Sunday, February 22, 2015

let's do this

"to see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. that is the purpose of life."

~ from "the secret life of walter mitty"

***********

life is merely a travel journal.

page after page, we're all just the sum of the places we go, the things we do, the people we love, and who love us.

my aunt died about a month ago. melanoma would finally have its way, but not before being stared down and shoved back for years by a strong woman. at the end, surrounded by her three best friends, she said simply, "i'm tired," and slipped away to begin her next journey.

her journal of this life was full to extraordinary. as evidence, her memorial was attended by kin of all descriptions ~ children, brothers, and sisters all, by birth and by choice. dozens of them. a couple hundred, in fact. skiers, hikers, runners, gardeners, musicians, champagne drinkers, and church-goers. all brimming with stories and smiles and tears.

you couldn't be among the assemblage without thinking, "she did something right" and "this was a life well lived" and "we should all do so well."

i drove to spokane for the service, to herd cats, share support, and hug as much family as could be accounted for. they came in from points around the country, which is why many of us hadn't seen or been seen by the others for a long while. it took all of about 60 seconds for the time and miles to melt away. we were family once again, animated, vulnerable, and wide open.

for a brief time we found each other, drew in close, and felt we were where we were supposed to be.

i wouldn't presume to know if that's the purpose of life, or death. but to be the reason so many came together and to help them feel this way, even for a short time...that's not bad. not bad at all.

bon voyage, corinne.

***********

Step in front of a runaway train
just to feel alive again
Pushing foward through the night
aching chest and blurry sight

It's all far so far away


It's so far so far away

~ junip

Monday, January 26, 2015

greek non-tragedy

"wtf?"
i'm injured.*

and by injured, i mean, "temporarily unable to run or climb hills/stairs without uncomfortable pain in my right achilles-ish area."

in short, i have a running-related boo-boo.

this is not to be confused with a serious or debilitating condition that might warrant actual sympathy.

having said that, i'm injured enough that my participation in the orcas island 25k (a mere 5 days away), seems unlikely. 

glimmer of hope: since today is only monday, there's still time for an unexpected, inexplicable recovery.

i'm elevating and heating and wearing a compression sleeve and taking l-glutamine and smearing on arnica gel. also, trying to schedule appointments with the chiropractor (done) and the sports massage therapist.

so, i'm saying there's a chance.

either way, in the grand scheme of things, missing a race due to injury is nothing. the overriding goal is to continue running for many years to come. so (barring rapid and preternatural improvement), taping up everything below the knee and running the race anyway would be unwise, unreasonable, and uncalled-for.

i'm surprised i would even think of such a thing.

***********

* achilles strain? achilles tendinitis? soleus? shin splints? i don't know. i experienced this injury two and a half years ago, and neither a chiropractor, a primary care doc, nor a sports medicine specialist were able to provide a differential diagnosis. recovery took nearly a month, but ultimately i was pain-free in time for a goal race in hawai'i.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the happy scam

well, so much for 2015...
happy new year.

whatever that means.

see, even though most people are out there pursuing happiness, talking about it, wishing it on others ~ i don't get it.

even harvard medicine is in the happy business. from this morning's email:

"Discover the positive steps you can take to defeat the daily threats to happiness and add greater satisfaction, meaning, and joy to your life."

Positive Psychology

"You don't have to pursue happiness. Make it come to you — starting today!"

happiness, with an exclamation point. from the smart folks at harvard medical school. whose tagline is "trusted advice for a healthier life."

thanks, harvard. whatever.

if your goal is constant state of smiley bliss...get used to disappointment. or get some really good drugs. because that state doesn't exist in nature.

what does exist?

peace of mind.

you (and i and everyone else) could realistically achieve peace of mind in 2015. and even if you fell short, you wouldn't have to be disappointed. because if you fumble peace of mind and kick it around awhile and trip over the cat and slide across the floor on your face...you can still get up, brush yourself off, apply some neosporin, and discover in the process that your peace of mind was right there in your hands the entire time.

it's weird like that.

how to achieve peace of mind: let it go. whatever "it" is. it's out of your control anyway, so quit worrying about it. viola! peace of mind. caveat: if it's in your control, whatever "it" is, then you can do something about it. start doing whatever can be done...viola! peace of mind.

deprive discontent of oxygen and viola! peace of mind.

that formula again: let it go. or do something about it.

do one or the other and there's a good chance you'll find yourself experiencing a subset of peace of mind, one that's fleeting, but still kind of fun...happiness.

***********
disclaimer: all the above is what i tell myself. i would never presume to say it'll work for anyone but me, because i'm weird and we're all weird and everyone is weird in different ways. what i will say is, "it works for me."

Friday, December 26, 2014

road hard, still wet

the road, rising up to meet me.
thankfully, not face-first.
"growing up i always thought quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be."

~ john mulaney

"fortune favors the prepared mind."

~ louis pasteur


***********

reflective observation: quicksand takes many forms.

many of which capable of dragging down the unwary and the unlucky. 

tromping through treacherous terrain, fortune favors those who travel with a vine.

this kind. not this kind.

***********

if only i were as fast as the manner in which 2014 has flown by.

uh, i'd be pretty damn fast.

as a general matter, though, i don't need any more "fast" in my life. i need some slow. i need our little corner of the world to step back, take a deep breath, and hold on a minute while i absorb and process. somehow i don't see that happening.


scientific observation suggests that 2014 went by faster than any year in recorded history. not really. i can't back that up. still...fast.


***********
because the year went by the way it did...i didn't run as much as i intended to. my goal was 1,500 miles. but even as i was typing it out, one year ago, i knew it was a stretch. sure enough, with a few december days remaining, i'll be very fortunate to hit 1,200.

c'est la vie. on the upside, i did reach the rest of my very-modest running-related goals.

first trail marathon: 
first trail 50k: 
at least one organized event per month: 
(32 months and counting. not that i'm counting.)

as was the case last year, i saw some spectacular sights in 2014, things i would never have seen if not for the running. i roamed around some of the most scenic islands our little planet has to offer (oahu, whidbey, fidalgo, and orcas). i ran past saguaro in arizona, and bougainvillea in lanikai. i reveled in the beauty of washington state parklands from bellingham to the issaquah alps to the methow valley.

on the downside, i also went through a months-long slump where running felt like a slog. my energy was low and my legs just felt kind of...blah. physical? mental? i don't know...but i do know it didn't keep me from buying more running shoes (thanks, seven hills running!). either way, with the daytime hours finally heading back into the light...the doldrums have lifted. i'm enjoying running again, i feel much stronger, and i'm looking forward to kicking things up a notch in 2015. 

a new list taped to my computer says things like "chuckanut 50k," "sun mountain 50k," "san francisco marathon," and "oregon coast 50k."

if i can check off a few of those in the coming months, it'll be a very good year. more specific goal: four events of 26.2 or longer. twice as many as in 2014.

i have much work to do.

***********
full disclosure: in the back of my mind the idea of a 50-mile event has begun percolating. i believe i have it in me to handle the distance...but i'm completely unclear how my life would allow me to prepare for it.

three dogs, two cats, two kids, a house, a job, and a loving wife all demand and deserve a full measure of attention. sitting here, it's hard to imagine where a full measure of 50-mile training would come from.

still, it's there. persistent. and percolating.

***********
related contextual note: watch a few of these gorgeous videos from project talaria and see why the pacific northwest is the best place on the planet. for running. and other things. really.

***********
there are many other topics suitable (or more suitable) for a year-end post. i've written much in the last 12 months, for example, about gun violence. and injustice in our "nation of laws." and homelessness.

segueway: there's a homeless man living under the bridge a hundred yards from our house. i share this because we live in a nice neighborhood in a prosperous city in what we tell ourselves is the greatest nation on earth...and there's a homeless man living under a bridge. a hundred yards away from here.

i've spoken to him many times. his name is darryl, and he's a quiet, pleasant man. living under a bridge. a hundred steps away.

it's winter, and it's cold at night, so i worry about him. i take him fleece blankets and sweaters and gloves and food. i think he loses these things over time, so i take him more. we chat, and it occurs to me that he's probably wrestling with a degree of mental illness. occasionally he mentions he'll only be in seattle for a while, until the government gets him a new body.

then we change the subject. i ask him if he needs anything. "a couple bucks," he sometimes says. i give him whatever i have in my pocket, tell him to stay warm, and that i'll see him soon. he shakes my hand, and says thank you. he always says thank you.

i mention this only because it's quicksand, and i'm unprepared, and i don't know what else to do.

as noted above, quicksand takes many forms. and to one degree or another, we're all in it.

***********
time to run.

Friday, December 19, 2014

truth and deception

awesome visual chronicling courtesy of glenn tachiyama.
you could do a lot worse than bookending your year with a couple of rainshadow running events.

i started 2014 with the orcas island 25k, and ended it with another 25k at deception pass.

in between, across many months, were some reallyreally good miles (and some not-quite-as-good), but none were more enjoyable than the 15.3 at deception.

unlike february's 20-miler at fort ebey, for example, there were no howling winds flying through the strait of juan de fuca. unlike the hillbilly half, there was no gunfire flying through the trees overhead. 

and unlike july's marathon at chuckanut mountain, at no time did i feel like i was hanging on for dear life just to finish.

to sum up: while all miles are good in their own way...these were exceptional.

the DP 25k course is a bouquet of six lollipops spread out over deception pass state park. water views are everywhere ~ some from high above the shoreline, some right down on the beach. overall the route is very runnable, with about 3,100 feet of elevation to make it even more interesting.

you get to run around places called goose rock and bowman bay. you pass 'pass lake' and run across the breathtaking deception pass bridge ~ twice. from that vantage point you see deception island and strawberry island and if you're lucky, a huge bald eagle sitting in a tall tree situated far below your feet.

you parkour over downed trees across sweet single track trails, and skitter over slick rocks scraped clean the last time glaciers roamed these parts. and you do it all with a smile on your face, because running around like feral children is lots of fun.

***********
with less than 5k to go i started feeling a little, uh, devitalized. thankfully, a gel and some water turned me right-side-up again in what felt like seconds. maybe it was the gel, or maybe it was the placebo effect ~ either way, i finished feeling strong, with no post-race effects in the the days after.

which got me thinking: maybe the way to bookend 2015 would be...the deception pass 50k.*

(fast voiceover): *assuming i stay healthy, time permitting, with the kind permission of the missus, see store for details, void where prohibited, member FDIC.

***********
this is the part where i thank the volunteers and the folks at rainshadow running. because they did a great job and they always do and we've sort of come to expect it but hold on a minute because the fact is...

...it's kind of a big deal. 

no event of this size and complexity is easy. they make it look easy, but you know that means there's a ton of heavy lifting done by a lot of people to make it look that way. before, during, and after. not to mention that they turned out at oh-dark-thirty the very next day to do it all over again for the 50k.

if we agree (and i'm sure we do) that every mile is a gift, and every moment counts...rainshadow running gifted me many miles and amazing moments in 2014. you could do much worse than that, but you can't do much better.

i am endlessly grateful.

***********
deception pass 25k

mental difficulty: (insert beach-y ukulele tune here)

perceived exertion: see "this guy" ------------------------->
jaw-dropping views: plenty
fun had: sideways 8

***********

2:56:00

64/285 (overall)
4/38 (50-59)


or, "rocks below, do not throw people." i mean, obviously.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

temperature check

(the song stuck in my head the entire race.)

saturday, nov. 15, 2015
grand ridge half marathon


this time was different.

my last experience at grand ridge ~ a dim, dreary, exhausted slog a year ago ~ was not fun. from the moment i arrived to the moment i crossed the finish line, i just wanted to be done. looking back, it's not so much that the experience was bad...it's that my attitude sucked.

bygones.

today, as noted, was different. bright, sunny, and cold. cold as a new york city winter. colder than the siberian (not-so-permanent) permafrost. but not as cold as the internet reaction to kim kardashian's butt.

still, it was cold.
mile 3-ish. i was warm.
(photo courtesy of takao suzuki)

the starting area was in the shade until a few minutes before the start, and runners milling about shivered and kvetched on frozen ground.

by 9 a.m., however, the sun rose high enough over tree and hill to blast the north side of I-90 ~ the difference was spectacular. cold-weather gear-related note: black running attire heats up quickly in sunlight. metabolic-physiology note: running generates heat, as well.

aside from knocking a few minutes off last year's time, my goals this day were modest:

  1. finish
  2. have fun
  3. don't fall down a lot

these are not audacious goals, i realize, but achieving them is always better than not. falling on the frozen trail would've been particularly noisome ~ not too different from tumbling on broken concrete. it would've made for some interesting road rash, though.

according to the nice folks at evergreen trail runs, there's about 2000 feet of elevation over the half marathon course. it seemed like more, but that's probably because there isn't a lot of flat ground at grand ridge. you're either running uphill or downhill most of the time. plus, there's a lot of avoiding other runners heading out-and-back on singletrack trail, which adds to the illusion of extra effort. 

no, come to think of it, it wasn't an illusion. in the name of good trail running etiquette, i spent a lot of time sidestepping and smiling and saying "thank you" and "nice job." i'm polite that way.

sidebar: as it's only a half-hour from our house, why don't i run grand ridge more often? aside from the fact that discovery park is three minutes away, i mean.

***********

in conclusion, i did finish, i did have fun, and i did improve on last year's time (sort of). late in the race i saw my friend kira walking up the hill, and since i hadn't seen her in months we walked and chatted for a few minutes. yes, it was a race, but it's not like the digression cost me a spot on the podium.

so, on a technicality, two minutes slower than last year. but who's counting?

***********

results:

2:26:27
42/249 (overall)
3/15 (M 50-59)

Friday, November 07, 2014

general weirdness

"gentlemen, i wash my hands of this weirdness."
"i have no sympathy for any of you feculent maggots, and no more patience to pretend otherwise."

~ captain jack sparrow

***********

for eight years, republicans endorsed every act of piracy committed by the bush administration.

it got so bad that americans would've elected a tree stump, it seemed, rather than tolerate more years of national humiliation and depredation. instead, in a brief moment of clarity, we elected a brilliant, charming, steady constitutional law professor from illinois. and for a few shining moments it seemed the pendulum might swing back and away from our self-inflicted calamity.

that didn't *quite* happen.

time and again the brilliant law professor, self-cast as conciliator-in-chief, extended a hand across the aisle to work with the loyal opposition (if by "loyal opposition" you mean "ravening band of hard-right zombies still in search of brains amongst themselves or their constituents").

each time, he pulled back a stump.

and yet he tried. well beyond the point that a reasonable person might say, "bite me once, shame on you. bite me dozens of times, sod off you rabid obstructionist anti-american faux-christian cretins." 

or, you know, words to that effect. because he's a diplomat and i'm not.

but he didn't do that. he just. kept. reaching. even as the opposition kept gnawing. their stated goal: to thwart every initiative, every attempt to govern, every exhortation to do the jobs for which legislators are elected.

time passed, stuff happened. and despite the efforts of the zombies, the pendulum did swing. wars were (mostly) concluded. broad-scale healthcare was implemented (sort of). the economy recovered (for some people) and the stock market soared (for rich people). 

and, as they adorably do every 15 minutes or so, americans forgot the past.

they forgot how long it took to dig out from under the pile of crap heaped on us by the last republican administration. and that, actually, we're still digging.

they forgot the last time the GOP was in charge, america tortured helpless prisoners.

they forgot that the GOP hates women. and gays. and minorities. and poor people. and healthcare. and the environment.

they forgot that for the past 6 years republicans did everything they could to stall the economy and shut down the government...including actually shutting down the government.

and so, because americans have a tragicomically short attention span, in november, 2014, they put the GOP back in charge of congress.

{steps back, takes a deep breath, considers options}

or, maybe i'm wrong. 

maybe american voters are extremely bright. maybe electing 31 GOP governors and handing the united states senate over to republicans was done intentionally and with great premeditation. because things worked out so well the last time these folks were in charge, i imagine.

at this juncture, i'm extremely content to let you decide. because for the next year at least...i'll be over here trying to wash off the incredulity.

***********

“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%. Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

~ david letterman