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

2:26:44
26/96 ~ overall
3/9 ~ 50-59

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

crossing two bridges

i've worked in healthcare for a long time.

i can walk into a hospital and unblinkingly head to a cadaver lab, participate in what goes on there, and walk back out with a purposeful stride.

i drink later, but on the way in and out: purposeful.

walking in with a loved one who's about to become a patient? my gait loses all certainty. i can't find my way through the byzantine hallways. my brain goes to a slow, low-functioning place.

including two sky bridges thirty feet above minor ave. and marion street, the path from the physician's office to the surgical center is less than a quarter mile, but like the hallways in the overlook hotel, it goes on forever.

i'm breathing shallow, wary and uneasy and apprehensive. i'm used to being able to do something about something, somehow. here, not the case.

mind you, that's what's going on on the inside. what's going on on the outside is all bonhomie, all the time.

"so, just to be clear, i should NOT lose the earrings? don't. 'don't' lose the earrings. got it."

"hi, donna. so, how's your hand hygiene? i wasn't going to ask, but this sign says you want to be asked. mine? mine is awful. i just went for a swim in the MRSA lab."

"she's strong. her first baby came out sideways. she didn't scream or nothin'."

"you know, if you're asleep when the anesthesiologist gets here, she'll be thrilled. 'she's already asleep? awesome, i'm going golfing.'"

me: want to recline your seat?
her: nope.
me: you sure?
her: yup.
me: ...
me: want to play with the sharps container?

then she is asleep, and i'm standing watch. activity swirls by in the hall, full of purposeful people. i know that feeling, and it would come in handy now. doesn't matter. it's my watch, purpose enough.

after an interminable wait, the anesthesiologist glides in, and now we're awake and all-business. question, question, answer, answer. caveat, advisory, question, answer.

"all right, then, if you'll come with me...

doctor and patient walk toward serious-looking doors, and a chatty nurse leads me toward a bright, spacious family waiting area. daytime tv yammers on the set next to me, and i remember that daytime tv sucks. i wouldn't have thought it possible that it could be more brainless than evening tv, but somehow it manages.

people walking by outside look through the windows at those of us on the inside. people push other people in wheelchairs. cars pull up, load fragile passengers, and drive away.

there's a starbuck's logo on the sign marking the main entrance to the hospital. there's a starbuck's logo. on the sign. marking the main entrance. to the hospital.

i look up, look around, and it occurs to me that from where i am right now, i have no idea how to get back to the car, in a parking lot, in a different building.

all i remember is crossing two bridges...

***********

the doctor comes into the waiting area, and tells me everything went great. this and that, what to expect post-op, no worries, oh, and happy birthday.

i wasn't expecting that. and because it caught me off guard, my stoic slipped, just for a moment.

me (small smile, eyebrows up): "thank you."

the tears stayed in.

Friday, June 06, 2014

the new normal

"Just drove by Otto Miller Hall on my way home from work and completely broke down. I live less than a mile away, and drive by or run by there daily. This was a place I spent hours taking classes, studying for exams, and visiting friends. It was a place I always felt safe. Now, one person has taken all that away."

~ from a post on FB

***********

every day another refuge is breached, another sanctuary defiled. and every day decent people retreat, saying, "nothing can be done."

home-grown terrorism is now normalized because "there's nothing we can do about it."

and because lots and lots of americans believe...

"your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights."

~ actual quote by some idiot hero of the lunatic fringe and go-to-idiot for idiot media quotes after this week's ho-hum terrorist attack

random premise: if these attacks were being perpetrated by brown people in robes, rather than by white american males, no one would be saying "nothing can be done."

just a guess here that the response would be different because brown people in robes are scary and bad, but white males with guns, well, they're the real americans.

again, just wild speculation, but if the scary/bad people were killing kids at schools every other week there'd be a fucking manhattan project underway and trillions of dollars would be in the process of being spent, and a massive media campaign would be running to convince people that "something can be done, and by god we're doing it."

instead of, you know, not.

because, guns. and 'murka.

***********
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray opened with, "Friends, we have been here before:..."

Our police are to be commended for their quick response.
The emergency medical staff performed in an exemplary manner.
The students reacted and performed as they had been taught.
One student, a building monitor, went beyond the call.
The nearby hospital was professional and did all they could.
...
Tonight, just another name, someone unknown, on the beads.
...
I am just so happy we have enough shootings so people of all walks of life are becoming better at behaving properly when they hear gunshots.

~ john morelock

Thursday, June 05, 2014

now we know


just yesterday i asked "who's next?"

who will be the next victims of berserk gun violence in our bloodthirsty country.

now we know.

this is the campus at Seattle Pacific University, where 4,000 students and teachers go to learn valuable lessons about science and philosophy and the arts and where to hide during a mass shooting.

this is the scene this afternoon in front of the gym where my daughter (and dozens of other young girls and their coaches) practice gymnastics.

by sheer, blind chance, the girls were not yet at the gym today when seven people were shot.

right. fucking. there.

fuck this.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

killing time

today, as i type, this memorial sits a half a block from our house.

it sprang up this weekend for molly conley, a girl who will never turn 16.

molly no longer lives in the house across the street from us, because she was shot and killed one year ago. on her birthday.

we never met her, but we know her mom, a smart, plucky woman who is, at once, unblinkingly dauntless and utterly destroyed by the loss of her daughter.


she takes her place next to the father whose son was shot and killed a couple weeks ago in santa barbara; the loved ones of three people shot and killed in myrtle beach two days later; and those of seven people shot and killed in chicago last weekend.


over the past several years americans have been conditioned to fear many things, most of which are statistically little or no threat. but because people are afraid, they do dumb things ~ like buy more guns.

it says here that more than 450,000 people in washington state have a permit to carry a concealed handgun. over 100,000 of them are women, and the growth rate for women getting those permits is double that of men.

the refrain among those quoted in the story was the same: "i'm taking responsibility for my safety and protecting myself and refusing to be a victim."

which is to say, they've drunk the NRA kool-aid.

the fact is, more guns equals more shootings and more deaths

and women who carry guns for "self-defense" actually increase their odds of being shot.

yay, logic. yay, fear.

americans are outrageously susceptible to well-funded propaganda. if a story supports the cowboy image we've cultivated for generations, by god we believe it. if we're told that guns make us strong and safe and personally responsible, we rush out and buy tens of millions of them.

so we can kill each other (and ourselves) to the tune of 32,000 gun-deaths a year.

ignorant, fearful, and indoctrinated is a toxic combination that has poisoned the american well.

and we just can't seem to stop drinking from it.

"Picture any bragging, gun-wielding gang banger, swaggering cowboy, mafia kingpin, big game hunter, vengeance-seeking action hero, open-carry doofus or would-be mass shooter you like. Now remove the gun from the picture. What do you have? That’s right: Another nervous schlub standing there, looking lost."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

heading toward center

"I am home. In the here. In the now."  

Thich Nhat Hanh

***********

this morning in the drowsy place between sleep and omg i have to get up, it occurred to me that one of our cats is a living work of art.

the palette of her coat is a riot of orange and white and black and brown. her face is perfectly divided side-to-side, orange and black.

she snuggles up and purrs and makes our little world a better place.

in the few moments it took this thought to coalesce, i further realized that all the lives around us are living, breathing performance art.

all these lives are unique and belong to no one but themselves. i believe this like i believe in gravity.

i don't see how i can continue being a carnivore.

Monday, May 19, 2014

post game

photo by matt stebbins.
the sun mountain 50k rambles over a gorgeous and civilised course high above the methow valley. 

you bound past fields of wildflowers, gawk at spectacular views, and jabber with agreeable people. 

for a first-50k (or any 50k, really) you couldn't draw it up any better.

until you get to the last five miles.

that's where the lovely and amiable and hospitable course turns vicious and beastly and mean. here's a comment from a 2013 participant...

"I cried climbing that last hill last year. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses when Glenn Tachiyama snapped my photo at that point." ~ melody mândrean coleman

it's not that the hill is steep, though it is, or that it ascends thousands of feet, which it totally seems to do. it's that looking up at it after already having run 25 miles is so visually intimidating that you just want to stand there and say, "oh, no. no, no. hell, no." that, and "are you f*cking kidding me?"

but of course you didn't come this far to be turned away, so you fix your eyes on the trail and you climb.

meanwhile, the runners who summited the hill before you are now bombing back down the trail past you. yes, it's an up-and-back. so, you step off the trail to avoid a mass casualty incident, then try to get back into some sort of climbing rhythm. sidestep-resume-repeat.

when you finally get to the top, there's a little temporary sign stuck in the ground that says, "runners turn around here." it seems woefully anticlimactic, but absent other options, you tap the sign, turn, and head back down.

the fight against gravity at this point is a life-and-death matter. gravity wants you to go down fast and awkward, regardless of the impact on your face and bones. your brain feeds back, "uh, this could get ugly quick if you're not paying attention," while your quads look for an opportunity to mutiny.

that's when the cramp started. inside my left leg, running from the knee up to the groin. there's never a good time for a cramp like this, but running a steep, rocky downhill is a particularly bad time.

a cramp like this and catching a toe on a rock simultaneously? muy no bueno. the adrenaline rush at that moment was eye-popping. maybe it was that, or just blind luck, but for whatever reason the trail gods saw fit to allow me to stay upright rather flying-flailing-falling many feet down the slope.

"whoa," i said, mostly because there was nothing much else to say.

the cramp became manageable just about the time the trail spit me out onto the road at the bottom of the hill.


at this point runners might be forgiven for thinking, "okay, this has got to be the finish, right? i mean, no one puts the finish line another mile and a half away after a hill like that."

they'd be wrong.

after an interval that feels like but is not quite forever, you're back on the trail that takes you to the finish line, where you high-five race director james varner and hold that high-five for at least a couple seconds before letting go, because it feels good and in its own little way, important.

***********
the sun mountain 50k is a brilliant event put on by rainshadow running. if you're in the market for such things, this venue, and james's events in general, are not to be missed.

***********
i'm tired today, but not destroyed. turns out my readiness for a 50k was enough after all. going forward, though, it would probably be wise to have a little more training cushion than "just enough, but not one step more."

sun mountain 50k
5:52:21
86/155
12/23 (50-59)