Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowfall, Vacations, and Injuries. One Stop Shopping.

We've got it all here at SailRunClimbRide. Well, everything except sailing, running, climbing, or riding. But if you're all nice, we might just throw in some of that as well. Let me talk to my manager and see what I can do for you...

It's snowing. But you know this because it is WINTER STORM 2008! or some variant thereof, depending on which local channel you watch. I'm happy to not be out in it, though I am tempted to go for a run on the BG trail later. And actually, given the experience I just had delivering SuperVan to the bottom of the hill for any future transportation needs, I don't think running is a terribly strong plan.

Dear students,

You have had 11 weeks to ask me about grading policies and assignment scores, and my Out-of-Office message should be a hint that I don't want you to bother me about why you missed 3 points on your first paper back in October. Also, I apologize on behalf of the US Public Education System that you don't understand how percentages work or how to read a simple chart that converts percentage scores to decimal scores. I'm on vacation. Leave me alone.

I am also not a financial aid advisor, so I don't know how you're failure in my class will affect your cash flow. Sorry.

Oh, and I recognize your name from my roster, but since you never came to class or office hours, I have no idea who you are. I don't know if that has any effect on your grade or not...

Dr. Hilarious is on vacation until January, so I don't have the details yet, but symptoms suggest GVB is running with torn abdominal muscles (aka sports hernia). Awesome. When I was running every day in training for the Seattle Marathon, I assumed the pain in my non-existent abs was simply sore muscles. But when the pain got worse in the layoff after the race, knew something was up.

Sports hernias are interesting monsters. Apparently what happens is that the muscles of the upper leg get stronger than the muscles in the abdominal wall, to which they are attached. The stronger muscles win the tug-of-war and tear the weaker ones. Good times. So know it is a forced layoff to see how this heals up. Then a LOT more core strength work in addition to ramping up the training for Vancouver. I'm not to hip on the idea of surgery to repair this thing. I'd rather not have someone cut me open and stitch my muscles back together, thanks. Even doing sit ups and crunches sounds better than that.

Bonus Material
  • The 'Hood is officially for sale. You can make the check out to the Pacific Seacraft 25 we want.
  • The 12K's of Christmas, scheduled for last Sunday and "skipped" by me when the sheet of ice appeared on our hill, was apparently canceled, though the race committee didn't notify anyone of that fact. As a consolation prize? I get to sign up for another one of their races at a discount. Oooooh. Thanks. Assholes.
  • Puerto Vallarta, Florida, New York City, Pasadena, Kenya. Anywhere else I need to go in the coming months? Let me know.
  • Confession: I watch The Real Housewives of Orange County. Fact: I didn't know shows like that could jump the shark, but apparently they can. Yikes.
  • I am going back to school to become a chef. It seems fun.
  • is the latest reason I am not getting anything done. Related note: a few episodes of Kitchen Nightmares are ok. More than that and you are just torturing yourself with massively formulaic "reality" television.

End Transmission

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Of Goals Not Met: Now With More Shame!

CNN is Calling it Early...
I know the year isn't over yet, but it's 8:00 p.m. EST on election night and a comeback is a mathematic improbability. I'm calling it. I missed my yearly mileage goal. And that might explain part of why I sucked so bad at the Seattle Marathon. Now that I've officially come up short, the pundits can tear into my past mistakes and analyze them with the precision of hindsight...

Today's 5 mile run through the ghetto of Kenmore put me at 803 miles for the year. Unless I do nothing but run from now until New Year's Eve, I'm going to come up short of the 1,000 mile goal I set for myself. So that sucks.

I'm shooting for 1,000 next year, and how much do you want to bet that if I get there, my marathon times will improve along the way? Sucker bet, I know. Mileage is the key to those long races, and I just didn't pack in the miles this year. My best months were October and November, at over 100 miles each, but those included all of my long training runs AND the Seattle Marathon, so you would expect those to be high. I should be running consistent 100 mile months (more like 150, actually, if my weekly mileage is where it should be).

Obama raised his campaign fortune $5 at a time, and I think there is a lesson there for everyone. I need more frequent little runs packed around my long weekend runs to build up the miles. 5 here, 6 there...that's the ticket. Anyone care to make a small donation?

So in addition to not making my goal pace at the Seattle Marathon, I am now shamed by missing my mileage goal. I also didn't cure AIDS, discover any physical principles, or bungee jump from a bridge in New Zealand. Oh well, there's always next year.

Hey GVB, What's Up Next?
Another chance to come up short! The Vancouver Marathon is on May 3rd. Cap'n Ron will be there again, and so will Former Fraternity Acquaintance. Anyone else? Early registration ends December 15th. After running Seattle, I am actually looking forward to Vancouver for its organization, support, and attention to detail. They put together good races up there.

I'm really going to train for this one. Speed work, hills, and distance. The whole ticket. I'd like to get this Boston Qualifying monkey off my back. He's heavy to drag around the course.

What's Up at The Factory?
Well, let's see here...
  1. Our union president is a complete idiot
  2. The Colleague's computer is magically downloading porn on its own
  3. Our dean has lost her mind (and, apparently, her hairbrush)
  4. We get to teach more students in more classes for less money!
  5. I might be going to Florida for 3 days to do focus group work on a textbook
  6. The Colleage and I have officially announced our exit strategy for the department chair work
  7. Sweater is expanding
  8. Pear is expanding
  9. Mysterious Math/Science Tenure Abuser is expanding
  10. The Factory itself is shrinking. Something has to give here...
  11. Everyone is carefully studying the RIF list...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Half and Half (13.1 + 13.1)

I have officially survived another 26.2 mile romp through a northwest city. The Seattle Marathon is over, and I managed to force myself around the course in 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, well off my goal time but satisfying nonetheless.

The Seattle course reinforces just how far 26.2 miles in real terms. From the start at Seattle Center, the course starts off down 5th Avenue, past Pioneer Square, and onto I-90 at Safeco Field. That takes care of 2 whole miles. 2 miles from one end of the city to the other. Then it's across I-90, through the Mt. Baker Tunnel, across Lake Washington to Mercer Island, BACK across the lake, south to Seward Park, back north through Leschi, up and over Capitol Hill, through the Arboretum, and back down toward Eastlake into downtown again for a finish at Memorial Stadium. Sheesh.

For a bit of scale, 26.2 miles is roughly the driving distance from:
  • Seattle to Everett
  • Seattle to North Bend
  • Bellevue to SeaTac Airport
  • and, for you Californians, Pasadena to LAX
Still, it's a good course that avoids a few of the things that suck about the Portland and Vancouver courses, namely shady industrial districts and crack house row. The long stretch next to Lake Washington is great, and the two parks included in the course add a nice non-urban feel.

Here are some highlights and lowlights from race day, separated into the first half and last half of the race.

  • Who needs to rest before an endurance event? I got somewhere around 3 hours of sleep the night before the race. I have no idea why I was so amped up, but I just couldn't sleep. And once I can't sleep, it all goes to hell. Worrying about waking up, about transportation, everything. And here I thought sleeping in my own bed the night before a 'thon would be a good thing. Nope. I'm like the Seinfeld marathoner, Jean Paul...
  • The Colleague and I slipped into Seattle Center the back way down 99 rather than dealing with the Mercer Street nightmare. Stress-free, cheap parking, and plenty of time to spare! A small miracle. I had a lot of time to walk toward the start, find the uncrowded port-o-johns, and start to plan my race. Local knowledge wins again.
  • Despite the fact that the Seattle Marathon organizers insist on sending all of the walkers and half marathon runners out right before the marathon runners, the start was pretty good. We were up to pace quickly and after a glimpse of The Colleague standing under the Monorail on 5th, I cruised through the first mile. A little fast as usual. In mile two I caught up with Owen the Tattoo Guy from Parlor F. Owen is a running machine who apparently just decided the day before the race that he should run a marathon this week. What the hell, right? We ran together for the next 13 miles or so, while he tried to talk me into running an Ultra Marathon this summer. By Owen's logic, if you can do 26.2 you can do 50. That's some sound reasoning right there.
  • Course Problem #1: The merge onto I-90 has two lanes separated by a concrete barrier. You go left, you are stuck left. Go right, you are stuck right. No signs and no volunteers to explain that every marathon walker is 1/4 mile ahead in the left lane? Awesome. Scene: runners coming up behind a mob of slow walkers on the first real hill of the course and jumping over the median to avoid them. Nice.
  • Running with Owen is its own reward for the pure entertainment of watching the crowd and other runners react to a guy in shorts and a tank top with tattoos covering most of his body. On the out-and-back sections we heard a lot of "Hey! There's the Tattoo Guy again! Go tattoo guy!!"
  • Course Problem #2: I know there isn't a good way around it, but running through the I-90 tunnel is miserable. It's incredibly loud and the air smells like exhaust even though the tunnel is closed for the race. I overheated like crazy in here and it is the part of the course where the walkers seem to want to stop and have coffee around the aid stations. Dodging walkers is great fun!
  • Running across the floating bridge could be cool, except for the dense fog that, after coming out of the oven in the tunnel, sucked every bit of heat I had right out of me.
  • A lot of really rich people live along Lake Washington, and many of them are NOT happy to have their road closed for an event like this. That's you, grumpy Asian guy. Thanks for stopping short of actually running anyone over to get out of your driveway.
  • To the woman chain smoking on the side of the course near Seward Park. $%k You! You know what runners love when they are sucking wind and trying to keep their pace halfway into a race? Cigarette smoke.
  • Praise for the Seattle Marathon: Aid stations every two miles through the whole race. Rather than having to memorize where they were from a map, I could just count on every odd mile having an aid station with water and Gatorade. Also, thank you for not having different energy drinks at each station based on sponsorship (Portland). I don't need to be switching from Gatorade to something else in the middle of a race.
  • The run around Seward Park was nice and reminded me of the halfway point of Vancouver through Stanley Park, only there wasn't a soul to be found at the 13.1 mile mark of this race. Isn't this a split? I at least want a kid with a "You're halfway there!" sign. Sheesh.
  • My half marathon split was right on my goal pace, but I knew the hardest part of the course was ahead of me, and I had no potential Colleague sightings until the finish.
  • Course Problem #3: Because the course leaves the city so quickly and spends so long on the Lake Washington side of town, it is impossible for spectators to get to multiple spots along the course. Portland has a similar problem, but even there someone on foot can get to 2 or 3 spots ahead of the runners. Vancouver is awesome for this. Seattle sucks. Sigh.
  • Let the beating begin! I like to think that Owen pulled away from me in the late teen miles, but I slowed down. My "even" effort was taking just as much energy but giving me less output. Still, I was around my goal pace and everything felt good. I was just dragging a little.
  • GU is gross. It tastes fine and everything, but once you are really working hard, it is hard to suck those things down for energy. I spent several miles telling my stomach to shut up about the torture, to little avail. During my complaining about this is when Owen told me that he ate 60 GUs during his 100 mile race this summer. 60? I had 4 during the 'thon and wanted to puke.
  • Climb! The Galer Street hill. Not so bad. For all of the worrying I did about this barrier, I pushed right through it. Slower than on the flats, to be sure, but solid.
  • Top of the Hill. Ouch. The climb wiped me out pretty good. It's mile 22 here, and I'm definitely, definitely tired. 22 is the limit of my long training runs, and anything after that is a crap shoot in terms of how my body will react. I still think it's weird that a the marathon people make the early miles so short and the late miles so friggin' long!
  • When the course dives into the Arboretum it should be time to start pressing for the finish. 4 miles to go! 4 measly little miles! Just suck it up. I got a little downhill spot and picked up my pace here.
  • And this is when the wheels come off. My left hamstring started to threaten to cramp so I changed my stride to keep it from locking up. But changing my stride has a ripple effect on the rest of my sorry, sorry, pathetic excuse for a runner's body. I kept the cramp from going completely postal on me, but I had to slow way down to do it.
  • Course Problem #4: The Arboretum is pretty. A narrow road winding through the trees above the city? Awesome! The problem? The pavement is NYC pothole bad. Asphalt on top of concrete on top of brick with some gravel and sand mixed in. Holes everywhere. So, add trail running awareness to this stretch of the course.
  • Back to the City! Coming down off of the hill and back toward downtown is a nice easy part of the course but I'm completely spent by mile 24. I get my glimpse of the finish line and decide between stopping at the pub right there on the corner or torturing myself for another 2.2 miles. I watch a few guys in front of me quit and sit down on the curb and decide that I don't really want to be one of them. So I keep going. Slowly.
  • Memorial Stadium. Done. Unlike my last two marathons, after the finish here there was no elation or happiness. In fact, I sort of lost consciousness for a minute or two after they took my chip and handed me a space blanket. The Colleague was hollering at me, apparently, but all I wanted to do was sit down and pass out.
  • Warm Bananas? Acupuncture? Are you kidding me? I was actually craving a banana and some water in the recovery area. But who serves WARM bananas? Actually heated up? And clam chowder? What?! I understand massage after a race, but acupuncture? What the hell? We bailed the "after party" as quickly as possible.
One day later and I feel ready to go for the next event. Stay tuned for Vancouver Marathon training plans! This time I won't be quite as embarrassed to be an American in Canada.

Thanks Barack!

(now fix my economy)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seattle Marathon Pre-Race Musings

Cut This!
We can get to the pre-marathon stuff in a minute. But how can I pass up commenting on the fecal matter that is hitting the spinning blades at The Learning Factory? First, some logic:
  1. Enrollments are at an all-time high and were projected to climb again next year as a large senior class graduates local high schools.
  2. With jobless claims at their highest levels in years, more people are going back to college to get trained how to analyze the poetry of T.S. Eliot (A valuable job skill. Shut up. What I do matters.)
  3. Answer: cut funding by 20%, reduce enrollments, and fire teachers. Seems about right.
I get that we are in for a lot of changes and cuts in the next few years. But I have no faith that our "leadership" will be able to guide any of this with an ounce of creativity or thoughtfulness. Nope. This is going to be Lord of the Flies, fiscal edition. The latest rumor is my favorite because I know exactly where it started and who propagated it (and for what purpose):

Did you know that our dean is planning to fire all of us and only rehire a few tenured instructors as part timers so she has complete hiring and firing authority without recourse? Did you know that? It's true. Mrs. Saved Seat heard it from Eastern Bloc Guy and Pear Shaped Woman told Horrifying Former Instructor. That makes it true. Good times ahead.

Where's that RIF list now?

If I don't hear about at least a 10% salary cut of Mr. President's salary pretty soon, I'll be a little upset. Sure, I'll overload my classes and volunteer my previously paid extra work. But not if I don't see some salary cuts in administration. Seriously. The cost of living in Kansas is not that high.

Oh and also? Thanks for trying to cut the funding for our trip to Kenya, you pricks. Too bad those tickets were non-refundable.

Ok. Now Back to the Running Content.
The Seattle Marathon is this Sunday. Yes it is. Which means this week is pretty much taken up by me sitting around wishing I could lace 'em up and go for a nice 12 miler to clear my head. Instead, I'm pretty much sitting at home with a head clogged full of race thoughts, questions, anxieties, and fears. Good times for everyone.

  1. The Pace. I am terrible at setting a reasonable pace and keeping it. I can't slow down for my long training runs and I'm worse in races. I need to come up with something that will keep me from trying to prove ANYTHING during this race. I did no speed work and I don't really have the mileage behind me to be pressing during this race. So I'm thinking I'll try to go out at an 8:00/mile pace and see what happens from there. That's the goal. But I have no idea how I'll hold myself to it. Chances are pretty good that I'll feel good enough to push and will end up with a few 7:30's in there, for which I will sheepishly apologize in my post-race report.
  2. The Course. I've been looking at the course maps to try to visualize different parts of the race. I've done the Seattle Half Marathon a couple of times, so I know the first 4 and last 4 miles of the course pretty well. The start heads south down 5th Avenue toward Pioneer Square. Two very fast miles here, mostly downhill. The goal here is to stay even and keep from pushing early. Then there is a big climb up onto I-90 in front of that stadium where the Mariners lose all the time. Once this climb is over, it's flat and downhill on I-90 itself, through the tunnel and out onto the bridge for the first of two out-and-back sections. Aside from a short, steep climb on the east side of the bridge before the turnaround, the course is flat and fast from mile 3 through 19. Out and back across the bridge, south to Seward Park, then north along Lake Washington before the killer climb. Galer Street. Galer Street. This hill haunts me. 200' in less than a mile before the course dumps into the Arboretum. If I can keep from blowing up in mile 20, everything will be fine. There is enough downhill and flat running left in miles 21-26 that I can suck it up and push for the finish. I think. I guess we'll find out if living on this damn hill has helped my climbing ability any! Oh, and for anyone who hasn't done this race before, the finish inside Memorial Stadium, despite its obvious appeal for race organizers, sucks. After 26 miles of pounding mostly concrete roads (yes, you can tell the difference between concrete and asphalt) the last stretch is on the field turf of the football field. Read: soft and spongy. With already tired legs this surface might as well be sand or mud. Sucks. I can't believe more people don't take massive face plants here.
  3. The (lack of) Support. Unlike Portland and Vancouver, which are both known for their fantastic support from locals, most of the Seattle course is a lonely, lonely place. Anyone care to volunteer to camp out on the hill at Galer Street and push me up? Shit. I will definitely be plugged into the Shuffle for this race.
  4. Weather. The forecast is good. Which is good and bad for me. The evil streak in me was sort of hoping it would be dumping rain and blowing 40 knots from the south so I could change my mind at the last minute and just run the half. Sunny and 50 degrees? Shit. Now I don't have that excuse anymore.
  5. I really don't know why I do this. I really don't. Running is stupid and no one should ever do it.
  6. Also? This race is doomed. Ultimately there is not enough local support for it and no one comes into town for a race that is usually wet, cold, and windy (and dark). It is just a little to close to the Portland Marathon for anyone to really do a turnaround from that race to this one, it has very little local financial or personal support (every year there are letters to the editor bitching about how the marathon closes roads in Seattle. Oh the inconvenience!), and it is very poorly organized and managed. I love the idea of a home-town race. Traveling and staying in hotels before marathons sucks. But I just don't think this one will last much longer, especially with the Rock-n-Roll Marathon moving into town in June.
It's 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday. By this time Sunday I should be somewhere around Galer Street cursing those damned Greek cities for being so far apart.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ten Things I (Think I) Know...

  1. Many of the brave patrons/clients/customers/students of the Learning Factory are really not cut out for the study of the liberal arts. Case in point: the student who asked me, through tobacco-stained teeth and from underneath the bill of his super-cool straight-billed baseball cap, if there was a way to get his English credits done without having to take English. Ummm. Here is a picture of said student and his study partners:
  2. My resolve for suffering through the Seattle Marathon if the weather turns ugly is pretty low. In fact, my resolve for leaving the house if they weather turns ugly is low. Hell, my resolve for suffering through the Seattle Marathon if it's 60 degrees and sunny is low. Maybe I'll just stay home and eat Ruffles.
  3. Ruffles are awesome.
  4. I could totally go for some Ruffles right now.
  5. The Colleague and I are officially headed to Kenya in June. Ticketed and ready. I'll start packing soon.
  6. Ending the training and tapering in anticipation of a race sucks. I am forcing myself to stick to short, easy runs this week to rest up for the Marathon next Sunday. But, as Cap'n Ron has pointed out a number of times, short runs suck. Here's why. My body has gotten used to runs that are almost all 7+ miles and the more I run the longer it takes to get warmed up and start feeling good during a run. Way back when my longest runs were 5 miles, it took a mile to warm up. Now it isn't until mile 3 or so that I really know how a run is going to go. So when I do little 4 milers like today, I am never get to settle in. I am headed back to the Shack before it really even feels like I'm running. Sucks. Also, getting dressed, and geared up and talking myself into running takes longer than the run itself. Lame. Yes, I am complaining.
  7. There's something wrong with the economy in this country. Has anyone else noticed this?
  8. A few of the potential cuts at The Learning Factory might be a good thing. Does anyone know what the woman in the office across the hall from The Colleague actually does aside from chatting all day with Death Bed Chain Smoker? Remember all those "high demand" stipends and hiring bonuses that the computer crowd got back in 2000? Anyone else notice that they don't actually have students anymore? Just sayin'. Also, it seems like Mr. President could give up a little for the cause. The cost of living in Kansas is pretty low. Also charge for parking.
  9. The girls know every word to every pop song on every radio station at every second of every day but they can't remember to put their shoes away.
  10. It's cold and dark outside and I want to go to Mexico.
  11. BONUS FACT: The Huskies are absolutely the worst football team I have ever watched. I think they might actually be more talented than the Cougar team that beat them this weekend in double overtime, but the Huskies' ability to find new ways to live down to their reputation is stunning. When they were leading by 10 points at halftime I knew they would lose. I just knew it. And I knew they would lose because of a ridiculously inept play at a crucial moment. It feels so good to be right! After they lose to Cal in two weeks I will have lived through 2 perfect seasons!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going Small, Going Long, and Going Abroad

Slowly Falling for a New Girl
I was already in love with the idea of her. Now I've seen her and it might be hopeless. The Colleague and I visited a 1977 Pacific SeaCraft 25 this week in Port Townsend. She is up on stands in the boatyard, dirty, neglected, and in need of a makeover and some new rags, but damn she's cute. Painfully cute. Wouldn't she look even better with us in the cockpit? I think so.

This is the sort of boat you can truly love.

A 25 foot boat that can cross oceans? A cutter rigged, full-keeled, stoutly built cruiser? A fun day-sailer that we can take up the Inside Passage? Hard not to fall for her.

The Dreams are Starting Early
I have pre-marathon dreams that don't quite count as nightmares but are certainly not what a therapist would call "positive visualization." Usually they involve either arriving at the race late or losing my way on the course, or both. Last night the "course" was weaving in and out of buildings and was riddled with obstacles and puzzles to solve. In the dream, every time I got up to pace I had to stop or turn around. I was always on my Boston Qualifying pace too, until something popped up and slowed me down.

So today I tried to scare off some of that anxiety by studying the route and elevation profiles for the Seattle Marathon. That didn't help. A mile long 300 foot climb at mile 20? WTF?

Do I Really Have to Eat Meat Again?
It's official. The Colleague and I are headed for Kenya in June to research and organize a short term study abroad program for The Factory. Seems that in addition to learning a handful of Swahili phrases, I might have to learn to choke down meat again. I don't want to offend The Colleague's ex-boyfriend's wife when she serves up some sort of dead animal. You know?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Things That are Long

Fresh off the first of three long runs in preparation for the Seattle Marathon at the end of the month, I thought I would offer up a little run report and some thoughts on things loosely related to such pursuits.

RUNNING IS HARD (Especially When You Do it Wrong)
It's true. Sorry. While most of the running we do isn't hard (it's just tiring) there is a point in long runs where the very act of running three more steps is the hardest thing your body can imagine doing. I made the mistake of choosing a route that would give me a chance to climb some hills in the late miles of my planned 20-miler. The "logic" of the choice? Well, the Seattle Marathon has a hill late in the race, I should see what I can do with that. Moron. Am I the worst in the world at training the way I know I should train? Why didn't I stick with my original plan of running a one-way flat route along the Burke Gilman? The ONLY thing a long run is supposed to do is built endurance. That's it. Run slow and run long. Pace doesn't matter and neither does elevation. Run the track for speed, hills for hills, and long for long. Moron.

Here, for your entertainment, is the elevation profile of the run. Note what happens at mile 10. Then note miles 16-18. That's called "Simonds Road," where marathon dreams go to die...

It's cold out. Right? Not really. It's in the mid 50s, windy, with a chance of rain. So why do I dress like I'm going to be standing on the sidelines of a youth soccer game instead of dressing like I'm going to be exerting myself for 3 hours? Because, in addition to being a moron (see above) I'm also a dumbass. I came very, very close to tossing my brand new Nike running shell around mile 8, hoping maybe it would still be there later when I came back for it. One plus: if a test of your hydration level is how much you are sweating, I can tell you with confidence that I was indeed hydrated.

To do any endurance sport (or, I imagine, to survive any sort of imprisonment) you have to be able to hold some pretty interesting conversations with yourself. Here are some things I've tried. None of them work.
  1. Counting steps. I read about some famous marathoner counting the number of steps she took in a single mile and then trying to do the next mile in fewer steps. According to her, the "miles just fly by!" Bullshit. I lost interest and count at about 200.
  2. Memorizing split times. When I first started running this was one of my standard mind tricks. But then I was only running 5 miles now, wasn't I? On this last run I started memorizing splits after mile 3, but I kept missing my miles and forgetting where I was, so it just pissed me off.
  3. Mantras. At the Vancouver Marathon I was focused on conserving energy as much as I could in the early miles. Don't dodge too many people, don't get off track, don't overuse your arms, etc. I also had to remind myself not to pound my feet. It actually worked for a while to say "glide, glide, glide" as I ran, but let's face it, that sort of thing isn't sustainable for more than a mile or so.
  4. Thinking About Baseball. Wait, that's a different blog...
  5. Money. Not real money or real money issues. Sure, I could spend my running time thinking about the Shack budget, but I just don't think that would have much of a motivating or distracting effect. Long runs are the only time I play the "what would you do with x million dollars" game. It's a really complex one to figure out, especially if you happen to be running along the lake, past the waterfront homes and private moorings. I usually go with "that house, new boat" or something like that.
  6. Delusions of Grandeur. I'll be honest, this one works, but only for a short term. Sorta like an energy drink or shot of espresso. Imagining the emotion and energy of finishing a race can be a nice 2 mile distraction. You can picture the clock, feel the elation of finishing, imagine the relief of crossing the timing mats, and puking on the volunteer removing your chip. Ahhh bliss.
I'm officially torn on the music thing. I like listening to my iPod when I run, but invariably a few different things happen. One, an inane pop song sneaks its way on there and bores itself into my brain never to be extracted. Two, I forget to charge it completely and lose power halfway through a run. Three, I get annoyed by the earphones or the cord or the little clip on my waistband and (often due to the cumulative effect of all three) want to pitch the damn thing into the river/lake/drainage ditch/garbage dumpster.

I do have a theory that I need to keep testing with this. Music seems to be the most memorable or apparent in the first 8 miles or so. Beyond that your brain is starting its slow descent into the fog of high mileage and even if the music is playing, you aren't going to really hear it.

All that said, it was a little moment of bliss when my Shuffle dialed up back-to-back Pearl Jam songs. "Alive" from back in the day, followed by their cover of The Who's "Love, Reign Over Me." The Who cover is fantastic, and I have a new appreciation for the percussion on that song after a recent night out with The Colleague. Seriously. Listen to the percussion. Go on. Do it.

Premise: Recently divorced liberal 30-Something keeps his house but spends all of his time down the street at his conservative friend's house because conservative friend is blindly loyal and supportive. Divorced liberal 30-Something only uses his own house as a place to store his kids' stuff and to host his trailer park girlfriend on the "down low." Conservative friend is a giant macho asshole who drives an impossibly big truck and treats women like shit. Still, liberal friend overlooks these character flaws in exchange for above-mentioned blind loyalty and access to dude culture.

Wait. That's not funny. Never mind.

I tried. I really did. I don't know how people do this. How are you really supposed to immerse yourself in an ice bath for anything more than a few seconds? This CAN'T be good for you. No way. Or maybe I'm missing something.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again here: Sushi is the premier post-run food. A lot of easily digested protein wrapped in a little carbohydrate bomb, washed down with a Japanese beer? Heaven.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Last week I set out for a nice little 5 miler in the wind and rain. Here are the splits:

1. 8:02
2. 8:02
3. 8:03
4. 8:02
5. 8:00

On my 5 miler today I put my watch in my pocket and turned off my iPod after deciding to run "unplugged." Here are the splits:

1. 8:03
2. 8:02
3. 8:02
4: 7:59
5: 8:20

Have I found my Seattle Marathon pace? This has to be fate, right?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ahhh Crap


1. How many easily accessible bathrooms are there on this running route:

2. How many of them did GVB visit on today's 8 miler?
3. How many of them did GVB almost not make it to?
4. Which ones were either locked or ransacked of all paper products?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Title Hypocrisy and Musings Thereon

SailRun ____Ride
Yesterday I met up with former Frat House Acquaintance for an 8 mile run. I hadn't seen FHA since I moved away from Greek Row in favor of Upcountry Maui way back when such a move seemed like a reasonable thing to do. It was great to catch up and try to chat while pushing a 7:30 pace, and as usually happens, we found that we had many of the same interests and experiences over the past 15 years. It was when we were sharing tales of sketchy alpine climbs, huge lead falls, and crazy aid routes in the North Cascades that I realized I might need to shave the "Climb" part out of SailRunClimbRide.

Or I could go climbing. Cap'n? You listening? I'm thinking something like this, for openers.

I don't want to be called a liar.

It was cool to talk about some of the classics and remember the broken bones, scraped knuckles, Ramen diets, 30 foot falls, sketchy aid gear, and near fatal rappelling accidents, but I will say that in telling the tale of Buck almost rapping off the end of the rope 300 feet off the deck in Leavenworth sped my heart up a bit.

Question: Is it really possible to be a responsible partner, professional, father and have any sort of climbing aspirations?

Running Content
I wimped out on my long route today once the thunderstorms and rain hit. I was planning at least 14 but hoping for 20. Instead I did 7. I know. I know. Lame.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Touch Me

The Colleague is taking a stand against gadgets. I support that move for her. There is no way she could support both an iPod AND Facebook addiction at the same time.

But I can't help loving my new iPod Touch. All of my music, videos, WiFi, maps, photos, and my Outlook calendar in one place? AND it is completely intuitive to use? Yes please.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Best Thing to Happen in Husky Stadium All Year

Race Report
Made my way down to good old Husky Stadium this morning for the Dawg Dash 10k. After meeting at RPD's pad, The Colleague, RPD and I walked the mile or so down to the stadium for the start. Here, in the traditional Race Report format, are 10 things about the 10Ks:
  1. It doesn't feel great anymore to be down on the field in Husky Stadium. I know it makes me sound like I'm living in the past and all (and I'll admit it does make me feel old) but what a different place Montlake was BACK IN THE DAY when the football team was at least competitive. I don't even really need to go back to the early 1990s when we would go to the stadium KNOWING the Huskies couldn't lose. I would be happy to go back to the days when there was always at least a chance they would compete. I'm happy Willingham isn't recruiting from the Walla Walla State Penitentiary, but if Stanford can stay competitive with "quality guys," why can't UW?
  2. On a related note, Husky Stadium is flat out falling apart. It really is a disaster. I can't help but think that Northwest recruits compare Husky Stadium to Autzen Stadium and say, "I think I'll go play for Nike U..." I know the renovation plans are pretty much scrapped thanks to the same folks who sent the Sonics to Oklahoma, but can we get something going on here?
  3. I haven't run the Dawg Dash since BACK IN THE DAY when I was a scrawny little undergraduate English major, and my memory of that "race" is just as fuzzy as the rest of my college life, so I did some reading about this course beforehand. I was a little worried given all of the whining and complaining about the "hilly" course and the "steep, long climbs" across the UW campus. I'm not sure I understand what those bloggers were talking about. The first 2 miles are dead flat, leaving the stadium to the east and working out past the Crew House and around the stadium parking lot. After crossing Montlake near Hec Ed Pavilion, the course picks up the Burke Gilman northbound for a while before turning up hill toward the dorms and heading back south toward Rainier Vista. From there the course winds around through campus and back down to the stadium for the finish. Sure, it climbs up to the top of campus, but there isn't anything that really smacks you in the face. AND, you get to finish with 2 miles or so of flat or downhill running. I liked the course a lot, actually.
  4. PR. Not that I have an extensive set of 10k number to compare against, but today was actually a 10k personal record for me at 41:46, which is a 6:44 pace or so. If I were to run this one again next week I could probably find another 47 seconds or so to shave off of there, but I was running pretty hard. If I really knew the course (and wasn't so worried about all the hills people complained about) I would have pushed a little more on the first uphill section through campus. Still, let's call it a PR and move on. Happy with that.
  5. I don't mind if you want to run with your dog, and I know this race encourages dogs to "dash" with the runners, but isn't there a rule out there somewhere among dog owners about leash length? I think a 10 foot lead is a little excessive, and I don't love the idea of getting that strip of nylon wrapped around my ankles when I'm running at full speed.
  6. RPD commented after the race about a runner who decided to orbit him like a moon as he ran. She would pass him and cut him off and slow down and pass him again, circling him as he ran along. I didn't have that experience, but several times I had people running right off my left heel, not to the side of me, not behind me, but overlapped with me in my blind spot. What the hell? Back off, man.
  7. Shirt Rules Revisited. I covered this a year ago, but let's repeat it here. You get a race shirt before the race. This shirt is not to be worn during the race. Nor is last year's shirt from the same race. Nor, frankly is the shirt you got at the most recent marathon you ran. Souvenir race shirts are for training, wearing to the gym, or painting the living room. Technical souvenir shirts are for training. Not racing. I don't know why this is the rule, it just is. Anyone under 15 exempted from this rule.
  8. Stairs. I spent enough academic terms wandering around the UW campus to know how to get from Building A to Building B. So I KNOW there are ways to get around without stairs. Why on earth would you build a race route with stairs in it?
  9. Music. This is the 5th race I have done without any headphones on, and I'm starting to like it. Especially on shorter distances, I'd rather go without. Just sayin'. Also, if I can hear your speed metal clearly as I pass you in mile 1 (why did you line up with the 6 minute pace group again?) you are a problem to everyone around you. Also, they still produce speed metal?
  10. Goody Bags. They just keep getting worse. But as I started to mock and pass by the offer a toothbrushes and toothpaste, I remembered the last time I had to pay $3.00 for a toothbrush and went back and filled my bag with the free ones.
Back to dreading the Seattle Marathon. And watching the Seattle sports scene crumble into the sea before our very eyes. Do I have to become one of those annoying fans who lives in one city but adopts a more perennially interesting contender from another city? (Red Sox "Nation" I'm looking at you.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


On why Barack Obama’s links to William Ayers are relevant in the campaign:

PALIN: It is pertinent, it's important because when you consider Barack Obama's reaction to and explanation to his association there, and without him being clear at all on what he knew and when he knew it, that I think kinda peeks into his ability to tell us the truth on, not only on association but perhaps other things also. So, it's relevant, I believe, and I brought it up in response to the New York Times article having been printed recently, and I think it just makes us ask the question that, if there's not forthrightness there, with that association and what was known and when it was known, does that lead us to ask, is there forthrightness with the plans Barack Obama has or say tax cuts, or spending increases, makes us question judgment. And I think it's fair and relevant.


Now NYC has two MORE of my favorite things. But only temporarily. Safe travels ladies.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Getting Nothing Done, Much?

I know, I'll set aside some time this weekend to get some work done on my online classes. Or...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Grade This!

To all of the teachers in the audience, I would like to present you with the following assessment sample. Please let me know what grade this student should get, and what comments are warranted, if any.

Question One: Explain why the following sentence is grammatically or logically flawed, and offer a revision to the sentence which does not alter the meaning significantly.
“There is no way the soldier could of known there was a bomb in the vehicle.”

Answer: I don’t really want to get into a question like this. It is too nuanced and frankly seems like an unfair question. Car bombs are not really related to grammar issues and I want to talk about how the rest of the class sometimes says things that don't sound like proper grammar to me. That guy in the front row said "irregardless" the other day and I know everyone heard it and I can't believe no one is pointing that out now.

Question Two: Who is the better contemporary author, Sherman Alexie or Nicholas Sparks, and why?

Answer: I know it isn’t the answer you are looking for, but I’m going to go back to the car bomb question here and just point out that you are asking questions about things that I don’t think my classmates really want to focus on. I’m new to this whole school thing, and I tell you what, when I sat down with the former dean of this department and asked him how to succeed here I was pretty sure that my classmates would join me in my battle against these written tests. You know where I’m from we don’t have to do any writing like this. We just sit down and we do things and we make stuff. That’s what this test isn’t asking me. So I respectfully disagree with ya on that one.

Question Three: Name three of the key elements of the modern short story and give examples from your reading.

Answer: Last quarter the guy I sat next to in my Sociology class said that he liked that film “No Country for Old Men” and I have to tell you its things like that that make me just so mad I could spit. I mean that movie is violent and bloody and sends the message that people can just walk across our border. And if that is what my classmates think, I have to disagree. He actually said that. He did.

Question Four: Write a short analysis of Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry,” which can be found in your text.

Answer: I’m not interested in what the textbook publishers have to say or what they decide should be put in my textbooks. Maybe this just shows that I’m not from here, but one thing I have tried to do is meet with people and get down to brass tacks on main street and ask my friends what they think and I listen. I really do listen and I haven’t heard anything from any of my classmates, or from the college, about how we are going to break free of this written word and proper English regime we’re in. I just like to do things a little differently, and I can’t believe that you aren’t asking me the questions I want to answer. Why aren’t you asking about my classmates’ answers? Focusing on my answer makes it seem like you are just out to get me. Let me tell you why this guy sitting next to me has the wrong answer. He read this poem seven years ago and is still answering the question the same way. How can the poem be about one thing 7 years ago and another thing now? It just doesn’t make sense. But maybe I’m just so new to this class that my approach is a little different.

Question Five: Looking back on this academic term and reflecting on your own learning, what would you say is the most important lesson you have taken from this class?

Answer: There’s so many things, you know, that I think my classmates didn’t learn along the way. And keep in mind that most of them have been at this college for a lot longer than I have. Where I’m from and where I learned about life it was different and people have to understand that I bring that difference and I wear it on my sleeve and that’s not going to make people happy. But again, my classmates have missed questions on every test they’ve taken along the way. There’s a long record of their errors. They should be held accountable for their lack of understanding and their failed attempts at perfection before they start pointing out lies about me. This is the first test I’ve taken so technically my record is perfect and I can’t believe that isn’t what you are looking at. It’s simple and it’s true. I’m convinced that my grade will be the highest in class and not only that, but I’m convinced that my classmates have a long record of just saying the right things to the right people at the right time so that they could “make it” at this elite school.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Thoughts UPDATED TUE 2:12 P.M.

In what is becoming something of a tradition, I am happy to offer you a Blog Grab Bag today. We'll try to touch on a little of everything here.

  • UPDATE: The Colleague's vision has changed in the last 2 years. In one eye. There is some debate about the value in getting new lenses. Stay tuned.
  • Please Don't Kill Me. It would be just my luck to finally get my life together and have some student shoot me in the back for wronging him...My first officially psycho student of the year graced the doorway of my office yesterday. This is the sort of greasy misunderstood almost fat kid who is very likely to have a list of people who have wronged him. I think I made that list when I declined his offer to read his 700 page fantasy novel that he wrote in high school. I'm making myself feel better by presuming he doesn't have access to actual weapons. If you find a murdered kitten on campus, it is probably for me.
  • Update: Math Dude Freeze Out. After three actual face to face encounters in the early days of the academic term, still not a word from Math Dude. I must have really done something wrong. Can't wait to find out what it is.
  • Poems are Cool. Yes They Are. Try this one.

    My Life
    Joe Wenderoth

    Somehow it got into my room.
    I found it, and it was, naturally, trapped.
    It was nothing more than a frightened animal.
    Since than I raised it up.
    I kept it for myself, kept it in my room,
    kept it for its own good.
    I named the animal, My Life.
    I found food for it and fed it with my bare hands.
    I let it into my bed, let it breathe in my sleep.
    And the animal, in my love, my constant care,
    grew up to be strong, and capable of many clever tricks.
    One day, quite recently,
    I was running my hand over the animal's side
    and I came to understand
    that it could very easily kill me.
    I realized, further, that it would kill me.
    This is why it exists, why I raised it.
    Since then I have not known what to do.
    I stopped feeding it,
    only to find that its growth
    has nothing to do with food.
    I stopped cleaning it
    and found that it cleans itself.
    I stopped singing it to sleep
    and found that it falls asleep faster without my song.
    I don't know what to do.
    I no longer make My Life do tricks.
    I leave the animal alone
    and, for now, it leaves me alone, too.
    I have nothing to say, nothing to do.
    Between My Life and me,
    a silence is coming.
    Together, we will not get through this.

  • Cankles. How does this happen? Just a question motivated by seeing my children's mother in capris. Speaking of capris.
  • Name That Factory Worker. Spotted on campus on an 80 degree fall day in black wool capris (Where on earth are these even sold? Wool is a winter fabric. Capris are a summer style. If this happened on Project Runway Micheal Kors would come unglued) AND a black sweater?
  • Pull the Trigger! Is it possible that RPD finally decided to purchase one of the 47 bikes he has tested over the last 2 weeks? Say it ain't so! I've got a wager on this one.
  • Get a Spine. Word on the street is that Al B is recovering nicely from having his spine removed.
  • Fall Cleaning. No confirmation of the rumor that Cap'n Ron might be down to fewer than 5 motorcycles in his garage. Of course, Cap'n was last spotted in Spokane purchasing a new 2-wheeler, so who knows what is really happening.
  • Etiquette Question. Is it ok to be a little entertained when your ex gets dumped? Just a little? I know it's ok to be entertained when your partner's ex gets dumped, but this is some gray area I could use some help with.
  • Fuji-me. After a nice 40 mile day on Sunday with AW and Factory Worker C, I'm feelin' the Fuji again. Going fast on skinny tires kicks ass.
  • Raise Your Hand. If you think Tina Fey makes a better Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin does.
  • I'm a Partisan Hack. Of course I would likely be voting for any reasonable candidate the donkeys put forward this time around, but I think I still get to be critical of people who are blindly voting for McCain/Palin because they are the elephant ticket. I mean, seriously? Those two are a disaster. Also, I have to stop reading the "Sound Off" political blogs. It makes me weep.
  • Twenty Six Point Two. I don't particularly want to run the Seattle Marathon. So that's awesome.
Well, that's about all I really have for now. I know, exciting stuff. Shut up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Adventures in Corporate Phone Trees. Or, Why I Hate Maytag

"Thank you for calling the Maytag Customer Experience..."

This is how you are greeted when you dial 1-800-688-9900, the toll-free number printed on all of our new Maytag appliances. And since pushing buttons is so 1998, this computerized experience asks that you speak your preferences at each prompt.

"Are you calling about a Maytag air conditioner or dehumidifier? Please say 'yes' or 'no'."

I've called this number 6 times this week trying to get our dishwasher repaired. The last time I called I timed how long it took to get through the prompts to the inevitable result (it turns out my request requires an actual person to talk to me.) 4 minute 35 seconds. And this is without any mis-understood responses.

"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Could you repeat your answer?"


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Could you repeat your answer?"

Backstory: The Shack had perfectly functional appliances, but they were ugly. So, being good suburban consumers, the Colleague and I bought a whole new set of appliances. We even bought them a month in advance of needing them and scheduled our delivery for the move-in day at The Shack. Smart! Thoughtful!

Problem #1: At the tail end of the Southwest road trip, as we were driving away from Hood River, OR I get a phone call from the Maytag delivery guy informing us that our new gas range was backordered, so our new deliver date was 2 weeks later. Ummm. What? One of the six pieces we ordered was oversold, so we get none of them? Wrong.

Solution #1: The Colleague spends the better part of an hour on the phone yelling at various people who don't seem to care that we have four kids and no appliances in our house. Finally, sympathetic salesman manages to upgrade the range to one that is in stock. Still, our new delivery date is a week late. Nice. Such questions as "Who can I talk to about this mixup?" and "Whose fault is this?" are answered with silence.

Problem #2: When the Mexicans bring the appliances they refuse to hook up the range because it is a "slide in" versus a freestanding unit.

Solution #2: Whatever. Fine. I can do it.

Problem #3: "Um. We no can install the dishwasher because something is not work."

Solution #3: Order a NEW dishwasher with a new delivery date a week later. I suggest that perhaps the store who sold this stuff to me over a month prior might see it as reasonable to replace the dishwasher that day. No. No. The dishwashers aren't here. They're in another state and have to be shipped here when they are ordered. Right. That makes perfect sense. The delivery service claims helplessness. There is nothing they can do. It's the system.

Problem #4: New dishwasher is delivered, but the Mexicans don't know how to work it so when they are testing it, it floods my kitchen. Awesome.

Solution #4: I point out that they have overwhelmed the drain pump by starting and stopping a wash cycle without letting the unit reset. Ahhhhh. Now it works.

Which brings us to Problem #5: While The Colleague is finishing up her 3-Day Save the Boobs walk, I make one last effort at cleaning up the shack before heading out to meet her at the finish. Load dishwasher. Push start. Leave house. The Colleague comes home, eats something, checks the dishwasher to see if it is clean or dirty, adds her plate, and pushes start. Um. Those are clean, I say. No they aren't, she says. Ummm. The damn thing is running dry. Awesome.

Solution #5: Warranty repair to the rescue!

I bravely navigate the phone tree, from "Welcome to the Maytag Customer Experience" to "Please hold while I connect you to an agent who can further assist you" and am introduced to James, a helpful lad who steals a prime next-day service appointment for me. I block out the hours of 8-12 and am assured the service provider will call 30 minutes prior to arrival.

At 11:45 I start to think maybe they aren't coming. So I dive into the phone tree again. There is no obvious way to jump the tree, by the way, and if you try to answer a question before the disembodied voice finishes asking it, you get kicked out to the front of the list. Awesome system.

I am informed by Jennifer (Operator #38692, in case you want to talk to her) that my appointment is schedule not for THIS Tuesday, but 2 weeks out. No, I say, James scheduled me for today. Well, if so, it's been changed, because you are all set up for 2 weeks from now, she says. The next thread of words from my mouth weren't received well by Operator #38692 and the call ended with a new appointment for Saturday. Not ideal. There is a kid's soccer game that day and I have other plans, but let's get this thing fixed. 8-12 it is. Saturday.

At 11:30 on Saturday I have missed a soccer game and still have to wash Cheerio bowls by hand. I call the Maytag Customer Experience one more time.

"Well Mr. GVB we show that there are three appointments still ahead of you."

"So, 8-12 means what again? Are you in a different time zone than me? Is Maytag based in Hawaii?"

"He'll call when he's 30 minutes away. Thank you for calling the Maytag Customer Experience."

At 1:45 I have to leave the house to deliver kids to their Beading Customer Experience so I call to make sure I won't miss my mystery date.

"Well, you're scheduled from 1-5, so it could be anytime between now and then."

"Noooo. I was scheduled for 8-12."

"Well then someone changed it, because I only show the one appointment."

"You have to be fucking kidding me with this shit."

"Is there anything else I can do for you today sir?"

"The phrase 'anything ELSE' implies that you have done anything at all for me. Which you haven't."

"Thank you for calling the Maytag Customer Experience."

So here is what I have learned about buying appliances. You don't buy them from a store. We chose Big Box Store A because they had a good rebate deal going and the guy we talked to was nice. But we could have bought them from anywhere. The store doesn't stock anything, deliver anything, fix anything, or take responsibility for anything. Nor does Maytag deliver anything or stock anything. They sure as hell don't fix anything. The people they sent out to repair the dishwasher could be sent by any of the local Big Box stores. So when Super Nice Guy Repairman is in my kitchen, I can't really take my anger out on him, can I?

So I suck it up, turn on a football game, open the last summer ale in the fridge and sigh. I really just want a functional dishwasher.

Notre Dame lost to Michigan State, by the way. So there's that upside to the day.

Oh, I almost forgot. Super Nice Guy Repairman couldn't fix the dishwasher. The new float switch is being sent to The Shack overnight express and I have an appointment on Thursday from 1-5 to have it installed. I'm not optimistic that this will happen.

I have dishpan hands, and no Palmolive in sight.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Factory Preview 2008-2009, Now With More Rumors!

Here is your long awaited preview of the 2008-2009 season at the Learning Factory, complete with odds. As always, these predictions are for entertainment purposes only. Please, no wagering.

The Sure Things:
  • The Pear-Shaped Meltdown. Now I realize that in the pre-season, the Pear Shaped Woman has been running a new offense that looks pretty good, but the smart money is on the same old results this season as last. The happy, cooperative demeanor of Week One will quickly turn sour in a Week Seven matchup with The Colleague at a department meeting. The smart play here is to avoid this wager entirely. That said, if you want to score big on one bet this year, I'm pretty sure you can find someone to give you 10-1 odds or better on the Pear Shaped Woman finishing the season with a positive record.
  • Size XL Sweaters. We've already seen some bulking up for the new season, and all reports indicate that we will see a move from the Large mock neck sweaters to X-Large. This is a safe money bet and might make a good parlay with one of the following wagers...
  • Math Dude Freeze Out. Place your money on complete radio silence and eye-contact avoidance between Math Dude and GVB for the duration of fall quarter. Pre-season observations indicate a complete avoidance strategy on the part of the Math Dude.
  • Part Time Faculty Relapse. In some books this wager is tied to the Pear Shaped Meltdown, which makes it a strong parlay option. Despite a very positive response to the pre-season, the inevitable downturn of winter and spring will leave many part timers disgruntled and angry, and at least one will become verbally abusive over his schedule. Too verbally abusive.
  • The Hyperbole Season. Remember last year's classic hyperbole season? The hits just kept on coming. "There are literally dozens of faculty who could teach that literature class" and "The Accreditation Team will look at our department and see how dysfunctional we are!" Well, this year promises to be even more exciting in the overstatement department. Expect several references to the "way it used to be" and dire predictions about the future of education (linked most often to the evils of online education). The smart money is on even more hyperbole this year than last, if you can believe it.
The Long Shots
  • The Replacements. Over-Caffeinated Vice President fired and replaced with internal candidate: 10-1
  • The Break Up. The rumors of the demise of the Factory's most scandalous relationship will lead to the actual breakup. 1000-1.
  • The Miracle of Life. Will the Colleague and GVB bring new life into the world this year? Insider information could help you on this wager, but the long odds should be enough to stay away from this bet (but just think about what a $10 bet could bring in on this one!) 1,000,000-1.
  • Kansas Rocks! President actually takes his stash of petty cash from under his mattress and moves his increasingly ineffective management style to Kansas. 10-1
Thanks for playing. It should prove to be a very exciting year at the Factory...don't make me come collect my money in person from last year's wagers. You know who you are, and it's hard to use that nice new iPod touch with broken fingers. Just sayin'

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My Neighborhood Wants Me Dead

Either living on top of this hill will kill me or I'll finally learn how to run hills.

The map above is an example of the sort of route I have to run to keep from climbing any of the truly big hills in the new 'hood, Even with this I only got 4.5 miles in AND I climbed 1300 feet.

Still there are perks, such as this view from the end of our street:

Other potential murderous factors:
  • Neighbor X. Timed incorrectly, and the run up the hill is a hit and run situation just waiting to happen.
  • Narrow shoulders. No, not mine...but many of the roads I need to get off this peak and onto the more reasonable routes around us are basically two lanes for traffic, a fog line, and a 10 foot deep drainage ditch.
  • Bothell Way, shown below on its best day:

  • Republicans. You have to go one block over, but once the houses get a little more expensive, the Obama signs disappear and the McCain signs go up.
  • The Burke-Gilman Trail, which is an amazing use of a rail corridor that I really wish we actually still had for rail (I know, I know, public transportation is for losers). I have seen enough bad collisions on the BG over the last 3 years that I don't even let the kids ride their bikes on it. It's safer to ride on Bothell Way (see above). Seriously people...slow the f down.
  • This is future tense since I've never lived on this mountain in the winter, but I am sure the snow and ice will be a wonderful addition.
Still I'm optimistic. So far the legs and lungs have held out, and we'll get to see how the hills pay off in the next race: The Dawg Dash 10k on October 12th. Speaking of which, this is the cover photo on all of the promotional materials for the race:

Ummmm. Who picked this? Let's start with #3250. He looks like a runner at least, but what's with that face? We all make stupid faces when we run, and the camera is good at capturing them, but don't you see that right away and keep sorting through the stack to get a better shot? And what about the frontrunner? He looks like he is stalking his next slashing victim. Yikes. I'm not sure I want to follow that guy on Twitter...but you can follow me now. Yes you can...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Squirrel on a Bass Drum and other Tales

I'm Sure this Happens to Every Band Director
During The Colleague's birthday throwdown at the Casa de Playa, the Youngest Colleague Brother regaled us with what has to be the best "first day of school" story any teacher has ever witnessed and told. Now there is no way to capture the storytelling abilities of said Youngest Brother, so I will just tell you the following details and allow you to write your own tale. Note: details are in random order:
  • Youngest Colleague Brother is band director at local (elite) high school
  • Over the summer, a family of squirrels made a home in the ceiling of the band room
  • Young special needs student takes giant poop on hallway floor
  • Squirrel falls from ceiling onto bass drum
  • Vietnamese custodian vomits ONTO pile of poop on hallway floor
  • Crafty students use sousophones to build squirrel maze
  • Band director decides this is the best day of school ever

The Beach Report
The above-mentioned birthday bash for The Colleague has come and gone. Friends and family gathered at the beach for a last little taste of summer. There was no pomp. Little circumstance. There was quite a bit of snoring and a few skinned knees. When it was all said and done, The Colleague was officially 40 years of age and Supervan was loaded up with 15 bags of empty bottles. I hope you feel welcomed into your second 40 years, Colleague. There was a lot of love on that beach.

The Swarm
I love the warm weather and all, but the sooner we can get a nice hard freeze overnight to kill whatever damn bugs have hatched along the Burke Gilman trail, the better. There I am, cruising along the trail at a nice 8:30 pace when the swarm descended upon me. Little tiny fuckers that flew up my nose, into my mouth, into my ears, behind my Oakleys. It was heinous.

I found that when running west, into the sun, I could see the little swarms coming and sort of dodge them (when the trail wasn't blocked by teams of Super Lycra Dudes power commuting from Redmond to Seattle on their $3,000 bikes). But running east I only knew they were there because they were getting in my teeth.

The protein packed bugs in question are tiny, like little gnats or miniature mosquitoes, and the swarms of them are huge, maybe 20 feet across.

Anyone know the story with these things? I don't remember them from last fall but surely they are a regular phenomena on the old BG Trail. Whatever they are, they turned what was going to be a 9-10 miler on the trail (read: easy on the calves and feet) into a 6 mile loop back up into the Kenmore Summit, where the hills are steep and at least one neighbor wants me dead. Good times.

Coming Soon...
I have been back to the Learnin' Factory a few times in preparation for the start of the school year and it seems like I'm going to have to write my annual Learnin' Factory Prediction Post soon. It shouldn't be hard...not much has changed.

People really think these things matter, don't they? Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

On Training and Planning

I snuck out for a quick 5 mile run last night to loosen the legs up after the SJJ Half Marathon and found myself thinking along the way about training plans and theories.

I have read a lot of articles blog entries about mileage, pace, nutrition, rest, never ends. To follow any of the plans that are out there, one pretty much has to forget about any other elements of life. And when you read the fine print on these plans, you quickly learn that no one really knows anything. I mean, sure we know more about heart rate, muscle recovery, and the other scientific elements of how the body works under certain conditions, but let me ask you these questions:
  1. How many long runs should one do in the lead up to a marathon?
  2. How long should the longest run before a marathon be?
  3. At what pace should one run his or her long runs?
  4. How much speedwork should a runner do in preparation for a marathon?
Everyone has an opinion on these things, but no one agrees. And all of the expert coaches seem to concede that their plans work for some people and not others. AND all of the expert coaches seem to agree that some people are just plain better suited to marathon running than others.

(It is probably no accident that everyone I ever climbed with has also run marathons, and having given up vertical climbing at altitude, many are now ultra runners...)

Not to discount the training programs and coaches - if I could afford one and had the sort of lifestyle that allowed me a strict schedule, I'd probably opt to have a training coach myself - but I have decided that training really just boils down to one thing:


Run short. Run long. Run fast. Run slow. Run on trails. Run on streets. Run with friends. Run to the store. Run home from work. Run from the cops. Run on the track. Run around the house with the kids.

I only put this out there because I tried yesterday to add some training plans to the Family Calendar and couldn't. My official training plan for the Seattle Marathon is as follows (comments welcome):
  • Average at least 40 miles per week between now and November 20th
  • Complete at least 4 runs of 20+ miles
  • Complete one run of 22 miles
  • Throw in some speedwork at the track when possible
  • Use the bike/trainer to keep lose on rest days
  • Get down to my goal race weight (165 pounds) by November 15th
  • No run longer than 3 miles during my 1 week taper
  • Change the playlist on my iPod. Good lord...
  • Use the word "fartlek" whenever possible
  • Show up on November 30th and run like hell for 26.2 miles
No calendar. No strict plan. Run when I can. If I get to the end of a week and I need 4 miles to get to 40, I'll run 4. If I need 14, I'll run 14.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I think the thing I enjoy most about visiting my kids' school is that it exposes me to the best and brightest adults around. Everyone in the town their mother chooses to live in is in shape, articulate, well-read, open-minded, educated, and progressive.

Wait. It's the opposite of that.

Today was my son's first day of kindergarten, and I got the pleasure of accompanying him. So we went to the classroom and found his little seat. We filled out a questionnaire together (his favorite food is hot dogs, in case you were wondering, and he is no longer afraid of the Mariner Moose). We introduced ourselves to the other kids and their moms (I was the only dad to be found in the building, of course). Then the kids went to recess and the moms and I went to the cafeteria to learn all about the wonderful world of Kindergarten. The Principal gave the same speech he gave when my daughter started Kindergarten 3 years ago, with the same jokes. He explained the bus schedule and how to pick kids up after school. He introduced the lunch ladies and the PE teacher.

SIDE NOTE: I have been wondering of late about Boy Kid's readiness for Kindergarten. He doesn't really trend toward the academic side of things (he is more into cross-dressing and playing with dolls). Any worries I had about his placement in the class and his standing among his peers is now gone. Don't worry about that.

Meanwhile, out of control toddlers and preschoolers who had been brought along by their mommies for big brother or sister's first day of Kindergarten, swarmed the room and generally tore the shit out of the place. The juice table the PTA had set up in the back was toppled, the Rice Krispy treats were ravaged, metal folding chairs were knocked over. And the screaming. My god the screaming! I looked up from my text-messaging (very polite, I know) expecting to see dozens of parents scrambling to calm their children down or maybe remove them from the room until they shut up. At the very least I expected to see their fat white faces flush with embarrassment at their kids' behavior.

Nope. It wasn't until one kid flat out decked another in the nose that any of the parents even flinched. And even then it went like this:

Mother of Puncher: "Dylan! You get over here right now or I'm going to swat you!"
Mother of Punchee: "Jonathan! Stop crying right now!"

And then the question and answer period began. Holy Shi-

Are these the dumbest people ever? How do they dress themselves? How did they manage to raise kids to Kindergarten age without killing them?

Anyway, congratulations Boy Kid. Good job getting older. Don't shoot up the school with your mom's boyfriend's guns.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Today was the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon in Woodinville. I happened on this race last summer and raved about it on this very blog. It is a well-run event that attracts good runners. And it starts and ends at Red Hook. Not hard to take.

Last year I ran the 13.1 miles in 1:38 and change.

This year I came into the race with about 3 miles of training under my belt and no delusions of any sort of real performance. BUT, I also came into the race with my usual attitude of "go fast and see what happens." This attitude has not served me well in full marathons, but I can't help myself. Hell, even in training runs I have a bad habit of going too fast for too many miles. It's an illness. I have a team of professionals working on it.

Also new this year: The Colleague and offspring were not just spectators. Nope. They suited up for the 4 mile run-walk that went off at the same time as the 13.1. Go ladies go!

(For those who are paying attention, the 3-Day Save the Boobs walk is 2 weeks away, which at least partly explains The Colleague's participation in a walking event.)

The pre-race situation involved a long port-o-john line (duh) and some milling about in the prematurely cold late summer weather. Once I wandered into the starting area I saw something that looked a lot like this:

This isn't the exact artwork, but the style is unmistakably that of Mr. Owen Connell of Parlor F fame. Owen is responsible for all of GVB's ink and one of The Colleague's stylish tattoos as well.

GVB: "Excuse me, who did your tattoo?"
Runner Girl: "Owen Connell. Why?"
GVB: "He did mine too. I knew that was one of his designs!"

As we wait for the start I learn that Owen just completed the Cascade Crest 100 Ultra Marathon in 30 hours. I can't even begin to imagine the pain and suffering involved. The bitch of it all is that Owen doesn't really even train. He just goes out and runs. Fucker...

Back to the race: this is a gun time race, which I loath. I lose 50 seconds because every dickhead in a compression top thinks he is going to run a 6 minute pace? Grrrr. I managed to sneak ahead pretty quickly and posted a 7:10 first mile (though with all the weaving I probably ran 1.2).

Mile two clicked by and all was well. A small downhill section let me cruise in at 7:00 on the nose.

I really wasn't going for a time on this race. If I had felt tight or tired at mile three I was completely ready to throttle back and do an even 8:00/mile for the whole race. But I still felt strong, so I kept going. Nothing at stake here. Even a massive bonk didn't matter. At the water station in mile three I decided to see what I could do.

From mile 4 through the finish, the course is on roads and trails I have logged hundreds of miles on. I know every turn and hill, and I know distance instinctively from hours of training runs. I can't tell you how much this helped. I stopped looking at my watch and I just started running.

Blah blah blah I made it through the hilly portion on the UW Bothell campus and hit the trail again at mile 9. A quick glance at my watch and I knew I had it. If I didn't crash I had my PR for a half marathon. No way I was letting that one go.

I kept myself pushing by imagining the finishing clock and seeing something in the low 1:30s. When I hit the grounds of the Red Hook Brewery for the last .1 miles, started kicking:



I couldn't help pumping a fist and yelling a little. Shaving almost 5 minutes off my previous time? Awesome...Still, I hope there isn't any video. I'm sure I looked like a dick acting like I had just won the race.

And after I had calmed down I found Cap'n Ron and RPD arriving to share in the finish festivities. A nice IPA with The Colleague, the Offspring, and my friends? Awesome. Thanks for coming out, boys!

Thanks to The Colleague for knowing why I was so excited with my time. Sorry about the sweaty hug.

Now we turn our attention to the Seattle Marathon. I'm not trying to BQ at this one, but it will be a good stepping stone to Vancouver, where I hope to run the 3:15:00 I need to get my fat ass to Boston in 2010.

We'll see.