Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 Review

The annual review. They aren't getting any easier. Matter of fact I hadn't updated my training log in three weeks. HOW MANY MILES DO MY SHOES HAVE? I will never know for certain. 50 miles are lost to the universe.

2016 was a better year of running than 2015, which was cool because 2015 was lackluster. 2014 was still the best year. Will I forever live my life trying to run like I did in 2014? Oh my, I peaked in college when I didn't have anything to do besides run and party with my best friends. No wonder it was my favorite year. I'm also very nostalgic and tend to remember things in an exaggerated light. But 2014 was still the best.

I didn't run many races in 2016. I ran three ultras and a couple other races. I didn't run a 50k. Black Canyons was cool but that was February and winter still feels like the previous year so that doesn't really count. Siskiyou Outback was a killer weekend, one of the highlights of the year. Pine to Palm ruled, per usual. The Double Walmsey (R2R2R) was also a super fun adventure weekend. I did a good handful of 30+mile training runs for P2P, and they paid off. But I'd like to race a bit more in 2017. I'd like to run hard for some of the year, not just run forever.

Cool. We have that out of the way. I feel rushed. I always feel rushed these days.

Miles Vert Total Time
Jan 303.5 37,235 46:11:00
Feb 211.8 24,202 35:53:00
March 260.7 31,561 38:58:00
April 186.9 22,381 27:46:00
May 270.1 45,517 43:21:00
June 325.2 48,310 57:33:00
July 368 62,095 64:31:00
Aug 345.9 61,611 64:08:00
Sep 215.1 34,912 47:08:00
Oct 247.9 47.118 49:07:00
Nov 190.1 33,025 33:37:00
Dec 108.4 16,539 19:53
Total 3033.6 417,435 528:06:00

Opposed to 2796.06 miles,  435,296 ft of gain, and 474:33:00 time in 2015                                     And 3,673 miles, 575,833 ft of vert, and 630:37:32 total activity time in 2014.

So yay! I exercised more than 2015. I didn't finish my yearly goal of reading 12 books/year, but maybe I will this year. I said I'd run 3000 miles and I did. Then I more or less stopped. My calculation had 3,047 miles, so the computer lost a half marathon in there. Achieving 3k miles and PRing at the 100 mile distance at P2P were numerical highlights of the year. 

I haven't made firm running goals for 2017, because I'm more preoccupied with other stuff if you can't tell. AC100 will be a thing this year, and maybe Pine to Palm as a fun little double. 

Many cheers, 

The one and only Lowdermilk Productions. 

Monday, October 3, 2016


I wake before my alarm like my body knew there was trouble in the night. People connected to me had bad nights, and my empathetic conscious turns in the night. It's October, so it's fully dark at six am. Oh how I could sleep forever. I'm up before my alarm by three minutes, and that means I get to make egg burritos for breakfast and lunch.

I drive in silence. Across the bridge I turn on my phone. A voicemail this early, never a good sign. I purposefully procrastinate turning my work phone on this early for just this reason. If my day's going to ruined by someone not showing up to work, I at least want the peace of my 20 minute commute. But it's never peaceful. My anxious conscious turns before I unlock the gate to the yard. My foreman's called in sick, lingering dental problems causing no sleep. My empathetic conscious turned all night with him. I wonder how or if I'll be able to deliver today's job. It's ok, I had a great weekend. I'm resilient and unfazed at the Monday morning bump. I even laugh a little.

Before I get through Mill Valley I receive a text. A text before our 7am safety meetings is never a good sign. Someones going to be late or boss is adding to my to-do list. Working this early is high on my list of least favorite things. I should be running at this hour, not working. The text is a forwarded message from my climber. His son has an emergency heart transplant. He will not be in today. He had to fly down to LA in the middle of the night. My empathetic conscious flew with him last night, keeping me awake. I feel for him despite the business to which I need to tend.

It's my turn to lead the safety meeting. I forgot. I stumble through it, summarizing the history of ANSI safety standards. The morning passes. I can't focus on one task because there are fifteen to do. I don't really get anything done. I like the taste of my tea, but the flavor reminds me of when I was depressed last December.

I sell some work and meet a nice woman. Her tree's declining, is over-mature. I can't help but draw parallels to the people of this town and this city on the rainy morning. We're going to cut this tree like we're excising tumors. Cable the tree like we're stitching broken joints or broken hearts. I'm pessimistic in this automatic association, but I'm singing in my car which means I'm pretty happy.

I get back to the office. I forgot I had an online meeting with a company big wig. It's an hour of more red-tape. It's always more red-tape. Never-mind, I suck it up. The meeting ends and I go back to singing Modern Baseball so I'm pretty happy.

I get called into my managers office. High-strung woman complaint. Can I continue to work with her? I'm fazed by the question, like I'm unable to deal with her and I need to turn her over to one of the more seasoned vets in the office. I can deal with her. I can deal with anything...if I want to. I wonder if I should tell manager that I don't want to deal with this woman but I elect not to. Her headaches still make my salary. That's all work is. The more headaches you deal with the more money you make.

The phone rings for the twentieth time, interrupting my tenth task although the list has grown to twenty five now that it's 3pm. I get chewed out by an old militaristic customer because our prices are too high. It's not me, he likes me, it's the company. We're pricing ourselves out of business and there's nothing I can do about it but I have to listen to him lambast my company and my selling techniques for fifteen minutes. On top of it I have to give him a discount because he refuses to pay for my crew's travel time.

I'm starting to feel beat down. I tried to leave the office at 4 but it's now 5:30. I get back in the car. The Modern Baseball I've been singing has turned from happy to cathartic. My climber calls. He's almost crying. No health insurance, he has no idea how he's going to pay for his son's heart transplant. His country from which he emigrated was covering 70% of the expense, but two years has passed and they will no longer pay. He's having the worst day of his life. How am I supposed to stay positive? I tell him everything is going to be ok and he doesn't have to worry about losing his job right now. Just focus on your son.

I call my mom. I feel like I'm 16 and just got dumped by my prom date.
I flop down on my couch thats firm-comfy but I kind of hate it because I bought furniture and that means I'm permanent and can't run away. I am fully aware that if I continue to sit my mental will erode until I go to sleep frustrated and sad.
It's misty-raining outside which I normally hate. It's fitting for my mood so I put on my running shoes. I feel like I'm moving through quick sand. Oh yeah, I ran a 100 less than a month ago. I don't worry. I listen to music and run for an hour.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pine to Palm 2016

I write, eating frozen salted chocolate in bed, desperately not wanting to return to the real world tomorrow, and I bask in the afterglow of the sober elevation of mile 98 flow. I hope it never stops. But I know how it goes. I know that self-surprising feats of performance are rare, and that if they were frequent they wouldn't ever be meaningful, nonetheless special. I know that every day can be purposeful, however truly phenomenal moments only occur in truly phenomenal settings and scenarios. My friends, the 2016 Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run was a phenomenal setting and scenario.


That paragraph was great. I couldn't keep writing after that and haven't written in a week because that paragraph was nice and poetic, and I can't romanticize Pine to Palm at this moment. I did that in my 2014 report and last year in a really emotional finish. Pine to Palm is hard. It's diverse, singletrack, roads, vert, heat, a small tad of altitude for us seadwellers. It's small, mostly old school, slightly unorganized, just fabulous. This year was my third year finishing the 100 mile odyssey in Ashland, Oregon. When doing races multiple years in a row, it's tough not to compare your experience to the previous years. "I was in such good shape in 2014!" "I was overconfident in 2015--but can I even run close to that 2014 time?"

2016's P2P was different. I knew the course. I committed. I wasn't distracted by girls, or anything. I committed. I put in some legit (but not excessive!) training. I logged the vert, the time, and the miles. Pacing four different buddies at hundos this summer really helped too. Elan at SD100 just crushed it, was happy the whole day. Jim at SD100 was pulling through a tough day, but was fully committed on finishing and did everything he could to grit it out. Seb at Bighorn100 slogged through the night, contemplating dropping, but rallied and made it to a strong finish. Aylwin at AC100 was consistent as a hundered miler could ever be, running steady for 28 hours. They were all endlessly inspiring in my P2P preparation. And personally, I just "dated running again" which was fine by me. You get out what you put in.

The other reason P2P was different this year was because of Franz. Franz and I logged a good number of long training runs together this summer, and spent two whole weekends together traveling and shredding. His commitment, his first hundo, inspired me to do my best. Franz and I are very similar in speed, and I was just hoping to keep up with him during the race.

This is Franz. (All photos Wyatt Lowdermilk Productions)

Put the icing on the cake, Wyatt and Jordy were flying out to crew. It was bound to be a spectacular day. The setting was phenomenal. We just needed to execute.


It was a true team effort. I literally ran with Franz from miles 0-10, and 25-98. I was chatty on the climb up Grayback, which is always a good sign because I'm notttt that chatty. I was comfortable. I was on one of my favorite climbs, a favorite trail, my favorite people, my favorite state, my favorite race. The hike was strong, and it would stay strong all day. Social miles turned into somewhat lonely miles on the long road that eventually went to the first aid station at mile 28. Franz caught up on the road after I put a little space on the downhill just because I wanted to run my own strides down the mountain. We rolled into the aid a couple minutes shy of 5 hours, just perfect. We looked good. We felt good.

The folks at the aid station recognized us from the last two years, and commented on the efficiency of the crew. Shirt off, new iced crop top on, ice bandana on, sleeves on, pedialyte, PBJ in hand, food in pack, pack on, ice in sleeves, hat, sunnies, go go go! Wait, HIGH FIVES! Bye!

Franz and I had run the next section together during a training trip, and I knew it was important to hike the whole climb even though it is runnable. A runner Brian caught up to us, we snapped a couple photos on his phone, and continued down to the lakes. I think P2P was my 30th ultra in a race-setting, and this was my first time ever stopping mid-race to take a photo. We were having fun, not rushing it, just living life on a beautiful day.

The lake loop, the lake dip, the flawless crew transition, then more hiking. Franz and I started to feel the heat coming into mile 50, but we hung tough and made it to the crew spot, still looking good and feeling in control. Up to the peak, grab the flag, down the peak back to the crew spot. I sat, refueled, and got outta there.

Looking REAL good

The next section is a lot of road. I wasn't bored, but I just needed to zone for awhile so I started some tunes action, apologizing to Franz for being antisocial. Tralala, we were going to make Dutchman Peak at sunset! In 2014 I had my highest high ever at Dutchman at sunset. In 2015 I arrived about an hour and a half after sunset. One of my goals for the race was to make Dutchman at sunset, just because it's so freaking beautiful. We hiked up, squad strong, Franz, Brian and myself three-wide on the fire road. We were one short of a boy band, but Spencer was hiking in tow not far back, so yes, threes company but fours a squad. Squad deep up to Dutchman. Wyatt snapping all the photos. Cheers from the loyal crew members and ultra families. Soup, smiles, we didn't rush it. We probably could have ran a bit, but my goodness we basked in that sunset. That breathtaking sunset. I was happy.


Pure stoke.

Headlamps on. SFRC squad deep. Still with Franz, we both picked up pacers so it was just a jovial 35 mile group run in the dark to Ashland. I started to get sleepy, which I knew would happen, but I plodded along. I switched shoes into Sense Pros (dumbest move I've ever made in a race--hey let's switch into a more narrow shoe!) which made my feet scream instantly.

Jordan Chang literally gave me the shoes off his feet on the side of the PCT in the middle of the night. 

Franz started running some uphills, Brian caught back up to us, and I had to listen to music to stay awake. I was still hiking strong, so I didn't worry.  Jordy and I didn't talk too much, but man it was nice being with him. I could follow Jordy all day, anywhere. I caught back up once I recognized that we were on the SOB course, and we rolled into the mile 80 aid station only like a boy-band could, all flair. We didn't stay long. Switched up the pacers and gave heartfelt hugs to Jordy and Mario. See you at the finish!

New section of the course for this year. Meandering. Started to get over it, the race itself. Mile 80 you're sorta ready to be done. But I was walking in the woods, a little chilly, behind my best friend and all was right in the universe. We finally made the out and back after what seemed like forever of really slow, half-caring miles. We moved down the back of the mountain, this time without huge blowdowns (thank you Forest Service!). I tried not to think of previous years. I mainly stayed in control--just try to keep it stable. I wore off my sleep cycle, felt the caffeine, the temperature was no longer frigid, and followed Wyatt into the abyss. Franz' headlamp batteries died, and Wyatt and I would wait in the aid station for him.

We strolled into the last aid station, mile 90, and saw the next place runner eating there. I hadn't seen this guy all day. I had no idea what place we were in. He left before Franz came into the aid, Wyatt and I waited. Franz had waited plenty for me during the last 19 hours, and I wasn't going to leave my man behind here. Later I said that Franz got me to the aid stations and I got Franz out of them. Team. We took a couple minutes in this aid, not rushing, in control like we had been all day. Right before leaving the aid station I saw the aid station captain write down our places on a sheet of paper. Sixth and seventh?! That guys in fifth! Oh shit.

Wyatt asked, "do you guys want to catch fifth?"
Franz and I simultaneously, instantly, and emphatically responded "no!"

Franz ran ahead. He started to walk. I ran past, stating that if I stopped to walk I wouldn't start running again. Franz started running. John B started running. Wyatt started running. Hey, we were running under 9 minute pace.

We saw the headlamps ahead. Nobody said anything. We started to dip closer to 8 minute pace. Nobody said anything. Four wide, headlamps beaming, Wyatt hollered. We were going to catch this kid.

We started breathing. The headlamps ahead turned back and started running faster, away from us. We dipped below 8 minute pace. I started falling back, trying not to say anything, trying to hang on. I caught up, breathing. Franz started to fall back, trying not to say anything, trying to hang on. He caught up, breathing. We were literally running a tempo workout, nearing or below 7 minute pace, 95 miles into a 100 mile race. What were we doing? How were we doing this? Our eyes were wide. Our pacers were flawless with pushing us but not killing us. We were a team.

We caught the runner, exchanged a couple of words, and kept running. We were hammering. It was 3am above Ashland. The most perfect sentence I've ever written. I realized PR potential was in the books. Franz had fallen back slightly, I couldn't stop. Would he catch up? Wyatt, what do I do? We ran this whole thing together, we have to cross together. We're still racing. That kid is still fighting, look, they're still close to each other on the switchback. Wyatt, do we stop right before the finish line and wait? Do you want to stop on the road? No, it's too steep. We're going to PR. Wyatt, this moral dillema is killing me. Do we wait? I can't stop. I can't stop. We turn the corner. We're going to PR. We're about to finish this near perfect day. This day that was shared by amazing people, best friends, beautiful trails, endless memories. Our happy place, our secure community, where we can be us, and don't have to deal with all of the bullshit. We're crossing the finish line, Jordy's there. Eyes wide. Eyes so wide. Eyes wide.

Franz finishes two minutes later. Holy goodness Franz finished his first hundo in style! We did it we did it we did it. Thank you thank you thank you. We did it we did it. Together.

I'm living high. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Siskiyou Outback 50m

Yeah, it woulda been nice to have run a faster time. It woulda been nice to have been vying for some top 5 action, to be outwardly valued as "fast." But I didn't give a fuck at mile 38. I had been thinking of competition and how the times have changed since my first ultra, 20-something of them ago. But at mile 38 I was running hard downhill, flowing the fir-clad singletrack. I was happy, both legs churning powerfully, thinking how I haven't felt that way in at least six months.

Siskiyou Outback 50 mile was simply splendid. Good camping near the start. Stars, stars, stars! Huge views of big mountains, layer after layer. No clouds in the sky. Perfect temperature in my SFRC crop top. I was sharing the course with some of my best friends, and the rest of the field was friendly in return. I couldn't run that well uphill as I was gasping for oxygen at 7000 pathetic feet, but I could crush downhills. My legs felt good, and I was proud of my training for Pine to Palm thus far. I didn't feel fast, but I felt strong and sturdy, which is more important for 100s. I successfully troubleshooted some minor issues, didn't listen to a lick of music, and stayed present for the entire run.

Happy pre-6am

Besides trying to unemotionally think about how so many people are running fast ultras these days, I really only had four thoughts all race.

1) Where is Dmack?!
2) Let my body go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work
3) Donald trump
4) Ashland.

1a) Dmack CRUSHED SOB. He ran through the first aid station while I spent all of 15 seconds topping off my water bottle. He was gone, gone, gone. I spent the next seven hours trying to catch up to him, running purposefully. At the turnaround, which had an awesome short off-trail portion to a peak, he was about 10 mins ahead of me. I smashed the downhill after the peak and never even caught sight of him. Around mile 45 I realized I wasn't going to catch him, and was truly happy that he had such a killer race. I don't think Dmack has ever beaten me, and I was happy knowing he was happy. I would have loved to run with him as I ran about seven hours alone, but he finally had a good training block and didn't bonk. At mile three I told him, "don't you bonk today!" He quipped back, "don't you bonk tonight (at the bar)!" Deals a deal--he didn't, and I didn't.

2a) Song of the trip.

3a) I didn't think much about that guy, but just the name popped into my head.

4a) Ashland, my favorite summer spot, has only good vibes and memories associated. Lots were linked to previous years and previous relationships. Even though that was an age ago I had to reminisce. I wear my heart on my sleeve, thanks to the Taking Back Sunday albums that raised me. (Can I grow out my hair and paint my nails black again, Bartlett?) I run emotionally. Not sorry.

The boys rallied hard after showering and shotgunning beers in the bathroom. We slept horribly, went to my favorite bakery, and proceeded to make the six hour drive home in relative silence. We're back at work, the world still spins, but our heads are still freezing on the ground, wrapped up in sleeping bags, excited for what's to come.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Boston is just something you have to do as a runner. It legitimizes your running to the average layperson, and has a legendary atmosphere. For me, Boston 2016 was a checklist item and a time for SFRC offsite fun. I had mixed feelings about the race before it happened. Complete marathon training isn't super exciting or fun, so I didn't wholly commit myself. Running any amount of miles at 6:30 pace is something I just don't do, ever. I was able to fit in three or four solid road runs at about 6:45 pace. All said, I couldn't really expect myself to have a PR day (sub 2:52). Despite a virus, attending an after party show on Wednesday, a red eye on Thursday, a wedding on Saturday, a flight on Sunday, I decided I'd give it a shot anyway, because it's, well, THE BOSTON MARATHON. I had excuses, but I wasn't planting them to not even give it a shot. I'm over running like that. I can only do as best I can on the given day under my circumstances. I was trying.

So it was a dope week leading to the race. Rooming with Varndoozle, EZ, and the Big Stapler was a Seinfeld episode if Seinfeld was 14 years old. It was fabulous. We wore Goodwill suits to the start line.

Happy family

The race....well... I spent the first 10 miles getting constantly passed. Trying to hold 6:30s was just not happening. You're either on or off with the marathon, and I knew it wasn't a PR day when I split a 6:45 as soon as mile six. I wasn't doing much smiling, and was wondering if I should just jog or try to put something together. With no race plans in the near future I decided to try and keep it together. Plus the Wellsey girls had put a pep in my step. I felt good from about 11-14, then my quads blew at mile 16, which rarely happens to me. I chalk that one up to the virus I was not 100% over. Cardiovascularly I was fine the whole run, but the legs weren't having it. I caught the Great Dane at mile 22ish, and he hung tough with me for the next four miles, us repping SFRC hard and getting cheers from the crowd for working together, silently. I unintentionally kept elbowing him because my stride went to a wobble (sorry bro!). Dane outkicked me the last quarter mile and laid it all out there. I crossed a touch under 2:58. After chewing on it,  I'm content despite earlier goals of trying to run 10 mins faster than that. It was a tough day for most folks.

Emily, Misha, Paddy, Jorge, and birthday boy Jonas had great races. Despite the rest of us not crushing it, the post race endorphins were still there and we enjoyed ourselves. The Boston locals were awesome during the race (they're as mean as they say while driving). So Boston, you're cool for one day a year. I'm sure to catch you in the future.

....But in more important news...Pine to Palm round three this year?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Black Canyons 100k

I just really wanted a microphone to drop.

I was running hard at mile 60 of 62, blaring some sexually explicit tunes, rapidly going back and forth from laughing to wincing. Every step shot knives up my quads, but I was caffeinated, rolling with my college buddy Dylan Hesse, and life was good. The 88 degree heat started to subside, and I wasn't just jogging this one in, no sir, we were running hard.

Black Canyons 100k lit up my radar in early winter. I yearned to mentally and physically get back into the game after a rewarding but exhausting 2015 Pine to Palm. With some easy self-induced peer pressure, I signed up for Black Canyons and started training. I put in about eight weeks of focused work and came into good shape. Running is much more fun when you're in shape and the miles come easy! Big ups to the SFRC bros and birds for the continual inspiration, community, and hard work. SFRC is no small part in contributing my continued love for this sport.

I knew as early as early as mile 20 that I was putting in a good effort, and that I was going to go deep. Coming into Black Canyons, I only had two goals: run gratefully, and leave nothing on the course. Long story short, I accomplished both goals. I'm very pleased with the day. It was tough, hot, and exposed. Running with Ezra, Denise (golden ticket after winning HURT last month!), and a slew of many other speedy runners made for quick miles and lots of smiles. The pop was in my step all day. I didn't win a golden ticket--I'm no "elite" runner--but I accomplished my goals and that is plenty happy for me. It was one of my best runs within the past two years, and I think I would still say that if I finished 20th instead of 13th.

I'm up and down on everything in life on a daily basis. Black Canyons was no different. Already running hard the first 60k, I elected to start the caffeine and music at mile 40 or so. I ran even harder, flowing through the windy and rocky singletrack. With every song I became more intense and emotional, fluctuating between catharsis and pride. With still 20 miles to go, I caught up to Ezra and Denise, me wide eyed and talking loudly. I realized I ran that previous section way too hard as they had about 10 mins up on me at the prior aid station. I took out the headphones and conservatively jogged the next section until I picked up Dylan to pace me in, who did an awesome job.

Ultrarunning is just so great because you can make it whatever you want. Sometimes it's celebratory, sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's not fun, sometimes it's healing. Many times, and at Black Canyons, it was everything in one.

Props to Ez for being down to shred, to Keely for crushing the 60k, to Dylan for crewing and pacing, to fellow Ohioan Michael Owen for blasting a fast time, to ice bandanas, to not eating 30 gels ever again, and to the 1975 for making songs about drugs that I relate to running. Strava.

Can I drop the mic now?


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jogging Through 2015

2015 was my third year of meticulously logging miles. Let's call it an... interesting... year of running. The first quarter of the year started well, then work got the best of me and the rest of the year went wobbly. I can't excuse my running performance by work, but my mental energy and penchant for running uncharacteristically decreased throughout the year. The low of the year was certainly San Diego 100. I had strep throat and found myself uneasy and uncomfortable in Southern California when I should've been sharp and stoked. Life had caught up to me. I'm having an increasingly difficult time coping with work/life/run balance. The more I care about running the less I care about work, and visa-versa. I'm not sure how to solve that problem. Happy to report that currently things are looking positive--I'm running more. I KNOW that I am happiest when I run a significant amount of volume. The more I am outside running, camping, being...

Without further adieu, the 2015 numbers. 

Inclusive Time 

Opposed to 3,673 miles, 575,833 ft of vert, and 630:37:32 total activity time in 2014. 

Significant differences. I realize that every year cannot be more than the previous, but 2015 was admittedly sub-par in the numbers category. I am motivated by numbers, so they are important to me. If you're interested in what happened in the individual months I'd be more than happy to discuss them with you. 

It was just a different year. A full year of working in the real world, I can't say that it was a bad year but I do have an odd taste in my mouth about it. I learned a lot about life. I went from doing manual labor to managing a a full crew. I went from infatuation to heartbreak to independence to dependence--"all the feels" as Kelly Summers would say. 

My best days were spent with SFRC or traveling or camping. My best days are spent with the people I love. My worst days were the regular days where I get into my head too deep and pressured myself unnecessarily. It is difficult to be confident in your running when you live in an ultra-mecca with 25+ guys way faster than you, but it is also very inspiring. You get better by surrounding yourself with people that are better than you.

I didn't meet my 2015 goal of running 3000 miles, which was almost all due to being sick in June, but that's alright. I didn't read a book a month either, which I'm going to try to do again this year. I did run with SFRC a lot more and have made some great friendships in that community. I love the ever-present stoke. When I am with the people I love life is good. 

2016 is going to see some positive changes. I'm going to average reading a book a month, and I'm going to run more than 3,000 miles. I'm also going to run at least one 100 mile week again. Attainable yet not easy goals. January is off to a great start and I'm ready to tackle the year with confidence. Let's go.