Monday, March 28, 2011

Gator trail 50k- fugue and postscript.

If Gator Trail 50k is anything, it is homegrown and unpretentious;  it is a trail run, as gutbasic as it gets.  Grant Egley is the race director and he is a tall man with a pleasantly slow speech in which one may find traces of mississippi where he started a fifty miler a quarter-century ago. He shook my hand as he briefly discussed the trail conditions, explaining the smoldering areas, the fact that some runners were already on the trail, and his history in ultrarunning.  Number pickup was a piggly wiggly bag with a runner's world number bib and a navy blue sweatshirt, sort of military-style with big block letters reading “GATOR TRAIL RUN 2011   50K.”  An aid station was being set up with home-style plates piled with cheeses, pretzels, trail mix and bananas beside coolers of gatorade and water.  Cokes were to the side with apples and jars of pb and jelly and breads.  The finish chute was sliding around by a canvas tent of computers and the ubiquitous digital clock.
Several runners loosened legs and danced and stretched or sat patiently on truckbed tailgates.  I stretched anxiously as someone yelled “hey! We don't stretch at these things!”  Turns out this sagacious taunt was from a man completing his 300th ultra who spoke with another runner of “around 250 of these things.”  A lively group of all walks of life.
Conditions were ideal at an overcast mid-40s to start, capping at mid-50s with barely a sprinkle along the way.  28 runners toed the line as race director Grant spoke the magic words “racers ready?  Well go then!”  We passed kyote (crying crimsoned-faced and horror-stricken as short-shorts and compression suits blurred by) into the surrounding trails.  I made an amateur error of not tying my shorts well and the four gels pulled on my upper thighs then middle thighs and were getting lower before I stopped to deal with it, about 400 ft into a 31 mile run.  Not an auspicious occurrence.  But from there we snaked into the trails and I passed towards the faster mid-pack and fell in behind a familiar pace for the opening loop.  The first two miles traversed smoldering pine forest, part of a seasonal controlled burn, but the smoke was negligible.  I thought it resembled a battlefield and I thought of the Sommes or the Bulge and had a few moments of wild imaginative thinking.  But the deepening sand interrupted my fictions as the sand worked my feet and legs, losing a good 20% of kick efficiency, enforcing the sand's role as a detriment to my day's running.  But as I learned on these trails: if there was no sand, you could bet on roots, and if there were roots, you could bet on knobs & rock-juts hidden in tangles of pine needle and fermented leaves, like large knotted boschian arms reaching across the trail.  And these arms (as my spontaneous ultra-guide Mark noted) got stronger and longer as the loops got deeper.

The sandy access road converged into a trail of new grass and plank-board bridges bouncing on muddy digs from the lakes runoff.  Primitive and ribbed passages of kinky trail carried you to the turn-around where the numbered sticker from your bib was pinned to the board, indicating lap number. Then the trail blazed back for one and a half miles and veered left to jag and jack through the most technical terrain of the run, with more rustic plankboards laid across the worst of it.  A full stride was impossible as you knee-highed the densest passages of trail roughage.  The break came at the wooden walkway where you turned back into the state park office and started the next loop after a short road run.

Mark was my running partner and he was a powerful runner who could've easily left me in the dust, but like some trail running boddhistiva stayed back to support me. We discussed several runs, from the pike's peak marathon to the t-shirt run (mangum track team) to Mt. Mitchell challenge (thats something you might like he said), and kept me invigorated about the accomplishment of endurance running.  When a root body-slammed me in the fourth loop he let a good-nature chuckle and said, “well at least you got that out of the way,” and I had to grin even on the fifth cycle/ 27th mile as I passed the location.

Overall I met some good folks, ran some tight trails on strong legs, and pulled in to a wholesome experience of healthy principals.  I was presented with a finisher's frame as Mrs. Egley made me a fantastic pb and jelly sandwich (which I initially could not eat, was just like a big ball of drydry flour in my mouth, but that passed to voracious hunger). I pulled on warm pants to be kindly chauffeured home by my wife as Kyote shouted “truck” all the way home to the shore.
I am researching other races down the road, all long distance events, with Bull Run Run 50 and the JFK 50 and the Mt. Mitchell Challenge staying in the favorites list.  Trails are most preferable, and I must really plan around the busy season at my restaurant, among infinite other things.  I am no longer an unemployed college student with nothing but time and boundless energy and a discern for poverty and a head full of romantic philosophies.  But I do braid that narrative into current dynamics;  I am a living river sourced at every point before this one.  But who knows what will follow and who would want to.  

Meanwhile I thank all those who supported this goal and who read these ramblins and stuck with me as I learned that I could run fifty kilometers in less than five hours and enjoy it.  I assure you, if I can do such a thing, almost anyone can.
If you want to get utterly mocked, just try to predict your life;  you will be astounded.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

gator trail 50k-- prelude and fugue, book one.

Haydn string quartet cycle, opus 33. sketching between pushups (with kyote climbing across my head) trying to keep ideas and images in pre-thought state, pure and instinctual, impulse-driven:  unjudged (unfiltered). but a simple act of expression seems an impossibility. . . judging the image-in-process is denying the image. moving on.

i've decided that tomorrow's ultra is like dropping acid: its going to be long, its going to be strange, and I may see some shit that isn't there. My body will ache and it will suddenly not ache. I will want to push and I will want to drop back. I will want it to be over. I will have little option but to finish. Interaction with others will be kept to a minimum afterwards to think things over. I may have to remind myself that this is not a permanent state, nor is it a natural state of being. And the mind may fold back on itself to reveal interesting things.
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trying to figure out how to eat a banana at mile ~18



Well the Gator Trail Run 50k slung me into the guts of Lake Waccamaw for five 6.2 mile loops, composed of four miles circulating into a two mile out-and-back, and it passed with strength and endurance. A pace of eight-fifty minute miles felt smooth and perpetual for a solid 4h 33 mins on the trail, landing the fifth position. I ran with a talented runner named Mark and he glided through the pace with wholesome encouragement. My body ran well, my mind juke boxed random excerpts of marley and velvet underground, and I had no poetic thoughts or spiritual insights other than driving forward, a purely physical event.
before as gathering gear.
I will write more later but now I must waddle into work.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The starkness of a thing. . . doppler effect of mileage.

Running carolina beach state park with sugarloaf dune draped in saint-white sand and the new silk of spiders, the flitter-rustle of finches and the muffled footfalls of pineneedled trails at an unpushed pace of about nine minutes, easy & pleasant movement in the Spring sun while vicious cross-currents of the cape fear push against coast in quickspill sapphires and salt-foam. . . glassy black brine and the carpet of jade moss gives rise to dwarfed crags with thick fans of woody moss, the wicked arms of live oaks, the vertical launches of pine and long-leaf. . . the sum of the experience moves beyond roots and rocks, dredging sand, moves beyond the seven miles to the 31 miles in four days on similar terrain, and I am reminded of the difficulty of the goal and anxiety builds like doppler effect as the ultramarathon approaches, getting louder and overwhelming and then a pulse becomes a constant roar abruptly diminishing and dropping to a faint bass-pulse somewhere far away. . . but the run is sound, my fitness remains okay through gum surgery four weeks ago followed by intestinal poisoning, and a nine minute pace feels perpetual and pleasant for the moment. spoon's “everything hits at once” cycles with current image-ideas and the landscape of carolina beach puts me head-on into pollock's blue poles and I pause into the painting, relayer it as it was painted, seeing pollock's angst pouring paint on and throwing those rough-planed boards across the flat-laid canvas with barely a touch of rabbit skin glue and just starting in, thrusting against the deep pthalo blue house paint like a jazz artist would a new melody suddenly clear, seeing the rhythm and starting to jam, calligraphy in air above the canvas duck, earth and hay and stirsticks and fingers and bottle caps all building into a cohesive surface. . . blue poles, a fine image to get entangled in thoughts of leg-labors kicking the final kilometer, enjoying new spring growth & glad to be part of the fantastic world, glad to be running, grateful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

a literary run and a splash quite unnoticed.

brueghel's depiction of the fall of icarus is anonymous & tragic, nearly private and asinine.  wcw's poem launches from this image and it was his language which kept passing through my mind as I ran poplar grove plantation.  I was doubting my fitness for the 50k and thinking that my icarus may land in lake waccamaw and then began debating whether icarus's final descent occurred in an intercoastal salt marsh, a reservoir, a lake.  Of course icarus is everyman and the water-tomb is symbolic 'cause its a sad clown-fate that awaits all ambition but you just keep legging on and looking and thinking and trying to capture something lucid and glowing and bright, trying to abate the private clownface brutality, trying to ignore the tightrope absurdity ferlinghetti spoke of.  Another level of endurance we must constantly endure.


meanwhile spring brought a red-headed woodpecker of fair size with a white ring around his neck, a brilliant bluejay chasing a slightly dulled female, many cadmium red cardinals and huge squirrels.  turtles were crowding a log in the middle of the lake, basking easy.


rumi came to mind, his name laden with associations like cole barker and unc and the moment the book was given to me and the passions of poverty and the ascetic's joy.  there were no lyrics, only a moment of admiration for his ecstasy, his psalms, the idea of the poem-psalm, a holy song of the everyday.
pictures are winter light in january, a false representation of today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A pause in the breath, a break in the stride...on second thought.

less than two weeks until the gator trail 50k.

Meanwhile the past week has been a physical disaster and my body remains slumped, choked, uncertain. It began with thai take-out, green curry with eggplant, bamboo, tofu, to be followed by 48 hours of misery, my body folded horrendously into itself, an internal meatmash out of a sinclair novel. . .the running rhythm collapsed and my 50 mile week decayed to a 17 mile week with my longest run being a struggling eight miler on Sunday (where I learned that I do not like body-warmed strawberry-banana gu gels). I am left with one more week-long cycle of running and a three day ween before my first 50k will spin its own organic experience, a free-form narrative finding its own pace and tone and extemporaneous momentum. . . the layers of self will be pulled back to some raw core where paint and language and trail and solitude and music will fall away into a pure act, an act perhaps approaching ascetic in its surrender for a brief moment. . . a passage of satori at mile 27 would be nice.

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completing any path of any distance is ultimately putting one foot in front of the other and breathing and having patience and the guts, pushing the mind-- pushing the legs...feet grinding out bones and blisters across the increments of space. Covering miles requires an actionable faith with multiple layers of belief and drive, the ability to push through physical burnouts, to endure the emotional upheavals, to fuel an engine of physical mantras. It's the drive to complete something no matter how anonymous and strange and personal. . . running a 31 mile circuit on a trail in the middle of the woods is an abstract art and few others will give any attention to this spiritual/physical/mental work; long-distance running is not a universal goal.  But this is my experience and its culmination, a distinct passage in my life fugue.  Running is my time of recreation, a time to reclaim, my time to Re-Create. Its a binge, its a purge, a tribal sundance, a sweat lodge.  A run as in Life. Putting one foot in front of the other and following through, into the nexus and the core, into a continuum, into an actionable faith and self-reliance.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Darren Mulvenna's Upcoming Show at Brunswick Community College.

Darren Mulvenna will be showing his recent paintings in the Dean's Gallery at Brunswick Community College.  The opening reception will be 5pm until 6pm on Wednesday March 16th.


Mulvenna's work embraces the patterns of Nature both in subject matter and in the development of his paintings.  Layers of paint and imagery emerge and recede, darken, glow from within, intensify, push and fade; the process searches out harmony in the environment, seeks to distill a rhythm in visual essence.  The paintings seem to exist comfortably in their frames, content & still, before pulsing back out with something new.  Environments are familiar despite the disconnect from common appearance, his surreal landscapes being slightly abstracted (maybe skewed is a better word), moving and dancing like dream-images following a hike in the woods.  One recognizes immediately the living scenes, a bather swimming in an ebbing aquatic light, a female torso rapt in a transcendent light, a classical dancer juxtaposed in a brackish chiaroscuro.  Mulvenna's saturation of life, his vivacity, is cathartic in the vibrant palette and the easy imagery, his figures flying playfully across lush fields and schools of fish languidly pushed in current through a diptych.


Mulvenna's work is life affirming.  One can see his own efforts in connecting to Nature, in finding his place within the complex weave of things, and then transcribing that marvel into these paintings.  His work honestly derives from an artist searching for something that is universal and relate-able, and it does so with glimpses of beauty that elevate the viewer for a fine moment.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

the rhyme of contrasts. . . . an inchoate ramble, a run in sand.

The rhyme of contrasts, the balance of paradox. 
(random thoughts of Howard Finster, painter-preacher.)

nc museum of art, the grand glass doors framed by polished bars of steel, arriving with apprehensions against the funky-lego rigidity of the post-renovation building, now counteracted by a trail wrapping the rolling raleigh landscape, the massive sculpted coils on top of a hill, rodin's le penseur with clinched bronzed toes.  inside were the greco-roman statues, beat and aged, marble torsos of grandiosity. renaissance imagery, the usual ascending christs and compassionate marys and serene martyrs, interesting for a glance. . . the nineteenth century european painters, their street scenes and plein air peintures, still lives of meat markets and aristocratic patrons, their mythologies of body.  the american painters, o'keefe to wyeth with some damned fine american landscapes. . . the impressionists, the impressionists. . . into the modern now, what i consider the relate-able, giacometti, richter, a room full of mid-scale rodins (iris, burghers, balzac, ugolino, etc) and a garden with heroic-scale works (meditation, shades). . . . salle, scully, liu, motherwell, a perfect kline. . . a furious landscape by a nc painter gayle lowry. . . ultimately the nc museum of art hosts a damned fine art collection, is a good day trip, and after moving the mind you can move the body on the easy nature trail of the museum park.

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arrived stagnant, tired, but left with energy, momentum, craving a new image-repertoire, craving to push a new pictorial vocabulary into paint-heavy canvas.
looking, collecting image-scraps, extending my visual vocabulary beyond michelangelo, the ny painters, the post-war german painters (some of my personal favorites and thus aesthetic ruts). art realigns the paradigm, invigorates the psyche, inspires cross-referencing across time and geographic impossibility, denies cultural polarities, pursues a continuum in the annals of creative energy, scripts connections against disparateness, balances the paradox of things, conjoins the sacred and the vulgar.  this is my perpetual essay: the myth of synergy, of the ephemeral, of the holistic in creative work.  a nexus, a fusion of experience and expression, mind body spirit. art resides as an exacting and necessary presence in all layers of the collective unconsciousness, a core of the experience of the eternal mortality.
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kline motherwell mitchell de kooning pollock twombly and the postwar german painters, beuys and polke, kippenberger, baselitz, grosz, hesse, auerbach, richter. . . . freud and rauschenberg and bacon, schnabel.  rembrandt rubens carravaggio michelangelo titian. . . . the power of rodin, a room of rodin casts. . . . eternal brutal humanity, cut in clay, hatched in paint, craving.
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millet in mind while running sand, the toil of foot-falls as digging slow miles across carolina beach state park, running steep sand mountains beyond sugarloaf on unmarked trails and into sunny point perimeter where pulling back into trails barely marked by deer, dogs, squirrels. . . . the push of isolated miles on a saturday morning, wife and baby three hours northwest and full sun in march wonderland of easy time.  
millet and the honesty of work, of harvest, of seed.  my body reels easy breath across vast stretches of sand and i feel a clarity of mind, a soundness of belief, a push of body which is mine and strong.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Run for Ray Trail Half-Marathon, 2011.

February 28th, dernier jour du mois. . . . hoooowwweeee!
Line up before HM/10k. the strangeness of the trail runner.


Run for Ray 2011 passed in ideal weather Saturday morning at Brunswick Nature Park with 230 runners kicking across the optioned distances of 3m, 6m and 13m. Folks paced and sprinted the dirt roads beneath the full sun, dogs pushed paws into dirt, and families greeted arriving families.  A map showed two loops across the trail-system with two dirt road out-and-backs for the HM distance, 70% being on raw trails, coiled and switch-backing through woods alongside Town Creek on pine-needled single-track, fast footing interspersed with some rough & technical patches, a varied trail to work through, as well as some quad-bashing incline/decline areas.  Coffee and bananas, a timing mat for B-tagged number bibs, a fine payne's gray shirt with a print of Ray Underhill popping a backside air (complete with rail sliders), and friendly exchanges preceded the line-up horn. Serious runners with pioneer builds and appalachian beards in shirts reading Uwharrie 40 miler and Umstead trail marathon flashed smiles, were jovial and kind, a good field of local trail talent. Directions were given, the countdown, and the galloping beat down the dirt road.  The mad pace of the front runners jammed out as I boosted through the first out-and-back, before the single track, trying to buffer my midpack position, to be unforced in pace.  At the trail head we fell into the pines and followed the serpentine wind through about three miles of woods, crossed the road (by a nice kayak launch) where the trail is kinked and slower, about 1.5 miles and then a short dig to hit another entrance onto a new trail which ran 1.5 miles and then poured out against the second out-and-back.   My early push was punishing my legs, acidic cement in calves and quads and my calories were low, but the woods were wonderful and the volunteers were encouraging.  At one point I was head-singing (to the faint tune of an 80's song) “when the quad detaches from the bone.”  I passed through the first loop, saw ky and the wife, and kept up the effort for the repeated loop.
mid-point with finish chute to right.  My wife:  "you looked a little rougher than i would've expected."

The race was a fast one with a front pack battle driving the winner to a 6m 22s pace, 40 seconds faster than last year.  My time was 1h 43min, a 7m 48s min/mile, which beat last years time by about 30 secs/mile.  My position in the field of 47dropped to19th from last year's 17th. An encouraging improvement, though I could've done better with more patience in the opening sprint.  Ray Underhill decks were the trophies for top three finishers per race, and the organizers mingled and sought feedback for next year's run, throwing ideas for longer distances on these trails soon.  Very exciting prospects, and they get this race tightened down better every year.  My wife drove my wobbly body home and made pastas and coffee and let me move slowly with blisters like a fleshy mudslide on the balls of my forefeet before work at 3h30pm.

thoughts of twombly on trail. . .

twombly's paintings move like ancient graffiti, jungian scribble, the blurred collective unconscious to reference the historic ruins of rome, prague, chichen-itzy, jordan. . . to reference gardens, incinerated homes, auschwitz or sommes or pompei, glimpsing Socrates, sexual energies, entropy, earth. . . a nonlinear narrative told in spare forms and private marks, an enigmatic language of characters bearing embedded meaning, associations. . . twombly makes paint and the act of painting envelope a moment's essence, makes mark an embodiment of instinct, a physical impulse, and the energy of that mark is the signifier, the key, the universal register.  (See Turner, Pollock, Motherwell, Beuys.)  twombly is the erotic and the sacred and the faith within the painter's work.  Within the painter's work. . . the painter's Work. Faith.

i say twombly is the blur of the woods in a fast pace, mind reeling mosaic thought, st. paul & foucault & derrida, the multi-layered mindscape as pushing strides in miles, milling it out. . . poetry of movement & mind in rhythm with body, to find external awareness in internal struggle, clarity in imbroglio, finding language in noise. duchamp knew that the finest art was a chess game with a fabulously naked woman in a montparnesse cafe.  art is a nineteen mile run with s. sunday morning, down to dawn via airlie road & wrightsville beach, mind cycling the emptiness and fullness of the work, the alternating psyche that correlates to an act. . . transcendence, the freedom to exude and celebrate.  the faith to run or be still.

Art is the invigoration of perspective, art is the reminder to Look, art is the education and refinement of visual thought.