Monday, November 28, 2016

the how and the why

"They say that to train for and run 100 miles, you always need to know your "why." Without a "why," a reason, you won't finish. What they don't tell you is that some days the "why" doesn't matter. Some days, after you've worked a 50-hour week, after you've already gotten up every single day to run and to train—exhausted, tired, depleted, sore, and discouragedall that matters is your "how."

~desiree marek
like a poorly marked trail, my 2017 racing schedule could go a lot of different ways.

case in point: i'm signed up for the gorge waterfalls 100k, and in the dec. 3 lottery for the western states 100-mile run.

1. i got through the gorge 100k lottery, so i'm in! except it turns out permits for the event aren't approved for the date it's supposed to happen. so i may be out.
2. getting into western states on the first try, with one lottery ticket, is like, uh, hitting the lottery. i mean, some people wait years, with multiple tickets, and still don't get in.

best case: gorge 100k happens on a convenient date, i get into western states, and running gorge springboards me on to an amazing WS100 finish!

worst case:* i don't get into western states, and i have to bow out of gorge because the eventual date conflicts with our long-booked family vacation. 

leaving my 2017 running calendar pretty much...empty.
assuming the worst-case scenario, i have a post-it full of events that would make 2017 a fantastic year, running-wise (if not otherwise) ...

chuckanut 50k — 3/18
miwok 100k — 5/6
orcas island marathon — 5/13
sun mountain 50k — 5/20
western states training camp — 5/27-29
mccall trailrunning classic 40mile — 7/15
white river 50m  8/5
squamish 50m — 8/19 (update: in.)
why 100:

"Why are you doing this? Seems a bit extreme." ~ a well-intentioned friend

i got into the western states lottery because it's western states  and who knows if i'll get another chance at it. and because it is western states, if i were to beat the odds and get in, i would be all-in. i would find a way to get to the starting line with a fighting chance to finish.

the question is, can i say the same about any other 100?

i. don't. know.

standing here right this second, i'm not sure i can identify my "why," let alone a "how."

what i do know, though, is that the idea is intriguing enough to make me go, "what if?" and "why not?"

next step: let's go.

pine to palm — 9/9
mountain lakes — 9/23
javelina 100 — 10/28

* in the big scheme of things, not really the "worst case"
 almost — i'm definitely signed up for the orcas island 25k on january 28
‡ obviously some of these are mutually exclusive

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

grieving miel

caution: what follows is not a happy story. 

"if you find somebody to love in this world 
you better hang on tooth and nail 
the wolf is always at the door 
in a new york minute
everything can change"

~ don henley
it went by so fast.

from the time i picked up my cat out of the middle of the street to the time i returned home from the emergency vet clinic, it was little more than an hour.

at 6:30 p.m. i saw headlamps on both sides of the street as i drove up, and thought "runners out for an evening run." i pulled into the driveway and noticed two of the lamps were from guys working on utilities.

on the other side of the street was a young woman, and she was yelling something to me. i started walking toward her and in the next few seconds, everything changed.

"can you help me i don't know what to do i hit a cat."

at that moment my thinking brain shut down to a very low level. 

it was one of our cats, down and writhing on the ground. i hesitated for what seemed like a long time, not sure what to do, not wanting to move her for fear of doing more damage. 

deciding for me, a car rolled up fast, as if it didn't see us, and i frantically waved it off. no choice now, i had to get her out of the middle of the street.

i picked her up and held her against my chest, moving quickly toward the house.

"i'm so sorry i didn't see her she ran right out in front of me."
"it's not your fault."

miel wanted to live, and fought me hard. kicking at the restraint, she dug her claws into my hands. i was afraid of hurting her more, of holding her too tightly, so i set her down in a flower bed. she continued to writhe, and i noticed the blood all over my jacket.

"i'm so sorry."
"it's not your fault."
i ran into the house and found a towel in the hall closet. outside again, i threw open the garage door and emptied a cardboard box that was full of something, i don't know what.

miel was where i left her, panting hard. i wrapped the towel around her as gently as i could and lifted her up to put her in the box. she let out a high, painful groan.

i put her in the back seat and headed toward the emergency clinic. i wasn't thinking clearly enough to remember how to get there, but knew generally which direction to head. i figured it would come back to me as i drove.

she panted loudly and it occurred to me she might be too hot with the towel over her, so i rolled down the window. she quieted down and immediately i was afraid she was slipping away, so i started talking to her.

"i'm here miel i'm right here i'm sorry i know you're hurting i'm going to take care of you..."

i didn't tell her everything was going to be okay.

"i'm here miel i'm sorry i know you're hurting i'm not going to leave you...please don't leave me."

she struggled in the box, and i was afraid she was going to throw herself out of it.

"i'm here miel i'm here be still please be still i know you're hurting."

it went on like this for what seemed like a long time.

eventually we pulled up to the vet clinic, and i threw open the back door of the car. the blood was everywhere.

i half-ran with her toward the clinic door, while miel struggled to get out of the box. she was still so strong, still so full of febrile energy. she wanted to live.

i reached the front door and set the box down on the ground, holding her in with one hand, fumbling with the doorknob with the other. it was locked.

i looked higher up the door and there was a buzzer.

a vet tech came and let us in. i stammered out our story, she asked some questions, i gave some one-word answers.

"okay, i'm going to take her back now."

i knew what was going to happen next. every next thing had already played itself out in my head, and there was only one thing left. i reached into the box and gently touched miel's fur.

"goodbye, beautiful."

the doors opened and closed, and i wandered into the bathroom to wash off some of the blood. 

"we need you to sign this here and here and here."

i signed, and sent hurried texts to my wife, who was boarding a plane for london. i barely held it together through a quick call from our daughter.

then i stood against a wall, waiting, sipping water from a dixie cup.

after a while, the vet came out.

"her heart is still beating but i'm not getting any neurological response the xrays showed some significant fractures to her skull at this point i think there's not much left we can do i think we have to euthanize her."

i nodded and sobbed a little.

"so you're okay if we go ahead...?"

i nodded and sobbed some more.

she went back through the doors.

our daughter texted, "please let me know what is going on"

"she's gone"
i drove back home in a fog, accompanied by a low-grade dread something else bad might happen on the way home. it didn't.

our street was quiet and dark as i pulled into the driveway.

it was 7:35 p.m.
the next morning, as usual, the alarm went off at 6:15.

as usual i got up, fed the dogs, and took them for a walk in the rain. we circled the block and inevitably passed the spot where miel was hit.

something was there, in the middle of the street. we waited for a couple cars to pass to go pick it up.

it was miel's collar.

i picked it up and carried it home.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


i haven't been sleeping well these past few nights. 

waking up at 3 or 4, unable to go back to sleep, with mozart ringing in my head.

i don't mind the mozart.

but i paid my sleep-deprived dues when both my children were babies.

update: the sleep hasn't improved, but the mozart soundtrack is, at least, diversifying.

added now are the overture from don giovani and the requiem mass. these pieces flow into each other seamlessly until i fall back to sleep or give up on sleep and roll out.

i love mozart, but i'd prefer to listen during normal waking hours.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

one minute more

"courage is fear holding on a minute longer."

~ george s. patton

a low, dark energy is afoot today, and the world is watching to see what decent people do next.

and while it's tempting to cringe and turn away in disgust, closer to home our children are watching as well.

our daughter, one of the most relentlessly positive people i know, is withdrawn and wary.

our son, a recent high school grad, is half-jokingly saying "the end is nigh."

we honestly don't know what to tell them this morning, because they're too smart to believe pollyanna platitudes.

so, i'm going to tell them this: the world is going to need a lot of brave people today. be one of them.

hold on a minute longer. and a minute more than that. and another. and another.

people we care about are watching.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

all the (s)miles


that's the first word i ever said to phil kochik, the day i ducked my head inside the running shop he was setting up in seattle.

seven hills hadn't even opened yet~~its walls and shelves were nearly bare~~but phil invited me in to look around anyway.

that was 2012, and i was a neophyte runner of roads. for me, unpaved trails were literally undiscovered country. i had no idea of the countless miles and adventures just around the corner.

this month seven hills celebrated its 4th anniversary. 

in the intervening years, one of the most inspiring aspects of the shop is the community that has grown up around it. 

seven hills has hosted some of the greatest runners in human history, along with a who's-who of FKT and OKT explorers. the shop has sponsored remarkable athletes from across the pacific northwest, and has been equally supportive of mid- to back-of-the-pack runners.

the people who have gravitated to "team seven hills" fit no particular demographic, save one: a willingness to throw themselves at adventure.

whether it's their first first trail run or their first 100-miler, volunteering at an aid station or crewing for friends, these folks radiate a warm joie de vivre you want to bask in every chance you get.
photo of madcap hilarity courtesy of glenn tachiyama.

i'm not sure where my running would have taken me if seven hills hadn't moved into our neighborhood (not far, i suspect). but to whatever degree i'm now more than a pedestrian weekend jogger, i owe it to this shop and the extraordinary people i've met because of it.

i am, as noted many times before, endlessly grateful.

this week phil announced he extended the shop's lease another two years.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

...and the pursuit of human decency

"there's no difference between trump and clinton."
~ a former colleague mansplaining politics to two intelligent women
big mistake, dude.

evidently you've managed to convince yourself hillary clinton and donald trump are equivalent "because they both lie."

in doing so, you proudly flaunt your horrific failure of judgment.

you have a wife and daughter, right? 

so, let me ask you, would you feel safe leaving either of them alone in a room with trump? 

more importantly, do you think they would feel safe?

if you're honest, the answer to both questions is "no." 

cynically stating there's no difference between the confessed sex offender and the flawed candidate who has spent years fighting for women's rights (while fighting her own battles against misogyny), demeans the women in your life. 

worse, your failure to differentiate between them actually increases the chance the women you care about will be physically assaulted by men who share trump's view that women are just a collection of body parts to be rated and grabbed, whenever.

it comes to this: i wouldn't allow my daughter in your home.

Monday, September 19, 2016

think fast

i'm not fast.

but once in a while i feel fast, and that's almost the same thing.

saturday was one of those days.

in addition to a rare top-10 finish, i had an even rarer negative split in the second half of the race. 

which is to say i covered the first 6.1 miles in ~59 minutes, and the final 7.2 miles at a faster-pace ~1:03:30.

i'll take that any day.

paradise valley half marathon:


8/55 (overall)
1/3 (M 50-59)

altra lone peak 3.0

song stuck in my head the entire time: "funknroll" ~ prince

other uninteresting notes said there was a 100% chance of precipitation before and during the race. they were half-right. it poured while we were standing around waiting for the start. but by race time, the rain was pretty much over. regardless, there was a lot of ponding on the trails. after daintily skipping around the first few puddles (as always), i went through the middle the rest of the way. once your feet are wet, they're wet® after all.

the "i don't fall down" lone peak 3.0.
runners were falling down all over the place. wet rocks/roots and non-grippy shoes are a tough combination. the LP 3.0s were having none of that. i never even slipped, let alone fell. if you're looking for a wet/winter shoe, these will treat you well for distances up to (and probably beyond) 50k.

they're also great for non-rainy and technical terrain. i mean, obviously.

oh! there was a bear warning at the trailhead. "bears recently sighted nearby," or words to that effect. if there were, in fact, bears nearby they at least had the good sense not to come out in the rain.

many thanks to the proprietors and volunteers at northwest trail runs. this was a fun track and a fine inaugural event at the paradise valley conservation area. always good to find new places to run!