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February 27, 2006

The Napa Chronicles, Volume 3

In the spring of 2005, I was ready to take on the Napa Valley Marathon once again.

After my horrific race there in 2001 and its demoralizing aftermath, I stayed away from the scene of my undoing for a while. I ran the Los Angeles Marathon two years in a row (Napa and LA are frequently on the same day), and took almost one full year off from marathons altogether after our third child was born.

But I had never forgotten my original intent to break three hours at Napa, and by 2005 I was finally ready to give it another shot. I was determined to succeed. To quote the Blues Brothers, I was on a mission from God.

The intervening years had a sort of up and down randomness to them: I had the best marathon of my career in 2003 at Big Sur, but a handful of slower-then-predicted times at other races that left me bewildered as to what I should have done differently. I also began dabbling in ultrarunning, mountain running, and triathlon, sometimes turning my focus to these events just a couple of months before the event.

Basically, I had no idea what to expect at Napa. But things started coming together in January and February, and I was able to train pretty consistently leading up to the race.

Everything went according to plan until race week came along.

Starting on Tuesday of race week, my ambitions as a runner and my obligations as a family guy set off on a collision course. That’s the day my father called to tell me he would be in town, and wanted to get together for a visit.

I love my father. We don’t have any major dysfunctional issues (at least none that we ever talk about – but maybe that’s its own issue). And I don’t get to see him that often – maybe once or twice a year. I would have loved to spend time with him, but…

“Ummm…I have a race that weekend,” I told him, “but I could see you Sunday night when I get home.”

So I basically penciled my wife in to host him for a day and a half while I was out of town at a race. Which might have worked out OK, until the family started getting sick.

My wife had been under the weather earlier in the week, and wasn’t quite up to full speed. My son soon joined in the act, spiking a high fever with swolen glands so severe he had difficulty breathing at night. He stayed home from school for two days. Even our computer was ill – it crashed on Friday, and needed to be taken in for repairs over the weekend.

On Friday night, while my wife contemplated taking our son to the ER, I had to make a decision…and elected to go to the race anyway. Like I said, I was determined. Mission from God.

(As a side note to anyone who has ever read this blog and thought something along the lines of “What a neat father he is!” or “What a good family man”: just know that I can make boneheaded, self-serving decisions with the best of ‘em. File that away for future reference.)

Race day arrived, and I felt in reasonably good shape, and felt like I definitely had a sub-three hour race in me. Through the first half of the race, I was still feeling confident and staying right on pace.

Miles 15-21 were difficult, but not enough to hint at any impending disaster lurking ahead. I hit mile 23 right on pace, needing only to run sub-7-minute miles to come in under 3 hours.

Then in the space of the next mile, everything unraveled. I don’t know if it was my guilty conscience boiling over, the running gods deciding I was unworthy of success, or perhaps my wife and son were sticking pins in a voodoo doll of me at home, but I went into rapid multi-system shutdown like I hadn’t experienced in many years.

Remember in The Blues Brothers, when the Bluesmobile finally breaks down after racing through the night 106 miles to Chicago on a full tank of gas, evading about 500 state trooper cars to get to City Hall? That’s what my body felt like in mile 24 of the marathon.

My stomach cramped up. My feet were blistering. My quads screamed in pain. My body felt like lead. I was completely out of breath. It was runner’s karma working against me to the extreme. And like Earl Hickey, for the last 5K I wasn't a marathoner, and I wasn't on a mission from God - I was just karma's bitch.

I lost four minutes over the last three miles, and finished the race in 3:03. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. The worst part was, I didn’t really have a reason – I just ran out of ability before I ran out of road.

I pondered and sulked in the car for the whole drive back, then had to face the music at home. My wife was upset, and justifiably questioned where my priorities between running and family were divided. She actually was easier on me than I deserved.

My son was slowly recovering, but just the sight of him made me feel guilty about being away on one of his (and my wife's) most difficult nights.

I spent some time with my Dad - who was brave enough to visit a houseful of sick people – but it wasn’t nearly as much as I would have liked before he flew back home.

Looking back, the whole weekend was a mistake. Of course I never should have gone to the race, and I still don’t have a good justification for why I did. Yet here we are a full year later, and I’m signed up again - for a race which has managed to kick me in the teeth three times in three different ways - and I'm not nearly as healthy or fit as I was last year. I swear, sometimes I don’t know why I do these things.

But now it’s marathon week. It’s time to stop dwelling on past failures, and think about the potential that lies ahead. It’s time to think positive, build confidence, and put my game face on.

It’s time to make a new chapter in this story for 2006.

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February 25, 2006

The Grouch is...


A. That green dude on Sesame Street.
B. A great but under-appreciated Green Day song from the “Nimrod” CD.
C. Me during the last 32 hours of my trip home this weekend.
D. All of the above.

Correct answer is D. Here’s how my return trip home went down…

5:00 PM ET: arrive at Orlando Airport, wait 70 minutes in security screening line.

6:45 PM: board flight from Orlando to LA. Arrive at assigned aisle seat, agree to switch seats with woman who requests to sit closer to her family, move to her aisle seat at rear of plane.

6:46 PM: arrive at newly switched seat, agree to switch seats again so a family of three can sit together, settle in for 5-hour flight. Take my seat next to very large woman chugging a 1-liter Diet Pepsi.

7:00 PM-12:00AM ET: Spend next five hours listening to screaming toddlers behind me, climbing in and out of seat 3 times so obese woman next to me can use bathroom. Have I mentioned that I hate flying?

9:45 PM PST (12:45 ET): board second plane for flight to Monterey, looking forward to returning home.

11:15 PM PST: plane is turned around after circling Monterey Airport, unable to land due to heavy fog. Plane returns to LAX.

12:15 AM PST: wait in line to make seat assignments for return trips on Saturday, wait in separate line for hotel vouchers to get a few hours sleep. Luggage is unavailable to passengers so airline can load it on the planes tomorrow morning.

1:00 AM: begin 20-minute wait for host hotel shuttle.

1:30 AM: arrive at hotel, informed that there is no vacancy.

2:00 AM: check into hotel across the street.

2:30 AM: finally fall asleep. Considering that I woke up the previous morning at 5:30 AM EST, I was awake for 24 consecutive hours.

6:30 AM: receive wake-up call for return trip to airport.

6:45 AM: shower and dress - no shaving, no deodorant, no toothpaste, no hair product. Put on same clothes from previous 24 hours.

7:45 AM: arive at LAX, wait 45 minutes for security screening.

2:00 PM: plane touches down in Monterey. Luggage nowhere to be found.

So it’s been a long couple of days. Obviously I haven’t run since early Friday morning. And since my running shoes are in my lost suitcase, and I have no idea when the jet lag and sleep deprivation will catch up with me, tomorrow’s run is currently listed as “questionable.”

But none of that mattered when I pulled into the driveway and saw all of those special faces. It’s nice to be home.

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February 23, 2006

Liftoff

Unbeknownst to me, my mind had subconsciously blocked out many aspects of living in the South. Then I went running today, and those memories came flooding back to me. Or, more descriptively, came sweating out of me.

It’s humid here. I’m not used to humid. Not anymore.

I lived in North Carolina for three years, so I have some experience with the persistent heat and dampness that predominate the days here, but I had forgotten how uncomfortable it can be.

This morning I ran a six-mile workout with a few marathon-paced intervals, and it only took one mile before it felt like I was running in a steam room. Thankfully I was able to finish the workout without too much distress before heading to my seminar.

The conference I’m attending is about how to improve quality of care and increase market share in health care settings. A lot of the discussions revolve around corporate psychobabble phrases like thinking outside the box, shifting your paradigms, communicating your vision, yada yada yada. It begins to sound very repetitive after a while, and sometime around mid-morning my mind started to drift.

Then one of the speakers quoted Stephen Covey: “Habits have tremendous gravity pull. And breaking them involves more than a little willpower and a few minor changes in our lives…

…But once we break out of the gravity pull, our freedom takes on a whole new dimension.”

Of course I thought about training, and about all of us who are trying to unfetter ourselves of bad habits, looking for the freedom to explore the outer limits of our physical and psychological boundaries. The quote sounded like something that Wil or Jon would have come up with if Covey hadn’t beaten them to it.

This morning’s workout was just another drop of jet fuel that helps propel me toward the life I enjoy, and toward the person I want to be. I've never really lost sight of that - but I didn’t expect to find validation of it at a health care conference.

Maybe the quote would have had the same impact on me if I wasn’t a runner. But for some reason, I doubt it.

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February 22, 2006

Team Rodent

(Two posts in one day! I feel like Stronger...)

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I’m staying at the Walt Disney World Yacht Club. It’s a pretty swanky operation.

I’ve never been here before, and the whole enterprise is pretty impressive. Coming from California, I’m used to Disneyland in my youth, now expanded to include California Adventure, but those parks are dwarfed by their Orlando counterparts.

It’s clear that this is the type of setting Walt Disney envisioned so many years ago – a sprawling, multi-faceted resort complex where a family could spend a month and do something different every day, all under the mouse-eared umbrella of the Magic Kingdom.

But here’s the thing - it’s really too big. Everything is too far apart. It takes 45 minutes to go anywhere. There’s no way you can possibly take in everything. And sometimes it’s nice to get away from Papa Mouse every now and then, even if it’s just for dinner and bedtime before you reenter the kingdom the following day.

Which brings me to the first book I’m reading on this trip: Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World, by Carl Hiaasen.

Hiaasen is a Miami Herald reporter turned novelist turned social watchdog, with a special protective instinct for the rapidly disappearing ecosystem of his home state. And he’s not crazy about the Disney Corporation.

A lot of the things Disney did in developing this area were reprehensible: the cloak-and-dagger process by which they lowballed local landowners to buy their property, the backroom deals made with Florida’s government to effectively become a self-governing municipality, and their naively arrogant ambition to conform the natural world to their pristine, idealistic vision.

I’ve been carrying this book with me around the Disney resort like an old man carries a porn magazine; keeping it face down against my body, sneaking looks at it only when I’m sure I’m not being watched. I’m afraid that if someone sees me with it on Mouse premises, I’ll be taken into custody, detained and interviewed in a tiny, dark room somewhere in the subterranean tunnels that underlie the parks.

This whole Florida complex does seem a little overreaching, and a bit Truman Show-like in its manipulation of every detail. Maybe it’s just familiar bias, but I much prefer the smaller, slightly more humble California version.

And even with all its blemishes, Disneyland still provides a pretty good bang for your buck if you have young children. Our kids love it there, and my wife and I love to see the pure, wide-eyed delight they experience when we visit. There’s a lot to be said for just enjoying things because of what they mean to you.

So tomorrow morning I’ll go outside and run some laps on the fabricated boardwalk around the color-dyed lake, looking at the imported sand on the shore and the replica lighthouse in the water, and it will all be good. In artificial or natural surroundings, as long as I get my run in, it will be a good day.

(Assuming I’m not arrested by the Mouse Police…)

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Travels With Donald

Good things about traveling to a business conference:

1. Time to catch up on reading.
2.
2. (thinking…)
2. (Hmmm…still thinking…)

There has to be something else, right? I really hate these trips.

I’m spending three days away from home and family and – almost as importantly – from my regular training program. Truthfully, I’m not too bothered about the decreased running, since I’m tapering for next weekend’s Napa Valley Marathon, and should try to let my body heal a bit.

Of course, picking up a communicable disease isn’t exactly the best thing for tapering, either. So you can imagine how paranoid I am to spend several hours in an enormous flying incubator. I’m convinced I’ll either get sick, or develop a debilitating blood clot. Can you tell I’m not crazy about flying?

But in the interest of preserving my sanity, I’m committing myself to focus on the positive aspects of this trip, which thus far has produced the list you see above.

About the reading…I just love books. The problem is that I never have enough time to read them. I have books on my shelf that I’ve never read, because I saw them and bought them, and 6 months later I walk past the bookshelf and think to myself, “I should read that book soon.” So traveling alone fills that void nicely. Even so, I’ve brought three books with me, and there’s no way I’ll finish them all, especially if I keep typing into this laptop.

Speaking of which, I finally found an open electrical outlet after walking the length of a concourse at LAX. There were four of us sitting around a pillar – one businessman checking his stock trades, another placing sports wagers, a slacker-looking teenager playing Sims, and me, the blogger (and yes, I was peeking at all of them). Los Angeles truly is a melting pot.

I’m about halfway into a book I’m really enjoying, which I’ll describe later. But I’ve thought of a few other good developments today, and I’ll end on those:

Seeing the Monterey Peninsula from the air at sunrise is indescribably beautiful. I’ve lived here for 10 years and I’m still amazed by the natural beauty of the area. The few opportunities I have to see it from the air are special, even if it’s on a plane carrying me away from home.

I’ve always wondered if Starbucks’s $4.00 tazo green tea is any different and/or better than the Good Earth tea bags I buy at the grocery store. So today, with my company picking up the tab, I decided to find out. They’re not that different. But now I know. I’ll sleep better now.

I came across a Body Shop at one of the airport concourses, so I was able to replace the bottle of $8 hair lotion that my two-year-old squeezed into our bathroom sink a few days ago. You’re off the hook for that one now, Boo.

My hotel has Internet access! Well, duh…that’s why you’re reading this.

Finally, I’ve written almost two full posts without any real mention of running, so here’s a quick update. I ran the Loop (13 miles) on Tuesday, and my leg didn’t bother me too much, but I ran several minutes slower than usual. I’m not sure if that’s progress, but I’m not going to dwell on it for now.

One more volume of the Napa Chronicles is coming soon, then I’ll commence the countdown to the race on March 5th.

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February 21, 2006

Olympic Thoughts

Since I haven’t done much running over the past couple of days, I thought I’d jot down some random thoughts while watching the Winter Games recently…

My favorite person on the United States team so far: the men’s ski team coach that stands in the start house, shouting at the skiers in a husky baritone voice to fire them up before the start of a race. They’ve never shown this guy’s face on camera, but I’d love to have him behind me at the start line of a marathon: “Come on, Donald! Kill this race, Donald! This is your road, Donald! It’s your time now Donald!” On second thought, maybe that would be a bad idea – I’d probably run a sub-five opening mile.

If Tanith Belbin was Mexican, do you think she would have breezed through the naturalization process so quickly? Or do we have some sort of loophole that provides an express lane citizenship for hotties?

OK, so I’m kind of new to ice dancing – I’ve really only been watching since I learned about Tanith – but are there always more crashes in ice dancing than in ski jumping? How exactly does that happen? Maybe I’ve been watching the wrong sport all this time.

Note to Gillette: Do I really need a razor with five blades? I bought into the whole Mach 3 mania a couple of years ago – has razor technology advanced so far that my current blades are now obsolete? Even Steve Jobs doesn’t roll out new models this frequently. How far is this trend going to progress before we reach an end point? Seven blades? 10? 14? Just give me a number so I’ll know when we get there.

I like snowboardcross – it’s a great idea having several racers on the same course. Can we do this with figure skating also? Let’s make everyone do their routines at the same time. Start with groups of six, allow full contact amongst skaters, and the last two skaters to avoid falling advance to the next round – like demolition derby on ice. Wouldn’t you love to see Sasha Cohen try to chest bump Irina Slutskaya? The whole thing could look like The Matrix with skaters doing twirling jumps and kicking each other in the air. You think people wouldn’t watch this?

Back to ice dancing: a French couple skated to Les Miserables, but their music sounded a little strange…apparently they make a version with French lyrics. Who knew?

Actual remark from the female NBC commentator: “Once you get nervous, the twizzles are the first thing to fall apart.” Um,…OK. Whatever.

Is it bob-sled, or bob-sleigh? It seems like they spell it one way, and pronounce it the other. And what’s the benefit of being the brakeman in a 2-man sleigh/sled? Their names are seldom mentioned by the commentators, their namesake skill isn’t utilized until the race is over, and they have to keep their head tucked down for the whole run, so they can’t even enjoy the ride.

Finally…would it kill NBC to air these shows an hour earlier, so I don’t have to stay up until midnight to watch everything? What’s wrong with starting at 7:00pm instead of 8:00? Is there really a larger market in the hour from 11pm-midnight than from 7-8pm? Is it that important to keep Wheel of Fortune in its time slot for two measly weeks? If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d have no idea who won anything.


On that note…it’s very likely that I may disappear for a few days, as I’m going out of town to a conference in Orlando, Florida. I’m planning to try the whole remote blogging deal, but I’ve never done it before and I historically have a slow learning curve with things like this. So if you don’t hear from me soon, you’ll hear from me later.

And if things go really well for me, maybe I’ll have some actual running to write about.

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February 20, 2006

Leap of Faith

Everybody has days when they would rather stay in bed than venture outside in the cold early morning for a long training run.

Disciplined runners usually overcome their early morning inertia and drag themselves into the scheduled workout. They know that each time they overcome the urge to skip a workout, they build mental toughness that will be needed on race day.

But this isn't a story about disciplined runners - it's about me.

Sunday morning was one of those days. When the alarm went off at 4:30, my body felt like lead. I lay in the dark for a few minutes, then crawled out of bed and checked the thermometer: 33 degrees.

“Well, at least it’s not freezing” I thought, and went about gearing up for my scheduled 22-miler. But the desire to stay in bed never diminished, even as I headed down the driveway into the crisp darkness.

Usually once I start running, I forget the notion of remaining at home, but that thought never left my mind on this particular morning.

My first steps were quite painful, particularly in one hamstring that has been bothering me for several weeks now. I’ve mentioned this persistent injury only a couple of times in this blog, but not dwelt upon it yet – I’ve been (perhaps foolishly) hoping to keep it a non-issue in my marathon buildup.

But a half-mile later, the leg was hurting me even more, and the prospect of 22 miles seemed overwhelmingly daunting. This is the point where disciplined runners typically overcome such mental hurdles and press onward.

As for me, I stopped in my tracks. I considered my options, then turned and headed back home. I returned to my house, changed my running gear for my pajamas, and climbed back into bed.

Once I made it out of bed again at 8:00, I replayed the decision over and over all day long. Although it’s a stretch, I’m keeping a cautiously optimistic outlook on today’s development (I even changed the working title of this post, which was “Panic Mode.”)

My injury isn’t catastrophic, but it’s certainly enough to derail my marathon preparation if I don’t give it the attention it deserves. Although it has limited my overall training volume, I’ve still been able to do several hard workouts each week, as long as I kept the other days very easy.

This weekend I made the mistake of planning two tough workouts in a row. I knew it might not succeed, and that shutting down one or both workouts would be an option I’d have to consider.

I’ve done long runs for each of the past several weekends, and now the Napa Marathon is only two weeks away, and it’s time to start tapering. I won’t lose too much fitness in these weeks, and the easier workload should help my injury heal sufficiently for me to race well at Napa.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Luckily, I’ve been down this marathon road enough times to know that one missed workout won’t affect the outcome, and that I can still be ready if I play my cards right.

The problem is, you never really know for sure if your decisions are the right ones until you are standing at the start line, or feeling the first miles of the race. For now, the skipped workout was a leap of faith. Instead of feeling well-prepared, I'm going to keep things very conservative and see what happens.

It looks to be an interesting couple of weeks ahead.

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February 18, 2006

Show Them the Money

Jeff posted an interesting comment to my article about the Winter Olympics, asking for my take on allowing professional athletes to compete. In the midst of a long-winded reply, I figured I could make a whole post out of the topic.

It seems like the issue of professionals in the games primarily revolves around two high-profile sports: basketball for the Summer Games, and hockey in the Winter Games. Everybody remembers the days when our amateur b-ball teams would routinely kick the rest of the world around, and anybody over the age of 5 in 1980 probably remembers the whole country going nutty about the “Miracle on Ice” hockey team at Lake Placid.

Like everyone else, I have a soft spot in my heart for that team, both for their athletic achievement, and for the galvanizing effect they had on the entire country at a time when we desperately needed it. To this day, I can’t watch footage from the USSR game or sit through the movie “Miracle” without my eyes getting all watery.

But for the time being, let’s forget about basketball and hockey. What about the athletes in all the other sports? I would guess that for the majority of them, the concept of “amateurism” is an anachronism, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For example, consider the plight of most runners. How many of us wouldn’t love to have a portion of our living expenses paid for, so we could have one extra day off work per week to sleep in before training, do a second workout later in the day, or just take a nap whenever we felt like? And how much cooler would it be to have enough sponsor support that we didn’t have to work at all? How much better a runner would you be?

While the number of runners who are fortunate enough to be full-time athletes is quite small, it is necessary for long-term development of our best athletes. It also provides runners a much longer and potentially more fruitful career than they were allowed 40 years ago.

I wrote a a series of articles one summer about Roger Bannister and other great runners of the 1950s, and mentioned how all of them retired from the sport at a very young age. There was simply no money to be made in the sport - even though milers were the most popular athletes in the world.

Bannister was only 24 when he hung up his racing cleats for good. Could he have won an Olympic medal if he stayed in the sport another eight years? Nobody knows, but for Hicham El Guerrouj, those extra opportunities made the difference between being remembered as the greatest miler of all time instead of a heartbreaking failure.

Bannister was a medical student while he trained as a world-class runner. How much faster could he have run if he had sponsorship revenue to support him, so he could postpone medical school for a few years?

The notion of pure amateurism was frequently nonsensical, anyway. America’s best hope to break the first 4-minute mile, Wes Santee, was once barred from further competition because he accepted a wristwatch as a prize for winning a race (It wasn’t even a Garmin – just a regular old watch). Could this type of enforcement exist today? And how exactly does it benefit the runners?

I’m not throwing all of the old ways under the bus. Quite the opposite: I’m about as old-school as they come when it comes to sports, especially the Olympics.

(In fact, I’ve never been more disappointed in an American winter team than I am about this current one. Seriously – do you think 10 years from now people will regard Apolo Ohno, Johnny Weir, and Bode Miller in the same way they do Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair, Scott Hamilton, or Bill Johnson? It seems like they’re more concerned about being celebrities than winning medals. Two words: Lindsey Jacobellis.)

But on this topic, I think having professionals compete is a natural, inevitable progression. If our guys don’t spend every waking minute training, they’ll lose to somebody who does. The line between amateurism and professionalism, if it even exists anymore, has been blurred beyond distinction.

Finally, back to that Miracle on Ice game: I’ve always considered it the athletic equivalent of landing a man on the moon. We’ll probably never again see such a perfect confluence of political tension, athletic accomplishment, and global theater. I feel privileged to have seen it, because I don't think we'll see a situation like that ever again.

The fact that the Americans were amateurs was only one portion of the formula. More important was the way they represented the letters on their jerseys, and the pride and glory they earned for themselves - and by extension, for all of us watching.

That’s still what the Olympics are all about. Regardless of whether or not the athletes are paid.

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February 16, 2006

Winter Wimp

For conclusive evidence that this California boy wouldn’t last one season in a serious winter climate, read on…

My wife has spent the past few days refinishing an old dresser, using our carport as her outdoor workspace. I’ve parked my car outside on the driveway since the beginning of the week.

These would normally be unremarkable developments, except for the fact that the temperature dropped to 29 degrees last night. I climbed into my car at 4:45 this morning and stared dumbfounded at the strange white stuff on my windshield. When my wiper blades failed to clear it off, I knew I had a problem on my hands.

I turned on the engine and cranked the defroster, then got out of the car and entered the storage area under our house. I was looking for one of those, uhh, thingies that I’ve seen people on television shows use to scrape ice off their windshields.

It took me almost five minutes to conclude that since I haven’t ever used a scraper in the ten years that I’ve lived here, the odds of my finding one amongst the tools underneath my house were pretty slim - especially if you’ve seen the way I store my tools.

Time for plan B. I tore apart one side of a Kashi cereal box, took the cardboard outside to the car, and started scraping off the windshield (MacGyver would be proud). It wasn’t until I climbed back into the car with icy fingers that I realized the back windshield was also iced over.

Since I had to back out of our curved, sloping driveway in the dark I figured it would behoove me to be able to see out the back window. I climbed back out, scraped some more, and froze the fingers on my other hand before getting back in the car.

About fifteen minutes had passed since I first came outside. I arrived a little bit late for our group’s workout and had to cut a mile off of my warmup, so I only got to run 12 miles this morning instead of thirteen.

God, I hate winter.

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February 15, 2006

The Napa Chronicles, Volume 2

In 2001 I was determined to conquer the Napa Marathon.

My goal one year earlier had been to break three hours, but I didn’t take the race seriously enough, and came up a few minutes short (or long, as the case may be), finishing in 3:03. I took it as a learning experience, and committed myself to better training and smarter preparation the following year.

During the winter, everything went according to plan. I had run my fastest marathon in December 2000 (where else, but at Cal International), then taken a couple of easy weeks before resuming high mileage training weeks.

January and February rolled along smoothly, without any injuries or major setbacks to my training schedule. I tapered for two weeks prior to the race, and went to Napa in early March in prime racing condition.

I hadn’t counted on the weather.

The first week of March 2001 saw one of those wickedly nasty Canadian storms sweep down the American west coast and remind us Californians why we could never live in Canada. The wind was cold. The rain was colder. The sky stayed dark for three days.

I remember lying awake in bed at midnight in my hotel room the night before the race, listening to the storm howl through the windowpanes of my hotel room, and thinking, “This isn’t starting well.”

Race morning brought a slight lull in the storm, just long enough for runners riding the bus to the start line to think that maybe we would be spared the worst weather during the race. I clung to a glimmer of hope that today would be a great day for racing.

Those hopes were dashed as soon as we got off the bus and felt the prevailing wind. It wasn’t terribly strong, but it was a headwind. Napa is a point-to-point course. That’s a bad combination.

Just prior to the starting gun, light rains started again, and we set off directly into the path of the gathering storm. I wasn’t exactly optimistic.

Yet I was still determined to make a race of it. I stayed on my goal pace through 5 miles, then 10, and on through the halfway point. I first got nervous when I looked at my halfway split and saw it was 1 hour, 29 minutes.

I was right on pace, but I already knew that I was working way too hard to maintain it. To make matters worse, the storm was intensifying.

During the second half of the race, I faced the absolute worst weather conditions I have ever seen. The rain came down in sheets. The headwind was steady in the 30mph range, with gusts greater than 40mph. The temperature fell into the 30s.

The race in general, and my race in particular, came apart at the seams. Aid stations had to be collapsed because cups were flying off of tables that couldn’t be secured to the ground. Spectators smartly abandoned the course in droves. And I was working harder than ever just to run 8-minute miles.

(The only positive thing about this weather was that it was the runner’s version of the perfect storm - almost certain to never be duplicated. A few of my training partners ran the race also – and now, whenever we’re running in foul conditions, someone invariably says, “Well, it’s not as bad as that year at Napa.” It’s like we had this rite of passage together that bonded us in toughness. Or maybe we’re just too emotionally scarred to talk about it rationally.)

The final 10K was simply a miserable ordeal. I crossed the finish line in 3:14 and immediately staggered into the medical facility, shaking uncontrollably and unable to speak. I had a lot of company there. Many of us wore a shocked gaze, like we had climbed out of a train wreck and just wanted to feel ourselves breathe for a few minutes to confirm that we were still alive.

The physical pain gradually subsided over the next several hours, but the psychological bruises took much longer to heal. I was emotionally devastated that I had prepared so well for a race only to see it blow up for reasons I couldn’t control.

I couldn’t think rationally. I considered my bonking in the final miles not a sign of running too hard early, but of not having the toughness to hang in there late in the race. I wondered if I was too fragile to be a marathon runner.

Worst of all, the race sent me into a bit of long-term depression. I started questioning why I placed so much emphasis on running a certain time, or for that matter, why I cared about races so much anyway. It seemed like there were a lot of other ways I could spend my time that weren’t so all-consuming.

Some of these effects were prolonged. I couldn’t motivate myself to stay in training mode for that April’s Big Sur Marathon, and ran one of my slowest times ever at that race. I did a few more races in 2001, but I was never in proper race condition and struggled through all of them.

And it would be four years before I could bring myself back to Napa again. That's where we'll pick up volume 3 in a future post.

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February 13, 2006

My Valentine

With today being Valentine's Day and all, I feel compelled to write a little bit about my valentine of 17 years and my wife of almost 12 years.

Thankfully, they are the same person.

(My motivation isn't pure altruism - she's been known to read this blog from time to time, so let's just say another generic post about running today would be ill-advised.)

We met as undergraduates at UCLA in my first year of college, and her second. We lived on the same floor of our dormitory, but never really spoke for almost the entire school year.

I was on the rowing team, and the spring was racing season. Our crew was favored to win the West Coast Championships that year. As a sign of toughness and solidarity, our entire boat shaved our heads before the championship race.

We would have looked like studs if we won. It was a great plan except for one thing...we forgot to win the race.

When we returned to campus, I was disconsolate. Sulking one night in the lobby of our dorm, wallowing in anger and disappointment, I heard a sympathetic voice asked me what was wrong.

I gave her the short version of the story. I didn't really feel like getting into it.

After successfully breaking the ice, she asked if she could rub my head. So, OK...a pretty girl asks to rub my head...I guess the least I could do was play along to avoid offending her.

We sat in the lobby for a few minutes like that, one stranger rubbing another stranger's shaved head. She said it felt neat. I started to forget how angry and upset I had been.

It wasn't exactly love at first sight. It took us another several months before we started dating, and several years before we got married. (Remember how I said I usually make blink decisions? One notable exception was marriage - that was a long, petrified stare analyzed from every imaginable angle. Some things deserve a second look.)

We were married in 1994, and it's generally been a "happily ever after" situation. And honestly, it hasn't been an equal distribution of responsibility - I've gotten the better end of the deal by far.

You know this whole running thing about which I feel so passionately and write so frequently? In all likelihood, 95% of it doesn't happen if she's not supporting me. The only reason I'm able to get out of the house on any given early morning is that I know another parent (OK...the better parent) is holding down the fort.

With my running adventures, I've sometimes pushed the envelope of her support more than I like to admit. There have been times when I've come home from overnight race trips half-expecting to find her Googling divorce attorneys. But she's always taken the high road of tolerance and forgiveness.

We go round and round about how much running and racing I should do. She's always sensible. I'm typically out of my mind. I think if I didn't have her as a balancing force, I'd probably get injured or burned out, or bankrupt us with all the things I'd love to do. She's almost always right. I almost never say so.

Since we've been married, there's never been anyone else that I'd rather share my life with. And despite my well-documented affection for music video vixens like Beyonce or the Pussycat Dolls, there's honestly nobody I'd give my romantic affection to besides her.

All in all, she's a great valentine.

(And if you're reading this...Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie!)

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Firefly

“As the sun set a little firefly was born. It stretched its legs and flew off into the darkening sky. It was a lonely firefly and it flashed its light searching for other fireflies.” – Eric Carle, The Very Lonely Firefly

My long weekend training runs typically start very early. I like to be home in time to spend breakfast with the family, get cleaned up for church, or get started on projects around the house.

For the past few weeks I have done my long runs in the 7,000-acre Fort Ord open space located between Monterey and Salinas. I’ll usually put in about 7-8 miles by myself before meeting others in our running group at daybreak to complete the remaining mileage.

Almost every long run begins in stark darkness. When I run on trails, I use a headlamp to light my path, but the cocoon of light grows quite isolating, and sometimes I’m grateful to hear or observe any signs of life that might occur around me.

“The firefly saw a light and flew toward it. But it was not another firefly. It was a car’s headlights flooding the night.” – E.C.

The first two miles are on a dirt path that runs parallel to the two-lane highway connecting the towns of Monterey and Salinas. Occasionally a car will drive on the road while I’m on the path, but I know I’m virtually undetectable running behind the row of pine trees under cover of darkness.

“The firefly saw a light and flew toward it. But it was not another firefly. It was a lantern glowing in the night.” – E.C.


One side of the open space is flanked by a housing development, and as I climb the first hilly fire roads into Fort Ord, I can see sparse bedroom or kitchen lights casting a dim glow from afar. I know the people inside are slowly awakening, but completely unaware of my faraway presence in the shadows outside their shelters.

“When all was quiet, the firefly flew through the night flashing its light, looking and searching again. Then the very lonely firefly saw what it was looking for…

A group of fireflies, flashing their lights.” – E.C.


On Saturday morning, something unusual happened. As I was climbing to a ridge, I saw flickering lights across a canyon, several miles away. By this time I was far out of sight of any development, so at first I didn’t know what to make of them. But then it hit me…

They were mountain bikers. Other athletes sharing the trails with me in the darkness.

I only saw the lights for a few seconds before they disappeared into the brush and I veered off in a different direction. Our paths never crossed later in the morning. I have no idea who they might have been.

But somehow, just knowing they were out there made me feel much less solitary than I was when I started the run.

It was comforting to know that there was somebody else crazy enough to explore the trails in total darkness. Their flashing lights were a distant affirmation that waking up at 4:30 for a solo trail run just to get my desired mileage completed isn’t really that abnormal – that for some of us, it’s just the way things have to be.

Clearly I’ve read too many children’s books, because as I continued on my way in the dark, and again as I met up with my training partners, the recurring thought in my mind was Eric Carle’s book, and the concise satisfaction of its final page:

“Now the firefly wasn’t lonely anymore.”

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February 10, 2006

Judges? We Don't Need No Stinking Judges

Author's note: In honor of tonight's Opening Ceremonies, I'm posting a rough draft of what will be a Monterey Herald article next week about the Winter Games.

I generally love the Olympics. There’s really no more inspirational and uplifting sporting event in the world.

So I’m looking forward the current Winter Games in, um,…what’s the name of that city again? I always thought it was Turin, as in “Shroud of Turin.” But NBC seems determined to call it Torino, like the Ford car from "Starsky and Hutch."

Did I miss a protocol change somewhere? Do we Americans now refer to the Italian capital as Roma, or the city with canals as Venezia? Or is NBC just trying to sound more sophisticated? If somebody could clarify this, I’d appreciate it. Maybe I just need to watch more Geography Bees.

Anyway, I’ll sit in front of the television most Olympic evenings, enthralled by the speed skaters and downhill skiers, and indulging my longtime passion of watching hockey.

I became a fan of cross-country skiing during the 2002 Games, after watching the 4x10K relay competition between Italy and Norway decided by less than a second, and learning that these same two countries have finished within a second of each other in each of the previous two Olympic Games. They’re like the Red Sox and Yankees of XC Skiing.

Invariably however, there are several winter sports which don’t hold my interest for very long- snowboarding, aerial jumping, and moguls to name a few.

The marquis sport of the Games, figure skating, doesn’t captivate me much beyond watching Michelle Kwan try to finally win the title that has slipped through her grasp multiple times before. Depending on what happens, she’ll either be the John Elway or the Jim Kelly of her sport – not exactly a small distinction.

Here’s my litmus test for following a sport in these Winter Games: any event where the result depends on style points, or scores given by judges, is far less attractive to me than those that involved traditional competition.

It’s clear that my obsession for running has heavily biased my perception and appreciation of other sports. Events where athletes or teams are competing head-to-head, or racing against the clock, just seem inherently purer, and more exciting.

One of the greatest aspects of running is its fundamental nature: go from here to there as fast as you can, using only your body. In fact, this quality is primarily what led me to embrace running over other endurance sports in my mid-twenties.

I had dabbled in bicycle racing for a while, but grew frustrated that I was losing to many people not because they were better riders, but because they had better equipment. Having the lightest, fastest parts and components makes an enormous difference, and it was a common expression to say that someone would get “out-biked” when losing to a competitor who had the advantage of using superior equipment.

I’ve never had that problem with running. Every single person who finishes ahead of me in a race is either in better shape than me, or executed a better race strategy than I did. Nobody I know has ever been “out-shoed” in a race.

The clock tells me precisely how well I performed, and exactly how I fared in comparison to everyone else. There is nothing abstract or biased about my finishing place. Watch any local 5K or 10K race, and you will witness the purest form of competition there is to be found.

Even some Winter sports that appear very objective have a subjective component that seems unnatural. For example, doesn’t it seem obvious that for ski jumping, the winner would be the one who flies the farthest? But the jumpers are also given style points based on their landings- which, unless someone completely crashes, all look remarkably similar to me. So instead of comparing the distances, the jumpers are given a composite “score” and ranked accordingly. Huh?

Thank goodness this standard doesn’t apply to running. Some of the greatest runners in history looked like miserable wretches at the time of their highest achievement.

The great Czech runner Emil Zatopek (pictured), who won three gold medals at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, often ran with his head cocked to one side, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, and his eyes bulging from their sockets. A famous description of him was that he looked like a man with a noose around his neck.

Steve Prefontaine ran with his head wrenched backward, flung his arms in every direction, and had a face of sheer agony during every one of his races. He tried to decide races based on who had the most guts, and he frequently defeated opponents who ran much more gracefully.

There is a long list of elite runners who during the course of a race have thrown up, relieved themselves, or become bruised and bloody in pursuit of their goal. How revolting it would be (even more so than the actual throwing up, relieving themselves, etc) if their accomplishments were considered secondary to those runners who looked more sophisticated while running more slowly.

This aspect of running applies to us amateurs also. As a physical therapist, I spend a lot of time watching people walk, analyzing the biomechanics of their stride. During training runs or long races, when my mind drifts, I instinctively assess the form of runners around me.

I can attest that there are a lot of ugly runners out there. Feet slapping the ground, elbows flailing, heads lolling all about- it’s easy to find these and many more gait abnormalities if you look at the runners around you. However, many of them run extraordinarily fast race times.

There are also a lot of ugly sounding runners, whose groaning and gasping keep the medical personnel at aid stations on high alert during races. But those of us running near them typically don’t even give a second thought to their clamorous efforts. The great thing is, it doesn’t really matter what we look like or sound like as we race.

Our pleasure and satisfaction come not from our presentation, but in attaining the tangible results for which we strive. It doesn’t take a panel of judges to tell us if we have succeeded.

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February 9, 2006

The Napa Chronicles, Volume 1

I first heard about the Napa Valley Marathon when I was 3000 miles away from it, living in North Carolina.

One of my training partners was a displaced Stanford professor who had run the race twice before. He told me all about its natural beauty and small-town charm, and I immediately put it on my mental checklist of races to do when I moved back to California a few years later.

My first Napa Marathon was in 2000. I was a semi-accomplished marathon runner at that point, looking to raise my game to another level.

I had broken 3 hours for the first time in 1998, and again in 1999 at the same race – the California International Marathon in Sacramento. The CIM is world famous as the "Fastest Course in the West", with an ideal elevation profile that almost guarantees PR times.

By 1999, I had done lots of marathons, but was only able to break 3 hours in Sacramento. Before long, those CIM times seemed a bit dubious – kind of like dunking on a 9-and-a-half foot rim. So I had it in my head that I needed to break 3 hours on another course to leave no doubt as to my ability.

My first target in this new quest was Napa in 2000. Reviewing this Napa course profile beforehand, it appeared very conducive to breaking three hours. I trained as hard as I ever had, and envisioned myself running strong through the final miles of the race.

There was only one catch in the plan. The race was only 6 weeks before the Big Sur Marathon, which had already taken its stranglehold on my psyche and become my favorite, most important race of the year.

With the short period of time between races, I was torn about how much to taper before Napa. A full three-week taper before the race and a week of recovery afterward would take a full month away from quality training in preparation for Big Sur.

I was reluctant to go that route, especially after multiple conversations with training partners who sometimes entered Napa simply as a quality training run leading up to the main event at Big Sur (It should be pointed out - although I didn't fully realize it at the time - that some of my training partners are maniacs.)

I ended up cutting back my mileage only a few days before the race, and showed up at the 2000 Napa Marathon with excellent fitness but very little rest.

The course has moderately rolling hills through the first half, and I stayed right on sub-three-hour splits with the expectation that the course would trend downhill during the final miles.

So you can imagine my concern when I drifted through mile after mile of the last 10K thinking, “Where did all these hills come from?”

I know this sounds like whining, but really - look again at the course profile. It looks like the last several miles are downhill, right? The course certainly doesn’t run that way. While there aren’t any backbreaking climbs, there are enough gradual, lengthy rises to make you think “Hey, wait a minute – these are hills!” I remember getting bitter and resentful – toward whom, I wasn’t really sure – which is definitely not the mindset you want to have when laboring through the final 10K of a marathon.

Given the minimal tapering I did beforehand, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear what happened in the final miles. I gradually but inexorably fell behind pace, and missed breaking three hours. My gas needle hit “E” at about mile 23, and I tried to ride on the leftover fumes for as long as possible, but the entire last mile felt like I was pushing against a rear fender that resisted all attempts at forward momentum.

My time was 3:03. I had run the kind of race that would have broken 3 hours at the CIM. I probably would have run sub-3 with a decent tapering period. I still might have broken three hours if I had anticipated the hills of the final miles instead of being taken by surprise.

The entire story was a classic example of not giving a race the respect it deserves, which is a fatal error for marathon runners. I felt undisciplined for letting my emotions and my focus get away from me in the face of unexpected conditions. It was very clear that I hadn’t yet made “the leap” to becoming a consistently strong marathoner.

But I didn’t beat myself up too badly over it. I knew there would always be next year. I resolved to train harder and focus more energy on the race in 2001. And there was no doubt in my mind that someday I would break three hours there.

And that’s where we’ll pick up volume 2 of this story in a future post.

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February 7, 2006

Carmel Valley Idol

Actual, unscripted dialogue between my 4-year-old daughter and the rest of our family on an otherwise normal weeknight several days ago. The game was her suggestion.

My wife, son, and I are sitting on the living room couch. 4-year-old enters stage left.

Me: Come on in, dog.

Wife: What’s your name, sweetie?

Daughter: I’m June (not her real name - it's her favorite Little Einsteins character). I’m 16 years old (not her real age).

Me: Where are you from?

Daughter: I live in New York City (not her real city), near the Statue of Liberty. I have two daughters (SO not real).

Me: Very interesting. Why do you want to be a Carmel Valley Idol?

Daughter: I like to sing.

Wife: What are you going to sing for us?

Daughter: “Hawaii Rainbow.” I learned it in preschool.

Me: OK, take it away.

(Daughter sings the entire song, then stands with her hands at her sides, smiling at her mother and me.)

Me: Thank you. Mommy, what do you think?

Wife: Hmmm…overall very good. A little pitchy in parts, but I liked it.

Me: I like it, dog. I like your look. You’re what this competition needs. Mommy – yes or no?

Wife: Definitely, yes.

Me (to my son): Yes or no?

Son (finally looking up from his comic book): What? I don’t know.

Me: It’s a yes for me. You’re on to the next round.

Wife: Welcome to Hollywood!

Daughter (raising both fists in the air, smiling broadly): Yes! (exits room stage left, skipping).


When are dreams like this outgrown? Clearly it’s normal for a 4-year-old girl to dream of being a music star, but somewhere along the line most of us give up on such notions and resign ourselves to the lives we have settled into instead of aspiring to the lives we desire.

Thankfully, running (or triathlon, for you tri-bloggers) makes many of us the exceptions to this unfortunate aspect of human development.

Nearly every runner out there is striving for some sort of goal. Whether it’s to lose weight, lower their blood pressure, break 20 minutes in a 5K, or run a sub-3-hour marathon, they all have some image of a faster, skinnier, or healthier body they want to attain.

To varying degrees, all of us recreational joggers, marathon racers, ultrarunners, and Ironman dreamers have more in common with my young daughter than we first realize.

We have an idealization of ourselves that we’re chasing each day. Sometimes the odds against the dream seem overwhelming, but with the right dedication we continue to audition, testing ourselves every time we lace up our shoes or jump in the pool.

Fortunately, unlike Hollywood, success in our sport doesn’t depend on impressing the right judges or getting the ideal break. It’s based more on determination and passion, and the self-discipline to ensure frequent practice.

So maybe the proper question isn't "When are these dreams outgrown?" but rather, "Why do dreams like this have to be outgrown?" I like the idea of having wondrous, childlike aspirations that are within my power to make a reality.

To put it another way - if chasing yet another 3-hour marathon doesn't keep me young, I'm not sure what will.

My recommendations to everyone out there who is chasing a goal are the same things I would tell my daughter for whatever pursuit she chooses: Don't worry about the length of the road ahead. Don't worry about what any judges have to say. Don't lose sight of the person you aspire to be.

And most importantly - never, NEVER stop dreaming.

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February 6, 2006

Silver Linings

Despite the disappointment of missing our weekend in the snow, the weekend actually turned out pretty well.

On Friday morning, I took my two daughters to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, far and away one of the best perks of living here on the Monterey Peninsula. The Aquarium is a world-famous educational and research facility, and family memberships are reasonably priced, so we’ve had the luxury of visiting countless times over the years.

Our kids are as familiar with the exhibits of the Aquarium as they are with their own school or church or anyplace else they frequent. My oldest son and I have even spent the night there, sleeping with our bags rolled out right under the shark tank.

On this weekday morning, we almost had the place to ourselves, and it was all we could ask for. My two-year old is just discovering the wonder of all the ocean creatures, and my four-year-old was more than happy to act as her tour guide while we were there. Even the normally reclusive giant octopus played along, and went for a walk across the front of his tank just as we came by.

With our son in school and the rest of us at the Aquarium, my wife had some free time to make plans and consider materials for the deck we’ll eventually build. It’s telling of the kind of life she leads that simply being alone in a store constitutes quality time.

After school my son and I went bike riding in Garland Ranch, covering about 5 miles in the fading sunlight of what had been a 70-degree day. He doesn’t get nearly as much individual attention as he would like, and was appreciative for the time alone in our favorite place to ride.

On Saturday Grandma had recovered enough from the flu to take our older kids to a movie – they saw "Hoodwinked" and loved it. Their outing freed up some time for us to move along with work on our deck project, and by the end of the weekend we took two loads of old lumber to the dump.

Finally, I was able to do an early-morning, 20-mile trail run. I didn’t feel particularly strong, and I’ve got a couple of unusual aches to pay attention to, but it was a relief to get in a long run and convince myself that I can still be ready for a marathon in 4 weeks.

(Speaking of Napa, I indicated a couple of weeks ago that I would write about my past experiences there. I haven’t forgotten – those posts are coming soon.)

I guess the lesson we took from this weekend is that quality time isn’t about having everything work out perfectly, but making the best of situations as they occur. And sometimes vacations aren’t so much about where you go as how you spend your time.

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February 3, 2006

Change of Plans

We never made it to the mountains.

More accurately, we never left our driveway. Our bags were packed, the kids were excited, and we were nearly ready to roll until a couple of phone calls changed our plans.

The first call was to the kids’ great-grandmother, at whose house we were planning on staying, to get a snow report.

The report was very short: “There’s no snow.”

Apparently it’s been raining lately as high as 6000’ instead of snowing. There is no snow on the ground at her house (at 5000’), and very minimal snow at the bunny slope where I taught my son to ski last year. We could have gone all the way up to the big ski resort, and paid a little extra to get the kids in gear, and we were considering this until the second phone call.

My wife called her parents, who were supposed to make the trip with us. They were both in the throes of the stomach flu (hmmm….can't imagine where they got it from). Her father hadn’t been out of bed all day.

It should be noted that our kids absolutely adore Grandma and Grandpa, and if pressed would probably choose them over my wife and I to accompany them on vacation. It would be a major downer to go ahead on the trip without them.

Grandpa was also going to be my asistant ski instructor. I wasn't confident in my ability to teach a 4-year-old how to ski while also supervising a 7-year-old skiing for only his second time. It seemed a recipe for disaster.

We talked it over with the kids, and decided to stay put. We’re all pretty bummed out, because there’s no telling if we’ll get another chance to make a snow trip this year. Between school and work schedules and other commitments, it’s hard to find times when the whole group can make the trip.

It was a tough call, and it’s a sad thing that we’re all staying home this weekend. Given the mood, I thought it prudent to allow at least an hour go by before asking the inevitable question…

“So, um….do you mind if I go running in the morning?”

And so it happened that I was able to run again this morning, when I wasn’t expecting to. I’d call it a silver lining to our failed plans, but I feel guilty in that I’m the only one in the family who gets to experience it.

I met the group in the early morning rain for our workout of church hill repeats. I’m still not running at full strength, and I was careful to take the intervals fairly conservatively. Still, I completed the full workout, and came home feeling like all hope isn’t lost for a good race at Napa next month.

Remember how I said my training had veered into a ditch? I can’t claim that I’m back to cruising speed, but let’s just say that this morning’s workout was like AAA pulling me back onto the road and putting air in my tires.

I’m keeping the vacation days off of work, and now my goal for the rest of the weekend is to find a silver lining for the rest of the family. I’ll take my son for a bike ride, take my daughter to the Aquarium, and play with our toddler at home. I’ll try to figure out a way to give my wife a bit of a rest from her nonstop grind, or at least share the load with her.

And perhaps if all goes well, I’ll try to sneak in a long run sometime, too.

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February 1, 2006

Perspective

4:00 AM, from my 4-year-old daughter’s bedroom: “DAAAADDYYYY!!”

I walk to her room and sit on the bed: “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

Her: I had a bad dream.

Me: What was it about?

Her: I don’t remember, but I didn’t like it.

Me: Well, you’re awake now. The good thing about bad dreams is, once you wake up, they’re over.

Her: Yeah.

Me: You’re here in your room, and we all love you very much. You’ve got your love blanket, Liddy (her doll), and Love-A-Lot Bear with you.

Her: That’s Tenderheart Bear.

Me: Right. OK, lets try to go to sleep again. Lie down and close your eyes. I’ll stay here a while.

Her (drifting off to sleep): Night, Daddy.

Me: Sweet dreams, angel.


5:30 AM. I’m awake in bed. My throat hurts, my ears hurt. Feeling lousy. I consider my options for the remainder of the morning, then climb out of bed and lace up my running shoes.

I managed a five-mile run through the neighborhood this morning, that felt…well, “good” is a little strong, but “it didn’t suck” seems appropriate.

At the very least, getting out for a run felt better than laying in bed for another hour feeling sorry for myself.

Reviewing yesterday’s post, I did an awful lot of griping about something relatively insignificant. Fussing about minor illnesses and missing a few training days is quite trivial in the grand scheme of things - especially when you receive a comment from a guy with a liver transplant.

Yet I inevitably hatch some doomsday scenario in my head with any sickness. It’s almost unavoidable, and I don’t understand why. It’s one of those unanswerable questions I have, like why can’t Protestants and Catholics get along, or how come it took The Bachelor four episodes to get rid of Tara the Lush.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little better today. Not yet good, but no longer sucky. And for this week, that’s considered progress. By next week, these past several days will seem like a bad dream.

Like bad dreams, there’s one good thing about being down in the dumps: once you have a decent run, it’s over.



**This is my last post for several days, until we return from the mountains. Have a good weekend everybody.***

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