Thursday, May 21, 2015

Change of Perspective

~by Jim Bendis

I decided to run Kauai’s Napali Coast yesterday.  This is one of the most brutal and scenic trails in the world.  22 miles round trip.  Most people plan months and come from around the world and take 3 to 5 days to go back and forth, camping along the way.  Some opt to go one way.  I really didn’t want to get one of the few permits to camp.  I really didn’t want to wear a big backpack either.  Simple solution, run in and out in one day...  so, I thought.  Plan was to get up early, zip out and back in time to support and listen to my neighbor’s band play on Anini Beach. 

Now, I am not stupid.  I had run to the 6 mile point and back before. (Run is a very liberal word here.  It is really more like run what I could, walk when brutally steep or too scary a cliff, or bounce over boulders trying to keep feet dry in the many muddy sections or crossing any of the many gorgeous stream crossings….) Oh, I am back to the part where I was saying that I am not stupid.  I was prepared.  Had my camelback as full as water as possible.  Had jerky-type steak bits, nut bars, dried fruit, and 2 soft water bottles filled with concentrated chai tea.  Oh, and my cell phone to take pics.  Everything I need, right??  Wrong.  I was missing the most important thing, “respect for the trail”.  

Got a late start.  Figured I could always miss the band, just as long as I made it back before dark.  I don’t like starting late.  I start rushing and trying to make up time.  I almost waited a day but reality is that I couldn’t go on a Monday because too much work waited.  Had to be Sunday.  Forecast was cloudy, cool, and gusty winds.  Oh well, gotta go.

The trail starts out familiar.  Very difficult, but I had been there, done that.  I’ve run marathons and ultra marathons.  I was prepared for a very long, difficult day.  After all, 22 miles on this trail was going to take me longer than a 50 mile ultra I had done before.  I would just be careful, pace myself, and take my time.  Thoughts going through my head are generally of the math type.  OK, don’t look at the cellphone clock until the 6 mile point.  Then multiply by 4, add an hour for lunch at the end point beach, and that’s how long it should take.  Passed some guy around milepoint 2.  He decided to catch up and jog and talk to me, only going for about another hour. Now, I am a social person, but this was my moving meditation time.  A time for myself.  So I picked up the pace and said, “enjoy”.  6 mile point time is 2:15 (I know, doesn’t sound like running.  You try it!!).  So, estimate 10 hours.  Back by dark.  You think you know where this story is going?  You are probably as wrong as I was.  

So, I am now in virgin territory.  Raining, windy, and feels cool to me as I was hoping for upper 70s and sunny.  Where are the people?  Oh, maybe the rain and wind kept people away.  OK, just keep up the pace to stay warm enough.  Keepin’ the pulse around 140.  Milepoint 7. I had no clue that my entire perspective of this outing, and life, would change just around the corner. 

Boom, I round the corner, and the fertile green trail was gone.  Everything was different.  Looked like a volcano blew, and there was a slide of loose stone with a 500 foot drop off to the ocean.  OMG, that’s putting it lightly. Ohhhhhh Myyyyyyy Godddddddd.  Maybe the others in hiking boots and poles knew of this.  Heart still pumping from the pace, but now adrenaline kicks in.  OK, I think, gotta go.  Other people do it.  Suddenly I am frightened.  Not just casually frightened but very, very, frightened.  I never thought I was afraid of heights.  I now realize that I am very, very scared.  Slipping on the loose rocks, I don’t know what to do.  It must get better around that corner I think.  I was so, so, wrong.  Traversing sideways on virtually all fours (not hands on the ground per se, more like hands digging into what is now a solid vertical lava rock wall).  Oh, and 40 mph whipping winds.  If I were to look up (too scared), I would see a 1000’ vertical lava cliff.  If I were to look down (too scared), I would see a vertical 500 foot drop straight to the ocean.  I realize I am now shuffling sideways on a 18 inch wide ledge with only thoughts of life and death.  No passing anyone on this ledge.  Too narrow.  I  know why the person I had seen moments earlier was simply whimpering.  Was that a tear in my eye?  Was I that scared?  Must have been a raindrop.   

This moment was the scariest moment of my life. Ok, there were a couple other stupid adventures in my life I must admit.  How many people die here?  This is stupid.  I can’t believe that this trail is even open, especially in this wind.  Why did I do this?  What am I going to do now?  Why didn’t I finish my will?  Will they find my cellphone in my ziplock when they find my body?  These thoughts weren’t funny as they were actually going through my mind.   

I finally made it around the rock ledge.  Now the brutal reality of the trail sunk in.  What lies ahead?  I can tell you now.  A few more scary, scary points.  Now, it is clear - I am not coming back this way.  For the next hour and a half I devised the scenarios.  Wind was terrible.  That’s why I am not going back.  I won’t make it back by dark.  That’s why I am not going back.  Some people go only one way.  That’s why I am not going back.  Pure reality was that why would I want to duplicate the scariest moment in my life?  I was nauseous, knowing I needed to eat but too sick to my stomach.  OK, when I get to the beach, I will hitchhike back, take a taxi back, I don’t care how I will get back, but I am not taking the trail back.  How much would I be willing to pay?  I know the taxi will be about $250.  I would pay ten times that much.  I am never, ever, ever, ever doing that trail again.   

I finally reach the beach.  11 miles done.  Fatigue has not really set in as life and death concerns are much more immediate.  Sign reads 11 miles back, camping and beach ahead, and other trailhead 2 miles to the left. Oh no!  I have to go 2 miles more to find out if I can get a ride?  There’s no cell service does that mean no taxi?  What if I go to trailhead and have no success?  That means 22 miles is now 26 miles and I have to traverse the ledge possibly in the dark?  Now, I am even more sick to my stomach.  I walk down the beach to where I see a few people.  “You know anybody getting a ride out from the trailhead today?”.  No, I heard twice.  

It was sinking in.  I had to go back and do it again.  I have to eat food.  I have to respect the trail.  I have to do it again.  Looked at my clock.  Only bright spot of the day.  If I live, I will make it back by dark.  Choked down a little food.  So, for the next 90 minutes or so heading back, I devise a possible plan for survival.  OK, this time, when I get to the 8 mile (and 14 mile) marker, I will stop, catch my breath, put all hand carry items in my Camelback, put my phone in zipper section, and have much more respect for the trail.   

The only thing positive I could think of as I traversed the first ledges was, “I never have to do this one again”.  It might be because I will never do the trail or it might because I might die on the really, really, really scary section up ahead.  How do other people do this? Am I just not cut out for this?  If the Kauai Gods don’t like me, I am about to find out.  If I had a 50% chance of dying the first time, and I do it again, what are my odds now?   

This time just before peeking around the most difficult windy ledge to make sure nobody is there, I hear a person repeating over and over to himself, “Hold onto the wall, hold onto the wall, hold onto the wall”.  Seems like obvious good advice.  My turn - “Hold onto the wall, hold onto the wall, hold onto the wall”.  Rounded the corner to the sliding rock section - I made it through the worst but more to come.  Made it through the sliding rock section.   

Finally at a place I can drop to the ground, I do so.  This time I know it isn’t raindrops in my eyes.  I managed to take the pictures from a safe spot.  (You still can’t see the death defying ledge around the corner.  Maybe you can get the idea though.)  The worst is over.  Now, it is time for the normal things to happen.  Rain, wind, slick rocks, normal scary ledges.  Fatigue, future lost toenails, raw back from pounding of Camelback, and the time warp of having the next miles feel ten times longer than on the way in.   

I can handle this type of pain.  This type of fatigue.  This type of time warp.  These are things I have experienced before.  But the fear, the fright, I have never had to deal with, especially twice.  Made it back in a round trip time of 9 hours including stops, even made it for the last song of Stuart’s band at Anini Beach.  Camelback was empty.  Still had food.  Brought back something I needed and didn’t start with.  Respect for the trail.  Will I ever do that trail again?  No!  Will I ever do that trail again if it is not windy, I respect the trail, go prepared, wear the right clothes, have the right hiking boots, poles, take my time, and camp?  An unequivocal NOOOOOOOOOO.  

Jim Bendis is a long time Bend tri geek and runner geek (over 100 tris and 300 running races), bouncing around between Bend, Palm Springs, CA and North Shore Kauai, when he's not distilling delicious libations at Bendistillery!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Walking for Wellness is back!

Such a beautiful day to start Walking for Wellness!
Saturday, April 18, 2015 marked the start of 2015 Walking for Wellness Program. It is co-sponsored by Foot Zone and St. Charles Cancer Survivorship Program.   Almost 30 eager walkers showed up on a beautiful morning to meet the challenge of preparing for the Heaven Can Wait 5K in June. About a third of the walkers were seasoned participants who have found friendship and fitness and so much more in the group.  Once Michelle Poirot, “our loving and fearless leader", did introductions and talked about expectations we warmed up and fell into a comfortable pace for everyone.   I think all walkers accomplished at least the distance they expected and all felt the importance of companionship for the journey.

After our walk, we join one another for coffee. Most everyone spent as much time socializing as we did walking. Most of us caught up on each other’s lives and all of us left with renewed and “new” friendships which are really the foundation of this group.

Thanks to Looney Bean for hosting our thirsty crew!
I hope everyone is anticipating our next walk. It’s still not too late if you’d like to join us. Check the St. Charles website for Walking for Wellness under available classes:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Walking for Wellness and So Much More!

Nancy Foss has been a devoted Walker for Wellness from the start.  She wrote this article last fall, but it sums up our walking group so well that it's worth posting now!  For more information and to sign up for Walking for Wellness, visit here. 

FootZone mentors are consummate professionals.
Walking for Wellness is the brainchild of Michelle Poirot and supported and sponsored by St. Charles Cancer Center and the FootZone. The 2014 program, geared for Cancer survivors and their caregivers, was started in March and ran for 18 weeks. We are lovingly and laughingly educated and inspired by Michelle.  Without her energy and caring support, our group would not have been so successful.

Most of us were looking for a structured group in which to find motivation and a way to sustain a workout program involving walking. Little did we know what we really found.  On our first walk we ventured about 25 minutes around Drake Park, and by the end of the first 6 weeks we had approached the 5K mark. All of us were amazed at our progress. We decided to participate in the Heaven Can Wait 5K Run/Walk on June 1st.

 To commemorate our group achievement I came up with this mantra:
Our first 5k at Heaven Can Wait!

We walk, we talk;

We share, we care;

We motivate, we caffeinate;

We walk for wellness and so much more!

Sweet rewards at La Magie.

I think I left out a key ingredient in the success of this program: coffee and socialization after our adventures! It has helped us all to bond and many of us have been here the entire 18 weeks and hope to continue walking together through the summer until Walking for Wellness starts again in the fall. 

We have discovered much about the trails around Bend as we’ve gone on several field trips to expand our range and terrain.  We were joined last spring by Katie Mital who has helped us by focusing our warm up on certain key points such as strength, balance, and core work. Not to mention she’s a fun addition to the group!

In mid-summer, five of us represented our group in the Tour des Chutes first-ever 5K Run/walk. It was hot, but we did the group proud. I hope to chronicle our adventures and also hope to encourage others to join us. Remember we walk for wellness and so much more. See you down the path!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Sneak Peak of the McLatchies' talk: Going the Distance

Jim and Carol McLatchie will be speaking at FootZone on April 2nd.  Get a sneak peak of their talk, below!  Please RSVP for the event.

Peak performances for months at a time are unrealistic.
Top efforts must be carefully planned.
The athletes need to set goals and believe in themselves, need to quit worrying about “what everyone else is doing”, concentrate on “what needs to be done.”

Cyclical patterns make the task easier.


1.   Introductory stage ( last 3 weeks of July )

2.   Basic cross-country stage (Aug - Sep, 8-9 weeks)

  1. Cross Country competitive stage ( October – November 8 weeks)
  2. Transitional period (2 weeks active rest)
  3. Track  basic stage (January – February, 7-8 weeks)

6.    Spring pre-competitive stage (March beginning of April, 4-5 weeks)

  1. First competitive stage ( April   3-4 weeks)
  2. Competitive period (May 3-4 weeks)

9.    Transitional period (4 weeks of June 1st week July)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

FootZone's 2015 Spike Day!

FootZone's 2015 Spike Day!

By Max King

Trainers for $100-$110
Twice a year we get to tout the speedier side of the running world with High School Spike Days. Spike Days for us represents our role in getting local high school athletes not just in spikes for competition but in the best training and competition shoes at an affordable price. Fitting people in good-fitting shoes is our passion and this extends to fitting local track athletes into the appropriate spikes and training shoes to give them the best chance at success. Competition and training shoes for track and field are as important as any performance shoe and it’s important to be fit by a professional for the proper fit and function.

When you come into the FootZone we’re there to help you figure out exactly which shoes will serve you the best through your track and field season. We’ll look at which events you plan to compete in, help to determine whether you need training shoes and/or competition shoes, and look at the fit of the various brands.
This season we’ve selected the best competition shoes from Brooks, Asics, Nike, and Saucony and carry shoes for every event on the track or the field.

The majority of an athletes time is spent during regular training so it’s important to have a good training shoe as well. We’ve hand picked a variety of great training shoes at $100 or under since we realize that value is important.

Saucony spikes

Spikes from Saucony include the Soarin J for jumping events, the Velocity for middle distance to distance, and the Spitfire for sprints. Saucony tends to run a bit more narrow but true-to-size in length.  

Asics spikes

The Turbo Jump highlights our selection from Asics and while a jump event shoe, it can be used for a multitude of different events, from pole vault, hurdles, and sprints, to jumps. Also available will be Hyper LD for distance, Hyper MD for middle distance, Hyper Rocketgirl for womens' middle distance, the Hyper Sprint, and the Hyper Throw for the throw events.

Nike is back with the super lightweight high performance Victory spike. This is an awesome competition shoe and has been at the forefront of high performance track and field for several years. Also available from Nike will be the Rival Sprint, Rival Middle Distance, and the Rival Distance.

Nike spikes

Brooks spikes

Last but not least is our Brooks offering. Tending a bit wider overall, Brooks comes in with solid offerings PR LD, PR MD, and PR Sprint.

Friday, December 19, 2014

FootZone Staff Christmas Gift Recommendations! (or secret wish lists?)

The clock is ticking... There's less than a week until Christmas!  

Feeling stumped by the runner who has it all?  Maybe you want to give something more inspired than a pair of socks?  Curated by the hard-working and hard-running staff at the FootZone, this is the list for you.  You'll find all manner of gear here, run-tested by staff who use it and love it (or really, really want it themselves...  Take note, spouses!).  In their own words, here are FootZoners' top picks for Christmas gifts!

If you need the CliffsNotes - just get them a Craft Baselayer! 

I would be totally stoked to receive the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20. This is a sweet pack that would be both a comfortable daypack and hold lightweight gear for a multiple day adventure. I'd love taking this on the John Muir Trail next summer! Here's a great review by Megan Hicks of irunfar. 

A Craft Baselayer. I pretty much live in these during winter. And since it's Central Oregon, I'll use 'em in fall, spring, and even summer too. Lightweight and warm. What more could you ask for?

Oiselle Lesley Knicker - stylish and comfortable.
FlipBelt - Perfect for carrying my iPhone on a run bouncelessly, or in the evening instead of a purse as it conceals easily under a blouse.

A FlipBelt- keeps your hands free and also can be used for travel- credit card, money, driver's license, etc.

A Craft Baselayer - wahoo! Keeps you warm while you sweat and dries quickly!

Injinji NuWool sock - all 5 toes swathed in their own little wool pockets! (Yeah, you wanted more than socks... but these are inspired socks!)

A Buff Band! Who wouldn't want headband/hat/balaclava/neckerchief/face mask/do-rag/awesomeness in fabulous colors?

Honey Stinger Chews, Gels, and Waffles. Everybody needs a little fuel for their adventures, and Honey Stingers are some of my favorites.

Lauren Fleshman's Believe I Am Running Journal- an awesome way to keep track of your upcoming year of training, races, and adventures.

Craft Storm Glove - awesome for Nordic skiing, your morning bike commute, shoveling your driveway, and impromptu snowball fights.

Kari:  "I love too many items to select just two!  And I'd like one of each, please." :)

A GRID Foam Roller - I use this thing every day.  It keeps me injury free and my body happy.  A must for all runners.

A lacrosse ball - like the GRID, a must-have item for self-massage, but at $5 the perfect stocking stuffer or gift to give a pal.

Running journal - Lauren Fleshman's Believe I Am journal is a great gift for your BFF, or a treat to give yourself.

Swiftwick socks - a great, blister free, breathable sock.  My go-to for racing, especially long distances. 

Sugoi's Jackie tight or knicker - the perfect weight tight for any time of year.  Holds up great, allows for fluid motion, can be paired with a tank top or lots of layers.  Super versatile.

Craft Baselayer - perfect for those cold mornings.  Wear it for running, snowshoe running, or skiing.  Breaths well and keeps you warm and dry.

Black Diamond Headlamp - will help light your way into the New Year!

Hydro Flask Insulated Water Bottles - FootZoners and their families use these multiple times a day, every day.  They hold up great and are good for the environment.  Personalize yours with some Run Dirt or FootZone stickers and show us some love!

A FootZone Gift Card - all the fun, none of the stress.  The gift that makes everyone happy!

Ultimate Direction Body Bottle or Salomon Soft Flask - a nice new addition to any race pack for carrying water. It's something not a lot of people have tried. 

Lacrosse ball - this is probably on some other lists but it is indispensable for a runner.  A must have!

The Salomon Fast Wing lightweight vest - THE greatest layering piece that you can own.  Great for those chilly mornings or wintery runs where you need some protection from the cold but a full-on jacket is just too much. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Running the New York Marathon to Fight ALS

My aunt Fran is living with ALS. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of these neurons causes the brain to lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. 

Fran is a life-long New Yorker, other than the few years she lived in DC for college, which happened to be where and when I was born. This was not only handy for free babysitting, but resulted in us bonding early on. Fran has always felt like a big sister to me, and as I got older, she became a true friend. Growing up, my sister Ali and I spent lots of time with Fran in New York, and one event we always heard about was the New York Marathon. Fran and her friends were loyal supporters, camped out at mile 7 with encouraging cheers and spirit, and no doubt a pitcher of cosmopolitans at their side, for the thousands of runners tromping by. Because of these stories over the years, I have always considered New York to be THE marathon. I started running more seriously after my fellowship in 2012, and tackled my first marathon last fall in Fairbanks with Ali. Running has been an amazing outlet for me for many reasons, and has helped immensely in keeping me refreshed with the challenging work I am doing in hospice and palliative care. 

Ali and I never had the chance to watch the marathon with Fran, but this year are thrilled to run it in her honor, along with our cousin Eric, as part of Team ALS. It is a fund-raising event to help find effective treatments and work toward a cure for this terrible disease, for the thousands of people inflicted with ALS who will never run again themselves. I humbly ask you to consider making a donation in Fran’s honor. 

I very much appreciate your support, and will be thinking of the amazing outpouring I have received along the way. You can be sure we will have a very special toast in your honor at the finish - with Cosmos, of course.  Many thanks!

~ Jenny Blechman is a local runner and hospice doctor at Partners In Care. She and her family have lived in Bend since 2002.