Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"I'm Batman!" Running The New York City Marathon for Covenant House

Yes, I’m Batman. Or The Dark Knight, and by running the New York City Marathon for Covenant house, I am doing what I can to fight the powers of Bane. Let me explain how.

First off all, I was pretty darn disappointed in Bane as a villain. While it would have been impossible for Bane to live up to the Joker, he at least needed to be a foil for Batman, a counter-ego who reflected the dark parts of the dark knight like the joker did, Instead, his voice was near comical, his facelessness made him faceless (imagine that) I didn’t really fear him, and ultimately, he came across as a flat puppet. Dare I say that he could have even made a guest appearance as a villain in an Austin Powers movie.

That said, Bane, like most evil-doers, lives off of the disenfranchised and the despair of the hopeless and the downtrodden.  His recruits, his soldiers, as you see in The Dark Knight Rises, include those who have aged out of foster care.

Yes, the first ‘soldier’of Bane who is discovered dead was actually a young adult who had aged out of the foster care homes, and with no place to go, he goes to be a solider in the tunnels and serve Bane.  The stories of the tunnels have spread to the younger children in foster care, who say “I hear there’s work down there."  Of course, there's not, just a more grim future and wasted potential.
Bane and his recruited soldiers from the underground

This “aged out of foster care” population, who don't have interventions to assist them but are simply cut lose, is the very population which Covenant house serves.  Covenant House offeres alternatives to finishing their high school education, (in Detroit this service is right there on the campus) and provides job training as well as a place to live.
Or, we can just sit back, and watch these young adults, who need a little help, fall victim to the likes of Bane.

Facetious, I am being, of course, but only slightly, and I’m very pumped to be running for Covenant House not just because of who they serve, but how they do what they do.  Very personal, immediate, hands on, with daily outreach to the streets of Detroit. Otherwise, this population will fall into the cracks of the metaphorical tunnels of the underworld living below us all the time, and beckoning with false hope and then delivering more misfortunes.

 Plus, look at this great shirt they sent me.

My training for new York is going exceedingly well yet surprisingly lame.  I have put in two 20 milers already, and the event is 98 days away, so I have time for 3 or 4 long runs left in me. I also recently ran 13 miles at a pace 15-20 seconds under marathon pace, as well as another nice mile interval session with 6 times 7:20’s.  On the other hand, my weekly mileage is terrible. Last week I did just 18 miles, but beat that in a single day yesterday with my 20 miler.

Either way, I’m running with excitement and purpose, and with each stride I take today, Bane will have one less solider in the tunnels tomorrow.
What I think I will look like running New York
What I will really look like running New York.

Viintage Batman and Robin running
Because Anthony Keidis chasing you makes you run faster.
The Legion of Covenant House/Home Team Supporters

Click Here For My First Giving Fund Raising Page

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mieville's "Railsea," HBO's "Girls", and Running Through My Neighborhood Holding A Flame

After watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and wishing I was watching instead a repeat of Beijing's presentation, I can't help but be struck how hard it is to come up with a fresh new idea. And when an artist does come up with something worthy, usually it’s because they were standing on the shoulders of giants, as the saying goes.

Well, here are two Giants that seem to have sprouted from something original.

First is: The Railsea, by China Mieville.

The Railsea takes place in a land like none other. It's an adventure tail, of pirates and 'fisherman' and salvage-seekers, but rather than an ocean of saltwater, the sailors venture on trains over a world full of criss-crossing railroad tracks. The earth below is full of creatures, earthy and subterranean and exotic. It’s like radioactive waves struck a sandbox.  And like a Moby Dick obsessed Ahab, one captain tries to capture the beast of all beasts, while other characters are in search of their origins or to learn what is beyond the rails.

Fantasy novels have always been cursed in following the Tolkien formula. Of course, there’s different tones and worlds that can be created, but compare Terry Brooks to George Martin, and you'll find more similarities than differences.

But the Railsea, by China Mieville, is the most original land I can remember reading about. The king of self-described Weird Fiction, China Mieville, has weirded and welded something incredible. It makes me proud to be called a member of his same species.
The author: were you expecting anything different?

The novel is described as “This is the story of a bloodstained boy…”Shamus Yes ap Soorap, and the first page opens to this poor fellow splattered with blood, and of course, the horror hits of how this young boy could become so bloody, yet the narrator asks us to withhold judgement. We learn the blood is from the first of his ‘modlywarpe’ hunts, and yes, it is a rite of passage for him, and the first of many rites of passages for this young apprentice.  A moldywarpe is a giant mole, and by the time you’re done reading this novel, you’ll have no doubt that the creatures exist.

Yes, an orphan as a main character is a bit trite, but the novel follows his adventures on the rails and his search to understand his origins. It goes beyond his parents to the nature of the world itself. Who created the rails? Were they maintained by Gods and Angels? When he sees an image of a single rail running across the land, it's evidence that this world is not all as it seems.

The novel is called Young Adult fiction but is YA only in comparison to the rest of China Mieville, and is full of weird and unusual styles. Some of my favorite moments are when the narrator takes a step back and self-reflects on the story and directly speaks to the reader, discussing story telling itself, and also gives periodic biological taxonomy of the creatures of the land, along with visual diagrams.

This novel wasn’t perfect for me (yes, there are some novels that are) but was so good that I reveled in its earthy details. Yes, earthy, as you will feel like you are burrowing in the earth along with the huge rodents and worms, and you can’t help but feel like you are also a sailor, yet not on a sea of water but a sea of rails.

I’m raising money and holding a lemonade stand in hopes that I can buy the movie rights, because I would love to see this on the big screen. In 3-d.

And then there's the Sunday night show on HBO called 'Girls'

I am not supposed to be in this show's demographic. Middle-aged man who thinks he’s partying when he has coffee after 5 pm and really whooping it up, but I love this show.  You could say ‘sex in the city’ for a younger female crowd, but you’d be way off. It is ultra-realism, explicit but non-erotic, characters acting against their best interests and leading lives that are just tiny crumbs of their larger possible pies in the skies and not really fretting over it in the usual  ways but in quirky, self-absorbed hilarity.  The dialogue is so fresh and unique and always goes beyond your typical comedy-drama. The explicit nature of it doesn’t bother with typical sensuality but is more the 'boxers around the ankles' type of realism. If anything it’s more Seinfeld than sex in the city, and has an irreverent nature yet with very real implications.   

Lena Dunham is both the creator and the main character, and she has an extraordinary brain, but has a regular, real body. She has hair that isn’t perfect, has angst from self-absorption that is comic and tragic. She says she's not only 'scared', but "I'm more scared than most people are when they say that they're scared. I'm like the most scared person alive."
This is to her boyfriend, Adam, who disappears so much at first she imagines she has just invented him.

Yes, you need to meet Adam.  Only an original show like Girls can turn the odd Adam from his initial repugnance to something oddly heroic..  

Just a couple of reviews on mass media. Now I'm off to run my neighborhood with a self-made Olympic torch in my hand, holding it high and proud and majestic and cruising through suburbia.  I would do something more unique and grand if I could, but all of us are still mimicking the Greeks, who gave us the bedstone of drama and tragedy and sport, and we're just following along, constant reincarnations of the same beings.  The only difference is, instead of falling to our death after running 26.2 miles over the land of Marathon and pronouncing "Nike!" (victory), we tweet and blog it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"I've Always Wanted To"

I always wanted to run a marathon.

I always wanted to write a novel.

And then there’s…

I always wanted to be a therapist, or a social worker.

These are things I hear once in a while, and I do love to hear them since they are great lead-ins and conversation starters about what has taken place so far to reach these goals.  I can talk about my kids, my running, and writing all day long to anyone who will listen, so if this is an opportunity to share paths, then I’m all in.  In both running and writing I've cornered as many veterans as I could to ask them questions, and still try to corner veterans of any passions I aspire to and suck whatever I can out of their heads and infuse into my own..   

At other times, however, these statements, I feel, are done to kind of co-opt an achievement that someone hasn’t done much to make happen, and by saying “they always wanted to” it somehow puts them in that group   It can come natural when you hear something someone has done that you respect to say "I've always wanted to do that", but then you have to check yourself and say “Why haven’t I?” Because after you say, “I’ve always wanted to,” afterwards comes the excuse.  And there’s nothing noble about always wanting to do something and not starting.

I guess life is about finding out which of those things on our 'Always Wanted To' list we are willing to work for.
I have my own list of “always wanted to."  I've always wanted to hike a mountain wearing my tent on my back, and camp for days. I've always wanted to go to Alaska, New Zealand, bike hut to hut in the Rocky Mountains. I've always wanted to run an ultra marathon.  Always wanted to sky dive. To get a Tattoo, to heli-ski, to go Vegan for 6 months just to see, to take an astronomy class and buy a telescope.

Always wanted to.

But always wanted to and done nothing to make happen means either I didn’t want to enough, that other things took priority, that I’m being lazy, or, of course, there were very real barriers.

Yes, kids, money, time, the wind, genetics, there’s all sorts of reason.  But when it comes down to it, if I’ve always wanted to, but hadn’t, there’s a possibility I just didn’t want to enough.

Does this sound elitist or cold, or like some kind of Ayn Rand objectivism or  Nietzschean superman tendency? (I’m not sure what that sentence even means, but I do know that I’ve always wanted to write it, so there, cross that off the list.)

I also believe that, for everyone who has said to me “I always wanted to run a marathon, write a novel, etc..” there are just as many things that they have done which I admire but simply can’t or won't do, from either a lack of dedication and interest or lack of talent and skills.

When folks ask about marathoning and running 26.2 miles, "how can you do that?" I usually answer, “it’s just a matter of body type” which I really believe, but, it also saddens me that if someone always ‘really wanted to do something’ they would have at least made some efforts. I think way more people can finish a marathon than who have, but of course, if you don’t want to enough, you simply won’t, and in fact, you shouldn't. It would be silly to do so if you think it silly to do so. 

And if you either believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right on either way.

This leads me to my fav writing instructor Chuck Wendig. Well, he’s not really my instructor, just someone I follow, buy his kindle books on writing and read his blog. (and, he gave me a retweet recently, which made me glow for a bit and say “yes!” to myself not altogether silently.)

As always, I would love to meet him for coffee for just 15 minutes, which is kind of my test after reading pretty much anything. If I’ll share a CafĂ© Americano with you, then I probably think you’re cool as hell. Or hot as ice, or something.

Anyways, he sort of puts it in the Yoda philosophy of  “Do, or do not do. There is no Try.”  Check out his banners, make a parallel to your running goals, (it's not hard) or, if writing is something you wish to ‘do’ not  try, then buy his stuff. By the way, this is written under no connection or influence or correspondence with him.  In fact, chances are he’s on the phone with his lawyers suing me for infringement right now, in which case, I'll at least I’ll see him in court, if not for coffee. (check out his blog here.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Chicago: "I Want My Two Dollars"

When you're taking a trip to a city, always check for local races. You never know when the Rock N Roll Half Marathon is in town.

That's how I came upon running Sunday's Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Chicago. My family and I were going there anyway, and of course an early morning run along the waterfront had to be a part of my itinerary.  But, for 120 dollars more, I could do 13.1 at 6:30 am, with aid stations, cleared off streets, and signs along the path included, and be back at the hotel before 9 am.

The race went off wonderful. The corrals were well organized, the water was plenty and didn't run out, nor did it make anyone sick (as was said to have happened in RNR Vegas).  There could have been another water stop, I thought, but what made up for that was the cold, wet sponges that were handed out. It was my first race day cold sponge, and I'm all in.  Right on the back of the neck and it was like an injection of ice down my spine.
A nice, smooth race start is very important.
Yes, it was hot as a fother mucker, but if you hugged the buildings close enough, you could stay in the shade, and during my 'fully exposed to the sun' time a nice cloud cover came by.  The humidity was such that the air I was breathing was just dehydrated sweat off the shirtless runner in front of me, but it could have been worse.
Being Chased is a good way to bring out fast times.
I didn't wear my headphones as usual, partly due to hearing about the bands on the course. I always feel a little guilty running by groups who have wokened at 6 am to play for runners, and here I I'm blocking them out with headphones.  As it was, I fully enjoyed the groups, but yes, there could have been a few more, considering the theme.  Yes, it was a half Rock N Roll through a half marathon. I got to believe a million garage bands would sign up to play given the opportunity.  With my headphones off, I tried to chat more than usual with runners alongside of me, but my theory of "the bigger the running event, the less anyone will say a word to you" held true, so I shut up and ran my own race.

And, I confess, I was ready to give a more scathing review for this Rock n Roll corporate conglomerate type of race sponsor. Let me explain why.
Hey, you want to get runner updates text to friends and family?
I signed up late, so didn't so much mind the $120 fee.  I found a coupon code for 10 dollars off, signed up, and then 'wham'  an 8.95 registration fee. Huh?  Um, isn't that really 128.95 then for the event?

But what really got me was they typical "sign up for runner updates, texted to friends and family" email a few days before the event, and then being asked for 2 dollars per text message for runner updates.  Stop me if  I"m sounding ignorant or have a booger in my nose, but isn't this just a nice race freebie perk most places?  2 dollars huh?
I want my Two Dollars.
I emailed back, of course, and wrote: "Sorry, My little brother got his arm stuck in the microwave. So my mom had to take him to the hospital... and my grandma dropped acid this morning, and she freaked out, and hijacked a busload of... penguins. So it's sort of a family crisis. By"

To put this into context, I never mind paying whatever the fee is for local events. I feel like running stores and clubs do so much for the community and I reap the benefits. And, in fact, I didn't mind paying the hundreds for the NYCM entry fee.  I pay top dollar for some things, like cuts of beef or seafood, yet I also love my Target Brands and Costco supplies (Hello Kirkland) and often buy the product if the costco sample lady is especially nice.

But these two dollars killed me.

Okay, beyond that, my run was an excellent one. There was a fun feeling in the air, and I was happy with my race. Yes, I set a PR.  No, not a PR for time, my 1:39 was ten minutes off of that, but it was personal record for 'soonest I have ran a half-marathon after running a full' at just 35 days after running the Ann Arbor Marathon. My next closest was 42 days running Dexter to Ann Arbor after Boston.

I lined up at the start not sure if I was racing or just marathon pacing this run, so started slow and cautious at a couple 7:50 minute miles.  I started to feel plenty smooth, and sped up plenty as the event went on, did negative splits, and mile 13 was my fastest at 7:08.

And there's nothing like seeing the heart of a city while in the throes of a nice, Sunday morning run. Crowd support was just fine, the course was a great mix, not too many turns, the swag at the end had the typical hoarders grabbing supplies to last them a week, and I would do it all again in a second.   Well done, Rock N Roll organizers.

Everybody Wants Some

Friday, July 20, 2012

Brokedown Palace

 I’m on return from Bereavement. Yes, it’s been an upheaval week, where I’m certainly reminded that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

A sibling of mine passed unexpectedly, and of course it shatters my psyche and rearranges priorities and focus points, and causes crying spells for his terribly shortened life. These spells are usually triggered by something unexpected.  The Frays “How to Save a Life.” for example, which makes sense, but then a Neil Diamond song did the same.

With my personal slippery, uncertain rules of what to blog about and what not to blog about, I couldn't figure out where this fit into a blogging world. Ignoring it didn’t feel right, yet I couldn't write everything and give a full picture either.  It would be impossible to describe all the dynamics here, it would require writing some sort of novel or memoir.

And I’m also reminded that coincidence is just Gods way of remaining anonymous. Because if I did write it all down into a novel, it would be remarkably similar to the novel that I had just started to read a day before I learned of my brothers medical crisis.

The novel is called Out and Back, and is the story of how a mother, runner, and uniquely gifted and wonderfully flawed human being deals with the death of her mother, and how, even after her mothers death, she is constantly working through their relationship.

I read the first half of the novel on the way to see my brother, who was in a coma, on life support, and like the person in the novel, dealt with the trauma of  taking a loved on off life support. Yes, there are puke bags on planes, but no tear bags.

I read the second part of the novel on the way home, after my brother had passed, where the main character of the novel journals her thoughts to her deceased mom on her facebook page, and days later, I  learned of a whole community of friends my brother had through facebook and blogging world I had never known of.

Yes, it was digging into a fresh wound, but I really needed something to recognize the pain in me, and it was 'truth is stranger than fiction' that I had picked this novel up when I did.  I came across the novel on Goodreads in a forum called “Readers who Run.”  Or, it could have been “Runners who Read.”

Out and Back was very readable, easily accessible, doesn’t’ require work but just keeps your attention and interest since if you’re a parent or a runner you can relate.  I loved the main character, who I assume is partially but not completely the author.  I loved how she was aware of her flaws, how she had such high expectations of herself yet also swore (love the 'fuck fuck fucks') and scolded herself when she didn’t meet her own standards. She seemed so real, and the challenges of raising a family were portrayed with a sense of urgency amongst the very real threats we face. The conflicts and suspense of this novel to build a healthy family while fighting economic uncertainties, bickering kids, running injuries, kept me reading.  I loved that she was constantly trying to negotiate family relationships by dealing with all the human imperfections we have and ultimately finding some peace by accepting her mother, and herself, for all her faults. Relationships with others don’t change when they pass. This novel showed that.

And, when possible, the main character runs to cope and give her strength, yet is challenged to fit in a run when injuries and other annoyances get in her way. Yes, I did hope for more running in the novel, which is ironic since that's what others said about The Jade Rabbit.  

 Like the main character, I of course went for a run to cope with my crisis. I was in tears as I ran, yet it still helped to rearrange the mental and emotional atoms, and I was thinking "no matter how far one can run, they still always got to come back, you can't run forever."

Yep, if you go Out, you got to come Back.  
Things gravitate to us at certain times for a reason, our souls suck things into our reach that we need, and I think Out and Back came to me this way.  Or it was just some strange, dumb luck.

On Wednesday night, I went to the Furthur concert, which, just so you know, is most of the remaining Grateful Dead members and some all-star musicians from Dead cover bands.  The last song they played, (which was also the last song of the entire tour) the second encore, was “Brokedown Palace.” This the song I’ve been telling my wife for years I want played at my funeral. Of course, in my mind, they were playing it for my Brother, and I held a momentary mental memorial right there. The way things dropped in my lap, like the novel Out And Back, this song certainly fit, and who could argue otherwise.

Brokedown Palace – Grateful Dead 

Fare you well, my honey, fare you well my only true one.
All the birds that were singing are flown, except you alone.

Going to leave this brokedown palace,
On my hand and knees, I will roll, roll, roll.
Make myself a bed in the waterside,
In my time, I will roll, roll roll.

In a bed, in a bed, by the waterside I will lay my head.
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

River going to take me, sing sweet and sleepy,
Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home.
Its a far gone lullaby, sung many years ago.
Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left home.

Goin home, goin home, by the riverside I will rest my bones,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

Going to plant a weeping willow,
On the banks green edge it will grow, grow, grow.
Sing a lullaby beside the water,
Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll.

Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

(An old Version, with Jerry singing, below)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

And You May Say To Yourself, "This Is Not My Beautiful House"

  And you may find yourself, waking at 5 am to run 20 miles.
And you may find yourself, running on both a treadmill and a track
And you may find yourself, running behind the legs of some gifted runners.

And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Finished 20 miles today and it felt really good.  It’s only 23 days removed from the Ann Arbor marathon, so I’m pretty happy I was able to finish. Typically I would never be running this much, this close to the finish of a marathon, but the point of doing Ann Arbor was largely to build endurance and I was afraid if I waited too long I’d lose it.

So, I have a 20 miler done, and rather than just 5 to 7 weeks from race date as usual, it’s about 114 days, or 3.5 months before the New York marathon. Strange days.

Most peculiar.

Since I’ve also found myself  addicted to a foam roller. And I’ve been adapting to the incredible heat wave by running  some outside/inside ‘mixed’ runs. The last few runs, I did 75% outside in the heat, and then jaunted back home to my basement, where cold water awaited and a treadmill to finish.

This is not my regular running, this is not my typical training, ‘My god, how did I get here?’

But, It’s been a good mix to do the indoor outdoor thing when it gets to be 95 degrees, and works for me. All the water in the world doesn’t make this heat bearable. After all, There is water at the bottom of the ocean, Under the water, to carry the water.

I took it a step farther today for my 20 miler and decided to also do a running shoe mix in order to adapt to my new Saucony Kirvana 3's.. No, I couldn’t’ forgo my new ‘sneakers’ altogether, but running the whole 20 in them was a setup and prelude to an injury, so I did the outside part of the run with them on, and returned home to put on my other pair of deeply foamed, clod-hopping sneakers. 

During my initial miles at the track, I ran into a group who I have seen running around my neighborhood fast and furious. Yes, They are a higher breed of runner than I, doing fly by intervals and flash-like tempo runs, and they have those gaits that seem to be surrounded by a strong, glowing halo, where you can just tell they have such rock like strength and speed.  Well, apparently Tuesday morning at 6 am is speedwork time for these running aliens.  So, there I am doing my slowest, 830 first of a 20 miler pace, while they were doing 5:30 miles.    No, my ego wouldn’t let me try to keep up and blow my whole 20, even for a lap or two, so intead I just ran around mumbling.  “time isn't holding us, time isn’t after us..time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us…”

No, it didn’t make them stop and think. Those with the halo like gaits, who tread lightly ran by me, while I had raised a metaphysical fist in my brain with each triumphant 8:30 step, and they were long gone by the time I ran back home to the second half of my run.

I finished my run, moving from 8:30’s closer to 8 minute miles by the end, and did the long sought after progressive 20 miler that I couldn’t really nail training for ann arbor.

Same as it ever was.

 In case this post has made you crave for the real thing, or if (somehow) you  have no idea what all the weirdness refers to, click here:Once In A Lifetime, Talking Heads, on Youtube.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Maximalist or Minimalist? Does the Wizard Choose the Wand or the Wand Choose the Wizard?

Yes, I have been following the minimalist movement.  And by this, I don’t just mean running barefoot, but the theory behind returning to our roots, running like a child with perfect joy and form,  and trying to be a more primitive and less constantly plugged in as a high maintenance human.

 Minimalist running to me evokes the whole concept of just putting on a pair of shoes and heading out, as au’natural as possible. Yes, I love that freedom, and that’s part of why I love 40 degree weather since I can do a ten miler with no water breaks, and that’s what is so freeing about a trail run where I typically don’t worry about mile measurements and run fully naked, well, fully sans-watch naked. In fact, I’ve done whole running seasons without a watch, and it was a nice relief.

On the other hand I tend to be a ‘running maximalist.’ No, I don't run in motion control shoes, but I do love watching a motivational movie in front of the treadmill, I run with a carefully crafted ipod playlist, and I love running data if possible from my GPS and having a voice telling me my pace every half mile.  I  like to think that there is no tough weather, just soft people, but I wimped out on a 95 degree day recently and returned home to the treadmill where I  had some cold water next to me, and a lovely horror movie, Insidious playing in front of me. Twice last season I did a long run while watching the move ‘Warrior’ and both times it did some weird, wonderful things to me, head, heart, and sole. And there’s something nice about having a HD TV with a full DVR of shows and  Netflix streaming to choose from, a pile of S-caps, 32 flavors of  Gu, and glasses of water on a table next to me. And of course my own personal pot to poop in as needed just a few steps away.

That’s the maximalist in me. The minimalist in me read Born To run and loved it, mostly for the running stories and the Tarahumar Indians as much as the discussion on running technique. And yes, I have buy-in, have always felt I run the best with the lightest shoe. (Although I have spoken with a running store owner who remarked how many folks come in to buy one pair of vibrams, but never seem to come back for their second pair.)

During my recent Ann Arbor marathon, I saw at least two runners fully barefoot, and yes, every time we ran by a Home Depot, I heard thousands of beeps from all the stud finders inside going wild. 

That said, after hearing the hype around the release of Brooks Pure Project,  I rushed out to a running store to try on a pair and I just didn’t feel it.

To me, when you put on a shoe, it doesn’t just have to feel good, it has to give you this “Ah ha!  Oh yeah Baby, Oh yeah!!!” feeling. I have to love the feel and want to go for a run the moment I take that first stride.  There is no waiting for a second date for me with shoes. It's not about wanting that shoe, its about needing that shoe, like none other will do.

In Harry Potter, the wand chooses the wizard, well, I want the shoes to choose the wearer.

So, I recently ducked into Running Fit sorta by accident, and just asked to try on some minimalist shoes, and when I put on the Saucony it melded my whole body together with a warm infusion. Like a shot of dope to my soul, I wanted them. And I was pretty sure I needed them.

I have been an Asics wearer, a Brooks wearer, a Nike wearer, but Saucony was my first running shoe in high school, and I ran my first two marathons in Saucony, and they seem to be less about hype and more about performance.  #findyourstrong (which I like) notwithstanding. 

And Of course the Saucony Kirvana 3’s beg you to run fast. It reminded me of that feeling I got in high school when I trained in those old 80’s high heeled heavy trainers but then switched to a racing flat for the event. My fear is what will they be like after a ten miler and extra work on my lower legs.   That’s why the running fit salesperson said to start with wearing the shoes for just 10% of my miles (which, of course, means I’ll do 20%) to work into it.

I love running store sales staff, especially at stores such as running fit.  Unlike car salesman, who often have me feeling gross and with the urge to run home and shower,  running store folks seem to embody the product they are selling.  This staff person was an ultra marathoner, trail runner, and it was clear talking about running was as natural as breathing. And she was all inked up, which, if you’re a trail-running ultra-marathoner and inked up, you probably kick ass all over the place.

Then I noticed tattooed on her underarm parts of a Robert Frost poem:

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ve seen me quote these last lines as well. Yes, it had to be a sign, so the purchase happened and now the shoes have a new home.   I certainly hope my future  (injured) self doesn’t’ curse my current self for making such a change, but, first, I have 10 to 20% of miles this week to try them out.

So, I took them out for a ride.  It was hot as hell, of course, so I went to the track where it's easier to take water breaks.  Like a middle-aged crisis man with a new sports car, I had to take them out fast a bit, and after a few warm up miles, did  miles at 7:15 and 2 others at 730, but all of my miles were under 8 minutes,(8 minute miles has been my base for a good-clip medium run).   

Yes, the shoes beg to be run fast in, and miles slip by much quicker.  And I swear I could feel the pavement. No they aren’t vibrams, they do have a 4 mm drop, but I left the imprints of all my toes on the hot, soft track.  I tried to focus on form, a /fore-foot strike, since its so easy to fall back on my heels when I get a little tired. The shoes not only worked for me but gave me a whole new excitment, and I wanted to share with everyone I talked to that day about my new shoes, but, alas, my filter was working, and I held back and resisted boring the hell out of everyone with a running story.

Of course, I figured they’d feel this good, the real question is will my legs recover as well from having less cushion for the pounding. We’ll see. If not, I can always put the sports car in the garage and only take it out from time to time, but ideally, I’d like my legs and my gait to adapt, and get me a new pair of these every 350 miles or so.

I can’t wait to wear them and bust out with a full set of intervals, can’t wait to see how they’ll work once I take them on a full 20 miler, but I  just wonder if the minimalist shoes will work on a treadmill, in air conditioning, watching a blu-ray of The Hunger Games, (haven’t seen it yet) or a couple episodes of Game of Thrones.  (Yes, it's hard to tell but Winter is coming.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stray at the Book Club

A very cool thing happened. I was invited to attend a book club last week to discuss my novel Stray Ah! What an honor, but yes, it sounds much more flattering than it was. Had it been a more random thing, I’d feel like I reached some level as a writer.  As it was, a wife of a friend was in a book club, and chose the book for their monthly discussion.

Originally, it was scheduled the day after the Ann Arbor Marathon, and that made me reluctant. I’ve been known to turn into a depressed haunting demon monster and suck peoples souls out of their nostrils the day after the marathon. And who wants that, right? Fortunately it was delayed a week.

Also, I had the whole question of,  "would you want the author of the book being discussed to be present at the book club?" Does that make it harder to say critical things or to just say, "you know, this book was crap and I couldn't even finish it, pass the artichoke dip please."  That said, I have had everything from A to Z said about both of my novels, and can handle any and all thoughts, and may perhaps be more critical than others. 

So, I decided that as long as there was a consensus among the members that they wanted me there, and that they had read the book and enjoyed it enough to talk about it, then I was in. I do feel like it's a very good novel and love talking about it, but, we all love our children don't we. 

What they decided was for me to come for the second half of the meeting so they could get speak unencumbered before I arrived.

So, I went there with free copies of my second novel, The Jade Rabbit, in hand. I was nervous, I was flattered, I was flabbergasted, but there are a three things I could talk about all day long: My kids, my running, and my books.

As expected, it was a casual, fun group, we all told jokes, shared interests in other authors, and they asked me general and then specific questions about the novel in between our discussion of random irreverent topics.

I shared how the characters in the story were actually pretty watered down versions of the real addicts I work with. Many were surprised when I shared how at least one client a month died of an overdose after leaving the clinic where I worked, and how the setting was a real place, and ironically, only a few miles from the backyard where we were sitting.  And the whole theme of interconnectedness of the novel, how ‘we are all flowing in and out of each other all the time’ was a theme that seemed to resonate well.

And yes, I was gloating inside. The questions they asked regarding Stray were a bit affirming to me that I had hit the right cord. The ambiguities and uncertainties and conflicts that I had hoped to elicit in the reader had them asking the questions I would have put in the back for a book club discussion guide, had I actually believed anyone would ever read the novel.

For example, (and this will not mean much if you haven’t read Stray, and I’m tip-toeing around potential spoilers.)

Was Tom a good counselor?

Regarding a certain death in the novel, was it a mercy killing, euthanasia, or murder?

What was the deal with James Whites father?

The blind man who’s walking around with the red-tipped cane, did he exist and what did he represent?

Oh, it was cool to discuss these issues, but the thing was, I didn’t really answer them.  Truth was, I don’t have answers. I have speculations that I wanted to grow in the readers mind, but no ultimate truths. I ask myself these same questions and let them ping-pong around my own skull.

The lack of clear cut explanations may have surprised a couple readers, but I think that’s how fiction and stories work best. Each of us presupposes an interpretation of the events of the novel, as well as a ‘what happens after the print says “the end” and it's our very own.  If not, it would be called “non-fiction”

I could have shared to them how each of the characters from Stray was doing since the novel ended, because, of course they have lived on in my brain and are still living their lives, making decisions, causing problems. But to do so would be to maybe wreck the already created image.

I don’t want to know if Tony Soprano got shot when the door of that restaurant opened to the tune of “Don’t Stop Believin,” and, my guess is, the creators of Sopranos couldn’t tell me anyways. The important thing is, I was invested enough to care, and it was very cool that a small group of folks were invested enough to care what happened to Thomas Cleaves, Rachel, Jason Boston, James White, the dogs of Argos Animals Shelter, and that mysterious blind man with the red tipped cane who goes tap-tap-tapping down the sidewalk every morning.

*Thanks again to the Book Clubbers for the invite. 


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