Wednesday, August 31, 2011


"The only thing better than getting what you want is not getting what you want."

In racing terms, this concept is at the heart of desire and motivation because satisfaction comes, ironically, from not getting what you want. Satisfaction comes from trying harder. Satisfaction comes from struggle. Satisfaction does not come from reward or achievement, these are the end goals that satisfaction chases. Just like Road Runner and Wiley Coyote, the elusive, endless chase is what drives each and every one of us, in life, in sport and in love. When you hit your mark, the natural tendency is to become complacent. When you set the mark high enough that you don't frequently hit that s, you become an aggressive animal.

Where am I going with this? Well, let's first recap how this weekend went for some of my friends and friends of friends. The results are listed in general order of awesomeness.

1. Rod won CC100 and set a new course record.
2. Chris McDonald win Ironman Louisville for the 2nd time.
3. Maik won rev 3, got paid, bought a swifter, and is happily swifting.
4. Meredith Kessler got 3rd at Ironman Canada in 95 degree heat in her attempt for a repeat victory.
5. Hillary held on for 7th at Ironman Louisville despite a run that wasn't quite up to her exacting standards.
6. I tore my right calf 1 mile into my 4 mile first leg at Hood to Coast, but managed to hold predicted pace on legs 1 and 2 (based on gamin) and beat pace on leg 3 with a modified stride and by re-acquainting myself with my inner beast.
7. Our Hood to Coast team squeaked out a division win and 11th place with some strong performances and an average team age that might have been pretty close to 40.
8. Alyssa had a very strong swim and bike followed by somewhat of a lackluster run.
9. Krissy recorded her 2nd ever DNF in what sounds like the worst conditions imaginable at UTMB.

Now, on to my hypothesis. I have had major sucky periods twice in the past 12 months, so I am quite familiar with them. The first big sucky period came after my PR's at the AFC half and Chicago marathon last year. Once I hit those marks, marks that exceeded any long term goals I had ever imagined, I fell into a massive slump. It wasn't like I was dead or done racing, and certainly not training, but I was aimlessly drifting between work, yoga, eating, and sleeping in. I had no drive, no hunger, and zero intensity. It's OK to have downtime, but 3-4 months got the better of me. Western States and Krissy's coaching finally got me out of that funk and the work I did in the spring of this year was pretty special, particularly a few notable training days that exceeded my expectations of what I can expect of myself.

The second sucky period is my post-western-states funk that I'm still in the middle of, hopefully nearing the end. To be honest, I'm not entirely satisfied with western states, especially the severe butt kicking I took from many of my peers. There's nothing too awesome about a 22 hour 100. But my goal was sub 24 and my realistic expectation of a good result was right around 22, so in terms of where I was and what I felt ready to do, 22 was a success. Not a home run, but at least a solid base hit. And after a success, well, I hit a slump because there was no longer any angst to drive me. I do have some races to keep me busy through the end of the year, but nothing important, and therefore I am allowing myself to slack off. In this manner, achievement is the death of my own satisfaction.

Now, let's take a look at Rod. He hit his 3rd 2nd place finish at SD100 two weeks before western states and he wasn't fully satisfied with that. He wanted to win something and missing his mark fired him up even more. He was already supremely fit, but he took it to an entirely new level, busting out 38 miles with me only 2 weeks after his 100, and rolling all of that motivation and drive into his course record this weekend. He became an animal, a machine, an unstoppable force. I'm not remotely surprised to read his blog and hear that he is seemingly a little unsatisfied with how he feels after hitting the mark. It's not a letdown to get what you want, but it is a bit sad to turn the page on an intense period of motivation and feel the end of that addictive wave of euphoria that comes from being in the best shape of your life.

Next, let's look at Maik and Chris. Both were winners against competitive fields, both rose to the challenges of the day, and both achieved the ultimate goal of any pro triathlete, finish ahead of everyone else. From my limited reading, it sounds like both of these two are happy with the results, but I suspect they are already planning their next race, already focused on the future, because what's done is done, and satisfaction lies only in what isn't done.

Now, on to the ladies, who had varying degrees of success this weekend. Those who I've talked to (everyone but Krissy) seem fired up for their next races. In fact, Hillary seems extremely amped and Alyssa isn't far behind. Meredith sounds a bit more even keel, but just as motivated. I have to believe Krissy is going to be dangerous the next time she toes the line.

Which pool would I rather be swimming in? Rod/Maik/Chris or Meredith/Hillary/Allyssa/Krissy? Clearly my best racing has come from the zones that the girls are in right now, and my worst funks have followed the small successes I've had (which obviously don't compare to what Rod/Maik/Chris have achieved in any way other than how I feel about them). I especially liked reading about how Chris felt about his racing prior to Louisville as it seemed to build into a fire that he was able to harness this weekend.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing what the girls are able to produce over the next 6 months. And I sure hope the boys can leverage their success by setting new goals and riding the next wave, which is something I've seemed to struggle with lately. I'm a little curious about myself too, although with the bum knee and now a totally wrecked calf, I think I'm stuck playing a bit of a waiting game for a while. It was very refreshing to get to feel that edge again over the weekend, an edge I hadn't felt for a while, but I paid a bit of a price for not putting in proper preparation.

In a strange, twisted, sadistic sort of way, I'm really happy that I injured myself. I'm happy that I'm starting to get hungry again. I'm happy to have cleared my short term memory of accomplishments. I'm excited to fail, to not get what I want, and to grow that burning desire for more.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It's been a long road to recovery for me, up from the depths of virgin hundred mile total body fatigue which consumed all of July and most of August. I am finally beginning to feel the desire to train again and it feels so good to begin to suffer. It seems utterly appropriate that this weekend just so happens to be a race weekend for almost everyone I know.

A short list of some of the events on tap includes:

UTMB -- all the ultra studs will be here tackling what seems to be the most insanely beautiful course I've ever seen photos of. Krissy attempts to repeat her 2009 victory while Iso flies in so gently under the radar that his wife might not even know where he is.
Cascade Crest 100 -- Rod is fit and fired up, on his home turf, this one could be one for the ages.
Ironman Louisville -- Hillary and Alyssa on the same course at the same time, will the student punish the teacher? The one thing I am certain of is that I will be impressed.
Tristar111 -- Maik should crush this one beyond resemblance given the distances which cater to his strengths.
Santa Barbara Tri -- I'm not super close with anyone racing this year but the course has some fond memories for me and it also makes me remember Barbara Warren which in turn reminds me to live my own life to the fullest in her honor.
Hood to Coast -- 11 of my stinkiest friends and I will be rolling down Mt. Hood and heading West starting at 4:45pm on Friday.

The good news is that we should be done just slightly after noon on Saturday so while I am sleeping/eating/drinking/lounging there will be plenty of race action to check in on. The scary news is that last year the boys were out well past 2am on Saturday after almost no sleep on Friday, and we have this tendency to ratchet up the effort each year. Somehow nobody has missed a flight home (yet).

The crazy idiot in me is pondering the possibility of making it up to see Rod finish Cascade Crest since he doesn't start until 10am on Saturday. There is adequate time for the long drive, but the key variable is how much sleep do I need and will I be able to get any?

A virtual shout out to everyone who is toeing the line this weekend! Best of luck, tailwinds, rubber side down, and let 'er rip!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


One of the more mainstream Phish songs, "Down with Disease" has a memorable verse that is currently bouncing through my head:

Down with disease
Up before the dawn
A thousand men with children outside dancing on my lawn

Although the lyrics are based on Tom Marshall's bout of mono, the performance of the song is so lighthearted that it always makes me cheerful and gets me moving.

Today I find myself up before dawn, actually well before dawn. I woke up at 3:30 am, half an hour before the alarm. Perhaps even more mystifying, it wasn't for a workout or to get to a Phish show :) Ironically, I am flying to the city where Phish played last night and will play again tonight and tomorrow night, but I don't have a ticket and I won't get to see them.

I'm heading off to Holland, Michigan for Mike's wedding. I'm not sure I've ever even been to the state of Michigan. And I've definitely never seen Mike get married before. The lucky woman, aka unfortunate victim, Sarah Hogan, has somehow managed to plan a wedding, while working a full time job, getting Mike through 93% of Western States, and saving our fish and oceans. She is truly a superstar of multiple dimensions.

Last night I received another save the date. It's been quite a while since I've attended a wedding, and I've really missed that. Weddings can be overdone, but there is something incredibly beautiful about the promise of a lifelong commitment to someone. Especially in these troubled times, where so many of my friends are recently divorced or in the middle of a divorce, where I'm even reading books about divorce.

I'd like to think there is still hope. Even with the statistics which seem to imply that our species appears to be incapable of enjoying lifelong monogamy without massive doses of money or religion to lubricate the engine. I'm a big fan of the pair, and I think that part of me isn't going to change, no matter how many failures I may have in my own personal life.

That was the call to board, and therefore I'm off. I'll watch the sun rise from 30,000 feet as I head off towards midsummer Chicago and then on to Michigan. I'm looking forward to the way this wedding will make me feel, for the hope it embodies, and the joy of a union of two like minded, young, vibrant, and perpeturally hilarious friends.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Phish @ The Gorge

Editor's note: I realize there are many awkward sentences, a severe repetition of "completely" and many switches from past to present tense in the post below. I also think every 2nd or 3rd sentence is a run-on. But, I'm going to leave it un-edited this time because the experience was fairly raw and I think it's OK if the description of it is similarly raw.

August 2011 marked 7 years since I saw Phish with Kelly at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in Wisconsin. At the time, the trip felt indulgent and surreal, as if it were inhabiting someone else's body and I was just along for the ride. It was my first time seeing two shows on consecutive nights and that alone felt extreme. I worried that I might not appreciate both nights individually and I wasn't convinced I deserved to enjoy myself for such an extended period of time. Somehow I was able to let the guilt go, to embrace this concert experience as my first real exposure to the lifestyle that so many dirty hippies find appealing.

My memories of Alpine Valley are indelible: the smell of the grass, tailgating, staying up late, sleeping in, eating less nutritious food, the Amish people nearby, an overturned car on the drive back, breakfast at Denny's, and far too much second hand smoke. It was my only non-race oriented travel of 2004, and it was so different than everything else in my life around that time that it stands out as a landmark memory. As for the music, wow, it blew me away. To see Phish in an outdoor amphitheater is a very special experience. They are the only band that I can completely lose myself in for the duration of the set, the absorption is effortless. While the indoor concerts are fantastic as well, there is something far more natural and appropriate about being outdoors to see Phish. It also helps me manage all the smoking and general funky smells going on, my eyes really tear up at an indoor venue because I'm just not used to all of the smoke. Watching the sun set, sometimes accompanied by the song, The Divided Sky, slips into dusk and momentum builds towards the midnight encore. For me, that show at Alpine transcended the moment and opened a new dimension of music appreciation. I know enough lyrics to sing along to 9 out of 10 songs, I know the rifts well enough to predict 6 or 7 out of 10 on the first few notes, but I've only seen a handful of shows so it's still very fresh and new and I like keeping it that way.

In that 7 year interim, the band took a 4 year break, released a new album, and returned to touring. I have to admit that during that 4 year break, I lost a little interest. Ironically, what drove me to Alpine in 2004 was the fear that it was over, and indeed it seemed that way for quite some time. When Phish started touring again in 2009, I felt a bit like a scorned lover, like a bandwagon fan who had jumped off. Life was just moving full speed ahead in 2009, it was a tornado and hurricane all at the same time and there was no room for music, certainly no time to travel to a concert. And then, as the storm subsided and life slowed down a bit, I was able to rekindle some of the joy I remembered from that trip to Alpine at two local shows with Trey and Mike's solo bands. I knew it was time to see them again, and it didn't take much effort to get back on the bandwagon, this time with both Kelly and Mike, for a two night trip to The Gorge in Washington. It still felt guilty booking a flight for pure pleasure, unnecessary and indulgent, but something I genuinely looked forward to, a small reward for the hard work I attempted to put in earlier in the year.

I flew in Thursday night and was able to navigate easily through the airport to the train. Ironically, my dad had sent me some of his electric train set that week (I'll cover that in my next post) so I felt obligated to travel on rail whenever possible. Plus trains are just plain cooler than busses. Something just seems right about taking the train to/from an airport. I met up with the Mundells at the hotel and we headed out for a beer to cap off the night. Then we wandered off to a different bar that had 160 beers on tap and had a 2nd beer and let our enthusiasm for tomorrow build.

The next morning we sought out coffee (which is not very difficult to find in Seattle) and headed East on I90 before the road closures for the Blue Angels. During that drive I was reminded of how beautiful and green things are on the West side of the Cascade mountains. I was also surprised at how dramatic the difference felt by the time we reached Ellensburg which was windy, hot, and dry. We had enough time to take a quick dip in the deep blue clear Columbia river to cool off before heading out to the parking lot. And here's where I really started to notice how old I am. When we tailgated at Alpine Valley, we were in the mix of it all, there was just one big parking lot and all of the associated mayhem all around us. This time we opted for the "family friendly" parking area which was much more chill, and though we did have a few beers and listen to some tunes on the ipad, it was overall very mellow by comparison. All of the real tailgating was taking place in a different lot, a fair ways away.

So the three of us roll in to the Gorge properly lubricated, well rested, adequately caffeinated, and ready to soak it all in. Getting a bracelet from the ID check was perhaps the only tricky part of the day as the poor guy was dizzying himself with a counterclockwise rotation around a swarm of hippies thrusting driver's licenses at him. I paid homage to the "two hands, two beers" rule that I instituted at Alpine with Kelly and we walked down to the top of the grass to sit and watch the sun set. We pick a spot just behind a double stroller, since the stroller serves as a nice visual landmark to navigate by as we get progressively more inebriated.

Now, normally, I tend to dislike all the stinky hippies that go to Phish concerts. I feel disgustingly high maintenance by comparison and that is probably part of what annoys me, but I dislike the overabundance of hair, the drugged out stares, and the general lack of concern for others that pervades many of these types of concerts. It was a welcome relief to wind up right behind one of the most beautiful families I've seen. Dad and mom were fit, young, athletic, and full of joy, meanwhile the son and daughter were curious, well behaved, and seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience that they surely could not completely comprehend. What a perfect example of not giving up the things you enjoy in life in order to have a family. Now, lest you think these are irresponsible parents, they were all wearing earplugs and they had plenty of snacks, a blanket, and some glow in the dark necklaces for their two kiddies. And did I mention how adorable they all were, especially together? I took a photo of them all together on their phone and caught one of the two kiddies as they were packing up towards the end of the first set. Being around them really just put me in a great mood.

I don't really have words to describe how great the music was. I could start with soul-filling, but that sounds trite. When you go see your favorite band playing, when they've amassed a career's worth of work since the time you were very young with songs you remember hearing in college and throughout your adult life, the quality and relevance emanates throughout every song. One highlight of that first set was "My Friend, My Friend" as it reminded me of a friend from college, also a huge Phish fan, who I hadn't talked to in years. We used to recite the lyrics back and forth to each other while doing our engineering problem sets, and continued to do so through the years even if it meant IM or email. Roses are free was similarly excellent, even though I'm not a Dead fan, wow it was sharp. Couple in a new venue that is wonderful, beautiful, and natural, with views of the columbia river snaking it's way down through a cut in the rocks, warm and dry summer air, and the ease of a Friday evening and it's just perfect. I couldn't have asked for anything better and I loved every minute of it.

During the set break, we wandered down, closer to the stage and as soon as the 2nd set started, I bolted into the crowd, I just couldn't control myself. Probably because the opener to the 2nd set was "Backwards down the Number Line". That song sums up some of the history the band has gone through and it's one of the ones which hits me strong as well as I reach closer towards my dreaded 40th birthday and look back at some of the decisions I've made along the way. I was really hoping for "Joy" as it's one of their most touching songs, but alas, they saved it for their show in Los Angeles on Monday night. I wound up singing/dancing next to a set of identical twins, which was very hallas-esque (to steal from Breaking Bad's episode titled "Kafkaesque".)

Somehow we made it back to the hotel (don't ask me how b/c I was incoherent in the back seat) and after a long, slothlike slumber in between the two big boys on the floor with a pillow and a blanket, and some office-space style beating of the alarm clock that just wouldn't quit, we roused ourselves for the 2nd day. We took a short trip through Ellensburg which doesn't have a whole lot to offer a summertime visitor (perhaps it is more of a college town?) and wound up back at the river park/beach. I had enough time for a run, so while I went out to desiccate myself, the Mundell boys set up camp under a tree with the ipad, last night's show, and a cooler. I returned and after another dip in the river we were off, fully prepared, for night #2. My tailgating proved muted after the run, I was more interested in water than beer, but once we got through the gate my enthusiasm quickly built. After 10 minutes on the grass watching the sun set again, I decided I wanted to be in the thick of things, so I wandered down, front and center, and immersed myself in dirty stinky hippies. Now to establish and hold ground in the middle of the center of a phish concert, you have to give up a few things. You're not going to get drinks, it's just not possible to navigate out and back in, so whatever you come in with is all you get. You're also not going to be able to pee, so you don't want to be drinking anyway. Other than the endless cigarettes and pot smoking, it seemed clear that at least half of the crowd was on some sort of drug, and most carried either a camelbak or gallon jug of water to ensure their bodies didn't shut down. Some were barefoot, some shirtless, mostly in large groups and almost everyone younger than me. I decided to accept that and let it be, even though it's not my crowd, not my peers, not really my scene.

That first set blew me away. Partly because it was so fun to be so close on such a great night, even though the beach balls, glow sticks, and smoke invaded every minute of it. It was cool to see the sign language interpreter's reactions and facial expressions as she translated the words of the songs, especially "Birds of a Feather". I thoroughly enjoyed "Limb by Limb" as I think my tendency is to love the slower, mellower, more lyrical songs. And to top it off, that first set ended with the elusive "Fluffhead" which Kelly has been talking about for years and which I've never seen live. Wow. I think we were all in shock at how awesome that first set of Saturday night was. I was feeling the fatigue from the run and the over-exertion of the more energetic mass crowd, and wondering if the 2nd set would be a letdown. If anything, it was even better, though I think the tendency is to spend more time on jam songs on the 2nd sets. Both "Waste" and "Run like an Antelope" were surreal and completely captivated me. By the end of the encore, after a completely unexpected "Sanity" and a completely predictable "Tweezer Reprise" I was completely satiated. Despite being completely sober by that point, it took me a long time and a few texts and phone calls to find the car, I was that stunned and blown away.

I could easily get used to the life of concert-going. Who doesn't like being entertained? Other than the crowds and the smoke, it's all pure pleasure. But it's also not real, at least not real life, and for some strange reason I think I appreciate it so much because I don't overindulge. So, while the boys flew off to Tahoe for tonight's and tomorrow night's concerts, I stayed in Seattle to get some sun, watch the Blue Angels, and swim in a 50m saltwater pool. I think I needed that afternoon to make the transition back to the real world, where work and exercise dominate my time. But, I certainly have enjoyed listening to the concerts and reliving the experience over the last two days, one of the many great things about Phish is that everyone with a ticket gets a free download of the songs from that night.

So, anyway, yeah, I'm a bit of a Phan I guess. I can live with that. I'm not ashamed to say I'm a bit gay for Trey. And heck, Tom Marshall, without that guy, my mind wouldn't feel quite so colorful. Wow.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Hillary just posted some interview questions she asked me this week about Western States:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
The interview got me thinking about Almost Famous and one of my favorite scenes:

Lester Bangs: Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.
William Miller: Well, it was fun.
Lester Bangs: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.
William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.
Lester Bangs: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter.
William Miller: I can really see that now.
Lester Bangs: Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love... and let's face it, you got a big head start.
William Miller: I'm glad you were home.
Lester Bangs: I'm always home. I'm uncool.
William Miller: Me too!
Lester Bangs: The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.
William Miller: I feel better.
Lester Bangs: My advice to you. I know you think those guys are your friends. You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful.


I'm not sure there is a color that has more meaning to me than green. It is a hot buzzword these days as we grow increasingly more aware of the impact of our actions and lifestyles on the future of out planet. It is the color we tend to think of when we contemplate a trip out to the wilderness, and it is the color we miss when we spend too much time enclosed in our urban domiciles. Green represents new, we are green when we start a new job, meet a new romantic partner, or attempt to learn a new sport or skill. Green food is almost always nutritious and wholesome. There is a lot of promise with the color green. I even have a wonderful friend who's last name is Green and who lives up to the high standards that the color represents.

One thing I notice about the Pacific Northwest, or at least Seattle and Portland, every time I am here, is how amazingly green it all is compared to San Diego. I think we get very desensitized to living in a desert, and while there is tremendous beauty at the beach, and while I am a huge fan of sunshine, I do start to miss the freshness of greenery that is so prevalent elsewhere.

I should mention that I'm one of the biggest whiners when it comes to cold rain and that is probably why I wouldn't want to live in Oregon or Washington year-round. But I do like to visit, especially during the summer, as I feel very refreshed every time I make the trip.

There is something very calming about looking out and seeing green trees for miles. And the coffee and beer up here seem extra bold as well.

Heading to the Gorge tonight for the first time and very much looking forward to it.

My next post will be about my father's Lionel electric train set and how it brings back such tremendous memories, especially from the smells.