Thursday, August 21, 2014

first-world weird

"be the ball? i can't even see the ball."
i have a recurring nightmare that will get no sympathy.

some people have anxiety dreams about walking around naked, or showing up to class and it's finals day and they haven't studied, or being chased but unable to run away.

those sound familiar, right?

i have stress dreams about playing golf at pebble beach.

i know, boo hoo.

the theme is always the same. somehow i'm at one of the hallowed cathedrals of golf (a game i used to play with some enthusiasm), and i'm completely unable to hit the ball because i haven't touched a club in years. most often it's late in the day and we're trying to hurry around the course before dark. of course there are groups behind us, also wanting to finish, completely exasperated by my incompetence.

it's awful.

i wake up tired and stressed, wondering what the hell that was about. 

but i suppose it's better than being chased by monsters.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

action seeking opportunity

my daughter and i gave five bucks to a homeless-looking guy on the corner. he handed her this...

anybody need an IT guy?

Monday, August 18, 2014

will run for wine

this race.
i ran a little race on saturday.

i needed some kind of organized event to keep my streak going (now at 28 months, but who's counting), and the columbia winery 10k was it.

it was my first non-trail event in a long time. the last one was the lake chelan marathon, which was september 2013. apparently i like trails.

anyhoo... columbia winery. a fundraiser for seattle children's hospital.

the course, in part on the sammamish river trail (which i run often), was flat and fast. much faster than i'm used to running.
this trail.

on unpaved trails i generally run 9- to 11-minute miles. saturday i ran at a 7:15 minute/mile pace. not fast compared to most, but for me it was moving right along.

turns out it was good enough for a PR at the 10k distance.
this wine.

no, i didn't drink wine afterward. it was 9:30 in the morning.

but i did notice columbia makes a grenache rosé, which i am going to have to check into.


35/331 (overall)
2/6 (50-54)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

mad poetry

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel

~ maya angelou

i'm standing here cycling through the many ways robin williams made me feel.

and i keep coming back to one that has been true for years: awe.

when i was much younger, it was enough that he was outrageously funny, in a runaway high-speed train sort of way. i mean, i laughed at the humor in his standup operatics (you absolutely cannot call them "routines"), but it was the delivery ~ the topical theatrics, the manic digressions, the painfully profound wisdom, and the nuclear thread fusing them together ~ that dilated your brain.

even back then, i didn't think of him as a "comedian." the word is too small to describe what he did. and though the G-word is overused and underdelivered, robin williams was a genius of some sort. "mind-bending," maybe. or "effortless" or "profane" or "pure" or some other word that escalates "genius," because that word isn't big enough, either.

that's what we saw onstage or onscreen. a preposterous expression of writing and stagecraft and camera work and editing and a thousand other details. it was like watching a fiercely intelligent blowtorch.

behind the scenes, maybe "distraught" or "stricken" or "broken" was more apt.

as the years swept by, i thought williams' best performances were when he wasn't being funny. the inexorable craft he demonstrated in moscow on the hudson. the agony of the fisher king. the vulnerability in dead poets society and good will hunting. the rage of good morning viet nam. and what dreams may come...that one still leaves me, uh, emotionally compromised.

he had the benefit of brilliant writing in those roles, but it was the all-in fearlessness he brought to them that will always stay with me.

i was stunned the day i heard robin williams had died. i knew he had brawled for years with depression ~ but i guess i thought that fight was behind him. then i read he was in the early stages of parkinson's disease. it's tempting to write, "...and it all made sense." but it didn't. not really. 

no more so than anything else in this life.

today, the shock is wearing off. 

but sense of loss rolls on.

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. 

"To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' 

"Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on ~ and you may contribute a verse. 

"What will your verse be?"

~ from dead poets society

his was one hell of a verse...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

outrage + us

dear barry,

as you probably recall, you and i shook hands back in 2006. twice, in fact.

it was out in front of the chicago tribune building, where you had just met with the editorial board. there was a camera crew outside, to whom you gave a couple minutes, and then you worked the pedestrians and passers-by a little bit.

those people really liked you. they smiled and encouraged you to run for president. we shook hands on your way up the street (i said something clever like, "nice to meet you, senator."), and then again as you worked back the other way. no idea what i said that time, but maybe you remember.

in the months leading up to the 2008 election, i campaigned for you and raised money for you. i believed you would lead the anti-bush administration, that you would be the guy who would swing the pendulum from the batsh*t-crazy right back to the left.

and don't get me wrong, you've done some extraordinary things. for one, you turned around an economy in total meltdown. and i really appreciate obamacare, not to mention the supreme court justices you've appointed. they will make a huge, positive difference for a lot of people for a long time.

having said that, barry, you and i can't hang out together any more.

because of this:
"...before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong.  We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.  We did some things that were contrary to our values.
 I understand why it happened.  I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.  And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.  And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots."
barry, you're a constitutional law professor. you, more than most, know words have power and meaning. you know this, and yet you just stood up before the whole wide world and said being afraid is an excuse to do unconscionable things. 

you just said that when people are working hard under enormous pressure, anything goes. 

and you characterized a pack of ravening war criminals as "real patriots."

does pointing all this out make me "sanctimonious"? if so, i don't care. because defining-down sociopathic behavior as "patriotism" is more than just grotesque. it guarantees that the same thing will happen again in some future crisis. it also ensures the same behavior will be practiced against america ~ because what's legit policy for the US is legit for everybody else.

i hate to state the obvious, especially to the constitutional law professor in the room, but we're either a nation of laws, barry, or we're not. we either walk the talk, or we don't. (and if you ever want to use the phrase "american exceptionalism" with a straight face, you don't let the war criminals off the hook because they were stressed out.)

"we tortured some folks." 

seriously? you make it sound like the bush administration hazed a few pledges at a fraternity party. 

what really happened is that the united states officially adopted a policy of " kidnappings (euphemistically called "renditions") of terror suspects, including completely innocent people the CIA snatched off the streets of global cities, as well as from the backlands of the planet and "rendered" into the hands of well-known torturing regimes (with the help of 54 other countries) and the setting up of a network of "black sites" or offshore prisons where anything went, the CIA tortured up a storm. And it did so at the behest of the top officials of the Bush administration, including the president and vice president." 

barry, i could go on and on, but what would be the point? you know all of this, in gruesome detail. and we haven't even mentioned the war ginned up for no good reason whatsoever.

i don't get how you can shrug all this off, like it's nothing. sorry, i can't. or maybe more accurately, i won't. 

if that makes me sanctimonious...i guess i'll just have to learn to live with it.

Monday, July 28, 2014


well...that was hard.

the chuckanut mountain marathon is described as a course that "...will test runners' skill on narrow and technical single track trails, long climbs and descents, a shorter steep climb, with some beautiful views from the Chuckanut Ridge, Fragrance Lake, and Lost Lake Trail. Course has about 4,525 feet of elevation gain."

all true, but it doesn't quite capture the, uh, focus required to take advantage of all the beauty.

chuckanut is a beast.

there's a lot of steep vertical on the course, which makes for a lot of compartmentalization. no point in looking all the way up there (squints at some theoretical top of a burly climb), when the steps right in front of your face will do.

several times i thought of a line recently shared by a very wise ultrarunner, john morelock, in reference to the riders in the tour de france: "All they can do now is drop their eyes and drag themselves on up the mountain." it was a very useful reminder, as was one of my go-to kicks in the behind: 

"you're not puking and nothing's broken, so get going."vivian mcQueeney

despite the many rigors, i didn't really blow up until the aid station at about mile 17.5. within a few minutes of leaving there, my stomach went bad, my proprioception started to fail, and my head went all foggy. maybe i was dehydrated, i don't know. sitting here today, slightly less foggy, i still don't know. and i certainly didn't know at mile 18 or 19 or 20...

...all i knew was, suddenly everything was harder, and i still had a long way to go. running along the spectacular chuckanut ridge i stopped, probably half a dozen times, to self-assess or just collect myself, but nothing enlightening came of it. there was no epiphanous thought other than, "these miles aren't gonna run themselves." so, i kept going.

there was an aid station mile 21-ish, and in retrospect i wonder if i was looking kinda lousy. "are you doing okay?" asked one of the very nice volunteers, looking me in the eye. "yup," i said, looking him back in the eye. i'm not sure why it seemed important to do that. i mean, it's not like he was going to drag me off the course (at least, i don't think so). either way, he seemed to believe me, as i slurped down a couple orange sections.

meanwhile, another runner sat next to the aid table, his head down, looking like he might've recently thrown up. the volunteer called down to the finish line, requesting a ride for the guy, at which point i said, "thank you," and trudged away. "don't sit down," i reminded myself. "whatever you do, don't. sit. down."

inconvenient tune playing on endless loop in my head for many miles (thanks, brain!): 

You asked me
How long I'd stay by your side
And so I answered
With only just one reply
Til the casket drops
Til my dying day
Til my heartbeat stops
Til my legs just break
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa,
Til the casket drops

such a happy little slogging tune!

chuckanut mountain thoroughly kicked my behind this time around. and as i was finishing the last couple miles i was thinking i would never want to run it again. that thought didn't last 24 hours. sitting here now, i'm already thinking what it will take to do better next year. there will need to be lots more hill repeats, that's certain. and maybe a better race day plan than, "____."

maybe bring along some ginger for the belly issues, which should let me hydrate more effectively, which should keep me from feeling like i'm stroking out. 

there. it's a plan.


arbitrary, unsupported theory: this course has a lot more than 4500 feet of elevation to it. or, maybe i'm just a big baby.


update: post-race, upon hearing my travails, a concerned mrs. spaceneedl asked if at any point i considered dropping from the race. she thought it might've been the smart thing to do.

full disclosure: i did think about it. but i never considered it. as long as i was conscious, i was going to finish.

reason #infinity why she's the smart one in the family.


update II: according to my garmin data, the elevation for 26 miles was just over 5900 feet.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

snake bit

"it's just a half marathon..." i said to myself. 

ha ha. i am so dumb.

i mean seriously. by now i've run enough trail events to know not to take anything for granted. to know that there's no such thing as "just a half marathon."

and to know that you don't leave your legs on the trail during an 8-mile group run the day before the race.

oh, yes. i did that.

the course description for the rattlesnake ridge 13.1 says, "elevation gain: about 2700 feet." what it doesn't say it that the majority of that gain is in the first 5-ish miles. so if you left your legs somewhere in discovery park the day before, you might find yourself thinking, "i am a terrible runner. this is so runnable. i should totally be running right now," while you hike as quickly as possible. 

so, as beautiful as the course and the day turned out to be (and they were gorgeous), my crabby attitude completely sabotaged the occasion.

saturday flashback: the group run was great, in that it was the first time since sun mountain that my legs actually felt healthy. in fact, it felt so good to feel so good that i was falling over myself to seize the day (even if it was the day-before). 

and by falling over myself, i mean literally. 

fall #1: stepped in a hole in the dunes above the bluff. whump. sand, all up everywhere. 
fall #2: tripped on a root so cleverly disguised that it was nearly invisible even after i picked myself up off the trail and looked for it. 

falling down is funny, really. especially when you're not the guy who fell down. twice.

i didn't fall down on sunday.

which i certainly could have done, many times over (and don't think that the thought didn't occur to me ~ many times over). the footing was tough in places, especially on the long descent to rattlesnake lake. lots of roots and rocks and lines of fall and, oh yes, the hoards of happy day-hikers heading up the hill.

"runner!" they'd sometimes say as we were trying to pass by without brushing, bumping or otherwise bulldozing grandma and baby hortense. other times no one said anything, and we slowed to weave through the sun worshipers and nature appreciators appreciating the sh*t out of the entire trail.

administrative note: as during most trail events, the rattlesnake mountain trail is not closed for the race. and i'm not saying it should be. i'm just saying, "holy sh*t, i hope i don't run into anyone or break my leg on this lovely downhill sprint and maybe i should slow down even though that's not so easy momentum and inertia-wise..."

i didn't fall down on sunday, and i don't believe i caused anyone else to fall down, either. any day i can say that, it should be considered a good day.

my attitude improved during the long downhill, possibly because i was moving at a more reasonable, gravity-assisted pace. then came the bottom of the hill, where you might think, "ha, i survived and i'm done!" and, like at sun mountain, you'd be wrong. 

still to go was an interminable, flat-ish 3-mile out-and-back on the snoqualmie valley trail, which seemed to go uphill in both directions. you could see a loooong way down this section of old railroad right-of-way, and even though there were runners heading back from it, the turnaround point stubbornly refused to appear. this may have been symptomatic of my once-again deteriorating attitude...but i don't think so. i think someone was having fun, moving the sign farther and farther down the trail, just to see who they could make cry.

accord to the results web site, at some point i did cross the finish line. i'm not still out there, so clearly i stopped running, eventually.

i made (at least) two mistakes this day that i will endeavor not to make again:

#1: don't run the race the day before the race
#2: don't get so caught up in your "time" and "where you finish" that you make it impossible to enjoy a day that is impossible not to enjoy.

i mean, seriously.

rattlesnake ridge 13.1

mental difficulty: extraordinary
perceived exertion: more than sun mountain 50k
rattlesnakes seen: 0
fun had: 0

26/96 ~ overall
3/9 ~ 50-59