Tuesday, December 05, 2017

switching to plan b

see you next year, lottery thing.
temptation's strong
i'm on my way
to hell's half-acre
how will I ever
how will I ever
get to heaven now

~ dixie chicks
i didn't get into western states.

but running trails with a bunch of lottery qualifiers, then gathering at seven hills running shop to watch others get in...re-ignited a flicker of ultra fever.

though i haven't pinned on a bib since august, suddenly i'm clicking through qualifying events for the 2019 WS100, and imagineering some destination run-cations.

a weird, but welcome change.

a 100k would be the path of least resistance. miwok? sean o'brien

out of nowhere, though, the notion of my first 100-miler seems strangely appealing. i had thought western states was the only one i'd ever be interested in, but it turns out there are other fish on the trails. and really, mightn't it be a good idea to have run at least one other 100 before attempting a (very theoretical) squaw-to-auburn?

yes, yes it might.

turns out mountain lakes and rio del lago are now qualifiers, and cascade crest is right in our backyard.

"not a cult."
breaking news: as of this morning, i have a free entry into the yeti 100. picked it up via the tribute to the trails calendar project, benefitting the washington trails association.

i really wasn't thinking of this one as a potential first 100.

but, with 24-hour finisher medals like this, who could resist?

race starts friday, sept. 28, 2018.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

no bad dogs, only bad owners

i’m non-confrontational.

i mean, i want to be friends with just about everybody.

except a guy in discovery park last night.

well past sunset and in the rain, a group of us were running along the bluff, when out of the dark charged a very large, off-leash german shepard.

it came right up to the (leashed) dog in our party, a good pup who can nevertheless be unpredictable with strange dogs.

it was a tense situation that could’ve gotten ugly very quickly—amplified by the fact that the shepard had no collar, and no owner we could see in the darkness. that the moment hadn’t immediately devolved into a dogfight was not reassuring.

we scanned the area with our headlamps, and the dog’s person finally arrived.

at that point i would’ve expected to hear profuse apologies and assurances not to worry, because “he’s friendly.” it would’ve been a lame, but tolerable response.

instead, we got, “could you turn down your headlamps!”

that was it. 

his dog was still way too close, still posturing aggressively, and instead of hustling over to help out, this guy was yelling at us to turn down our headlamps.

it hit me the wrong way.

“maybe you could get your dog on a leash, how about that? asshole.”
“turn down your headlamps!”
“fuck you!”

at that point my friend shouted something sarcastic (but less inflammatory), pulled her dog away, and we ran on to catch up with the rest of the group.

and that was that.
in a world that has lost its mind, this little altercation is meaningless.

on a micro level, though, it’s disconcerting how quickly my behavior escalated to defcon5. i’ve been assured i didn’t overreact, but sitting here today, i know i could’ve responded more constructively. or at least more cleverly.

i don’t know if it’s the times in which we live, or if i’m just predisposed to hostility first, civility second...but in the moment, under duress, my head went *boom*.

for this, i’m sorry. 

and, not sorry.

epilogue: i will try to do better.

Friday, November 17, 2017

caution: falling idols

“well a lot of people don't look at it like you were sick, hawkeye. a lot of people look up to you here. they admire you and they kinda feel they want to be like you. and...gee, when you walk out on an operation, you make them feel like you've let them down. if they can't depend on you, well, they figure, maybe there's no point in depending on anything.”

~ radar o’reilly
when al franken was doing radio for air america, i thought he’d make a great politician.

when he ran for the senate, i thought he’d be a great senator.

in his eight years in office, franken has championed legislation supporting healthcare, education, and human rights. he has 100% ratings from the planned parenthood action fund and the human rights campaign, along with high marks from the league of conservation voters and the aclu.

he’s been a politician i could point to as an example of an honorable, dedicated public servant, and say “see? this is what’s possible.”

which is why it was so crushing to see franken accused by a fellow USO cast member, leeann tweeden, of forcibly kissing and groping her during a 2006 tour.

that’s sexual assault and yeah, i believe her. one would have to be the worst kind of retrograde partisan not to. you’d have to toss out your intellectual and moral integrity altogther. and you’d have to pretend, impossibly, that you didn’t see the goddam photo.

what franken did was inexplicably, inexcusably stupid.

particularly for a person of demonstrated intelligence and professed liberal values (e.g., respect for others). for a man who has been an earnest advocate of women’s issues prior to and throughout his time in the senate. for a man who likely would have been apoplectic if someone had treated his wife or daughter or colleagues or staffers or constituents with such flippant abuse.

because it’s possible to reconcile two or more contradictory ideas, i can accept that a decent person could commit an indecency AND still be fit to show his face in public~if he owns it, demonstrates genuine remorse, and never again betrays our trust.

i can understand that franken could have done an abhorrent thing before he became a senator AND could still do good things as a senator.

what i can’t reconcile is his continuing to be senator.

al franken should resign.

people of principle can’t (rightly) excoriate roy moore and donald trump while giving al franken a pass.

ethically, morally, politically, there’s no way to straddle that fence, walk that fine line, or thread that needle. not at a time when people who cast themselves as “fine americans” and righteous believers are defending sexual assault and child molestation.

not when ‘deflection, never reflection’ hypocrites will gleefully excuse any past or future transgression in their ranks with: “yeah, but what about al franken?”

not when 51% of our population faces the prospect of a(nother) #metoo event every time they walk out the door.

i’m emailing and @-ing al franken to step down, because we have to be able to depend on our leaders to do the right thing.

or people will start to figure there’s no point depending on anything.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


shut up.
no, you shut up.
the joy of the run has left me.

i miss it.

i've heard other runners talk about this dilemma...but i until recently i've been spared it.

"it's running! don't overthink it! shoes, shorts, one foot in front of the other!"

odd how such a simple thing can become so complicated. 

thought exercise: envision a ball of twisted-up bicycle spokes. that's me and running right now.

clinical note: i'm not injured. not physically, anyway. it's just that when it's time to run, i don't want to.

if i go anyway, i feel better. until the next time.
if i don't go, i feel worse. i mean, obviously.

the world is a treacherous place.* running is my refuge and my therapy. i don't function well without it.

but i've lost the joy.

and i need it back.
* the world is simultaneously a place of breathtaking beauty, wonder, and bliss. that's not the region of the world i'm traveling, currently.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


welp, i'm in the lottery for a hundred-mile race.

actually, it's sort of THE hundred-mile race.

there are other 100s out there, of course, each with its own brutal beauty.

staring at my computer saturday, i experienced a serious case of ultrasignup butterflies. for a moment, i thought i might puke.

yup...this is the one i want to run.

the lottery is dec. 2.

Monday, September 04, 2017

post-game, the squamish edition

do i want to continue seeing sights like these?
yes. yes, i do.
we’re not better or worse
only different at first
simply humans on earth
learning to shine
and when the day brings the hurt
when the night burns
i swear that’s where we shine

~ arruda, woodward, and mcmahon 
"if you want different results, you have to do different things."

it's true, and i'm in.

debilitating stomach troubles have become the new normal for me at longer race distances. and if i want to continue running these things (i do), i have to find a way to a better belly.

which is how i recently found myself in the office of sports nutritionist (and amazing ultrarunner) jess mullen. when it comes to race-day nutrition, she knows a thing or two because she's seen a thing or two.

on jess's recommendation, different results will start with different preparation a week before race day:
  • cutting down (or cutting out) caffeine and alcohol (a small annoyance, well worth it)
  • a few days of nexium to pre-calm my stomach (which was recently diagnosed with stress gastritis)
race day will include:
  • a long-burning, easy-on-the-stomach egg, cheese, and avocado breakfast sandwich 
  • more food (fats like nuts and cheese; complex carbs like fig newtons and hummus wraps) more often (every half hour whether i feel like it or not)
  • something other than water in the water bottles (like electrolytes! and sodium!)

i don't know if this prescription is the cure for what ails me during long races, but what i do know is my layman's solutions have failed hilariously.

what i do know is that jess's suggestions make good sense, and i like things that make sense.

it's good to be different.
update: okay, now i have a hamstring injury.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

stand for inspection

oh, yes, by all means,
build that wall mr. maginot.
u.s. citizens crossing the border to canada? no problem!

"where do you live?
"are you carrying any weapons?"
"what's the purpose for your trip to canada?"
"i have a race in squamish tomorrow."
"what kind of a race?"
"how long will you be in canada?"
"until sunday."
"thank you."

u.s. citizens crossing the border to the united states? not so fast!

"are you bringing back any food?"
"just some packaged food we brought with us into canada."
"why were you in canada?"
"uh, to run a trail race."
"what are the last four digits of your social security number?"

"uh..." (hesitates, silently reciting the entire number) "2376."*
{interminable silence}
"please proceed to the secondary inspection lane."

defining our terms:
"If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers."

my passport is in good standing, and i've gone through the process to obtain a global entry clearance. which means for the low, low price of $100, the u.s. government agrees not to consider me a threat to national security. in return, they get my fingerprints, all my personal data, and a satellite fix on my whereabouts at all times. so...good value! 

the cost, according to the marketing copy on the web site, is darn well worth it!

"Your time is valuable. As a pre-screened Global Entry member, you arrive in the United States, check-in at the Global Entry kiosk and you're on your way. So what are you waiting for?"
  • No processing lines
  • No paperwork
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Available at major U.S. airports
  • Reduced wait times
  • TSA Pre✓® Eligibility

note to self and anyone reading: never trust the marketing copy.

the CBP officer behind the "secondary inspection" counter was terse, unsmiling, and seemingly annoyed at his computer. he didn't let any of that get in the way of his questions, though. oh, yes, he had questions...

"have you ever self-identified as african-american?"
"do you have tattoos on your chest?"
"have you ever lived in independence, missouri?"
"were you born in scotland?"

i had a weird flashback to jack nicholson on the stand in "a few good men."
"are these really the questions you brought me here to answer, lieutenant kaffee?"

"have you visited europe recently?"
"have you ever traveled under a different name?"
"do you have a nexus pass?"

full disclosure: the answer in each case was a straight-faced no. "no, sir," actually. as absurd as the questions were, and as readily as incredulous, smartass answers leaped into my head, i didn't want to spend one moment longer than necessary in "secondary inspection" at the us-canada border.

after 15 minutes of this doltish third-degree, the interrogation lights suddenly dimmed, and we were allowed to continue on our way. 

i assume that's when officer inquisition suddenly stumbled across the marketing copy on the global entry web site, and realized the gravity of the mistake he had just made.
semi-serious epilogue: my wife and i are over-privileged white people. if we are "secondary inspected," it's an inconvenience and just a matter of time before we get to go on our merry way home.

imagine, for a moment, how a similar experience might go for people with fewer resources. people who don't speak english easily. people who are afraid of unhinged american authority.

in a similar vein, does anyone believe this kind of vacuous evaluation is keeping anybody safe?

what a waste. and a shame.
*FPO digits.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Squamish 50

some days you gotta dance
live it up when you get the chance
'cause when the world doesn't make no sense
and you're feeling just a little too tense
gotta loosen up those chains and dance

~ dixie chicks
turns out i was a 40-mile runner on a 50-mile day.

and though i may not have any right to be, i'm disappointed.

as noted previously, i felt only ready-ish for squamish. but as the race unfolded, i was convinced i was going to get it done. i was strong on the climbs, nimble on the steep, rocky downhills, and running the in-betweens.

i was feeling so good, at mile 23 i literally danced to the soundtrack playing at the corners aid station. fine times in the squamish sunshine.

yes, there is some scenery on this course.
my watch failed at around mile 31, which was weird since it carried me all the way through a much longer day at miwok. right about the same time i got stung by a bee. i'm pretty sure those events were connected somehow...but the bee is dead, and he's not talking. either way, not long after they occurred, other things began to go sideways.

i pulled into the mile-33 quest university aid station for a change of socks, shoes, shirt, and hat. i was also handed an otter pop by a very cute aid station volunteer who couldn't have been more than 3 years old. both put a smile on my face as i headed out to do some more climbing on a very climb-y day.

that's when the wheels very unexpectedly came off. i went from moving along well to "what the hell is happening?" within a couple-mile stretch.

as it has on more than one occasion, my stomach, which had been threatening trouble for several miles, turned upside down during that brief time. i was wishing it would also turn inside-out, but had no luck inducing it.

kind and concerned folks stopped on their way by to say, "are you okay?"
"i'm all right...i'd be doing better if i could puke."

yeah, i wasn't doing all right.

i would make best-possible time for five minutes, then rest for five minutes, totally drained of energy. people i had passed long ago now passed me, and i couldn't rally to go with them.

my friend ian burton, who i ran with for many miles this day, caught up and did the best he could to coax me along. 
who can say no to this guy?

"there's plenty of time. you can still hang out for a bit at the next aid station and get back on top of things."

it seemed a reasonable enough thought, but if i'm honest, i didn't think it was going to happen. whatever was going on with me was getting a good grip on my body. and though i'd been taking tums (and later pepto) to ward it off, eventually they just seemed to make things worse.

we made our way to the garibaldi aid station, and i plopped into a chair. note: this is always a bad idea for a runner with any intention of continuing on.

i sat eating ice chips, trying to get something, anything, down. ian patiently restocked and refueled but eventually, reluctantly headed back to the trail. it was the last i would see of him until the next day.

(the good news: ian finished in fine style on a course where any finish is a serious accomplishment.)

meanwhile, for me it was just a matter of time. as the minutes 'til cutoff ticked away, i sat in disbelief that i would drop just 10 miles from a squamish finish. but i had no more in the tank. shivering, foggy headed, legs cramping, i asked for a ride down the hill.
i could not be more grateful to the volunteers throughout the course, but especially at garibaldi. they were terrifically kind and attentive during my time in their company. i wish i could've reciprocated.

i'm also thankful for my friends daisy clark and dianna christopoulos, who saw me shivering on a park bench at the finish and covered me with blankets, coats, and caring. you guys are the best, and i love you both.
ed. note: standing here today, i feel remarkably good. my legs are not particularly trashed, and i feel like i could go out for a recovery run right now...except that my stomach is still kinda wrecked. doctor appointment tomorrow.
squamish 50 mile


topo terraventure (mile 0-33)
altra timp (mile 33-40)

song(s) stuck in my head the entire day: "some days you gotta dance" ~ dixie chicks; "sussudio" ~ phil collins