“American Beauty” has different meaning to different people. To a botanist, the words might bring to mind a hybrid crimson rose which is the official flower of our nation’s capital. Movie buffs might think of the 1999 Kevin Spacey film. As a Deadhead, the name American Beauty draws my heart and mind to that Grateful Dead Album of 1970 which features the standard radio performances of songs like Box of Rain, Truckin’, Friend of the Devil, and the song that inspired me to learn the guitar, Ripple.
When my favorite beer brewer, Dogfishhead announced early in the year that they would be crafting a tribute beer to the Grateful Dead named American Beauty, I got jump up and down excited. Dogfish Head is an off-center brewing company in Delaware that over the years has developed an amazing portfolio of flavor-filled beers. Dogfish Head’s owner Sam Calagione explains a bit more about American Beauty in the video below.
There are big problems with living in California and being in love with beers manufactured in Delaware. The success of the relationship depends on a network of distributors to deliver the products to my area. This at times, becomes like waiting for the pony express to deliver a letter from a loved one across a treacherous, bandit-filled desert, I know something is due, but I’m never surprised when it doesn’t show up.
The beer was originally supposed to release on October 2. I waited for months and went into favorite beer store, Total Wine and More on that day just touch bases with the always helpful staff to get a feel for when the beer might be on the shelves. I revisited the store for several weeks and was delighted when they reported the first bottles were available in Fulsom, CA. I figured it would be days and the beer would be in stock. Days turned into weeks, and finally a month passed. After about a month the pony express isn’t delivering.
About a week or so ago, I checked in on Foursquare and reported that I was giving up on my search for American Beauty. Dogfish Head responded to the message by asking me to check their Fish Finder on their website to identify which of their local distributors had the product delivered in the last 60 days. There were deliveries in my area, but a few quick phone calls revealed that the inventory was gone. On Wednesday, I received a direct message from Total Wine & More telling me, “No defeatist attitudes! Look on the bright side – maybe someone saw your tweet and has something special for you today“. Sure enough, some kind person, a fellow craft brew lover, had three bottles of American Beauty delivered to my local store. Delight abounded.
I opened the first bottle last night. This IPA was so very worth the wait. The flavors rolled over my palate and tongue exposing taste buds that I didn’t know existed in my mouth. It has a smokey, hoppy flavor that was rich, smooth and amazing. I can’t say that I could tell there was granola in the mix, but there was a definite earthy quality to it. This was and extraordinary beer that was an experience to drink and sad to finish. Luckily, there are two more bottles.
One of the two remaining bottles are going with me to Big Sur for after the marathon. The third will have to be shared with a friend who will appreciate it as much as I do. Any takers?
It was the best of races, it was the worst of races.
Two different marathons, two very different experiences.
The San Francisco Marathon ended at AT&T park where the Giants play. The LA Marathon started high on a hill at Dodgers Stadium.
The San Francisco Marathon, though hilly was a fun and joyous experience. The Los Angeles Marathon was a 26.2 mile crowded grind from start to finish.
San Francisco started in waves. LA started in one crowded mob that never seemed to thin out.
San Francisco was an easy 26 mile run where nothing hurt. In LA, I was four days recovered from a stomach bug and at mile 7, it came back. For 19 mile, I felt nauseous every time I drank water or put anything solid on my stomach.
In San Francisco, this old hippy raced toward upon the corner of Haight and Ashbury and danced to the Grateful Dead. In LA, I came to Hollywood and Vine as the Doors played in my head. I was disappointed that I couldn’t get both signs (Hollywood and Vine) in the same photograph.
The San Francisco Marathon had a really cool medal. The LA Marathon had a smaller medal with a tacky green glass shamrock in the middle.
For running both races back-to-back, I was awarded the LA/SF Challenge Medal. It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit it, but the truth is, that the extra medal is why I signed up for the LA Marathon.
I had wanted to run the LA Marathon since I first saw it on TV back in 1987. I have checked that one off the list. I don’t really have a need to run that one again. I learned about San Francisco’s marathon about 3 hours before I signed up. I look forward to all the future opportunities I might have to run San Francisco again.
“And a beautiful world we live in, when it is possible, and when many other such things are possible, and not only possible, but done– done, see you!– under that sky there, every day.”
“Don’t Fight It” by Kenny Loggins and Steve Perry was pushing me through my run this morning. My mind wandered to a 1982 Saturday morning about 10am when the Warehouse music store across from the University of Nevada Las Vegas opened. Payday was the day before and I was at the store when it opened to buy Loggins’ “High Adventure”. I unwrapped the cassette and listened to “Don’t Fight it” in my 1965 Mustang as I drove home.
As I ran a little bit further this morning, I though about how buying music has changed.
The first CD I ever bought was the Grateful Dead’s “In The Dark”. I purchased that CD as well as a CD version of “Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits” from Lovell’s Record Store in Whittier, California in the summer of 1987. I had to take “In the Dark” to a friend’s house to listen as I didn’t yet have a CD player.
I remember a CD I purchased from Lovells in 1997, a month after my mother died. They say you can get any music you want at Lovells and within two days they found a particular CD of old Irish music that I had grown up listening to when it was just an LP.
In 1990, I purchased Paul Simon’s, “Rhythm of the Saints” at a Music Plus store about 2 miles from the home of the woman that is now my wife. We listened to the drums on that CD consistently all summer long. More often that not, if we take a long road trip, that CD still comes with us. The music has been part of our lives, but the actual CD has too.
When I was working on my MBA in 2006, there was a class discussion one day on whether or not there would be media even available for sale in 10 years. I am torn, I like to convenience of being able to download songs and sometimes albums; however there are some albums for which I just want the media.
Once the question of download or media is resolved for a particular CD (can you really call a CD a CD if it’s a download?) and the answer is buy the media, the question then turns to whether or not to purchase it on-line or in a store.
I still like buying CDs in the store. I like walking into a store and figuring out where that target is amongst all the other media. Then there’s that micro-second of joy that comes from finding THE CD. Then there’s the line up, the purchase transaction, the unwrap and the first playing. And there’s that joy for the rest of the month that comes from having that new CD in the car when I get in. Basically, what I am saying is that the experience that I had in 1982 is still a rush in 2012.
I don’t think there are ever any great memories associated with getting music in the mail. Guessing there weren’t memorable downloads either.
What do you think? Download or media? Buy on-line or in a store? Any great memories associated with downloading music?
As I look at my twitter stream today I have tweeps running races all over the world. Good luck to those running today in Long Beach, Portland, Atlanta, London, Chicago, Minneapolis, Maryland, and I am sure many other places as well.
For me, a big piece of running is my music, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s a long list, mostly because I’m a very slow runner of long distances.
I always start my races at the beginning of the playlist. Occasionally, when I want to change it up, I will start a weekly long run somewhere in the middle of the list. Songs are always played sequentially (none of that random stuff). Some of the songs are linked to their Youtube video in case you aren’t familiar with them.
Summer of 1991 was a memorable for a great many reasons reasons.
That year that Queen released the song “These are the Days of Our Lives”. I remember exactly which street I was driving on, what radio station I was listening to and all the circumstances around that weekend. It was a special song at a transitional time in my life. I carry that song and the feelings associated with that first musical experience to this day.
Another thing that I carry from that summer is a line from a Robert Subby book that I was reading about 5am one Saturday morning. The line went,
“If you are what you do, then you don’t, then you aren’t.”
I highlighted the words in blue and I had to reread them several times before I really got it.
Subby was speaking to our tendency to define ourselves in terms of one thing. For me, I was about my job. For others it was about being someone’s parent or someone’s significant other. For some it’s about defining themselves as that thing they want to be.
Those definitions are ephemeral. I can lose my job, my child can move away, my significant other can die… then what am I? Who am I when that which I use to define myself ceases?
So 20+ years later I find myself ( in alphabetical order) as an asthmatic, a bad-joke maker, a blogger, a brother, a Business Development guy, a California resident, Catholic, a chemist, a Chopin listener, a cousin, a fan of old country music, a deadhead, a diet coke drinker, a dog lover, an early riser, an English major, father, a guitar player, half Colombian, half-Irish a half-marathoner, a hockey fan, an eater of frozen chocolate cake, a husband, an INFP, a kale eater, a 30 year wearer of K-Swiss tennis shoes, a lacrosse junkie, a motorcycle rider, an MBA, New Yorker, a peludo, a pelado, a photograph taker, a poor proof-reader, a purple wearer, a recovering from Las Vegan, a rock climber, a runner, a son, a tennis player, a traveler, a twenty-four year employee, an uncle, a Whittier College Poet, Dr. Who and Yankees fan, and probably a few other things that I will remember once I push PUBLISH. None of these things define me, but in aggregate, perhaps you start to get a sense.
I feel the need to put some kind of picture of myself in this blog. Some type of self-image which represents all these pieces. These pieces have accumulated over 47 years. They could be considered fragments, broken pieces that fit together with some gaps. Alternatively they could be a set of appreciations developed over the first half of my life. Instead of a picture of myself, I will leave you with a video of Freddie Mercury.
I always knew that Freddy Mercury was a bit off-center, but I never really bothered to learn about him. I didn’t know he was gay nor did I care. I know he made some great music during the time we shared on this planet. He left me with songs that are strongly associated with more than a few times and places. He was a part of my life. He is gone but not forgotten.
So, how do you define yourself? Is it in terms of one thing or many? Is it in terms of things you do, you have or you want to be?
Should I be thinking more about retirement? Should I just keep doing what I’m doing? How the hell am I going to pay for The Child to go to college? I won’t bring up what the market did to educational savings plan? These questions are just too big.
It’s been 12 days since the marathon. Now What?
Do I sign up for another marathon? Do I stick with 13.1 mile races? I would like to get back to trail running. Perhaps it’s time to get back into cycling? That small bit of free-climbing I did at Yosemite felt amazing. Perhaps it’s time to break out the gear and go back to the rock-gym?
I haven’t run since the marathon. I had intended to take the first week off and recover. I felt fine about 5 days after the race and decided to play a few sets of tennis. As I started to hit, I was introduced to some very deep, very unhappy bone-hugging leg muscles. They were pissed! So I took another week off running.
The first 7 days back at work have been amazingly productive. Hell week at work has passed and now as the wake settles, there is smooth sailing until January. At home, I was much less productive. I haven’t done much and that’s a beautiful thing. The biggest to-do on my list is to dig up and replace an old sprinkler head – Mañana (doesn’t mean tomorrow, more like someday).
The highlight of my home-time was when I deleted all those old burdensome draft-mode blog posts and decimated my Facebook friends list. I started 3 different blog posts and hated and trashed them all too.
I have committed to leave my laptop at work during the entire month of August. When work can’t be brought home, life becomes simple. I think they call that relaxation. As a person who is frequently referred to as “high energy”, not much to do can quickly turn into stir-crazy.
Limbo. I’m feeling it. I have the Disneyland Half-Marathon in a few weeks and I am looking forward to that. I just haven’t started “training” for that race yet. It will be OK. It will be fun. Running should be fun. Besides, life’s too fricking short to race hard through Disneyland.
So August at home has been filled with a lot of reading, recovery, Yankees games and music. The start of August marks the passing of the Yankees’ Thurman Munson as well as the birth and passing of Jerry Garcia.
Jerry and the Dead are always with me in one form or another, especially when I run. There was at least an hour of Dead tunes during my marathon. It was a special feeling to have them singing in my ears as I ran through Haight Ashbury. I count my blessings that I am able to get out and run whenever I hear Jerry sing “Oh well a touch of gray, kinda suits you anyway”. It reminds me that life is short and that every day is a gift, kind of like those specially painted grey hairs.
Before the start of the marathon, I had about 5 different unusual events quickly sort themselves out. Some of them could have been problematic. The least of those worries that beautiful morning was that the first song in my running music somehow wasn’t on my mp3player. I am not going to bore you with the details/drama/panic, but let’s just say that for the first-time ever I started a race not to Thrillseeker by Puretone, but with my “waiting for the start of the race” song, “Sitting Here in Limbo, by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman”. I was probably the only runner singing his way through that first joyous mile.
I thought I would include a video of this song. Take a moment, will ya? Turn it up and feel the mandolin play. It will be good for your soul.
Did you listen?
So in a few verses, here’s where I’m at:
Sitting here in limbo Waiting for the dice to roll Sitting here in limbo Got some time to search my soul
Well, they’re Putting up resistance But I know that my faith Will lead me on
I don’t know where life will lead me But I know where I’ve been I can’t say what life will show me But I know what I’ve seen
Tried my hand At love and friendship But all that is passed and gone This little boy is moving on
Sitting here in limbo Waiting for the tide to flow
Sitting here in limbo Knowing that I have to go
Well they’re putting up resistance
But I know, my faith will lead me on.
So as the sun sets on day 17,189 of my time on this planet (I had Excel do the math), I find myself sitting here in Limbo in my backyard. There’s a great breeze here in limbo. I’ve got things to do, but like always, I will get to them; Mañana. I think tomorrow will bring a 35+ mile bike ride. Or it might not.
Big things, little things, it will all be alright. Just as spinning tops aren’t made for stopping, I am down to my very core, “Bound to Cover Just a Little More Ground”.
NOT FLAT! There is 1,738ft of climb and 1,738 ft. of decent.
Mostly Street. Five miles of bridge, and a small section on the sidewalk
More than enough. A number were stocked with a plentiful supply of GU.
Many including running along the Embarcadero, the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, the running by AT&T Park.
Munchkin run, a 5K and 2 half marathons
Good for Beginners?
INTRODUCTION: I have found myself too comfortable with the half-marathon distance. I was inspired by tweeps, friends and family to try and “Cover Just a Little More Ground“. Last year I had wanted to run one of the two half marathons associated with the San Francisco marathon, but work travel interfered. This year the work calendar was more friendly to the event so I decided that this venue of San Francisco in July would be the perfect place to step up to the marathon distance.
The race starts at the Embarcadero just North of the Bay Bridge then continues down Fisherman’s Warf, through the Presidio, out and back across the Golden Gate Bridge and then into Golden Gate Park. From there, the race goes into historic Haight Ashbury. The last six miles of the course move through residential and commercial areas that bring the runners out to AT&T park. After that, one mile later is the finish line.
The race also offers two half marathons, one that starts at the beginning of the marathon and one that starts at mile 13. Given the choice, I would have run the more scenic first half of the race. The second half through Golden Gate Park was beautiful but not as special as the first half.
There was also a lot of running through industrial and residential areas in the second half of the marathon. Those miles weren’t remarkable, but that’s not unusual when running through a big city. At mile 25, I would have loved the opportunity to run the outfield of AT&T park much like the Disneyland half marathon offers the opportunity to run through the outfield of Angel’s Stadium. As it was game day for the Giants, that was an unlikely tour.
THE WEATHER: The weather is always a variable in San Francisco, but this particular day the temperatures ranged from the mid to upper 50s in the morning to a high of 75. I had running gloves and jacket available at the start line, but I checked them about 15 minutes before my start time.
ELEVATION PROFILE: I went out for dinner with family the night before the race and as we were walking back to the car up a very steep hill, The Child turns to me and said, “Daddy, you know what would really suck? Having to run up these hills.“
The full marathon elevation profile is presented in the image below. Although the difference between the max and minimum elevation was about 400 feet by my GPS, the sum of all the elevation gains across the 20 or so hills was about 1,738 feet. The hills appear formidable and they are not as bad as they seem. The hills shouldn’t stop anyone capable of running the distance. Remember that the course is a loop, so for every climb there is a descent.
In retrospect, there are only three remarkable hills at miles 5, 10 and 14. The first two of them are steep but not long. The one significance hill starts in Golden Gate Park at Mile 14 and ends at mile 17. That one is a grind, but is by far not the worst that San Francisco could offer.
RACE ORGANIZATION: These people know how to pull off a race. From registration to post race follow-up, they have all the bases well covered. There were plenty of water stations all well-stocked and staffed. There were also an ample supply of Gu in all flavors well into the race.
The race was very environmentally friendly. That was not an accident, it was deliberate, thoughtful and appreciated. With that acknowledgement, my only suggestion for this race is that since GU was in plentiful supply at the water stations, there should have been more emphasis on directing the runners to put the GU wrappers directly into trash cans rather than just dropping them for someone else to hopefully pickup. This could have been a great opportunity for the race organizers or the GU sponsor, to make special containers reminding the runners that wrappers are not biodegradable and need to be properly disposed of.
I am not sure how the organizing committee managed to set up the traffic control logistics between miles 20 and 24, but it was amazing. Other runners tried to figure out why we all of a sudden had to change the route, I just did what I was told by the course marshals and it all turned out just fine.
I ran this, my first full marathon just 10 days after my 47th birthday. Did I do it in Berlin, where the roads are flat? Nope! I ran it in San Fran-fricking-frisco! They cant’ take that away from me.
I don’t mean to imply that this race was in any way easy, but much like life, it is easier if you are running towards something.
I wanted to run through Fisherman’s Warf. I was giddy the first time the fog-engulfed Golden Gate Bridge came into view. I only had to run 5 miles to get to this first bite of candy. By the time the bridge experience was over, I was at mile 10. It was fun and the fun made the run easy. Kind of like the whole spoon full of sugar thing.
From there it was only 9 more miles to Haight Ashbury. I’m a guy who listens to the Grateful Dead every week and I got to run to and through the famous Haight singing Scarlet Begonia’s with Bob Weir playing on my MP3. Word’s can’t do the feeling justice.
Yes, did a lot of singing during this race. I do that. Did I mention that I tie-dyed my shirt? You probably guessed that. It was originally a white Nike cotton shirt. It reminded me why I normally run in synthetic (owies).
From the Haight it was just six more miles to get to my second favorite baseball stadium in the world, AT&T park. If you don’t know by now, I have certain idiosyncracies when I travel. When in San Francisco, if I have an extra hour before a flight I will go to AT&T Park and walk that exact route around the stadium that I ran for this race. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet and I got run to it.
Was I lucky or blessed to be able to run route that brought me so much joy? I was certainly blessed to be able to complete the distance. I was surprised by the number of people I saw having difficulty near the end. I was tired, but by the grace of God, I wasn’t cramping, limping or in pain. Maybe that had something to do with the bottle of Poweraid and the snacks that my ladies gave me mile 12? I don’t know, but wasn’t that just another type of blessing?
Pretty much everything I wrote about in December materialized and was as wonderful as I expected. If you are interested, the link below will show a few more of my pictures from the run.
My two half marathons thus far in 2012 were completed in 2:24 and 2:30. With the added fatigue and the hills I was worried that I might not finish in the six-hour time limit. I figured I could reasonably reach the 9 and 18 miles marks at two and four hours respectively. With the fatigue factor and the 3 mile hill, I suspected there was a 20% chance I might not make the 6 hours time limit.
My official finish time posted as 5 hours, 32 min and 17 seconds. I was very pleased. Heck, if I didn’t take so many pictures I might have finished a good 10 minutes earlier, but what fun would that have been.
In looking back, I had written goals about the interim times as well as the placement, but not the actual finish time. I was hoping for less than 6 hours, but I never wrote that one down. I did write down these goals:
Complete Mile 9 in under 2 hours
1:48 (by GPS)
Complete the first half in 3 hours
2:42 (official time)
Complete Mile 18 in under 4 hours
3:45 (by GPS)
Complete the race faster than at least 3% of the finishers
5610 out of 6440 finishers (87%).
All in all, I have nothing to complain about and everything to be grateful for. My gratitude extends to all those who supported me before, after and during the race. I am also very grateful to the organizers and the volunteers.