Archive for June, 2011

The sad skys of NM

June 29, 2011 sky in Abiquiu from fires.

What seems like a beautiful orange sunset sky was taken about 5pm yesterday of the smoke and fire of Los Alamos as seen from my driveway in Abqiuiu. Notice you can’t see the pedernal, and most of the mountains are not visible.

The fire continues to rage and burned 145 square miles, or 92,735 acres. It is posed to become the largest fire in the history of NM which was the Dry Lakes Fire, 94,000 acres in Gila National Forest, 2003.

I have started taking 3 showers a day and washing my arms and face and that of my dogs constantly. I stink of smoke just going outside for a few minutes. Of course running is out of the question and I am considering looking for a gym membership or for a cheap treadmill to put in my house so I can run. Hummm, I like the home dreadmill idea.

I found the NM EPA air quality website, which has loads of information most of which you have to go to other websites to interpret the data, but most easy is to just look outside and see that the visibility is crap.

Yesterday I was in the El Rito Library, 13 miles north of Abiquiu and the strange orange sky started getting really wild and the library closed the library at 3:30. I went outside and it was like a crazy wizard of oz scene, here are 10 seconds of it.

So sadly my friends are not coming to visit this weekend. We had plans of hiking, running and outdoor playing but all the National Parks are closed and the air quality is too poor to be outdoors. But maybe I will take a road trip up north to CO and do a bit of mountain running!


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Forest Fires

Los Alamos Fire on June 26, 2011

Just a quick update from the parking lot of North Western NM community college in Espanola where I caught their wireless. I have not run since Sunday, the fires have blanketed us in smoke and ash. Over 70,000 acres, 109 square miles have burned in 3 days, the biggest scare is Los Alamos National labs going up. Apparently there are 30,000 barrels of radioactive waste waiting for transport.
Anyhow I am staying indoors painting my house with clay based paint feeling like I am turning into a fat slob not running. But being a fat slob I can correct, getting lung cancer or some radioactive skin disease I can’t.

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Heart Rate Training, Roy Benson and Declan Connolly

I was talking to a friend about heart rate monitoring. The great training tool that can become confusing and improperly used if not understood. I suggested she buy the newly published “Heart Rate Training” book by Coach Roy Benson and Dr. Declan Connolly published by Human Kinetics. I knew I could recommend this book because Roy was my coach and he has an excellent manner of explaining things along with a quick wit. I thought I better buy the book too since I was recommending it.

I received the HR training book a couple of days ago and just like I thought, Coach Roy’s humor comes through as he clearly simplifies the important points of HR training. He explores the myths around the mathematic formulas for calculating HR MAX and why they are not accurate, giving examples of the formulas being off by as much of 35 bpm, which would radically, hinder your training. And because so many people are math challenged or math lazy he provides charts of percentage of maximum hear rate from 100% max down to 60% max. Coach Roy and Dr. Declan provide conversion charts for periodized training, information and protocols for walking, running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, rowing, cross-country skiing and team sports. I primarily focused on the science of hr training and the specific training modes, endurance, stamina, economy speed and power.

I have read a tremendous amount about training over the years but the manner in which it is written about here and thoroughly explained makes this book far more valuable than most a whole collection that I have on the subject. There is only one thing I am still thinking about and I may give Roy a call to ask him this, and that is adjusting for altitude. I completed 4 weeks of running here and after a lot of suffering in the heat I decided to just run 4 miles every day, the same route, the same time if possible, until it gets earlier and once a week throw in about 10 x 100m hill sprints.

Yesterday I could not run until 4:00pm and it was 98º, not even the dogs were moving. I ran my 4 miles, adding 2 minutes to my time but I felt surprising great after finishing despite breathing as if I just all out sprinted 100 meters with a pack of wild coyotes chasing me. I hope this pays off at sea level because I sure am working hard for just a minimal amount of mileage.

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The Hitchhiker

This morning I caught up on all NYC things with my friend Les and I tried to explain what it is like living here, outside of Abiquiu. My best example is to watch the movie “Off the Map” which looks and feels just like the area I am in.  Just don’t confuse it with “Off the Grid-Life on the Mesa” that is a whole other NM story. But that got me thinking about what to write about today; my running which is getting a touch easier, my hike yesterday and the massive forest fire that started 20 miles south of us, how the truck that broke down on our way to pick up new studio doors and we had to push it, and then, the subject presented itself right on the side of the road.

I had driven to Bodes to get the newspaper and a Popsicle. As I turned onto County Road 142, the 10-mile stretch that I live on, I see a man, deep brown skin from the sun, grey polyester dress pants, a plaid cowboy shirt, a foot to knee black cast, and a big stick. He was hunched over the stick not wearing a hat in 90-degree direct noon sun. He did not have to put out his thumb before I knew I was going to pick him up. I stop and put the dogs in the back seat. The man takes what seemed to be 3 minutes to fold  himself into my car. With a big smile and a firm handshake he said “Hi, I’m Johnny I was just coming from the bar.” This man has a real dedication to alcohol because Johnny lives 5 miles down in the road and the bar where one buys package liquor was mile in the other direction. In NM you buy liquor directly from a bar and the one by me, Los Caminos, has a drive up window so you don’t have to go in.

Somehow Johnny got himself to the bar and bought a pint of whisky. As he unbuttons his right chest pocket he asks me if I want a drink. As enticing as that sounds (sarcasm!) I tell him “no, thanks” and keep eating my Popsicle.  Johnny then politely asks me if I mind if he has a drink. I said, “no, of course not”

As I drive Johnny home I learn that he was drunk and tripped over a dog breaking his ankle. He is the oldest of 11 children and the only one not married, he lives with his mother and father with the rest of his siblings in a little compound of trailers. Today all the kids were at mom and dads for father’s day and he just had to get away from them all, “especially his mother,” he said. Now mom does not like him to drink so after he took a few swallows from his pint he hid the bottle inside his cowboy boot. It was  hard to tell how old Johnny is, maybe 40 with about 30 years of hard drinking behind him. I almost asked but decided against it. He had the typical alcoholic nose and his body was a wreck, he could barely get in or out of my car, how he could have walked the 6 miles in this heat with a broken ankle would be a huge mystery. Johnny seemed like a happy guy and it made me happy to take him home. He is a neighbor after all. Just this morning I ran past his family’s home. Who knows maybe one day after dogs chase me and am I ready to drop in the heat I will have to stop by Johnny’s and get a glass of water. I doubt he would remember who I am; he has probably already forgotten he received a ride home.

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13 Mile Photos

I took a couple of photos along the 12.27 mile route I ran last Sunday,  County Road 554 from Abiuiu to El Rito, NM. You can see how steep, hot and dry it is. The elevation at mile 1 was 5931′ at mile 13 it was 6880′ so it was only about 1000 foot grain but it felt brutal. I am claiming all 13 miles because I started then ran back home to check something and began again.  Elevation, heat, and I am certain dehydration made it all the harder.

This is what my backyard looks like. You can see why it is tough to run anywhere fast. Today I decided to change things up and run 100m hill sprints. I warmed up for 1.5 miles and it put me on a relatively firm dirt path to run up. I ran 6 x 100. The elevation gain for each 100m was 60′. So if I calculated it right 60’/300′ x 100 is 20%. It had a 20% gain, a nice little set up sprints which maxed out my HR.

This is the main area I run. This is the mountain right behind my house and it has a lot of trails. It is a constant up and down but really beautiful.

Studio update: I bought all my windows yesterday for the studio and I will pick up the doors tomorrow. I was going to hike on Saturday but just learned we are headed out to some guys land to pick up volcanic rock for the walls. There will be three of us spending the entire day loading up the truck with rocks to make 5′ tall walls. The shoulders and arms of my shirts are already getting tight!

If you feel the urge to come out and run, carry some rocks, or help clean out the arroyo of things that should not be there you are most welcome!


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Running, Pancakes, and Building

Sunday was a big day, pancake breakfast benefit for the El Rito Library. That is 13 miles from my house and I decided to run there. I knew it would not be pretty, and it wasn’t. I would be running from 6000 up to 7000 feet of elevation in those 13 miles, I would also be in direct sunlight at 80 some degrees. Three weeks ago I ran a half marathon in 1:44 at sea level, based on how my running has been going at altitude, I figured I would be happy to run this in 2 hours. I did, I ran in 2:01 but the steady upward climb was killing me to the point that in the last 1.5 miles I had to give myself walk breaks. It was hot, I had no water and it felt like pulling a tire behind me. I can’t say I was tired because that is not accurate, I was just done; there was no gas in the tank. I arrived at the church where the benefit was held and was welcomed with a pile of pancakes, bacon and fresh real maple syrup. yummmmmmmm. I got a ride home.

Other news. The footing on my studio is complete. What a beautiful fulfilling process. Fernando, a 20 year old neighbor from Mexico and I dug the footing, 3′ deep and 15″ wide with a pick and a shovel.  The footprint is 26′ x 24′. The next day we went to the arroyo, a dry riverbed, and pulled out 4-monster truck loads of big rocks. On the third day, Fernando, Felipe (whose stone house I bought), Mario and I poured the foundation. We worked really fast. A thin layer of cement about 6′ long is poured into the trench, we layer the biggest rocks first then put small ones in the corners, repeating this until the trench is filled. It takes 3 to 4 layers, and then we go onto the next 6′ section. At one point we ran out of gravel to mix the mortar and had to drive over to another arroyo to dig gravel. Obviously most building materials come from the earth but it is a far different experience digging it out of the land yourself rather than going to Home Depot or Lowes to it. It is far more fun and physical.

I continue to make small 6″ x 9″ drawings. I have 7 complete and at some point will have paper shipped out here to work on. But the way I feel so far, I never want to leave.

Just a little p.s. I still have no dsl or cell service which today is driving me wild but the mud and shit covered dogs are happy.

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Running, Hiking and Playing in Abiquiu

Less than two week I have been in NM. My 4-mile run last night turned into 6.4 because I had to retrieve the hat I left hanging on a tree mid run because I was too hot. I was only going to run 4 because it is so much effort. My pace averaged just under 10:00 miles. There is a 5k in two weeks and unless I can run some 7:00 miles on the track there is no way I will do it. The terrain I am running these slow miles on is really steep and sandy so I am hoping some flat track could be quicker.

Saturday I hiked to Gold Hill in Taos with the Sierra Club, two of the six others I hiked with back in 2005. One endearing thing about Sierra Club is they vet you before coming on a hike. They grill you to make sure you are up to the 12 mile, 3411′ gain, peak at 12,711elevation and for good reason. I passed the test.

The hike starts at 9477′ elevation from the Taos ski valley. It was a rocky steep climb for the first 45 minutes, about one mile. After 1.5 hours we came it a gorgeous meadow surrounded by snow-covered mountains where we took a snack break. On our way to the peak, another 1.5 hours, we trudged through hip deep snow. Some of the group stopped to put gaiters on over their long pants, I stayed in shorts, I liked the cold on my legs. When we got above tree line there was a herd of big horn sheep that was super cool. They just looked at us 7 humans and 2 dogs and went about their grazing. We climbed to the top through some massive wind. On the whole, the altitude, the elevation gain and the rocks were nothing, but the wind was blowing me right over, that was a tough. At the summit there is a little three-sided rock wall to shelter. We climbed inside and ate our lunch. You could see Wheeler Peak to the south and Colorado Mountains to the north.

Today I got the bid for building my new studio. Stone foundation up to 5′, topped off by adobe brick up to 11′. I will have south facing passive solar large windows, a barn style sliding doors to bring equipment in and out, and wood doors to the west and north. The north door will eventually be connected to a guesthouse. The roof will be tin with an insulated ceiling. I will be working with Felipe to build it. The rock walls  are  lava and very heavy. We are going to a neighbor’s property to pull it off his land. The mortar for the house will be mud rather than concrete because it is warmer and the floors adobe. It is going to be magnificent and open to printmakers everywhere! And anyone who is interested in learning how to build you are welcome to come help and camp out at my house. Printmakers are invited to trade work time for studio.  Felipe gave me a bid but said he will “pay” me for each hour I work and take it off the total. This all feels like magic.

and of course my dogs are happy with it all.

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First Few Days in Abiquiu

I wrote a post on Sunday about how much harder it is to run at altitude. I did not post it yet because I did not have Internet access. I am abbreviating that post and adding an overview of the last five days.

I ran only three times, 3.5 miles, 4.7 miles and 6 miles. The altitude makes my HR much higher. For example I ran an easy 15 miles, 9:00 pace, with a HR of 148 in NYC, I huffed and puffed 6 miles here on Sunday barely managing to average 9:40 pace with a HR of 160. In NYC a 160 HR would be a 7:00 mile pace. It is a strange feeling, my legs feel good, I am rested, but the altitude makes respiration and HR much faster. I can see it in my dogs too, Conrad is breathing fast and Homer just can’t chase the ball like he usually does.  But the exciting thing is running at altitude is going to make huge improvements to my aerobic economy and pushing myself over all those hills I can just feel the mitochondria proliferating. I expect that in 3-4 weeks it will level out.

I arrived Wednesday at my small stone house in Abiquiu, NM, 45 miles north of Santa Fe and at 6000 feet altitude. My summer plans include running, drawing and building a studio. I have only been at my house once before which was last summer for two weeks, it was totally empty except for the dogs beds and two dogs to go in those bed which I drove out, 2100 miles.

I have already made several friends.  My second night I was invited to a birthday party where I was the only non-Spanish speaker. I ended up mostly communicating with the dogs but it was fun. But I was happy to be invited. Then there is the weird stuff. A 20ish year old guy, his mom, and daughter came by. First my house is very hard to find, it is in an arroyo, a river bed, three sides are surrounded by earth, but it is a famous house built by a famous guy in the area. (It was his birthday party). The family, Carlos, Carmella, and unknown daughter’s name came by because they like to look at my house. I have no idea how they found it. They stayed for a long time showing me photos on their I-phone of another brothers drawings, telling me about their 200 year old adobe house, just chit chatting. What was really cool was Carlos and his brother hand paint lowriders and he showed me a video of some really sweet cars. When they left they all hugged me. Why? I have no idea. Then at the El Rito Library plant sale, several people introduced themselves to me, three of which turned out to be neighbors, one of those three is the mother of the tattoo artist who owns the shop in NYC, East Side Ink, where I get my work done. I have an open invitation to stop by her house any time I want, which I intend to do as it is on my running route. I met Ann a master gardener who designed and maintains one of my very rich neighbor’s gardens. It is a vacation house for a guy from NJ. She asked if I paint landscapes and invited me to come to his house and paint in the gardens. I don’t make work like that but I will go there to see these magnificent creations. And finally on my quest for furniture I was told I must go see Linda who lives across the road and has barns of super high-end stuff from when she had a store. Turns out Linda is mother of designer Todd Oldham. I have a great network started in just a couple of days and I think I will end up with some really awesome furniture. Now I just need to meet some runners, which may be much harder to find.

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