Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Road. To Recovery. Not the Cormac McCarthy Abomination...

Back on the Road
It has officially been 2 weeks since the Seattle Marathon, during which my suspension went out at about mile 21 or so. After doing my chores around the house today (I'm such a loyal house elf!) I could barely resist the urge to put on the mud shoes and go for a run in the pouring rain, but somehow I managed to show restraint (there's a first for everything) and instead pulled the old neglected Fuji off the hooks and took her out for a little 12 mile spin from The Shack to Matthews Beach and back.

One way to assure solitude on the Burke Gilman Trail is to ride it during a winter monsoon! It was actually glorious to ride through the wet leaves and puddles and never see another soul. Truly glorious. Of course, the Fuji is in desperate need of a tune up, and my riding is horrible and hesitant. But still, it's exercise.

The verdict? 12 mile at around 20 miles per hour and the killer climb back up to The Shack and no apparent problems. Great, right?

I'm not so sure. Being a lifetime skeptic, I have at least a little bit of me that was hoping there was some muscle pain after the ride. Why does it only hurt when I run on it? Is it really as simple as the iliopsoas strain Dr. Hilarious thinks it is?

We'll see. Next up: an easy 3 miles tomorrow on The Boringest Oval on Earth.

In Other News
  • The Seattle Mariners are threatening to play actual baseball next year. This particular know-it-all fan and armchair critic thinks they are now only one Jason Bay signing away from contending for the American League pennant.
  • Yours truly is going to spend the next 3-4 months trying to actually get Northlake Runners up and, well, running. If you read this blog, you should read the other and help get the numbers going. Once spring hits I hope we'll be holding regular group runs. Also keep on the lookout for an Ebook of local running routes and recommendations...T-shirts and stickers coming soon, too!
  • I'm a fan of beer in general, but I want to just remind everyone that it is winter ale season, and if you haven't had a few Snow Cap Ales from Pyramid Brewing, you are behind schedule. Snow Cap is the best winter ale. Sorry Deschutes and Redhook (Jubelale and Winterhook, respectively). Pyramid makes one truly good beer, and this is it. Rumor is that I am running low at the moment.
  • I read somewhere that ink jet ink is the single most expensive liquid a regular consumer can purchase. After refilling all three household printers today, I believe it. What kind of racket is this?
  • This morning the following picture come across my screen saver slide show, and realizing it was but mid-December, I wept quietly in the dark corner of my office:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Around Alone

Just in case any of you are out there looking for something to do with your gobs of leisure time, be sure to follow the adventure of 16 year old Jessica Watson, who is attempting to become the youngest person to sail solo, unassisted, non-stop, around the world.

Her blog is fascinating. She is so clearly a kid (she recently installed safety straps down below for her stuffed animal "crew" in anticipation of the rough conditions in the Southern Ocean) but she is handling the fear, loneliness, and boredom with the sort of honesty and self-consciousness that you wouldn't expect from someone so young.

What were you doing when you were 16? Not this.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

It's Hip to be Hurt

More adventures with Dr. Hilarious

After my total train wreck at the Seattle Marathon last week, I went to see Dr. Hilarious (now sporting the Daughtry shaved-head, full beard look...not good on anyone but Daughtry) about my Hip pain.

He asked me the usual question: "Why do you keep running?"

But then he very professionally launched into his 5 minute diagnosis, which involved torquing my leg around and pushing and pulling on my feet and legs:

Q: Does this hurt?
A: If does when you f-ing yank on it like that, yes. Yes it does.

Q: How bad is the pain?
A: It hurts just about as much as listening to Hannah Montana, but not as much as listening to Lady Gaga.

He poked around a little more and isolated the pain point, eliminating some other possible problems. He seemed satisfied that it wasn't some internal organ going on strike and that nothing was broken or totally destroyed.

You gotta love it when your doctor says, "This is the first time I've ever seen a patient actually manage to do this. Good job! You hear about this injury in med school, but you never see it. Awesome. You injured the iliopsoas muscle in your hip!"

He seemed very excited.

The iliopsis is one of the big core muscles that you use all the time. Sitting, standing, walking, running...everything. And like the hernia I suffered before, this is an injury that occurs late in training after the other muscles have fatigued and given up. The leg muscles get tired, the ab muscles get tired, and they all figure that big old muscle that is keeping you upright can take over and hold things together for a while. This explains why it was sore after training runs of 18 miles or more and why everything felt great in the race until mile 20 or so.

I'm getting a little sick of this whole injury thing, but at least this one doesn't require Dr. (Do No) Harm to cut into me. What it requires is resting the muscle (impossible unless you are floating in zero gravity, by the way) and some investigation into my running stride and my shoes.

And like I said I was going to do before, I need to actually suck it up and do some core strength training. I thought my rippling, chiseled six-pack abs were enough, but apparently I need to do more. We can all get together an bounce quarters off my stomach sometime this spring.

In the meantime, off we go to the podiatrist! I can't help but entertain images of clunking around in corrective shoes and leg braces. Run Forrest, Run!

So the good doc charged out of the room after writing me a referral and went to deal with his 30th patient with a cold who thought they were dying from swine flu. Awesome.

Useless Data Department
  • In the past 365 days I have logged 965 miles of running, burning 74,000 calories.
  • There are 8 pair of running shoes in my closet, but only really like 3 of them. One is brand new and will likely never see a single mile of running. Why do I keep them?
  • Of the 90 students who started the term in my English 101 classes, 50 submitted a final paper.
  • I have looked at the Fuji - currently hanging in my office - 24 times in the last week and thought: I should really ride that thing more often.
  • I have taken the Fuji off the hooks and out for a ride 0 times in the last 4 months.
  • I have recently noticed my speech habit of saying "I mean..." to start sentences and when I reach 5 instances of using the phrase in one conversation I punish myself by listening to a podcast of MathDude.

With Owen pushing, it looks like I might get some trail shoes and take to the mountains for some of my next training plan. Seems like a decent idea, and maybe it will keep me from injury? Who knows. But I don't mind getting dirty once in a while.

Also Upcoming...

Work has started on a new running club up here on the northend of the lake. Look for a website, a book of running routes, and some Facebook presence soon! I'll expect both of my readers to join us, of course.

Please Leave a Message

If you are receiving this message between June 19th and July 7th, 2010, GVB will be unavailable while he travels with The Colleague and several students in Kenya. Beeeeeeep.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Race Report: Seattle Marathon

My second attempt at the Seattle Marathon was both much, much better than the first and much, much worse. My initial Twitter and Facebook post after the race said that I finished and that I didn't want to talk about it. It's true: I did finish. But I guess I'll tell you about it after all.

I know both of my readers have been waiting for the blow-by-blow of my latest 26.2 mile adventure, so here it is. I should note that whatever is depleted from my brain while running a marathon has yet to be fully restored, so the words that follow might become incomprehensible at some point.

Leading up to the race I felt pretty damn good. I had four good long runs under my belt, two of them at 20 miles. I wasn't injured. The weather forecast was good. I had a good race plan. I was even pretty damn close to my desired race weight for the first time.

All of that didn't stop me from the usual pre-race insomnia, however. As is always the case, I went to bed early and pretty much just lay there listening to The Colleague sleep. That girl can sleep. Who knows how much sleep I actually got. The alarm rang at 4:30 and I had a solid breakfast, tested before my last long run (toast, banana and black coffee...not my usual go-to meal).

The Colleague delivered me to Seattle Center one-hour before the start, which gave me plenty of time to make it over to the double-secret indoor, heated bathrooms at Memorial Stadium. While thousands of half marathoners queued for the port-o-johns, I had a leisurely time of it with a few people who must have also been given the secret map to the hidden bathroom deep beneath the aging stadium. By the way, the news this week that the city and the Seattle School District plan to tear down Memorial Stadium will present an interesting task for the marathon organizers...can a Quest Field start and a new course be that far off? Why not start as in the parking lot at Quest and save the leg down 5th Avenue for the finish? (I know the reason: traffic control...but I'm just putting it out there.)

I looked for the usual suspects around the starting area: RPD was somewhere in the masses of half-marathoners, Owen was milling about waiting for the marathon start...but I didn't see either of them.

The Start
The starting area - while too damn small for the 10,000 half-marathoners, is just about right for the number of people running the full 26.2. No need to fight to the front and no worries about herding like cattle through the starting chutes.

I have to say that the start of the Seattle Marathon is pretty lame. The announcer has a shrill, annoying voice, and there is no music or anything going on. They bring in some afternoon DJ from a local pop station who says something stupid and trite, and then they start the race. Every race director should have to go visit the Vancouver Marathon or the Sun Run 10k to see how it should be done.

Soon enough it was 8:15 a.m. and we were off.

The City
Miles one and two head straight through downtown on 5th Avenue. After the uphill start there is a long flat section before climbing as we cross Pike and Pine Streets. Then a long downhill toward Chinatown and King Street Station. Once the race passes the Westin, though, the city is a ghost town. A few rats and some seagulls cheered us on as we approached mile two. Hi guys.

My plan was to go out around 8:00/mile or and see how things felt. At mile two I was averaging 7:45/mile and felt good. I jogged through the water station, had both Gatorade and water, and sucked it up for the climb up onto I-90.

The Bridge
Every god damn year this is a problem. Where the course hits the on-ramp to I-90 near the stadiums, the marathon runners catch up with the half-marathon walkers and some of the slowest marathon walkers. I have NO issues with people walking the course. I think it's great to see everyone out there. But when there is only one traffic lane available to runners and the walkers have been directed to stay on the other side of the barrier, why do large groups of walkers insist on clogging up up the course? One very large group, bedazzled with bells and doodads, was taking up most of the running lane. I guy in front of me yelled at them, I almost collided with one of them when they turned to take a picture of the runners coming up behind them. What the hell?

Still, I reached the top of the ramp holding a nice 7:45 pace. My heart rate was low (160 bpm) and things were feeling good all around. No hernia repair twinges, no sore feet, so muscle pain. Here we go! I shed my 99 cent cotton gloves before the Mount Baker Tunnel (which I still think is the worst part of the's hot, it's loud, and it's chaotic) turned on the iPod, and cruised through to the bridge. This is one of my favorite parts of the course, and I ran these miles fast, knocking my average pace down to 7:30 by the time the out and back was done.

Lake Washington Boulevard, Southbound
With the flashing lights on the police escort for the lead runners barely visible down in Seward Park, I started the southbound slog along the lake. A little headwind kept things cool, and I just cruised along here listening to some choice tunes from Elbow and Marc Cohn. My I stopped checking my watch in here because the tunnel had thrown off my GPS track and it was .25 miles off from the mile markers. Instead I relied on the time keepers at each mile and my feeble brain to calculate my pace. I'm so dense mathematically that it takes a whole mile to figure out my pace, and then I have to do it again! That kept my brain occupied, anyway. 7:30 per mile. Hmmm.

Seward Park
Seward Park is pretty and everything, but having the 13.1 mile split out there on the peninsula is kind of a drag. It's so lonely! I also didn't hear the little machine go "beep" when I crossed the mat, so I knew I wasn't going to get my split in my official results and started worrying that my chip wasn't working.

With a split of 1:39:50, though, I knew I was on a strong pace. I wasn't tired, and I felt a ton better than I had at this point the previous year. 14 miles was where Owen dropped me last time as I fell back into the 8:00s and he cruised to a 3:20:00 finish. This year I came out of Seward Park on pace and feeling great. Heart rate check? 162 bpm. Still not pushing. Good news.

Lake Washington Boulevard Northbound
A little wind on my back, no crowds, good tunes and visions of a strong finish made miles 14-18 great. I knew all I needed to do was get up and over the Madison Street climb and I was home free. At mile 18 I walked a few steps to get a good drink of water and some Gatorade (and to eat Gu pack #4).

When I picked my stride back up after the water station, my right hip, which had been a little sore following my previous two long runs, shot a jolt of pain through my side that made me gnash my teeth and take a little stutter step. Ouch.

We're talking real pain here. Worse than the torn muscle in Portland a few years ago. I couldn't believe it.

At mile 18 or 19 you are getting into survival territory anyway, and the emotions are running pretty high. I tried a few more strides and the pain was just as bad. I walked a few steps and it still hurt - though less so - every time my right foot hit the pavement. No no no no no!

Damn it!

I pulled to the side and tried stretching it out, twisting my leg around, rubbing my hip bone...and tried to keep going. Ouch ouch ouch ouch.

I still have no idea what the problem is, and a day after the race it still hurts pretty bad, though it is getting better slowly. I'm resisting self-diagnosis and will see Dr. Hilarious this week for the inevitable lecture on how running is stupid (see previous post and the transcript of any number of conversations between me and The Colleague). No doubt this will end in some referrals to physical therapists and podiatrists. Update to come.

So I'm at mile 18.5. I can't run. But I can't quit either. My idiot logic tells me at this point to run a mile with the pain to see if it gets worse. So I grit my teeth and run at about an 11:00 pace through the next mile.

Galer Street and The Arboretum
Watch these splits and try to pinpoint where the wheels come off completely:

Mile 16: 7:42
Mile 17: 8:15
Mile 18: 8:14
Mile 19: 9:10
Mile 20: 8:39
Mile 21: 11:39
Mile 22: 12:42

If you picked mile 21, congratulations! That's where I just couldn't bite my lip hard enough to work through the pain and keep a decent pace.

I just couldn't do it any more. The pain was unbearable. As I limped up Galer Street and over Madison, I started to lose it. I wanted to quit but I couldn't! The Colleague and the offspring were at the finish line, watching the clock approach my goal time (3:30:00). I knew that once the clock hit 3:31:00 The Colleague would be disappointed for me. And I knew that when it hit 3:45:00 she would start to worry. If it hit 4:00:00 she'd know something was really wrong.

I could stop at the medical tent and have them call her and tell her I was done. Yep. That's what I'll do. Problem: In my runner's stupor, with my body going into survival mode, I could not, no matter how hard I tried, come up with her phone number. I think I got all of the numbers right, but not in the right order. Damn.

For some reason I "ran" by the medical tent on Madison street and made my way to the Arboretum. I love this part of the course, but I have yet to get to it with any hope of actually running it. Somewhere in here is where I managed to calculate what it would take to finish under 4 hours. If I couldn't do that, I wasn't going to finish. A 13 minute pace would do it. 13 minutes per mile for 4 miles, much of it downhill. Ok. Let's go.

You can't call what I did for the last 4 miles actual running. I don't think my right foot ever left the pavement. It was more of a slide-step. But I held 13:00/mile. I stopped at the water stations and drank my fill. I joined the other dead runners as we zombied our way toward Memorial Stadium. 4 miles of pure agony, but I figured it was better to go as fast as possible and get it over with than to walk it and keep The Colleague worrying about me.

The Finish
With about 4 minutes to spare under the 4 hour mark, I came into the stadium, trying not to cry when I saw The Colleague and the offspring. For no calculated reason I ran right over to them, grabbed the kids, lifted them over the fence and ran to the finish holding their hands.

That little moment made the run worth it. I hope there is a picture of the finish out there somewhere...

I've written here before about the emotions of marathon running and the impossibility of expressing them to others. I went through about every feeling I can imagine during this race, and I can honestly say that I would have quit at mile 20 if The Colleague hadn't been at the finish. Thanks, as always, for being out there babe.

The Aftermath
It's the day after as I write this and aside from being tired and hungry, most of my body has recovered nicely (no doubt the self-administered internal alcohol therapy last night is a recovery beverage, right?). My hip hurts like hell and I am walking like some sort of B-movie monster. Running is stupid and marathon running is ridiculous.

Still, let's get this injury figured out, correct whatever caused it, and start training for LA in March. I'm in.

I'm going to get that PR sooner or later, and a trip to Boston is still the goal.

I'm convincing myself to wear my Finisher shirt with a little pride. I didn't quit. 3:57:40. Worst. Time. Ever.

I did get beat by Elvis, though...

Thanks for coming. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Running Is

As I sit writing this, I am woozy and sore from a 20 mile training run.

For those of you out there who are thinking about running, who used to run, or who have delusions of running as a "fun" recreational activity, let me step in and offer some thoughts:
  1. Running is stupid.
  2. Running is hard.
  3. Running isn't cool.
  4. Running leads to more running.
  5. See #1.
Running is, indeed, stupid. It destroys your ankles, does harm to your joints, and might actually damage your heart. Yep. All that crap you read in running magazines about running being good for you is bunk. Ask any doctor. CAN running be good for you? Yep. A little bit of light running, once in a while, on soft surfaces, as part of a larger workout scheme is a great idea. 50 miles a week on pavement in $150 shoes preparing for a 26.2 mile "race" that you can't win (and that you will probably run in unsupportive "race" shoes that weigh 6 ounces)? Stupid. Plus, running 40-50 miles a week in training for a marathon means you have sliced at least 6 hours, and likely much more, out of your productive life and devoted it to running around town with no destination, and with no one chasing you. Let's not forget that the human foot was never meant to interact with surfaces like pavement. We shouldn't have to wear running shoes at all, except that most of our running haunts are paved. Poorly, I might add.

Some people call running "challenging," but let's be real for a minute. It's hard damn work. Short runs are hard because you never get the chance to warm up. Medium length runs are hard because you feel like you should really push and challenge yourself because, after all, it isn't a long run. And long runs are just plain torture. Depending on which "expert" you believe (side note: more running experts are just runners who can write decently) your body stops burning carbohydrate fuel and starts trying to burn fat and muscle for fuel after 2 hours of continuous exertion. For a nine-minute miler that's a half marathon. This is like a college party with a nice campfire. After a couple of hours, the actual firewood you have carefully brought along in anticipation of a fun night at the campground with your friends runs out, and since you've had 12 Keystone Lights and smoked something that dude over there handed to you, it seems perfectly reasonable to set the picnic table ablaze. Then the floor mats of your roommate's car. Then, what the hell, let's see if that thing over there burns!* Once that happens, every step is a deliberative action in which your brain has to wage war against your body in order to keep it moving forward. Forgetting for a minute that your muscles have decided they are done, your joints suddenly hurt again, your shoes are running you in the wrong places, and those mother----ing earbuds for your iPod keep slipping around and are driving you bat sh&% crazy, even your brain starts to rebel. And you're doing this why? Oh that's right, so it will be easier to do even more of it next week.

Go down to the local running trail in your street clothes and watch the runners go by. What assholes! Now look around at the other people who came down to watch the runners. Oh, there aren't any? That's right. Because running isn't cool. Potential running spectators only come out to races because they know something runners don't: running is stupid (see above). They aren't out there to cheer you on. They're out there to watch a few thousand uncool stupid people punish themselves for 4 hours. And they get special joy in the fact that we paid for the privilege of suffering not only for those 4 hours (3:30 if you're lucky) but for the days following when we will limp around the office wearing our "Marathon Finisher" shirts (which we paid $95 for). Nope. Running isn't cool. Bering Sea crab fishing is cool. Really good sushi chefs are cool. Runners are dorks. No way around it. Even my friend Owen, the most tattooed dude at any local race (and an accomplished ULTRA marathoner) is a geek. Running isn't cool.

But the big problem with running is that like any stupid addiction, it only leads to more running. You run a half-marathon and BAM! you're in line to register for the next one. Or worse, you decide you need to graduate to the full 26.2 miles. So then you go out and load up on expensive shoes, technical fabric shorts and shirts, special running underwear that is supposed to be odor resistant (doesn't work), and a few handfuls of GU packets. You subscribe to an online training plan. You start cooking recipes you find in Runners World.

Next thing you know, you are writing a lame-ass blog about your own running exploits, thinking stupidly that someone out there cares.

Yep. Running is stupid.

Next up, the Seattle Marathon. I'm stupid.

*Any similarity to a fraternity weekend yours truly spent at Ocean Shores is completely coincidental. And also it really happened.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Weighting Game

The kids got Wii Fit from Grandma not that long ago. And by "the kids" I mean me, because I'm the one who uses it most. The damn thing is just so cute the way it talks to me about my morbid obesity! Besides that, the kids are all in shape and healthy.

I tend to think the Wii technology is crazy witchcraft voodoo anyway, so I will admit that the experience is often a little bit creepy for me. The little animated Wii Fit board waves at me and talks to me about my fitness goals, for example. And it asks me when I ate dinner. Which is fine and awfully polite and all, but I can't answer back because I don't speak Wii.

Anyway, in addition to doing some virtual ski jumping, snowboarding, and soccer drills, I've taken to using the Wii Fit thing to track my weight as the training for Seattle ramps up. In theory I could also use it to work on some yoga poses, but those virtual yoga teachers are creepy. Seriously.

With the Wii Fit tracking my BMI and weight, I feel this weird accountability. It's like the thing actually cares or makes judgment about my weight. And damn it, I want to make that machine happy! It sets little goals for me, and I love to see the line track toward those goals.

But I know I am disappointing the Wii because I can't seem to really lose weight. It's starting to piss me off.

I'm training 35-40 miles a week, I have a pretty decent diet (except for the beer, of course) and it's not like I'm just sitting around all the time when I'm not running. What the hell?!

My weight as I sit here being taunted by the Wii Fit Balance Board is 180. I'm 5'11", so this is right on the edge of "Overweight" by the Wii's standards (and the BMI chart at Dr. Hilarious's office, too). Overweight? Damn. What does that make all the people I see on the streets? If I'm officially overweight, what category do they use to describe the people that even overweight people think are obese?

My weight goal for the Seattle Marathon is 170-175. I have plenty of time still, but things are going to have to start moving in the right direction here pretty soon.

I really want to see what the Wii says when I reach a goal. It better throw a little virtual party for me with all my Mii friends in attendance...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Another 13.1. With Complaints!

Yesterday I laced up the racing shoes and drove to the Red Hook Brewery to stand in line in the rain with a couple thousand of my closest friends. And that was just the first hour and a half of the day...

This is the third year for me at the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon, and as both of you will remember, I really like the race. It ends at a brewery, for one thing, and it is a flat, fast course that winds through a lot of my training routes. Support on the course is excellent, and it's generally a good time followed by a couple of beers. I never have managed to get RPD or Cap'n Ron out there with me (this year Cap'n had some excuse about a motorcycle trip, which I have yet to see photographic evidence of, and RPD was apparently in Canada enjoying natural wonder. Silly.)

Complaint Box
Let me get my gripes out the way first. I know all of my readers at Super Jock and Jill will take my commentary to heart and make some changes for next year.

Prepaid Torture
When I purchase tickets in advance for a show or a movie, I expect there to be some benefit for the effort. The organizers get the benefit of having my money in advance (complete with a "no-refund" policy), what do I get? A guaranteed shirt size? Since Brooks ends up selling the remaindered technical shirts at the their outlet store a week after the race, I don't think this is really an issue. I arrived 10 minutes before the packet pick up table was supposed to open to find a line snaking from the Red Hook loading dock out onto the street and almost to the winery next door. As every poor pre-paid schlub walked up, he or she asked the same hopeful question: "Is this line for day of race registration?"

Nope. This is for those of us who already paid.

At this point we had an hour to get our packets, use the Honey Buckets, stretch, and whatever. (Of course the Honey Bucket lines were horrid also, but this is just the fact of pre-race. Every race. Everybody Poops, after all.)

The line did move mercifully fast (30 minutes for me) but come on. It's pouring rain out here!

Oh, and by the way, the day of race "line" wrapped around the building, under cover. What lesson am I being taught by this?

So next year, here is what I would like to see:
  1. A more significant pre-paid discount. $5 is hardly a motivator on its own.
  2. The ability to register in person at the venue (why Red Hook hasn't picked up on this money-maker is beyond me...)
  3. The ability to pick up my packet before the race. Every other race on earth does this. Sure there has to be a cut-off date, but I would happily drive to Greenlake to get my packet the day or week before the race to avoid standing in long lines on race day.
Start Line Antics
This race is getting big. Far too big for the starting line configuration they have relied on for the last 1o years. There is plenty of room for everyone. Sure. But there is no starting mat, so only the very front line gets an accurate race time. We need starting mats!

The race directors say the city won't let them close the road long enough to put the mats down. Well, tough. Make up a new starting line configuration. Start at the winery. Start in the brewery. Something. Without a mat, runners crowd to the front of the queue and no one gets a good start. The course opens up so quickly after the start that I would opt to hang back and start at a good pace rather than fight to be first off the line. I feel like an idiot lining up with the 5 minute milers, but you have to in order to get out at a good clip.

Oh, they also start the four-mile race at the same time as the half marathon. Which doesn't help.

Also, I know the sponsor wants to get their money's worth out of this thing, but when we are standing at the start, I don't really want to listen to you pimp your running store. Why doesn't anyone play music at the start anymore? A nice upbeat mix leading to the starting gun?

Or how about a course description for the new runners? Which reminds me...

The Course
I happen to work in one of those places where the "veterans" of the group like to rely on the "That's the way we've always done things" defense for stupid and outdated policies and procedures. I have a suspicion that a version of that is taking root at this race.

The course is fine. It's a little funky in the middle where it winds in and out of the UW Bothell campus, but it is otherwise a nice run.

This year, however, the first 4 miles were through a road construction zone, which I happened to know because that road is also the way to my dear old mom's house, so I've heard her complain about it endlessly and I've even run it a few times.

A road construction zone means: pot holes, steel plates, uneven asphalt, loose gravel, very large yellow tractors and tractor-like machines, huge orange warning signs, etc.

One: this segment of the course is avoidable (and fairly easily avoidable).
Two: the directors said nothing about it at the starting line. It wasn't mentioned in the course description on the website, and there were no warnings about it at all. Anywhere.

Sorry SJJ folks, it's time to change the course. I have some suggestions for you if you like. Give me a call. For one thing, you have an industrial/commercial park the size of Rhode Island right across the highway.

Ok. Enough complaining. Despite my gripes, it's still a good race. Honest. Just FIX IT.

The Race Report
Thanks for enduring the rants. I've had my coffee now, and am feeling much better. Honest.

I haven't been training specifically for a half marathon, but I have been on my marathon training plan for a few weeks. So I came into this race feeling pretty good about surviving things. That said, I had no goal time and no sense of how I would hold up at race pace.

Mile 1. 7:13. A full 20 seconds of this mile was spent fighting to the damn starting line. See above. Once I was running, I was right around a 7:00 pace and it felt reasonable, so I decided to stick between 7:00 and 7:30 for the race. 3 minutes into the race, I knew I was going to be too warm. The rain and the standing in line psyched me out and I put on a long sleeve shirt. Damn.

Mile 2. 7:11. This is just boring old running. But I did pass the Vespa store where The Colleague picked up her new ride last week. Hi Vespa!

Mile 3. 7:07. I picked up a mouth breather on my heels in this mile and couldn't really shake him. I think he was trying to draft me or something. I zigged and zagged a little to piss him off, but he didn't seem to notice. He sounded something like a Hippo surfacing for air. I have no doubt that he died somewhere along the route.

Mile 4. 7:06. I made it through the construction zone. Barely. Twice I stepped wrong and almost rolled my ankle on the uneven pavement. Awesome. This mile also has the retirement home folks running the water station. I love it. Shaky hands handing out water and Gatorade to runners with shaky hands. Luckily the downpour we ran through was washing it all away into the river.

Mile 5. 7:03. Mile 5 picks up the Samammish River Trail and heads through Bothell out to the UW campus. This is cruise control running for me because I run this segment three or four times a week. I did see one runner go down with a twisted knee from one of the tree roots that buckled the surface. It wasn't the Hippo Mouth Breather, though. I wonder what happened to him? Well no concern, because I picked up Weavy McWeavesAlot just after Bothell Landing. The trail is about 10 feet wide, and this dude was using the whole damn thing.

Mile 6. 7:08. Still running fast here, but anticipating the big hill in mile 7. The old brain starts to do its psych job on me. That's about all I remember from this mile: "There's a hill coming and it wants to make you hurt."

Mile 7. 7:35. Yep. That's a hill. Shit. I managed to kick through it pretty well, but spiked my heart rate and really gassed myself. My training runs on the same hill went much better. The sharp corners and slippery surfaces through here slowed me down some, too. Mostly, the mistake I made here was not taking advantage of the downhill segment after the climb to make the speed back up. I instead stayed slow to get my heart rate down more quickly.

Mile 8. 7:11. Through downtown Bothell and back to the UW campus. Nice long downhill stretch to make up some time. Bonus: very upset pickup driver in Bothell who was not happy with having to wait for the racers to pass the intersection. The poor little volunteer at the corner was just being backed up by a cop, who was pissed at the driver, when I ran by. Good for a chuckle. (I should add here that the City of Bothell did nothing in advance to warn people that the roads would be closed for the race. When I drove through on the way to the race there were just lonely orange cones out, not a sign to be seen.)

Mile 9. 7:29. Back to the campus craziness. Mile 9 is where I first saw Former College Friend, who said he wasn't running the race, pushing his friggin' jogging stroller along the course. With two kids in it. And he wasn't far behind me. What the hell, man? Last year he ran 10 miles TO the race and then ran a 1:38 AT the race. This year he shows up pushing his offspring around? No wonder he's going to Boston next year and I'm not. Damn.

Mile 10. 7:14. Back to the trail for the push to the finish. I start doing the math in my head at this point and realize that I am close to my PR, but not close enough. I don't have a sub-7:00 mile in me, so I am just going to stick to my pace and ride it out. I don't love this part of the course, but it's flat and I know it pretty well, so I just put my head down and drag my ass along.

Mile 11. 7:07. Hmmmm. A water stop helped me out here. And the headwind we were fighting let up a bit. Still, like the last miles of any race, I started to hit the wall and really, really wanted to be able to stop running.

Mile 12. 7:26. Your feet are getting verrrry heavy.

Mile 13. 7:20. I caught up with a runner I had been near for most of the race here. Turned out to be OTHER former college friend (who also ran Seattle last year). Fancy meeting you here. Can't talk now. And also, can't let you beat me. So, see ya.

Mile 13.1. For all the other features of this course, the finish is totally cool. A single loop around the little amphitheater at Red Hook to a nice finishing chute. Done. 1:35:15.

What? 1:35:15? Damn it! One minute shy of my PR.

And what sucks is I know where that minute came from. 20 seconds of it are at the start. And the other 40 are in those last 3 miles. Should have pushed. Oh well. A good race, no injuries, and hardly any hypothermia.

I chatted with Former College Friends at the finish for a bit and headed out. The brewery wasn't open yet anyway. Which brings me to my last complaint. WTF, RedHook? You can't open an hour early one day out of the year? Captive audience. Captive audience that wants beer. At least put a beer garden out there somewhere. How hard is that opportunity to recognize?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Some of the Important Stuff is in the Parentheses

After a summer full of travel and mayhem, we are back at The Shack, getting settled in and ready for another season of knowledge at The Learning Factory. Several things are happening at once:

-Training for the Seattle Marathon has started (I have a workout calendar and everything!)
-The Colleague's birthday is fast approaching (Remember when she didn't have a website?)
-The kids are clothed and fed and basically prepped for school (The eldest offspring of The Colleague officially starts high school course work this year. Yikes.)
-The new seasons of Project Runway and Top Chef are on (I have nothing parenthetically witty to say about that.)
-The Old New Boat is under renovations (and the task of finding and installing the new engine is haunting my nights and days.)
-RPD is logging hellish miles in strange places (and making me wonder if I should take this running thing a little more seriously than I do? Ah well.)
-Wildfires are burning out of control near Pasadena (just when Pasadena and I were really starting to get along!)

Both of my readers are aware that I am not great at sticking to a workout plan. I do the miles just fine, but I have a hard time reigning myself in. If I'm slated for a 10 miler, I run 12. If I'm supposed to run at 30 seconds over race pace, I run at race pace. I'm horrible. Which, of course, is why I get hurt all the time. Doy.

So I'm trying really hard to keep it together this time. I even retired my favorite shoes because I know they're shot and I know if I keep running in them I'm going to break or tear something. RIP, Favorite Shoes That Aren't Made Anymore. (So what if I have 3 other pair of the same shoes? Shut up. It's not the same.)

So far the training is going pretty well, thank you. Last week I did almost 35 miles total, and this week will be the same (though broken up differently). My longest outing so far topped 12 miles and I did it at the pace I was supposed to (I'm still planning on 7:30 to 7:40 per mile in the 'Thon, so I'm running my long runs at 8:00-8:10) and felt great at the end. I even stopped and walked a half mile at the finish to cool down and stretch, which proves unconditionally that I can use my brain when necessary*. (It doesn't hurt that the last half mile is a 400 foot climb back up the hill to The Shack.)

*Note: Of course, the one time I choose to walk the hill is also when the Kenlake Posse is out in full force. Hi fellas. I'm walking because I'm supposed to. Honest. Not because I'm weak. Oh, and I'm NOT listening to Norah Jones on these headphones. Nope. It's heavy metal or something manly. Honest.

On that same long run I detoured a bit and ran a couple of miles of the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon course (the hilly miles) to get my brain ready for next weekend's race. After my disastrous showing at the Tacoma Half, I'm determined to have a good race. (No PR attempt here, I am still coming off surgery after all). Anything under 1:40:00 will be just fine with me...

Birthday Wishes

Dear Colleague,
I hope you like your present. And thank you for not being one of those women who frets about birthdays, tries to hide her age, and says she doesn't want anything as a gift when really she knows exactly what she wants and if she doesn't get the right thing punishes the boyfriend silently for it for weeks. Thanks for that.

Also, this note in my lame blog is your birthday gift. Surprise!


Reality Television

I do love DVR technology. Without it I would miss such gems as Top Chef, Ace of Cakes, Project Runway, and The Real House Wives of Orange County. These are so bad they're good. And when I'm not burying my head in the pillow and weeping over the demise of what little culture this country had left, I thoroughly enjoy watching these nobody wannabe actors and D-Listers fight it out for my pleasure. I'm a sick, sick man.

Also, I do seriously worry about the direction television is going (seriously, I do...I can indulge the crap and still be wary of its effect on society, right?). With the push toward more reality-based programming and away from high production value, we are getting an endless slate of competitions and dating shows. They are so cheap to produce that the studios can just crank them out and see what sticks. No need to hire writers. No need to create. Just can, package, and send. And these "actors" aren't covered by any of the labor laws that SAG actors are, and you just know they are being exploited for every inch of entertainment they have in them.

Maybe I'll feel better when the new seasons of Family Guy and American Dad start up in October. (Either that or I will have to go back and start re-watching my DVDs of Northern Exposure. How great was that show?)

Boat Repair 102: How to Employ the Skills of Others

Since I know both of my readers also follow our boat blog, I don't need to say much here. How cool is the work Dear Old Dad is doing on the boat? I just wish he was also a diesel mechanic in his past. The drafting and carpentry skills will do. I guess.

California is on Fire
This is what the scene looks like in Pasadena at the moment. The photo at the head of my last post is what it looked like 4 weeks ago. Take care SoCal folks. Try not to breathe too deeply.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Distant Future

As we gear up and get ready to take Supervan on yet another epic adventure (Park City, Utah via Pasadena, California) I'm busily trying to get my body to accept running again, and reluctantly committing to a couple of races.

Reluctantly? Well, yeah, because every time I commit to a big race ($$$) I break something or tear something, or do something to something.

But the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon was supposed to be the kick-off for my Seattle Marathon training, so I am officially in training mode now. I think. The next two weeks are important base mile weeks (I have to get my weekly mileage up to 30 or so pretty quickly) and we will be on the road.

Pasadena is no problem. 5 days there is five days in what I consider Running Paradise. Neighborhood jaunts under huge shady oak trees, on wide well maintained sidewalks, misting sprinklers keeping all of those manicured lawns blazingly green...It really is hard to take.

From there we will Supervan it to St George, Utah. I don't know how many of both of my readers have ever spent any time in St. George, but a running paradise it is not. My memory may be tainted, however, by the fact that I have only ever been there at the tail end of climbing trips in which I starved, froze, and almost died high up on a rock wall, tethered to a manic depressive formerly homeless poet. So, you know, maybe I wasn't thinking clearly.

Anyway, after a long day of driving through the desert, I will have to force myself to get some miles in to keep up with the plan.

From there to Park City, Utah. Lovely, amazing Park City. 6,900 feet of pure elevation. Ouch. Plus, it might be obvious to both of you that once you are in a mountain town like Park City, there aren't a lot of flat roads and trails to be found.

Travel, elevation, and hills? Recipe for training success.

Still, I'm determined. We'll see if the miles stack up.

Anyhoooo, the current plan is to run a few smaller races (including the Super Jock n Jill Half Marathon on Labor Day) leading up to the November 29th Seattle Marathon. Then we are looking for a late winter, early spring race to travel to. It seems like Pasadena or LA are the likely candidates at this point. Stay tuned.

In other news, work on the New Old Boat is starting to happen. We're at the stage where we are doing more damage than good, but there is a distinct possibility that someday this boat will sail, with us aboard...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Whose Destiny Are We Talking About Here?

Tacoma calls itself the City of Destiny. I don't know what that means, exactly. Since I can remember, Tacoma has been the joke of the Puget Sound. Dirty, crime-infested, ugly, and decidedly a "drive through" sort of place. You drive through Tacoma on your way to Anywhere Else, USA. I can count the number of times I've actually spent any real minutes or hours in Tacoma on one hand. A couple of concerts at the Tacoma Dome back in the 90s (anyone remember when the pyrotechnics at the AC/DC show set the wooden ceiling on fire?), a conference for work, and most recently a surprise trip to see Billy Collins. So signing up for the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon had very little to do with the city itself. Truth is, I saw that Cap'n Ron had signed up and figured, what the hell? I'm out of shape and recovering from surgery. I've been on the road for most of the summer. I haven't trained over 6 miles since May. Sounds like a recipe for success to me! So I signed up and started rationalizing. Like I do.

"I can just take it easy and use it as a long run."

"I can run-walk it."

"If I crash and have to walk in, no big woop."

And with that cycle running through my head, I started my intense training regimen, which included not running at all in the days leading up to the race, drinking PBR in the sun at The Boat Yard, and drinking wine with The Colleague at the Lyle Lovett concert the night before the race. Oh, and let's not forget a nice big helping of Pad Thai at midnight before the race. This is some good training and preparation.

Let me also say that if given the choice, I'd rather wake up in my own bed on race day. But when this means an alarm going off in my ear at 4:30 a.m., the benefits of sleeping at home are questionable. At best. I think The Colleague summed it up pretty well when the alarm went off to Midnight Oil's "Beds are Burning":

"What the hell?!"


Keeping to my rigorous preparation plans, I had half a glass of water and part of a NutriGrain bar (mixed berry, for those of you keeping score), and when Cap'n Ron pulled up at 5:00, I was "ready" to roll.

After the drive and a parking fiasco, we met up with First Time Half Marathoner Friend and shuttled a car to the starting line across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Of course, they have rebuilt the bridge a couple of times since it crashed down in 1940. But still, when you think Tacoma Narrows, you think "bridge collapse in wind storm" don't you? Maybe it's just me. Anyway, after the requisite milling about and waiting in impossibly long Honey Bucket lines, we got onto the course (10 minutes races EVER start on time?)

The race started at the Narrows Airport in a chilly sea fog, which once we started running was perfect, but standing around waiting for the start was miserable.

With only 1000 participants, the start was easy and there was no jockeying for position or running room.

Kudos #1: Starting on the runway at the airport is a good choice. Wide open running for everyone.

At mile 2.5 the course hit the bridge, and the wide pedestrian path on the new span. Very nice! Though in the heavy fog the crossing was very eerie. I couldn't help think of the poor souls who have jumped to their deaths from the bridge as I ran over the top. Yikes. Don't look down, there be vertigo there.

Kudos #2: Much of the run is on pedestrian and bike paths, with nice surfaces and no traffic. They had to close very few roads, which is always a nice way to run a race.

After the bridge is the first real hill of the course, and it's a killer. Mile 4 goes up almost 300 feet from the end of the bridge through Veterans Park. I was holding a little under an 8:00 pace at this point, but that wasn't going to last long. The hill about killed me, and my meticulous planning and preparation forced me to stop at the Honey Bucket in the park. I lost almost 2 minutes there. Oh well. I wasn't looking for a PR here anyway, right?

From there the course crosses Highway 16 on an overpass and enters a little middle class neighborhood for a 2 mile loop. An old couple sitting on their lawn drinking coffee were the only people awake and outside in the whole place. Hi folks. Why is it so quiet around here?

Criticism #1: Granted this isn't the race organizers' fault, but the course is lonely. There was almost no one out supporting the runners and once the field spread out, I was literally running alone most of the time. I don't know how to fix this.

The course then picks up the very nice trail system through the west part of Tacoma. We did a little loop on the baseball diamond at Cheney Stadium, which was pretty cool, and then headed up the hill. And up the hill. And up the hill...

At the starting line I listened to people talk about the course (in my intense preparation I neglected to look at the course map, naturally). I heard several people, including First Time Half Marathoner Friend say something like "After mile 10 it's all downhill to the finish."

Bullshit. From mile 11.5 it's all downhill to the finish. Mile 10 is uphill.

I was pushing by this point to keep a solid pace, counting on the downhill to save me from an epic bonk. But the trail we were on near the golf course kept going up.

And then when it did go down, it went STRAIGHT down.

Criticism #2: Steep downhills are worse than steep uphills. There has to be a way to keep the two steep descents out of this course. They're actually a little dangerous because they come late in the race when legs are fatigued. I know how to fix this.

If one looks at my GPS track really closely, he or she will see at mile 11.5 a little hitch, where your hero made a dash behind some poor industrial building to approximate the second Honey Bucket stop, sans Honey Bucket. I hear you can get a ticket for "Depositing Human Waste in Public" but given the loneliness of the course (see above) I was in no danger of my transgression being discovered.

After that I did my best to kick to the finish, and actually had a great time doing it. I caught up with a runner I had been sort of near since the start and we agreed to race to the finish. Last I checked, Tony and I were running a 5:40 pace to the finish line, and according to the official results I got him by 1 second.

I finished, took off my chip (minor complaint: I hate ankle chips. They chafe and bother me throughout the run. Can we please stick to the shoelace chips, folks?), and got my finishing prize: a nice pint glass with the race logo on it. All around me I heard the sound of smashing glass on the pavement. Maybe handing out glassware to sweaty, dehydrated, fatigued finishers of a half marathon isn't the best plan? Still, it's a cool glass and is far more useful than a finisher's medal.

By my watch I came in at 1:46: 51. By the chip I came in at 1:48:36. I don't know how the hell that happened, but I'm not going to protest. That's a little over an 8:00 pace, which is a full minute faster than I had any business running.

Cap'n Ron came in a minute behind me at 1:49:41 and didn't break his pint glass either.

First Time Half Marathoner Friend finished his first race at 2:22:32. A solid effort on a pretty hard course.

We sleep-drove our way back north and refueled at The Ram in Northgate. They have both food AND beer there. What a concept. Putting back 1600 calories always feels good!

Next up is the Super Jock and Jill Half Marathon on September 7th. I ran 1:33 there last year and like the course a lot, so we'll see.

Then it's the Seattle Marathon on November 29th. Why do I do this?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where Does This Trail Go? Oh. Up? Right.

Both of my readers should be happy to know that I am back from Kenya, in one piece, with no visible scars. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

While in Kenya, my official "go ahead and start running again" date, set my Dr. (do-no) Harmon arrived. So, while in Malindi pigging out on fried potatoes and Tusker Lager, I laced up the Brooks and shuffled my feet.

It wasn't much, but it was running. I left our luxurious digs at the Seaview Resort and headed south down the beach. Into a 25 knot headwind. On the soft sand. After a quarter mile or so, I was joined by a couple of beach boys, who were joined by a few of their friends, who invited a couple of their friends. By the time I reached the turnaround point I felt a little like Rocky running through the streets of Philly. Also I felt like a total spectacle for the entire community of Malindi. But I ran. Gotta start somewhere.

In total I made three runs in Africa. All were painful. Who knew it was hot and windy and humid in equatorial Africa? Oh, everyone but me? Right. Even in Touristville, Africa, the locals are apparently not used to seeing an mzungu running on their red dirt roads.

The hernia seems pretty well repaired, I'm happy to say (thanks Doc). Still some soreness during the first half mile or so of a run, and I can definitely feel it after, but if the pain of the actual hernia was an 8/10, we're talking more like a 2/10 now. No worse than a sore muscle. Which I also have...

I write this from the frying pan that is Missoula, Montana. 100 degrees and not a breath of wind. I've been trying to run in the mornings before it gets too hot, and it's been pretty good, I must say.

Missoula is a pretty cool town (but it's a little too proud of itself for my tastes) and in some ways it reminds me of Spokane but without the massive industrial blight. Living in Spokane I used to be able to walk across the street to rock climb, mountain bike, or kayak along the river. Here in Missoula, the wilderness trails come right to the edge of town, so I have been taking advantage of the off-road running opportunities.

The paces are slow, but the distances are adding up, and I'm starting to feel like a runner again. Slowly by slowly. I imagine that training here on a regular basis would make running flat routes at sea level more manageable, but I don't have the constitution to keep forcing myself through runs with elevation profiles like this:

BREAKING NEWS: Cap'n Ron and I will drag our butts around the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon Course on August 1st. Looks like a hard course, actually, but it will be nice to get another free $90 technical t-shirt...

Friday, June 19, 2009

We're Off

I've packed all I can pack (The Colleague packed a little more) and we're getting ready for 20 stimulating hours flying coach to Kenya!

My official Dr. Hilarious approved start date for resuming training is July 1st, which means the first miles of my new training plan will be on the red dirt of East Africa! I've heard that some people there are pretty good runners...

Be excellent to each other in my absence.

We'll be blogging the trip at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surgery, the Letter H, and Boat Work

Getting Cut Open and Stitched Back Together

There are three holes in my lower abdomen that weren't there yesterday. I've been told that there is also a fair amount of surgical mesh covering the holes in abdominal muscles. Oh, and some staples and stitches too.

All of this from running. And all of this so I can run again. Soon, I hope.

Dr. Hilarious, aware of my fondness for medical practitioners who share my follicle challenges and who have ironic names, referred me to a Dr. Harmon. Of course.

So Do-no-Harmon met with me last week to talk through the surgery.

Main Points:
-He does hundreds of these surgeries a year. He's never killed anyone.
-Laparoscopic surgery: In through the belly button with a scope, and with the tools on either side of the lower abdomen.
-No one knows the frequency of recurrence after surgery, because dudes are stupid. Chances are that a lot of guys who suffer a recurrence blame the surgeon and go to someone else.
-Rather than stitching muscle together, surgical mesh is stretched over the giant, gaping hole in my gut and the muscle is supposed to grow over it. After 2 weeks, the mesh is 75% covered. At 3 weeks, 95%.
-It's gonna hurt.

Day of Operation
Just in case I died on the table, The Colleague and I met some former students of mine for what I want my last meal to be: sushi. As much as possible. As fresh as possible. After that, it was no food or drink after midnight.

So, Dr. Hilarious referred me to Dr. Harmon. The Colleague (h) drove me to the surgery center, where the anesthesiologist (Dr. Hardy) gave me the drugs.

General anesthesia has to be one of the weirdest experiences a person can have.

Dr. Hardy says, "Ok, you're going to get a little woozy." Next thing I know I'm waking up in a different room. 2 hours went by. Dr. do-no Harmon cut into me and stitched me back together while a med student watched the show. And I woke up like not one second passed. 2 hours gone.

By the time I saw The Colleague again, I was pretty much ready to roll. I wasn't babbling like a drugged up lunatic (though apparently I asked for the anesthesiologist's name at some point...what the hell?), I didn't ask anyone to marry me, and as far as I know I didn't embarrass myself.

I went into the surgery center at 8:30 a.m. and was home in bed by 1:00 p.m. Not bad.

The Day After
The Colleague is off for an oil-baroness meeting in Montana today, so I am at The Shack tending to myself, trying to move around as much as possible, and thinking about getting some work done, though concentration is not my strong suit at the moment. I sent one work-related email this morning that I probably shouldn't have. I'll wait until I'm off the dope to do anything else in that arena.

They ask you to measure pain on a scale of 1-10. Ok. At the moment, even with the narcotics, we're talking about a 5. Without? Not good.

One Other Thing

Saturday, May 16, 2009

In Repair: Stories about Boats, Bikes, and Inguinal Canals

The Landmark Case of Running v. Riding (2009)
The Colleague was asking me last night about the difference, for me, between running and cycling, trying, I think, to get at the root of why I get so much more satisfaction from running than riding. I'm not sure I have a definitive answer, but I tried. And I'll try again here.

This line of discussion brought to you by the worst of the nagging running injuries I've had to date. Worse than the stress fracture in the foot (though that was a pretty serious pain in the ass) and worse than the torn calf muscle (at least I knew once that was torn I couldn't make it worse).

Back to the running versus cycling question: Cycling is cool. I love it. I love big sweeping downhills, I dig cranking up hills and skyrocketing the heart rate. And you know I love the Fuji. Bikes are cool. But that, I realized, is part of the problem. The gear. I have an inherent distrust of gear that goes back to my serious climbing days.

In running, the only thing that can really break down is you. Sure, I burn through a lot of shoes. And I have a lot of gadgets and toys that go along with running. But if my iPod isn't working, or the Garmin can't pick up a satellite signal, big deal. The bike can break down. That's a lot of moving parts to go wrong, and hedging against that possibility is a drag.

Case in point: flat tires. I don't know what it is about me and the Fuji, but we seem to court flat tires at an alarming rate. Every other ride it seems like I'm at the side of the road peeling a tire off a rim and changing a tube. Total drag. The wheels are currently off the Fuji waiting for me to get to changing out the tires and the tubes. And actually, what I should do is take her in for a full tune up, but then I'd be without the bike for a week. Another issue about cycling.

I should get to the tire repair soon, though because aside form sitting and breathing, riding is about the only active thing I can manage at the moment. Which brings us to:

The Further Adventures of Dr. Hilarious and GVB's Lower Abdomen
Two of you will remember that about 8 months ago, while training for the Seattle Marathon, I started to complain about pain in my ab muscles (you know, that rippling six pack of mine). After long runs it would hurt to sit up for a few days and then it would go away. I just assumed that my abs were getting sore from the running.

I ran/suffered through the Seattle Marathon with the ab pain, but after the race it never got better. An appointment with Dr. Hilarious was in order. Both of my readers might also remember this medical moment from January.

After the visit I tried to keep training for Vancouver, but after my 14 mile run with Cap'n Ron I knew it was over. I couldn't move. I couldn't get in and out of the car. Several other, well, "activities" caused considerable pain (worth it). So I took step two of Dr. Hilarious's suggested path: rest. I stopped running.

Still, nothing got better.

Last week I got to see the inside of my gut through the magic of ultrasound technology and after Pat the Ultrasound Technician poked around for an hour, gazing longingly at my organs, she found it. An actual hernia. Not the sports hernia I thought it was (thereby supporting Dr, Hilarious's case against Internet-aided self-diagnosis) but an actual hernia. A tear in the muscles along the inguinal canal that lets the "stuff" out. In this case, the "stuff" is a thin layer of fatty tissue (mmmmm...fatty tissue) that lodged itself in there and never left. Lucky, that. Without that fatty tissue in there, who knows what part of my innards would be poking out of there.

So Dr. Hilarious has sent me off to his "hernia surgeon guy" in Edmonds. I'll see him this week and hopefully on his schedule soon enough to get this done before we leave for Africa in late June.

As The Colleague said to me last night, you know you've exhausted the other options and are ready for surgery when the prospect of some dude cutting you open and stitching your guts together is appealing. More as I know more.

Remember that Boat We Sold and That Boat We Bought? Yeah, About That...

It will be a while before we're doing this...

...but the first steps have been made. The new/old/nameless boat is out of the water, on stands in the driveway, and ready for work to commence. No small project.

In honor of the fact that most of the people who are truly interested in the refit of a 1979 Cape Dory 27 aren't interested in my musings about my ab muscles and the Zanax-fueled dysfunction at the Learning Factory (and vice-a-versa I suspect), The Colleague and I launched a new blog project to follow the epic battle of Man and Woman against Aging Fiberglass and Aluminum.

Check it out at at

Coming Soon!*
The Colleague and I leave for Kenya in a little over a month. Watch for more details, updates, and so on at our OTHER new blog project. Details to come as soon as we decide on the details.

*That's What She Said

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Want to Know Some Things

It's true. I don't really want much. But I know what I want.

1. I want someone to explain to me why I can't spend my professional development money on out-of-state travel this year. This is, ostensibly, because of state budget cuts. The Factory is, after all, a state institution. But hang on. If I get, say $1,000 a year to spend on professional development, and I still get to spend this year's allotment, and if I don't spent it it doesn't carry over or get used for something else at The Factory, why the hell can't I spend it to go to a conference in Portland? I can spend it to go to a conference in Vancouver. Why not Portland?

2. I want to know why I only drink black coffee when the kids have burned through all the milk by drowning their Honey Nut Cheerios in it every morning. I rather like black coffee, but I forget that I do because we usually have milk. SomLinkeone remind me about this in the morning.

3. I want to know why my muscles aren't healing. Dr. Hilarious said the would and they're not.

4. I want to know why The Colleague keeps getting monthly issues of ALLURE magazine despite having never subscribed to it, but when I was a week late renewing RUNNER'S WORLD they stopped sending it AND cut off my access to their online resources.

5. I want to know how I am expected to get the same satisfaction from cycling as I do (did) from running. It just isn't the same. It's not. Really. I like it and all, but running is cooler. Sorry.

6. I want to know why The Colleague and I didn't think of this first: Stuff For Sale I Will Mail You.

7. I want to know where spring went. Enough already.

8. I want to know what's next.

9. I want to know what it is going to take, once and for all, to stop the bullshit at The Factory. Nothing seems to work. I'm thinking about calling in the Colombia Ex-Pat to crack some skulls.

10. I want to know who all the Cylons are. But not really. We still have ten DVDs worth of episodes to watch. Ssssshhhhh.

Friday, April 03, 2009

2, 987 miles!

Details to come. But I have work to do first...

Here's the map of the trip.

View Larger Map

Monday, March 23, 2009

Out of Office Auto Reply

Hello and thanks for emailing. I'm out of the office until next month. I'm done grading your crappy papers and tired of you complaining over a participation score from 3 months ago that only has a .02% impact on your final grade (which, by the way, wasn't a passing grade anyway, and that participation score ain't gonna make one twit of difference).

I've rewritten the department schedule seventeen times in a futile attempt to make everyone happy and to keep anyone from starting another rumor about me and my devious intentions/rampant nepotism/favoritism/racism/sexual discrimination/age discrimination.

Normally I'd say that I'd get back to you upon my return to the office, but I won't, so I am not going to say I will. I'm out.

If this is in regards to a lawsuit against someone else through which you hope to railroad me into incriminating myself in testimony, please contact someone with an actual administrative job. The current wait time to sue me is 9 months.

I leave tomorrow on a several day adventure from Seattle to Pasadena on the 650GS. So far it looks like I only have to get south of Eugene, Oregon to get into some reasonably dry weather.

I just have to make it to Pasadena by Friday to meet The Colleague, who is taking the faster/warmer route via commercial airliner. I figured out today why The Colleague likes flying so much. It's the free porn, isn't it?

I will post frequent updates on the ride via Twitter, which shows up right here on this very blog for your viewing pleasure. More from the road!

1. My bracket is screwed. I am terrible at these things. Mostly because I don't really care.
2. The Huskies keep breaking my heart in this tournament. I think it's easier when they don't make the post-season. At least this year they didn't get far enough to have their spirits crushed by UConn again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The New Boat Search Committee

Newly Boatless Couple Seeks Salty Cruising Sloop for Summer Sailing and Potential Offshore Adventures. Must be under 30', willing to undergo a complete makeover, content sitting at anchor for several days in a row in Canadian harbors, and able to carry some sail in heavy air. Full-keel preferred but not required.

With the title of The 'Hood officially transferred, the New Boat Search Committee has officially convened.

We have been accepting applications for some time, with the clear caveat that the position of New Boat would be filled contingent upon funding. With the funding in place, it is time to begin serious screening of applications. The committee is also accepting letters of support for any of the candidates listed below:

Pacific Seacraft 25
Strengths: Painfully cute, unique, and totally affordable. She looks salty and has a proven bluewater resume.
Weaknesses: The specific boat we are looking at would need new sails, a fair amount of engine work, and a rebuilt interior. Also not the cheapest of the bunch. The lack of headroom (and the lack of a head) work against her.

Commentary: She's cute as hell and would be a blast to sail. A 25 foot boat is also a lot easier and cheaper to moor, haul, paint, repair, and maintain than a larger boat. Imagining being caught out in the Straits of Juan de Fuca in a big blow in a 25 foot boat isn't terribly pleasant...

Contessa 26
Strengths: Well-known circumnavigator with a solid design and decent performance.
Weaknesses: Not as traditional in looks or design as some others. Would need new sails. Engine is a question mark. Most expensive of the bunch and still might need some work. Most are in British Columbia, which makes viewing one a bit of a chore. Now, if we had a boat we could sail to Sydney and look at a few...wait...

Commentary: This is technically the "fastest" of the boats currently under consideration, though when you're talking about full-keeled cruising boats fast isn't really a consideration. The Contessa 26 has a little more head room than the PS 25, but not much, and only at the companionway. The simple sloop rig has a lot going for it, and the engines, if in decent shape, are more than enough to power the boat through the chop.

Cape Dory 27
Strengths: Full standing headroom, actual head compartment, full v-berth, big cockpit, sloop rig. Full-keeled cruiser that can go offshore with no worries. Classic looks, good design, and good sailing characteristics.

Weaknesses: The specific candidate in question is in rough shape. This is a project boat to be sure. The main concern is the single-cylinder Yanmar engine that is probably dead and even at its best is too small for the boat. With an 18 HP engine, this boat would be pretty close to ideal.

Commentary: The committee is going to visit this candidate soon and make a more detailed assessment of her needs. What looks like a bargain might end up costing much more in the long run.

Write In Candidates?
Mind you, this is not the complete list and we are still taking applications. Please send us resumes of qualified boats.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Theater of the Absurd


SETTING: Suburban community college with industrial architecture and a 1-1 student-car ratio. It is the early 21st Century and the country is in the middle of an economic crisis that has no immediate end. It is late winter, but there are occasional signs of spring, including the wildly misplaced application of low-rider jeans and exposed midriffs...

Curtains open to a show a typewritten memo projected on a large screen. The memo reads, in part "Due to the required budget cuts, we are raising class size by five students per section and suspending the purchase of bottled water for staff lounge water coolers."

Screen lifts, exposing an industrial-looking meeting room, with two dozen faculty - mostly white - sitting at what appears to be a department meeting.

Dean Mary Misstep: Before we get to the rest of the agenda, I want to ask a quick question about protocol. Being new here, I don't know how I should go about assigning the much-coveted window office being vacated by Sally Sociologist. Is this usually done by seniority, or -

Pear Shaped Woman: I just want to clarify that I heard you say you are new here and don't know what to do about this situation. Is that correct? (scribbles something in her notes)

Larry Lecturer: I want to thank you, Mary Misstep, for bringing this out in the open so that we can all be a part of the conversation. This helps with the perception of transparency and fairness, and that makes us all feel better about the job you are doing.

Asian Pear Shaped Woman: It is my understanding that this is done by seniority and since I am the next most senior person, that means I would get that office -

Vinnie Veteran: Look, back in the day, we just moved offices whenever we wanted to, and if we disagreed, we'd go to the bar, get drunk, and fight it out. That's how I got the corner office. That's also how I got my third wife...

Pear Shaped Woman: So what I heard is that this is indeed a question of seniority? (scribbles something else in her notes)

Actual Academic is seen furiously entering a text message into his iPhone.

Larry Lecturer: There are several people who aren't in attendance at this meeting and I know they would want their voices heard, both individually and collectively. I'm not comfortable continuing this line of discussion without everyone present.

Dean Misstep: Ok, ok. I didn't mean to open up a wound here...

Susie Sociologist: I realize I already have a window office, but it is an undesirable one in a bad location. I have the smallest office of any of the window offices, and because it is on the north side of the building I get no direct sunlight. It's discriminatory, frankly. I believe I should get the opportunity to relocate to a more desirable window office before anyone with less seniority gets to move.

Vinnie Veteran: That sounds right. I'll help you move if you want. (winks)

Pear Shaped Woman: (Reading from notes) I believe that we should be using variables other than seniority to determine this issue. Shouldn't we be applying our diversity standards to this decision? As a white woman, I can still say that a woman of color should get first choice of an office. (Pats Asian Pear Shaped Woman on back)

Dennis Disinterested is seen reading a message on his iPhone and entering a text message in response.

Actual Academic is seen immediately reading a message on his iPhone.

Asian Pear Shaped Woman (in tears): My current window office is 10 doors away from my closest department colleague. I feel segregated from the rest of my department and it has a very negative impact on my life as a scholar, a thinker, and a person of color.

Heidi Hilarious: My office has a door and a window, and has the distinct benefit of being at my own house. Can we move on so I can go home?

Pear Shaped Woman: Not all of us, Heidi, have the benefit of a house or a family or a life outside of this college. I find it inappropriate for you to flaunt your happiness in front of all of us.

Asian Pear Shaped Woman: I just...I can't...I...This is so hard for me...I...the indignities suffered by people like me at this college just never seem to end...

Dean Misstep: Ok everyone. I've heard what you have to say. I guess I will hold off to make this devision until I have had a chance to sit down with my attorney and come up with a plan that is not in violation of the contract. And, oh, look at that, we're out of time. So we'll table the remaining items on the agenda for spring term. That means we will have a fill agenda in April. Remember, many of you are losing your jobs due to budget cuts, we are increasing your class capacities by 20 percent across the board, we are charging for parking, there is not more professional development travel allowed, the computer system will only be available from 7 am to noon Monday through Friday, textbooks will be marked up 150%, bottled water service will be suspended, the library will be mothballed, and the student union will be rented out to Health and Human Services to use as a methadone clinic. Now get out there and keep up the good work!

Faculty: Yay! It's Friday! Let's all awkwardly go our separate ways and not acknowledge one another!

Dean Misstep: Oh, and don't forget that the division office is down to two secretaries working swing shift. If you need any assistance you will have to come in after 6 pm! Thanks everyone!

Asian Pear Shaped Woman (to Pear Shaped Woman): Do you think I got the office? I went off script there for a minute...

Pear Shaped Woman: I have it all in my notes. If you don't get the office and I don't get yours when you move, I think we have a good case for an unfair labor lawsuit.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

10 Item Flash Post

  1. Running again. 12 miles so far this week. Feeling pretty good about it.
  2. The Factory had a meltdown in the rhetoric sector. Fallout yet to be assessed.
  3. The spring beers are already out. But it is 32 degrees and snowing outside.
  4. The 'Hood is sold. She leaves the Floating Trailer Park for her new life next week.
  5. The New Boat Search Committee has had several meetings and has drafted criteria and selected early candidates. No report.
  6. The Colleague is being sued. Probably.
  7. American Idol is on.
  8. Top Chef is on.
  9. The Oscars Festivities are upcoming
  10. I have managed to sit through the first 30 minutes of "Benjamin Button" 3 times.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Gonna Update the Hell Out of This Blog

Actual Sailing Content:
1. The 'Hood is officially going up for sale. Someone's going to get a good deal, too.
2. The Lion is apparently now a fourth-place boat. Skipper Krumm has updated and replaced everything onboard that pig (except the crew, of course) and still we can't seem to climb ahead of those other, less green, less old boats. Takes the pressure off. Now if he will just install that keg cooler we asked for we'll be all set for 'Round Whidbey this year.
3. Is anyone else following the Vendee Globe race this year? Do I have to move to France to get any coverage of this? I've never quite understood why sailing can't work as a televised sport in this country. Especially the big races like the Vendee Globe. It has everything Americans love: speed, horrible conditions, crashes, over-engineered machines, and the serious potential for death. I think ESPN should film and produce the Key West Race Week this year and see what sort of ratings they get. It's exciting stuff to watch rich dudes crash million dollar boats into each other at the windward mark! Come on! Don't make me move to France. Ok, I'll move to France.

Actual Running Content:

I'm running again. Slowly. With Dr. Hilarious giving me the wave of the hand and the "do whatever you want to do, you will anyway" sort of advice on my injury-that-we-don't-call-a-sports-hernia, I have set out to start getting my legs back. So far so good. Last night's little cruise through the old Palace stomping grounds felt good and very little soreness in old abdominal region the next day. That said, if I am relegated to a running life of less than 5 miles a day, I might have to go on a killing spree.

As has been discussed here before, short runs are the worst sort of exercise evil. A 4 miler is just a warm up followed by a cool down with no actual running time anywhere in there.

Still a long way from being able to think about real training or racing, but who knows. Physical therapy starts soon. That should help too!

Theoretical Climbing Content:
It could have been the beer, but Cap'n Ron and I started seriously talking about a spring/summer climbing plan for this year. After 11 years I think it might indeed be time to hump it up Rainier again and get up into the North Cascades to pay homage to Fred Beckey. I'm in. I think I have some climbing gear around here somewhere...

Theoretical Riding Content:
The Fuji is sitting right here. It wouldn't kill me to start riding to work and such. Would it?

But it's just so damn cold and wet out there. And I'm not in love with the 12 tons of sand left on the roads after the snow we had. Nothing quite like cornering on that stuff!

Also, the plans are pretty intact for a motorcycle trip south during spring break this year! A couple thousand miles down to Pasadena and back? Sign me up. Solo down, two-up with The Colleague home? Sign me up. No plan or itinerary? Yes please. Small towns, two-lane roads, and campgrounds? I'm in.

Bonus Coverage:
The Factory
Oooooo boy it's getting exciting 'round here. Gregg Easterbrook's last piece at had a section about presidents loving crises so much that they invented them when there weren't any just so they could say they managed a crises. So they call a downturn in the economy a "crisis" so that when it naturally takes care of itself they can say they presided over it and saved the world. Well, as Easterbrook points out, there are very few real crises that need intervention from the president.

I get the feeling that this is what is going on at The Factory. Everyone in administration is running around using huge numbers and predicting dire results if we don't sell everything for the cause. We HAVE to raise class capacities or we'll all DIE. We have to fire a million teachers and cancel everything but one English and one math class! It's an endless downward spiral of economic woe!

Bullshit, I say. In the end, some fat will be trimmed, some programs that don't have an audience anymore will be cut, and perhaps some adjunct faculty will not be retained. And then Fearless Bicycle Riding Leader can say "Hey gang, look how great we did! We didn't have to fire any tenured faculty! We didn't reduce capacity at all!"

Good job Leader. Sigh.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are just teaching our classes and rolling our eyes at the doomsday prophecies.

South for the Winter
I would rather be in Mexico now.
So I think I will start packing.