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Did I or Didn’t I?

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Monday

Quote of the Day: “I know the answer! The answer lies within the heart of all mankind! The answer is twelve? I think I’m in the wrong building.”

- Charles M. Schulz

OK, by a show of hands, who thinks I went to work today?

Higher!!!

(one, ….two…. three….)

OK, You are all idiots.

I pretty much knew last night but I still had the delusional belief that I would be going into work. When I awoke, there were no delusions. I was NOT going to work.

Was it the distance? Naw, I only went about 16 miles. It was more the whole staying up all night combined with the stress of the whole Dining In planning and execution.

So what did I do today?

I drank a lot of water. I took many naps. I stretched. I did a lot of computer stuff. And I slept some more.

Life = good.

Free Advice for Today: “Keep a current city and state highway map in your car’s glove box.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

No comments are allowed on this one ... sorry


Wild Miles Adventure Race

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Sunday Morning, 0200

Quote of the Day: “It’s the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.”

- Tallulah Bankhead


(Obviously this is after the race when, as you can tell by my attire, I’ve completely crossed over to the “I could really give a shit” mentality.)

(Please stick with this post. I know it’s long but it covers my portion of a 180-mile race starting at 0200 in the morning. It’s a team relay; 10 runners that rotate through 30 legs continuously for 2 days covering 180 miles. Four of us had to attend a dinner so the other 6 started the race and we met them at 0200 to take over and finish the race.)

It’s about 0200 and we pull up to exchange point 18. As we pull up, we see a runner dashing out of the dark and into the area where his team sees him and start jumping and clapping. Although the runner is going fast, he looks deeply worn out, glowing with sweat and the sinews in his legs are evident.

“Man, he’s going pretty fast” says one of Captains with me, announcing the same thing the other three of us were thinking.

We all watch this little scene as the transition is made in the semi-dark and after the flutter of excitement, the other runner leaves and it’s that quiet that can only be achieved in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere.

I can only speak for myself but I think all of us were a little intimidated. Six of our teammates had been running since 1100 yesterday (Saturday) as had most of these other runners we saw. We were just coming from a Dining In but since these people had started, most of us had been relaxing somewhere, NOT in the baking sun all day.

We also had 12 legs to cover through the night and half the day tomorrow. It was our turn to take the baton and do our share of the Wild Miles.

We had been in contact with our team sporadically and had agreed to meet at check point 18. Because of a misunderstanding at the naming conventions, I thought that the first team would be covering the 18th leg and I would begin at exchange point 19. But we discovered that the legs we were running were numbered so that your leg ENDED at the same numbered exchange therefore since I was scheduled to run leg 19, my run would be between leg 18 and 19.

To my surprise, I realized 10 minutes before I was up, I would be running from this exchange point.

At night, the van would trail behind the runner about 100 feet to provide light and safety. We had two vans and the other half of our team drove forward when the runner was about a mile out to meet up with us.

When they drove up, they all looked haggard. The First Sergeant was in the passenger seat and he looked like the leader of a van of the living dead. They had been through the heat of the day and it showed.

Now just so you don’t miss this, this is a van full of Marine Corps Drill Instructors; the hardest men you’d ever be able to find and they were looking like they had been through a meat grinder. It was mesmerizingly horrifying. And we were next.

I hate to compare this to battle but I have to think this is what it’s like to seeing a patrol coming back from the fight as you were on your way out. Not the greatest feeling in the world.

We agreed that once the exchange was made, they should go at some exchange point further up and get some sleep. We had our own van and would be able to operate without their help. Obviously they had done the same under harsher conditions and had earned a few hours of sleep.

They took one of the pizzas I had brought and were grateful. We had also brought 20 gallons of water and a few six-packs of Gatorade but they said that they had relayed to Pam that they were out of only the Gatorade and had plenty of water. We thought they were dry so we brought what we thought was a life-saving amount of water. Plus, they pointed out, we needed it now and they didn’t. They were done in more ways than one.

I was ready to start my leg and waited in the darkness. I had recognized a team I knew from my Saturday morning running club that was waiting for their own runner. I nervously gabbed with them and experienced the first in what would be a theme for the next 12 hours: guilt over being fresh at 0200 when others were baked.

In the darkness, I waited. It was eerily quiet as everyone waited and I felt where the tired in me would normally be but it was being overshadowed by the adrenaline of starting my first leg of my first relay race. It was also my first run at night.

It seemed like forever but then in happened quick. In a flurry of sound and motion, our van came rolling up and the First Sergeant was out announcing our runner was coming. My heart started racing which is good because in a few moments, so would the rest of me.

In the pale light, I saw my teammate who I had only seen one other time: a team meeting last Thursday. He was soaking wet with a white clinging shirt and was obviously very tired not only from this leg but also had the living dead look the rest of them had.

There was also another team going through the same thing at the same time with their runner so at the actual transition point, there were quite a few people. The First Sergeant told the runner that I was the next runner but he obviously didn’t recognize me and had a look of utter confusion on his face.

“HIM!” bellowed the First Sergeant but that helped no one since there were a lot of “hims” standing around. He had to point right at me and I had to raise my hand as the poor Marine tried to sift through the haziness of his current state and finally, I saw the look of recognition and relief in his eye as he took off his Velcro snap bracelet that was used as an exchange mark like a baton.

He slapped it on my dry wrist and the bracelet was both soaking wet and cold.

I was off.

I had told everyone that I was a 9 to 10 minute runner no matter the distance. But with the adrenaline and the comparable freshness of my legs, I was also in a bit of a challenge. Not only did I feel the weight of 6 the Marines before me who had trudged through the heat for 15 hours, I also had another runner taking off at the same time I started. And the bastard was a rabbit.

I fell in right behind him and we took off. I felt nothing at all for about 5 minutes. I kept up with him but it was obvious I wasn’t going to catch or pass him. He looked like a solid 7-minute runner and had the build to prove it. I was shocked this guy had been running all day and performed that well.

I knew I was flying but I discovered that the nighttime masks your speed. By running in a bubble of light provided by the van behind me, I loped along seemingly effortlessly. I had my music playing and really my only concern was not stepping in a pothole and twisting an ankle. Most of my thoughts were “Wow, I’m doing it. I’m in the race and the other 9 are depending on me. I’m actually racing the Wild Miles. I got the bracelet and am rolling up the miles. So it begins.”

I stayed with The Rabbit for the first 5 minutes but then he took off. He scampered up a hill and when I finally got to the top of the same hill and crested it, he was gone. I mean like Roadrunner gone as Wile E. Coyote looks on. I don’t know where he went but one thing is for sure: I would never see him again. Good God.

I kept up my pace and started to sweat. But I wasn’t tired and the adrenaline and excitement kept my senses sharp.

I started to see another runner in the distance and for a moment thought that Rabbit had faltered and I was gaining on him. But as I got closer, I could see it wasn’t him and another theme raised its ugly head: competition.

My unconscious pace increase became more and conscious as I got closer. I turned it on to cover the final gap as I passed his van, wondering what my own van was saying inside. I hoped they were cheering me on, encouraging me to take the guy without mercy.

I passed him and he said “You have a good pace. Keep going.”

I said “You were a ….”

At that point my mind went blank and I realized I was breathing harder than I thought because I couldn’t talk. It sounded like I was almost insulting him and was scrambling for something nice to say to show him I wasn’t passing with meanness in my heart.

“…. a hard rabbit to catch.”

That was the last thing that was said between us because I had already put some distance between us in the conversation lag and, when you pass someone, you speed up and they slow down. It’s just human nature.

Within a few minutes, I was alone in the dark again. Alone except for the other 3 in the car lighting my way.

I figured that I was going faster than my 10-minute pace so I gave a rough estimate that I would be covering the 4.3 miles in 40 minutes. Yeah, I would make up that .3 with the increased speed, no problem, I thought.

Up in the distance, I saw a collection of cars.

“What the hell are they doing there?” I asked myself as I looked at my watch. It said 30 minutes so it couldn’t be the exchange point.

As I got closer, I realized that it was indeed the exchange point and thought to myself “Criminy, Jason , how fast did you run, you magnificent bastard?”

I saw Jair waiting for me with the big eyes I knew I had 33 minutes ago. I slapped the wet bracelet on his arm and like me, he was gone like a bat out of hell.

I didn’t answer my question until quite awhile later but crossing the line at 33 minutes means the answer came to a blistering 7:40 pace.

My first sentence as I returned to the van was “Don’t expect that shit for the other two legs.!”

I got back in the van but was not sleepy at all. Neither were the other two and we chit-chatted for the next 4.9 miles as Jair got his first shot at running.

Each runner got their turn and I forced myself to lay down even though I couldn’t quite get to sleep. This confused me because it was in the dead hours of the night and not only wasn’t I hurting badly, I wasn’t even remotely sleepy.

I don’t know what time it was when my next turn came around. Time seems to be unimportant on these races and only based on when your next turn is coming. About 15 minutes before I would get the wet bracelet, I put my shoes back on, grabbed my Gu packet, took off my dry hat and put on my still-wet hat, and downed a bottle of Gatorade.

I was ready.

On my first leg, I used a reflective belt that I had to tuck under the belt I was wearing to hold my number. If I hadn’t tucked it, it rode up and down right over my belly button in rhythm with my running, which also happens to be the roundest part of my stomach. I needed this little reminder like I need a hysterectomy and thus, the tuckage.

On the second leg, I took my cue from the other runners and used the reflective vest that everyone was using. So when Sam had a mile left, we drove ahead and waited at the exchange point and waited. Sam came running in and hit me with the wet bracelet and took off the vest. He put it over me, fixed the Velcro straps, and once again I was off like the wind.

Leg 23, here I come.

Still dark. Damn.

As I got away from the lights of the exchange point, the road took a left and downward turn. My team was still gathering Sam and like the first leg, I took off really fast.

Within a minute, I was going downhill. I mean like a REALLY steep downhill and my paltry little flashlight wasn’t doing such a great job since I was all-out running full stride down a hill. I was running faster than my light could illuminate.

I had looked at the map but didn’t really put what I was seeing together so the drop in elevation was surprising. I had seen I would be going downhill but that only made me happy that I wasn’t climbing. “This is going to be a great, easy leg” I thought because of the drop in elevation.

Well, I didn’t think about the darkness and long strides in the dark. And the speed I would be dealing with.

I was so relieved when the van caught up to me and gave me some light. I could see the terrain and obstacles well due to the angle of the light and I was zooming downhill once again, effortlessly.

This leg was my longest at 6.8 miles but because of the downhill, it was going by quick.

About halfway through, I noticed that the sky was not black anymore. It was more like a really dark blue that was getting more and more of a lighter shade with each moment that passed.

Holy shit, the sun was coming up.

When was the last time I stayed up all night? I can’t remember.

When was the last time you stayed up all night and was running?

Never.

The steep declines gave way to flat terrain with a few rolling hills. I knew I had gone too fast and my lungs were starting to burn. The reason for this was because there were a lot of teams on the course during this leg and I passed about 4 of them. I would see them and then because I can’t control myself, I would speed up to catch them and go by. I did it almost unconsciously and when I got past them, I had the irrational fear that I had spent too much of myself to catch them and then would slow down, allowing them to catch and pass ME. As though that would be the worst thing in the world.

OK, I do recognize how irrational that is but I had been up all night, OK?

For the first time during this race, I felt the pain of pushing myself. I was soaking wet, had outpaced beyond my abilities, ran to runners and then from them after I was ahead, and then faced some hills.

The last couple of miles contained the most insidious flavor of hills; the ones that turn. Why are these so bad? Well, when you are REALLY wanting to get to the end of a leg, you are convinced that the end is right over the next hill so when you get to the top of said hill and see a wide turn in the distance, life starts to suck.

The van drove up to me and offered me some water. I took it but could only take small sips because I couldn’t go without taking huge gulps of air for more than a millisecond. I was too out of breath the replace the gallons of sweat pouring off of my body.

It was light by the time they pulled up beside me and said they were going to go to the checkpoint.

“AKG kugha desngfn?” I slurred.

“What?”

“How …..long….?”

“1.1 miles!”

“Blegflet!”

Things were not pretty, folks.

My worst fear was that I would falter and all those people I passed were gong to come strolling by. I would ruin not only my time for this leg but our team time would go down in a blaze and I would let the entire team down.

I was driven by fear but my body was heaving.

I heard footsteps and thought it sounded like the Hooded Horsemen of Death. I couldn’t look behind me. This would be the lady in the red, white, and blue running shorts I just passed and she would be the engine on the train of runners I passed, ready to get their vengeance on my insolent behavior.

It wasn’t her.

In fact, it wasn’t even A “her.”

It was a man and he was cranking out what had to be a 6.5-minute pace. This was not someone I had passed and why he was even behind me at all is a mystery but this was not someone I would be competing with and for this reason, I didn’t mind at all. He was out of my league and obviously, he had come from somewhere way back and was reeling in people like fish. Good on him. I just didn’t want a nemesis I had to battle this last mile.

Superman provided a benefit of sorts because I could gauge the terrain by him now that it was light.

But I was in real pain and I really, REALLY wanted this to be over with. I hoped to the very depth of my soul that I would crest a hill to see the collection of cars but all I saw was Superman rounding another corner on the horizon.

“OK, well, right past there must be the exchange point.”

Nope. Just Superman rounding another corner.

“OK, well, right past THERE must be the exchange point.”

No.

SON-OF-A-BITCH!

I don’t know how much more disappointment I could have handled because this happened a couple of more times and I thought I couldn’t keep up not only THIS pace much longer but ANY pace. I was faltering.

Then, I saw the finish.

“What’s my time?”

“49 minutes.”

“Is that good?”

“I don’t know, I don’t remember how far this leg was.”

“I hope I did good.”

I slapped the wet bracelet on Sam’s wrist and took off the vest but he didn’t need it.

Oh yeah, it’s light. It’s Sunday morning.

Later I calculated my pace and was shocked. I had hoped I did good and I had to check my calculations to make sure it was as good as it worked out to be.

6.8 miles.

49 minutes.

7:12 per mile pace.

That’s Physical Fitness Test speed for me but only for 3 miles. I couldn’t have imagined in a thousand years that I could manage that kind of pace for almost 7 miles. And it damn sure didn’t FEEL like that speed when I was all freaked out about the other runners and the rolling hills at the end when life didn’t seem worth living.

The satisfaction of a trio of thoughts echoed in my head for the next few minutes: I contributed. I ran well for the team. I rate to be here.

You would think I could get some sleep and damn if I didn’t try. I probably shouldn’t have tried to lay down with the wet running shirt still on. I did have the sense to change into some dry underwear when the thought occurred to me and it sounded like the best idea any human mind had ever dreamt up in the entire history of mankind.

I don’t know if the people in the general vicinity of the back parking lot of Jack In The Box took an early Sunday morning gander at the blue van but if they had, they would have seen my bare ass fumbling around trying to put a dry pair of underwear on. To those of you I might have scarred for life, I am truly sorry.

Unexplainably, I laid down with a wet shirt still on. I had even changed my socks but the wet shirt was still on even when I wondered why the hell I was so damn cold. I grabbed my sweatshirt and put it over me like a blanket.

I laid there for about an hour but I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I had every reason to but just couldn’t.

When I decided to sit back up, I realized my “fast-drying” Under Armour shirt was not. It was still damp and I cursed myself for putting up with it. In the next minute, I grabbed a fresh, dry shirt, peeled off the wet one, and replaced it with pure comfort.

What the hell was I thinking before?

By this time, the van looked like several fights had broken out inside. Trash was everywhere, supplies were strewn around randomly, and bags were everywhere with items hanging halfway out. Everything that resembled a hook, to include the seat arms, had a piece of wet clothing hanging from them.

And it smelled real nice, folks.

I was always breaking new ground and by that I mean that the first time I ran, I got back in the van and the others hadn’t even run yet. After the second leg, I was the only one with two legs under my belt (I know that sentence sounds stupid out of context but you know what I mean, people!). That might sound like I’m bragging but I point it out because I’m thankful that it worked out that way. I don’t know what the others felt about “being behind” in that aspect but it would have bothered me.

Many times during the night, we had to consult “The Book.” You would think that we would know our legs and who was next but as our senses dulled, confusion set in and we had to constantly open the binder and study who was next, what the terrain looked like, and what the distance was on the next leg. Almost as the book closed, we would all forget, especially the next runner who would check it a couple more times before the run.

For most of the night, we didn’t have any cell phone reception which wasn’t a problem because the rest of the team was sleeping and who did we have to call in the middle of the night?

“Hi Mom.”

“What time is it?”

“0300 where I’m at, how about you?

“Five o’clock in the morning. On Sunday!”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Are you drunk?”

“No, just staying up all night running 180 miles with 9 other guys.”

Click.

“Mom?….”

One of the best preparations I made for this adventure was to plug the exchange point grid coordinates into my GPS. Not only did this tell us where to go to but it also enabled us to tell the runner exactly how far he had to go before the next exchange point.

I would just dial up the next exchange point from the memory, tell it to route it, and it would calculate it down to the grid coordinate I programmed in. It was incredible.

Nowhere did this come in more handy than when we got into a city and had to actually do some navigating to get to the next point. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would have been for the driver who was working on a fraction of ability due to fatigue to try to navigate to the next point without the GPS telling him turn-by-turn where to go. I have to give Natasha, the name I gave my GPS, the Golden Thumbs-Up Award for this race.

My last leg was a bittersweet experience. After a few swipes at figuring out exactly if it would work out, I realized that yes indeed, my family would be at the very exchange point where I would start my last leg. I had gone through a few iterations of thinking I would be ending, starting, or not even exchanging at all where they would be.

It really does get confusing like this, people.

Part of the requirements for this race, beyond the $1000 entry fee, is that each team must provide two volunteers who get assigned at some point along the race to man the checkpoints. I had pressed my own family into service and signed up my wife, my daughter, and my son. Not only would it fulfill the requirements but I was excited to see them when I needed them the most: toward the end when the frayed ends of my sanity were coming undone.

I also wanted all of them to see what it’s like during these races. I wanted them to see the bloodshot eyes of the runners ready to go. I wanted them to see the support and the love from the other racers as they encouraged their next runner. I wanted them to see the mixture of fatigue, satisfaction, and pride involved at the end of a leg.

When we made the exchange just prior to exchange 26, I asked my team if they would drive me up to the next checkpoint and drop me off so I could spend an hour with my family. Now that it was day, we couldn’t follow the runners and so would drive up about 2 miles ahead and wait, offering them water or Gatorade when they ran by.

They dropped me off but Carrie and Alex had gone to get me some Starbucks (they love me) while Steph helped manned the station. No runners had got there yet so she was just sitting there but didn’t seem as angry as the average teenage girl woken up early on a Sunday to sit out in the middle of nowhere waiting for insane runners.

I kept myself busy by finding a real bathroom at the park behind the exchange point.

Let me explain.

It soon became evident early on that facilities were the key to this race. It seems that we were always looking for a place to drop deuces. We could take a whiz anywhere but a mud-receptacle was a harder animal to corner and when you found one, everyone else had the same idea. VACATE!

Not many things in this world is more horrible than really, REALLY having to take the butt-snake out for a swim and not having a place to accomplish this, especially if you were about to start your run. Sometimes we would shoot ahead and the next runner would be praying to any God available that there was a port-a-shitter at the exchange point only to find his hopes dashed.

When I got to where my family was, I asked the lady if there was a bathroom.

“According to this sheet they gave us, it doesn’t have anything annotated about bathrooms. This is an exchange point WITHOUT bathrooms.”

This was not good.

But the area was right in front of a sports complex and had a big building in front. Surely they had heads somewhere around here. The real question is if they would be open.

Actually, the real question was if they were available or if I was going to create an EPA nightmare in the bushes. I’m just sayin’….

I walked (hobbled) to other side of the building and there I found something I had not seen all night: no-kidding bathrooms. Not port-a-shitters but an actual men’s bathroom complete with four walls, a door, a stall, and … OK, it was a stainless steel prison toilet without a lid but it was good enough for my ass.

Note that I was next on deck to run which means that I was able to clean myself out (in an ACTUAL bathroom) right before my run.

I could have not asked for more.

Carrie and Alex finally got back and they had a venti white chocolate mocha that for all intents and purposes, was sex for the insides of my body. It felt like I was black and white and as the coffee ran down my throat, my body started turning into color. I also ate a chocolate donut which was the beyond description. I think my body absorbed it through my throat before it even hit my stomach.

A lady watched in awe and asked me how I could drink coffee and eat a donut right before running.

I think I snarled at her. I know I had to stop myself from telling her about the blissfulness of the bathroom back there but by then, the coffee took hold and I was polite which is more than I can say about a guy n a tan van that drove up.

I was off to the side and couldn’t even see him but I saw the reaction of the other workers there at the exchange point. It seems like this guy didn’t appreciate the runners on the road and was bent on conveying is dissatisfaction to the race volunteers.

You have no idea how much it took me not to take three steps forward, turn left, and unload a dozen hours of stress on this idiot. At first I didn’t know exactly what was going on because I couldn’t hear it. But I could tell the tone and by the reactions on the face of the volunteers, I suspected he wasn’t being all that nice. Again, my haze made me hesitate and by the time my ire was built up enough to step in, the guy drove off. I know I would have made it worse and they all chuckled about it, saying he just needed to blow steam. I don’t know exactly what I would have said but again, I know I would have made the situation worse.

I spent the last few minutes with my family but I wasn’t exactly in the talkative mood. When the transition was coming up, I kissed each one of my kids and my wife as they wished me good luck. I told them I would see them at the finish line and thanked them for their support. It was a good way to fill my tanks as I set off for my third and final leg of this race.

My tanks almost immediately emptied. Within the first minute, I went from the excitement of the exchange point and from the support of my family to blinding reality. I had been up all night, ran two very fast legs, and was now not in any shape to tackle 4.9 miles. I was screwed.

I ran on legs that felt like my bones were made of lead. The signals that I was sending downward were not being interpreted correctly so the feedback to my brain was very strange. Like sending the message to raise your left hand and watching your right hand shoot up.

This last leg of mine was the first one that the van could not follow the runner because it was on a bike path. This meant that 90% of the time, I was on my own and responsible for carrying my own water, keeping pace, and not falling down. None of these things were all that easy.

After making a couple of turns and catching the next runner due to the fact she got caught at a stoplight, I got onto the bike path and for the next 4.5 miles, I was on a dead flat, dead straight bike path which you would think would be an advantage.

But it was a treadmill.

I hesitate to complain because I didn’t have to deal with hills; I didn’t have to negotiate turns or directions; I simply had to run straight ahead.

But at this point, I needed some kind of external stimulus and I just didn’t have it. My legs were heavy, my chest hurt from the other two legs worth of breathing extremely deep (mainly due to needing exorbitant amounts of oxygen as I ran faster than my true ability), and I felt like I was going nowhere.

I did have the lady behind me to push me after passing her at the light. In the distance ahead I saw an older lady that was struggling so I set my sights on her. By the time I caught up to her, I discovered she was older than I thought and there would be no glory in passing her.

As I came abreast to her, I heaved out something close to a hello and smiled at her, trying to indicate there was no animosity in my blowing past her. Her head turned toward me as I smiled and I expected something; a similar response even just to be polite.

But what I got was a scowl that made my blood freeze.

Geez, lady, I know it’s tough and probably more so for you than me but did you have to put a curse on my kin?

I put some distance between me and her and then concentrated on keeping some semblance of pace to get this over with when I made the mistake of looking back and seeing another runner coming up in the distance. I had no idea how far I had left and was in no shape to judge if he would be able to catch me so I just trudged forward with only occasional glances backward.

I could see the finish line in the distance since it was so damn flat and I turned on the speed, thinking I would finish up strong, or at least as strong as I could under the circumstances.

As I got within a few hundred yards of the finish, the path suddenly dived right down a little bike bypass under the road it would have crossed. There were no signs anywhere and I had no idea if I was supposed to follow the bike path. I decided I had better do it to be safe (everyone could see) but this required me to climb a small hill that made life a little bit like eating shards of glass.

I have to admit though, my main motivation was to speed up just in case Follower Guy took the easy route and I’d have to beat him despite his heinous cheating spell.

I picked up the last 100 yards and finished with pride as I was VERY aware that this was the last time I would be running this day. I handed off the sweaty bracelet and joined the other two who had the look of envy, knowing I was done and they regretting what they had left to do.

I felt like I had practically crawled that last leg and in comparison to my other two legs, I had. But after doing the calculation, I discovered that under the circumstances, an 8:22 pace was not all that embarrassing.

It was my turn to drive at this point and I was more than happy to do it. I plugged in my FM transmitter and popped in my iPod, making a preemptive apology for subjecting them to Sarah MacLachlan, Alanis Morrissette, and others I thought would give them a moment of pause when they discovered who they had just spent the night with.

When it came down to the last leg, Sam had been dreading it for hours. It was the longest leg he had and the terrain was not all that happy for a runner, especially one that had been up all night. It didn’t help he had to use the can but didn’t have the opportunity at the last checkpoint simply because there was none available.

Most of the run was down Highway 101 and we couldn’t follow him very closely because it was right in the middle of the congested city and they had some kind of street fair going on.

We would pull up a couple of miles and wait for him to come by, encouraging him to drink water or Gatorade and not worry about time. Just crank out 9 or 10 minute miles and bring it home.

With only a few miles left, we followed some signs and pulled over waiting for Sam to catch up. We waited and waited and waited until we started getting worried. Crap, this was the most difficult part and at no time had we got lost all night and this is when Sam needed us the most.

We backtracked and soon discovered that this was one of the legs where the drivers and the runners follow different paths, kind of like my leg when I was on the bike trail. We raced around and as we were figuring this out, my phone rang.

It was the First Sergeant.

“Where are you, Sir?”

“Well, we are lost and not only that, we lost our runner.”

Dead silence.

I know he was debating whether to throw protocol to the curb and tell me what he thought about that statement but in the end, he let the silence speak for him. I distinctly heard from the mental plane “What is wrong with this dumbass Officer?”

He suggested we just come on back and wait for him to come in and in the end, that is what we did. When we got to the park, we found out that he had beat us there by 3 minutes and I could only imagine what those last few hot miles were like with no support, now water, and no team.

I felt horrible.

As we drove into the park, I recognized the area from when I ran the San Diegito half marathon and tried to pull into a parking lot only to be stopped by some lady telling us they had the area reserved for an event. It took everything I had not to explain how our “event” made her “event” eat sand at the playground but I was only successful to the point of rudely blurting out that we were turning around.

We were routed to a lower parking lot and trudged up the hill to find the rest of our team. We were like zombies lumbering up the hill and halfway up, I looked up to see my wife and kids driving right by us. I didn’t possess the strength to call out and had to watch them just drive by as I opened my phone and called Carrie.

“You just passed me and I’m right behind you.”

She, too, was trying to find a parking spot and turned in to the same parking lot with Miss “We’re Having An Event” who, as I watched with more than a little smugness as she told my wife the same story.

When we got to the top of the hill, we found our team and we all shook hands in congratulations. We apologized profusely to Sam and explained what happened but it was all good because he made it and it was over. The First Sergeant told us he thought we had a good chance at getting 1st place in our division.

It seems the First Sergeant and his crew spent Friday night out there camping and made themselves the life of the party. Leave it to the Marines. Most loved the spectacle but of course, some had a lesser opinion of the rowdy Marines; some of which were the Navy team that assured the First Sergeant they would be drinking beer and eating chow when the Marine team came stumbling across the finish line.

The First Sergeant was noticeably proud that the Navy team had not yet crossed the finish line and they had started an hour and a half BEFORE us.

As we all swapped stories of our experiences, we asked how to get the chow, the beer, the shirts, etc. and they told us we had to have our bibs.

The ones we left in the van.

Way down the hill in the lower parking lot.

Damn.

We stumbled down there to retrieve the bibs and by that time Carrie and the kids had found the parking lot and were just getting ready to climb the hill to meet us. I was so happy because I had some help!

By the time we got back up the hill, I was sweating and out of breath. I felt like there was huge black bags under my eyes, most likely because there were but I was a happy man.

There was a tinge of sorrow that I wasn’t able to start the race at 1100 on Saturday like most teams but when I thought about it, I did my three legs like everyone else. And we did it with a 4-man rotation which means instead of having 9 people run before I ran next, I only had three between runs.

I got my shirt and my medal without fanfare but I cherished them the moment they hit my hands. I got a plate full of food and a beer that put a relaxation layer throughout my entire body. I was afraid that I would take one drink, throw up, faint, and shit my pants. There they would find me curled up in a pool of my own vomit with shitty pants and a spilled beer. Take a picture and put it on the poster for next year.

At about 3:00 PM they started the awards ceremony and the nine of us that were still there gathered in anticipation. We still were not sure but we had figured we HAD to have won it based on when we started and finished in comparison to when the others started. Most had been before us and we had come in 5 minutes later than one team and way before another we had an eye on.

When it got to our category, the all men’s military division, they announced…

“M…C…R….D!!!!!”

For only the second time in my running career, I had won something. And for the first time, first place. I had picked up third place in my age group a few years back.

Our final time was 25 hours and 7 minutes which also earned us 14th place overall out of 49 teams.

We got really nice glass trophies that looked like a bend rectangle of glass with our accomplishment on it.

I will sooner part with my hands before this trophy leaves my collection. I will likely request it be buried with me.

After the race, we hung out for a bit and talked to the other team members. It all likelihood, we will never come together again but we shared this one moment in time where we brought home a first place trophy as a result of arduous individual effort for the benefit of the team. It was the perfect melding of individual and team efforts that we can all be proud of.

By the time I got home, the weight of the last few days finally hit. In fact, the weight of weeks came crashing down since I was the rep for the Dining In and the team captain for the Wild Miles team. Either one would be a stress test but both on top of my normal duties and training was teetering on overwhelming. But as Carrie drove our car into the garage, the full force of relief hit and I was a rag doll.

I managed to get upstairs and take a shower. I changed into pajamas and laid in bed to get a little rest after talking with Carrie. I was so tired that I was finding it hard to express the collage of feelings I was having at the moment and I rode the strange sensation of involuntarily drifting on waves of sleep. I would dip down just a bit and surface, amazed at the feeling of “popping” in and out of existence.

The last thing I requested from Carrie at about 5:00 PM was to wake me up in two hours so I could salvage at least part of a Sunday night. Most likely I would wake up to eat and then go right back to sleep but I didn’t want to sleep the night through when the next thing I would know was it was time to get up and go to work.

At 10:00 PM, I awoke in the dark.

Shit!

I stumbled out groggy and unsure legs to where Carrie was sitting.

“You were supposed to wake me up in two hours. Now it’s late and I have no Sunday left.”

“I went in EVERY HOUR and tried to wake you up. You turned over. You were unresponsive. You even yelled at me to leave you alone.”

I had no recollection of doing any of these things which is unusual because I normally will at least remember when I’m an ass to my wife, even if it’s a foggy memory of half-sleep. But I had nothing. The last 5 hours were a perfect void.

I had a sandwich and a bowl of vegetable beef soup. I downed that with an enormous cup of water, Motrin, and two Aleve.

Then, as I suspected, I crashed once again.

I wasn’t too pumped about the prospect of getting up and going to work tomorrow but I was in my own bed with a smile on my face and memories I will smile about for years to come.

That night I dreamt of wet bracelets.

Dead still, quiet, dark exchange points.

Running in bubbles of light.

And glass trophies.

See you next year, Wild Miles.

Free Advice for Today: “Keep a blanket in the trunk of your car for emergancies during the winter months.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Dining In, Drunkeness, And Wild Miles

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Saturday

Quote of the Day: “Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.”

- Michel de Montaigne

Today was the day. What day?

What the hell, have you not been paying attention?

It’s the day of the Dining In AND Wild Miles which means that it’s the culmination of a dizzying amount of coordination, planning, hard work, stress, training, and excitement.

I can’t believe you forgot.

Anyway, I have to give a shout out to the wife for putting up with me today (actually every day), but in particular this day because not only was the stress thick enough to cut with a butter knife, I don’t always react to stress in the most positive ways.

I know, I know but it’s true.

So getting ready for this night was an exercise in controlled chaos.

I got ready and got the Blues on noting that they fit at about a 6 or 7 based on my personal scale; 1 being I’m a bloated pig of a man stuffed into a set of blues I need to let way out and 10 being I belong on a poster.

The van with all of our Wild Miles stuff was already staged at the base so all I had to do was get my personal running bag full of whatever I guessed I needed which, as expected, consisted of more stuff than I would actually need and lacking the important stuff that would have been nice to have on an all-night adventure of running out in the middle of nowhere.

Being a newbie is SO much fun.

We made it to the Dining In which was in downtown San Diego, parked, and took an elevator to the correct floor, collecting looks from the normal clientele who had no idea why some of us were dressed in Marine Corps Dress Blues. We always get these looks which almost always consists of respect, curiosity, and smiling approval.

When we got to the pre-event area, we mingled in the crowd but like what almost always happens, I was too keyed up to be very social. I was fine just standing in the corner with my beautifully decked out wife in comfortable silence. We talked to a few people but mostly my mind was on the adventure that was yet to come.

When you put on a big event like this, the actual event is almost anti-climatic. It’s like building a boat and at some point, you just gotta push it off the pier and see how it floats.

This was that moment.

For those of you that don’t know, a Dining In is an ancient military custom that has many traditions and a very strict set of events. Normally associated with getting really drunk due mainly because there is a lot of toasting and like a formal version of quarters, drinking and fines are the currency of indiscretions and the drinking makes the indiscretions (and thus the fines) increase.

It’s a dinner and everyone has a place to sit. Toasts are made and at a certain point, the floor is open to fines. This is where anyone can stand and ask for the floor and then if granted, that person makes an accusation that someone has broken one of the many rules of the Mess and should be fined.

There are two sources of authority that get involved at this point.

You have the Vice President of the Mess (or “Vice” as he is normally addressed). He is kind of the guy in charge and keeps the proceeding going. Everyone addresses him and he makes most of the decisions.

Then you have a President of the Mess which was the General herself. She is the ultimate authority and gets addressed by the Vice to make the determination of the fines. She can increase, decrease, or dismiss the fines outright based on the arguments made.

As you might imagine, only the more outgoing Marines will stand and address the Mess and make the accusation because it’s very public and you run the risk of not only being fined for making a false (or uninteresting or non-humorous) accusation but then you could be publicly ridiculed. Needless to say, not many are all that comfortable doing this in a huge room of Officers from Lieutenants to Generals.

Fines can range from people not sitting in their proper seats to not having dog tags. The General even announced that if you didn’t have your red “Honor, Courage, and Commitment” card all Marines are supposed to carry, there was a fine.

This created many fines since there has always been a bit of a controversy about carrying these cards. Some Marines think that if you have to have a little card to remind you to be honorable, courageous, and committed, well, there is something inherently wrong then.

Where it gets fun is when someone stands up and makes an accusation and then the person accused tried to counter the accusation with an explanation. This is where you hope that the two people involved as well as the Vice and the President have a quick wit and a bit of improvisation can occur.

Or it could fall flat and embarrassing for everyone.

A couple of funny moments:

When the President announced that if you didn’t have a family photo, you were fined. She assumed these would come out of the wallet but since she didn’t specify, someone got the idea of pulling out their cell phone where they had pictures stored. This prompted many others to do the same (Carrie and me included) to avoid the fine.

Me wearing my dogtags and being of the vast minority when someone made that sweeping accusation. If you didn’t have them, you paid.

Me not being able to drink any alcohol since I was going to be running all night. That wasn’t as funny as it was high in the “suck ass” category.

Probably the funniest moment though was when a certain Captain who was married to another certain Captain (don’t worry, they are of opposite sexes) got drunk and started to make an ass of himself.

It didn’t help that the male Captain had no affiliation with our unit but was the guest of his wife who did.

But it gets better.

Throughout the night, Mr. Captain was drinking quite heavily. In fact, he was pretty much snickered by the time the Dining In actually started. Ms. Captain was getting more and more pissed and embarrassed in equal measure. She was a very light-toned woman with freckles and all so her embarrassment/pissoffedness manifested itself as a very obvious dark red in the face.

At one point, Mr. Captain disappeared and all was fine….until he was gone for awhile.

Suddenly, he comes back into the banquet hall (which by this time, everyone was sitting and the festivities were going so Mr. Captain’s entrance was very obvious by the entire Mess.)

He was not alone.

Neither was the woman on his right arm.

She was accompanied by the woman on his left arm.

And both of them were decked out in extravagant gowns complete with feathers and drunken giggles.

Basically, he stumbled in with a pair very whorish looking tramps from the ball that was going on in the next banquet room.

Did I mention Mr. and Mrs. Captain had just returned from their honeymoon?

Let me just throw in one more thing: by general consensus, most of the Officers present were damn near positive at least one if not both of the whorish tramps were actually men dressed in drag, unbeknownst to Mr. Captain.

Mrs. Captain’s face looked like a lobster. A very angry, angry lobster.

As though this could not get any worse, it does.

You see, the President of the Mess was the General, General Salinas. General ANGELA Salinas.

And she knew something she was about to share with the mess.

As soon as Mr. Captain was called to the attention of the Mess, the two skanks slinked off suddenly aware that a nuclear faux pas had just been perpetrated. Like true skanks, they slimed away at the first sign of trouble leaving Mr. Captain at attention in front of the General.

“Captain, where are you work?”
“Miramar, Ma’am.” (which is an Air Base, famously depicted in Top Gun)
“Will the senior aviator please stand to be recognized.”

Colonel Redfern, the Commanding Officer for Headquarters and Service Battalion and helo pilot who had at one time flown the President around, took his napkin off his lap, rose slowly to his feet, threw the napkin on the table, and stood at rigid attention.

You could have heard a career drop.

“Colonel Redfern, we have a young Captain from Miramar that has obviously had a bit too much to drink and entered the Mess with two …. women… not his wife…”

I looked over at his wife who had her dark red face in her trembling hands.

“Can you please announce what is your upcoming assignment is, Colonel?”

“Ma’am, that would be the Chief of Staff to the Commanding General, Marine Corps Air Station, MIRAMAR.”

That meant he was going to be second in Command AKA “The Hammer” of Miramar.

Mr. Captain had just assified himself in front of his wife, the General, and his very near future Chief of Staff who now was taking the heat by virtue of being the senior aviator at the Dining In.

Mr. Captain and the Colonel were fined monetarily but that was the least of Mr. Captain’s worries. I would have hated to be in THAT car on the way home. Or at that in-brief to the new Chief of Staff.

It just so happens that they were sitting right in front of Carrie and me and you could have cut the tension with a jagged piece of shattered career. But that didn’t stop him from continuing his asstastic behavior. He repeated the toasts too loud and belligerently and even slammed down his wine glass, shattering it after one of the toasts.

This is running long so I’ll try to wrap it up.

The slide show turned out pretty good, probably not as good as all the work we put into it but good enough to get a chuckle out of the crowd. It was little consolation compared to the amount of effort we put into it.

I will also point out that Pam and Chrissy were all talk because although the announcement of “PARADE THE BEEF” was made loud and proud, they did not explode with their guffaws as promised but giggled lightly to themselves. Like I knew would happen, they were a bit intimidated by the pomp and circumstance to make a spectacle over the traditional yet highly suggestive command to “Parade the beef.”

Chicken-shits.

After the meal and speeches, the event broke up and all the fines were laid on the bar for all to drink to their lurching stomachs’ content.

Let me repeat that: it was a FREE and OPEN bar.

If you recall, I could not partake because I had an all-night running session to get to.

Did I mention it was a FREE and OPEN bar?

**sigh**

Carrie and I spent some time looking for the General’s Aide who was part of the running team but come to find out he had to bolt suddenly and was not able to let me know. So we hung around looking for him and he was already back at the base waiting for me so we could change over and get going.

I kissed my wonderful wife goodnight, told her I would see her at the finish line tomorrow at noon, and then she had to drive home alone in a ball dress.

Good Lord that woman puts up with a lot.

The Dining In (and all accompanying stress and preparation it involved) was over. I had to immediately turn all my efforts to Wild Miles.

I could feel the effects of being late at night as my body reacted to its normal nighttime biorhythms but at the same time, I had jolts of adrenaline pumping through my veins. I was embarking on my first night time running event and I was facing being up all night taking my turn at running out in the middle of nowhere.

Why this had an appeal of adventure to me is unknown but it did. Big time.

We got changed and the five of us got in the van, stopped at the store to get more water and Gatorade, plus some snacks and random supplies. We had received word that the other half of the team had burned through all the water and Gatorade so we were all worried for them and bought way more than we would need, feeling like we were the cavalry bringing life-saving supplies to what we imagined to be nearly dead-by-hydration Marines.

Turns out they drank all the Gatorade but had plenty of water left so the abundant supplies we bought were about 5 times as much as we would actually need since we were running at night and not in the heat where water would be consumed by the gallon.

I was too keyed up to rest so I drove and I had my GPS with me and had plugged in all the checkpoints. Natasha guided me to the check point where we thought they would be and we hoped and prayed they had not passed it yet.

At 0200, we pulled in to the checkpoint full of adrenaline and ready to take over.

Free Advice for Today: “At least once in your life, see the Grand Teton Mountains from the back if a horse.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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What Am I, The Mayor of MCRD?

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Friday

Quote of the Day: “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.”

- Eugene McCarthy

Two people made it to town today.

The first was Chrissy, the former Sports Director for the gym who has since moved to Virginia while her husband is in Iraq. She was back for a visit and being the other half of the Bobsy Twins along with Pam, she wanted to stop by and say hello.

You can always tell when there is a woman in the building because their heels click on the tile and reverberate down the hall. Then most of the Marines perk up and you see heads poke out of offices. Who is that?

What’s funny is when we are wearing our dress shoes on Thursday and Friday, they make similar clicking sounds. Then the answer to “Who’s that?” is sometimes “The Gunny.”

Oops.

Chrissy has been going through some hard times as of late and it was good to see her. She came to attend the Dining In with Pam whose fiancé couldn’t attend so together, they picked up right where they left off: making fun of the Marines in little ways that drive us crazy with their very un-Marine outlook on life which points out that we take ourselves way too seriously sometimes.

Unfortunately with everything going on, I couldn’t spend much tie with them but appreciated them stopping by. The most memorable part was when they pointed out that they would be unable to stop from laughing out loud at the Dining In when they announced the command to “PARADE THE BEEF!”

They assured me they wouldn’t be able to contain themselves at that point.

Did I mention that these two have shaved off years of my life with such behavior?

The second person to come see me was a firefighter that I met back when I ran the LA Marathon. Long time readers will remember him as the guy who took me around so I could see Who-Ville, only the most awesome thing EVER!

His name is Andy Doyle and he took me up on my offer to come see me anytime he was in San Diego and I would give the tour.

Carrie joined us and I once again found myself being the tour guide for the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Not that I minded; it’s pretty neat to show someone who has no concept of the military the drama and spectacle that is the Depot. Where else can you see where Marines are made by some of the most intense human beings on the planet?

I have to tailor my explanations depending on who I am showing around. If they had come through as a Recruit, I concentrate on the changes since they had been through and if they have no experience at all, it takes awhile because I have to explain layered concepts which spawn an almost never-ending series of sub-explanations. It’s like they won’t understand A unless you explain B which requires an explanation C, so on and so on….

What I thought would be an hour tour turned into a few hours culminating in a lunch at the Bay View restaurant on base.

Needless to say, Andy was impressed and like everyone that comes to the base and sees what happens here, he walked away with his preconceived notions shattered, his view of Marines at an all-time high, and in possession of a healthy respect for the mission we have at MCRD.

Free Advice for Today: “Watch your language.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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It’s Like Saturday or Something

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Thursday

Quote of the Day: “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”

- Sophocles

I guess I can’t hold off running forever. Sometimes when I do the crazy long runs like last Sunday, it’s hard to mount that horse again.

Wow, you know, that saying really never sounds just right in writing, now does it?

Regardless (or “irregardless if you are reading, Killjoy), today not only did I get my butt out on the pavement but I also dragged Pam out with me which is good because as I keep reminding her, she has a wedding dress to fit into this winter and her long absences from the world of sweat isn’t going to help matters. I think she’s getting tired of me reminding her of this but that’s kind of the point.

So we ran the loop (about 7 miles) and decided to take on Laurel hill as a little bonus. This is the monster 1/2 mile hill by the airport that my friend George took me up the first time we ran together in July 2006. I’m still convinced he was testing me to see if I was a real runner. If I didn’t join him the next day, he knew I was a poser. (I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next day asking him where we were going to run today. He knew he had a running partner at that point.)

Today, Laurel sucked the will to live out of me like it always does but we made it even though Pam was not feeling well. I told her she was a better runner than me in some respects because when I don’t feel well, it don’t take much to cut my run short or even out if I feel really bad. Like a hangnail or something.

By the time we got back to the base, we were both fork-stick-worthy and she was late for a meeting. We kind of gave each other the grunt/head-nod and went our separate ways with no discussion.

Not long later, I knew exactly what I needed. This was an unprecedented afternoon Starbucks day if there was ever one. Nothing was going on at work, I was spent and without any obligations for the rest of the day, and I had some other errands to tend to.

What a concept!!!!

So I told everyone I was taking off and just like that, I found myself in the mid-afternoon, heading to Starbucks, and likely filling every negative stereotype of Officers that ever existed. But I didn’t care. I had been working particularly hard lately, doing early mornings, and fulfilling obligations like a champ. I deserved a bit of a break so I took it.

Standing in line, I felt like a bit like a kid playing hooky. That went away when I put my lips to a steaming hot cup of white mocha. It was like pouring a cup of life into a dead body.

Sweet, sweet Starbucks.

The next thing I needed to do was to get some Gu.

Again, that really sounds bad.

I mean the energy gels I use to give me enough umph to get through runs. Not “the runs” as I originally typed. That’s reserved for one of my fellow Horsemen, Lieutenant Colonel Brent Norquist back when he, you know, had the stones to run marathons.

Anywho….

I had learned my lesson last time about finding the bicycle shop where I get my Gu so I pulled up “Gu” in my GPS and let Natasha lead me right to the door. And since it wasn’t in her database, I marked the exact longitude and latitude of the parking spot in front of the door so I would never mindlessly circle the Midway/Sports Arena Shitoshpere every again.

I got my Starbucks, I got my Gu, and I got on the road before it got ugly. Life was just humming along like a well-oiled machine.

(Three dirty sounding references in one blog entry. That’s gotta be a record.)

You would think that a gut full of Starbucks would preclude a nap in my future but silly, silly reader, do you even know me?

When I got home, I shut the blinds, turned the fan on, turned the sound machine on (babbling brook, if you must know), and drifted off to another plane for about an hour.

OK, an hour and fifteen minutes.

So, an hour and a half later, I was up, groggy, and happy.

There are worse lives.

Free Advice for Today: “When traveling, pack more underwear and socks than you think you will need.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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I Could Have MORE of a Geek!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.”

- Edward Gibbon

It’s time for Way Back Wednesday!!!!!

I showed interest in computers in 1980 when I was in 6th grade.

Why do I bring this up? Because imagine with me how much farther along I would be right now if that interest would have been supported.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than thrilled about how my life turned out and most people say that in hindsight, they wouldn’t have changed a thing. But I think this one aspect, yeah, I would have changed especially considered how it unfoled.

Here’s how it happened.

My mother had married for the third time to my second stepfather who, it turns out, was a strict disciplinarian. This situation took some getting used to since my brother and I were used to running somewhat wild for a few years.

One day Rick brings home this strange and exotic box hooked to a television. He hooked it up and it glowed with green letters and numbers but the neatest thing was that somehow he was connected to another one of these computer things belonging to a colleague on the other side of town and they were communicating through the phone line.

COOL!!!!

Not that Rick ever sat me down and explained this to me, me being the Harry Potter to his Uncle Vernon. I picked it up through observation and a story I overheard about the cat running across the keyboard and the other guy thinking Rick was cussing at him.

I finally worked up the courage to ask him about this “computer” and asked if he would teach me how to use it.

When MY son came to me and asked me how to use a computer, I was thrilled. Hell, I even bought his a $1200 laptop and tried to teach him some basic programming. I wanted to fan the spark of interest into flames which is obvious today that it will pay benefits for him in the future.

Rick’s reaction?

He grabbed a stack of books, and I’m not kidding, it had to be two feet high, of the manuals that came with the computer, plopped them in front of me, and said have at it.

I looked at him with incredulity but over the next couple of says, started to flip through the books.

I might as well have been reading Chinese. The painfully dry excerpts I COULD understand were bracketed by words and concepts I could not wrap my mind around. I doubt if any adult alive during those days had much of a chance, much less a 12-year-old kid.

But that was Rick’s approach and needless to say, I didn’t get very far and Rick never took me under his wing to show me even the basics.

So now I look back and think, OK, I have a undergraduate degree in technical communications, a masters in IT, I run my own web page and blog (please ignore how far I get behind, though), and I even dabble in coding. Things didn’t turn out so bad.

But when I let it creep in, I think how much further I would be along if Rick would have only fostered that interest I had in 1980. How further along the power curve with computers I would have been with a decade jump I ended up without.

Yeah, OK, you say “Well, maybe you would have been a computer wiz and as such would have never joined the Marine Corps because you were too busy being an uber-geek.”

I have no argument for that. It’s probably correct.

But it still galls me that a 12-year-old version of myself showed such an early interest in computers, knocking on the door of the Computer Age only to have it opened and then slammed in my face.

For the last few years when this subject came up, I finished it by telling the person I’ve confided these details that I made an anti-dedication in my masters thesis that specifically addressed Rick. I thought I had put something in there about me succeeding in spite of his treatment of me in this area.

But upon further research for this blog entry, I discovered that I hadn’t actually mentioned him. Somewhere in the depths of my memory and knowing how I am, I probably made the reference and then cut it out, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of even getting a mention in the dedication. I likely went on the belief that his absence spoke louder and, of course, I didn’t want to appear bitter or negative in my thesis dedication so I went with those that did the right thing by me. Here it is in full…

This thesis is the culmination of gifts from every teacher thus far in my life. I want to thank Mr. Brian Maxwell, my 10th grade math teacher, for sparking my interest in math and scholastics in general. To the Marine Corps who taught me how to be a man and specifically Drill Instructor Sergeant Major Jon Wertjes who taught me how to be a Marine. To my mentor, Sergeant Shane Maxey, who taught me how to be an NCO and father, and to Major Philipp Patch who taught me how to be an Officer. And to my best teachers of them all: my kids, Alex and Stephanie, who taught me how to enjoy life through kids’ eyes again and my wife, Carrie, for teaching me what’s really important in life. I thank you all for investing.

Free Advice for Today: “When your dog dies, frame his collar and put it above a window facing west.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Fail To Plan = Plan to Fail

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.”

- Henry Kissinger

Next on my Dining In organization agenda: seating chart A.K.A. getting plowed.

Here’s the 10 easy steps of how it works:

1. You get a chart.
2. You get a list of who is attending
3. You take into account rank (higher = closer)
4. Take into account who hates whom (sit next to each other for the fun)
5. Take into account who wants to sit near whom (separate as far as possible because there is just not enough adolescent bitching in your life)
6. Ensure you stay near people you like (I make the chart, I get to pick)
7. Show it to the boss and have him kick it out of your hand like a Monopoly board when the game goes bad.
8. Redo everything
9. Get last minute RSVPs that upset the house of cards in a windstorm you’ve erected
10. Rinse and repeat about a dozen times until you pray for the sweet relief of death

So, that’s how it’s going with the Dining In.

Concurrently, I am doing the Wild Miles organization which makes the Dining In work pale in shitcake comparison.

It’s not that I don’t like increased levels of stress heaped on my overflowing plate (I do this to myself) but that …. OK, well, maybe it is the increased levels of stress heaped on my overflowing plate.

The main problem going on with the Wild Miles is that I have a team of 10 of which I’m one and of which, I have had minimal (read: almost no) contact with any of them other than them letting me know they are participating.

Note that I’ve never done a race that actually requires support and certainly not actually had to plan that support. So it’s all virgin territory here, folks.

I do have an ace in the hole ( term I’m sure Pam is just thrilled with), in the form of Pam, the Health Promotions Director who is providing the two vans, all the supplies, and the registration fee (hello, $1000).

I have been dealing with the race directors and bugging the shit out of them with all of my newbie questions, not to mention convincing them to allow a unique approach to running the race that include half the team doing the first half of the race and the second half doing, well, the second half.

How much water will we need?
How much Gatorade will we need?
How much food will we need?
Where will the offshift crew go when we are running?
How will we find the other van in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night?
Why are the Marines so anal about the planning?

The link up posed an interesting conundrum: how do we know where the other half of the team will be? We won’t know their pace, exactly. Heap on top of that we won’t know when we will get out of the Dining In or how long it will take to get back to the base, change over, and drive out to….. we don’t know.

So we have two moving targets with two unknown timelines. And we have to link up without interruption in the running.

Startin’ the get the flavor of the Kool-Aid I’m mixin’ up?

Free Advice for Today: “Take Trivial Pursuit cards to read to the driver on a long road trip. It makes the time fly.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Did I Run Today?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Monday

Quote of the Day: “Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.”

- Cullen Hightower

No running for me today.

Why?

Um…. DUH!

But I didn’t look like shit and was actually productive. I think I’m getting better at this.

Free Advice for Today: “When no great harm will result, let your children do it their way, even if you know they are wrong. They will learn more from their mistakes thanfrom their successes.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Another 24 in the Canyon

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Sunday

Quote of the Day: “It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.”

- Dick Cavett

I recently posted about a 24 mile run I did at Easter .

Well, I did it again.

Why?

Why would you ask me that? Because I’m damn near retarded, you know that.

Actually, I’m trying to get ready for the Bishop 50 and these long runs seem to at least make me psychologically stronger (heavy on the “psycho”).

What can I say about it? For those of you that run long, not much I can add. For those that can’t wrap their minds around running this distance, not much I can say to convince you that:

1. It’s possible if you train to that distance
(I proved #1 because as the old saying goes, if I can do it… (I am not superhuman even if I think so sometimes)).
2. It’s fun at times
3. It hurts at the end
4. In the big scheme of things, it’s worth it

I’ve talked about this many times but let me be repetitive. I don’t look down on people who don’t run long. I question the belief system that they could NEVER do it if they put their mind to it but I don’t fault anyone lacking the desire to do it. Hell, I don’t want to learn how to fly a plane but I’m certain I could do it if I wanted to.

But this also spawns a particularly annoying outlook: saying you COULD do something but not doing it. Not because you don’t want to but because you just didn’t.

The difference is this:

If you want to do something, just f$#%$#ing commit and do it.

If you don’t want to do something, then don’t.

But don’t go around saying that you “would have” “could have” or any other plethora of lame excuses when you really do desire to do it but don’t have the sack to move forward.

Just to make sure I don’t appear any more hypocritical than I already am, notice the nuance of WANTING to do something and not wanting to. I don’t want to fly so I don’t pursue that. Although I know I COULD if I set my mind to it, assuming I had the desire, but I don’t go around and talk about how great a pilot I could be or how I ALMOST took lessons.

It comes down to my favorite tagline:

“And of course you can’t become
if you only say what you would have done…”

If You Steal My Sunshine
Len

How we got here from me running 24 miles, I don’t know but to circle back, nothing much different than the Easter post so I’ll let it go at that.

Now go DO something!

Free Advice for Today: “Pack a couple of Ziploc bags and a pad of Post-it notes when you travel.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Happy Birthday Paola

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Saturday

Quote of the Day: “I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf.”

- Robert Bloch

Yesterday I wrote about Wild Miles and this morning, I got to attend the Captains’ meeting.

They held it at 0900 in a warehouse somewhere in an industrial business area and in attendance were people you would normally expect to run 10-person relay races of 180 miles. In other words, FaaaaREAKS!!!!

I loved it.

I don’t know though, they seemed a little rambly and disorganized but I guess when you have such a complicated venture, you do what you can and what WAS evident was that the organizers really cared about the race and the participants.

The organizers were a family that have been doing this for years and even though it cost $1000 per team, it was not a money-making venture for them. Most of the costs, I guess, were in the permits they had to get to run the race through municipal areas. And probably law suits.

After I got all the information about the race (more than quadrupling everything I knew about the race), I made my way home where I had another event planned.

OK, it was not MY plan but I was involved.

OK, well, maybe I was just tagging along because I was invited.

See, my good friend and fellow Marine, Paola was having a birthday party.

When I had a birthday party, it’s mostly just waking up late, doing a lot of nothing, and getting a gift or two from the kids. Then we hang out and do nothing (something I rarely get to do unless you count just about every weekend I don’t have a race) and maybe later we have some cake or something.

Not ever a real big deal since I’m not like 10 or something.

But Paola has another outlook. She views it as an opportunity to go all out so her plan was to rent a limo and take all her friends up to Temecula and go wine-tasting. That way we could get all drunk and what-not and not have to worry about driving.

I know what you’re thinking: taking me wine-tasting to wine country is like taking Jethro to the opera.

Pretty much.

But I come as a set (Carrie and me) so if she was gonna invite Carrie, yeah, she had to deal with me too.

I’ll have to admit, I was not all that psyched to go. I mean I really like Paola as a good friend and all and enjoy when she joins our family for the things we do but me and wine tastin’ ain’t exactly how I like to spend my Sundays.

But it was her birthday so I would quell any misgivings about going and accept her generous offer to join her…. and her mom…. and her best college friend …. and a couple I didn’t know…. and Marisa the Adj….. and HER mother-in-law…and a couple of other guys I didn’t know.

And Gunther.

Gunther was the limo driver and was an older gentleman that I felt kind of funny around. Not because he was weird or anything; he was the perfect limo driver with the perfect name. But he was older (in his 50s) and I felt like a rich schmuck when we ordered him around and he got out to open our doors.

I know, I know, it’s his job and not a bad one at that but to subjugate yourself to a bunch of wine-tasters seemed to me a require kind of a schmucky tolerance. I didn’t treat him with anything but respect but I just felt funny.

Until the wine hit.

Then… fuck Gunther.

Just kidding.

We arrived at Paola’s place and met all the party-goers. I was still a little putzy but was civil to the others. On the way to Temecula, I was quiet and thinking of all the things I could be doing. Riding in a limo really didn’t do much for me and I imagined what all the other drivers on the road were thinking.

Assholes” was a common theme in my head.

We got to the first winery and poured out of the limo (after Gunther opened the door, thank you very much).

The way these things work is that you have to buy sample tickets, usually for a buck each and then you go to where they are serving the wine. You give them a ticket (or a coin, whatever they use as currency) and they pour you a sample of whatever wine you choose. They have a little cap that pre-measures the amount but some of them just do it bareback and are a generous with the helping.

I liked those the best.

I stuck with the whites and the roses (OK, pinks).

To me, the dark wines tasted like they were strained through a dead man’s asshole.

Then there was the monkey spunk. Didn’t like that one.

There was one pink one that I really liked and ended up loading up on that one. I was not going to have very much but you kind of get into the mood as you go and before I knew it, I was swillin’ wine like a schmuck-extraordinaire.

As I explained earlier, I am not wine-people. And if you don’t think there are “wine-people” ….. then you are probably wine-people.

Wine people are generally assbags.

Not all of them but many of them. And to further break down their assbagedery, they are either rich assbags or uncouth assbags.

The rich ones are your Thurston Howell the Thirds and Paris Hiltons with matching attitudes. We saw some people who hadn’t seen a hard days’ labor in …forever. I’m sure my presence as something so base as a military man was …. oh how primal.

Then we saw some slutty young girls who thought that getting drunk at the wineries was a great idea for a bachelorette party. I would bet a handful of wine coupons that those very wine coupons would get a young man very far with these…um…. ladies (and I use that term loosely, excuse the pun).

While I was busy passing sweeping judgments on the people there, I was also consuming sample after sample of wine. Slowly, the psychoanalyzing subsided and I began not to care. I was a little more relaxed and actually started to have fun.

I became wine-people. Assbagery in full effect.

With the help pf Gunther, we went from place to place and experienced the wine-tasting in Temecula like it was supposed to be experienced: in a blur.

By the time the last winery closed their doors, we were all feeling pretty good and it was time to go home. I have to admit, I actually had a good time.

When we got back to Paola’s place, the crowd whittled down to Carrie and me, Paola and her mom, and Paola’s college friend.

We were hungry so we headed to the Black Angus to have dinner. Paola’s mother wanted to pay for it and we had absolutely no problem with that. None. Nada.

What I did have a problem with was that I was at a table with 4 slightly inebriated women and the waiter was a bit of a jokester.

I can’t quite remember the exact line that he ended up crossing but the women were throwing out some very overt innuendos and he was playing along. Everyone was having a great time with the verbal sparring until the waiter lost a bit of control and said SOMETHING (God, I wish I could remember it) that was the biggest church fart in the history of farting in church.

The record stopped with a scratch.

And he left.

We all sat around and tried to reconstruct exactly how we got to the point where the waiter would say what he said and we all chalked it up to him just letting the moment get away on him.

We didn’t see much of him after that as he reeled back his service to the minimum. Obviously he realized he crossed the line. I thoughtthis the funniest part of the day.

Regardless, we enjoyed our evening and I think Paola had a great birthday.

If anything, it was one to remember thanks to Black Angus waiter and an afternoon swilling wine with assbags.

Free Advice for Today: “Refinish a piece of furniture. Just once.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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