Monday, April 26, 2010

Tick, Tick, Tick . . .

The end of marathon training so . . . so anti-climatic. The taper I mean. Two weeks at 32 down from 60+. Six days to go and what am I running this week?

Monday 3 m run, Tuesday 4 x 400, Wednesday 2 m run, Thursday rest, Friday rest, Saturday 2 m run, Sunday 26.2

Of course this is not going to work out as I don't fancy running a track workout after work, a 9:00 PM (are the lights even on?). We'll see.

It has been a rather eventful couple of weeks. The Florida trip took quite a bit out of me and I've been feeling off since my return. Running has been alright and I've managed, only just, to avoid disaster as things wind down. Disaster?

I have a bad habit of doing something nasty to one of my ankles two weeks before a marathon. Since this has happened three times and this will be my third marathon I can say with 100% certainty that this is part of my training ritual. Badly rolled ankle descending Tiger Summit before Portland, slashed ankle before Seattle Rock N Roll (broken glass in a garbage bag I was taking out), and this time?

LAST weekend I had to do myself an injury. It was one of those days where my shoes just didn't want to fit right and I ended up with an inflamed tendon going up the front of my ankle (I basically ran the last three miles with my shoe untied to keep the pressure off). To make matters worse I managed to drop a board right on the tendon while cleaning. Ankle blew up a bit. And then there was the severe nipple chaffing that went on because of the humidity and generally warm air but the less said about that the better. Not the worst 18.5 miler I've had but it came close. Certainly the most embarrassing . . .

All flipping week I have been worried about my ankle. I've been icing, resting, not running so much, etc.. Bought a new pair of shoes (needed to anyway but). Nothing I did was taking the soreness away and I was beginning to think that I had actually broken it. ARGH! Wouldn't that be typical?

Started off this past Saturday with my shoe loosely tied and with a different lacing type. It hurt going downhill. Oh how it hurt and I thought that I would not be getting very far. S$#t! Stopped, took off my shoe, and massaged the tendon. The pain went away. OK. Put my shoe back on and started running. Pain came back. S$#t! S$#t! OK, now what? Idea. Roll my sock down. BINGO!!!! The tops of my sock was compressing the tendon and making it sore. This explains why I've been having some much trouble this week. No pain! No soreness! No nothing! Duh! Ah, err, I am so relieved. Just have to make sure that my socks don't come up much beyond the top of the shoe. That and put bandaids on my nipples.

Ran the inaugural Top Pot 5K as a tune-up this weekend. Ran out there, raced, and ran home after skipping the complementary donut. The race went really well and it felt nice to cut loose a bit. Came in 518 out of 2243 runners in 26:25. Would have been fast but this was such a crowded field and I had to stop and retrieve my Garmin just before the finish because another runner's elbow hit the quick release and it went flying. Ah well. A solid 8:30 performance.

Of course, somehow, between the time I registered on Saturday afternoon and the race I managed to switch from being a male runner to a female runner. This happens every time I submit a hand written registration.

Lots of stuff to finish before heading down to Eugene on Friday. Taking the train. Sure hope that they have WiFi on board.

I'll be wearing 1265 next week.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It could have been worse but . . .

I am so glad to be home.

Of course I am currently missing my Garmin running watch, my newest pair of running shoes, two pairs of running shorts, two technical T's, clothes for the four days I was at the conference, a dress shirt, my water bottle, a book, and a mess of conference materials not to mention my laptop power cord extension. Frontier Airlines assures me that all of this will be arriving on the 8:00 flight from Denver. It should have arrived with me at 2:00 but then I didn't get in until almost 5:00.

This has certainly been a long, eventful (not in a good way), and tiring day.

Woke up at 4:00 AM Orlando time to get a 5:00 shuttle to MCO. No problems. The lobby was filled with bleary-eyed students, many of whom had been up all night at the closing dance and then (for some) homework. Big bus pulled up and we filled it to the gills. Student sitting next to me was whining and whinging about being tired before falling asleep, snoring very loudly, and then starting to drool. I concentrated on looking out the window at all of the malls we went by in the predawn darkness.

Got to the airport and went as fast as I could to find the Frontier counter to get my boarding passes and drop off my bag. Good thing too as the woman who ended up behind me was holding the line for 13 other people. One guy was working the counter and had to deal with a bunch of nursing students whose bags were overweight because of their textbooks. Took a while and another check-in agent to get the line moving. Went away from the counter towards the security line and . . .

stopped. Just stopped.

Security area was just nuts and there was a TSA guy trying to get people into 4 lines that funneled into one entry point. "Keep space between the lines! Four separate lines!" he kept on saying. Note to the TSA: how about actually putting the lines on the carpet if you need this to be the case. The visual cue might help. All lanes were open though and things went fast once I got into the main line. People were muttering and grumbling though and, OH, the smell of unwashed socks was breathtaking.

Found the gate, got some coffee, sat down to do some email, boarded the flight to Denver and took off. Cool.

Half way through the flight we had a medical emergency but, fortunately, there were lots of nurses, trainee nurses, and at least one doctor on board and the person seemed to be alright. She was escorted off the plane by a paramedic when we landed and then taken off on a gurney.

That is when the real fun began.

I am not so sure that the merger between Frontier and Midwest is going all that well and, judging from my experiences in Denver itself, there are some real organizational problems.

Unannounced gate change in Denver along with an unexplained delay, the reader board showed a 1:00 departure instead of 12:10. OK, I walked around a bit and then settled down in the rather chaotic boarding area (it is wall-to-wall people and just feels cramped). Another medical emergency right there (the paramedics were certainly busy today). 1:00 came around and there was no airplane. The crew showed up but still no plane. Finally it showed up and we boarded. And then we sat . . .

For 2.5 hours we sat.

Some problem with the bags. One passenger was called off the plane and interviewed on the jetway about something or other. Lots of thumping around underneath and no indication of what was going on. Finally, an announcement, something wrong with the luggage. They had to take it off and re-screen. There were TSA people all over the tarmac speaking meaningfully into their radios and cell phones. This went on and one in 15-minute increments. At least we were able to get up and move around AND they serviced the lavatories. They were just about to bring on some more catering (and more drinking water) but the pilot got word that we were cleared and after hearing that the bags had been replaced we buttoned up and after taxiing interminably were in the air.

Pretty bumpy and grumpy flight. One of the lavatories went down and there wasn't much to eat or drink. Missed meetings, connections, and shuttle services (my seat mate was worried that she wouldn't get back to Camano Island). Another woman behind me was having claustrophobia problems while we were waiting. The Flight Attendant was getting progressively snippy and ended the flight sitting rather sullenly in the jump seat after having disappeared into the galley with her make-up bag. She made some comments to other passengers that were what I would consider to be rather rude and inexcusable.

The view of Mount Ranier was amazing, a real welcome home that made all the foregoing mess OK.

Then I got to carousel #7 to wait for my bag. Talked with another passenger out here for a job interview while waiting for the bags to come out. The carousel started, bags started coming off, and then . . . nothing. The other passenger looked at me and I him, we both shook out heads, and headed over to the lost luggage counter. That took a while.

I took a cab home (expensive but fast).

I just cannot figure out what went wrong today.

It could be that there was some sort of security problem, hence the TSA reaction. It could have been that the bag counting and tracking systems for Frontier and Midwest Airlines did not mesh correctly (there was some excited whispering about this by the DEN ground crew). I don't know.

What I DO know is that given the choice I won't be flying either airline again. I realize that a fair amount of this might have been beyond the airline's control but it was the reactions of their personnel that were fairly off-putting. It was almost like all the apologies made were simply empty words going over a shrug as if to say "It happened, it's not our fault, get over it." I cannot remember a day of flying where I heard so many people on and off the aircraft speaking so negatively and so angrily about the way that a situation was handled. I suspect, also, that barring terrorist threats, rather a lot of this WAS the result of a cascade of decisions made about airline processes. "Just get over it" is not an appropriate attitude to take given the impact that this failure cascade had. I got off rather lightly by comparison to the missing luggage containing job interview clothes, the missed connection that was going to stop grandparents from meeting their grandchild.

It's 9:17 PM, the Frontier Baggage Office at SeaTac is open from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM and then from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM.

Addendum: 9:31 PM—Frontier called. They will drop the bag at my front door tonight. Driver has a lot of deliveries to make. It is either this or waiting until who knows when tomorrow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Epcotus Interruptus

Hee! Hee!

I got in "trouble" this morning on my run this morning.

My plan was to run from the Dolphin out to Epcot Center, that distinctive dome that I always see in the pictures of WDW. Silly me. Epcot Center is acreage rather than just a building.

So off I went. It was actually kind of chilly with a wind out of the ENE that raised some goose flesh. Dawn was not a hint at this hour and the moon shone clearly through a light haze. The birds were just starting their morning noise. The only signs of human activity were the various "cast members" and "crews" driving into work, the early morning hotel staff quietly going about their business, and a single runner sitting in the lobby thoughtfully drinking a glass of water and waiting, I presume, for her running buddies. Off I went, forcing myself to go slow and following paths and signs towards Epcot. Found the correct path and had to go over a fence (first clue I ignored) and then started picking my way along what looked like a path. The I heard "Excuse Me!" (very loud) and I stopped and turned to see a security guard hurrying my way. "You can't be in here yet. The Park is not open." "This is the Park!!!?" I said. "Yes" he replied. I apologized, said that I thought that "Epcot was over there", and headed back the way I came only a little embarrassed. You see, it didn't look like a park . . .

Finished the run by hitting some of the areas that I have been running over the past couple of days and then headed back to the hotel for a shower, and left-over pizza for breakfast.

First panel of the day was packed. The Magic Kingdom was open last night for PTK members until 2:00 AM and, judging from the droopy eyes, most of the students and faculty had gone. But there were there, ready with questions about the upcoming honors study topic. I am impressed. They acquitted themselves much better than faculty and grad students do on the first session on the last day of a conference (in my experience it is generally the presenters talking to one or two folks).

One more panel this afternoon (I am skipping the convention part this morning, the noise, crowd, and intensity is too much for me) and I'll catch up with my students and TLF work. Planning on one more run this afternoon/evening, through Epcot Center of course, and then more work. Early shuttle tomorrow and a long day of flying.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


One of the keynote speakers today, the accomplished Dr. Sanjay Gupta, put his finger right on the oddity of this place. Making a speech on the Democratization of Information before 3570-odd Phi Theta Kappans busily enjoying themselves at Walt Disney World after having just spent the past few months in Haiti and reporting from West Virginia makes for a decidedly jarring transition.

Mine hasn't been that jarring but I am acutely away of the ir-reality of this resort. No, a pleasure dome, for it is all built on a monumental scale (about the only unpleasant thing is all the smoking that goes on). So here I am, writing by the pool, as the sun begins to set and the evenings frolicking begins at the bar. Two Mallards have claimed the pool as their own, much to the amusement of the last few diehard, prune-handed children. Everything is clean, orderly, and polite and you have to look very hard to find imperfection. After all the guest have gone to bed even the pool area will be magically cleansed in preparation for the next day.

Where am I and what am I doing?

Thanks to the determination of the folks in Student Services at TLF I am attending the annual International Phi Theta Kappa Convention in Orlando (technically at the WDW Dolphin Resort which is 15-20 miles out of Orlando or the airport). And actually, I am really excited to be here. Excited at the exuberance of all the students and advisors. This is a big deal. I have been advising for about a year and this is the first time that I have been getting a clear picture of what this is all about. Useful. This is the best thing that I can say about the conference part of it, although I will say that all of the eagerly lapped up platitudes about leadership are bit hard to take. The convention part of it, all of the yelling, screaming, and carrying on and the tedium of voting for officers I can probably do without (my ears are still ringing from today's exertions). GVB will attest, I just don't know how to have fun at these things.

But this hyperreality is hard to get over. Really hard.

You can see it in the deference of the staff under the guise of "custom care" or whatever it is called, the immaculate nature of everything, and the fact of isolation. This is a planned community in the first sense and it is possible to walk hither and yon (I've been discouraged from doing so as there is a lack of connecting paths, better to take the WDW buses from place to place if you lack a car). I am not trying to be snarky or dismissive. There is no irony here, this is an intentionally constructed simulacra of the real world, an escape.

So far, I've managed two short runs. The first, a 4-miler early yesterday morning, began with me stumbling around in the dark trying to find my way literally when the sidewalk ended and the road disappeared into a tunnel. I ended up cutting through a resort and found a canal path that took me out to a movie studio theme park. No one was around save for the random guest running or walking and the park workers getting ready for the day. It was just me and the wake up sounds of this patch of Florida. Birds (Mynah birds?), rabbits, and even a fox. Everything was tidy though, even this wildlife seemed like interlopers. I managed to see a wart too. A rat trap tucked into the underbrush that screened off a swampy area. Today's was a quick and very hot lunch-time run in the two-hour break I had between a opening session and talk/panel with Rachel Maddow and the afternoon's sessions. 80 degrees as I ran 3.19 miles in an attempt to circumnavigate the resort complex. In this I was not successful as, well, the pavement ended. I came in dripping and overheated with just enough time to shower, grab a quick bit, and get back to the fun. 5 feet of elevation gain on both runs. This place is flat. So flat that I can see forever from my hotel room and count cellphone towers as they set with the sun.

This is all very (expensive) fun but I will be glad to get home where a flat run means nothing less than 100 feet of climbing (unless you count Green Lake). Of course, the reality of my work keeps intruding (as it should) but, for at least one more day, I'll enjoy this.

Oh yeah . . .

AR "Yes" It is possible to get a pinot grigio here but I haven't a clue as to its quality. I have to say that the Whiskey Sour that I was able to get a few sips before it was demolished by an out of control toddler learning to walk was "Meh"—and it was made with Johnny Walker Red.