.

In any event, I had planned to either walk it or preferably to ski it, but due to several snow-day closing at my school coupled with the surprising success of my kid’s first High School cross-country ski season (she made it to STATE as a 7th grader1), I was forced at the last minute to bike the 135 miles as I just could not justify being gone from my job the extra day or two it would have required of me if I have tried the route without a bike.  Although I had not been on the bike leading up to the race, I had understood the serious implications of trying to complete the Arrowhead 135 sans a bicycle, so I had trained pretty much every day for many months, either man-walking or skiing; the result being that I felt really good for the whole race. As always the most meaningful experiences in these kinds of events are social.   Seeing old friends and interacting with new and interesting folks.  I rode a lone wayz with two really nice guyz, Adam Curtis and Chris Tassava.  All in all it was really a fun event.  My plan is to keep doing that race until I am 70…and beyond. Given the generous time frame (60 hours to finish it) there really is little reason to not finish it if you live by one of my main mantras: “When in serious doubt, when itz getting really crazy, when all hope seems lost, take a nap. The longer the better.” 

Which brings me to the upcoming classic Trans-Iowa. The reason I believe that the Trans-Iowa is the toughest event that I have done in cycling is because of itz most challenging time-constraint of 34 hours….Thatz 320+ miles in 34 hours(this year the rumor is that the course is 340+ miles) .  I know that as you read this…you are thinking that it sounds reasonable to average 10 mph for 34 hours, but when you start to add in significant route-finding challenges, tough road conditions, lotz of hills, mechanicals, and general fatigue setting in…just finishing the damn thing is a huge accomplishment………..So hopefully I can now start to find time to write and also I hope that I can write in a few weeks time that I been pretty busy…busy completing the arduous Trans-Iowa Part X…Now thatz a fine excuse…an excuse that folks can understand…and even appreciate.  More to come.....

Friday, October 25, 2013

"I am just going outside and may be some time." Captain Oates

Dear Members of the DBD Adventure Society and other persons of high interest:
As you well know, completing the Arrowhead 135 on a bicycle has become a routine, mundane, even boring endeavor enjoyed by both common men and even common women folk.  It has become like climbing Everest, no more than jaunt out in the hill country. So in the interest of hardihood combined with the pursuit of manly deeds, I am inviting you to break from the masses and to engage the Arrowhead 135 in a more sporting fashion.  Therefore I write to encourage you to forgo the tried and conquered mode of two-wheeled transport and to instead take on the Arrowhead Trail either by foot or ski. 
To inspire, I have decided to create the Captain Oates Manhaulers Society (C.O.M.S.).  C.O.M.S. will act as a scaffolding apparatus by which worthy men will be able to share ideas and concerns as we begin preparations for the AH135 challenge.  During the course of our preparations it is my hope that we can develop appropriate dictates by which our men can be expected to conduct themselves during the race.  COMS members and other interested parties will be able to offer suggestions and protocols via Mr. Farrow’s blog ( )
Please indicate with a reply, if you are interested.  If you are NOT interested and instead have your eyes on a new $5000 carbon snowbike, please forever cut any ties with me and know that you are dead to me. Also, If you do not know who Captain Oats is...well there is no need for you to contact us. 
Best regards,
G. Mallory

Monday, August 12, 2013

I went to a garden party: Ya can't please ya gotta please yourself!

Definition: an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. In composition, the placing of verbal elements side by side, leaving it up to the reader to establish connections and impose a meaning. These verbal elements (words, clauses, sentences) may be drawn from different sources and juxtaposed to form a literary collage. (Source: Wikipedia)
Buying a salad at a burger joint. Mixing beer with tequila.  When Kentucky Fried Chicken sold pizza. When middle-aged people get drunk at weddings and try to dance like the young people.  Guys that get “tipsy” from drinking apple cider. Stout women adorned with flowery tattoos on their puffy ankles. People who kill wild animals because they love nature. Mountain bike courses that do not require mountain bikes. When a gas station has a Subway and a DQ under the same roof. Once proud dogs that are forced into silly bouffant haircuts.  Racing on snowshoes when its faster if you don’t have snowshoes on. Big tough Harley riders that ride motorized tricycles.
My muse comes with the thought that there is something to the old adage that “one cannot have his cake and eat it (too).”  This idea stems from my experiences at the recent Rusty Ride 100 miler over at Crosby-Ironton.  Trying to please everyone is a difficult proposition that in the end is probably impossible.  The course was composed of four approximate twenty-five mile laps.  With each lap, the apparent concept was to uniquely provide a cycling experience composed of all five of the current popular modes of bicycle racing in the Midwest. Namely; endurance racing, gravel road racing, road racing, cyclocross, and mountain bike racing.  To achieve such an ambitious end, each lap was composed of basically three separate and juxtaposed segments- all of about the same length. Segment one consisted of basic flat asphalt (and a little gravel).  The kind of tarmac, which a fast and strong flatland roadie would appreciate.  Segment two was a winding, fast curving, and somewhat rolling grass pathway that meandered through pretty wild flowers.  Segment two would cater to a fast and skilled cyclocross rider. Segment three was composed of a tightly cornered and fun, albeit moderate aspect of the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail system.  Here a good rider was treated to a sampling of some decent terrain. 
It was a tough thing to pull off and while I enjoyed the Cuyuna part, I languished on the tarmac and simply endured the grass pathway. Perhaps others enjoyed the other aspects. The undeniable fact of the matter is that to win such a race one has to truly be a well-rounded rider.  Kudos to Mr. Larry Sauber for a top notch effort and the win. On the many (and unique) "two-way traffic sections" in which riders flew by each other, he always looked very strong. 
Note: They had run out of the promised free indie beer when I finished...which made me very sad indeed.  In fact I was inconsolable.  My therapist feels it will take some time to heal.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon: An Insider's View?

Postscript: As part of my duties as DBD Adventure Club Chronicler, I was recently charged with the task of researching the social factors inherent within the long distance trail running sub-group that seems to be thriving here in the Northland. The Club’s leadership, lead mainly by the Mallory faction, has become concerned about a couple members who seem to have been inexplicably drawn to these people and their strange ways. Fundamentally my job was to determine whether our boyz were being drawn in to a counterproductive cult or that these people have adopted habits and traditions that may be advantageous to the pursuit of adventure and thus should garner a more detailed study. The following is an abridged version of my report as submitted to the DBD Honor Board during the summer of 2103.

Why do they run?

In an effort to understand that strange subcultural set comprised of long distance runners, two weekends past I covertly entered their realm.  My primary goal was to make an effort to understand these people and their unusual ways.  In other words, to initiate the groundwork to begin an unbiased anthropological study of the long distance trail runner. Now of course if you are an adventure cyclist, you are now asking yourself, “Why?” Below I shall try and convey to you my reasoning and then submit a justification.

To begin—Like you, Dear Reader, it is true that for the first forty-five years of my life I simply dismissed these people as neurotic and/or cautious skinny folk that ran out of sheer fright. Collectively, a subset of shy persons that discovered early on that if they were to survive in an often-nasty, “fight or flight”, aggressive world, they would have to learn to take flight effectively, efficiently, and to run far far distances. 

In my world, like yours, other than occasionally beating up a flock of cross country runners on my way to football practice or duct tapping a troop of them to a flagpole during summer camp, I never really took anytime to interact with them.  I vaguely remember that a covey of these stick-people were allowed onto our track team, but they were kept separate from the rest of us.  While we all hung out on the track next to our high school, lounging on the big puffy high jump and pole-vaulting pads or played Frisbee on the lush grass infield, they were forced off campus, relegated to actually running in the local neighborhood streets. There coach, an English Literature major, too, was skinny and exceedingly shy. They all seemed to run as perhaps a herd of terrified gazelles would run when exposed on the grasslands of the Serengeti.  That is, they ran as if lions were chasing them.  Back then…I thought of myself as a lion. Of course I was a fool back then…I am just now figuring that out. Such is the curse of wisdom.  Most people don’t obtain wisdom and if they do get a bit of wisdom, it comes when they are too old to apply it…

Essentially throughout my school dayz I came to view them as peculiar, but harmless, and so I left them pretty much alone.  Sure, standing in the lunch lines, I stole their desserts off their lunch trays like everyone else did in both high skool and college, but that doesn’t count as real interaction.  So apart from a few indirect contacts during my school dayz, my life’s path and that of the long distance runner was on completely parallel tracks. Now it is true that relatively recently I have been exposed to some impressive long distance “foot racers.” Especially when I first began competing in the Arrowhead 135 some years ago.  But these hardy men were often times former weapons dealers (from France), wrestlers, or rugby players or the like that had simply decided to essentially hike the Arrowhead because they couldn’t ski or they didn’t have the right kind of bike.  They really were not runners per se or at least I convinced myself of that…

All this changed last February when I encountered Dave Johnston of Alaska.  Here was a true long distance runner and yet he was nothing like the stereotype I had conjured in my limited brain.  Here was a Man’s Man that had beer bottles stashed in his drop bags, ate frozen bacon by the handfuls, and laughed a hearty laugh even in times of sheer exhaustion and desperation. He opened my eyes, forced me to look with renewed perspective at these people. He forced upon me the idea that perhaps I could learn something from these waif-like bipeds? Now in fairness, the good Dr. Buffington, along with Mr. Kershaw, have been extoling the virtues of long distance trail running in developing raw toughness for sometime, and my friends at Esko including Mr. Hexum and Mr. Smith were relatively honorable men and they ran long distances, but it took my eye witnessing of Johnston’s amazing effort along that 350 mile stretch of the Iditarod trail that forced me to seek a detailed and more studious accounting of the sociological forces influencing this subgroup of enduro-athletes.  Could it be that the DBD has been wrong about this group all along? The aforementioned are all tough Hard Men as are the likes of John Storkamp, Matt Long, and the Lonesome Luddite…Are we as an adventure society missing out on a whole group of potential candidates for membership?

Of course the only accurate way to begin to understand a novel species is to live amongst its population.  Therefore I resigned myself to partake of the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon held two Saturdayz past.  It is important to note that apart from my scientific curiosity, I was fired up to partake in this specific event because in doing so I would to be a part of the honoring of Eugene Curnow (who has recently died), as I knew him to a fine generous man and I greatly respected him. 

Buffington and I met up ay my home at 4:15 a.m. and then drove in separate cars over to the finish line in Carlton, Minnesota (about twenty or so miles south of Duluth) with the idea that we would leave a car at the finish and drive the other to the start. Of course, there existed a flaw in our plan in that Jason would beat me to the finish by a couple hours even if I had a good effort. Such is the generosity of this amazing character.  But to our delight, a school bus was waiting and so together we jumped on a bus that would ferry us back to the start @ Spirit Mountain, the ski resort just south of Duluth.  This way, we both had cars waiting for us at the finish. It had rained all night and during the bus ride over we encountered torrential rains, but interestingly there was no talk of cancellation amongst the riders.  No whispers of closing the trail were discernable, no laments pertaining to mud or slippage.  No one seemed concerned about being fried by lightening. I happily took note of the fact that on one seemed to find the likelihood of sloppy, even grim conditions problematic. No one seemed dissuaded, and no one seemed worried.  In stark contrast, had it been a normal mountain bike race in today’s era of meticulously groomed and highly maintained courses (like golf courses really), the race would have been cancelled and moreover, it would be likely that the manicured course would be closed for a week or more until everything was just right again…Note: Just sayin' I wouldn't want to be a guy trying to sell mud tires into todayz world of mountain bike racing when even the threat of a downpour causes a race cancellation... 

The scene at the start was very unrushed and casual.  People waited in line to sign up.  There was but one category consisting of a 26-mile race, unlike the modern phenomena in many popular events where there can be a plethora of age (and even weight) categories, combined with different distances and course configurations; all designed to make as many people as possible feel like they are “champions.”

Highly fit, fluid, and sinewy athletic-types freely interacted with aging folks with misshaped joints and broken strides.  Although it was clear from my physical attributes that I would bring up the rear, John Storkamp, a top notch runner and 2nd place finisher later in the day, engaged the author in unrushed, pleasant discourse ranging from our shared experience in Alaska to the whereabouts of Pierre Ostor.   I saw many friends and acquaintances. People that I knew, but I never knew that they were runners.  I began to suspect that I had been wrong about these people.  I began to feel not unlike that of the Grinch at the point of his rebirth. In essence, young and old, fit and those in various stages of decline all seemed fired up and ready to tackle the same challenge.  I’d say there were some hundred and sixty at the start.  My heart grew three times in size as the gun went off to start the race…

Prior to the race, I had set a strict personal protocol to follow, which was based on two fundamental overarching rules: 1. Under no circumstances would I allow myself to get some kind of long lasting injury, like a torn calf, a twisted knee, or a blown Achilles Heel; 2. I would walk the steep downhills so as to not unduly stress my fragile, worn-out knees.  To bolster Rule #2, I used ski poles the whole distance and found that they worked well in cushioning the impact during steep descents and was actually an advantage on the steep clay and muddy ascents.   

I have found that if I start off walking for the initial twenty minutes of a trail running effort, my old joints tend to limber up some and I feel much better during and after.  Therefore as the throngs of people took off from the starting line, I was left alone to ponder my inadequacies and mortality.  This was a bit humbling for me, especially as a small group of well-wishers, perhaps half-a-mile from the start, cheered for me with accolades designed for a man in my tenuous position. They yelled, “You can do it!” and “All that matters is that you’re out here trying!”

After my warm-up period I began to do a bit of jogging.  As the terrain became more rugged I began to catch up to some of the ancients of the sport.  These were old old men and women.  Several had to be in their seventies and many were in their sixties.  One old codger’s legs were so bowed, gnarled, fused, and otherwise disjointed that they reminded me of the antiquated limbs of the famed Spirit Tree of Grand Portage.  I felt inspired…for if he could do the miles then so could I and moreover this man was out there doing it at an advanced age…his love of the long distance game was uncomplicated and pure. “Unconditional love for a particular sport or endeavor speaks favorably of the pursuit,” I noted in my research log.

As I progressed onward I came upon an overgrown boulder field that they call Jarrow’s Beach, which is named after a long time and noted local distance runner and athletic shoe storeowner.  While the true runners apparently dread this segment as it forces them to walk or risk a broken ankle, I liked it as it gave me time to relax and to converse with a young guy that was also using ski poles.  He had been born and raised in Gordon, Wisconsin and was using this race as a practice session to prepare for the Superior 100 Mile race that commences in early September.  Like me, he was quick to declare his non-allegiance to the running community, but also like me, he seemed captivated by the community’s zest for a good challenge.  He commented, “My plan is to see if I can do it.” I guess there is profound honesty in such a statement.  I often tell my students that one of the great enduring questions in life is: “How do you know what ya don’t know?” Motivation, thusly, can be defined as the futile effort to continuously and proactively attempt to uncover things that you did not know.  Can I go 100 miles on foot within thirty-eight hours?  The young man from Gordon will know the answer to that question come early September and good for him. Yes or No— Either way he will be a better person for trying. 

Upon leaving the boulder field, feeling good, I began to outpace the lad, so I bid him well and continued onward at about a thirteen-minute mile pace.  It went on like that for most of the race. I felt much better than I thought that I would and since I had started dead last, I had the benefit of the illusion that I was going somewhat fast because I was passing a fair number of runners as I progressed along the route. 

Now of course the fact of the matter was that the majority of the runners were ahead of me (I finished eightieth out of 150 or so finishers), and some were a couple hours ahead of me.  The winner finished in approximately four hours while it took me six hours and twenty minutes. Another interesting aspect of the race was the fact that women were very well represented and were also very competitive (two were in the top ten).  I think that it is an accurate statement to proclaim that women are much better represented in long distance trail running than in long distance cycling.  According to my calculations, women represented about one-third of the total participants in this particular event. 

I continued on and was impressed by the enthusiastic aid stations, where the runners were treated to a wide variety of foods, drinks, and good cheer.  Everyone that I encountered along the trail was in good spirits as well, even those shuffling along displaying the telltale stiff stride indicative of one suffering from the dreaded malady known as “chapping.” I was one such soul and as the march extended onward so did the flaming intensity of the rubbing away of my tender skin surrounding my most sensitive private areas.  Finally at the second-to-last aid station, I asked matter-of-factly if there was a first aid box available for my use.  No doubt sensing my discomfort, the volunteer, (a paternalistic, no nonsense looking woman), handed me a huge jar of Vaseline and pointed me to a large tarp-like structure that was stacked to the ground to form a shield.  The application brought immediate, if only temporary relief.  Yet, I knew I could make it to the finish, so I just resigned myself “to sleep in my bed.” The end was near when I did start to experience some serious leg cramps, but such issues are usual for me so I soldiered on walking with a broken gait the last couple miles.  At the finish Jake Boyce was there to welcome me.  Jake is a top-flight cyclist, skier, rower, and I now come to find, a darn good albeit secret runner as well.  The very next day, he rode in a local mountain bike race and did very well.  It was most impressive to me…

As implied at the onset, empathy, not sympathy, was my quest.  I am now confident to report that these are a robust people not afraid of challenge and that we could learn from them especially in their approach to completing long arduous travel over terrain, the like of which will not afford the use of a bicycle or ski.  Perhaps one measure of the quality of a trail race is the degree to which the route is essentially unrideable or skiable.  This particular course would have allowed one to ride substantial segments, but even so it would be a close match between a competent rider paired against a strong distance runner. 

Perhaps another one, may be a fifty miler, is in the cards for the writer.  All in the interest of preparing to ski the Arrowhead 135 come early February 2014.