Tuesday, March 2, 2010

CAVEAT RAEDARIUS

Approximately 6% of my waking life now finds me behind the wheel of a large automobile. I numbly endure my commute, my mind a grim, featureless void save for the constant, unbroken flow of obscenities directed via ESP and withering scowls toward those with which I share the road. My prejudices against other drivers and the cars they inhabit, developed over two aggravation-filled decades of vehicular travel in Los Angeles, have been brought into sharp relief in recent months and today I hone them into a list of The Top Six Cars to Never Find Yourself Behind for your benefit. I leave off the gender and/or race-based offenders - you know who you are and besides, I'm not looking to start a riot here. I also skip over the more obvious, small-time transgressors i.e., taxicabs trolling for fares, late-model VW Bugs and buses, garbage trucks with their notoriously iffy brakes, Jesus Fish cars, ramshackle top-heavy Land Rover Discoveries, etc., and instead focus on the real culprits of offensive driving. If you find yourself on this list please, for god's sake and for the sanity of the rest of us, pull over and start walking. In the meantime, drivers beware.

6. Any Car with a Handicap Placard Displayed
I get it. You have a disability. Clearly. And it very well may have originated in a fiery, multi-car pileup and that would perfectly explain your Speed-Limit-Minus-10mph philosophy. But please understand that the rest of us would like to arrive at our destinations today, if possible, and would rather not line up behind you like baby ducks behind their gimpy mother. Here's a suggestion: let somebody else drive. Preferably somebody in a goddamn hurry.
Additional warning: a handicapped symbol actually printed on the license plate equals an additional 10mph slower.


I appreciate the visual aid; this handy diagram in white lines which shows me, very clearly because I'm right on your goddamn bumper, exactly how many kids and pets, in descending height, are in this rolling Chucky Cheese of a vehicle. Through the sticky hand prints on the windows I can see Taylor, Dylan, Tyler, Morgan, Jackson, Tamsin, and Kaitlynn wreaking havoc while a Spongebob DVD plays and a dog barks. Mom seems unperturbed as she talks on the phone and applies mascara, unaware that she's straddling two lanes while traffic whizzes by. I'll read about their unfortunate encounter with a cement truck and/or jackknifed semi tomorrow morning and my drive to work will be just a wee bit faster.


4. Large American Cars with Elderly Drivers
Here's a thought to ponder (I know I certainly do): the older you get the less time you have left on this planet so don't waste it taking four times as long as necessary to get where you're going. Do not go gentle into that intersection. You need to rage, rage against the changing of the traffic light. It's not a covered wagon and it's not a mule train. It's a 1994 Lincoln Continental and that thing under your right foot is the accelerator, Gramps. Sure, your eyesight is shot, your reflexes and reaction time are shadows of their former selves, and your hearing is practically nonexistent, but these things should all be saying to you, "drive faster! FASTER!"


3. Volvos
Say, what's that creeping along in front of you with the brake lights permanently blaring and the blinker flashing a good quarter mile from the next intersection while the driver nervously grips the wheel and exudes an irritating cautiousness? Why, it's a Volvo, naturally. These cars have a reputation for being very safe... except when flattened from behind by a Greyhound bus going the speed limit. Did you know that Volvo dealerships are required to issue a Timidity Test to all potential buyers? It's true. If you are found to possess even the most scant trace of driver self-confidence you are hustled out the door with a "Hey, Mario Andretti, go buy a Camry instead!"

2. Mercedes
With the turn of the ignition the Nazi DNA of these cars somehow transfers to the driver and the rest of us have to then endure the resulting master race-ish, proudly-oblivious, road-owning attitude. We, the peon masses, are forced to constantly make sudden, evasive maneuvers as our German overlords turn or merge in front of us on a whim in a never-ending display of spectacular Teutonic hubris. Turn signals and rear-view mirrors are actually optional equipment in Mercedes, options apparently very seldom chosen.
Added bonus: older diesel models let you enjoy the gas-chambery stench of exhaust while being cut off.

1. Priuses (Prii?)
Legions of these hunchbacked, silvery eyesores now clog the freeway on-ramps, surface streets, and, worst of all, carpool lanes of our once proud and speedy city, each one driven - s l o w l y - by a self-righteous asshole (except you, Steve!) with one eye on the fuel economy gauge and the other anywhere but the rear-view mirror, all the while furiously patting themselves on the back for saving the planet while traffic stacks up behind. The name "Prius" was actually coined by shortening the word "Priapus", the Greek god of male genitalia. It's an exceptionally fitting name for a vehicle driven almost exclusively by total dicks. And, along the aesthetic lines of "if the medicine tastes bad it must be good for you', this is one fugly car. It looks like the inbred, hydrocephalic offspring of two Pontiac Azteks. It has the visual charm of a baby possum but in a race between a Prius and a baby possum, my money's on the possum.





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Friday, December 11, 2009

music: the early years

The screen door slams behind me as I bust out into the sun, my transistor radio pressed hard to my ear, the volume cranked and distorted. My favorite song has just come on and I am seriously fired up, eager for the adrenaline rush again. Bad Company's frontman, Paul Rodgers, is singing the first verse calmly enough, letting his special lady friend know just how special a lady she is, but he's getting close to the chorus and that's where all kinds of guitar-fueled hell breaks loose. Almost quietly he sings, "Feel like makin'..." but before he can finish his thought the stuttering power chord slams like a truck into a wall and he and I both tilt our heads back to the sky and bellow in unison for all the world to hear, "FEEL LIKE MAKIN' LOVE! FEEL LIKE MAKIN' LOVE! FEEL LIKE MAY-KIN' LOVE TO YOU!" I am twelve years old in the middle of my front yard and I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I had a weird relationship with quite a few of the songs of my formative years. Some, like Bad Company's aforementioned anthem to The Urge for Intercourse, tingled the as-yet-to-develop horny adolescent regions of my pubescent brain and spoke to me in an indecipherable yet somehow fundamentally relatable way of the females who would soon become my one and only focus. Foghat's Slow Ride is another good example. I loved two things in the sixth grade: Beth Aslakson (she had no idea), and Slow Ride. See, this guy takes his girlfriend out for a leisurely drive in his car - a "slow ride", if you will. Well, he starts out taking it easy, driving slow, but by the end of the song he's driving really, really fast. Actually, as I discovered some time later, the song is about good old-fashioned fucking, plain and simple. Like Ravel's Boléro, it's a nice example of form following function, the musical equivalent of a prolonged and vigorous sexual encounter with an enthusiastic partner; starting slow, then building, building, accelerating, and finally careening wildly into a sweaty, orgasmic finale, during which the lead singer (nobody knows the name of the lead singer of Foghat off the top of their heads) also tilts his head back to the sun and lets loose, "SLOOW RIIIIDE!!", then laughs maniacally as the song finishes up and presumably falls asleep immediately.

Other songs left me confused and anxious, or just plain freaked me out. Eric Clapton's I Shot the Sheriff always gave me an uneasy feeling, and not just because the song sucked. I would try and imagine the setting in which the nameless, murdering, boring protagonist explained the "self-defense" killing of the sheriff in irritating, yawn-inducing detail. Even now, if I'm unfortunate enough to have to sit through this song, I think the same question I did when I was eleven: if you didn't shoot the deputy, man, who the hell did? And America's A Horse With No Name quite simply blew my nine-year-old mind, what with the whiny, Neil Young-ish voice, the reliance on that one repetitive note, and the batshit-crazy lyrics. I pondered many questions: First of all, why not just give the horse a name? Is that so hard? And what's with all the plants and birds and rocks and things? Things? Can you be more specific? Finally, please explain why you let the horse, your only mode of transportation in this desert/ocean, run free? I wanted some goddamn answers.

It's a rare treat: lunch with my dad at the Sonic! We sit in the car waiting for our burgers to be delivered, talking about nothing in particular, listening to the radio, having a good time. As I hear the familiar opening piano of Jim Croce's Bad, Bad Leroy Brown I think to myself, "Hey, I really like this songHOLY SHIT THIS SONG HAS CUSSING IN IT!" I quietly panic. How can I keep my father who, in my mind, has a soul as clean and pure as the driven snow and who, I'm certain, has never heard the word "damn" before, from being sullied by this impending profanity. Simply turning off the radio is not an option: too suspicious. Before I know it the chorus arrives: Well he's bad, bad Leroy Brown, baddest man in the whole"DELICIOUSBURGER!!", I blurt, hoping to cause a diversion. Dad's raised eyebrow indicates success. This continues for the duration of the song - "IS THAT A TORNADO?!", "CORVETTE!!" - my sudden non sequitur exclamations drowning out the bad word and saving my dad from becoming like me, an obscenity-soaked 10-year-old who swore like a sailor.

My parents used to ship me off to my Grandma's in Kerrville, Texas for weeks at a time during the summer. The stated excuse was my mom's graduate schooling or something but I think the real reason was to just get some damn peace and quiet for a while and to repair the damage I'd done to the house and property during the rest of the year. It was on one of these visits that the Angel of Death visited me, though not in its usual black hooded robe and scythe carrying form. No, this time Mr. Death was a song: Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again (Naturally). This catchy tune casually introduced me to the cheery notion that my parents WOULD SOMEDAY DIE. As a nine-year-old, I had never considered this a possibility before and as I spent each day of my sentence aimlessly roaming the empty streets of this mostly geriatrically populated town, alone (naturally) with my thoughts of my beloved parents ceasing to be, this godawful song would occasionally play on my radio but would continuously play in my head; the cloying, nasally voice rising up into the most upsetting minor key possible, the maudlin lyrics detailing the heartwrenching demise of first the singer's father, then his heartbroken mother. I was inconsolable and forever changed. To this day I can't stand to even think about this song lest it get lodged in my brain, like it is right now. Thanks, Gilbert. You're an asshole.

I remember being awake in the wee hours of the morning in late 1976 (ongoing bicentennial excitement, no doubt), my little AM radio rasping out Bob Seger's Night Moves. It was chilly outside, "with autumn closing in" as Bob says, and I drew pictures into the dew that covered the inside of my window, a crescent moon lighting up my work. The song told the story of this horny kid making out with this equally frisky girl wherever and whenever possible, that part I got and appreciated. What I didn't really get, though, was that it was actually about remembering these shenanigans much later in life. The wistful nostalgia, the hint of melancholia at the end of the song was to me, a thirteen-year-old, troubling but in a strangely enjoyable way. It's as if I knew, even then, that I, like Bob, would frequently enjoy the pleasant pain of nostalgia as I grew old, with my own autumn closing in.



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Friday, June 19, 2009

Ol' Blue

"NICE BIKE, BITCH!!"
The carload of miscreants sped through the left turn lane as I waited casually at the corner. My heart swelled with pride. "You're goddamn right", I thought. I suspect the one who yelled it saw my bike and found himself uncontrollably blurting out his praise but, fearing certain ostracization from his friends, hastily added the somewhat ill-conceived "bitch" at the end. Whatever. I never tire of getting compliments on my bike, ill-conceived or otherwise. And you know why? Because my bike deserves it.

I named him "Ol' Blue". He was born of extreme fiscal irresponsibility at the height of my youthful impulsiveness in 1982, my sophomore year in college. I was suffering from a bad case of bike envy; my buddy Jeff had a cool bike: a single speed Cook Bros. BMX with a 26" frame and I decided, without giving it much thought which was par for the course back then, that I would purchase a cool bike for myself, an idea that made perfect sense at the time. I went to the bike store on MLK Boulevard and, much to my mother's later consternation, bought everything the guy recommended. For $625 I walked out of there with a deep blue, custom-built SE Racing OM Flyer with chrome Landing Gear forks. Ol' Blue was born and he was glorious.

Suddenly, I was mobile and free in the big city of Austin, under my own power and unfettered by things like "traffic laws" and "designated transportation areas". I was connected to the city and to myself in an exhilarating way that driving a car could never produce. I went wherever my legs could take me, wherever I pointed the front tire. Ol' Blue got me home from the clubs at 4:00am when I was falling down drunk; he took me from one end of the state capitol building (with a wheelie through the rotunda) to the other on a boring Sunday afternoon; down whatever staircase I chose; on countless visits to Barton Springs; and on sweaty, late night summer rides around downtown. He was good for my love life, too: a cute girl once left a flirty note on him for me. Sure, Ol' Blue and I had our share of spills - dislocating both shoulders during a not-very-well-thought-through jump attempt comes to mind - but these just added to the richness of the adventures. My life would never be the same, and not because I didn't get to go to Europe upon graduation because I had unknowingly depleted my college fund by buying things like bikes. No, I had discovered the joy of urban biking with my trusty steed. Little did I know that things were going to get even better.

I graduated and moved to Chicago where I found a veritable biking utopia. Here I roamed an area one mile wide and six miles long, flat and full of interesting things to see and investigate. I pulled wheelies under the Calder sculpture on Mies van der Rohe's Federal Building plaza, I rode up onto the sloping base of the giant Picasso sculpture on Daley Plaza, I explored the abandoned railyards just south of downtown, I logged hundreds of miles along the lakefront and dozens of trips to Ed Debevic's for meatloaf and waitress watching. I was sitting on Ol' Blue outside Wrigley field on August 8, 1988 when the first night game was played. I stood alone with Ol' Blue in city hall late one night while a freshly-deceased Mayor Washington was on display in his casket. In the winter I would bundle up and head out into the icy, slush-filled streets, stopping for a Subway sandwich, and eventually making my way out across the frozen tundra of Lincoln Park to the edge of the shore. I'd sit protected from the wind and driving snow by the base of a sculpture of some colonial American patriot, eat my sandwich, and contemplate the barely visible jumbled ice block surface of Lake Michigan in the inky blackness. All the while Ol' Blue was there with me, waiting for the next adventure.

Then, just like that, he was gone. Stolen. Some determined asshole climbed two floors up the outside of my apartment building and probably used a car jack to break the balcony railing Ol' Blue was locked to. I was stunned and heartbroken and I imagined, as I rode around searching in vain on a hastily-bought, $15 piece of shit 10-speed, that the thief had been immediately hit by a bus as he'd made his getaway and slowly dragged to death over several blocks. I spent a couple of weekends searching, a photo of him in my back pocket as evidence of prior ownership, to no avail. Suddenly, Chicago went from being a great place to live to being the place that Ol' Blue got stolen. It made the decision to move to Los Angeles a month later all that easier.

It took 17 years, the invention of the internet, the development of eBay and craigslist, and me entering low-cost midlife crisis mode before a lightbulb went off over my head and I realized I could and should own Ol' Blue again. I began searching in 2004 and quickly realized much had changed in the bike world during the last couple of decades. SE Racing, originally started by Scot "Old Man" Breithaupt, entrepeneur, BMX racing legend, and designer/namesake of the OM Flyer, had been sold to a Japanese conglomerate and, while they were technically still making OM Flyers, the design had changed substantially, the quality had plummeted, and these new-era bikes were considered a joke in the online old-school BMX community. Meanwhile, original edition OM Flyers from the early '80s like mine, now rare and cherished, were selling for $2,500 and more. I looked for months on eBay with no luck, only finding bikes with the wrong color paint or ridiculous gold-colored parts and accessories. Then, in May of '05 a search on craigslist turned up a blue one, perfect, and it was in Venice, no less! I went to the guy's house and let out an audible gasp when he wheeled it out. It was like seeing a ghost or, rather, like when your beloved dead dog shows up in a dream. I fought back a couple of tears as I took it for a ride and couldn't believe it when he said he only wanted $750 instead of the $1000 it was listed for. He explained that he could tell I'd be giving his bike a good home and he was right. I know it sounds silly, but that was one of the happiest days of my life.

In general, Los Angeles is a shitty place to ride a bike. The streets are wide and ugly and full of people driving fast while busily eating, shaving, reading, applying makeup, talking on the phone and/or composing text messages while giving scant attention to people on bikes. Venice and Santa Monica, where I live and work, have the same highly distracted drivers but are different in feel - more small town-ish, more like Austin. I've enjoyed what has to be one of the most pleasant commutes possible - 2 1/2 miles, mostly on the car-less beach bike path, usually partially clad, to my office where I can sit and stare out the window at Ol' Blue parked across the street. I watch as people walk by and eye him, sometimes stopping and pointing, sometimes getting excited as they, too, bore their friends with tales of their own long-gone bike glory days that seeing Ol' Blue has conjured up. Over the past four years I've ridden him to work more and more often until finally last December, when the lease on my car was up, I decided to make him my primary mode of transportation and go without a car. It's been wonderful and I've made it a point to not take it for granted because these sorts of things don't last forever.

Actually, they only last until next Thursday as that's my last day of work here in our Santa Monica office. When I get back from my vacation a week later I'll be driving the car I'm buying tomorrow to our new office in Sherman Oaks and it'll be Scott's turn to have a nice, short commute for the next five years. It's the end of an era, but what a great era it's been. Of course, this all may strike you as sappy, maudlin, and thoroughly ridiculous: a middle-aged man using masculine pronouns to address a bicycle in what is basically a love letter to an inanimate object. But that's ok. Ol' Blue deserves it.








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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I ran a marathon

Remember a long time ago when I was going to run that marathon? Well, I did. Here is my story.

Our first stop was in Houston for a visit with my great aunt Thelma who just celebrated her 104th birthday. That's one hundred and four! Years! Here she is with her favorite little nephew, Max.
For someone born in 1905 in Indian territory that would eventually become the state of Oklahoma, Thelma is doing extremely well. Her hearing may be shot but she remembers all. She is sharp as a tack, funny as hell, and flat out amazing.

Next, it was on to Lake Jackson where we took care of the requisite nostalgic moment with the rediscovery of my 8th grade shop class welding project.

Soon to be refurbished back to its Bicentennial-era glory. Thanks, Mom!

Dad stayed busy with the murder of crows in the backyard. That's called "wordplay".

(Please note, no actual crows were harmed during the firing of this pellet gun.)

Ok, time to get down to the business at hand. On the eve of the race I began my intricate pre-marathon preparations. After a few hours of practice and with my father's expert help, I affixed my timing chip to my laces...

...and my bib to my shirt.

RACE DAY! Awake early, I unsuccessfully tried to convince my digestive tract that it was not 1:30am in Los Angeles. Damn you, willful digestive tract! We headed to Houston at an unholy predawn hour. Here I am walking up to the convention center. I was excited and a little nervous.
Entering the convention center was a mind-blower. Here in one gargantuan space were tens of thousands of runners milling around in a pre-race frenzy. It looked like a freshly disturbed antbed in there. I dropped off my bag of stuff and went and found the end of one of the many porta-potty lines. As I looked around my jaw slowly slacked open in wonder - I have never seen so many porta-potties in one place, not even in my most ambitious recurring bizarre-bathroom-themed dream. I was standing in line with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people. Like a giant flock of birds we all had one thought in mind: drop the ballast before taking flight. Sadly, no pics of the vast porta-pottie array stretching to the horizon. Use your imagination.

I lingered in the infinite porta-potty fields a bit long so I hustled over to the starting line and jockied for position near the starting line - not too presumptuously close and not so far as to be shuffling along for ten minutes before actually starting to run. The sky was still pitch black as various minor celebrities said various encouragement-based things and we all sang the national anthem and readied for the gun... BOOM! or, rather, the cannon. Wedged into our starting chute, we all began creeping toward the starting line, slowly, then a little quicker, then finally this thick river of people was running.

I was off!

Prior to this day I'd run in 4 organized races: a 4 mile race on July 4, 1979 with my dad (thanks for doing such a fine job of checking me in that day, Dina!), and three 5K races in February, March, and April of 2008. Dad had encouraged me to run the 5Ks to get accustomed to the general race-day excitement and hoopla and I think they helped. But, as I crested a freeway overpass about a half mile into the race, nothing could have prepared me for the incredible sight of eighteen thousand running people in front of and behind me in a flowing phalanx stretching as far as the eye could see, all bobbing along together, with like mind and purpose, in the early morning luminescence.

Meanwhile, my family jumped into the car and began their grueling 4 hour odyssey around Houston, gamely dealing with closed roads, snarled traffic, and frayed nerves just to see me for about 10 seconds at various points and stages of decay along the 26 miles. Mile 4 was a bust but they got me at mile 8. I was running about an 8:30 pace at this point and felt great.
Such exuberance!

The Houston Marathon gets high marks for enthusiastic crowd participation and now I know why. Almost the entire length of the race was lined with cheering people, clapping, yelling, shouting out my name (it was on my bib), offering encouragement. It was just plain fantastic! There were many bands set up in parking lots or the median cranking out the tunes ( I heard Whiter Shade of Pale twice - go figure), an Elvis guy croaking out Hound Dog, a Blues Brothers tribute band, even a high school band doing their thing. And this was at about 7:00am on a Sunday!

Mile 12. Still feeling fantastic, still all smiles and high fives. I would soon hit the 13.1 mile halfway mark at 1:54:19. Right on target for a 3:50:00 finish!

Mile 16 and still feeling peppy. Houston was starting to warm up, though.

It was shortly after the above picture was taken, about mile 18 or so, that my wheels started to fall off. The cold I had predicted six months before and then of course caught about a week before the race started to catch up to me and I began to struggle. I needed to cough but couldn't really muster up the abdominal/lung strength to do so. My legs started hurting in the general groinal region, an unpleasantness I hadn't ever felt before. I wasn't hitting The Wall in the traditional sense because I was carrying a large supply of energy gels with me in my hydration belt, plus I was loading up on all the bananas and orange slices the nice rich people who live near the Galleria were handing out. No, this was the cold virus saying, "You've had your fun, now I'm going to kick your ass." I soldiered on but things deteriorated rapidly.

Mile 22. Full-on agony. I've never needed a pep talk from my father more than at that exact moment and in this picture that's pretty much what I'm telling him. I won't even try to describe what I was feeling. Let's just say it was pretty bad. I was trying to look casual, though.

By now the race had taken on a decidedly different flavor. Now it was solely about three things: pain management, the condition of the pavement immediately in front of me, and where the hell is the next goddamn mile marker?! All traces of celebration, fun, and levity were long gone. My addled brain was transforming the cheering crowd into a jeering crowd, like it couldn't process their enthusiasm as a positive thing in light of the intense pain I was feeling. I was going to attempt to draw a parallel to that scene in The Last Temptation of Christ where JC is dragging that giant cross while everyone is screaming and beating the crap out of him but on second thought, uh, maybe not.

The race course layout sadists included a couple of underpasses at about mile 24 and here is where my resolve not to resort to my traditional cursing rants crumbled. After 24 miles, running on anything that isn't perfectly flat is just torture and I'm sure that anyone within earshot understood my displeasure. I came out of the underpasses into the winds whipping through the highrises of downtown, swearing when I could summon the strength and literally creeping along. By this point aunt Thelma could have walked backwards faster than I was running.

I made the final right turn onto Rusk and thank god could see the convention center and the finish line in the distance about a quarter mile away. The crowds were thick along this last stretch and I could hear the music and the guy on the loudspeaker shouting his exhortations at us weary runners in these final moments. "C'mon, man!" I thought, "Don't let all these people see you running slower than your 104 year old great aunt can walk backwards! Pick it up! GO!!" So, I sucked it up and shoved the pain to the side and started running - fast (or so I thought) - passing people left and right, not caring that I wasn't going to break four hours, just happy to be finishing, proud to have finally achieved my goal. I hit the finish line, waved my SE RACING cap in the air (in honor of Ol' Blue and so you could pick me out in the video), then finally - after running for four hours, two minutes, and fifty-four seconds - I stopped.



Plenty is said about what goes on during a marathon but nobody talks much about what happens immediately after. I was surprised at how much of a stupefied daze I was in. I felt totally drugged but not with painkiller-type drugs, that's for sure. I staggered over to the post-finish photo area where I tried to smile but ended up making the kind of face you'd expect from someone in incredible pain and trying not to show it. Once inside the convention center I thought I'd be faced with a huge selection of post-race food and drink but instead found myself just wandering slowly around the mostly empty hall, befuddled and unable to decide what to do. Should I go and get the free meal? Should I go explore those booths way over yonder? Everything looked about a half mile away in there and as I dawdled my legs began to tighten up to the point that I was afraid they'd eventually stop working. I staggered about, finally just slowly sinking to the floor where I tried, unsuccessfully, to stretch. My legs felt like they didn't belong to me or, rather, that I had been involved in a leg transplant operation with a meth-addled surgeon.

So, I'd done it. I felt happy and satisfied and proud and a bunch of other things. You might think that crossing the finish line was the moment I had been waiting for but really it was here, beneath the giant R in the area where runners were supposed to meet their families, that I finally got to enjoy that moment.


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

and you may ask yourself, well... how did I get here?

I started running almost exactly one year ago today. I remember that first one - it was cold, dark, and drizzling. I made it to my turnaround point a whopping mile and a half out, paused for a good two minutes while my heartrate slowly backed off the redline and fought to catch my breath, then slogged the return mile and a half, soaked with sweat and rain, exhausted. I've literally come a long way since then having logged some 469 miles since I started keeping track in late August.

Despite the usual complaining tone of my previous running-related blog entries what I remember most about the last 12 months of training is not the pain and the hellish wind or the eventual realization that running is at least a 75% mental effort but rather the beautiful things I saw along the way. It's hard to imagine a more picturesque place to run than the bike path along Santa Monica beach and beyond. Whether it's raining and desolate, blazing with the midday sun, displaying another jaw-dropping sunset, or giving me a shadow to chase with a big full moon, the beach is a magical place. I'll never get tired of it and I'll never take it for granted.

Here it is, January 13th, and we're currently enjoying probably the best weather we'll get all year long. There's a light breeze, the sky is crystal clear, and it's 81 degrees out. My last run was 8 miles on Sunday this past weekend. I started out as the sun neared the horizon and as it sunk lower, more and more people stopped in their tracks along the bikepath, transfixed by the blue luminescence of the sea and the sky and the slow fade to orange as the great ball of the sun finally touched the ocean. Then, as if by some silent signal, everyone turned around to watch the full moon, the largest one of 2009, creep skyward over Santa Monica, enormous and cool and white, the perfect balance to the blazing sun that had just disappeared. I ran on, glad I had made the decision to run this marathon and thankful I live in such a beautiful place.

For those of you interested in following my progress this Sunday there are a couple of ways to do so. Apparently the marathon website will have a map of the course on which I'll be represented by a little red dot. Another option is to click here to get text message updates as to my whereabouts during the race. If you're only interested in the money shot, the marathon website can direct you to a video of me crossing the finish line, hopefully in running mode and not on my hands and knees. I'm registered as Stu Royalty and my bib number is 3925.

At this point I'd like to say thank you to those who have been so supportive of me this last year. Thank you for listening while I droned on about the minutia regarding energy gels or my shoe laces or some other mind-numbing topic. Thank you for encouraging me when I was convinced it just wasn't going to happen. And Dad, thank you for inspiring me yet again.






















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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

accidents happen

There are four kinds of bike wrecks: those due to Mechanical Failure, those due to Rider Stupidity, those due to Others' Stupidity, and those due to Natural Causes i.e. lightning, sinkholes, mountain lions, etc. As is usually the case, today's accident was 100% in the Rider Stupidity category.

I have four decades of bike wrecking experience under my belt. I'm a grizzled veteran of the two-wheeled tumble; an old pro at the slide and roll. Like I said, the vast majority of my wrecks have been caused by my own staggering lack of common sense. Early on, this was usually coupled with wheelie riding as I was the undisputed wheelie king of my block back in the day. Once, when I was about 12, I was riding a wheelie and went to jump off the back of the bike because I had pulled too hard only to find that my untied shoelace had wrapped around the pedal. As I sped along on only the back wheel, I slowly tipped over backward, unable to put my feet down, finally landing on the pavement on my back with the bike on top of me tied to my foot. Later, after my dad had come to my rescue because he'd heard me yelling at the top of my lungs, he admitted that he had no idea up until then that I could cuss like that. Another good crash occured on campus in Austin when I... well, let's just say I tried something incredibly stupid. I ended up at the Health Center with two dislocated shoulders and had to make the Sophie's Choice as to which arm would get the one sling I was allotted. I also used to enjoy riding wheelies down the length of those covered construction walkways and was doing so when my handlebar just clipped the wall inside and down I went in a bloody, splintery heap. Good times!

Today's wipeout was a bit more mundane. I was heading to work on the beach bike path, ironically considering the possibility of getting a helmet for the first time in my life. I have a shortcut through the outdoor dining area of one of those burger stands and to take it I have to ride through a ten inch gap in the curb that separates the bike path from the rest of the pavement. I was riding no-hands, of course, and thought it would "be fun" to try and shoot the gap without touching the handlebars. Naturally, mayhem ensued.

It's been a long time since I've wrecked my bike and as I picked myself up today - not daring to look at the people gawking as they passed by, hoping they hadn't seen the whole idiotic thing unfold - I found a certain comfort in the familiarity of it all, the dull pain from the bloody holes in my palms, the sting of the strawberry on my elbow, the new aches in my legs, the humility. Regardless of the circumstances or which of the four types of accidents you find yourself in, the bike wreck experience is always the same - one moment you're riding along happy as a clam, there's a split-second "uh-oh!", and the next thing you know you're on the ground, embarrassed, in pain, and assessing the damage. It's nice to know that some things just never change.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

in other news

I was minding my own business, sitting on my bike at an intersection in Santa Monica waiting for the light to change when I heard a "Hey, brother!" from my left and turned to see a middle-aged black guy approaching. I did one of those raised eyebrows "you talking to me?" looks behind me but, no, he seemed to be talking to me. "Say, say, say..." he was calling as he walked straight up to me. He had long-ish greying hair, and was dressed in a style one might call eclectic - lots of interesting layers with a t-shirt that said something funny on it that I can't remember. He had one of those bluetooth things in his ear - the handy signifier of 'not crazy-on the phone' that you look for when you see someone walking along talking to themselves. But this guy wasn't talking to himself, he appeared to be talking directly to me. "Say!", he said when he got up next to me. "Who was that gal that, uhh, played June Carter, you know, with Joaquin Phoenix in, in that movie, you know?" Reese Witherspoon, I said, happy that I hadn't caved under the pressure. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! That's the one! Thanks, bro'!" And off he went, apparently satisfied.

In other news, I ran the entire length of the 22 mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail last Saturday. I started at the north end, thinking how nice it would be to enjoy a gentle tailwind for 3+ hours. However, Mother Nature, always the sadist, was gently blowing from the south that day, the only time I've ever seen that happen. It wasn't much; just enough to continually remind me how much I loathe the wind. I didn't let it slow me down much, though, and finished in 3:06:13, almost 3 minutes ahead of schedule. 3 minutes sounds like a lot but at that distance it's less than 10 seconds per mile. One thought I'm sure I'll keep in my head on race day will be the old adage: "that shit adds up".
























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Sunday, December 14, 2008

blown away

"You're so skinny you're gonna blow away."
I've heard this dire warning my entire life. Depending on my age, I've either considered it an insult or a compliment. Yesterday, I considered it prophetic.

I was scheduled to run 19 miles along a newly charted route I developed to avoid the Bataan/Marina del Rey Death March. As I set out I probably should have paid closer attention to the blown-over garbage cans and the palm fronds littering the ground and raining down like mortar shells. "Aw, it's not that bad. Don't be a wuss", I said to myself as I ran the first three miles along the somewhat-wind-protected Palisades Park high above Santa Monica Beach. I turned onto the pier and as I descended I soon realized the hell that awaited. A few weeks ago I wrote a whiny blog about a windy day during which I ran 13 miles. At the time I thought conditions were pretty bad but yesterday made that other day look like a stroll during a pleasant breeze.

The wind was blowing so hard and so constant that the bike path was being swallowed beneath dunes before my very eyes like some isolated road in the Sahara. Not content to simply drown out my iPod, it literally blew the earbuds out of my ears. The windblown sand didn't just sting my legs, it sandblasted all my exposed parts to a dull sheen. I ran with both eyes squeezed shut save for a watery slit through which I tried to monitor the navigable portion of the concrete. My shoes and socks and ears and nose filled with sand and I felt certain I was developing the sand-based equivalent of black lung disease. Sand-colored lung disease? All the while the wind roared. I struggled to maintain a forward motion, leaning impossibly far into the wall of wind like a cartoon character, thinking, "Huh. Maybe I should do this run tomorrow."

I stuck with it. As I reached the northernmost end of the bike path, my theory was that the upcoming seven southbound miles would be so wind-aided that I'd literally sail along and more than make up for my northbound glacial pace. I was wrong. I quickly learned that the evil wind does not giveth, it only taketh away. One can only run so fast, even with a sadistic Mother Nature shoving hard from behind.

The last two southbound miles head down the alley behind the beachfront homes of the marina. Here the air was calmer and just as I started to enjoy the respite I got to the first cross-street which leads directly out to the beach... and was blasted from the side with a Cheney-esque face-full of what felt like buckshot. "Jesus!" I yelled as I fought to stay on my feet. This went on for 20+ blocks and was repeated for the benefit of the other side of my face northbound 10 minutes later, after I had reached my turnaround point and visual bleakness zenith, the tip of the marina breakwater.

I must have set some sort of record for self pity during those last 5 miles. My legs hurt. Bad. I was exhausted to the point that I couldn't even muster up my usual expletive rant. I was dumbfounded by the thought that I would have to run an additional ONE HOUR! to actually complete a marathon. And I was covered head to toe in caked-on sand and debris. More than anything I wanted to stop running. "Just stop, lay down, and sleep forever...", a little voice in my head suggested. "Don't mind if I do!", I responded heartily. "Wait!", another voice pleaded. "If you stop, you're accepting failure! You can't do that, man!" "Good point.", I admitted. Still another voice said calmly, "Just distract yourself with really, really, really pleasant thoughts for the rest of this godforsaken run." And that's exactly what I did.

Interesting Sight o' the Day: absolutely nothing.

Runs for the week:
Tuesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Saturday: 19 miles, 2:54:05

Runs for last week:
Tuesday: 4.25 miles
Wednesday: 7.5 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Sunday: 18 miles, 2:41:03

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

pedestrian drift

When I was a sophomore in college I began seeing the number 222 with an alarming frequency. A car would cut me off and 222 would be part of the license plate; I'd glance down at the odometer and it would be rolling over to 222; I'd look in the mirror at my clock radio and would see "22:2" when it was really 5:55 in the afternoon; I'd randomly open a book to page 222; I'd buy something and my change would be $2.22, etc. At 2:22pm on February 2, 1983 I was in the first group of people allowed on the observation deck of the University of Texas tower since August 1, 1966. I even made a phone-friend in California by dialing random 1-800 numbers that began with 222 until someone answered and agreed to have a conversation with me (a story worthy of its own blog, by the way). There are many other equally freaky examples. This 222 thing went on and on and I began to obsess about it, wondering what it meant, trying to glean meaning from each occurance, knowing deep down that it meant nothing but wishing that it did.

My friend, Karl, who at that time was an even bigger skeptic than I was, said it was simply a case of specific sensitivity. He concluded that I saw all three-digit numbers with the same randomness but I noticed 222 more because I was tuned in to it and was looking for it because, hey, let's face it, it was a cool story to tell chicks. He was probably right. Just like he was right to poke fun at our other roommate, Al's, dabbling with tarot cards. Al had a voice like Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and was the only Chinese rockabilly devotee I've ever met. He enjoyed giving people tarot 'readings' and would explain each card's significance in his nasally drawling monotone. Karl, not one to sit idly by while someone else had their fate divined based on a few fancy cards, once drew a plan view diagram of a freshly delivered Domino's pizza and labeled the various bits of cheese and slices of pepperoni with their respective social and destiny significances. He claimed it was just as valid a fortune-telling method, although admittedly not quite as well known.

Karl's days of skepticism are over but mine aren't. I prefer to give scientific explanations and good old-fashioned coincidence credit over ghosts, fate, luck, and divine intervention. However, I recognize man's limitations in understanding the inner workings of the universe and I'm truly open to evidence of what one might call The Supernatural (quantum mechanics aside). So far, the closest I've come to seeing something that consistently defies the known laws of nature is Pedestrian Drift.

Pedestrian Drift, simply stated, is:

The tendency of those being overtaken to drift into the path of the overtaker.

This only applies to those unaware of their about-to-be-overtaken status - people who see you coming and get in your way are just assholes. The mode of locomotion of both the overtaker and the overtaken doesn't matter either; Pedestrian Drift will occur if one is walking, jogging, biking, skateboarding, being pushed in a stroller or wheelchair, or zipping along on a Rascal. This mysterious and very real Force of Nature affects all - the quick and the slow, the smart and the stupid, the old, the young, and the restless.

Here's a typical example: Let's say you're walking down the sidewalk. You're in a bit of a hurry because you're heading to lunch and you're friggin' starving, man! Ahead of you is a group of, say, German tourists ambling along in the same direction, marveling at the topiary dinosaurs and the homeless guy that belts out the opening bars of DAY-O constantly. As you approach them from behind you see a bigger gap on the right and make for it, only to find the rightmost German suddenly angling out and cutting you off for no apparent reason. "Goddamn Germans!" you say to yourself. Wrong! Blame the First Law of Pedestrian Drift:

1. The path of the overtaker causes the drift of the overtaken.

Another example: Just the other night I was dropping off some movies at Blockbuster because I'm too stupid to get on the Netflix bandwagon. I parked around back, dropped the movies in the slot, and was walking back to my car, my mind a completely blank and numb void which is typical these days. I neared the corner of the building and got two steps into my turn into the parking lot when I heard, "Excuse me!" from the girl on the bike I had just Pedestrian Drifted into the wall. "Goddamn doddering old people!" she thought as she rode away.

She was wrong to blame my doddering oldness; I had a perfectly legitimate reason for altering my path. She was simply a victim of the Second Law of Pedestrian Drift:

2. The path of the overtaken causes the path of the overtaker.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "Holy crap! I'm doomed to a lifetime of running into the slow-ass people ahead of me!" Not true! There is something you can do about it. It's a technique called "slinging" but it takes some practice. It's a bit like a head fake in basketball but involves much more mental control. Here's how it works: initiate your path around the person you're overtaking truly believing that's the direction you'll go, then suddenly change your mind and go the other way around. Their drift will be inexorably started in the first direction and voila! you're on your merry way. The key is committing to that first path choice - Pedestrian Drift can tell when you're faking it.

Some of you may say, "Eureka! Finally a cogent and concise explanation of a phenomena I've been subconsciously aware of my entire life!" Others may say, "Pure and utter horseshit!" Regardless, Pedestrian Drift is, no doubt, something you'll probably start to notice a lot more now - now that you're tuned in to it and are looking for it.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

that's more like it

Today I ran 17 miles in 2:30:22. That's an 8:51 pace. This has renewed my confidence and enthusiasm and it's about damn time.

I was sick for two weeks and unable to do anything but gripe which I did very well, by the way. No running, biking, rock climbing, or hockey. Let me warn you now, if I'm ever laid up for an extended period of time due to, say, denge fever or an intestinal parasite or some of that necrotizing fasciitis or the flu, steer clear! I'm the biggest, whiniest baby when I'm sick. I'm telling you, the complaining and moaning goes on nonstop, especially when I'm running a fever. I was convinced I was feverish at one point and grabbed the thermometer, eager to find out just how much I could ramp up the bitching, each tenth of a degree validating that much more self pity. 98.6 was its mocking reply. I eventually went to the doctor because it felt like I had a nail lodged sideways in my throat. He marveled at how red it was, suspected strep throat, prescribed some antibiotics, took a throat culture, and that was that. Two days later I got a phone message that said only, "Culture was negative. Stop the antibiotics. [long pause] Oh yeah, this is your doctor."

It's just as well I was sick when I was as it coincided with the massive fires we had out here. They made for a few freaky days of very unpleasant respiration. The air was brown with smoke and my car was covered with ash. You could see the white flecks of it in the air and it made me wonder if I was breathing in the combusted remains of someone's Nintendo or carport or hedge. Or pet. The sunlight had that strange cast it gets during a partial eclipse. It was all very weird and depressing.

Meanwhile, I figured out why my last run was such a shitty experience. Turns out those gel packs I was quaffing along the way need to be followed up with WATER. Lots of water. They're hypertonic and need to be diluted in order to be absorbed by your body. Otherwise, they'll suck the water they need out of your stomach and intestines and any other cells they can get their hands on and leave you feeling the way I did: like a dried out, pain-wracked husk. Anyway, that was my theory; that it wasn't that I couldn't hack it and had pussed out but rather that I had unwittingly poisoned myself. I was determined not to duplicate that experience so yesterday I went and got myself a "hydration belt" (sorry, Amy, couldn't wait for Christmas!) It has bottles that clip to it and a pouch for the gels and such. Worked like a charm! No more stopping to drink from the water fountains I see people lifting their dogs up to lap from. Huzzah!

It was a perfect day for a run - overcast, no wind, 58 degrees. I got to my turnaround point in the middle of Dockweiler Beach - a vast, featureless expanse of sand, the low grey clouds obscuring both the horizon and the jets roaring and groaning aloft a couple of hundred feet above me - happy that I felt pretty good, and happy I'm not agoraphobic. I was slightly ahead of my 9 minute pace, then lost some time at a couple of red lights on Washington Boulevard. I managed to run the last two miles in about 16 minutes thus finishing 2 1/2 minutes ahead of schedule. The pain was at a tolerable level and I actually felt half decent at the end. I'm not going to get cocky, though. Next week's run will be 18 miles. We'll see how that goes.

Interesting Sound o' the Day: a couple of mystery explosions somewhere near Washington Boulevard. I could feel them.
12/1/08 UPDATE: Mystery solved! It was the sonic booms from the space shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base. So cool!

Last week's runs:
Wednesday - 3 miles
Thursday - 6.1 miles, approx. 57:00
Saturday - 9 miles, approx. 1:25:00

This week's runs:
Tuesday - 5 miles
Wednesday - 8 miles, approx. 1:05:00
Friday - 5 miles, approx. 40:00
Sunday - 17 miles, 2:30:22

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

beset

There's a scene in Jaws where Roy Scheider is sitting on the beach watching the kids play in the water when one of these young-uns meets an untimely demise. Roy's holy shit! response is captured by what is known in the industry as a dolly zoom. Roy's head stays the same size in the frame but the background seems to rapidly recede from the camera in a weirdly disorienting way. It's an effective technique to convey an unsettling moment of realization.

And so it went yesterday as my foreground crept almost imperceptibly by while things in the distance seemed to get much, much farther away. This "moment" lasted 2 hours and 44 minutes - a 16.75 mile run during which, when I wasn't muttering or thinking an unbroken stream of obscenities, I was gasping and wincing in pain as I staggered along at a not-so-blistering 9:49 pace.

Usually when I start my long runs I'm pretty chipper for the first 6, 7, or 8 - maybe 10 miles. Yesterday for some reason I felt like I had already run 10 when I got to mile 1. It didn't help that I took a wrong turn at mile 4 and ended up 3/4 of a mile off route before I was able to yank my head out of my already pain-stricken ass and get back on track. By the time I got to my turnaround point, which was in the middle of Dockweiler Beach with the jumbo jets taking off immediately overhead, I was seriously thinking about stopping. I turned north and could see the Santa Monica pier - my destination - teenytiny and shimmering in the great distance. I just hadn't felt this kind of torture before and it was very discouraging. For those of you who want to experience the thrills of marathon training in the comfort of your living room here's an exercise you can try: take a step, then drop a brick on your foot. Now take another step and drop a brick on that foot, too. In between steps stick a fork into the back of your neck and into both hips. Repeat for 2 hours and 44 minutes.

It was unsettling just how much agony I was inflicting on myself. But despite the negative things I was saying along the way e.g. (expletives deleted), why am I doing this?, there's no possible way I'll be able to finish, I absolutely hate this, etc., I guess my moment of realization came when, despite the incessant cussing and limping and whining, I finally did indeed make it to the finish line.

Interesting Sight o' the Day: This guy.

Runs for the week:
Tuesday: 4.5 miles (with stairs)
Wednesday: 4.5 miles (with stairs)
Friday: 7.5 miles (with stairs), 1:05:43
Sunday: 16.75 miles, 2:44:22

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

the regulars



Whenever I set out on my long weekend runs one of my first thoughts is "will anything be blog-worthy today?" Last Sunday was no exception but as I got to mile 3 of my 15 mile run, I recognized someone definitely blogworthy about two hundred yards ahead of me. The Jogging Gnome.

Venice and Santa Monica and their respective boardwalks and beach bike paths are home to many longtime regular characters that I've been seeing for years. I have nicknames for most of them: CPG (Creepy Bike Guy), Whitetop, Basketball Jones, The Worst Skateboarder in the World, Stagger Lee, Lon Chainy, Ezekiel, Rascal Master, The Fisherman, The Creeper, Stan the Can Man, Mandingo, Sarge, FiveSecondsofYourTime, Clem, and The One Who Shall Remain Nameless (nickname: Shamess) to name a few. The Jogging Gnome is so-called because whenever I see him, he's jogging. And he has an, um, unusual body type. I tried to illustrate this for Scott one day but I don't really think I captured his true gnome-like essence.

So there he was, loping along ahead of me. The impossibly long legs under an abbreviated torso, the flowing hair, the dangerously tan skin, the ever-present smile. I realized I was going to eventually pass him and began rehearsing possible greetings. "Howdy", "Howzitgoing?", "Hey", or the chatty "Nice day for a run!" Suddenly, he did something I've never seen him do before: He stopped jogging and started walking. I was dumbfounded and silently ran by, feeling like I was witnessing something extremely rare, like catching an endangered hummingbird taking a breather on the end of a twig. I couldn't believe it - The Jogging Gnome... walking!

I got to thinking; I've spent a good deal of time on the bike path over the last twenty years. Do any of these beach regulars recognize me as a fellow beach regular? Do they see me and say "Hey, there goes Blue Bike Old Guy!"? Maybe.

Interesting Sight o' the Day: An unusually large number of hot chicks playing beach volleyball. Ah, California - gotta love it!

Runs for the week:
Tuesday - 3 miles, 21:13
Wednesday - 4.5 miles
Friday - 3 miles
Sunday - 15 miles, 2:15:00


The Profeta Royalty sketchbook page containing The Jogging Gnome doodle, ca. June, 2006. Other drawings include my ode to a NASCAR Fan and my idea for a Fish Head Stroller.
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

ow.

When I started running back in January it was purely a metaphorical exercise. Now, however, there is a purpose to it other than self-flagellation for self-flagellation's sake. I am running to prove something or some things to myself and to those who know me. But although I'm not really sure what all these things are, one thing was proven today: running hurts.

I know I said I was going to just wing it and not pay any attention to any formal advice and all but I've since determined that this line of thinking was just plain idiotic. I've become a devotee of MarathonRookie.com and I'm trying to follow their training schedule, more or less. The Houston Marathon organization sends out an email update periodically and this last one had a link to a bunch of great information on training regimens, injury avoidance, hydration, nutrition, even advice on one's mental state during the race. It is becoming abundantly clear to me that, unless I want to be a crippled, bitter, failure come race day, I need to start listening to those in the know.

Speaking of crippled, today's run was 14 miles, which is a really, really long distance, by the way. The pain started about mile 8, first in my thighs, then settling into the center of my butt muscles which really don't have a lot of extra room for things like great, jagged blocks of pain. It was relentless and disheartening and as I winced across my imaginary finish line, I thought, "gee, only 12.2 more miles to go". Continuing on for that distance was a laughable notion. Luckily, I have 13 more weeks to whip myself into shape. Self-flagellation, indeed.

Interesting Smell o' the Day: the jetties out at Marina del Rey are a dead ringer for a men's room that hasn't been cleaned in a few months.



Runs for the week:
Tuesday - 4.5 miles, 35:48 (including the 4th st. steps)
Wednesday - 6.2 miles, 51:42
Friday - 4.5 miles, 35:59 (including the 4th st. steps)
Sunday - 14 miles, 2:04:08

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

headwinds blow!

And suck! Seriously! Today was Half Marathon day - 13.1 miles of nonstop jogging. My plan was to do just under three laps of my 4.5 mile loop, half of which heads northwest on the bike path across Santa Monica beach. It was a beautiful day, with clear views from Point Dume to Catalina Island to Palos Verdes. This extreme clarity was due, unfortunately, to the Santa Ana winds blowing at a steady 15-20mph clip directly into my face. I felt like I was pulling a fully-loaded dogsled but without the benefit of a whip cracking to keep me motivated. The wind was relentless; drowning out my iPod with its roar, whipping the stinging sand into my legs, and quickly filling me with loathing for all the smiling people jogging and biking in the other direction. "Sure", I thought. "Laugh it up. Life's great when the wind's at your back, isn't it you assholes." Perhaps I was a bit harsh, but that's what this demon wind will do to you.

My route choice meant that not only did I have to endure the wind three times, but I also had to climb the 4th street stairs twice. The first climb was pretty easy. The second, after running for 9 miles, not so much. I got to the top sounding like I was doing a caricature of someone out of breath.

At about 11 miles my legs really started to hurt and later, as my desired completion time of 1:58:00 came and went, I threw yet another obscenity-laden curse out at the wind. I staggered over the finish line at 2:05:26 which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think that without the stairs and the wind I would have easily kept to a 9 minute pace. But that wasn't the real revelation today. What this run made me realize is just how incredibly hard a marathon is. There's a reason the first definition of the word marathon is "any long and arduous undertaking". I only did half of one. I now have a new respect for the race and for everyone who's run one.

Interesting Sight o' the Day: Sand being blown over the beach like so much snow across the tundra.

Runs for the week:
Thursday - 5.34 miles, 47:38 (including the 4th st. steps)
Saturday - 13.1 miles, 2:05:26

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Friday, October 10, 2008

because it's there

Mt. Baldy, crown jewel of the San Gabriels! How long it has eluded my attempts to reach its naked and alluring pate!

Well, not that I've ever tried; I was just going for a catchy opening. In lieu of a long run last Saturday I joined my client, John, and three of his friends, Edmund, Billy, and Susan, on a hike from a parking lot at about +6,000' to the top of Baldy at +10,064'. Edmund, or 'Sir Edmund' as I preferred to think of him there on the mountain, is 60 and a seasoned outdoorsman. He led the way and didn't dawdle, setting a pace that impressed and exhausted. He and John, who is 58, have shared many an adventure, most involving skiing and narrowly escaping with their lives, apparently. I quickly came to realize that these two guys are perfect examples of what I want to be like in 15 years. Not so much with the near-death skiing, but more to the whole 'live life to the fullest and mostly outside' aspect.

We got to the cloud-encased summit after about 3 1/2 hours, took a few pictures of ourselves in the light rain blowing by horizontally in the 30mph, 40 degree wind, and got the hell out of there. Lunch was had on the side of the mountain. The sun had come out and we had an amazing view out over what looked like a cloud ocean. It was a very fine day.

Interesting Sight o' the Day: the wreckage of two WWII-era jets not far from our lunch site. Just sitting there like they'd crashed a month ago instead of 61 years ago.

Runs for the week:
Monday - 3 miles
Tuesday - 1 mile
Saturday - 10.2 miles round-trip with a vertical gain of over 4,000'
Sunday - 4.5 miles (including the 4th street steps)



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