Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the year that was...something

quietly wild. quīld.

"may your new year be filled with quiet moments in wild places."

~ meghan hicks


2013 was a year of incredible stress.

totally first-world, self-indulgent, self-inflicted stress, but hey, we're americans ~ that's what we do.

with that in mind, we'll set aside further discussion of our eye-rolling "problems," and focus on the good stuff, of which there was plenty.

in no particular order...

there are two new lives in our midst. with the addition of a pair of cats from the seattle animal shelter, suddenly the four-legged creatures outnumber the people at our house. this is extra-splendid, since we didn't have quite enough chaos in our lives already. 

henceforth the black and white cat will be known as "daisy." the tortoiseshell (calico?) cat is "miel." ftr, miel is french for "honey." i now speak to the cat in french to orient my brain to the french name. "bon jour, miel" i say in the morning. "bon soir, miel" i say in the evening. that pretty well exhausts my french-cat translations for the day, but it gets the job done.

unimportant note: i had no say in naming the cats. i would've gone with "jade" and "zinfandel." or "cat 1" and "cat 2." but as t.s. eliot said, all cats have three names ~ a regular name, a fancy name, and a name only the cat knows.

i'm meditating on that third name, for both of them. one day, i'll figure it out...


we moved into a new house in november. it's still a stress mess.


i ran some in 2013. most of my miles were covered in washington state, which is one of the finest places to run, anywhere on the planet. if i had to pick one place to run the rest of my life, it'd be here. that said, the planet is full of eye-popping places, some of which i had the great good fortune to amble. or gambol, as the case may be:

honolulu and laie, hawaii
boulder and centennial, colorado
san francisco and sonoma, california
vancouver, BC
côte d'azur, france

if i do half as well next year, destination running-wise, it'll be a very good year indeed.

2014 goals: 
trail marathon
trail 50k
one organized event per month
1,500 total miles

not sure how that last one will be possible. whatever.


there were old jobs lost and new jobs found in 2013. the missus and i were tossed about in the surf, employment-wise, but somehow landed on our feet. sand in our shorts and seaweed in our hair, but still...standing. from a career (and paying the bills) standpoint, we would like very much to remain fully upright in the coming months. just saying.
"how much is one day worth?"
"i don't know, how many do you have left?"

(not sure when i'm gonna work yoga back into my routine. but i could really use it.)

i love me some hgtv shows, but their regular use of the term "man cave" is an abomination that should be stricken from the human record. a few pithy words on this subject from a local trail runner of some renown:

"A cave is a place you retreat to, a place where you curl up and die. Being a Man is something you do 'out there,' in the real world, exposed, vulnerable, and alone, where others can see you, judge you, mock you, discourage you, and even impede your progress. If you have to be in a warm, secure, protected place to do your man things, then you're not doing it right."

~ ultrapedestrian ras

i mentioned the idea of a 50k running event to a friend, and she wanted to know if i'm crazy. in fact, i believe her exact words were, "are you crazy?"

i may be crazy. i mean, it's entirely possible. but i'm getting to the point in life where a little crazy seems entirely called-for.

besides, once you've done what once seemed crazy, it becomes sane, then passé. and you do something different. something more. something crazier. and so on. the corollary to this is, "if you want different results, you have to do things differently."

here's to a different 2014. for everyone.


first thought, 2014

"You're not puking and nothing's broken, so get going."

vivian mcqueeney

Sunday, December 22, 2013

claire, epilogue

"Claire Davis, the 17-year-old who was shot in the head during the Dec. 13 shooting at Arapahoe High School, died Saturday afternoon with her family at her side."

hundreds of AHS students and alumni are changing their profile photos on facebook.

"rest in peace," the badge says, because that's what people say when someone has died.

i don't really understand the "rest in peace" concept, and it doesn't seem appropriate anyway. 

if we're going to offer up words of remorse, they should be, "we're sorry, claire. we're sorry we were unable to prevent your needless death and the suffering of your family. please forgive us for failing you so utterly, and for those we will fail today and tomorrow and every single day in the coming new year.

"forgive us for the fact that if we could somehow magically bring you back today, we would do absolutely nothing tomorrow to change the circumstances that took you from your friends and family.

"even if for that there is no excuse, and can be no forgiveness." 

our community is in crisis, but we've lost the ability to do anything about it. we starve our meager mental health services, and we bow to small gods speaking to us from large screens.

and we worship guns. oh, my yes. we love the guns that are killing our children and maiming our future. 300 million guns laying around for absolutely anyone to pick up...and still we are viciously hostile to the slightest suggestion that we make doing so more difficult.


maybe we say, "rest in peace" because that's what people have done since long before we were born, and we find comfort in the ritual. 

maybe, though, we say it because we can't bear the thought of what our loved ones might say if they had one more breath to take and one more message to deliver before continuing on their journey.

something like, "i won't rest ~ and i won't give you a moment's peace ~ until you do something."

we shouldn't have to hear it. if we loved them and wanted their deaths not to be in vain...we'd already be doing it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

1200 and counting

"your fate is intertwined with
cheddar-flavored potato chips."
with a couple weeks to go in december, i passed 1200 miles for 2013.

for me, that's a lot of miles, considering they were running ~ not driving ~ miles.

come to think of it, that's even a lot of driving miles, if they're all in one trip. they go by quicker in a car...but they're a lot more enjoyable on foot. i digress.

by the end of this year i'll have run about 200 miles more than in 2012. (no idea how many i drove, year over year, only that it was too many.)

so, in some circles and by some standards, progress.

today at the Y i chatted briefly with a guy i used to play basketball with. talking about running, he said, "you've totally transformed yourself."

i wasn't sure what to make of that, so i demurred. "a little bit," i said. "a little bit." then i left, because he started changing his clothes, and that wasn't really something i needed to see. 

point of order: you can't "totally transform" yourself "a little bit." i mean, how would that work? 

"you've totally transformed yourself..." 

...is not something you hear every day. as we don't know each other well enough for him to be talking about the inner workings of my soul, i assume he was referring to my appearance.

i may, in fact, look a little different than the last time he saw me. i've had to buy lots of smaller-waisted pants this year, and even some of the older-new pants are now too big around. 

this is a healthy kind of change, so hey, thanks for noticing. still, appearance is transitory and frivolous. if there haven't been more important changes, i've really been doing something wrong. with that in mind...

important changes: i never have more clarity, or more peace of mind, than when i'm running. the farther, the better. the miles don't have to be fast (mine seldom are), they just have to be done, at whatever pace is manageable. 

i can go out any given day and run for an hour or two (sometimes three...rarely four), which is in itself transformative. the capacity to do this is a gift, and one i no longer take for granted.

because there was a time when one part of my brain would say, "time to go run," another part would have a tantrum. "ugh! why?? do we have to? i don't want to!" and so on. now that voice usually just says, "okay," or even, "cool! let's go do this thing!" seriously.

occasionally, though, i still hear, "ugh! why?? it's cold out there. we don't have time...!" this is the voice of the blerch, and i fear it. its continued existence in my psyche is a reminder that large-waisted pants could return to my closet at any time. 

and that it may be possible, after all, to totally transform yourself ~ a little bit.

which is still better than none.

2013 has been a good year, in so many ways that matter (more on that to follow).

running-wise, it's been extraordinary ~ about 1200 different ways.

2013 Events and notes:

(i ran at least one organized event per month, a streak that began in may, 2012.)

·    Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival ~ typically this course is a mud pit (the promotional stickers say, "i survived the mud.") it was cold, though, and the trail was frozen. bonus!

·    Lord Hill Trail Run ~ another cold day (in the winter ~ imagine!) but above freezing. there was mud. and a very steep hill. lord.

·    Lake Sammammish Half Marathon ~ a flat, fast course, on which i ran a PR (1:36-ish). i may have hit peak-time with this one.

·    Squak Mountain Half Marathon ~ toughest half marathon course in my limited experience. lots of elevation. it snowed at the top. that was fun. 

·    Rattler Half Marathon ~ my first race in the methow valley. a tough, gorgeous course. a welcome warm day for a change. no actual rattlesnakes.

·    Soaring Eagle 20-Mile Trail Run ~ my first longer-than-13.1 event. it rained. i laughed.

·    BolderBoulder 10K ~ it was so great to be back in boulder after a many-year hiatus. altitude was a factor, but still...great. 

·    Taylor Mountain Half Marathon ~ not too tough, not too taxing, and...i fell down. not too painful

·    Cougar Mountain Half Marathon ~ i don't remember a thing about this race.

·    Redmond Watershed Half Marathon ~ a nice, summer jaunt through the woods.

·    Lake Chelan Shore-to-Shore Marathon ~ my first marathon. i finished. i finished under 4 hours. oh, yeah, it rained the entire time. still, i'd do it again.

·    Xterra Gunstock Trails Half Marathon ~ awesome. you just can't go wrong with a trail race on oahu. warm, humid, hawaii. perfect. 

·    Grand Ridge Half Marathon ~ a slog. my training for this event was, uh, inadequate. and, it was cold. i dislike being cold. 

·    Redmond Watershed “Reindeer” Half Marathon ~ cold. 17F cold. but sunny, which helped. a little. and...i fell down. jarring, but no lingering effects. nothing wine and naproxen couldn't fix.

Friday, December 13, 2013

another day, another gun

most people with guns are anxious to use them.

and because that's true, not a day goes by that we don't hear about another "senseless" shooting.

"so sad! so senseless! praying for the victims and the families!"

that's about all people can muster up before going back to their TV sets, the digital equivalent of whistling past a very large and rapidly expanding graveyard full of children.

"A student opened fire with a shotgun at Arapahoe High School on Friday, wounding two fellow students before apparently killing himself, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. One student was reported in critical condition."

related note: i attended arapahoe high school. as did my brother, and many people who are still among our friends. i am far away from my high school in time and miles, but find myself grieving and angry and helpless.

i find myself wondering if every man, woman, and child in america must personally be shot before they'll say, "we need to do something about all these guns."

our culture is awash in murderous rage, which we seem disinterested in assuaging. combine that with unfettered access to guns and many people die. every day.

what does our refusal to act say to our children? inescapably, it's that they don't matter. that their lives and their futures are worthless next to the right of every nut in america to own and use an arsenal.

more guns, we are told, make everyone safer. we are told this by people who sell guns ~ and lots of ignorant and delusional people believe them. and so there are 300 million guns floating around our communities, causing over 30,000 gun deaths each and every year. 

which is sort of like crashing a jetliner full of 300 people into the ground every three or four days. the fact that we allow this to go on means our domestic terrorists ~ the gun manufacturers and the NRA ~ have won.

this is today's link to the ahs daily announcements web site. it's full of exclamation points and details and daily routine, all of which now feel sad and empty. except for the last line, which haunts me this evening: "Warriors always take care of one another."

i hope that's true. these kids are going to need it to be true...

Sunday, December 01, 2013


what does one say to the mother of a murdered child?

this is not an idle question.

we met one of our new neighbors last weekend. she walked across the street as we were working in the yard. she introduced herself, smiling, and we did the same. we made "welcome to the neighborhood" small talk for a few seconds and then she was crying. trying hard not to, but crying just the same.

in the next few moments we learned her daughter was killed six months ago in a drive-by shooting.

we heard about the case when it happened, before we moved into this new house. we saw the news photos of the beautiful girl who was celebrating her 15th birthday when she was killed. back then, we shook our heads and grimaced, slightly more than usual perhaps, because the girl lived somewhere in our neighborhood.

then we moved on, because we didn't know her or her family, and the shooting was in some other neighborhood, and this kind of thing happens every day and there's only so much grief and horror to go around from one day to the next.

then we moved and we met a mom across the street from us, and everything changed.

"can i show you her picture?" she asked, pulling out her phone.

of course.

"this is her. can you see how warm and caring she was? i think it shows there."

you could see it, in fact. it was in her eyes. "she's beautiful," i said, present-tense.

in loving detail she told us about her daughter, where she went to school, that she was a 4.0 student and an athlete and loved to babysit and so on. the kind of things any proud parent would tell a new acquaintance, except for the tears because her child is gone.

we looked her in the eye and spoke quietly and nodded and smiled at the couple of warm stories she shared with us. she smiled occasionally, briefly, and then the dark, haunted look would return, and she'd look away.

with a few more meandering words between us, our neighbor went back across the street and we went back to our yard work. the disquiet has lingered ever since.

except for a couple years' difference in age, the parallels between our daughter and her daughter are obvious. here at home in the past week there have been more hugs, and more patience. everything has changed.

it's doubtful we'll need another reminder that the wolf is always at the door. it's unlikely we'll ever say, "it doesn't happen here. it can't happen to us."

it does. it can.

the world is stupid-crazy full of examples.

and the truth is right across the street.

Friday, November 15, 2013

home improvement

"mammoth. sure. whatever."
what a mess.

it's like living in a barn with yaks who eat spaghetti served up by a paint shaker.

you know what would help? a fire hose and the world's biggest shop-vac. throw open the doors, blast everything out, and suck up whatever's left.

that, or new flooring in just one room.

all we need is that one domino to fall, and everything piled up in the middle of every room will start to go away. one floor goes down, one pile moves to the next room. another floor goes down, another pile moves. move, install. move, install. see how easy?

for want of a single finished floor, an entire house is being lost. inhumed like an ancient civilization under a desert of half-boxed artifacts. if the people from "hoarders" walked in right now, we'd have no chance to convince them they were in the wrong house. paths wind through boxes stacked three high. "have you seen the plastic tray that goes under the lime tree?" yes, as a matter of fact i have seen it, but i couldn't begin to tell you where. and no, i don't know where the lime tree is, either.

interesting psychosocial note: after a while you start to not notice boxes any more. i mean, subconsciously their continued existence is still annoying the sh*t out of you, but consciously you just start to look past them. and around them. and through them. this, i believe, is how humans have survived whilst other species have died out: our ability to pretend there isn't a decomposing mammoth in the middle of the cave. 

"my god, there's a mammoth decomposing in your living room."
"no, there's not."
"right there, next to the couch!"
"i don't see anything. at all. are you sure you're feeling all right?"
"the smell…{gak}"
"don't throw up in here, for god's sake, you'll make a mess!"

have you ever ripped out carpet? lots and lots of carpet? it's like an archeological expedition: you learn things about the people who once lived there, and you experience them in ways you maybe weren't expecting. you also learn that you never, ever want carpet in your house. ever again.

what i learned about the previous owners from ripping out their carpets:
 they didn't mind that "old carpet" look
∙ they enjoyed the beach, and wanted to bring it indoors
∙ they had a (bad) dog

the worst thing about ripping out somebody else's carpet is knowing that you're stirring up years of their, you know, personal dust. just…ackkkk. so, you wear a dust mask and gloves and clothes you don't mind burning later. and you cut into this stuff and the dust poofs up, and you're like, "oh my god, i am now swimming in somebody else's personal dust." but, you keep going because it has to be done and there's no one else to do it, and the clock is ticking...

once the carpet is up and out of the house, you have to go back in for the pad underneath. even though you know everything that was in the carpet is also in the pad. maybe more so. but, it all has to go, so you wade in and rip it up and haul it out. leaving behind…

carpet strips. long strips of sharp little nails that hold the carpet down around the perimeter of every room, every hallway, every single stairstep in the house. nasty, ugly stuff designed not just to keep carpet in place, but to encourage the next homeowner to pay someone else remove it, no matter what the cost.

i would've paid ~ gladly ~ but the missus wasn't having it. "owners do this kind of thing on HGTV all the time," she said. "how hard can it be?"
"not hard at all if you're not the one doing it," i may have muttered.
"what was that?"
"nothing, dear!"

what's today…the 15th? i just got a text telling me that floors will go down in the bedrooms on the 22nd. floors! in one more week! that's nothing...it'll go by in the blink of an eye. and a year from now no one will remember boxapalooza 2013.

but let a few thousand years go by and let's see how science explains the limes and the spaghetti and the lone swatch of carpet (complete with personal dust) under our floors.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

war crimes! guns! domestic terrorism! yaaaay, gop!

actually, have a really bad day, sir...
they've gone from the war crimes party to the party of economic sabotage and domestic terrorism.

can't wait to see what the GOP comes up with next.

have you been paying attention? or rather, have you had the great misfortune of accidently overhearing the "news" recently? over the past couple weeks the far-out right wing of america's political spectrum (read: virulent america-haters):

  • staged a palace coup over (very) settled healthcare law
  • shut down the federal government at a cost of billions of dollars
  • threatened to wreck the global economy (again) if it didn't get its way on a lengthy list of pet issues and causes so foul and depraved and soul-killing that even the cast and crew of "real housewives of beverly hills" were disgusted.

the list of demands made by republican terrorists was audacious, if deplorable:

  • delay implementation of the affordable care act (obamacare ~ yes, ignorami, they're one and the same!)
  • fast-track authority to overhaul the tax code
  • construction of the keystone XL oil pipeline
  • willy nilly offshore oil and gas production
  • wide-open energy exploration (drill, baby, drill) on federal lands
  • roll-back of regulations on coal ash
  • increased military spending coupled with deeper cuts to domestic programs
considering that the GOP lost the last round of elections in a big way, they're in a position to demand nothing. democrats, on the other hand, are in a position to grant them the same. polls consistently show that americans want obamacare, oppose shutting down the government, and intensely dislike republicans.

even the arch-conservative wall street journal editorial page is fed up with GOP ignominy that took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy ~ $1.5 billion per day:

"This is the quality of thinking—or lack thereof—that has afflicted many GOP conservatives from the beginning of this budget showdown," the editorial read. "They picked a goal they couldn't achieve in trying to defund ObamaCare from one House of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn't sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit.

"The politics of that are little better than defaulting on debt. Republicans can best help their cause now by getting this over with and moving on to fight more intelligently another day."

trying to link today's "republicans" with "intelligent" is a shameful waste of time and energy. the party that once blathered on about jesus and family values so efficiently severed those links that even anonymous hacktivists stand in awe.

eventually, like a child who couldn't hold his breath any longer, the GOP caved on its hysterical demands. but they promised more of the same infantile behavior in early 2014, when the debt ceiling again must be raised.

remember when the GOP was the party of safe, boring, sober-minded fiscal responsibility? who knew that those days were actually the high point in the party's sad little history...

tropical contact high

you don’t need an excuse to run off to hawaii.

you just need an opportunity.

and if that opportunity includes a frenetic, euphoria-fueled 13-mile trail race while you’re there, the first bank of karma will be contacting you shortly ~ you’re way overdrawn.

the xterra gunstock trails half marathon (laie, oahu) is a tough, rambling trek through dusty, arid ranch land, steamy tropical jungle, and rutted back country livestock terrain. runners are reminded to yield to cattle and horses on the trail, and of the high probability they’ll need to high-step piles o’ poop along the way.

my friends, mike and rich, and i drove in darkness from waikiki to gunstock ranch, arriving just as light appeared over the water to the east. as shadows retreated across the hillsides, a few hundred runners milled about the parking lot and the starting area, putting on sunscreen, loosening up, shaking off whatever they did to themselves the night before.

just before race time, a scratchy rendition of the national anthem started up on the PA. all eyes turned to the lone rider in western gear, galloping in wide circles beyond the nearby fenceline, trailing an american flag. if a scene from an old-west rodeo seems non sequitur on a pacific island (and it does), somehow the moment was still poignant. the music faded, the horse reared up, and everyone cheered.

not long after, an actual starting gun went off, and runners surged onto the course. the first couple miles loop around exposed, hot, ranch-y terrain before heading into a welcome canopy of trees. early on, the hills were not terribly steep or long, but the heat and humidity significantly increased the degree of difficulty. aid stations throughout the course handed out water and gatorade by the buckets; gels were consumed by the fist-full.

by mile 5 or so the hills got more serious, narrow single track turned into rocky chutes, and high grass kept us from getting a clear look at where our feet were going. i didn’t see anyone roll an ankle or buckle a knee here, but if it didn’t happen many times over it’s because trail runners are just lucky that way. or something.

just when you started to think, “okay, this is not going to end well,” the trail spits you out onto a stretch of comparatively wide, semi-civilized asphalt. it’s here, if your legs are still sound, that you can get into a faster rhythm and make up time lost meditating on your proprioception.

soon, back into the trees, you’re slogging through mud, thanking whomever you thank at such times for the mist that’s miraculously falling and finding its way onto your face. you sail down a steep hill and into a shady tunnel of overhanging branches. underfoot is the softest bed of mulch-y stuff you’ve run on maybe ever, then you’re right back onto hardpan and pavement to the turnaround point.

back you go to the base of the steep hill you just descended, thinking, “don’t tell me i have to climb back up this #&%^* hill.”  turns out, you don’t ~ instead you take a hard right turn and…at this point my memory gets a little hazy. miles 9 and 10 wind their way back into the jungle and through the steep rocky stuff. in the midst of it, at about mile 11, i rolled my ankle far enough to expect a squshy-tearing sensation that involves much pain and a long rehab. it didn’t happen. for some reason, the ankle just rolled right back, and I chugged on, grateful.

my friend rich was not quite so fortunate, in that several minutes later he faceplanted at almost the same milepost. I didn’t see it happen, but he said something about the trail going up, then straight down, with rocks on the other side. his foot caught on one of those rocks and then the bridge of his nose impacted the ground. his knee and both elbows also were macerated, meaning he didn’t absorb the full force of the fall with his face. still, there was blood and an impressive layer of head-to-toe dirt. after a brief self-diagnostic, (“nothing broken, not puking, let’s go”) he got up and kept going. his non-serious injuries won him a nice parting gift at the finish line, so there’s that.

the rest of the race was uneventful, mishap-wise. it felt good to be submerged in the effort and the dirt and the heat and the place. and while i was pretty well spent the last couple miles, i remember thinking, “i really don’t want this to end.” because it was hawaii and running with good friends and the clock is always ticking and how many opportunities in a lifetime can there be for such things?

i didn’t want it to end, but i kept running…so it ended anyway.

afterward there was swimming and outdoor showers in the warm waters of sharks cove, then abundant mexican food and beer in haleiwa, north of laie. we celebrated the race and being together for the first time in a long time. and we appreciated the opportunity, because who knows if it’ll come again.

many thanks to the xterragunstock trails race team (natalie, angel, kevin and greg) who did a great job again this year. the course was just nasty enough, the volunteers were enthusiastic, and the new tech t-shirts will be a long-lasting reminder of an extraordinary event. mahalo.

time: 2:04
2nd (M, 50-54)