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Enrich your life with family and friends who will be there for you in good times and bad.   Meb Keflezigh et al., Run to Overcome

I had to fly to Minnesota in October for a 6-hour meeting.  Loathsome was the idea of the travel days, yet the silver lining was the opportunity to catch up with Tweep Kat and her husband, Marcus.

Definition Tweetup: When two or more people from Twitter meet up, usually for socializing usually involving the consumption of food or in some rare special occasions, beverages.

In the odd confusing world that is social media, Kat is a tweep most dear.   She has a down to earth, joie de vire that just makes her a delight to be around.  She also is the author of  Tenaciously Yours, a blog which among many other things every Friday features Kat’s latest culinary creations.  As much as I detest the practice of defining a person in terms of another person (e.g.  Julie is Karen’s mother), Marcus, despite being cool in his own indefinable way, can best be described as the perfect life-mate for Kat.

Air travel these days being like an old, mishandled box of chocolates,  you never know what you are going to get, but the downside risk exceed the upside.  I contemplated all the options to get from Southern California to Minneapolis.  The smartest choice was to drive to LAX and fly to Minneapolis directly.   There was also an option to fly out of Orange Country airport through Denver.  The day would be longer, but there wouldn’t be that annoying drive to LAX, the worst major airport in the civilized world.

Side Note: All travel is about risk mitigation.  Carry bags  mitigate the risk of a lost luggage.  Direct flights mitigate the risk of missed connections.   One never wants to have unnecessary legs without a good reason, especially in winter months.

Every major petty decision in life requires a tweet.  As I was deciding how to get to Minnesota,  another valued Tweep/blogger, Piper Bayard offered to drive out to the  airport for a quick tweetup should I decide to fly through Denver.  I would also describe Piper as unique. She and I are different on many levels, yet we seem to resonate on the same frequency, if you understand what I mean.  I think that’s more a function of her nature than it is of mine. She is a recovering lawyer and now author of two items on my Kindle, the book Firelands and a very imaginative piece in the Risky Brides collection of novels and novellas.  Both books are available on Amazon.

I had to think about Piper’s offer for a few days, weighing the unnecessary risks of flight delays and the potential delays related to clearing security in Denver.  Having made the commitment with Kat and Marcus upon my arrival in Minneapolis, I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk being late.  After I finished over thinking it , I simplified it down to , “someone was willing to come out and see me at the airport, I should be grateful”.   And with that, I scheduled two tweetups within 5 hours of each other in two separate states. “Crazy Making” is what my wife refers to this desire to fit as much into as little time as possible.

With Author Piper Bayard in Denver Airport
With Author Piper Bayard in Denver Airport

The flight from Santa Ana to Denver went off without a hitch.  I caught up with Piper for tea.   We had about an hour to catch up on her recent travels, having teenagers, being children of the 60’s in the modern world.   We also talked about an upcoming book that she and her partner Jay Holmes  are writing involving a special protagonist. Before we knew it, we were taking the requisite selfies and saying goodbye… for now.

The flight to Minneapolis was also unremarkable and I quickly found the location of our tweetup.   I was an hour early so at Kat’s advice I took a walk down to the Mississippi River.

One of a Dozen Pictures of Trees I took in Minneapolis
One of a Dozen Pictures of Trees I took in Minneapolis

It was a short 10 minute walk toward the river and I marveled at the turning leaves in the neighborhood. It was important to me to see the Mississippi again.  In my life have seen or crossed the Mississippi river at ground level in 6 of the 10 states it flows through, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee , Iowa, Illinois and Louisiana.  I don’t think I will ever forget looking up at the Mississippi river when I was in New Orleans.

The Mighty Mississipi in the North
The Mighty Mississippi River in the North, “when it is still clean” as Marcus pointed out.

I met up with Kat and Marcus at the designated eatery.   The place was a clear winner from a food perspective as it had good beer, fried veggies, and cheeseburgers with the cheese contained within the burger (and they think Everything’s up to date in Kansas City!).

The Cheese was inside the burger
The Cheese was inside the burger

I think social media confuses my brain.  I hadn’t seen Kat and Marcus in over a year, yet through tweets, Facebook and Instagram, it felt like just a couple of weeks, although that could just be the whole life moving faster thing.   We caught up on the things one doesn’t necessarily tweet or post about and shared a meal and a beverage.   It was just good to be around them again.

Post Tweetup Pic with Kat and Marcus
Post Tweetup Pic with Marcus and Kat

 Accomplish something every day and give thanks for the ability to do it. ~ Run to Overcome

After leaving the two coolest people in Minnesota (and possibly all the mid-West), I headed for my Holiday Inn Express in Chanhassen.   I checked in a very  comfy, clean (sterile) and spacious room.  After calling home to check in and putting all the devices to charge, the available options were to check email or watch TV.

There is an emptiness about being in a chilly hotel room when there is nothing left to do in the day, not even eat.   It’s what I call a “now what do I do?” moment.  The feeling of being alone is magnified ten-fold when there is nothing to get done and there are no travel companions to hang out with.  I suspect there is a madness that comes from being in that place for too long.

I sat in the comfy hotel chair with just a single light on in the room and put The Dream Academy’s Life in a Northern Town on repeat (see video below).  I thought about the people I was lucky enough to catch up with today, both at home and on the road.  I thought about the role some of these dear and other people on Twitter hold in my life.  There’s that lady in Scotland, and that guy who just ran his first NY marathon following his multiple hip surgeries.  He has a new girlfriend and she’s a Yankee fan! There is that one lady who recovered from cancer and the one training for the marathon in a few days.  There’s that doctor in Canada, trying to match up for a residency and that other Canadian lady who after finishing her P.h.D. married and just had a baby.  Then there is that certain one in Bahrain and the newlywed who married that special lawyer, FINALLY!  These are all real people and their stories and struggles are better than anything television can dream up.  In social media as in life, there are opportunities that one lets pass by and those one creates time to share a beverage with.

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13

I ran 13+miles today.   Because of calf and knee problems, I haven’t run 13 in the last six months and very few times in the months prior.

I am a Marathoner and I will not be stopped
I am a Marathoner and I will not be stopped

Not lost on me is the fact that this Veteran’s day weekend  marks a year since all these problems started,  during mile 4 of the Santa Barbara Marathon.    After the race, I couldn’t walk and spent the next week on crutches.   I couldn’t run on my right knee for about 45 days after that.

By late January, I was back on the road, able to slowly run a half marathon, but not able to run consistently.

Totally Faking It
Faking it (kind of) last January, during a Disney Half.

In April I ran the Black Mountain trail run and my calf cramped up about 1/3 the way into the difficult 9 mile trail.   Then later that month I willed myself through the beautiful Big Sur Marathon.

Since then, I’ve been impatiently healing.    I’ve tried running with little success and my tennis game has been limited by what movements my knee will and will not make.  Some nights, I haven’t been able to bend down to pick up the tennis balls, let alone stay low to hit groundstrokes.

But I started running again last month.  It hasn’t gone too well.  I’ve had shin and knee problems with all my musculature being out of whack.

I’ve tried to limit my runs to 3 to 5 miles max with time to recover in between.  I used to hate 3 miles runs, because they weren’t long enough for the requisite shower afterwards.   Now I am grateful to be able to run at all.

So much is made in running about always getting better and only competing with yourself.  My truth is that I am not as good as I was a year ago, but I am damn sure better than I was nine months ago.

My tennis legs were really strong and fast last Friday.  I didn’t really recognize myself.   Today I went out for my 3 to 5 mile run and again, my legs were strong and my cardio was better than it had been in quite a while, so I kept going.   At the end of mile 6, I stopped for an ice tea and a bagel, mostly because I didn’t bring water or gels for what should have been a short run.   After I came out from my break, I had a choice between running into the hills of Yorba Linda or taking the easier, flat 3 mile run home.   I chose the former and was so very glad I did. I hadn’t taken hills that easily in years.

Chris Rock was on Saturday Night Live a weekend ago and he commented that the marathon distance of 26.2 miles is a long way to drive, let alone run.  Truth be told, the first prerequisite to running a marathon is the belief that one can run a marathon.  That first prerequisite being met, one must have the proper equipment to handle demands that 26.2 miles puts on the body.

I only ran 13+ miles today, but I believe that had I brought gels, water and eaten breakfast, these legs could have taken me 20 miles easily.  If the good Lord never gives me another day like today, I will be disappointed, but I will always be grateful for today.

13

A Morning of Mourning

Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a hockey jersey, I sat out in the morning air waiting for the sunrise.  I gave myself that hour before I would wake up my family and give them the news.

One of my earliest memories was my dad driving us down the Long Island Expressway on a cold, dark, night in the late 1960s.   My half-sister, Liz was sitting on the middle (hump) of the back seat of the black Cadillac and I had my feet up against the side of the car and my head rested in her lap  (that tells you how little I was).  I laid there as Liz stroked my hair, comforting me.  It had been a long day and I was “little kid” tired.  I remember dark sky discolored by the reflections of the lights bouncing off the snow laden clouds and then I fell asleep.
As I sat reflecting this morning, I checked my iTunes and couldn’t find the Doors, so I had to go to Spotify to put “Waiting for the Sun” on repeat.  I thought about the lady I sat next to last Friday on a flight from Minneapolis to Denver.  She told me of the medical problems that her son had since birth.   I told her about little man with the beautiful smile we lost to cancer back in 2010. Then  I told her about Liz and her bout with cancer.  I told her of the aggressive tumor and how my father, now in his late 80’s was taking her for chemo.  It was the first time I really spoke about Liz’s condition.  This lady’s compassion for my father was striking.
Probably 15 years ago, after not seeing Liz for quite a number of years, I stayed over at my Dad’s house.  Liz was always an early riser and I found her sitting on the side of my bed waking me up to ask me if I was a Christian.  Dazed, I remember telling her, “I’m a good little Catholic boy”.  Christ was very important to Liz.

I woke up early this morning about 4:45am like someone had simultaneously turned on all the lights in the house.  I got up and made my way to the living room.  I had called my dad a few times yesterday to check on Liz but wasn’t able to reach him.  She was hospitalized after an infection set in following her last chemo.  I knew my half-brother had headed to see Liz, so I sent him a message on WhatsApp before I went to bed.   This morning there was a message from him at 2:56am saying that “Liz passed away just now“.

I went outside to feel the cool air on my skin.  I negotiated with myself for a while, but once it was irrefutable that  the sun was up, I went in and told my wife.   Then we told my daughter.  That was when I lost it.   We just saw Liz less than a month ago on a visit to New York. We arrived just after she completed a chemo session, so we didn’t want to stay to long, but we got to say hello, or goodbye as it turns out. I had to go into work today, not out of any obligation, but I needed something to focus on and focus I did though I found myself struggling with my role as a half-sibling.  I struggled with the memories that came back.   Siblings, you know them your (or their) entire life.  

My wife checked in on me later in the day.   Last week I saw a really neat card about Angels being all around us.   I picked it up and made a point to mail it to my daughter before leaving for the airport.   Was it coincidence that the angel card arrived on the day Liz died?   It just reminded me that everything happens according to God’s plan, and even when we don’t know, we know.

Rest in Peace Elizabeth Marie Herrera.

A Morning of Mourning

The Summer of ’69

It’s could have been what is happening in Gaza, maybe I heard Brian Adam’s “Summer of ’69” at the gym yesterday or maybe it was this weeks episode of NYMed. I am not sure exactly what stream of consciousness brought me to flash on memories of the New York bombing in the summer 1969.

I was but a little kid, but I remember my fear after seeing the news stories. I remember kids talking about it on the playground at kindergarten and adults not talking about it all when kids were around. I distinctly remember thinking that the bombings were in New York City and not on Long Island, where I was, so I was safe. I, like much of America was afraid that summer.

As I did some research last night, it turns out that today, coincidentally marks the 45th anniversary of the first of eight bombing starting with the United Fruit Company warehouse at the Grace Pier on the Hudson River. Samuel Melville was convicted of setting those bombs between July 27 and November 12. Melville was sentence to 13 to 18 years and was killed during the Attica prison riots 1971.   Could you imagine a guy blowing up 8 buildings including The Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre Street and getting less than 20 years?

The New York Times reported that,

The 1969 bombings were part of a wave of similar episodes across the nation that spurred fear and anxiety. (One study found that from January 1969 to October 1970, there were about 370 bombings — most of them minor — in New York, an average of more than one every other day.

The hearing, part of an investigated led Senator John L. McClellan, Democrat of Arkansas, concluded that from January 1969 to April 1970, the United States sustained 4,330 bombings — 3,355 of them incendiary, 975 explosive — resulting in 43 deaths and $21.8 million in property damage. “

I remember my mom once told me that a bomb went off near her when she was getting out of a cab near Penn Station.  I didn’t want to believe her; I wanted her to be lying.

On this day there are more children living amid bombings.  All I can do today is send prayer out on their behalf and hope that they live lives where they just don’t remember or at best vaguely remember this horrible period in their history, the way I vaguely remember the New York bombings in mine.

The Summer of ’69

The Center of Your Universe

Here’s the thing, when the world gets to be too much

I imagine it as a bubble collapsing tightly around me.

I won’t get  claustrophobic because inside the bubble is the universe of my mind

which is boundless.

The problem with being in a boundless universe of a mind is that it is so very easy to get lost.

That’s why we need an anchor:  A person that mirrors where the center of your universe is.

Our center is where our beliefs vibrate as true and all the other belief systems (BS) just fade away.

When you are at your center, you know it.  It vibrates true at just the right frequency.

You see truth and you see that which is false.

There is so much false.

 

May you find your center and may it be a peaceful and simple place.

The Center of Your Universe

Billy Joel at the Hollywood Bowl

Evening readers. I am here at the Hollywood Bowl with my lovely wife, waiting for 65-year old, Billy Joel to come on stage and perform.

It’s a beautiful night in LA and the sun is setting on the opening act, Gavin Degraw.

It’s been almost 30 years to the month since the last time I saw Billy Joel live and I am stoked.

Getting Ready for the Show
Getting Ready for the Show.  Note the Hollywood Sign in the Hills

Have a great Memorial Day weekend people. Keep it peaceful and simple.

Billy Joel at the Hollywood Bowl

Race Review: XTERRA Black Mountain 16K Trail Run 2014

Summary: Good event.  Difficult climbs and descents.  Single Track running, so be able to keep up.

Key Information

Race Name XTERRA Black Mountain Trail
Location Black Mountain Regional Park in the northern San Diego
Elevation Profile Lots of Hills both big and small
Organization Excellent
Terrain Trail.   Some of it single track early in the race
Water Stations Enough, but carrying water and gels
Highlights The scenery
Other Events 5K
Good for Beginners? Neither the 5K  nor the 16K are good for beginners because of the steep hills.

Introduction

I have wanted to run this race for about 4 years now.  Unfortunately, my favorite trail race, the Mission Gorge Trail Run is always about 3-4 weeks prior to this event and I have never really wanted to make the drive down to San Diego on consecutive months (how un-California of me).

This training cycle in preparation for the Big Sur Marathon did not according to plan.  Most of the preparation races I planned on running were either cancelled due to weather or I skipped because of injury or family commitments.   Just three weeks before this race knee/calf problems forced me to limp home 3 miles into a long run. The most I had run was a quarter-mile down the block, just days before this race.  I had concerns, but I knew this 9+ mile race would be a good test for me.  If I couldn’t finish, I shouldn’t even try the more difficult Big Sur Marathon two weeks later.

Elevation Profile
My mistaken perception of this race was that it was flat with a pretty intense downhill the first few miles and a bear of a hill at the end.   I was right about the beginning and the end.   Even looking at the graphic below, I didn’t fully appreciate how many rolling hills there were during the 16 kilometers.

The 16K Elevation Profile
The 16K Elevation Profile

The Trail

San Diego trails are beautiful, let’s get that clear right off the bat.  If you have the opportunity, you should try to run them. As we took off out of the gate I was remembered how much I love running on God’s unpaved roads.

The First Quarter Mile
The First Quarter Mile

The first mile of the race was a bit crowded, but in a good way.  Trail runners are fun and delightful.  They tend to be a little more tuned in to their surroundings, mostly because we are all conscious of the trail and where our next footfall should land.

Single Track, Keep Up or Step to the Side
Single Track, Downhill.  Keep Up or Step to the Side

The race turned quickly to single track.  This meant falling into line with the other runners and running about 2 minutes/mile faster than I had intended for the first two miles or so.   Luckily, the knee and the calf felt great!  This stretch of pack running was probably the highlight of the race for me.    I thought of my friend SugarMagnolia during this part of the race, as she had trepidation during the downhills of Mission Gorge.   I smiled as I recalled showing her how to run down the hills Gagnam Style.  I missed my running buddy that day.

IMG_4313
Hills with Awesome Trails

At Mile 3, we had to make a transition from trail through a community and back onto the trail.  It was there, that my right calf, for lack of a better term charlie-horsed and locked up tighter than a Miser’s wallet.  Unfortunately, I was running down a steep hill at this point.  If you have ever seen a baseball player stain a quad or a calf as they ran down the first baseline, that was what I looked like running down this hill. I hobbled off the tail and ended up rolling my calf with a huge rock.  Most of the race passed me while I tried to work this out.

HILL!
Lonely at the back of the pack

With six miles ahead of me, I kept going.  I sure as hell wasn’t going to wait for Search & Rescue to give me a ride back to the start line.

Pretty much the rest of the race looked like the image above.  There were two runners ahead of me and I hobbled after them the best I could.   I passed the guy in front of me at the top of a hill after about a mile.    The runner you see going up the hill, well I chased her all the way to the end.  I was able to get within 15 feet of her at mile 6, but I never caught her.

What I thought was the River Crossing (above) and What Actually was the crossing (Below)
What I thought was the River Crossing (above) and What The River Crossing Actually was  (Below)

My wife and I have a running joke that it’s not a real XTERRA race if your feet don’t get wet.  I knew there was a river crossing, and when I came across it, I was a little bit disappointed.  I put my foot in the mud as a symbolic gesture.   About a mile up the road, I came to the real river crossing, which was about 17 inches deep and took about 4 strides to get through.   My feet were soaked, but I was happy to partake of the ceremonial bathing of the feet.

The Hill at the End
The Hill at the End and the Runner I had been Chasing

The hill at the end of the run was an absolute bear.  I felt my age and my lack of training. The race crew had announced that due to some new development near the park they had to reroute the race at the end so rather than the steep quad-killing hill at the end, there was an even more steep, quad-killing hill.   I just kept telling myself that it was good warm up for Big Sur, which would have similar hills.

My calf hurt and my quads were exhausted; I swear I checked my Garmin every 50 to 75 feet.  Normally on a steep hill like that, I will sometimes walk backwards to get some relief, but my calf wouldn’t support me walking uphill backwards. I tried to sprint near the end, but truth is I hobbled across the finish line.

Finished!
Finished!

I consider myself neither a fast runner nor a particularly good one.  What I am is stubborn with boarderline pig-headed tendencies.   My conditioning is the poorest it’s been in a few years.  This race was humbling.   The fact that I hadn’t run much in the weeks leading up to it was a small consolation.

After the race I caught up with the woman who I had been chasing for 6 miles.   Turns out she saw me rolling my calf at mile 3 and I was motivating her to keep going,  Apparently she didn’t want to be passed by the guy hobbling the race.   I guess that was good to know.

One could also look at this race and say, that for the second time in a month, I couldn’t complete a 3 mile run without calf problems.  I would ignore such a person.   It’s important to state goals and tasks clearly.   I told myself that if I finished this race, I was going to run Big Sur.   I finished the race with some minor problems, but I finished.   Life is always going to bring us problems.  There will always be limitations, some external, some internal.  What are you going to do?  Wait for Search & Rescue to bring you home?

XTerra Black Mountain Trail Run
Press On
Race Review: XTERRA Black Mountain 16K Trail Run 2014