Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nike Free: Update to the Update

So, I received my custom Frees Version 5's this past December (12/7/10) to be precise, about a month after I ordered them. LOVED THEM!

On January 12, 2010 I contacted Nike Customer Service to arrange for their return. :-(

Seems that the fabric that takes the place of the heel cup wore out after just over a month. I discovered this as my finger went right through one of the heels as I was putting them on.

Did I say that I loved these shoes? Yes, but they should have lasted more than a month don't you think?
Here's hoping that the folks at the "Blue Ribbon Direct" on Tuggle Road in Memphis see fit to issue me a credit.

Broke down this past Friday and went down to the NikeTown store in downtown Seattle and bought another pair of Free 5.0 V4's (Black and Anthrocite). Good excuse, too, to join PuddleThumper for lunch at Cafe Pho (yummy Vietnamese Sandwich for me).

Ahh! My feet and legs are happy again.

Over the past few months I have become acutely sensitive to how much "regular" shoes weaken my feet and ankles. Edward Tenner's Our Own Devices: How Technology Remakes Humanity has a very interesting chapter on shoes and the manner in which they evolved and the impact that they have on how we use our bodies. Turns out that the "common" shoe (and probably the first one invented) is some variation of the flip flop. Even more interesting are the differences in walking style based upon the primary shoe in use. Check it out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Il Trovatore @ Seattle Opera

Overhead as we were leaving "Well, it got better . . ."

That about sums it up.

Seattle Opera's Il Trovatore was pretty disappointing for this opera fan. I've heard it (you all have heard the best bits) but never actually seen it live and was quite excited at the prospect. But, the sentiment quoted above sums it up for me. I'll give this opera another chance. Just not this production.

Don't get me wrong, the singing was simply beautiful and I could believe the pain in the words. The production design was appropriately drab as befits the story (the corpses swinging from the rafters . . ?). I even enjoyed our very own version of Statler and Waldorf sitting behind us as they made all kinds of inappropriate noises and comments (they left during the intermission as did a goodly number of the people sitting in our section)—though the fact that I was actually enjoying something annoying is not a good sign.

Two problems throughout the evening really made me not want to see this again.

First, the conductor stopped the music after every aria. As M observed, the audience was initially reluctant to clap. Late during the second half, the conductor abandoned this tactic and the audience, well trained to clap by this time, persisted through the music and the singing. It sucked the life out of the first two acts and threatened to do the same during the second two. Is this a opera tradition? If so, Please stop! Either that or just throw a concert Andre Rieu style.

Second, there were some choices made with the staging that really slowed things down, further destroying dramatic tension. The best example I can give takes place during ACT III. (The Gypsy's Son) when Manrico and Leonora are pledging their love before going to the wedding chapel. Just prior to this, Manrico's mother, Azucena, has been captured by the Count Di Luna and taken off to prison. In between these two scenes there was a pause while the stage hands placed and lit I don't know how many candles on the stage. It was beautiful, striking even, and (perhaps) did double duty as the candles in a wedding chapel and also the pyre to which Azucena is destined. But it took something like five minutes to get going, minutes in which the audience sat hushed in the darkened hall and then gradually started murmuring and muttering and even giggling. Was this visual effect worth the break in concentration? I think not. You have to know that some poor choices had been made when that happens. Every scene change was like this. A couple I can handle, but all of them? I really hope that all this is being rethought.

Now, I am a generally tolerant opera goer and can find something to enjoy in just about everything I've seen. Seattle Opera usually does a much better job than this.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Foodish Discoveries

Food. It's What's For Dinner!

Four really good discoveries over this weekend.

Last night I went out for dinner with PS, a longtime friend whom I get to see only rarely. He lives up on Capitol Hill, the land of interesting eating possibilities. To be honest, I was feeling like a burger and a beer would hit the spot BUT PS had already had two beers under his belt along with Dim Sum whilst on a date earlier in the afternoon so I suggested Phở. A friend of his had recommended Pho Cyclo. It sounded good and so off we went.

I had Pho Tai Bo Vien (Flank Steak and Meatballs) that was very tasty and not at all heavy. PS had a soup with wontons and shrimp that he reported to be very good. The broths were delicious. Dinner for the two of us—two soups, spring rolls, and a diet pepsi for me—came to $20 (really). Very reasonable and worth a trip. I can't wait to go back. Dilettante Chocolate for dessert (Oh boy!). :-)

This morning we took Terfel to the Ballard Farmer's Market. It was his first experience with all that distraction (food, kids, other people, dogs). He got a lot of attention and had a fair amount of fun.

Tonight we are having an artisanal pizza from 'zaw, a pear and prosciutto pizza on a very thin crust. It is baking right now and, well, I can't wait (a 10-mile run will do that). Savoy Cabbage and Pomegranate salad to accompany (never had Savoy Cabbage either). [Additional: YUM!!!]

New teas too. Sip-t has the most amazing chai, fruit blend, and a mango-lime tea I've had the pleasure to taste. Looking forward to a nice, flavorful, cuppa this evening.

Finally, caveman bars. A small Edmonds-based company that specializes in making food bars with no more than five ingredients. I bought three bars (Peanut & Sea Salt, Coconut Flax, and Cinnamon Pecan) and ate one, the Peanut one, during my break between my two five-mile loops today. Very fresh tasting and not cloyingly sweet as so many of these things can be. Nor was it heavy.

All-in-all, some nice discoveries.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Slip Slidin Away

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

Well, my XC race this morning was not at all that bad. In fact it was really quite fun and something of an experience. A 3000 Meter mud-fest.

It has been raining quite heavily this past week (especially yesterday) and the ground is just sodden. But it has also been pleasantly warm (we've been experiencing March weather in January while the rest of the country is in the deep freeze).

I ran the two or so miles out to Magnuson and the race start at a rather easy pace along the Burke Gilman trail. It was threatening to rain. I was hoping that it would hold off until the race was over when I would be comfortably ensconced in PT's car on my way home. It was chilly but otherwise calm and quiet. Saw only a few people out at least until I got down into the park itself, when more and more carloads of runners started showing up.

Finishing my warm-up found M and her friend. We discussed the course which we could see was very much on the mucky side. M decided to go and exchange her shoes for spikes. I wandered around a bit and then saw PT finishing her warm up (big smile on her face too). Heard the BANG of a starter's pistol announcing that we had 10-minutes remaining before the start.

Boy was the start area wet. It was easy to sink a half to a whole inch into the ground just standing and waiting. The RD came to make his pre-race announcements and waved his pistol around as he did so (don't ask why this particular little detail stuck with me although I expect that someone waving the business end of a gun at you would get your attention even if only a starter's pistol). This course was longer (than last years) and slightly different due to the ongoing construction to bring electricity back to the shore area. His description was complicated and I didn't really get it. No matter, I'd just follow the crowd. I mentioned that someone was going to go kersplat in one of the puddles. M responded that, now that I had mentioned it, it would probably be me. :-P

Then, BANG, and we were off. A rush of slips, slides, and yelps as runners sought to avoid puddles or were shocked at the wet. Pretty funny. I felt really calm as we started and even had a smile on face (the more mud the better). As the speed picked up I could feel all my energy draining away within the first 25 yards or so, felt very strange. But as we cleared the first "hill" and transitioning to the Fins area my strength started coming back and I just kept going. Behind me were two HS girls who were just sort of joking along. They passed me just before the fins and then I passed them going up Kite Hill. At that point they decided that maybe they should take things a little more seriously (perhaps the thought of getting beaten by a large lumbering guy was too much) and they both cranked it up. One just flew away. The other moved in front of me and stayed there until I passed her again as she stopped and looked back for someone else). "Kum and Go" guy (a very tall man wearing a "Kum and Go" T-shirt) went flying up the hill past us all and then just started trotting. I thought "What was that all about?" [And, yes, his shirt is not obscene. It refers to a gas station chain in the Midwest.]

It was really slippery and midway through the first loop I could feel the toll that this was taking on my legs and hips as they contended with the not-so-firm footing and all the lateral movement as my feet slid. My shoes, the Innov8's, proved to be incredibly grippy all things considered and I began trusting them more and more as I went tightly around the curves. Behind me, I heard the very wet sounds of someone else going kersplat in a puddle (but not me).

The second loop was challenging but also felt better as I knew what to expect and was very much warmed up. I spotted the guy who finished just in front of me during the last race and decided that I had to catch and pass him. It took some doing but I finally did at the base of Kite Hill and then he just disappeared. I think this is the first time I was able to beat him (couldn't do it during last year's series). It felt really good to do so but I have a feeling that he was having a bad day. Hope he is OK. In the middle of all of this the sun made an appearance, its welcome light changing the way the course looked (indeed the whole park).

The finish was interesting. We had to run up a slight rise through all kinds of churned up mud and standing water. 25 yards away and I kicked it up a notch. Then I heard someone coming up fast behind me and I put everything I had into an all-out sprint to the finish. People were yelling (for me? for him? I don't know). I held off the challenge and crossed the line in 16:40 with ragged lungs and in 117th place. Right behind Phy (who was complaining "What happened?!" as we stood in line to submit our place tags). Someone else was complaining about having mud in her teeth. Was this the person who fell or had they been following someone else a bit too closely?

Short cool down run in which I ran into PT. We washed our shoes in a deep puddle and squish, squished squished our way back to the records area so she could turn her card in as well and grab some food. Half a bagel and two cups of water later I was deposited at my doorstep. OOOFFF! That is when I felt all the mud stress.

What a fantastic race and, though exhausted, I've still a smile on my face 8 hours after. Second loop was faster than the first and I finished very strongly. My first race of 2010.

Miles for the day? 5.42

Tomorrow I'll do a slow 10-miler as per the Higdon Plan. 33 miles for the week.

33 miles and I am feeling strong. :-)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One of "those" runs . . .

Today I had one of those runs that reminded me why I love running as much as I do and why it is as big a part of my life as it is.

I've decided to work through one of Higdon's Marathon Plans which should ready me for a run sometime in May. Which one? I am thinking of three: Eugene, Big Sur (all uphill but pretty), and Avenue of the Giants (really remote but pretty). I still don't know and am temporizing. What would you do?

In any event, so far (and we are only in week 1), I am liking this plan. It spreads a variety of running throughout the week (a nice change from loading the distance runs around the weekend). Simple too.

Today it was hills (as if I don't get enough hills already). A good opportunity for me to actually sharpen up. Couple of miles warm-up and then 3 X Hill (200-400 meters), and then a cool down. Total of around 5 miles.

It was a nice day for trails but I wanted flat too so off to Magnuson I went.

Normally I don't listen to music when I run but today, today I decided to bring my iPod along and just cut loose. It made for a nice change of pace.

Ran first along the waterfront hitting every puddle and rocky beach that I could. Then into the dog off-leash area. That was fun. Two dogs started chasing me though, a Scottie and a Poodle. Nothing more than worrying though. Finished running through and hopped a fence and back out in the fields. More mud and some small hills before heading over to Kite Hill for the repeats.

The repeats were hard but good practice for the 3000 Meter XC Race this Saturday—I ran the same path in 2:45 and 2:41 (for .30 miles) and 2:37 (for .28 miles)—a pretty steep hill.

Then around and around through more puddles, getting thoroughly wet and muddy. It was simply a blast and I've been carrying around an endorphin high since I finished (went flying through Yoga class this evening).

I hope. I hope. I hope that more runs like these are in my future. :-)

Play List?


  • Finale-Igor Stravinsky
  • Every Day I Die—Gary Numan
  • Dread Rock—Paul Oakenfold
  • The Dusty Miller—The Chieftains
  • Within A Mile of Dublin/The Old Blackthorn—The Chieftains
  • Cars (Rush Hour Skadiva)—Techno Army Featuring Gary Numan
  • Freeways (Euromix)—Men Without Hats
  • Tá An Coileach Ag Fógairt An Lae (3 Pipes)—The Chieftains
  • Where do the Boys Go (Extended Version)—Men Without Hats
  • Working Overtime—New Order
  • Masters of the Universe [Eternal Basement Remix]—Juno Reactor
  • Friends (Pure Version)—Gary Numan
  • Pulstar—Hypnosis
  • Om shanti om (Medley Mix)—Shahrukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Deepika Padukone & Shreyas Talpade
  • Deewangi deewangi—Shahrukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Deepika Padukone & Shreyas Talpade
  • Destination Unkown (TV Mania Remix)—Missing Persons
  • Nine Lives of Miss MIDI—Saga
  • Turn Up The Radio—Autograph
  • Domino—Genesis
Oh yeah, the run data:

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Running Year, 2009

My 2009 running year ended on 12/23/09 with a short run in my neighborhood. The cause? A cold which has translated itself into bronchitis. Antibiotics are supposed to put paid to this but, while much of the congestion has gone, most activity sends me into paroxysms of stomach tightening, headache inducing coughing, an unpleasant experience both to undertake and to witness. Still not as bad as D, one of my T3 Teammates, who just found out that she has a stress fracture of the femoral neck that has her on crutches for 6 weeks. Put's things into perspective, eh?

What did this year look like?

It had it's up's and down's. :-P

Some numbers and other bits of trivia:

Total Miles: 1527.90
Races Completed: 11
  1. Resolution Run 5K
  2. 3000 Meter XC
  3. Nookachamps 13.1 miles
  4. 2 Mile Track
  5. 2 Mile Handicap Race
  6. Cougar Mtn 7 mile race
  7. Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon
  8. Cougar Mtn 10 mile race
  9. Cougar Mtn 13 mile race
  10. Seattle Half Marathon
  11. 3000 Meter XC
PR's Set: 0
Race's DNS'd: 3 (5 mile Cougar Trail Race, Portland Marathon and Winter Grand Prix 2-Mile Road Race)
Shoes Expended: 7
  • 3 pairs of Mizuno Wave Ascend's
  • 3 pairs of Mizuno Wave Elixir's
Most Challenging Run: Spider Meadow and Spider Glacier
Most Exotic Running Locale of the Year: Maui
Running Locale I wish I had more time to explore: Haleakala Crater and Vancouver B.C.
Number of Trail Runs: 81 for 564.17 miles in which I gained 196025 feet

Overall I am pleased with how I did this past year.

I had a vague goal of 1500 miles this time last year but (actually) forgot all about it until pleasantly surprised in late November to have crossed that mark. No running injuries this past year which means that my approach (yoga, strengthening my lower legs via barefooting and Nike Frees) is generally working. I've more work to do to balance my knee and thigh strength.

Running on Maui, in Vancouver, Santa Barbara, and Tofino. In each I was left wanting more and would have done had the governor not banned out-of-state travel which nixed the conferences I wanted to attend. I am hoping that I'll have more such opportunities in 2010.

Some really challenging and new mountain runs with AR was a real highlight. Spider Meadow but also running from Cougar, over Squak, up Tiger, and then back down through Issaquah one week and then an extended Rattlesnake Ridge run really tested me. There were times during these runs when I did not feel at all like a runner but that usually passed.

Running my first official Marathon (second time unofficially) was something else. I basically trained myself on this one using AR group runs (thanks, Coach, for the patience) as my base along with long in-town runs of my own devise. In this I learned that I (mostly) have the mental toughness to do such things on my own. Even managed to find new and interesting places in Seattle to get lost in. Making the final .2 miles into the finish was one of the most wonderful moments I have had as a runner.

I also realized that if you can finish strong in a 13.1 mile trail race you can finish even more strongly during a road half-marathon.

Most importantly, and once again, I benefitted by a rather strong set of running friends (you know who you are). I love my little family of runners and knowing that all of the things that I go through in my own running life are not unique. It helps put things into perspective.

What am I not so happy about?

While I avoided running-related injuries I spent a lot of time actually sick over the course of the past year. Despite my best precautions and attention to rest and nutrition every cold and flu that came down the pike ended up making me miserable. This has been quite frustrating. I've actually not felt well since having the flu this past October. Wonder what is going on.

The weight I gained over the course of the fall. Somehow, the fact that I was not running as much did little to suppress my runner's appetite. This will have to come off.

Losing my speed during marathon training (most of my training runs were just plods). I know, I know, that is a serious distance. This coming year, I'd like to sharpen up. :-)

Missing races.

Missing Jessica. It recently dawned on me that she must have been suffering on our runs over the summer but she did them none-the-less, a testament to just how devoted she was and how much she wanted to be out moving. She never complained. I see Border Collies running around and get all wistful. There will never be another like her . . .

Hopes for 2010?

There are many but that is the subject for another post. :-)

The "Aughts"

Here it is, New Years Day, and it is time to reflect upon what has been and what one hopes will come to be.

It feels strange to be entering into the second decade of a new century and I find myself wondering what 1910 must have felt like. Was there a sense of impending disaster as was to come or a sense of hope. Such things depend upon who you were, what you were doing, and how much struggle was in your life. People did suspect the shocking nature of what was to unfold. Some were welcoming, others saw tragedy.

Personally, I am happy to see the back of the "aughts" but I find myself curiously blind. What will the teens bring? More of the same? Looking back to 1910 I find that the headlines haven't really changed all that much—Revolution in Portugal, the Japanese annexation of Korea for starters, and war scares in Europe. Not much different than today's really.

The optimist in me hopes that we can transcend all this, come back to the realization that, at bottom, all people really want is to live a dignified life, and get on the business of discovering more and more of the wonders of the universe. The pessimist knows that we will not and that the long, slow, sad unfolding tragedy begun in the aughts will continue.

Here's to the optimist.