Tuesday, January 23, 2018


"...roughly 850 feet of elevation gain per mile,
960 feet of gain in the last half-mile." ~ wta
we ran in a blizzard last week.

also, in warm, dry weather.

both during the same day, over a span of five miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

bill sepeda and i set out from the mailbox peak trailhead to get in ten miles and some steady climbing ~ powerline practice for the orcas island 25k.

the forecast called for standard PNW winter conditions: temps in the mid-40s with a 70% chance of rain.

we dressed accordingly, which is a shorter way of saying we brought everything in the closet except swim fins.

within a mile of steepening trail we were sweating buckets and peeling off layers like we were in hawaii.

within another couple miles we were putting layers back on as snow began falling through the canopy to the trail. 

we had no complaints, mind you: the trail itself was completely clear and, as noted many times, running in snow beats running in cold rain 10 times out of 10.

horizontal snow happens here.
the snow picked up as we climbed, which really was a hoot for us hydro sapiens. by mile four the trail was covered, and as we broke from the trees, we were hiking through a fresh four inches. 

the wind also picked up, which, unimpeded by trees, caused the snow to fall horizontally. this was less of a hoot, since the wind-whipped snow was now hitting us directly in the face.

increasingly obscured, the scree field became increasingly treacherous as we picked our way through it.

past one false summit, and then another, strong, steady winds were amplified by gusts that rocked us broadside.

climbing in these circumstances was challenging, but not discouraging. but it occurred to both of us that as conditions deteriorated, descending would be a different matter.

public playground open year-round.
photo by bill sepeda.
so, just a couple hundred feet beneath the summit i turned to bill and said, "you know, this has been a really great day."

"yup, i'm good," he replied, and just like that we turned for the cover of the trees.

by the time we got back to the trailhead, conditions were mostly as we had left ~ warm(ish), a waft of mist...and very quiet.

it was hard to reconcile with the howling storm less an hour and a few thousand feet above us.

twenty minutes later we were eating burritos at chipotle.

mailbox peak


hoka challenger atf 4

song stuck in my head the entire day: theme from "unbreakable kimmy schmidt"

Monday, January 01, 2018

the big empty

the big empty, illustrated...
“it was written i should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.”

~ joseph conrad, heart of darkness
2017 is a model of unfinished business.

the incompletion began in august, and gained momentum through all the -bers. each month i vowed i would return to the normal order of business, and each month i broke that vow.

why? you might ask, if you had lots of time on your hands and a dead cell phone battery.

no reason i can be sure of, i would answer, leaving both of us unsatisfied with the transaction. there would be a moment or three of awkward silence, and then we'd hurry to fill the void with something less important, like climate change or our rapidly approaching demise at the hands of an imbecile executive.
a lot of runners i know say they're out of sorts, off their game, or downright depressed. it's a theme i don't associate with this group, generally, and certainly not with the local trail running community. what is it we have in common that would hold us under these emotional waters? 

imma go out on a limb and blame 45.

for decent people everywhere, 2017 has been an onslaught. it's come at us so many ways on so many days, that for many it's impossible to process. for me, it's been a reliable source of dread, one i feel in my stomach far too often. and if i've been unable to keep the barbarians from the gates, i wonder if it's having a similar effect on others.

what i do know is, when i stay away from the news, and away from twitter in particular, my mood lifts. i'm not sure how to reconcile being a responsible citizen with unplugging from media, but do know i'm going to have to do a better job managing these competing priorities.

also, more napping.
the year began promisingly, with steady training ramping up to a hugely gratifying day in the marin headlands.

the rest of may and june looked good on paper...but they didn't feel good. in fact, they felt like a physical and metaphysical vacuum, void even of indifference and inertia. i'm no astrophysicist, over here, but that seems pretty empty.

and while there have been days of reprieve, days i thought, "all right, we're finally turning this thing around," those days turned out to be just a tease. 

the doldrums persist.
there are many "worst of 45" lists out there, all difficult to wade through. even cherry-picking a couple of particularly odious examples is a challenge, since there are so many that are so revolting.

but if we're to suppose one person could drive people to feel clinically bad, substantiation is in order. to that end, let's agree (because such things are so easily validated) that 45:

  • is a racist white supremacist fascist
  • endorsed a child molester for the u.s. senate
  • wants to take healthcare coverage from millions of americans, which will cause many thousands to die prematurely
  • continues to allow the u.s. citizens of puerto rico to languish without water or electricity
  • is in bed, financially (and probably literally) with russia

even this fraction of a fragment of a partial list would be enough to dispirit howler monkeys on crack, let alone conscientious people waiting in vain for a complicit u.s. congress to do the least it can do given the circumstances.
deep breath.
six-plus years into my little experiment in running, my father is certain the next run will be the one that ruins my knees, leaving me unable to walk evermore.

sometimes i just nod and say, "boy, i sure hope not." other times i quietly remind him of the evidence to the contrary in the medical literature. he'll quote a coach from the 60s, i'll reference thousands of years of human ambulation...and eventually we'll agree to disagree.

what seems most likely to derail me from this path is the continued absence of running mojo. or whatever syndrome that characterizes as "incomplete" a year which included two marathons, a 50K, and a 100K.

somewhere, see, i fell in with a bad crowd. many of them routinely run a long way over many hours, and recover from such things in a matter of hours or days. horrible, horrible people, they are, who somehow tricked me into loving this unconventional journey.

it's because of them, it goes without saying, that i have already begun planning to repeat my mistakes of 2017.

the downfall will start with a couple of 25Ks in january, a 22-miler and a 50K in march, and a 50K in may. after that there is loose and crazy talk of a 100-miler.

why would you consider such a thing? you might ask, if you were away from home with no access to netflix.

i can't explain it, i would answer, leaving both of us to contemplate an icily disinterested universe.
with nothing further to add and nothing better to do, i'll just leave you with a bit of twitter wisdom:


sorry for the yelling.

total miles: 1,342.7
total time: 241 hours, 1 minute
elevation (painstakingly extracted from strava): 164,600 ft.

185 running days

best shoes:
hoka clifton 3 and 4
altra torin 3.0
topo terraventure

song stuck in my head the entire time: "precious love" ~ james morrison
oh, i got so distracted
by people all around
whispering sweet nothings
filling my head with doubt
so i gave up 
i didn't take long for me to see 
the one thing that i was missing
was standing in front of me

this is precious love
it's precious love 
no, i can't let it go
this is precious love
and its teaching me 
to be a better man...

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

switching to plan b

see you next year, lottery thing.
temptation's strong
i'm on my way
to hell's half-acre
how will I ever
how will I ever
get to heaven now

~ dixie chicks
i didn't get into western states.

but running trails with a bunch of lottery qualifiers, then gathering at seven hills running shop to watch others get in...re-ignited a flicker of ultra fever.

though i haven't pinned on a bib since august, suddenly i'm clicking through qualifying events for the 2019 WS100, and imagineering some destination run-cations.

a weird, but welcome change.

a 100k would be the path of least resistance. miwok? sean o'brien

out of nowhere, though, the notion of my first 100-miler seems strangely appealing. i had thought western states was the only one i'd ever be interested in, but it turns out there are other fish on the trails. and really, mightn't it be a good idea to have run at least one other 100 before attempting a (very theoretical) squaw-to-auburn?

yes, yes it might.

turns out mountain lakes and rio del lago are now qualifiers, and cascade crest is right in our backyard.

"not a cult."
breaking news: as of this morning, i have a free entry into the yeti 100. picked it up via the tribute to the trails calendar project, benefitting the washington trails association.

i really wasn't thinking of this one as a potential first 100.

but, with 24-hour finisher medals like this, who could resist?

race starts friday, sept. 28, 2018.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

no bad dogs, only bad owners

i’m non-confrontational.

i mean, i want to be friends with just about everybody.

except a guy in discovery park last night.

well past sunset and in the rain, a group of us were running along the bluff, when out of the dark charged a very large, off-leash german shepard.

it came right up to the (leashed) dog in our party, a good pup who can nevertheless be unpredictable with strange dogs.

it was a tense situation that could’ve gotten ugly very quickly—amplified by the fact that the shepard had no collar, and no owner we could see in the darkness. that the moment hadn’t immediately devolved into a dogfight was not reassuring.

we scanned the area with our headlamps, and the dog’s person finally arrived.

at that point i would’ve expected to hear profuse apologies and assurances not to worry, because “he’s friendly.” it would’ve been a lame, but tolerable response.

instead, we got, “could you turn down your headlamps!”

that was it. 

his dog was still way too close, still posturing aggressively, and instead of hustling over to help out, this guy was yelling at us to turn down our headlamps.

it hit me the wrong way.

“maybe you could get your dog on a leash, how about that? asshole.”
“turn down your headlamps!”
“fuck you!”

at that point my friend shouted something sarcastic (but less inflammatory), pulled her dog away, and we ran on to catch up with the rest of the group.

and that was that.
in a world that has lost its mind, this little altercation is meaningless.

on a micro level, though, it’s disconcerting how quickly my behavior escalated to defcon5. i’ve been assured i didn’t overreact, but sitting here today, i know i could’ve responded more constructively. or at least more cleverly.

i don’t know if it’s the times in which we live, or if i’m just predisposed to hostility first, civility second...but in the moment, under duress, my head went *boom*.

for this, i’m sorry. 

and, not sorry.

epilogue: i will try to do better.

Friday, November 17, 2017

caution: falling idols

“well a lot of people don't look at it like you were sick, hawkeye. a lot of people look up to you here. they admire you and they kinda feel they want to be like you. and...gee, when you walk out on an operation, you make them feel like you've let them down. if they can't depend on you, well, they figure, maybe there's no point in depending on anything.”

~ radar o’reilly
when al franken was doing radio for air america, i thought he’d make a great politician.

when he ran for the senate, i thought he’d be a great senator.

in his eight years in office, franken has championed legislation supporting healthcare, education, and human rights. he has 100% ratings from the planned parenthood action fund and the human rights campaign, along with high marks from the league of conservation voters and the aclu.

he’s been a politician i could point to as an example of an honorable, dedicated public servant, and say “see? this is what’s possible.”

which is why it was so crushing to see franken accused by a fellow USO cast member, leeann tweeden, of forcibly kissing and groping her during a 2006 tour.

that’s sexual assault and yeah, i believe her. one would have to be the worst kind of retrograde partisan not to. you’d have to toss out your intellectual and moral integrity altogther. and you’d have to pretend, impossibly, that you didn’t see the goddam photo.

what franken did was inexplicably, inexcusably stupid.

particularly for a person of demonstrated intelligence and professed liberal values (e.g., respect for others). for a man who has been an earnest advocate of women’s issues prior to and throughout his time in the senate. for a man who likely would have been apoplectic if someone had treated his wife or daughter or colleagues or staffers or constituents with such flippant abuse.

because it’s possible to reconcile two or more contradictory ideas, i can accept that a decent person could commit an indecency AND still be fit to show his face in public~if he owns it, demonstrates genuine remorse, and never again betrays our trust.

i can understand that franken could have done an abhorrent thing before he became a senator AND could still do good things as a senator.

what i can’t reconcile is his continuing to be senator.

al franken should resign.

people of principle can’t (rightly) excoriate roy moore and donald trump while giving al franken a pass.

ethically, morally, politically, there’s no way to straddle that fence, walk that fine line, or thread that needle. not at a time when people who cast themselves as “fine americans” and righteous believers are defending sexual assault and child molestation.

not when ‘deflection, never reflection’ hypocrites will gleefully excuse any past or future transgression in their ranks with: “yeah, but what about al franken?”

not when 51% of our population faces the prospect of a(nother) #metoo event every time they walk out the door.

i’m emailing and @-ing al franken to step down, because we have to be able to depend on our leaders to do the right thing.

or people will start to figure there’s no point depending on anything.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


shut up.
no, you shut up.
the joy of the run has left me.

i miss it.

i've heard other runners talk about this dilemma...but i until recently i've been spared it.

"it's running! don't overthink it! shoes, shorts, one foot in front of the other!"

odd how such a simple thing can become so complicated. 

thought exercise: envision a ball of twisted-up bicycle spokes. that's me and running right now.

clinical note: i'm not injured. not physically, anyway. it's just that when it's time to run, i don't want to.

if i go anyway, i feel better. until the next time.
if i don't go, i feel worse. i mean, obviously.

the world is a treacherous place.* running is my refuge and my therapy. i don't function well without it.

but i've lost the joy.

and i need it back.
* the world is simultaneously a place of breathtaking beauty, wonder, and bliss. that's not the region of the world i'm traveling, currently.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


welp, i'm in the lottery for a hundred-mile race.

actually, it's sort of THE hundred-mile race.

there are other 100s out there, of course, each with its own brutal beauty.

staring at my computer saturday, i experienced a serious case of ultrasignup butterflies. for a moment, i thought i might puke.

yup...this is the one i want to run.

the lottery is dec. 2.