Monday, July 10, 2017

Teak, a study in the luxury of hardwood.

i. Intro, smells like coffee.

I was the production manager in the saw mill for Dean Hardwood. Our operation was shoved on the side of the Cape Fear River, beneath the Isabella Holmes bridge. I directed a crew of about twenty men and women, with daily fluctuation in staff number, daily fluctuation of who showed up. We had around 15000 square feet of stacked raw materials, featuring all manner of lumber in all in various stages of preparation. We had finished flooring: black walnut, sapele, red & white oak, afrormosia, curly heart pine & yellow pine, Carribean pine, African and Philippine Mahogany, Zebra wood ... musical fukn names. I worked with woods I had never seen nor have I seen them since. They were beautiful and distinct, ranging in color from burled sienna to deep dusky red to oiled pumpkin to sunshine yellow. We ran familiar woods as well, like oak with her clean, even gradations.

The fragrances also varied wildly.  Not unlike crushing mint or basil, the planing and cutting of various species realeased an olfactory peak. There were woods that smelled of wildflower crushed in coffee. African woods released spicy earths, wild animal skin, rich wet soils, dry sweetness like an oaked chardonnay, the burnt perfumes of Sapele.

ii. Teak
Finally, a wood like no other: Teak. Teak which conveyed an unmistakable odour ... a Gucci version of Cedar, whispering scents of frankincense, sulfur, truffle oil. A chocolaty Bordeaux poured into a cedar cup..
You get the idea.
I will return to teak in a few paragraphs.

iii.

Our weekly output was strenuous. We'd load kilns in the morning, check moisture contents and the shaping of bundles (different woods respond with varying degrees of warping to the heated air). After loading kilns and setting up rip saws, after running massive boards through the 1950s resaw, after cleaning the faces of board on our 1940s double headed planar, we collected our work orders across docks and staging areas.

iv.
I'm losing the thread but I'm arriving soon. It is a serpentine trail to the point, lugubrious and savory.
You should see an angry resaw kickback a 10 foot piece of dense hardwood. Yiu can't force that shit in or it will impale the operator.

v.
Beyond the flooring was the boat building industry of the day. In perfect boom, a frenzied peak of demand, no one would foresee the coming drought. The boat industry was half of my work week. Most of it was sapele or mahogany shaped into long, cornerless accent strips on one of two Weinig molders. The other demand wad teak.
The machines, whose age spanned some 40 years, could produce gorgeous shapes under the right configuration. It was an artful thing to observe. One was a 7 head, 1960s model perhaps. The other was a ~2004 with ten heads, punctuated by a universal head which could swivel to carve any face of the board.

The worst was the blades biting into a buried bullet or nail. You would hear an animal groan of engine, the cracked blade of frozen gear, the release of electricity from the whole of the machine. Everything stopped, a dead stop, the machine sensors tripped. The affected blades were ruined. Car accidents could be quieter.

We worked hard. We worked early and we kept the saws screaming into evening. Kilns, forklifts, semi trailors beneath silos. The groan of the lifts wedging beneath bundles of heavy wood.
Tobacco smoke, the Cape Fear wrestling herself, geysers and plumes of sawdust, storm clouds spinning into thunder. All the while, the orders and the machines.

vi. Teak

I was in charge of preparing teak, and I prepared a ton of it. Palettes upon palettes, bundles upon bundles. The teak was cladestinely sent down rivers from Burma (or some communist country under embargo), arriving by arrangement in a country we freely trade with. The uncut trunks were plucked by cranes out of the rivers and auctioned to American brokers.

vii.

Tom was my supervisor, drove a big red truck and preferred duck hunting to people. Teak is an oily wood, dense and enduring.  Mosy of all, it is extremely important to boat building. The natural oils make it resistant to even salt water, salt air. Hence, it carries platinum value.

I was planing big boards for fighting chairs. The company was a classic American company up north. The company produced fighting chairs for Hemingway back in the 1950s, continued to craft the chairs for use today.
We ran these teak boards on a planer from 1940 or '50 and you have to sharpen the blades before you ran that teak because each millimeter was worth literally hundreds of dollars. The bosses would watch the boards run, wincing at dust cloud in our faces, studying the results.
"Run it through with another 1/16th on both sides."

"Yes sir" I'd say, the bosses breath releasing like a fan of money.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A note on National Running Day or whatever day it is ...



i. To want to help.

Opiate addiction is a local and national epidemic. The losses persist and the drug trade gains ground, gains flesh. Overdose is now the number one killer of American adults under 50.

While I've fallen away from the active message of recovery, the cause remains close to my heart. I quit meetings because I was tired of people dying. Friends pick up a 90 day tag and, the next day, they're dead. (A large number of deaths in addiction are those who managed a bit of cleantime, making it all the more unbearable, a bit more tragic.)

ii. The medicine of the mountains, of movement.

My big goal, the long run goal, is a farm with goats, herbs, fields of vegetables where creatives can rest, recenter, spiritually detox. A place to begin the process of reclaiming. A place to connect with Earth, with body, with the fundamental rythyms of Being. A recovery farm can be a powerful experience.

iii. The body as a prison, the body as a vehicle.

To initiate a new relationship with the body is a key part of recovery. Beyond the obvious physiological damage of addiction, there is often sexual damage, emotional damage, spiritual bankruptcy. We carry resentment against a body that constantly betrays itself with craving and sickness. The cycle of push/pull, high/sick, good/bad. Behind every good moment was fear of the fact that it was fading and brief. Everything conveys a vacuousness.

iv. National Running Day

One day I put out my smoke and began a run with Kasandra. I began to run further and stronger. I began to feel good. My body healed, was resilient, could promise the endurance of distance. I found I could run across mountains, a prominent image-goal of freedom and strength. Movement was the ultimate medicine. Miles and mountains. A wild freedom of body.

Addicts innately know endurance.

To move through a practice of simple yogic movement, hikes and runs, roaming a field and kicking a soccer ball ... throwing a baseball. To run as prayer, as meditation, as praise, as lament. To move with the simple pleasures of exhilaration and coordination.

v.

To truly recover, one must reclaim the body, one must reclaim a positive esteem of the body. A fluid harmony. It is the earth in which we plant our spiritual garden, our actions of Life. The body is the one thing we keep our entire lives. We must help each other cultivate the gift of physical courage. Maybe then I can keep my own.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A little bit of a serial story.



The Cowboy.

 A Western Vignette, to awaken.


I.  Morning.


He awoke slowly but he might have preferred not waking at all.
His eyelids spit an audible click as his vision jarred to light. A blink like a ratchet half-stripping a bolt.
The desert was halfway into her cruel morning.
His head pounded with a bone-bleached dryness, an echo of the desert into which he was now swallowed.  A torso fell from his body like a man hung by ragged jute sac. The body refused any initial movement. He swiveled his head and his saddle answered back. Hand fingered through the thin waves of his brown hair and he felt its grime. Scalp was matted and oiled with days of being lost, days of wandering, days of hunger. He pushed his top leg, the left leg, felt the bloody grind of foot into side of boot. The head felt like a foreign thing atop someone else’s body and his hand felt a altogether separate animal.
The smell of the sunwarm leather, his horseless saddle, where rested his head, took full hold of his olfactory awareness. Next, the smell of minerals in dry dirt and broken trees.  A  faint metallic mud, somewhere. The smell of his tired body lifted from his denim blue shirt.
The saddle yawned beneath his turning head as he began to lift himself.  A horseless saddle. The heaviest damned pillow, the most worthless damned pillow. The one thing left in this journey gone awry. No cattle bayed, no chickens squawked, no pigs rustled thrush with grunts and snorts. Home was a helluva long ways away, somewhere behind that sun. The fat-sided biscuits of those mornings were four lives away. Butter and percolated coffee. A cut of bacon smearing her grease against a heavy flour biscuit.
A horseless saddle is a ridiculous thing.
Four lives away.
Well, Shit. That horse always was a fearful thing. 

II. Horseless saddle.


His eyes focused, tightened against the frame of space. A tumble of dust knotted a spiral of hay, shot it into a vastness of empty, unpopulated distance.  The space was monochromatic at glance, mosaic and busy on study. Such emptiness carried a full acoustic sense, a music of its own sphere, untranslatable elsewhere, a secret language whispering a primal history. A subsonic howl that tilted his senses.
He half wished he could bind himself into that wheel of hay, go to where it went, arriving with such ease and effortlessness. However, a field of decision stared back at him, and it stared damn hard.
His head ached with the the full measure of noise that an empty desert could produce. He could barely pull up his body into the delirium of sound that was his hunger, his thirst, his fatigue.  But he tried, mustered movement. Legs ground into sand rubble, a shocking loudness, an upheaval. The wheel of hay kept spinning, kept getting pushed to horizon.  He lifted with the need of drink and food, he lifted because the desert was alive and he felt the thrust of survival in his gut. He lifted and he sat, a slump in his shoulders, ache in belly.
All that space he now melted into, now surrendered his body as a thing within the theater. Slumped against it.
Nothing lives here long and neither will I if I don’t get going.
He arched his body into an upright state. The gut punished by movement. He pushed blood into his arms, legs, hands, feet.  Slowly he claimed his separateness from the desert, withdrew his own thirst from that of the desert, collected a tiny bit of spit from his cheek.

A pulse skipped a distant gallop, thunder skipping across a field of dust, the heart was a steady overworked thing. The ribs rebelled against the muscles of the diaphragm, the exertion of breath and the unsteadiness of it. A tongue moved against the side of the mouth like a muskrat crawling into a morsel of scrap gristle. It was all too fucking much to bear, and the idea of it being a permanent state seemed inevitable.
He was stuck in the desert and the sweet rot of the ancient land seemed to already recognize him as one of its possessions.

III.  To crawl from the hole where one has fallen.

Waking chilly in an open desert startled him with the great fold of space in it's infinitesimal business. A cool ground scurried with insects and rodents. More heard than seen. A sense of sublime movement stirring the landscape.

The small grey bag was soon exhausted of its meager rations, the leftovers of some broken Confederate body. Tack and some coffee powder. He bit the hard crust of salt porc, let it grip his teeth and slowly release. He swallowed hard the nutrients.
He noticed a slope in the land about 50 yards east. He  hoped. He collected his saddle and stood and stumbled with tack still working his jaw. Sure enough. Deux en machina. A small creek cleaved the land, the grand meltoff of winter.
There ain’t no Spring without Winter, no work without want. Let’s get there.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

To Run is Free.

Dont let anyone ever sell you the run, dont try to buy the run.
Find it on your own. Run your own life. The run is free.

Again, the run is free.


The numbers of the Run don't matter, neither the speed nor distance. The numbers are artifacts, consequences.
Disregard the records we collect, measure ourselves with, impose upon one another.
What matters is the Effort.

Discard the noise and chatter of the commercial intent and get to the raw, majestic essence of it. A primal aching surge of muscle bone and breath.
Nexus of run.

Running is a psalm of movement.
Running is narrative tangle of voice and space, running is symphonic crescendo and the dance of layered rhythms.
Running is brutal, carries the grace of the Sacred, demands fluidity and meditation.
Convirgence. Alignment.
Running is the will to exert, the initiation of Action, it is the Hope of achievement and the Faith that Achievement matters.
Running is the optimism to push beyond the expected, the status quo, to rebel against the contrived mechanics of our days.
An ecstatic and private anarchy.
 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thoughts while watching the first 17 minutes of The Life of Yogananda.


(Love is the opportunity to admit someone else into your energies, to wrap them, to contain them, and for them to contain you.)
i.
I was born an artist with an gifted sense of the sublime in our everyday, the awareness of our constant Divine everydayness.
I was weaned from the spiritual elitism, from a sense of spirtitual entitlement, and found a more refined sense of the diamond mind in all places. Much of the maturity was found in following the footsteps of poets and writers, of philosophers and thinkers, of mathematicians and architects, of the great runners, warriors. I learned from those who already perched in elevated stations and it was easy to see their greatness framed by culture, framed by analysis, framed by a vague sense of idolization and hero-worship. I also matured a spiritual awareness in watching the facets of life in everyday America. In the raw country sides of poor America there is the most eleveated and celebrated of faith. In the dilapidated mountain cabin that belches with hunger and cold. From the detox units of various insitutions I regularly found myself for a decade. I met countless prophets and teachers in the darkest denizens of chemical dependency, of sexual depravity, of the desperate plights of the american impoverished. “each one teach one” was a mantra I learned from the mouth of an ex-con who learned it in meetings.
Faith tends to be strongest in times of struggle and doubt. Faith blooms best from wreckage and massive shift.
I came to realize that the highest awareness of America was the basic worker who performs the daily tasks without need of greater things, without want of greater things. The farmer who works in contentment across his land, feeds animals, watches the seasons manifest and take from the earth, who watches the waters travel across her magnificiently diverse realms, from mountain to ocean to glacier cascade.
The question only remains: does American life a conspire against a higher consciousness? Does it hold hostage the higher spiritual experience of this Life?
Is It possible to be a pure artist, that is a seeker of Light and a sharer of Life’s Light, is it possible to be truly in touch with Divine works? Does the erosion of Will to occupations, the constant bombardment of fashionable wants and fake Newness of material excess, the sexual cravings of advertisting, the wearied barrage of sadness and vacuous need that is our daily experience at the covers of magazines, at the loss of deeper drives and explorations, at the Higher Hopes of Discovery, does America want its artistic aspirations?  
Do we cease seeking the truer things because we must have rents, foods, fuel, travel, medical care, child support?  Enlightenment in Mecca, in shalas, in Himalayan caves, in ganges drapes of water. Know that you contain enlightenment that you are always in its invironment/environment.
To recognize that all spaces are sacred, that all lands contain God and the potential for Higher Light, is a level of enlightenment.
ii.
What if I said that, in pursuing our higher callings, all things of the material world would be resolved and satisfied? What if I said that, in pursuing God, God satiates all those Beings that would draw from our Life source? The society is jealous, is envious, for many of us have disdained our own truer aspirations for a new car, a body that holds well a fine cut suit or dress, the number of likes of a picture on Instagram, a short moment of honoring for an earthly accomplishment?
Everything in the worldly realm has been moved into the theater of Lust and vice. To run, we now acquire numerous tools and gear, the right shoes with the right science that alters our bodies into a different functioning.
We can learn, but we can also lose.

Can we participate in the American world and still find a true englightments? Or must we break away into a hermitage of sorts, a removal of Self from the lusts of a capitalist society? Can we balance the needs of a capitalist society with the needs of a Spiritual pursuit?
I was born enlightened and through the hard-mountain path of growth, from the arms of an angry lost mother into the arms of the angry lost world, the small mind of the child still wet with the ocean of consciousness, the small infinite mind of the child, the connectivity and receptivity of the mind of the child. The infinite child. To search, to discover and to integrate.
We do not search for God above and beyond us, but we search for the God light within and around us. The God is Us. We search for the infinite synapse of our own cosmic experience to connect to the sphere that elevates us. To push our clay pots of water into the magnificient river of Being and into her refined states.
As we dirty the Earth and her Oceans, so do we dirty ourselves and our Minds. Our mind is filled with the needs of Oil and profit and we lost essential knowledge and the ability of Prophecy. We are born to share God and instead we take from each other that we might gain the lesser valuable. The valueless.
How to manifest God. Have I lost too much of the wisdom and knowledge, the constant verve of my Youth? Have I lost that innate sense of Divinity? How do I manifest it?
Practice sexual restraint. Be beautiful, be sensual, be sated, be horny, be erotic and charged, be natural and contain one’s sexuality. But know the meaning of it. Know the purpose of it. Understand the results of it. And know that many of us are the Children of God, not of our Earthly parents.
Practice the restraint of material want. The glossy magazine world of America is a madness of Want. We must remove ourselves from the moshpit of Lust. The mind of the consumer is a tiny microcosm that chokes on its own suffering the whims of media heads. Let collapse the need to appear well fashioned, well-heeled. 
Disregard the fears of worldly need. Do not worry about foods, shelters, basic safety and needs. If we perform the work of higher things, basic needs will be provided. This is the most challenging of manifestations of faith, that we not follow the fears of our fathers and mothers.
Drugs and alcohol. To be curious of these experiences is natural. To move our bodies and minds through new shapes and perspectives is beautiful and powerful. To become addicted is a spiritual opportunity if one finds the path of awareness in detoxing and suffering. One must eventually move away from it however, and the experiential wisdom is the most beautiful of gifts from such lives.
Know that the cultural world, the societal world, in its construction and in its deepest dynamics, would have you fail your pursuits of God. The envy and greed of figure heads is too great to idly watch other’s find enlightenment for free. Even the path of enlightenment has been hijacked and exploited for glories and profits. Ignore the false claims of the material spiritualism that dominates the New Age. Move away from the false prophets, the fake Gurus, the ersatz teachers who speak from the lower mind about the Higher Being. They will atrophy and rediscover God upon such failure. It is also a valid path.
Do not judge your or anyone’s path to enlightenment. We will all wrestle our Jacobian angels and we will resist and we will admit. The push-pull of spiritual versus worldly will haunt our entire existence perhaps. But to continually investigate, to continually recognize our our small and powerful belonging to realms beyond the immediately identifiable, to remove one’s self from places that are not healthy or even real, to constantly reclaim the placeof the Divine within and around us, to preserve that place for the shred of God we are and we represent. What part of the ocean are you? Which fish do you feed? Which bird does your fish feed? Which plant is made new by the bird your fish will feed? Which bee will carry the song of your most significant role? Which lick of flame are you across which bark of which tree in which forest?
How to move one’s self back into the realm of God. But, to know we never leave the realm of God for we contain it, we are always in that ocean, like a runner sweating into a rainstorm, we are always a part of the cycle of release and absorption . to be an empty vessel of such life. To move into such life. To be profoundly a part of said life.
Do no tbe surprised by the smallness of people, the feeble mind of people. Many have no idea of the limitlessness of life. Neither should we judge that, or alter that. The path will bring them to higher pursuits in due time. The machine will spit them out across the feet of pilgrims. We will find and preserve the light and share it freely, without malice, without want, without thought of gain and profit and glory. That is the role of the light seeker. To truly hold light, to not tint it into our own ego. But to thrust that light into the spaces where it has been lost, where it is forgotten (even as it pours itself across eyes, mouths, bodies, hands)
Liberate the ego. Be proud, be joyful, be whole. But do not confuse with work of the higher calling with the sense that you are a higher Spirit. On the spirit, all things are equal, all things respond to each other with equanimity. It is a burden and a gift. Great tragedy is equal to small tragedy when one moves into the mind of the Spirit. And then there Is no tragedy, but only a happening. A part of the thing that moves across another thing like a chord of music.
To allow for the passage of light and rivers of awareness thorugh the body without jealousy and without fear, without question or hope of gain. To find oneself in the open fields of discovery. To allow for the chemical needs to sweat from the body, to diminish from the mind, to not press into unnecessary harms of endurance. There will be enough to endure without forcing our own suffering. That said, to practice endurance in things that are hard, that challenge us for long periods of time, be it running marathons, be it yoga, be it gardening, be it working 10 hours, allow for any suffering one feels to be preparations for higher levels of suffering we may yet endure. Learn to be still and quiet in the most vicious of places, learn to not be distracted by a constant shouting of the carnies of the cultural body, the flesh of the lustful senses.

To find the overwhelming Being in one’s own body, in the Light of Mind, in the service of this fleshed existence.
iii.
(This essay has little to do with asana and absolutely nothing to do with monthly subscriptions or Jade mats or yogitoes or SUPY or any of the trends associated with Yoga.  I do not profess an advanced understanding of Yoga. However, I believe we contain Yoga, we contain Buddha, we contain the love of Jesus and various Teachers. We are perfect beings wrapped up in imperfect confluences of Being. Numerous rampant devils work among and against us.)
iv.
Love is the opportunity to admit someone else into your energies, to wrap them, to contain them, and for them to contain you.
We explore this life, each other, and we pursue expansions of Being through discovery and inspiration. It is a natural process of yearning, cultivating, harvesting, and of burning.
However there are times when our explorations lead to a sclerosis, to the forming of prejudices, to our own self-isolation. Those seasons we must own, we must wholly contain, but we must also deconstruct with creativity, with passion, with an enduring movement. We roam these fields with a grateful, playful sense of simultaneous detachment and inclusion. We look for a still center, resisting yet observing our tendencies of ever-forming prejudice and preference.
We seek to serve as a nexus, an axis, to hear and amplify the purer rhythms among the chaos of identity and desire. We see primal patterns and we recognize something familiar.
To contain and express the Ephemeral in the Contemporary.
We seek to let form the shapes of the shores of Consciousness and know they will be changed in ways that are subtle, ways that are violent, ways that are artistic and metaphysical. We are that transient formlessness yet we hallucinate things as permanent, as shape.
Identity is the poem of how we feel to the music of what we desire in a language of the bodily Now.
Spirituality is the magnificent simple miracle, the prayer, in each breath.
A kiss is the connection, the exchange of that breath.  A kiss can have everything or nothing to do with the mouth and the body. A kiss can touch or not touch.  The body can have everything to do with the spirit, or nothing to do with the spirit. I am not implying erotic intimacy, but a moment between people. Maybe I am speaking towards the erotic, but I also simultaneously move away from it. Culture frequently confuses sexuality with intimacy and this is why we must draw the body from a deeper space.
In a question of bodies, Yoga draws from the innermost.  A posture becomes a suggestion of that deeper undercurrent, the push-pull of bone and muscle against Mind and breath.  So should an artist’s tool perhaps.
Posture is not bound to sanskrit definitions here. Everything becomes a posture when admitted as such.
The saturation of sexuality in our culture should not permeate the sense of the body in Yoga, Yogic philosophies. To become caught up in the shape of a body, to miss the deeper expression of body, is to lose the exchange of the body.  The obsession of the shape of body and the touch of flesh is the a symptom of the very superficiality that I want to rage against in my work and Life.
(While also including that superficiality ... Yoga is perhaps the whole body of contrapostures, balance, including contradictions.)
Meanwhile, to vigilantly maintain a sense of the Empty Vessel in this uncapturable Mind/Body of Self. To offer it back, to proffer it outwardly, freely and without reservation. And to practice always with the notion of Progress not Perfection.
v.


I slipped into the act of writing something very important and now I have no idea what to do with it, where to take it, how to even hold it, let alone manifest it. Few will read it and less will care and even I will forget I wrote it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Races for Profits, questions and concerns in the commercialization of running. A series.

While this post may get blowback, may ruffle feathers, may upset the apple cart, etc, I think runners are aware of the booming business of race proliferation.
More options mean more conveniences, but not necessarily better practices or better races.
(Disclaimer: I've reduced my racing substantially for numerous reasons. Family obligations, financial priorities, rebalancing life, and finally the question of Why Race, leaving less races as a natural thing.)
I enjoy supporting causes through some races, but I did some simple mathematics on a new "ultra" in my home area.
The race is mostly double track, following a five mile loop that is cycled 10X for a 50M relay and 6X for the 50k solo option. The race is held on private land. The event is "capped" at 500 participants. "Capped" at 500.
The 50k is 65 dollars increasing to 80. The 50M relay option is 40 dollars increasing to 50, same price as the 5 mile race held at noon.
Doing some averaging of numbers, (250 entrants in the 50k, 200 entrants in the relay, 50 in the 5 mile) I figured the total income would be around 29,500 dollars. Obviously there are costs, including insurance, trail maintenance, three bands and beers. Camping is included. Grilled foods will be sold and RV sites can be rented.
Concerns would include sustainability, land impact, and trail congestion. Sounds like a ball but 30k is a lot of dough for a race.

Anyone have any thoughts on the race-for-profit model?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Table Rock Ultra, a study in red clay, rock outcroppings and good ol' fashioned downpours.


Picture credit, Lonnie Crotts.



Table rock 50k sept 26 2015. Leg One.

(as yet incomplete and it reads well enough in this state and i may or may not finish it later. pulp aesthetic is the new varnish.)

what we didnt see in 2015, as seen in October of 2014. Photo credit Lonnie Crotts.

Friday morning.

My wife had attached a Disney poncho as a last minute addition to the outside of my pack. It was flimsy and shredded at the seams and I vowed to never use it.
In pursuit of a rain shell, I stopped at a local outfitting company before starting the drive to Morganton NC. Wilmington has a couple of shops and I chose the newer, more expensive spot to begin. They had a beautiful Marmot for 100 dollars that I liked and posted everywhere were signs advertising “25% off storewide” and I was excited, asked the attendant if the jacket was discounted.
“No, I’m sorry. That one’s fresh in the door.”
I left empty handed, hit I-40, and within 20 minutes I hit rain.

Friday evening.

Six hours later I hit Morganton's historic downtown. I pulled into a puddled parking spot alongside Catawba brewery for packet pickup and proceeded  to pickup my packet where peter piper picked a pepper .... never mind.
The drive had been a grueling, rain-blind thing with multiple wrecks and a helluva lot of stop and go traffic. Stressful driving, white knuckle hours.
I was glad to arrive but the rain persisted and the light-fade of evening was not far off. I drove the final 30 minutes to the camp and put on my Disney poncho and walked around the marshy land of Steele’s Creek Campground to find a spot where my tent might find a slight lift of perch above the collecting rain. Found a spot, near my choice from last years much dryer affair, and set up quickly the tent, moved bags and a cooler into the vestibule. Set up the stove, cooked up my wife’s wonderfully rich and filling meatsauce pasta. A bit of a tradition, Kas almost always makes me my pre-race meal and it never fails to warm me up, relax the nerves, and start the mind thinking about the distance ahead.

My fine rain-protective Nemo tent making its stand on the banks of Steele creek.

I sporked the last of the sauce into my mouth, collected and consolidated race things, opened Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan to the continuing thump of rain.
Being absolutely alone on a rainy night with the mountain-dark of night beginning to prey on one’s mind can be unsettling to me. I was alone, I had no service, and the looming depression of previous weeks began its work.
I fucking started to tear, to cry, then to sob. Terrible feelings  and self-doubt and the hauntings of my anxiety began to rip at me deeper.
I drove out for a call to Kas, said hello, heard a quick NPR story which faded to static as I pulled into my campsite. A few pages of the book, a brushing of the teeth, a check of the battery powered alarm clock, and I was as close to sleeping well as I ever have been while camping before a race.
It may have been a perfect catharsis.

Saturday, 2:30am.

Some nearby 50 milers are up chopping wood. It is loud and intrusive and 3 and a half hours before the race. Appalled, I work to reclaim sleep despite the hacks and bass thuds of logs splitting, rain spitting against the rain shell of the tent.

Saturday 5am.

The 50 milers are roaming and calling out to one another. Cars begin pulling in from hotels. Runners sit in cars and stay dry. The rain has picked back up to a decent pace.
5:30am. The lights of the starting area go up and an announcement. Wheres my Disney poncho?
I crawl out of the tent onto a saturated and pooling earth. Bathrooms are always a problem at races the morning of but Table Rock was different. There was no line, just a wait for the current occupants to finish. Ultrarunners and their clock-tight bathroom rituals. And all the homemade pastas of the world converge the nervous pacing hours before the starting horn. Yet everyone sat in their cars listening to radios.
5:44am. Alarm hits and I lay. Repeat three times. Campstove and instant coffee, hot oatmeal, half a banana, Vaseline in all the right spots, race bib, and a relatively calm morning before removing my Disney poncho and heading 125 yards to the start.
6am. Announcements are made and people gather in various layers of speed ambition, the fastest moving forward. I worry that I’m underdressed for the rainy day as everyone wears a rain shell. Im wearing a sleeveless singlet and a neckerchief. Am I fucked? I’m fucked. I’ll never finish this. If I get in trouble im in the middle fo the fucking woods. God help me I’m fucked.
Brett runs up and announces himself literally seconds before he is dq’d for not being present . My spirits lift. He’s wearing a rain shell. I should’ve brought my Disney poncho. Its gonna be cold at the summit some 20 miles away.

“START!”

Brett and I bid each each good luck and strong legs and off I go with the head pack. Hanging in behind the morning hacks and wheezes and the swishing trample of trail shoes on wet mountain grass that is such a wonderful sound, we cross the bridge over Steele’s Creek and began to move through the darkness towards the mountain that we cannot see.
First wrong turn happens about mile 1.5 and it is the head group that makes it. Brief, but a reminder that these things upset many a race effort.
First miles were easy miles. Passing double track fs road that leads into the first single track and the churned, chewed red clay of Appalachia. Running on it was sketchy, like running across red clay that a potter wets, prepares as slip. Grassy roads then roll and build towards the deeper hollows and higher launches of stone and wood, the mosaics of rock outcroppings and fallen leaves.
It was light by the first creek crossing and it was a knee deep cross that got the shoes good and heavy and the mind reinvigorated. The rain was a patter and one almost anticipated a break in the clouds, a false hope, but a real one.
AS 1 was 4.8 miles in. everyone seems to have looked at a course map and knew when to expect these things. I had not. I was a little lackadaisical about these things.  Fucked.
A mile later would prove the more worthy crossing. One scaled a rock face and across the corner stood Brandon, the co-RD and a helluva mountain runner himself, who had hoisted a rope across the gushing rapids. The roar of the water was punk loud and I stepped in up to my thighs. I was tight, slow, but I held the rope and kept moving across the fairly strong mountain rapids. For a flatlander, it feels way perilous to make blind steps across river stones, and it was not a brave or athletic crossing. Frankly I felt a slight wave of embarrassment as I landed on the other bank.
The course ran across the river banks and had some fun push-pull of body, climbing and walking, a little running, and the everpresent beat of rain on head and shoulders. The temperature was mild, not warm at all, but it was just cool enough to keep my questioning the cold of the summit and how that intense climb would affect my body.
Another few crossings of Steele Creek, a continued downpour, a coupl’a GU gels later, my legs felt good, the quads alive but not struggling, the core churning a bit strange but whatever, the mind in a fine meditative space. The day was shaping up to a nice performance. Not competitive, but an enjoyable push.
We ran up a bit of road and an out-and-back that led eventually to the upper point of a gravel road. AS 2 was maybe mile 9. And there was much rejoicing.  The volunteers looked at me with concern when I asked where to go next … I guess there’s this expectation for a runner to look at a course map before heading into the woods. I turned and started heading back down the mountain road, gravel crunching every step of the way, enjoying the fact that I would soon cross the half marathon point.
I don’t remember many specifics along the way here. I remember stopping alongside the road and relieving my stomach and cleaning myself with a handful of leaves, but that’s for another time.
Halfway mark came just around 3 hours. I was making my goal time and I felt good. The next coupl’a  miles were a brilliantly challenging trudge up gravel road to the next AS at the base of the real profile trail.

Photos by Daren Wilz,Composited, mile 26ish of 2015 Table Rock.
Achieving the summit, but in 2014. Still love the spirit of the picture.