Friday, December 19, 2014

truth and deception

awesome visual chronicling courtesy of glenn tachiyama.
you could do a lot worse than bookending your year with a couple of rainshadow running events.

i started 2014 with the orcas island 25k, and ended it with another 25k at deception pass.

in between, across many months, were some reallyreally good miles (and some not-quite-as-good), but none were more enjoyable than the 15.3 at deception.

unlike february's 20-miler at fort ebey, for example, there were no howling winds flying through the strait of juan de fuca. unlike the hillbilly half, there was no gunfire flying through the trees overhead. 

and unlike july's marathon at chuckanut mountain, at no time did i feel like i was hanging on for dear life just to finish.

to sum up: while all miles are good in their own way...these were exceptional.

the DP 25k course is a bouquet of six lollipops spread out over deception pass state park. water views are everywhere ~ some from high above the shoreline, some right down on the beach. overall the route is very runnable, with about 3,100 feet of elevation to make it even more interesting.

you get to run around places called goose rock and bowman bay. you pass 'pass lake' and run across the breathtaking deception pass bridge ~ twice. from that vantage point you see deception island and strawberry island and if you're lucky, a huge bald eagle sitting in a tall tree situated far below your feet.

you parkour over downed trees across sweet single track trails, and skitter over slick rocks scraped clean the last time glaciers roamed these parts. and you do it all with a smile on your face, because running around like feral children is lots of fun.

with less than 5k to go i started feeling a little, uh, devitalized. thankfully, a gel and some water turned me right-side-up again in what felt like seconds. maybe it was the gel, or maybe it was the placebo effect ~ either way, i finished feeling strong, with no post-race effects in the the days after.

which got me thinking: maybe the way to bookend 2015 would be...the deception pass 50k.*

(fast voiceover): *assuming i stay healthy, time permitting, with the kind permission of the missus, see store for details, void where prohibited, member FDIC.

this is the part where i thank the volunteers and the folks at rainshadow running. because they did a great job and they always do and we've sort of come to expect it but hold on a minute because the fact is...'s kind of a big deal. 

no event of this size and complexity is easy. they make it look easy, but you know that means there's a ton of heavy lifting done by a lot of people to make it look that way. before, during, and after. not to mention that they turned out at oh-dark-thirty the very next day to do it all over again for the 50k.

if we agree (and i'm sure we do) that every mile is a gift, and every moment counts...rainshadow running gifted me many miles and amazing moments in 2014. you could do much worse than that, but you can't do much better.

i am endlessly grateful.

deception pass 25k

mental difficulty: (insert beach-y ukulele tune here)

perceived exertion: see "this guy" ------------------------->
jaw-dropping views: plenty
fun had: sideways 8



64/285 (overall)
4/38 (50-59)

or, "rocks below, do not throw people." i mean, obviously.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

temperature check

(the song stuck in my head the entire race.)

saturday, nov. 15, 2015
grand ridge half marathon

this time was different.

my last experience at grand ridge ~ a dim, dreary, exhausted slog a year ago ~ was not fun. from the moment i arrived to the moment i crossed the finish line, i just wanted to be done. looking back, it's not so much that the experience was's that my attitude sucked.


today, as noted, was different. bright, sunny, and cold. cold as a new york city winter. colder than the siberian (not-so-permanent) permafrost. but not as cold as the internet reaction to kim kardashian's butt.

still, it was cold.
mile 3-ish. i was warm.
(photo courtesy of takao suzuki)

the starting area was in the shade until a few minutes before the start, and runners milling about shivered and kvetched on frozen ground.

by 9 a.m., however, the sun rose high enough over tree and hill to blast the north side of I-90 ~ the difference was spectacular. cold-weather gear-related note: black running attire heats up quickly in sunlight. metabolic-physiology note: running generates heat, as well.

aside from knocking a few minutes off last year's time, my goals this day were modest:

  1. finish
  2. have fun
  3. don't fall down a lot

these are not audacious goals, i realize, but achieving them is always better than not. falling on the frozen trail would've been particularly noisome ~ not too different from tumbling on broken concrete. it would've made for some interesting road rash, though.

according to the nice folks at evergreen trail runs, there's about 2000 feet of elevation over the half marathon course. it seemed like more, but that's probably because there isn't a lot of flat ground at grand ridge. you're either running uphill or downhill most of the time. plus, there's a lot of avoiding other runners heading out-and-back on singletrack trail, which adds to the illusion of extra effort. 

no, come to think of it, it wasn't an illusion. in the name of good trail running etiquette, i spent a lot of time sidestepping and smiling and saying "thank you" and "nice job." i'm polite that way.

sidebar: as it's only a half-hour from our house, why don't i run grand ridge more often? aside from the fact that discovery park is three minutes away, i mean.


in conclusion, i did finish, i did have fun, and i did improve on last year's time (sort of). late in the race i saw my friend kira walking up the hill, and since i hadn't seen her in months we walked and chatted for a few minutes. yes, it was a race, but it's not like the digression cost me a spot on the podium.

so, on a technicality, two minutes slower than last year. but who's counting?



42/249 (overall)
3/15 (M 50-59)

Friday, November 07, 2014

general weirdness

"gentlemen, i wash my hands of this weirdness."
"i have no sympathy for any of you feculent maggots, and no more patience to pretend otherwise."

~ captain jack sparrow


for eight years, republicans endorsed every act of piracy committed by the bush administration.

it got so bad that americans would've elected a tree stump, it seemed, rather than tolerate more years of national humiliation and depredation. instead, in a brief moment of clarity, we elected a brilliant, charming, steady constitutional law professor from illinois. and for a few shining moments it seemed the pendulum might swing back and away from our self-inflicted calamity.

that didn't *quite* happen.

time and again the brilliant law professor, self-cast as conciliator-in-chief, extended a hand across the aisle to work with the loyal opposition (if by "loyal opposition" you mean "ravening band of hard-right zombies still in search of brains amongst themselves or their constituents").

each time, he pulled back a stump.

and yet he tried. well beyond the point that a reasonable person might say, "bite me once, shame on you. bite me dozens of times, sod off you rabid obstructionist anti-american faux-christian cretins." 

or, you know, words to that effect. because he's a diplomat and i'm not.

but he didn't do that. he just. kept. reaching. even as the opposition kept gnawing. their stated goal: to thwart every initiative, every attempt to govern, every exhortation to do the jobs for which legislators are elected.

time passed, stuff happened. and despite the efforts of the zombies, the pendulum did swing. wars were (mostly) concluded. broad-scale healthcare was implemented (sort of). the economy recovered (for some people) and the stock market soared (for rich people). 

and, as they adorably do every 15 minutes or so, americans forgot the past.

they forgot how long it took to dig out from under the pile of crap heaped on us by the last republican administration. and that, actually, we're still digging.

they forgot the last time the GOP was in charge, america tortured helpless prisoners.

they forgot that the GOP hates women. and gays. and minorities. and poor people. and healthcare. and the environment.

they forgot that for the past 6 years republicans did everything they could to stall the economy and shut down the government...including actually shutting down the government.

and so, because americans have a tragicomically short attention span, in november, 2014, they put the GOP back in charge of congress.

{steps back, takes a deep breath, considers options}

or, maybe i'm wrong. 

maybe american voters are extremely bright. maybe electing 31 GOP governors and handing the united states senate over to republicans was done intentionally and with great premeditation. because things worked out so well the last time these folks were in charge, i imagine.

at this juncture, i'm extremely content to let you decide. because for the next year at least...i'll be over here trying to wash off the incredulity.


“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%. Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

~ david letterman

Saturday, October 18, 2014

first-world frills

kristin armstrong (famously and formerly mrs. lance armstrong) writes a column for runner's world magazine. i sometimes begin her essays by rolling my eyes, as her themes can be, uh, cloying.

but i read them. because by the end she almost always wins me over with her relentless sincerity and a genuinely perceptive insight or two. and i think, "she got me again. i don't know how, but she did."

this one, for example:

"There is a vast difference between giving up and letting go. Giving up implies a spirit of 'I don’t care,' ~ letting go implies 'I care so much that I won’t do this anymore.'"

today, it was this innocuous thought experiment:

"I decided to write down a list of little luxuries in my gratitude journal, thinking I would have about ten or fifteen. Once I got started I simply could not stop...and I suddenly remembered everything I loved. We forget sometimes, in our rush to do everything and be everywhere for everyone."
at first i dismissed the whole thing as silly. a 'gratitude journal'? is that even a real thing? (editorial note: it is a real thing, and i know it's a real thing, but...seriously?) then i read her list and thought, "whatever, fine, it might be interesting."

it turns out i have a list...

recently washed dogs. an unexpected and spectacular progress report from the boy's school. nonchalant scholastic overachievement by the girl. grocery shopping. being the designated dinner-maker. a closet full of running gear. new running shoes. breakfast at serendipity. the magnolia farmers market. friday afternoons. sleeping in on sunday. time devoid of commitment. moments of clarity. fresh pineapple. crispy kale. running in the rain. a quick commute. telling someone, "nice job" and watching them light up. helping out the homeless guy at the i-5 on-ramp. helping out any homeless person. writing. carving out time to read a book. updating my running log. researching two 50k races for 2015. two cats in the yard. crossing a finish line. naps. hugs from the girl. an occasional smile from the boy. not taking any of these things for granted.

and finally, this twitter account... 

there are more, and i've discovered i could spend a long time compiling them. not that i needed a reminder how ridiculously fortunate we are that any of the above are true. i'm aware of them every day. 

it's a good list.

she got me again.

Friday, October 17, 2014

why we can't have nice things...

in one priceless rant, a self-professed christian-american patriot demonstrates why we can't have nice things in this country...

"I don't give a crap if folks are atheist because, well, they are idiots. But why do they get their panties in a wad anytime someone says a prayer or there is a mention of God anywhere?

"I'm beginning to think all these atheist groups are really secret Christian groups because all they do is rally the believers.

"Oh, separation of church and state, blah blah blah. Oh, the poor kid who doesn't believe feels sad and ostracized. Blah blah blah. Guess what - everyone feels like the odd man out sometimes. We are all offended by someone or something sometimes. It doesn't mean that everything has to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

"My rant for the day. It's been building."
how much un-american, un-christ-like, unthinking goodness did you spot?
1. atheists are hyperventilating idiots
"you just don't get it, do you?"
2. to hell with the u.s. constitution 
3. to hell with kids who feel ostracized
4. some people dumb things down to the lowest common denominator

let's add one more from the article linked in the rant:
"The granite monument at the Madison County High School football field contains the Bible verses 'If God be for us, who can be against us?'"

5. god cares which team wins high school football games

jesus and the founders would be so proud.

Monday, October 06, 2014

running the 'hood

"am i the first old guy to go past here?"
this was a good day, mostly.

the magnolia run the bluff 10k, absent in 2013, came back strong this year. the course passed right by our house, which would've been convenient had i decided to bail after 2 miles.

thankfully it didn't come to that.

the top finishers put up a sub-5:40/mi pace, which is moving pretty quickly for a neighborhood 10k. especially in this neighborhood, which is built on some respectable hills.

i was not among the top finishers.

technicality: let the record show i finished first...among the old guys (50-59). there's something to be said for that, but i'm not sure what.

more importantly, i established a PR for the 10k distance, 7 seconds faster than my time at the columbia winery 10k in august. that course was flat as a pancake, flat as a board, flat as the globe at the offices of the flat earth society. which is to say, pretty flat.

so, a new PR on an un-flat course is kind of gratifying.

about mile three (at the top of a semi-long climb), my stomach started to protest. and i thought, "it's a good thing i didn't eat anything this morning, because i'd be seeing it again." i also knew i'd feel better five minutes after i stopped, so i stayed focused on my turnover and tried to stay out of my own head. surprisingly, this worked pretty well for the next couple miles.

which brings us to the part that wasn't so good...

with about a mile to go, i saw my friend jon and his dog go-go, who had been running ahead of me from the start. go-go (a big boxer and surprisingly strong trail runner) was clearly distressed, and plopped down at jon's feet. he picked her up and tried to urge her along, but she wasn't having it and plopped down again. actually, "collapsed" is the word that went through my head, and i had a really unpleasant flashback to the moment one of our big golden retrievers went down a few years ago. that didn't end well.

jon and go-go.
(photos by glenn tachiyama.)
"jon, do you need help?" i asked as i approached. "no, she's just overheated. thanks, though."

i kept going, but didn't feel good about it. turns out go-go ended up in critical care for "extreme dehydration." the vet gave her IV fluids and plasma overnight, and this morning jon reported that she was coming home and "should be back to 100% soon."


with a half mile to go, i felt surprisingly strong. my stomach was no worse, and my pace was as good as i had any right to expect. coming around the last turn to the finish line, i could hear someone behind me, and decided i didn't want to be passed this late in the race. i crossed the finish line at as close to a sprint as i could manage, smiling. 

all of which brings us back to where we was a good day.

magnolia run the bluff 10k

44:48 (7:14 min/mi) ~ PR
31/175 (overall)
1/8 (m 50-59)

Friday, October 03, 2014

家に来なさい !!

japan is a long way from seattle.

and when the missus journeys there on business for nine days, she may as well be on the moon.

recent discoveries about japan:

  • text messages must swim to get there; it can take days for them to arrive
  • an 18-hour time difference (plus two busy schedules) makes phone contact nigh impossible
  • there are beer vending machines in japan. beer vending machines!
  • at the monkey park it's the people who are caged
"aww, look at the cute human. she's almost simian!"
other things i know about japan:

when the missus is there, i sleep a lot less. i go to bed later and get up earlier, trying to keep the wheels on our life.

when the missus is there, getting a mortgage refinanced is a lot more complicated.

when the missus is there, completing a tax return takes much longer than the CPA (who is heading to fiji) has time for.

when the missus is there, i have to clean out the litter box.

it's that last one i enjoy the least.

no matter which of us is gone, nine days is a long time ~ especially to be unreachable halfway around the world. but, this is what we've signed up for, what with our corporate careers (such as they are) and our insatiable expenditures.

and by that i mean, the children.

mid-meeting call from loving daughter: "can you sign me up for ski bus, because sign-ups have started and it's really filling up fast."
me: "not right this second, i'm in a meeting."
ld: "oh, and can we get mexi food for dinner?"
me: "goodbye."


text to loving son: "do you want me to sign you up for ski bus this year?"
ls: "yeah, but only if i get new skis to go along with it."
me: ...

i'm not sure i could survive a tenth day. hurry home, loving wife.