Monday, December 20, 2010


After a looooooong break, I decided to jump back into a bit of writing. But since there are so many things to mention, this post is going to be fairly convoluted.

My last entry is about the AFC half, which will most likely be the best race performance of my life. It was exciting to go through that race, knowing how unique it was, and to have an outcome that even surprised my elevated expectations.

I managed to use the results from AFC to squeeze into the elite development corral at the Chicago marathon. I doubled my efforts and on 10/10/2010 I pulled off what will most likely be my lifetime best marathon. I also really enjoyed the entire weekend, being able to spend time with some good friends in one of my favorite cities (at least when the weather is cooperating). It was an intense and vivid way to bring together years of preparation, months of dedicated training and eating, and a focus unlike anything I've previously experienced.

The next 30 days were an attempt to return to the land of normal. It's not so easy to do when you spend months on edge, it takes a while to adjust, unwind, recover, and reload. I managed to tweak a hamstring 2 weeks after Chicago at the Lindo Lake dirt dog race, which helped "encourage" me to gain perspective. I put more time into yoga and swimming and less into running. I slept until the sun rose, and on my birthday I started drinking again. After a long break from "normal" I could see and taste life's simple pleasures with new vigor. I started drinking coffee, and I indulged in scones and muffins. Soon I had gained back enough to relinquish my recent nickname as "the guy formerly known as big dave". My jeans were getting tight, but I caught myself smiling, curious, and inquisitive.

For Thanksgiving, I flew to Honolulu to be with my father who cooked a turkey (I think Gerri actually cooked it) and we ate alone together for the first time in years. It was a special moment, father and son, at such different stages of life, and yet sharing a moment. I will remember that meal, and the many other ones we shared while I was home, as simple connections between two men who are both trying to navigate our way through a life, manage the unexpected twists, and find enjoyment and happiness.

I flew to Kona on Saturday to pace/crew for Hillary Biscay during her first attempt at ultraman. Things went about as expected and my front row seat to one of the tougher endurance races was a real pleasure. I think the highlight of that trip was not how strong Hillary was at the end (which is impressive, but I think all of her friends have seen so much toughness from her that we aren't surprised by it anymore) but observing firsthand how she and her fiance, Maik, interacted. I hadn't spent continuous time with the two of them before and I really enjoyed seeing their interactions and how their dynamic works for the two of them.

After ultraman I was treated to two more weeks with my father, where I observed him preparing for a dance showcase event that his instructor had been planning for months. At first I admit I did not fully understand the magnitude of the evening, but as we got closer to the performance I began to realize it was going to be a real show. Watching my dad perform to New York, New York was another lifetime highlight. I think I understand some of how a parent might feel watching his/her child perform in front of others. I felt pride and admiration for his hard work, and I have to admit I was fairly amazed at how polished he was able to be, how smooth and graceful he can be at the moment of truth. I know he has put many years of hard work in to be where he is today, and it was impressive to see it on display. Another great part of the evening was seeing how much he really enjoyed the entire event, the social dancing, the performances, and all of the interaction with his peers. It was a window into his world that I feel grateful for the chance to experience.

As my 2 weeks in Honolulu wrapped up, things seemed to speed up a bit. I managed to complete one full loop of the HURT course which took me over 5 hours. The highlight of that run/hike/stumble was sitting on the bench that memorializes Rod's dad's life and his love of running and trails. It was my first time on that section of trail and I didn't even know the bench was there, I ran right by it on the way down to Nu'uanu but on the way back I stole a peek at the sign and realized what it was and what it meant. We have a bench for my mom, but it is in a botanical garden that we just don't go to very often. I felt a special moment up there, on that little grassy knoll, overlooking ocean and skyscrapers, with a breeze and pure quiet. Thanks to Kent for making Rod and for Rod for inspiring me in so many ways, tennis, running, and family.

The end of my trip brought some good news, if you can call it that. I was selected for the Western States lottery, my 4th year of waiting to get in, along with Mike Buchanan who I paced last year. It is very helpful to have someone else motivate me through what will undoubtedly be some of the most grueling training I will ever attempt. It will be nice to throw pace out the window and try to max out on distance, as opposed to the measured efforts that are necessary for road racing. I had planned to take an extensive off season, but I guess that plan is on hold a bit while I get myself ready for the efforts of the spring.

So, as Christmas approaches, I feel refreshed, recharged, and that pesky hamstring is healing. I feel progress with yoga for the first time in my life, the faint glimmer of a 1% increase in flexibility and core strength, both tremendous areas of weakness for me. And I'm doing an ok job of seeking out new experiences, new friends, and renewing my existing friends, particularly ones who have known me for a long time who I've lost touch with. It feels exciting to be at this stage of life, to look forward to each moment in the future to fully experience the present, and to remember the past.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


2009 Full Splits
2011 Full Splits
2010 Full Splits

I am writing this 15 months after the fact.  It is the blog that got away, the moment in time that I kept to myself until this evening.  I won't lie, 2010 was a unique year for me.  A year of transition.  I felt a lot of pain, more than I thought I could feel, and also bitterness, even anger and hopelessness.  I carried a massive amount of emotional energy, much of it negative, through that summer.  I chose to funnel that energy into running for lack of any other positive outlet to select.  Chicago 2010 became a punctuation mark in my life, a weekend that I won't ever forget.

The whole Chicago idea started in 2009 with my dear friend, John Healy, who ran a 2:38 in the only marathon he has ever done.  I signed up with him, and paced him for 10 miles that year before dropping back and limping in as I progressively froze in the 31 degree air.  I vowed to never return to that city after that day.  Two other friends, David Lipke and Jeff Rangan signed up for Chicago after hearing of Healy's accomplishment, but I watched the race reach capacity from the sidelines, too consumed with work and personal turmoil to avenge my defeat.  Out of the midst of that turmoil and confusion, without any set intention, a confluence of factors all lined up in the same direction and converged on 10-10-2010.

It started with giving up.  Perhaps this was my first real yoga lesson, the hardest part sometimes is letting go and sinking in to the pose we have a natural tendency to fight.  My last strong marathon at the time was my 2006 2:37 at RnR SD.  I hadn't achieved a significant running PR in 3 years.  I wasn't training well, I wasn't eating well, I was overloaded at work and so emotionally invested in what I had built that I couldn't let go and walk away.  Then my fiance at the time moved out of the house we had spent 2 years remodeling together.  I left my job and started at a new company, meeting new friends and learning all sorts of new things.  With the job change, less responsibility, and the unexpected switch to being single, I found myself with a lot of free time on the weekends and no emotional interest in continuing the home improvement efforts which had been geared towards a life with someone who decided that was not what she wanted.  I did what every washed-up, never-was runner does when they get old, I turned to ultrarunning.  I figured my road PR's were all behind me, after multiple attempts to crack 2:37, I figured it was just a fluke or an incredibly special day and that I should really just be grateful for it.

As I got more comfortable on dirt, and I started spending large portions of the weekend on singletrack, an interesting thing happened.  I got fit again.  The last time I had really felt fit was mid 2006, and during the 3 years since that time I had forgotten how incredible it feels to reach peak fitness.  Initially I just wanted to get ready to pace Mike Buchanan over the last 40 miles of his first Western States adventure, an effort that I knew would require me to be prepared.  Then Rod asked me to pace him at Leadville and that seemed serious to me.  I borrowed Mike Mahurin's altitude tent and built my mileage up to 100 mile weeks, often times running to and from work (12 miles each way at the time) to avoid the traffic and just because I had nothing else worth caring about.  I even mixed in one or two run-to-the-pool, swim masters, run-to-work, run-home days when run commuting got too boring.  I met Patrick and Nick in the ranch at 6am with headlamps to do battle whenever they suggested it.  That summer was mostly overcast and while everyone else complained about not seeing the sun, I used the perfect running weather as further incentive to push myself.  I started eating better, incorporating salads and fruits into my diet and I dropped 10 lbs down into the mid 160's for the first time in decades.  I got into yoga and started swimming a bit too, filling in the extra time in the day when I wasn't running to work on my strength and flexibility.  I leveraged my long time running pal, Luc Teyton's sage advice and out-of-his-bum training plan, often surprising even myself with what I was able to put together in the middle of those big weeks.  The altitude tent wound up increasing my HCT from 43 to 49, and I felt like I had an extra gear, a sort of Flowers For Algernon effect that had both physical and psychological implications.  Add in the mix of emotional pain when my x-fiance started dating and I wound up running a 3 minute PR at the AFC half marathon the weekend my engagement ring was returned.

The week after AFC, as the dust settled, I learned from David Lipke that his sister, Lisa, was hoping to run 2:45 at Chicago to get her olympic trials qualification time.  The race was full, but Jeff realized that my AFC time was 9 seconds slower than the cutoff for entry to the elite development program.  Even though the race had filled months earlier, the elite development entry deadline was still a couple of days away.  With nothing to lose, I shot an email off to the coordinator who surprised me by granting me entry.  I signed up, booked my flight, and decided it was time to avenge my chilly performance the year before.

At first I thought I'd just pace Lisa to her 2:45, presumably with Jeff and David and one of Lisa's friends.  However, as the next few weeks played out, I kept running stronger and I reached a peak where I knew it was time for me to be selfish.  Lisa wound up running 2:48, just missing her time, but proving that she could do it.  This all set the stage for the 2011 Chicago marathon where she and I took care of her unfinished business from 2010.  In 2009 I had stayed with a friend in Evanston while Healy was styled out in a hotel downtown, and this turned out to be a bit of a logistical challenge since my head wasn't really in the race from the start, although my body wasn't ready either and the temperatures were a bit rough for this Hawaii boy.  For 2010, after witnessing how wise Healy is and how taking a race seriously can actually pay off, I took John's advice and tried to do it all the right way.  Jeff, Lipke and I got a room at the W and we played it pretty mellow the day before the race, doing a little walking, some eating, some socializing, and some relaxing.

Race morning came quickly, with Jeff and I spooning in one bed and Lipke in the other.  Things just went smoothly that morning, we met up with Lisa and her friend and the 5 of us walked from the hotel to the start.  The temps were perfect, no wind, not cold, not hot, and I knew the course very well from the year before.  I left Jeff and Lipke and went off the the elite development corral with Lisa.  Anyone who has seen "Up In the Air" knows that frequent travelers like elite status, and frequent runners are no different, we love the VIP tent for the access to food, space to stretch out, short lines at the port-o-potties, and like-minded, non-dorky athletes.  Being allowed into that elite development tent started my day off right.  Everyone there was faster than me and arrived ready to qualify for the olympic trials.  I was one of the few who was there for that day, this _was_ my marathon trials, my moment of glory, not just a stepping stone towards a loftier goal.  I remember saying a few words to Kris Houghton, a fellow BSK runner and sub 15 5K guy who I think had just had a son a few months prior, both of us seemed so loose and calm.  I left my bag on the side of the tent and wandered off to the corral reserved for skinny legs, short shorts, and 6 packs, feeling a special sense of privilege for being a part of it.

The gun went off and within seconds we were all off and the thoughts changed from apprehension to execution.  I ran those first few miles remembering David Volk's advice from the year prior, that finding a good pack for the first 10 is worthwhile because that's where the wind will be if there is any wind.  I remember starting off closer to 6 min pace as I had the year prior with John, but then finding a group and making the conscious decision to go with them even though they were moving faster.  The paced ratcheted down to 5:40-ish and we rolled steadily through 5k, 10k, and hit the half split on track to crack 2:30.  I didn't honestly expect to break 2:30 but in the state of mind I was in, I was ready to go for broke because I knew this was the most fit my legs and heart had ever been and I strongly doubted I would ever be able to cultivate the right blend of fierce intensity that I had at that moment.  There is a right turn just before hitting that halfway split which is in the middle of downtown and where a ton of spectators line up behind barricades on both sides of the street.  It pumps you up if you're having a good day, and it gives you a burst that carries you through the first section of the second half.

At 17 I got to see Chaz, Ashley and Marley where they hang out every year.  They had a sign for me and they were stoked to see me smiling this year instead of frozen like they had seen last year.  My heart was warmed from the inside for their endless, overflowing friendship, they are truly one of the most incredible families I have the privilege of knowing.  That warmth carried me along until the turnaround at 18 or 19, when the course really opens up.  Wide streets and thinning packs change the mood, all of a sudden you are racing yourself or maybe one or two other people in front of you instead of mixing it up, elbow to elbow with the guy next to you.  The air started to warm up too, and I noticed myself sweating, feeling the crystals of salt form on my skin as I started to chafe a bit.  I've been in that experience before and I know that a few cups of water on your head can help keep things cool under the hood and also provide a bit of a refreshing shock to keep the motivation from draining away.  Growing up in Hawaii, I embrace the heat.  Sure, I run faster at 50 degrees than 80, but I enjoy the sensations of warmth so much more than being cold.

I started counting down the miles once I hit 20, intent on keeping every mile under 6 min pace.  That was one thing I hadn't done at RnR when I pulled off that 2:37.  I remember one goof, one mile over an overpass to Vacation Island that clocked in at 6:37 and that imperfection had cost me a chance at 2:36.  This time, with all that I had put in, I vowed to not let myself run slower than 5:59.  Of course, intentions and actions don't always line up and as the splits say, I was really fighting hard to keep it sub 6 and really reaching the limit of what my body could do.  I remember the carpeted bridge where Minnie Mouse had passed me in 2009.  This time there was no sight of him.  I remember the left turn just after that bridge where I had started walking a bit, this time I knew I would not be walking.  I remembered Chinatown where a girl had ran past me with her shirt tucked into her shorts, in a jog bra and short shorts, while I was wearing a long sleeve, gloves, beanie, and couldn't feel my fingers.  This time, I ran hard through Chinatown and I did the passing.  This time the sun was shining.  This time it was game time.  I remembered the section through the college which felt like a death march last year, this time I powered over that overpass and through the campus and found myself on the home stretch before I realized it was time to kick it in.  Two and a half long, straight miles on Michigan Ave, lined with photos of fallen CPD officers and I'd be home.  I cranked as hard as I could.  I passed Manny who was having a bit of an off day I guess but I didn't notice him.  I had total tunnel vision.  Nothing mattered other than getting to the timing mat.  Who cares about my f'd up life, f'd up career, f'd up relationships, it all evaporated in that last 5k.  "Just keep it under 6" were the only words circulating through my thoughts.

And then it was over.  And I felt tremendously empty.  I went back to the elite development tent and ate myself silly but that didn't help.  I got a call from the x-fiance on the walk back to the W and that didn't help.  I had just achieved everything I came there for, the sun was shining, it was a beautiful day in a beautiful city and I had Chaz and Lipke and Jeff and Lisa to share it with and I still felt empty.  Empty and broken.  I can't explain it.  It was a wonderful weekend.  We showered up and went to get deep dish pizza and had a good time.  I felt all alone, even among some of my best friends, surrounded by warmth.

It was at that moment, the end of my race, when I stopped struggling and finally accepted the massive shift in my life that 2010 represented.  I stopped fighting it.  I sunk in and embraced the sensations of pain which I had been channeling into running.  Over the next three months, I fell into quite a nasty funk.  I picked up a little hamstring injury, got severely addicted to yoga, met some incredible people and wound up being saved from that low by Krissy who coached me to my first finish at Western States.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I can't sleep, but I figure I still need the rest, so I thought I should write up my thoughts from yesterday while I wait for the sun to show up.

First off, although I know nobody actually reads this junk, I did want to thank Hillary Biscay for all of her help. She gave me tremendous confidence to execute the plan, despite a leadup to the race that most people would consider a bit non-traditional. Having her in my corner made a huge difference. She evaluated my training, looked over what I was eating, encouraged me, and kept me from shooting myself in the foot. On top of that, she had her own race to deal with, half a world away, a large number of other athletes, a recent engagement to a wonderful (and hot) dude, and a turnaround in her own racing and training. I have always been a big fan of Hillary since I met her, but I think the last 3-4 weeks has peeled back another layer of her onion for me, I see deeper into her intensity, her willingness to help, and her true passion for life, and I am truly grateful for her help.

I also want to thank Luc for doing some of the recent key workouts with me and pushing me to work hard on many of the others. Luc is my favorite training partner because he is so ruthless, both to himself and to me. I love his sour humor, and I really enjoyed the run we did with his daughter, Anais, where I got to see the two of them interacting in a quirky yet cool manner with lots of give and take, mutual respect and understanding. If I am lucky enough to have a relationship like that with my own child, I will consider myself blessed. I think seeing Luc's softer side gives me a unique perspective on him that others may not see, but I am sincerely grateful for everything he has done for me over the past decade, to make me a better runner, and a more surly individual :p

On to the race itself.

The morning started off early, 3:15 was what I set the alarm for. I thought about 3:00, but decided the extra 15 was worthwhile. I stumbled out of bed and grabbed the leash. Hunter has been adorable lately, and I felt if I could get him his walk and breakfast before I left for the race, it would make both of us feel better about the day ahead. Walking hunter that early in the morning is nice for another reason, there are so few cars that I feel safe unclipping him, which means he gets to cover a lot of extra distance and really get his nose into all sorts of things that he doesn't get to smell on leash. We had a nice walk, and I managed the poop duty pretty well with my headlamp (one of my bigger fears every morning is making a huge mess in the dark when it is time to pick up what Hunter leaves behind). I figure my time with Hunter has really prepared me for future diaper duty.

We got back and I got my things together, made my breakfast drink of maltodextrin and gatorade endurance. David Lipke was in my kitchen when I came downstairs from putting on my race gear, so we chatted a bit and headed out. We picked up Betty Morin, a longtime friend from the old yellow page, who was staying at another friend's house in LJ. As we drove down, I checked in with Scott who had picked up my packet the day prior. Sometimes the day is just charmed, and as we exited on 10th and proceeded to A, I spotted Scott and Eric walking. We pulled over, they piled in, and the 5 of us headed off to the parking lot with nervous excitement. The bus line was a typical fiasco, but I kept reminding myself that the ideal scenario is a late but not too late arrival at the start because it is just a cluster out there.

I got to chat with Betty on the bus ride while Scott and Eric sat together and Lipke chatted up a stranger. One thing I really love about Lipke is how excited he is to meet and get to know others. Seriously, if you want to make 10 new friends in 24 hours, just hang out near Lipke and introduce yourself. The guy takes charm to the next level, he has some real outgoing qualities that I admire and that I should try to incorporate into my own life. Betty and I talked a bit, and though it has been a while since we've hung out, it seemed like it could have been yesterday. She is in such a pleasant spot right now in her life, she just seems to be in a nice, happy groove. It was such a great way to take my mind off things, such a great start to the day, that I walked off the bus feeling ultra relaxed. I gave Betty a hug, and Lipke and I proceeded to the vip staging area.

At AFC, the start is such a cluster that the VIP/Elite area is absolute gold. It is night and day different to be separated from the crowds, have space to breathe, separate port-o-potty's, etc. I am so grateful for David Kloz who had gotten me into the elite area twice now. I hadn't earned it before, always being slower than the time requirements needed for official access to that section, but I guess sometimes friends help each other out. Thank you David.

All of the team BSK/Running Center "smurfs" got a lovely warmup together, Okwaro, Joey, Morgan, Sergio, Lipke, and myself. There was a bit of a headwind along the first section of the road, and when the busses passed we could really feel it. When we turned around, we felt the tailwind and the quiet. I knew that starting out with someone to draft might be worth a few seconds in the end based on the warmup. I also want to say, without sounding too much like a freak, that I really felt connected to the group during our warmup together. I've gotten to know all of them over the past year or two, and I see the joy and spunk in all of their hearts, expressed in different ways. It was a special moment for me, feeling part of a team, being accepted and respected for who I am and even appreciated for any humor and positive energy I could contribute. I told Lipke his goal was to hold off Joey and that it would take a 1:18. I was secretly hoping for a showdown with the two of them pulling each other up the hill and both beaming with smiles at the end. My time prediction was just about right, but Lipke ended up a little behind Joey as she passed him on the hill. I am stoked to see Joey coming back to life after a few injuries and some distractions with raising two beautiful girls.

Also at the start I got to see Omar again. I hadn't seen him in a while, and I just love that guy's sense of humor and his overall happy-go-lucky vibe. He was one of the founding members of the team, in our first photo he is right there smiling, and there are some great shots of him with his tennis ball bleached head from later races too. It just set the stage to have him helping all of us out with gear bags, water, and calm encouragement. Thanks Omar!

The starting line came together and the gun went off. It was a bit of a surprise for me that the race was starting, I guess I wasn't really ready for that to happen yet. In years past, especially years spent in the main staging area, I've been itching to get going long before the gun, but this time I was a bit unprepared. Maybe since it was overcast and we didn't get the usual sunrise I just hadn't switched over to race mode. Anyway, I forced myself up to speed and tried to find a position. I really wanted to have a group in front of me to help with the headwinds.

Unfortunately, the main pack pulled away quickly and I didn't feel anyone substantial behind me. I was left in no-man's land, the space between the main pack of real elite runners, and the unpredictable string of everyone else. I checked my watch and saw numbers that made me scared, low 5's which is more like my 5k PR pace. I tried to relax, and thought of Kloz saying "ruuuuun reeeelaaaxed" in my head. Just before mile 1, the lead female caught me. She was running low 5's as well, and though I was concerned about the numbers on my watch, my breathing was ok, maybe a bit high, but not out of control, so I tried to stick with her. We cranked past 1 in 5:15 or so and 2 in 10:30-10:35 together. She was running just slightly faster than I thought I could maintain, so I was torn. On one hand, running with the lead female gives you a great boost, the crowd gets pumped when they see her, there are often cameras and bike escorts. It boils down to the difference between pretending to be a celebrity and running in your own isolated bubble. You can use all of that extra energy as propulsion, but it can also go to your head, cloud your judgement, and wreck your day. This wasn't a 10k, and a meltdown could cost me my PR. I ran past Kloz on his bike taking photos and he said I looked good, so I figured I should man up, put my ego on ice, and let the woman slowly drift ahead. I think that ended up being a key decision, I just was not ready to run with her. As much as I would have loved to finish a minute ahead of where I did, and be in some of her photos, share her airspace and pacing, it wasn't the right day to try that kind of cowboy stunt.

I actually drifted back on the long descent, which is very unusual for me. Usually when it comes to downhill running, I push the pace and pass people. I also had one other male elite run past me (going much faster) on the descent, so I hit the bottom a bit worried that maybe I had already sabotaged my day with the aggressive (for me) start. I saw Kloz on his bike for a 2nd time before Seaport Village and told him I was scared. This was my moment of weakness, and he talked me through it. I actually don't remember what he said, but whatever it was did the trick. I also checked my pace and realized I was now running 5:20-5:25 which I knew should equate to a PR, and I was closing in on the 10k mark.

I ended up hitting the 10k mark at 32:23. That would have scared me if I didn't remember John Healy's words that everyone who has run well at AFC has hit 10k at PR pace. OK, so what does that mean if I'm 45 seconds ahead of my 10k pr? Yikes. I used up my John Healy confidence in this section, still trying to hold that invisible bungee cord to the lead female up ahead, and for the first time ever, I was looking forward to the out and back section to get an eye on the rest of the field.

Before entering the out and back, roughly at the midpoint of the run, I took my first and only gel. It was a mint chocolate (I love mint and I love chocolate, and the mint chocolate works great in training for me). My breathing had switched from 4 beat to 2 beat, so as I snarfed the gu, I took a breath. That was a bad mistake as I think I got some gu down my trachea. I grabbed a cup of water to try to wash it down, but I think I spent the next minute gagging, coughing, and sputtering. Somehow I managed to keep the leg turnover going, and pull myself together. The stomach did not rebel, but I think in retrospect that I should probably only take gels in races longer than a half when going for PR's. Then again, maybe the boost made the difference over the final section. I got to see the leaders on the first out and back and that was a real treat, usually they are on the 2nd long before I hit the first. I saw Sergio and Okwaro as well, and I was surprised at how close they seemed, but I had to remind myself that out and backs are like an optical illusion, everyone seems closer than they really are.

I ran better to the 2nd out and back, perhaps because of the tailwind, and rounded that turn hard and tight to the curb. I saw Kloz and gave him my 2nd gu, I was done attempting that. Also worth mentioning that the only cup of water I had on the course was the 1/4 cup I tried to sip after that gel at about mile 6. It was overcast and I didn't want to risk any more issues with breathing, so I figured I should skip fluids. I had to work hard through the rental car lot section. There are a few tighter turns in that stretch, and you can't see ahead, so it can be demoralizing. Plus we had some headwind getting to it, so I just really had to focus and push. I used some mental imagery in that section, whatever it took to get the gps to say 5:20 instead of 5:25.

Coming out of the junkyard (it feels like a junkyard doesn't it, I keep waiting to see a pit bull charge the fence at me) I cheered up as I could again see the lead female and I also caught a glimpse of Sergio as she caught him. I could tell his day was over, and I felt bad since his last race had not gone so well either, but at the same time I had a selfish idea that if I could catch him, maybe he could help me. Of course I knew that when a 1:15 guy catches a 1:06 guy, the 1:06 guy isn't going to be in the frame of mind to do any work, but I figured the hope would carry me through. We rounded the corner onto Broadway, across the trolly tracks, and I thought of breakfast at Grand Central for some reason. That was a good memory from my past, and it gave me a little boost for the first mini climb. As we hit A street and the climbing kicked into full force, I was lured forward by the clocks I had seen previously. I was too fatigued to do good math, but my gut feeling was that a PR was almost completely certain, and sub 70 might even be a possibility (it wasn't). Sometimes rough math can help, sometimes it can hurt, and in this case I think it helped even though it wasn't very accurate. At the same time, running up A and then 6th, I had flashbacks to 2006 when Kloz had yelled at me the entire way and his encouragement got me to catch and pass one of the female elites. I really dug deep that day on the hill, my HR was as high as I've ever felt it in a race, so I was scared of hurting that bad. I also felt like I was crawling on this section, with the lead female now so far ahead I could barely see her, and my pace slowing to what felt like a walk. This was probably my weakest moment, somewhat alone (though I did get some good cheers from Jim O'Hara at the top) and questioning my effort level despite feeling exhausted.

Once I got to the top, my doubt eased off as my pace quickened on the relatively flat section on the bridge over 163. As I made it to the fountain for the final push before the descent to the finish, I saw Jeff and Stephen off to the left and I got a great boost from their smiles. Jeff (who lives in Sacramento) has a tendency to show up at just about every event, function, social engagement, etc, and seeing him was a nice comfort. I turned the corner and tried to pick it up on dead legs. The final .22 clocked in at 4:35 pace, so I guess I did ok, though I remember seeing the clock tick down and past the 1:11 mark and I remember being bummed that I was not able to push hard enough to finish sub 71. I quickly got out of the glass-is-half-empty mode in the chute as the reality of what I had pulled off (not quite a 3 minute half marathon pr) sunk in. I gave high 5's and knuckle bumps to the female champ (I remember Mike Riley saying something about course record while I was pushing toward the finish, but I was too fuzzy at that point to remember his words). I also tried to cheer up Sergio about his day, he was really gracious when he congratulated me, though I'm sure that it stings to go from winning a half marathon just a couple of months ago to getting caught by a joker like me.

After the race I got to spend some time with Lipke and get him his t-shirt (that guy loves race t-shirts) as well as chat with a happy-but-blistered Joey and see Sergio and Morgan. We also bumped into Betty, but missed seeing Scott and Eric. Lipke and I left to go to swim practice (his favorite post-race activity) where I basically drowned and was heckled by the coach for about an hour, then we ate some insane pancakes at Claire's. I also drank my first full cup of coffee at breakfast, with Lipke's help on the correct technique of cream and stirring. I find it funny to not be a coffee drinker at age 35, so that is something I may try to acquire with time. I know almost every person I admire is a huge coffee fan, so I figure I am missing out on something.

The coffee turned me from zombie back to silly, so when I got home I decided to take the Merlin out for a spin. Trevor's gf, Darcy, joined me, and though we stayed on the coast and were almost killed by errant drivers, I felt pretty good with the chance to spin out the legs and get dropped by a chick. I had forgotten to raise the saddle back up since the bike was last used almost exactly a year ago, so I felt a bit like a fat guy on a little bike, but the extra quad work of a too-low saddle position seemed like a good idea, and Darcy wasn't interested in stopping, so we just rolled through it.

As I drifted off to sleep, I got a bunch of messages from Rod as he was finalizing his plans for Leadville. It is pretty darn cool to go from one great weekend and bounce right into the next. Although, as I am typing this, Darcy is getting up and making her way to the pool for 5:30 masters and I am slacking by sitting in bed with the laptop. Oh well, I guess it is time to give Hunter another walk and start my day.

A big thank you to everyone who cheered and raced yesterday. Thanks to Hillary, Luc, Lipke, Scott, Eric, Betty, Kloz, Omar, Sergio, Morgan, Joey, Okwaro, swim coach Kate (even though my arms are throbbing) Trevor, Darcy, Steve, Steve's wife Lindsay, and of course Hunter for a day I hope to remember forever.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I have been walking hunter off leash lately. It is amazing how much more fun that is for the dog. He is slowing down a lot as he pushes through the halfway point of his 11th year. Still he maintains the exuberance of a labrador, anything resembling food goes down the hatch (and some things that are definitely not food).

It is a pleasure to share these golden years with him. I sense a certain level of acceptance that took him 10 years to reach. He knows who I am, even he even listens to me sometimes. He has been my most loyal fan for the past decade, and I cannot imagine what life will be like without him.

Time to go walk the pooch.

Sunday, August 1, 2010



I wrote this on August 1st, 2010, initially as a post to this blog.  I took it down perhaps 24 hours later.  It felt too raw at the time to leave up.  I have shared it with only a few of my friends since then.  I find it difficult to re-read because of how I remember feeling that morning.  However, the event I describe changed me in ways I'm still discovering.  I consider 8/1/2010 to be the day I re-acquired some of my lost emotional awareness.  This blog began in part from the ashes of my failed engagement and this post marks the definitive realization of that failure.  The blog just seems incomplete without this post.

I've turned off comments intentionally.  I don't want to relive any of these thoughts, I'd like to simply acknowledge them as memories.  As some of my friends have noticed, I've changed a lot and not necessarily for the worse.

I watched as the garage door jumped to life and slowly ascended. I had tried to mentally prepare for this moment, but all of my prior thoughts on the subject were erased as that door opened. First I saw tires, then a bumper, then a white tailgate with a logo I know well, and finally the door was completely open. I knew my she was home because her car was in the driveway, which is unusual because she normally parks in the garage. I figured his car was in there, and as the door opened, imagination turned into reality. I knew I needed to go through this moment, but I still gasped at how painful it was in real time.

I missed the goodbye kiss, fortunately, that is pain I did not have to endure. I watched her walk out the front door, get into the car, and then heard both vehicles start. She backed out, then he backed out, and then she noticed me, sitting in my car, where I had been for about 90 minutes. I had come to apologize for harsh words two days prior, words I should not have said, words I did not mean. Words that had come out in the heat of the moment, when a call from him had interrupted a discussion that was turning into an argument. I had lost my cool, wished ill will towards her, and it had ruined my Saturday thinking about it. I had spent the prior 24 hours being angry, angry at him, angry at me, angry at her, and I did not want to be angry anymore.

She saw me and rolled her window down as he drove off the other way. I had imagined that I would be angry, but as it happened there was no anger, just utter despair. She asked if I wanted to talk. Funny, that is exactly what I had texted to her about 90 minutes before, and also repeated in a voicemail. She is an early riser, and something had kept her in bed late today. I was mildly pleased with myself for having the restraint to avoid knocking on the door and forcing the issue while they would still have been naked together. I left them the opportunity for a pleasant morning, for the chance to enjoy that special joy of spending an intimate evening together, before I ruined the party.

She invited me in, and I walked into her place. As soon as I got through the door, a torrent of emotions fell out on the floor. I think I went through every possible humiliating act that a human can do. I cried, sobbed, wailed, punched the floor, curled up into a little ball, paced, cried some more, slapped myself upside the head, dry-heaved, and hyperventilated. I am not a drama queen, and I don't cry much at all, but there was no stopping this hailstorm.

I suppose I am strange for being sad at this moment, that I have no right to be so devastated since she broke up with me and moved out months ago. She says she felt lonely when we were together and felt rejected, but I guess now we both know what that means. I don't have any right to be sad that she is moving on, and finding emotional and physical joy in another's arms, but somehow it still completely crushes me to think of them together. She was the only woman I had ever proposed to, the only woman I ever thought I could spend the rest of my life with, to share intimate moments, to be naked and spoon with, to live our lives together, to have children with, to grow old together. I had modified my behavior over the past few years, becoming more aware of many of my faults such as tardiness, eye contact, greetings, formalities, general manners. I changed my diet somewhat, and my sleep schedule substantially. I rented out my house and tried to fix up a new house with her. Yes I am imperfect, and yes I had been overly emotionally invested in my job at the time, to the detriment of my life. Yes I accept responsibility for failing to be what she wanted me to be, for making countless mistakes, for being late all the time. Yes, I screwed it up, I lost the girl of my dreams, it was my fault. None of that realization erases the joys we shared together, days spent planting trees, scraping floors, picking out appliances, doing workouts, eating, etc. And we had some of our own wonderful moments at night together, moments I will remember even if she doesn't, moments that were special to me, where I felt loved and complete.

I still love her, and today proves that point. If I did not love her, I would not care that she has moved on and found companionship and sexual chemistry elsewhere. It is a little ironic how the accused rejector becomes the rejected without really understanding what is going on along the way. I am forever changed from knowing her, from pouring my heart and soul out to her, and for watching the person I had proposed to love for the rest of my life move along to her next partner.

Friday, July 30, 2010


I am not much of a Tony Robbins type of guy. Actually, let me rephrase. Tony Robbins is very good at what he does and I have lots of respect for the guy. But I am not the type to spend much of my time trying to understand his message and how to apply it to my life.

However, I do spend a little bit of time thinking about my own faults. I have a few great people in my life who help me out by pointing out some of my more obvious flaws to me :) I was fortunate enough to experience firsthand how some of those imperfections have worked out over the course of the week, and I can honestly say that I am not terribly impressed with myself.

To start with, one of my substantial limitations is my inability to phrase things properly. Words come out of my mouth often without adequate attention to the order and desired meaning, which frequently results in an impact ranging from misunderstanding to outright insult. I have been fortunate enough to have some of these situations pointed out to me, so at the very least, at my ripe old age of 35, I am more aware now than ever about how those words are interpreted and the impact they have. The next steps are to work harder on saying the right things at the right times and trying harder to avoid saying the wrong things.

On top of that, perhaps one of my bigger character flaws is punctuality. I am the late guy, always the last one to show up. Ironically, I don't mind waiting much, especially not if there is anything to do, and even if there isn't, sometimes the only downtime I ever get is while sitting around waiting for something or someone. Still, more often than not, others are waiting on me because I am late.

I never really put much thought into it, since I am capable of showing up on time every now and then, but it has become less transparent as I get older and associate more with punctual individuals. I like to think that part of my problem stems from growing up in Hawaii, where most people live in the present and don't spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the future. But the reality is that I am bad at this aspect of life, bad enough that it has caused plenty of friction with people I care about. I never really thought of being late as being disrespectful until it was spelled out for me. Again, I am not about to suggest that I am anything other than a total screwup in this regard, but just like my inappropriate comments, I am learning to be more aware of what time it is and where I need to be next. I would like to think that awareness is the first step towards improvement, but I suppose results speak louder than intentions.

There are plenty of other ways that I've insulted, offended, and otherwise let down various friends throughout this week, this month, and this year. As July comes to a close, it is time for me to accept those shortcomings, to be cognizant of them, and to commit to improvement for the future.

The HURT lottery opens up tomorrow, and I plan to put my name in the hat. That seems much scarier for some reason than the Western States lottery which I've done for 2 out of the last 3 years, mostly because I assume the chances of getting in are higher, and partly because the course is just about as miserable as it could be. I'm not sure the race even qualifies as a run, it seems more like it would be a fast hike. But there is something about it that has stuck in my mind, since Rod first brought it up, and before that when I saw that first sign at Paradise Park on a run while visiting my dad, probably 7 or 8 years ago.

In that regard, I am really looking forward to Leadville. I have been told and read a fair bit about the race and the course, and it has a special place in my dark closet of things I am deathly afraid of. It should be humbling to experience it first hand. April 21st can't come soon enough.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I remember the first tent I had as a kid, it was an ugly, brown, hexagon shaped dome tent. I slept in that silly tent, both inside, in the back yard, and a few times at various campgrounds.

This last week, I am once again sleeping in a tent, although this time the tent belongs to a friend of mine (thanks Mike.) Through nothing other than pure chance, I happen to live two doors down from a former olympic cyclist who designed the systems sold by Colarado Altitude Training. Putting those pieces together, along with my upcoming intent to pace at Leadville, winds up with me sleeping in the living room in a tent, hooked up to a machine, which pumps air into the tent to create a simulation of altitude.

I get strange looks from Hunter when I turn the machine on, I think he is trying to ask me why it has to make so much noise. I don't feel that sorry for him, he has 12 hours during the day with the house to himself, so he can survive the night with a bit of noise and his buddy inside a plastic bubble. Maybe he will sleep more during the day now and bark less at the neighbor's cat.

My impressions of the tent are kind of blah. If you've ever wondered what it is like to sleep in one of these things, I would wager that it's almost exactly what you might expect. The tent itself is fairly tall and roomy, not exactly a design that anyone would consider for backpacking, its as nice as any indoor tent could be. The machine is just like any sort of machine you might see in a hospice, its got wheels, dials, makes some noises, and otherwise looks pretty blah.

I sleep pretty soundly inside this thing, despite the noise. I suspect that has a lot to do with what I try to get done during the day than anything about the tent itself.

I should get a glimpse of any possible training benefit in another week when I race AFC, but there are probably too many variables to really say what contribution the tent makes. It has given me a little bit of confidence for Leadville, which I suppose is all I am asking of it. The rest of what I might be feeling could just be placebo effect.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


There were a few events today that pushed my thoughts toward the number 2. To start with, I had a productive double track workout day, and when I do dumb stuff like that, I always end up in a good mood. To end with, I just looked at a photo of the hot dog contest which shows my attempt to shove two dogs in my mouth at once and the memories made me double-gag. But, more than those trivialities, my thoughts lately tend to center around people.

Specifically, I've paid much more attention to the difference between a pair and a single lately. When I train alone, there is a definite peace and calm, but it is like surfing alone, even the best day still feels a little hollow. Lately I've thought a bit about my upcoming SF-SD bike trip with my friend, Al. I've done SD-SF once solo and it was a great challenge, but overall I'd say it was unnecessarily miserable. Sharing an experience, good or bad, with one other person seems to elevate the commonplace towards the extraordinary. I remember riding with Al in Austin while I was there for a friend's wedding, going through some climbs by lake Travis, and really working into a nice groove, just the two of us clicking miles away, swearing up a storm for no particular reason, and enjoying a moment that would not have been terribly memorable had we been alone. Al would say "three steps" indicating we had 3 climbs ahead of us, and it seemed like no matter how many we did there were always 3 more waiting around the next corner.

I've also thought a bit about childbirth lately, although not because of any personal experience with it. I did spend 3 summers working as a clerk in the L/D ward at Kapiolani Medical Center so I got a little bit of the experience as an outsider looking in. I would imagine that experiencing the birth of your child as a parent is one of life's most unique and cherished experiences. It is impossible for me to look at newborn photos and not feel the glow of a the parents shining back at me. Most recently two of my friends had their first kids, Patrick and Paula brought Lucy into the world, and John and Errolyn are the proud parents of twin boys Mitch and Glen. And of course my sister and her three girls, Juniper, Clementine and Hazel, talk about estrogen overload, no wonder my bro-in-law always has a beer bottle in his hand. I can't imagine what a childbirth would feel like with nobody there to share the experience with, and I wonder how single parents manage to do it.

Last, I think about death sometimes, not in a morbid sense, but because if you don't understand and accept your own mortality, how can you really decide what is important in your life? I can't imagine the horror of being a casualty of war, dying in a foreign country without family or friends. At lunch we briefly discussed Princess Di's death as I researched the different seatbelt laws (NOTE: California law says backseat passengers have to be buckled, Hawaii only requires minors to wear their belts in the back seat). I guess there really isn't any good way to die, certainly not a car accident, breast cancer, or a firearm. I have a permanent memory of one of my mom's last night's when she let my father and I know that she was scared. "Scared of what?" we asked, and she pronounced "scared of dying!" At the time I was speechless, but I've always felt that declaration was rather poignant. Today would have been her 69th birthday.

Over the last 12 months I've witnessed a number of breakups, and I find it all very revealing about the challenges of the modern human condition. Perhaps we have all reached a state of independence that does not easily lend itself to partnership. Perhaps there is simply less willingness and desire to "tough it out" or maybe there is simply no shame or dishonor in admitting that things didn't turn out as planned. I do know that some of the best times I have had were shared with someone else, and I think those are the moments I will remember most when my time comes to reflect upon my life. Surfing with Brandon as a kid, riding bikes with Al in various cities, running with Luc (or really behind Luc), visiting colleges with my father, pacing Mike and Rod at various 100 milers, going to see Phish with Kelly, and of course all of the personal and special moments of past relationships, from the mundane to the surreal.

Having a few moments of solo time is healthy for all of us, but wanting to share life's experiences is a big part of what makes us human.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The basics

I had psyched myself up all week to write about memorial day's 60 miles of misery, some of my thoughts about pacing Mike Buchanan at western states, and last weekend's Cuyamaca 3 peaks 50k + Elvis TJ half marathon. Maybe I will still get to that at some point, but for now, I figure I need to just start at the basics.

What makes a good weekend different from a not-so-special weekend? For me, it is the amount of that special ingredient that is so absent from my life during the week. I remember when I was younger, there were so many first experiences that just about every weekend was an adventure. I have vivid memories of my first trip to Makapu'u beach, my first surfboard, my first 3 set tennis match, my first car, my first bike, my first day at school, the first time I ran with my dad before work. There were all sorts of crazy adventures waiting for me around every corner, and I used to be excited to get up at 5am so I could start off my day full of adventure at the hospital cafeteria.

As I got older, particularly in my college years, sleeping later became a welcome luxury. Even today, there is something fantastically indulgent about waking up after the sun has burned off the marine layer, and then taking a leisurely stroll through the morning's dog walk.

But, when I ask myself what really drives me, what gets me going, it's adventurous days like today, when getting up at 3am seems worthwhile.

Jumping back almost 2 years, I should mention that I paced my pal Rod at Angeles Crest from about 60 to about 80. Today, thanks to Keith who did 100% of the driving, and Drew + Dave who set up the most full featured single-car aid station, I had the opportunity to relive some of that experience today. It is interesting how a patch of fire road can bring back memories, but it certainly did out there today for me. It is also amazing how different your perspective is when your water bottles are full compared to when they are empty. And when I say that, I mean metophorically and literally.

It was a long day (3am to 5pm) and I got to meet a bunch of fantastic people out there. The highlight was the last section down Newcomb, which Rod ran fairly well if I remember. I decided to do a bit of Mike Buchanan 2-hours-to-the-river type running since most of the rest of the day was spent moving slowly, so I bombed down through a bunch of poison oak (can't wait to see what that looks like tomorrow) then spent a few moments alone soaking in the stream. After the last bridge, I hit the road for the final half mile and came across two not-particularly-svelte young ladies walking. Actually, when I came to the larger of the two, she was bent over in a way that made me think she was planning to hike a football to me or something, while looking at me running towards her. As I passed, she jumped in with me and caught up to her friend. They both tagged along for a bit, 3 of us running up a fairly steep (but paved) hill to Chauntry Flat. eventually they peeled off for a rest, or maybe a cigarette, who knows, but it was a pretty cool way to end the run.

Afterwards we grabbed some pulled pork sandwiches and listened to some cover songs by the local country band while the park rangers did a little dancing. All told, a very unusual and adventure-filled day, and one that satisfied my basic needs (water, food, exercise, and adventure).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kailua Boys

On my way to work this week, two songs reminded me of my teenage years and my first set of wheels. The first song was Adam Sandler's Ode To My Car, which was written long after my high school days, but which always makes me think of that mustard Mazda 323 hatchback. The second song, Led Zepplin's Kashmir, reminded me of driving home from track practice with Ben Janczyk, a drummer and a runner, and a fellow Kailua schoolmate who did not yet have access to his father's fleet of 1964 Mustangs and was forced to bum rides in the 323. The stereo was a costco special, back in the early days of costco in Hawaii, when you had to drive an hour to the stadium to then wait in line for another hour, to get a discount. That was something my father simply could not resist. So, with speakers on the back seat (not mounted in anything of course, just magnets touching the seat belts) and a glovebox full of every Led Zepplin cassette tape, Ben and I would drive home, over the Pali, and talk about nothing remotely important.

I suppose the hard part of being young is that you don't realize how your decisions will affect your memories and opportunities. So, instead of running cross country, which is a gateway drug to ultra running addiction, I chose the water polo team, and instead of taking track seriously, I did all sorts of things other than showing up for week 1 in the spring with something resembling running fitness. Oh, if I had only known back then what I seem to have discovered now, that running can be such a wonderful, fickle, joyful, addictive thing.

And how funny that I can still spell Ben's last name. Or another childhood friend, who went on to quarterback the Harvard football team, Mike Macizewski. We remember things from childhood which were permanently imprinted in our brain out of necessity, or just because they were unusual or noteworthy. But ask me to spell the last names of my current co-workers and I'd probably mess up at least half of them.

Anyway, fast forward to 2010 already, right? I seem to have stumbled into a new chapter of my life, perhaps not entirely by choice, but yet at the same time with a bit of eager excitement. I ran my first 50k today, ran my fourth 50 miler earlier this year, paced one friend to his first 100 miler at western states, and quickly booked a trip to pace another friend at Leadville. Interestingly enough, we come full circle with that last one, since that friend grew up on Dune circle which is maybe 2 or 3 blocks from 51 Pueohala Place, where I spent my first 18 or so years, minus the first two in San Diego. I used to try so darn hard to beat Rod at tennis when we were kids, and I never did, not once, despite many attempts. He just had my number.

So, what is the plan? 2010 Honolulu marathon head=-to-head challenge. The trash talking and heckling will start after we get Rod to the finish line at Leadville for his first big 100 mile W (OK, maybe that is a little too much pressure, perhaps we shoot for top 5 to be safe.) I know I can't possibly beat that skinny little punk on dirt, so we shall see how 180 lbs fares against 130 on Kalaneanaole. Train hard now, Rod, because once we get this Leadville thing out of the way, it's going to be big boy pants time.