Monday, April 29, 2013

try fecta

well, that wasn't so bad.

i had built it up into something more than it was, i guess. something more intimidating than it should've been.

three weekends, three races.

4/13 squak mountain half marathon

4/20 rattler half marathon

4/27 soaring eagle 20-mile

as noted previously (i think), this little series started with one race i registered for (squak) and two i won entries for. that the three were back-to-back-to-back was entirely coincidental. but i thought it'd be interesting to see if i could do it.

turns out i could. but not the way i thought. what i thought was that the first two events would build on each other and i would peak heading into the third one. and that's what i get for thinking.

squak mountain was the most difficult course i've ever run. the ups and downs were long and steep and tougher on the legs than i realized while they were happening. i got the message in the couple days afterward, when just going down stairs hurt. but the next race was less than a week away, which meant i had to get over it and get ready to go again.

between squak and the rattler half i walked a couple miles one day, rode the stationary bike one day, and did two short, slow recovery runs. by the end of the week i felt pretty good.

the rattler course was tough, but not quite as demanding as squak, and i was able to take half an hour off my finishing time. still, early on it was clear i had less in the tank to tackle the climbs and descents in pipestone canyon. i was surprised and happy to finish in 2 hours.

the next week, my legs were not quite as trashed, and the recovery runs were not quite as difficult. which was good, because the last event was 20 miles, and oh, yeah i had never run 20 miles before.

in between the rattler and soaring eagle i walked a couple miles, and did two longer recovery runs. plus, i took two days off before race day, rather than one, which seemed to help my legs recover a just bit more.

having done several half marathons, i thought i could probably do two in a row without totally imploding. but i wasn't expecting squak to be as debilitating as it was, and for the rattler to be as tough a slog as it turned into.

therefore i was prepared for soaring eagle to be a total grind. pleasant surprise: it wasn't...mostly.

the course, by comparison, was much easier. the ups and downs were not so steep ~ more rolling, less taxing on the legs. but there was that distance thing ~ three 6.6+ mile loops around the park. 

the first two loops went well, i managed my pace (for a change), and refueled (overfueled, probably) at every aid station. starting the third loop, i knew i could finish. as i ran, i thought about finishing. i envisioned and celebrated finishing. then, the last three miles happened. 

i noticed i wasn't picking up my feet as well as i would've liked. rocks and logs and roots got bigger, mud became muddier. i tweaked my ankle a couple times. and, i started talking to myself. "let's keep going!" i said out loud, more than once. "this is awesome!" i insisted. "we love this!" i think some guys on bikes may have heard that one. i didn't care.

the last half mile, it started raining. buckets. and i started laughing. i really was gassed at that point and the fact that the rain set in so close to the end just struck me as funny. so, i laughed, and i finished. in a bit of a daze, but with a smile on my face.

standing under the aid tent i ate and waited for the rain to let up. twenty minutes later it was still raining, and i was full. i thanked all the volunteers i could see, and scurried off to my car. 

it was a slow scurry.


epilogue: i'm ready to go 26.2. 

after staying healthy at these trail events, i'm certain i can run 26.2 on the roads.
trouble is, i'm booked solid the next several weeks. i keep scanning my calendar, trying to invent an opening...
all trained up and nowhere to go.
"You are confined only by walls you build yourself." ~ anon.

on my feet and moving.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

twisps and turns

panorama panacea.
it's a random, nonsensical collection of letters ~ as if a monkey had whacked the keyboard hoping to be rewarded with a banana:


it looks kinda weird sitting on the page like that. what's a twisp, after all? old-school breakfast cereal? a fancy cookie? an uncomfortably tiny car? yeah, no.

twisp is an unexpected little town in washington state, up in the methow valley north of wenatchee, and a long way from what i imagined.

for starters, the mountain scenery ringing the town is mesmerizing, boggling. with 300 days of sunshine a year, you can soak up the views ~ and the free vitamin D ~ instead of slogging through an overkill of overcast in seattle.

then there's the creature comforts.

after driving more than four hours to get to twisp, i was hungry. i was hungry again after running the race i went there to run. come to think of it, i was hungry pretty much the entire time i was there. so, thankfully twisp had options. which is to say "good options." one was tappi, where i ate twice. it's an italian place with a wood-fired oven at which john, the owner and chef, skillfully cooks everything that needs cooking. the service was equally good. by the second evening the waitresses were calling me by name and one of them even brought me a pair of readers so i could see the menu without holding it past arm's length. she just kind of swept by and set them on the table, without a fuss. i found this very endearing.

at lunch one day i ate at the twisp river pub, which brews its own beer and serves up better-than-bar food. outside, the actual twisp river flows by, and deer wander along its banks. really. culinary note: their hefeweizen was excellent, the halibut chowder was full of halibut, and somehow the chicken quesadilla was way above average. i think it must've been the roasted pasilla peppers.

the glover street market is a health food store with an impressive selection of beer, wine, cheese, and baguettes. which really are health foods, from many a standpoint. i bought some of each there, including a goat chèvre, a bottle of locally brewed new school ESB, and an intriguing spanish red table wine. all of which i enjoyed over the next couple days on the expansive deck at the methow valley inn.

the MVI was recommended by the folks at methow endurance (which hosted the race which, as noted previously, i ran). when i wasn't running, however, i was busy being very comfortable at the MVI ~ a sprawling, homespun, turn-of-the-last-century farmhouse. terry, one of the owners, is a genial host, full of local knowledge he's happy to share...and he cooks up a mean locavore breakfast. i would recommend his place to anyone (unless i want to stay there and there aren't enough rooms, in which case i'd say, "no bueno, stay away!")

look quickly, step lively.
finally, there was the race (did i mention there was a race? yeah, there was). the rattler half marathon is set in stunning pipestone canyon, about 25 minutes northeast of twisp. the course features over 2000 feet of elevation and miles of views that would love to distract you from the trail (and the rattlesnakes).

trouble is, too much sightseeing here is a health hazard. faceplanting the trail at any one of a thousand moments is a deceptively quick-and-easy possibility. rattlesnake encounters, we were told, also are not uncommon. so, basically it was a good idea to be at defcon 5 the entire time.

note: no rattlesnakes were reported, nor any mountain lions, which also enjoy roaming these hills. hunting monkeys banging on keyboards, probably. the race was a blast, and i would love to run it again next year.

where are we going with this? nowhere, really. except to say i left twisp wistfully, wishing there were some financially feasible way to live there. it's not that it's expensive ~ houses are cheap and acreage is abundant. but unless you show up with pockets-ful o' money or can make a living online, there's not a lot going on, economy-wise.

then there's the small-but-important detail that the children would go ballistic at the prospect of small town life, and the missus likely would go stir crazy in the winter. it'd be "the shining" in reverse, with my lovely wife, axe in hand, announcing, "wendy, i'm home!" or some variation thereof.

sigh. so...while there's no likely prospect of a life in twisp, i can at least lobby for visiting more than once in a brigadoon.

it's a reasonable alternative to the random and nonsensical...

Tommy Albright: Look, I'm not saying I believe all this, but just for argument's sake, suppose... suppose a stranger like ~ well, me ~ came to Brigadoon and wanted to stay. Could he?
Mr. Lundie: [gives him a long look, then smiles] Aye, he could, lad. Mr. Forsythe provided for that...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

you break 'em, we fix 'em

there's probably no connection.

but not far from here are two businesses, side-by-side.

DJ's Loan & Sport Pawn * Gun Shop
("We buy firearms * Loans * Guns")

HealthPoint Community Health Center
("Welcome New Patients")


they should share a sign, with a different headline on each side. so, depending on which way you're driving...

"get your shots here."

"protect your family today."

something like that. i'm still finessing the details.

Monday, April 15, 2013

small truths

"We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

roger ebert

we're so busy.

we scramble around and make plans and carefully tend to our illusions of control.

things to do, places to go. more things to do. time flies by in a blur of mandatories. 

sometimes, though, life happens. and plans change. and we're reminded that control is not what we think it is.

other times, death happens. and no matter how it does ~ quickly, quietly, dramatically, dispassionately ~ we're not ready. and we're reminded that life is not what we think it is.

when last we spoke, i was going on and on about running this, that and the other race. the idea of it felt good and solid and in its way, important.

within minutes of finishing saturday's event, i learned there had been a death in my family. then, this morning, bombs devastated the boston marathon.

suddenly "this, that and the other" has to be re-evaluated. plans have to adapt. perspective is evolving on the fly. 

as often as possible, the mandatories in life should be our own, not someone else's. what's "good" and "important" is ours to decide. and it's probably worth considering if there's such a thing as "solid."

our time here will be over in the blink of an eye. move quickly.


We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..."

~ martin luther king, jr.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

into the great wide open

“Dream big by setting yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You then have to catch up with them.” 
~ sir richard branson

ultra running is loosely defined as "...anything past the marathon, or 26.2 miles. However, the shortest standard distance that is considered an ultra is the 50 kilometer distance, or 31.07 miles."

i'd add that for a less-accomplished runner, an ultra is "...anything past the distance one considers 'crazy.'"

full disclosure: based on the 50k standard, i'm "less accomplished." so this month, by my standard, i'm heading into the crazy.

starting this weekend (4/13) i'm signed up for the squak mountain half marathon, followed by the rattler half (4/20), followed by the soaring eagle 20-mile event (4/27).

these are all trail races over terrain i've not run, with about 8,000 feet of elevation between them. so there's an element of the unknown (and a degree of difficulty) ahead. perhaps more importantly, i've never run lengthy trail races on back-to-back-to-back weekends. even more importantly, i've never run 20 miles. not all at once, anyway.

so i'd argue (with myself, mostly) that the upcoming stretch of weekends is kind of ultra. also, maybe, kinda ultra-dumb. but you know what? fuck it. you don't know unless you try.

point of order: just so we're clear, i'm not grotesquely unprepared. i've run several half marathons and several long-ish (10-mile +) trail events. at least one a month for the last several months (plus lots and lots of consistent training miles). last weekend i did a 13.2 training run, and standing here today i'm feeling pretty good (except for this rib on my right side that feels like it's slightly out of place. but, i mean, it's not protruding from my flesh or anything).

so, from a training standpoint, it feels like maybe i can do this. i think i can ~ but i'm not sure i can. but if i could, it would set me up for something 26.2-ish in may. 

i'm not sure i can do that, either. but i'm willing to find out.

see what i'm doing here? literally talking myself into this as i type it.

sometimes it has to be done. dreaming big  dreaming crazy.

on my feet and moving.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

small tails

one question on a subject i care nothing about:

what is lindsey vonn thinking?

hooking up with tiger woods? is she merely foolish, or really stoopid?
"Gossip Cop checked in with a close Lindsey Vonn insider, who tells us it’s absolutely NOT TRUE that the skier has any suspicions about Woods and Nordegren."
tiger woods. i mean, you could see why eldrick would be interested in her. but she...she does know where that junk has been, right?

while we're at it, what is nike thinking? (okay, that's two questions on a subject i care nothing about.)
"just do her."

celebrating tiger woods? are they merely vile, or completely corrupt? they should add a new tag line to their tarnished logo: just do her.

note to nike: winning most definitely does not take care of everything. isn't that right, joe paterno/lance armstrong/oscar pistorius/michael vick?

nike doesn't get it. yet another reason not to buy their lousy gear.

Friday, April 05, 2013

sporting life

what would he have to do to get a four-game suspension?
the basketball coach at rutgers university was fired this week.

seems he wasn't very good at coaching basketball.

there was his win-loss record, of course: 44-51 in three years. but that's not why coach mike rice was fired.

he was fired because a video of him "coaching" in practice went viral, and suddenly a lot of people decided they didn't like mike rice very much.

the video shows him shoving and hitting and kicking his players. it shows him hurling basketballs at them from point-blank range.

and it records him calling players "faggot" and "cunt."

administrators at rutgers, including the university president, were aware of rice's behavior for months. after reviewing tape of the practices in december 2012, athletic director tim pernetti suspended rice for three games and fined him $75,000.

but it wasn't until the video hit the internet that pernetti decided, "oops, now i have to fire this guy."

rice was making $700,000 a year to coach a division-1 ncaa basketball program. you might think a person who has risen to that kind of position would be smart enough to know it's not okay to commit serial assault on your players. or to call them "faggot." any more than you'd call a black person "nigger" or a woman a "cunt."

not okay. under any circumstances. and not just because it doesn't get the results you want. but because the players you're responsible for might get the idea that such misconduct is acceptable. and go on to do the same thing themselves. because that's what you taught them.

too far-fetched? here's what a couple of his players said:

Mike Coburn, whose last season at Rutgers was Rice's first in 2010-11, said he had no issues with the coach's treatment of players, and because he was a team captain, he took the brunt of it. He said Rice was challenging them to excel and, though he acknowledged how Rice's coaching style may look to outsiders, he said players understood it.
"No, I'm not personally offended by it," Tyree Graham said in a telephone interview. "I backed what Coach Rice did for the most part. But I can't say it got results," he said. "It didn't work. If those tactics don't work, it should stop."
shorter graham: a better record would've justified his coach's actions. and the fact is, a few more wins and there's no telling how long they might have gone on. just like at, say, the penn state football program.

mike rice is gone as head coach at rutgers. not because he did something abhorrent.
but because he didn't win enough basketball games.
update: as of this morning, one of the rutgers assistant coaches, jimmy martelli, has resigned. martelli can be seen on the video exhibiting the exact same behaviors as his former boss. 
athletic director tim pernetti has been cut loose as well.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

it takes a vigilance

"editorial vigilance is the price of zombie-free copy."

this post is not about zombies. 

i don't like zombies. i don't watch "the walking dead" or anything else zombie-related, even though zombies are the new vampires and therefore very popular with the popular kids.

my theory is that zombies are hollywood's stand-in for political conservatives, which is why so many people love watching them get whacked in so many creative ways.

"you peddle your guns and dump your oil and force your religion into places it was never meant to go. well, you've gone too far, right-wing brain-eater. eat this!"

cue ironic fusillade SFX and fade to white.

as noted previously, this post is not about zombies. it's about people who demonstrate an excellent grasp of the mindless, soulless, joyless behavior characteristic of zombies ~ and  are stubbornly ungrateful even as they're dragged kicking and screaming into the light.

case in point, this: an exxon pipeline burst this week in arkansas, flooding a suburban little rock neighborhood with more than 10,000 barrels of heavy crude.

with oil literally flowing down the streets of this tidy burbrep. tim griffin (R-Bigoil) told residents ~ his constituents~ to get over it. "you want to drive cars? cars run on oil. oil comes from pipelines. speaking of which, i have to go cash this check from exxon." tim could have oil gushing from his mouth and he would still be telling people how safe pipelines are, and how terrible it would be if the keystoneXL project were not built. he'd probably have dead eyes and a creepy little smile on his face while he said it (but that doesn't make him a zombie, necessarily).

moving on...if the answer to petroleum disasters is "more oil," then shirley the solution to tens of thousands of gun deaths every year must be ~ more guns!

that is the conclusion of the NRA, purveyors of fine excrement for more than 140 years. in its recent report on preventing gun violence in schools, the NRA recommended ~ spoiler alert ~ more guns in schools.

the report (straight-facedly titled the "National School Shield Emergency Response Program") proposed "armed security officers in every school to increase school safety."

unstated in the report is the fact that more guns in a gun-sodden america will make us safer the same way more water will keep us from drowning.

random sidebar: who would benefit most from arming tens of thousands of "security officers" in every school in america? if you said "gun manufacturers" you win a stuffed likeness of nra zombie wayne lapierre (how you'll tell the difference between it and the actual wayne lapierre is still under review).

if you're interested, you may be able to find lapierre in nelson, georgia. there, he's likely licking the lapels of the the town's gun-lovin' city council, which voted this week to make firearm ownership mandatory.

america. land of the free, home of the government-mandated heat.

random sidebar II: i'll carry a gun when you force it into my cold, dead hand. but i get the first shot with my new nuke from north korea!

it says here that the adorable north korean military "has been cleared to attack the u.s. with nuclear weapons." most experts believe the north korean military is no threat to anyone but itself, but then again, neither was saddam hussein, and look how that turned out.

north korea's closest ally, china, reportedly is rolling its eyes at the hostile rhetoric. "we're swimming in american money right now, and will continue to do so for a long time ~ unless these clowns do something stupid," said no highly placed source in the chinese government. "we really wish they'd just shut up," the source did not go on to say.

with all this tension clogging up the aura-sphere, the good people of the GOP caucus in north carolina decided to propose something unexpected: a resolution declaring an official state religion.
"A resolution filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide."
that's nice. isn't that nice? making north carolina safe for everyone to be a state sanctioned christian. government doesn't get to be more christian than that, does it? not without issuing mandatory gun permits, anyway. jesus would be so proud.

unlikely as it seems, there's a common thread weaving through these little anecdotes tying them together in a tapestry of...

...zombies. mindless, soulless, joyless creatures with little common sense and even less fashion sense. they slog through dark, dreary, desperate days, simultaneously wishing for and dreading their inevitable end. which, in the interest of all things light and lucid and healthy, can't come soon enough.

epilogue: there's a slight but measurable possibility that this post may have been about zombies after all.