23 August, 2012

Dwight Schuh, Irondad and how I failed to become a runner

Harvest Classic, c. 1992
I've participated in a quite a few fun runs and race walks in my time. As a sophomore in high school, I even joined my sister on the cross country team for part of a season. It was, however, an ill-fated stint, and I was compelled to rid myself of that evil before it caused permanent damage. Suffice it to say that I was not an asset to the team.

Christmas run, 2009
Beijing Marathon, 2009
My most recent events have been the 2009 Beijing Marathon 4.2k 'mini marathon', and a 2009 Boise Christmas fun run in which I walked with my nephew and pushed my niece in a stroller. It was just a whole ball of fun.

Since then, I have been very content to leave the running to my husband and family and put my efforts into the part of sport I enjoy: spectating.

This summer, I had the opportunity to ultra-spectate at Bighorn, and then for the first time I got to Iron-spectate for my dad at Coeur d'Alene Ironman.

It was not dad's first Ironman, but I had previously only spectated at one of his sprint triathlons, and this was a completely different animal. Honestly, the sprint tri seemed almost pathetic when compared with the vast scale and difficulty of Ironman (I say this knowing that I myself could not complete a sprint tri). It was overwhelming just to be there, let alone compete.

As it turns out, we almost weren't there. Dad had been in 'let's wait and see' mode for more than six months and had only just made the decision. On Tuesday he was ready to scrap the whole thing and take the loss. On Wednesday he went to chemo and came away feeling great. On Friday morning we were driving to Coeur d'Alene.

There are so many stories at an Ironman--stories of extreme weight loss, triumph, perseverance--my dad himself has a story. It's impossible not to feel inspired by these everyday people who show up to take on the infamous swim, bike, run. But it comes down to this: Are you tough enough? Can you dig deep enough? Are you an Ironman? My dad is a grumpy, stubborn old dude who didn't want to waste his money and who wanted a finisher shirt, but evidently he was also tough enough, and he finished that race like the Ironman that he is. With twenty minutes to spare.

Panic attack 
One lap down, one to go
Nose to the grindstone
Around mile 70 
Only 13 more miles!
'From Nampa, Idaho, 67 years old, Dwight Schuh, you are an Ironman!'

Shortly after Ironman, dad's middle brother and family came to visit. I hadn't seen them in years, so it was great that I happened to be around. We celebrated several birthdays and the 4th of July. 
Dad and his brother. 'Why didn't you tell
me to smooth out my shirt?' Dad said.
My Aunt's awesome apple pie
It's not summer in the US without the Corvair
I finished my time in the US with a camping trip in McCall with my sister and the kiddos. Of course it wasn't just camping. Things with my family aren't ever just one thing. It was camping 'and by the way, we're manning an aid station for the McCall Trail Running Classic'. But never mind, I picked up a cowbell and did my part for ultra running. We also sneaked in a hike and a canoe ride on the reservoir.

Next: Borneo, possibly? I think it's about time.

22 June, 2012

Inspiration at Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run 2012 and Borneo on hold

It was my intention for this post to be on Borneo, but as I am now in the US for several weeks without the computer that has all the pictures, it will be on hold for awhile because Borneo needs pictures, obviously.

Note for this post: 100 = 100 miles. 

I came to the US at this same time last year, and as I also did last year, I accompanied my sister and some other local Idaho runners to the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run shortly after I arrived. I'm not kidding about the 'shortly' either. Due to a flight delay and the consequent domino effect, I arrived in Idaho a full hour before Sister Em picked me up for a fourteen hour road trip to Wyoming.

Last year's Bighorn run was epic in several ways. It was my first time ultra spectating/crewing, and it was Sister Em's first Bighorn 100. The nearly thirty-five hour haul ended with a furious five mile bike ride on my part, ten minutes to spare on Sister's part, and nail-biting by all.

Bighorn 2012: all smiles before the race
This year was also epic, but for very different reasons, listed following:

Sister Em had her first 100 DNF. That means Did Not Finish. Not finishing an ultra run is nothing to be embarrassed about, however. Ultra runners wear their DNFs with pride. Stories of DNFing are told with just as much passion as stories of crossing the finish line. DNFs are full of pain and struggle and usually incredible fortitude. Sister stubbornly completed sixty-six miles before she conceded that this race was not hers to finish.
Mile 13; Sister ran for 12 more hours
before throwing in the towel
Amy King took on the Bighorn 100 and ran like a mad dog not only to attempt her first 100, but to finish it in style. You rock, Amy King.
Amy 'Mad Dog' King powering into mile 82
Sam Collier, aged 59 3/4, brought out his alter ego Gregory to properly spank the Bighorn 100 in the behind on his first Bighorn 100 attempt.
Sam the Man at mile 13
My dad, who wished he could have been running himself, crewed with me and continued to inspire everyone around him by pacing Sam and Amy for a total of ten miles in spite of considerable pain. He is a mountain goat and all around rock star.
Dad and Sam heading out of mile 82
Other local runners Dennis Ahern, Lynette McDougal, and Christie Ebenroth respectively knocked out a 10th 100 like it was a walk in the park, put away the 100 with shredded feet, and had the courage to try again.
Zen Dennis
Lynette happy to be finished
Christie refuses a ride into Dry Fork
And as if all that wasn't epic enough, I once again got to spend several nights with my dear grandparents who always inspire with their quiet strength.

More good times in the US to come.

24 May, 2012

Corvair road trip - Final Chapter: Yellowstone and my favorite Idaho scenic routes

‘Yeah, I thought ya might have a problem with that,’ said Rick in his easygoing Idahoan way.

We had been back in Idaho for a couple of days after our road trip, and the series of circumstances that led us to be standing once again in Rick’s shop were frustrating at best. We had just finished pushing our Corvair fifty yards up the road to the shop, and it was not the first time we had pushed it that day. It wasn’t even the second.

‘Yep, once it gets to this point, there’s no startin’ it unless you’ve got an ice pack. Probably shoulda just put a new pump in for ya in the first place.’


Several days later the Corvair had a brand new electric fuel pump. This meant that no matter how hot it became, no matter how stubborn it felt, the car would have to start. I did not have a problem with that.

Soon after the upgrade, we decided a test was in order--another road trip perhaps? Yellowstone National Park was an obvious choice, and as we had just driven nearly 2,000 miles without the electric pump, a little jaunt to Yellowstone seemed like a piece of cake. The Yellow Bomb purred like a happy cat as we zipped east on I-84. 

Random fact: U. S. Route 30 is the third longest route in the United States. It runs from Astoria, OR to Atlantic City, NJ. Just out of Glenns Ferry, we abandoned I-84 for a section of US 30 known as Thousand Springs Scenic Byway.

Thousand Springs
The Thousand Springs Scenic Byway is a great way to see some of Southern Idaho’s ancient volcanic terrain. From Bliss to Buhl, it winds through the best of small town Idaho as well as part of the Snake River Canyon. Especially stunning in a wet spring, the Snake River Aquifer seems to gush magically from the canyon wall in numerous (maybe a thousand?) locations. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile byway. We reconnected with I-84 at Twin Falls then stopped for the night in Pocatello where it just so happened that a longtime friend of MHH's from Denmark was working on a wind farm.

The next day we continued on I-84 out of Pocatello to Idaho Falls, a rather dull stretch of road, but things picked up as we turned east on US 26 toward Wyoming. I had not been on this particular highway segment in more than ten years, and I was excited to show MHH this spectacular part of the American West.

But forget MHH, I was excited for myself. I knew what was coming and how worthy it was of the delicious anticipation that was building with the elevation gain, that was increasing as the air cooled, and that was singing at the appearance of pine trees. Pine trees! Then there was that first glimpse of the Tetons, those towering peaks of grandeur whose soaring pinnacles bring to mind ‘purple mountain majesties.’ All of this, and we had not even reached our destination.

Ah yes, our destination. I remember back in 1988 when Yellowstone burned. It seemed so devastating and permanent, but when we visited the area with family in June 1989, I stood among the charred trees and photographed little yellow flowers growing out of the blackened earth. They were little yellow beacons of hope for a nine year old who thought that fire meant only destruction. If only there had been hope for my fashion sense.

Grand Tetons, 1989
Jackson, WY, 1989
Grand Tetons, 2011

Yellowstone, I think, needs to be told in pictures. Any words I have will certainly not do it justice, though my pictures might not either. We saw quite a few animals but sadly no bears, moose, or bighorn sheep.

Camping at Grant Village
Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb
Idaho Potato
Water levels throughout the park were extremely high
Beautiful bull elk in velvet
Nice photo, MHH. Next time, though,
could you get a little closer? 
It's not a visit to Yellowstone without Old Faithful
Just as I remember it from 1989
Old Faithful Inn and original tour bus
Little calf elk
Mammoth Springs
Hotdogs and chili 

Random fact: U. S. Route 20 is the longest route in the United States. It runs from Newport, OR to Boston, MA. On the way, it just happens to pass through both Yellowstone National Park and Nampa, ID, providing a convenient and scenic route for us to get home. As with US 30, US 20 cuts through some amazing scenery, notably the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Also visible are the mountains in the south of Sawtooth National Forest. US 20 was the perfect finish to a breathtaking tour of the Northwest. 

A few short days later we were tucking the Corvair in for winter hibernation and bidding my family farewell. 

Coming up: MHH's parents visit Singapore, and we all visit Borneo.