Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

my haul at Powell’s

July 21, 2015

I was instructed to report on the books I gifted to myself after visiting Powell’s in Portland. We had a busy agenda for the day, but the bookstore was only blocks from where the day started, so we managed to get one of my two goals for the week checked off. (The other is a visit to the Nike Factory store with the remote hope that I can find a new hooded jacket to supplement the one I mostly wear non-stop right now — yes, even in the summer since I am always cold.)

I tried to restrain myself some at Powell’s since I still haven’t worked through some of the books I bought there last fall when I was in Portland. There were certainly a lot more books I had my hands on today and then put back on the shelf.

So here they are:

  • The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch – I am slowly rebuilding my Murdoch collection, and I am hoping to re-read her entire output (fiction) in order. This was her second novel, and it’s not commonly found, so I grabbed the one copy Powell’s had and will read it soon.
  • Iris Murdoch by Richard Todd – Essays about her earlier novels. I can use any enlightenment I can get. (I actually already have a shelf of books like these, and some are much too scholarly for me to get through.)
  • Thoreau: the Complete Individualist by Robert Dickens – Because Thoreau!
  • Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin – Because Moby-Dick!

I had deliberately saved some space in my luggage to have room for the books I hoped to bring back with me. (The last time I was here, my son had to lend me a bag.)

Running with the Cows 2015 ~ recap ~ or, “Fear and Loathing in Bucyrus, Kansas”

May 11, 2015

cows kit

The wheels fell off on this one.

I didn’t feel right about this half marathon for the week before and certainly the morning of. I can’t put my finger on why, but I suppose such a vague feeling can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t know.

Running with the Cows was the third in the Heartland 39.3 Series that I had signed up for last summer. I expected this series of half marathons to be tough, and I was surprised when I managed the first two races, on consecutive weekends, with my legs and lungs still intact. I thought I would be destroyed by two such long runs so close together, yet I wasn’t.

As I reflect, I think Running with the Cows went so badly for me because of a perverse, oil-and-water mix of over confidence and lack of confidence.

I should tell you right now that I did finish the half marathon. In fact, of the eight half marathons I’ve now run, my time was better than three of them and very close to another. I found a kick at the end and ran across the finish line as fast as I could, but when I did, I was ready to be done with it, to walk away and not look back. Such was the mess I felt it to be.

I’ve said here several times that I’m trying to make the half marathon my distance. I want to get confident and competent with it. I want to feel assured that I can lace up and accomplish that distance, not without effort and concentration, but with a knowledge that it is in me. I also noted above that I had done surprisingly well on the two prior halfs in this series (Rock the Parkway and the Garmin Half). I think that’s where my over confidence came from. I think I believed I had reached my mastery point with the half marathon. I think I believed that Running with the Cows would be simple, especially since I got two weeks of rest before it. I trained, but maybe with too much confidence and not enuf doubt. Nor did I take my fueling seriously enuf. In the week before the other races, I was slamming a bottle of Gatorade each day, eating more carbs, rolling my leg muscles, and getting more rest. I didn’t do that with Cows. That was a mistake.

But I was also talking myself into a near panic about this run. I had driven the course two weeks prior and saw the long, rolling hills that were on the agenda. They aren’t steep, but they are long. (This is not in the flat part of Kansas that every thinks is the case statewide.) I dreaded those hills, and somewhere within me I “knew” I couldn’t run them, that I would have to walk at least part of them to get to the top. I don’t know if I would have run better if I hadn’t known those hills were coming. If I had gone out on the course as an innocent and just taken whatever came, maybe I would have done better because I wouldn’t have already excused myself from tackling them.

Running sure can be a road to self discovery. Or self doubt.

So all of that was swirling in what passes for my mind as I got to the race early Saturday morning. The forecast had called for thunderstorms then, with up to a half an inch of rain (“except higher amounts in thundershowers”) and I resigned myself to getting wet and perhaps cold. When I rose on Saturday (3:15 of course) and let the dogs out, it was 63 degrees, and though I knew that might drop some before race time, I was comfortable that at least I would not be cold. Parking was going to be iffy because we would be using farm fields, and they were already sodden from the week of storms before. We took my truck (named the “Prolechariot” by my third son) rather than the little red Honda just in case we needed the four-wheel drive. But it turned out that we were directed to park on the side of a road far from the start and then get bussed in. I didn’t like that at first, especially since my wife, who would be waiting as I ran, would be far from the car if she needed anything (like shelter from the storm). This arrangement didn’t turn out to be a problem however.

So we rode the school bus in and got off at the Catholic church that was hosting the runs. (There was also a 5K.) We passed through the school cafeteria, where they were already setting up for the big, well-regarded after party. I looked around for people I knew but didn’t see any. I used the portable toilet three times (always prudent and evidently very necessary this time). I wandered about more. I found my wife on a bench, passing the time with a runner from Iowa. (There were runners from 46 states and several countries. That’s pretty good for an event having only 1500 runners altogether.) I waited for the time to pass. The sun had risen but was behind the gray clouds. The latest forecast said the rain would likely hold off until 8:00, so I’d be at least a few miles into the run before that particular misery visited.

Eventually I got myself into the starting chute and waited. There were no waves or corrals. We would start as a mass and sort ourselves out later. I was far enuf back that I could not hear whatever announcements there were (or might have been). A drone flew over. (These are getting ubiquitous at races.) I did hear a countdown, but several minutes after that, our mass of humanity had not moved. Then I heard another countdown and realized the first must have been for some special runners. Generally wheelchair racers are let fly before the rest of us. But we were finally off, and I started my watch just as I crossed the mats. On my way.

We left the school parking lot and got on the two-lane blacktop road that, a hundred blocks to the north (in my neighborhood), swells to eight lanes and is lousy with traffic. Out here in the rurals, it was just a country road. A country road with a mile and a half uphill incline. It wasn’t long before I found myself crowding against a thick pack of people who were taking up the entire width of the two lanes. It took me a while to realize that I was stuck behind a pace group. In part because of my negative self talk, I didn’t intend to run this race hard or fast, but this pace group was going more slowly than my legs and lungs wanted. Compounding this was the chatty nature of the lead pacer. Her job is to encourage those who have chosen to run with her group, to advise them on how to tackle the hills, how to get through the water stations, how to outsmart their fatigue. And she was doing this, keeping up a nearly constant patter of words to the people depending on her to get them across the finish line at a given time. And boy was it annoying to me!

I figured if I could get ahead of this group and put some distance between us, I could still fall back to their pace if necessary and yet not have to listen to the encouraging words. So that was my plan. To get around them, I had to run on the narrow gravel shoulder, and then when I was back on the road, I had to hustle to get that distance. Because annoying patter!

My plan worked. Soon I could only hear the pacer when she had her group shout at each mile marker. This was the last time in the race when I felt like anything was working for me.

At mile 3 I took my first walking break. As much as I really did not want to do this, I didn’t see how I could keep running, not with the many long hills still to come. It’s possible that I had been running too fast. I wanted to leave that chatty pacer well behind, and regardless, I wanted to finish faster than her group’s promised time, even with a slower run for me this time. So maybe running too fast to get ahead of her had caused me to walk too soon, which would allow her, ironically, to close the distance between us. Plus, walking revealed to me that I wasn’t (yet) a master of the half marathon, at least not on a challenging course.

This was not my only walking break for the remaining ten miles. There were plenty. And as the miles passed, the breaks came more frequently. Had I been on a flat course that morning, I think I still would have needed (or taken) walking breaks. My overconfidence blended with my lack of confidence was visiting me repeatedly. With a smirk.

I ate my GU every three miles. I took the water and Gatorade at each of the (well staged and staffed) water stations. I ran all of the flats and downhills, and I powered as far as I could up those long hills. But I was disappointed with myself. I was disappointed that I was exhausted and panting. I was not going to turn in a good time, and all I really wanted by the halfway point was to stay ahead of the chatty pacer.

The halfway point was a turnaround. We had climbed what seemed like a two-mile hill to get there, and I relished the thought of returning that distance going downhill. (Of course I forgot that it was a rolling stretch.) As I made the turn and saw the runners behind me still heading toward it, I was encouraged to see how many there were. I guess I wasn’t as pathetic as I feared.

By this point, any goodwill or milk of human kindness was drained from me. I didn’t care about much except finding the flattest part of the road and sticking to it. Often this required me to run in the empty lane (we runners having thinned enuf that most were just using one lane). All along the run, service vehicles were zipping up and down the course, mostly staying on the shoulder (when there was one) but sometimes coming into the lanes that were supposed to be dedicated to us runners. I don’t know what it is that was so urgent, but plenty of ATVs and mules were going back and forth. Some were apparently delivering things to the aid stations. Some were, I guess, looking for runners who could not finish. Some seemed to have no other purpose than to cheer to us, but they were using the road that was supposed to be ours. So I got feisty and decided I wasn’t going to yield my empty lane to any of these vehicles. They could pull over and let me pass, or they could grind through the gravel shoulder to pass me. But I paid to use that road that day, and I was going to use it. I suppose you can guess what happened next. I heard a vehicle coming behind me, in my personal lane of blacktop, and I just stayed in the way, plodding along and letting it deal with this.

Fortunately, I happened to look back (thinking I might make a rude gesture) and learned that I was impeding the progress of an ambulance with its lights on. Um. Oops.

I was better behaved after that. Fortunately, we runners were well thinned by then, and I could find my flat part of the pavement in the other lane with the other runners.

Somewhere around mile 11.5 I looked to the south and could see the steeple of the church that was our finish. Only a mile and a half to go, and yet it looked so very far away. There were no uphills left, and since we were returning on part of the same route that was at the start, we had mostly just gentle downhill before us. But so very far away. There was more walking in this last mile and a half. I didn’t care any longer. I hated the world by then. Sometime in the last ten miles I had caught up with the next faster pace group and even got ahead of them, but they passed me and left me behind within sight of the finish. Sigh.

I came toward the finish and made the turn into the school parking lot. What little energy I had left I poured into my legs. I think I made a decent enuf finish of my run, and I was still coherent enuf to hear the announcer mispronounce my name as I came hurtling across.

And that was that. I turned off my watch, waived away the proffered bottle of water, and only remembered that I needed to have the chip removed from my shoe when I saw a line of people having this done. I had to find the table where I was (unceremoniously) handed my medal (see below). The thing hanging from the cow’s neck is a copper bell with the number 6 on it, this being the sixth year of this run. (I understand the church makes something close to $100,000 from it. I’m not sure how since there weren’t that many runners times the race fee to reach that number. But I’m sure races are money-making rackets or they wouldn’t be held.)

cows bling

I staggered around for a while, hating the world and myself most of all. Somewhere ahead was another tent where I could collect my special medal for completing all of the races in the Heartland Series (see below). It was handed to me unceremoniously as well.

heartland bling

Then I made my way to the school cafeteria where the after party feed is legendary. The whole community apparently has a hand in it, and the church ladies are busy baking and cooking and fixing food a week in advance. I’d heard again and again about this spread, and I was eager to see it (even though I am not generally hungry after a hard run).

Every runner had a support crew, and since I imagine this event is the biggest thing to happen in Bucyrus, Kansas all year, every little kid in the community was there for the excitement and glamor of sweaty runners shouldering each other for free food. Thus the cafeteria was packed with people, most of whom I suspect weren’t actual runners. I stood in a long line just to stagger up to the table to see what was being served. Unfortunately, it was mostly nothing that I wanted to put on my stomach at that time. Burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ, potato chips, nachos, burritos, fajitas. There was a table dedicated to baked goods, but they were all so thickly sugar coated that I knew that wasn’t going to work for me either. About the only thing they had that I wanted was CHOCOLATE MILK, and I drank five or six cartons of it before I pulled myself from the throng and decided just to go home to a hot shower.

Remember that the Prolechariot was miles away, and I had to fold my weary, adult-sized legs into the seating of a school bus then drive most of a section of land to get off relatively close to my truck. But I managed. My wife drove us home, and I was about as cranky as I could be the entire way. It was not a good run, and that weighed on me. (And my grandson, Kenneth, never did send me his customary congratulatory text. I guess he was busy planning Mother’s Day stuff.)

But the rain never fell. There was a constant mild breeze throughout the run, and that relieved us of the oppressive humidity. The water stations were very well staged and well run, and I think every high school kid in the county had turned out to help and offer hydration, encouragement, and smiles. The course was challenging, and maybe if I had trained more intelligently and diligently, I would have welcomed the challenge rather than merely endured it. My knees did not give the slightest hint of complaint, and when my hips began to bark, I swallowed the Advil I had brought along. I didn’t see a single cow until the last half mile, but I guess they fulfilled that part of the deal, so no complaints there. I beat the chatty pacer in. I now have my eighth half marathon behind me as well as some lessons learned. And at least it wasn’t a really bad event like the Garmin half. (Ugh!)

There are only three things I would have done differently on the course had I been race director. I would not have allowed all of the back and forth of the support vehicles. And I would have not had us cross the path with faster/slower runners at mile 5. This was where we began the out-and-back stretch with the turnaround. The monitors on the corner needed merely to direct us to the left side of the road (after our left turn), and we would have come back on the right side of the road. As it was, this was switched, and though it didn’t affect me as far back as I was, many of the runners ahead of me had to find their way through a line of runners crossing directly in front of them. Finally, I would have asked the police and sheriff staff and other security people to turn off their engines as they idled at intersections. I realize it may be protocol to leave their engines running in case of sudden need, but there were several intersections I ran through where I sucked in nothing but exhaust. Did ALL of their vehicles need to be left running? Did they ALL need to be parked immediately beside the course?

So I completed the Heartland Series and got the bling (plus the special shirt that shows I’m badass). But I don’t think I’ll sign up for it again next year. When two-thirds of the events are disappointing, that doesn’t encourage me to come back. Maybe I’ll Run with the Cows again someday to prove to myself that I can deal with long hills over long distances. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I have nothing on my dance card until the Plaza 10K in September. Yes, it’s likely that I’ll do some races between now and then, but I think my regular training runs will probably keep me happy for a while.

Garmin Half Marathon 2015 ~ recap ~ part two

April 22, 2015

Garmin bling

After I crossed the finish line and my wife found me, we turned the corner to enter the after party area, but we quickly turned away from it and decided just to go home. There was a long line out of the food tent (with free chicken sandwiches for all as well as the usual post-race chow). But the line was standing in the rain and not moving. The tent was dark on the inside (I suppose since there was no sun). The rest of the area was crowded with vendors all trying to shill things. Thunder and lightning overhead. Just yuck.

This was a disappointing run. Not because I didn’t set a personal record; I hadn’t intended to. I was actually pleased with the time I turned in, it being much better than I had expected given how tired I was from the prior week, my anxiety about the weather, and my unfamiliarity with the route. Nor did I have to rely on scabs for chafing protection, so that was good.

But the start seemed ragged and chaotic. The water stations were poorly staged. There were unnecessary bottlenecks on the route. The pace groups were thick and blocked faster runners (though this was the case at Rock the Parkway, too). The finish was lackluster (even if the weather had cooperated). The dirt on the trail hadn’t been cleared. Supposedly paved sections were a mess. Overall, the course was ugly. The after party area was too congested. And given the weather history of the event, I think they should have had a better contingency plan for most of it. I really expected better from an outfit like Garmin, but perhaps these are growing pains. I know that Garmin took over this race from its original organizers several years ago. Maybe they’re working out the kinks.

But the whole Wizard of Oz thing bugged me, too. If you’re from Kansas, you’re pretty much sick of all of the references to the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy and Toto and the Yellow Brick Road. (Why don’t they credit us with being the home of Superman? He grew up in Kansas!) Plus they keyed everything off of the movie version of the story. See Dorothy in the (ugly) medal above? See her ruby slippers? In the novel they are silver slippers (that some have theorized was Baum’s argument for a silver currency standard at the time, some fascinating reading here). I realize it was all supposed to be fun, but it left me cold. I wouldn’t have run this if it weren’t part of the Heartland Series, and I doubt I’ll run this one again.

After we left, my wife and I drove to the bagel shop and sat down to enjoy what we had missed earlier (including chocolate milk). But as I was eating my bagel and drinking my iced tea (unsweetened, of course), and putting my feet up on a chair, I realized that there were likely still some full marathoners out on the course, in the intense rain of the moment, squishing their way through what surely had to be several inches of wet mud by then.

While there I got another text from my grandson (notice his proper use of a comma):

congrats Garmin

I’ll be grabbing more miles this week since I don’t have another half marathon for more than two weeks. But I do have the Trolley Run this weekend. It’s only four miles long, and nearly all of it is downhill. Plus it is renown for its after party, set across several spacious blocks. That will be nice. And the weather forecast looks about perfect.

 

still around

April 2, 2015

So, yeah, I’m still around. Haven’t had much to say I guess. Still picking away at the writing, though it’s been hard to achieve those early morning sessions since all I seem to want to do right now is sleep.

My grandson, Ken, is doing fine and growing as he should. He’s smiling now and interacting with his parents and his brother (the dog). He’s even starting to vocalize.

SmilerNext weekend begins a madness that seemed like a good idea last July when I signed up. I run the first of three half marathons in five weeks. Next weekend is the first, followed by the second the very next weekend. Then I get a couple of weeks off (though I’m squeezing in a four-mile run then, but it’s all downhill) before the third and final half marathon. Lots of swag and bling and shirts and chocolate milk. Yes, I am insane.

 

missing monks

February 2, 2015

Green-Wood

So I was in Brooklyn, New York to see a little fellow, but I had to get some miles run, so I laced up on Sunday (when there was a break in the otherwise wretched weather) and headed out. I had a destination in mind, of course. About a mile and a half from my grandson’s apartment is the Green-Wood Cemetery.

It looks like a beautiful place, but they don’t let people run in there (and the security guard reminded me of that as I entered, though he told me there was no “jogging” allowed). I only went in (walking) as far as the magnificent entrance gate, which you can see the top portion of above. (The sky was an overcast white, but the photo turned out pretty good.)

Green-Wood is home to a number of notable people, including Basquiat, Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, and Horace Greeley, but that wasn’t why I dodged people, strollers, cyclists, cars, and pigeons to run there. Instead I wanted to see the monk parrots.

Green-Wood’s most famous newest residents are a thriving population of monk parrots, native to South America and now established in Brooklyn. There are a few urban legends as to how the birds got there, but regardless of their veracity, they are there and famous. (I’d even heard of them out in the Midwest.)

Alas, the parrots were somewhere else when I ran there. (I expect I’ll be making future trips to Brooklyn.) What I did get to see was their massive nest at the top of the cemetery’s entrance gate. Can you see it above?

close up

 

Here is a crop from the first photo. The darker snarl near the top is the nest of the monk parrots. The view from the other side of the gate is better, but the contrast was bad; the image was washed out.

As I said, I expect to return to Brooklyn, and the 6.55 mile route I ran on this day is pretty good (with a nice half mile downhill finish). I’ll run it again. Maybe I’ll see the actual parrots then.

I had a good run today

January 17, 2015

I had a good run today.

That is all, aside from this:

sleepy time

creativity

October 29, 2014

“Creativity is a lonely path but might be a satisfying destination.”

Hung Liu


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers