Monday, December 31, 2007

Rainfall Report: December 2007
It's not going to rain today. So we'll finish with 8.61 inches of rain in December. That breaks down as:
-24 days with measurable precipitation
-15 days over a tenth of an inch
-5 days over half an inch
-2 days over an inch.

These figures are from my preferred station, in the middle of the city. The number you'll most often see quoted comes from PDX, but that's on the northeast edge of the city. There, the December total was 7.57, a total lower than at all but one of the 40 or so City of Portland HYDRA Rainfall Network gauges. "Normal" December value for the airport is 5.54 inches, but I'm not sure how valuable this figure is – it's the average for the period 1971-2000.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Curse You, Northwest Weather Gods
Man, the weather is chancier up here. I set out at noon with skies clearing and sure, yeah, the forecast was for showers on and off into the evening – I took that into account. I wore my sturdy rain pullover, though I really didn’t want to. Even when it’s 36 degrees and breezy, that thing’ll get you sweating. Anyway, the sun was shining. How bad could it get in two hours of early-season plodding?

So 20 minutes in, it starts sleeting, or snowing or raining, a little of everything, and blowing, and then it’s all dark and thundering, just throwing the icy shit down for, like, 45 minutes. Portland, your weather bites! I told myself I’d stick it out for 10 miles, and I did, arriving home ... just as the sun came out.

BUT! Three 10+ mile runs in one week. Woo-hoo. Laying down a good base.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I Wonder What the Record Is
The only surprise is that she was found passed out, not dead.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

White Christmas
All over town between noon and 1:30 mommies and daddies were shoving bundled-up kids out of doors to be models in their Portland Christmas Snow of 2007 photographs. I saw this throughout my ten-miler today. I heard one optimistic little guy shout, “When it gets really deep, we’ll make a snowman.”

First little white pellets then big wet gobs fell from the sky – first sporadically then in a frenzy – that slow-motion sort of frenzy that characterizes snow falling and, I don’t know, crashing on a bike. It was, yes, magical, even if it barely stuck, barely added up to a quarter-inch, barely will be recorded in meteorological history.

I had laced 'em up and gotten out at noon precisely, about 45 seconds into this little weather event. I was going to run no matter what but this, this was cool. It isn’t every day you get to run in the snow on Christmas Day. Even if this were, say, Buffalo, the odds would be slightly less than 1-in-365, right? I read somewhere that in here in Portland, there hadn’t been a trace on Christmas Day since ’90 and ’90 is further back in history than you or I want to think, my friend.

Tons of people were out, the parents and the kids, people and dogs, a guy in a T-shirt smoking a cigarette, woman runner in shorts, a bunch of runners in tights and wool hats ... me, in tights and my customary running cap. The temperature was around 33 or 34 and who knew how long the snow would last before the predicted changeover to rain? My house is between 50 and 100 feet above sea level, so after a jaunt around Laurelhurst I headed back toward and up Mount Tabor, 500 or so feet up. There the wind was swirling, blowing the big flakes around. They hurt when they hit an eyelash just so, refresh when they land in your mouth, and when one hit me on the nose I actually giggled.

Everyone was digging it, this Christmas snow. Where the trees didn’t catch the snow, it actually accumulated on the trails. It never stopped falling as I went around, down, up and down the mountain. It only turned to rain just as I rounded the corner onto my block, then it was snow again, then rain, all in the matter of a hundred yards. All rain since. Maybe more snow tonight, maybe enough to stick around into the morning. Maybe some on Thursday. Kind of a big deal in these parts. Nice around Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What Have I Done Now
How am I going to get to Boston for the marathon on April 21, then the Central Coast of California for Wildflower Long Course on May 3? I don't know. But I'm signed up for both. And actually, I've got the airplane tickets and hotel reservations for Boston already, so that's set. Wildflower? I need a tough triathlon to get me ready for Coeur d'Alene on June 22. Somehow, it's gotta happen.

Oh, yeah, also on the agenda: mud.
Not Wearing Well
Ignoring his politics, Huckabee can at first glance seem refreshing, a little different, not your usual politician. Then it becomes clear what he really is: a televangelist. Smarmy and fake. Ugh. Check it out:

Contest Time
OK, start with this premise, as reported last Saturday in the New York Times:

The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows.

So the contest is to get the American people to understand that WE ARE GETTING SCREWED.

Prize for the person who can do this: The Presidency.
All Weather Is Local
Dan Berger writes about one of the possible curious effects of climate change -- that in the coastal wine-producing valleys of California, it's getting cooler.

Early studies show that Napa, Sonoma, and to a lesser degree Mendocino and Lake counties, may actually be cooler for a number of years as the interior valleys grow warmer.

I'm eager to see the data. However, anecdotally, I'm kind of on board with this analysis. I lived in Napa from January 2000 until June 2007, and except for occasional heat spikes, was struck by how generally moderate the summers were. Day after day in the high 70s and low 80s. And though my recollection is a little blurry, at least five of the seven vintages were considered "cool." Meanwhile, the world was obviously getting warmer, especially Europe.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Seasonal Warning
Don't. I mean, just do not climb high into the tree that has electrical wires running near or through it and toss a string of Christmas lights into the tree. Don't.

Fire crews arrived to find the man hanging about 60 feet from the ground, apparently fused to the tree by electricity, and smoking from his feet, Schapelhouman said. -San Jose Mercury News, Dec. 16, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

'One of the Great Natural Disasters in the Pacific Northwest'

See the full report on the storm from the Office of the Washington State Climatologist, which created this graphic.

Friday, December 14, 2007

En Route
At the Sac airport heading back to Portland. These smaller-market airports, competing for traffic with the big boys, are great for the free WiFi. None of that at LAX or SFO. But PDX and SMF? You bet.

Hmm. Woman to my right meditating, somehow, amid the chatter and whoops of the Central Catholic Raiders of Modesto football team, on their way to Southern California to play in the state Division III championship game against the St. Boneventure Seraphs of Ventura. Letter jackets and much youthful testosterone on display here. These boys need no 'roids and I hope they aren’t taking them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Worst Person in the World
Olbermann ought to check out this John Davies. From all appearances, he's had nothing to do with the success of Schramsberg Vineyards, built by his parents, Jack and Jamie, and maintained by one of his brothers, Hugh. Jack died in 1998. Jamie is still with us. Yet this character John is apparently nervous that he's not going to get a big piece of the Schramsberg pie when Mom kicks. So he's suing for a third of the estate--now. Just in case. "If there is no provision for inheritance in the trust [for John Davies], there should be," his attorney tells the Wine Spectator.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Property Taxes in Oregon
Thinking about moving to Oregon and wondering how we do property taxes? Here's how: "Outside experts call it a perfect example of how not to design a tax code, because it’s fundamentally inequitable." Read more.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Rain Report
We had 15 days with measureable precipitation in November – nine days over a tenth of an inch, three days over half an inch. How many days over an inch? Zippo. In fact, at the station I like to use, Portland hadn’t topped an inch in a day since March 2 -- until today. As of 10 p.m., we’re at 1.50 inches and it's still coming down. In the land of a million drips, today the spigots have been open.

Yeah, I ran in it. I waited all morning and into the afternoon for the break in the weather that would never come. When I finally gave up hope and got out around 2, the rain was light but charging into gusts and sloshing through puddles, I was pretty wet after an hour going up, down and around the trails on Mount Tabor. At least this is tropical moisture, so not too cold. After mid-40s high today, it's heading up another 10 degrees tomorrow, with more rain and big winds in the forecast.

UPDATE: Make it two days in a row over an inch. As of 9 a.m. Monday, we're already measuring 1.09 inches of rain and it continues to fall steadily. For the storm that started late Saturday, we're now talking 3.05 inches. That's impressive, but realize that Portland is in something of a rain shadow, with the coast range getting multiples of what we get. Flooding becoming a real concern in some areas.
Speaking of Missed Deliveries
I guess the cake I ordered sent down to Jeff Tedford on the sidelines yesterday didn't make it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We did the Turkey Trot. Wind chills below freezing. Cold turkey! (Cool kid.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not Crap
Marketing and shoddy journalism dominate our lives, making it difficult to distinguish reality from crap, especially when it comes to health issues. Studies are manufactured and/or spun by companies looking to sell products, while media are often too lazy or inept to look closely or smartly at research and claims. And then there's the more innocent tendency for information to morph as it gets passed along the communication chain. Add it all up and before long, the facts we know are too often nothing more than the myths we've accepted. For the endurance athlete, this can be frustrating, even dangerous. Enter: the boys at The Science of Sport. They delve into what's really known at the intersection of performance and health. Take, for instance, that old saw, "If you wait to drink until you're thirsty, it's too late." Science of Sports demonstrates pretty conclusively that his is BS. Check it out. Become a regular reader. (And thanks to Dan for tipping me to this great site.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Running Again
I’ve been in recovery, a no-step kind of program, at least at the beginning.

After running 50-miles on November 3, I spent a couple of days icing and resting and doing very little except grimacing and eating. The day after the run, I walked to Fred Meyer, all of four or five blocks down the road. It took me maybe 20 minutes each way, and the pain was constant and intense. Day 2, the pain fell from 10 to 7 on the 1-10 scale. Then on day 3, about mid-afternoon, I suddenly (really, it was that abrupt) noticed I could get up without bracing myself. From there, I began to take longer walks, first just a mile or two, then three or four, then a seven-miler the other night. Tightness and aches were diminishing. Today, after work, it was time to run.

Darkness and rain falling, I put on my tights, jacket and headlamp and set out. Some things hurt a bit at first: knees, feet, a shin. It wasn’t too bad, though, and after a mile or so the joints and stuff began to loosen up. My favorite runs are up in Mount Tabor Park, but climbing and descending didn’t seem like a good idea on this post-Autumn Leaves maiden voyage. So I kept it flat and shuffled along Davis and Everett,an east-west route to Laurelhurst Park that's marked for bikes and pretty quiet when it comes to traffic. But the cars were screaming along 39th Avenue, racing to beat the light at Burnside, then backing up for a couple of blocks when it turned red. It was red for me too, and a few cyclist. We waited for green and go. The cyclists had rear lights blinking red; when the signal turned green and they took off in front of me, I turned my headlamp to blinking too. It seemed like the thing to do.

In the park I was able to relax and cruise. I was cold and wet but enjoying the surroundings. The loop is lit but not brightly, just some ancient short lamps every 20 or 30 yards or so. They gave off enough light to show how empty and quiet the park was, heightening the sense of adventure. My blinking light would illuminate the rain from above as I ran into it. I did a couple of loops. My legs were fine but hardly spry. OK but kind of lifeless.

I guess I ran about four miles in all, in about 40 minutes. On Thanksgiving, Niko and I will do the Turkey Trot at the Zoo, another ORRC production. That’s four miles for me, 1K for Niko. I should be able to go a good deal faster six days from now, but I’ll want to make sure not to get too stupid and run too fast. There’s still some recovery to go.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Autumn Leaves Data
Based on the spreadsheet I received, there were 29 finishers in the 50-mile race last Saturday. My time of 9:43:12 placed me 13th. My splits are as follows (first lap was 6.2 miles, subsequent laps were said to be 4.92 miles with an additional tenth or two early on because most if not all of us took a wrong turn):

Lap 1 1:09
Lap 2 0:55
Lap 3 0:51
Lap 4 0:53
Lap 5 0:55
Lap 6 0:55
Lap 7 0:57
Lap 8 0:58
Lap 9 1:04
Lap 10 1:06:12
Total 9:43:12

Looking at this, I have to think that with some consistent long running in the months preceding next year's Autumn Leaves, I could whittle this down to 9 hours. (Look at that, already with a goal beyond finishing!)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Race Report: Autumn Leaves 50-Mile Run
What's far? Once, when I was little, I pooped out on a bicycle ride with my dad. We had gone to a park about five miles from home. I made it there, but ran into trouble on the return leg. A nasty, kid-hating wind was blowing in our faces. I was pedaling with all my might, but barely going forward. My energy and my will were sapped. It was too far to go! I was saved when Dad found a wire and strung it from his seat post to my handlebar stem and towed me in.

I hadn't thought about that episode in years, but running 50 miles–which is what I set out to do yesterday–gives you plenty of time to dredge up old memories.

You could say it was a whim, this decision to do the Autumn Leaves 50-Mile Race at Champoeg State Park. I had run a 15K with the Oregon Road Runners Club a couple of weeks ago and, as always, enjoyed the scene, even on a cold, wet day. Hunting down my results on the ORRC website afterward, I noticed that Autumn Leaves was coming on November 3. There were 50 kilometer and 50 mile options. The metric 50 made more sense–it would be a sane step up from the marathon. But I got stuck on the idea of 50 miles. I wondered if I could do it and what it would feel like to try. It sounded far, and I liked that.

Champoeg is about 30 miles southwest of Portland. The 50K would run concurrent with the 50 mile, and there was a 10K set for sometime in the middle of the morning. The long-distance runners were given the option of starting at 6 or 8 a.m., but since the course would close at 4:30 p.m., all but the freakishly fast folks were at the line at 6.

I awoke at 4:06, three minutes after my alarm clock was supposed to have gone off but didn't (it was operator error, details not necessary). Still time to make a cup of coffee, down it with a Cliff bar and a tall glass of water, and use the facilities before heading out. After a lot of freeway and 5 or 10 minutes of country roads, I got to the park and an ORRC guy at the entrance said, "You look like a runner," my chief identifying "feature" being, I think, that I was driving into a state park at 5:20 on a Saturday morning. While I unpacked my stuff, other people arrived every minute or so, their car lights illuminating the patches of fog and the surrounding trees as they drove up. I dropped off my personal items–food, drinks, extra clothes–and joined a few others around a campfire burning near the start/finish line, warming up against the 35-degree chill.

A short while later, with little fanfare, Fritz, the race director, gathered us to start the thing. He explained that we would begin with a 1.2-mile out-and-back. Someone asked why. Fritz said it was to account for the fact that each of the 10 laps we would do was actually 4.92 miles. This didn't add up to me, not then, and not throughout the race as I periodically redid the calculations. But it was one of those things you just kind of had to say "whatever" to.

Most of us, including me, wore headlamps to light our way. Have you seen the headlamps available these days? I went out to buy one the day before the race and was amazed. They weigh just over a half-pound and put out a powerful LED beam. We were clumped together, too, in the early going so it was pretty easy to see our way, although a few patches of fog on the first loop, when the runners had spread out a bit, did bring a brief excursion off the prescribed route as well as require a bit of tricky stepping. At one point I stepped less carefully than necessary, with the familiar consequence of my nose ending up in the dirt. If anything was hurt, I couldn't feel it (perhaps for the adrenaline), nor could I see it (for the darkness).

The darkness: On the first lap all I could tell about the course was that it was mostly paved bike trail, there were a lot of leaves on the ground, and it wasn't a true loop. It was more like this: -O--, with a couple of turnarounds. During Lap 2, the sky began to lighten. Now I could begin to see the vague silhouettes of trees, sometimes shrouded in fog, sometimes not, and I noticed there were places where the terrain opened up. By Lap 3, it was finally clear to me that the backside of the loop took us right along the river, down below 20 or 30 feet off to the right. This is the same Willamette I had swum in two month earlier, I realized, in the City of Portland Triathlon.

I can't remember when I first saw the sun–quite some time after first light–or when I first felt it. But I do remember being amazed, somewhere in the first third of the race, to be running through a tunnel of sorts, a thick canopy of autumn foliage now lit soft from within, somehow, all golden and strangely bright. Though perhaps not so dramatic, the first half of the race featured many such revelations, the setting taking on new shape and texture as night became dawn, then morning, then afternoon. The second half of the race presented no such marvels to distract. There was really only running, much work and pain, for the body, for the mind.

I had arrived with an appropriately conservative plan. Never having gone more than 26.2 miles, and not having done a run longer than 13 miles since early March, I thought it best to run 10-minute stretches (at a 10-minute/mile pace, about 2 minutes slower than my marathon pace) followed by 2 minutes of walking. But on the first loop it just seemed ridiculous to walk. Plus, I was worried about falling behind and being left alone in the dark (see, above: "brief excursion off the prescribed route"). On the second loop, feeling more confident as the route began to become more clear, I tried it a couple of times but didn't like the feel of starting up after slowing down. So I decided I would just run slowly but continuously, pausing only long enough to eat and drink at two of the three aid stations on each loop.

Aerobically and nutritionally, this worked out great. I don't know what my heart rate was for most of the race, but I bet it was below 140. I was drinking water, Gatorade and Accelerade and eating salted potatoes, Wheat Thins, Fig Newtons and Mojo bars. That was all fine. But I hurt. From the waist down, all kinds of aches and pains were popping up. First it was just a little tightness in the right Achilles. No big deal. Then–and we're only talking about 15 miles into the race here–came a pretty sharp pain in the right quad. The left quad joined in on the fun not long afterward, less forcefully but enough to catch my attention.

During Lap 5, as I churned away at an 11-minute/mile pace, I decided I'd hit the ibuprofen at the end of the lap, the halfway point. I'd never taken any kind of painkiller during a race, but I'd never run 50 either. I needed something to help me through the next 25. I don't know if it was merely psychological or what, but a mile after popping that oblong orange pill I was feeling much better, easily skimming along at 10 minutes/mile or faster. I began to fantasize about a huge negative split – maybe I'd break 9 hours!

But 50 miles is a long way. And as soon as midway through Lap 6, those hopes began to fade. I still felt great aerobically and digestively. My head was clear. But my quads were probably under one-quarter on the gauge. Another lap and they'd be at one-eighth and after that comes E for empty. And running on empty, in addition to being a song by Jackson Browne played too often on classic rock stations, is, literally, fraught with risk.

I tried to keep Laps 6, 7 and 8 at 55 minutes. That was my goal: 11-minute miles. And I gave myself another minute for lollygagging at the aid stations each lap. If I could just stay under an hour, total, for each lap the rest of the way, I'd get in under 10 hours. I told myself I could do that, and I believed myself. I never had a doubt. All I had to do was keep going. I didn't have to go fast. I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other for a very, very long time. The pain I felt in my legs was unprecedented, but overall the experience was somehow less daunting than really pushing in a marathon or a half-iron tri. I could hold conversations during Autumn Leaves, even late in the race. And in fact I did, with Brandon from Tri-Cities, who wanted to beat 9 hours but wouldn't, and with a woman from Olympia who was doing the 50K instead of the 50 miles so she'd be strong for her A race, the Seattle Marathon, in a month or so. At the Napa Marathon last March when I PR'd with a 3:24, a dialog requiring more than two words from me–which is to say, any dialog–would have been impossible, especially three-quarters of the way into the race.

During Lap 8 I announced to Brandon, who seemed to be struggling, that this would be the hardest lap of the race and then it would get easier, an assessment based on my vast experience of zero 50-mile runs, but it made sense at the time. Lap 9 would the penultimate lap–we'd know the last lap was right around the corner, and buoyed by that knowledge how hard could it be? The answer: harder than Lap 8. And by the way, I thought about that word, penultimate, for a good long stretch of Lap 9, and remembered that I had learned it from Miss Dimicelli in sophomore English at Oak Grove High School, which reminded me of the report I wrote for her about the Kennedy assassination, which earned me an A in the class, redeeming me after Mr. Jennings had given me a C the year before in freshman English, the only C I ever got in high school, and that is how the mind works during a race that goes on for nearly 10 hours.

Maybe it was true earlier, but definitely by Lap 9 the slight changes in grade on the course didn't seem slight any more. Each step down, especially, was a trial for my ravaged quads. But at the finish of Lap 9, there was Olga the lap tracker to smile and deliver, in her Russian accent, the joyous news: "This is it Pete, your last one." By then I had fallen in love with Olga, who for the first four or five laps had to inquire as to my race number, because I had it on a belt and it was slid around onto my left hip, which could not easily be seen as I went counter-clockwise around the upturned plastic garbage can to finish and start each lap. Although she was invariably gentle in seeking out my number, I felt bad because I was making things hard on Olga and was proving to be something of a distraction (or so I imagined) and she seemed to be the center of conversation and activity among the volunteers and assorted other folks who were willing to hang around the start/finish for the whole of a beautiful fall day. (Which reminds me, did I say it was a beautiful day? Chilly to start, right, but by afternoon it was sunshine and blue skies with temps into the low 60s. Perfect.) Around Lap 7, I think it was, I realized I could turn my number around, to my front, to make it easier on Olga, but by then I don't think it mattered, since she knew I was the dork 48 whose number had been hard to see.

I had some coke, some Gatorade and some water. I grabbed a handful of chips. I shuffled away, feeding the chips into my mouth one at a time to distract myself from how difficult it was to begin running again. Five more miles. My Garmin was at 46.4 already, having consistently racked up 5-point-oh-something laps after the weird 1.2-mile extra out-and-back that we began the day with, so long ago, in the darkness, when everything–the course, the people, the experience–was mysterious.

I don't remember what my time was as I started the final lap, but I knew I had a nice cushion on 10 hours, assuming I could complete the loop in an hour. Being the penultimate lap didn't make 9 easier, but being La Ultima, as I referred to Lap 10 in my head several times, impressing myself with my bilingualism and my sterling Montalbanesque Spanish accent, definitely took some of the edge off 10. I'm going to do it, I told myself. Fifty miles. Wow. Now it was blindingly obvious why I wanted to do a 50-mile run. I wanted to be happy to finish. I was a little weary of completing races and being happy only if I'd PR'd, or met some time objective I'd decided beforehand would be "adequate" given my commitment and health in the weeks and months preceding the race. At Autumn Leaves, to finish would be to win.

So despite the now extremely painful Achilles and the completely and utterly zapped quads, and the little rockets going off in my left hip, and the tight calves, the aching backs of the knees … despite it all, I enjoyed the last lap. I had thought, beforehand, that I might run an 8:30, or a 9, or maybe a 9:30, but I really didn't know if I'd finish at all. And here I was, finishing. My time was 9:43. A medal was put around my neck. I was given an Autumn Leaves belt buckle. And Olga hugged me. I ate a couple of sandwiches and drank two half-liter bottles of water. I gathered my belongings, thanked the volunteers profusely for their dedication, and went home to a long hot shower and an evening on the couch watching football. Today I woke up very sore, almost immobile. I spent much of the day, in fact, applying ice to parts of my body. But I also found myself reading online about 100-milers. I'm afraid I might have a new idea of what far is.

PS: Other perspectives on the day, including pictures, can be found here, here and here .
Lance's New York Marathon, Take 2
Split / 2007 / 2006
5k / 0:20:01 / 0:20:58
10K / 0:40:08 / 0:41:57
15K / 0:59:54 / 1:03:23
20K / 1:19:27 / 1:24:27
Half / 1:23:41 / 1:28:58
25K / -- / 1:45:56
30K / 1:58:40 / 2:06:27
35K / 2:18:00 / 2:27:37
40K / 2:37:47 / 2:49:57
Finish 2:46:43 / 2:59:36

Looking at the splits, a couple of things jump out: Lance clearly set a more ambitious goal for himself this year, setting out to run 20-minute 5Ks vs the 21:30 splits of last year. And he held up this year, with a very impressive negative split (1:23:41 on the front, 1:23:02 on the back, vs. last year's 1:28:58/1:30:38).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Large Yawn
For a while it looked like the Big Game might be a rout but interesting, because although Stanford truly sucked, Cal would need a win to send it into the Rose Bowl or maybe even the BCS championship game. Then it looked like the Big Game might still be a rout, but maybe not, and would thus be interesting, because Cal had lost a game and would really need a win to play in a big-time bowl game and Stanford had beaten USC.

Now, it looks like the Big Game will be the same old sorry scene: mediocre vs. crappy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Race Report: Blue Lake 15K
About three years ago I ran my first 15K, at Lake Merritt in Oakland: three loops around the lake, in 1:06:02. It was great fun, but I hadn't done the distance since then, mainly because there aren't a lot of 15Ks offered. More's the pity. It's a fine distance, a substantial run but not so long it wrecks the body.

So a few days ago I wandered onto the Oregon Road Runners Club site and saw a listing for the 33rd Annual Blue Lake Runs. I was jazzed. Not only was a 15K the marquee event, but Blue Lake is in Troutdale, an easy 20-minute drive from my home. And the race started at 11 a.m. No early wakeup call!

Race day today dawned drippy and dreary, par for the course this fall: our rainy season began about a month ago, and we've had rain 17 out of the past 23 days. The little twist to the weather today was the chill in the air. Highs had been around 60 most of October, but today the race-time temp was 48. I'd checked the radar before leaving home and it looked like we might get a break in the rain, but it was hard to tell. The skies spit on and off through registration and warm-up, then just before the start, lightened a bit. I took my rain jacket back to the car, leaving me with a long-sleeve technical shirt and shorts (no tights for me, baby).

I really didn't know what to expect. Pretty much all year—certainly since the Pacific Crest half-iron triathlon in June—I've been staying active, but not really "training." That means four runs a week, give or take, usually between five and eight miles, mixing in hills and flats. Plus, for the past several weeks I've been logging 60- to 90-minute stints on the bike trainer three or four times a week. What all this would add up to as far as racing goes, who knew? The course was advertised as flat, so I figured there was no risk in trying to run it at something near my previous 15K pace, just over seven minutes a mile. And if that proved too much, well, I'd make it home one way or another.

Off we went, beginning with a little half-mile out-and-back in Blue Lake Park. Never saw the lake, but the trees, even in the gray and wet, were beautiful shades of fall yellow and red. We exited and wound our way eastward to a bike path alongside Marine Blvd., which runs along the Columbia River. The Mile 1 marker came at .93 on my Garmin. When it measured a mile, I was at 6:41. I felt good, comfortable, but I knew I couldn't keep that up. Mile 2 offered a few puddles to dodge, a little rain and gusts of winds to endure, but I clicked off a 6:53. The Garmin and the mile markers were coming into sync.

As advertised, the course was flat, with no real "climbs," just a couple of mild, sparsely spaced rises that did no damage. After about three miles, we did a u-turn on Marine, and then turned north toward the Portland-Troutdale Airport. At 4.7 miles, we turned around and retraced our steps back to the start.

As I ran, I thought a lot about my pace. At Mile 5, I was still under the 7-minute per mile pace, around 6:58. I assumed the next few miles would do me in. We were turning back into the wind, which was gusting up to around 20 mph, according to the nearby weather station (I checked online afterward). And the rain began to pelt down hard for a little while. Indeed, Mile 6 was my slowest (7:18) and I lost more time on Miles 7 and 8, both 7:04s. My pace was now around 7:03. But I felt great! A younger woman had passed me after three or four miles, but now I was closing in on her. Well, maybe she was coming back, but either way, it's inspiring to pass someone. Now I consciously picked up the pace, though, I must confess, I didn't kill myself. I didn't suffer deeply. I just ran hard.

Turning back into the park, I passed the guy in the orange shirt who had been up ahead for the whole race. He said something that sounded convivial, although I didn't make out the words. I told him I was gunning for a seven-minute pace. "You'll have to hurry a little bit," he said. But soon thereafter the Mile 9 marker came up: a 6:40 mile had put me through at 1 hour, 3 minutes—smack dab on pace. I knew I had it in the bag then.

I gave, oh, probably 96.7 percent effort over that last 3/10ths, running it in a minute 48, a 6:13 pace. As I walked through the finishing chute I noted that it took me just a few steps to catch my breath. I should have gone harder!

Here's the Garmin data I studied as I squished over the soggy grass, heading toward the covered picnic tables for the post-race hoo-haw:

Mile 1...6:41
Mile 2...6:53
Mile 3...7:02
Mile 4...7:01
Mile 5...7:12
Mile 6...7:18
Mile 7...7:04
Mile 8...7:04
Mile 9...6:40
Last 0.3..1:48 (6:13 pace)
Total time: 1:04:48
Distance: 9.29 miles
Pace: 6:58/mile

I felt super, and wished it had been a half-marathon. I wanted another few miles! But food and drink sounded good, too, and the ORRC broke the mold with hot dogs. On a chilly rainy day, after a hard run, right around lunchtime? Hit. The. Spot.

This was a PR by about a minute 14, or eight seconds per mile. That's pretty satisfying because, maybe you didn't realize this, I'm older than I used to be. I was just shy of 42 when I ran that earlier 15K. Now, on 45's doorstep, I was able give that time a pretty good whupping.

OK, so it's not like I'm crazy fast or anything. But I get a charge out of the fact I'm getting faster in my 40s. And I have a theory as to why: I've continued to work out regularly, which has given me a rock-solid foundation of fitness—but I've avoided overtraining. It's a weird thing: when you make fitness a regular part of your life and enjoy measuring your fitness in races, it can be easy to fall into the overtraining trap. There's a constant nagging impulse to do more. A one-workout day? Barely enough to keep slackerdom at bay. Or so it seems. But the truth is, these stretches of moderation—interrupted occasionally by more intensity—are probably what have kept me fresh and injury-free. That and a lot of good fortune.

Still having fun...
The Data Don't Lie
I've lived in Portland for 123 days—three months of summer, one month of fall—and on 30 of those days there's been measurable precipitation. The most rain we've had in a single day is .65 inches. On 15 days—half of our "rainy" days—the bucket has delivered more than a tenth of an inch.

In the same period, my old hometown, Napa, has had nine days with measurable percipitation, totaling 1.58 inches. Maximum single day rainfall: .62 inches, with four of the days showing more than .10.

Conclusion: They were right; Portland is rainy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

They Noticed Us!
You know you live in a wannabe city when the jabs of a national commentator make the front page of the local daily. Follow the bouncing ball...


Led to this:
Stephen Colbert, you're on notice
Nailed you - Sure, call us "communists," but you need our creative collective to publish your comic book

Friday, October 12, 2007
The Oregonian Staff

Memo to: Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" Topic: What Have You Got Against Portland, Anyway?

Dear Stephen,

Hey, we know your persona on "The Colbert Report" spoofs such blustery cable TV talk-show hosts as Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews. We get it. It's funny. Kinda.

And look, we laughed right along when you interviewed Rep. Earl Blumenauer on your show and said the congressman's "obsession" with bicycling "borders on the interesting." We chuckled when you grilled Rep. Darlene Hooley about Oregon's medical marijuana laws, asking her, "Are you high right now?"


Followed by this:
Grin and Colbert It: The furor over Stephen Colbert's attempt to extort Powell's Books for "eight buck cash money" has garnered considerable press coverage in, well, Portland.
Local station KATU managed to pinch out a whole feature on the conflict. Hey, Colbert's jokes are ten times funnier when repeated by Portland news anchors.

The Oregonian put Colbert "on notice" for calling the entire city "communists." (Memo to the big O: you're a little late to that party.)

And here's "a husband, dad, small business owner, drummer, and former newspaper reporter" who used his blog to spin his own campaign against the Oregonian for calling Colbert a "fake news guy."

There hasn't been this much excitement in Portland since last week, when a bike messenger posted to Indy Media that he spotted Jerry Garcia alive and well downtown, and the message boards erupted with links to bootlegs of everyone's favorite thirty-minute guitar riffs from Grateful Dead live shows.
April 21, 2008
There will be a race in Boston that day. I am in:
Danko, Pete 45 M Portland OR USA

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stumbling the Gantlet
Running between a couple of lines of thugs beating on you with clubs or switches can be difficult. So can spelling a tricky word consistently all the way through an entire sentence. And when the word is a tester like gantlet—or is it gauntlet?—well, then you've got real trouble.

Today, therefore, seemed like a good moment to run the gantlet of the Sunday shows—a gauntlet that can be withering, and where Mrs. Clinton knew she would face strict scrutiny of her sharply changed positions on Iraq.

I've often paused, while tapping away brilliantly at the keyboard, to ask myself if it was the gantlet or the gauntlet that I intended. But even when uncertain, I've made my choice and stuck with it. No sharply changed positions on the spelling of the word, not for me!

So, yo, New York Times, the reason Hillary is running the gantlet is that several months ago she threw down the gauntlet and challenged Edwards, Richardson and the rest for the presidential nomination.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pierogies in Portland
Pierogies and holubtsi and dancing girls in native garb, all at the Ukrainian Festival in Sellwood...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Generational Lament
Received this morning: "J has been going downtown since Wednesday. He got a summons for jury duty. He thinks they will have a full jury today and he will be released. He has sat on six juries and enjoys doing it. I asked him if he met any interesting people. When they have breaks they all are attached to a phone or other type of gaget. No talking to each other, like it used to be. What would these people do with out their phones? The world sure has changed."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

'You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you.'
Last words of a very smart African gray parrot, who died late last week at 31.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Today's Run

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hometown Race
My assessment of the Oregon Trout City of Portland Triathlon is swayed considerably by the fact that I was able to drive to the start in 10 minutes and park maybe 50 yards from T1/2 and the finish. How cool is that? The contrast with, say, Vineman, with its far-flung transitions, mile-away parking, and dismal school-bus shuttles had me wiping tears from my eyes.

Or maybe that was just muck from the Willamette.

Yes, we swam in Oregon's superfund toilet of a river.

It wasn't bad, actually. Well, my swim was bad, but conditions weren't. Under water you couldn’t see past your fingers, but that was as anticipated. It was long—literally long, I think, maybe closer to 1.0 miles than 0.9, although that hardly explains my pathetic time. That was a product of my generally weak form, and also the strange neck/shoulder/arm ailment that befell me soon after the Pacific Crest half back in late-June. Speaking to the latter point, I just haven't been able to swim much and, being a mediocre swimmer at best, had totally lost my edge. Instead of swimming my usual three or four days a week, I've been in the pool maybe a half-dozen or so times in the past nine weeks. Not good. And when I do swim, I have almost no strength to pull with my left stroke.

OK, so my swim was 37:48, 111th out of the 137 dudes who started the race. I was just happy to have it out of the way.

I then had my typical stupendously slow transition, despite the fact that I got my wetsuit off much quicker than usual. How'd I accomplish that? I cut it off! That's right, I used a pair of scissors and sliced right down each leg and just stepped out. This wasn't as crazy as it sounds, actually, as the suit, after six years of use, had recently suffered several tears and was landfill-bound. Oops, I mean recycling center-bound (this was a "sustainable" triathlon, after all). I almost bought a new one before the race but thought it would be fun to usher out the old one in dramatic fashion. It was a first-generation Zoot two-piece and a gold-medal winning gymnast didn't have the flexibility to wiggle out of that bottom piece with ease. Still, the thing did carry me through dozens of races, including several in frigid waters. I think of Millerton on the edge of the Sierra in April, and Wickiup in the Cascades at Pacific Crest—pretty chilly stuff.

Onto the bike. Riding my old (2001) Lemond roadie among all the sleek, super-light tri bikes is getting ridiculous. I'm springing for a new bike soon, very soon. A tri bike. That's right, aero bars and everything. So this might have been it for the bike, too, though I did not cut it up or even crash it to celebrate the occasion. I just rode it. Not particularly quickly, but on an odd, straight-line, six-lap course, my bike was better than my swim. Up the river parkway for two miles, a U-turn, back down it for two miles, a U-turn, again and again.

One way was into the wind and up a slight grade, the other way—that's right: with the wind and down a slight grade (funny how that worked out). Highlight of the race came on lap six when I saw racer 510 weaving between people on his passes. Passing on the right is against the rules—and it's a good rule, a safety thing, limiting just a bit the possibility of mishap amid riders of varying abilities, fitness levels and powers of concentration. A decently marshaled race would have resulted in a penalty for racer 510—one Luke Reyes, of Portland—but all it earned him today was a gentle (I swear) few words from me when he passed me on the right: "Hey, bud, you gotta pass on the left, not the right." The classy Mr. Reyes flipped me the bird, good and long, without looking back.

Well, I kicked his ass on the run—48:18 vs. 1:00:46—despite the fact he was half my age.

The run course was excellent, over the Hawthorne to the east side of the river, north up the Esplanade, back to the west side on the Steel, then south to where we started. Do this 3.1-mile loop twice and there's your 10K, triathlon fans.

Mile 6 on the run was my best and fastest, coming in around 6:50 as a little peroneal tendonitis in my right leg finally loosened up. Always nice to finish strong and, moreover, always nice to finish.

Crowds were super—more fans than racers (300+), I think. Weather was perfect, calm for the swim, keeping the river smooth, and then sunny and comfortable, in the 60s heading into the 70s by the mid-morning finish.

To Jeff Henderson, who brought this inaugural triathlon to downtown Portland, a big thank you. It was a very well run event. Strictly on organizational terms, one of the best I've ever been involved in. And I'm not just saying that because of the killer parking spot I got.

The final data:

PS: Oregon Trout, the title sponsor of today's race, is a great organization!

Monday, August 20, 2007

There was standing water on the roads, here and there, and maybe a little drizzle, around and about, so I pondered passing on my ride this evening. Then I thought about Dan, riding Paris-Brest-Paris, the ridiculous French rando thing, over in France, in Europe of all place, and amongst the French, no less. Apparently Portland isn't the only drippy place come summer, and there was precip in the air over there. So there's Dan, off riding 1200 kilometers through the day and the night and whatever the weather gods bring ... and there I am mulling a 20-miler in a little drizzle. Yeesh. Just ride, dude. So I rode.

Got a flat. Put on replacement tube #1. Got another flat. Put on replacement tube #2, then heeded a very important personal rule: When you have no more tubes or patches, proceed directly home. I did. It was 16.4 miles. I tried. Dan would be proud, if he were reading this and not, instead, wondering when his little hellish adventure would end.

Now I'm following Dan's progress. You may do so as well. He's #4752. Do wish him a safe journey.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rocky Butte
Portland, land of extinct volcanoes. Conquered another one this afternoon, Rocky Butte. I had a plan but ended up following the hand-lettered cardboard signs directing cyclists to ride to the top of the butte this morning as part of a neighborhood protest against some giant store that wants to move into the area somewhere. "Think Outside the Big Box," say the placards on many lawns in the neighborhood. I guess I'm on their side, though I -- and I would guess, many of them -- have indeed shopped at a big box store.

Amazing views from the top. Downtown and the hills beyond to the west; the Columbia, Mount Hood, blah, blah. Very cool. Nice run. Niners-Raiders exhibition on in the background now, only because I'm curious about Alex Smith's progress. And something in the background is nice.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hometown Tri
Portland has never had a triathlon right in town, which isn't unusual, I guess; I don't know if I've heard of too many downtown triathlons. But some guy has organized one this year, to be held September 2. I'm entered. It's all very Portland. I mean, the goal is a "sustainable and organic" event, and even the finish arch is green. But what about the water? Whenever I mention to locals that the swim is in the Willamette (rhymes with dammit), they say, "ooh, yuck!" But, hey, as long as there's no rain in the 48 hours before the race, we'll probably be OK. Heck, e. coli results have been low all summer!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Going Yard
Hired a couple of kids to mow the small lawn I've got in front of my house. These are guys I saw tooling around the neighborhood on their bikes the day I arrived—in fact, they offered their lawn-care services right then and there. I told them I'd get back to them. Today, I saw them riding by and I yelled out that I thought my lawn needed a trimming. The lanky one of the two said, "Yeah, I'd say it's beginning to look a bit tropical."

That was Josh, maybe 13. His sidekick is Brandon, whom I'm guessing checks in at 10. Befitting his elder status, Josh is the "manager of the lawn mower," except when it comes time to push it across the lawn, at which time Brandon is called to the fore. But if the little guy runs into a gnarly, knobby spot, Josh jumps in. I offered them five bucks for the job, which took them all of 15 minutes (including 5 minutes to get the mower over here). Turned out I didn't have 5-even on me, so I gave them a 20 and contracted for three more mows, every two weeks or so. I like stoking the fires of young entrepreneurs. I'll just assume the money isn't going for beer or tobacco.

A word about Portland lawns: I don't get them. They all suck. I'm wondering if this is a nature thing and just the way lawns grow up here, or if there's a law, or if it's by informal agreement or peer pressure (among the citizenry, not the blades of grass). In my short time in town I've walked and run through the tending-toward-hoity neighborhood of Laurelhurst, as well as the nice, dependable neighborhood Mount Tabor and several, shall we say, more mixed areas, including my humble 'hood. I've driven about a bit. I have seen exactly one well-trimmed, wholly green lawn of the sort that is standard-issue in California, the so-called Golden State. (I'm not talking about the less common but still plentiful lush, rich, deeply green spreads that suck up an acre-foot of water every summer month. Just your standard decent lawn.) Here, they're mostly brown and scruffy; you find some splotches of green, particularly around the edges, but even a cursory examination reveals that's just weeds. Dandelions abound. This doesn't bother me, mind you. In fact, it's great—it'll be no problem keeping my lawn looking just as "nice" as the neighbors'. Heck, after Josh and Brandon's work, I'm probably the shining star on this stretch of Hoyt Street. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. In the end, this might be the answer.
Go Blazers
I guess I need to rename this blog (in addition to reinvigorating it). But then again, Whine Country is nothing if it isn't a state of mind, right?

So, yeah, I moved to Portland, the Oregon version for those of you checking in from the Right Coast. I was a little disappointed not to receive any kind of official greeting, let alone a house-warming gift, from the city, especially after seeing the welcome that new kid from Ohio got. But I'll get over the hurt.

Portland is by declaration of pundits, magazine city-rankers, environmentalists, geeks, goofs and professors of urban planning the Coolest City in America. The other day, a fellow in the Wall Street Journal said it felt not so much like a major city, but an incredibly large college town. Or maybe that was the woman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's a good line. There are a few colleges around town, but Oregon's big universities are down the Willamette Valley, in Corvallis and Eugene. But Portland nevertheless seems overrun with youth, and it feels vibrant, idealistic and disheveled.

I don't know what all these twentysomethings and thirtysomethings-not-acting-their-age are doing here, beyond depressing wages. (I saw an ad on Craigslist for an editor with a college degree, 3-5 years' experience, a full range of technical knowledge and (of course) "the ability to think creatively and strategically." The salary for this exceptional package: $27,000. Maybe I've really moved to Bangalore.)

I like Portland, so far. Mount Tabor Park is a mile south of me. It's a weird and wonderful place, an extinct volcano and home to several strangely beautiful reservoirs. Plus, for my purposes, it's a great place to run. I found, too, an enjoyable, easy-to-navigate 20-mile bike loop right from my door. And the Montavilla Park Pool is a mile directly east on Glisan, with a lap lane that appears mostly not to be too crowded. So at hand that's good running, biking and swimming—almost everything a guy needs to stay sane.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Update: Official Pacific Crest Results
Swim 44:26 (378/481)
T1 7:01
Bike 2:46:22 (260/478)
T2 2:14
Run 1:54.11 (148/472)
Total 5:34:14
(203/442 overall, 35/63 40-44M)

(213/443 overall, 68/173 under 8, 131/249 boys)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Early, Unofficial Sunriver Report
As tapers go, it's not like any I've seen spelled out in the triathlon manuals and mags. This is the A-race taper that involves spending several days packing up more than seven years of belongings, cleaning the house for the next occupant, and then driving all that accumulated stuff 600+ nerve-wracking miles in a 24-foot Budget rental truck. (You should have to pass a test before they let you behind the wheel. But you don't.) Oh, and then you move onto three days of unloading and unpacking, all the while worrying a good deal over whether the house purchase you made in this new city was a smart move.

Swimming, biking and running? No swimming for nearly two weeks. No biking for nearly two weeks. But two or three short runs--and some walks!

That was the state of my game as I arrived in Sunriver for the Pacific Crest Half Iron Triathlon. Weird thing was, as I walked the mile or so to T2 setup and the buses to T1 at 6 a.m. this morning, with the temperature just above freezing, it struck me that my legs felt fresh and strong. Hmm. So I wasn't sure what to expect, though I had told my family the night before that I'd finish no earlier than 3 p.m. (a 5:45 effort, given my 9:15 a.m. wave start) but probably closer to 3:30.

Prerace: As I said, it was crazy cold at dawn, not shocking at 4,200-feet elevation, but a big change from last year's much-talked-about heat misery. Arrived at T2 at 6:15, 45 minutes early (nerves), but got on the 6:30 bus to Wickiup, about 25 miles up into the hills. At Wickiup, T1 was in the shade, so with nearly two hours to spare before race start, most everyone migrated to the boat launch area (where the swim would start) to soak up the early-morning sun. It was just generous enought to keep us from freezing. Pity the fool who wandered up and cast a shadow on you.

Swim: Wickiup has got to be the most beautiful lake I've ever competed in. It's surrounded by forest and old barren volcanic ridges and snow-capped peaks. The water is cold--62 was the race-time temp this morning--but I wasn't bothered by the chill and actually found it refreshing. Not that my swim benefited. Don't have the splits yet, but I think I came in over 42, at least four or five minutes off my Vineman swim split PR. That would have been OK, if I didn't flounder in getting my wetsuit off, taking a whopping 10 minutes or so at T1. Pathetic.

Bike: Because of road construction, the bike course was modified this year; the big climb was lost. The revised route was fast. Unlike Vineman, with its ceaseless short, just-steep-enough rollers, Pacific Crest 2007 featured very gentle grades, and most of them of the downward variety. Given the serious lack of cycling I've done this season, I was surprised to find myself at 29 miles at the 1:30 mark, which inspired me to push on harder. Finished around 2:46, my half-iron best bike split ever. Cheers for the roads of Central Oregon; them were some smoothies. And what weather for the ride! 50s and 60s and sunshine up to your eyebrows.

Run: The decent effort on the bike, plus the elevation, seemed to take a bit of a toll on me on the run. I have a run half-iron run PR around 1:50, but never found that kind of grove today. But I put in a steady effort, around 1:56 pending official splits, under increasingly cloudy skies and with midday temps hovering only in the 60s. When I went through the finish chute, I believe the clock showed 5:49:05; with my wave going off 15 minutes after the first wave, that puts me at 5:34:05, a half-iron PR.

Best part of the weekend? That was watching my little guy do the Kid's Splash, Pedal and Dash. Hey, he had an unorthodox taper - he moved, too! - but he killed in the race, working hard all the way. He told that at one point during the run, he told himself, out load, "Remember, it's supposed to be fun." Good job, Niko!

Oh, and special thanks, too, to Mom & Dad for coming up all the way from San Jose, and sister Debbie and hubby Greg from Hillsboro; it was a joy to be surrounded by family.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Woeful PR Jobs
From a news story: "Barbara Negron, president of the North American Natural Casing Association in New York City, said casings are safe to eat."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why I Race
Lots of triathlon blogs out there by people looking to prove to themselves that they can do something cool. Well, shit, yeah, if you devote practically your whole life to doing an Ironman (but not a lower-case-I iron-distance tri, no, it has to be the trademarked o-fish-ul one), you ought to be able to. 'Specially in the might-as-well-be-walking time of 16 hours.

Look, I know how therapeutic athletics can be. Explore the catacombs of this very blog and you'll find instances of the author drawing inspiration from some pathetic success (or even failure!). But to a tiresome degree, the tri-blogger community that has emerged is beginning to feel like a sprawling, voracious, pop-psych-spewing self-help-best-seller-hypnotized group. You see this, too, with Team in Training, and with the advocates of fat people "running" a marathon in six hours to feel good about themselves. It's depressingly common stuff.

Fine, fine, feel good about yourself. But I'm in this for the sport, and the sport is to go as fast as possible, and though I'm slow, my times matter to me, matter a lot. Just finishing is not what it's about. To me.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday Brick
Up Veeder, back through Yountville, then down Solano and California to home. Thirty miles, a nice mix of climbing and flats. Then off the bike and into the Asics. I was surprised to see, after a tenth of a mile or so, that my pace was around 7 min/mile. Hmm. So, though I really didn't need to or want to and I really shouldn't have -- I'd done a hard run last Sunday, and my legs were still kinda sore -- I went hard. Did 2.5 miles at 6:30 pace.

Post work-out thought: Yeah, my legs were wonky from the bike ride when the run started ... but I was fast from the get-go. Whaddup there? A lesson, I think, in the value of a great warm-up before a running race.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gas Prices
This has not been a place for rants, but I've had it! I can't take anymore of the bellyaching about gas prices! Today, it was the old guys at the gym, who probably drive about two and a quarter miles a day, who were griping endlessly.

I'll believe people are really bent about gas prices when they: (1) dump their gigantic SUVs (the parking lot at Niko's school is still jammed with Rovers, Yukons, Explorers and the like); (2) drive slower on the freeway (the estimate is that for every mile an hour over 55, up to 65 mph, your fuel economy dips 1 percent -- and after you pass 65, it's even worse); (3) walk, ride the bike or simply forego the trip.

Until then, I don't want to hear it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wouldn't You Know It
We spend three days in Portland looking for houses -- the move will come in mid-June -- and already those Seybold boys have Niko playing hockey. (That's Nic stalking the lad here.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Early Morning Ride
Hit the road for a 20-miler at dawn. Monday afternoon Niko and I were out playing in 80 degree weather. Summer! Then yesterday a cool air mass swooped in and it felt like, well, April. This morning, clear and calm, was downright wintry.

Don't know what the temperature was, but in Napa in April it's easy to figure out if the mercury is nearing 32F: Vineyards have their frost-protection going. Such was the case today. Not everywhere; but definitely in the spots where colder air settles. Lots of wind machines were fired up. At points, you'd have thought we were on a tarmac with several prop planes preparing to take off. Other vineyards were guarding against damage to the young buds by running overhead sprinklers; the droplets of water on the vine release heat when they reach 32 degrees and begin to freeze. Then they thaw as new water arrives. The subsequent freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw process can keep the plant safe even if the ambient temperature falls to around 28 degrees.

Ninety minutes into the ride -- nearing its end -- the sun was up and strong. Damn, I thought; I wish I could ride NOW! But the workday beckoned.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Poppies Under Bridge
A year or so ago they opened a new bridge over the Napa River at the south end of town. The old Maxwell Bridge was a green, steel two-lane drawbridge that bottled up traffic. The new four-lane, divided bridge first seemed too big, out of scale. But I think it's grown on people and now seems just fine. Kind of elegant. And in the spring, there are poppies under it.
Free Day
So Niko and I arrive at school a minute or two early this morning and the place is quiet. Too quiet. There are, like, no cars parked out front (OK, maybe one) and a bunch of cars parked in the back on the playground, where cars are never parked. Quiet. No kids running around. Hmm. We go his classroom to put his lunch in the cloakroom and there we are met by Judy the teacher: "No class today -- teacher work day."

OK. What to do? Ride the bike! Run! Stumble upon a bunch of other Sunrise kids at Kennedy Park! Bike some more! Play with Rory! Have a big lunch at First Squeeze!

Good day.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Gravity at Work

This is one of my favorite trails for doing hill repeats. At the top, there's a trail that loops gently around to the bottom of the hill. A minute up hard, two minutes easy back around for more. Seven or eight of these pretty much does me in. Niko prefers going down the hill. Fast.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Training Update
A month after the marathon, I finally feel as though I've transitioned into triathlon season. Did three good swims this week, including 2,500 yards one day. Pretty big for me, especially in March. Today was my first brick – 25 miles on the bike over Mount Veeder (1,200 feet or so above the valley) and down Dry Creek, right into a 3.35-mile run that included a 400-foot climb and a mile or so of trails.

Speaking of trails, they figure to be a big part of my spring training this year. We're living less than a mile from Westwood Hills Regional Park now, a real blessing. Apparently this parcel was earmarked for development in the '70s, but the city and the developer couldn't agree on the scope of the project and the city

Westwood Hills Regional Park, Napa

ended up buying the property. I wouldn't call it pristine, but pristine is hardly possible in a city, right? But it's open space and highly variable in nature, with eucalyptus, oak and buckeye, and grassy meadows. A main fire road heads up from the parking lot on Browns Valley Road, and singletrack and deer trails crisscross what are said to be 110 acres of parkland. We didn't have a big rain year, but did get enough to green the place up nicely, which should last until May, roughly.

The previous several years, I ran almost exclusively on flat ground. That's what was out the door from 184 South Montgomery Street. Now, out the door from the new (temporary) place, it's hills, so hills it shall be a couple of times a week. These runs will build strength and depth of fitness – and they're fun! For one thing, running on the dirt, especially gnarly dirt on incline, takes me out of the head. I'm thinking about where I'm stepping, no time to contemplate how far I've gone or have to go. And it's just plain pretty out there, too.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Photo by Niko
Marin Headlands, Tennessee Valley Road, January '07

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Race Report: Napa Valley Marathon
Ran the Napa Valley Marathon this morning. Headed out with some trepidation; I'd told friends and colleagues (yeah, I'm one of those middle-aged guys who regales trapped officemates with tales of his pathetic athletic pursuits) that I wanted to run 3:30 to qualify for the 2008 Boston Marathon. This would require shaving almost five minutes off my PR.

Well: I did it! Don't know the official time, but my clock had me at 3:24:46.

Weather was perfect -- cool but not cold to start, very little wind, then sunshine and a few wispy clouds as the morning wore on, temps nudging 60 by the finish. All a stark contrast to the horror that was last year's race.

I just ran a steady pace the whole way, pretty much. Lots of miles in the 7:30s and 7:40s -- faster than I thought I'd go, but I felt good, and kept feeling good, so I let it roll. After 21 miles I began to suffer a bit. Tightening in the quads and hamstrings, a little Achilles action going on, hips acting up.... Not surprisingly, my tempo slowed -- my last five miles were 7:53, 7:59, 8:06, 8:05 and 8:07.

But all the same, I'm super-proud of those miles. At Sacramento 16 months ago I was on pace to run a 3:30, but could barely manage 9-minute miles over the last 10K. They always say that's when the marathon really starts, at around 20 miles. And they say truth. Today, the first 20 miles were comfortable and fun. The last five were the stuff that makes going long with a goal beyond simply finishing so interesting and addictive.

What else to say: Oh, many thanks to the Team in Training girl from somewhere in the South Bay who I ran with for five or six miles early on. Good company.

And thanks also to Bergie and her crew, who cheered for me on Mile 19 -- which, no mere coincidence here, turned out to be my fastest mile at 7:26. I know they will treasure the Gu wrapper I tossed at their feet.

And thanks to Anna, who met me afterward with a giant Jamba Juice fruit thing. That hit the spot. What a sweetheart. (We are going to miss her terribly; Friday was her last day at work.)

Anyway, maybe there's more to say. Maybe not. Maybe later. I feel good now -- nothing really hurts. Well, one little blister on the bottom of my left foot, when I step wrong, it howls a bit. Mostly, I'm just tired. A very good tired.

Boston '08. That's going to be cool.

UPDATE -- official results:
Time: 3:24:46
Pace: 7:49/mile
Overall finish/racers: 137/1708
Men: 117/1236
Age group (men 40-44): 21/148

And I noticed, in scrolling through the results for my fellow 40 to 44-year-old dudes, that famed ultraman Dean Karzanes was 8th in the group, at 3:07:01. Of course, he probably ran to the start line from San Francisco or something ridiculous like that...