This weekend, I will be participating in my first 24 hour event — the San Francisco 1 Day. Those unfamiliar with this race/format — it’s a 1.067 mile loop around the lagoon at Crissy Field, which is located near the Golden Gate Bridge, where we would have to run as many clockwise loops as we can in 24 hours. This is somewhat opposite of how we typically race, where we would have to cover a certain distance, and get timed as to how long it takes.

I have a somewhat aggressive goal, considering my lack of experience in this type of event, but will be attempting to do about 115 miles, give or take. My plan is to cover 50 miles in about 9 hours, then try and get to about 65 miles at the midway point, which should allow me to have about 12 hours to do the remaining 50 miles. Or, if something goes horribly wrong, I should be able to walk the remainder at about 3mph and still reach 100 miles, which is my fallback goal.

There will be live updates on their website which will show everyone’s progress each hour, and there’s also a way to send a message to us.

Live Update

Last Friday night started out with some carbo-loading (I think there are a good bit of carbs in hot wings and beer, right) at Gordon Biersch in Old Towne Pasadena with my friends Vinnie and Dolly. It was a fun new hangout surrounded by the Wish Tree project, and a stage with a live band — nice change from our usual spots.

CIMG6551.JPGSaturday morning, I drove out to Ojai — site of the Coyote 2 Moon event, going on its second year now. There, I met up with H’ard, Mark, Manley, Jenny, Gretchen, and Drew for a training run that started around 7:30 at Thacher School (the new start/finish area for the race), and went up to the fireroad. There, Jenny and Gretchen cut their run a little short as they were planning on heading out to the 9 trails course the following day, so the 5 of us headed down to Sisar Cyn. At the gate, Mark and Manley headed up White Ledge to Topa Topa, and Drew, H’ard, and I continued down to the bottom of the canyon — an 8 mile round trip. The three of us then continued up towards the ridge, refilling at the spring at the campground, and just as we got to the ridge, we saw Mark and Manley on their return. We got to the top around 12:30, so it took us about 5 hours to cover about 19 miles with about 7000′ of climbing if I did the math right. From there, it was mostly downhill back to Thacher, where we finished around 2:30, which gave us a total of 27 miles in 7 hours.

Photos – H’ard and mine.

IMG_0057.JPGLater in the afternoon, I drove down to south OC to Bill Ramsey’s 3rd Annual Oktoberfest party, where I saw a lot of our local running friends. We dined on great food — bratwurst, German potato salad, German chocolate cake, etc. I also got to wash it all down with Bill’s home-brewed beer, which was excellent.

After I left there, I hung out with my good friend Tammy who I’ve known since high school — we recently got reacquainted through Facebook after over 20 years. It was nice to see she hadn’t changed at all, and that we were able to pick up right where we left off.

Tomorrow night, I’m meeting with Eric and Vanessa at their place for some food, and afterwards, we’ll be watching the Primal Quest video.

Friday I have a work function, and am heading out to the Staples Center to catch the Kings game with some co-workers.

Finally, this weekend, I’ll be having my post-AC Potluck at my place.

Whew!

Just when I thought I could take a breather from my 100’s this year, starting this Saturday, we’ll be heading out to Ojai to get some mileage in along the C2M course, with the plan to eventually cover every inch of it before the race.

Coyote 2 Moon Course Map

The loop we’re doing tomorrow is from Thacher down to Sisar, then up to Lion’s with the out-and-back to Topa Topa. From there we’ll head straight to the Ridge Jct to cut out the 8.7 mile loop, then return to Thacher for about 27.5 miles total and lots of elevation gain.

On Sunday, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at Bill Ramsey’s Oktoberfest party, then a week after is my post-AC event as well. Lots going on…

CIMG6145 Around 3:30 Saturday morning, I woke up to find my hydration pack soaked, and a big puddle on the floor — there was a hole just big enough that it lost half its content overnight. A slight panic set in, but remained as calm as one can be while dealing with a crisis before a 100 mile race. The interim solution was a piece of duct tape, hoping my hasty patch job would make it until I would see my pacer/crew at Chilao.

The morning was warm — VERY warm. I have not experienced a start at any race that comfortable in a long time — definitely not at AC in the last 4 years I’ve done it. My goal this time was aggressive compared to my previous finishes — I wanted to get as close to 26 hours as possible, knowing realistically that it would likely be more around 28 hours. I would’ve been happy with that, since my fastest time so far was just over 30 hours, which I happened to do a week after I ran Wasatch last year. My concern though, was my left ankle that I originally hurt at San Diego in June, which never really got a chance to heal properly since I kept re-injuring it in subsequent races, most recently at Bulldog a few weeks back.

Catra was also shooting for a course PR, but we would not be running together this time — our first 100 miler which we would be on our own. She was excited though, since she was looking forward to being paced and crewed by her Crossfit friends from Team Elite Fitness Academy in Monrovia.

As most races go, the beginning went just fine, although I do recall last year, I had some serious stomach issues before I even made it to Inspiration Point (mile 9.3). This year, I was right where I wanted to be — 2:04 into the first aid, 10 minutes faster than my previous times.

CIMG6182 I got to Vincent Gap (mile 13.9), just after 7am, right at the 26 hour pace, and readied myself for one of two longest stretches in between aid stations. Even though I thought I made it up and over Baden-Powell (the course high point at 9400′) faster this year, I was actually 2 minutes slower, which could’ve been because of my tumble, plus a slight detour to get some water at the spring by Little Jimmy’s campground.

This was when I began feeling a hot spot underneath both feet — flashback to 2005/2006 when I had the same exact issue. Déjà vu! I decided to continue on and make an assessment while climbing up Mt Williamson — at the top, I concluded that I would need to get my feet taped up, or at least take a look at what was going on. When I entered Eagle’s Roost (20 minutes off pace), I couldn’t find anyone who could help me, so I continued on — big mistake.

The paved section out of the aid station is one part of the course I really dislike — this is the detour for Cooper Canyon, where they are trying to protect some endangered frogs. It’s a gradual uphill on the highway, then a steep downhill into the Buckhorn campground. Once at the bottom, it’s a slow grind up to Cloudburst (mile 37.5)

When I finally arrived, I knew my feet were bad, so immediately requested for someone to help fix them (didn’t even need to look). Mark Weineke happened to be there, got his kit, then patched me up — both heels already had silver dollar-sized blisters, and one was already sliced open revealing raw skin underneath. The thought of running over 60 miles on those was not very comforting. I left there close to 2:30pm, almost an hour behind my original pace, but knew earlier that my goal was to only finish this time around.

The next section to 3 Points (mile 42.7) should’ve been fast and easy, but it was slow going because of my feet. Luckily, the terrain is relatively non-technical, so it didn’t bother my blisters too much, and I arrived at 3:45pm.

For once, I was looking forward to the asphalt road up to Mt Hillyer (mile 49.1), since I knew it would be easy on my feet, but forgot how long it took to actually get there. Good thing was that most of the trail section leading there was relatively smooth. I got to the top at 5:30pm along with three other runners.

I knew the trail down to Chilao (mile 52.8) would be difficult, so wasn’t looking forward to it, but at the same time, I wanted to get to the aid quickly so that I could get my feet re-taped for the remainder of the race. As we climbed to the top, I joined up with Wally and Howie, who immediately dropped me as we began our descent. Near the blacktop, I was also passed up by Carl Borg — out on his first 100 miler attempt.

Just before the aid station, I was met with Willem who was supposed to pace me from there, but he wasn’t able to because he was sick. Oh well…I was used to doing 100’s solo anyway, but was bummed because I knew that he would’ve been a good pacer. Interestingly enough, he paced Catra a few years back before we started dating.

CIMG6191I sat down, and luckily found Deb Clem, who happened to patch me up at 2 previous ACs. For some reason, this process has become routine unfortunately. I saw many people there — runners who dropped earlier, pacers, crew, etc, including my friends Robert Baird and Jeff Stein.

I was at the aid station for 30 minutes, then headed out just after 7pm (14 hours in) for the remainder of the race — the section I was most familiar with. The good thing was that I knew what lay ahead, and the bad thing was that I knew what lay ahead. At that point, I was still a little behind a 30 hour pace, but well within cutoff. It was still early, and I knew I’d be slowing down as I approached the most difficult sections of the course, so didn’t want to waste too much time.

I did relatively well going into Shortcut (Bill Ramsey’s station at mile 59.3), since the terrain was downhill and smooth most of the way, until a short steep climb at the end. I made it there around 9pm, about 30 minutes behind my previous year’s pace.

From there to Newcomb’s (mile 68) was basically a 1.5 hour mostly downhill stretch on fireroad, followed by another hour+ climb to the saddle. In the past, I’ve had trouble there, but felt relatively ok (other than my blistered feet) this year, arriving at 11:30pm or so.

The 6.6 miles to Chantry (mile 75) would normally be fun along a rolling and windy fast singletrack, but after having almost 70 miles under your belt, plus it being dark, made it a bit more challenging and less fun. I ran briefly with Kristin Farley and Dave Campbell, two local ultrarunners along that section.

My arrival at Chantry was around 2am — 30 mins slower than last year, but almost 30 mins faster than 2005, and I was still surprisingly close to a 30 hour pace. At that moment, I was not concerned about my finish time, but just making it before the cutoff. What I hoped to not have to do was to walk all the way in, but knew what would be coming up the next 25 miles, which did not make me feel too confident based on the condition of my feet.

CIMG6239After thanking David Overstreet who helped me at the aid station, I set off alone into the darkness, which is always a bit unnerving, but the familiarity of this section made me feel more at ease. I was still moving well, or at least I thought I was. My foot mainly bothered me on the downhills, although it still hurt on the ups as well, but just not as much, since I could use my forefoot more. In the past, this is where I would begin to fall asleep, so usually looked forward to the bench at the Wilson trail junction where I’ve had to take a nap in all my previous ACs — this time, I actually declined an offer to join Kristin and her pacer Wendy along with Jussi, who were all taking a breather there. When I reached the toll road, I caught Mike Stephens who I recognized from last year, and would not see again until after the finish.

In a way I was looking forward to the downhill into Idlehour (mile 83.8) because I needed a break from the long climb, but at the same time, I knew it would be painful. I got to the aid just before 5:30am, greeted by a big chicken and Barefoot Ted — I thought I was hallucinating at first, since I rarely see chickens on the trails.

I knew along this section, the sun would be coming up, and hoped it would give me some much needed energy, but realized it would unfortunately do nothing for my battered feet. I would see no one here until just before the Sam Merril aid station (mile 89.3), where Jussi finally caught up to me.

We both left there around 6:30am, with a long technical stretch ahead that I wasn’t looking forward to. Middle Sam Merril has always been known to be chewed up by the mountain bikers, and one of the most rockiest sections of the course. I ended up having to walk (or rather tip-toe) the entire section down to Echo Mountain, and also up all along the Mount Lowe railway.

Once I got to Sunset, the rocks would ease up, but would remain technical enough that I still couldn’t really run. Just before I reached Millard around 10am, Linda Dewees caught up to me, but could not maintain her pace. I had almost exactly an hour to get under 30, but knew it would not be possible based on what lay ahead, and the condition of my feet, as the pain had become excruciating.

CIMG6222I was glad to get off El Prieto onto some flat asphalt, which I normally would not welcome due to the impact, but this time, it was much easier on my blistered heels. After the last climb which took us from the old finish up to the road to the new one, it was a long gradual uphill. I was able to run fairly well all the way in, and ended up crossing the finish line only 13 minutes slower than last year, my second fastest in my 4 finishes at 30:17. Catra came in about 40 minutes later to finish in 30:57 — her 6th AC.

This was my last 100 miler for 2008 — this year, I completed 6 total: HURT (Jan), Coyote 2 Moon (Feb), San Diego (June), Bighorn (June), Tahoe (July), and AC (Sept).

Every once in a while, I come across a good article in the newspaper — this one definitely hit home, and made me realize how we oftentimes take things for granted. It’s been about 10 years since I lost my father to cancer — I was out-of-town when he died, so never got a chance to say goodbye. My mother, also suffered from the same fate, but even though I was at her bedside, I did not have an opportunity to tell her how I felt before she lost her battle.
I started my letter, and hope that you will too.

College students study death to learn the meaning of life

Kean University students visit the dead, the dying and convicted murderers. Along the way, they learn to value what they have.

By Erika Hayasaki
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 3, 2008

UNION, N.J. — The dead man lies naked on a metal table, a small cloth covering his groin, mouth open, arms rigid and cocked.

A blue-gloved autopsy technician thrusts a hefty razor into his chest, unzipping his brown skin to reveal a thick layer of yolk-colored fat. He pulls marbled meat from the bone.

The man was 30, an only son, married, a father of three. Around 9:40 p.m. the night before, someone shot him in the head. Now, a technician at the New Jersey Medical Examiner’s Office in Newark is holding his lungs, tar-speckled as if covered with spores of mold.

Rebecca Schmidt, 21, a ponytailed biology major, stands over the body, alongside a dozen of her Kean University classmates midway through the eight-week summer course Death in Perspective.

“They’re looking for the bullet; come see,” says Professor Norma Bowe, 49.

Schmidt leans in, captivated by the disfigured ball of metal lodged above his left ear. She breathes through her mask sprayed with perfume, which does little to block the smell of death: feces and rotten eggs.

This is so cool, she thinks. Schmidt has seen death plenty of times, but never the inside of a corpse.

For the last decade, Bowe has led her classes of 30 students into the refrigerated tombs of bodies stacked bunk-bed-style in the morgue and into hospice bedrooms, glowing from television screens, occupied by the sickly and soon-to-die. She guides them through the barbed-wire fences of Northern New Jersey State Penitentiary, past the outdoor recreation kennels where gang members sweat and swear, to a law library where they sit down with murderers.

Her students are from suburban small towns and inner cities. They enroll in Bowe’s class because they are curious about her unusual field trips. But something more powerful also draws them here: a need to know how we die, and why. What happens to our bodies, and is there such a thing as the soul?

The poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran once wrote:

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

Bowe guides her students by this principle. There is a three-year waiting list to get into the class.

“This is his tongue,” another autopsy technician tells the students, pulling out the slimy bundle of muscles of a 73-year-old man sprawled on a table next to the gunshot victim. His face is peeled from his skull, forehead folded in a flap over his stubbled chin. The medical examiner’s report said he had been distraught over his wife’s recent death and hanged himself in his garage.

A young woman fights tears. Other students turn away. After a few minutes, three leave.

One by one, more exit, until three are left. One is Schmidt.

On the floor next to her feet, the shooting victim’s belongings lie strewn across a white sheet: a tangerine and red flame-colored T-shirt and sneakers that match, a blood-soaked white undershirt, four packs of Newport cigarettes, a few dozen MetroCards for the subway, $211 in cash.

As a volunteer emergency medical technician, Schmidt has looked into the eyes of people dying as she gave them CPR. It’s weird, Schmidt says, to feel their bones crush beneath her palms as she tries to press life into their chests.

It’s not the sight of someone’s blood, or broken body, or last breath that disturbs her. What Schmidt can’t understand is why, in those moments when death is before her and her adrenaline is pumping, she cannot bring herself to feel truly sad.

“OK, guys, gather up,” Bowe tells the students outside the coroner’s office. “Any thoughts?”

The students stay hushed.

“Say something,” Bowe says.

The woman who had been on the verge of tears breaks down.

“Come here,” Bowe says, hugging her, as Schmidt and the others watch.

“It’s good to be alive, right?” Bowe says. “Did you notice how fragile we are? We have no business taking our lives for granted.”

It is a Monday in May, the first class of summer session. Bowe’s assignment: “Write a goodbye letter to someone or something you have lost.”

“Go where it’s scary,” Bowe says, “go where you don’t want to.”

Schmidt, a former athlete, shifts in her seat. Seeing dead people? No problem. Delving into her emotions? Not so simple. There is a science to ignoring.

Something happened to her when she was 15. It’s her secret, and it changed her. At 16, she signed up to be an EMT. Her first call: a dead man who had been in bed for two weeks, decomposing.

“People look at me like ‘How can you do this?’ ” Schmidt says. “I wonder, ‘Am I too cold?’ “

The class members introduce themselves: “I’m a psych major,” says Vatasha Daniels, a baby-faced 22-year-old. She lost someone seven years ago, but she’s not ready to admit this to everyone.

“I took this class,” Daniels says, “because I felt like it would just be interesting.”

Next to Daniels sits 24-year-old Danielle Pante, who seems unflappable as she tells her story: “I lost my mom when I was 4. Two years later my dad’s girlfriend died of cancer. In high school, I lost three of my friends — two car accidents and one OD.”

A week later, after the students’ first writing assignments, Pante is crying and gasping for breath in class, reading her goodbye letter to her mother aloud. “I think about you every day, and wonder what life would be like. . . . “

“We’re here,” Bowe says. “We don’t care if you cry the whole way through.”

Another girl tells of a father coping with cancer. Another admits to having been raped.

But some truths aren’t ready to be revealed.

Schmidt tucks her paper away, crossing her arms, avoiding Bowe’s eyes, hoping she will not call on her. Please don’t ask me to read, she wrote on the assignment before submitting it.

Daniels looks at her desk, knowing she didn’t write the goodbye letter she should have. The pain is too raw.

Four weeks before we die of old age or after battling disease, our body feels cold. Our mouth and fingernail beds develop a bluish tinge — our circulation is shifting, Bowe says in a lecture on the stages of dying. Three weeks in, our blood moves away from the digestive system, we lose appetite, the liver begins to go. Capillaries in our nose thicken. Two weeks in, our eyesight fades. One week in, the kidneys start to give way. A day or two before, our breath shortens. A few hours in, heart rate increases, blood pressure drops.

“You know how great that feeling is, when you first meet somebody you’re really attracted to?” Bowe says. “The same chemical will flood your brain when you’re dying.”

The body takes care of our pain.

“At the end of our life, we have a lot of wisdom,” Bowe continues, “and we have a lot of regrets.”

Bowe grew up in an abusive family in New York, and her struggle to cope led to a fascination with death and suffering. As she grew older, Bowe gravitated away from her parents, and spent years working as a nurse in emergency rooms and hospice care centers and studying psychiatry, in which she earned a doctorate. She has witnessed hundreds of deaths.

It is halfway through the course. On a muggy June afternoon, Bowe and a prison guard at Northern State Penitentiary lead the class through metal detectors, under a sniper tower, past a barbed-wire fence where entangled birds die and rot. The prisoners wail and curse and bang on windows and bars.

The students meet the murderers in the law library. One says he broke into a home and the woman wouldn’t tell him where the safe was, so he killed her.

Daniels feels no sympathy for the men. Other students ask the inmates questions. Daniels has a few pounding inside her but says nothing.

“That prison was horrible, and I am sure it is the closest thing we will compare to hell on earth,” she wrote in her reaction paper. “I went home and said a prayer.”

Daniels’ essays reveal nothing of her personal life. But as classes go on, listening to other students share their trauma nudges her to take a step toward facing her own.

The last day of class arrives. Bowe asked students to write about their most difficult life experience.

“OK, who’s up next?” Bowe says, looking at Daniels.

Daniels nods. It’s time.

“The murder of my older brother on June 24, 2001,” her voice trembles. “My hero, my father figure, a great son, a college graduate, a father.”

Her classmates look stunned. All semester, Daniels had been silent. Even Bowe had no idea.

Someone shot Daniels’ brother, Dwayne, one afternoon in a fight over a woman. He was 28.

Yesterday was the anniversary of his death. Her brother had been raising two boys, now 13 and 17. Today, they live with Daniels’ mother.

“He got 25 to life,” Daniels says softly. “I want to ask him now, was it worth it?

“When I went to the prison I wanted to ask the guys.”

“You still want to?” Bowe says. “Write down exactly what you would like to know, and I will give it to the men.”

Schmidt, the former athlete, never read her goodbye letter aloud. Writing it was enough.

At the end of the semester, Bowe returned her folder of essays. Inside it was Schmidt’s goodbye letter: Dear Brian. . . . I’m not here to say goodbye because that leaves no opportunity for a hello in the future. . . . I want you to know how much I love you.

The letter was to the son Schmidt gave birth to at 15. Too young to raise a child, she gave him up for adoption. She remembers choosing the agency and family. She remembers walking away from the hospital, reeling from heartache.

Depression came in waves. Guilt became her shadow, pulling her back from becoming the star athlete and student she wanted to be.

Bowe keeps Schmidt in mind on the last day of class when she reads them a commencement speech written by Anna Quindlen: The knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us. It’s so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, our minutes.

Schmidt thinks about this message.

For her final class essay, Schmidt writes: With each situation we are given choices. I’ve decided to live. . . . Thank you Dr. Bowe.

Aweek after the end of summer session, Bowe stands before a dozen inmates. She teaches mental health to the Northern State Penitentiary inmates each week. One is an ex-Mafia hit man. Another beat a man to death and became a Buddhist in prison. Some are the same men Daniels and the other Kean University students met on the field trip. On this day, Bowe has brought Daniels’ questions.

If he was given a chance to say anything to me, my family, or most important my brother’s children, what would he say?

Bowe tells the inmates to respond if they want.

One asks: “Do you think this will bring her some type of solace by doing this?”

“I do,” Bowe says. “I think it’s really hard for people when there’s a lot of unfinished business.”

A few weeks later, Bowe calls Daniels to her office.

Bowe puts on her reading classes and picks the letter from the Mafia hit man.

Living each day with the thoughts of what my actions caused, in a living tomb, is not much of an existence. Yet I am alive and where there is life there is hope.

Bowe finishes, and Daniels cries. “That hit home,” she whispers.

Bowe reads from the Buddhist’s letter:

If I were given the opportunity to speak to the family of my victim I would do so without hesitation. There are a million apologies I’d like to give them, and a million ways to say them. But I’ve already forced myself into their lives by murdering someone they loved. I’ll not dare contact them and offer an explanation then, and reopen wounds they may have closed. . . . That’s something you might consider, even if only to yell at the man, and tell him how you feel.

When Bowe finishes, Daniels says, “I want to forgive him, I do.”

“That’s a big step,” Bowe says.

Maybe one day, Daniels can write a letter to the murderer, Bowe suggests. But first, Bowe tells her, she must write the goodbye letter to her brother that she never wrote for class.

A few weeks later, Daniels will sit at her computer and begin to type: Dear Dwayne. . . .

erika.hayasaki@latimes.com

The 2009 entrants list for the HURT 100 was published this morning — both Catra and I made it in! The race filled in a day, and there’s currently a wait list for those who managed to pull the app off the website before they pulled it.

There are only a handful of runners who has participated in all their races, with Catra being one of those — she will be going for her 7th 100 mile finish there, and I’ll be attempting my 4th straight.

Good luck to everyone doing Leadville this weekend — I wish I were there to get my DNF monkey off my back, but due to $ constraints, I will have to wait for another year.

See some of you tomorrow at the AC trail maintenance.

When I did my first marathon over 10 years ago, I walked into Phidippides because it was recommended to me by several runners. I had no idea what I was doing then, but I walked out with a pair of my first running shoes, and some useful tips given to me by the friendly staff there. Honestly, I don’t recall who was helping me that day — it could’ve been Craig, or his partner Charlie. In any case, the store made an impression on me, to the extent that whenever anyone asked me about shoes, I always sent them over there. I never knew Craig, but wouldn’t be surprised if we crossed paths/trails at some point. All I know is that I will at some point when it’s my time, and that I’ll be running just like he did until that day comes.

Local runner Craig Chambers made path better for others


Shoe store owner Craig Chambers, a source of encouragement and knowledge in the running community, died of melanoma last week.

He fooled me. Or maybe I fooled myself because I did not want fate to unfold as it did.

I had thought that somehow, despite the disease that first appeared as two small dots on his scalp, the sheer force of his lively spirit would see Craig Chambers through.

I had hoped that Chambers, 59, who first appeared in this space in March after he walked the Los Angeles Marathon, would find a way to run right past cancer and keep going, just as he had done while jogging on what seemed like every fire trail on every low mountain in Southern California.

I had prayed that he would be a walking miracle, and that I would one day write of his comeback.

Sometimes, prayers are not answered. That happened here. Last Thursday, surrounded by family and loved ones at a Santa Monica hospital, Craig Chambers died.

You may recall that six months ago, Chambers allowed me to tag along while he made his way through the flat, hot course. He had run in every single L.A. Marathon, 22 in all, finishing each without trouble.

This year, however, suffering from Stage IV melanoma, he could only walk.

Chambers, who stood 6 feet, had piercing blue eyes and pale skin, was well aware of the odds. Aware that this would likely be the last time he would wind his way through the streets of Los Angeles, the city whose every corner he seemed to embrace.

For 26.2 miles that fine March day, we talked about shared interests: architecture, philosophy, politics, art, urban life and, of course, sports. He was an athlete, and an intellectual. His talk of Obama and Dostoevsky and bird watching helped me focus on something other than the fact that my quads were cramping and I walked, better yet, hobbled, in his shadow.

Chambers did not appear to like speaking about himself. He simply did not regard himself as someone to make a fuss over. This much I did glean: He had grown up Pacific Palisades. He had gone to UC Santa Cruz in the 1960s, had learned to see the world with open eyes there, and had started running during the jogging craze of the ’70s.

He said he had already outlived the doctor’s timelines for his longevity. I gathered that he thought the melanoma was something he could end up conquering. If not, he wanted to hold the cancer back as long as possible because there was still so much life to live, so many topics to discuss, books to read and friends to encourage. “You can do this,” I heard him say, repeatedly, to struggling runners that day. “Just take things slowly.”

He spoke from experience. His feats are the stuff of legend. He ran more than 200 marathons and ultramarathons, all over the world. Once he ran 200 miles through Death Valley, followed that with a 10-mile swim, and then followed the swim with a 100-mile bike ride.

Along with his college roommate, Charlie Hoover, Chambers since 1980 had operated Phidippides, an Encino running shoe store. For five years during the ’80s — after he had given up his car, just to see what it would be like — he ran 13 miles from his Santa Monica home to the shoe store in the morning, and then ran from work back to home every night.

Why did he stop? Kathy Kusner, his life partner since 1983, explained with a quote that is a window into how he approached life: “Well, I was telling him how great cars were, that a car was a good thing to have in L.A. Finally, the time came when he said, ‘Enough already, I’ve done this for five years, running 26 miles to and from work each day. That was fun, now let’s move on.’ “

I kept tabs on Chambers over the months. I heard about how he kept walking, sometimes with his old running group. There were times when he fell to the pavement. Always, he got back up, vowing to continue, a smile on his face.

The cancer kept coursing through his body. Already, he had endured months of hard chemotherapy, undergone a brain operation, and surgeries to remove part of a lung, part of a liver, part of his lymph nodes. Now he was injecting himself daily with Interferon.

Still, in June, when he and Kusner met me for dinner at an Indian restaurant in Culver City, he was positive, even somewhat excited. Scans had shown the cancer was slowing. There was the possibility he could be part of new drug trials. He gave a quick update, smiling. Then he wanted to know about my trips to Asia, about my wife and her east-Indian roots, about what was going on at The Times.

Never did I hear him speak too long about himself. Never did I hear him complain.

“It wasn’t ‘Why me, why poor me?’ ” Kusner would say. “It was more like, ‘Let’s keep trying, I’m not doing that badly. I can go on.’ He kept an unbroken streak for not complaining, right until the end.”

Three weeks ago, we ate dinner once more, this time at the Playa Vista apartment he shared with Kusner. He was so weak he could barely stand. He had lost 30 pounds. His voice was a halting whisper. He asked me to read him a soon-to-be-published column. Sick as he was, when I told him the piece worried me, that I was not sure it was any good, he looked at me and smiled and said nothing but positive things.

It was time to go. I helped him to his feet and hugged him, knowing this might be the last hug, hoping and praying it would not.

Keep going, he told me. Just keep going.

Craig Chambers, I will, and so, surely, will your friends and family. In your example, in the graceful, powerful way you lived and died, we learned much.

Thank you.

——

A funeral service for Craig Chambers, open to the public, will be today at 3 p.m. at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, 1712 S. Glendale Ave. A memorial, also open to the public, will be at Temescal Gateway Park’s Stewart Hall on Aug. 24 at 2 p.m.

Kurt Streeter can be reached at kurt.streeter

After yesterday’s Mt Disappointment 50 miler, I feel worse than I’ve felt after a race in a long time. If anything, I’m usually fine after a shower, food, and a good night’s sleep. Not only do I feel really beat up, I suffered from the biggest blister I’ve gotten ever in my life. I usually never get blisters, so it’s pretty unusual for me — I think it was because I was compensating for my weak ankle that I originally injured at San Diego a couple months back that I rolled again about 4 miles in.

The weather was hot, but not as bad as I thought it would be. My nutrition and hydration was good, but because of my foot/ankle issues, I had to walk a lot of the downhills, especially coming down from Shortcut via the Silver Moccasin.

I was hoping this would be my last training run before AC, but think I’ll need another run before then to build my confidence. If my foot heals in time, I may do the training run this weekend, but will likely wait until I mark the Bulldog 50K course the following weekend, then perhaps do the last official AC training run on the 31st.

 

CIMG6089.JPG
CIMG6092.JPG

This past weekend, Catra worked at the SF Marathon expo at the Atalanta booth with the owner/founder Heather. While she was pushing skirts, I managed to catch some seminars conducted by Julie Fingar, Bart Yasso, and Dean Karnazes.

CIMG5983

On Sunday, we volunteered to help new race directors Mike Palmer and Jennifer Ray at the Skyline 50K held at Lake Chabot in Castro Valley. Our task included double-checking course-markers up to the first aid station at mile 4, checking off runners as they came through, then go over the last 5 miles. When we were done, we got Rocky who we brought with us, and hung out at the finish line watching the runners come in.

This weekend, Catra will be running at Headlands, and I will be doing 50 miles at Mt Disappointment.

CIMG5989

CIMG5997

CIMG5999

CIMG6033

I’m very saddened to write that Jim Hutchinson, the Race Director for the Vermont 100 and President of the Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports has died of a heart attack.

CIMG3849.jpg

2007 Vermont 100 Pre-race meeting.

CIMG3867.jpg

Jim with the top female runners from 2007.

CIMG3161.jpg

Jim w/ Dot Helling during 2005 Vermont 100.

Blog Stats

  • 2,009 hits