Sunday, November 16, 2008

Disappointed, not dismayed

The inaugural Pasadena Marathon was canceled at 4 am.

I didn't find out until after my early rise, smoothie, and energy bar. At first I didn't believe the electronic signs along the freeway saying "Pasadena Marathon Canceled." I thought, "maybe the half marathon is still on." But when I pulled into the parking lot just before 5:30, the officer informed me that, indeed, all race activities for the day were called off by the city and Kaiser Permanente, the primary sponsor of the event. Kaiser is one of the country's largest not-for-profit health plan providers, so if anyone can be in a position to evaluate the health consequences of running long distances is particulate saturated air, I guess Kaiser can. They did anyway.

Coming home from Pasadena, I drove within sight of one of the raging fires plaguing the region. Memories of last October.

Now the reality is kicking in for me: I've rested two straight days, had an easy taper week, and need to run. I feel a 12 mile run coming on this evening. Smoke or no smoke. With Radiohead.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Day Before Tomorrow

Blogs are supposed to have some immediacy to them, no? Here's my day, my feelings right now, the day before my first half marathon. A race I didn't realize I would run when I started putting my feet down with purpose in early January. But it is a race I am destined to run. Tried to get a good night's sleep last night, because that is what everyone I talk with recommends...didn't happen. Too many thoughts about ancient rocks and evergreens.

But I have eaten normally today and tried to keep hydrated. The Santa Ana winds are blowing, making it hot, dry, clear, and in parts of the basin, smokey. I feel confident that I will run a good time tomorrow, for me that means under two hours, but all the logistics have me running around at the last minute for sunglasses that vent (haven't needed them for 11 months), nipple sized band aids (haven't needed them either), and a nice pair of running shorts with places for keys and energy boosts (actually, needed them).

I'll run without carrying water on the advice of a good friend who appreciates being unencumbered. No music either. I want to experience the entire race without the aid of the boys from Oxfordshire.

Despite all the stuff I need to gather, I have my bib number, clothes, and shoes. And my legs. I'm ready.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This is my week to taper off before my first half-marathon this coming weekend. So my easy runs are easier, my tempo run is like an easy run, and I have consecutive days of rest.

I am wound like a spring.

When I first started running in January, I was doing it to survive. Now, my daily runs help me thrive. I've been so focused on my training, that I've neglected my blog.

Oh, well.

I will return to it as I refind my balance. As I unwind and gain control all at the same time. There is a time for tapering. Even if it is just in preparation for bigger challenges, loftier goals, and renewal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saying, Meaning. Saying, Doing.

Several months ago, I heard quite a few people say this: "America is not ready to elect a black president."

What they meant: "I'm not voting for a black man."

Here's what most of us said: "I'm not just voting for a black man."

What most of us did: Voted for Barack Obama.

Welcome to the real start of the 21st century.

Chicago is in the House.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apologizing for Entropy

Grass is dying in my fair city. Someone feels the need to acknowledge it, to explain it, let us all know something is being done about it. I'll have to let city hall know that the asphalt in front of my house is cracking, that there are a couple of burnt out LEDs in the yellow light on the corner, and that, on average, it seems a bit hotter these days.

This morning ants busied themselves along the trail. An opossum hid low in the bushes. I went for a run.

No apologies necessary.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I won't forget these vertical blinds. I've stared at them for hours over the control console of a treadmill in my corporate gym over the course of ten months. When I first started running on the treadmill, I would focus on patterns in the blinds, trying to keep my mind off the distance, the pace. I would see faces, as easily as people see Jesus in burnt toast...only for me: giraffes and trolls. Just to the right of these dirty, cracked blinds are floor to ceiling mirrors. Didn't spend too much time looking at myself. But over time, a reluctant sideways glance would reveal that minor miracles were happening to my body, all the result of dedication and movement. All those miles over all this time, and I really wasn't thinking about how fast or how far I went. I was focused on these blinds.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Drunk Mockingbirds

The guava tree next door is overgrown.
Out of control, really.
Fruit has been ripening on the tree and falling for weeks.
Fermenting on the ground, over the stone wall.
Except by birds.
They've forgotten how to fly.
Unrecognizable songs, too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cheese Mongering

Overheard conversation today: “I’ve got two newbies working the cheese counter today, and we are running low on slices of blue. They’re gonna need some help cutting the cheese over there. Keep your eye out for the cheese guy from Venus.”

Times are hard in my fair city. Security cameras are focused on the cheese counter at my local big box organo-store. Wheels of Idiazabal have gone missing.

Several months ago, some guy started coming into the store, extolling all the virtues of a raw sheep’s milk cheese from the Spanish Pyrenees region. Some of his random (paraphrased) thoughts:

“How pure the rainwater is that falls on the rounded hills, giving this cheese a mountain perfume and inescapable butter quality”

“The smoked aspect of idiazabal harkens back to a tradition started by Basque shepherds, when they would store the cheese in the stone chimneys of their seasonal alpine huts”

“My diet consists only of cheese”

I’m sure it started out innocently enough. A free sample, in line with the store’s policy, was probably all Cheese Man from Venus wanted. Soon thereafter, he was already feeling his addiction and asking to buy entire wheels of idiazabal (taking advantage of another generous store policy: 10% off all wheels). But he would bring back the wheels after a few days, saying that he made a mistake in purchasing so much cheese. So, the cheese counter cut him off. Now inventories are out of whack and numbers can’t be justified.

Film is rolling.

Security is on alert.

Cheese doesn't walk.

Better go vegan and stick to the bulk legume aisle, Cheese Man!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Difference Between Home Depot and Bev Mo

A couple of weeks back I was buying crown moulding at Home Depot and was horrified to see all the Christmas junk already on display.

I was pretty happy tonight shopping at Bev Mo.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lost and Found

Tried to get an early start to work this morning, in need of a market stop for lunch. On the way, I saw a wiry blond terrier wandering the sidewalk. She seemed happy when I approached her and wore no collar. She yelped a little when I picked her up gently, but jumped right in the car. I stopped a guy walking his dogs and asked him if he knew the dogs in his neighborhood. "You stopped the right guy," he said as he looked at the terrier in my back seat. But, he had never seen the dog.

I took her to my vet and she scanned her for an implantable chip. No luck. I then took her to my fair city's animal shelter, filled out a few forms swearing that she wasn't mine and that "to my knowledge" she hadn't bitten an animal (human or otherwise) in the last two weeks. How could I know that? Based on my experience, I didn't think she had it in her to bite, so I signed.

All this before eight o'clock.

I checked back with the shelter in the afternoon and that little terrier I vouched for had been reunited with her family.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feeling My Pace

Well, tonight was the part of my training program I dread: the tempo run. Usually I like to run this type of workout on a treadmill, where I can control and verify my speed instantaneously. But the treadmill I used to start my running journey is busted and I have no fancy GPS based monitoring system (yet!) to tell me how fast I'm going; tonight the pace was up to whatever my body could do.

So I just ran. Ran harder than usual with the goal of a warm-up mile, 5 miles at a 8:35 pace, and finally, a cool-down mile. I figured in order to shave about a half minute off my usual mile pace, I should pay attention to each stride, focus on a bit more spring in my step. It was still hot and dry this evening, so I made frequent fountain stops to stay hydrated. My watch does have a stopwatch feature, and at the end of the run I determined I had run the 5 miles at a 8:36 pace.

For years my body had been trying to tell me things, but I wasn't listening. Now I'm starting to talk back and, at least tonight, we started communicating a bit better. The dialogue continues...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

wtf iz ^

I'm still trying to get txt msging. My nieces text me every day, with abbreviations I just can't understand. I'm guessing that they pay for their service by the letter, or they just don't have the time to type out the whole word. Isn't your uncle worth a few extra keystrokes, girls?

In order to interpret these enigmatic blasts (text that!), I did something I'm a little more comfortable with: I googled a website (transl8it) for translation services.

In an effort to keep pace with my tech savvy nieces, I translated various quotes I like into @10tion grabbers and preprogammed them into my phone.

So, this afternoon, when my 13-year old niece sent me a "wotz ^ unc jon?" I smugly shot back with a bit of Henry David Thoreau:

"2 b awake iz 2 b alive - hdt."

In about 20 seconds, surely without the use of transl8it, Emily replied:

"Does that mean that if ur asleep ur dead?"

It was at that point that I dialed her number and actually talked to her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Road Swag

I'm doing my part to clean up the bike lanes on my inconsistent rides to and from work. For my initial voluntary attempts, I used inner tubes and "puncture resistant" tires to aid my efforts.

Two weeks ago I removed a bent nail from the road using the sidewall of my rear tire. Three weeks prior, a wood screw perpendicular to the rim. This technique is becoming a bit expensive and time-consuming; though I do have my tube changes down to about 5 minutes given all the recent practice.

I'm becoming more proactive. I've called the city and asked for regular clean up along a notorious 2-mile stretch. The week before last, I backtracked to remove what can only be described as a hatchet from the bike lane. Tonight, a metal pipe and bent wheel decoration came home with me in my panniers.

More so than traffic, this shoulder detritus is really the one thing that deters me from commuting more often. My fair city has more bike lanes than most (about 300 miles of on road lanes and 45 miles dedicated bike only trails) but needs to provide more bike only lanes from my residential neighborhood into the core business areas of the city.

Despite my bike's attraction to sharp objects, I've made a pledge (@ team wonderbike) to bike to work between 20-80 miles a month and restocked my supply of inner tubes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pop Quiz

Today is a cross training day and so I went to church. Taking my own advice, I witnessed a muted sunrise from a bit of the coastal sage habitat that remains here in southern CA. No kneeling involved. Passed a solo hiker wearing a "University of Life" t-shirt. Thought about Aunt Mildred.

I really had an Aunt Mildred; Uncle Stanley, too. They had bad teeth. Her home alarm system: an empty Van Merritt beer can on a string hung from her interior front door knob. I remember the can as red, white, and green with a windmill on it. My cousin Ken and I both collected beer cans at the time, and although we never discussed it, I'm sure it crossed our minds to disable Aunt Mildred's alarm system. I mean, could she really hear it from the kitchen in back? The can was in almost mint condition. Surely, a can of Bud could do the trick. Funny the things you remember in a life.

My mom said Aunt Mill spent most of her Sundays at her local bar. Probably did a lot of praying there. When I was younger, I used to wonder if that were enough to get into heaven, or was it time spent in a cathedral that was needed to tip the balance in one's favor? On a long hike, I think about some weird stuff. I mean after all the botanizing is through (nothing in GFB - Gorgeous Full Bloom, this time of year), my mind tends to wander.

A small part of me thinks there may be a pop quiz at the end of this whole adventure. Scan tron most likely. Note to self: always carry a #2 pencil in case of rapture.

Some potential questions:
Ever pick up a hitch hiker?
Were you supposed to cut your toenails straight across?
Name three dogs that live in your neighborhood
Describe a memorable sunrise
Did you ever love some one? Any one love you?
What were you scared of? Are you still?
Describe 5 plants and the things that pollinate them
Did you ever walk outside in the rain? Without umbrella?
Record the highest peak you ever climbed. How long did you stay at the top?
Recall the time you nearly drowned. Who saved you?
Name your favorite fruit. When did you last eat it?

Or maybe...Describe the beer can that hung from the door of your tippler Aunt's home.

I was thinking, maybe if you had answers to all the questions on the pop quiz, had paid attention, you might not have to come back here. Or, maybe the reward is that you do get to come back. Perhaps you just get the chance to choose. Then again, no matter. Here we are.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

End of Week 8

Early morning easy 5 mile run before sunrise in the neighborhood. I like the way things smell in the morning and the way my body seems to naturally wake up with the gradually intensifying sun. I wish I would start all mornings this way: as a sunrise witness.

I'm at the end of 8 weeks of training and have 4 more to go before running my first ever half-marathon. This concludes a "rest" week (a total of four 5-mile easy runs) before my mileage starts ramping up. For my easy runs I'm now running under 9 minute miles, it was only two months ago when I was running 10 minute miles for my easy runs.

Next week my mid-week tempo run includes 5 miles at a 8:30 pace. Right now I'm anxious about the challenge posed by the tempo run. But even though the tempo and speed runs pose the biggest challenge for me, my body has yet to fail me during these trying runs. I always push through and feel a great sense of accomplishment upon completing those stretch workouts.

For my half marathon training, I'm using a plan generated by the smart coach feature on the runner's world website ( and looking forward to running in Pasadena's inaugural half-marathon next month.