Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

You don’t need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Don’t even listen, simply wait.
Don’t even wait.
Be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you.
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Frank Kafka

Friday, December 14, 2012

Plumage and Progeny

My youngest is graduating from UW- Madison on Sunday.

It's not often I talk about these kinds of things, but this one is a biggie. She invited me to the ceremony, and I will be pleased and proud as a peacock when she walks up to get her diploma.

She done good.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strong Drink and a Peer Group

Do you do what you do because you are compelled by personal accomplishment, a curiosity or inquiry, or for Fame and Glory?

If you do it for the first reasons, then failure does not bother you. You try, you fail. You try again. And again. Fame and Glory will come of the own accord, when success is reached. Failure, is always an option. If you do it for the latter, what price, what lengths will you go to, to succeed, or gloss over a failure? Do you make excuses, try to find the silver lining, or partial success?

In an adventure, I have heard it said, the two best times are the planning, and the bragging once you get home. I think that is truly the scope of the Fame and Glory seekers. It seems this is a modern, or recent thing, but then again maybe not. Did old-time explorers trump up their accomplishments? Did they do it for fame, or to satisfy the pressure of investors looking to cash in on the publicity?

I read Admiral Byrd's account of his time on the south pole. He really was driven by a curiosity, but then he also had to answer to investors. That is a pressure I'm sure he would have done without, if he could have.

Are we satisfied with our adventures? Or do the accolades of our peers mean as much as the thing itself?

It's a hard question. And be careful when alcohol is involved.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Raging Bull

I ran the Kettle a few weeks ago. The whole thing. Southern Kettle Moraine forest, end to end, and back again. 63 miles. It took 15 hours, but time was beside the point.

It wasn't much. It was not a big thing. It was a small thing. Big things, personal things are shock waves through your system. Those things that you never forget. The birth of your children, the death of your parents. Marriage. Divorce. Big gain. Big loss.

Still, it meant something to me. I struggle all the time with trying to verbalize why, and what it meant to me.   The questions come up about it. The usual questions really. "Don't you get bored..." Do you listen to music"... "why did you do it..."

Hard to answer, even to my running friends. But the answer to the 'why' is hard to verbalize for me, and when I try I get some quizzical looks, like I am some kind of spiritual kook. So I just shake my head and say "No, I don't get bored, or listen to music, I just run, and I just wanted to see if I could do it".

It's a hard thing for many to understand, but the first thing that had to go was other things to distract. Aid stations, drop bags, people. When there other people there, no matter how tired you are, you still hold onto that semblance of self, the persona you want other people including yourself to see. I needed to remove that. All of it.

When you push yourself long enough and hard enough, you will start to strip away who you pretend to be, and see yourself for who you are. Push long enough and hard enough, and your mind will collide with your ego, and your soul will have to referee. When you are that tired, you lose your past, and have little regard for your future. All you have is you. Small, so small, yet so big. It's all you got. No desire, no hope, no dream. The raging bull stops crashing through the china shop. If even for a short time.

I didn't want distraction. I wanted the empty. I listen for it. That moment when your mind finally shuts off so you can pay attention and listen. It is a wordless, quiet thing.

It wasn't about the mileage. It wasn't about conquest of a trail, or any competitors. I wasn't fighting, I was embracing. I wasn't turning away, distracted, I was looking. Really what I was after was something deeper. I wanted to open wide, and have the trail swallow me whole.

It all sounds kind of hokey. Kind of new-agish. But it's the most real I can write it.

Addendum, a quote lifted from iRunFar:

…the moment we peer beneath this surface of things, the moment we look through the tranquil reflection of ourselves and the clouds above us, down into the clear, fluent, unfathomable depth of nature, how startling is the silence of it, how amazing the flow of life, how absorbing the mystery. Unceasingly the essence of things is taking shape in the matter of things, and this unspeakable process we call birth and growth. Awhile the spirit and the matter fade away together, and it is this that we call decadence, death. These two happenings seem jointed and interdependent, blended into one like a bubble and its iridescence, and they seem borne along upon a slowly moving air. This air is wonderful past all understanding. -Louis Sullivan

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turn it Off

Polite culture dictates that I should not expect you endure my cigarette smoke, listen to music blaring from my house, or listen to me blathering on a cell phone.

So why is it OK for every bar, hotel and restaurant to have one or more TV's blaring all the time?

I recently stayed in a very nice hotel in Prairie Du Chen. Awesome hotel. Perfect service in every way but one. In the morning, while i was trying to enjoy the great breakfast they had out, the TV was blasting the CNN.

I even tried to turn it off, since I asked the other two people in the room whether they were watching it or not. They both were fine with turning it off.

The clerk behind the desk, however, insisted that it remain on. Even though she couldn't watch it from her station.


Why is it OK to make me endure the TV, and not say, a rap or country radio station? To me, it's still noise that I don't care for. Next time you have the chance, see if you can get someone to turn it off.

I have a dentist appointment Friday. Even they have TV's now. GAH!! I will insist they turn it off. I abandoned my TV three years ago, and I haven't missed it one bit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bring On The Night

The day begins with a certain kind of rhythm, and sets our course in a kind of tick tock pattern. BZZZZZ.. We wake. Breakfast, maybe coffee and a commute. Radio in the car. News, reviews, talk. More talk. Work. Get settled. Email. Meetings. Facebook. Lunch. Maybe more meetings. More Facebook. Commute. Home. Dinner. TV.

We are tired. 9 pm. 10 pm. Maybe we can stretch it to 11 pm and watch some more TV. Call it a day.
Weekends are not all that different. Maybe we have plans, maybe we have chores. Maybe we have events to attend. Summer time. Baseball games. Weddings. Picnics. Graduations. Maybe we look forward to that long run, that long ride. Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. And so it goes.

All of it flows, like a waking dream. We move through our days, sometimes impatiently. Everyone trying to be somewhere where they are not. Gotta get going, gotta get there. got stuff to do, important stuff. Life stuff.

We beat the sun. We got to cut holes in our days.  Tick tock, like a clock, the Sun moves it way to the west, and the end of the day. We sleep. And do it all over again.

Days pass. Weeks Pass. Months. Seasons. Years.

Now, the juxtaposition, to the night. We don't get many chances to see the night, the whole night. Night stops time. The stars and the moon move, yes, but it's subtle, like a whisper. Night is big, when you are outside away from the artificial day of incandescent lights. Its big, yet intimate. It folds over you. Caress.

Evening spreads itself against the sky, blends down to your shoes. If you are out there, at night, you know what I mean. Somebody turn on the stars. Pin holes in the blanket.

Once the blanket is thrown, time slows down. Minute to minute. Hour to hour. last forever. There is no where to be, other than here. Its one my favorite times to run. All night. The earth seems to pass beneath your feet. You don't have to chase this, let it come to you. It just comes, and stays.

This is even more true when you stay up, long past the twilight. your body, not sure what to do, reaches a point beyond tired. And then you can just stay up, locked into that moment.

Three times this year, I found that place. Stayed up all night. With friends, shared.

Got one more coming, up at Superior. Very much looking forward to it.

"Bring on the night. I couldn't stand another hour of daylight" (The Police)

Monday, August 6, 2012


Time to hit the road once again. This Friday, I drive to Colo, to pace a friend in the Leadville 100.

I get there a week early, so hopefully I will acclimate a bit. The picture above is Mount Massive, outside and south of Leadville.

A 14er!

Should be a fun climb.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fear and Self Loathing

So it's been a while since i have posted. Work. Travel. Life. It takes time. So, a short set of thoughts here, and then onward.

I ran today, about 20 miles in four hours. Leisurely pace, for sure, with a couple new guys from the Lapham group. It was a good Ice Age Trail run, on a day that the temperature wasn't a million degrees.

Walking on the sun for the last month or so, not so much fun. Most of my running friends have been hiding too.

The nice thing about today was that I felt like myself again. Unlike when I ran on Wednesday with the group at Lapham, something I have been missing due to work. That day, it was HOT, humid, and impossibly close feeling in the woods, where normally you get relief from the heat. It just felt oppressive.

The day was supposed to be one of celebration; one of the guys was turning 50, and another had turned 50 a few weeks ago. So we had one of our little competitions. I totally, and completely sucked. I mean, between not enough sleep, too much travel, and the oppressive heat, I literally couldn't run. It was the slowest I had ever 'run' the black loop. Ever. I came in 27 of 35 runners.

What should have been a good day with good friends turned into; self-loathing.

Lesson 1: Most importantly, I discovered something about myself. I am competitive, and mostly with myself, but I STILL need the bench mark of other people to go by. It was HOT, yes. but where I placed in the group told m about my fitness level that day; my ability to step it up and lay some down. There wasn't much in the tank.

Lesson 2: I should have opted out of the competition. I think it's really OK some days to just say: I don't have it, and rather than turn in a dismal performance, just give it a pass for another day. So, I spent some time pouting about my crappy performance, fortunately, no one was listening and instead were enjoying themselves at the festivities. I got over it.

Lesson 3: You can't mail it in. OK, sometimes you can. By that I mean show up under-trained and unprepared and do well anyway.

Lesson 4: it's much more fun to listen to other people than to talk. The most fun I had was listening to Brother Grub talk about his backpacking trip. When I finally shut off the whiny little kid in my tiny little ego, I relaxed. I am sure I was much more fun to be around too. No one likes a whiner. Especially Ultra runners.

So, that is whats on my mind today.

So to all of you, have fun TODAY, because life is an adventure. Stop and listen, and look around once in a while. you'll be surprised at what you see.


‎"I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or
catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit."

Dawna Markova

Friday, June 15, 2012

Focus Focus

Profound thoughts don't always come from famous people. I have a theory that many famous sayings from famous people were said by someone not so famous at some point. But you may never hear from them (thanks to the internet, we now can). 

So the Everyman (or woman in this case) quote of the day.

"I jest to friends that I ride horses so I can scare myself to death on a regular basis. In such a challenging pursuit, there's always the chance of falling; a moment's inattention can result in serious injury. But people don't ride horses, rock climb, or ski down sheer slopes because of the danger. They do these activities because the absolute focus required makes them feel intensely, undeniably alive." Donna Farhi

And then the more famous Lord Chesterfield added: 

A man is fit for neither business nor pleasure who either cannot, or does not, command and direct his attention to the present object, and in some degree banish, for that time, all other objects from his thoughts… There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time… This steady and dissipated attention to one object is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.

Time to focus, and be present for the task at hand. Lunch time is over, back to work. (Focus Focus. Yes it's Friday afternoon, but people work on Friday afternoon. Don't they?)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ghost in The Machine

Random bits of stuff for the day. The ghosts in my memory.


I don't have many pet peeves (That I know of) when I drive, but I notice a rise in my blood pressure when people stop at a yield, when no one is coming. Clearly, they can see, NO ONE IS COMING. No reason to stop. Slow? Sure OK, but KEEP GOING. OK, I feel better now.

Form over function.

I bought a new vacuum cleaner today. It's an ordinary thing, you don't think about it too much. I could think of about a million things I'd rather spend a hundred bucks on. I love gadgets and good design, sometimes even over the function of something. I was really really tempted to buy what I'll call the ipod version of a vacuum. Steve Jobs was famous for clean lined, simple interfaces on everything Apple made. Sleek. Nice to look at, and use (most of the time).  If Steve Jobs or the Apple designers had ever built a vacuum, this is what it would look like:
 So when I saw this beauty in the store, I almost bought it. I choose not to, mostly because it didn't fit my needs, but boy is it cool looking. Battery operated, no cords but only runs for 15 minutes and doesn't do deeper pile carpet. It does convert to a hand vac for your car, which is very cool. The buttons on it make that satisfying 'click' and the pieces all fit snug. Nice job, Electrolux. Steve would have liked it.

A Big Chicken

If we are what we eat, I am a rotisserie chicken. And some broccoli. With a few eggs and some Naked Green Machine thrown in. When you don't have time to cook, and you eat alone, you tend to fall back on the staples. 

Torturing Plants

I have three Bonsai trees. I received two as gifts, and bought the third one myself. Bonsai care is something that requires patience, planning, and pruning. It's an art and skill at the same time. This is not one of mine, but it's a classic shaped tree. Mine will take years to look anything like this. I have a lot of learning to do. But I have time.

That's all the random stuff I have for today.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Intestinal Fortitude

So I just got back from AZ, and brought along a surprise. I somehow managed to pick up an intestinal bug my last day there. TMI: It's moving through my system. I got more toots than a full brass band. So, on my Memorial day Holiday I got some time, while I lounge around and fart, to put a post here.

I am reading a book by Bill Bryson called "A Short History of Nearly Everything". I am to the part where he talks about the microbes in and around our bodies, the one's we use, the one's that are nice in some places but not so nice in others. I can't help but think about this intestinal bug I picked up, and where it came from. I was out on a run in Long Canyon in Sedona, and I was punctured by what I thought was an agave plant. This is also known as an "Aloe" plant. I wonder if that puncture lead to some bacteria releasing into my bloodstream. It hurt like hell, and the area around it was was sore and inflamed. It burned like nobody's business. Anyway, my point is that we think we are so healthy, and in a moment it can change that quickly. Was it the plant that made me sick? Who knows..In a way I just feel lucky it was only as minor, and if a short lived intestinal bug is all I get I am grateful. Intestinal Fortitude. Got some.

Madison Marathon
So they cancelled the Madison Marathon. Evidently, the organizers felt that the heat was too much for runners to take. Feh. To me, this just goes to show the degradation of the marathon distance in general. It's an every man distance now. My most recent marathon time puts me in the top 16% of the race, at age 50. It was a very lukewarm pedestrian 3:35. My 3:19 at Chicago was good for top 7%, of 33,000 runners. 20 years ago, that wouldn't have even been middle of the road. Anyway, back to my point. Now, everyone thinks they can 'run' a marathon, and expect organizers to take care of their every need, and ensure they don't get hurt or do something stupid. Sorry folks, but it's YOUR responsibility to ensure your own safety. The race is the race, the Madison Marathon should have gone on as expected and the runners should decide if the conditions warrant starting, or dropping out. Ultra runners know what I mean about personal responsibility. I ran a 50 mile race in July, at 95 degrees and high humidity. I adjusted. Have road marathoners ever heard of S-caps? do they know how to carry a hand held, or a Camelbak? How about slowing down to the conditions? If the Ultra distances ever start to turn into what the road marathon has turned into, I am switching to a new sport. Intestinal Fortitude. Get some.

So spent some time in Sedona, AZ. Beautiful trails, all over. Hundreds of miles of them. My only regret was not getting a four wheel drive vehicle. A lot of the more majestic trails have pavement leading right up to them. This makes it's easier for everyone to get to and enjoy them, but of course, that means bigger crowds too. If you didn't get there early, it was hell getting parking. Realizing this early on, I stayed on my 'central' time clock and rose every day at 5 AM pacific, which was 7AM central. This put my out there on the trails at 6 or so, and I could get the primo parking and be well on my way before anyone else got out there. It worked most of the time, except when the parking lot didn't open until later. Rather than go through these gyrations, I would have preferred to just drive into the back country, and avoid the crowds all together. Hence the need for a four wheel drive. I did one run, up Wilson Mountain, and it was fairly obvious I would have the trail to myself. It's a jewel, easy to get to, and HARD. AS. HELL. 4 miles up, 2300 feet elevated, from 4700 to 7000 feet. Pretty much the whole thing was UP. I guess the tourists don't have Intestinal Fortitude to handle something like that. Suits me just fine. let em go shopping instead.

More Tourists
I went to the Grand Canyon one day. It was amazing. Awesome. Spectacular. It was also overrun by tourists. It's a national monument to be sure. 5 million people every year. For someone like me, its much harder to enjoy when I feel like I am in a mall.: Heading down Bright Angel, fewer and fewer people to contend with. I understand the desire to run rim-rim-rim, it's puts you in touch with the soul of the place. Gets you out there, alone and away from the crowds. I am grateful, actually that such a place exists for both the tourists and the individualists. The tourists can look at it from afar, and take it all in. I have to touch, see, smell it up close. I am a dirt roller by nature. Speaking of which, even an individualist likes company now and then. I found this great running store in Sedona, where they really have Intestinal Fortitude. They got some, for sure. Read the two bios, they are good runners, and know the area well. The Sedona Running Company proves to me one other thing. If you read their page, you will see they have a sense of humor. Something I find common in Ultra folks. Here is a good example from the events list from their site.
It's also nice to know that there is actually a semi-organized event of this type. May 19, Grand Caynon R2R2R Start training now...This could be your chance to complete this Ultrarunning right of passage. Email Adam for details. Other distances available: Rim-to-river-to-rim (15 miles) Rim-to-rim with shuttle back to start (22 miles) Rim-to-river-to helicopter rescue (not recommended) 

That's it for me today. I.m pooped. no pun intended.

Post note: One last thing. On Memorial Day and every day, a very large thank you to all veterans. My Dad (Korean), my uncles Howie Wagner and Bob Kushel (Vietnam) my ex-father-in-law Arlo Kanter (WWII), Rolly Royce, Scott Royce, Randy Hansen, and probably more than I can think of right now. Yeah, you got intestinal fortitude.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Big Rocks

Headed to Sedona this afternoon. Red Rock country.

Going to run in the Grand Canyon for a bit too, I hope. Have a good week everyone, I'll post pictures as I can.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Miles to go before I sleep

I've been getting a lot of miles in lately. In my car that is. The trail? not so much.  This week alone I spent 9 hours in the car. Ugh. The career thing has changed my habits a bit as of late. So its time for some adjustments.

For the first time in my life, I am going to live away from the epicenter of where I was born. Funny when you think about it. I have always traveled, to a whole variety of places in this country. But I've never called anywhere but Janesville Wisconsin home.

Now that's changing. I am moving away. closer to my work, so I can cut down my drive time.

We'll have to see how this goes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Flame On

To really stretch myself, sometimes its gotta hurt. If it doesn't ever hurt, I'm probably not pushing the edges, finding limitations. This goes for events like Trail races but it applies to work and other personal life stuff too.

Today at work, I bumped into a lot of stuff. Ouch. The people who consistently fly under the radar, don't care for people bumping into them and their world. They give you dirty looks, mostly.

EB White once said: I wake up every day determined to both change the world, and have a helleva good time. That can sometimes make planning the day difficult.

I say: succeed spectacularly or fail just as spectacularly. Flame on, flame out.

I guess I had some of both today. Now excuse me whilst I put some burn cream on the scorch marks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


One thing you can say for any enthusiastic amateur athlete. They don't sit around much.

Physically, it's easy for us to build good habits and keep them going. We make time for our runs, work outs, apply ourselves toward goals and aspirations. We apply ourselves, overcome the initial friction of getting the ball rolling. Once a body is in motion, it tends t stay in motion.

The physical is easy for me, and no issue to over come any laziness; I see the benefits, I get grumpy when I go too many days without physical exercise. When inertia starts to set in, I overcome it. I push that rock up the hill, and keep pushing it.

Other forms of inertia, however are harder to overcome. For example, right now my reading list keeps piling up, my personal goals of where I want to direct my mental energies are, well, lacking.

How to overcome this?

The nature of my athletic endeavors has many peers. Easy. Nothing like a race on the schedule and a weekly (when I can make it) run with a group of friends.

But I have nothing in that regard for the mental and cerebral pursuits; personal development. I thought maybe I had found something over at Project Reason, but it hasn't bore the fruit I thought it would.

I am not exactly sure where to turn to next. I do know that if I don't start looking, questioning, bumping into stuff, nothing is going to happen. I gotta be careful not to get lazy about it.

Life usually doesn't happen when you are sitting around. You have to make it happen. Getting started is the hard part; overcoming the friction of the initial inertia.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Simple Plan

I don't usually write about my running escapades here. Usually reserve that for race reports over at the LPTR site. But there were things that happened that were important to me. So I thought I would ruminate on a couple things. The race was last Saturday, down in Clinton, Illinois. 30 Miles, three 10 mile loops on a really nice trail around a lake.

Like many people who start getting into a sport, I've been guilty of over-complicating mine. Trail running. It's not really all that hard to understand. But we add all this stuff: shoes of every type, hydration packs, nutritional stuff, supplements, pacing advice, yada yada yada.

So, in my approach to this race, I tried to not talk too much about it. As I drove down with 4 friends, I pretty much kept my plans to myself.

I have trouble doing math while I run, so this one was going to be simple, keep it simple, 3 - 10 mile loops, 10 minute miles. 100 minutes per lap. Now that's math I can do. Simple. Strategy was simple. I was going to FORGET every last mile I ran, and focus instead on the one in front of me. I can't make up time, I turn my back on it and stick to the plan. 10 minute miles. End of story. I took some advice from two runners I admire very much.

The first piece of advice I took was from Joel. "Skip food, a 50K is too short to even need it". So I did. I took 5 gels, one every 50 minutes or so. No Heed, Powerade/ Gatorade. Nothing but water, and I ditched the Camelbak and went with a water bottle. Aid stations every 5 miles, I didn't need more than 20 oz in between. Read: Simple.

Second piece of advice. Double D says, "Go out at a pace, and stick with it", and I think something about hanging on late when you have to. Sometimes I run too slow at the start, thinking that conserving energy will make it easier later. So far, that has never worked for me. Ever. All that happens from running slow is I get even slower. Read: S-L-O-W-E-R. Start slow and then taper off. My legs have a tendency to seize up when I run that slow. I can never get the cadence back again. So, Go out at a brisk (for me) pace, and HANG ON. Thanks DD, it worked very well on this day.

Here are my splits. I can honestly say, the only race I ever ran more to plan was my 2006 Chicago Marathon (in which I ran near perfect splits for 8 - straight 5K's. None varied by more than 30 seconds).

Lap 1: 101 minutes (1:41)
Potty break: 3 minutes
Lap 2: 100 minutes (1:40)
Lap 3: 105 minutes (1:45)

Total: 5:09, 11th overall out of 90 or so, 1st 50-59 AG out of 16.

This was the first time I came in first in my AG. It was the highest I ever placed in race, percentage wise.

I do have to say though, the proudest moment I had all day was when my fellow LPTR's (who came in 1st, 2nd, and 4th overall) gave me a HUGE cheer when I got my award. Even more than winning an AG, even more than placing high overall. Thanks Joel, Kevin, and Christine, as well as Hans and Jeff. Second to that would be this. I had a simple plan. And I executed it, nearly perfectly. A personal thing like that has elegance that's hard to describe.

Running is good right now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Freddy's Room

I had a dream of my Uncle Freddy last night. I hadn't thought of him in years. I didn't know him all that well because we lived far apart, in many ways both physical and… otherwise.

I was looking at a picture of myself, taken yesterday, and I was reminded of him. With a ball cap on, my full head of still dark hair hidden, my age shows. Dark lines hide white lies. Time Flies.

So Freddy was deaf, and mostly mute. He grunted a few things, could make an almost word now and then. He certainly wasn’t stupid or ‘dumb’. But he grew up in an era that saw him as such. The 1930’s. My Grandmother and Grandfather, old by the time Freddy came along, were too tired to put a lot of effort into training him to use sign language or sending him to some special school. Since Freddy couldn’t go to the regular school he stayed home. I think my Grandfather was probably grateful for the extra help around the dairy farm. A family farm, a lot of work for a man of age.

So Freddy worked, all his life in fact, on farms. When the family farm was sold, all the offspring cast to the corners of the country, Freddy needed a place to go. So his closest sister took him in, and put him to work on a Wyoming ranch. Rustling cattle, riding horses. He did that for a good part of his life; I think the work suited him. Freddy was short and stocky, built like a steel spring wrapped in leather straps.

The thing I remember most is his hands. Powerful hands, that looked like the roots of a hundred year oak tree. Itching for work, aching for the touch of dirt. The hands had a purpose, and wanted that purpose, and fulfilled it well.

When the sister got out the ranching business, Freddy got passed from relative to relative for a while, like a man without a country. When he landed with my Father for a time, he would walk a lot; restless, looking for something to do. Even when he turned 80 years old, his hands were still those of an oak tree. He would sit in his rocking chair, and fidget his hands.

The day my Dad died, I found myself back at my folk’s house, staring at Uncle Freddy. Trying to figure out a way to tell him his closest brother had just passed away, out for a walk and heart exploding in his chest, never giving him a chance to even call for help.

It was almost comical. I made hand gestures, Freddy laughed at me. I tried to be serious, but I almost laughed too, before realizing I’d never get the message through if I did. So instead I cried. I think the message got through OK, it was the best I could do. It was like passing a ciphered note in class and then remembering to send the key.

Freddy went to his room, sat in his rocking chair. He looked out the window, making those funny breathing noises he always made because he didn’t know anyone could hear them. He rocked and he rocked, trying to take it in.

Communication is a funny thing, even when we can hear each other. In lots of ways, I think we all sit alone in our rooms, waiting for someone to pass us a note or two. Maybe the best any of us can do is pass each other notes. Lets try and remember that we need to pass the key.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ready. Fire.. Aim.

Contradictions and random pot shots from a hotel room outside Chicago.

I hate guns, especially hand guns. But I think the right to carry concealed hand guns is a good idea. I figure the bad guys won't know who is carrying and who isn't, so if hand guns are going to be around lets make them effective deterrents, even when they don't exist. The threat is better than the real thing.

I think anyone who wants to carry a hand gun should be the first one with their head examined. Or at the very least, a psychological profile completed. Seriously, if you WANT to carry a hand gun, you have issues. You might be paranoid, or have a phallic fixation, or your a man, and all men are perpetually twelve years old.

I don't get the whole thing about registering either. Seriously, if the government was big enough to come and find all those with hand guns simply because they were registered, well, the fact that they were coming to take it away would be the least of your problems.

I went to Arizona on a backpack trip recently, and one of the guys thought we should have a gun to deter crazy drug induced bad guys. First off, drug induced bad guys don't hang out in the remote desert. Second, he only wanted it because his dick is too small. Third, if we had a gun, he would definitely be the LAST one I would want to carry it. Second to last would be me, since it was likely that same guy would piss me off to the point I would want to shoot him. Having a gun nearby would not be a good thing.

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. The gun just makes it easier and more convenient. It removes you from the vicinity of blood. You ever notice on TV, they don't show the man with the gun AND the man getting shot in the same frame shot? They show a man with a gun, pulls the trigger, and then move over to the man getting shot. When you put them both in the same frame, it adds to the violence. It's much more personal. Its much more real.

Last, a stolen story. From somewhere on the internet.

An old prospector shuffled into town leading an old tired mule. The old man headed straight for the only saloon to clear his parched throat. He walked up and tied his old mule to the hitch rail. As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, "Hey old man, have you ever danced?" The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance... never really wanted to."

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, "Well, you old fool, you're gonna dance now," and started shooting at the old man's feet.

The old prospector --not wanting to get a toe blown off-- started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet. Everybody was laughing, fit to be tied.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon. The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers. The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air. The crowd stopped laughing immediately. The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly. The silence was almost deafening. The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the oldtimer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man's hands, as he quietly said, "Son, have you ever kissed a mule's ass?" The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, "No sir..... but... I've
always wanted to."

There are a few lessons for us all here:
Always know who you are dealing with. Never be arrogant. Don't waste ammunition. Whiskey makes you think you're smarter than you are. Don't mess with old men, they didn't get old by being stupid.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Green Monster

So in all my dietary changes, I've had one area where I've been in complete denial.


Oh, I'm not addicted to it at all, but I am addicted to something else. Green Tea. Which of course, contains modest amounts of caffeine. Modest, unless you drink 7-9 cups a day like me. I managed to give up coffee and only drink it occasionally, no soda, no stimulants of any other drug, except one.

That green tea. Oh, how I love my green tea. Tazo Zen, is my brand of choice, I don't drink anything else. Unlike many tea drinkers, who always seem to drink anything under the sun, I am a monogamous tea drinker, faithful to my brand. I covet it, I search it out wherever I go. Fortunately, its a Starbucks brand, so its easy to find. I've been drinking this brand for 10 or 12 years. A long satisfying relationship.

Breaking up is hard to do. Maybe we can ease into it, just become friends. Good friends. Yeah right. All I need is a small taste, just to cool my feet, and before you know it, I am drowning. Man, that green monkey on my back talks loud and continuously.

The true test of our relationship came over a couple day period, when I went cold turkey. We need a break, I said. I'll be back. During that period, I noticed a marked difference in my energy. It went UP. I noticed a difference in my heart palps. as in NONE. As in this is the last piece of my health puzzle. Sorry Tazo Zen, I am gonna have to find another love.

Hey Starbucks, how about ZEN DECAF?

(PS: Two cases of Tazo Zen tea for sale! Cheap!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Going Home

"Going Home" -Sculpture by Tinka Jordy

When we have no real home, we're like an aimless wanderer out on the road, going this way for a while and then that way, stopping for a while and then setting off again. Until we return to our real home, whatever we do we feel ill at ease, just like somebody who's left his village to go on a journey. Only when he gets home again can he really relax and be comfortable. Nowhere in the world is any real peace to be found. That's the nature of the world. Look within yourself and find it there instead. - Ajahn Chah

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rat Race

I spent last week in Orlando at a trade show. My company held it, with all the customers and suppliers and employees coming in from all over the country. 15,000 people! They even rented good portions of two Dizney resorts for all of us to stay in. I discovered something: I am NOT a resort kind of person, especially Dizney (yes, I know I am spelling it incorrectly).

You are trapped. Like a RAT. once inside the resort you are very VERY limited to how you move about. Buses. Everywhere. You are not only inside a resort, but you are INSIDE Dizney "town". It's in Orlando alright, but quite literally Dizney is a town, with miles and miles of its own highways. You go everywhere by bus.

For an ultra runner and outside enthusiast, its awful. Every day, I had to wait for a bus to take me exactly ONE mile to the trade show. Some days, for all the logistics, it would take me an hour and half to move that ONE mile to get to work. There literally was no safe way for me to walk, unless I wanted to dodge buses on all the bridges. Plus, get arrested. Yes. The Dizney folks saw fit to tell you that YOU CANNOT WALK HERE.

But here's the good news. I was there to staff a store within the trade show that sold our company logo merchandise to our customers, suppliers and employees. I have a whole new respect for anyone manning a cash register, or working in the retail business. I worked about 25 hours in three and half days ringing up sales of hats, jackets, and shirts. Sounds like drudgery work, how can that be the good news?

Well, the store was set up as a funding point for a scholarship program. All proceeds taken in to fund people getting education in the skilled trades industries: "Tools for Tomorrow". Personally, I came up through the ranks, working in metal fab shops and warehouses for almost half of my career. I have a special place in my heart for those people who know how to DO. Do things, weld things, bend things, fix things. In this day and age when young people expect to make a living doing not all that much, its great to provide the means and ways for some to go to school and learn how to get their hands dirty. The CAN DO people of the world. The fixers. The people trying to rise above the rat race cycle of unskilled assembly line and white collar data entry sweat shops.

Over the course of that 3 and half days, we raised nearly $90,000 for that scholarship program. Now that was a week well spent, even in Dizney hell.

I'll be going back for sure next year. Maybe we can break 100 grand.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Five Years Old

Have I ever talked about my running group, the Lapham Peak Trail Runners (LPTR)?

It’s such an amazing group of people. I have found that people who are ultra runners all seem to have this positive can do attitude. Maybe its that positive people are attracted to the sport, or maybe you just become more positive by running insanely long distances.

Every time I go to Wednesday night run, I am reminded of so many things that I love about them. To an LPTR member, life is an adventure. Exercise time is play time. It’s a pure joy; of being alive, of sharing that aliveness with others.

Hanging out with them, I have found myself thinking about doing seemingly impossible things I wouldn’t have considered before. I tend to be more ‘forward’ thinking, and not looking so much at my failures except for purposes of adjustment, or sometimes humor.

There are times in your life you see major changes in your path, your longer life path. Joining the LPTR group was one of those for me, and a very positive one.

I’ll never forget it, even when I can’t run anymore.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Foolish Questions

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

"Letters to a Young Poet”, Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Heavy Metal

So health wise, I'm doing pretty good. Running is going pretty well. I got a 21 and 7 miler in this weekend. Ran into Brother Grub (ran three miles with him), Marcel, JT, and Jimbo; and Robyn, Nat and I did 3 miles together on the trail before I headed out for 15 more.

I have been getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and heavy metals. Well, not really heavy unless you consider that pills are the size of a Volkswagen. Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium pills. Electrolytes.

I am on an ultra-load regime of all three, and for about two weeks so far. After about a month, I should know what the effect is. I think its working. The blips are still there, but not so noticeable, less frequent. I am still rolling with it.

The plan for the year is getting fleshed out, and I'm sticking with it. No need to rush into another over-loaded racing year.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Two Feet

This is a disjointed collection, an ephemeral, wispy list of thoughts about relationships. But its real to me, and it makes sense. Words are so small, thoughts and emotions are so big sometimes. If we let the words try and define the emotions, they always limit, always truncate. Cut off the feet. Distilled. Crippled. We try anyway. That's the trouble with poets.

A relationship can't stand on its own. It has no feet. It has no tongue and it cannot talk. You must feed it, bring something to it every day, but not at the sacrifice of you. You, must be stronger than it, so you can feed and water it properly. Trim it, prune it, and yes even kill it if necessary. If you let it, it will defeat and distill you into a small caricature of yourself. It turns into a monster with a life of its own yelling FEED ME. It will suck you dry. Make you lie, make you sell your soul, or worse become a lackey subservient "for the sake of the relationship".

It lives and breathes from people; yet its fragile, breakable, like a whisper in the dark. It only gets its strength from us. We often think these things are strong, but they are not. We are strong. We can't sacrifice our strength for the sake of something that doesn't exist in the empirical sense. Its personal, and it must always always be a choice to keep feeding it.

Phew. Words and thoughts. I'm only as strong as my thoughts, because my thoughts as are all that I really own. That, and my two feet. These two things, are my only carriage. They've carried me a long way.

Maybe that's the secret I want share. Its not easy, but I don't have to walk it talk it like I am expected to; I have to walk it talk it like I was made to do. If the rest of the world don't like it, well, it can go to hell.

I'll send em a postcard.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Leaving It Out There

So in light of my continued battle with electrolytes and electrical impulses in the ticker, this is a year that I am going to have to stay busy with stuff other than running ultras for competition and speed.

Let’s face it, I wasn’t fast to begin with, and struggled just to stay above the half way mark in many races. OK, so I won some AG awards. Whee. However, if you are a competitor even with yourself, you still want to go out and give it your all and know you tried. Spend yourself. Exhausted, done your best. Double D hates losing, I hate quitting on myself, no matter what my overall spot in a race. Leave nothing on the trail. Nothing.

But this year, I am leaving a LOT on the trail, in a variety of ways.

2012, is a re-direction of energies. Two ‘races’ on the schedule which I plan on doing, but no pressure to perform at such and such a time. Clinton Lake and Chippewa should be fun just because so many of the running gang will be there. Likely, gonna run the whole races with someone from the group just because.

As of April 28th, essentially life is free to do what ever. Nice. No pressure, no races. Throw a 50K in here or there, but no pressure, sign up last minute sort of thing.

So what to do with time? Leave it all on the Trail.

Here’s the plan. Race Volunteer, Trail Volunteer, Pace. Work at races, and at trail building events. Do at least one per month for the year. Four pacing jobs lined up. And really, the two best events of last year were this: pacing Angela at Kettle, and the Dances with Dirt 50 Mile finish. In that order, too. I truly love pacing, because I get to run 50 miles supported, and for mostly free, and no pressure to finish. Plus the added bonus of running at night with people I love. My favorite shirt is my green Kettle 100, even though I didn't run the race.

The Calendar looks like this:

March 31st: Clinton Lake

April 15th Pace and crew Adam M in Pekin 100

April 22nd: Trail Clean up at Rockport (my local haunt)

April 28th: Chippewa 50K

May 12th: Ice Age Volunteer Captain

June 2nd: Kettle 100 volunteer, pace Tina H in Kettle 100

June TBD: Kettle Moraine Trail work day

July 7th; Dances With Dirt Volunteer

July 19 – 26th: Superior Hiking trip

August 18th: Pace and Crew Adam M Leadville 100

September TBD: Superior Trail Work days

September 15th: Sweep the North Face Endurance Challenge

September 23rd – 29th: Dark Canyon Wilderness, La Sal National Forest Utah Trail Project

October 7th: Volunteer at Glacial 50 mile

November 3rd Pace and crew Jose V at Pinhoti 100

There are lots and lots of other opportunities as well, to help with trail building. Lapham comes to mind. So does the Kettle. Those trails have given me a lot, and I am going to put some back.

2012. Leave it all on the Trail.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint- Exupery


Life is a comedy for those who think... and a tragedy for those who feel.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Blue Digs

So I am finally back in good old Wisconsin. Ah yes.

(Yesterday's post was from the hotel lobby pc, and I apologize for the crazy formatting: I fixed it).

So, when I said I was living under a tarp, I wasn't kidding. Last minute, I went old school. I ditched the 300 dollar tent and went to Home Depot and bought a four dollar tarp. See pic below.

It worked fine, although I didn't have to face any rain in the Arizona desert, so I don't want to get too cocky about it. I used a cactus 'bone' to hold it up, as I didn't have a trekking pole.

It did give me 'shelter' from the sun, and gave me a place to keep my gear. Plus, it had the advantage of being able to see it from 500 yards away. The color was a direct contrast to the surrounding desert browns and greens.

It was a bit heavy, but there are silo-nylon versions that I will be investing in. Not much in the way of cost, something like 60 bucks gets the weight down to 22 ounces.

It was a good experience. I used the tarp to sleep in all but two nights, when I slept outside in the open.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Keys

For the last 6 days, I have been bloodied, scratched, poked, scraped, and generally harrassed by everything the Arizona desert could throw at me.

Temperatures from 25 to 88 (And that was every day).

Wore the same pair of pants.

Froze my ass off first night and ran back to the car for a thicker sleeping bag. Yeah. It was only 8 miles.

Lived under a tarp.

Slept in a giant plastic baggie.

Ran and hiked 50 miles of desert trails.

Got drunk once. Bourbon. Really drunk falling down missed the fire by that much hit on the head by a giant cartoon hammer and had to be dragged to bed and poured into a sleeping bag drunk.

And on one clear night I slept in the open on a ridge bone of a broken mountain, with the stars on a flickering key chain entwined in my fingers.

Oh the stories.

Happy 22nd Birthday Petra. I love you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Measure

Its often said, "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line". There's an implication there that its always the preferred path.

What if the measurement of distance isn't feet or miles, but of the path of least resistance? Or the fastest time? Those paths, when you can't go over the mountain, but have to go around?

Or what about one that's more interesting? Then the best measure of the path is the crooked serpentine line of a river, the switch back path of a mountain trail; the intangible measure of the pure experience.

Straight lines are good for getting from A to B, but not if the journey is also part of the picture.

I am coming to realize that when things go the way I expect, there's a momentary satisfaction that the world is conforming to my desires, but the feeling is fleeting and I am left teetering on the 'what's next?' ledge of expectation.

And really, did you ever notice that life rarely happens in straight lines? At least those parts of life that make the best stories. Detours are involved. Unexpected turns.

My best analogy here is this: Straight rivers die. Not much life can be made or is found in a mill run. Life congregates in the turns, shallows, behind the unexpected logs and rocks. It thrives in the vegetation, which can't survive in a river that is only meant to carry water from here to there. A to B straight line.

I am headed to Arizona in about 7 hours. I am of course suit case over packed for every situation, but that will change when I have to pack down to a 40 liter backpack (Think large duffle bag) with everything I need for 6 days. I am going to have make some straight line choices that will probably lead me to crooked line life experiences.

But at least I'll have some stories to tell.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter Slumber

, slumbering in the open air, Wears on his smiling face, a dream of Spring!*

Appropriately, I slept outside on Groundhog day, on my balcony. I was testing whether my 50 degree sleeping bag, in combination with a heavy liner would be warm enough. The liner supposedly adds "up to 25 degrees". So, in theory, I should be good to 25 (50 - 25 =25). I even added an outer shell layer in the form of a bivy sack, which should have added even more. It was a fairly aggressive set up for this time of year.

It got down to about 29 degrees. CLOSE.

And, I did go to sleep. For about 2 hours. I woke up and I knew it was going to be a long night with that set up. I gave it up. I think it has a good chance on working in Arizona, when the night time shouldn't get to below 35 or 40 degrees.

I might need that furry guy's coat to sleep outside in Wisconsin weather.

*(from the movie, Groundhog day)