Wednesday, June 15, 2016

social stigmata

"thafuck is wrong with you people?"
primates are social creatures.

this has been true since forever, for the simple reason that monkeys who said, "you guys do what you want, i'm going THIS way!" quickly became a meal.

to ensure the survival of the group/the tribe/the society, the common understanding has always been, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

this is true not just among primates, but most other species, whether they school, swarm, herd, gaggle, or flock.

historically, americans accepted the premise that our strength was as a collective of like-minded people, banded together to "insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare."

as immigrants and the ancestors of immigrants, we invited others from around the world to join us on this mutual journey, the logic of which was elegant and insistent, wired into our DNA.

along the way, of course, some individualists in the group had to re-learn how not to become a meal...

"They're my kids, and I say they don't need to wear seatbelts."

"I can have a few drinks and still be a perfectly safe driver."

"Why do I have to smoke outside, I'm not hurting anyone."

"I'm young and healthy, there's no reason for me to have health insurance."

nope. nope. nope. and, nope. 

you may be too foolish to buckle up, but your kids shouldn't have to pay for your mistakes. you can't have a few drinks and safely drive. your smoking does hurt others. you need health insurance so when you break yourself you can be repaired (and so the rest of us don't have to pay quite as exorbitantly for your care).

see, that's the thing about america: in order for the group to survive, sometimes small personal sacrifices are necessary.

this is one of those times...

"I shouldn't have to give up my guns, I'm a responsible gun owner."


your "want" for devices designed to kill is not superior to the right of others to live. 

you didn't pull the trigger at columbine and sandy hook and san bernardino and aurora and blacksburg and orlando, but your rapacious "want" for weapons helped it happen.

you may be too stolid or selfish or sociopathic to acknowledge the straight red line between guns and slaughter, but our kids shouldn't have to die for it.

your apathy over 33,000 US gun deaths each year tells elected officials you don't mind the carnage. your entitled self-indulgence tells gun manufacturers to keep up the good work.

as social creatures we are linked together, which is part of the reason we want you to step back from this cliff. mostly, though, we just don't want to go over the edge with you.

you are threatening the survival of the group.

you need to stop it.
"The common good is a notion that originated over two thousand years ago in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. More recently, the contemporary ethicist, John Rawls, defined the common good as "certain general conditions that are...equally to everyone's advantage."
excursus: the second amendment to the US constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

in other words, "keep and bear arms" all you like...while you're a member of a well-regulated militia (such as the US military or national guard). do not, however, pretend the first two sentences of the amendment don't exist and therefore condone an orgy of guns.

the decision in heller v. D.C. was "wrong and unprincipled," and is a marvel of judicial activism, which "conservatives" allegedly abhor.

"There is no better illustration of the abandonment of neutral principles by the Heller majority...than their cavalier disregard of what the Supreme Court has termed 'the first principle of constitutional interpretation' — that the Constitution must be read to give effect to every word and that interpretations that render portions of its text 'mere surplusage' must be avoided."

the founding fathers were not perfect beings, and they did not create a perfect constitution. to ensure domestic tranquility and the common good, the 2nd amendment should be repealed.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

running a little hot

"do you like my party hat?"
photo by the folks at pronounce photography.
"this is not a standard marathon experience. when you're done, don't tell yourself 'i'm just not ready for a marathon.' that's not true. if this were a standard pacific northwest marathon experience, you would've finished 45 minutes ago."

~ me, to first-time marathoner todd thorpe, late in loop two
it was hot.

much hotter than any race i've ever run.

by the end, i was overheated and depleted. desiccated and enervated. and some other rhyming words. numb and dumb, maybe.

the first 13.1-mile loop of the teanaway marathon was a rollick in relatively cool temperatures through the teanaway community forest. logging roads revealed views of snowy peaks; soft single-track meandered through tall pines; runnable rolling hills gave way to green meadows between thickets of trees and brush.

man, trail running doesn't get much better than that.

it's almost a shame the second loop had to happen.

late-morning sun quickly pushed temps into the mid-90s, baking the course's exposed terrain. running from shade patch to shade patch in (or near) the trees became a thing i actually did, while constantly reminding myself to keep moving forward at best-possible speed.

at every aid station i filled my bottle with water, drank half of it down and filled it again, chugging cups of gatorade in between. i sloshed as i rumbled on down the trail, to repeat the process at the next stop.

at every step i was grateful for the paddling hat i put on at the halfway point. i'm pretty sure it kept my little brain from cooking all the way through by the end.

i was also grateful for first woman finisher julie cassata, who ran past me at about mile 20 (which i was power-hiking). her rock-steady pace reminded me i was supposed to be running this thing, which i proceeded to do.

as is typical, some song played on an endless loop in my mind most of the way, and i mentally composed a blog post about the day's travails. standing here today i don't remember which song, or any of the words from that post.

despite the elevated degree(s) of difficulty, the second 13.1 miles was still only as far as the first. inevitably the festivities concluded with a steep descent, a lope to the finish line, and a long splash in the river rolling by trailside.

these were without a doubt the toughest conditions i've ever run long in. despite that, my inner demons kept their big mouths shut, and there was no point at which i didn't want to be out there. my head was befogged for several hours afterward, but my legs felt remarkably good. in sum: i'm kinda proud of this one.
heartfelt thanks to the entire northwest trail runs team ~ especially the volunteers at the far-flung aid stations. they worked in the heat longer than any of us, and on this day that was no small matter.

related: this is a really fun course that i can't wait to run again. nice job, nwtrails.

related II: heading over from seattle the day before the race was the way to go. my night of solo car camping at the start/finish area was calming and peaceful ~ maybe because i had the whole place to myself. i need to do that more often.
the teanaway marathon


9/18 (overall)
2/3 (M 50-59)

altra olympus

song stuck in my head the entire time:
(still no idea)

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

summer smart. summer not.

SUNday. ha ha. i see what you did there.
here are some
who like to run
they run for fun
in the hot, hot sun

theodor seuss geisel 
in preparation for #WhiteRiver50, i put a few summer races on my calendar.
but i didn't realize they'd be SUMMER races.

case in point: this sunday's teanaway marathon will be run on the east side of the cascades, near cle elum, WA.

where it's going to be full-on summer. ----->

a brief search of the internet reveals that daytime temperatures during another notoriously hot race, the badwater 135, average about 120F.

the good news: 94 is nowhere near that hot.
the bad news: 94 is still pretty hot.

while i'm not quite sure how to prepare for these conditions in the next, uh, three days, it's entirely possible #WhiteRiver50 will be run in similar conditions. so, this will be good practice!

{this is trouble.}

{scurries off in search of bédouin gear.}

Saturday, May 28, 2016

equivocal options

"we get the government we deserve."
"¡mira, mira! ¡alla, viene la tormenta!"
"what did he just say?"
"he said there's a storm coming."
"...i know."
no matter how it goes in the coming election, it seems unlikely to go well for america.

one of the presumptive nominees is an obvious, vulgar train wreck ~ a train loaded with anger and racism and misogyny and insolence. he is unfit to represent a cesspit, let alone a country that loudly proclaims "exceptionalism."

but by now there's no doubt he represents millions.

the other flaunts a remarkable résumé ~ the arc of her career is fraught with achievement and qualifications. but in important ways she seems less a democrat and more a corporate proxy. her carefully calculated public persona does not inspire and she is not easy to trust. when epitomizing "the leader of the free world," these are not qualities that leap to mind.

it seems impossible that the former could even be nominated, let alone win the presidency. but the closer we get to november, the more ominous and destructive that prospect becomes.

it seems impossible that the latter is the best a "progressive" party ~ representing the better angels and higher aspirations of our national community ~ could offer up in opposition.

no matter who wins, the losing side will pursue a scorched earth policy to cripple the victor. no matter who wins, years of escalating social and political fracture will follow.

as one who grew up believing in an america where "...the poor are not oppressed and the rich are not privileged," it's tempting to say, "we're better than this."

that sentiment is increasingly difficult to believe.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

engage (or, 65 days to #WR50)

until yesterday i was idly thinking about signing up for some summer races.

and, until yesterday i was having a hard time actually getting anything on my calendar.

then, yesterday, the nice folks at the white river 50 moved everyone on the 2016 wait list to the "you're in!" list.

i'm no longer idly thinking about summer races. 

today my calendar says: 
may 28 ~ soaring eagle 13.1
june 5 ~ teanaway 26.2
july 30 ~ white river 50 mile

also under consideration: 
june 25 ~ taylor mountain 50k
july 10 ~ white river corral pass loop 27.2

there will be many training miles in addition to these events. obviously.

but while i started training 22 weeks ahead of the #gw100k, today we're t-minus 65 days to #WR50.

don't know what i'm thinking.

gotta run.

Friday, May 13, 2016

welcome back, plodder

me, now. earlier, not so much.
"to be on the wire is life. the waiting."

~ joe gideon, "all that jazz"
i'm back.

it took the better part of a month, but i'm finally fully recovered from #gw100k.

which is to say, my energy is back to pre-race levels, i have spring in my legs, and my head is on straight again. as straight as it ever is, i suppose.

i was getting (a little) worried. ten days post-race, dragging myself from the car to the office, i literally said out-loud, "come ON, enough is enough." no, it wasn't.

trying to engage in what passes for an active recovery, i barely kept up during group runs, barely stayed awake during daylight hours, and barely felt coherent when my eyes were open.

i ate everything in sight, but it had little effect, other than to make my clothes fit a little tighter.

friends who also ran #gw100k, meanwhile, were tearing up the trails like it was nothing. "a hundred k? ho hum, NBD. who's ready for hill repeats?"

yeah, that was a little demoralizing.

having said that, i fully recognize that everyone recovers differently. and that bouncing back from a 100k with 12,000 feet of climbing takes time (for most people). still, after a week i was ready to be recovered.

after two and a half weeks, i made an appointment for a physical, just to make sure i hadn't permanently depleted myself. or something.

the bad news: i was unable to get in right away. the good news: in the interim, i pulled myself back together.

which is to say running and writing and staying awake feel good again. they're things i want to do, rather than feel like i should do.

so, walking into the doctor's office i can say, "i ran a long race, which made me tired. i'm not tired any more. nice to see you. buh-bye."
update: the doctor agrees with my assessment: i'm fine. so healthy, in fact, that i don't have to go back for three years.

{scurries off to to fill up the rest of 2016.}
"it's show time, folks."

~ joe gideon, redux

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

let it ride ~ #gw100k

you can ride that train
to the far end of creation
away from everything 
and everyone you know
you better make friends 
with your angels and your demons
they will be riding with you
wherever you may go
ah, but you have to go

"train in the distance" ~ don henley
seemingly overnight in discovery park the space between winter-gray branches filled with green.

running on some of the park's most obscure trails, glimpses of water and mountains disappeared, replaced by verdant, variegated walls.

this development coincided with the long-awaited arrival of the gorge waterfalls 100k, which months ago somebody signed me up to run. lots of miles unfurled in the park (and elsewhere) since that october day. through the wettest winter in seattle history, in dusky daylight and nights barely illuminated by headlamp.

i understand why many people would call this "no fun at all." or, "crazy." or, "dangerous." (hi, mom and dad!) not long ago, i felt exactly the same way. but something happened...i can't explain the metamorphosis to myself, let alone someone else. but, change happens...those dark, wet, muddy miles were some of the best times of my life, spent with some of my favorite people.

and they led to a starting line that once was hilariously beyond my reach.
i took thursday-before-race-day off from work so i could properly obsess over race prep. sorting through gear, packing drop bags, deciding on shoes and socks and shirts and went on far longer than it should have, given that running is supposed to be a simple activity.

friday morning we stuffed the car with a week's worth of provisions for the 2.5-day stay in troutdale, oregon. which is not far from benson state park, the starting point of the 2016 #gw100k. 

friday evening, runners, family, and friends gathered to chatter about the next day, to eat a lot, drink a little, and sleep even less.

saturday at 4 a.m. the alarm went off.
"unique and valuable life experiences are out there on the trails during these long, long runs." ~ matt urbanski

spoiler alert: i finished.

and now i know what 100k feels like. it hurts. this race hurt my body and hurt my pride. along the way, my GI tract revolted and my brain mutinied. and while i had some very good moments during this very long day, there were also lots of lows. henceforth to be known as "attitude management issues."

the good news: the first half of the race went great! i had fun, felt good, enjoyed the scenery, and had a blast greeting all the people i knew on the course.
the bad news: from the halfway point on, my stomach went sideways. it was a constant question whether i'd be able to keep down what little food and liquid i forced in. forward progress often slowed to power-hike speed, and from mile 42 to mile 56 my brain spent a lot of time and energy coming up with reasons to drop.
the good news: none of them stuck.

when i got to the yeon aid station (mile 49.3), my friends scott hodukavich, tracy brown, and luke notman were there crewing for dana notman, scrambling to get her on her way.

with her squared away, they surrounded me, pushed food and hydration options at me, asked if i wanted to sit, how i felt, what i needed. i didn't know the answers to any of their questions, but i scanned the table for anything that looked remotely palatable. eventually i grabbed a section of bagel and cream cheese...and some oreos. next thing i knew, scott and tracy were escorting me down the hill and away from the aid station.

in the commotion, i temporarily forgot about dropping.

not long after, dana caught up with me, chatted cheerily for a while, then trotted off. couldn't blame her, i was moving sloooowly.

from about mile 51 to mile 56 daylight faded into night, and mentally i dropped many more times. rolling into the no-name aid station at mile 56.6 i was, once again, prepared to call it.

until i saw dana, that is, getting ready to head out. she said something encouraging ("michael's here!!!" i think it was, which was sort of true), prompting me to reflexively refill my bottles and head out with her.

we left no-name at 8:45 p.m., giving us 2 hours and 15 minutes to cover 6-plus miles and beat the 11 p.m. cutoff. in between was a two-mile,1500-foot climb, followed by a precipitous descent to multnomah falls and the finish.

we started climbing at about 9:20. several minutes in, i remember being glad it was dark; it kept me focused on the few steps i could see directly in front of me. this was important because the climb was very steep and required my full attention lest i collapse and roll back down the hill.

we counted the switchbacks, which some sadist thought would be funny to commemorate with signposts. "2 of 11" said the first one i saw. it took a long time, it seemed, to get to "3 of 11".

at 9:49 p.m. we passed a sign that said "historic columbia river highway 1.9," which roughly coincided with the end of the climbing.

"i think we're gonna make it," dana declared.
"yup," i replied. because i'm clever like that.
"i think i'm gonna cry."
"me, too."

down the switchbacks we went, like barn horses hurrying back to the stable. i was able to run most of it, which means the bagel and oreos must've kicked in somewhere along the way.

past multnomah lodge and multnomah falls and the helpful volunteer directing us thataway. "it's less than a mile to go." 

we ran to the finish where we high-fived race director james varner and each other and hugged our spouses and each other.

we beat the cutoff by 20 minutes.
you better make friends 
with your angels and your demons
they will be riding with you
wherever you may go...

postgame: my better angels were conspicuously silent during the many miles that my inner demons would not. shut. up. so i can't say i made friends with any of them at #gw100k. but, at the very least, i WILL recognize them next time out.

yes, there will be a next time.

that's progress.

"the fears we don't face become our limits." ~ robin sharma

gorge waterfalls 100k


192/219 (overall)
14/17 (M 50-59)

merrell all out peak (mile 0-21)
hoka challenger atr (mile 21-62.5)

song stuck in my head for way too many miles: "delirious" ~ prince

thank you, good people of rainshadow running, for handing me a beatdown on such a spectacular course. i will never forget i can remember.

thank you, friends at and from and through seven hills running shop. you already know your place in my heart. always.
final note: it's worth mentioning that in finishing this race, i qualified for the lottery for the western states 100-mile run.

every year, thousands of tickets go into the lottery ~ but only 270 get punched. in 2015, "the probability of being selected with a single name in the hat was 4.7%."

so, while i'm not holding my breath regarding this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...i am saying there's a chance.