Monday, December 31, 2012

dragging beauty out of chaos, kicking and screaming edition

what a beautiful mess this isit’s like taking a guess when the only answer is yes
~ jason mraz


this is gonna be quick, because 2012 went by in the blink of an eye, and it's almost over.

before it is, i have to get some work done, go for one more run, sigh deeply and profoundly, and put up one more blog post.

later, i have to drink some good wine.

i can do this.


2012 was a good year

in the plus column, my family is healthy. we have a roof over our heads and too much to eat. shoot, our dogs have too much to eat. any problems we think we have are, as the boy child says, "first-world problems." here's hoping it stays that way.

i ran a lot in 2012. the missus started running, too. the girl did gymnastics nearly nonstop, and is a powerhouse. the boy? the boy sits in front of a computer nearly nonstop. okay, he gets up every so often to go to the climbing gym or parkour. just to make sure his limbs still work, i guess. having watched him in these venues, it occurs to me that he's like the sundance kid ~ he's better when he moves.

good things happened in washington state this year. marriage equality happened. legal marijuana happened. not because i want to get my stone on (which i don't), but because any step toward ending the "war on drugs" is a good step.

the mayan apocalypse didn't happen. not the way some silly geese thought it would, anyway.

barack obama happened. again. and since most americans insisted on not being apocalypzed, it's probably good that the supreme court upheld the affordable care act.


2012 was a bad year

our very old cat died. he lived a long life and was much loved. but we miss him.

my friend rob's wife died of cancer. she left him far too soon, and is still much loved.

our national worship of guns led to trayvon martin. aurora, colorado. newtown, connecticut. and tens of thousands of other gun-related deaths. unfun fact: guns are designed to kill. and countless americans unqualified to cook safely on a gas stove are madly wielding firearms. some right near you, right this second.

hurricane sandy. drone warfare. warrantless surveillance. syria.


2013 will be a year of some sort

really. it will. and some of what happens will be bad. heartbreaking. appalling. it'll make you wonder what the hell happened, and how you can go on, knowing what you know. some days it will difficult just to remember to breathe. but we will, because that's what we do. most of the time.

some of what is about to happen, however, will be good. very good, even. jaw dropping, life changing. the "what did we do before this happened" kind of good. important note: the bad stuff will be easier to remember. it'll stay with you longer, and hurt more than the good heals. i don't know why this is true, but it is. maybe it's part of the survival instinct, which tells you to never, ever forget the day the predator almost had you for dinner.

me, i'm going to run more, so i can evade the predators and outlast the worst of the bad. this, in itself, will be good. i just won't realize it while it's happening.

then again, maybe i will.



it's almost here. buckle up.

and good luck, everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

a good run

"a good run."

there was a time when i would've said, "there's no such thing."

i can't say that any more.

for me, if 2012 was nothing else, it was a searchlight-illuminated shrine to change.

before this year, i knew running was nothing but drudgery. i knew i could never enjoy it. therefore, i knew running 13.1 miles was an eye-rolling impossibility.

i was wrong. and wrong. and wrong again.

to paraphrase agent K, imagine what i'll know next year.

until then, there are people to blame. lisa dunn-soeby, for one. it was her post-13.1 race photos that made me think, "if she can do that, i can do that." thanks, cousin. please don't take up base jumping. and if you do, don't post photos.

then there's lilly nelson, who turned me on to, where one can log everything from training runs to race results to the shoes you wore. the immediate gratification derived from documenting this kind of minutia is intoxicating, and has played a not-insignificant role in my running addiction. hello, lilly, my name is michael, and you're an enabler.

and there's phil kochik, owner of seven hills running shop in our neighborhood. one warm fall day before he opened, phil was inside setting up shop and i was running by. i stopped, walked into the store and like a smiling little kid just said, "awesome!" note: i've never done that before, or since. doing that sort of thing often would be kinda weird.

anyway, every saturday morning, rain or shine, phil hosts a trail run through discovery park. i've joined in just about every weekend, instead of sleeping in or staying inside where it's warm and dry. there was a time in my life when i would've cursed phil for this. now i just say, "thank you" and buy all my gear at his shop.

there are other people who have contributed to this transmogrification: my colleagues, who smile and nod when i talk about my most recent race...and even wish me luck the friday before!

my chiropractor, who is a runner, and knows how to fix my hip and my low back and my leg when it's, like, half an inch shorter than the other leg.

most importantly, the missus, who accommodates my new obsession and tolerates the running shoe fetish i've developed. (i don't believe she's fully aware of the exact number of shoes i've stashed under the bed and in my closet...which is just as well.)


amby burfoot, a legend in running circles (and running in circles), recently wrote:

"Running is easy: Put one foot in front of the other. Staying motivated to run requires much more. It takes thinking and planning. It takes believing in yourself and the value of your workout time. Try to hit 1,000 miles a year for as long as you can. That's roughly 20 miles a week, a solid marker of dedication and persistence."

i'm therefore pleased to report that with a little less than half of december remaining on the 2012 calendar, i've logged 1,004 miles. among accomplished runners, this probably seems like a good start. you know, a solid half year. because i'm not "an accomplished runner," i'm easier to impress. i'm hopeful that there will come a time in my life when 1,000+ miles is routine. expected. a good start. (until then: wow! 1,004 miles! really!)

last sunday i ran the "12 K's of christmas" event in kirkland, wa. it was cold and wet and under few other circumstances would i have been outside in such conditions. but there i was lining up with 1,500 other, um, dedicated and persistent people, trying to stay warm before the start. then we were all running, slogging up long hills, where soon we forgot to be cold.

i set out thinking, "last race in 2012, have fun, enjoy the scenery, be in the moment, don't worry about your time." i did all of those things...and somehow set a new PR for the 12k.

in all, it was a good run.



12k (2)
10m trail (2)
13.1 trail (1)
13.1 road (3)

Monday, December 17, 2012

regular programming

"The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams." barack obama, 12/14/12


some days the news coming out of the computer screen blows your hair back and then knocks you down.

this is (another) one of those days.

20 children, six and seven years old. and six adults, some of whom died protecting their kids from the bullets that came in torrents.

look at the faces of the children here. see the gleam in their eyes? they were smart, you can tell. and like most kids, they were growing up too fast, exposed to too much too soon. they probably understood what was happening to them.


see the criminal robbing a bank at gunpoint?

he doesn't look like part of a "well regulated militia," as specified by the second amendment to the u.s. constitution. but there he is, bearing arms, as we are told is his inalienable right.

this photo was taken at the bank of america branch in our neighborhood. which is right across the street from where we eat breakfast three or four times a month.

the people in the bank have no idea how close they were to death that day. maybe close, maybe not. maybe the large gun was a fake. maybe it wasn't loaded. then again, maybe it was ready for business, one startled moment from being used as it was intended. they have no idea. 

what is certain is that a version of what happened in newtown, connecticut, may have been thisclose to happening in magnolia. or one hill over on queen anne, where our daughter goes to school. or across the bridge in ballard, where our son goes to school. or at clackamas town center in oregon.

might still happen. any day.


"why do the nations so furiously rage together?" 

friday night, the evening of the shootings, we attended the opening performance of handel's messiah in seattle. the moment of silence for the children stretched out far longer than such things usually do. as it went on, as the seconds spun out, it became an invitation to the audience. you could hear the sighs and sniffling becoming ubiquitous, before someone eventually said "thank you," and the lights dimmed. 

i closed my eyes, and when i did it occurred to me that a shooter could just as easily appear here as in a theater in aurora, or a university in virginia.

"why do the nations so furiously rage together?" asked the baritone, mournfully, angrily in the second act. why do people rage together, and alone? why does individual pain too often lead to violence and destruction, rather than creation?

where is the hope and the joy evoked in the hallelujah chorus?

and why is it always the men who devolve to this kind of savagery?


even now the voices of surrender insist there's nothing we can do to allay the slaughter. we failed in the war on drugs, they say, so how can we hope to regulate guns. how can we even try.

these voices, it seems, are content with the status quo. it's horrible, the constant threat of another storm of bullets... but nothing can be done. it's always been this way. it's in the constitution.

these voices are unmoved, apparently, by the faces of the children scrolling by on the screen. that, or they just don't care. or they don't care enough to try.


i avoided the news, briefly, at lunch friday. the sun was out, there was a race packet to pick up, and a quiet drive in between.

the running shop was buzzing with positive energy, which is always the case on packet pickup day. smiling people moving quickly, with purpose. immersed in that glow, it was possible to forget, for a few moments, what happened earlier in the day on the other side of the country.

then you leave the shop, and the smiles fade. 

and you think about your own children, making their way through their own day, vulnerable.


children sleeping
snow is softly falling
dreams are calling 

like bells in the distance
we were dreamers 

not so long ago
but one by one 

we all had to grow up

believe ~ glen ballard and alan silvestri


send an email to your governor, your representatives, today. tell them the status quo of limitless access to guns and limited access to mental healthcare is no longer an acceptable option.

Monday, December 03, 2012

change up

Change the voices in your head
make them like you instead

~ pink


change is easy.

all you have to do is sit there and it happens.

then again, if you get up and gear up and get out, something better might happen.


"It's early in the winter weather season to be whining, but Western Washington and the rest of the region are in for another round of drenching days with no break in sight."

it's been raining here ~ a lot ~ but it's still possible to head outside and run. not optimal, but possible.

as it turns out, pursuant to a previous post, rain-soaked miles really are a consciousness-altering experience.

in good weather, a trail run through discovery park is exhilarating, with views of the olympic mountains and puget sound, on trails that wind through woods thick with pine and madrona and low ferns. 

on a storm-wracked day of high wind and drenching rain ~ with its heightened effect on multiple senses ~ the experience is more dramatic.

the cascade views disappear, of course, hidden behind a wall of lowering gray. trails that were steep and challenging before now are slick beneath rapidly moving water or thick with shoe-grabbing mud.

wind-whipped waves crash on a beach that was runnable at low tide just a couple of weeks ago. between the wind and the surf, the noise is deafening.

as unlikely as it seems, there are others out on the trails as well. alone, in groups, with dogs. "good morning," they say as they pass, as if the conditions were of no more interest than a sunset stroll in summer.

there are rough-hewn stairs connecting the bluff and the beach below, with three- or four hundred feet of elevation in between. the wood of the steps, and the wet leaves that cover them, are a constant concern. a misstep heading up could be painful ~ a slip heading down would be disastrous.


the pace of the group i run with is beyond my ability. they are young and accomplished, veterans of marathons and ultramarathons on the road and trail. their "easy" pace is my tempo or race pace. sometimes, if i'm feeling particularly strong, i can keep up...other times i'm happy to stay in visual contact, catching up when the leaders circle back for stragglers.

i'm not upset by my status in the hierarchy of this pack. i feel fortunate to be included at all. the fact is, running with these people has made me a better runner. faster, more efficient, less emotional when i can't keep up. and on a day like today, i am content to follow, because leading would be a reach beyond my grasp.

sidebar: regardless of who makes it back to the running shop first, i'm always the top finisher in my age group. this is guaranteed by the fact that i'm the only participant in my age group. is that detail important?


afterward, at the coffee shop across the street, there are breakfast sandwiches and protein smoothies and cafĂ© viennas. the shop is close and warm and welcoming of runners, no matter how rain-soaked. 

after several minutes' dry, quiet respite, there is a walk, uphill, back home. this time, it doesn't rain.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a novel idea...

the two rode up the elevator quietly, looking straight ahead. the young man looked over and noticed the older woman. she was pretty, in a severe kind of way. he looked down, then back to her. "how are you doing today?" he asked. "tired, broke, disgusted and can't be trusted," she replied, still looking straight ahead. he raised an eyebrow, and turned toward her. "i bet you say that to all the guys you ride an elevator with." she withdrew her hand from her coat pocket, and pointed the gun at him. "i told you i couldn't be trusted," she said. his eyes widened just before she pulled the trigger. the elevator doors opened and the woman walked away without looking back...

Monday, November 26, 2012

ad nauseum

sam elliott won't rest until every glacier melts and every polar bear is dead.

why else would he continue to pimp the biggest gas-sucking bunny-crushing truck-beasts american engineers can design? okay, besides the money.

sam elliott has a great, iconic voice. shoot, if he told me something ridiculous, like say, coors ("the banquet beer!") is fit for human consumption, i'd almost believe him. it is, after all, brewed with high country barley and pure rocky mountain spring water. which sounds good, in the abstract, if not in the actual beer.

but when he tells me the dodge ram 1500 truck can "move heaven and earth," and "bring the world to its knees" ~ while on screen a CG mountain explodes in a cataclysm of environmental devastation ~ i start to think maybe sam isn't the most credible, responsible spokesperson.

give the soulless marketing hacks at dodge credit ~ they know their target market. the dog-whistle language in this spot is like PBR for gun-toting climate-change-denying manifest-destinating hemi-hogs.

"take it all head-on ... shorten the distances, push beyond the possible, roar past convention, shift every course, defy the elements..."

earth-scorching parody can't mock much much harder than that. and yet, it's just the kind of talk that gets the most atherosclerotic viagra-dependent face-painters all tingly with...something. they can't quite remember what. simmer down there, bubba. you're just a few systolic points away from a hemorrhagic event.

sam, though, takes it one step further. he actually appears on camera here ~ a first in this scintillating series ~ lending his personal imprimatur to a marauding message of manly plunder.

"the road doesn't end here," sam says. "this is only the beginning. guts. glory. ram."

and with those last three words, delivered with the dramatic seriosity only a true professional can fake, excitable types all over the country explode, messily and in unison, in a truckgasm of monster proportions.

atta way, sam. environmental impact, if such a thing existed at all, is somebody else's problem. america's weekday warriors are gonna ram this road right up mother nature's avenue ~ and god help anyone who gets in the way. all the way to the job site where the really serious fracking happens. giddy. up.

afterward they'll fire up some of the beef council's finest byproduct, because as sam once intoned: "beef ~ it's what's for dinner. especially after you've just had your way with nature and you're ready to reload with a bolus of fat-marbled protein, rammed into your veins. defy doctors orders. guts. glory. meat."

three things ~ the economy, the environment, and the american habitus ~ are in rough shape. sam elliott's audacious advocacy ~ for fat trucks burning tons of fossil fuels and a flotilla of adipose americans ~ is ill-advised. in a nonfunny literal kind of way.

sam, the world is already pretty well brought to its knees, thanks. and you've done your bit to help put it there. so before you start pimping, oh-i-don't-know, high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified organisms and baby harp seal hunting ~ how about you take a ram 1500 head-on and, you know, push beyond the possible?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

going dark

run to the light...all are welcome!
wait, not that light...
it's not winter yet, but the dreaded drizzling darkness is descending rapidly. this time of year, nightfall comes early to seattle. 

at 3:30 in the afternoon you can look out the window and think, "are we having an eclipse? did i lose consciousness for several hours? is it time for dinner?" but no, it's just a weak-willed sun too low in the sky to make any headway through the clouds.

it's a tough time to be a runner here. during the week, you either get out 
at lunch, or you run in the dark. quite often in the rain. or you stay inside, on the treadmill. either way, your time and distance usually suffer, unless you discover the eternal secret to enduring the treadmill. which i have not.

this leaves the weekends to get out for some extended miles, if your responsibilities allow for such a thing.

i confess, i'm embittered by these short daylight hours. we had actual summer in 2012, for the first time in years, and i got used to long, tranquil runs after work, with plenty of light left over for the drive home. at 9:30 p.m. or so we'd say, "well, it's starting to get dark. maybe we should head in and get some dinner going."

i'm greedy now for the warmth, the light, the lack of horizontal precipitation. i want to be someplace where winter doesn't last seven months. where the vault door of dreary and damp and dark doesn't close with an ominous, remorseless, echoing booooom.

trouble is, places like those are very popular, and very expensive. with the kind of jobs that pay just enough for you to buy a bus ticket someplace else when you've exhausted your life savings.

that, or they're so inhospitable on the other end of the thermometer that even the gila monsters don't want to live there.

i know. no one ever said life was easy. running certainly is not easy for me. but i'm learning that "real runners" adapt to the environment and keep going. so that's what i'm trying to do. to that end, i've been accumulating gear. a couple LED headlamps. a breathable waterproof jacket. reflective gloves. a waterproof baseball cap. knee-length compression shorts. ankle-high smartwool socks. and some winterized trail running shoes with burly vibram soles.

fortunately i already owned the snorkle and scuba mask.

i can now run, as comfortably as possible, in the cold, dark and wet. people who do so report feeling exhilarated and vibrant and powerful and fully alive like never before. in such conditions i feel pretty good sitting bundled up indoors with a glass of wine, but admit to a twinge of...envy? admiration? when those people run by.

part of me thinks, "y'all are crazy." part of me says, "you need to gear up and
go find out. or one day you'll wish you had."

that last thing, the finding-out part? it's winning. in fact, it's already won.

i'm going.


there's a new running store in our neighborhood, called seven hills running
(there are seven hills surrounding seattle, see). each week they sponsor a
saturday morning group run ~ rain or shine. today they headed out in pouring
rain, the perfect chance for me to test my new gear, and my resolve.

instead, i headed to the airport, to new orleans, for a conference. weather dot
com predicted 66 and sunny for the short duration of the trip. i packed


the weather in nawlins was perfect. i put in eight miles one day, five miles another.

then i headed back to seattle, where the forecast called for rain. every day.
for the next several months.

it won't be getting lighter, or drier, any time soon. but, at least there won't
be any frankenstorms. theoretically.

time to dive in.