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.