Monday, December 26, 2011


I spent the morning of Christmas eve escorting my friend, Ryan, through his first 18 mile run.  Ryan also happens to be the first athlete I am coaching one-on-one.  As I am learning, 1-1 coaching is quite a different experience than group coaching.  As Saturday morning wore on, and Ryan's legs started to say goodnight, I re-experienced the moments of TBF (total body failure) from the position of an outside observer.  I did my best to explain to Ryan how special that moment is, when the body disconnects from the mind, but he was withdrawn (which for Ryan is an unusual experience) and well into survival mode.

Rewinding a bit, Friday night was a bit atypical.  I wound up having far too much fun at a friend's birthday gathering.  Knowing that I had to be at the designated start for Ryan's run, along with one of my other friends and coaching victims, Vince, and yet realizing I was in no condition to drive, 3 friends and I hatched a plan.  The plan wound up with me asleep on the world's smallest couch, in a friend's apartment, without my phone but with my running shoes.  Interestingly enough, while this abode has many devices capable of indicating the time of day, none of them wanted to agree on what time it actually was.  So, I wound up waking up 10 minutes late, hungover, and had to bum a ride to the run start where I managed to flag down Ryan and Vince.

Now, the inspirational part of Saturday wound up being how watching Ryan do battle with his first really long run wound up kicking my own butt into gear.  I ended up at the Point Loma Core Power on Saturday evening where Tabu removed any shred of composure I may have entered with.  At about 2/3 of the way through that class, after multiple unsuccessful attempts at forearm stand, I collapsed into a heap on top of a puddle of my own sweat and gasped until we were granted freedom.  It took me 2 hours to make my way home, after multiple stops for fluids and fuel and large blocks of time where I felt unable to drive.

TBF is an acquired taste, and it's not something everyone really enjoys.  In fact, I've actually received a few direct and/or indirect challenges to my love of this feeling.  Within the yoga studio, I've had others ask me with sincere concern, "are you ok?"  And I've also been told on multiple occasions that pain is not yoga.  While I accept everyone's angle on life, yoga, sport, etc, I also think it's OK for me to give myself space to experience moments however I want to experience them.  Or, perhaps less politely, I might phrase this as "let me be".  If I decide I want to push myself through substantial pain and reach beyond my failure points, then I accept that the rest of the world may not appreciate or share the joy I feel while doing so.  The feeling of nakedness that exists once I've slipped over my edge and I'm in the midst of a physical and emotional freefall is unlike any other experience I have had in my life.  More importantly, consistently reaching beyond failure helps me dial in my breaking points so that when it matters, in a race or elsewhere, I know my own limits and how close I can get to them before falling apart.

Ryan is feeling better today and I have recovered as well.  The sun is out and it's beautiful in San Diego, a wonderful day-after-Christmas waiting for me to dive in.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Last night, while teaching a small portion of a fundraiser yoga class for one of our teacher trainers, three of the cars in the parking lot were broken into.  Windows were smashed, purses were removed, and cash stolen.  Tears were shed, police were called and the evening dragged on later than planned, turning into an extended period of melancholy.

Two weeks ago, during my Tuesday morning private yoga session, I tore my right LCL while pulling too hard on a strap around my foot in half lotus forward fold.  I felt the knee pop as it happened and knew it wasn't the right kind of sensation.  I also knew as I was pulling on the strap that I was trying too hard and I knew the risks involved with pushing the limits of flexibility, particularly with respect to joints.  Shane constantly reminds me to balance my effort and power with acceptance and ease and yet my DNA perpetually wills me to override and to push harder.  Watching an experienced dancer or yogi, I can't help but admire their delicate balance of muscular and organic energy because I find this aspect of movement, and actually of life, to be such an incredible challenge.

On Saturday I took Hunter to the vet and then gave him a bath.  While bathing him I noticed the many skin lesions he has developed, under his thick fur, and felt sad as he winced while I sprayed him down and soaped him up.  I can tell this will be his last 12 months, that his final birthday is coming up.  I will be devastated when he leaves me, but I have had ample warning and I think that helps.  My responsibility is to make his last days as gentle and peaceful as possible.  Old dogs are expensive and while he is as sweet as he ever was, losing his mobility is a stark reminder of just how fragile all of our lives are.

These three events, random burglary, an unfortunate sports injury, and the health deterioration of my most loyal friend over the past decade, all highlight the power of destructive force when compared to constructive force.  It took hours of preparation and effort to organize the series of donation yoga classes.  It took less than a minute for someone to smash three windows and take what they did not earn.  Within the context of Hinduism, these simple facts illustrate the power of Shiva, the destroyer.  It will probably take me 8-12 weeks to heal my LCL tear, and since the injury is on the same knee as my MCL tear from March, it adds some real trickery to my half pigeon and lotus efforts in the meantime.  I had intended to work hard to open up my hip flexibility as that is one of my biggest limiters, so now that plan will have to be postponed or diverted.  However, perhaps the most striking example of the power of destruction is watching my dog fade before my eyes, watching him reduced to a slow hobble and dosed up with medication when I still remember him leaping with joy through the sand on dog beach.  Hunter's eventual departure will be a permanent life change for me, and watching it happening is further reminder of the tremendous impact of destruction.

Lest this sound too depressing, let me mention that Shiva is balanced by Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu the preserver.   Or, for the western mind, when one door closes, another opens.  I have no lack of new in my life, in fact I think I have too many new experiences, new friends, new jobs, etc and that I could and should try to be more devout with the ones I already have established.  I still remember all of the demolition I did on the house I live in, and how much joy came from the carcass after all of the demo was complete.  

I think that what has me momentarily shifted more towards "bummed out" than "stoked," is how much more powerful destruction seems than construction.  It takes only a few words to destroy a friendship that was built over years.  It takes a mere handful of minutes to destroy a building that has stood for decades.  Removing entropy always takes energy and comes with a cost.  Once a life ends, once a soul has exited our reality, they are instantly and forever missing from our interactions.

I'm a little sad today, but I think that is OK.  I'm sure I'll feel different as the week rolls on.

Monday, December 12, 2011



The birth of my obsessive passion for running was the Honolulu Marathon, sometime in the 1980's, about when "North Shore" was playing at the Kailua Drive-In theater.  Re-watching that movie over the weekend, my thoughts drifted back to the mindset I inhabited during those early years.  Seeing a portion of the 2011 pipe classic and then watching scenes from the movie demonstrates exactly how little has changed over the years.  The swimsuits are different, but the waves and beach are timeless.

The excuse for this trip to Hawaii was to run my 3rd consecutive and 4th total Honolulu marathon.  Honolulu was my first open marathon back in 1999 and I still remember the pain from that 1:30 / 2:17 positive split. I managed a surprisingly decent effort in 2009 which earned me an age group W and then I followed it up with a not-quite-so-stellar effort in 2010, so I figured I might as well make it an annual thing.


I invited a few friends to join me this trip and it wound up being 4.5 of us heading to Honolulu on Thursday.  Jeff and Becky with their 8 month old daughter, Maya, and Amy from Atlanta traveling solo.  My father was leaving for a cruise that would consume most of the month of December, leaving plenty of space for us to enjoy the views of Diamond Head from his porch while he dances his way across the Atlantic ocean.

Out of the blue, on November 23rd, Rachel Ross sent me a note asking what my plan was for Honolulu in case she might bump into me as she attempted her first sub 3.  I hadn't figured out any actual race plan prior to that point, other than potentially pacing Jeff to a PR which he seemed uninterested in and unprepared for.  So, I quickly decided that sub 3 would be a quality challenge and signed up to pace her with the hope that I could go back out and find Amy on the course and run her in.


I found myself a bit distracted from this trip because of the buildup surrounding the Las Vegas half with Team Challenge which was the culmination of my coaching responsibilities for 2011.  With only 3 short, busy days in between, I scrambled through the work week and somehow made it to the airport before Sunrise on Thursday.  I followed another weary traveler, Colleen, through 3 different itineraries because of a delay with our SAN to LAX puddle jumper due to ice on the wings (in San Diego of all places!)  Colleen, acting like a participant on the Amazing Race, navigated through the mess of missing the LAX to HNL flight and watching the LAX to Kahalui flight push back from the gate, and somehow found the LAX to Lihue flight before I could make it to the front of the customer service line.  We scrambled again and snuck in as the last 2 through the gate, heading for the Garden Island, eventually arriving in Honolulu only 2 hours behind schedule.  Thanks Colleen!


Thursday night we did a little shopping and cooked dinner.  Rachel's son had nabbed 2nd place at a geography bee which made her a late arrival, but we all sat down to a yummy meal and some entertaining conversation.  Friday was spent with a morning rain-jog in manoa, breakfast in Kailua, and an hour on the beach at Pipeline watching some of the best in the world rip it up.  On Saturday, I met up with high school friend, Nicole, as I dragged Amy to yoga and then she dragged me up to the top of Mt. Ka'ala on a 6 hour, 3500' hike.  

Most ridge hikes on Oahu are a bit steep and can be slightly scary for someone with a reasonable fear of falling to their death.  There was one notable section of the trip to Oahu's high point which required ascending a 6' tall slab of rock that had a visible 6" gap between it and the rest of the cliff.  As we walked towards the car at the end of that hike, my quads quivering, I watched a beautiful sunset and wondered how tough the race would be since I hadn't eaten since breakfast.  Fortunately Rachel and Ikaika had gone shopping and cooked us all a great feast.  I stuffed my stomach as full as it would go and slept like a rock.

A 5am start isn't that rough when you are on Pacific time and it feels like 7am to you.  But, as I dragged myself out of bed, I definitely felt the pain from the hike the day before.  It's amusing how self doubt creeps in before any event of importance even when it's another person's race that matters.  Rachel secured VIP cards for Jeff and I, which didn't have tremendous value before the race but offerred us some very appreciated food afterwards.  As the clock ticked 5am, we set off with the fireworks, cruising towards downtown.


The first few miles went by fairly smoothly.  We watched Jeff drift ahead but I managed to keep things on track for the first 3.  As we neared the return to the start line at mile 4 I got too amped and allowed a split that was 20 seconds too fast, but after correcting myself we ran through Waikiki fairly uneventfully.  Rachel got a shout out from some random dude that fluffed her ego and as we hit Kapiolani park which serves as mile 6 and also the finish line, I had a lot of optimism about the day.  My legs were feeling OK, the pace was reasonable, Rachel was running under control, and I knew that as the darkness lifted we would get a boost from the sunlight.  We passed the lululemon crew on the back side of Kapiolani park where everyone cheered for Rachel while we both tried to block out the sounds of a lead-footed Japanese man who races in a Minnie Mouse costume.  I had been beaten by that guy before, during my meltdown at the 2008 Chicago marathon and I was loathe to be anywhere near him because of that memory.  But, as I had told Rachel ahead of time, a PR means ignoring everything else around you, so I tried to take my own words to heart and block out the noise.

The climb up and over Diamond Head felt harder than before.  Even at a pace that was slower than the last two years.  I wasn't sure why, but I think in retrospect we started feeling the wind here.  Even the descents back towards Kalanianaole Hwy didn't feel easy and I started getting worried.  We had given back some time to the point where we were right on pace and I knew we needed to keep running 6:50's to go sub 3.  As we crossed under the end of the H1 freeway, I felt the wind and knew we had to be smart until the loop at Hawaii Kai.

By some stroke of luck, there wound up being a pack of at least 10 guys right in front of us, so I motioned to Rachel to tuck in close.  After a half mile with this pack I decided that I could take advantage of the situation by stopping for a pee break on the median, under the cover of darkness and with the pace setting and wind blocking duty handled by the pack.  I was still optimistic that we could hit the goal because I expected a massive tailwind on the home stretch.  As I surged back towards the pack, I encountered Rachel a good 10-20 meters back, no longer protected from the wind.  This concerned me greatly as it was my first indication that she might not be able to hit the mark.

Rachel explained to me that she felt like she was running 5k pace.  As we hit the half marathon, with me trying to coax some energy back into her long legs, the clock told us we were only about 30 seconds behind pace.  That was actually just fine given the headwind, I felt like we still had a very good chance.  But I didn't seem to have much of any positive effect on Rachel at that point.  In retrospect, while I will never know what her legs and body felt like, I think the mental struggle of feeling exhausted at mile 13 may have been a bit of a bear that was too big to take down for her.  I've been there before, both in the marathon and in my 50's and my 100, so it's not much of a surprise for me to feel like garbage at halfway.  We always rally, and you never know how strong that rally will be, nor can you count on when it might start or if it will not last till the finish line.

Rachel did start running fairly close to pace after we caught the tailwind around the turnaround loop.  There were definite moments of sub 7:00 pace.  By then I think we had crossed sub 3 off the list, but we still had a shot at a PR and maybe top 10 among the women.  There was still something to fight for, and I wanted Rachel to fight.  Interestingly enough, I found myself deteriorating as well, and I felt like I was hurting pretty bad by mile 17.  I am not sure if the hike took too much out of me the day before or if I'm really not capable of sub 3, but I stopped being of any real aid once we got the wind at our backs.  I suppose there isn't that much more I could have done, although verbal encouragement is always well received, but I pretty much just shut down and suffered on the way home.  Rachel probably pulled me through a few sections along the golf course at mile 20, and as we approached Diamond Head for the 2nd time, we both just took our beatings and tried to survive it.

Katherine joined us for the descent past mile 25 to the finish line where Rachel turned it up a notch to impress her boy toys in attendance along the final K.  I was so happy to be done with that race.  Despite eating 4 gu's and being 10 lbs heavier than I'd like to be, I was starving and used that VIP tag to eat half of the food in the tent and drink 2 soda's and 3 cups of coffee.  Then Jeff and I took a nap with Maya while Becky went out and ran Amy in.  I've had some marathons which felt strong and others where I've been humbled and this 3:08 was definitely one of the humbling varieties.  It's hard to say why the day was so tough, I certainly have been as poorly prepared in the past, but something about the day just lined up to kick us all in the nads.


The rest of the day included a trip to the OCC for some beachtime cocktails and a buffet that was to die for (thanks Ikaika).  Then the viewing of "North Shore" and general laziness and face-stuffing.  We finished off the weekend with a hot dog eating contest which saw Jeff crush the field, Ikaika perform valiantly, and both of the children finishing before I did.  However, I did make a small improvement and finished my 5 dogs in single digits which is a nice step forward.

I wound up chatting the entire way through my red eye flight home on Tuesday and I've been delirious ever since.  Hoping to get some much needed zzzz's this weekend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I wrote one of my college admissions essays about my father.  It was one of my few attempts at semi-creative writing before I graduated, since I had been dealt the math/science geek card while my sister drew the one for language and communication.  My father was, is, and always has been a huge influence in my life.  The first things I learned, I learned from him, and to this day I am still learning about myself during and especially after our interactions, even if the focus has shifted from direct instruction to observation and analysis.

My father worked tremendously hard when I was young.  He routinely spent all night on call at the hospital, sacrificing his sleep and time with his family to ensure the health of premature babies in the NICU.  Some of my favorite memories of my dad are his one liners.  He frequently told others that he chose Neonatology because he didn't like talking to patients, so he picked a specialty where the patient would never be able to speak.  Of course, in the NICU, there is a lot of necessary interaction with parents.  Some of those parents are not emotionally or intellectually capable of understanding what a physician is tasked with explaining.  Hence the joke, or perhaps more aptly called a half truth, about the peace he felt looking into an incubator with a precious and usually quiet new life inside, struggling to survive its untimely eviction from the womb.  Providing the basic needs of a 30 week infant, airway, breathing, circulation is the definition of living in the present.  There is no future and no past to a preemie, only the simple desire to suck one more breath, for the heart to beat one more time.  As a by product of this world, my father is very efficient at barking orders and perhaps slightly less adept at prefacing his instructions with pleasantries.  NICU nurses have to develop thick skin to get through the inevitable loses and time spent on formality is time taken away from a life which needs it.  I picked up on this and it has become somewhat of my achilles as well, being too harsh and direct with my word choice, not taking into account how what I say might affect the recipient before I speak.

My father grew up in Long Island.  I lived there for almost a year in 1996, over 2 decades after he left for good, and I can see how our differences stem so much from our very different childhoods.  His mother, my grandmother, spoke very little English.  I spent a week with her once, sometime in my early teens, and I remember being petrified about how to communicate with her.  I also remember her incessant need to push food down my throat, which was a product of her own childhood where obesity indicated wealth and where family always comes first, especially the son of the son who is intentionally spoiled (or in my case, force-fed).  What I remember most about Maria was how frequently she reminded me that "bad people" lurked outside the door.  Her favorite phrase was "Dayne-jer, Sete" which instructed me as grandchild to be cautious, to trust nobody.  If at all possible, I should avoid even going outside.  She kept the windows and doors closed and locked in the middle of summer, on a quiet residential street with barely any traffic.  I once borrowed a bicycle and went out to wander and it caused her great bouts of panic until I returned home where she was able to lock me inside and drag me back to the dining table.  If she had owned a plastic bubble, I am certain she would have put me in it.

My grandfather was very crafty, able to navigate the world of "bad people" and "danger" as he ventured into Manhattan on the train every morning and returned home late every evening.  Sacrifice, especially financial, for benefit of the family was the end goal of life for him.  I went to "work" with him once, to survey and absorb his world.  I watched him fall asleep on the train and wondered if his internal clock was still functional enough to keep us from winding up in New Jersey.  I remember sharing a bagel with him, walking through dirty streets with purpose, and eventually being wholly unimpressed with the reality of how non-glamorous his world actually was.  The 20th century provider, hustling the streets for deals, buying what would sell for a profit back in the suburbs, my grandfather navigated with purpose but without passion.

Some of my other memories of my father's one liners:  "The ends justify the means" and "Pay now or pay later" are burned into my cortex to this day.  As a product of his childhood, my father's approach to life is no surprise.  I know his personality so well that I can predict responses in him just as he can in me.  Things get accomplished by badgering and price is the almighty indicator of a deal, more so than quality or even abstract concepts like the joy inherent in the process of whatever work is being done.  My grandfather wanted his only son to be a doctor or a lawyer, and my father was lucky to discover that he was well suited to the role he found himself in.  Within the NICU, my father's calculated paranoia about what could go wrong served as a constructive force which undoubtedly saved many lives over the years.  

I have been told that my grandmother had as many as 12 pregnancies but only 4 children survived, my father and his 3 sisters.  Perhaps some part of my father's occupation makes sense only in that context, balancing out the yin and the yang of siblings who perished because of lack of access to medical care in Palestine.

There are definite times when I struggle with my relationship with my father.  Even though I love him and I support him and I want complete happiness for him, we wind up frustrated by each other from time to time.  I don't want to live a life without trust and even after 37 years of observation and understanding, his trust in me has clear boundaries.  I accept those boundaries, I understand them given the context of his formative years, and as he drifts closer towards wearing his grumpy-old-man buckle he has earned every ounce of his right to be whoever he wants to be and live however he wants to live.

Another line I remember vividly from my childhood, words from my father's lips, "To the victor goes the spoils".  Perhaps the overall theme is apparent here, my father values success as a measure of worth, because winning, earning, producing, and providing can be objectively measured.  And yet, my father is not without a softness.  His dancing demonstrates that to me, when I watch him flow across the floor I see a man I never knew as a child, a facet which was buried and is now blooming.  He talks about how his father never really understood exactly what he did for a living, but was overjoyed by the simple math of his annual salary and how much he would have liked to have shared a deeper understanding.  Perhaps because of this, my father takes a very active role in evaluating my convoluted journey through the different positions I have held in my own career, even though he doesn't have the patience to deal with a complicated technical problem in a methodical and organized fashion which is how most of my days are spent.  My father wants the best for me, and he is willing to do anything he can to push me in the right direction.  He most certainly has my back.

The problems (and it's a disservice to call them problems because overall I'd say my father is my #1 ally and someone in whom I place complete trust) only appear because we are two different men, born and raised in completely different environments.  Our most recent interactions have been a tad extra stressful because my father's level of trust towards me is probably a fair bit lower than the level of trust I have with my postal worker.  Since I am not a father, I can't evaluate how difficult it is to trust your children, to believe that they are making good decisions and that everything will be just fine for you and them if you hand over control.  But I do know that I can't live a life without trust extended beyond my family.  I believe my sister is the same way, and I think growing up in Hawaii, where ohana means community more than it means family, is what may have shaped both of us to be this way, just as growing up in NY shaped my father.

The reality of life is that there are Bernie Madoffs and there are Mother Theresas and then the entire spectrum in between.  

My father has been burned before.  I distinctly remember a painter once doing 1/4 of the work he was supposed to do for 1/2 the money and walking away, leaving a few things behind and a bad taste in my father's mouth for picking him.  I too have been burned on a number of occasions, but while I think I may have learned a little from those experiences, I don't want to change, I don't want to stop trusting people as much as I can, every chance I get.  

My father has a tough time with mess and clutter.  I'm just as bothered by disorder and failure to follow-through as my father is, perhaps I am bothered even more so because I have all sorts of OCD tendencies that come from my mother's dna which my father only picked up by osmosis and training over the time she was alive.  I live with a roommate who raises the bar when it comes to creating mess and I consider it therapeutic for me to accept all of the dirty dishes, empty coffee cups, general filth and disarray.  I also distinctly remember when my x-fiance moved out how empty and sterile the house seemed until he moved in, and I value his contribution to my quality of life as a tremendous net positive despite the challenges that come with it.  My father, on the other hand, would probably be tempted to question prospective residents of his home about how clean they were willing to be rather than the content and intent of their heart.  It is his right to do so.  And fixing stuff that other people break or cleaning up other people's messes does get old, so I certainly understand.

A few weeks ago, while driving home late at night, I came across a motorcycle on it's side in my lane.  I pulled off to the shoulder and helped another man move the bike to the guard rail and walked back to check on the rider.  He was in good shape, despite having to crawl across 2 lanes of the freeway to reach a safe spot to wait for the ambulance.  While a group of us sat on the guard rail and contemplated this situation, I renewed my decision to keep trying to let go of the worry I bring into my own life.  This unnecessary stress creeps up when I see scratches in my wood floor or a crack in a shower tile, and yet these imperfections are what cause me to take notice in the first place, to see the beauty of the grain or the precise alignment of the grout and therefore celebrate the work that was done.  I remember the demolition and construction phases, the challenges involved and the process of transformation and the beautiful impact of creating new from old.  The trivialities and imperfections of the physical world really do become irrelevant in the moment when we are lying on the cold pavement, facing our own mortality, and reaching for our cell phone to make our final call.  I often wonder, if that had been my motorcycle, who would I have called?  What would I have said?

My father is on a cruise from Lisbon which will head south along the coast and then cross the Atlantic.  He will be dancing and eating and sharing time with his girlfriend, talking and thinking, writing and reading.  I am currently flying over the Pacific to his house in Manoa, making my annual pilgrimage to complete the race that started all of my fascination with running.  My father and mother both signed up for the Honolulu marathon, at about the age when I spent that week with my grandmother and grandfather, the beginning stages of my own self awareness.  I watched their very different approaches to the race and their performances during and recovery afterwards with fascination and envy.  The marathon seemed special to me because I had a front row seat to how difficult it was for my parents and how unique the experience was for each of them.  These days, my father tends to relish the attention he sometimes receives from colleagues and friends when they see his name in the newspaper as one of the top local finishers and congratulate him for the accomplishment.  Perhaps this is one of the few things I can give back to him in return for his decision to create me and give me the name his father gave him.  So, I keep coming back each December, to relive my childhood, to reconnect with my father, and try to feel closer to my mother's spirit.  

Dad, if you read this, yes I will take care of your house and yes I will be very gentle with your blinds and yes I will shut off the water to the washer when I leave and yes I will put out the recycling on Monday morning and yes I will set the alarm when I leave and yes I will turn off all the lights.  You can trust me, dad.  You don't have to.  But you can if you want to.  I have your back too.

Monday, December 5, 2011


The Rock and Roll Las Vegas half/full marathon was actually dubbed "Strip at Night" in all of the marketing literature and website.  I assume that was intended as a double entendre, complete with subtle reference to the sins which seem to be so commonplace in Las Vegas.  However, perhaps in a bitter twist of irony, I spent my Sunday evening wishing I had more clothes to put on rather than take off.

The weekend started mellow enough, first a meeting, then a trip to the expo with excited athletes, followed by a spirit line during which I wondered what it must be like for Karen, our hearing impaired athlete, and a dinner that was actually tasteful in both food and presentation.  Saturday was done right, all by the CCFA, and with a final meeting in our hotel room we sealed off a season to remember as a team.

Sunday dawned lazily, a day where living in the moment meant waiting for the sun to set.  The 5:30 pm half marathon start, to follow the 4pm full marathon start, was one of the most unique elements of the race.  The closest comparable event I have participated in would be Hood to Coast, where our team typically starts at roughly the same time, and where the stomach takes precedence over the legs as far as preparation and comfort are concerned.  I enjoyed watching my fantasy football team pile up some decent numbers, cementing my position at the top of the league for the first time.  Towards the end of the afternoon I suited up and made my way downstairs to meet with the handful of warm souls who were about to embark on this journey, with me in a tour-guide/support/figurehead/comfort blanket role.

The first signs of trouble emerged after a smooth warmup and stretch, as we fought our way back towards gear check to drop off bags of warm clothes that would be needed post race.  Swimming upstream in a crowd of 40,000 people is a difficult task even without the intense apprehension of a footrace about to begin.  I grabbed as many bags as I could and together with James we delivered them to their temporary resting homes, but it took a lot longer than I had hoped it would and I wound up with only 20 minutes to spare before the race started.

As I made my way back outside, now among a dwindling crowd of laggers, I realized the cost of the time spent.  I tried to run up towards the initial corrals, but wound up stuck in a human pileup somewhere outside of corral 13, far behind the athletes I wanted to see get out of the gate.  I bumped into Alan and we both shook our heads at each other in disbelief of how stuck we felt, a very winnie-the-pooh type of moment.  At least all the proximity of bodies served as a protection from the cold.

Somehow I lost Alan and bumped into Rachel and Monique.  Together we entered a corral somewhere after 13, perhaps at 8, after the race had started and that corral was now filled with runners from corral 10 or 11.  I tried my best to get the girls off at 9 minute pace, but with people in front, to the left, and to the right, predominantly slower runners, and lots of people slowing or even stopping to adjust shoes, clothing, reach for their cigarettes, etc, it became a difficult endeavor.

The full marathon course approached soon after the start, from the left hand side, and was casually coned off approximately every 20 feet with a knee-high orange cone which was almost invisible in the dark in a sea of people.  From our initial position, we had mixed with the 2:50 - 3:00 marathon crew, but as time went on, at 9 minute pace, the full marathon course started to fill up a bit more.  There were plenty of cyclists trying to "encourage" the others to run on the right side of the road, to leave room for the full marathoners who had already completed their first half and were now literally fighting through the second half.  I've been in that position before, multiple times at Carlsbad, and I find it very frustrating myself.  At the same time, due to the bottlenecks and cluster of a massive race start with undersized corrals that were inaccessible for the most part, I felt the frustration of all of the half marathoners who just wanted to be able to run.  It reminded me of Ironman swim starts, only this time it was many more bodies with slightly more control and courtesy.

I left Monique and Rachel and tried out the right side of the outbound lanes, effectively running in the median of Las Vegas blvd.  The different contours helped to warm up my ankles a bit, but passing on the wrong side of the water stops proved to be unnecessarily troublesome for the volunteers serving water.  I wanted to jump over to the inbound lanes where the course finished up, and with my coach bib this would have been permissible, but I felt it would have been in bad spirit and that it would be setting a bad example.  So, I kept on, up until the outbound runners split slightly from the inbound at which point I continued on the sidewalk, upstream, as the elite runners came through.

I saw Clemmens run past with one of the elite women, but heading out at 7 min pace against his inbound 5-something pace we had only a few seconds to make the slightest of eye contact.  I slowed down, as the stream of runners thickened and I saw the 1:35 pace group sign.  Soon afterwards, out of the darkness, Vince popped out and I turned around and headed back with him.

Vince wasn't trained up for a PR attempt, having taken some time off after last year's race, but he was amped to race just because that's how he is, and that's one thing I love about him.  So, off we went, with me trying to push him a bit, but realizing that he wasn't quite ready to lay it all on the line.  We got a number of miles together, and with perhaps 2 miles to go, we saw David Volk who tagged on and took Vince the rest of the way in.  I ran back and picked up Tavish, our local rock star fundraiser, who let me tag along for a bit before he graciously told me to go find the girls and make sure they were doing ok.

After leaving Tavish and returning to my upstream swim, I picked up Bash and Kimberly.  Kimberly looked strong, and Jessica was right where I had hoped she would be, but I don't know if either was in extremely high spirits.  Regardless, they ran valiantly, almost smiling, until I handed them off to Volk and went back to search for Rachel who I never saw.  I found Caitlyn who had to walk a bit with a busted foot but was finishing with a smile regardless.  She wasn't thrilled with the race, but it was nice to share a few steps with her.  After Caitlyn, I turned around and picked up Monique.  Running it in with Monique took away some of the tension from the earlier runners because Monique was right on track for her predicted time, despite the cold and wind and masses of people.  I think I was feeling a bit defeated with how the race had shaped up for Vince, Kimberly, Bash and Caitlyn, because I knew all of them have the ability to run a bit faster than they did on the right day, so Monique's race felt like the first really strong success of the day, the first time I felt like my contributions as a coach had some sort of plausible value.

After leaving Monique at the chute and jogging back, I bumped into Alan.  I regret that I only had a short section with Alan before we hit the chute again and I had to turn back to avoid being stuck.  Alan's last mile was as ferocious as any I've ever run, he put maximum effort into every step and every breath, leaving nothing in the tank.  If I was somehow validated by Monique's effort, I was even more awed by Alan's as the true art of racing is about giving your best at every moment, regardless of the conditions, and especially regardless of the outcome.

I remember looking for Lindsey and Dianne but I don't think I ever saw them.  I do remember seeing Greg and Matt and running with them for a bit.  Greg offered me a gu and I thought, hell no, I'm not about to eat a gu, that sounds horrible :)

After Alan, I had a short break and then I picked up Karen.  Karen is hearing impaired, so she reads lips.  And as it turns out, 30 degrees and thousands of people all running in a straight line make it fairly difficult to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired.  But she ran great, surging through the crowd on many occasions and picking it up as we neared the chute.  Truely fearless, completely at home on the race course, Karen seemed the most at ease of anyone I had encountered so far.  It was a real treat to share that moment with her.  After Karen I picked up June and one of the others from the central team who's name I'm blanking on at the moment.  June had taken some great photos next to the larger-than-life cardboard poster of her mug in the Team Challenge booth at the expo and I enjoyed her healthy vitality and appreciated the chance to share the final portion of their journey.  I was starting to get cold and crabby and June actually cheered me up rather than the other way around.  Sometimes we take, sometimes we give, such is the cycle of life.

At this point, I have to admit, I started to fade pretty bad.  It was getting colder and colder, and then it started raining a bit.  I had been out for 3 hours and the exposure was getting to me.  I took some time for myself and ducked into the heated valet waiting room at the Flamingo for a minute.  While I felt better inside, protected, and heated, I knew I couldn't stay.  As soon as I opened the doors to leave, I was instantly re-frozen.  I walked back out on the the course, hating life for a bit.  I had to hop the barricade to get back on the course.  Without knowing what else to do, I ventured on, upstream.

Dave Bory's picked me out of the crowd and cheered me up, letting me join him for his ride home.  He picked up the pace and jogged it in strong, his first ever half marathon and the beginnings of a level of fitness that he has yet to fully comprehend.  I look forward to even more changes in Dave as the once difficult becomes the everyday.  Dave mentioned that Monika and the other central walkers were behind him, perhaps somewhere near 8 minutes or so.

As I made my way upstream for what wound up being the final trip, I ran more in the center of the road than before.  The crowd was thinning and the pace slowing, permitting more aggressive upstream travel.  I did wind up bumping into a woman who was looking behind her as I attempted to dodge, my only impact of the day, and she seemed annoyed but not physically affected by it.  I did not see Monika nor any of the central walkers, which really bummed me out because I knew what an important moment this was for Monika and I knew that she was the biggest reason I was still out there, suffering in the cold.  If she can do it, I can too was my mantra for that final stretch, and to not have the opportunity to see her and tell her how proud I am of her accomplishment was perhaps the most sour moment of the evening.  I definitely never saw Mike, Rachel, Jessica, Dianne, Monika or Melissa.  I would have liked to have spotted Sean, Sally, Brooke and Joey.  I probably saw some of the others from the central team but in the darkness and without a strong memory of facial expressions and stride subtleties, I wound up not making contact.

I got to jog in with the back of the pack as the sag picked off the stragglers and the course closed down.  I saw quite a few people in varying levels of pain, some fairly substantial, but also a lot of determination and joy at the approaching finish line.  I have to be honest, though, I was beyond my limits by that point, having covered 25 miles, the majority of which was on an exposed, windy, and slightly rainy last 2 mile section of the race.  I snuck into the TC tent, said my pleasantries, grabbed a few bagel bites, and survived the short walk across the parking lot to the door of the heated hotel entrance.

The day was not over, though, as I first had to confirm that the one bag I had dropped without a name got picked up (it did) and then we had to navigate back out into the cold parking garage to get around a bottleneck of people attempting to get into the casino.  I stumbled into my room, tried to heat up with a shower, and shivered my way through the next few hours of fitful semi-sleep.  I should have been at the party.  I should have been at the post party.  I ran less than the marathoners, in a time that would have been my slowest marathon ever.  But I was trashed.  Completely empty.  I had nothing left to give to anyone else, I didn't even have enough for myself.

Today, I'm a bit sore, very chapped from all the cold and wind, and a little sad about the few peeps I didn't see.  I really wanted to celebrate with Mike, to hug Monika, and Jessica, to see Melissa, and feel the warmth of Dianne's smile and Rachel's goofiness.  In the mix of 40,000+ people all running in the dark, I just didn't get to see them and that does bum me out.  And when it would have been possible to reconnect with everyone, my body wasn't strong enough to rally, although it feels good enough right now.  Overall, it was a true endurance event, one which tested me in all sorts of ways.  I'm such a wimp when it comes to cold weather, and I have this ridiculous tendency to forget to pack or prepare for situations even when I know what to expect.  I highly underestimated the magnitude of the miles and exposure and what it would do to me, even though I knew that would be my biggest challenge.  Watching coaches Dave and Sean perform flawlessly only made me feel like more of a chump for showing such signs of struggle, for letting my head take over for a bit.  But I was proud of myself for sticking it out till the very last finisher, something I've never done in a race other than Ironman and then only on a couple of occasions.  I had to dig pretty deep for this one and there was no lack of challenge involved in staying up for the duration.  It's actually a different kind of endurance event, to give continuously over 4-5 hours as the night presses on.  It reminds me of some of the thrill of ultra, and some of the dementia of relay racing, all rolled into one.  I hope I get to experience it all again sometime, and perhaps I will be able to meet the next coaching challenge with all the benefits of this initial experience along with even greater effort.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Dave, Monika, Dianne

My last visit to Sin City came after my first visit to the Grand Canyon, and as a fitting contrast to the natural beauty of the big ditch.

This weekend I return to the land of concrete and sand, to experience my first race as a coach.

I have a whole slew of thoughts about the season.  There are plenty of things I could have done better.  However, the overall momentum of a team effort winds up dragging along anything attached to it without much concern for the little goofs along the way.  We all will certainly arrive at the starting line wearing various smiles, some nervous, some excited.  Everyone will give the vast majority of what they have to give.  Some will amaze themselves, some will undoubtedly be disappointed.  My good friend, Iso Yucra likes to say "like life, sometimes hard."  I think that sums up racing in general, regardless of the distances or terrain involved.

I'm sure my mind will be working overtime leading up to the race start.  I'm sure I will be more nervous than my athletes because I can't control the outcome.  I'm sure they will all experience moments that I will be envious of.

I feel like the next couple of days are the part where I'm walking across the cold pool deck, waiting to jump in the water and see how things go.

Cheers to TCSD and the CCFA for giving me the opportunity to experience something I know well, from an entirely different angle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Single Wall Construction

Many of the older homes in Hawaii were constructed with only a single exterior wall, which is often referred to as single wall construction.  The original purpose of single wall construction was to save on costs because most building material has to be shipped in from the mainland.  Single wall construction is possible in Hawaii primarily because there is no need to insulate against the cold.  Many of these single wall homes have louvered windows to throttle the cooling effect of the trade winds.  Since the wood used in single wall construction is exposed to the elements, redwood or cedar are preferred for their termite and dryrot resistance.  In the 1980's, the price of redwood and cedar increased, offsetting the cost advantages single wall construction once held.  Since double wall construction requires slightly less skill, single wall homes became less common.  An irony about single wall construction is that they have less bugs, don't need air conditioning, and are cheaper in the long run.  Single wall homes typically have no fiberglass insulation and often do not have any drywall, both of which are some of the less earth friendly of all building materials.

Where am I going with this?  Off on a tangent of course.

I'd like to think we as humans have the option to build our exterior with single or double construction.  It's easier and far more common to go double-wall, first framing our boundaries, then attaching osb, a moisture barrier, and an exterior siding.  At that point we go about our business of insulating, drywalling, taping, painting, and installing floors and baseboard.  When we are done, we feel strong and protected, and we can open our front door to any of our friends who ring the doorbell or text us that they are stopping by to visit.

By contrast, the single wall human takes a bit more thought and work.  Any gaps will be very noticeable, so the joints between boards and all of the angles which are exposed should maintain tight tolerances.  Electrical wires have to be concealed behind casing, and plumbing routed entirely under the floor.  A lot less material is used, but more time and care must go into the process of building, a process of delayed gratification.

As a child, I never appreciated single wall construction.  I thumbed my nose at any homes that looked so "cheap".  I erroneously assumed that drywall was "right".  I did not fully appreciate the simple beauty that was all around me, single wall homes just seemed like a construction project waiting for funding.

But I do remember how it felt to be inside one of those homes.  How connected to the island you feel when the tradewinds sing through, and how much you hear through the openness of the walls.  In many ways, this feeling, the single wall feeling, describes what I feel in yoga, of connecting myself to the outside, while remaining indoors.

The privileges of a childhood in paradise are numerous because of all the uniqueness which simply cannot survive elsewhere.  Unique species, unique construction methods, unique family units, and unique and breathtaking views of natural wonder.  And yet, while the specifics of Hawaii's uniqueness cannot be directly experienced on the mainland, the conceptual approach to openness and connection is an option for everyone no matter where they are.  We can always extend ourselves to others in various ways without giving up much of anything from ourselves.  We can always get by with less, less stuff, less food, less time, less praise.  We can always feel more connected to the world, by removing barriers between ourselves and that which we seek to be closer to.

One of my favorite memories of home, of being in a place I will always call home, is running past a single wall house, as the afternoon showers rinse my skin, and feeling an intense connection to the life flowing all around me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Kim, Vince, Sally, Jessica, Me, Wendy, Sean, June, Jenna

I lead my 2nd "real" yoga class today, at The Nest.  Before I break it down, I gotta unload my thank you's:

Sean and Vince, two young men who I can count on to come through, show up, and sweat it out.  Both of you are tough as nails and yet willing to experience "girly" yoga with me, it says a lot about your character and open mindedness.  A lot of dudes would have a tough time doing that.  Thank you for cranking out the heat.

Wendy, June and Sally, the three additions since the first class.  You made this class special for me by your willingness to experience something new for yourself.  All 3 of you are off my periphery since most of your workouts are done with the central team, and yet you were able to trust me off the few interactions we've had.  That says a lot about your character.  Especially June, your courage to explore your limits and trust that we would take care of you meant a ton to me.  Thank you all, you are three very classy ladies.

Jessica and Kimberly, my two yoga rock stars.  You both really knocked it out of the park today and I'm so stoked for you and for being able to share those two classes with you.  I really hope you both find some joy on the mat the way I have, I'm quite certain you will be shredding it up if you decide to dabble a bit more.

Caitlin, wow, what can I say?  You made this space, _and_ you let me invite myself in to come and teach.  You trusted me and your generosity has allowed me to sharpen my skills.  Your dream, realized just a few months ago, now allows me to explore my own dreams.  You support me with all of the compassion and understanding I could ask for, a willingness to serve and a patience for me to make my own mistakes as I walk down a path you traveled long ago.  Every moment with you leaves me more and more impressed.  Oh, and thanks for all your help with the music (more on that later.)

Jenna, you've become a such a wonderful, dear friend to me.  You've been there for me every single time I asked and you always make me smile.  You pulled off some awesome demos, you worked endlessly to spread the love around, and you never once corrected me or made me feel like the rookie that I am.  Acceptance comes so naturally to you, it's a gift.  I've watched your own teaching skills sharpen, I've watched you grow and live and learn and explore as we've both become such great friends.  Some strange stoke of luck brought us together, and I think we've both built each other up ever since we met.  Being friends with you is effortless and always feels special because your inner light is warm and bright.  Thank you for being there to support me through this, for accepting all of my insanity and even embracing it.

OK, enough blowing sunshine around, right?  Let's get down to business.

First, the music.  I botched the tunes again, 0-2 on that.  This time I spent a lot of time lining up the songs based on the timeline and by some idiotic move I left my ipad in shuffle mode.  I was scratching my head half the time as the songs came up out of order, but Caitlin helped out a lot by adjusting the volume.  And since most of the songs in the playlist are pretty mellow, it worked out OK.  I hand-picked the song for core at the right time, so that worked out OK.  But it threw me off b/c I didn't realize until about 2/3 of the way through, when I turned off shuffle.  Rookie goof.  Oh well.  I'm pretty sure I didn't get one or two of the songs on the playlist in, and I think I repeated 2 or 3.  I even set up an extra song for a long intro and used it because half of the peeps showed up 10 minutes early.  Oh well, I'll keep learning and focusing on this stuff, it's easy enough to get the music right.

My greetings this time weren't as awesome as last time.  I need to keep the effort up with that.  I have a tendency to get too comfortable with people I know and skip formalities.  That's a total growth area.

The rest of this is going to be a bit difficult to follow for anyone who doesn't know the Core Power C1 sequence, but I'm going to write it for a reader who knows it well because this whole post is intended to serve as a learning experience for me with my peers and instructors.

I felt like I did OK with integration series.  I tried to spend the right amount of time in balasana, and I stumbled over my words a little less than before.  I did a demo with Jenna in table top to try to set the stage for tucking the tailbone later on and I think that was fairly successful even though I burned some extra time there.  My cues for downward dog weren't awesome, but I felt like I lead through a decent samasthiti and kept it rolling through Surya Namaskara A and the chaturanga demo.  Using Jenna for the demo was a great crutch, I felt it was definitely worth taking advantage of since she was there so that I could focus on the words and she could be the body.  I'm curious what Caitlin thinks of how it came off.  I got the impression from at least one of the students that there was more of an understanding from the two early demos in table top and chaturanga than my first class where I demo'd everything myself.  I know this isn't something I can count on as an instructor, but I also think when you have the tool in the box, you might as well use it instead of doing things the hard way.

I spent a bit of time on tadasana too.  Perhaps I spent too much time talking about "I" and "me" during these demos but I really wanted to explain why I was spending the time focusing on what must seem like minutia to beginners, why I found that stuff important.  I wonder how it came off.  Maybe I am too OCD on that stuff, maybe I should just let it be, maybe I took the focus off the students by relating to personal experience and preference.  My intention was to really crank on alignment in the early stuff and then let the rest unravel.

Surya Namaskara B went pretty well.  I tried to demo/assist with Jenna for warrior 2 and maybe spent a bit too much time but I felt this set up things reasonably well for some good lunges later on.  Everyone was oriented facing center which made for some good vision to the demo space, and I think I milked it since I had Caitlin to adjust alignment while I demo'd on Jenna.  It was really fun, I think this is where I really started to relax and enjoy the experience.  The first class was just giving, pouring myself out and feeling empty at the end.  This 2nd class was different, I felt like I was filling myself while I filled up the room.  Sun B was where it started flowing.  I probably pushed the pace a bit too much for the 2nd and 3rd rounds of Sun B, but I tried to explain why I was doing that.  I was a little surprised at how tentative everyone took their SUN B chaturanga's, but I also wanted to give them space to practice how they wanted to, so I cued an extra inhale/shift forward on almost all of them.  It seemed to work OK.  I think we were maybe 5 minutes behind schedule after Sun B, going off total guesses.

Core went OK.  I think a bit better than last time.  I could really see and feel the effort at this point, the room was engaged and that got me excited.  Navasana seemed really strong to me.  I can't take full credit for this, I think having the 4 repeat customers helped because they knew it was only 3 minutes and it is safe to push hard for those full 3 minutes.

Crescent lunge was another walkthrough on Jenna and I think all the visual reinforcement helped the others.  I would imagine Caitlin and Meg when they dual teach get a lot of good information across, since they are both so experienced.  A demo on a girl body is just way better than a demo on an inflexible boy body.  I was happy enough with my cues through cresecent lunge series, though I think my revolved crescent cues could improve a bit.  I forget if I suggested a modification in revolved crescent, but I remember adding it in for both vasistasanas and also for runner's lunge.  I felt like I gave enough space in runner's lunge for some quiet time.  I think Caitlin might have turned down the music a bit for each of those moments.

Prayer twist and gorilla seemed to flow OK, though I may have been stumbling a bit here, I just remember being fully engaged in the moment.  Bakasana demo was unrehearsed, and my intention was to offer lolasana instead.  I'm not sure Jenna knew what I meant by lolasana, I sort of expected her to have infinite experience with it, but it's not part of any sequence that I know of, and I'm not sure she spends as much time messing around with arm balances like I do with Shane.  It seemed klunky as I tried to cue something I've never cued before, purely off memory and reading one article the day before.  So I sort of gave up on that and talked through a bakasana demo.  I forget if I offerred a baksasana prep demo/explanation.  This part just got slopppy, and ironically I pulled off a much beter version in teacher training a few hours later, demo'ing with my own body and skipping lolasana.  I do think crow makes zero sense in the C1 and that lolasana would be a better choice because 2 or 3 sets would be something just about anyone can do by leveraging weight in their toes and it would build strength for future arm balances.  But I also think I'm not nearly a good enough teacher to pull off a swap like this without some thought and preparation.

I'm blank on the 2nd balasana, I know I hit it well in teacher training afterwards, but I forget if I gave out any love out at the nest.  However, the next part was the biggest surprise of the day.  I suck at balancing in my own practice, and I don't think I'm a very good instructor for the balancing series, but I swear there was just a moment during vrksasana that felt electric.  Even natarajasana felt steady.  Perhaps I've improved a bit?  Garudasana went OK, the whole series was better than I expected.  I think I have a hangup on this series because I typically fall out a few times, so it was a big confidence boost to rock it out and it really set a special tone that lasted the rest of class.

Triangle series was the one I had gone way too fast through the Monday prior.  I had a huge intention to slow down and let that series soak in, particularly vera bhadrasana I.  I'm not one to congratulate myself very often, but I felt like I hit the mark with my timing for triangle series and that meant a lot to me.  To observe a deficiency or tendency and then be able to correct it is exactly what learning from experience is about.  It gives me hope.  Timing and tempo is so critical to the student's experience, you want a full chance for deep expression, and that may involve some quivering or shaking, but you don't want to leave anyone hung out to dry.  It can be a fine line.  My cues may not have been perfect, but I was just very happy with my tempo.  I did leave out reverse warrior after prasarita paddotanasana though, that's something to try to remember to add in, but I don't think anyone minded, there was a look of fatigue at that point.

Half pidgeon went really well, not necessarily the cues, but the mood and bringing down the intensity.  I felt like I heard my own voice softening at just the right time, and I felt like I gave adequate space here.  I was tempted to talk more, to introduce more of a theme, but silence just felt right this time.  In retrospect, the class ended up fairly themeless, but somehow silence and rain seemed enough.  It seemed like a chord was struck without using so many words, so I just let it be.  In the future, I'd really prefer to have a solid theme to interweave, but today it was OK to just let it be a little open ended.

Bujangasana and Daunurasana were acceptable, not awesome, but probably better than last time.  Camel was a little better since I didn't second guess myself and consider leaving it out.  Then seated forward fold before bridge which is something that doesn't feel perfect.  We've talked about this a bit, and it's something to continue thinking about.  If pachimotanasana follows ustrasana and leads into septu bandha sarvangasana then it should be a hamstring stretch, not a lower back stretch, otherwise there is just too much backward bending and forward bending without a chance to neutralize the spine.  But if you do bridge before seated foward fold, then you're coming down to the mat and then back up.  Neither feels right to me yet, but I think camel to forward fold to lying down to bridge seems like the best option.  Anyway, bridge was OK, better than before, fairly decent actually.

My happy baby could use a little work, and supine spinal twist wasn't perfect, but not horrible.  Savasana somehow felt so serene that I just didn't want to talk, I wanted to give space.  I felt like it was about the right amount of time in savasana before I started bringing them back, but it might have been a bit short.  I ran about 10 minutes over in total, which is probably a pretty normal C1 if I had thrown out camel and bridge and all the extra demo's.  Of course I'd still like to dial it in to an exact 60 minutes, but I think with less demos I'd be closer.

Areas for improvement:

1. Breathe with the class more.  Add in more quiet time.  I think I've made good progress here but I still have a ways to go.

2. Better cues for surrender series.  This is the newest and hence my weakest, but I'm happy with my progress.

3. Better greeting and intro.  Always have a theme, a solid, clear, crystalline theme, and drive it home.  I was losey goosey with that this time, after overdoing it last time.  Find the middle ground, short and sweet, have a quote or two ready, and sew it throughout the class.

4. Music.  It needs to be spot on.  There's no excuse for that, especially for a tech minded guy like me.

5. More adjustments.  I only did a few hands-on adjustments.  I'd like to challenge myself more with that.  I'm comfortable touching people, I just need to get out of my own head long enough to remember to jump in.  Having the two ladies was a crutch that I relied on.  I need to work towards being more self sufficient.

That's about all I can think of for now.  I feel a lot better about how this class went.  We'll see how the eval goes from Jenna and Caitlin as I consider if I'm going to keep trying to teach classes...

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I still have this t-shirt, though I haven't worn it in years.

My life has been shaped so much by my early years. The street I grew up on, Pueohala Place, was originally owned entirely by a single family, the Mortensens, and their approach to living has greatly influenced my own. The original house, which at one point was the only house on the street, is still there. It was built closer to the beach and then at some point in time before I was born it was moved mauka (towards the mountains) and two new homes were built makai (towards the ocean). Eventually, the street was split up and 5 more single family homes were built behind the front 3, one of which my father impulsively selected because it allowed a view from the kitchen into the family room so my mother could cook while keeping an eye on us.

The Mortensen family became a part of our existence, Dolly, David, and their three children, Dayna, Katie and Kavika. Their door was never locked. I could borrow a surfboard any time. I played basketball in their driveway whenever I felt like it. I could always count on David to have a smile and a joke for me, to loan out a tool, to teach me how to use it, or to just take the stress of life away with his gigantic heart. Hawaii is the land of lingering and when you have Hawaiian blood and a familiy history rooted in the islands, you have a responsibility to give your time away to anyone who wants it, regardless of where you are or what you are doing. The street that feeds into Pueohala Place, named North Kalaheo, used to back up with 3-5 cars every now and then because the driver had stopped in the middle of the lane to talk to a friend or relative walking on the side of the street. Nobody honks in that situation. You just wait it out and let the conversation finish.

Life lessons don't always sink in so well at that age. In retrospect, I don't think I realized what an example that was for me. The Mortensens had no riches, no "things" of substantial value, but they were rich in life and love. They sold the land they once owned, and kept only 2 of the 8 houses for themselves, keeping only what they really needed. They befriended everyone on the street, even us haoles from the mainland, and treated all of the kids the same, with even handed, overflowing acceptance even though we all did our share of idiotic things.

Life was fairly simple for those early years. I went to school, that was my job, and until 6th or 7th grade it really wasn't that terrifying. Public school in particular wasn't particuarly challenging, Hawaii ranks 50th in the nation in public schools, so up until 4th grade when I switched to a private school my efforts and intensity revolved around weekends spent on the tennis court. My entire world was a 5x1 kilometer rectangle from Oneawa to the beach, between Kuulei and Kainui. It has taken me years to realize exactly how privileged that childhood really was. Not privileged in the sense of extravagent wealth, but privileges in the sense of extravagent freedom. It seemed so normal at the time, kind of like how when you're standing on a peak and looking at an incredible view, you don't realize how expansive your perspective is compared to those in the valley below. You can only see from one place at a time, just as you can only grow up once.

Samadhi, at least my current concept of it, warped in my western-rooted mind, seems very much like how I remember my early years. A 2 minute walk took me to one of the most beautiful beaches in the state if not the world, safe, clean, uncrowded, with warm water and just-right waves for a kid to play around in, get tossed upside down, but not worry too much about drowning. My childhood started off with pure sentiment, feeling instead of thinking, before there was any need to understand or analyze. I felt spiritual moments out in that water, long before we took a pair of canoes out to spread my mother's ashes in the very same water. I would sometimes fall asleep in my bed at night as a kid and instantly return to the feeling of floating and rocking on my board, just past the break. The exhaustion from 3 or 4 hours of paddling around, catching waves, running, jumping, and just being must have left left a permanent imprint on my consciousness. Life spent at the beach, at the neighbor's, riding bikes up/down the street, climbing in the ironwood trees, digging up insects, and exploring outside was pure freedom. There were no bills. There were no deadlines. I was never too cold or too hot.

Inevitably, life gets more complicated as we grow up. We accumulate items and scars, we form complex relationships with all sorts of people. My sister is now seeing that for the first time in her own children, how the endless joy of naieve optimism gives way to more complicated, more calculated thoughts as a child reaches past diapers, through the challenges of walking and talking, and begins to take the first steps on the flight of self awareness.

I think one of the reasons I've allowed myself to be open to new challenges is based on knowing that my happy place is still there. Kailua hasn't changed much at all, every time I go back I confirm that. I think I've always assumed that if my life turned into a complete failure, if I lost all that I valued, if I had no friends and nothing left to care about, all I needed was a one way ticket home and the willingness to work enough to pay for food and shelter and my life would be just perfect. Ironically, I honestly believe I would prpobably be happier if I did that today, but I won't allow myself to take the easy way, to give up on myself just yet. I love my life so much here, I love what I've created and what I've stumbled into. I love my friends, I love my dog. I love my neighbors who are the modern, San Diego version of the Mortensens.

So, for now, I keep stacking weight on myself, unsure if I can or will be able to shoulder the burden indefinitely, but aware that if I break, if I fall apart completely, I've always known exactly where to go. If that breaking point arrives, I know that happiness will be waiting for me on the other end. That belief alone carries me through so many of the challenges I seek. That belief allows me to reach past my own doubts and insecurities and attempt to cultivate proficiency. I know that I'll be able to retreat into the comfort of a known world if I fail, and that allows me to attempt to improve without worrying so much about the final outcome.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


There are 3 things to acknowledge today, realizations from last night and this morning.

I'll start with last night. I've heard this before, actually I've heard it many times. When someone presents an idea, an opinion, or a statement to me, I often respond with an exception or by pointing out one way in which that idea does not make sense to me. This comes off as me sounding like the perpetual devil's advocate, or debbie downer, or just plain negative nancy. I notice that I do this, even if I accept 90% of the concept as dead-on. This is a clear weakness in my communication skills. My lack of acknowledgment is easily interpreted as a rejection of what was presented, even if I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. It's like my brain takes a shortcut, skipping the "omg, you are so right" and goes straight to the "but what about this one little part that doesn't seem to fit"?

While I work to correct this imbalance in my communication, I think it's worthwhile to at least explain why this happens. I'm not making excuses for myself, but I do see this approach as a key ingredient to success in the workplace, particularly amongst software developers. I've hired a few, interviewed a lot, and I've seen all sorts of teams and styles in my 14 years of work. The most valued colleagues I have worked with are those who can quickly point out the problems with anyone's proposed approach, without worrying about how that information is received. When everyone toes the line and follows the leader, that leader's oversights can become catastrophic. Without checks and balances, code reviews, and daily challenges to the design, product quality suffers. When everyone on the team can (hopefully respectfully) call into question the details of the suggested implementation and point out specific situations where additional design is necessary, the project as a whole stands a much greater chance of success.

The real challenge for me is to not lose this professional skill, while simultaneously working to acknowledge and appreciate input in my personal life. And I can _always_ word things better, even in the professional world. This challenge will not be easy for me, it will take months and more likely years to make progress.

On that same line of thinking, this morning was one of those days on the mat that we hope for every day. Shane decided we should focus on arm balances, and while I reached tricep fatigue well before the 60 min mark, I was thrilled to pull off some poses that I previously had not been able to, and to do others with slightly more confidence and control. Specifically, my core strength improvements have built to the point that I am reaching a basic competence with headstand and that allows me to do more with it than just trying to stay up for 20 breaths. It's a real thrill to unlock those doors and be able to walk down new hallways in my practice, and while today had no gigantic landmarks like pulling off an actual unsupported handstand, I really felt a marker had ticked by on my progression. I'd like to acknowledge Shane for all of his hard work in getting me to this point, he laid out a plan, tricked me into following it, and now he has proven to me how true his initial words really were. It all reinforces my core belief that 2 people, working together, is tremendously more powerful than 1 + 1.

Now, lest anyone view this as overly congratulatory, I want to point out how humbling it actually is. Today was the first time I learned what bakasana should actually feel like. It is tremendously more difficult to press your knees up to your armpits than it is to dig them into your triceps and use your skin or the grip of a towel to keep them from slipping down. That last bit of compression from the core and the hip flexors is intense and excruciating, just as pressing my elbows together in dolphin or many of my side arm balances which involve twisting, flexibility, balance, and strength. Another angle on this is doing headstand prep where you keep your toes on the mat behind you but lift your head 1/4" out of your hands and focus on arm strength. That is actually much more challenging for me than headstand, and far less gratifying, but the gains from doing it for just a few weeks are noticeable. Full expression is an evolution, a series of passageways that lead to a maze of neverending self exploration. My bakasana had gotten a bit stagnant over the past month or two and now it is time to keep pushing it foward because the effort invested will give me the foundation for all sorts of new things down the road.

My note to my runners this week was about acknowledging themselves for how far they have come this season, because it is so easy to lose sight of progress when you are in the midst of the heavy preparation that must be done one month before race day. I find it especially ironic that I'm preaching self acknowledgment when I struggle with this concept for myself. Like any overweight, out-of-shape NFL coach knows, you don't have to be able to do something in order to tell someone else how to do it. For some reason, I find it very easy to acknowledge others for their efforts to improve themselves. I find that I am naturally able to motivate and inspire, and I think this is true because I am so motivated and inspired myself, by those who I have been fortunate enough to share time and space with. This natural energy from others simply reflects and refracts through me and is redirected out to anyone in my vicinity. I remember my high school water polo coach, recognizing my complete lack of talent but overflowing enthusiasm, sending me into the championship game to try to get things really amped up. I'm sure he must have been wincing and crossing his fingers and hoping that I didn't get anywhere near the ball, but I appreciated his faith in me for what I could provide.

I'm going to end with a question that came up last night. Is "work" a basic need? I'm sure the weight of that question rests on how you define work. If you take work as a strict "something you get paid to do" then I'd imagine some people might say that no, work is not a basic need, as long as you have your other needs met, you don't need work to survive and feel grounded/stable/safe/secure. However, if you define work as your purpose, dharma, calling, passion, whatever, and therefore include volunteering, caring for the sick or old, raising children (which is most definitely work in my book) or the host of various other efforts that do not directly correspond to wages, then I think it becomes much easier to say that work is a basic need. Dogs, particularly labradors, want to have work to feel happy, they need a purpose, and I sense that Hunter would love to do more if his body would allow him to. I certainly feel an insatiable drive to do something meaningful with my time, though most of my real passions are not particularly lucrative, they tend to be more cashflow-negative types. Feel free to chime in if anyone has any thoughts on this. I know that having an entire year off from the structure of the corporate workplace gave me a real appreciation for how great life can be without "work" (as a strict definition.) And I'm sure that is what is hiding behind some of my questions about if work is a basic need or not.

So, to summarize, acknowledgement of ideas, acknowledgement of my progress, and acknowledgement of others, that is my focus for today.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


How do we find grace in our lives?

When we move from one pose to the next, from one thought to another, how do we connect with our own inner grace, the ease of effortlessnes, peacefullness and seamlessness?

The elusive thing about grace is that it's so obvious to observe, but so difficult to manufacture. It must come from the heart and it must flow out through our bodies, in words and deeds. To find grace, we must be at peace, but who allows themselves a moment's peace in today's world? Not many of us. I know I struggle with this. There are so many opportunities to be distracted, to get upset, to throw our composure out the window.

How will I manifest grace today?

An opportunity will undoubtedly present itself. And it won't have a sign on it that says "this is your test today, try not to fail." It will be one of those situations which only seems clear in retrospect, a moment that only becomes clear once it becomes a memory.

How can I find words of grace to share with others?

This is obviously the near term focus for me, but it's a great goal for all of us. Grace in our expression, to inspire others and by doing so, inspire ourselves.

How often do we forget to be graceful?

To our loved ones and children. To our co-workers and bosses. To other drivers. To those who make us wait.

Grace starts with a single word, a single motion. The difference between a weightless step onto the ball of our foot and the klunky maneuver I more frequently use. Why not try to tread softly? It's hard for me, but I think about it a lot.

There exists tremendous power in grace, and yet grace is humble. Kind of like Gandhi without the glasses and wrinkly skin.

Grace is not earned, it is simply expressed.

Be unreasonably graceful today.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I woke up at 3:00 this morning, despite going out last night, my mind racing with thoughts from yesterday.  Actual tears were rolling out of my eyes, not sad tears, more like basic punctuation bookending the recent emotions, ones I don't fully understand nor did I have any idea I would necessarily experience.  On the surface, yesterday was about as plain jane as any day in my recent life, perhaps excessively plain.  But the undercurrent prompts me to digest and purge what I can, a cathartic attempt to hit reset so I can proceed.

A bit of background first.  Sandy beach on Oahu is a bodysurfer's dream, the steep sand bar and steady swells combine to produce hollow barrels which usually pack a heavy punch.  Water sucks back, energy builds, the crest peaks and then surges up and over, crashing down into a water and sand mixture that is maybe 1-2 feet deep.  Reliving my youth in retrospect, bodysurfing Sandy Beach shorebreak is very much like my own experiences with chaturanga.  There is a repeated rising and falling, a known dance with the self, accompanied by a parallel dance with the higher Self.  Each individual wave, each chaturanga, is semi-satisfying but often indistinguishable from the next.  And yet, the net sum of a session spent in the water or on the mat yields a singular whole, a unique point in time, an experience which becomes a memory.

I'll come back to Sandy Beach later.

Two emails received this week are worth reprinting, partly because of how they affected me, but more so as an explanation of what I need to work on.

"I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying Team Challenge. I appreciate the time that you take (Dave) to plan our workouts! I have never done anything like this in my life and I am truly enjoying it. These past few weeks I have seen myself accomplish things that I never thought were possible for a girl with Crohn's Disease. Thanks so much, & you will probably see me around next year. I'm loving it and we haven't even made it to Vegas yet...I can't wait!"
"Thank you again today Dave, and I mean that personally- not with my CCFA hat on.  Really cool to be a party of your first class taught, perfect opportunity for you to hone your craft on some open-minded friends and amateurs.  Very cool experience relative to my past yoga sessions, everything from the setting to the music was a great fit.
 You gotta let me know if you start teaching on a regular or even intermittent basis- I'd definitely come to your class again, the passion you have for it is contagious."
It's pretty amazing to observe the effect words can have on the human heart.  Word selection, tone, delivery, context, and especially intent all combine to exert a force, much like that wave at Sandy Beach, that affects me.  It's often easy to brush aside these emotions, just as it's easy to ride wave after wave and not pay attention to the last one or the next one.  And it's just as easy to overlook the risk that words and waves have, until something disastrous happens, a friendship disintegrates, or a physical injury is sustained in the water.  My parents always used to stress out about Sandy's being the spinal cord readjustment center of the US.  And certainly my own experience with words and particularly their negative effects has taught me all sorts of lessons.  Words can be intense.  The words above affected me greatly, primarily because they were unsolicited but also because of how succinct they are.  And while they say more about the sender than the recipient, their net effect on me is substantially more than I expected.

So how does this all relate to what I need to work on?  If I set the stage right, you might be confused, you might not follow my train of thought yet.  And that is precisely what I am good at, presenting a confusing, overwhelming, lengthy description of my convoluted thoughts which takes a lot of mental energy to decipher.  I think my mom realized this when I was 10 as I tried to explain to her how to repaginate a document in Word Perfect (remember those pre-Word days of "word processing"?)  I have never been a good teacher, in fact, I've been told many times exactly how lousy I am at it.  I'm a doer.  I take action.  I push the limits.  I ride the edge.  I was not born with the ability to tell anyone "how".

My sister has tremendous innate leadership and the ability to connect to individuals from all walks of life.  I am different.  I think we got opposite pairs of genes from our parents.  My sister actually ran a small yoga business out of her home a few years ago, before marriage and children.  My sister can nonchalantly shred on the mat, yoga is a perfectly comfortable home for her, an effortless extension of her Self.  While my sister was doing all of this, I was a quintessential tri-dork, with dreams of Kona which, once fulfilled, gave way to dreams of fast marathons, which broke away and funneled me into dreams of ultra which may not be completely dead yet, and eventually landed me on my yoga mat.  There exists quite a bit of comfort for me in athletic pursuits, I know how to push myself, I know how to not quit, it is the world of the known, the oddly comfortable.

Rewind, and take a slight detour...

Watching my father's progression and obsession with ballroom dancing has been a real life lesson for me.  I did not understand it at first, but it makes tremendous sense to me now.  At retirement, some people long for complacency, a routine schedule, an easieness.  But for many of us, when we stop growing, we start to die.  The Easa genes do not allow sitting still, for better or for worse.  We are workhorses, from my grandfather selling goods door to door out of his suitcase to my father's sacrifices in neonatology, to my sister's ruthless schedule of childcare activities.  When we go, we go all out.  It would be unnatural for any of us to stop placing hurdles in our path just to see if we can jump over them.  Despite no background, despite a surgically repaired knee, despite a complete lack of need, my father chose to pursue and excel at dancing.  And now he has absorbed it, now he is pretty freaking good at it.  The work shows.  His reinvented Self is as shiny and brilliant as the Dr in Dr. Easa ever was, and probably at this point substantially more impressive than any of his accomplishments on the tennis court.

So, now it's time for me to get on point.

And yet, we've already arrived.  This entire post _is_ already the point.  If I were to ask any of my 3 regular readers of this irrelevant blog what I need to work on, the answer would be unanimous and immediate.  Let's not even sugar coat it today, I did enough of that with those two quotes above.


That's it, exactly it, I don't even need to type the word "nutshell".  That is my feedback from yesterday's first yoga class.  That is my feedback from my own self analysis of my life.  That is my challenge, what I want to improve upon, my personal growth opportunity.  It is not my area of expertise, and yet I covet so dearly those who can express themselves in simple words that have great impact, just as my father covets the effortlessness of his dance instructor's grace.  I'm petrified of this.  I have no idea "how" to get there.

Take a look at what I've just done.  I've taken a clear and obvious statement of fact, one that just about anyone who knows me realizes intuitively, and anyone who meets me can figure out in 5 minutes, and then I turned something obvious into a multi-page, barf-o-rama of a post.  It's so easy for me to make unnecessary additions, so hard for me to subtract.  The restless earnestness comes out of me just like the waves rise at Sandy Beach, with ferocity and often overwhelming volume.

My communication skills are the precise opposite of a bumper sticker.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I don't know how to explain last night, but I don't know how to let it pass without an attempt to describe what happened and how I felt.  It was unusual.  It was a lot like the morning of August 1st, 2010, which for various reasons is one of the lowest points of my recent memory.  It was a strange juxtaposition, entirely foreseeable, yet ultimately far more severe and intense than I was actually prepared for.  I haven't slept well the last two nights.  I feel like my scabs have been ripped off and I'm bleeding again.  It's a very raw sensation.  On the one hand, I love feeling this way, I love the rawness of sleep deprivation, self-imposed semi-starvation, and overdoses of exercise.  There is nothing that compares to the intensity of the state I inhabited from August 2010 through October 2010.  I felt tremendously alive, capable of anything, as if I could tap into a volcano's worth of fire at a moment's notice.  And yet, there is some real sadness that always seems to go hand in hand with this raw state of being.  Sadness at what has been lost.  Like a glass breaking into pieces or tint added to a gallon of white paint, there is no rewind, no undo.  All I can do is look forward and embrace the present moment.

I made plans last night to catch my favorite instructor, Lex's class with one of my fellow teacher trainers, Carrie, before meeting up with Shelley and Jaime to practice teach.  I wound up walking up the stairs with Carrie as we attempted to leave our workdays behind us.  I think her day had been rougher than mine, but I felt like we both looked forward to Lex's class with optimism, it would be her first one and her first trip to Haute, whereas for me it was roughly my one year anniversary.  I ventured into the studio, placed my mat, and stretched out with my eyes closed, retreating inward, diving into my vision of pratyahara.  With my eyes and lips sealed, my breath culled the heat out of my body as my tension released.  Lex brought the class to life with a greeting and began her theme about samadhi and specifically how active pranayama distinguishes a deep sensation from pain.  The concept is that when we lose our breath, it is no longer yoga.  And so the twisted evening of irony began.

Of all the themes for me to hear, that one is one of the toughest.  My challenge is, and has always been, a difficulty relaxing, difficulty accepting anything below maximum effort.  I love to blur the lines between a deep sensation and actual pain, it makes me feel alive.  What I love so much about my private sessions, what I crave every Tuesday and Thursday morning is how far Shane lets me explore my phyiscal boundaries.  I usually fall to the mat 5-10 times with Shane and it's OK by him to be doing that, he feels comfortable and so do I.  Sometimes I wonder if I am hitting mental limits or physical limits, sometims I worry that my brain shuts off before my body, but without failure there is no context of what is too much.  When he has me past my edge, I often lose touch with my breath, but he is OK with that and so am I.  It's a great physical cue for him, he can use it to judge how much further to push me before the point of complete failure.  It's also a great thing to try to work through.  So many times in low plank or twisted triangle or cobra or mountain climbers, when I'm gasping short sips of air, a gentle reminder to breath deep and embrace the sensation brings me back in line with my edge.  In fact, during headstand today, exploring a gentle backbend, I almost lost control and Shane thought for sure that I was going over, but somehow I managed to save it at the very last possible moment.  When I extend beyond my edge, sometimes I can bring myself back, sometimes I come crashing down.  It's one of the most beautiful pieces of what I experience with Shane, and not something that is safe or practical within a group class environment.

So, already I'm off kilter because of the message.  But, OK, let the message be the message, let me absorb what I can of it.  I don't have to reject my inner essence just because the message tells me that what I love isn't yoga.  There are other people in this room, maybe one of them will embrace the message for me.  Maybe today is just not my day to absorb the message.  Relax, accept, let it be, practice, proceed.  It is, after all, my practice, I can make it anything I want it to be.  So, I tune out the content of the words and focus on the beauty of Lex's tone, the steadiness of her pace, and I even laugh a little when I catch her making a subtle slipup, saying foot instead of hand, and then taking an extra 5 seconds to regroup and start the next series.  I find myself spending a lot of time with my eyes closed, as I often do, but even more so than normal this day and I'm not sure why, it just feels right.  Perhaps because we are covering balancing series in our teacher training and I'd really like to improve my balance so closing my eyes in simpler poses adds an extra element of balance training.  Perhaps I just really want to be in my own little bubble.  Eventually, however, I find I am unable to hold my balance with my eyes closed and I open them.  My gaze drifts towards the top that the woman in front of me is wearing, it is charcoal and pink, and I've seen it before.  As we inhale from extended side angle into reverse warrior I find my brain making a connection before I fully understand where it is going.  On the next warrior 1, vera bhadrasana, I see the face in the mirror and realize I am 6 inches from the mat of my ex-fiance.

It's hard to describe the impact of moments like this.  I suppose normal people would have noticed much sooner, at the beginning of class perhaps.  I don't look around when I place my mat, I retreat into my self, and I try to avoid looking in the mirror as well because my balance is so shaky.  I even remember one specific class, one specific moment where I had failed out of standing head to knee and I looked over at Jenna laying down on her extended front leg, standing leg straight, in full expression without a glint of effort and I could not stop myself from staring in wonderment.  At the peak of that moment I remember hearing Lex say something like "David, focus on yourself".  I was caught in a moment of envy, of coveting another's practice.  That is a great reminder, and a lesson I've tried to learn from.  To be alone in a room full of people is a delicate dance, a continual path of refinement.  But once reality of the present situation is absorbed, it cannot be forgotten or purged.  Here I am, on my mat, halfway into class, 6 inches from the woman who has elicited tremendous amounts of emotional pain from my depths.  I obviously can't move my mat, there is nowhere to hide.  I can't really focus at all.  I try to close my eyes and retreat even more, but I'm basically a big steaming pile for the next 30 minutes.

In retrospect, I saw this coming.  I didn't sleep well the night before, I woke up super early to write down some thoughts from the weekend.  I knew this had to happen, it seemed inevitable.  It was almost like a cosmic bear trap that I set out for myself to step into, much like the one that wrecked me on 8/1/2010.  Two worlds have collided, my past and present selfs are now indistinguishable.  As I sit on the couch, next to Carrie who is a completely ironic, cosmically created, stand-in for my other x-girlfriend, Kerri, Joanna comes out of the ladies room and she and I share a few words about Hunter.  Within a 6 foot radius are 3 women, one acting as a metaphorical substitute, who have substantially shaped my life over the past decade.  One took me from San Francisco to San Diego, one took me from Vista to Encinitas via Solana Beach, and one took me from inflexible and injured to a new plane of strength and inspiration.  An endless well of emotional confusion swirls into one big giant mess.  Thankfully I have practice training afterwards, to get my mind out of its self-induced tornado.  And even more fortunately, I got to wake up to Shane's reassurance this morning, that it is OK to push me beyond my limits and to smile and laugh while doing so.