Tuesday, May 19, 2015

testing my sunny disposition

("it looks like a sunflower, but it is, 
in fact, a massive solar flare.")
"you won't keep feeling this bad."

"you won't keep feeling this bad."


that's what i told myself, many times, during my go at the 2015 sun mountain 50k.

other things i told myself:

"boy, am i tired."
"it's, like, 100 degrees here."
"why are my water bottles empty?"
"how far to the next aid station?"
"why are my water bottles empty again?"
"why is my knee locking up on this steep downhill?"
"after this race, i am never running again."

these are not helpful thoughts in the middle of a hot 50k. but none of them were as troubling as this one:

"i'm going to drop."

yeah, that one was bad. for the first time in a race, i actually considered DNF-ing. 

maybe that just means i haven't pushed myself far enough or hard enough. that i need to sign up for an event that will beat me down and keep me down so i can "see what that's like." part of this trail running thing, after all, is to test our limits and see what's possible (or temporarily impossible), verdad?

on the other hand, f*ck that. i have a loving wife and kids and dogs and a job, all of which require me to be mostly coherent and on my feet.

so, i'm torn.

"you won't keep feeling this bad."
"i'm going to drop."
"why is my skin turning yellow?! oh, sh*t, i'm having liver failure!"
"no, you're not. it's the sunscreen. see? it washes off. idiot."

(come to think of it, i thought i was getting some weird looks from the volunteers on the course...bless them. now i know why.)

this is, of course, what happens when you debate with demons. they tell you the worst things imaginable, and as we know, the bad stuff is easier to believe. our friends, on the other hand, tell us things that can change everything for the better. that's what happened at around mile 17, where i saw bill sepeda waiting for his wife alley to run by.

"i'm tired," is all i remember saying as bill offered water and sunscreen and a calm smile. looping past him again mile 23-ish, we talked about the hilarity of faux jaundice, about resting in the shade, and i don't know what all else. i'm sure i used short words, and not many of them.

i don't remember feeling any better after these exchanges, but i do know they put different words in my head. "i'm going to drop" was not among them. instead, there was...

"it's not going to get any worse."
"you'll feel better ten minutes after you finish."
"keep moving forward."

thank you, bill.

a sign at the last aid station says, "5.8 miles to the finish," or words to that effect.

"less than 6 miles. how hard can that be?"
steep descent starts now.

ha ha. having run here in 2014, i already knew: plenty hard. because in between lies a bitter climb up patterson peak and its false summit, which reveals still more steep climbing. followed by a steep descent. not coincidently.

i don't remember thinking at all after that, except...

"don't trip."

i didn't trip. and a while later i found myself giving race director james varner a high five 
at the finish line. and then a double high five. and then kind of a side-hug. that got a little awkward. but i was really happy to be done.

sorry, james.

i finished 16 minutes off my goal time. less than 30 seconds per mile. less hiking, more running would've gotten it done.

and yet somehow i managed to finish first in my age/gender group.*  i don't know how that's even possible. i truly believe those people could've walked backwards and finished ahead of me.
"annnnnd...we're done."
(photo courtesy of daisy clark)

* important caveat: i got chicked big time by 50 y.o. joanne wild, from vancouver, BC. she came in at just under 5:18:00, to which i say, "wow." and "bravo." she finished 22nd overall. 

"these miles aren't going to run themselves."

2015 sun mountain 50k
55/150 (overall)
1/10 (m 50-59)
shoes: altra superior 2.0

i can't say often enough how awesome the people at rainshadow running are. so i'll say it again. they're awesome. they put on consistently great events, which gather some of my favorite people in the whole wide world. the friendships and memories we make are lasting and profound. i am so grateful for all y'all. 

let's do this again, soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

random paths

molly, at home.
she and our daughter would've been friends, i think.

they were so similar in so many ways.

instead, the girl across the street died by random gunfire, leaving behind an infinite number of paths not taken.

probably the least of which is simply being our neighbor. just across the street.

molly conley's mom is still there, almost two years gone by. we hug her every chance we get, which isn't often. we saw her even less than usual during the recent trial, conviction, and sentencing of molly's killer.

what's she to do, after all? come bounding over with talk of great weather and flowers in her garden and "oh-my-gosh we should get together for a glass of wine on the patio"?

we want to reach out, but aren't wise enough to know how. we know this because, surprised to see her out walking her dogs last week, we waved and blurted a cheerful, "hello!"

because we like her, and were happy to see her.

the hello hung in the air, briefly, before she kindly looked up, smiled a small smile, and kept walking.

the unspeakable patiently waits and watches and listens. spoken or not, it will be part of the conversation, soon enough.

our daughter is smart and athletic and confident. she's just, you know, someone who makes you smile, someone you want to be around. which is the same way molly's mom described her daughter in one of our first conversations.

i believe we surround ourselves with people who reflect who we are and who we want to be. and because i believe this...i think our girls would've been friends.

one of countless paths it might've been nice to watch them follow.

kiss a lover, dance a measure
find your name and buried treasure
face your life, its pain, its pleasure
leave no path untaken

~ neil gaiman

the no-way scenario

“California’s in the midst of a 4-year-old drought. They tell us there’s a year’s supply of water left. What do you do about it?”

“I’m starting a Kickstarter campaign. I want $30 billion … to build a pipeline like the Alaska pipeline. Say, from Seattle — a place where there’s a lot of water. There’s too much water. How bad would it be to get a large, 4-foot pipeline, keep it aboveground — because if it leaks, you’re irrigating!”

And where would this water pipeline go?

“Bring it down here and fill one of our lakes! Lake Mead!”

it's not happening, bill.

not because washingtonians aren't sharing, caring people. we are. but let's be clear ~ you're not getting our water.

"Last year Washington saw more craft breweries open than any other state: 83 new breweries opened in Washington during 2014. Followed by New York 67, California 59, Colorado 55, and Florida. BOOM!"

there's a credibility gap here. if california's drought problem is so bad, what are they doing opening breweries? and why should we fill up their lakes, when everyone knows they're just going to use the water to irrigate the desert landscaping of the rich and famous?

"The Desert Water Agency, which provides water to Palm Springs and nearby areas, reported consumption of 221 gallons per person per day for February of this year, above the state average of 77 gallons, according to numbers released by the State Water Resources Control Board."

221 gallons per person! per day! that's a lot of lost beer-opportunity cost!

so, bill, you're saying with california facing its worst drought in 12 centuries, you want to keep the taps flowing...with washington's water?

no. i mean, sorry and all...but no.

we have beer to make.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

top billing (or, "learning to love the best of the worst")

"what could possibly go wrong?"
''i have tons of money, a stout resume, and a guy who likes to call himself 'commander in chief' in the bedroom. oh, and i want to be president."

~ hillary v.16

you don't have to love hillary and her, uh, DINO problem.

william rivers pitt, for example, doesn't love her one bit:

"Hillary voted for the PATRIOT Act. She voted for the Iraq War Resolution. She is snuggled up good and tight with the organized crime crews like Goldman Sachs that stole our future. She got the Keystone XL pipeline ball rolling at the State Department. Personal liberty...unjust war...Wall Street crime...climate change. Seems to me those are the signal issues of our time...and every chance she's had to cast a vote or exert influence, she's gone in absolutely the wrong direction."

uh, yup.

but unless there's another barack obama out there we're not aware of (there isn't ~ we'd be aware of him/her by now), you can bet brother william (and every other democrat and liberal) will pull the lever for hillary next year.

therefore it may be useful to find some reasons not to revile her.

1. she's not scott walker, jeb bush, or a member of the cruz/paul/rubio boy band.
2. social media will make it much harder for her to triangulate (note: that sentence is a nonsense collection of words that means nothing)
3. she can beat the stuffing out of john boehner and mitch mcconnell
4. she is only slightly right of center on most issues (as near as we can tell, based on the current understanding of her "evolving" views)
5. (hang on, i'm thinking...)

okay, that's all i've got right now.


Monday, April 06, 2015

hate pays

let's give this as little attention as possible.

but just enough to provide a cautionary tale.

in the wake of signing indiana's discriminatory "religious freedom restoration act," governor mike pence was asked if it should be legal to discriminate.

he refused to answer the question.

instead, he launched into full-on victim mode, complaining how "misunderstood" the new law was, and how horribly "mischaracterized" it had been.

the very next week, after businesses, religious groups, local governments, state governments, and countless individuals threatened to boycott indiana, the law was revised.

"Specifically, the new language says the RFRA does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, goods, employment, housing or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex or military service."

so apparently the law in its original form was pretty well understood after all, n'est-ce pas?

one more thing pence said (and the point of this little exercise), was that there was no reason for concern the law might be used as cover for discrimination.

"come on!" pence objected. "hoosiers don't believe in discrimination."

no, of course not.

and yet almost immediately one hoosier restaurant jumped into the news saying it would refuse to cater a gay wedding. after a deluge of negative reviews on yelp and facebook, the business closed. yay, social media.

soon thereafter, a gofundme page set up to support that business raised nearly $850,000 in two days. i haven't seen their books, but let's agree that $850K is more money than this mom and pop pizza shop in northern indiana would see in its shabby lifetime.

conclusion: lots of hoosiers (and others) believe in discrimination so fervently, they're willing to bankroll it to the tune of almost a million bucks.

here's another example of a florist in washington state who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. a crowdfunding campaign for her netted more than $80,000.

conclusion II: lots of americans don't really believe in the concept of america. they will gladly deprive their fellow citizens of basic civil rights if they think they can get away with it.

this is a good thing to remember any time you hear some (invariably republican) legislator say the fine people of his/her constituency would never discriminate by hiding behind a law passed to enable discrimination.

conclusion III: when in doubt...follow the money.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

running off at the mouth

pounding down the mailbox peak trail my friend jonathan and i passed three hiking gents whom we had passed on the way up.

they stepped aside to let us go by, and one of them said, "you're going to wreck your knees."

"i hope not," i said over my shoulder.

"oh, you will," he insisted.

not a very friendly thought to share in passing, i'd say.

also, not supported in the clinical literature.

humans are born to run. we evolved to forage in the savannah and to chase down game over long distances. to suggest that doing what we are built to do is bad for us is just straight-up wrong.

but thanks for the warning, hiking dude. i'll try to remember it next time i blow by you on the trail.

the politics of disambiguation

"just when i think i'm out, they pull me back in."

~ al pacino in godfather the third

"never hate your enemies. it affects your judgment."

~ ibid.


with the 2016 election season looming like a noxious cloud, a dark, cynical part of me thinks it doesn't matter who is president of the united states of america.

i look at the list of prospective "candidates" and think the promise of america is true: anyone ~ no matter how immoral, incoherent, or otherwise unqualified ~ can grow up to be president.

then i remember barack obama, and i feel better. briefly. until i remember the bush administration, and i mentally puke.

the closer it gets, the less i want to engage in this cycle at all. the idea of wallowing around in US politics (again) makes me want to shower off with a bleach firehose.

and yet, here we are. some friends are committing to getting democrats elected, while others commit to further sabotage our little experiment in democracy. 

don't misunderstand: i don't love democrats. as a general matter they are far too conservative for my taste. and the increasingly likely prospect of hillary clinton as president is, um, discouraging.

but i dislike her and her fellow corporate democrats much less than the horror show of the other major party. no shower can wash that stench away.

deep breath.

okay, i know, it does matter who becomes president #45. whoever it is will likely appoint a supreme court justice or two, as well as a bunch of other judges-for-life. s/he will continue turning our ship of state away from the rocks put in our path by the other party...or he will guarantee we crash headlong into them.

which is why, really, there's no sitting this one out. the lesser of two evils is still evil...but the alternative is no alternative at all.


pacino: "My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator."
keaton: "Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed."
pacino: "Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

chuckanut 2: payback is a, uh, word that really doesn't apply here...

"this is great, this is really f*ckin' great. we're in some pretty sh*t now, man."

~ bill paxton kvetching in 'aliens'

(also, my brain before the chuckanut 50k.)


i'd like to say i went into the 2015 chuckanut 50k burbling with confidence.

i was as trained up for it as i could be, minus three sort-of-important weeks lost to a soleus injury. still, i was able to pile up some pretty good miles after that setback, and might very well have felt good about that.

except for the sense of dread that ensued instead.

maybe it was the entirely unpleasant experience at the chuckanut mountain marathon the summer before. maybe it was the three weeks lost and the niggling pains that accumulated while i was trying to make up for lost time.

either way, on game day i was not in the best place, mentally. there was no burbling going on. but at that point there was nothing left to do but line up and see what was what.

the first 10k pace on the interurban trail was entirely too fast. i was running with friends from seven hills running shop, folks with more than a few ultras in their repertoire. for them, no big deal. for me, when those first 6-ish miles were done my thought was, "that went by way too quick. this may be cause for concern."

because that's when chuckanut really starts. up up up the fragrance lake trail to the two dollar trail. in between, a couple of aid stations, at which i topped off the tank, fuel-wise, hoping to avoid the nutrition/hydration gremlins that swarmed me the previous july.

it's probably worth noting, before we get too far into this, that rain was happening, as it had the day before. which is to say, mud was also happening. it wasn't a factor as we ascended cleator road, but right after the third aid station, entering the ridge line trail, mud got real.

"come on! come on you bastard! come on, you too! oh, you want some of this? f*ck you!"

~ bill paxton later in 'aliens'

(also, my brain in the thick of chuckanut.)

ed. note: the chuckanut ridge line trail is fun. if your legs are under you and your proprioception is intact, you can have a blast on this technical terrain. if everything is wet and muddy you can still have fun...but now there's an element of danger going on. if this wasn't plain enough, it became clear when my feet went out from under me on a rocky drop-off. my right knee impacted first, followed by my left hand. immediately the hand went numb, and i thought i had broken something.

the self-diagnostic went something like...
"we're a little shaken here, sir, but still intact. we're good to go."
"stand by, captain. sensors are down, we're blind as a bat."
"i don't know if you've noticed, wrist, but we're on our feet and moving. get back in the game, or tell us it's time to shut this thing down."
"stand by...fingers working, numbness fading...no breaks! we're good here!"

toward the far north end of ridge line, heading down yet another steep, rocky section, a young woman was down and distressed. it was hard to tell, in passing, what the situation was, but she was crying hard and her friend was asking if anyone had a tensor bandage. to me that added up to something like a low-leg fracture, but who knows? in any case, we got word aid was heading up from the trail below, so we reluctantly pressed on.

the mud turned into soup heading south on the north lost lake trail. every uphill step included a semi-slide back. every descent was an exercise in staying upright. this routine continued around the south lost lake trail to the aid station at the base of chinscraper.*

(* steep climb gaining back all the elevation you gave up descending ridge line, over a much shorter distance. think climbing stairs in a tall building, but with mud and switchbacks and glenn tachiyama taking your photo when you've really had enough of this #%@$%# climb.)

for fun, at the top of chinscraper you turn around and give back all the vertical you just fought for. down cleator, down the fragrance lake trail, down to the interurban. all that's left is the 10k back to the finish line, or as one chuckanut veteran put it, "the longest 10k of your life."

he was right. it went on forever. in some parallel universe, i'm still running it.

unless you throw yourself down in a heap and refuse to continue (or suffer some other demoralizing condition), eventually even the longest 10k of your life comes to an end. considering my attitude at the start of the day, crossing the finish line felt like a bit of vindication. over what, i'm not sure. self-doubt? niggling pain? dialogue from throwback sci-fi flicks?

or maybe just the memory of a previous day that didn't go so well, and a new, more positive memory in its place.

whatever. i'll take it.


chuckanut 50k

shoes: altra superior 2.0
food: a fistful of Vfuel and huma gels, a couple fuel 100 electro-bites, and some trader joe's candied ginger

i am remiss not to mention the great volunteers at every aid station on the course. their enthusiasm and encouragement was much-needed and incredibly welcome. also thanks to race director krissy moehl, who puts on one heck of a race. and finally, thanks to krissy's mom, peggy, who is a hoot. have fun at neil diamond, peggy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

the no-win scenario

"i think a moderate 10k recovery run is pretty good after a 21-mile training run. don't you?"


"shut up! who cares what you think??"

"you do."

"fuck you, i do not!"


(what it's like to be me, on a tuesday.)