Oakland 13.1

March 24, 2013 Comments Off on Oakland 13.1

20130324-163421.jpg. So that’s the “magic pie” from Delfina, which Serious eats quite rightly calls one of the top eight pizzas in San Francisco. Worth the 90 minute wait? Sure, especially since we got seats overlooking the kitchen and got to watch them make a couple dozen of these. Super wet dough, none of the brush-full-of-oil approach, just a light but crispy and toasty crust with amazing fennel sausage, onions, and tomatoes. Superb, and just down the street from Tartine, so it was a morning-night pair that made for a good day.

A carb-loading day, anyway. Does it count if you carb load 48 hours before a race? Or just the day before? Anyway, something provided good fuel for this morning’s 13.1 with O and C’s uncle. It was his first one, and I volunteered my services as a coach/cheerleader. Not that he needed it–he put in a solid time and was strong the whole way. The course went through a pretty fair cross section of Oakland, which has its good and bad moments, but there were people scattered all over the town supporting the runners, one whole church congregation that came out to help cheer us on, and the usual range of signs (best ones: “Worst Parade Ever,” and “Go, Random Person I Don’t Know”). We hit the finish line together and one of their friends bought us both hot dogs. Much better as a recovery lunch than coconut water. It was good to catch up with him and his person–they are expecting twins in May, so this may well have been his last big race for a while, too.

So, with an afternoon to kill after the race I figured I had better keep moving. I was pretty undertrained for the distance and I know from experience that my calves will just tighten up if I don’t walk for most of a post-race afternoon. So I headed back to the Ferry Building, which has been a full week of fish tacos, sesame almonds, Blue Bottle coffee, and Acme Bread. Today? After a morning of GU and Clif bars, I needed two things: fat and protein. Nothing in the world could be better than chicharrones from one of the local meat purveyors. Think cotton candy with a pork and chile hit. These were awesome sitting on a bench overlooking the bay, with a cup of coffee and the Oakland skyline, conquered by me and Uncle A, in the distance.



new shoes

February 10, 2013 Comments Off on new shoes

IMG_5855O came home last week with an announcement.  “Track starts Monday,” she said.  “I need  a full physical, a new pair of running shoes, and some track pants.

It was Wednesday.

I sweet-talked the physician’s office into seeing her Friday afternoon.  We had a full day of medical appointments anyway (irritating but all fine), so K grabbed her from school and got her a clean bill of health.  The track pants and the shoes?  I needed a new set of treads, too.  And she had $100 in gift cards from the horse shop in the big city, so we made it into an expedition yesterday.  C stayed with his grandparents while O and I got down to business.

The shoe shop down there lets you try shoes out by running in them.  It’s not quite the full treadmill and video that Fleet Feet has in Chicago, but it’s better than the shop at the mall.  The staff there size both feet, they look at you run, and they’re candid about whether you really need a $175 pair of shoes or not.  Neither of us did–she got some entry-level Asics, and I picked up a pair of Brooks Ghost 5’s.  Last year’s model, so deeply unfashionable colors (I guess), but also $20 off.

This morning was cold, grey, and rainy.  “A perfect day to break in the new shoes,” I told her.  She disagreed, but came out with me anyway.  This is my fee for being the provider of shoes and track pants.  You have to go out and run with me at least a couple of times a year.  We go at her pace, and after a mile and a half lap through the park we’re close enough to home that she can take her cool down walk the rest of the way, and I can go out for another loop or two.  I’ve been taking it easy on account of a twingy calf, so it was nice to have an excuse to take it easy and have a chat.  Her interest in track is mostly being on the team and getting out of P.E., but I’ll take all the family time with her I can get these days.

Movie day today.  She’s at Les Miz, undoubtedly sobbing, while C and I are watching Batman movies with a huge bowl of popcorn.  Nice to get some time with each of them on their own today.

end of a good season

October 22, 2012 Comments Off on end of a good season

The fall season had always been kind of a question.  Last year my ankles finally gave out in September and I bagged a couple of half-marathons that I’d been planning to run.  In hindsight that was right–I’d pushed hard, for reasons that weren’t necessarily healthy, and my middle-aged body finally let me know in a big way.
This year was different.  Going into August I felt really strong, and even though I was achy, it felt like things were just being worked hard, not so much like things were broken.  So I signed up for a couple of late season runs, and pushed the training hard through the end of the summer.

The Chicago half (above) was brilliant–a great day, a flat course up and down Lake Shore Drive in Hyde Park, and lots of good competition.  I bested my PR by a good two minutes, and felt like that alone would have made it a good year on the pavement.  I tried a 10K in town a couple of weeks ago and that went far better than expected–a 40:32 and a first place in my age group.  It had been something like 28 years since I’d brought home a blue ribbon, and that felt great.

So the last race of the year that I’d been looking at was the Des Moines half marathon.  The course was super familiar–downtown, Gray’s Lake, and Water Works Park, all trails that I’d been running since L and I started dating.  My morning runs all went through the woods and down the river in the park, and those runs got me through some rough patches.  The idea of running those trails with a few thousand others seemed like a great idea.  But I was also feeling the results of some hard racing.  Stuff was hurting again, and a couple weeks worth of traveling hadn’t left time for much more than the occasional 6-miler (note to Knoxville’s city council–your riverwalk would be much more enjoyable if it didn’t involve sprinting across six lanes of traffic).  I didn’t have great expectations, and I was totally ready to just have a casual run, to be grateful for a set of legs that was still working well enough after 45 years, and to reflect for 13.1 miles about how far I’d come, and how much getting out on the streets had helped physically and spiritually.

Only one complication.  The race weekend was one that I had with the kids, and C was adamant that he wanted to be my curb crew.  “I hit the wall at eight miles in Chicago,” I told him.  “If you and Grandpa want to cheer me on, that’s the place I could use some help.”  And bless his 12-year old self, he was up at 5:00 Sunday morning, ready to go.  It’s hard to run casual in the face of that sort of familial dedication.

And the morning was perfect–a little bit chilly, but not too cold.  After a couple of days worth of aches and pains, I woke up feeling totally ready.  I lined up optimistically, near the front (but well behind the Kenyans), and when the gun went off I kept up with what I knew was a fast bunch.  After the mile mark I checked my watch and was sort of shocked to see 6:20.  It hadn’t felt that fast, but after going out almost that quickly in Chicago I figured I’d just keep at it as long as I could.

The course went out and back through the park, so mile 8 was also mile 5.  And there was C, with Grandpa, cheering like crazy as I ran past them.  My dad told me later that he’d told C there was no way the yellow shirt he saw could be me–that was far too quick.  But C was right.  And about a mile past them, the quick times started catching up with me.  By mile 7 I was running out of steam.  I grabbed a GU from a water stand (ice cold–blechh) and took a deep breath.  C would be waiting for me at mile 8, and knowing that he was going to be there made me want to get through it.  Sure enough, by the time I got up to them I was thinking about nothing other than his bouncy self, and there he was, going nuts when he saw me.  I high-fived him, and  a simple “GO, DAD!” got me through the next couple of miles like I had  rocket shoes.

That did NOT last, but I managed to keep up with a group of solid runners for long enough that I got to mile 11 (best sign of the day–four year old, adorable little girl holding one that said “RUN FASTER–I JUST FARTED”) knowing that I had a great time in store if I could finish reasonably strong.  Grandpa and C managed to find me in the last quarter-mile, and got in one last cheer that I rode to a 1:29:15, another PR by more than two minutes.  And seeing the two of them (and, OK, the banana table) in the post-race bullpen made those last couple of miles worth it.

So now I’m taking a couple of weeks off–nothing but strength training and the stationary bikes for me.  The bikes feel like sandbagging to me–real exercise doesn’t mean sitting down, as far as I’m concerned.  And then I’ll think about what the goals are for next year.  Whatever those end up being, high-fiving the boy on one race course or another will definitely be up there.  Best curb crew ever.

Thanks, guys!

last track meet of the season

May 6, 2011 Comments Off on last track meet of the season

“Great news,” O said the other day.  “Because we had that one meet get rained out?  And because coach knows this guy?  And because not everyone’s running in State?  We have one more track meet, and it’s this Thursday!”

O has absolutely loved running on the track team.  She’s not particularly speedy–as she herself acknowledges, she just needs to work on, um, her speed and her endurance.  But she’s always liked being on a team, and this team is both tons of fun and really good.  A lot of her friends qualified for the state middle school meet, and I think they’ve won every meet they’ve been to.

Still, mixed feelings.  These things are pretty long-running affairs.  The really efficient track officials?  They run the high school meets.  Sometimes it takes a while to get a bunch of twelve year olds in the right relay slots.  And it seems like it’s rained.  Every.  Single.  Meet.  Still, they are fun to watch.  They bring back a lot of good times for me, and it’s great to see the O out there doing it, even bringing up the back of the pack, since she’s enjoying herself so much.  So OK, big girl, where’s the meet?


Where the *&$% is Hubbard, Iowa?  About 45 minutes northwest of here.  One of those towns where the directions include the phrase “turn off the highway” about halfway through.  Cool, I thought.  I’ll head out and watch, and get to hang out in another tiny but incredibly cute small town.

OK, at this point you need to know that it’s been one of those weeks where four hours out in the middle of nowhere sounds really good.  My achilles is still not getting better.  I haven’t run in two weeks (OK, once, but I couldn’t move the next morning).  The weekdays have been full of end-of-semester faculty meetings and a huge paperwork deal that’s both complicated and slightly depressing (think taxes but on a bigger scale).  So I could use a cheering afternoon.

It was raining when I pulled in to Hubbard, and something didn’t seem right.  There was no traffic.  Usually, these meets have been in slightly larger towns (ahoy, Indianola!), but you can tell something’s up because there are ten times as many cars as the town is designed for.  Not Hubbard.  I drove to the middle school, parked, and realized something.  There was no track.  Or football field.  “What the *&$(?” I might have texted K.  “Where are you?” I texted O.  By the time they got back to me I had pulled into the town’s gas station and asked where the track was.

“Eldora,” the girl behind the counter answered.  Then my phone beeped.  O had texted back.  “Eldora,” she said.

Where the hell is that?  I might have asked both of them.  And then I got the long, Iowa set of directions, totaling about 15 miles.  For a state that is basically a huge grid, getting around the back roads can sometimes be complicated.

That was an angry drive.  But then I got there, and the rain stopped, and O was there and she needed snack money so she and her friends came over and said ‘hi,’ and I found a good spot on the fence near the finish line.  All is pretty much forgiven, especially when the O came back with fresh-popped, locally grown popcorn.  OK, not just looking up, but pretty awesome.

They’ve usually competed against some of the bigger middle schools in the state, but this was all small towns.  Small schools, with names like “AGWSR” that tell a little history about collapsing budgets, mergers, and long, long bus rides in the mornings.  It wasn’t quite the competition they were used to, but it was cool to see a fresh set of opponents.  And I was wedged between two families from different schools who instantly started a conversation–with each other and with me–about whether we’d all gotten our beans planted or not.  It hasn’t been a good spring for that.  I told them I was thinking of planting some basil this year, and they sort of shuffled their shoes and looked at the ground.  We all cheered for each others’ kids, compared notes about our own high school track careers, and enjoyed watching the Ames girls haul it all over the competition.  That’s O, there, doing her part in the open 200.

So, in fairness, she didn’t convince her coach to add her to the State meet roster.  But, as you can see, it was a good meet, and fun, too.  “You should go out for cross country,” I told her for the hundredth time.  “You need to work on your endurance.”

“No way,” she said. “You have to run, like two miles a day for that.”

“I’ll give you five bucks,” I said.

“I’ll think about it.”

Then I told her that I hadn’t given her the official five bucks I promised her for going out for track–and that she’s richly deserved.  “That’s OK, Dad,” she said.  “You’ve bought snacks.  That’s probably about five bucks.”

For the season?  More like $46.75.  Not that I’m counting.


April 13, 2011 Comments Off on track

O and I have talked about her going out for middle school track since January.  And she did it, even turned down the five bucks I said I’d give her if she tried out.

She had her first two track meets this week–back to back, which maybe isn’t the best in terms of scheduling or homework.  K went to see her first one in Indianola on Monday while I led O’s new softball team (minus O) for the afternoon.  She ran the 4×100 relay, and her team finished fourth in their heat–not bad.

Yesterday she ran at Marshalltown, and I drove out to see the meet.  This time she ran the 4×200, and the open 800.  The 800 was my race in high school–I was good, not collegiate level, but good enough to take it seriously–and I was thrilled that she was getting a chance to run what I like to think is the toughest mental race there is.  If you do it right, the 800 is basically just short of a sprint, but you do it for two or three minutes straight (OK, since you asked, 2:00.4).  If you don’t throw up at the end, or at least feel like you’re going to, you probably ran it too slow.  Strategy?  As my high school coach would tell us, start out at a dead sprint, accelerate through the middle 400, and then pick up the pace for the final 200.  He also pointed out that you have to be kind of stupid to be a good half-miler.

O’s not stupid.  And in middle school you really shouldn’t be so intense that you throw up after every race.  So she ran a careful race and finished at the back of the pack, but there were a couple of good moments where she realized she had something in the tank and she was able to put in a couple of good kicks, especially at the end.  They don’t keep times in middle school–certainly the right mindset–and she was happy to run a solo race and (even more) to hang with her teammates for the afternoon.  That, of course, is the best part of any sport, and it was pretty outstanding to sit just within earshot and hear her cheering on her team with her friends.  She even came down and sat with me for a few minutes, introduced me to a couple of her teammates…and then asked for money for the concession stands.

The drive back was kind of reflective.  There was a convoy of cars going back to Ames and the buses were part of it, and I really felt like a middle school parent.  And, of course, that there was something circular happening, that a sport that probably saved me from a high school career of middling grades and general indifference was, maybe, going to play some role in my kid’s growing up.  It’s hard to describe, but that made me happy and wistful all at the same time.  Watching her run the 800 also made me want to get out on the track, and my 6-miler sunrise run this morning came with more than a few random synapse firings from–jeez–twenty-five or six years ago.

goodbye to two old friends

February 17, 2011 Comments Off on goodbye to two old friends

I haven’t mentioned running much, because I think blogs that talk about how much exercise the author did that day are criminally dull (blogs that talk about what the author had for dinner that night, on the other hand…)  But I’ve been running a lot in the last six months, and it’s largely thanks to those guys there to the right.

When I started in seriously back in August, I was at least 40 pounds overweight, and my knees would give out after a mile or two.  So I splurged on some good shoes.  One of the guys at the local running shoe store is a student in our program, and he talked me into a pair of top-of-the-line Asics, with a nice blend of cushioning and ankle support.  I’d been running in discount shoes, since I could never go more than two miles and figured it didn’t make any difference.  But these guys were amazing.  My knees and ankles didn’t hurt anymore, and I found that, actually, I could go three, or four, or even six miles.

I could tell they were starting to give out around Christmas.  My knees started hurting again, and when my ankles felt it a week or two ago I looked back at my running diary and realized that they were getting close to 700 miles, which is when good shoes turn into pumpkins.  So today I went back to the shoe store and bought a new pair, exactly the same brand and model.  I’m going to try them out tomorrow, and this pair will be sent out to the pasture.  Only the stationary bike and the weight bench for them from here on out.

So, yeah, a little sad to see these go.  We’ve been up together at 5 in the morning an awful lot, pounded a lot of Ames’ streets together, and in the last few days they’ve done their best to keep me upright through the melting ice and snow.  We’ve lost almost fifty pounds together, and the morning’s I’ve spent wearing them out have kept my head clear and level.  It’s probably not going too far to say that they’ve been lifesavers.

I’ll miss them, but I’ve got big plans for the new pair, including their retirement at the end of July in San Francisco, if the training goes well…

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