Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I used to be a desktop kind of guy.  It started out as economics, carryover from college days when laptops were an extra expense which wasn't nearly as reasonable as they have become today.  With the advent of corporate vpn access, things seemed to get even easier since I could leave my work machine all set up and remote desktop to it from any machine at home.  I still hate lugging a heavy laptop around, but something about the 15" macbook pro I was using three years ago turned the corner for me as far as laptops go.  Apple has done a phenomenal job at making their products sexy, all save a precious few as as much toy as they are tool.  I still don't frequently take my work laptop home.  But for home use, my primary machine has become my 13" macbook air.

There is such a thing as too small, namely the dell mini netbooks I have, a leftover relic from before the days of the iPad.  And there is definitely too big or at least too heavy, that defines just about every PC laptop I've ever used.

All of this got me thinking about the commercial above and how cute I thought it was back when it aired almost one decade ago.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


The Honolulu marathon was a great exercise in humility today.  I seeded smoothly enough but as soon as the fireworks started things I felt myself working too hard.  I saw a bunch of familiar faces through the downtown loop and settled into something near 6:30 pace by the return to Ala Moana.  The stretch through Waikiki and around Kapiolani park seemed to take a big toll, I felt tired well before mile 10 was in sight.  Then, just when I began harboring some real doubt, the headwinds kicked in on Kalanianaole.  I'm not sure why but this wound up coinciding with a few stretches of "I feel good" so I somehow managed to get out to the turnaround only about a minute behind Mark and Joel, two local residents both on pace for a 2:50 finish.

Manoa Falls without much water
The loop in Hawaii Kai was a welcome relief as headwind turned into tailwind and running quickly became much easier.  The stretch home, however, seemed to coincide with a few fluctuations, sometimes I felt like I could push, other times I felt a struggle to hold it all together.

Nuuanu overlook at the end of Pauoa Flats trail
 The final climb up Diamond Head was a big challenge.  I was gu'd up but somehow I couldn't get the wheels to turn very well and it seemed to take a long time to reach the top.

The Goddess named this banyon the "banging tree"
 The downhill and final kilometer to the finish went by reasonably smoothly.  I picked it up a bit but wound up a second or two behind a marine who deservedly got all of the glory at the tape.

The rest of the day was spent helping Ikaika in his quest to down 26 beers to celebrate his 2nd marathon.  We are off to the shack to finish off the 26/26 challenge.

NOTE:  The photos have absolutely nothing to do with the race but are from the trip so far.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

TCSD 2012

The following is a letter I am sending to my team challenge peeps.  I thought I'd share it here so I can remember it.



Congratulations on reaching the finish line!  Over the prior 14 weeks you prepared for race day by logging 300 miles, you took 70 sweaty showers, and your feet hit the ground half a million times.

More than likely you feel fitter now than when we began.  With each training cycle, you took another step closer to your peak athletic potential.  WIth each season your body grows and just like a plant you will have seasons where the fruit is sweet and plentiful and others which may not be as bountiful.  With each race, you might find yourself learning a little more about yourself, if you are able to tap into strength of your body, the determination of your mind, and the desire within your heart.

In a modern world filled with conveniences which make it possible to live a life almost entirely devoid of physical effort, you all experienced a taste of one of the most basic aspects of humanity:  our ability to run long distances.  I saw many of you finish and my source of greatest happiness is that nobody gave me the impression that it was too easy, that they were too prepared, that they have learned all of the tricks.  Running is actually quite simple, you put one foot in front of the other and eventually you are done.  It is also so wonderfully complicated when you deepen into the interactions between mind, body and spirit.  To run well, we need agreement from our respiratory, cardiovascular, neuromuscular and digestive systems.  To run our best we need harmony, we need clear thoughts and a calm rage to sustain the effort.

While our finish times varied, I'd like to believe that many of us experienced a number of the same things throughout our evening.  I will share mine with you for perspective, and I would encourage all of you to continue to share with each other as well.  I believe that through discussion of shared sensations we come to a greater realization of our own journey and how we are all so very similar and yet also so entirely unique.

I started with Dan in Corral 3 and after a quick discussion we settled in to 8:00 pace in search of a 1:45.  The first mile I spent mostly dodging people, trying to develop a feel for the pace.  I find that if I calibrate myself well early on it helps when my mind starts to drift later in the race and I wasn't sure how well I know 8:00 pace.  We made the turn and settled into something close to 7:50 ish pace by the time we made it back to the start line just past the mile 2 marker.  The entire stretch from there until the turnaround loop on the other end of the strip felt smooth and effortless.  However, the massive tailwind was a prominent thought as the cape attached to my elvis suit was frequently blown over my shoulder and sometimes even into my mouth.  Dan was running strong here and I think he might have been tempted to drop down into mid 7's.  I figured we would have 3-4 miles back into the wind so it seemed OK to be a bit faster than goal pace on this stretch.  I was thinking if we banked 10s/mile from 2-9 then we'd have 20s/mile to give back from 10-13.  I assumed we would need to use most of that buffer unless the buildings somehow blocked the wind for us.  However, I also wondered if the extra 10 seconds per mile over 7 or 8 miles might put Dan past his breaking point.  Typically the best pacer is the one who sticks exactly to the pace with no deviations even though under these conditions that would mean a large increase in effort over the final miles.  I had no real way of knowing what Dan is capable of, having seen him run only once, so I went with raw hope, gut judgement and tried to do what I could to keep him from running any faster than 7:50 pace.

Well, we made that turn and Dan was still strong and on pace so I was starting to get excited that he might nail his goal on his first attempt.  Perhaps beginners luck actually does have a place in running?  However, as I looked around I began to see a fair bit of carnage.  After watching a few people peel off to the side and walk, and observing the pace slowing by nearly a minute per mile I realized that for everyone racing near their edge, the last 5k was going to be brutal.  As I shouted encouragement at various runners and receiving somewhat dirty looks in return I knew that the shift I was expecting was every bit as challenging as I thought it might be.  I've done enough racing to know how difficult the last quarter of any long race at full speed can be, but when you add in a drastic change from tailwind to headwind, the table was set for a memorable sufferfest.

That last stretch seemed to break a lot of people, more so than is typical for a half marathon.  I do want to emphasize for the benefit of the first timers that not every race is like that.  Some races have hills at a specific point which can be trained on and prepared for.  I am thinking specifically of the La Jolla half or AFC since they are home courses and most runners know to expect some extra work on the climbs and a bit of faster running with higher impact on the descents.  Vegas has effectively zero elevation gain so it isn't a course which requires any thinking under ideal conditions.  In many ways it's a great first timer course and a great course to go PR hunting.  The fact that the last two years have seen some rough weather is more indicative of the time of year than anything, racing in December has a higher chance of wintery weather than spring (which can sometimes be wet) or fall (which saw a number of hot weekends for us.)

But perhaps one of the most beautiful parts about racing, is that it can be just so unpredictable.  You can be supremely fit and draw a short straw weather-wise on race day, and you can also be slightly underprepared or maybe just a little injured and stumble into that perfect day where the stars align.  Just like love or perfect surf or homemade cheesecake, there is some variability in the outcome no matter how much experience you have, how hard you try, and how diligently you prepare.  Most of the classic longer races have at least one of these "oh-s" moments when many of the athletes switch from "racing" into "survival mode."  This is actually my favorite part, the breaking point, because every time I encounter it I learn a little something about who I am, what I want, and how I'm going to go about getting it.  Much has been written about this breaking point and how it can be a metaphor for life, by writers much more capable than I, so I encourage all of you who might be interested in reading to seek out that out if it appeals to you.

If you watch the finish line at any endurance race you may get a false sense of how doable it seems because everyone is elated at the finish.  The finish line can be compared to a wedding day, a graduation, a retirement, it is where we are typically projecting our best, putting on a smile no matter how we feel about what it took to get there.  The start line is more like that raw moment before the start of an interview or moving into the dorms our freshman year of college, the process of arrival carries no inherent definition of who has actually arrived.  It is the stuff in between the start and the finish where s-happens, where life is lived, where we experience the ups and downs, the challenges and incremental victories, the moments of hope, the weight of our expectations, the intentions to achieve, and the brutal honest truth of how fragile and limited we all are.  There is no trick (beyond EPO and other PED's) which will allow us to run faster than our bodies are able to which is why we train and why I have tried my best to give you a window into your goal race pace.  Additionally, there are an infinite number of tricks our minds will play on us over the course of a long race, so many reasons to quit, so many reasons to come up short, to give less than our best, to take a break, to fall down and not get up.  Battling all of these elements is a chance to unleash our inner warrior, it is a chance to fight.  In the end, we fight for a meaningless number on a clock, a cheesy medal, some sweaty photos, and memories which are written in pain and usually fade into a sweet nostalgia.  It is not that we fight for something of value, it is that we find value in the act of fighting.

Why do we try?  Why do I encourage all of you to test your limits?  It is most certainly not to win because there is always someone faster.  The faster you go has nothing to do with the money raised for the CCFA so as much as Team Challenge might pretend that you are racing for a cure, it would be better phrased that you are fundraising for a cure and you have chosen to race as part of that effort.  So, if that's the case, why try?  In many ways there isn't an answer I can give you if you don't feel it for yourself.  Life just feels more colorful to me when framed next to the context of a deep sensation.  Without moments to test myself, I tend to feel a stagnation or complacency creep in.

I suppose that is the message of this entire long-winded recap of Vegas 2012.  I set out at the beginning of the season with an intention to either introduce you to distance running or for those with prior experience, to refine your development towards your peak potential.  Across the board I've seen this reflected back in your eyes and your hearts.  The reflection I saw on Sunday and the one I seek is not some glossy 3x5 print of you with your arms held high in triumph with tears of joy and a PR on the clock as you click your heels at the finish line.  As dramatic as that might appear to be, it's not real.  The reflection I saw on Sunday, the one I look for from myself and the one I am so very proud of seeing in you, is the reflection of a warrior who has survived a furious battle, who has risked, who has been thrashed, and who is now returning home a tiny bit wiser, stronger, kinder, and full of gratitude for the simple pleasure of life.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

TCSD CCFA Vegas Rah Rah

Today marks the end of my 2nd season of coaching for Team Challenge San Diego to raise money for the CCFA.  As is often the case, the sophomore year tends to carry along a certain clarity of vision.  I don't want this post to mire the energy, enthusiasm or effort that so many have put into the CCFA and the event itself, but there are some things I have a tendency to dislike about Las Vegas.

1. Gluttony.  I still can't erase the memory of actor Bob Mack's death in the movie Se7en where he is forced to eat himself to death.  Las Vegas represents, embodies, and promotes gluttony.  As someone who has several hard-wired tendencies to over-indulge in all aspects of life, this environment tends to stray from healthy and balanced.  As a result, I feel a strong desire to leave as soon as I arrive, not unlike an instinctual gag reflex.

Gluttony can kill if Kevin Spacey has a say in it.
2. Weather.  Vegas roasts in the summer since it is, after all, smack dab in the middle of a desert wasteland.  Vegas is also frigid in the winter for much of the same reasons.  There are a small handful of months with reasonable weather but it tends to be hit or miss.  Last year I was as cold as I've ever been.  This year looks to be more temperate, in fact it might be ideal racing conditions if the wind doesn't get in the way, so I'm not complaining too loudly.  But the simple fact is that when in Vegas, being outside is rarely an enjoyable experience.  As a Hawaii boy who lives in San Diego, routine exposure to the sky is a big part of my happiness.  I lived in NJ for 4 years and NY for another and I didn't like feeling cooped up inside, I was very unhappy there.  I don't think I would survive living in Vegas either, since I don't even like visiting.

3. Money.  Vegas represents the extreme ends of the spectrum, the haves and the have nots, along with plenty of in between.  I don't like what money does to people.  I think it can be a more destructive force than alcohol.  Part of my attraction to yoga is that for the most part the practice is focused on non-monetary pursuits.  Of course in the westernized world, studios have to pay rent, utilities, etc so classes cannot be free, but it has always been my intention to teach a weekly free class, to promote free yoga.  There are already way too many things in life with a price tag, and I think yoga for free (not talking about donations or work for trade here) is something that an established corporate studio like CorePower can do without much of an impact on their financial picture.  My home studio currently offers two such free classes and I think it is one of the best decisions the company has made.  I strongly support those who chose to focus their efforts in spaces where they aren't compensated for their time at the same rate as other less altruistic pursuits.  The flip side of all this is how uneasy I feel fundraising, asking people for money, and even sitting in a big room to recognize top fundraisers.  I understand that charities are about fundraising just as corporate America is about bottom lines.  But I just don't really like that part of life, I appreciate the space to ignore that when I can.  I work because I have to and so that I can then spend my leftover time with the types of pursuits and passions I believe in.  I don't like mixing the two.

Someone actually thought this was a good ad???

4. Crowds.  At almost every race I go to I feel like a tremendous introvert.  I hide from the masses, I start on one side or the other or I do whatever I can to sneak into the elite tent just to get some separation from the bodies.  Contrast this with how I feel at my home studio, where I am genuinely excited and happy to see all my friends, where I am at times boisterous and effusive.  I like groups of 20-30, up to 50 or 60 even.  Once a crowd swells to multiple hundreds or even thousands I shrink away.  This is yet another reason why I think I could never be a politician or public speaker, not that I mind speaking to large numbers of people, but more that I just don't like being that close to a crowd.

5. Hotels.  I've had some fun travel and some less fun travel over my 38 years of life.  I used to be a total race whore but I've cooled substantially.  I believe my father enjoys the hotel experience, and all of the associated newness of a space that starts off foreign and often slightly different than any other space previously encountered.  I've always been more apt to want to customize my space to suit my daily life, I slant more towards preprogrammed routine than spontaneous improvisational living.  While I've made some strides towards being flexible, while I think I can have a good time just about anywhere, I've noticed as I age that I really prefer to be in my space.  I think that is the whole reason for owning, for remodeling, and for attempting to create a "home" out of a house.  Vegas is the opposite, a place to go to escape all of that.

Dice is the only show other than Cirque which interests me.
Too bad I miss him by a couple of days.
So, I find myself oddly homesick.  I'll be in the car heading home in just a bit over 12 hours.  I'm probably letting the team down a little bit by skipping any post-race festivities but part of me strongly objects to the attitude of the Competitor Group who structures this even around as many hotel days they can get out of the predominantly out-of-town entrants.  I quit triathlon precisely because of how ridiculous the Ironman experience is when you factor in time off work, travel fees, hotel fees, bike fees, etc.  Running seems to be trending in the same direction and I guess that is one reason why I've drifted out of the running scene progressively.  I don't really want bigger nor better.  I'm a fan of reasonably priced, well run, local events.  The current trend just doesn't seem sustainable, it feels a lot like the housing bubble.  Perhaps the more low key events will regain some of their prominence in the future, just as local farmers markets seem to be doing fairly well these days.  But for the time being, I'm sort of avoiding all of the hoopla with my intention to spend even more time at my local yoga studio.

So, there you have it.  The race starts in about 5 hours but we group up in 3.  I'll be outside from about 4 until 9 and hopefully I won't be too frozen at that point.  Then I hop in the shower, try to find some food, pack, and head back to San Diego at midnight.  The intention is to be at my studio at 5:15 in time to set up for the first day of boot camp.  It'll be an endurance event of sorts, but not one which fits into the mold.

I'm unsure how I feel about heading to Honolulu on Wednesday.  Part of me just really wants to be home, to finish up my geekdesk (photos soon) and maybe get my nas squared away and start work on bringing the leftover parts back to life as either a web server or htpc.  The observer notices this and wonders why I am trending towards introvert, what is causing me to seek out this time to balance myself?  Most of me really wants to get some quality workouts in, some longer runs, some yoga, and I can only do that when I hide out from the rest of the world so maybe I'm not feeling healthy because I don't feel fit?  A big part of me feels that I've been a lousy dad for Hunter, that his days are numbered and I'd really like to spend some time around him, give him a bath, get him to the vet, get his nails clipped, pay them their $500 fee to tell me he's an old dog.  Then there is Cody who I haven't seen since Halloween.

Waking up in Vegas today feels kind of strange.  I don't know why I am here.