Sunday, November 26, 2006

Going Short
With a free Sunday I got up early, looked outside, saw no rain, and drove down to Oakland to run a race. It was November's Fourth Sunday Race by the good folks who call themselves the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders. It's 5K around the lake, and you can do it once, twice or three times. (Whatever you choose, the tab is three bucks for members, four for non-members.)

Two years ago on the Sunday after Thanksgiving I went for three laps -- the 15K. That was great fun, but not having run seriously since the Labor Day 10K in Davis, cranking nearly 10 miles hard today wasn't even a consideration. And I wasn't interested in doing a third 10K this year, and a mediocre one at that. So 5K it was.

What to say? I'm accustomed to reporting on the longer stuff, bringing you, dear reader, along on marathon and half-iron triathlon journeys and sifting through the mundane of self-inflicted endurance sport agony in search of something, anything, memorable or at least not to embarrassing.

But 5K, well, heck, it was done in 20 minutes and 21 seconds – and should have been done quicker. Here's the way I see it: I've run 10K at a 6:41 pace. Busting 20 minutes in the 5K would require a 6:26 pace.

I had it going over the first mile, keeping the leader, a long-legged kid with floppy black hair, within eyeshot and staying on the heels of a young woman in red shorts. First mile: about 6:18. During the second mile I passed the woman, who stayed close behind me, and I hit the next marker around 12:42. All I had to do was run the final 1.1 miles at a 6:37 pace. And if my legs and bowels both weren't tying into knots, I might have. The woman in red shorts passed me, as did a guy. The long-legged kid with floppy black hair was way out front of us all, and that left me fourth among 49 runners.

I wanted to hang around to see other folks finish, but the skies were getting heavier and heavier, and there were other obligations on my "free" Sunday. So off I went, as always feeling good for having raced.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Race Report: Labor Day 10K in Davis
The beeping coffeemaker got me up at 5:21 a.m. and I was out the door by 5:50, heading to Davis for the annual Labor Day Race. This was my second 10K of the year, after the Kenwood Foot Race on July 4th. (I think I need to find a Memorial Day race next year to complete the summer holiday trifecta.)

Fleet Feet has a store in downtown Davis, and the race starts right in front of it, on 2nd Street. Ridiculously but per habit, I arrived a good hour and a quarter before the festivities were scheduled to start, so I had plenty of time to jog around and get loose. I timed my last visit to the porta-potties for 15 minutes before the 8 a.m. start, but then they announced the race would start at 8:15 to allow time for late registrants or something. People: Arrive on time!

Oh, and one other thing, people: If you are 70 pounds overweight and likely to walk not run, do not position yourself at the front of the 700-person start-line throng. It was amazing how many obvious slow pokes were up front. Do they enjoy getting jostled out of the way? My guess is they simply haven't given the matter a thought.

So when the boom went boom and I hit my Polar to start my clock, it was time to pick through the crowd. Wasn't too bad, after all. But still.

At Mile 1, I was at 6:37, about where I hoped (but wasn't sure) I'd be. Mile 2, as we made our way along a paved path through a long, narrow suburban park, came in at 13:19, and at Mile 3 I was right around 20 minutes.

I'm learning that in running hard at shorter distance it's crucial to stay smooth and easy, so that's where my focus was. I relaxed my shoulders and shook off my grimace and tried to maintain the pace. Over the subsequent three miles I slowed by four or five seconds per mile, but I still passed a few people and only one guy passed me: The guy wearing bunny ears. I didn't find the bunny ears that interesting, but the clumps of spectators cheering us on did, and their reactions provided a nice distraction for me.

Back downtown, we turned off B Street for the final three-and-a-half block straightaway to the finish line. The crowd was sizeable, the sun was shining, the end was near. I chased after Bunny Ears but he was kicking, too, and I didn't gain any ground. Nice to finish strong, however, and nice to see the clock somewhere in the 41:30s. Recovery took a couple minutes, and boy is it fun not to be verging into Bonkville after a race (as can be the case with marathons or half-iron triathlons). Noah's Bagels had a table full of food, and I immediately downed a quarter of an orange, half a bagel and half a banana, washed down with 16 ounces of water. Walked around a bit, watching finishers come in, then got back on I-80 for the 46-mile drive home.

NOTED ON THE DRIVE BACK: Several extremely dusty cars, most with bikes on racks on the back. Ah, yes: Burning Man attendees heading home.

OFFICIAL RESULTS: 41:35, a 6:41/mile pace and a PR; 34/342 overall; 12/66 in the Male 40-49 group.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So we made it out of Florida, six hours or so ahead of Ernesto. The irony is that despite the constant talk about impending storm doom while in Florida, not a drop of rain fell on us in two days there. Then we get to New York and, you guessed it, it was raining. Still a little damp, but for the first time in three days I have a tiny window of free time so I'm going to pull myself away from the computer and go for a run in Central Park.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ernie on Our Tails
Cuvaison winemaker Steve Rogstad and I have an 11:29 flight out of Miami to New York this morning. About that time, the leading edge ("leading edge" -- such a TV weather guy term) of Tropical Storm-Maybe Hurricane Ernesto will be reaching Miami-Dade County. Will we get out before the deluge or get stuck to wait it out at the airport? Only time will tell, he intoned. Yesterday was strange; we tried to go about our business of meeting with wine writers, but most of them were getting ready for the storm, so they canceled. Driving around South Florida, we learned to avoid the right lane on wide boulevards -- that's where the gas lines out of the filling stations were snaking, blocking traffic.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sunday Ride
We got out yesterday and rode 100 miles (OK, 98.8). Infospigot tells the tale well, although he understates his role in pulling my sorry ass most of the way. Meanwhile, the evidence suggests that while we rode, Sam Thompson rested. He deserved a day off. After all, he'd run a marathon every day from July 1 through August 19. Check it out.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Old News, New Package
I guess for The New York Times it's not a story until they write it. Still, the piece in Sunday's paper on wine ratings goes not a millimeter past a dozen other such pieces I've read in the past half-dozen years. Its stunning conclusion: The 100-point scoring system used by publications and retailers is little more than a marketing tool, a crude one at that, and subject to at the very least the appearance of manipulation for profit. Duh.

UPDATE: Geez, and they even make the palette/palate mistake: "It is easy to start an argument in the wine industry by positing that many wine makers fashion wines to please the palettes of Mr. Parker, Mr. Laube and other high-profile critics." If I had a pallet of wine for every time I've seen palette confused for palate....
Worth Buying?
I've had my picture snapped by those race-photo companies at, oh, maybe 15 or 20 events. But I've never bought a picture -- usually because I've looked like a big dork. But this year at Vineman, a couple of the run shots (they also had bike and emerging-from-the-water swim shots) seemed OK. Here's my favorite. What do you think?

Ready to Ride
August 20 Tour of Napa, your pitfalls are on notice!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

'Out There'
Good story about the trickiness of open-water swimming. Story mentions that open-water swimming will become an Olympic event but, frustratingly, gives no details. However, another piece does. (It's a 10K. Whoa.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pretty cool -- a site that pulls together racing results for the masses of runners, cyclers, swimmers out there (and, of course, those of us who do all three in one day). It doesn't capture everything, and the results get real sketchy when you go back to '04 and earlier. But I bet they'll improve it as time goes on. Check it out.

(Noticed after posting this that you must register to see the results...)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

No, not public relations – personal record! Doing my fifth Vineman in a row, I turned in my best time ever – 5 hours, 34 minutes and 31 seconds. The old PR, from 2004, was 5:38:23.

The difference this year? The swim. My split was 37:14, more than three minutes better than my best-ever swim, and six minutes better than my '04 swim. I kept my head down, I reached and I kept my elbows high. Still much room for improvement, but isn't that always the case.

I need to point out, as well, that this Vineman -- renamed the Ironman Vineman 70.3, part of Ironman's much-hyped half-iron series -- was not in fact 70.3 miles. Ironically. A bridge in Geyserville damaged by the floods this past winter still hasn't been fixed, we were told, so the course had to be shifted and it grew to 57.5 miles instead of the usual 56.

Overall, it was a very satisfying race. Sure, there weren't enough porta-johns before the start, causing lots of anxiety among the racers; and it sucks to finish a hard race and then have to take a school bus a half-hour to Guerneville to get your car, then drive drive the car back to Windsor to get your bike, then drive home for more than an hour, taking measures to avoid the inevitable last-weekend-in-July traffic at the raceway in Sonoma; and it would be nice if there was more shade provided at the end of the race; and the pre-race talk the day before, does it need to take more than an hour?

All that said, I realize putting on a split-transition, three-discipline event for 2,000 hardcore athletic types is a challenging proposition. And the Vineman 70.3 folks did a good job. And you really can't beat the location. Riding through all those great, beautiful wine valleys on a Sunday morning is just a treat. I think it seemed even better this year because we knew how awful it would have been had the race been a week earlier, when temperatures along the course were over 110 degrees. There was something deeply disturbing about that heatwave, coming amid all the talk of climate change, and with so much of the world unhinged (due in no small part to our country's botched reaction to the outrageous acts perpetrated against us). Or something. I don't know. I just felt lucky to be out there today, even when it began to hurt.

I will say that the National Weather Service completely mangled the forecast. The high for Santa Rosa was predicted to be 72. It was 88. But I was fortunate to go in a pretty early wave, so I was done by 12:53 p.m., when temps had probably not even hit 80. Still, I was hot and thirsty at the end after going hard the last two miles – really hard the last mile. The effort left my stomach not eager to have anything more thrown into it, but I sipped water and juice and an hour later, my appetite returned. Been eating ever since.

The numbers:
Swim (1.2 miles).….37:14.5
Bike (57.5 miles)..2:56:06.3
Run (13.1 miles)...1:51:23.7
TOTAL: 5:34:31.1

83rd/222 in the male 40-44 age group
496th/1,221 finishers (1,950 entered)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ten Days in Hell
Recent high temperatures here in Napa:
Tuesday, July 25.......95
Monday, July 24........98
Sunday, July 23.......106
Saturday, July 22....107
Friday, July 21...........96
Thursday, July 20.....93
Wednesday, July 19..89
Tuesday, July 18.......90
Monday, July 17........97
Sunday, July 16.........96

Couple of notes:

  • The average July high in Napa, based on 88 years of record-keeping, is 82 degrees.
  • The official high in Napa is recorded at the State Hospital, about a mile and a half east of my house. It's a good reflection of the temperature here in town – as opposed to the airport, which is four or five miles south of town, a stone's throw from San Pablo Bay and thus typically 4-8 degrees cooler than in town in summer. What's confusing is that if you go the National Weather Service to find the current temperature for Napa, you'll get the hourly report from the Airport. That's because the State Hospital does not report hourly, only at the end of the day.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Week in Review
Last weekend, Dan left me two messages that he was indeed coming over for a Saturday morning ride. I didn't pick up either message. Fiddled the early-morning away doing who-knows-what, then finally got my stuff together and was literally heading out the door when Dan arrived, in what was clearly cycling gear. We did ride: up Oakville, which my Garmin asserts is a nearly 700-foot elevation gain in just over a mile, then over Veeder, and back home, totaling about 35 miles. Good stuff. The traditional polluting of air followed, in the name of baking bread in the homemade backyard earthen oven. First two loaves: a little charred. Second two: better. All eaten, all enjoyed. And did you know the oak coals (still working on that first dismembered wine barrel) removed from the oven can serve as excellent coals for the grilling of London broil in the Weber? I lie not.

Sunday, Niko and I endured the heat together -- lots of heat lately, as is the case everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, it appears. Wait -- Moscow rainy and cold. Worse, my persistentoothachece was at its agony-inducing peak. Pain in the jaw, the eye, the temple, the horror, oh the horror. (This in addition to the tooth itself being extremely sensitive to cold.) I had to lie down for a while. But a strange thing happened. After a bike ride in the evening, Niko took a bath and I a shower and when I got out of the shower, the aches were almost entirely gone. Just for a day, but I took it.

There were more workouts -- couple of easy runs and one with some intervals, six miles with four 2:50 half-miles snuck in there, for kicks. Peter and I rode up Wild Horse Road, another steep climb, and did it twice just to make sure that stupid hill was crystal clear on the fact that we had kicked its ass. There was another ride up Veeder, the easier way, from Redwood, with Laura J visiting Napa from Chicago. And of course the usual flapping around in the bath water that is HealthQuest's pool during hot weather. Four swims in all.

That's how today ended, or at least, that was the last halfway interesting thing that happened today -- a swim, as the sun set. Why the late swim? Long story, but a key part of it all was that at 4 p.m. I had presented myself at the office of Dr. Raymond Scott DDS, MS, for the purpose of getting the roots to my No. 3 tooth (second molar on the upper right) excavated, filled and sealed. I'd had another root canal not long ago, but not on a molar and not in a situation in which the tooth was hurting terribly badly. So Dr. Scott drills into the matter and finds the inflammation in two of the four roots is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being worst. What this meant, presently, was that the anesthetic he'd shot my gums up with wasn't really reaching all the tissue, and that's why I was experiencing piercing pain the likes of which would have had the most dedicated, virgin-eyeing Islamofascists terrorist spilling the beans completely to his freedom-loving American captors. Dr. Scott did what he could to minimize the pain by bathing the area in what I gathered was a topical anesthetic and by and by we got through it, the work was done and five hours later I feel just fine.

Must go to bed soon. Tomorrow morning I need to run, but I also need to watch Our Man Floyd in the time trial. What a Tour. Then it's down to San Jose for Mom & Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

July 1, 2005-June 30, 2006
Just occurred to me that our official rain season ended a few weeks ago. It was a wet one. Huge rainy December, of course (remember the flood?), and then day after day of rain in March on into April. Here are the month-by-months, adding up to 40.70, if my addition is sound.


Source: California Department of Water Resources

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's a Lifestyle, I Guess
More of the working out thing. Today's report:
  • Swim 3x500, plus 260 yards to make it a mile.
  • Run 8 miles in 59:20. Legs are back!
What Zidane Should Have Said: A PR Professional's View
"Many have asked, 'What did he say to provoke such a response?' I have thought long about that question. And in my mind, I have replayed my opponent's words many times, so of course, in all honesty, they are etched deep in my consciousness.

"But I will tell you this and this everyone must understand: In the end, the nature of the provocation is immaterial. On the field, representing my families -- yes, families: my family of teammates; the vast family of my countrymen who love France and French football; and my immediate family whose respect is more important to me than anything -- it was my obligation to act as a sportsman, to rise above insult, degradation, provocation. Surely that is no less important than scoring goals and winning matches. There is no excuse for my failure to do so. None. All I can do now is express my regret, and commit myself to living my life in such a way as to re-earn a measure of respect."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Recent Workouts
  • 2,000-yard straight swim, 38 minutes: Great swim! Felt smooth and comfortable (well, more than usual).
  • 6-mile jog (9 minute pace): Legs still recovering from Kenwood? Very sluggish.


  • 1,500-yard swim, mostly freestyle 200s with some back and breastroke. Easy swim.
  • 25-mile bike, including Veeder climb.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday Ride
Ran into my friend Peter at the pool yesterday and we discovered we were both planning to ride before the World Cup final at 11. So we made a plan and hooked up in Yountville for a most excellent 50-miler through the eastern hills (aka, Vaca Mountains). That's up Silverado Trail, east onto Sage Canyon, veering left at Chiles Pope Valley Road, then back over into the valley on the Ink Grade-Howell Mountain combo. Ink Grade tops out about 1,800 feet, so altogether we were over 3,000 feet in climbing. With Vineman three weeks off, it was just the ride I needed.

By the way, this was the second ride in four days with Peter. He and his family invited Niko and me to spend some time with them at a beach house they were renting in Santa Cruz. While the kids played on the beach on Thursday afternoon, Peter and I rode south and east through the foothills just in from the coast. Real nice 30-miler, marred only by the fact that a couple miles shy of home, my chain broke. Drats to that, but I fixed it Friday in San Jose (thanks for the help, Dad) and all is well.

Been on the bike a lot more the last three weeks and am definitely starting to feel stronger. I think I need one very long and hard ride and a couple more medium-long and hard rides before Vineman (well, before 10 days before Vineman, so I have time to taper a bit), and I may actually be able to do a sub-5:40 race.

Additional note on Santa Cruz: We busted into a 1996 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse Willamette Valley for dinner Thursday night (with grilled wild salmon). Wow! Many, many layers of fruit and earthy/meaty flavors and aromas. Perfect balance and texture. Just killer Pinot. Besides Calera, does anyone in California even try to make Pinot that will taste like this 10 years down the road?

Kenwood update: Results finally posted. My official time was 43:54, and I finished in 78th place out of more than 600 runners. Woo-hoo for me!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Kenwood Footrace
For readers flung far, Kenwood is a leafy little unincorporated town about halfway up Sonoma Valley, the 20-mile crescent that runs from Sonoma northwest toward Santa Rosa, bisected by State Route 12. Kenwood once would have been called a farm town, but this being Wine Country 2006, the price of admission for a 2BR/2BA cottage is probably a cool million. And the most common businesses in town are probably bed-and-breakfasts; there's one on every block, I think. So farm town doesn't quite work anymore. Nevertheless, on the Fourth, the small-town feel flows. There's a big pancake breakfast, World Championship Pillow Fights, parade, chili cookoff, fireworks – all kicked off, at 7:30 a.m., by the Kenwood Footrace.

This is a 10K with some history – 2006 marked the 35th annual running. The course is certified and certifiably about as beautiful as you can imagine, starting alongside the "downtown" park, heading past vineyards and pastures into the hills for a few miles, through more vineyards and woodlands, too, then back toward town through yet more vineyards and oak-dappled terrain. Quiet country roads, dirt trails, paved paths, it has a little of everything, and no cars.

The other time I ran Kenwood, in 2003, I was surprised and hurt by the hills. From about Mile 1 to Mile 3, the course climbs some 250 feet in elevation. (The second half of the race is mostly downhill, but with one more significant climb.) I hit the hills hard in '03, and my muscles weren't ready. My quads tightened into knots.

So this year, returning for the first time to Kenwood, I made sure to warm up well, running slowly for 15 or 20 minutes until about a quarter-hour before the race started. When I stopped I noticed I was sweating just a bit, despite the cool morning temps (around 60, sunny with a bit of scattered marine layer on the edges). Good.

The race start was a little frustrating; a lot of slow runners positioned themselves at the front of the pack. Why? Maybe they didn't realize what they were doing. Or maybe they're the sort who drive at the speed limit in the fast lane on the freeway. Anyway, it took about 10 seconds to reach the start line, then a couple of minutes to break free from the crowd and find my pace.

I ran 44:52 in 2003, and thought I might be able to cut a minute off that time this year, on account of the proper warm-up and just generally being a more fit runner. Of course, I am three years older and theoretically at least that ought to work against me. (But I don't feel any older, he said, defensively.)

I have to say this about 10Ks: After doing four marathons and 15 triathlons (eight half-iron distance) in the past four-plus years, a 10K is delightfully simple. I love triathlons and love training for them, but it's great to compete with a pure focus on simply getting out and running hard for 45 minutes. No wetsuit! No transition setup! No flat tires!

I used my Garmin on the run and despite some tree canopy issues in the hills, it mostly kept its bearings. Despite the crowded start, I managed the first mile in 7:01. Then came the hills, and for the next two miles my pace slowed to 7:30. The only mileage marker on the course is at three miles, and I hit that in 22:01. I felt good, really good. Nothing hurt – not the Achilles, the knees, no aches, no pains. I can't emphasize enough how fun it is to run in a race and not have anything hurting.

We dropped 120 feet from Mile 3.3 to 4.4. Running those downhills, I thought about the signs Caltrans has for truckers coming down I-80 from the High Sierra: "Let 'er run" (or "ride," or "rip," something like that). I lengthened my stride, letting gravity do as much work as possible. I completed that 1.1-mile stretch in about six minutes, still feeling fairly frisky – which was good, because right when we bottomed at the 4.4 mark, we had a 100-foot climb over the next 0.8 miles. I knew it was the last climb, so I went at it hard, staying well under 9 min./mile pace.

The last mile was great: 120-foot decline, first fairly steep then leveling out a bit. I went hard, using runners ahead of me as targets. (I was passed once on the second half of the course, but came back and got that guy, an amazing runner who must have been well into his 60s.) Down the final straight, a few hundred yards maybe, I passed a younger woman and wanted to make a run at a younger guy up ahead, too, but the effort finally began to get to me: It wasn't the legs or the lungs; it was the ol' lower GI. I felt like I could make it to the finish without having a major incident, but no farther. I'm not sure if anything disastrous would have occurred had the race been a tenth of a mile longer, but I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

Final time on the Garmin, from gun to finish line: 43:52, a 7:01 pace. Considering how challenging the Kenwood course is, I feel good about that: One minute faster than three years ago.

Afterward, I had some time before the noon Germany-Italy match, so I did an easy 1,500 yards at the pool. Now, with the match over, why not an easy spin on the bike? A "triathlon" day after all.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fire It Up!
Dan came up from Berkeley and we did a nice ride up a hill (Soda Canyon Road) said to be the third-toughest climb in the valley by one source. It's amazing how much more fun it is to ride with a friend rather than alone. Instead of having the same old conversations in my head in order to distract me from the grade or the heat, I can babble on to an actual human being. For those of you who didn't follow the link: we ascended 1,340 vertical feet on this ride, with 720 feet in one especially gnarly 1.2-mile stretch. Nothing to write home about, but good enough to blog.

Later, after showers and smoothies, Dan helped Niko and me break in the earthen oven we built this spring. That's right, we fired it up! As Niko said to Dan, "My dad didn't want to invite a lot of people over the first time because he was worried the oven might collapse. But it was OK to have you over."

Dan was the fire-tender extraordinaire:

For kindling we used a couple small sheets of newspaper and small dead branches that had fallen from our sycamore trees. For real fuel, we busted up one of my old oak wine barrels. We were all amazed at how well the fire burned. You wouldn't think there would be enough air. But just as Kiko said it would, the air wooshed in the bottom portion of the opening and the smoke went out the upper portion. And the fire burned.

I hadn't thought about dough until it was too late, so I ran down to Trader Joe's and picked up a variety of prepared pizza doughs. Niko whipped up a sauce and we were on our way:

Yes, as a matter of fact the "pizza peel" you see there is a metal dustpan with a broomstick attached to it. Our regular pizza peel wouldn't fit through the 13-inch oven opening. Here is the historic first pizza to emerge from the oven:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

CaliMan Half-Iron, June 11, 2006, Morgan Hill, CA
A big workout – given that I haven't been doing long rides, that was the only sensible way to view the CaliMan half-iron distance triathlon. (How lazy have I been about the bike this year? Well, I'd gone 56 miles exactly zero times, and now I'd be bracketing that distance with a 1.2-mile swim and a 13.1-mile run. A stretch, to say the least.)

Of course, rational thinking wants to go out the window once the race starts. Or sooner even. A minute before the cannon sounded Sunday morning, the recorded strains of bagpipes blaring "Amazing Grace" busted loose over the PA. Floating in the cool, murky waters of Uvas Reservoir with 300 other racers, I was getting excited. I don't know if it was adrenaline flowing or what, but I had that great nervous/excited/scared/curious feeling that comes just before a race begins.

But seriously, this was half-iron distance. Swimming and biking for a PR would only have left me staggering home on the run. I desperately didn't want that, with all its attendant misery. I wanted a good, solid effort, a session that would leave me a realistic sense of were I am fitness-wise without leaving me so beat up I couldn't rejoin my training, such as it's been, within a couple of days.

Oh, and one other thing I wanted: Fun on my old stompin' grounds! I grew up in South San Jose. Uvas Reservoir was where we had our sixth-grade end-of-the-year party. I wasn't a "cyclist" back then, but this was the pre-videogame era and we were active, sports-crazed kids. From time to time we'd get the itch to get on our bikes and head away from the city into the hills and farms south of town. Santa Teresa, Bailey, McKean, Willow Springs – many of the bike-route roads were familiar to me.

Niko and I headed down from Napa early Saturday afternoon for the packet pick-up, at T2, a hospital off U.S. 101 in Morgan Hill. After getting the registration taken care of and my run stuff in place for the run-bike transition, it was back to my folks' house for the evening. Nice to spend the night before the race at a home, with Mom's cooking and a quiet place to sleep, rather than a motel, I'll tell you that.

I was out of the house a little after 5 the next morning for the 7 a.m. start. I knew this would get me there in plenty of time, but didn't think I'd be parked and 100 yards from the start at 5:35. No problem. This left me a leisurely time of it in getting body marked, using the porta-potty – no line! -- and setting up my T1 things. I was surprised at how few bike racks were out there. I was expecting 1,000 racers or so, just like Uvas/South Bay and San Jose International, a couple of popular events put on by the same group doing CaliMan, JA Productions. But apparently the fact that the race has bounced around from Folsom in the spring of 2004, to Folsom in September 2005 to Morgan Hill in June 2006 has hindered its development. I heard afterward that JA plans to keep CaliMan in Morgan Hill next year, so maybe that'll help in drawing more racers. I know I'll be back. It's not an amazing course, but it's pretty cool.

Uvas, filled in early June to near its 10,000 acre-feet capacity, is a lovely spot in the foothills sandwiched between the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and the Santa Clara Valley to the east. There are some noveau villas scattered around the area, old farmsteads, a few vineyards, and mostly grass, scrub and oaks.

The swim itself takes you around a big peninsula that juts into the reservoir, so we couldn't see the finish until we were about two-thirds of the way done. That made it more interesting than a course built solely around buoys.

I've been swimming pretty consistently this year and working on achieving a longer, smoother stroke, and tried to keep that in mind once we went off. That is, when I wasn't getting whacked in the head by some wayward swimmer (or, wayward, whacking someone in the head). Even with only about 300 racers, a mass start is pretty wild, but I tried to stay to the outside to avoid the fray and mostly did. Getting out of the water, I could see the clock ticking just past 40 minutes. My official time crossing the chip sensor was 40:44, 27th out of the 37 finishers in the male 40-44 group. For me, pretty good, especially since I felt as though I hadn't swum nearly as hard as I could have.

I don't know what I was doing in T1, but somehow it took me a little over six minutes to get out of my wetsuit, pack it away in the bag that volunteers would take to T2 11 miles away, put on my helmet, gloves, socks, shoes, Garmin and glasses and then get the heck across the chip sensor marking the start of the bike. I think this was a case of taking the casual, "just a long workout" philosophy a little too far. I wasn't feeling the sense of urgency I should have been. Given the transition area logistics, that should have been a 4-minute T1 at worst.

Anyway, on the bike: The morning was gray but mild – temps in the upper 50s as I began pedaling, I'm guessing, with the high not expected to climb higher than the mid-70s. Ideal. We went north through the hills for about 10 miles, then down into the Santa Clara Valley proper, heading south into the area's typical 5-10 mph summer-morning breeze. Then we turned back into the hills for the major climb of the day, supposedly a 610-foot elevation gain up Willow Springs Road. Didn't feel like that much. Then south through the hills, back down into the valley, south more or less for 20 miles, then back north toward the hospital, breeze at our backs, for the final 15 miles or so. The overcast broke up and the sun began to shine bright on that last stretch.

One of the more interesting things about the ride were the smells. On the first leg along the hills I noticed lots of road-kill smells, though don't remember seeing any squashed critters. Perhaps dragged off to the side? Then going down the valley on Santa Teresa Boulevard the south wind brought the pungent odor of the mushroom farms along the way there. Then later it was garlic that I smelled, Gilroy of course being the garlic capital of the United States, home to the legendary Garlic Festival each summer.

I mostly just tried to stay good and steady on the bike. My bike computer wasn't working so I was relying on my Garmin, which I hadn't set to give me mph. But it did give me pace, and I knew that 3 minutes per mile was 20 mph, 3:12 was 19, 3:24 was 18 and so on, so I had a good sense of where I was. One thing I noticed was that I enjoyed not having the odometer front and center with my trip distance constantly in my face. The Garmin was on my wrist and I'd look there only every few minutes. Instead of seeing hundredths click by, I'd see quarter miles or thirds go by the wayside.

One other thing about the ride: somewhere in the 35- to 45-mile range, on a long stretch heading south into the wind, a rangy local kid in baggy shorts rode up alongside me. It was clear he wasn't a racer, just a kid 16 or 17 who loved to ride. Drafting and pacing weren't allowed in this event, but we rode together for a while, chatting about cycling in the south valley and such. I don't know if the accompaniment improved my pace – I held it steady at about 18 mph, despite the wind – but it sure helped the time pass faster.
Numbers on the bike: 3:08:25, 24/37 in the AG.

T2 was only a little bit better than T2, considering how much simpler the change is. Yet it still took be 3:05, and could easily have been a full minute faster without costing me anything. And then I was off and running.

Right from the start I was wondering if I should hit a porta-potty to pee. I didn't have to go terribly badly, but I hate even thinking about having to go and I began to wonder if having to go would lead me to drink less than I should along the way. So after four miles around 8:30, with my legs feeling quite good, I stopped at a john midway into Mile 5. A minute in there and I was on my way – but there was a problem. My right knee – the ITB – had tightened and was in excruciating pain with every step. I slowed, knowing my only hope was that it would gradually loosen up again. And it did, sort of. By Mile 8, I was mostly running OK. Of course, by then the jawache/toothache/headache I've been experiencing of late was in full voice. The right side of my face, from my jaw through my upper teeth back toward the ear and to the temple, was pulsing with pain. Yes, I'm going to see the dentist about it this week, again (he hasn't been able to identify the problem after a couple of visits).

The run was almost entirely off-road, on a mostly paved bike path that runs alongside Coyote Creek (and over it a couple of times). It goes through some grassy and lightly oak-wooded areas, though it never feels like you're out in the wilds with 101 nearby. At one big open spot there's a park for remote-controlled airplane enthusiasts, and several were out doing their thing as we trundled along the path, mindful of the occasional recreational cyclist.

The ITB hurt from time to time and my face was in pain, but mostly I continued to feel pretty good during the run. But I was losing steam. My pace fell to 9:30 until the final mile, which I brought home in about 8:25. I was hoping to crack 6 hours – still 18 minutes off my half-iron PR – but with a 2:02:40 run (18/37 in the AG), just missed. Final time: 6:01:03, 23/37.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Now We're Cookin'!

Well, not really. Not yet. But Niko and I did get the next layer of mud on our oven. Over the three-inch-thick shell of clay and sand, we put on a six-inch-thick layer of "cob" -- clay and sand with dried cut grass mixed into it. This was about 300 lbs. of mud, all combined by hand in the wheelbarrow. My arms are sore.

Next up: a thin layer of "plaster" to make it look all pretty. Then we fire her up!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Great One
In hockey, it was Gretzky. He stood head and shoulders above the rest. In wine writing, it is Jancis. Yesterday in her Financial Times column she wrote about Steven Spurrer, the man behind the CA vs. France tasting in Paris in 1976, and its sort-of rerun this past week. Here's a taste of the piece:

Perhaps every area of activity has its puzzlingly under-celebrated pioneer and
Steven Spurrier is certainly an unsung hero of wine. He has quite exceptional
wine knowledge, particularly but not exclusively of France, has fingers in
vinous pies in six countries, and has had all manner of brilliant wine ideas
that other people, never him, have managed to spin into gold.

Fortunately, he began life with a fortune, was wise enough to marry
another, and seems to be happy enough to have spent his 42 years in the wine
business gently frittering them away in various agreeable wine-related

Not that he is indolent. Far from it. At the Christie's Wine Course, which
he set up in 1982, it is more often than not Spurrier who carries the boxes and
opens the bottles. His prolific wine writing output includes three very solid
books, of which only Clarke &Spurrier'sFine Wine Guide is still in

When a group of us British wine writers needs to fix up its programme of
visits to taste the Bordeaux primeurs each spring, it is Steven who does all the
hard work of writing to the châteaux and co-ordinating our split-second
timetable. But when Steven counselled me to invest in Vinopolis, the wine-based
tourist attraction that opened just south of the Thames in 1999, assuring me
that he was putting everything he could into it, I did the opposite and have not
regretted it.

But to call him the man with the tin touch would be deeply unfair because
he has enriched the wine world considerably and played a key part in the wine
education of such luminaries as Michel Bettane, France's top wine writer, Tim
Johnston and Mark Williamson of Willi's Wine Bar in Paris, Roy Richards of
Richards Walford, Britain's most fastidious wine importer, Charles Lea of Lea
& Sandeman fine wine shops around London, Paul Bowker (who was so cute he
was known as le petit'ange by Caves de la Madeleine customers and went on to run
Christie's wine department) and Jenny Dobson, whom Spurrier met when she was an
au pair for the Seysses family at Burgundy's Domaine Dujac and, touchpaper lit
by Spurrier, has gone on to make great wine at Ch Sénéjac in Bordeaux and Te Awa
in New Zealand.

If Spurrier has a fault, it is hardly the most serious: an excess of
enthusiasm about the most humdrum of wines.....

Friday, May 26, 2006

Went back east on business this week. Here's the view from my Jersey City hotel room.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mud Oven
A few weeks ago, when the rain finally stopped, Niko and I embarked on a project: construction of an earthen bread oven in our backyard. Remarkably, progess is being made! We built a stand for it, including making a concrete slab table, then put down brick for the oven floor. Next came the sand form, which is now encased in the three- or four-inch thick "thermal layer" of clay and sand. Once that hardens, we'll cut out a door space, remove the sand, and then put on a thick (seven inches) layer of cob, a mixture of clay, sand and straw. Here's how things look now:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sun, Run
It really warmed up today, but I had to do a run and had to do it in the middle of the afternoon. Went 7.5 miles at a 7:50/mile pace. I felt OK, but sweat gallons. Well, probably about a third of a gallon.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More Workouts
Thursday: 10-mile run at 8:22 pace, with 7:20 9th mile for kicks.
Friday: 20-mile spin of a bike ride; 1,650 swim (1x500; breast and back; 4x100 in 1:35 on 2:00 intervals, then warm-down)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Week, So Far
Monday: 2,000 yards in the pool (1,000 in 18:30, some back and breast, then some 100s in 1:45 on 2:05); 5-mile run at 8:15 pace
Tuesday: 17-mile bike ride, but with Wild Horse climb (600 feet in a mile, 1,240 in 2.4 miles); 7-mile recovery run at 9:45 pace (I have never run that slow before; it was great, really relaxing)
Wednesday: 1,650 in the pool (500x2 at 9, back/breast recovery laps, then a smooth, easy, perfect-form 500)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Half Crazy
In addition to Vineman 70.3, I'm now signed up for the CaliMan Half, down south of San Jose. Must do big rides in the weeks ahead!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Rider and the Sleeper
Chirping birds wake me at 5:15 a.m. Get up, get a drink of water and take a leak. Contemplate the fact that my friend Dan set out, 15 minutes ago, on another epic ride. Go back to bed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Triathlon Update
It's been a good couple of weeks. The Achilles tendon problem appears to be totally a thing of the past. Running just once in the month after the Napa Valley Marathon was a key factor, but regular swimming and cycling (on the trainer, not out in the rain) also helped a lot, I think. In any case, I'm ecstatic to be able to run again. I'm keeping the distances short for now, between five and seven miles at a time, but have been able to run as often as three days in a row without encountering pain or lingering soreness.

As I mentioned, the cycling has been mostly on the trainer. The trainer was a big part of my routine in my first couple of years of triathlon, especially during the winter and spring. I don't know why I moved away from it. I guess I didn't understand how much it did for me. But these past few weeks have shown me how wrong that thinking was. A solid hour on the trainer, nonstop, pushing the heart rate up to a level and holding it there, then backing off, then pushing it up again … that can be a great workout. Now I feel ready to do some long Saturday morning rides.

On the swim front, I've taken to swimming three or four consecutive days instead of spreading the week out. The benefit (I theorize) is that I can better build upon the progress I make in each workout. Also doing a lot more drills, including plenty of 50s and 100s. Remarkably, I am getting faster. Need to make sure to work in a straight long swim each week, and to lengthen that swim each week. Anyway, weekly yardage is between 6,000 and 8,000, still pretty wimpy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mirepoix Mixing

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Open Road Ahead
Triathlon Elite
It's time to sign up for Half Vineman. Oops, I mean Vineman Ironman 70.3. For my six hours of exertion (or less, fingers crossed), I will pay $225. I think it was $150 in 2002, when this madness began.

So think about: Do two half-iron races each year, plus a couple of Olympic-distance events (about $100 apiece), a marathon ($65) and couple of 10Ks (say, $30 each) -- all of which you need in order to break up the schedule and keep yourself motivated -- and you're closing in on a grand for entry fees alone. And heaven forbid you get ambitious and want to do a full iron-distance race: Full Vineman is $295 if you sign up six months ahead of time (sure you get a break, but these fees tend to be practically nonrefundable, so early signup can be risky); it's $405 six days before the race.

Question: Which of the two major parties will take on the issue of skyrocketing athletic-event entry fees? C'mon. Those of us competing are on the front lines in the battle against obesity, that national scourge. Support the troops!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

In the H2O
My sorry ability after more than four years of swimming is pretty remarkable but, it occurred to me today (while swimming), perhaps not as remarkable as I like to think. It takes me nearly 40 minutes to crank out an open-water 2K and there is no denying that falls into the category headed Sucks. What popped into my head today, however, as I swam 2500 yards in the rain, was that four years and three month ago, when this madness began, I could hardly make it back and forth once in a 25-yard pool. Was it really so? It really was. My early swims were 300 or 400 yards, with rests after each lap. I was in no swimming shape at all and had no clue what I was doing. Now, at least, I have fitness, and while I struggle with my technique mightily, I do understand the basics. I know how to breathe, and about avoiding drag, and not to drop my elbow. I know enough to be frustrated by my inability to do it all well! Progress, of a sort.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Achilles Heel: My Achilles Tendon
The truth is, I wore woefully worn-out shoes for the Napa Valley Marathon. Not only that, it was a miserably cold and rainy day and because I didn't want to get wet (which I did, anyway, standing and waiting for the start), I did not warm up. No surprise, then, that I am now dealing with my first nagging injury in more than four years of triathlon.

Ran about four miles today and it wasn't excruciating. It wasn't even that bad. But four miles at 9 minutes/mile is hardly pushing it, and the whole way, I could feel the tightness in my right Achilles tendon. I could probably keep running two or three times a week, 4-6 miles each run, and things wouldn't get worse. Nor would they get better. All of which puts me in pretty sad shape pointing toward a half-iron race in June, or even late July. No, the thing to do -- what that wise little voice in my head is saying -- is, "Don't run for 4-6 weeks. It's the only way to get over this so you can really get back at it."

Meanwhile, I have nearly convinced myself that I need to buy this:

Don't really have the money, but damn, I want a triathlon bike! Might not make me faster, but I do know it would rev up my training bigtime for the rest of the season. And that will make me faster.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why We're All Wet
The totals in inches haven't been huge, but the rain has been persistent this month. A number of locations have either already or will surely set a record for number of March days with measurable precipitation. Today, the morning discussion out of the National Weather Service's Monterey office takes a crack at explaining the phenomenon (they like all-caps, don't ask me why):


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Just Wondering
The Oregon clan who made it out alive -- is their travel agent a guy named Stolpa?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New Music
So I've discovered Rogue Wave, three years after the cool people fell in love with them and probably two years and, oh, six months after those same cool people dismissed them because they were now popular. Nevertheless, I like 'em a lot and have been listening to the CD nonstop since it arrived yesterday morning. Apparently, the band had a song played on -- or they played a song on, don't know which -- The OC, which presumably means they are listened to by high school and college kids. So am I outta my element or what? But I love the layers and the narcotic, dreamy feel of their music, the way it rises and falls, its warmth amid not-too-precious young-person's angst.

Er, yes, I said CD. Haven't gotten to the Ipod/MP3 business yet.

Monday, March 13, 2006

What Napa Kids Do

Niko and I bottled wine on Sunday. At left, he's filling the bottles, a task he has down to an art. Below, he's sitting in front of the 10 cases -- that's 120 bottles, people! -- we finished off. Look for the limited edition release with the labels handcrafted at Niko's Paper Factory.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Been thinking a lot about the Barry-steroids story. I have opinions on the matter but haven't been sure what to write, as those opinions are sprawling and probably not very interesting. So I'll just share the initial emotion the story stirred in me, which I quickly typed up in an email to my friend Dan:

I'll never forget 1993 ('93, right?) when I went on a weekend solo mountain biking/camping venture in the mountains of Modoc County and, with a little transistor radio in my tent, listened to Barry hit three* homers at Dodger Stadium on the third-to-last day of the season to keep the Giants alive for one more day. Alone in the wilderness, I hollered and cheered until I cried. That was Friday. Saturday, another Giants win. Still alive. On Sunday, a victory from a playoff, the Solomon Torres debacle. Oh well.

Juiced Barry now strikes me as grotesque and unnatural and I miss the Barry of old. He was slender and powerful and fast. He fucked up in the playoffs. He made amazing catches in the field. That was when I could still remember in a visceral way what it was like to get in a groove for a few weeks and hit nothing but liners, shots, to all fields.

That was when: I had been married only once and never divorced. Writing wasn't something I used to do, gone forever. On my mountain bike, I went up and down terrain I now can't imagine even trying to ride.

It was never easy loving Barry, but it could be done. The concessions one had to make were not dishonorable. He was brilliant and not-perfect. Life sort of felt that way. I'm not saying I was innocent, but I didn't know, then, how cold abandonment could be.

I wish Barry could have known that it was all enough. People always think there's something wrong. They wreck things in pursuit of -- what? I still don't know. All I know is they wreck things. People always wreck things and hurt people. And then all they wish for is the one thing that's impossible, that they could turn back the clock.

*Just double-checked this memory, and found it to be faulty: Barry had two homers and a double that night, going 3-for-3 and knocking in 7 runs.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Web(-footed) News
New blogger of note.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Marathon No. 4
I'd guess about a third of an inch of rain fell on me during the 3 hours, 52 minutes and 30 or so seconds I was running the Napa Valley Marathon this morning. Not that bad, you're thinking. Third of an inch. Hardly Katrina. And yet, heading into a steady wind of 5-15 mph, with gusts over 20, it didn't take long to become wet through the nylon jacket and the cycling jersey that was under it. Wet through the skin, too. Wet to the bone, as they say.

Wet, windy -- with the temperatures in the 40s, well, yeah, it was cold. Pretty miserable, really.

The kind of cool thing was, faced with these elemental impediments, I went out easy and that was good. I ran the first 12 miles with a colleague and friend, Laura from Chicago. She endured well my constant chatter (she didn't punch me, that's how I know), and we cruised along at an 8:45/mile pace. Then Laura had to take a toilet break. She convinced me that it might be awhile, so I soldiered on. Running alone and nearing the halfway mark, I noted that I didn't feel all that spent. Nothing like Sacramento in December, when I was pushing hard to stay on an 8 minute/mile pace. To be sure, there was the usual plate of delicious delights to feast upon: tightening quads, aching knees, throbbing hip, the beginnings of blisters.... But I felt well-fed and -hydrated, munching jelly beans and gels, sipping something at the aid stations every two miles. There was never the hint of a suggestion of a notion that anything was amiss with my tummy or the places farther along the digestive/excretory tract. Unprecedented.

So I kept up the pace. Even as the quads sang out in pain I kept up the pace. Even as the wind battered us on the uphill around Mile 20, I kept up the pace. Once over that hill, I knew I would be all right. My muscles didn't like the cold, but the rest of my body seemed to be accustomed to it by then. It seemed manageable. A couple of times I began to slide over 9 minutes/mile, but then I'd find a faster runner to pull me back under.

Turning off Silverado Trail, finally, near the Mile 23 mark gave me a psychological boost. Then onto Big Ranch for Miles 24 and 25. That seemed to go on too far. Then a turn, and a turn, and around one more turn, the finish chute. Finishers metal, space blanket, warm soup, all good.

[Thanks to Laura's hubby, Steve, for the ride to the start line, so I didn't have to do the gruesome predawn bus thing. And thanks to Max for driving my car from her house to the finish, so I could head directly home from there. Lastly, congrats to Laura, for gutting it out.]

UPDATE: Official time was 3:52:43, placing me 387th out of 1,438 finishers.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

All Right! Woo-Hoo! Let's Go!
Forecast for tomorrow morning's Napa Valley Marathon: Rain, with winds about 20 mph from the south (the race heads south) and gusts approaching 40 mph.

Look for the full report Sunday evening...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Triathlon Update
Thanks to Dan, I got on my bike yesterday. He offered to come up to Napa from Berkeley for a ride, and I couldn't refuse. This was my first time on the bike since New Year's Day (yeah, that was with Dan, too). We went up Mount Veeder and down Dry Creek. I forget the distance; maybe 30 miles, with a couple thousand feet of climbing. It was great, as riding always is. Afterward, I declared it the beginning of my triathlon season. I'd been swimming and running, but it ain't triathlon without riding. From now on, I'm getting in at least a few rides every week. But, uh, no ride tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll do my last long run before the Napa Valley Marathon. Eighteen miles.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

On and Off the Road
Back from my Sacto-Houston-Miami-Dallas-Houston-Sacto trip, pimping Sokol Blosser to south Florida and Texas, two huge wine markets. Snuck in two short runs in Miami -- actually, Hollywood, Fla., a beachtown north of Miami, near Fort Lauderdale. I liked the slightly rundown old two- and three-story pastel-colored art-deco-tinged hotels along the beach in Hollywood. Steelers placards in many windows and old folks walking along the promenade in the morning. We also ventured farther up 95 into Palm Beach county. Yawn.

Houston: Why do cities choose 14 slight variations on a theme for street names? Atlanta has its Peachtrees. In Houston, it's Post Oaks. We were lost and said we were on Post Oak and the concierge at the hotel we were trying to find asked which Post Oak.

Dallas: Dallas has neighborhoods with homes that people live in, and restaurants nearby with outdoor seating, and lots of people in them, and it has Central Market, my God, makes Whole Foods look like a Safeway. Dallas is not all bad.

Home to Napa late Friday, I snuck in a swim just to loosen the joints. This morning, I was on the road putting in a 15-miler in two hours. Napa couldn't have been more gorgeous, all fresh and clean and sunny after early morning showers.

Napa Valley Marathon is four weeks from tomorrow. As usual, I wish I had another two or three weeks to work in a long run. It will always be thus.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another in a Series of Simplistic Tales of Moral Illumination
You step into the world out there, and you don't know what you'll come across.

Tuesday night was rainy and cold. I was on my run after work, contemplating how much I had in me after a hard swim earlier in the day. I like running in the rain, but not at night when it's cold. Six, seven miles. That would be enough.

I was headed down a dead-end street that has houses on only one side, leaving it darker and a little spookier than the norm. It was part of the regular route. I knew all the distances and could adjust the run to fit the workout.

Up ahead, I noted a flash of fabric move in some bushes along the boulevard. A car was parked on the street in the way, so I didn't get a great view. I didn't think much of it. As I passed by, I glanced again and thought it was just a blanket thrown aside; just something billowing in the breeze. But then I heard a moan and a call, a weak, pathetic, "Hey." And a woman suddenly came down from the doorway of the next house.

"She fell down and can't get up," the woman said, pointing back at an elderly lady on her behind in some bushes off the sidewalk. A walker was tipped over beside her. She held an umbrella against the rain -- that was the fabric I'd seen. "There's no one home next door. Can you help?"

The fallen woman was Myrna. She was large, in a puffy sort of way. She was embarrassed and wet. She just wanted to get up and into her house so she could stop causing trouble for people. Myrna's friend had come over to take her to dinner, but a few steps shy of the car, Myrna had tumbled. "I'll pull you up," I said. "I can't get up," Myrna replied, almost defiantly.

I stood in front of her, above her, and put my feet against her feet to give her some stability. I grabbed each hand to pull her up. She almost did it. She was like a weightlifter who gets the bar up to his neck while in his squat, but just can't get out of the squat. Myrna didn't have the strength to straighten her legs out. She moaned, back down on the ground. "Oh, it hurts," she said. "Where? What hurts?" Everything, she said.

Now I was a bit afraid of doing this all by myself. What if I did get her up? Could it be dangerous to move her? And, OK, what if I get her back into her house? Do I just leave her there? What if she's got some more serious injury or problem? I imagined getting a knock on the door the next day from the cops, asking if I was the one who left Myrna to die alone in her house.

"I think we need to call for help," I said.

Myrna was not keen on this idea. Vaguely so. I said I didn't think there was a choice. Myrna moaned. "They were already out here today. She fell in the house," the friend said.

"They don't want to come back," Myrna said.

I told her they were paid to help people in her situation. "It makes their day helping beautiful ladies like you," I said. "Let's call 911."

That's when they told me about the little gizmo around Myrna's neck that signals an emergency.

"All I have to do is click this," she said.

Meanwhile, I was soaked. I didn't care, but I noted the irony: I had hurried to get my run started in the hope of avoiding the worst of the rain that was just moving into the area.

So Myrna clicked to signal the emergency and get the crews on their way, and told me to go in her house to stay dry. I told her nonsense. We chatted, me standing over her with the umbrella, she plopped down on the walk (I had gotten her out of the bushes). Around us, the street lights illuminated the rain into orange speckled drifts. A car or two went by.

"I can't do nothing," Myrna said. "My back is gone and my legs are gone."

Ten minutes later, a Napa Fire Department paramedic engine arrived, followed soon by an ambulance. Myrna was brought upright and asked lots of questions. The determination was made to take her back into her house. I told Myrna I hoped she'd be OK. She said, "Sorry for doing this to you. Thank you."

I was on my way and so was Myrna's friend. As I ran in the rain, happy to be able to, I wondered what the evening would hold for Myrna, alone -- and the day after?

We think it's a cliché that each new day is an opportunity. We sometimes convince ourselves that it's a burden, to have to wake up and face the job, the struggles the come with relationships, the boring routine, or loneliness or allergies or whatever. We tire. And then comes Myrna on the street, like out of a Mitch Albom novel. Seismic perspective shift, baby! You can run. You are strong. You can chase your kid on a bike.

You, truly, can chase any dream you want to. You can.

Well. This we've told ourself before, no? This psuedo-wisdom that has made ol' Mitch and even less clever authors across the fruited plain millions. This piercing Hallmark-worthy insight. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Ugh!

The key of course is actually living it, if not every moment of every day, then darn near that. The key is acting upon the knowledge that the seconds are ticking away, that time is counting down until its you or me on that sidewalk, wishing we weren't a burden.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Talk Technical to Me
Dan's reference to Chicago weather, in a comment below, led me to check the temperature in Chicago (56F at O'Hare, midday), which led me to notice that the National Weather Service site for the region includes links to "technical" and "non-technical" discussions. See if you can identify which is which:

Sample 1

Sample 2
Not at Home on this Range
In order to have a range, you must have two points. Something like, say, $10, is not a range. It is a single point. Now, $9-$11 (read as "$9 to $11"), there's space between $9 and $11. That space -- that's a range. If you don't want to conjure an actual range and just want to say, "around $10," then fine, say, "around $10." But don't call $10 a range. At least around me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Weather Trivia
Well, yeah, in some circles all discussion of weather is trivial. Nevertheless.... The KPIX weather chick has a daily item on the Chronicle's weather page. Usually it's nothing notable, but the other day she said that there's never been a temperature of 100 degrees or greater recorded in the United States in December or January. I would not have guessed this. And though this claim was made by a professional TV weather chick and published in a big-city daily newspaper, I must say, I remain skeptical.

Update: Immediately after making this post, I Googled the issue. Took about five minutes to find contradiction to the 100-degree assertion:

According to Information Please: The highest temperature ever recorded for the month of December occurred on December 8, 1938, in La Mesa, Calif. (elevation 539 ft), where the temperature reached 100°F.
Saw this online day -- didn't check the source closely, but think it was AP (it was on an AP-fed newspaper site:

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said today he would deal with the issue of abortion with an open mind, that no president is above the law and that his positions as a lawyer would not affect his analysis as a judge.

My question: What's the point of running a story with such a ridiculous lede? Geez. It's a press release from the White House.

What's missing?

Training wheels, that's what! OK, it's no great shakes that a 6-year-old has ditched the training wheels -- but considering that 10 days ago Niko was adament that he wouldn't and couldn't, I'm impressed. And proud, proud mostly that he made the effort. It took three short sessions is all. First day, there was little evidence of progress. I held onto the back of his seat the whole time and he kept listing to his left and then taking his left hand off the bars. Second day, I was able to let go for brief moments. Third day, he was flying solo. There was one crash, but once I began telling the tale of my big crash in the weeks before he was born, the crying stopped and he was ready to get back on and ride some more.