Friday, August 31

Supposed to be fun

So the other day I did a google searech on Pam Sailors. Why? Don't ask why.

Just look at what I found on a local blog:Heroes by Pam Sailors

I've been thinking about heroes lately -- not the comic book kind of heroes, able to leap buildings in a single bound and run faster than a speeding bullet, but the real life kind of heroes, the ones who inspire me to be better than I am.

Like all those people older than I am who run faster than I do, because they give me hope.

And all those people in my age group who run faster that I do, because they give me a goal.

And all those people who run their guts out every race, knowing that their only reward will be that they gave it their best effort, because they give me a vision of determination.

And all those people who take at least twice as long as the winner to finish the race, just putting one foot in front of the other until they cross the line, because they teach me the rewards of endurance.

And all those people who turn around after they finish and cheer in everyone behind them, because they show me what graciousness looks like.

And, maybe most of all, all those people who smile while they run, because they remind me that it's supposed to be fun.

Thanks. You know who you are.

Isn't that a wonderful way to start the weekend.

Thursday, August 30

Shy, inhibited and slow women?

There was a fascinating story in the New York Times today about why older women often post faster times than younger women in races.

Here's an excerpt:

Men, as might be expected, get slower as they age. At a recent five-kilometer race in Pine Beach, N.J., which drew nearly 1,000 runners, the fastest man was 24 years old and the men’s times dropped with each five-year age group.

But the women were different — their times were all over the place with older women beating younger women in almost every age category. The fastest woman was 37 years old; the fastest woman in the 45 to 49 age group beat the fastest woman in the 20 to 24 and the 40 to 44 age groups.

The same thing happened in another five-kilometer local race, the Eden Family Run, in Princeton, N.J.

There, the top female runner in the 50 to 54 age group beat the top females in the 20 to 24, 25 to 29, and 40 to 44 age groups.

And it’s not just a New Jersey effect. Others have noticed it elsewhere and when I did a random check of race results in California, I saw it there too. On Aug. 8, in a 10-kilometer race in Alameda, the 53-year-old woman who won in the 50 to 54 age group was faster than the woman who won in the 25 to 29 group. A 38-year-old woman beat every other woman in the race.

Results like those made me wonder, Are women really trying in these races and, if they are, why are older women beating younger women?

Mary Wittenberg, president of New York Road Runners, thinks part of the answer is that most female runners shortchange themselves. Look at them before races she said. Men warm up and do strides, short runs to prepare to take off at the starting line. A lot of women hang back, often because they are embarrassed to be out there with the men, acting like determined athletes, Ms. Wittenberg said.

“They are too inhibited to put their full passion out there,” she said. “They are almost afraid to be serious about a sport. They think that if they’re not the best, they shouldn’t care so much.”

Wednesday, August 29

Those who show have the best chance to win

I’m a WAVA 67.
My best performances are only 67% as fast as the best runners.

I have spent 30 years practicing, visualizing, training and racing and no matter what I do, I’m stuck in the middle of the bell curve.

I made a new friend in 1988 (same age as me) while attending graduate school in California. He loves hiking in parks and forests but has no formal fitness program. He is fascinated by my running. He has joined me on a couple of training runs and, even though he never runs, has no trouble keeping up. When he was 45 he decided to try a 5K race. He ran five miles a day for three weeks before the race. He got first in his age group with a time of 19:44. I had done 30-40 miles per week for years and some speed work and he got the best time. That was the only race he ever ran. Road running every day was too boring.

I’m sure that with minimal training he would finish far ahead of me today, but I enjoy the inner pleasure of knowing I am pushing closer to my fitness potential.

Quote of the day

"If I play my best, I can win anywhere in the world against anybody." - Ray Floyd.

That's a great though. Running is a little different. I think along the lines of if I train my best and run with a good focus, I can set a pr anytime on any course. There's always someone faster and better, but running is about the constant personal search for personal improvement. Not being satisfied. And also putting in the hard work in training.


A Sufi Quote

Live at the empty heart of paradox.
I'll dance with you there, cheek to cheek.


Thoughts on prayer

So I've been reading A Wrinkle in Time and am fascinating with it. I read this book as a kid in third grade or maybe fourth and the concepts of physics and literature and faith in it are so amazing that I have to wonder what I was thinking way back then.

And then I came across an interview with the author, Madeline L’Engle in Newsweek magazine that gripped me.

Here's an excerpt:

What are you working on at the moment?
A book about aging: enjoy it, you might as well. And it’s not all bad. I can say what I want, and I don’t get punished for it.

Such as?
Such as I sometimes think God is a s--t—and he wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. He’s much more interesting when he’s a s--t.

So to you, faith is not a comfort?
Good heavens, no. It’s a challenge: I dare you to believe in God. I dare you to think [our existence] wasn’t an accident.

Many people see faith as anti-intellectual.
Then they’re not very bright. It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.

"Sometimes I think God is a s--t." Wow. Not the sort of thing you hear very often.

Tuesday, August 28

Frazz is my favorite comic strip.

Thought for the day

Le bruit ne fait pas de bien.
Le bien ne fait pas de bruit.


Noise does not do any good.
And good does not make any noise.

Monday, August 27

Quote of the Day

The man who says it can't be done is always interrupted by the man who just did it.

Inspiration and creativity from Santa Fe

One of the best things about Camp Marafiki in Santa Fe was the inspiration of being able to train with some of the best runners in the world. The Kenyans. Ben Fletcher isn't quite a Kenyan, but he's trained with them for some time now and from what I can tell, he's a darn good college athlete.
Here's an excerpt from an e-mail he sent to the campers this year which I found moving.

When I first met the Kenyans, I was intimidated. However, they instilled in me the desire for improvement. It is my wish that the camp has bestowed this and much more upon you. Through working with the Kenyans and all of you, it occurred to me how important and beautiful running truly is. To run to one's potential, to even set out on the path to finding out how good one can be (which you all have done), in my mind is what the camp is all about. Many of you may be trying to better your times, win a race, or simply finish your first marathon. But, in the process you are trying to find out how good you can be, whatever your goal may be.

What I took away from camp was that when one lives their life intensely and with great sensitivity, as any great athlete does, then at their best they convey to others a level of elegance that is not easily accessible in other arenas of life. To experience the childlike joy, the struggles, the frustrations, and the excellence of creativity inherent in running is to part the curtain of routine and mediocrity to another way of living, of dreaming. It is the chance to nurture the inner drive by looking inside to search our souls for all the dreams and ambitions that lay within; to go as deeply as possible to discover the essence of living and to be as good at something as we possibly can. It is the chance to succeed, to explore into the unknown, and to open ourselves into new areas of thought.

Let me repeat my favorite part of that message from Ben: To experience the childlike joy, the struggles, the frustrations, and the excellence of creativity inherent in running is to part the curtain of routine and mediocrity to another way of living, of dreaming.

It's interesting to me to think of running as something that's creative. I think Steve Prefontaine talked about that a bit - running a race as if it were a work of art. I mean, wow. What does that mean? How do you do that? Can you imagine when you're running that you're creating something beautiful for people to watch?

That just blows me away as I think about it.

We run to create something beautiful. We run to touch other people. We run to inspire others. Yes, we run for ourselves, but not for ourselves only. There are selfish motivations and selfless motivations.

Sunday, August 26

Chicago Anxiety

Let's leave Chicago to the Eskimos. That town's a little bit too rugged for you and me -- Randy Newman, I Love L.A.

The biggest concern that I (rslight) have as I prepare for my first marathon at the Chicago Marathon is the time limit. Runners must finish within 6 hours and 30 minutes to get an official time.
I'm confident I can finish a marathon if given that much time, but how long will it take to reach the starting line? There are up to 45,000 runners in this race.

When I did the Country Music Half Marathon back in April, it took me 42 minutes to reach the starting line. Of course, I signed up for a lousy corral because I was a novice runner and figured the race would take a while. I was in corral 22 in Nashville, which put me 22,000 people behind in a crowd of 30,000.
I finished with a time of 2:36:49 partly because I ran with a nasty ankle injury and partly because I kept getting trapped behind slow walkers on a hilly course. (My half-marathon PR is 2:19:49, which I'm sure I'll replace later this year.)

Let's pretend it takes an hour to reach the Chicago starting line. I should still be able to finish in 5 hours and 30 minutes.
Some things potentially in rslight's favor:
1. Chicago is flat, so I shouldn't be trapped behind slow people struggling to walk up hills.
2. Just from watching video of the course, it seems that Chicago streets are wider than Nashville's. Hopefully people move along a lot quicker.
3. I'll bet these folks doing the full Chicago Marathon are a better bunch of runners than the ones in Nashville. Most people in Nashville were just doing the half-marathon, and appeared to wear out around mile 10.
4. I'm going to fight to get into a better starting position in Chicago. There's no reason for me to be in the 12-minute mile group.

Saturday, August 25

Two ways of looking at this morning's race

This morning I ran the Hot'n'Hilly Powerhouse 10K.

Two ways of looking at the race.

First would be the positive way which makes the most sense. Last year I ran the race in 58:16. This year I ran the race in 53:48. That's more than four minutes faster. Awesome!

It would make a lot of sense to view the race that way.

But that's not the way I see it.

I shouldn't run a 10K in more than 50 minutes, period. I'm a bit disappointed in my effort. I ran the first mile in 7:30 and then faded bad. This is unacceptable. (This is just a wee bit over the top. I'm half-joking.)

Anyhow, I live about a mile away from the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Walnut. But I know how to make that two miles and so when I got home I ran two miles to that intersection, with the last 2 tenths of a mile being a steep downhill.

And then I did five hill repeats. A gentle reminder that I've got to work harder to get faster. Maybe not a gentle reminder. A reminder, nonetheless. And I love the hills. One of the best things about the race was that on most of those significant hills, I passed people.

Unfortunately, I didn't pass Jim Evans. But his time will come. :)

Thursday, August 23


44 days. 44 days until the Twin Cities Marathon.

And if there's a taper of 21 days or so, well, the training is almost over. I've done three 20 milers. I see two more coming up: Sept. 2 and Sept. 16.

Then it's time for the taper. And then the race.

Lately my legs have been looking forward to that taper. But it's the work ahead of time that makes it all worthwhile. It's the work ahead of time that lends confidence that the race won't be so bad. The race won't be unbearable. I'll be prepared.

Whew. 44 days. If ever the motivation starts to lag, a little countdown helps. 44 days.

A deadline is looming. That always gets my heart beating faster. Of course, track intervals do that too.

Wednesday, August 22

Saint Francis' city

I got an interesting tidbit of info in my e-mail today. Santa Fe isn't the official name of the city where Camp Marafiki is held. It's much longer and more beautiful.
The official name is La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi which translates to The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi.
It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.

The e-mail I got contained info about a segment on the PBS show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. Here's what it said:
Santa Fé Artists' Workshop

Santa Fé, New Mexico, nestled in the foothills of the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains, is a city of natural beauty and artistic inspiration. And, officially named "The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi," its spiritual heritage dates back to the Native Americans and Spanish missionaries. Each summer, hundreds of artists from across the country journey to nearby St. John's College for the Glen Workshop -- a weeklong gathering sponsored by the literary journal "Image" that explores the relationship between art and faith. While most of the participants are Christian, this year's gathering, for the first time, brought together artists and scholars from the Muslim and Jewish faiths as well.
Judy Valente talks with workshop leaders and participants about how spiritual development infuses their work. According to Ginger Geyer, who teaches the workshop on mosaics, "The process of making something is very much like leading the spiritual life where you don't know what's coming next. It's just a faithful response -- it's just a big fat leap of faith."

I should probably throw some links in here but I feel tired tonight. But still. The holy faith of Saint Francis.
All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.

Track workout

I had a slightly disappointing track workout yesterday. Eight 200 meter repeats. It wasn't my speed so much as my rapid decline in speed. The first one was 32 seconds. The last one was 49 seconds.
Sometimes people don't understand when I have talked about feeling out of shape. But I know that I'm not as fit as I could be right now and it frustrates me a bit.
I know that running 20 miles on Sunday affected my legs, but still, I should be able to maintain my speed better.

Tuesday, August 21

Quote of the day

"Every day, I see Jesus Christ in all His distressing disguises." - Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu

Found this quote in Patricia Smith's 2006 book of poems Teahouse of the Almighty.

Monday, August 20

Back to Busiek

After Sunday's 20-miler, I'd like to do something different this week.

I'm thinking about between 2-3 hours of running at Busiek. (I don't think about distance with trails like the ones at Busiek, I just think about working hard.)

Would any of my other Poetic Feet posters like to join me? I'd prefer to carpool with someone so let me know what time works for you. The forecast has this upcoming Sunday being a lot cooler than what we had last week.

Sunday, August 19

Run for the Grapes

Baby loves to run -- Sheryl Crow, Tuesday Night Music club album

After my harrowing races the past two weekends, I (rslight) had an enjoyable, pleasant run at Saturday's Run for the Grapes 5K in Tontitown, Ark.
Folks in the little city did a sweet job with the grape theme. Runners had grapes to eat, grape Gatorade to drink and a person dressed as a grape to watch humiliate herself.

I intended to just treat the race as a "fun run," but once people are charging around me, I can't help but push it. I've got to get in on the action. I was shocked when stopwatch girl said my time was 7:10 at mile 1. That is my fastest mile ever to my knowledge. And there was a hill in it.
I was even more astonished when, at that moment, I was passed by a bride and groom. This lovely woman charges by in a bridal veil and running shoes. I discovered later that they married after the race. (Insert your own runaway bride joke here.)

I finished in 24:29 and was greeted by Queen Grape. That was my third best 5K, and I felt satisfied with my performance because the course was hilly. I know everyone makes the summer heat an excuse, but if I had a flat course on a cool day I could smash my 23:53 PR.

I wore my Big Kahuna shirt to the race. I figured if anyone from the Springfield area noticed it, I could tell about the tragic, heartbreaking Kansas City incident that kept me from running the Aug. 11 5K (detailed in my earlier Psycho Night post).
Koei Nakanishi looked excited when he saw my shirt. Koei is a 72-year-old veteran marathoner employed with University of Arkansas. He grew up in Maui.
Koei thought my shirt was from an actual Hawaiian race. In Maui. He spoke about the island's beauty. He had to leave Maui when he joined the military many years ago, but hoped to see it again one day.
I felt like a real doofus when I told him my shirt wasn't from his enchanting homeland. It was just from a Missouri race. And I didn't even run that one. Koei looked a bit disappointed.
I know, I know. I'm a phony kahuna (sniffle).

20 miles

I ran 20 miles today. I feel like I should note that.

I started out on the trail in the dark and my eyes had trouble focusing because there was so little light. At one point I had to concentrate hard to make sure I wasn't going in the creek.

I saw that Mark's car was in the parking lot when I got there so I expected to see him on the trails and I did. A couple of times. Last time I saw him he was on mile 15 and I was on mile 11. I asked how far he was going. He said 20 miles.

I had a lot of questions today as to how far I would go. But I went the whole 20 and I'm happy about that.

It was my slowest 20 mile run of the past two months, but it was also the hottest. Now, it's simply time to take a nap.

Saturday, August 18

Excuse me, sir

You never know what's about to happen when you're on the roads trying to get a good workout in and a car stops. I don't know why though, but something seemed OK with the big fancy car with Nevada plates that stopped while I was running today.

I was doing hill repeats. It was a hill about a mile from home, a hill that my friend who ran track at Missouri State said her team used to run all the time.

I was doing nine repeats. The fastest was the first at 63 seconds. The slowest was the sixth at 72. Then just as I was getting ready to start the 10th and final repeat, the car stops. The door opens. My former co-worker Elizabeth Klay sticks her head out the window and says, "Excuse me, sir. You're running too slow." Hilarity ensues, of course.

But then I turn back to running.

And my final time up the hill, I sprinted to the top in 48 seconds. 48 seconds. Wow. Granted, this being the last one gave me a little extra oomph, but clearly I wasn't going fast enough at the beginning. It's becoming clear to me that so much of running is mental and I've got to just focus a little bit more.

Poetry advice

Typing in that armpit hair poem reminded me of one thing I learned at a writing workshop at the NPS.

Whenever you're writing a poem and you get stuck, go in the direction that scares you. Good advice. It's worked for me in the past, I know.

Armpit hair poem

Here's a funny little poem I wrote while in Austin. (draft)

There's something about armpits
and armpit hair.
In a normal day, I don't see
anybody's freshly shaven armpits
or their armpit hair.
To flash someone your armpits
is an act of aggression,
conscious or unconscious.
I'm not saying that armpits
should be heard and not seen.
No. Get your hands out of there.
This is not the third grade.
Neither am I saying that armpits
are nasty or stinky.
They smell the way God intended
and too many Americans
are coming dangerously close
to overdosing on deoderant.
Keep the chemicals away.
Far, far away.
But let's come back to the hair.
Women's armpit hair fascinates me.
I'm a man. I don't shave my armpits,
my chest or my crotch.
And I don't shave my legs, my back
or my butt either.
So why should you. Be free.
Let your fur flag fly. It's OK.
But still.
Armpit hair speaks cryptic couplets
that I can't quite decipher.
What are those hairs saying?
Is it
I'm an angry lesbian,
back the fuck up.
I'm a happy lesbian,
maybe next lifetime.
I'm bisexual and free
do you want to please me?
I'm a freaky European,
and I reject American morality.
I'm a hippy,
let's smoke a blunt.
My armpits are hairy
and so is the rest of me.

While sometimes freshly shaven armpits
look red and ashamed,
like they're being punished
just for being themselves,
just for being free and untamed
Women, ladies, please,
love your armpits, love your hair
But wax that mustache.

OK. This needs a lot of work. But it was fun to write.

Friday, August 17

Training tips for Chicago

Training for the Chicago marathon? is looking out for you.

I see they've got 12 weeks worth of training tips so far. Perhaps some of them will be Chi-town specific.

RS - you've probably already seen this, but if not, that's the purpose of this post.

And their week 12 schedule has runnings doing 38 miles total with a long run of 12 miles.

Poetry Challenge, Part Deux

While I have not (yet) been able to come up with a response to R's initial poetry challenge, it was on my mind the other night as I was drifting off to sleep, because I dreamed that someone was reciting a poem. The main aspect of the dream I remember now was that the poet (whoever he or she was) rhymed "breakfast" with "Lexus".

Somewhat simpler than R's choice of vocabulary, I know, but who's up to the challenge? Anyone feeling inspired by the Muse to incorporate this rhyme into their poetry?

Thursday, August 16

Tempo run

Today's workout was tough. Which is as it should be. A 40 minute tempo run.

The tempo run was one of my favorite workouts at camp because it becomes a bit of a race with people ridiculously faster than you are. The way we did it at camp was to run at a pace that you can sustain for 40 minutes. We were at a rails to trails trail and we went out for 20 minutes and then turned around and ran back for 20 minutes. If everybody runs an even pace, then everybody should finish at the same time although you spread out in the first half of the run.

It would be cheating (yourself and your workout) to go out too slow in order to try to get back first. Getting back first isn't the goal really anyway. The goal is not getting passed on the way out and finishing about the same time as everybody else.

As I said in a recent post, it's way too hot to have a real good run outside. And for me, the tempo run and maintaining a steady pace is tough anyway. So the treadmill was the place to be. I broke it into two 20-minute blocks at an 8-minute pace with a short pause in between. That's 5 miles in 40 minutes. I don't believe I've ever done that before.

My goal for next week is to do it again and possibly eliminate the pause in between. The five minute blocks though are great because it's easy to get to half way there and then only 10 minutes more. Only 9 minutes more. Etcetera.

Now, however, I need to sleep and rest well.

poetic feet

It's funny when people happen upon the blog because they're looking for some academic definition of poetic feet
I've noticed a lot of people arriving here today with that sort of destination in mind.

It's unclear whether they're also looking up scansion or not.

Of course, if there were anywhere where people would discuss how many poetic feet are in a 5K, this would be the blog.

Wednesday, August 15


It's 100 degrees at 5:45. Yesterday, at this time I did 10 quarters at the track with 400 meter rest. It went fairly well, especially since I haven't done much trackwork.

But man, 100 degrees. It's crazy hot. When am I going to get a run in. For the duration of this heatwave, I've got to get to sleep earlier and wake up earlier and perhaps run later too. Or run inside.

I don't know.

Strange thing about yesterday's track session. It was just as hot, but once we started running, it wasn't that bad. Go figure.

After Auschwitz

R's Poetry Challenge was emotionally exhausting for me. Infatuated? Whew. I don't like that word. So I wanted to type up something a bit more uplifting.
There's a poem I've been reading lately that really moves me. It's a bit long so I'll just share with you my favorite part.
It's called "After Auschwitz" and it's written by C.K. Williams.

...I thought
of Primo Levi, reciting

Dante to the all but dead,
then I don't know why,
of the Jewish woman, Masha,
of whom Levi tells
how, when she'd escaped,
been informed on, caught,

and now was to be hanged
before the other prisoners,
someone called out to her,
"Masha, are you all right?"
and she'd answered, answered, answered,
"I'm always all right."

I tend to think of Masha as being straightforward and pleasant, not cynical and ironic. In my mind, she says I'm always all right not because she's bitter, but because she's at peace.

Tuesday, August 14

The Poetry Challenge

Can you write a poem rhyming "infatuated" and "superannuated"?

Monday, August 13

More thoughts on the slam

The slam won't leave me. I keep thinking about the poems I loved and the poems I didn't.

Almost all the poets did what they do well, but some of them could have done poetry in a different way.

Here are some thoughts that came to me this afternoon.

Good thinking equals good writing. Writers need to wrestle with questions and some questions are more important than others. Most important - How will this piece of work make my audience feel? Angry? Sad? Empowered? Amused? Moved? Awed? Frustrated? Inspired?

I've been thinking a lot about how I heard so much angry poetry in Austin. Isn't anger one of Kubler-Ross' stages of grief, but not the only one.

Moreover, the question of how the audience feels is much more important than how the writer/performer feels. The writer should remain in control. I felt a bit uncomfortable after watching some poets crying after they finished their poems. Maybe making me uncomfortable was part of their goal, but I wonder if their poems reached their completion or if the writers had more work to do.

Of course, I've got work to do on me and on my poems first. Then I'll worry about other people's poems. One of my goals through the end of the year will be to read one book of poems a week. That will help with my goal of writing more.

They Don't Call It Mount Royal for Nothin'

Grading student quizzes is frustrating. I need a break.
Fortunately, there's the blog-o-sphere.

I was in Montreal last week. I always enjoy checking out the running prospects in new locales, and before I got to do my run, I saw a large number people out running at all times of the day. So that was certainly promising. I saw on my map (a 2-D map, mind you) a large park just north of my hotel, and thought it would be a nice place to run. The trails winding about the park looked to be close to a 5K, so I thought I would have a nice short outing on my hands. While the map told me that my destination was Mount Royal Park, it did not tell me that it was Mount Royal Park. While the route was in fact about a 5K, the 600 feet or so of elevation gain certainly made it more strenuous than I was expecting. Even before I hit the park I was going up, up up. And I managed to time my run so that it was just before the start of a football game in the arena at the park (who knew the Montreal Alouettes were a team that attracted several thousand Quebec residents every week of the season?), so a good portion of my effort for the first mile was expended in dodging rowdy mobs of fans.
Once I was in the park, there were a couple of flat straightaways, including a very nice trail around a small lake, but for the most part it was a good 5% (or steeper) grade, with long switchbacks the whole way. At one point I decided to forego the switchback and take the smaller trail staight up to the top. Fortunately that was very close to the end, so I managed to make it all the way to the chalet at the top of the Mount without passing out. The view was spectacular, and what was even more exciting to me was that I made it from my hotel to the most spectacular view of the city in 29:59. If you ever find yourself in Montreal, I highly recommend you check out the trails in Mount Royal park.

Sunday, August 12

Runner of the Month

Here's a post I have on my half-marathon training page and thought I should share it here:

On my way to Quizno's Friday noon, I was feeling a little depressed about my training: It is lots of hard work. The weather is way too hot. And I just want to stay home.

Then, something unexpected happened. The moment I sat down with the group, Richard Johnson told me I was voted the Runner of the Month for July. What? I was incredulous. Me? Someone who just started running? Shouldn't the award go to someone who has completed his or her 100th marathon with a record time?

Apparently not. It turned out Bob Dewar nominated me after I shaved off 6 minutes in my second 5K race in July. He thought that was impressive, so did those who voted for me.

I was very flattered and got new energy for my training. At lunch I signed up for a mile race Saturday, though I was dreading the hot, humid weather.

Yes, it was hot and humid, but it was not as bad as I thought. I went out for my mile race, scoring 7 minutes and 25 seconds. Did an easy mile on the trail at Sequiota Park and ran the up hill back to the starting point.

And I felt good.

Psycho Night

Run, run, run, run -- Eurythmics, Thorn in my Side

Imagine the worst experience you've ever had running. I, rslight, probably had a worse day this weekend. Unless you were badly injured or died of a heart attack during a race, I'm sure I've topped you.
I ran the Psycho Night 10K, a rocky, root-filled, hilly trail race through Wyandotte County Lake Park in Kansas City. It started at 8:10 p.m. Friday, and runners were required to have a flashlight or headlamp for when it turned dark.
When the race started, I was in close competition with a young woman scrambling up a grassy, uneven hill. Sometimes I would be ahead. Sometimes she would be ahead. At one moment she inexplicably moved far to the right. It was a great chance to pass her for good. I sped up, fell into a huge pool of mud and lost my shoe.
I waded through the mud until I found my shoe. I continued running even though I was drenched in mud.

On the far end of the out-and-back "course," the woods became completely dark. I literally bumped into Kent and Kelly Miller, who were also from Springfield. The Millers stayed close behind me because my flashlight beam seemed more powerful than their headlamps. I kept telling them I was lost on the "lollipop loop," but they thought we were fine as long as we kept seeing little yellow flags in the grass.
We got separated. A few minutes later, I lost my left contact lens. A few minutes after that, I lost my right contact lens.
When you're blind and lost in an unfamiliar forest with no one else around at night, you're not really "racing" anymore. I peered at my fuzzy flashlight beam and tried to walk toward any voices I heard.

I finished the 10K in 1:24:44, which evidently isn't bad by Psycho Night standards. The fastest man took more than 40 minutes and the fastest woman took more than 1 hour. Several people finished behind me.
I was in trouble. I foolishly didn't bring glasses or a spare pair of contacts. I couldn't see to drive anywhere.
Mark and Kelly with the Kansas City Trail Nerds put me in the back of what I guessed was a Range Rover and asked me where I needed to go. I told them to take me to a hotel. I wasn't sure what else to do.

On Saturday morning my Egyptian cab driver took me to an eye doctor. I had Dr. William Holmes, my Springfield optometrist, fax my prescription to Dr. Angela Horon, my Kansas City optometrist-found-in-desperation-in-the-phone-book. She was very good. Within minutes I could see clearly again and was back in the cab. My driver, who entertained me with stories about Cairo, managed to get me to the park before a park ranger towed away my "abandoned" Honda.
Author John Steinbeck wrote about the best laid plans of mice and men. I had intended to do Springfield's Maui Mile and Big Kahuna 5K Saturday morning, and boast about doing three races within 12 hours. However, all I can brag about now is that I'm home, healthy and safe.

Saturday, August 11

Last day in Texas

Well, this is the last day in Texas. I'm good with that. I haven't had the best week of marathon training, but I did find a track and do some intervals. Some sort of intervals, I guess.

Next week, however, I'm going to have to kick it into gear. I guess with what happened last week in Santa Fe, it's a little bit OK that this was a lighter week. Next week, however, ... wait, I already typed that.

A poetry promise

So, I've been at the national poetry slam and I've heard some good poetry. But I've also felt that I haven't heard anything much better than what I can do. Not anything much better than what I can do if I actually get disciplined and do it.

So in addition to writing for my job and running hard I pledge that for the next year I will share a poem I've written or a poem I love on this blog at least once a week.

The poem by me may be a draft in some unfinished stage, but I'm going to try throwing a lot more ideas and images out here and working harder to memorize and soak up more language. What I feel most after being here is hungry to share my poetry with other people and to actually do poems that I feel represent what I can write.

Get ready for some mind-bending words.

Hello again from Austin

This morning I found a track on the UT campus. It wasn't a track and field track with neatly drawn lanes and lines marking distances. There was a sign saying that it was approximately 448 yards (or was it meters) long. The sign said it was approximately a quarter of a mile long.

Still it was better than dodging traffic. And I didn't want to look for UT Austin landmarks that wouldn't mean anything to me anyway.

So intervals. It was good. And humid.

Then there was a little ramp near the track made of the same spongy material as the track. I thought I'd do hill intervals there. But it only took me 14 seconds to get up it. However I did five repeats and that was tremendous and elevating my heart rate.

Wednesday, August 8


Now that I'm back from an extended trip with a lot of hiking but rather little running, I've been starting to get back into my usual routines, and am beginning some more serious training, in the hopes of running the L.A. marathon in March. After my last marathon, which, all told, went remarkably well considering my lack of training, I swore that I wouldn't run another marathon until I could qualify for Boston. I ran my first two marathons at a 10:20/mile pace and a 10:40/mile pace, respectively, so it's going to take some work to get down to an 8:15/mile pace. My plan, based on previous races, is to train to run at 8:00/mile, starting by running at least one mile at that pace, and then increasing the mileage at that pace.

An eight-minute mile, as it turns out, is not really that hard, at least before you adjust the incline. Each of the last couple of times I went to the gym for weightlifting, I put in a mile at that pace on the treadmill. Today, however, was my first attempt to go further than one mile at that pace. Overall, it was 3 miles in 26 minutes, which is roughly an 8:40 pace. I had the treadmill set on the "Marine test," thinking of the acquaintance we've been training. The test is to go 3 miles, with no incline, as fast as you can. You're scored anywhere from 1-100. The first time I did the test, I scored 9, since I stopped shortly after completing my 8-minute mile and went to find the guys amid the weights. Today, I scored 70. I don't know what that means--am I a better runner than 70% of the Marines, or am I just a C- Marine?

Anyway, it feels good to get back into training, and to see some hope that I might actually be able to whittle my times down. I hope to add some pilates and yoga to the running and weightlifting.

The urban animal kingdom

In case nobody's noticed, it's a bit on the toasty and sticky side in the Midwest lately. (My sister in Arizona, who runs in the heat but not the humidity, couldn't understand what the big deal is. She finally got it when I explained that it's like running in the bathroom after you've just taken a nice long, hot shower.) Anyway, this has forced a former night owl like myself to get up at increasingly stupid times of the morning, so I can get my longer runs in without the August sun blazing down on me.

But as I'm out there at 5 or 5:15 AM blinking the sleep out of my eyes, I've noticed something: there's a lot of wildlife out here, right in the heart of the city, that I never see when I'm running at a more reasonable hour. It seems like every few hundred yards a rabbit will scamper terror-eyed out of the grass, certain that my approach means its doom. There's a neighborhood fox that's been making a regular appearance the last week or so, watching me from the edge of the sidewalk as I approach, then darting back into the shadows to watch as I go by. I've had to make detours for turtles and possums waddling across my path along the greenway, and earlier this summer I spotted an armadillo(!). Now and then I even get to see real-life drama, like a flock of tiny birds squawking and chirping and bravely dive-bombing a much larger falcon that had snagged one of their group.

By comparison, the barking dogs and occasional cat warily eyeing me on my normal runs seem positively boring. So is all of the natural splendor I never knew existed going to convert me into a year-round early morning runner? Well, let me put it this way. If I have to choose between spotting a fox or getting an extra hour of sleep, I think I know which one's usually going to win.

Pardon the cliche, but it's not the

Heat. Hot hot hot. Whew. There's a myth that Santa Fe, New Mexico is hot. There's a freaking reality that Austin, Texas is hot.
And it's not the heat, it's the humidity. Really, it is. I'm going out running but I can't help but wonder how much different it would feel if I were actually swimming.
Here I am soaking everything in at the National Poetry Slam and having a pretty good time. I'm competing tonight so I'm starting to get really focused on that.
Yesterday I overslept (leaving around 7:30) but still put in (about) five miles mostly on this nice trail by a river (or is it Town Lake) here in Austin.
Today I did get up and out before the sun came up. I think I hit the road around 6:15 or so. I just spent a short amount of time on the trail today. Mostly I ran along one of the busiest streets in Austin. Congress. I headed down to St. Edward's University, a school founded by Father Edward Sorin. Sorin also founded Notre Dame. After running a short loop around the campus of St. Edward's - I'm not sure what the major landmarks are there, didn't see a golden dome anywhere nor a football stadium nor a grotto - I headed back out to Congress and ran to the state capitol.
It was a good run to clear my head and tomorrow I think I'll head up Trinity and see what the University of Texas at Austin campus looks like.
The plan for tonight is to do the Ali poem. Time to practice and get in the zone.

Sunday, August 5

Woggle in the Heat

A million miles of running and I hit the wall. I bounce back and I run some more -- Veruca Salt, Volcano Girls

Brace yourself. This is a race tale you may not believe. I, rslight, promise it is true.
Several runners at the start of Saturday's Chance for Children 5k in Overland Park near Kansas City anxiously commented about the August heat, as if it might be a difficulty. However, heat turned out to be my least worry.
When the race started, I felt a sharp sting in my back. As a spinal meningitis survivor, I still suffer from scoliosis. If I turn my back just the wrong way, I'll be in great pain. I stopped, walked a few steps, and then sped up in a furious effort to regain ground.

I was cruising at a good pace on the second mile when I suddenly got terrible stomach cramps. My legs and feet were fine, but my ribs ached. I slowed down almost to a walk. I did what John "the Penguin" Bingham calls a "woggle," which is part-jog, part-waddle. I moaned as several people passed me.
I recovered on the last mile and managed a decent pace, but my heart was out of it. As I approached the finish line (which featured lovable costume character Snoopy), I didn't care that others were sprinting past me. I jogged in for a final time of 25:49.

A timing chip was on the race bib, and runners were told to immediately place them in bins. (Expletive) safety pins are often tough to get off, especially when you're in a hurry to get some water. In my frustration I uttered some (mild) profanity. Yes, in front of Snoopy.
At that moment, a smiling photographer with informed me he photographed me during the race. I flashed him my "you did what now?" look. I can't bear to go to the site, but any picture of me has to be my least flattering. Ever.

Then, to prove that crazy things happen in a crazy world, during the awards ceremony I won my age group. That deserves two exclamation points. I won my age group!! A hurting Springfield man outran eight presumably healthy Kansas City 30-something men. Unreal.

I want to be a Kenyan

This could also be the beginning of a new poem.

Jambo means hello in Swahili
but I want to say goodbye.
I want to say eat my dust.
And I want to kick up some dust.
I want to fly.
I want to be a Kenyan.
I want to run like a Kenyan.
I know I need a tan
and an attitude transplant.
But watch out here I go.
Point me to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I'll run to the top.
Take me to the rift valley.
Let me breathe in that African air.
I want to know the secret.
I want to drink the tea.
I want to see how fast I can be.
Habari gani means what is the news?
I am new.
I am not the runner I used to be.

Yeah, this could be the start of something good.


Anything helps

This could be the beginning of a poem ---

I saw a man in Santa Fe
standing outside a Church's Chicken restaurant.
I saw him day after day.
He wore khaki shorts, a golf shirt
and he held a sign saying "Anything helps."
And I wonder, really?
What is anything? What does it help?
Does it help end this madness?
Does it help you get up in the morning?
Does it help you keep going when you're out of breath?
Dude is the altitude messing with your head?
Anything helps, huh?
Anything is anything and it has to help, I know.
Anything can be a kick in the pants.
Anything can be a slap to the face.
Anything might not be what you're expecting....


Enter the whirlwind - time for a poetry slam

Well, I'll blog more about camp soon. But in less than 24 hours I'll be on the road again driving out to the National Poetry Slam finals, this year in Austin, Texas.

People think that it's hot running in Santa Fe. Ha. Not at 10,000 feet. Austin, however, will be different. The 7-day forecast has a high in the 90s everyday. And sunny. I'll need to get up early, but I'll be the only one in the condo that the Springfield team is renting. I think I'll also be taking naps.

This may also turn into a fairly easy week as I let my foot continue to get better.

Anyway, let me put up some links to poems that I may do depending on how the competition goes. These poems here are listed in no particular order. The one I'm least satisfied with is the Steve Prefontaine poem. I may do some more editing on it. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks for reading. I'll let you know how the slam goes.

The marathon is tomorrow


I'm going to Winfield


I don't think it's bragging to say I'm something kinda special - Ali

Saturday, August 4

Memories of camp

I'm back from camp but I'm also about to leave town for the National Poetry Slam.

It was good running in New Mexico. Somehow, this year it seemed easier than last year. Of course, even though I'd recently run a marathon, I felt very out of shape last year. Being the slowest person at camp can contribute to that.

This year, I definitely wasn't the slowest. And that was nice for my self-esteem. But right now I'm competing more with the runner I was yesterday than other people. And I am getting faster and better.

So, the altitude wasn't quite as bad for me this year as it was last year.

Unfortunately, on Monday, I rolled my left ankle while running on a mountain trail. And my foot got stiff throughout the week and slowly got better and more loose. It's still a bit stiff as I type this. So, that unfortunately took a little out of the workouts for me.

But I did have a great time. And on the long run on Friday, we went up a mountain starting at 10,000 feet and going straight up for an hour and 15 minutes. My goal, and it wasn't easy, was to run the whole way. Two fellow campers stayed in front of me for most of the run. Running and then walking and then running some more. Everytime I got close, they got up the energy to start running again.

But that was OK. They were doing their workout and I was doing mine. It was good.

The altitude does make it hard, but sometimes the struggle to keep going is more mental than physical.

Anyhow, that's all for now. More thoughts on camp will be posted soon.

Thursday, August 2

Hello from camp

So I'm still at camp. It's been great. I really enjoy the mountain trails we're running and I'm learning a lot. Someday soon I'll type more. But I don't want to be on this computer too much longer.

But if you're new to the blog, you can read my camp posts from last year. Just go to the search this blog function and look for marafiki or kenyans or santa fe. Something like that.

Gotta go. We've got an long run early tomorrow that starts around 10,000 feet and goes up. It should be fun but it will also be a bit chilly. Hopefully I won't see any snow.

Wednesday, August 1

Dial 911

The "Hot N Hilly" is just three weeks away.

In the middle of my 7 mile run today I did a 5K hill run at 10K pace to get ready. I ran 15 seconds per mile slower than my 5K PR for the year but it was 90 degrees at 3:00 pm today and I was hot before I started the pace run. Fortunately I ended in the shade facing into the breeze and did not have to dial 911 (almost).

Why would anyone do that to himself (or herself) on purpose?

Camp Marafiki

Hey everybody. I'm doing well here in Santa Fe and having fun running and hanging out with the Kenyans.

I'm not however near a computer much. I'll have a lot more updates next week.