Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Race Report

Race Report: 12Ks of Christmas

Ran the 5th Annual 12Ks of Christmas race today in Kirkland. Here are 12 Things About the 12Ks of Christmas:
  • First Thing: I know you want as many people in your race as possible, but on a 35 degree morning how DARE you delay the start by 10 minutes after getting everyone in the chute. I shed my layers with 5 minutes to go before the stated start time, only to have to stand there shivering for 15 minutes while they let the last minute stragglers make it through the sign up lines.
  • Second Thing: When you know your course is narrow in the first .5 mile, it would be nice if you didn't start the walkers and runners from both events at the SAME TIME. How hard is it to start the two distances at different times? How hard is it to put the walkers in the back of the pack?
  • Third Thing: Dear runners and walkers. Stop lying about your pace. It's chip timed. You don't need to start at the front of the pack. And if you do start where you shouldn't, don't run 3 abreast. Oh, and when several people have to brush past you and give you stink-eye in order to pass, take a fucking hint. Move.
  • Fourth Thing: Close the course. Is it that much of a burden to shut down a couple of streets on a Sunday morning? Once we left the starting area, the course was basically relegated to the shoulder of the road, which of course slants to the gutter and makes it so that you're running on an uneven surface, including slippery storm drains for most of the course.
  • Fifth Thing: Seriously, 10K and longer you need more than one water station. Come on now.
  • Sixth Thing: I love short steep climbs ONLY when they are followed by long, gradual downhills. This course was perfect that way.
  • Seventh Thing: When people ignore the posted No Parking signs and park their Escalade on the fucking course, TOW IT. Shit. (Happily, the start announcer joyously encouraged everyone to spit on the car as they passed. That thing was COVERED with Gu packs and other nasty bits).
  • Eighth Thing: I realize it is a course measured in kilometers, but everyone in the race is on mile splits. Can we mark both? Pretty please?
  • Ninth Thing: I HATE it when I go to Starbucks and Meghan/Melissa/Michelle/Molly tries to sell me up to the seasonal beverage ("Would you like to try our Eggnog Peppermint Mocha Latte today?"). Worse? Sprinting to the finish of a race and finding that the first comfort station is STARBUCKS! What the fuck?!? I just ran 7.5 miles all-out and you are putting a tray of peppermint mochas with whipped cream in front of me? No wonder I threw up.
  • Tenth Thing: Oh yeah. I threw up a little at the end of the race. I haven't been feeling well lately (some sort of asthma related chest pain thing) and I really did go a little harder than I should have for the last mile, so when I took a big swig of water at the finish my stomach didn't really like it much. I'm feeling much better now, thanks.
  • Eleventh Thing: Hot Dogs? Cake? What the hell? Can I just get some Gatorade and a banana and get out of here?
  • Twelfth Thing: The results. 51:29 overall. 6:50 per mile. 47th place overall and 12th in my division. Granted, it isn't a huge field (935 finishers) but still I feel pretty good about it. Fastest mile 6:28 (mile 2). Last mile 6:41.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Snorkel the Animals!

Can You Say "Climate Change"?

You might recall the first snowfall of the year from Saturday last. Well. As predicted, we now have the first floods of the year. And these aren't the typical big river floods that "shock" the residents of the communities on the river deltas every year. These are flash floods, urban style.

Those cute little creeks that wind through the neighborhoods near The Palace have been raging rivers for the last two days, swallowing yards and flooding porn collections everywhere. The usual 15 minute trip to drop the Eldest Colleague Offspring at school took almost 40 minutes on Monday morning, as every side street I know was covered in several feet of water. For the record, the A3 doesn't like deep water.

The picture above is real and it is from Monday. Last week I ran right past that sign on a nice cool evening. We're used to "wet" around here, but unless you are on a hill, this place looks shockingly like the midwest during flood season. Here is a nice shot of I-5 between Seattle and Portland. Oops:

Still, I've managed to get out and put together a start to another full week of training. Today I surveyed the flood damage in Woodinville. Scary stuff. The flooding. Not the run. The run was good. I hid my watch from myself and just ran, hoping for negative splits. Worked out.

Student finals are rolling in as I write this. Save me, Gay Jesus. Save me.

Stay dry out there. Is it Aloha Friday yet?

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Crazy is the Forecast, All Week Long
-Jason Mraz

Seattle weather forecasters have a nearly impossible job, I realize. The mountains and the ocean and the Puget Sound and that thing called the Convergence Zone that everyone in the region talks about but no one really all makes forecasting here little more than voodoo.

So I am amazed when the things they predict actually happen. On Wednesday this week they started predicting snow for Saturday, so naturally I assumed it would be warm and sunny.

Saturday morning it was cool and overcast, but certainly not ominous. I lounged around the house with the kids and The Colleague. We decorated our non-denominational plastic evergreen tree. The kids had nuggets and tots for lunch. A normal day.

And then around 1:00 I geared up, stuffed a few GU packets in my pockets, and headed out for a planned 10 miler. A few flakes blew by as I waited for the Garmin to acquire some satellites.

Off I went. At the 1/4 mile mark I checked my pace (a 9:00 goal pace today) and turned west toward Kenmore, the land of all things evil and stupid. Well, every other week, anyway.

(ed note: at what age are you too old to actively maintain a MySpace page? I'm going with 25.)

Uh oh. From the top of the hill I can usually see southwest to Lake Washington and sometimes see the high rise buildings of Seattle. Today all I saw was a wall of dark gray clouds moving FAST up the hill toward me. At the 1/2 mile mark the heavy snow started, and visibility dropped to about 5 feet. Good times. The snow held on and picked up as I ran. By mile 5 I was leaving fresh tracks on the Sammamish Trail. It was all pretty fun, actually. Then, at mile 7 I stepped in a puddle up to my ankles.

By the time you read this, the snow will probably be gone. When it started falling the aforementioned forecasters were already issuing flood warnings for tonight when the snow than has fallen gets washed away. Welcome to December in Seattle.

Here is my run plan from this morning:

And here is what the GPS actually says I did:

10.75 miles @ 8:39 per mile. That brings me to 43.8 miles for the week.

Except for one little hitch I added out by UW Bothell, I actually stuck to my plan. Shocking.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Feeling Better Now, But...

Obesity in America

On the day of the Portland 26.2 I weighed in at 174 pounds. Not my lightest recent weight (which I am pretty sure was sometime last October and was not part of any diet plan I would recommend to anyone. The Colleague and I lovingly refer to it as the "Life Sucks Diet Plan") and not quite the weight I wanted for the race, but I felt pretty good.

Flash forward to last week, when my trusting bathroom scale flashed a 185 at me, flesh was rolling around on my frame like some sort of tofu mess, and my favorite pants were digging trenches in my waistline. Fucking scale.

Turns out my Eat-and-Drink-All-I-Want Diet Plan doesn't work when I'm not training 40 miles per week. Duh. With "The First Not-Annual Tropical Christmas" coming up, I need to be at fighting weight sooner than later.

So last week I told The Colleague I was sick of being fat and lazy, made myself a new training calendar (which I ceremoniously posted on the fridge so everyone in the Palace will know when I am dogging it), and started hitting the road again.

Back on the Road

Since that day I have managed the following:
Not a bad week, mileage wise. Today was the 10 miler @ 8:01. I left Bothell Landing and headed out toward Woodinville, the land of Red Hook, several Wineries and...well, nothing else, really, except road construction and roads with no shoulders.

The way out on the Samamish River Trail was great. Calm day, nice light, and no traffic at all. I hit mile 3 before I saw another person on the trail, and then it was some Professor Frink looking dude on a bizarre home-built, self-powered tricycle thing. I had a brand new shuffle selection on the iPod ("Soul" by Rocco DeLuca and the Burden...try it), and was actually properly dressed for the temperature. Novel concept.

But as nice as the trail is (good surface, pretty scenery, etc) I just can't stomach out-and-back runs on anything over a 5 mile run. It's torture to know exactly where you are on the way back in. Torture. Give me one-way runs or loops please. So at Red Hook I resisted the obvious impulse and actually ran PAST a brewery and looped back toward Bothell on a road that is built to the exact minimum standards. Two lanes for cars, a fog line for...well, cars, two inches of gravel/mud and then a drainage ditch. Awesome. At least the constant traffic watch I was on kept me entertained. The next 3 miles flew by without me noticing.

Back in Bothell (for a day OR a pick) I cruised past what has to be the largest concentration of retirement and assisted living facilities north of Phoenix and down into Blyth Park, the scene of several of my moments of youthful indiscretion back in the day. I hadn't been paying close attention to my splits, but I was pretty sure I was close to negatives the whole way, and I decided to see what I had left for mile 10. When mile 9 clicked by I sucked down a little water and went for it. Mile 10 = 6:47. NOW, I remember what running feels like when it is going well. Ahhhh.

Moral of the story? I need to run more. And more often.

Upcoming: 12 K's of Christmas on December 16th. Who's in?

Tunes Revisited

I have been reloading my iPods lately and thinking about some of my favorite running tunes. I like a lot of different songs for different reasons. Mostly, I need a song to distract me when I need it. I don't get motivated by music, really. But when I catch myself thinking about distance in the middle of a run, I like a good 4 or 5 minute song to make part of a mile disappear. Here are some great ones for you all to try:
  • "Pictures of You" by The Cure. This is a great mid-distance song. A better pace than you think and long enough to settle in for a mile. The first time this song shuffled onto a running list was over a year ago when I was running on the Centenial Trail and it started at mile 7 and ended right at mile 8. Creepy. It's been a standard on all racing playlists ever since. It also made it's way onto a mix tape of rather historic note...errrr.
  • "Until We Fall" by Audioslave. Not my favorite Audioslave song (that one's a mixtape secret) but a great running song.
  • "Movin' On" by Elliot Yamin. This dude should have won American Idol. Yes, I watch American Idol. Leave it alone. Great song. Hip, rhythmic, and wryly funny (for a breakup song, that is).
  • "I Alone" by Live. Power song. Pure and simple.
  • "Jenny Don't be Hasty" by Paolo Nutini. I doubt I'll see Paolo live again anytime soon, but this is a great song with a perfect pace for a long training day.
  • "E Bow the Letter" by REM. This is cool ass song, but the reason it is on here is because you can spend the latter part of a torturous run just trying to figure out what the fucking song is about. Anyone? Cap'n Ron and I spent the better part of miles 18 and 19 of a long day arguing this one. Weird.
  • "Move by Yourself" by Donavon Frankenreiter. Sure, he's a Jack Johnson spinoff, but this is good song for the early miles when you still think running was a good idea.
  • "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse. Get beyond that "Rehab" song and Winehouse's album is great. This story-song has a nice swing to it and is fucking funny if you like borderline domestic abuse/infidelity stories.
  • "Shapeshifter" by Animal Liberation Orchestra. I love ALO. This song is long, over 6 minutes, and swings just the right amount. Warning, you might get caught singing along as you run.
  • "Hard Sun" by Eddie Vedder. Ahh, Eddie Vedder. This is a cool song from the "Into the Wild Soundtrack". Over 5 minutes long and uplifting. It sounds a little too remniscent of some Rusted Root tunes from the late 1990s, but still, it's a good pace song and not too heavy on the instruments.
  • "Till I Collapse" by Eminem. Tired? Power song. Pure and simple. This is a better song than "Lose Yourself" from the 8 Mile soundtrack, but with the same basic premise.
  • "Carolina Blues" by Blues Traveler. I'll admit that this one is on there mostly because it is part of my personal historical soundtrack, but when it shuffled up in mile 7 today, I couldn't have been happier!

Enjoy. As always, please tip your waitress, and be specific in your drink order.

Coming soon: The Learning Factory Term End Reflection Post. This one ought to be good...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Playlist Mania

A friend of a friend who is friends with a writer at ESPN, where my friend works, sent me a link to this story at's "PAGE 2".

In it, runner Jeff Pearlman provides his ultimate training playlist (26 songs in honor of the 26 miles and change he was training for). Here are his songs, in order, you need to read the story for his excellent discussion of each:

1. Lose Yourself - Eminem
2. Jesus Walks - Kanye West
3. King of the Nighttime World - KISS
4. I Try - Talib Kweli with Mary J. Blige
5. Layin' it On the Line - Jefferson Starship
6. Scenario - A Tribe Called Quest
7. Enter Sandman - Metallica
8. Jump Around - House of Pain
9. Highway to Hell - AC/DC
10. Crazy in Love - Beyonce with Jay-Z
11. Harder to Breathe - Maroon 5
12. Too Cold - Vanilla Ice
13. Panama - Van Halen
14. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
15. Hot in Here - Nelly
16. Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos - Public Enemy
17. All These Things That I've Done - The Killers
18. Praise You - Fatboy Slim
19. Welcome to the Jungle - Guns 'n' Roses
20. It Takes Two - Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock
21. Son's Gonna Rise - Citizen Cope
22. Walk this Way - Run DMC
23. New Sensation - INXS
24. Wanna be Startin' Somethin' - Michael Jackson
25. Spin Around - Kay Hanley
26. War - Edwin Star

Five of these songs are also on my best playlist. Anyone care to venture a guess?

What is your favorite running list? Or are you like Cap'n Ron who just goes on the all Diva shuffle play?

What is the best running song of all time? Best mid-marathon "hittin' the wall" song?

Chime in, audiophiles...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Got a new tattoo care of Owen at Parlor F in Seattle. Good times had by all.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sick Days Rule

I'm Not Really Sick. Sshhhhh.

I had trouble finding socks to go with the shoes I wanted to wear to work today, so I bagged the whole thing and called in sick.

Actually, I didn't call in. I emailed. And I didn't claim to be sick. "I'm at home today" was the official line. So now I have time to go through my laundry and find my good black socks, not the lame thin ones that won't stay up (easy with the erectile dysfunction jokes there...) but the good heavy ones that have just the right amount of elastic.

Remarkably, The Colleague is home not sick today too. Convenient. And environmental. We're saving the world by NOT driving to work. (Of course, because we are home on a work day we are burning more energy heating and lighting the house when we normally wouldn't be, so the net environmental impact is probably a wash...)

So while I am upstairs in the Palace Office I receive, from the far away locale of the Palace Kitchen, the following email:

-The Colleague

Nice. Ok. Ok. Sick days are good for many things. Including updating neglected blog spaces. But after this I'm taking a nap.


Good news and bad. The good news is that I have managed to get some miles in recently. I had a nice 30 mile week and was on pace to hit 25 this week. Yesterday I went on a nice little tour of the construction zone they call Kenmore. Nice cool day, no one on the trails or sidewalks, good tunes on the Shuffle...then somewhere in mile 6 the left calf started to show signs of going postal on me. The right calf is finally healed and now the left is kicking in? So, the bad news is that now I am limping around again and afraid to run for fear of really tearing what is right now just a mildly strained calf.

I think my body is telling me to quit running. But I ain't gonna.

Oh, and I have another stress fracture in my left foot. Good times.

The 'Lion has been out there doing her thing on the Sunday circuit. Sailing well but getting edged out by those assholes on Mei Lei. Once upon a time the crew of Mei Lei couldn't keep their boat upright long enough to get to the windward mark. Lately they are walking all over us. I'm trying to convince Krumm that we just need to T-Bone them at the next start. The 'Lion outweighs every other boat out there by thousands of pounds. Just hit 'em.

The 'Hood sits at the dock just waiting for some love.

Allegro sits at the dock just waiting for some love.

Blade Runner is apparently soon to be sold, Cap'n Funnybone having had enough of racing, and Cap'n Funnybone's wife having had enough of Cap'n Funnybone on a boat. Sad.

La Banana is on the the blocks and being scrapped for cash after MillerTime crashed it into the only rock in Echo Bay late last summer. MillerTime is boatless for the first time in decades. A moment of silence.

Krumm is the proud owner of a second boat: A Flying Dutchman. Coooool.


Take one bottle of decent vodka, add a handful of peeled garlic cloves, store in freezer for 2 weeks. Make dry martini with garlic vodka.


Let's see...our faculty union is less competent than the Bush Administration, there is still at least one member of the Writin' Department that is insane enough that everyone besides said member thinks said member is losing her mind (can you sat "Scary old lady with too many cats?" Meeeeeoowwww), and Sweater Girl has gotten all puffed up and hyper-professional again.

Business as usual.

On the plus side, the students are a little more interesting this year, some of them can actually read and write, and The Colleague is teaching a novel that takes place entirely during the execution of a blowjob. We call that "academic freedom".

Or porn.


-The Colleage and I saw "Into the Wild" last week. Cool movie, but not great. We agree that Sean Penn did about as much as one could with the story and made an interesting but not spectacular film. Kraukauer's book that inspired the movie is still one of the best non-fiction titles out there. I wonder if The Colleague will ever read it?

-The Sonics are moving to Oklahoma. Here are the people in this scenario who are complete dicks: Howard Shultz, who bought the Sonics years ago for 200 million and fucked them up for a couple of years before selling them for 350 million to...Clayton Bennet, a dick who got rich by marrying money and bought the Sonics with the unstated intention of moving them to his home town of Hobunk Nowhere....David Stern, the NBA commisioner who is such a patsy for team owners that he won't say no to any rich wonk who wants to move a team....The City of Seattle, this lovely town that can't seem to agree on anything and is apparently stuck in a regressive rhetorical argument about everything....Did I mention Howard Shultz? Dick.

-Kokua Festival 2008 has been announced. April 19th and 20th.

-I Hate Wamu. Don't ask.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet

Well, Portland didn't quite finish me off, so I'll give Vancouver a shot at me. I'm officially registered for May 4th, 2008. Who's with me? Come on!

Monday, October 08, 2007

26.2 Miles

A Foot Tour of Portland
Why couldn't those Greek cities have been closer together? 26.2 miles is far.

The Colleague and I ventured to The Rose City for the 36th Annual Portland Marathon this weekend. Cap'n Ron was there, as was Mrs. Math Dude as a last minute entry (she made the very smart decision to abandon the Bellingham Rainfest Marathon in favor of Portland).

Coming into a marathon with an injured leg wasn't exactly in my plans, but I decided two weeks ago to stop training and rest the torn calf muscle, hoping it would heal enough to get me around the course. Still, I knew it was iffy.

The Expo and packet pick-up are in the basement of the Portland Hilton. This maze-like enterprise is claustrophobic at best, and dangerous at worst. The Colleague and I couldn't get through there fast enough. And? The T-Shirts! Come on guys! You CAN'T give the finishers t-shirts out before the race! Sheesh. This meant that while I was on the course I was thinking about having to throw away my t-shirt if I didn't make it across the line. No pressure there.

Very little sleep the night before the race. I was worried about my leg, the weather, my training. Luckily, The Colleague was in charge of the wake-up call so I didn't have that "clock-anxiety" I usually get when I have to wake early. (Does anyone else have this?) Still, a 7:00 a.m. start time is just mean. That means a 5:00 a.m. wake up if you want to eat anything of substance before the race. I opted for more sleep and less food, hoping my big meal the night before was going to be enough for me.

The starting area and the start itself need work. First, it is still mostly dark out at 6:45 a.m. as we line up with 9,000 of our closest friends. And there is nothing going on. No music, no hype, nothing. Because the start line is on a narrow street between tall buildings, there is no room for spectators to see the start of the race. We knew the race started because the herd in front of us began moving.

Cap'n Ron and I took off and hit our pace early, running right around an 8:00 pace for the first couple of miles. Somewhere in mile 2, before turning up Harrison Street for the first climb of the course, I felt my leg make that awful flesh-tearing sound and knew I had re-fucked my leg. I gave Cap'n Ron a little heads-up on my condition, and seconds later saw The Colleague cheering us on and pointed to my leg. No good.

Still, we kept rolling. The leg hurt but it wasn't killing me, and I figured until I had to stop, I wasn't going to. Dr. Hilarious had given me the all-clear to race, and I knew I couldn't really do any serious damage, so I pressed on. The run down Front Avenue on miles 4 and 5 went great, and when I saw The Colleague again at mile 5, I was feeling strong and ready to go another 21 miles. Seriously. Honest.

The support on this course is awesome. There are drink stations everywhere you need them, and the locals turn out in great numbers to support the racers. At mile 7 was where I saw the first de-motivational sign (which I love): "You're NOT Kenyan"

Miles 6 though 11 suck in the best way. Flat and boring out through the industrial waterfront north of downtown. The pavement is hard concrete and there are railroad crossings and broken sections of pavement. But it's flat. Yeah, but then there is the out-and-back section, which is the worst thing about any race course. On the way out you see people who are faster than you, and on the way back you see people struggling to keep moving. I hate out-and-backs.

Just outside of Old Town, somewhere near mile 13, I caught the unmistakeable form of Biology Man cheering on the runners. What? I spent the next mile wondering what Biology Man was doing there. Was he all the way in Portland to root for Mrs. Math Dude? I dunno.

By mile 14 we were still cruising. Running together, Cap'n Ron and I were running 8:10 per mile and feeling strong. Cap'n marveled that a year prior he hated running his 4 milers, and here he was pulling 8:10 per mile in the middle miles of a marathon. Yep. Awesome.

It was in here that I realized that something was up with my running. Usually the teen miles click by pretty fast. I glide through these miles and they seem to come and go before I realize I've been running for that long. But with all the attention I had to pay to my damn leg, I was forced to stay out of that zone. So every mile was a conscious affair of exertion. Not good. Also, I am sure the energy it was taking to compensate for the pain in my leg was being sapped from the rest of me.

All that said, with the St. Johns Bridge in sight (the highest point of the race) I could still imagine myself cruising through the race.

And then? I stepped on something or came down wrong on my heel and rolled my foot just a little but more than usual...riiiip. Oh, the pain shot up my leg like I had never felt before, and I was sure for a minute that it was my Achilles tendon that had gone. I pulled up and checked to make sure my foot was still attached to my leg.

Cap'n Ron stopped too. I told him to go on. He stayed with me as we started up again. Now I had to slow down to make it work at all. We ran the next mile or so at 8:30. A lot slower than we had been training for, and a lot slower than we had been running so far.

At the base of the climb up the St Johns Bridge, I told Cap'n Ron to go ahead. He sensed, and was probably right, that he wasn't able to help and that the guilt I was feeling for keeping him back was worse than anything. So he went off ahead on his pace.

I kept running, but my race goals had to change. At this point (Mile 17) I was going to finish the race. No question. To get myself over the climb up the bridge, I set finishing the race as my goal. I was going to earn that damn Finisher's T-Shirt!

At the top of the bridge, a 220 foot climb, some asshole behind me asserted that "the view makes it worth that climb". What? Fuck you. The only thing that makes a climb worth it is the descent. Period. Views? Kiss my ass. He didn't like me much and he took off past me as I shuffled down the other side of the bridge.

(Happily, I passed him again at mile 24, as he puked on the side of the Steel Bridge.)

Just after the bridge there is a weird little climb back up to the bluff above the river. I eyeballed that hill and pledged to run up that fucker. And I did. Then I revised my goal: Finish the race no matter what, and RUN EVERY STEP.

Miles 19-23 are just a flat grind through a nice neighborhood by the U of Portland. There were a lot of lawn parties up here, and a lot of human wreckage.

I counted 4 people wrapped in blankets, huddled on the lawns of friendly neighbors. One gentleman just in front of me suffered what looked to me like a heart attack, and the paramedics were with him before I could even think about whether I should stop to help. A young woman to my left lost control of her legs and took a concrete digger, face first, just before one of the support stations. Leg cramps, vomit, and yes even the dreaded loss of bowel control were the highlights of this stretch of the run. Happily, aside from my wounded peg, I wasn't suffering any of the above maladies. In fact, other than being completely wasted and fighting the leg pain, I was doing fine. Slow, but fine. By this stretch my overall average pace had slogged back to about 8:40 per mile.

This is where I revised my goal again: Finish the race no matter what. Run every step. FINISH UNDER 4 HOURS.

At the mile 22 aid station I took in a little of every beverage available: Ultima, Gleukos, water, and beer. I took advantage of the unofficial beer station. Yep. Glad I did, too.

In mile 24 I came up on a group that was running with a coach, obviously with a time goal of 4 hours. One of the group was struggling massively, and, frankly, the coach was a dick. As I passed them going into the Steel Bridge, I muttered something about being a wife-beater, but he either didn't hear me or wasn't going to dispute my claim. Either way, they missed their goal...

I think the most amazing thing about running a marathon is how overwhelming the urge to quit really is. Even at mile 25, my brain wanted to stop. Just stop. What the fuck are you running for? You can stop. Indeed, The Colleague later told me that she saw a couple of dudes in the 3 hour groups just run up to about mile 26 and just stop. Derrr. Keep running! But I get it. The urge to stop, from about mile 23 to the finish, is huge. I'm not really sure what keeps us going.

The finish area is great. The chutes are wide open, the chip-removal stations are out of the way but easy to access, and the volunteers are right there getting you whatever you need. I was in a daze (I didn't know my finish time and forgot to stop my watch when I crossed the line) but a few volunteers guided me to the water and food stations.

The Colleague was waiting for me outside the finish, and when I saw her I pretty much lost it. It was the first time I let myself realize how much pain my leg was in, and my body was shot from trying to shield me from the pain all day. As soon as I quit running the leg tightened up and I couldn't really walk.

It's impossible to describe the emotions of a marathon. You struggle and work to meet a goal, and even if you fall short, you still finish. Running up that last half mile with people cheering your name, seeing the finish chutes and realizing that you are going to complete a marathon, letting your body stop moving forward...everything just lets go. Having The Colleague there when I finished the race was overwhelming. A day later, it still is. Thanks babe.

And thanks and congrats to Cap'n Ron, who despite slowing to try to help me ran an exceptional 3:38. That's 8:20 per mile! And any friend who says the following during a race like this is truly one of the good ones: "You finishing this race is more important to me than my time". It was great to share the experience with you, bro. Here's to the next one!

RPD, thanks for the support and encouragement. Let's run one together!

Now? I am taking at least 3 weeks off from running. I will stick with cycling and swimming to keep from getting fat during the layoff, and am going to start joining The Colleague at yoga classes to increase my flexibility.

Once the leg is back to normal I'll start a training program for the Vancouver BC Marathon in May. If I'm up for it, I'll run the Seattle Half at the end of November, even if it's just for a slow run. And the t-shirt.

Now if it's all the same to you, I'd like to ice my leg and have one of these Mirror Pond Pale Ales in the fridge at the Palace.

Oh, and if you want to see the lap by lap carnage, here's the GPS track:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Paolo, Dr. Hilarious, Students, and Al's Leg

Paolo Nutini

Months ago The Colleague and I got tickets to see Amy Winehouse and Paolo Nutini at the Paramount on September 25th. Then Winehouse had to go all Rehab on us and cancel the tour. Seriously though, she's getting her act together.

Truth be told, we weren't interested in Winehouse anyway. It was Paolo we were after.

Then, in a bit of web surfing delight, I noticed that Paolo kept his concert date, moved to the headliner spot, and moved the show to The Moore. Yee Haw!

I'll say this much: Paolo can sing. His voice is amazing, and he writes some damn good songs. But dude has no stage presence and it only gets worse when he is HAMMERED on stage. He and Winehouse would have made an excellent duo. Here's Paolo covering Winehouse's "Rehab". Appropriate...

Dr. Hilarious
In other news, I finally broke down and went to see Dr. Hilarious about my tweaked calf muscle. It has been healing, I think, but it still worries me to race on it next week.

Dr. Hilarious: What the FUCK are you doing here?
GVB: Errr. It's running related.
Dr. H: Of course it is.
GVB: So...I have this marathon coming up.
Dr. H: Of course. Why wouldn't you?
GVB: What should I do?
Dr. H: Stretch, hydrate, and run like hell.
GVB: Oh. Ok.

Totally worth the co-pay.

Back to school, back to reality. This was in my email this morning:

yo G i have some quests bout the essay so were basically supposed to describe how sports is a lil world in our society or that sports is its own lil world and then after describe how it affects our culture and everything that goes round in sports for example like racism, cheatin n etc right?

Dear Student. Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Al's Leg
Al B is pondering some racing and other idiocy in the face of an injury. Let's all join in and tell all to settle down with a nice bottle of scotch and chill of a couple of weeks. At his advanced age, one more injury could be curtains.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Long Run Review

Three weeks to the Portland 'Thon. After hitting a massive training wall, losing my will to lace up the shoes, and vowing to quit training and just run the damn race, I sucked it up and went out for my weekly long run on Sunday.

I barely managed 38 miles last week, and that included the 20 Cap'n Ron and I did last Sunday on the always tragic Burke Gilman Trail. So this week needs to step up a little bit so I can hit my peak mileage before starting to taper for the race.

So I put together a route from the Palace to Edmonds, ending at the health club, where The Colleague intended to meet me after her stretchy-bendy class. I built in a three our and fifteen minute window and headed off in the rain.

The run details are here.

The first two miles loop from the Palace, out around Bothell High School, and down into Downtoown Bothell. It's still weird running these streets that I grew up hating so much. The neighborhoods are still the same, and I remember who lived in which houses as I run past them. Miles 3-6 head out to Canyon Park and then back up toward my childhood neighborhood (my junior high, elementary school, etc). Weird. A lot of the same families live in the same old houses, and really not much has changed over the years. At mile 7 I realized I was running around 8:15 per mile and needed to slow down. But by this point I was feeling great and was running downhill with several flat miles ahead of me on the Burke Gilman Trail, so I just backed off a little bit and thought I was doing 8:30 or so.

I ran down through the Cascadia campus and picked up the trail there for a flat cruise down to Lake Forest Park.

During the stop for more water at Log Boom Park I checked my splits: 8:15 up to mile 14. Damn! Well, fuck it. Let's do this.

The next 4 miles were a brutal series of hills and windy roads up from Lake Forest Park to Mountlake Terrace. There's just no way around those damn things. But when I reached I-5 I was still averaging 8:20 and feeling strong. I sucked down a gel, realized I was almost out of water, but pressed on. All I had to do was get to mile 19 and then the last 2 were a downhill cruise into Edmonds where the hot tub and The Colleague were waiting!

Those of you who know the area know how "lovely" the main drag from Mountlake Terrace into Edmonds is. Screaming traffic and brutally crooked sidewalks. Still, I've run this stretch several times and knew what I was in for. I also know that I could, if I wanted to, veer off into the neighorhoods and get away from the main drag.

As I was checking my watch at the top of the hill and marveling at how good I still felt, I stopped feeling so good. I had about 3 steps worth of warning before my right calf cramped up. A big old golf ball right on the lower part of the muscle, and a big old F-Bomb from yours truly. 2.5 miles to go!

I stopped for a minute, thought about quitting and hitching a ride into Edmonds, stretched, tried a little jogging, and found a stride that I could manage, especially down hill. I'm sure I looked like I had crapped my pants or had suffered some sort of testicular trauma, but I was running and it didn't feel that bad. At one point, I thought the leg might stop hurting and give in to my willpower. But no, it kept on hurting and cramping up.

I limped into Edmonds 21.35 miles after leaving home, with plenty of energy left but a wounded muscle.

Of course Cap'n Ron yelled at me for running too fast, but after hitting the wall the week prior, I had to get out and convince myself that I could still do this race.

Here's what I learned:

•Running on hills and in varied terrain makes long days actually fun. No more long slogs on recreational trails.
•The taper is massively important. The only reason I could do this run is because I had taken a few days off before. My body was just getting beaten down by the training.
•If I hadn't cramped up, I could have maintained a pace around 8:15 for quite a while. When I look at my splits, there are a few 8:05 miles in the middle of the run, and an 8:20 at mile 21. Could I have done this or more for another 5 miles?
•It doesn't seem to matter how much I drink on the run, I still get dehydrated. The trick seems to be saturating the system in the day and hours before the run and then just maintaining during the run. The fact that The Colleague and I were out on the boat all night the night before, sampling wine and scotch to our late night (ok, early morning) content probably did not help the hydration much. Errrr.
•There is no time that Paolo Nutini's "Rewind" isn't a perfect song. Mile 20? Perfect.
•Body Glide. Don't forget the nipples. Never forget the nipples. Or wear a shirt that doesn't show blood stains.

That's all for now. I'm off to have some more water.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Learnin' Factory 2007-2008 Preview

Woke up this morning and it was fall already. Foggy and cool, school buses everywhere, spiders in every sink drain, and an In Box full of "Welcome Back" messages from various ineffectual leaders at The Learnin' Factory.

So, after killing a spider the size of a small salad plate, dropping kids off at their respective institutions of public education (and saying howdy to "Too Old For MySpace Guy"), and purging my email, I have given in to the idea that work is once again starting. Here is my official 2007-2008 preview of the Learnin' Factory...

The More Things Change...

After ending last year with hopes that Pear Shaped Woman, Sweater Girl, and the MW's would use summer to get lives of their own, all early evidence suggests that the lame bitching and whining will continue full-force and in a variety of venues. On the plus side, all participants in the bitch-fest are at least 3 full sizes larger than they were in the spring. It's ok to skip a meal once in a while, folks.

Prediction: GVB, RPD, AW, and Math Dude, and The Colleague will get the pleasure of watching the world's slowest train wreck over the next three months. By the time The Colleague and I are luxuriating poolside with tropical drinks over the holiday, Pear Shaped Woman will be contemplating retirement, MW#1 will have alienated those few remaining people who think she has a brain, and MW#2 will be acting like nothing ever happened. Also, GVB will continue to hold a grudge over MW#2 for comparing me to the asshole who runs this country.

Get Thee Back to Kansas
Once this ridiculous self-study fiasco is complete, the exhalted leader will shuffle his 5'2" body back to Kansas, where he will spend his recent 20% raise on corn fed beef and shoe lifts.

Prediction: After lamely promoting a non-descript, feckless female dean or VP to Interim President, the BOT will hire a 75 year old handicapped black lesbian former Tully's manager to lead the college into the inevitable dark ages ahead. Theater Gal will not-so-quietly take over the college from inside her "Black Box"

If You Build It, It Will Be Obsolete in Two Years

Those new buildings sure are nice. Too bad they don't add any classroom space or public areas that students can use. The only benefit will be clearing the god damned Math Department out of Alderwood Heights.

Prediction: Five years from now I will still have the same lame ass office space I have now, while an over-paid computer instructor with no students to teach and no advanced degrees will have the entire fourth floor of a new building, with a private elevator and a staff of hundreds to manage his/her reassigned time project: "Creative Funding for Obsolete Faculty Positions".

Problem Solved, Problem Revisited, Problem Re-Solved

Complaint: We don't like A&W Rootbeer in the vending machines.
Response: Ok, we reduced the amount of A&W Rootbeer in the vending machines and have a plan for making the vending options more representative of the desires of the staff.

Complaint: Why was there A&W Rootbeer in the vending machines? It used to be that we had Fanta.

Respose: That change was made several years ago and you were given a chance to express your preferences at that time but did not. And in fact, over the last 20 years, we have changed rootbeer brands several times without complaint. This change is no different from those.

Complaint: It appears that there is a conspiracy to force Fanta out of the college. No one asked us if we wanted A&W Rootbeer. Those who prefer Fanta have been here for 20 years. Where is the respect? Maybe in the future you could ask one of us about what is best for the college's rootbeer needs. We have been here for 40 years collectively.

Response: I believe we answered the question as to how the rootbeer change was made and when you were able to be involved in that decision.

Complaint: This is a radical departure from the way soft drink selection has been made in the past. We just want to know how this decision was made.

Response: Errr. What is this really about?

Complaint: I'm old and not very smart and increasingly irrelevant and mean and petty and I despise people who appear to be better off than me and...

Response: Right. This isn't really about rootbeer? Shocking. Go away.

Blood Transfusions Work!

In the coming year, several new teachers will arrive at the factory and illustrate through example that most of our faculty here at the Learnin' Factory are terrible, terrible teachers who only have jobs because there is no real assessment of performance here.

Stop Hitting Me!

At some point in the coming 9 months, GVB will come unglued at a meeting and will tell Pear, Sweater, and the MW's exactly what he thinks about them. This will not be received well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This is What I've Hit

I officially hate training now. My last three runs have sucked. MOST of the last long day was good, but I suffered for the last 2 miles and just wanted to quit. Now I have to force myself to get the shoes on, and I am coming up with a million better things to do instead of training...

1. Wash the neighbor's dog
2. Kill the neighbor's dog
3. Dig up last year's papers and re-grade them all. Longhand.
4. Hunt a gray whale with a high powered rifle
5. Reduce my forces in the war against idiocy by 30,000

And to make it worse? Cap'n Ron is motivated and running away from me as I sit and type this.

So, come on folks, send along the motivation. Let's hear it.

Is it October 7th yet?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Race Rules Committee Report

A couple of weeks ago I was running the Burke Gilman Trail near the new Suburban Palace and saw a sign that said "Expect Heavy Pedestrian Traffic September 3rd". Turns out there was a half marathon planned that day. Hmmm. Why not throw a race into the training mix? So that night I signed up for the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon.

Before I get into the race details, here are some New Running Race Rules as drafted and approved by The Colleague and myself as we arrived at the starting area today.


Runners Race Rule #1A: Never wear the shirt from that day's race in the actual race.

Runners Race Rule #1B: Never wear the shirt from the same race last year before, during, or after the actual race. No one cares that you ran this course last year.

Runners Race Rule #1C: Those "Such and Such Marathon Finisher" shirts are great for wearing around town or even training in, but they don't do much to impress the people at the starting area of a major race.

Runners Race Rule #2: You aren't as fast as the people around you. Line up farther back than you think you should.

Runners Race Rule #3: Thank all volunteers, cops, crossing guards, and friendly locals who come out to support your race.

Runners Race Rule #4: A fat out of shape Boeing engineer who finishes a half marathon in 4 hours deserves more acknowledgement than super-fast Lycra Man from Eugene.

Runners Race Rule #5: I'm all for combining walking events with running events, but any group of housewives walking five abreast on a narrow part of the course should be shot on sight.

Runners Race Rule #5A: Men who run races while their spouses walk the course must take at least one race off a year to walk with said spouse.


Organizers Race Rule #1: Gun time sucks. If you're using chip timing, you MUST have both starting and finishing mats. I shouldn't be counted for the time it takes for Crazy Legs McGee and his seven drinking buddies to get the hell out of my way.

Organizers Race Rule #1A: Use the shoelace timing chips. Whoever invented the timing chip that straps around your ankle should be killed.

Organizers Race Rule #2: All races should start and end at a brewery. Having the finish line at Red Hook? Brilliant! How good did a cold ESB sound at about mile 10?

Organizers Race Rule #3: Announce finishers' names before they get to the finish line. If a runner has friends and family supporting him, give them a chance to cheer to them TO the finish line, not across it. Duh.

Organizers Race Rule #3A: Have an advertised spectator area in the middle of the race, complete with split times, a clock, and announcers calling out runners' names.

Organizers Race Rule #3B: Have reliable splits on the course. Some wonk with a stopwatch sitting under a bridge calling out seconds doesn't count.

Organizers Race Rule #4: Real goodie bags. Coupons? Advertising? Ink pens? What the fuck? How about something useful?

Organizers Race Rule #5: Racers should be able to declare personal goals before the race and should be acknowledged for meeting or beating those goals. No one really cares who wins these things, except the winners.

Organizers Race Rule #6: T-Shirts AFTER the race, idiots. It goes like this: show up, stretch, hydrate, fuel, race, finish, timing chip off, water, "here's your t-shirt!"

Organizers Race Rule #6A: 2 t-shirts, idiots. Cheap one for everyone, cool tech shirt for finishers.

Organizers Race Rule #7: Out and back sections suck balls. And not in a good way. Loops, folks. Loops. The clusterfuck on the UW Bothell campus that runners at miles 6, 8, and 9 passing the same fuel station? Pure pain. No one wants to see the 5:00 milers on their way to the finish line while they are struggling up the hill at mile 6.

Spectator Race Rule #1: If you don't want to be there, don't. Your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend doesn't need you "cheering" him or her on if you are pissed that you aren't at home watching football.

Spectator Race Rule #1A: If you're coming out to cheer on a friend or loved one, it might help to know his or her goals so you can congratulate them at the finish. This means you, Bored Woodinville Housewife at Finish Line: "Hi honey! You finished in 1:40. Is that good? What place is that? What do you get?" Ugh.

Spectator Race Rule #2: Cheer for other people. Someone struggling through mile 11? Give them a pep talk! It sounds stupid from the sidelines, but even a complete stranger saying "Come on! Only 2 more miles! You're looking great!" matters. (see Organizer's Race Rule #3 and #3A regarding calling out runners' names)

Spectator Race Rule #3: Stay the fuck off the race course. This means you, fat stupid redneck from Bothell in the yellow Ford t-shirt on Main Street with your toothless girlfriend. "Der, what are all of these cones for?"

Ok, so to the race...GPS data is here. Comments below...

I've never actually run a race when I was seriously training, so I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I signed up for the Half just to see how the training would affect my racing. Short version: training works. How do I know?

1. I ran a very consistent pace (7:16) without using my GPS or a stopwatch on the course.

2. I was a full half minute per mile faster than my previous half marathon pace.

3. My heart rate stayed low most of the race, and when it did peak (on the steep climb around mile 6) it dropped right back down as soon as my pace evened out.

4. I had plenty of fuel and very little muscle fatigue.

5. I needed no recovery time the next day.

This race is a keeper, for sure. I'll come back next year. It is well organized, the course is fast, it's close to home, and it starts and ends at the Red Hook Brewery. That's hard to beat.

Now I'm back on the training for Portland. One month away now. Yikes! Cap'n Ron thinks I should revise my goal pace for the 26.2 based on this half, but I am holding to my original goals for Portland:

1. Finish

2. Don't get injured

3. Have fun running with the Cap'n

My plan is still to go out at 8:30 or so for the first 20 and see how I feel for the last 6. Since I haven't done a full 26.2 before, I have no idea how to push for a time. I'll race for time in Vancouver next spring...Of course, I was going to go out to this half marathon and run 8:00 miles and take it easy. Best laid plans and all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Running and Not

Lots of things going on these days. You can get warmed up with some other reading:
Check out RPD's travel posts from Argentina.

Groove on over to the BiCoastalBoys place for some sports-related bitching and griping.

Want a little taste of the rampant racism in this part of the country? Read this disturbing article from the Seattle Times.

Let's see...what else is there? Oh, those 4 Amy Winehouse tickets we have for September 25th are now worthless. Thanks Rehab!

On the plus side, I found a nice curvy route from The Palace to The Learning Factory today. Commuting on the 650 just got more interesting.

Also? Meet us at Engel's Pub Thursday at 6:00. Motorcycle optional.

Hitting the track tonight for some speed work. Cap'n claims some work-related excuse to get out of running around the oval? Slacker. Update to come.

Here's something: on my last two long runs (18 and 19 miles, respectively) I have absolutely suffered through mile 15. From 16 on I feel like I could run forever, but 15 is like running uphill pulling a sled. You distance folks help me out here...I am pretty sure it is at least partly mental, but I also know there is a fuel issue in there somewhere. I'm going to try fueling differently during this week's long run (20 miles on Sunday) and see what happens.

Another query: It's time to start thinking about a goal pace for Portland. Any wisdom and race strategies are welcome at this point. I reserve the right to ignore you.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Today's Depressing Thought

When I read articles like this one...

Contractor scams $20.5M from Pentagon

...totals like this piss me off even more...

Cost of the War in Iraq
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I know that I am officially training for a marathon when I drag my sorry ass to the track for speed work. I don't mind the speed work itself (this time it was 1/2 mile intervals at a 6:30 pace), but on this particular night the track at Future Colombine Style Rampage High School was a lovely sociological survey of the worst the neighborhood has to offer.

Actually, to be fair, this is more Cap'n Ron's neighborhood than mine. I haven't sampled the Tragedy Circus at the track in the new hood yet...

So, with apologies to RPD's recent post, here is a look at the cast of Track Night at Mega High School.

1. Short Girl Driving Slow in the Fast Lane. Put her in a Honda Civic and put a cell phone to this girl's ear to make her a little more oblivious to her surroundings and she'd be a perfect stereotype. You might be running fast for YOU, but that doesn't mean you need the inside lane. I love having to pass you on the right twice in one lap. Try the center lane.

2. Mom Says I Can do Whatever I Want! Mom is yapping on the cell phone, blindly pushing a stroller with a toddler in it back and forth across the trach, while older son and three of his hoodlum friends play with a frisbee they stole from a different set of less assertive kids across the way. Fun Game #1: jump in front of oncoming traffic. Fun Game #2: Jog alongside runners mocking their strides. Fun Game #3: Wildly throw the frisbee around so you stupidly run in front of people who are training. GVB thinks, "Get the fuck off the track you punks!" GVB says, "Hey guys, can you play on the grass and not the track please?" I'm so fucking nice. Pricks.

3. Youth Football Coach. To be fair, this guy wasn't on the track, but running football practice for 14 year old boys inside the oval. After watching his one star athlete run Toss Strong Left 50 times, during which said star athlete repeatedly bowled over Smallest Kid on The Field, I was starting to feel bad for Smallest Kid on The Field. Once I heard YFC openly mock SKOF for being, well, 14, I lost any respect I might have had for this fat wannabe football legend who, to be fair, is volunteering his time. Of course, what else is he going to do after he gets off work at the Home Depot. Prick. Repressed childhood issues, much?

4. Football Dad Sitting on the Track. I mean ON the track. Acres of grass sideline, a sidewalk near the fence, the hood of his Buick Regal...he could have sat his fat ass down in any number of locations. Nope. He took his $7.00 KMart lawn chair and set it up in the two center lanes of the track. Dead center. Cap'n Ron and I debated the mental disability that causes one to act this way. I said arrogance. Cap'n said oblivion. Perhaps the arrogance causes the oblivion. But even when I practically hurdled the prick, he didn't see that he might be in someone else's way.

4a. Football Dad Sitting on the Track Followup: After a half hour or so, FDSOT got up and walked over to talk with Other Football Dad about god knows what and LEFT HIS GOD DAMN CHAIR SITTING ON THE TRACK.

Ahh the track. It's almost as tragic as the Burke Gilman Trail. Almost.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Holy Shit! I Have a Blog?

The Colleague kicked me in the head this morning with one of her thousand pairs of shoes (ask me how I know this number…) and reminded me that I have a blog that she used to read. But since my room full of monkeys at typewriters hasn’t produced anything of note recently, nothing has been posted. Slacker Monkeys. The close second cousins of Spider Monkeys.

So let’s play some catch up. But first, watch this clip. It may be my favorite YouTube clip since MyDick...

Here’s what GVB has been up to, in chronological list form:

1. Cursed everyone in the department and packed up for the summer. Fuck you, Sweater Girl and Pear Shaped Woman!
2. Delivered the 650 from Boise to Everett.
3. Sailed with The Colleague to Port Townsend en route to the San Juans.
4. Broke down in Port Townsend.
5. Sampled every bar in Port Townsend.
6. Spent an extra night in Port Townsend.
7. Met Crazy White Haired Mechanical Genius, who used the magic tools in his Yellow Van Truck Bus to fix the boat, charging us only one tuna sandwich and several paper towels.
8. Sailed to DadVB’s house for July 4th, also known as “Hey Everyone, this is The Colleague!”
9. Went on ill-fated Gulf Islands charter cruise (forever know as “The Trip”) with DVD and DadVB. No fun was had by anyone but yours truly. Highlight? Trail running on Cypress Island. Spectacular.
10. Vegas Baby! (Which unfortunately also included hung over drive to Pasadena from Vegas, which took 7 hours and featured such epically bad decisions as eating at Panda Express in the mall, and scarfing down BK French fries like I was courting a heart attack).
11. Pasadena? This is where The Colleague grew up? Hi dad. Hi Colleague’s childhood friends. Hi rich white people. Running in this town is as scary as running in the hood, but for very different reasons.
12. Here’s a nice house. Let’s move in! Ok? Ok. Towse, I’ll give you ONE guess which high school I know live walking distance from…turns out as an adult, my hometown isn’t so bad. I think I get why people voluntarily live there.
13. Montana? This is where The Colleague’s mom voluntarily lives? Hi Colleague’s brothers and cousins. Highlights? Floating the Clark Fork with the whole family, running at altitude (ouch), swimming at Flathead Lake.
14. Whidbey Island? Not bad. Daughter GVB’s stomach virus? Bad news. Sorry kid.
15. G Love and Special Sauce with Ozomatli. We won’t mention the third band. It hurts me too much to think about.

Now…here’s where we are now. The Colleague and I (and our respective offspring) are officially co-habitating. Now Sweater Girl and Pear Shaped Woman can REALLY come unglued at work. Fuck you.

Cap’n Ron and I are in full marathon training mode. Portland is October 7th. Our first long run of the training cycle went off without a hitch.

And, as you read this I am recovering from a day of packing the Urban Palace, a fast 7 miler, and a 22 mile bike ride from the Urban Palace to the New Suburban Estate.

Any questions?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The "Swiss" Win the Cup...Again.

Alinghi went out and beat the crap out of the Kiwi team to win the 32nd America's Cup. Truth be told, the Kiwis lost the cup more than Alinghi won it, but either way, it was an embarrassing loss for New Zealand, a country where every one is required by law to root for the All Blacks and learn to race sailboats.

I dig Cup racing, and it sucks that it is relegated to the Versus Channel, where one can also catch reruns of naked bull wrestling from Enumclaw. But it will never make it to anything close to mainstream television, in part because Americans are stupid, and in part because the America's Cup has been totally fucked up by the corporate sponsorships.

I want to bring America's Cup racing up the ladder a bit. And here's how:

1. Countries should have to field teams made up completely of native athletes. The Kiwi boat should be crewed by Kiwis. Period. Alinghi was crewed by a bizarre patchwork of American, Swiss, Kiwi, and Australian sailors.
2. Campaigns should be 2 years, not 4. Qualifying legs should be held in all of the challengers' home countries, with the finals in the defender's home country. The Swiss shouldn't be able to "host" the matches in Spain, for example.
3. Give the television rights to either ESPN or ABC. If they can make golf into a television-friendly sport, they should be able to make sailing more interesting.
4. Personalities. I still love Gary Jobson's idea of putting Lance Amstrong on the American challenger crew. He'd be amazing as a grinder AND the US public would follow the challenge.

There. I've fixed it.

Oh, and check out for some kick ass video and information on the Cup.

Cheers. I'm going sailing.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Go Fast and Turn a Lot

Cap’n Ron found me a new motorcycle in his non-porn related Internet surfing (of which I understand there is very little). Great bike. Great price. Bad location. Boise? That would be ok. Garden City, Idaho? Are you kidding me?

But this was a BMW 650GS, and it was yellow, and it did have about 3 miles on it. Soooo….Off I fly to Boise, where Former BMW Owner picked me up at the airport.

Question: How can Boise get away with calling themselves the City of Trees? There are six trees. I counted.

Kind of FBO to pick me up at the airport, for sure. But in the hour-long drive back to his house I was schooled on various delightful subjects, including how illegal immigration is killing the economy, how Micron is outsourcing their engineering to China, who of course is stealing our secrets in service of their goal of taking over the USA.

Seriously, this dude is so conservative that he leaves conservative talk radio on in his house to keep his dogs company when he is gone. I’m not making this up.

We arrived at his compound before Cap’n Ron rolled in on his big ass 1200 GS from Lewiston to meet me.

“Hi Cap’n. Get me the FUCK out of here.”

How to break in a new bike? How about an 800 mile ride across Idaho and Washington? Sounds good.

Leg One: Garden City, ID to Clarkston, WA. 250 miles. One bee sting (Cap’n), several stops for food and fuel. GVB is happy with the 60+ miles per gallon he is getting. By Clarkston both Cap’n Ron and GVB are beat. Hotel? check. Cheesy waterfront restaurant with large beers? Check. Massive bedtime crash? Yes.

Leg Two: Clarkston, WA to Coulee City, WA. Lots of miles. I have no idea how many. Here is a photo of Cap’n Ron on one of the alleged roads we took through the Palouse.

Note: I think we caught the Palouse on the one day of the year it is absolutely beautiful. Perfect, in fact.

Note: Lind, WA is a ghost town. Scary. See photo below…

Cap’n Ron Jr. met us in Coulee city on his over-amped Buell.

Leg Three: Coulee City to Everett via Highway 20. Rain, wind, sun, mountains, Canadians (when are they going to build that fence to keep those fuckers out of our country), and sharp turns.

Signs Cap’n Ron likes:

Now? The 650 is all tucked in at the Urban Palace and The Colleague and I are out on the Sound. Sure we’re broken down in Port Townsend, but it beats workin’. More on the sailing fiasco as soon as Larry, Larry, and Darryl get done fixin’ the Hood.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New York in a Bullet List

The Colleague and I headed to the Right Coast for some sort of marriage ceremony in Baltimore (our toast to the bride and groom: "Just because our marriages didn't work doesn't mean yours won't! Cheers!) and then headed to NYC for some actual Right Coast action...

•3 hour delay in Denver? Are you kidding me? Nothing like watching The Colleague argue with the taco dude over free guacamole...
•FPP back in the states. Scary.
•The Dragan? Getting reunited with this man can't go well. We'll see.
•The Wedding? Let's just say this: I don't drink white wine. But it was all that was available, and I had several glasses.
•Amtrak. You know what is good? Standing room only from Baltimore to NYC. Way to go Amtrak! I want my money back. And don't forget to give me back my black tee-shirt.
•New York Tourist Checklist: Bar fight? Check. Police action? Check. Dead Rat? Check. Live rats? Check. Long Island Princesses? Check. Central Park? Check. Subway "entertainment"? Check. Downtown Downpour? Check. Surly Bellhop? Check.
•Time on Long Island with Al Bangorhard and the Bangorhard family? Awesome. Thanks Al and Mrs. Al!
•Central Park Running Loop? 6 miles at 8:10 per. Nice run, Al. And those ain't hills, brother.
•Somewhere on the Upper West Side, The Colleague lost her voice over a plate of kick ass sushi. If anyone finds it, send it to us back on the Left Coast.
•Somewhere on the Right Coast, GVB lost control over his spine. Seriously. Where did I sleep after that wedding? My back is still killing me.
•Home. Now all we have to deal with is the backlash from our co-workers who don't have lives...How DARE we travel. Dear Co-Workers: Fuck off.

Next? Cap'n Ron and I are headed to Boise. No, that isn't in France, Ex-Mr Colleague. One free copy of Gravity's Rainbow to the first person to correctly guess why we are going to Idaho...

Also? June 25th marks the first day of summer cruising season. First stop? Port Townsend. Forecast? 80 degrees and windy. See you out there.

Just Thinking About Sailing...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Swift? Sure!

Cap’n Ron and I joined up once again (for the last time?) with the crew of Blade Runner. This time it was for the classic Swiftsure Race. Victoria BC to Cape Flattery and back. It’s a race I’ve always wanted to do, and a stepping stone to some of the more coveted crew spots (Vic Maui and TransPac come to mind).

We left Everett at Fucking Dark Thirty on Thursday to motor slog for 11 hours up to Victoria (official slogan: “Come to Victoria and Shit Directly into the Ocean”). The Colleague jumped aboard the Victoria Clipper to meet us up north where even the crosswalk signs are jaunty and everyone is, frankly, too fucking nice for their own good…

The Inner Harbor is jammed with racing boats and testosterone. Beer everywhere and a lot of posturing and story-telling already. The usual suspects are here: Icon and Braveheart from Seattle (the favorites for the line honors and overall titles). And there is an assortment of hot race boats from around Washington and British Columbia.

And beer. Lots of beer.

I will admit to being taken by the scene. Hundreds of boats jammed together, flags flying, music playing, sun out…It was cool, and the photos don’t do it justice.

After some bellyaching the night before about the potential for no wind, we are greeted at the start with a nice 15 knot westerly breeze. It’s cold and cloudy, but with the building breeze and 97 boats in our start alone, it was quite a scene. The plan (stolen from conventional wisdom and past races, not from any sort of real planning…more on this later) is to sail to windward on the Canadian side well past Race Rocks before tacking across the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the Washington side and rounding the windward mark in Neah Bay. Cap’n Ron expresses some concern that according to his GPS, the windward mark’s coordinates are actually on land. This is unnerving to those of us who realize that boats are supposed to float on water. Still, we know that the mark is somewhere east of Tatoosh Island. So there’s that…

The upwind leg is a pounding. Fast and wet. The true wind ranges from 15-25 knots, and under the small #3 jib we do ok in all but the biggest gusts. I take two runs at the helm as we hug the Canadian shoreline. Twice I note to Skipper Funnybone that when we get within a few hundred yards of the shore the wind gets gusty and turns into a nasty header, pushing our track lower and hurting our windward progress. Also, the waves get confused in close and it makes driving the boat more difficult. Driving the boat through the gusts and lulls is a pain in the ass, and Skipper Funnybone takes our changing course to mean that I am driving poorly. “Head up,” he says more than once. “I’m up. There is no more up. The wind is shifting,” I say…What I don’t say is “Shut the fuck up and let me drive or take the helm yourself.”

“Let’s get ready to come about,” I say instead, seeing that we are headed back into the weirdness near shore.

“No,” says Funnybone. “We can go right up on shore here. It’s plenty deep.”

“Hey asshole,” I don’t say, “it isn’t about the depth of the water. There is no good reason to be in here. We need to be out in the steadier breeze.”

Before I can finish my internal tirade, Funnybone says, “Let’s get ready to tack.”

No shit. And so it goes. We drive on upwind. Hours of this. We’re all happy to make one last tack before heading to the US side of the Straits, but the fatigue is showing. And Cap’n Ron’s hair is a wreck…

SKIPPER TIP #1: Don’t be a dick if you want good people to sail on your boat. Yell all you want, but you better be damn sure you know what you are yelling about. In fact, here is the already revised TIP #1: Only yell clear instructions. Otherwise shut the fuck up .

It’s dark when we get to Neah Bay. I’m still driving as we make our last tack onto starboard and head into the bay where a ketch with a flashing yellow strobe light serves as the windward mark. It’s a landmark moment in the race - the halfway point in terms of distance – and everyone is on deck for the rounding. Skipper Funnybone takes the helm for the turn and the coming spinnaker hoist.

Spinnaker work is a pain in the ass. Can I be more clear than that? Crews HATE spinnaker runs. We’d rather beat upwind all day than have to fight the madness of spinnaker rigging. And all of the rigging is one thing, but the fact that it takes 5 crew just to get the thing off the deck and flying is the real problem. Someone has to be driving the boat about 15 degrees above dead-downwind. Someone has to be on the bow feeding the chute out of its bag. Someone has to be hoisting on the halyard. Someone has to be raising and adjusting the spinnaker pole. Someone has to be running the sheets. Someone has to be running the guy. It’s all a real fiasco. In calm weather two people can do it all. In a rising 18 knot breeze in big seas? It takes a few more. There was yelling involved…

After rounding the windward mark in Neah Bay, just spitting distance from open ocean, we hoist the spinnaker in about 18 knots of wind and 6 foot seas. Out here at the mouth of the Straits, the swells are more like the true ocean swells you get when offshore: long, rolling waves that the boat climbs over and races down. There isn’t any pounding, and the rolling motion is dampened by the helmsman’s ability to drive at an angle down each wave. When a 37 foot boat starts surfing down the face of a wave you are right on that edge of control that is awesome no matter the outcome. The closest I can get to explaining it is a long downhill run on a bike: you reach a sort of terminal velocity where everything is right on its practical and engineered edge, and one piece of bad luck can bring it all crashing down in a bad, bad way. Still, speed is addictive, and we had a lot of it. I won’t try to be poetic and descriptive here, but when we were driving downwind in 12 foot seas with 30 knots of wind on the port quarter, phosphorescence trailing behind us, knot meter hitting 12 on the downhill sides of the wave? Awesome. Pure power. The sound the boat makes at that speed can make a grown man weep. Well, not really. But it’s cool as shit.

Surfing downwind, averaging 10 knots through the water, is a great way to spend a sleepless night. But…well, why rewrite what’s already been written.

Instead I’ll offer you this gem from Dallas Murphy’s great book Rounding the Horn:

But there (is) a price to pay for this downwind delight…It usually comes up when racing sailors congregate, and as the evening wears on, the pisco flows immoderately, the begin to tell war stories that end up focusing on knockdowns, savage round-ups, and mast-in-the-water broaches. These terms describe basically the same completely avoidable event, that is, the loss of control while running before the wind. The boat heels too far, the keel and rudder lose their grip on the water, the boat spins out sideways to the wind, and over she goes. The cause is too much sail.

And what is the cause of too much sail? Oh, that’s right, the skipper.

We run downwind for hours in the dark. I catch 15 minutes of sleep below before being called back on deck. We have to jibe to head into Race Rocks and make our way to the finish line. At this rate we’ll be in the harbor by 4:00 am, a brilliantly fast run. I start thinking about our finish place. Who could be ahead of us in our class? Are we first? Second? Then I start thinking about waking The Colleague with a celebratory phone call (she’s back at the Castle by now, no doubt in the midst of 3 hours of sleep after being out with Little Brother all night while we were out getting our brains beaten in by the sea).

The jibe goes fine, eventually. Hauling the spinnaker around the headstay in this much wind takes a sort of precision and power that we simply don’t have. We, to quote someone from some movie I’ve seen a million times, look “like a monkey fucking a football” out there. But we get the sail around and turned to a port jibe, which we should be able to hold until we get to the finish line.

A mile short of Race Rocks things go very, very wrong (for those who don’t have their nautical charts in front of them, Race Rocks are a nasty outcropping of islets and islands about 10 miles west/southwest of Victoria. If you listen to NOAA weather radio in the Puget Sound you get up to the minute reports from the lighthouse there, and numbers above 30 are very common. I’ve been lazily sailing around the San Juans before and heard “Race Rocks: Winds west at 60 knots, gusts to 70. Seas 15 feet.” No lie.)

Anyway, we are just about to shoot through the small gap between shore and Race Rocks (why are we going through Race Rocks again? Oh, that’s right…no good reason) when we suffer the first knockdown. Funnybone is at the helm, I am on the leeward side trimming the spinnaker. Cap’n Ron and several others are on the windward rail. We get a big wave and a nice gust (30 knots apparent, which means it was at least 35 if not more) that rounds us up HARD. Before I have time to think, the leeward rail (where I am stationed, remember) goes well under water.

Here’s the picture as I remember it. I am facing outboard at the winch on the leeward side of the boat. The boat rounds up and spins out, and suddenly the cockpit is perpendicular to the waterline. Cap’n Ron and the rest are directly above me, but I don’t really know this because I am UNDER WATER. The round up tosses me toward the rail, and by the time I get a push-up stance on the toe rail, the top third of my body is in the water. I have no tether on, and if I go in, I’m done for. There is no way that boat can come back and get me, and my inflatable life vest will just make me a more buoyant corpse after a couple of minutes in this water. The good German Software Engineer, at Cap’n Ron’s polite request, grabs my harness and helps keep me from swimming. Thanks.

When I come up for air, the boat is still on her ear. Both sails are in the water, the boom is dragging through the waves and pulling us deeper into the broach. And no one can move. I can’t climb straight up the cockpit. Cap’n and the rest can’t let go of the lifelines on the high side unless they want to plunge into the sea…It’s a scene. My most vivid memory of the moment is watching as the masthead slammed into the water. Whether a wave came up and got it or the boat rolled farther over I have no idea, but I DO know that masts are not supposed to be in the water. Ever.

After an epic battle of man versus nylon canvas, we manage to drag the spinnaker on deck. There are halyards and sheets everywhere, and we are still knocked over with a full mainsail bashing us about. With the chute down and at least 3 feet between us and Race Rocks, things feel manageable again. We’ll just sail into the finish under main and jib. No problem.


We have no jib hoisted and we are still on our side.

With just the main we can’t get the boat moving and so we are at the mercy of the waves. And I mean waves. All throughout the race the crew would call out extra large waves to the helmsman so he could drive around or through them. “Wave!” was the call. Easy. I distinctly remember the following from Cap’n Ron as we were wallowing around Race Rocks under main alone:

“Wave! No. I mean it! Big fucking wave!”

And when it hit us, we got wet. The boat spun around again, the main filled with air and we were on our ear again. And Again. I counted 3 full knockdowns.

Fast forward: we limped into the finish at 5:40 a.m. with a busted spinnaker pole, a torn chute, a foredeck man with 2 broken teeth, and several wasted crew members.

Lots of wind for the 2007 Swiftsure resulted in lots of gear failure. Many boats limped back and several are tied up at the Inspection dock with various ailments. Icon has a sheet wrapped around her prop, Rubato is stopped with engine failure and Blade Runner has a bent spinnaker pole. Wind plus keen sailing equal broken bits on boats, and the Inspection dock is getting smaller as they all moor alongside.

Let the war stories begin. Back at the docks all of the crews were bragging about broken gear and harrowing downwind moments.

Cap’n Ron and I crashed out for a few hours, had some lunch and brew, crashed out for a while longer, had some sushi and many, many Asahis, and crashed out again.

Blade Runner was 5th in class. Would have been 3rd except for the Race Rocks epic. All said we probably did 2k worth of damage to Blade Runner, which is officially not my problem.

We ended our weekend with The Colleague picking us up in Port Townsend after clearing customs. Then? The Colleague and I spent a couple days with my parents. Yep. Weird.