Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Random Things

...I have essays to grade...

...I don’t need a theme or a structure or even a cohesive idea. Right? I can just write some things down and upload some pictures and that makes it a blog post. Right?...

…Cap’ Ron mentioned some time ago that Anthony Bourdain was his new hero. I was more of a Les Stroud fan, but I’m leaning Bourdain’s way. This is why Jesus invented DVR technology. I’m pretty sure he is the guy that any of our significant others would leave us for, gentlemen…
…while I’m sort of on the subject of reality television I might as well cop to watching 4 straight hours of The Deadliest Catch the other night while The Colleague was out of town. Sure I could have been productive in my sleeplessness, but isn’t it better to watch someone burn through their own fingernail with a hot needle to relieve the bloody pressure building up behind it? Gross. Also, I don’t care how staged the fishing and filming is for that show, it would be a brutal, scary job. No thanks…

...this is pretty much how I spent Memorial Day weekend:

The Learnin’ Factory is bound to be on the news soon. Someone is angry about no longer working for this fine institution of higher learning, and I have a feeling said someone is going to keep making a massive scene about it…

…My father doesn’t know a damn thing about boats, how they work, or how to sail them. Nor does his neighbor the McMillionaire. So they are of course the perfect candidates to buy a 1935 48’Atkins Cutter that needs to be completely refit and rebuilt. Great plan. It will either cost three times as much as they plan or take three times as long to get it finished and launched. Maybe both. The real wager is how much of the work GVB will be coerced into doing…

…congrats to Al B on the first tri of the year. Nothing like swimming in Long Island Sound in May. Al’s extremities will be back to normal temp any day now…

and there’s this dickhead

…Here is a picture of the student population of one of my Research Writing classes:

Now I know why their work is so stellar and why they are never in class…can you pick out the ones who will never play a single inning of professional baseball? If you said every guy making a hand gesture AND/OR flexing his arms, you’re right! Seriously, everyone in the front row is in my class. All of the future ex-ball players with eyeblack on were in my class in the winter. Sigh…

…but seriously, congratulations to our college baseball team on winning the championship. Enjoy your three year minor league careers followed by a crippling day-to-day job roofing houses outside of Mesa, Arizona…

…how much do the Mariners suck? Did someone from Oklahoma City buy them too and not tell us?...

…I couldn’t make this one up: “On July 3rd, 2007, Amy Stewart purchased a vanilla latte at a Starbucks drive-thru in Kent. When she put it to her lips to drink, the top popped off, spilling the coffee down her front and burning her. She filed suit against the coffee giant in King County Superior Court on April 25th, 2008. Her husband joined the case, suing for “loss of consortium” – legalese for sex and other spousal-specific activities.” Does he have to prove that his sex life was good enough that the loss of that sex life was damaging to him? Can’t wait to see how this one plays out…

…you are all free to join the GVB-Colleague boycott of Starbucks, by the way. Not because of loss of consortium (which I assume only applies to married couples, right? Because no one else should be consorting) but because they keep fucking up our drinks at the drive-thru. Lattes mysteriously get flavor added to them, cappuccinos taste like lattes, and drip coffee is scorched beyond its natural life. Add to that the insult of the “upsale” (would you like more something expensive and fattening with that?) and we have a good reason to drive on by. Still, the convenience of our local drive-thru kept us going back. And then last week I ordered two drinks. Total $6.47. Bubbly Upsale Barista happily smiled and handed me $13.00 in change. “So, is it policy now to keep the change?” “Oh, you wanted the small change too? Let me get my manager to open the register for me.” Seriously? I know it isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but you owe me $13.53 you bitch. Give me my money!

The University of Colorado is considering a $9 million program to bring high-profile conservatives to teach on the left-leaning Boulder campus

...it need to be summer now. That is all…

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Race Report - Straight Up

The Colleague and I are back from Canada, where I ran the Vancouver Marathon on Sunday. We had a great time in one of our favorite cities, and I had a pretty good race, too!

The blow-by-blow report follows, but for those who only want the punch line, here it is: I ran the 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 34 minutes, 25 seconds. My time was a full 20 minutes faster than my last marathon (Portland last October), and I felt much better about it. Just let me say once again: 26.2 miles is farther than anyone should really ever run.

The Start: The race starts and finishes outside of BC Place Stadium. Cap’n Ron and I lingered about halfway back in the starting queue so we could chat with Hayden and Mrs Cap’n Ron as long as possible before starting, and so we could keep our jackets on until the last minute. At 7:00 in the morning it’s just too damn cold to be standing around in shorts and a t-shirt. But there was a consequence to this: When they started the race it took us over a minute to shuffle across the line, and the frustration of the crowd would last a while...But we were off. My second marathon. My goal was to finish, to beat my Portland time, and to not injure myself in the process. Anything from 3:20 to 3:40 as a finishing time was perfect with me...

Mile 1 (8:10): Get these people OUT OF MY WAY. The first mile of the course has a lot of turns and narrow streets to navigate, and it doesn’t open up until Mile 2. So I spent the first mile burning way too much energy trying to pick my way through the 9 and 10 minute pace runners who for some reason like to run 3 abreast in the middle of the course. They also like to suddenly and without reason weave and change directions. Not at all frustrating.

Mile 2 (7:38): The course started to open up a little bit here and I picked up. Cap’n Ron smartly stayed at his 8:00 goal pace, and I wouldn’t see him again for a while. This was more like it. I wanted to run 7:30s if possible, at least for the first 18 or so just to see what my Boston Qualifying pace felt like. I need to run a 3:15:59 marathon to qualify for Boston. And while I had no real delusions of qualifying in this race, it is my goal for Portland next October.

Mile 3 (7:25): Right on pace and cruising. This is part of a short out-and-back sequence with a small climb. Just before the mile marker we got to watch the leaders coming the other way (they were running 5 minute miles, and the winner - a Kenyan - finished in 2:15:15). It was great to watch them already battling one another for position and even greater was the load applause and cheering on they received from the rest of us slow people.

Mile 4 (7:23): At mile 4 the course turns back toward downtown and heads downhill. I hit the first water station here and slowed down to make sure I got a good full drink. One of the mistakes I made in Portland was running through every station at full speed. Slowing to a jog allowed me to take in plenty of fluids (and skip a few stations along the way as well).

Mile 5 (7:15): Too fast, but feeling really good. At this point I know I will see The Colleague pretty soon. She and Mrs. Cap’n Ron planned to be at mile 7 up in Chinatown...

Mile 6 (7:20): I grabbed another quick drink here and was still cruising. I was doing math in my head to see if I had caught back up to a 7:30 pace. Not yet. I also noticed a small annoyance that would piss me off later as my brain started to melt down: my GPS was off by about .25 miles from the race markers. And my miles were clicking by faster than the course markers. This meant that my watch would read 26.2 miles well before I was actually finished with the race.

Mile 7: (7:22): This mile takes the course through a part of town that I am not sure I would walk through alone in the daytime. Consider it a complete tour of Vancouver...in addition to Stanley Park, the Planetarium, the waterfront, and the Science Center, we got to see the methadone clinic and the burned out carcasses of several Buicks. And this is where The Colleague and Mrs. Cap’n Ron were hanging out? Yikes. Right before the 7 mile marker there they were! I can’t tell you how great it is to have that support along the course. In this race, knowing that The Colleague would be at miles 7, 11, and 17 gave me something to focus on as the miles added up. She had fuel and water for me, but I was still doing fine and had 2 gels with me for fuel. Hi Colleague!

Miles 8 and 9: (7:25, 7:32): Big climb here and the most boring part of the course. Miles 8 and 9 loop away from town through a fairly dodgy residential district. Unlike the rest of the course, the people on the sidewalks here seemed baffled by what all of these runners were doing, so there was no cheering on or support out here. Somewhere out in this wasteland I where I notice that I am starting to “slap” my feet down in my stride and I have to focus to keep a smoother motion going. This is also where I start talking to myself. At this point it is standard stuff - “come on, smooth strides” or “easy, easy”. Later I start the self abuse...

Mile 10 (7:20): I know I’m running a little fast here, but at this point I have decided to go as fast as I can as long as I can and then suffer through whatever is left. Not exactly a sound or recommended strategy, but I do have a disease that always makes me want to see how far or fast I can go. Even in training runs. By now I am also having serious delusions of a Boston Qualifying time. That doesn’t last long.

Mile 11 (6:52): WAY too fast. Woops. Cruising up Hastings Street I see The Colleague again. She is screaming and yelling and making me very happy. AND she has some Clif Blocks for me to eat. Solid food is great about now, even if it is in gummy form. See you in 7 miles!

Mile 12 (7:10): Here I fall in with a group of 4 friends who are pacing each other and running in a close pack. I short of draft them and zone out, but they are chatting and telling jokes to keep themselves busy, and I just can’t take it, so I let them go ahead of me. We’re just about to Stanley Park which I was looking forward too...

Mile 13 (7:37): Coming up to the halfway point I’m still feeling strong. Stanley Park has a lot of little hills that don’t show up on the elevation chart. Ugh.

Mile 14 (7:42): Past the halfway point now, and the miles remaining start to shrink. From here on out, the marathon is just an exercise in not quitting. This mile turns and climbs a long hill through the park and I see my first real human wreckage – a guy younger than me rolls his ankle on the edge of the pavement and tumbles into the brush. By the time I get up to where he crashed several people are helping him so I keep going. And I start to think that a twisted ankle would be one way to get out of this race more quickly than running another 12 miles...

Mile 15 (7:52): Notice anything? It’s the slow-down portion of the race. Here’s how it went. In mile 15 I was cruising along and still feeling somewhat human. I had a gel here and looked forward to seeing The Colleague at mile 17. I don’t know if my stride got longer or I stepped wrong or what, but my right hamstring gave me that twinge that said, “Hey man, stop running or I’m going to lock up on you!” So starting at this point I am running at whatever pace feels like it is right on the edge of cramping or pulling a muscle. I slow down. Still doing fine, but slower than my muscles and lungs could go. The damn hamstring is my limiting factor now. Grrrr.

Mile 16 (7:44): This last bit through Stanley Park is slightly downhill and really pretty. I zone out...

Mile 17 (8:05): Along Beach Ave now. They use this street for the Sun Run 10k too, and I have to say it is much easier to take when it is mile 2 than when it is mile 17. There is always good crowd here though, and the energy is high. Second human wreckage sighting – a young woman passes out on the grass. Soft landing, anyway. My last Colleague time before the finish is coming up!

Mile 18 (8:11): Climb! This is the start of the biggest climb on the course. Up and over the Burrard Bridge. And there is The Colleague! It is so great to see her at this point and it keeps me going up and over the bridge. The climb isn’t bad this direction (but my hamstring is threatening to revolt on me even more). And, knowing that I have to come back over this bridge on the return just sucks.

Mile 19 (8:13): Mile 19 is a blur. I remember none of it.

Mile 20 (9:42): Blow up! I found the wall, and it is at mile 20. It is still more my hamstring than my endurance or anything else, but I’m not quite ready to push it and run 6 miles with a cramp or a pulled muscle, so I have to throttle back a lot. I have started walking through all of the water stops to rest a little bit and get as much fluid as possible.

Mile 21 (9:03): Mile 21 has a short out-and-back section in it after the turnaround and this is where I see Cap’n Ron for the first time since Mile 1. He is definitely catching me, and I figure that if he is able to stay on pace he will get his Boston Qualifying time. He needs a 3:30:59 to make it. A big high five as we pass each other.

Mile 22 (9:01): I am totally frustrated because I know I could be pushing harder than I am. This part of the course is very hilly and I am tired enough now that the uphills seem steep and the downhills seem flat. Still talking to myself, I start in on the self abuse. Insert your own negative self-talk here. Sprinkle liberally with profanity.

Mile 23 (9:18): I make the mistake of thinking about the upcoming bridge. There’s no way I can climb it. After about 22 miles everything just hurts. The instincts in your brain start to take over and tell you to quite, and when you don’t listen, your body starts shutting things down to save itself. Finding a reason to keep running through this stretch of miles is the whole trick to running a marathon. The urge to quit is amazing. And it is a constant from this point on. Every step feels like it might as well be the last one you run. Just quit. The anti-Nike campaign. Just quit. Screw it. I remember reading about tricks to keep going in the late miles, and one is to count steps and figure out how many make up a mile. I got to 100 before deciding that was the stupidest thing I had ever read. Visualizing the finish helped a little. Not much.

Mile 24 (9:56): Cap’n Ron catches up with me here. We chat a little. Mostly “this sucks” and “I just want this to be over.” I tell him about my hamstring and basically complain a lot. We’re quite a motivating pair.

Mile 25 (10:21): Yep. You read that pace correctly. I walked 100 yards of the bridge to settle myself down and get the energy for the finishing push. After 25 miles it is amazing how impossible the last 1.2 miles seems. There is no WAY I can do this. I have to stop. Right? Wait...am I going downhill now? Awesome. Cap’n Ron is in front of me now as I come off the Burrard Bridge for the second time. I hate that damn bridge. As predicted, my GPS told me I was done here. 26.23 miles. I love technology.

Mile 26 (8:35): The finishing push. I run past the last water station and past Cap’n Ron. Telling myself I can suffer through anything for 8 minutes, I just run for it. Finishing a marathon is an unbelievable experience, and when the crowd is as good as it is at Vancouver, it is even better. I watch as someone loses their legs and wobbles to a slow motion crash in front of me. I see a cameraman snap my photo and hear him urge me on. And I see The Colleague screaming on the side. (Wait, is that guy hitting on her? I think I just saw him ask her for her phone number). A guy I had been running near for the last 5 miles or so is there and struggling and when I catch him I urge him on and we sprint to the finish. DONE! 3 hours, 34 minutes, 25 seconds. I’m not supposed to, but I linger in the finish chute waiting for Cap’n Ron, who comes in right behind me at 3:36 and change. Great run! Hugs and tears and hollering follow. Then it is into BC Place to get some food and meet up with The Colleague and Mrs. Cap’n Ron. Unlike in Portland, they actually wait until you finish to give you a finisher’s shirt. I’ll wear this one happily!

After cleaning up and getting a little rest, we hit the pub for several celebratory Canadian beers. I think I ate 3 dinners Sunday night, but I can’t be sure. I know The Colleague and I ended the evening with sushi somewhere on Robson Street. Yum!

Overall it was a great race. For my second attempt at this distance I feel like it went pretty well, and I’m definitely excited about Portland in October. If I can keep shaving time with each race, I might actually qualify for Boston someday.

It would have been nice to not have to slow down so much in the last few miles, but I was able to run full speed through the finish and I felt good about the whole race. Yes, I went out too fast in the first half, but I went in knowing I might try it just to see what happened. What happened is my hamstring decided to be my limiting factor. I have never had a hamstring problem in my life, so it was a weird thing to have happen to me, but at least I recognized it and didn’t push until it actually exploded.

I am resting this week and will start running lightly again in 10 days or so. Then it’s back to the training routine. I’d like to find a mid-summer race in the 10k or half marathon range to keep me interested, but we’ll see how that goes. A new training plan is in the wings and will include more strength training (speed work and hills) and flexibility work (yoga). Training over the summer is hard because of our travel plans, but I can usually piece together a good schedule.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Taking Advantage of the Strong US Dollar

There's no getting out of it now, I guess. Back in October when I signed up for this damn race I was pretty sure that something would happen so that I wouldn't be able to race. I mean, chances were pretty high that:
  • Bush would so thoroughly alienate every other country in the world that we wouldn't be welcome in Canada
  • Enough Americans would flee to Vancouver to escape the Bush regime that there simply wouldn't be room for us to visit
  • The US dollar would crash so far that my entry fee would double and we wouldn't be able to afford the pre-race pasta feed.
To be fair, all three almost happened.

But now here I am, healthy (no broken bones or torn muscles), trained (400 miles so far this year), and rested (funny how less stressful this year of my life has been. Hmmmm.)

So The Colleague and I are off to meet Cap'n Ron and Mrs. Cap'n Ron in Vancouver. The Colleague can visit some of the money she left there last time she visited. Cap'n and I will lace up the racing flats and join 5,000 some other idiots at the starting line of the 37th Vancouver Marathon. We'll be somewhere in Stanley Park when the Kenyans waltz across the finish line, but we'll get there.Here's a marathon course in context.

4,216,481.28 centimeters
1,660,032 inches
138,336 feet
46,112 yards
42,164 meters
42.164 kilometers
26.2 miles

The piece I can't figure out is how the course officials get away with making the first 18 miles actual miles, while the last 8.2 miles are actually 15 miles long. Weird, that.

I hope the "Your Are Not Kenyan" sign guy is there. He's my favorite. I am NOT Kenyan. True that.

Now, where did I put my Loonies.