Wednesday, January 25, 2012


An unintentional and yet not completely undesirable side effect of liquid nutrition is a far too rapid loss in body weight.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


On the heels of the SR PR from Sunday, I finally got my 2010 Chicago race report written.


Why, Whole Foods, why?  Why do you torture me by putting the pastries and coffee bar next to the juice bar?  You know it's going to take 10 minutes for the long haired dude with tattoos and earrings to make that $7 cup of juice I ordered.  Can't you move the cookies somewhere else?  Do they really have to be in my line of sight while I wait for my 4oz wheatgrass shot that makes me gag?

I know those vegan cookies are waiting for me in the fridge.  Perhaps I'll have one Thursday morning when I wake up.  It will feel like Christmas after these 3 long days of food abstinence.  Those sprouted wheat bagels were probably not allowed anyway since they have wheat in them, so I shouldn't be too bummed that they are growing mold on my desk.  And that fridge full of greens, it's going down tonight.  The kale and rainbow chard won't know what hit it when I'm done with them.  My Vitamix will make it's maiden voyage with me down struggle street for a slimy, green, plant based, liquid dessert tonight.

Halfway there, 1.5 days to go.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I just reached the end of day 1 of my first ever juice cleanse.

It's a bit of a fad and I despise it for that reason.  Oh, and I think I hate it because I don't get to eat.  That part really annoys me.

But, attitude is everything, so let me try to highlight the positives:

1. I finally used the juicer I bought in 2005 for the first time today.  It was kind of fun mashing up a big mess of pulpiness.

2. I spend a lot less time eating now that nutrition comes in liquid form.

3. I've sampled a number of different teas over the past few days and I'm becoming more of a fan.  I still miss my Jura though, it's all clean and ready for me when this foolishness ends.

4. When I drop $80 at whole foods, I get more than 6 things now that I'm buying roughage.

5. I no longer have mood swings due to blood sugar levels changing before/after meals.  Instead, I'm perpetually depressed about how hungry I am :)

In all seriousness, this whole thing kind of fell in my lap because of my inability to say no.  And then there's the whole stupid challenge aspect of it that in a way does appeal to me.  I've never fasted, juiced, or cleansed.  I figure it might actually be good for me to get a handle on my cravings by forcing myself to eat like my jaw is wired shut.

Still, with all of that said, I can't wait for this to end.  I was grumpy enough with the whole "clean eating" business last week, but this no-chewing thing takes it to a whole new level.

One down, two to go.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


This afternoon I suggested tennis to my little brother and I was pleasantly surprised when he accepted.  We spent about an hour hitting balls back and forth, and while we probably didn't ever have a rally with double digit hits, I still found it enlightening on a completely different level than what was happening in the physical sense.  This afternoon was my first chance being on the other side of the net, the side my father occupied almost every weekend between 1984 and 1986, my 3 years of competitive tennis.  He instructed me, encouraged me, and patiently rallied with me as I improved and tried to learn and grow.  My little brother has a much healthier outlook on competition than I remember having at that early age, and I did not want to burden him by taking the fun out of it, but I found myself still offering up suggestions on how to hold the racket, watch the ball, shuffle his feet, or even just general court etiquette.  I have this natural, pre-programmed desire to share what I've learned with others, particularly others who may not already have formed their own approach to the task in question.  And yet, because of how forceful my father's instruction has been, I'm keenly aware of the need for sensitivity, the need to allow others to learn in their own way at their own pace.  I try my best to not bully or force my plan, though I'm sure I'm often a victim of my natural tendencies.

All of this thinking reinforced my theme for today, that what we want as adults is exactly what we wanted as children.  A security blanket to feel safe on our own (the blanket just gets more expensive as we get older.)  A loved one nearby to cling to in a moment of need (first a parent, then a friend, then perhaps a lover, and maybe ending with a child or grandchild.)  Finally, perhaps what we seek the most regardless of how much we know and how much confidence we've gained, we all want the encouragement, support, and instruction from a parent/mentor/guru/friend/therapist/boss.  They are all so basic, these needs of ours.  While the stakes do change throughout life, as does the seriousness with which we play the game, these universal needs remain constant.

What I find most amazing about life is how true the adage is, "It's not what you got It's what you give".  OK, yeah, I was/am a Tesla fan.  I know that's weak sauce.  It is what it is...

What does "giving" mean within the context of running?  For me personally, I express giving by pacing and more recently by coaching.  I had new highs with both today, out on the Carlsbad marathon course, and I was blown away by two individuals who performed at a level that exceeded any expectations I started the day with.

Ryan, my first coached athlete, busted out a 3:54 first marathon off of 12 weeks of training and only 2 runs longer than 15 miles in his life.  I thought he might not finish.  I thought he was looking at 5 hours.  I may have even given up on him as a coaching failure (and attributed the blame to myself for not solving the complicated equation of his busy life and his commitments to his family.)  I was wrong.  The man is a beast.  Imagine what he could do if I actually got him prepared.  I was ready to learn and move on before I saw what he did today.  Now I'm waiting for him to recover from his 26 miles and 12 x 12 oz curls so we can see what the future holds.  It brings me such intense satisfaction to know that I didn't royally screw things up for Ryan, one of my most admired friends, but instead I actually helped him achieve something of significance that he might not have been as successful with if I had not contributed.  This thought carries a fullness, a richness, that exceeds any personal accomplishment I've ever had.

Skinny Runner

On to the main event, the exclamation mark of the day.  Sarah, aka SkinnyRunner, busted out a 5 minute PR in her 26th marathon with me along for the ride as her co-pilot.  It was a beautiful thing to watch, and it reminded me of Hillary's ultraman run finish, Lisa Thomas's Chicago PR, and Jessica's San Jose speed session.  Sarah cracked the top 10, and I honestly believe she exceeded her expectations as well as mine.  To have had the chance to see all of that, to be there with her, was very special for me, not because of the thousands of people who follow her blog, or the hundreds who yelled at her out on the course, but because deep down, ignoring the makeup, the celebrity following, and the purse dog, I really, honestly, do admire the human within.

Sarah's garmin logged more miles than mine did last year.  She raced more than I did.  She routinely bounces back from a marathon with a hana hou the next weekend, and even pulled off 3 marathons in 8 days two months ago.  That kind of mentality raises my eyebrows because Sarah is basically living my dream life.  She works herself ragged 4 months of the year and spends the other 8 chasing the next race, the modern day yuppie version of a deadhead.  It sounds sublime to me, perhaps because I understand the obsession and the desire to feel the cleansing purity of physical pain, the desire to challenge the body on good days and bad, and the joy and freedom of performing one of the most basic acts the human body can do, and of fine tuning that experience into harmony.

I actually wasn't sure that Carlsbad would happen.  When I threw out the option to Sarah a few months ago, when I mentioned my intention to pace her to a PR, it wasn't really first thing on her mind.  She was, and still is, quite content training how she wants to train (which is big mileage and little rest) and letting the races sort themselves out.  She has a very healthy outlook about the number on the clock, which is ultimately meaningless compared to the sensations of the day and the emotional experience of the journey.  Meanwhile, I felt that she had done enough racing to justify a substantial dip in her best time, but I wanted her to want that, so I just threw out the offer and figured it might never happen.  She wanted to run RnR AZ and then she'd consider Carlsbad if she didn't pull off a PR out in Arizona.  As it went down, she wound up with a 3:23 that she felt was fairly lackluster, so I checked back in with her on Tuesday to see where her head was at.  The response was very real, very raw, very indefinite, so I assumed she needed some time and maybe we'd connect in the future.  On Wednesday night, apparently after some liquid encouragement in the form of margaritas, she went all-in and told me she wanted to go for it.  I was terribly grateful because I was scheduled to do this juice cleanse thing on Friday and by pulling the marathon card, I managed to postpone that until Monday (oh what hell awaits me tomorrow!)

We met up in the parking lot at 5:15, only I needed about 15 minutes to find my gloves, put on my shoes, etc.  So, I kind of made her wait for 15 minutes in her car before I ventured out to find her.  Sorry, I pulled the chick card this time.  We walked to the start and a few people recognized her, even in the dark.  I started to worry about this being a long day of watching her sign others bib's and I even felt bad for forgetting to bring the sharpie.  We started off slightly slower than desired pace but just about in the right spot to avoid going out too hard.  Marathon starts are a tricky thing, especially at Carlsbad where it gets a bit congested for the first mile.  Start too close to the front and you end up running the first mile too fast which sets the table for failure.  Start too far from the front and you get stuck behind too many people and you burn up a lot of energy weaving through the masses.  We probably err'd a bit on the conservative side, I could have been more forceful here, but I was trying to go with the flow and feel things out and I honestly hadn't ever run 3:20 before.  Sarah stuck to me well through these first few dark miles, She was doing her part, talking, asking questions, responding, and of course encouraging all of her fans along the way.  We caught up to the 3:20 pace group near the power plant, at mile 4, and managed to get ahead of them by mile 5 for the turn onto Palomar Airport Road.  This was the time to settle in, after our initial pleasantries were established, we both felt comfortable enough sharing space.

I started to notice that we were holding 7:30-ish pace even going uphill.  Prior to the inland portion of the course, we were no more than a minute under 3:20 pace, probably less than 30 seconds.  But during that climb I realized that Sarah was able to run under 7:38 pace, uphill, without unnecessary effort.  I tested her a few times by hanging back on the steeper sections and she kept flowing forward.  She had her garmin on but not in a mode where she could see pace or mile splits, so I was in charge of monitoring pace.  On the way back down we ran a few 7:10-ish miles and the 3:20 pace group actually caught up to us for some reason (don't ask me why.)  Sarah didn't really want to run with them, so we kept rolling and eventually drifted away, either that or the 3:20 pace leader finally realized he was too far ahead of pace and backed off.  Within the Lupus Loop, Anna joined up with us, running strong.  The three of us had a nice chat throughout the loop and back out onto the coast.  At poinsettia, roughly 16 miles in, I saw Tim, Kris, and Fishstick.  Tim cheered, waved, and then ran up to us for a chat.  I thought that was a wonderful omen since Tim was my first successful sub 3 pacee when we tackled Vegas in 2005.  After Tim dropped off, Sean from Zoot introduced himself to us and we all kept chatting up a storm to La Costa.

In 2011, a bit before La Costa, I fell off the pace with Joey and two other leaders of the women's marathon and settled into a walk/run until Morgan caught me and I regained a purpose and started running again.  After 12 years on this course, I know that making the turn at La Costa and feeling good enough is a world different from making the turn and feeling spent, or worse yet, pulling the plug before the turn.  I knew I felt good and I thought the conditions were near ideal.  Sarah gave no signs of slowing down, we had continued a 7:15-ish pace since halfway and I knew we had at least 2 minutes, maybe 3 in the bank.  I told her it was game time, or in Rod's words, time for the big boy pants.  The last 8 make or break the day, if you run them strong, you hold pace or maybe even pick it up a tiny bit and finish with a special memory.  If you struggle and suffer, you can throw away all of the seconds and minutes you worked so hard to earn earlier in the day.  Most of the pace groups break up at the turn at mile 18.  It's just the point in the race where truth becomes objective, when you know how the day is going instead of hoping, guessing, predicting.

Sarah says she felt like she was slowing down over the last 10k.  I've looked at the numbers (I'll let her decide if she wants to post them or not) and I see an objective toughness in them that rivals any strong athletic accomplishment I've witnessed.  I'm sure the effort increased, but the pace didn't change.  I think Sarah's marathon experiences in the past were generally kept within the "pleasurable" zone of pain.  But what do I know, I don't get to experience things with her legs, through her thoughts.  I only know how my race experiences have felt, and my natural tendency to go out hard and hang on.  Sarah is wired the opposite way, she often pulls off a negative split and she usually is very strong at the end.  I knew that mentality, that toughness, is the gold tender of the marathon, but I wasn't quite sure how much I of it I could afford to spend along the way.

As we merged with the half marathoners, 6.5 miles to go, I started picking up my verbal chatter while she started retreating and quieting down.  I think I even heard a grunt or two in that final 10k.  I started getting water for her, so she could focus on running a straight line and conserving energy.  I had given her only one mile split, mile 12, which was a 7:10 but I explained it away as a downhill mile.  I assured her that she was looking at a 3:1x and the x was the only number she could control.  I'm not sure how well she could feel pace or how aware she was.  We passed the 3:15 pace group leader at Carlsbad Village Drive, but thankfully he only had a stick with no time on it because I guess they forgot to use staples this time.  I'm not sure if Sarah saw this.  Anna had left us a few miles earlier, at the Palomar Airport Road underpass, and she was running really strong, what a great finish for her.  Between Palomar Airport Road and Canon, Sarah had asked me to run by her side instead of ahead of her.  I thought that was a particularly heartwarming request, not only did she validate my efforts and how they were affecting her, but she was able to instruct me about how to achieve maximum benefit with minimal annoyance.  This was 4 hours or so after meeting her for the first time.  If only I could learn to communicate that clearly.

The last 2 miles, basically the stretch from downtown Carlsbad back to the mall, can feel like an eternity but really isn't all that significant.  One of the miles is slow with some climbing, the other is fast since it's at the end and has some descent and then the finish.  I've been through that before and I know how much doubt can surface in those moments, but as an outside observer I felt completely confident by that point.  Sarah was strong, she had passed all of the tests and there was nothing left to worry about.  She made the final turn and ran away from me to the finish line, with an aggressive surge that may have even caused her to break a sweat.  After the finish, her face betrayed a look of substantial exhaustion.  Then she chugged her 12 oz bottle of water like a frat boy and proceeded to grab another.  That was almost more impressive than the race itself.  Alexis Brown came up and offerred up congrats as the first official finish line fangirl (thanks Alexis!) and the slew of congratulations ensued.

Hundreds of commenters, and I'm sure as many or maybe more emails and texts from friends, all say the same thing, expressing joy with Sarah's accomplishment today.  I don't want to think about how much work it will be for Sarah to respond to them.  This outpouring of gratitude really does underline what Sarah represents to her readers.  You can hear it in their words, the inspirational qualities of someone who leads by example, setting a modern day image of what being a woman can mean, of how power and strength can be incorporated into the essence of femininity, faith, and self confidence.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

HURT 2012

Photos from HURT 2012

Flashback -- 2011

My first year at HURT, 2011, was memorable for a lot of reasons.  I paced Alyssa Godesky, who became a cool new friend I wound up sharing both adventures and advice with.  In preparation for the race I made my first visit to the bench at the top of the Nuuanu trail honoring the life of Kent Bien, Rod’s dad, and an early role model, the first Navy Seal I ever knew.  It rained a bunch last year and the course was a mudfest so the course was memorable for how wet and slippery it was.

This year, my 2nd trip back specifically for HURT weekend, was a little different.  For a second time, I booked the trip before I knew who (if anyone) I might wind up pacing.  This time the pacing plan started out as Iso Yucra, who changed up his schedule fairly early on which bounced me over to Keith Kirby.  The week of the race, Keith had to DNS because of work, which landed me on Andi Ramer’s team by means of my Hillary connection.

There are many parallels between Andi and Alyssa, so it is quite fitting that my 2 HURT’s were spent with them.  Both are women of incredible toughness and resolve.  Both have a multisport background and spend hours on their bikes and in the water in addition to running.  And the fun part is that both are simultaneously cute (am I allowed to say “hot”?) and yet completely down to earth.  One fond memory from this weekend is hearing Andi recount how she had her shorts around her ankles with a tube of Vaseline in one hand and her other hand attending to the details of desperately needed lubrication when Hannah, another female runner, chanced upon her.  Apparently Hannah busted out laughing so hard that she fell over and stayed prone for a while.  This could just as easily have been Alyssa and I know neither woman would feel any shame for that type of exposure even if it had been another male runner who caught them in the act.

Looking Ahead

Simultaneous to this weekend’s events at HURT, the Avalon 50 (my first ultra) and the US Olympic marathon trials all shared the same spotlight.  Back in October I got to witness Lisa Thomas grab her 2:45 qualifier for the trials, so there was a lot of satisfaction for me knowing she was out there soaking up the race of a lifetime while I would be HURT’ing my way through the trails thousands of miles away.


Thinking back through my pacing experiences over the past few years, I’ve escorted 6 dudes (Tim, Rod, Mike, Jeff, Scott and a guy named Fred) and I’ve accompanied 9 women (Stephanie, Sarah, Joey, Hillary, Alyssa, Lisa, Jessica, Rachel and Andi) along with a few impromptu pickups at various events.  I find it fascinatingly lucky that I’m on a streak of pacing women lately, not only from the obvious aesthetic advantages, but also because the dimensions of the female brain truly amaze me and sharing precious moments with a women tends to have a greater on-the-surface emotional impact than it does with my guy friends.


I flew to Oahu on Friday, as a late arrival, but without any real need to attend meetings it seemed like the right day to fly.  I took the bus from the airport (#20 with a transfer to #5) and arrived home about 3 hours after my flight landed.  I didn’t mind it that much, and it was nice to grab a bite at Ala Moana between busses, but I can’t say that it was an efficient use of my time.  I finished off the day with a 6pm class at Yoga Hawaii and found my way to Whole Foods, singing the parking lot song the whole way.  As I parked, I noticed the signs in the nearby window indicating the future home of Core Power Yoga Honolulu and I smiled thinking what a nice addition that will be once it opens.  I paid my $80 for 6 things, including my signature $20 salad, some PB&C Puffins, and a $5 Kombucha.  I spoke to Andi over the phone, but since I had come down with the flu on Thursday I decided to stay away from all of the runners, it seemed like the right thing to do anyway and I’m not one to enjoy any of the pre-race hype.

Back at the house I unpacked a pc I had brought to upgrade the machine in the attic and into the same suitcase I packed up the remainder of my father’s train set from when he was a boy, to be put on display at my house along with the rest of the set from my previous trips.  I dismantled the old attic pc, a $200 Dell 400SC, complete with Pentium 4 processor windows XP and 4 256MB DDR chips.  It was time to say goodbye to that, it had served its purpose valiantly, but it was now 3 generations old and ready to be put out to pasture.  I make a point of doing a little bit of upgrade work every time I come home in order to keep my dad’s systems up to snuff because he isn’t the type to take care of that for himself.  I think the prior addition was a gigabit network switch and before that a whole bunch of new network drops.  Next up it will probably be time to build him an i5 or i7 machine.  Ah, but I digress…


I woke up on race day and watched the sun rise from bed, which is one of the really cool reasons to sleep up there.  Of course Andi had started her journey at 6am, but since I was sick I really didn’t want to get in her face until it would be too late for her to feel any negative effects from the exposure.  The attic bedroom is really more of a playroom, but has a surprising amount of stuff in it for how tiny the door is.  The door from the 2nd floor to the attic is very narrow, the stairs are less than 3 feet wide, and at the top they turn 90 degrees and a 4’ tall opening leads into the room. 

The Futon

Getting the queen sized futon up there roughly 10 years earlier was a feat I admire even today.  First I pulled it up in a plastic bag until it got stuck at the topmost bend, an oversized burrito and an opening which was barely wide enough to fit it square on, but which only had about 3’ of depth to make a 90 degree bend.  As I pulled from above, the plastic started to tear so I knew I had to rethink my plan.  I wound up started to freak out a bit about being trapped so I decided to crawl over the rolled up futon, with barely enough space to fit my head and wiggle like a snake on my belly.  Then I had to figure out how to fold forward over the back of the futon, without pulling it down the remainder of the stairs on top of me, so holding onto the flimsy handrail and placing my hands on the step and my feet on the walls for balance.  Somehow I flipped myself right-side up and then, facing down the stairs, used my quads for leverage to push the futon burrito through the opening bit by bit.  The leverage from pushing seemed to exceed the pulling leverage, perhaps because as I got halfway I had access to the bended portion and I could work both inside and outside sections of the bend.

The frame of that futon was something I built out of 1x3’s at the Carlsbad house.  I used screws, put it all together, sanded it all smooth, and then labeled each piece with a sharpie.  Then I disassembled everything, packed up all the boards and brackets in a bundle, and shipped the futon and disassembled frame with a boat based shipping company in LA. The frame managed to make the turn OK since the boards were so thin, and then with a cordless drill and some matching of labeled joints, the assembly went fairly smooth.  The end result is a queen sized bed in the attic which makes sleeping up there pleasant as well as fun, with a beautiful view of Diamond Head (the best view in the house) and of Waikiki, oceans and mountains.  There is a wonderful breeze with the window open, although with the window closed it does heat up during the day.  And with the network drop and wifi, it’s a fun room to linger in as the morning progresses.  The only reason to leave is to start the trek to the kitchen, down two flights of stairs and across half the house.

A Day of Indulgence

I decided since my pacing was set for lap 5 that I should get an early workout in, so I threw on my swim shorts, added on run shorts and swim goggles, and headed up to Paradise Park to check in on the progress.  I got there a bit after 8, after most of the peeps had gone through on their first lap, and made sure everyone was progressing nicely.  I didn’t really want to see Andi or anyone else from SD at that point for fear of getting someone sick.  I continued down the valley and off to the Ala Wai canal and eventually to Ala Moana Beach Park for my first (and so far only) swim of 2012.  I actually really enjoyed my swim, a stead 40 minuter for 2k in the saltwater protected space of one of the best free swimming spots in the world.  I cruised home and ate more of my whole foods gatherings from the previous night, then shuttled back to the yoga studio for the noon class since my wanderings had missed the 10:00 vinyasa.

The noon class was my first experience attempting the first half of the Ashtanga primary series.  I relished the challenge as I felt remotely ready to try and I also thought that exposing myself for my maiden voyage to Ashtanga at a studio where nobody would know me or remember me was a nice safe spot to do so.  I also felt that if there were any sort of “softness” to an Ashtanga teacher, it would be found in Hawaii, at a half-primary series class.  I really can’t do the last 1/3 of the primary series, it’s a lot of lotus and it requires some hip flexibility that is just a long way away for me.  Being perfectly honest, I really can’t do any of the primary series, but I think that’s part of the appeal, a sport where reaching some basic level of competence in the “primary” series could require a decade or two of dedication.  Ekam, Trini, all of the fun counting mesmerized me and I got lost in the rhythm of voice and breath, of trying to do things that I can only just barely do, with grace that I don’t have, and with an ease which betrays the effort I invest.  It was a wonderful experience, a great way to lose my Ashtanga virginity, and certainly a landmark on my yogic journey.  Another quick trip to Whole Foods for a few extras and I bumped into Clare Conners with her sister Christiana (not sure I’m spelling that right) and a friend.  It was great catching up with Clare and reliving some of our moments post-high school when we found the time time to get together, one specific night in Brooklyn when Clare lived with the founder of Victoria’s Secret.

Oh yeah, but there’s a race going on, right?  And wasn’t I feeling guilty for being so leisurely with my Saturday (ok, I did get a 3 hour run/swim in, but still, shouldn’t I be doing my yoga final from November or writing up my college alumni interviews or at least doing my tax prep?)  Well, the “island style” attitude got the better of me after hanging with Clare and I decided to go see my first movie of the year, so I popped into “The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo”.  Having read the last 2 books of the series and seen all 3 Sweedish movies, I had high expectations, and I have to say I really enjoyed the American adaption.  It doesn’t take away any of my adoration for Naomi Rapace and the realism of Sweedish words with English subtitles, but I’m just a sucker for Hollywood and especially for Lisbeth Salander, no matter how “soft” she is presented.  What an inspiring character, someone who has no concern taking James Bond as her sidekick, seducing him in her own way, and tossing him aside when he no longer satisfies her.

Oh yeah, there’s a race going on.  But it’s an ultra and it’s HURT so it’ll be going on for a while.

Checking In

After the movie and another $20 salad, I wandered off to Nuuanu and the Jack Ass Ginger aid station to meet up with Andi’s husband, Don, and say hi.  This was Andi’s 3rd loop, and she could have taken a pacer since it was dark already, but she decided to complete 3 full loops on her own, then take Don through the night and have me for the victory lap.  Everything seemed great, I got to rub shoulders with Rod and see a few peeps.  Then I headed off to bed while Don left to get ready to pace/crew and I got a nice night’s sleep.  I woke up a few times, waiting for that Nuuanu time check to show on the website before leaving the house, and arriving about an hour early without eating breakfast, my first and only real oops of the day.


The thing about HURT is that it’s a long day.  Towards the end, it’s normal to take 7 hours per lap.  So, the 8 gu’s I brought with me weren’t enough.  I should have taken a full spread of breakfast but I got all stressed and I ran from the house to the nature center so I stood around for an hour waiting and getting hungry.  The rule is that pacers can eat from the aid stations, but I felt like I shouldn’t be taking food until I’ve at least run one leg of the loop.  Andi showed up and got re-lubricated, re-packed, and ready to rock.  I didn’t have to do a thing, Don had it all dialed in despite his all night pacing efforts.  We headed out for our last lap, ironic how day 2 of a race should have felt like the tail end for Andi, but yet leaving the nature center, approaching a 7 hour journey on trail, seemed very much like the beginning of my HURT experience for me.

The first trip up from the nature center is predominantly uphill and allowed us to get right down to talking.  I got the cliff notes on Andi, her family, her marriage to Don (who she has known her whole life and has been married to for 15ish years now) and her racing history.  We talked about Hoodoo, Furnace Creek, Rocky Racoon, Ultraman, and San Diego 100.  We talked about Hillary, about running, and about bikes, both training and racing.  We talked about work, why and how we make the sacrifices we make to do what we really love, and how different and at times disconnected we feel from the corporate world.  And before we knew it, we were descending towards Paradise Park, aid station #1 on her fifth HURT loop, my first.

Paradise Park Aid station, named “Manoa” as it sits at the end of Manoa valley, at the access point to the Manoa Falls trailhead, was themed as Pirates for some reason.  Regardless of the goofiness of that decision, they had a great spread and I wolfed down some breakfast eggs in a flour tortilla and felt better with something in my stomach.  I got a bit of feedback from the volunteer who filled my pack who reminded me that I need to be drinking water too, as I hadn’t done much of that while I was busy flapping my gums.  Andi, however, seemed to be doing just fine, except for a few fairly normal lubrication issues.  The thing with Hawaii is that the humidity forces a high sweat rate which means after a while you start to chafe as the salts in your sweat start causing friction.  Rinsing with water works, but once the damage has been done, lubricant like bodyglide or Vaseline becomes the primary treatment, but it’s hard to apply with all of the moisture and sweat, particularly when we’re talking about the sensitive parts of the body.  I think this is just part of the sport, the expected pain and suffering that accompanies 100 mile racing.  It is definitely nice to not worry about eyeballs freezing up or frostbite and windchill factors, so a bit of chafing seems like a reasonable price to pay.  Many runners actually wear full tights for this reason, the ankles stay clean of mud that way and the thighs presumably are protected.  For me, with my anatomy, tights tend to be the worst option, and a long short is preferable, although in Hawaii I can sometimes get by with short shorts if I keep everything flushed since the sweat keeps everything slippery.

Oh yeah, there’s a race going on, right?

The funniest thing about HURT is that it doesn’t feel much like a race to me.  Maybe it’s John, the race director, who is so darn chill that he could be mistaken for a random dude in a chair with a laptop if you didn’t know who he is.  The whole thing is so mellow, it starts with a conch shell and it ends with the runner kissing a sign saying “we wouldn’t want this to be easy” in Hawaiian and English.  In the meantime, all of the participants and competitors seem to be so mellow that they don’t really give much of an impression of the competitiveness that drives them to attempt a finish, or attempt a win or top 5 or sub 30 hour race.  I watched as Jason, the winner in 22 hours, cruised through Jack Ass Ginger on his 4th lap, with an 8 oz bottle of water and a headlamp and a few gu’s.  Apparently he has trained his body to subsist on next to nothing somehow, I don’t know how, and it works for him.  It’s pretty difficult for me to fathom how he can run as fast as I did at States, on a course that is an order of magnitude slower.

Oh yeah, back to Andi, right?  So, the trip from Manoa to Nuuanu is the shortest section, but not particularly fast.  We stop at Kent’s bench for a little break, Andi does some stretching and some eating, and we descend to Nuuanu.  We wind up talking a bit less, the initial burst of energy of me as the new pacer has subsided as I hit the midpoint of my 7 hour journey.  Andi is still moving very well, and we approach Nuuanu with the intent of making up some time on Rosie, the woman about 10-20 minutes ahead of Andi.

Now for some reason, the final aid station at Nuuanu, next to some locals smooking pot at the Jack Ass Ginger swimming hole, seems to do more harm than good.  Don handled the final exchange really well, and we even got Andi some PB pretzels while I stuffed my face again and coked up a little bit too (actually I think it was pepsi.)  As we leave and cross the stream, which is way lower than last year, I slip in and get both feet soaked.  Oh well, only 7.3 miles to go, no big deal.  Then, about 3 minutes later, as we pass Jack Ass Ginger, moments after saying “just make sure I stay upright” Andi slips and falls between two large rocks.  I laugh a bit at the silliness of it all then help her find her way back upright, probably putting too much pressure on her armpit but trying to do my best to support her weight so she can save her legs for propulsion.  The climb takes a fair bit of time, and it seems to zap Andi’s strength.  She has a minor pity party at the top, on Kent’s bench, releasing some of the emotion of a long journey now at the 30 hour mark.  I can relate to some of the feelings, but realistically, my longest race is only 22 hours, barely more than 2/3 of where she’s at.  I am somewhat confused and unprepared at how to deal with this flurry of emotion with 4 miles to go.  She doesn’t really stop for too long, so there isn’t much I need to do as far as “help” is concerned.  She is moving just fine, not fast enough to catch Rosie, but not slow enough to worry about the cutoff.  I could probably have pushed her here but it seemed cruel to attempt to do so.  We just kind of settle in and I let her get away with some of the pity and tears hoping that the emotional relief will become a positive.  I focus on all of the “this is the last time you’ll…” but its not sinking in much.  When we get across the road, I think things smooth out a bit and as we start the final descent there is a bit more spring in her step.  We shuffle through the rocks towards the nature center, with Andi hoping we might crack 34 hours, but eventually realizing we’ll be a couple of minutes over.

The finish line brings back the tears of emotion, coupled with her southern accent and diminutive stature, which just make her seem so completely extra adorable to me.  Into the arms of Don she flies, he says with smooth and complete confidence, “I’m so proud of you” which is just the right mix of words at just the right time.  You can tell in her face that this finish means a lot, that it means more than I can understand.  Perhaps because my father’s house is now so close to these trails, because I run portions of them almost every time I’m home, maybe I don’t understand what it means to anyone else because I’m so self absorbed in what they mean to me.  For me, on a hot day, the trail system is a chance to escape the sun, to not need sunscreen, to maybe even skip on water and just bomb my way up and down, or to cruise it with water and soak in the beautiful views and picturesque trail in the middle of a lush green forest of bamboo, banyon, kukui and guava.  For me, the trails are an escape from the world, accessible only a few short minutes from my father’s driveway, a chance to be alone with myself, or together with a close friend or two.  I have many wonderful memories on those trails and I hope to have many more throughout the rest of my life.  I’d really like to visit them more often.

Back to the Real World

I leave Andi and Don, crank out some paced miles back to the house and hop in the shower to make dinner at Buzz’s at 6pm.  There wasn’t a lot of extra time.  For some strange reason, it’s just the 3 of us at dinner instead of the expected 5, Dr. Hellreich and his wife, Miriam, are no shows which is a first for them in the 30 years of friendship.  Gerri, my father’s girlfriend, eats quietly and patiently, plays the cards she usually does in the game of trying to capture my father’s attention away from the plastic blonde accompanying the blue haired man with the big wallet at the table next to us.  We go back to the house for pecan pie, my dad flips on the Roku I told him to get and falls asleep to some strange grade C movie which is thankfully not a science fiction thriller this time which makes it bearable for 2-3 minutes before I head off to check on my athletes schedules and spec out the next week.

Monday morning starts leisurely, some discussion with Hillary about how awesome Andi is, some reviewing of the Olympic Trials results, and my typical travel-morning pancake cooking routine.  This time I used too many eggs and the ‘cakes come out like my signature bricks, but at least my improved cooking skills do not turn out hockey pucks.  I take off for a 90 minute run around Diamond Head, shower, pack, leaving a few items for the next load of laundry, and it’s back off to the mainland.  As I watched out the window during the early part of the flight I saw the most amazing sky, orange on the horizon and purple beneath the clouds.


I contemplate HURT 2013 for myself.  I also continue to contemplate moving home for good.  I have a hard time believing I would be a colossal failure despite the obvious deficiencies in job opportunities for database developers on Oahu.  I think my father’s biggest apprehension is that I wouldn’t be able to scrape enough pennies together to afford living in Hawaii.  You hear that from everyone, but the irony is that all of these people giving me this advice have survived and some even thrived (in an objective sense) in the environment.  Sure it’s not easy.  Finishing a 100 mile run isn’t easy.  Life is most certainly not easy.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Learning how to follow sounds like an oxymoron.  But, if we define yoga as the cessation of unnecessary mental chatter allowing a connection to the divine, perhaps it isn't such a stretch to frame the art of taking someone else's lead as a progressive learning opportunity.  Dancing has a clear leader (the man) and follower (the woman.)  All businesses have org charts defining the control structures in place.  And, perhaps the most basic form of interaction we experience, the parent/child relationship, is all about learning how to lead and how to follow, ideally from both sides of the equation.

One of my favorite compliments of 2011 occurred when a friend told me she thought I was a good listener.  Perhaps because this was unexpected, perhaps because I have some insecurity in that aspect, it meant a lot to me to hear someone say that, to hear someone genuinely express approval of my ability to listen and understand what they had to say.

Anyone can talk just to hear themselves speak.  Anyone can bark orders, no matter how relevant or useful they may be.  A lot of people struggle with this, for reasons of self confidence, lack of subject matter expertise, or general shyness in public.  There are so many opportunities to hone the craft of leadership and so much has been written on that subject that I don't feel any need to add my own take.  Strong leadership is seductive, inspiring, and the reason we feel the excitement of life.

But learning how to follow is more than just saddling up to the strongest bull you can find and holding on as long as possible.  Learning how to follow is all about bending but not breaking.  The best followers have a suppleness to their character which allows them to absorb from all of the corners as well as the center.  The gold in life is buried in strange places, it doesn't sit on the surface waiting for us to come along, pick it up, and put it in our pockets.  It requires some effort to find the gems we seek, and that effort is the art of following.

Following starts by placing our own self interests aside, at least for the moment.  A strong ego can get in the way of our desire to follow because the ego likes to steer and following is all about relinquishing control of the wheel.  But following is more than just letting go.

Following requires action, understanding, and absorbing the lessons, the teachings, the intent, and the meaning behind the instruction and example set for us.  But it is important to not follow blindly.  To be a good follower, we must question all leadership all the time.

First, we try to understand the message, the intent, the context, and the purpose.
Then, we decide how to implement that mantra into our own lives, how to incorporate or internalize the teaching.
Last, we have to evaluate our interpretation and results compared to the original, how well did we transform as a result of the instruction?  This requires a look backward in time to the before image and a comparison with the present moment.

Very few people take time to do this.  I honestly believe there is great value in learning how to follow, great value because of the wealth of life experience that is available to us when we truly open ourselves up to absorbing it.

And I don't just mean great professors or gurus or life leaders, I mean everyone around us, the homeless, our neighbors, the most humble of souls all have lessons to teach us every day, all we have to do is learn how to listen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In just about every office in Hawaii you can find a version of the "The worst day at the beach is better than the best day here" signs.  Just like how one out of every 50 cars has the "New York - London - Paris - Waimanalo" bumper sticker.  It's part of life in the islands and it helps everyone keep things in perspective.

I just stole this photo from my sister's blog.  It's as horrific as anything I can imagine, so of course I feel a need to re-post it.  I shake in disbelief that I looked like that.  But, it does bring back good memories of one of the most special beaches in my heart.  My mother's ashes were spread in the water just offshore.  I spent most of my free time in the water and on the sand, until I got my license and started driving to some of the other breaks.

There's something that just doesn't suck about the beach.

I also got this today, in a message from Craig Watson who grew up very close to these cliffs.  When we were young and foolish, we jumped off spitting caves a lot.  Jon Everest even did his fiction and film project with a small segment of Rob and I jumping off, some sort of Phoenix rising from the ashes theme, which never really made any sense to me.

I fly back home on Friday.  Every trip home is a blessing, every return trip is a tragedy.  Maybe some day I won't leave for a really long time.

Monday, January 9, 2012


My friend Jess Taylor introduced me to road cycling and open water swimming in 1998.  I met him while working for Ibis Consulting in San Francisco, on the PG&E conversion from GASTRACC to GTS.  The software architects on the project designed something that went off the deep end of abstraction and OO to the point that it barely met the functional requirements due to performance.  So they had to cache pre-built objects in memory and then save them in the db, and use complicated triggers to indicate when the objects needed to be rebuilt, all to save time that didn't really need to be spent in the first place if they had been less rigid about how things _should_ be.  I know all non-software-developers don't understand what I'm describing so I'll stop there.  Suffice it to say that a lot of work was done to achieve what could have been done with a less elegant solution which probably would have naturally performed better but wouldn't have been as intellectually stimulating.  The major lesson I learned from that project was that performance needs to be a consideration up front, not after the fact, because design decisions can put major roadblocks in the way of system performance.  For a real world example of this, think of freeways and onramps, bridges and tunnels.  It takes years to rebuild some of these to handle unexpected traffic flow, which justifies a bit of extra time up front to analyze and predict what will be needed in the future.  The same is true of software, except that the divide and conquer methods of construction don't work in software, it's not nearly as easy to scale with additional bodies because of all the coordination and communication that needs to occur and how difficult it is to see the product in intermediate phases.

Oh yeah, on to my topic.  Jess has a PhD in Geology and would show off some of the cool stuff he learned whenever an earthquake hit (which is fairly common in San Francisco.)  Which brings me back to my state of mind, of how a fault line functions, and how similar my own personality is to a geologic fault. Everyone knows the basics of plate tectonics, how rocks press up against each other and eventually release in a movement known as an earthquake.  I feel like my mind and my body work in a similar fashion based on external forces.  With enough pressure, I snap, releasing a whirlwind of excessive energy.  Learning how to control these situations has been a life's journey.  I still don't think I have a handle on any of it, but I do feel an increasing awareness of how it all works as I more frequently take the seat of the observer in my own life.

Last week and this weekend, forces escalated.  I was informed by the man who will most likely become my boss that I should plan to stay at work on Monday until the system works.  Define that however you want to, one possibility might be 6 months, but at the very least it seemed like it'd be a late night or two and a rough week.  We were getting a cd of source code via fedex at 10am.  Source code I had never seen before, from a company I knew well enough from prior positions to expect a fair bit of mess.  So, it was difficult to not fear Monday morning throughout this weekend.  I winced and braced for impact as I entered the building today.

On top of that, my little bro wanted to play paintball.  Getting hit in the mouth by a glob of paint is actually not as much fun as it might sound.  Running around and getting dirty, which could have been a blast at age 10, is much more a source of concern and fear (will I hurt my bad knee tripping over this ditch?  Does this stuff come out in the wash?  How will I get my hands clean afterwards?  What about all the second hand smoke I'm exposed to out here?

Add in a fundraiser run for a different friend, which found me playing a role of keg-transporter, and the only moments I really enjoyed this weekend were the 3 hours on the trail (mostly by myself since my fleet footed friends who run more than once a week dropped me at mile 3) and the hour in Kenna's class Sunday evening.  I crave moments of physical punishment and the release that they bring to my thoughts.  I remember feeling an incredible sensation in pyramid pose, an asana that I've become increasingly fond of, when I could finally let go of all the angst that had built up since Friday.  I started to release boatloads of tension through my practice and ended feeling relieved even though the full moon had me distracted and confused.  I think going 48 hours without a visit to my mat is a recipe for disaster at this point, such is the magnitude of the addiction.  And I think there is something truly centering about pyramid pose.  The scissoring of the hips combined with the hamstring stretch which is different on each leg and the pressing of the crown towards the foot.  All of those waves of energy combine to a swirl that can be delicately intricate over time.  Pyramid also has elements of balance for me, as a balanced challenged yogi.  It has my head below my heart which is the basis of any inversion.  And it is one of the asanas where I need both muscular energy to apply force and organic energy to surrender. The quadriceps engages while the hamstring releases.  It's got it all, and yet it's a very basic posture, no advanced coordination or insane flexibility is needed to feel the incredible sensations of the pyramid.  I'm starting to love it more and more every time.

I got to thinking, about how corporate America is very much a pyramid, with everyone on top fighting for more, taking from those below, perpetually unsatisfied.  That's the part that really gets to me, turns my heart upside down and makes me want to pull the plug.  I still think that I would genuinely be happier as a bum in Hawaii. And we'll see how much energy I put into that intention.  What am I waiting for after all?  I've accomplished anything I set out to accomplish on the mainland, and life isn't really about stacking up some stupid list of checkboxes on a task sheet anyway.

OK, back to my point.  Fault lines.  Finding fault with myself.  Other's faults.  And, the corporate workplace.  So, the cd of source code was delivered.  I was unable to build it since the desktop I grabbed last week when my laptop blew up on me has 32 bit windows 7 instead of 64 and I only had the binaries for 64 bit sql server so I couldn't get the project to build completely without a days worth of downloads or wiping the machine and installing 64 bit win 7.  But, a few hours of code inspection lead me towards the root cause, which wound up being an "s" in the wrong spot.  Plural vs singular, when used in function calls across web services where strings are generally used for names.  Abstract interfaces which would allow the logging of method names (if someone had thought ahead to write that in) and a lot of signature copy-and-paste type of mentality which is what colors the fault lines of this specific vendor.  Ill conceived code is easy to write, just command/control C and command/control V and then edit.  Sooner or later you have an unmanageable mess, but for the short term it gets the job done.  When I have time to write, which seems more and more rare as I get older, I look for similarities and ways to re-factor existing modules into proper abstractions.  I try to use names which make sense and are consistent.  I strive for formatting which supports error recognition.  My code is clean because I am type A and because I dislike debugging messy code since it makes errors more difficult to identify.

A second set of eyes, a fresh set of eyes, typically finds problems that you don't see when you've worked with that section of code for months or years.  In this case, it's very easy to skip over an "s" and read the same thing in both files, which is not something that a computer is able to do.  When the computer compares plural and singular versions of a noun, they do not equate.  When a human does, they often do because of how we interpret the characters on the screen in front of us.

The old me would have blown up upon finding this, after a week of "you don't have things configured correctly" from the vendor to my current boss and also to my future boss.  Mostly because of all the pressure put into my own week and all of the misery induced weekend meltdowns, of how isolated I felt in my opinion about the root cause and my method to identify it which wound up taking extra time because someone lost the first cd of source code.  It's easy to point fingers and assign blame, blame is out there anywhere we choose to look for it.  But it really isn't a game about blame.  The fault doesn't make one bit of difference when looking back at the past, what is done is done and nothing will change that.  The best path for the future, in work and in life, is to treat others as you would like to be treated.  Sure, if I were on the other side of this equation, I would have put more effort into troubleshooting the product that was handed off only a few weeks earlier.  Or, now, knowing that it was something I should have caught, I might profusely apologize.  That won't be happening based on my predictions of the personalities involved.  And it doesn't mean that vendor is evil or bad or incompetent like I might have believed a few years ago.  It just means that people, by definition, are not perfect.  We come with faults, and those faults have to be managed.  Pressure builds and must be released.  And with that release, things settle and go back to some semblance of normal.

For me, normal means seeking my mat, which is where I'm headed right now.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


My attitude is at an all time low today.

I started writing a long vent of a post and then deleted it.  There's no point in spreading negativity.  Writing some of it down was enough of a release.  Making it to yoga or getting a run in would have been even better, but that didn't happen.

The realization I've reached is that I'm overloaded and over-extended.  Life changes await.  I haven't decided exactly how far I might take this, but I'm contemplating the sell-everything-and-move-back-to-Hawaii plan.  The major reason not to do that, Hunter, probably won't be with me more than another year or two.  Once my most loyal friend is gone, there isn't any reason why I couldn't wipe the slate clean and start over from scratch.  I'd be walking away from a lot of virtual dollars if I sell off the houses I own, or I could just keep renting them and live at home, on the cheap, with less headache than I have right now.  Not having a car would be nice, not having any stuff might be even nicer.  Being able to live on a few dollars and not having to worry about a large source of income would be infinitely less of a burden.

Perhaps 38 is a good time for a mid-life crisis and for reinventing myself in a completely different state with a completely different occupation and from a bare minimum of responsibility.  Perhaps the weight of life and the absurdity of over-scheduling myself among too many different responsibilities, in some foolish attempt to broaden and invigorate my perspective by exposing myself to as many different personalities as I can has gotten too heavy for me to sustain.

This is where my thoughts are.  I hit a bit of a bottom today, I gave beyond that which I had the capacity to give, to my dog and to my little brother, and I'm completely empty now, with a ton of additional chores to complete before I can sleep and start over tomorrow, giving to yet another friend in need.  Meanwhile I get messages from friends who want to schedule lunch or dinner, time I don't have available, and I'm faced with turning down coaching and missing yoga teaching opportunities which I'd really like to pursue because there isn't enough me to spread out to those areas.

I feel like pizza dough which has been stretched until a hole has torn.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Hillary and Maik got married yesterday, in a ceremony that was uniquely theirs, and with a reception that was even more tailored to their lifestyle.  Dinner consisted entirely of vegan food and was followed up by a coffee cart.  The celebrant has finished multiple Ironmans and gave a speech which was as sweet as it was whimsical.  Eva, the new pup, was delightfully well behaved and one of the highlights of the procession.  And of course the day started with a 22 mile circle of Palos Verdes on foot which about 10 of us enjoyed as much or maybe even more than the post-wedding shenanigans.  It was Hillary and it was Maik, all rolled into one fun filled day.

A few words about Hillary to start things off.  I met her while racing triathlon, and we found a common space to share as soon as we figured out each other.  We both love many of the same things, particularly with respect to how we approach sports.  And yet there are plenty of differences, areas where one of us can contribute more to the growth in the other.  This has become a great source of learning for me, from Hillary I have learned a ton about training plans, coaching, racing, nutrition, goal setting, and diving into life with vigorous intensity.  She is an clearly defined extrovert, which balances my introverted personality well and makes interactions with her a constant stream of distractions and new experiences.  Hillary took me to my first so-cal yoga class in Encinitas, after a long run we shared together, and introduced me to a place I wound up returning to many years later, after a failed engagement, as a means to restore my soul and become addicted to yet another endeavor.

Hillary spent a number of weeks, years ago, camping out in one of my bedrooms, training with friends, and setting an example for me of what the life of a professional athlete looks like.  I remember loaning her my truck for some reason, I forget why, but since I could run to work I really didn't need it.  After a couple of days, it looked more like her truck than mine, complete with clothes piles and coffee stains.  Eventually, at Hillary's suggestion (and with a bit of help from David Lipke in August 2010) I started drinking coffee myself.  Now my car could be mistaken for hers if based solely on the contents and mess, were it not for the absence of a bicycle or at least some grease stains.  My life has been enriched by knowing Hillary, and  by all of the people I have met through her and the experiences I've had following her.

I first met Maik after the OC half marathon where I ran with Hillary in some silly attempt to chase a meaningless PR.  Cameron, Hillary's sister, ran that day as well, so the two Biscay sisters, Maik and I met up for post-race salads.  At first I was confused by Maik, so quiet and soft spoken, a man who surrendered to the nickname "CAT" and even embraced it.  How did this man measure up to my dear friend?  How would he balance her and keep her under control if she considered him her pet?

It wasn't until I experienced Ultraman and then paid a visit to their home in Tucson for an extended weekend that I really started to understand the man Maik is.  Yes, he is indeed soft spoken, but the German can swear up a storm too.  And while he is not obnoxious nor forceful with his words towards the woman he loves, he is no doormat either, he simply explains his point of view pleasantly and calmly, often with a wit and a twist of humor.  He is an incredible athlete, capable of swimming with Hillary (which is something few men can do) and able to ride and run like the wind.  But none of the athletic capabilities really matter all that much.  Heinz, Maik's father, reminded us that what is truly important is the attitude of "where you go, I go" which is woven into the fabric of their union.  What makes Maik truly special is how he treats everyone and especially how gracefully he takes care of his Madame.  There are precious few models of the modern gentleman for the rest of us to reach towards.  Most men would feel threatened by the male friends of their fiance, but Mikey embraced me as Hillary's friend from the moment he met me, needing no qualifications, no proof of intentions, just pure, instant, understanding and acceptance.

Men have let women down so much in the past 20 years, with affairs, abuse, and self centered behavior that it now feels like many women are starting to catch up and follow suit, leaving otherwise comfortable marriages in tatters to chase moments of newness and excitement.  The result is a society which cultivates more and more self-absorbed independents.  As counterpoint, Maik is a traditionalist, coming from a family that believes in the word "forever" and demonstrates it with 40 years of marriage.  I have no question that Maik will take care of Hillary for the rest of his life, as long as she allows him to.  And I have no question that he will do so with grace and endless concern and appreciation for her unique brilliance.  Maik fills in the gaps, the spaces where Hillary still has room to grow, predominantly around organization and cleanliness.  He is the perfect choice of a rational mind for a long term companion and lover.  In retrospect, my surprise with Maik when I first met him was not based on who Maik is, but on the maturity of Hillary's decision to pick him.  And it really should not have been any sort of surprise, because Hillary can read people as well as anyone I've ever met.

Hillary's family is more than just a family, much more.  Her mother still shares her life with her 2 sorority sisters, the 3 couples have a bond that seems to extend beyond their lifetimes even while in the midst of it.  There are extended relatives that fill in the colors that shaped Hillary's life.  Cameron, Hilary's sister, subtly goes about her running and work with the same passion and intensity only in a slightly more precise manner, truly earning her nickname of "Mini" with the same mannerisms, smile, and warmth, only delivered with just a touch of additional composure.  Rich, Hillary's father, gave such a fantastic summary of what lead Hillary to the point she is at today, complete with all of the seemingly haphazard decision making along the way, off notes written on a yellow legal paper that looked more like the a placemat from the kiddie table than actual words for a wedding night speech.  Then there is the extended circle of friends, from the Grangers, the Corbins, and the Kesslers, all setting examples of happiness through marriage and endurance sports.  The long list keeps going, on and on, each friend is a series of stories that could fill a week.  Within Hillary's circle, significant life accomplishments can be handed out like dollar bills at a strip club, each personal story begets another story until the theme of each evening can only be summed up as "wow."  The overachievers, when combined into a small space, will one-up the other until someone gets hurt or the clock expires.  There is no backing down or crying uncle in this croud, especially not with any attempts at self embarrassment.  Watching everyone interact in a crowded room, the quantity of energy becomes overwhelming at times, as if watching a big day at Mavericks except only if one could imagine the foam that would be created if 20 waves all crashed into each other at the same time.

In a world permeated with breakups, both the predictable ones and the unexpected ones, the two weddings of 2011 give me a beacon of hope for the future.  Hope that good choices, strong families, and people who truly desire to be together can survive as a couple for the rest of their lives, against the odds that most marriages fall victim to.  Mike and Sarah, Hillary and Maik, together have become a collective example of the M word and what it means for 2011 and beyond.  It is a different animal than it once was, the necessity of being married no longer exists, and with it some of the incentive has left as well.  The opportunity to get married now presents itself as a means of self expression much more so than it ever was, and yet the meaning behind marriage, the fundamental willingness to be together forever, to share a life, and to support and encourage each other, is the permanent foundation which so many of us have given up on.  I am so grateful to have these friends, setting this example, for me to learn from and work towards.


I don't, a Newsweek article from 2010, was the source of some of the pessimism about marriage indicated above.