Monday, December 26, 2016

real work

it may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey

~ wendell berry
darryl is still there.

still living under the bridge a hundred steps from our house, still sleeping on the ground next to the stairs.

this time of year, whenever i step out the door and think, "damn, it's freezing out here," the thought is invariably followed by another: "i hope darryl is warm enough."

we do what we can. over the last three years we've given him sleeping bags, coats, shoes, gloves, hats, and lots of food. we visit regularly to ask him what he needs, and bring back whatever it might be.

what he doesn't ask for, and what we can't bring, is care for what ails his mind. in the time we've known him, he's demonstrated that sometimes he's just...not all there.

he speaks lucidly about his world 90% of the time; the other 10% it seems like he's experiencing a confusing waking dream. it's those times i fear for his safety. for his life.

and i don't know what to do about it.
we live in a country soon to be led by a president who mocks the disabled. a government that as a matter of policy demonstrates contempt for the least among us. 

the majority of us didn't choose this...but the vagaries of self-governing being what they are, this is what we got.

and it really doesn't matter. what does matter is doing the right thing, regardless. helping those who need it, and hoping we remain in a position to do so. because as noted many times before, anything can happen to anyone at any time.
"the clock of life is wound but once
and no man has the power to tell
just when the hands will stop
on what day ~ or what hour.
now is the only time you have,
so live it with a will
don't wait until tomorrow
the hands may then be still."
in the category, "you read about things like this, but..." we spent much of christmas 2016 in the emergency department with my father. what began as an innocuous inability to swallow a bite of turkey ended many hours later with a 2 a.m. visit by a gastroenterologist and an endoscope.

in between were an array of tests, scans, images, intravenous administrations, and other uncomfortable indignities.

the esophageal spasm was resolved, finally; blood work ruled out suspicions of an MI; ultrasound and CAT scan ruled out blood clots.

by happenstance, though, the CAT scan revealed a spot on one of his vertebrae. not ruled out: cancer.

since all of us were visiting arizona from someplace else this year, conclusive tests will have to be done when my parents return to colorado. the wait between now and then will be uneasy. when we know more, the real journey will begin.
by near-unanimous proclamation, 2016 has been a particularly unkind year. interrupted by moments of joy, certainly, occasionally interspersed with hilarity, too often darkened by outrage.

(let's list mass slaughter in syria, the disintegration of polar ice caps, a terrorist attack in paris, and the failure of american self-government as a placeholder for the "many bad things" that transpired. your list may vary.)

it's worth noting that countless fellow humans around the globe are too occupied with staying alive to weigh in on such subjects. we americans look on from a position of relative ease and observe the chaos; but really, we remain insulated and isolated from the worst of it.

however bad it's been, "2016" was just an arbitrary set of days filled with things that happened. people made choices ~ they acted, failed to act, watched a lot of tv. ripples emanated, dominoes fell, gravitational waves distorted everything, ever so slightly.

our job, as demanded by our privilege, is to help ensure "2017" doesn't make "2016" look like the good old days.

to that end, "now" is always a good time for the real work to begin.
whenever we bring him something, darryl says "thank you," and shakes my hand. i tell him, "you would do the same for me if the situation were reversed," and i believe he would.

eventually our conversation ends and i walk the hundred or so steps back to our front door. 

the distance may as well be a thousand miles.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

and so to sum up...

2016 in a box.
as a matter of pre-2017 housekeeping, some explanation may be warranted for the schedule noted over there. >>>>>>>

1. the western washington fatass 25k is not a race--it's a "fun run." this year, part of the fun included a lot of snow on the trails, and an off-course issaquah. i have no explanation.

2. as noted here, i did everything wrong before and during the cap peak mega fatass. yet just a week later...

3. ...came the best running day ever.

4. gorge waterfalls affected me for...well, pretty much all of 2016. the training was a significant endeavor; the event itself was the most difficult ground i've ever covered (literally and figuratively). and the recovery took longer than i ever imagined. what a ride.

5. soaring eagle was the first attempt to get myself back in the game.

6. the teanaway marathon was a hilariously hot step toward feeling sort of normal (as well as prepping for the white river 50-miler).

7. the taylor mountain 50k was muddy. very muddy.

8. ugh.

9. i jumped into the inaugural running of the paradise valley half marathon just to pin on a bib and remind myself what it felt like to enjoy running. it worked.

10. the run the bluff 10k is held in our neighborhood, which means it's kind of mandatory. it's also great fun to try running fast on legs trained to run long. pleasant surprise: within certain parameters, i can do both!

11. grand ridge half marathon: see #9.

photo by glenn tachiyama.
12. i ran the deception pass 50k last year, after which i made a mental note: "next year, do the 25k." because 50k that particular day was a slog. 

the 25k this year was definitely not a slog. in fact, it was fantastic.
there are things i would've done differently this year, preparation-wise. i ran more miles than ever, but my mental game was, uh, not as rigorous. i was fortunate to learn much about this subject from friends. it can be summed up in three words: keep moving forward.

will do.
as a matter of 2016 record-keeping...

deception pass 25k
31/216 (overall)
3/19 (m 50-59)
shoes: altra lone peak 3.0

song stuck in my head the entire time:  "my traveling star" ~ james taylor

Monday, December 12, 2016

miwok 100k

saturday, dec. 10:

i'm in the miwok lottery.

it's a western states qualifier, and friends report it's a fun, gorgeous course.

the actual lottery is tomorrow, and results are posted monday morning...hope!
monday, dec. 12: 


i'm now oh-for-three on my lottery events for 2017.

damn you, 2016.
moving on to plan C.

pine to palm 100m
javelina 100m

i mean, i could wait for 2018. but in the current political climate, would anyone care to bet on 2018 happening at all?

Friday, December 09, 2016

event horizons

current calendar status.
last saturday was the lottery for the western states 100!

i didn't get in.

today was final permit day for the gorge waterfalls 100k!

i have to drop out.*

time to reconsider...everything.
what we know:

i'm registered for the orcas island 25k on january 28, and the squamish 50-miler on august 19.

in between and wrapped around those two events is a whole lot of...nothing. 

meanwhile, registration has opened for several races on my "plan b" list. 

what's sold out? what's still available?? i don't know!

time to hammer together a schedule.

what we're currently considering:

fort ebey marathon — 2/25 (beautiful whidbey island course.)

chuckanut 50k — 3/18 (ack. sold out! i might still get in, tho.)
miwok 100k — 5/6 (lottery. western states qualifier.)
orcas island marathon — 5/13 (orcas island is one of my favorite places to run.)

smith rock ascent — 5/13 (new to me...i've heard great things.)

sun mountain 50k — 5/20 (my first 50k in 2014. one of my favorite ultras.)
western states training camp — 5/27-29 (the next-best thing to running western states?)

teanaway marathon — 6/3 (ran it this year. great venue.)

beacon rock 50k — 6/10 (like gorge, but on the WA side of the river.)

mccall trailrunning classic 40 mile — 7/15 (a good warm-up for squamish.)

and in their own category:

pine to palm 100m — 9/9 (western states qualifier. i've never run 100 miles.)

mountain lakes 100m — 9/23 (not a western states qualifier. i've never run 100 miles.)

javelina 100m — 10/28 (western states qualifier. i've never run 100 miles.)

nota bene:

yes, i'm aware some of these events are practically simultaneous. please refer to einstein's theory of general relativity to see how i will run all of them.

notes for feet:
* the family and i will be on a plane to hawaii that day.
† running calendar-related. i'm really not smart enough, nor do i have enough time, to contemplate everything.

i've never run 100 miles.

Monday, November 28, 2016

the how and the why

"They say that to train for and run 100 miles, you always need to know your "why." Without a "why," a reason, you won't finish. What they don't tell you is that some days the "why" doesn't matter. Some days, after you've worked a 50-hour week, after you've already gotten up every single day to run and to train—exhausted, tired, depleted, sore, and discouragedall that matters is your "how."

~desiree marek
like a poorly marked trail, my 2017 racing schedule could go a lot of different ways.

case in point: i'm signed up for the gorge waterfalls 100k, and in the dec. 3 lottery for the western states 100-mile run.

1. i got through the gorge 100k lottery, so i'm in! except it turns out permits for the event aren't approved for the date it's supposed to happen. so i may be out.
2. getting into western states on the first try, with one lottery ticket, is like, uh, hitting the lottery. i mean, some people wait years, with multiple tickets, and still don't get in.

best case: gorge 100k happens on a convenient date, i get into western states, and running gorge springboards me on to an amazing WS100 finish!

worst case:* i don't get into western states, and i have to bow out of gorge because the eventual date conflicts with our long-booked family vacation. 

leaving my 2017 running calendar pretty much...empty.
assuming the worst-case scenario, i have a post-it full of events that would make 2017 a fantastic year, running-wise (if not otherwise) ...

chuckanut 50k — 3/18
miwok 100k — 5/6
orcas island marathon — 5/13
sun mountain 50k — 5/20
western states training camp — 5/27-29
mccall trailrunning classic 40mile — 7/15
white river 50m  8/5
squamish 50m — 8/19 (update: in.)
why 100:

"Why are you doing this? Seems a bit extreme." ~ a well-intentioned friend

i got into the western states lottery because it's western states  and who knows if i'll get another chance at it. and because it is western states, if i were to beat the odds and get in, i would be all-in. i would find a way to get to the starting line with a fighting chance to finish.

the question is, can i say the same about any other 100?

i. don't. know.

standing here right this second, i'm not sure i can identify my "why," let alone a "how."

what i do know, though, is that the idea is intriguing enough to make me go, "what if?" and "why not?"

next step: let's go.

pine to palm — 9/9
mountain lakes — 9/23
javelina 100 — 10/28

* in the big scheme of things, not really the "worst case"
 almost — i'm definitely signed up for the orcas island 25k on january 28
‡ obviously some of these are mutually exclusive

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

grieving miel

caution: what follows is not a happy story. 

"if you find somebody to love in this world 
you better hang on tooth and nail 
the wolf is always at the door 
in a new york minute
everything can change"

~ don henley
it went by so fast.

from the time i picked up my cat out of the middle of the street to the time i returned home from the emergency vet clinic, it was little more than an hour.

at 6:30 p.m. i saw headlamps on both sides of the street as i drove up, and thought "runners out for an evening run." i pulled into the driveway and noticed two of the lamps were from guys working on utilities.

on the other side of the street was a young woman, and she was yelling something to me. i started walking toward her and in the next few seconds, everything changed.

"can you help me i don't know what to do i hit a cat."

at that moment my thinking brain shut down to a very low level. 

it was one of our cats, down and writhing on the ground. i hesitated for what seemed like a long time, not sure what to do, not wanting to move her for fear of doing more damage. 

deciding for me, a car rolled up fast, as if it didn't see us, and i frantically waved it off. no choice now, i had to get her out of the middle of the street.

i picked her up and held her against my chest, moving quickly toward the house.

"i'm so sorry i didn't see her she ran right out in front of me."
"it's not your fault."

miel wanted to live, and fought me hard. kicking at the restraint, she dug her claws into my hands. i was afraid of hurting her more, of holding her too tightly, so i set her down in a flower bed. she continued to writhe, and i noticed the blood all over my jacket.

"i'm so sorry."
"it's not your fault."
i ran into the house and found a towel in the hall closet. outside again, i threw open the garage door and emptied a cardboard box that was full of something, i don't know what.

miel was where i left her, panting hard. i wrapped the towel around her as gently as i could and lifted her up to put her in the box. she let out a high, painful groan.

i put her in the back seat and headed toward the emergency clinic. i wasn't thinking clearly enough to remember how to get there, but knew generally which direction to head. i figured it would come back to me as i drove.

she panted loudly and it occurred to me she might be too hot with the towel over her, so i rolled down the window. she quieted down and immediately i was afraid she was slipping away, so i started talking to her.

"i'm here miel i'm right here i'm sorry i know you're hurting i'm going to take care of you..."

i didn't tell her everything was going to be okay.

"i'm here miel i'm sorry i know you're hurting i'm not going to leave you...please don't leave me."

she struggled in the box, and i was afraid she was going to throw herself out of it.

"i'm here miel i'm here be still please be still i know you're hurting."

it went on like this for what seemed like a long time.

eventually we pulled up to the vet clinic, and i threw open the back door of the car. the blood was everywhere.

i half-ran with her toward the clinic door, while miel struggled to get out of the box. she was still so strong, still so full of febrile energy. she wanted to live.

i reached the front door and set the box down on the ground, holding her in with one hand, fumbling with the doorknob with the other. it was locked.

i looked higher up the door and there was a buzzer.

a vet tech came and let us in. i stammered out our story, she asked some questions, i gave some one-word answers.

"okay, i'm going to take her back now."

i knew what was going to happen next. every next thing had already played itself out in my head, and there was only one thing left. i reached into the box and gently touched miel's fur.

"goodbye, beautiful."

the doors opened and closed, and i wandered into the bathroom to wash off some of the blood. 

"we need you to sign this here and here and here."

i signed, and sent hurried texts to my wife, who was boarding a plane for london. i barely held it together through a quick call from our daughter.

then i stood against a wall, waiting, sipping water from a dixie cup.

after a while, the vet came out.

"her heart is still beating but i'm not getting any neurological response the xrays showed some significant fractures to her skull at this point i think there's not much left we can do i think we have to euthanize her."

i nodded and sobbed a little.

"so you're okay if we go ahead...?"

i nodded and sobbed some more.

she went back through the doors.

our daughter texted, "please let me know what is going on"

"she's gone"
i drove back home in a fog, accompanied by a low-grade dread something else bad might happen on the way home. it didn't.

our street was quiet and dark as i pulled into the driveway.

it was 7:35 p.m.
the next morning, as usual, the alarm went off at 6:15.

as usual i got up, fed the dogs, and took them for a walk in the rain. we circled the block and inevitably passed the spot where miel was hit.

something was there, in the middle of the street. we waited for a couple cars to pass to go pick it up.

it was miel's collar.

i picked it up and carried it home.