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.