Saturday, November 7, 2009

In the Arena Alumni

Having served as one of the founding members of the Arena Roster, Gabriel Jennings has recently joined the ranks of organizational alumni. In the Arena (ITA) is honored to have had Gabe among those on our frontlines for over two years; and we're grateful to him for the extraordinary work he's done with thousands of youths in California and Oregon during that time.

ITA wishes Gabe all the best in his personal and professional lives, especially in his most recent incarnation: as a first-year student at the University of Oregon Law School. If you would like to keep up-to-date with Gabe –or with any of ITA’s alumni –please visit the Arena Athlete Alumni blog, where you'll find first-person updates on all of our alumni.

Thank you for your interest and support.
Onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Waldo Lake

Eugene, November 23, 2008

The intensity of my marathon training has reached a new level of understanding. I am starting to get shivers down my spine at the end of runs. I have not felt that satisfying sensation for 8 long years. For 8 long years I have been in the wilderness, numb to the joy of running. I just finished a 130 mile week! With a 24 mile long run! And Oh Lord does it feel good. Sometimes I just don't want to stop running, I feel immortal, like I could run for ever, one foot in front of the other. . .

This past weekend my friend Kelsey and I drove up toward Willamette Pass, past Oakridge to the Waldo Lake turn off. The difficulty became that at over 5,000 ft., the weather quickly turned to a blizzard, and the unplowed road had almost two feet of snow. I put chains on and we started up the 13 mile access road to Waldo Lake. (Waldo Lake is exactly 26 miles around, so in preparation for the trip in the warmth of my Eugene home I figured that with a 40 minute warmup Waldo would prove the perfect training ground for the CIM marathon in a little less than three weeks.) We made it about 5 miles up, when my little Toyota Tacoma pickup started spinning wheels in the ice up the steep grade, and it looked as if we were going to be stopped dead in our tracks. Luckily around the next bend we found a sort of flat turnaround. Utilizing all the muster of my little two wheel drive truck, and a few potently directed prayers, we were able to turn the rig around. I pulled the clutch into neutral, pulled the emergency brake and let motor run while the heater kept us warm; while Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" was blaring from the stereo speakers and we debated our next move. Somehow I persuaded Kelsey to camp in the back of my truck with a soft topper shell for protection. So we unloaded the canoe, bike and gear and set up camp in back of the truck. Somehow I managed to get a pretty raging fire going, on top of two feet of snow in a blizzard, and we nuzzled as close as we could to the blaze keeping the immediately exposed portion of our body warm. With a thick foamy for padding, warm blankets and below zero sleeping bags we were able to keep surprisingly cosy through the night and the storm. The next morning I awoke at 4 am, put on my running clothes and sat in the cab with the heater on to get nice and toasty before my run. Luckily it had only snowed another couple inches in the night, and the sky was now crystal clear, as the stars sprang down to mother earth with that freezing clarity that burns a whole in one's soul!

My journey through the morning twilight was sublime! I made it to the virgin snow covered lake at dawn. I ran 24 miles, and snowshoed another 8 miles for a 5 hour expedition!

Thanksgiving day I am running a super elite 5K race in San Jose. . . CIM December 7. "The hay is in the barn" as Bill Bowerman liked to tell his athletes two weeks out from their peak championship race.

Godbless and Godspeed!

Gabe Jennings

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Monson Half Marathon

Boston, November 9, 2008

Its all happening so quickly. . . I can hardly keep track.

Last weekend Sammy took second in the State Championships! Congratulations Sammy! Sammy made a balsy move with over a mile to go; then Sammy made another ballsy move with 1K to go; then Sammy battled Drew of North Medford all the way to the final lap on the track before his final concession of defeat . All in all, courageous effort! Sasha was a notable 12th and Paige was a heroic 20th. Nora, Amelia and Elia all came through with big high pressure performances. Everybody else was disappointing. The pressure of the State meet is so enormous that many succumb to mediocrity. And of course there is such a thing as an off day. Maybe the coaches are at fault. Maybe I am at fault. Probably, all and none of the above. Anyway, as a whole, I believe the South Axeman are considerably better. We are champions and we should be State Champions.

I now find myself in the penthouse suite overlooking the Charles on Harvard Square of my tremendous hosts and benefactors: Amory (with baby) and David Salem. Yes, our very own and beloved Amory Rowe! Now almost 5 months pregnant with a beautiful belly and radiant aura. I am so proud to be one of the first (the first?) ITA athletes to visit Amory as a soon-to-be-mama.

Earlier today I raced at the Monson 1/2 marathon just 60 some miles west of Boston. I am very encouraged at my performance and I am looking to up the intensity of my training leading into the CIM marathon December 7th in Sacramento.

Here is my initial assessment of the race to Mr. Scott Simmons, coach and Queens University:

"Dear Mr. Scott Simmos: The race today went pretty well. I ran 1:09.3+, which on the surface looks really slow; however, the course was really tough; there was a pretty continuous steep uphill grade until almost the 9th mile. The last 4 miles were screaming downhill, but so what. I took the lead from the gun and came through the first UPHILL mile in 5:20, two miles in 10:30 and I could here footsteps in back of me. At mile 3 the Kenyan behind me tried to surge a 5:10 minute mile up a steep hill, but I held on for dear life. I took mile 4 up another series of hills with the Kenyan on my heels. By mile 5 there was a gigantic hill with no end in sight, and I began to think maybe the course was a point to point uphill all the way. At mile 6 I let the Kenyan get a 20 meter lead, which he extended to 80 seconds by 8 miles. Miles 6, 7 and 8 I ran 5:45, 5:50 and probably close to 6 minutes. The hills were destroying me. Then, finally at 8.25 miles we crested the final hill, but just at that moment the Kenyan in third place closed on me. We hammered the next two down hill miles at 4:55 pace, and by mile 10 we were only 15 seconds back from the leader. At mile 11 we closed to 10 seconds but a blister under my right forefoot started burning so bad that I ran with a noticeable limp, and fell off to 5:20. The last mile I closed well despite the burning, and finished a few seconds in back of second for third and not too far off the leader. Overall I am pretty pleased, and am sure that the time translates to sub 66 on a flat course. See you soon. I am eager to get feedback on how to approach this next month of training before my marathon. Yours Truly Gabe"

And so I am Truly Yours, and Your most Humble and Obedient Servant! God Bless, Kick Ass and Godspeed!

Captain Gabe

Sunday, October 26, 2008

We Are The Champions

Eugene, October 26, 2008

The ITA Eugene South Axemen destroyed their opponents yesterday at the District Cross Country Championships at Alton Baker park. It was one of my proudest moments as peer coach. All the kids ran their utter hearts out. We won the girls title 33 to 34 to South Medford. Sasha, Paige, Rachel, Nora, and Amelia ran beyond themselves with no room to spare. Congratulations! The boys won 43 to 49 to North Medford. Eamon, Scotty, Brian and Simon had clutch performances! All racing their best race of the season when it counted most. Both races were extremely close and exciting! It is ineffable for me to express how excited I am for both teams. I could hardly sleep last night replaying the races in my mind's eye. Next weekend we have the State Championships. Sammy is in contention for a State Title if he puts himself out there and tries to run away from the field at 2000m. Sasha is also in contention for a State Title, although she doesn't realize her potential, which makes it difficult to achieve high performance. Both teams have the opportunity to post impressive marks.

My grandma is also turning 80 years old this week and the whole family is throwing a huge party for her on Saturday. Congratulations Grandma! I am currently living with Grandma, and we are having a grand old time going to concerts, watching "Gone with the Wind," having dinners together and just being companions in general. Grandma is an inspiration to me. She was a virtuoso professional violinist in her day. May you live to see the century Grandma! I want you to train my kids (yet to be born (or conceived (I think?))) in Violin.

At the moment I am exhausted in runner's fatigue. That satisfying feeling where gravity sits you down and endorphins bubble up around your temple, impressing a sort of happy if dull bliss. The miles are logging up over 100 with 20 mile long runs. Fall is popping with yellows, reds, greens, and golds like never before.

Godspeed elfman!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

South Sister

Eugene, August 9, 2008

This past weekend Auspicious signs started to turn against me, and I have begun to wonder if Fate has some serious atonement in store for me. I don't know exactly what I should be repentant for, so many personal limitations, hard to say, but sometimes just being an American is enough to rile my blood and puke in disgust. I am resentful at my inability to achieve the success I yearn for; what is it that is obstructing my motion. Recently, little things trouble me: like a flat tire, forgetting to pay my credit card bill on time, sleeping in past an appointment, a bad dream of a spider eating off my head (spurred on by Strauss' Salome).

A storm started to brew as I drove on highway 242 past the lava highlands leading to Mt. Washington, sliding almost out of control, almost off the road. An outsider could reflect and say, "No Gabe," that is not bad luck, that is just stupid unpreparedness, and reckless impulsiveness. Today Dick Brown alluded my floundering to a Niel Young song, "running in circles." My Grandma tells me I am always living on the edge and taking risks, implying that if I take enough risks I am bound to have a run in with the gods every now and again. I say, "Grandma, don't be an old dotard; get off that old walker of yours, and go for a jog, live on the edge, you might like it, it might bring some energy into your life." She says, "Are you crazy, I would have heart attack." She might be right, and I worry about her. I might even start listening to her a bit more; but not if I have to sacrifice all the adventure! I loathe a boring dull life!

Anyways, this Saturday I began driving to Bend to support the South team at the Puma Invitational. But as I approached the city I felt this strong pull away from the meet, call it a state of aporia, depression, whatever, but somehow I knew that I was in no position to be supportive, positive influence to a team that I love and respect. Instead I went to a park on the Deschuttes river in downtown Bend and read Nietzsche's "Genealogy of Morals." Of course the reading made me even more reflective as I pondered phenomenology of myself as Artist and Creator; but the truth is that I was shirking my responsibility, being a terrible role model. And all of this supercilious philosophising was nothing but hurtful to myself and my relationships! But I couldn't help myself; I was possessed! I had to read on: what does Nietzsche mean by "Good" and "Evil," "Guilt," "Shame," and the "Ascetic Ideal?" Is he completely off his rocker, is he MAD? Is he making me mad? Usually, after reading Nietzsche I need to heal with St. Thomas Aquinas, Schopenhauer, Plato; God help me see the VIRTUE in humanity! I tell you, Nietzschian thought and scepticism has been the main reason I RUN. Thinking too much brings on melancholia. Like I have said before, "Action is thy only salvation." Overly consumed reflection is dangerous for your body and your mind. Better to run. Yet, one with out the other is hopeless. After all, as Schopenhauer points out, it is ability to Will and abstract that gives the human oversoul the ability to deliberate into the future, cut out a mold of phenomenal substance to play and harmonize. For me, it remains a balancing act. Perhaps, Ralph Waldo Emerson grounds me best by essaying a sort of "practical power" as a virtue generating maxim.

Anyways, after reading "The Genealogy" and blowing off my commitments I started driving in desperation to the South Sister on the eastern edge of the Cascades. Earlier this summer the South Axemen had summitted the South Sister on the final day of their summer preseason camp from the campsite at Elk Lake, just a few miles from Devil's Lake. Unfortunately, at the time I had missed the opportunity for a joint climb by about an hour, tardy for my rendezvous with the team. Consequently, I have been curious about the South Sister ever since. With my head full of Nietzsche and insatiable curiosity I now found myself driving along Centennial Avenue with a quarter tank of Gas and a partially flat back tire--a test of faith? Or just stupidity? I pulled into Devil's Lake at about 3:30pm, and set off for the summit via the climber's trail without any of the usual provisions for such an effort: all I wore was running shoes, Munich pants, motorcycle gloves and a pendleton long sleeve; no food, water, nothing. Mean clouds had been brewing all day, with storming winds and rain at the lower elevations. Less than a mile into my ascent the snow started falling. Pretty soon I was running through a foot of snow in a blizzard. I generated enough heat by running to stay warm, but my face started to get wind chill from the frigid blizzard on the windward side of my face. At about 8,000 ft I lost all traces of the trail in about 2 ft of snow. Without hesitation I kept trucking straight up the mountain. In fact, it was a relief to leave the trail, the invisible trail that is. I just went straight up the most direct route, navigating around rocks and stumps. The snow was fresh, just having fallen that morning, so even with running shoes, I was able to get good traction. Climbing at a steep vertical I used my gloves to pull myself up. At about 6pm I figured I was less than 1,000 ft from the summit, but I couldn't hardly see more than 10 ft ahead of me in the blizzard. One side of my face was completely frozen, my beard was an icicle, my hands were frozen! I reached this rocky bluff outlook, with the wind almost blowing me off the opposite side of the cliff. There was no more going up; I had reached a sort of perch, so I either needed to go back down and angle around the butte, or I needed to jump off a 20 ft ledge in order to continue my climb. It took me about 2 seconds. "I am going home, get me off this mountain."

After a string of defeats, luck seemingly against me, I am forlorn and miserable. I want all of this insecurity to stop. But the road ahead looks impossible, impassible. My enemies seem to close in around me at ever corner; at every turn new obstacles turn up.

This weekend I intend on supporting the South Axemen at a Portland Cross Country invitational. I think I will take the bus this time! With Districts next week and the High School State Championships in three weeks, the high school season is proving much more exciting than my own. Sammy, our star senior and State leader with a 15:44 posting at Nike PreNats, is capable of turning some major heads and winning a State Title! Yesterday, Sammy and I hammered away at a string of 7 kilometers of race pace on Amazon trail--meaning K's in 3:00 to 3:10. That was encouraging for both of us.

A new year is upon us!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mt. Jefferson

Eugene, September21, 2008

This past weekend I attempted to summit Mt. Jefferson from the Woodpecker Ridge trail head (on the south side of the mountain) with my friend Kelsey. Oregon's second largest mountain (at almost 11,000 ft) proved too much for us as we descended in defeat just below the top cliffs at around 9,000ft, flanked by glaciers, and strewn with treacherous scaly shale. Besides the difficult climb to the summit ahead and lack of provisions or gear (ice climbing crampons, ropes, harness, etc.) we were concerned at the loss of sun light (being 4pm), and our need to return to base camp on Woodpecker ridge before daylight closed her eyes and darkness blanketed the land. Although the mountain is supposed to be one of the most popular in the cascades, we did not see a soul our entire climb! The reason: the route we chose was absolutely mad: eroded hills without trail, glaciered river with crevices, impassable waterfalls and the final cliffs at the top. But beautiful! and Sublime! We made it safely back to base camp and spent most of the next day licking our wounds and recuperating at the glorious Britenbush hot springs, only 20 miles away from the mountain. Yesterday, not quite ready to return home we made a half-day canoe trip from Monroe to Corvallis, some 18 miles. The river was majestic, showing off her fall colors, while giant blue herons fished along the shore, and we even spotted a bald eagle! I am just not ready for summer to end, wanting to make the most of every remaining sunny day. Next weekend we are planning an overnighter via canoe at Waldo lake, and another dip in the North Umpqua hot springs, more single scotch at McMiniman's?

Training is coming along. I am starting to find my stride again since Coach Tom Telez visited last month to "correct" my form. I have been visualizing the push-off, extension, dropping my legs naturally in front of me (no lifting with the hip-flexers), running more flat-footed, while using the arms to control the tempo. Running is a meditation! There are no drills, weights, or other replacement for focused running. The goal is to let the body find its most natural rhythm, a sort of wheel that generates its own momentum by renewing energy. As training progresses the miles are going up and the tempos are speeding up. In preparing for this marathon, CIM, December 7, I am trusting the three simple components of 1. long runs, 2. long tempos and 3. long intervals to bring me to the finish line a champion. By following a simple program with proper recovery, and keeping my focus on form, maintaining the discipline to make running a priority first thing in the morning, I pray that I will achieve a higher power and unity in my running.

My ITA project with the South Axemen has been up and running for almost a month now. Once again I am finding the young athletes to be a huge motivator: the curiosity and freshness that a beginner brings to a discipline helps the veterans remember the purpose in our sport; in return the veterans offer experience, skill and wisdom. And so my approach this fall has been more of a peer than a coach, as I try to lead by example. As a student of dance I am often struck how dance is almost entirely an imitative art; we emulate the grace, rhythm and movements of the masters. I am taking this approach with running. As a master of my sport I want to be a model to be followed. I think there are too many fat coaches that exhort there athletes from the sidelines without knowing or feeling the pain, transcendence, focused form, courage and habitual discipline that it takes to be a champion. I want to lead champions!

Godbless and Godspeed!