Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I understand fulfilling the curiosity of running a marathon once. I'll never understand running a marathon a second time.

I wasn't able to pass up the invitation to run a marathon in Chianti. Free room, meals and entry for a race that weaves its way through the rolling hills of Tuscany. On the Wednesday before the race, sick in bed, being fed potions by Ben's grandmother (bless her), I though maybe I shouldn't. By friday evening I was better. Twelve hours later I was feeling fine only fifteen kilometers (marathon: 42k) into the race (everybody feels good, fifteen k in) and by 30 I was wondering if I'd finish. By 35k I started using tactics that I never though I'd appreciate: "Come on Rickey. You can do it. Just seven more k to go. Come on. It's not so bad. Come on Rickey," as opposed to the normal violent and obsene approach that I usually employ. At 37k I saw the kilometer marker "37 kilometers." "Come on Rickey. 5k to go. Just 5k. Just 5k. Just 5k. Just 5k." If you've run a marathon, you'd understand this. After a kilometer passed I saw another kilometer marker ahead. When it came within my bleary-eyed grasp: "37 kilometers"... that's when I wanted to cry. "37 kilometers" (think four-year-old whining and crying) "but you just said 37 kilometers. i can't run five more kilometers." the tears welled up and almost fell.... Luckly I found out it was a typo. "39 kilometers." I just barely held off the two runners behind me, battling what sincerely felt like broken femurs, dislocated hips and crushed feet, for third place.

Really the race was wonderful. At one point I was headed down a dirt road with an olive grove off to my right, a vineard off to my left and the many towers of Sienna up ahead, mixed amongs the layers of hills that Tuscany is so well known for. Up above - a blue Tuscan sky and a recently waning moon. Later on, a mile long corridor of cypris trees (33k into the race... how dreadful to see first, second, fourth and fifth before and behind me). Hunters in their German camoflauge with their spaniels, gun shots, cobblestones, red soil and "dai, dai, dai!!")

Since I was unable to walk today, I biked the fifty-five miles from Sienna(ish) to Florence. Thinking that my past 24 hours called for a bed rather than a thermarest, I've decided to stay in a hostel for the first time this summer... no comment.

No more running for the trip. Little biking. Ben and I plan on meeting up in Paris, then traveling on to Spain and maybe Morroco. I've sent in my absentee ballot and will return to the States mid-November.


I didn't turn away a free ride from the race director from Lublijana to Croatia. My first night was spent just outside the city of Riyeka, on a presipice, ten feet from the crashing waves. In the morning I rode to the island of Krk (yeah, Croatians don't feel the same need for vowels as the rest of us). Getting advice from two people on how to get a ferry to the next island, I chose the wrong one and ended up back tracking 20 miles in the dusk, leading me to another campsite, again, ten feet from the crashing waves. In the morning I biked from sea level to nearly 5,000 feet, through the fall colors, limestone and oaktrees (there were none on the islands since the Venitians took them to build Venice).

I biked and camped for the next two nights in the mountains. Things I learned - just because a lumberjack sees you coming, doesn't mean that he won't fall a tree directly in your path, seconds in front of you. And, sausage can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, linner, dinner and dessert.

Split - beautiful. Met a 89 year-old man with a stronger grip than me (that doesn't say much). He told me about biking through Italy after the second world war for three years and six days. Our meeting ended with me loosing an arm wrestling match.

I caught the boat from Split to Ancona, Italy overnight. I cooked pasta on the outskirts of town at 9am at the edge of a roundabout: best breakfast ever. It took two days to ride to the small, hill-top town of Casperia where my friend Ben's uncle owns an appartment. My instructions on how to get to the appartment were "go up the hill, veer left, number 24." In response, my instructions on where to find me: "arriving sunday afternoon. i'll be in the plaza drinking beer." I won. Ben found me around sunset on sunday with a pint in my hand, talking Spitalian to a young couple from Rome and their Venezuelan friend.


It would appear as though I used every last ounce of energy at the world trophy.

I arrived in Bergen, Germany amidst the cold rain, fall colors, Oktoberfest and fleet of runners hoping to improve upon a World Trophy result that I was already proud of. The race director, Bibi, not knowing exactly which hotel to put me up in, decided last minute on the Gasthause Bibihoff... his own house, that is. Four star, four diamond with his wife, Rosie's cooking and his daughter Barbara's translating.

A test run of the course led me to believe that the race would go well, if not great.

A small canon started the race off forcing us to run immediately through a large cloud of burnt black powder. My legs felt heavy as they often do at the begining of a race. And they continued to feel so for the duration of the race. I finished 14th.One place worse than in the World Trophy and what would equate to five minutes further back. An accordian played a sad, sad song as I crossed the finish line.

Bibi asked why I was biking around from race to race. "for training?" he asked. jokingly, I pulled the inside of my pockets out revealing nothing more than lint and a couple ibuprofine and said "not for training. for no money." he found this hilarious and gave me 20 euro for pizza and two beers.

Following the pizza and two beers (and a grappa bought by an old Bavarian - Casper) I wandered back to Bibi's house. As I was entering, Rosie, on her way out, grabbed me and dragged me the two blocks to the ski shed at the base of the ski mountain. At about the time I thought I should protest, she opened the door to reveal a mini-Oktoberfest. Bibi, the accordian player and eight other blond-haired, blue-eyed locals sitting around, drinking beer, eating sausage, having a grand ol' time. A small herd of deer heads decorated the walls above us while a stuffed crow watched harmoniously over us on a case of beer stacked seven levels high.

In the morning, at the flee market on the outskirts of town, I found a two point deer skeleton to keep me company for the remainder of my journey. Like all of my decapitated animal friends - York is his name. He sits on the front of the bike, ensuring a sure, quick and gruesome death should I crash in that direction.

The ride from Bavaria to Slovenia was incredible. Fall colors and perfect weather. Camping at the edge of alfalfa fields and Lake Bled (how romantic). Eating lots of musli and yogurt, and chasing it with Austrian fire water decorated with grizzled Austrian backwoodsmen etc.

The Slovenian race revealed much of the same, but due to the wretched amount of downhill, I finished 13th rather than 14th. Lucky for me it was a Grand Prix finale... (The Grand Prix is an organized group of mountain races in Europe where you earn points for your finishing places - 100 for first, 90 for second etc. This race, being the grand finale, earned more points). Due to the drop off of competitors after fifth place, my thirteenth place finish combined with my third place finish at Telfes, Austria earned me a thirteenth place finish in the overall Grand Prix. 13th place, twice in one day... how luck am I!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I doubt that anybody checks this anymore since I've, stopped adding posts, so I'll just write to myself for a few paragraphs....

I made the trip from Norway back to Italy where I raced the very next week. I came in 9th at Susa which is nothing to complain about by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly not where I was only a few weeks earlier while competing in Austria and Slovenia. I raced as hard as my body would allow which really didn't even leave me tired following the race. Symptom - Past the Peak. It happens to all of us if we push ourselves long enough. You race well. You race well again. You begin to feel indistructible and then the next week, you start to slip. Maybe it was just a bad race. Then the following week the same, but worse. Susa was the third week in a row of slipping back. Feeling like I was loosing fitness even though my training was the same, my diet was the same, etc.. I had the same feeling last year. My solution was to slow everything down since I thought that my body was exhausted and simply needed a rest. When that didn't work, I complained to my friend Martin, who has been at this much longer than I have. He told me that I had it opposite. When the going gets tough, you have to pick up the miles.

So that's what I did. I refrained from biking from race to race. I took the train to Geneva and have been basing myself from here for the past month. My good friend Jess (who rode Rocinante back from South America to the States for me) left his door open to me to come and go at will. For three weeks I ran morning and night (something I have never bothered doing). Where my normal weeks consist of maybe 50-65 miles, I up-ed the distance to 90-ish. My initial worry was that my body would not be able to cope with the new work load, just a couple days in, I found that my summer of biking, training and racing has only increased its risiliance. I trained in Chamonix for a little while - running up to many of the beautiful lookouts that the valley has to offer. After training in Chamonix I traveled the short distance into Switzerland for ten days. I competed in a 'cheese race' near where the world trophy was held the week before the race. I came in third overall which did not earn me any cheese at all even though I wanted and deserved a wheel all to myself (placing in the overall group eliminated me from my age group - where the big cheese is won). I instead got sausage and a loaf of bread that had the consistancy of dark matter. From there, I traveled the short distance to Crans-Montana where the World Trophy was being held only a few days later. Since I arrived a few days before the free lodging was available, I camped at the edge of town and made the best of my time by reading, pacing, contemplating watches and swiming in the beautiful lakes. The rest of the American team finally arrived and we set off to preview the course.

The general consensus was that there was too much flat and not enough dirt for it to be considered a 'mountain course' but my thoughts on the matter were that everybody has to run the same course. Just like the weather - people want good weather, or rain, cloud cover, mud, sun, wind. In the end, everybody has to run the same course and you just compete against eachother and the elements together.

Come race day, the discussion of the lack of vertical or the amount of pavement to be found on the World Trophy course was lost amidst the steal grey drisle, the gasping for air, the perfectly planted rows of pinot noir bulging for the harvest and the ever-present thwoping of the helicopter blades just overhead. Still early enough in the race, the unbroken stream of runners worked its way up the mountain side -red, green, white, yellow, blue, black- jersies from thirty-nine countries. With the strongest men's team ever represented by the United States, I found myself in the top fifth of the field within meters of all five of my teammates. I knew we had a strong team before the trophy - my qualifying time up Mount Washington which earned me a 25th place finish in Turkey would have placed me behind all five of my teammates this year (and then some).

Simon lead the pack for the first couple kilometers. Eric Blake took over from there, then Joe Gray and then myself. I was most happy to see our fifth and sixth men, Matt Byrne and Zack Freudenberg so close. In the past, our team has fallen off at the third and fourth man. Joe and I stuck close together for much of the middle section of the course where, true enough, the terrain was reminiscent more of a road/cross country course than a mountain race. I fed off of Joe, knowing that his recent track background would keep his legs moving faster than mine were accostomed to. When the climbing started up again, I took the lead for the American men and the spectators off the side informed me of my 13th place position.
Half way.
The pain was more intense than any other race I've run. I've felt that bad before within meters of the finish, but not 30 minutes from the finish. I stayed focused and tried to think of nothing other than the runners in front of me. The leaders of the race were within view only minutes earlier which told me that I was either making a big mistake and would eventually blow up or that the extra miles had indeed paid off. Again, I found myself battling with the Cani Morti from Italy. The Hirsuit Mufloni. The well-thatched pelt of Marco Gaiardo. We'd gone at it twice already this year. His season is as long as mine and I know that he must be just as tired. For half an hour I focused on his shoes trotting along one foot infront of me. I watched an Engish runner pass us and two minutes later come sailing back. One of the three runners from Uganda also came flying back (the first was stunted by the very first hill). I would not pass the Cani Morti because I could not. I was asking so much more of my body just to be near him.

I crossed the line in 12th place - 2:17 seconds behind the winning time of Jonathon Wyatt. Within moments Joe was behind me, then Eric, then Simon, Zack and Matt. Simon looked dissapointed from his 25th place finish, but when an official came out of the timing van by the finish line and held three fingers in the air, indicating our third place finish, he was all smiles.
It has meant so much to me to medal for the US. To 'lead' the team is a completly different feeling - one I can't claim to have ever felt before. For the past several years, running has been about me and only me. I don't mean this as a form of ego (though I don't deny that aspect of it), but rather that it is something that exhists more in my mind than anywhere else. It has taken me places that I never thought I'd go. I. Me. I. Me. Never Us. But then it was Us and I knew that it was good.

Anna Pichrtova was kind enough to transport a six liter bottle of champagne 1/2 way across Europe for me to the sight of the World Trophy. Two months ago, something inside me told me that there would be a good reason for sharing it. It was consumed by the American in half the time that it took to run the race.
I took this past weekend off from running and traveled to London wonderful friend Bri instead. She gets the blue ribbon for Americans guiding Americans around London. This coming weekend I'll face many of the same top guys in Bavaria, and again in Slovenia the week after. I'll be riding my bike again - getting from race to race and then hopefully a trip down the coast of Croatia.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Christian Prestegard picks me up at the bus stop outside Oslo and we immediately start on the five hour drive to Turtagro where the first of two races will take place that I have been invited to in Norway. The time in the car gives him plenty of time to tell me all about the mountain racing scene here in Norway, it's recent birth and growth and much about Jon Tvedt - Norway's greatest mountain runner. "He has an incredible capacity," Christain says. Being the number man that he is, this "incredible capacity" is accompanied by an oppresive number of statistics: 94 VO2 Max, 29:00 1ok, #4 in the world for orienteering, and the number of races that he has won, year after year, in mountain running here in Norway, each of them by five, ten even fifteen minutes. We stop along the way to do some "marketing" as Christian says which means stapling posters of Jon Tvedt and the dates of certain races to power-line poles in the middle of Nowhere, Norway.

At 9:30pm we arrive in Turtagro to run the first part of the course. At 10:30 we're back at the car and the sun is just going down. It's finally dark by 11:15 only to be light again a few hours later.

The first of the two races starts off at 800m/2400ft, going flat for 4k and then climbing steep (20%-35%) for 4.5k to finish off at 2064m/6300ft. Jon Tvedt proves his strength by taking the race out from the start and finishing first, two minutes ahead of my second place finish. At one point during the flat section of the course, I watched from 10m back as he ran around a small, but impermeable, herd of cattle. The schrubs tripped him up and he dissapeared into the thick of the bushes for what seemed like several seconds. I have to admit to being a little dissapointed when he poked his head back up and retained his position.

Checking out of hotel and paying my tab I am shocked to see that the total for my three beers that I consumed over three days added up to $54.00. No typo. So begins my Norweigen beer fast.

Another five hours in the car with Christian gives him even more time to talk about Norweigen Mountain Running. He is the self-proclaimed father of mountain running in Norway (to his credit, Jon Tvedt happens to agree) and is no less than incessant with his calls to the radio, television, newspapers, magazines and websites... exactly what the sport needs in every country asspiring to achieve what only a few nations have in the sport of mountain running. He knows that access to money is one of the biggest draws to any sport, and the next race has this and more.

We arrive at the Alexandria Hotel in Loen, Norway. longest fjords in Norway, this five star hotel has everything I've ever needed to slow me downSituated only 50 feet from one of the and make me fat: a spa with three different saunas, six aromatherapy showers, five hot tubs, a water slide and my personal favorite, the cold bath (fed directly from a 40° underground spring). The buffett leaves me not wanting for even a waffer, thin minty and a constant supply of coffee returns me to my normal quota of 5-10 cups per day.

Tuesday. I run the course finding it even more difficult than the last. 1800m/6000ft climb over only 8k/5miles. The record, held by Jon Tvedt, stands at 1:08.37 which after running the course in preparation, I take very seriously. After getting down from the summit of Skala, where the race will finish on Saturday, the owner of the hotel asks if I'd like to fill a spot in the helicopter that's headed right back up to the summit with supplies for the race. A five minute helicopter ride later and I find myself right back on top of the mountain. Little did I know that I'd have to walk the 6000ft back down again.

Race day. Several of us have our mind set on one thing in this race and that is the 25,000kr to win and 35,000kr for breaking the record for a total of about $12,000.00 (enough to pay off my student loans and put a new engine in my volkswagon bus). There is Jon Tvedt... and also there is Jonothan Wyatt. Wyatt is the gold standard in the world of running... or absolute zero, which is to say something that you can approach but not achieve. He is used as a gauge for most of the top runners to see where there fitness lies. It's not uncommon to hear runners talking about their achievments (with a great amount of pride, might I add) as "two minutes back from Jono," "five minutes back from Wyatt," etc.. He races smart. He has ten years of mountain running experience behind him, two Olympic teams and list of PR's showing just how well rounded he is as a runner.

Jono is a minute ahead by kilometer two and I am out of the race. My only hope is to maintain my fourth position, but the circulation in my legs is so restrained, I know it can only be one thing, with only one cure. I stop, hunch over and begin working on untieing the bullet-proof double-knots in my shoes. I've made the same amatuer mistake before - tying my shoes too tight. One runner passes me, another one and another. By the time I get them loosened to how I want them, I've fallen back to eighth place and nothing to do but start realing them back in again. With only two kilometers to go, I've recaptured fifth place, but the Norweigen at my heels shows no sign of pulling up. Through massive boulders where the running appears more like hopscotch as you jump from rock to rock, landing, regaining your balance, looking for the next rock, I have to wonder what the front of the race is looking like. Jono is fast, but Jon Tvedt is capable of running all out through a boulder field like this. On to the steepest section, where for the first time in my life, I am forced to walk in a race, I finally manage to shake the Norweigen from my tail. Joseph Gray, who will also be racing the Mountain Running Trophy in Switzerland, finish fifteen seconds ahead of me.

The race between Jon Tvedt and Jono was apparently quite exciting as Tvedt took the lead just past the boulders where I had resorted to walking. The last 800meters though were flat enough for Wyatt to take back the lead and win the race with a ten second margin, but missing the record by only four seconds (four very costly seconds). The race organizer has added an additional $2,000.oo to next years purse and hopes for it to be up to $20,000.00 in just a few years time.

Another great meal at the Hotel Alexandria and a good night's sleep before heading back to Oslo and then on to Italy.

Back in Italy. My bottom does not take kindly to the bike saddle's return. Maybe it's the Piedmonte heat or the complete lack of padding (fat) that my toosh has assumed. I stubournly leave my shirt off all day while I'm on the bike and suffer a severe burn up and down my backside that has got me sleeping on my stomach for several days.

I have the wonderful opportunity to ride through the Barolo wine region of Italy - famous for some of Italy's highest quality (and hence, most expensive) wines. I drink what's given to me, then pass out face down on the bed.

A train ride (or rather three) brings me to the very place where this post is being written: Susa, Italy: home of one of the great mountain races in Europe. Beyond being a great predictor of how one might run three weeks later at Worlds, it is simply one of the greatest courses one can find in mountain running. The start takes you through the town of Susa, beneath Roman arches and over cobblestone streets. From there you go up through another small town and onto a rocky path that climbs and climbs through the notoriously hot Italian heat. Into the trees, you begin to pass through the section of the course that maintains the reason the course has been held for the past 25 years. In this section, a battle was fought between the underground Italian army and the Germans in 1944. The Italians won and the race is a commemoration of thier victory and the soldiers that died. The race finishes on 3k of flat dirt road.

Here with me is a complete American team (3 members for this race). Simon Gutierrez who boasts the fastest American time for the course and the 16th fastest time ever, Joseph Gray and myself.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Slovenia into Italy. Race in Austria. On to Norway.

I reluctanly peddled away from the base of the the Grintovec mountain in Slovenia with a hangover and tired legs... not so much from the 6000 vertical foot ascent of the mountain, as the 6000 foot descent of the mountain. This is not uncommon for many of the mountain races here in Europe. Finish the race having given it your all. Turn around and walk down.

Biking the short distance through northern Slovenia towards Italy, I at first encountered another touring cyclist who measured two heads taller than me and about 100 pounds heavier. Max and I rode together for few hours before I left him in the dust on the ascent up and over a bridge. Only a short while later on the same day a different Slovenian cyclist rode up beside me and began talking. We rode and talked for the next couple hours. Roman was a policeman for several years before switching over to being a fireman. He bought me a beer in the next town and even offered to watch my bike while went into the market for some grocery shopping (pringles and beer). I camped that night in the Triglav National Park at the base of Slovenia's tallest mountain.

It took two more days of hard biking over one more Slovenian pass and several Italian passes to finally reach Telfes, Austria by Thursday evening. I worried up until the morning of the race on Sunday whether my legs would "switch over" from biking to running. Walking up the stairs they felt heavy and tired. Waking in the morning they were sore and every once in a while a muscle would cinch up without any warning.

The race: Up one of the many ski hills in the Stubai Valley just outside of Insbruck - 1300m/4000ft ascent over 10.5k/6.5miles. The profile didn't bother me so much as the start list. In Europe there is a "Grand Prix" for mountaia running - about five races over the course of the summer in Austria, Germany, Slovenia and sometimes Italy and Switzerland. Many of the best mountain runners show up to race, accumulate points and by the end of the season the person with the most amount of points wins the overall grand prix. The men's field included Jonothan Wyatt (#1 NZ), Marco Gaiardo (#2 Italy), Marcus Kroell (#1 Austria), Robert Krupicka (#1 Czeck Republic), and other top runners from France, Poland, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The race started off somewhat fast as the lead group (which I was hardly a part of) weaved through Metropolitan Telfes (pop. 570), into the wheat fields and to the base of the mountain. At the third kilometer I was in 11th place. My legs "switched over" shortly after and as we left the trees and moved into the meadow that marks the halfway point I found myself in second place, ten meters ahead of Marco Gaiardo. We exchanged places several times over the second half of the race. Approaching the final 50 meters of the race he had a good lead on me which I was nearly successful in closing but ended up losing by less than a second and settled for third place.

They served Kaiserschmarrn which is Germana for chopped pancakes with fruit preserves (apple sause). I had three servings. Then walked down. I traveled by train from Insbruck to Bolzano where I stayed with a friend who collects the following: barbed wire, letters (as in A, C, G etc.), bottles, mountaineering books, creamer tops, alpine club identification cards, beer mugs, climbing helmets, ice axes, pins and other things.

I'm at a different friend's house now about 80k away at the base of some of Italy's highest mountains. His beautiful house is converted from an old (in Europe, old is very old) hay barn - doors from the 1600's, a stove from the early 1800's etc. Tomorrow I leave for Bergamo where I will stay with an Italian family that I met last year. The father bailed out the US team for a Sky Relay race by running the marathon portion for us. And on Thursday I will travel to Norway for two races over the next couple of weeks. These races start deep in the fjords - one actually at sea level and finish high up on the nearby mountain tops.

The biking is keeping me very fit and allowing me to consume several thousands of calories per day. I'm regularly eating a half quart of yogurt in the morning mixed together with musli as part of my complete breakfast.

Thank you for the posts and e-mails. I appologize if I am not keeping in touch with people all that well. It is very difficult for me to get to a computer here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bike arrives... 500k of biking. 2 Races.

Where do I begin...

July 17th

My bike arrives a day after I do. I put the pieces together. Everything fits. Nothing broken. I ride through costums (quite literally) where they don't even bother to check my passport. The days of stamps in Europe are a thing of the past apparantly. Swiss Air reinburses me 150 swiss francs for my inconveniences which pays for my night in Zurich and the train on to Austria.

My first ride is at 7pm. Rain. I wake in the morning. Put my bike on the train for about 40k, getting off at the begining of the Grossglockner Highway. Only 40k to go to Heiligenblut - the sight of the first mountain race that I competed in last year and again this year. I failed to look at the map and quickly found myself riding up a 15% grade that would go on for over eight miles. Four hours later I finally arrive at the hotel - fall asleep on the bed still in my bike clothes. Martin Cox - a good friend and accomplished mountain runner of ten years arrives a few hours later. 'This isn't a suite. They promised us a bloody suite.' I'm not complaining though.

July 20th
'Hup, hup, hup! Bravo! Soupair!' The Austrian fans are staggered throughout the 13k course, chearing, clapping, giving out their own water to the athletes. I am in the same position I was last year for this race. 4th place, battling with Marcus Kroll - the number one Austrian mountain runner (he has his own line of running socks). Just like last year, I am leading, pushing the pace and he is only a step behind. I love races like this. It feels as close to a boxing match as I might ever know first hand. Last year, with only 500m to go (and 250 vertical meters, I might add) Marcus left me in the dust. I was told after the race that you should never let it come down to a steep climb with Marcus. He is much too talented. So, as we are approaching the final climb again, him and I, I essentially forfeited my position. But to my surprise, he does not take it. He falls back little by little and before I realise it, I have a 30 second lead over him. I take 4th again, like last year, behind the usual suspects of European mountain running - Jonathon Wyatt from New Zealand (who not only wins nearly every race, but also owns the course record for nearly every big mountain race in Europe), Marco Gaiardo from Italy and Robert Krupicka of the Czeck Republic. My time is a full four minutes faster than last years time. The race organizers ask about Merritt who was with me last year for this race - weloming us both back to the event again next year.
July 23rd
Its a three day ride onto Slovenia from Grossglockner. I find myself enjoying the leisurely pace that is mandatory with touring. 15mph if you're really pushing it. Up mountain passes, I've looked at the speedometer noticing 7... 6 kph. Usually I don't bother converting this into mph as it can get rather depressing... but about 4 mph is about right.

The first night out of Grossglockner I manage to find a window/cave halfway through a backroads tunnel just big enough to lay out my sleeping bag. Not a car passed through the entire night and just below me I had the roaring of a high mountain stream going past. The next night I find a nice flat spot just off the 7th hole of a golf course to pitch my tent. I pray through the night that the Austrians are as good at golfing as they are at skiing... at least enough to not hit a stray shot into the tent.

The border through to Slovenia was anticlimatic - half way through a one mile long tunnel, which was nice only for the break in the rain. As I begin riding through Slovenia and at first only want to cover some ground, I get on the super-highway only to be pulled over by a the police a few kilometers down the road. He gets out of his car and already I can see the broken english being chewed around in his mouth. He gives me a verbal lashing then sends me on my way... off the highway.
By the end of the day I arrive at the race sight for the next race - Grintovec. 10k in length and 2000 meter climb. This is like going climbing Pikes Peak from Manitoe Springs in six miles rather than 13.

July 28th

I took the race out from the start and had only a Polish runner at the front matching my lead. One quarter of the way into the race he falls off my pace and by half way I knew that I had the win. The race was delayed five minutes as the organizers waited for a weather forcast from the airport to let them know if it was okay to finish the race on the top of the mountain - the traditional finish line. As I topped out with 40% of the race left to go, I could see why the weather is so important. No roads, no chairlifts. Nothing. Once you finish, you have to turn around and walk/run back down. Luckly there was a man at the top with a bottle of snapps for me to nip off of before the descent.

In addition to the prize money, I was awarded a six liter bottle of Slovenian sparkling wine - that's the equivalent to eight bottles. Luckly a friend has a car and will be able to take it to the next race sight where many more runners will be able to help me drink it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

i've arrived... my luggage however...

it's not the first time i've stood at the luggage carosel after all the bags have quite clearly been unloaded, hoping that one more bag (ie. mine) might make it's way on to the conveyor belt. the large cardboard box containing my trek 520 is likely to be in chicago while i am in zurich. hum. i've made the best of it though and checked into a hostel here. i changed into my short shorts and ran around the city. people were out barbequeing, swimming, eating and drinking. i came across an accordion player performing the rachmaninov 3rd piano concerto under a bridge in town. i think that with enough practice, he might some day be able to play as well as i.

okay. say a prayer for my bike... where ever it is in the world. that it may sprout a pair of winds and meet me soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

leaving for europe...

i’m writing this from the laundry-mat in boulder, waiting for my last load of clean clothes for the next few months. my bike is boxed up and i said a special prayer for it so that it might arrive in zurich on wednesday unscathed. a final massage earlier today. two new pairs of running shoes. a flask of mezcal. good to go.