Friday, September 28, 2012

In the present moment

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
 - Thic Nhat Hanh

Amen. I'll try to keep that in mind as I run the beautiful Elk River Trail at Flatrock tomorrow. No matter what happens, it will be a good day to be alive and running. One foot in front of the other, repeat.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Family hike

On Sunday we took Sophie out to Turkey for her first hike. She rode in the Baby K'tan carrier, which is basically a wrap you can tie multiple ways to carry your baby. I think this is the "explorer" position. For a mile the K'tan was comfortable enough, but we'll get something a bit more supportive for longer hikes.

I had forgotten that the Keep it Wild races were Sunday afternoon. We made our way up the hill to the yellow trail and watched the bikers speed on by.

All these new sights, sounds and smells were a bit overwhelming, I guess.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A drinker with a running problem

So goes the Hash- House Harrier motto, one that aptly sums up my Saturday. McNellie's brought in the new season with their third annual Harvest Beer Festival. The plan was to run the six miles there, "earning" my beer, and to run back, eliminating the need for a designated driver while getting in some fatigue/ delirium training in for my 50k at the same time. So efficient.

I was surprised to see the Midland Valley Trail repairs finished and open again.

The trail leaves the river at the Brrridge and takes you due North as the river curves to the West, becoming a wonderland of asphalt and concrete as it skirts freeways before dumping you onto third street just East of the Blue Dome district.

The festival was much more crowded than last year, and this was still early afternoon.

If you follow the Thirsty Beagle beer blog, you'd know that brewing companies are sprouting up left and right in Oklahoma these days. At least four of them were pouring at the festival. More competition in our state can only be a good thing, although I still think we need to make it easier for out- of- state craft breweries to do business here.

This is the owner of Anthem Brewing out of Oklahoma City. Golden One is their sole offering at the moment, but it was a quite refreshing, if a bit unusual, take on the Belgian style. I'll be looking for this one at McNellie's.

Dead Armadillo Brewing, also out of OKC, had a number of brews to try: a good vanilla porter, a great IPA and a stellar black IPA. Unfortunately, they won't be putting anything on the market until early next year.

Those Dead Armadillo t-shirts are pretty sweet, but Black Mesa Brewing has the best logo bar none. Not only does it have the elevation profile of our State's highest point, but includes one of my favorite quotes from Tolkien. Can't say I remember much about any of their beers though.

I tried more beers than I can remember, and only one was outright crap (a pumpkin stout). Coop had an excellent Farmhouse Ale. Choctoberfest was very good.

Good weather, good run, good brews. You can't ask for much more than that. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A successful life

Do you want to climb a mountain, traverse a ravine, or bike across the country, but find yourself doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, or changing a diaper? If so, you might want to check out the Dirtbag Diaries podcast to help pass the time. The Diaries are basically campfire tales, told by "dirtbags" (a word used for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes), about their adventures in the great outdoors. The prose is usually stellar, and the stories inspire, frighten, and, on occasion delve into deeper issues pertaining to the human condition. They also help me to be more productive around the house.

In "A Successful Life", a twenty something and aspiring outdoor writer lands a dream job with National Geographic in Washington D.C. She leaves the mountains of her beloved Oregon for the urban metropolis of our nation's capital. It is the professional opportunity of a lifetime. She loves her new job, but suffers separation anxiety from her native land. The outdoor scene in D.C. just doesn't compare and she is haunted by dreams of wild places and tall mountain peaks. Her frustration builds to a crescendo ending with her resignation and flight across the country back to Bend, Oregon. At the airing of the podcast, she was living out of her car, while looking for a writing job, with no regrets.

Alright, so success and happiness are measured by more than your career. I get that and respect her choice. But what about those who dream of mountains but, for very good reasons, can't quit their job and head for the hills? Are they doomed to frustration until the next opportunity for a vacation presents itself?

Tulsa, Oklahoma can be a difficult place for a dirtbag to live. I struggle with the hot and humid summers, the lack of open space, and a culture that doesn't place a high premium on outdoor recreation. I too dream of tramping around in wild places and look for opportunities to visit them. If it were solely up to me, my backyard would look something like this:

Nevertheless, I hope that longing never blinds me to what is waiting to be discovered, or rediscovered, right outside my front door. I started this blog without any real purpose other than to record my races and outdoor adventures, with occasional beer reviews added to the mix. In many ways it still is that, but I'm also beginning to see a story take shape, one that is still being written. A story that attempts to answer the question: how can I learn to love the land beneath my feet, even if it is a bit flat (culturally and geographically), overdeveloped and punctured by concrete? Here in this land, dirtbags have to look up, down, around, over and under to catch a glimpse at a more elusive beauty, but I like to think that strengthens us in ways that unlimited access to mountains and wilderness might not. For example, perhaps I wouldn't have noticed something like this:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Refined goals

Flatrock is less than two weeks away. The hours and miles in the oven we call summer are behind me. Cooler weather is here and I'm ready to cash in. This is my "competitive" race of the season. I use that word loosely, for I really have no idea how other people will run. Competitive only in the sense that I will run balls to the wall. With an elevation profile and terrain similar to the Turkey and Taturs 25k, I hope to finish under 2:43, my time in that race last Fall. Based on a tempo run last weekend, I have reason to suspect that a sub- 2:30 is possible.

In contrast, my one goal for Pumpkin Holler 50k is to finish. I will start slow, slow down when I feel like it, and stop to take pictures. I haven't put in enough time on my feet to consider anything else, and that's fine. I'm thankful to have the green light to travel to Tahlequah, and I plan on savoring every minute of my time there.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A tease of fall

We've had two straight days of temps in the 70s, with cool nights. Running with less sweat and a little more kick.

The first cool evening deserved an approriate brew. The Belgian Yeti has that thick, creamy Yeti goodness you expect, with just a slight touch of spice and fruitiness from the huge chunks of belgian yeast. The perfect combination to mark this strange in-between season when the weather refuses to make up its mind.


Friday, September 7, 2012

My pine tree fix

On Sunday afternoon, I went for a hike near Evergreen with my brother-in-law Sean. Three Sisters is a Jefferson County park that used to be a horse ranch. Its a pretty place, with plenty of views of the divide. The trails surrounding the main overlook were packed with people, including this guy pumping out tunes from his portable stereo. I mean, really? Soon, however, we found ourselves in the more remote Northern end and saw one mountain biker for the rest of the afternoon. The sun eventually came out, filtering down through the pine needles. And we managed to solve a few of the world's problems by the time we returned to the car. Thanks Sean!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My favorite route

Running is a discipline, and you need discipline in order to succeed at your goals. No amount of scenery or beautiful weather will get you through it in the end. With that said, it definitely helps to have a route that we can depend on to inspire and remind us why we run outside in the first place.

If I had to pick one run that does it for me, it would be the trail that crosses over South Table Mesa in Golden. From the Southern end of the mesa, where we stay, a trail leads up to the flat, basalt cap. On the top I encounter a dry land of sagebrush and short prairie grass with an occasional lone soldier reaching up to the big sky. Uninterrupted vistas extend in every direction. To the West and North are the foothills. To the South and East lie the suburbs of Denver, the dowtown skyline, and the great plains beyond. The theme music to High Plains Drifter comes to mind

But this place is anything but barren. Colorful birds dart in and out of the brush, a fox hunts, and groups of deer forage. The trail winds North to the iconic Castle Rock which looms over the town Golden. A trail descends to the Coors brewery and quiet neighborhoods. The Clear Creek trail brings me into the canyon. I find a rock to sit on, give thanks, and turn back. 

Eleven miles and two hours of perfection.


Do you have a favorite running route?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Colorado weekend: Breck

On Saturday we drove up to Breckenridge from Golden. It was packed with flatlanders like ourselves. At first glance, commercialism rules the streets and ski cuts mar the surrounding mountains. But if you poke around, there are some gems waiting to be discovered here that harken back to an older day.
And Breck has a great brewery that makes up for all the tourist boutiques.

Nearly every brew was solid, but the 471 Double IPA and Avalanche Amber stood out in my view. The most interesting (if not entirely quaffable) brew was a rye ale brewed with spruce tips. Far out.