Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

run along

January 28, 2015

trail

Note: This post is in my “let’s diversify this tired old blog” category.

At this time of the year, when shadows are long, there are occasional periods when the season loosens its iron grip and allows a series of warm, sunny days. And when that happens, I generally lace up and head out on the trail.

The community where I live has created a series of interconnected trails, mostly along streams that cut through the area, that walkers and bikers and skaters and skateboarders and runners can use. And they do.

We’ve had a string of warm days lately, and that’s meant that I’ve been turning away from the treadmill to run outside on the trail. In the photo above I am on the Indian Creek Trail, right at mile post 10, which is about two miles from my house. The ICT happens to run through my neighborhood, and the distance from my front door to the nearest access points is only .6 miles (downhill going that direction). I can go east or west from there and depending on my ambition, I may take the flatter route to the west or the hilly route to the east. (Since I’m observing Drynuary, I am not running to sports bars in either direction on this trail to meet my wife and rehydrate as I had before. And since I also expect February to return the iron grip of winter, I may not be out on the trails much then to run to the sports bars.)

I’m told (but have not personally verified) that you can, if you make the correct turns at the correct points, cobble together a full 26 mile loop on these trails, ending where you started. Part of that would involve running along much of the Tomahawk Creek Trail as well as the Indian Creek Trail. I generally find my way to the TCT on Sunday mornings (alas, three miles from my house to the closest access). Then, purely coincidentally, I finish five miles further at a salad and sandwich shop where my wife is waiting for me. I want to keep her company, so I generally allow myself a salad and iced tea (unsweetened, of course).

2.2

The trails are well maintained. In recent years, some kind soul has started painting white stripes to mark each quarter mile. (When I’m looking for an excuse to take a break, I can tell myself I’ll run to the next quarter mile marker. And then when I get there, I usually push to go to the next one.) Parts get resurfaced so that, I’m guessing, the entire route either gets new asphalt or new sealer once a year passes. (I don’t mind the new asphalt, but the sealer can by slippery underfoot for a few weeks. It also covers the quarter mile markers.) In some cities that the trails pass through, they will even plow away the snow. (Not my community though. I don’t mind running on snow, but it soon enuf turns into ice, which ain’t no fun.)

The mile post you see above is on the Tomahawk Creek Trail. The mileage there — an odd 2.2 measurement — is the distance from there to the end of the trail, where it connects with the ICT. Alternatively, it can also be taken as the distance made since the beginning of the trail if you’re going thataway. I don’t know why they put a mile post at 2.2 miles, but there is also one on the Indian Creek Trail. In that case it measures the distance to (or from) the state line betwixt Missouri and Kansas. (There are organized runs of 2.2 miles. I don’t know the significance of that distance though.) The salad and sandwich shop happens to be about a half mile in on the Missouri side, just off the trail. It makes for a good Sunday long run, though I need to start grabbing longer distances.

non sequitur

January 20, 2015

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should broaden the scope of this blog to include bits of my life that are not about my (sputtering) writing efforts.

I have been posting accounts of the races I’ve run, and they seem to be appreciated. (Here’s a link to all of them.)

I’ve also started posting some things about this little guy:

bath time

(He’d just had his bath, and his hair was out of control.)

So in the spirit of diversification, let me share with you a non sequitur I experienced recently.

I was at a table with a man maybe ten years older than I. I’ve known him casually for a dozen years. He’s a nice enuf guy, but his orbit is far different from mine, so we don’t have much in common. This man is something like a business consultant. He travels the globe, telling companies large and small how to run their businesses. His advice is apparently much liked because he lives well and has many nice things. (Cars, homes, clothes)

This man was telling me the latest hiring advice he was giving his clients. He said that when an applicant came in for an interview, the first thing you should ask the person is what time it is. Likely he/she will either look at the watch on his/her wrist or pull his/her phone out of his/her pocket. And this man went on to say that if the applicant referred to a cell phone for the time, don’t hire the person!

Why is this?

Well, it seems there is a body of thought that says people who have watches on their wrists — and so in their faces much of the time — understand the passage of time better than those who must pull time out of pants pockets or purses. You can count on the former to BE ON TIME and the latter to have a lackadaisical attitude toward promptness.

He was absolutely serious about this assertion.

It has its appeal. It gives the interviewer an easy answer to a tough decision. And it has the scent of old-time work ethic-ness. Such easy answers, such sweeping generalizations are why advertising and religion work so well. They tell you what to buy, what to think, whom to hate, and so forth. You don’t have to think for yourself, at least about complex things like human interaction and morality.

Of course it’s bogus.

Before the advent of the cell phone, not everyone was absolutely prompt. I suspect the ratio of promptness to lateness was no different fifty years ago than it is today. (I don’t wear a watch, and I am chronically early.) Furthermore, many people I know with cell phones have them in their faces far more than they have their wrists in their faces. They have more ready access to the time than their counterparts.

And what would the hiring manager conclude if the applicant pulled a pocket watch out of a waistcoat pocket to check the time?

you’ll probably be seeing a lot of posts like this one now

January 15, 2015

Ken

Here is little Ken. He’s only three days old in this photo, but today he turned a full week old.

They grow up so fast!

announcing

January 9, 2015

the arrival of Kenneth Gunner Johnson in New York City on January 8, 2015. He weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces. More news to come . . . I’m sure!

seasons greetings

December 24, 2014

holey rock

It is true that the tilt of the earth’s axis is the reason for the season, but only in the most literal sense, of course.

This is a time of the year that is holy or special to people all around the world, and it is worthwhile to recognize that. Given the pageant of human cultures, it would be a shame to limit ourselves to acknowledging only one holiday. Here are a few that I know about:

  • Xmas
  • Shabe Yalda
  • Boxing Day
  • Bridging Day
  • Chanukkah
  • Kwanzaa, Festivus
  • Las Posadas
  • Ramadan
  • Solstice
  • Saturnalia
  • New Year
  • Feast of Sacrifice
  • Santa Lucia’s Day
  • St. Nicholas’ Day
  • St. Stephan’s Day
  • St. Etienne’s Day
  • Yule
  • Durin’s Day
  • Winter Veil
  • Rizal
  • Quema del Diablo
  • La Purisma
  • Dingaan’s Day/Day of Reconciliation
  • Day of Goodwill
  • Emperor’s Birthday
  • Newtonmas
  • Hari Raya Haji
  • Feast of the Sacrifice
  • Johnkanus

Happy Holidays, however you choose to observe them!

talk like a pirate day

September 19, 2014

grammar+pirate_18f834_5072218In case you didn’t know, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Make of that what you will. When our reading group took two wonderful years to work our way through Moby Dick, one of our meetings happened to be on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I made mention of it and received a collected “Meh!” from the group. (There are no pirates in Moby Dick.)

 

Plaza 10K 2014 recap

September 17, 2014

Plaza kit

I had a great run over the weekend. For the second year in a row, I ran the Plaza 10K. Here is my account from last year. I did even better this year, beating my time by nearly four minutes. It’s a 10K PR for me, which is always nice.

We’ve had a spate of cooler weather around here lately, with nightly lows actually dipping under 40 degrees. That’s just about perfect running weather (as long as it doesn’t rain), but just as I had to get acclimated to the summer heat, I needed to do the same with this cool, and it’s come so fast that I haven’t done that. I watched the weather reports through the week, and Sunday was looking good. Anticipating a chilly start, though, I had my wife scavenge in her basement hoard for a throwaway jacket I could wear in the start corral until I had run far enuf to get the engine warm. Then I could cast the jacket to the side of the road and run like the wind without it. (These cast offs are generally collected by the race organizers and donated to charity.) She found a nice fleece jacket that my son had worn in middle school and, astonishing as it may sound, the thing fit me and was even a bit large. Throwaway jacket achieved.

You see most of my kit in the photo above. I’m still wearing my summer white hat, though it’s getting time to switch to my winter black. Not shown are the compression shirt and shorts I wore as a base layer. I wanted the added warmth they would provide (and hoped I wouldn’t regret them later) as well as the chafing protection (no need to go into detail). You see that I wore my Olathe Running Club shirt. I do that in part to represent the club at these events, but I did it specifically this time since I was to run with the woman in the club who is in charge of the club-branded gear. I figured she would show up with one of the new shirts on and I had better do the best I could with my older version.

I had told my wife that she did not need to be my support crew this time. It’s only a six-mile run, which wasn’t going to destroy me the way a half would, so I could get myself there and back on my own. Plus, our youngest son and his wife were moving into their new house over the weekend, and she (and my truck) needed to be available if called. (They weren’t.)

When I rose on Sunday morning (a few minutes before the 4:15 alarm was to go off) I let our little dog out the back door and stepped outside myself (with far less on than I would run in later). It was clearly not below 40 degrees, and when I checked the temp online later, I found it was actually 53 degrees: perfect! And so I went in and began my ritual/routine of getting ready for a race. Mostly that involved getting dressed very slowly and going over my gear check again and again. I checked for last-minute emails from the race (none), brushed and flossed, fretted, walked about, ate a banana, then left an hour and a half before gun time to make the half-hour drive (in the dark) to the start at the swanky Country Club Plaza District. Since I got there too early to stand around in the cold, I drove the course just to see if there were any surprises. (When I ran my first half marathon, there was a quarter mile stretch where we had to run across freshly chewed up pavement. That was not fun.) There were no surprises, and though I was by no means the first one to arrive, I still got a great parking space close to the start and then sauntered over there to look for my running partner and other friends from the club that I knew would be there.

I wandered for a long time before we met up, and then we stood around in the chill and listened to the usual announcements and such. We saw some familiar faces and chatted aimlessly as we waited. About fifteen minutes before gun time, I told my friend (let’s call her ChrisAnn) that I wanted to do a short warm-up run around the block and that I’d meet her in our pace section of the corral. The trip around the block took me close to where I had parked, and I made the spontaneous decision to throw away my throwaway jacket in my car. It was warm enuf that I didn’t really need it by then, and I would regret losing it unnecessarily, especially with a full marathon coming up next month in Oregon and a half marathon coming up in Kansas in November. Throwaway ditched, I continued around the block and looked for my friend in her Volt yellow jersey (which was not branded with our club name). Eventually, of course, I found her. I should tell you about ChrisAnn. She had run the Plaza 10K last year. We had started out together, but she had lost me in the first quarter mile and I never saw her again. It turned out she had finished something like fifteen minutes before I had. She’d had a head cold then, and she said she had run so fast simply because she wanted the race to be over! This year, she asked me to run with her to pace her. She hadn’t been training much (for various reason) and didn’t want to burn out by running too fast too soon. So would I please run with her and keep her in check? (You see what this means, of course. She needed a slower runner to set the pace for her. Sigh!)

There was so much chatter among the waiting runners around us that the national anthem was nearly over before I heard even a snatch of it. I whipped off my cap, and most of the people around me noticed and did the same or put their hands over their hearts. Soon after this, we heard the starting horn, but as these things go, it was more than five minutes before we people at the back of the pack were even moving forward, much less running. I started my watch, it grabbed some satellites, and we shuffled toward the start. As we crossed the starting mats, I switch on my run counter, and we were off.

I had been talking to myself all week (all summer, all year) about this run. I had been telling myself positive things, confidence-boosting things. It was only six (point two) miles. Easy. I’d done this many, many times. I was rested, fueled, and ready. The weather was perfect. The kit was shaken down. The boy could do it, and now was the time. The trouble was that I had done such a fine job with this run last year that I knew I had to have a fine run this time or I would be a complete and utter failure to all of humanity and the running community in particular. (Sometimes it’s no fun being me.) So I had set myself an unreasonable standard, and I was worried sick about it. Yet I’d had a year of training and tangible improvement since the prior run. I had newish shoes on. I had a running partner, which tends to make these things easier (don’t ask me how). Plus, she had asked me to run with her. And in any case, we were underway.

And doing well. We were trying to maintain a slow pace to save our energy for the long haul. (You run six miles and tell me it doesn’t take management!) And we were chatting. I’ve run with ChrisAnn a number of times on club runs, and we know about each other’s families, work, running ambitions, and the like. But we hadn’t run together in a while, so we had some catching up to do. Plus, a fine chatter helps distract from the inevitable agony of running long distances. The course pretty much runs along Brush Creek, so we went west first on the south side of the creek (really more like a small, very picturesque river) then turned around and headed east for a much longer distance on the north side of the creek. People were passing us, but we were passing others, including many who had already succumbed to walking within the first quarter mile. We’d both run the course the year before, and I had driven it that morning, so there were no surprises in store. Thus we could chat and visit and talk about other runners. (Not as many tutus this run as I’ve seen in the past, but colorful clothing was common.) We each asked the other how we were doing. I knew that ChrisAnn wanted to stay at a moderate pace, and just as when I’m driving on the highway, I tend to get going too fast. When I’m running I usually burn out and can’t sustain it. When I’m driving . . . But we were both doing well.

Which is not to say my body didn’t want to stop this foolishness right now! It was telling me very clearly that it did not like being used in this way. It’s usually my lungs that are the last to join the party, and they weren’t disappointing me this time. I had intended to have a good run (as I already mentioned), but I also had another plan with this run. I wanted to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings and moods and motivations. I wanted to watch how I mentally powered through the difficult parts and how to recognize the moments when I felt I could run forever. (It happens.) I wanted to get a sense of what my mental make up was during a challenging run because, well, I have a full marathon coming up in less than a month! I’m going to need to rely on the 90% mental part of running then.

What I found was that there is a huge difference between wanting to stop and needing to stop. And there is a huge reserve within me that I am able to call upon when the running gets tough and the goal is still a long way off. Yes, I wanted to stop. I wanted to take a walking break. But I wanted — more — to keep going to the end and show myself that I have it in me. (Note, I ran the entire distance of the Vancouver USA half marathon in June. But these are lessons that need constant reinforcing.)

ChrisAnn, however, was struggling. Around mile four she had to begin walking breaks. This is an honorable solution to the rigors of running, and I’ve certainly relied on them on many of my long runs. I had no disrespect for her choice, but it did present a problem for me. I wanted/needed to keep running. The solution was as easy as it was obvious. I ran zigzag. I ran in circles around her. I even ran backwards! (More jiggling to that than I expected but kind of fun.) I ran about until she could pick up her pace and I could slot in beside her. We repeated this a few times for most of the rest of the run. ChrisAnn was managing her run as well as she could, and I was maintaining my role as running partner as I could. (Note: There was a selfish quality to this. I’ve done a 5K and a half marathon that did not record the proper distance on my running watch. I blame solar flares. Or bad karma. I worried that the same would happen with this 10K. So if I managed to add a little distance to the route by my zigging and zagging, that would help ensure that when I crossed the finish line, I would have 6.2 miles on my watch, which Nike would then recognize, and the world would be in order again.)

We were eating up the miles. The route from about mile 4.5 gave us a good view of the tall buildings near the finish. They looked impossibly far away, but, of course, they weren’t. I kept my eyes on the ground before my feet and played wingman for ChrisAnn. By this point she didn’t respond to my chatter. She was concentrating on managing her run, and I recognized the signs from my own run of the Kansas City Half Marathon nearly a year before when my wingman, Todd, chatted with me until he recognized that I was beat and just called out mile markers, hills, and other hazards to a man who was ready to die and ready to run.

We kept at it, keeping pace with each other, calling out the curiously contradictory paces and distances on our watches, and otherwise pushing, pushing, pushing.

The last quarter mile of this run (and of the Trolley Run) is the most glorious in the city. It comes back into the Country Club Plaza, downhill all the way, with screaming crowds on each side and the finish arch within view and getting closer. Unfortunately, ChrisAnn needed to walk one last time. She urged me to go on without her, and since I still had some gas in the tank, I did. I picked up my pace, darting past people who were running along at a nice clip themselves. I dug deep to find a good finish in my legs and lungs, and though I think I may have started too early to begin my kick to the finish, I kept at it. I came in to the finish as fast as I could, and I even remembered to close my gasping mouth so I’d look fabulous in the finish photo.

And then it was done. I had run the entire 6.2 miles, and I had run them well. (And it wasn’t lost on me that in a few weeks I’m going to need to complete this run again only I’ll also need to add another 20 miles to it.) I had the sensor clipped from my shoe. And I accepted what you see below.

Plaza blingThe medals for these runs are getting bigger every year. Honking bigger. I’m not sure what I think of that. I wore it for the rest of the morning (including to breakfast, dammit!), but now it will hang on a wall and compete for attention with the others I’ve been accumulating.

ChrisAnn came in behind me only about a minute and a half later. We found each other in the crowded finish chute and pushed our way through the sweaty humanity to the chocolate milk and Chinese food (!) vendors waiting for us. So did everyone else, and once we collected our rightful chow, we found a quiet wall to fall against and slide to the ground where we ate and talked and rehashed our runs and talked about future runs and more or less settled down. It happened that the man who was delivering the cases of chocolate milk to the nearby booth happened to pass right before us, and after a couple of passes I realized I could ask him directly for some tasty milk. He obliged us. And then he obliged us again. We rested. We finished sweating. We started to get a little chilled from the still-cool morning. And then we decided we’d had enuf of the run and that it was time to go. ChrisAnn had to go into work (on a Sunday), and I still had that possible obligation to help my son move into his new house. So we sauntered out of the area. We considered briefly getting a printout of our times, but the line was long, and the info was already online, so we didn’t. We parted and made our ways to our homes.

So it was a great, great run for me. Yes, if I hadn’t zigged and zagged to keep pace with ChrisAnn, I might have had an even better finish time, but a) that’s not what a wingman does, and b) I might not have run the entire distance at all if I didn’t have the accountability of a witness (and friend) beside me the entire way.

I have a small 5K coming up in two weeks. Then I board a plane and fly to Portland to face the hardest run of my life. But I’m going to relish today’s run for a while first.

 


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