December 31, 2010

Messing with a classic, part II

One of the podcasts I listen to played this song while I was out on a run yesterday. It is a take off on "Linus and Lucy" from a "Charlie Brown Christmas". Again, messing with a classic is dangerous territory, but I have to admit it was a great song to run to.

This is the only video I found that featured the song. It has a dog and it is about Christmas, so it's not too bad.



Happy New Year everyone!

December 30, 2010

Messing with a classic, part I

This is my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies. The fact that someone would mess with it should piss me off, but this is pretty good.

The Chatty Duelists

December 29, 2010

Drive nice Tacoma!

From the Seattle Times article:
Tacoma drivers may be noticing a series of public-service advertisements around town, urging them to exercise care around bicycles and pedestrians.
The "Drive Nice, Tacoma" safety campaign is placing the yellow-and-black caution-style signs on Pierce Transit buses and shelters and the Link trolley. One sign shows a human outline being bumped by a car, with the slogan "Pedestrians are not hood ornaments."Another shows a auto-bicycle collision (the rider loses), under the admonishment "Don't disappoint your driver's ed teacher."
"We wanted a campaign that would make people stop and think, so we used very clear and recognizable images," explained Diane Wiatr, mobility coordinator/urban planner for the City of Tacoma. "We also wanted to take a tone that was humorous rather than preachy and Rusty George Creative developed these ads that we hope really hit the mark."



December 26, 2010

I hate wind

Out of all the elements of weather, wind is my least favorite. I have worked outside for much of the last decade, and have been running and biking for over half that time, so I am exposed to the elements all the time. Living in Washington, it seems to rain year round. Rain I can deal with though. Unless it is a torrential downpour, I can generally tune it out.

But wind is so random. There is no predicting it, bracing against it, or tuning it out. When working, you can't keep any drawings out, sawdust becomes an unpredictable cloud, and a long piece of wood or aluminum on your shoulder becomes a sail. When you are out riding or running, a headwind makes everything twice as hard. No matter how hard you press, it doesn't feel like you are going any faster.

I have gone on a few runs while up in Seattle. It has definitely been colder, and I have been rained on a couple of times. But the wind had been brutal. I went on an 18 mile run on Monday, and the rain and wind made it feel about 15 degrees colder. I am pretty sure that Monday's run lead to a cold I am still battling.

Today I headed out for another long run, and the winds were even worse. I debated even going out since I was still feeling under the weather, but the marathon is less than four weeks away and I have already skipped a few scheduled runs. I was also feeling pretty fat from all the Christmas indulgence, so I wanted to burn some calories.

So I tried. The first half of the out and back it was raining, but the wind was more or less at my back. But it was blowing hard. The trees along the path were being bent over in the wind, and there were whitecaps on the Slew. As soon as I turned around, I wished I had just stayed at home. I was already wet from the rain, and the wind cut right through me. The rain was now being blown straight into my face so it was hard to see. Birds above me were flying in place, and it didn't feel like I was making any better progress.

Within a few steps, I decided to cut my run short. Normally I would press on because you can't wait for good weather here in Washington,but it was clear I was only going to make myself more miserable by trying to stick to the scheduled run. Unfortunately, I was three and a half miles from my car so there wasn't much I could do but lean into it. It was a long slog and in the end I ran only seven of the scheduled fourteen miles.

Usually I'd say it was tough but I'm glad I did it. Today, I should have just stayed home and nursed my cold. Stupid wind.

December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

It is hard to believe Christmas Eve is already here. As is tradition, I left some things to be done to the last minute and I was certainly not alone. Places were filled with procrastinators and the most difficult thing to find at the last minute was a place to park.

Tasks completed, I stopped into Starbucks for another free cup of coffee, and though it was busy, the feeling was quite different. Friends were there to exchange gifts and just spend time with each other a day away from Christmas. A mother shared a cup of coffee with her daughter as the grandchild wandered around greeting each table. Baristas ending their shift went around to other workers and regulars to wish them a Merry Christmas since this was the last time they would see each other before the holiday. The coffee shop seemed to be a little hideout from the last-minute chaos just outside the doorway, and I found myself setting aside my notebook just to enjoy the atmosphere.

Yesterday, one more tradition was observed. A few of us played a round of golf for the "Scott Phibbs what the heck are we playing golf in December" tournament. About every other year, a few of us gather to brave the elements to play a round of golf a couple of days before Christmas. The last year we played, the ground was completely frozen to the point we could not put a tee in the ground and we ended up using bottle caps to tee off of. We were all bundled up in ski jackets, hats and gloves in order to play. It was another one of those ridiculous moments that make just being there all the more fun.

When we had called to make sure they were open a couple days before Christmas, the lady said "Honey, we're open every day." Though they might be open every day, it turned out that we had the golf course and the clubhouse afterwards all to ourselves. At one point, the woman working there had to go run an errand, and told us to help ourselves to the cooler and just keep track of what we drank. None of us had met her before, but somehow we were trusted members of this little nine hole course. Maybe it was the Christmas season.

This year, five of us went back to that little course in North Bend for another round of golf. Two of our fivesome are local teachers, and it turns out that my oldest niece is one of their students. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing for her.

The course is halfway up the mountain pass, and is surrounded by deep forest and some smaller peaks. We saw an elk or a moose the year of the deep freeze. This year it was chilly but not frozen. It rained a bit but we were mostly battling the strong winds. It had been a couple of years since we had played there, and the simple clubhouse where we grabbed our own beers is now a nice restaurant. But the course was much the same and we fell into our friendship like the intervening years had not happened.

When the question of why we are playing in December is rhetorically asked, there are several answers. Because we can, because it is Christmas, because sometimes stupid things create the best memories, and even though things change through the years, things like tradition and friendship are worth preserving.





Merry Christmas Eve!

December 23, 2010

I miss my dog

I am not without dog companionship while up in Washington. My parents have a great lump of a black lab, and he is a very sweet dog. But I miss my own pooch. I took a picture of her in front of Matt and Holly's tree so I would have some sort of Christmas vision of her. (Neither she or my camera were cooperating).


I was just on Facebook going through pictures, and think this is my favorite picture of her. There are definitely cuter ones, but this one just makes me happy.

December 22, 2010

Another inspiring "loser"

I have been a fan of The Biggest Loser since it started. Beyond the game play, I find the journey and the stories inspiring. Holly has become a fan as well the last few seasons, so we are both on the couch Tuesday evenings to see how the contestants do each week. The recent season just ended, including the marathon episode where one of the women finished in 4:38. The new season is only a few weeks away, but in the meantime I thought I'd pass along a video.

The video chronicles the journey of an ordinary guy who loses 120 pounds and ends up becoming a runner and triathlete. He has been unhappy for some time, and something finally clicks inside to make him lose the weight. I haven't seen Tim recently to see if he has been successful in his own journey, but that is only because I have been lax at getting to the gym to swim.



YouTube link

Round two


I've printed out a copy of the first draft of my novel. Armed with a highlighter, pen and a strong cup of coffee, it is time to read it and rip it apart. Give me strength.

December 20, 2010

Early Christmas present


My Mom has been saving all of these empty coffee bags for me. Why? Because each one is worth a free cup of coffee at Starbucks. So the next 12 cups are on Mom.

December 19, 2010

Vacations are no time for rest

It has been a whirlwind so far. My flight up was delayed for about two hours, but there haven't been many pauses since. I have been able to see a bunch of friends so far, and I haven't been to bed before 2:30am the last three days. I also haven't slept in the same place twice, so it is that much more chaotic.

Last night was another great Christmas tradition. One of the couples in our circle has hosted a Christmas party/sleepover for the last ten years or so. Most of us met when we worked together at a restaurant over 15 years ago, and we have stayed close friends long after we stopped carrying drinks to tables. The party goes into the wee hours, and people are encouraged to stay the night, usually curled up in a sleeping bag wherever they can find floorspace. There are kids now, so things are a little tamer these days, but not by much. The morning after there is lots of coffee and bacon, and we hang out into the afternoon enjoying each other's company at a less frenetic pace.

I look forward to this party each year, but this Christmas it was that much more special to see everyone now that I am down in California. I am exhausted, but wouldn't change a minute so far.

But tonight, we sleep!

December 17, 2010

Christmas traditions

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, but the meaning has changed over the years.

Of course as a kid you counted down the days until Christmas morning, and it seemed to take forever. You folded pages over in the Sears catalog (dating myself) and wrote everything down so you could pass on your wishes to Santa. I can remember sneaking candy canes off the tree every day. I would start with the ones in the back, thinking that I was so clever, but of course nobody was fooled when there were none remaining by Christmas morning. And of course there is that moment when the image of Santa changes in a kid's mind. I still remember seeing a present under my parents bed that later showed up with a tag from Santa. I don't think I have snooped for a present since.

As an adult, the month of December seems to fly by. As the schedule filled up more and more each year, it was harder to ease into the holiday, and a little more of the magic dissipated. It was still a wonderful day, but it took on the sense of deadline to be met rather than the pinnacle of a wonderful journey.

But in the past I did my best to stay in the moment and actually enjoyed shopping for people. I would put in my favorite Christmas CD and that would be the signal that the season had begun. The first time to the mall, I would wander around looking for ideas and inspiration. I would spend several hours that first day and buy absolutely nothing. And I loved it.

The past couple of years my family has skipped exchanging gifts. It was partly the economy and also realizing that we already had so much stuff. Christmas morning is now entirely about time spent with each other, and it is wonderful. It was never about the gifts, but at the same time, it does feel a little odd not to have that not part of the season. I think it is better this way, it is just different.

A friend recently posted something on Facebook. A nine year relationship has ended recently, and she wondered if a Christmas tree would make her happy or sad. I understand completely. Just shopping for and putting up a tree by yourself, when in the past there has been someone with you is difficult. And then you take out the ornaments and other decorations that chronicle your life, and the meaning is totally different. I had not had to face that challenge myself yet. Last year we sold the house November 30th and I was at my parent's house in December. This year I was in San Diego while trees are going up and I will be back at my parent's for Christmas morning.

But yesterday, I was down at the storage unit going through our Christmas stuff. I had offered to send down J's personal and childhood ornaments this year. I was a task that we had both put off, and of course it was difficult to go through our things once again. After seven or eight years, your tree tells a story, and it was what Christmas had come to mean. But like the other things I've mentioned, the meaning has changed.

Since I was going to be in someone else's house for Christmas again, I was going to have a pass on the decision of whether or not to put up a tree. But after going through most difficult part of opening up the boxes, I decided "what the heck" and grabbed a few of my own ornaments. My friends Holly and Kristy had given me some ornaments before leaving San Diego, and I had brought them up with me as well. I bought a small Christmas shrub at Home Depot, put in that favorite CD that I hadn't played yet, and decorated my own little Charlie Brown tree.





It is a little different each year, but it is still Christmas. And there is still some magic left.

December 16, 2010

Good stuff

A couple of good posts over at 3six5posterous.

Teasers:
After a moment, we each started to do the same: tossing small rocks at the crashing waves, a tiny act of futile rebellion against nature.
And somehow, spontaneously, we started labeling each rock with all the things that we wanted to let go.
“Being afraid” – plunk.
“Bossing my little brother” – plunk.
“Never feeling good enough” – plunk.
“Yelling at mommy” – plunk.
“Not being honest about my feelings” – plunk.

by Jason Oke
---
Despite the exhaustion that accompanies the odd hour, there is a beautiful peacefulness in the stillness of our house. The sounds of sleep make their way down the hall. Snoring from three separate bedrooms -- one husband, two sons -- and the occasional giggle from a dream worth dreaming. I listen to their noises as I plug in our Christmas tree and sit quietly in its light. I decide not to turn on the computer and work. I sit, silent.
I breathe. I think. I relax. I wiggle my toes and smile. I nestle into the corner of the couch, pulling the soft green blanket around me. Nothing Earth-shattering comes to mind. I do not solve world hunger. I do not magically feel at ease with everything in my life. I simply sit. It feels fantastic.

by Jenna Hatfield

December 15, 2010

Travelling companion

When I left Seattle to move down to San Diego, my friends sent me off in style. In addition to the parties, they gave me a nice photo album full of pictures of their families and our adventures together. Two friends also gave me a travelling companion at a later party. Not a travelling gnome, but rather a travelling leprechaun.

This is his story.



YouTube link

December 14, 2010

Christmas with friends

I am headed home for the holidays. My flight takes off tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to seeing my family and Washington friends, and spending Christmas back home.

But at the same time, it feels odd to be leaving my current home halfway through the season. My wonderful friends and roomies hosted an early Christmas dinner for me and another friend. It was really wonderful and took a bit of the sting out of leaving tomorrow.

At one point during dinner, we shared some favorite Christmas stories. One of my favorite Christmas memories was when I first moved out on my own. A buddy and I shared an apartment and also worked together at McDonald's. We were making about $4 an hour and living off of Top Ramen and cheeseburgers from work. Affording Christmas was not in the cards.

Mike and I were closing the restaurant together two days before Christmas. When we got back to the apartment, there was a decorated tree in our living room. Our girlfriends had sweet-talked a guy at one of the tree lots into giving them the tree for a couple of bucks. They snuck the tree in and decorated it with homemade things and ornaments swiped from their own family trees. It was such a thoughtful thing to do and great surprise for us both.

For most of us, Christmas is all about family, and I am one of the luckiest in that respect. I have an amazing immediate and extended family, and there will be some 40 people gathered under one roof Christmas evening. But spending the Christmas season with friends is pretty special too, and I am clearly blessed in that respect as well.

Thank you dear friends and Merry Christmas.

December 12, 2010

That reminds me of a joke

"So I am at the Goose, and a duck walks in..."

Sounds like the start of a joke, but it actually happened. There is a pub in Bellevue called the Goose, and we went there a few times after work for a beer and a game of darts. One night, a duck walks in the front door and wandered around for about five minutes before heading back outside. This was years ago, and if it had happened today everyone would have whipped out their phones to capture it on video.

So today, I am at the Upstart Crow and a pigeon walks in.

The Upstart Crow is this great bookstore/coffee shop in the Seaport Village area of San Diego. I was there with a cup of coffee finishing the first draft of my novel when a pigeon walked in. It was not there long enough to pose for a picture, but I have a feeling that this is not all that unusual. While I was sitting there, several smaller birds (finches?) flew in looking for crumbs. They also did not sit still for long, but they looked like they were plenty comfortable being inside.

At the place I had lunch earlier, there was a sign on the deck asking people not to feed the birds. I guess there needs to be signs on the tables inside as well. Not that the Upstart Crow needs to get any cooler, but having birds perched on chairs and bookshelves does give it that extra little something.

December 11, 2010

"Winter" in San Diego

I suppose winter doesn't technically start until the 21st or so, but it feels like winter should start shortly after Thanksgiving. Of course back in Washington, snow and cold temperatures showed up before Thanksgiving, so they are ahead of the game this year.

It is a little different down here. The mornings are definitely cooler, but we are still seeing temperatures in the 70's. According to the national weather service, there have only been 9 days where the temperature was below freezing in San Diego since 1872, so it doesn't look like I will be seeing winter weather anytime soon.

It looks like they do experience some stormy weather however, as each year they create these sand berms to protect against flooding. It has definitely been more windy down by the beach on my weekend runs. I happened to take my camera along with me on my run today and this is what they look like.



It is odd to be thinking about Christmas when it is so warm. The calendar says it is only two weeks away, but that can't be right. Matt and Holly did put up a wonderful tree a few days ago, and we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" this evening, but it still feels off. Like Christmas in July.

But the city is trying their best to celebrate the season. Someone has "planted" this Christmas tree in the sand at Ocean Beach, and Santa was actually visiting today.


But a Christmas tree on a beach, next to a palm tree? Well, they aren't trying to fool anyone into believing they're in a winter wonderland. Even the lamp post decorations let you know where you are.

December 7, 2010

Working on the farm

So I'm digging holes and pouring concrete in December, but that really isn't all that unusual. I built decks for about seven years in Seattle, and in good years we had work into December.

No, the unusual part is that it is 75 degrees and I am surrounded by Alpacas.


We are working in a town east of us, and the homeowner raises Alpacas. He actually has a webcam so you could look at them online, but it was mounted to the patio cover we tore down. He sheers off their coats for the fiber, but I get the feeling that they are mostly kept for pets. We moved all the dirt we dug up into their pen, and each time we went in they would walk over to check us out. They are pretty curious creatures and I have to say kinda cute.

The one cool thing about working outside in December - quitting time comes early. You can't go much past sunset.

December 4, 2010

Apple Cup 2010

Today is the 103rd Apple Cup, the annual football game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars. Most college teams have a natural or created rival, and the game between them is usually the last of the season. The Apple Cup is our rival game and inspires lots of smack talk and jokes leading up to the game (Q: How do you keep Cougars out of your yard? A: Put up goalposts.) Even in years where neither team is very good (most of the last decade), everyone gears up for the annual grudge match for state bragging rights.

I have not been able to see many Husky games this year. They haven't been good enough to get national attention, and of course I am outside the local broadcasting area. I have had to "watch" most games online, and it is a poor substitute. This is what it looks like:



Kind of reminds me of the old vibrating football games



But the Apple Cup is being broadcast on Versus this year, which is one of the only channels we get beyond the local stations. My butt will be on the couch from 4pm on, cheering on the purple and gold. There is actually a little more at stake this year, because if the Huskies win, they should be headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2002.

GO DAWGS!!

December 3, 2010

December 2, 2010

There's a pill for that

There seems to be a quick-fix pill for nearly every problem these days. "Don't put down that bacon double cheeseburger, just take this pill and you will lose weight!" I assume that most of the American public have become skeptical of these miracle pills by now, but someone is clearly buying them.

I read about another one in the Seattle Times this morning. And they finally found one that made me go look it up - the Wake Up On Time Pill. I have mentioned repeatedly that sleep is an issue for me. Insomnia is frustrating enough, but more demoralizing problem is waking up every day tired. I never wake up thinking, "that was enough sleep". Doesn't matter if I slept seven, eight, nine or ten hours; I wake up tired, often exhausted.

From the article: (emphasis mine)
Wake Up On Time, a pill containing all natural ingredients in a delay-release coating. The pill is designed to boost energy levels and is made up of a blend of B vitamins, amino acids, guarana seed extract and Siberian ginseng...If taken at bedtime, the natural coating allows the ingredients to dissolve over seven to eight hours, and "wake you up when the alarm clock rings," Beggan said.
"It's more than a vitamin, it's time in a bottle because instead of hitting the snooze button over and over again, it allows you to bounce out of bed ready to go," Beggan said. "The product helps you to effortlessly wake right up in the morning feeling alert, happy, and ready for anything your demanding schedule throws at you."
The article continues:
The guarana seed extract is probably what gives the supplement its kick, since it has a high concentration of caffeine, said Louis E. Teichholz, chief and medical director of cardiac services and chief, division of complementary medicine program at Hackensack University Medical Center.
"I can't say whether it works or doesn't work, but if it does, it's probably from the guarana," Teichholz said. "If you're going to use it, I would recommend doing so with caution because the caffeine may cause higher blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure and it could cause palpitations."
So it is basically a time released cup of coffee along with up to 1,667% of the recommended dose of B vitamins. I went to the site anyway to check it out, and found that they not only sell pills to help you wake up on time, but also:
  • Stay Up All Day
  • Sleep Tight All Night
  • Light'n Up
  • Loosen Up (not to be confused with Royal Flush)
  • Don't Forget
  • MenoPAUSE Chill Pills
  • Stress FREE
  • Wrinkle Remedy
  • Go Away Gray
  • As well as the generic Get Healthy
One stop shopping for miracle cures! It think I will stick with coffee. And at $1.50 a dose, I can get a good cup of coffee at Starbucks for less.

November 30, 2010

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!

30 days, 50,000 words, first draft of novel (nearly) finished.

I crossed the first finish line sometime just before noon today. In typical procrastinator fashion, there was some last minute cramming before the final. I wrote over 16,000 words over the last five days to get it done on time (probably no coincidence that the word 'coffee' shows up 92 times in the book).  After my five day break in Arizona, I was doing a decent job at erasing the deficit and getting back on track. But then around the 33,000 word count, I stalled again. I was approaching the big scene in the book and I still hadn't figured out exactly what it was going to be.

When I started this novel, I basically had one scene and an opening line. That was it. Sure there were some vague ideas, but most of what ended up on the paper (screen) was created on the fly. As someone who tends to plan rather meticulously, this was a leap of faith. I took inspiration from the book "On Writing" by Stephen King (excellent book by the way). He mentioned that several of his books have been started with just one scene in mind, and that the story developed as he wrote. I don't know if I would do this again without at least a little outlining, but I think it was the perfect way to approach it for the first time. As I wrote, the story seemed to follow a natural path.

However, it certainly did not "write itself" as I have seen some describe the process. It was a struggle for 95% of the time, but there would be enough flashes of "This feels like the next logical step" to keep me moving forward.

Part of the goal of National Novel Writing Month is to give yourself a difficult enough of a deadline that you have to leave your inner critic and editor behind. There simply isn't enough time to make it perfect, so you're supposed to just get everything down on paper as fast as you can. Quantity over quality for now, and you can clean it up later.

I'd like to say that I was able to lock away my editor, but I was only partially successful. I wrote in fits and starts, struggled over lines, and hit the backspace button far too often. My one bit of success is that I have not gone back to read what I have written so far. Each day I would read the last couple of paragraphs to see where I left off, but I wouldn't go back any farther to do any corrections. So I only vaguely remember what I wrote a month ago.

The good news/bad news? I'm not done. When I was stalled at 33,000 words, I didn't think I had enough left to say to make it to the 50,000 word mark. But the turning point ended up being longer than expected, so I have a few more chapters to go until I reach "The End". I am hoping to get this done within the week.

The original plan was to walk away until the new year, but I may print it out and start the editing process when I am back home for Christmas. I am both excited and scared to read what I have written. I have a feeling the editing process will be a little painful, but I am also hoping to find some good bits among the rubble. There is a lot of work to be done, but hopefully I will end up with something I would like someone else to read. If not, I'm still glad I wrote it.

So I'd like to thank the academy...actually I would like to thank my friend Sean. He was the one who encouraged me to do this, and I am glad that he gave me the push. His motto for NaNoWriMo is "You don't have to like it, you just have to do it."

Well I did it. I didn't always like it, but I love that I did it.

November 26, 2010

I am my own grandpa

I have this mental block when it comes to the way people are related to each other. I can do math in my head, but after you get past the first branch of the family tree, my eyes glaze over. My brother has it down in his head, and he had tried to explain how we are related to certain people, but without a flowchart I am lost.

One of his lessons stuck though, because I was able to distinguish that Annabelle and Holly's visiting cousin were cousins-once-removed, but quite frankly I couldn't explain to them what a second cousin was. (It has something to do with branching off higher up in the tree.  I think).

Matt started singing "I am my own grandpa", a song that everyone had heard but me. I looked it up on Youtube and found this video, with an included flowchart. It still gives me a headache.



The lyrics may help you follow along, but maybe not: 


Many, many years ago when I was twenty-three
I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be
This widow had a grownup daughter who had hair of red
My father fell in love with her, and soon they too were wed

This made my Dad my son-in-law and really changed my life
For now my daughter was my mother, 'cause she was my father's wife
And to complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy,
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy

My little baby then became a brother-in-law to Dad
And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad
For if he were my uncle, then that also made him brother
Of the widow's grownup daughter, who was of course my stepmother

Father's wife then had a son who kept them on the run
And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter's son
My wife is now my mother's mother, and it makes me blue
Because although she is my wife, she's my grandmother too

Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I'm her grandchild
And every time I think of it, it nearly drives me wild
'Cause now I have become the strangest case you ever saw
As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa

I'm my own grandpa,
I'm my own grandpa,
It sounds funny, I know
But it really is so
I'm my own grandpa

Quote of the day

Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
~William Faulkner

November 25, 2010

Move your feet before you eat

Sean, Marci and I ran the Oceanside Turkey Trot this morning. It was a perfect morning for a run, cold while you are standing still, but very comfortable once you get moving. The 5k route runs up and down Pacific Coast Highway, and with just over a half a mile to go, it turns down to the beach path, finishing just before the path heads under the Oceanside pier. It was a beautiful scene, and a wonderful way to start the holiday.

Sean and Marci have run in the Turkey Trot each year since it began five years ago, and now they are pushing a double stroller the entire distance. Though they had a five hour drive ahead of them to get to their Thanksgiving destination, they did not want to miss out on the traditional run, and I am glad they invited me along.

The three miles puts a very small dent in the calories we are all about to consume, but that isn't the real reason I ran.  One of many things I am thankful for is the opportunity to get out and run, past beautiful scenery, with great friends. The sport continues to give back, and I want to keep showing up at start lines for as long as I am able. I race both to challenge myself, and to celebrate others breaking through their own finishing tapes. We will move on to our own homes to celebrate the holiday, but we gathered together to start the day as a community, and that feels pretty great.

The weather and scenery doesn't feel like the Thanksgivings I have known (people were surfing for crying out loud), especially in contrast to the deep freeze going on back home. I regret that I don't get to spend this day with my family, but I am fortunate to be able to share it with friends. I got to start the day running with great friends, and I will be spending the evening with several more as my housemates have spent the last two days preparing a traditional feast.

Today, and everyday, I give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The finish area

I managed to get new PR of 22:40

video
Sean and Marci's finish, with kids riding shotgun

video
It was a true family day with many children running.

November 23, 2010

Quote of the day

Hear the voices in my head
I swear to God it sounds like they're snoring.
But if you're bored then you're boring
The agony and the irony, 
they're killing me, whoa!

I'm not sick, but I'm not well

~ from "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger

November 22, 2010

Clawing my way back


I am still trying to catch up on my word count. I put myself behind the 8-ball by writing absolutely nothing for the five days I was in Phoenix. At the worst, I was behind by almost 8800 words (or five days). The last four days, I have been able to get in some extra work and have reduced the deficit to around 5600 (or 3 days).

It has been an interesting adventure so far, and at the end of each day, I have been surprised at what ends up on the page. But it is not getting any easier. I think that the stuff is getting a little better, but it is still a struggle. Certain things are coming into focus, but I still don't know exactly where it is headed. But I'm excited to find out.

I just need to keep chasing that purple line.

November 21, 2010

Braving the elements

OK, I wimped out a bit. It was rainy and windy on Saturday, and I didn't run.

I haven't really had to run in the rain since I moved to San Diego this year, and I have to admit it gave me pause when I woke up to rain and bending trees. Back in Seattle, rain was just a fact of life, and if you didn't run in the rain, well...you didn't run. At most, I would check the weather radar to see if there would be a lull sometime in the next hour. I haven't even bothered to check the weather report for the last few months because outside of the daily high temperature, not much changes.

But I didn't suck it up and go for a run on Saturday. About my only excuse was that my hat and windbreaker were back at the house. It was mostly the wind that I was worried about. Getting wet was not that big of a deal, but once I was soaked, the wind would make it pretty cold. But I still felt pretty lame.

Sunday morning was calm, so I headed out first thing. I went down to Mission Bay Park, and as soon as I pulled in, it was clear there was something big going on. I saw a decorated 15 passenger van, and I flashed back to our Ragnar Relay. But the people were walking and not running, and there was a whole lot of pink going on. It was soon clear that it was the Susan G Komen 3-Day Walk to benefit breast cancer research.

The event is a 60 mile walk over three days to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. I assumed that this was day three, but didn't know much beyond that. There were tons of women (and a few men) walking along the path, decorated with pink ribbons, buttons and pictures of friends. As I stretched out for my 10 mile run, I realized that they had been walking in the weather on Saturday that made me chicken out. It was confirmed - I was a wimp.

I ran along the path dodging in and out of the walkers and saw many clever outfits and team names. Names like "Hakuna ma Ta-Ta's" and slogans like "Fighting to save second base". There were several supporters handing out food, candy, beads or just cheering the fundraisers on. It wasn't long before it started to rain once again, and the wind picked up as well. It wasn't blowing as hard as Saturday, but it was still a little cutting. Volunteers then started handing out rain ponchos, and the walkers pressed on, ponchos flapping in the wind like flags.

It was inspiring to see all these people of varying ages not only walking these long distances, but braving the elements they probably weren't expecting for a San Diego event. I also have to give high props to the supporters standing in the rain to cheer them on. It is one thing to be participating and moving through the rain, and quite another to be standing still to make sure the participants are as comfortable as possible. A couple of them cheered me on for no other reason than that is what they do.

When I turned around, I was now running against the tide and could see the faces of the people doing the walk. The faces I saw did not seem any different from the people I might see on any random morning. It appeared to be a pretty typical slice of the population. But these people were clearly a little different, willing to take on a significant challenge to honor friends and family who have fought the battle of cancer. To put their comfort second to raise money to fight the good fight.

No wimps here.

November 19, 2010

But Mom always lets me!

I am currently house and pet sitting for a friend here in San Diego. Not much to do with the house other than take in the mail, but there is a dog and a cat to take care of. But even they are pretty self-sufficient as they both have automatic feeders that continuously dump food in their dish as they empty it. That would never work with my pooch as she would just continue to eat until she got sick (and then start eating again).

I was warned that the cat does not like many people, so I shouldn't be too concerned if he snarled or hid away from me. He actually warmed up relatively quickly (as warm as cats get that is). The dog likes both me and my pooch, and we have seen each other a number of times, including the day before my friend left. But for some reason, she barked at me and hid away in her kennel when I came in. It was a half hour before she came out and decided that I was OK. Now we are fast friends and she curls up next to me when I am there.

The rules are a little different in this house, though, and that takes some getting used to. They get away with things that my pooch does not, but it is their house and not mine.


One of the few lines I drew when we adopted the pooch was the rule that there would be no dogs on the bed. But for the next couple of days there is now a dog and a cat in my bed. The dog is relatively small, but wants to be pressed up against me at all times. The cat comes and goes, but will occasionally bat me on the shoulder or put his nose on my forehead. I am not a huge fan of cats in general, and at 3am even less so.


It is a funny line to walk when you are tempted to discipline someone else's pets or children. You are not the parent, and you don't always know what is forbidden in someone else's household. With children, matters of safety are a no-brainer. You stop them from doing anything that would harm them or anyone else. The line so far with the dog has been the barking. It isn't really my place to change the other habits.

But if the cat bats me awake again at 3am, we will have words.

November 16, 2010

Quote of the day

Television is the first truly democratic culture, the first culture available to everyone and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.
~ Clive Barnes

November 15, 2010

A pause in the story

Oh, man am I behind. Five days - no running and no writing.

I went to Arizona on Thursday and flew back this morning. Scott and I have been going down to Arizona once a year to visit Bill who moved there ten-odd years ago. We travel down sometime in October or November each year to play some golf and watch football. Most years we travel down to see either the UW Huskies or the WSU Cougars play one of the Arizona teams (two of us are Dawgs, one is a Coug). We didn't go to a football game due to some schedule conflicts, but the way the teams are playing this year, we didn't miss much.

It has been a great annual tradition, and a way to stay close to someone who has moved a few states away. He is now married and has a two-year-old daughter, so the boy's weekend has a different dynamic these days, but it is still a good time with friends.

I brought my running shoes and my netbook so I had the ability to stay on schedule, but I did not pick up either one. Truth be told, I did not think I would get much writing done, but I thought I could sneak in a run. Most mornings, it takes a while to gather momentum, so my writing so far has been in two hour chunks in order to get something done. I did not think it was realistic to break away for a couple of hours to write while visiting friends, but I thought I might at least have the story running in the back of my mind while I was there. Maybe I could come up with some ideas to run with when I returned. But the story is stuck right where I left it on Thursday.

Thursday morning was vaguely productive, but once I stepped on the flight it was over. Planning ahead a bit, I moved my weekend long run to Thursday and I ran 13 miles the morning before I left. I was hoping to get in a five miler sometime over the weekend, but we were up late every night and early every morning, and I just did not have it in me to go for a run. I was also early for my flight, and was able to write about 600 words before takeoff, but again once I left San Diego, nothing was written or plotted.

I am not mad or upset that this is the way it went. I was there to see friends, not to stare at my laptop. I look forward to this trip each year, and we had a great time visiting and catching up. I am just a little worried about the hole I have dug, and more specifically about getting moving again. The story is stalling a bit right now, and after five days the storyline has gone even colder. But I don't have any time to waste if I am going to meet the deadline. I'm about 8,000 words behind, and need to average an extra 500 words a day to catch up by the end of the month.

Better set the alarm a little earlier tomorrow morning.

November 9, 2010

Dog years


I remember when doing shots meant this


And not this






But such is the way of things. I'm getting a little too old for the tequila version anyway, and the needles belong to the pooch.

The insulin seems to be doing its job, but she is beginning to show her age. Her vision and hearing seem to be deteriorating. At first it wasn't clear if she was developing 'selective' hearing and just ignoring me when I called, but now it is pretty clear she is hard of hearing. She doesn't hear my alarm clock anymore, though she is generally up before it anyway. 

She doesn't hear me sometimes and flinches when I go to pet her, and she has walked into the screen door a couple of times. It is a little sad when that happens, but I suppose fading eyesight and hearing are pretty normal things as we age. My eyesight isn't what it used to be either, and it is probably time for my first pair of glasses.

And there was one cute aspect to the hard of hearing issue recently. As I have mentioned before, the pooch likes to drag out shoes or a piece of clothing sometimes when I am away. I have only caught her in the act one time before, at the old house. I had just headed out but went back to get something I forgot. I had only been gone for 30 seconds or so, and when I opened the door, there she was with one of my flip flops in her mouth. Caught in the act, she dropped the flip flop, kept her head down and started wagging and wiggling.

Just the other day I went back inside shortly after leaving because I had forgotten my phone. When I walked inside, I could hear the pooch rummaging around in my bedroom. She hadn't heard me come in, even though the front door is just a short distance from my room. I just waited by the door, and soon enough she walked around the corner with a running shoe in her mouth. I wasn't moving, so I don't think she saw me immediately. She set down the shoe on the entry carpet before noticing I was there. And then there was happy wiggling.

But she went in for a check up recently, and most everything checked out, including her glucose levels related to her diabetes.


She still does her little dance when it is meal time, and is excited when I get home. She still prances when we head outside for a walk, even if it is just around the block these days. And even though she goes to sleep long before I do, she won't go to the bedroom to lie down until I go to bed. 

It isn't fair that dogs don't live as long, and we won't grow old together, but I guess that ensures that I am around to take care of her in her old age. 

November 8, 2010

The Twinkie diet

More evidence that it is simply 'calories in versus calories burned' when it comes to weight loss. Though the method and resulting cholesterol numbers were pretty surprising in this experiment. But you probably shouldn't attempt this at home (or let your kids see the article). Not that anyone would want more than one Twinkie every few years. Those things barely resemble food.
For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.
His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.
The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.
Full article: Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds

November 7, 2010

Daylight Savings

click to enlarge

It is one of the most magical evenings of the year. Through a slight of hand trick, we all get an extra hour of sleep. Sleep, magnificent sleep.

Unfortunately, no one clued in the baby or the pooch to the time change, so it just meant that I was up at 6:43am instead of 7:43am this Sunday morning.

November 6, 2010

Slow connections and synapses

Image taken from the NaNoWriMo site which has been overwhelmed so far.

So, I have been pretty tied up with the novel challenge, and I haven't been motivated to do any other writing in the past few days. I am still struggling to turn off the over-thinking side of my brain, so the words are still coming slowly. Hopefully it will improve with time and practice. I have had quite a bit of free time this week, but that will change soon, so I need to get more efficient. It is still interesting so far, and kind of fun to see where things head when you don't have a plan.

I heard an interesting podcast the other day. It was an episode of Brain Stuff called "Could You Have a Savant Hidden Inside Your Brain". Savants tend to have amazing skills in certain areas such as painting, sculpting, or mathematics. The ability to see (and reproduce) things in incredible detail that most of us have a hard time understanding.

The question posed was is this ability in all of our brains, but just dormant or overshadowed by another part of our brain. It goes on to discuss experiments at temporarily disabling parts of our left brain to allow the creative right side of our brain to operate free of interference. It would be great to be able to shut down my critic/editor for a couple hours at a time while I am writing (and then of course turning it back on when it is time to edit).

The podcast is only five minutes long, and I think it is worth a listen if you are interested. You can find it here.

And apparently Seattle is not only a big reading town, but also a big writing town as well. The Seattle NaNoWriMo group is leading the way with 11 million words so far (and they lead in donations as well). The San Diego group is in 56th place with only a paltry 2.6 million.  Must be the distracting sunshine.



November 3, 2010

Write that novel!

I have a new project.

I am participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November, which averages out to around 1,700 words a day. At this point there are 172,000 hopeful authors participating, and more than 190,000,000 words written in two days. The prize at the end of the month? The beginnings or completion of a novel.

I have always felt like I had a book inside of me, but for some reason I never envisioned a novel. I was always thinking non-fiction rather than fiction. But I have never sat down to write anything of any length, so whatever work I imagined was just that, imagined.

So I am using the November challenge to get off my butt and finally get something longer than a blog post down on paper. After a couple of days, I am finding 1,700 words a day to be a challenge. But that is one of the stated goals of NaNoWriMo - to turn off your inner editor, and just get the words down on paper as fast as you can. I am doing my best not to pore over every word, and I have been relatively successful. But the ideas and words are coming slowly so far.

Part of it was I didn't come into this with an outline. I really just had an opening scene, and not much else. I have no real idea where the story will go, but that is part of the adventure. So far I have mixed feelings. I am happy with what I have so far (though I haven't gone back to read it), but the rest of the story is not becoming any clearer (yet).

The plan is to write every day, make it a habit, and get into some sort of rhythm. Hopefully I will stretch my creative legs, and knock down those imagined barriers I have thrown up in the past (particularly that inner critic and editor). Once the month is over, the plan is to set whatever I have written aside for a few weeks. After some time away, I will go back and read it with fresh eyes. Hopefully I will find something salvageable, though in need of plenty of changes and corrections.

But for now the red pen stays in the drawer.

October 31, 2010

Grabbing a cold one

I do not normally reach for a beer at the end of a hard day or week. If I reach for something, I am more tempted by a cocktail or a glass of wine. But some days, a beer just hits the spot.

Sean and I went to Oceanside Ale Works after work on Friday. OAW is technically a tasting room, and is only open for four hours on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. If we are working nearby, and get done at a decent hour, we'll stop in for one of the beers brewed onsite. Even though we work together all day, it is great to pause for an hour to hang out and talk.

The tasting room is located in a warehouse complex, and their location is not much fancier than a storage unit. One side of the room is dominated by the stainless steel casks, and the other by the beer cooler and taps. The only nod to customers are the bathrooms and the three wooden barrels used as a place to set your beer down. Everyone just mills about on the concrete floors, and if the weather is nice you might stand near the roll up door to the alley.

And the place has been packed the two or three times I have been there.

Last Friday was the grand opening of their new tasting room, which is just a slightly larger version of the warehouse motif. The two brewmasters are a local teacher and a firefighter, and they have been brewing for about five years. Their craft beers are featured at about 40 different restaurants around the area, so they seem to be doing well. I would imagine more than a few patrons have stood around the oak barrels, beer in hand, thinking "we should open a brewery!" I will admit that Sean and I talked about doing some home brewing last Friday.

I normally lean toward ambers, porters and microbrews, but every now and then a simple American beer is what hits the spot. I was recently working at a job site where the homeowner was sitting in a lawn chair watching me work. Normally this is pretty annoying, but he wasn't asking me a thousand questions as I worked. He would come and go, and we'd chat about things other than the cover I was building. It turns out he lived in Washington for a while, so we swapped stories about my home town.

It was a very hot day, and the homeowner was nice enough to make sure I had plenty of water to drink. And during last couple of hours of the work day, the offer switched from water to beer. While I appreciate the offer, I usually say no, but the offer was repeated and he seemed genuinely interested in having a beer with me. I waited until I was done for the day and all the tools were put away before taking him up on it.

He asked if I wanted a Miller Lite or a Bud Light, and I said just bring me whatever you have most of. And I thought to myself, "does it really matter" since most big, American brews are pretty much the same. He brought me a Bud Light, and I have to say, a beer hasn't tasted so good in a long while. It was just so hot out, and the beer was so cold, that it was better than any craft beer at that moment.

I was reminded of this when I was listening to one of my regular podcasts. The Runners Round Table is a semi-weekly show where rotating hosts get on a multi-party phone call to discuss a particular running topic. One of the hosts mentioned he had poured himself a glass of wine, and another responded with this:
"I am enjoying the King of Beers this evening...I hate to say this, and I know people give this brand a hard name, but I love the Budweiser. It has to be in a can, it has to be ice cold, and it has to be hot as hell....I love a decent, dark, tasty, chewy beer...but when it is 90 degrees and you are sweating...crack the can open and it is all there. Its crisp, its cold, its to the point, it is consistent, and it is easy. And you don't feel like you're being taught a lesson." 
I'll raise a glass (or can) to that.

October 28, 2010

Procrastination

"Set me a task!"  
~ This is an early line in Tidewater Tales. The husband is a writer who's thoughts are drifting and he asks his wife to bring him into focus.

I am a procrastinator. On my resume, it is spun as being "deadline oriented", but this is not a total fabrication. Give me a task and a deadline, and I will do everything to make sure it gets done. But left to my own devices...

I have several projects that need to be taken care of. I've had the last couple of days off, and I was able to avoid those projects almost entirely.

Procrastination may be in my blood. Long ago, when my brother plugged in his contact information into my Palm Pilot (remember those?), he put as his job title "Chief Procrastinator" and he has managed to retain that title through several Outlook upgrades.

When we lived together in college, about the only time I cleaned the bathroom was when I was avoiding homework or studying for a test. Today when I should have been working on those projects, I brushed out and bathed the pooch, and then pinned her down so I could clip her nails. I washed the truck, swept the driveway, picked up the yard, cleaned the kitchen and did laundry.

And of course the internet is the ultimate procrastination tool. One link leads to another and before you know it, you have been surfing for hours, feeling vaguely productive but getting little done. While watching tv last night (a distraction in itself), I researched cell phones for a couple of hours even though I am locked into a contract for another month or so.

The last few weeks I have been spending so much time staring at the screen that my eyes are starting to go swimmy, but I'm trying to do better. I am now keeping a to-do list nearby for things I actually "need" to do on the computer. Once they're done, I need to log off.

This afternoon I stepped away entirely and headed toward the beach with only a pen and paper. And I actually got some work done.

October 25, 2010

So what went wrong?

"You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you're forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality." 
~ Fred Brooks

It has been a week now, and I have been mulling over what I either did wrong, or what I could have done better. It felt like I had put more work into training than was reflected in a four minute improvement over a flatter course. At some point shortly after my marathon finish, I wondered, "have I simply reached what my body is capable of? Have I reached my peak?"  But I don't think that is true. I think I still have room for improvement, it is just that the gains are going to be smaller, and will take more effort to achieve.

I'll start first by saying I am happy with my effort on marathon morning. I enjoyed much of the day and walked away with a PR. Some additional positives - I ran at the pace I planned for the first 18 miles, so I don't think I went out too fast. Additionally, the difference (drop off) between the first and second half of the race was my smallest ever (about two and a half minutes). And according to the results page, over the last eight miles I passed 80 people, while being passed by only 19 (it sure didn't feel that way).

But of course I was hoping to do better, and I always want to learn from my mistakes. After a week of recovery and post-game analysis, I have a few educated guesses.

I was feeling pretty run down during my two week taper, when instead I should have been regaining some strength. The shorter runs weren't any easier, and there was certainly no spring in my step. My 20 mile training runs leading up to the taper were run at near marathon pace, and that may have been a mistake. I may have burned myself out a little bit, or as someone said, "used my race day effort two weeks too early".

I had considered skipping my last interval session before the marathon, but I followed the schedule rather than trusting how my body felt. The schedule isn't written in stone, and I need to trust how I feel. Since I am training with more speed and distance these days, I may want to go back to a three week taper as well. My higher than average heart rate on marathon morning, and the fact that I have been sick since the marathon are other indications of burn out.

It feels like my fueling was off, but I just don't have an easy thing to point to. I was completely out of gas at the finish, and the fact that the Coke made such a difference seems to reinforce that I was low on sugar. I had a light breakfast two hours before the marathon, which I don't do in training, so it would seem I started out better fueled. I took in the same number of gels as I did in training, but drank less of the sports drink. I didn't care much for the taste of the Powerade, but maybe I should have been taking more in anyway. I drank plenty of water, but there are electrolytes in the gels, so I don't think I was overly dehydrated or hyponatremic.

In looking things over, it feels like most of the mistakes were made before I even reached the start line. Preparation rather than execution problems. Try as I might to pinpoint the solution, it looks like it will continue to be trial and error.

October 23, 2010

Sacred time

"I've been told that the insomnia I've struggled with on and off for most of my life comes from drinking too much caffeine, or eating too much sugar. Or sleeping on a bed that's to soft, or too hard, or too flat. That I don't exercise enough, or that I exercise too much, or that I exercise the right amount but at the wrong time of day. Or that its the result of watching tv or using a computer right before I go to bed. But isn't that when everyone pokes around on the computer or watches tv?"
~ from the "Fear of Sleep" episode of This American Life.

I intentionally did not listen to the "Fear of Sleep" episode of This American Life until after the marathon. I have enough sleep issues on my own without listening to other people's struggles. I finally listened to the episode on the way back from Huntington Beach this afternoon. My brother was in L.A. for work, and we met somewhere in the middle for lunch and a walk on the pier. It was great seeing him, if only briefly.

Although This American Life is one of my favorite podcasts, it can be hit and miss as it covers such a wide variety of topics. Even within an episode, the strength of the different 'acts' can vary quite a bit. And that was true of this episode, but as a whole it did a good job of describing the fears, frustrations and damage connected with interrupted sleep. The first act is a great bit by Mike Birbiglia about sleepwalking. The third act was somewhat uneven, but it opens with the above snippet that helps characterize the frustrations with treating insomnia.

And all this talk of sleep got me thinking. Sleep is one of the few things we cannot live without, and even though it has been studied for hundreds of years, we still seem to have only the smallest understanding of it. It embraces us, nurtures us, comforts us, repairs us, and allows us to explore without consequence. It feels like the ultimate reward after the struggles and frustration of each day. It is the time when we are the most vulnerable, and we typically only share this safe harbor with the one we most trust.

And the more I thought about it, the more sleep began to feel like faith. And maybe a little slice of heaven here on earth. When you can get some sleep.

October 22, 2010

Protect your pack mates

I have been sick since the marathon. I'm not sure if I was sick before, and the marathon brought it to the forefront, or if my fatigued body was a welcome mat to any virus walking by.

Anyhoo...I've got some sort of cold/flu thing. During the day it manifests as fatigue, weakness and loopiness. And for some reason, as soon as my head hits the pillow at night, I get this hacking cough. Actually, that is pretty typical when I am feeling ill. I either can't get to sleep, or cough myself awake several times a night.

In the past, this meant leaving the bedroom and staying on the couch so my coughing didn't keep J awake. And this time around, it is pretty fortunate that the roomies are out of town. I can get up at all hours to grab a cough drop, make tea, gargle, and basically hack up a lung without worrying about disturbing anyone. Well almost anyone.

Last night I woke up coughing several times. I rarely get out of bed right away. Especially after a week of little sleep, I always hope that I can just get back to sleep without calling in extraordinary measures. As I lay there coughing and hoping for it to subside, I heard the metallic 'clink, clink' of dog tags. It sounded like my roomies dawg had left his room and was up pacing through the house.

After a while, I gave up on falling back to sleep and went to get up. And I found my roomies dawg curled up on the rug next to my bed. I think he was worried about me, his stand-in human.

October 21, 2010

Quote of the day

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
~ Albert Einstein

October 20, 2010

Inspirations from the road

A couple of highlights from the marathon:

I noticed an Ironman tattoo on the calf of a guy who was running near or with our pace group. Below the tattoo were five tick marks. A gal and I started chatting him up and asking questions. Since he was running my pace and was about my size, it makes it easier to imagine doing the Ironman myself. As far as race day effort, I had heard that a half Ironman is comparable to running the full marathon. I asked him what he thought. He said that he couldn't tell me since he had never done a half Ironman. He just went straight to the Big Kahuna. Can't tell if that is inspiring or humbling.

I passed a guy in a racing wheelchair around mile five as we were headed uphill over an overpass. On the back of his yellow shirt, he had written in black marker, "Please do not give me a push". Of course nobody did, but most everyone gave him a "you the man" shout of encouragement. I also passed by a man pushing another adult in a full size wheelchair. By all appearances they were a younger version of Team Hoyt. If you don't know the story of Team Hoyt, here is a YouTube video, and also their own website. No question that I was both humbled and inspired by these folks.

As I was struggling through the last couple of miles, I caught up with the half marathon walkers. There was a man and a woman walking a few strides apart, and they had the same laminated sign pinned to their back. It read, "I have already lost 100 pounds, and I am participating in my first half marathon." I patted both of them on the back and told them "Great job".

Even though our pacer fell apart and finished some 35 minutes behind schedule, I found out the woman who was trying to qualify for Boston made it by a single second. And it turns out it was a very good idea for her to take the next day off. Registration for Boston opened on Monday the 18th, and filled up within eight hours. With this kind of demand, I sure hope they don't raise the standards on me.

UPDATE

I found a picture of the younger version of Team Hoyt

October 19, 2010

Long Beach Marathon 2010

I still have a lot to figure out.

In the seven marathons I had previously run, I would say I was trained and prepared to do well in four of them. I just told you how ill prepared I was for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006, and in my last two marathons (Las Vegas and San Diego), work and scheduling got in the way of training.

Out of the four I was fully trained for, I was able to improve my time in three of them. This time around, my training was pretty focused in improving my speed, and I had put in more mileage than usual. The course I was running also had less hills to climb, so I figured I was primed to set a new PR.

At the last minute, my friend Matt was going to be in town to support me during the marathon. The Facebook widget that I mentioned in an earlier post did not work, so he not only helped me, but he kept friends updated as well. And it was just great having him there.

Marathon morning started at 4:45 am. Unfortunately (once again) I had difficulty falling asleep the night before. After an hour and a half of reading or staring at the ceiling, I took a half dose of Tylenol PM. It made for a groggy morning. Matt and I made it to the start line at around 6:00, with plenty of time to check gear, stretch out, and hit the Porta-Pottie. As I exited the bathroom, Matt started clapping and shouting "That's my boy. Great job Sean. Way to focus and stay on pace." His 'supportive' gesture had the crowd of runners cracking up.

The gun went off at 7:05am, and our pacing group headed out together. I don't know how many were actually in the group, but it seemed large. The day was overcast and in the low 60's, but it was relatively humid so I was sweating pretty quickly. My heart rate also seemed higher than normal.

The first few miles were pretty relaxed, and I chatted with both our pace leader and other runners. I talked to a five-time Ironman, a first time marathoner, and a woman trying to qualify for Boston (at her second marathon). The route runs close to the water for much of the first ten miles, and the concrete path actually winds through the sand for a couple miles. We split from the half marathoners around mile 11, and the crowd thinned as we headed inland.

Our pace leader brought us to the halfway point a little ahead of pace. I was feeling OK at that point - not great, not bad. There were some smaller climbs over the next couple miles with the biggest hill around mile 17 as we did a loop through Cal State Long Beach. The group basically disintegrated on the hill as we took it at our own pace. There were several students out, and near the top of the hill there was loud, long line cheering us on. I was tired, and my heart rate was through the roof, but the students gave me a boost.

As I crested the hill, I found out that I was now a little behind pace, but there was no sign of the pace leader. He apparently had fallen behind on the hill, and I would not see him for the rest of the day. The only person I saw from our group was the woman shooting for Boston, who was ahead of me at that point. I tried to slowly reel her in on the downhill while getting my heart rate to come back down. I saw Matt toward the bottom of the hill, and that gave me another boost.

I caught up to the Boston gal, and we ran together for the next couple of miles. We were back on pace around mile 19, but it was clear she was running stronger than I was. I lost her at the water station at mile 21 and my pace started to slow. I would occasionally see her in the distance, but could no longer reel her in. I had hit the wall, and didn't have the energy to stay on pace.

The last few miles were a real struggle. I was out of gas, and I knew I wasn't going to hit my goal, but I pressed as hard as I could to limit the damage. Beyond the increasing fatigue and sore muscles, I felt a weight and tightness in my chest that grew with every mile. By the time I reached the finish line, I was dizzy, nauseous, and thought I was going to throw up. I'm not sure I want to see my finish line photo. I stumbled my way through the finish area trying to find something to lean against. I was really happy to find Matt.

I found a patch of grass to sit down on and Matt went to grab me a Coke. By the time he got back, I was shaking and shivering. I had clearly gone beyond what my body was prepared to do. The Coke helped tremendously, and I was eventually able to get up and walk around.

My finish time was 3:53:22, which is a little over a four minute improvement on my previous best. Even though it is the fastest I have ever run, I am still a little disappointed. The training program was aimed at a 3:50 finish, and I thought that the flatter course and overcast day might allow me to shave off a couple of additional minutes. But I am not disappointed in the effort I put forth on Sunday. I gave it everything I had on race day.

So now it is time for the post game analysis. I have a few theories about what went wrong, but of course it is only educated guess work. But I get a chance to test them out in a few months.

October 17, 2010

Quote of the day

There are limits to what the human body can endure.
Go find them.

~ New Balance shoe ad

October 15, 2010

2006 Marine Corps Marathon


Thoroughly unprepared, we landed in Washington D.C. Friday night, and Saturday was spent on my feet. We spent a few hours at the expo (including an hour in line just to get in), and then did a little sightseeing afterwards. From everything I'd read, it seemed like a bad idea to do all this walking, but I was with three experienced marathoners and they didn't bat an eye. We had a great pasta dinner at the condo we rented, and the excited chatter, support crew planning, and wine drinking went late into the night.

Marathon morning started before sunrise as we walked the quiet streets to the subway. Every stop along the way, more bundled runners boarded the train. We arrived at the start line with at least an hour to stretch, take pictures, freak out, and stare blankly at some inner horizon.


Unfortunately, there were only four of us running. Matt, who suggested this marathon, was sporting two stress fractures and could not run. Sean, Marci, Jonathan and I crossed the start line together along with 23,000 other runners. The sheer size of the crowd and moment were incredible.

The four of us ran together for the first mile or so, and then Sean and Jonathan sped off. Marci was doing the run/walk method, and I thought that this would be the best way to get me to the finish. In reality, Marci is the one who got me to the finish.

The knee pain started around mile 4, but it wasn't too bad initially. I had brought along a couple of Tylenol pills and took my first around mile 8. We were doing a 5 minute run/1 minute walk interval, so a break was never too far away. That helped mentally.

The route hit the National Mall around mile 10. We saw our support crew near the Lincoln Memorial and again at around mile 16. It is an incredible boost to see a friendly face when you are struggling.


We continued along the Mall past the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and the Smithsonian, before heading south toward the Jefferson Memorial. It really is a wonderful route, but the next few miles were some of the toughest.

The route heads around Hain's Point, and after the crowds of supporters along the Mall, it was very quiet. It was also miles 17 through 20 of the marathon, so there are voices in your head that you would just as soon drown out.

Right around mile 17, Marci and I passed a runner who had collapsed and was receiving CPR. We later found out that he had died. Understandably, this freaked me right out. Over the next couple of miles, I could not get my heart rate to go down, no matter how slowly I ran.

I told Marci I needed to walk, and encouraged her to go on without me. She stuck with me, and after five minutes of walking, we started running again (with the understanding I was going to walk any remaining hills). We crossed the river again and ran an out and back through Crystal City. There was a great tunnel of music to run through, and there was even someone handing out dixie cups of beer. It was great to have the crowd support again, but I still couldn't pick up the pace.

But around mile 23 when the route finally turned toward the finish, I realized I was going to make it. No matter how long I had been running, or how badly I felt, three miles seemed somehow manageable. There was one final steep hill just before the finish and at the bottom was the 26 mile marker. I started to lose it. Tears were flowing and I had a tough time catching my breath. The hill was steep enough that I probably couldn't have run it anyway.

When we had walked to the top, we picked up the pace for a final push to the finish line. I grabbed Marci's hand and we crossed the finish line together. I don't know what that day would have been without her encouraging me to keep going.

The finish area was a madhouse, but we pushed through the crowds and eventually found our friends. Jonathan had such a tight schedule that he had already headed to the airport by the time I finished. We were eventually able to find a small patch of grass to relax on, and we started swapping the war stories of the day. And then it sunk in. I had completed a marathon.



Couldn't have done it without you.