Saturday, January 29, 2011

Seattle Arboretum

Like many, I was reminded of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident on Friday, the 25th anniversary of the event. In 1986, Madonna, Prince and Springsteen LP records were selling big in the AV Department of the Kingsgate Safeway, where I worked. They also had a cassette rack, and I got my dual tape cassette answering machine there. I worked the morning shift, and watched the disaster on the television, live.

Today I happened to read Ronald Reagan’s speech after the fact, which was given in lieu of the scheduled State of the Union address. It is a remarkable piece of American oratory. Reagan had a way about him--he just had an amazing presence. I liked this: “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

I came across Reagan’s speech in a book I purchased at the UW Bookstore, after running my old standard Seattle Arboretum loop in the University of Washington area. This is a loop I used to run nearly every day, rain and shine, when I lived in Seattle, over 12 years ago.

Basically, I start at Roosevelt and 42nd, take a left at Eastlake Romio’s Pizza, run through the neighborhoods to the Arboretum, and then do a big circle in there. After I come out, I find my way over to the Montlake Cut—there’s a trail right on the cut-and then over to the UW and back via the Burke Gillman or through the UW.

I haven’t ran this loop in more than ten years. Running it today was like seeing an old friend. I got a big smile out of rediscovering the old moss-covered footbridge into the Arboretum, a familiar set of stone stairs to a gazebo, and a few of my "secret” cut-through trails. I used to run this loop so hard, checking my watch as I tried to hit certain marks—a half hour to Point A, 45 minutes to Point B, etc. This loop got me ready for my first marathon.

Now I have different loops. Blanchard. Sehome Hill. Nookachamps. But I still do the same things. I have new secret trails, my own sets of stairs and hills, and other various mandatory route-requirements, like  summiting the lookout tower on Sehome or being sure to say hi to the cows in the Nookachamps. All personal routines, they ground me. And I still listen to Madonna, Prince and Springsteen, sometimes. But now I have the new Katy Perry.

Here’s Reagan’s speech on the Challenger:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the member of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved an impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today we can say of the challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mount Eerie

Mount Baker from Mount Eerie in Anacortes

Sometimes steep trail

Sign describing top of the hill

Whidbey Island in distance, Lake Campbell in foreground

There must be some kind of way out of here...

Mount Constitution to the right

It took forever for me to get out today, but the weather cleared up, and I finally pushed myself out to Anacortes. My ankle still hurts, and the trails were very wet, so the best I could do was keep moving, but I got up to Mount Eerie, and explored a few trails.

When I was younger, people used to tell me that witchcraft is practiced on Mount Eerie at night. I have no idea if this is true, but the rumor always stuck with me. For what it's worth, I passed people doing rituals on Mt. Si a few times in the 1980s. Strange things go on in the mountains sometimes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Me and My Ankle

Me and My Uncle” is an old Grateful Dead song, about a trip gone wrong on the Goodnight Loving Trail. The song was written by the infamous John Philips, a full blooded loser, who made it big with the Mamas and Papas ("California Dreamin'"). Judy Collins first sang it, and there's a Joni Mitchell cover. It's a Dead song though--sort of blues-country, one of their more popular older tunes.

The song is about this guy and his uncle, “who went riding down, South Colorado, West Texas bound”. They stop over in Santa Fe, and a card game develops. Cowboys commence to draw, and the kid shoots them dead. They grab the gold, and then the kid ends up shooting his uncle in Mexico, for the gold, claiming his uncle taught him good. It's a fun song.

So, my new song is "Me and My Ankle." I rolled my right ankle something terrible on Monday, when all I was trying to do was sneak in a trail run at lunch during a break from the January rains. My version:

Me and My Ankle

Me and my ankle went runnin’ down
South Bellingham, Arroyo bound
We stopped over, the Hemlock Trail
That being the point just about half way
And you know it was the wettest part of the day

I do this kind of thing all the time--roll my ankle, make stupid songs. I’m a bit irritated with myself. I should’ve anticipated the slipsy footing, and paid attention to the fact that I was running in new, stiff shoes. I know better. I've done it worse, but I done it bad. There were words, and a slow shuffle back to the office.

Oh well, it comes with the territory.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Runs

In a weekend filled with running events, mine was uneventful, which was by choice. Mad props out to all who ran Nookachamps, Capitol Peak, HURT, and anything else I'm missing.

I spent Saturday in the Chuckanuts, lost in thought, running pretty poorly, but managing to put in over four hours on my feet. Mud. Wind on the ridge. It seems like some attention has been paid to the Lost Lake trails this past year, and there were good views of the lake from above. Started out with three friends, but didn't feel like hyperventilating, so advised that they go ahead.

Sunday was a get-out-of-bed 9 mile run on the Fowl Run loop. Many many big white birds aka snow geese aka trumpeter swans. More wind. Some sideways rain.

I decided that I need to run more. I'm done with winter.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lake Samish Half

There were a lot of events to choose from on Saturday, including the Tiger Mountain Fat Ass 50k, the Bridle Trails 50k, and the Foolish Gerbil 50k up in Vancouver. I'm sure all of these would be good, but then the Seahawks snuck into the playoffs with a losing a record, with the game on at 1:30, and I kind of wanted to catch that. And I sort of ran a 50k last weekend. Plus, my two week cold lingers--and it's pretty bad, probably because I don't let myself heal.

So, I opted instead for my old close-to-home favorite, the Lake Samish Runs. I chose to run the half-marathon, as sort of an internal compromise for not doing any of those other silly races. I really shouldn't play these mental games, but I do, sometimes.

The Lake Samish Runs are put on every year in January by the Greater Bellingham Running Club. Lots of old friends present, which is always a good way to start a Saturday, and the running year. We all get older, but we all keep running. One lap around the lake gets you 6.5 miles, two laps get you a half marathon. I'm not sure where the .1 comes in for the half--maybe it's actually 6.55 around. We had great weather, despite mixed forecasts, and it seemed to me that the turnout was more than I could ever remember. Chip timing--moving on up in the world! As always, thank you volunteers.

Snotdragons captured my nose, and so I was not a good runner. I knew this going in. I just kind of went with it, putting in my due diligence miles and enjoying the beautiful lake and country roads. I got tired pretty quick--I think that's the cold mostly. I was ready to be on lap 2 after 3.5 miles into the run, and starting on to the second lap was a bit tough. These ankles do not favor roads. All that said, I was able to run like a tug boat to the end. Awesome. The End.

I saw Black Swan this week. Whoa--that is some movie! If interested, I'd say catch it in the theaters, or with home surround sound, because music is so essential to the movie. Hoping to catch True Grit soon too--I've heard good things about that one too, and that I should see it in the theater.

And congratulations Seahawks on the greatest upset in playoff history! That was fun to watch.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vancouver New Year's Day FA 50k

I started the year off by heading up to Vancouver with friend Rich to "run" the Vancouver New Year’s Day Fat Ass 50k. I’ve wanted to check this out for many years, and Rich made it happen by saying he was game. Sometimes I need someone to help me get to the start line. The event is put on by Vancouver’s Club Fat Ass. Hopefully I’ll get up north a few times this year, to enjoy some of their other events.

The 50k out-and-back starts in Stanley Park, winds through the park a bit, hits the seawall, and then skirts the Burrard Inlet shoreline for many kilometers, eventually veering off into Pacific Spirit Park, before you turn around. The route is a mix of wide trail, sidewalk, and road. Technically no aid, but there were a few folks out there providing support. Thank you, and thanks to Ean and Sybelle for hosting.

This is probably one of the great urban runs in the world, because of the amazing saltwater waterfront, the constant views of mountains that shoot up straight from the sea to snow covered peaks, and the old growth cedars filling the two city parks. And we got really lucky---the day was reportedly the best in the 18 years of the event. Very chilly though--I ran in sweats and layers.

I got lost, a bunch. My own fault, and I didn't care too much. I ran about five minutes and saw this beautiful frozen lake in Stanley Park, and decided to take a picture. Then, I saw a bird nest, and had to look at that. That put me at the back of the pack. Then I had to pee--it was cold out--and so I lost the back of the pack. I remember the moment, asking myself, do I stick with them?, or do I chance losing them if I pee?

This was still in Stanley Park. I am not sure what I did. I don’t think I was supposed to climb and descend as many times as I did. After a while, I just headed down to the seawall, the obvious ultimate goal.

Two hours in, I found Rich, who had been eating some snacks for a half hour, wondering where I was. He was hanging with John M., and ready to turn around, but once I turned up, he was game for more. Rich did more than he expected on the day, and I actually didn't know if I'd do the whole 50k when we started.

We headed up into Pacific Spirit Park---immediately missed our first turn--and sometime later reconnected with the proper route. Very cool park--it's big, with lots of old growth and a variety of trail types.

We walked a lot on the way back, the ultrarunner dork walk, sort of leaning foward.  The end to this event was very weird, as we were wandering through crowds. Occasionally random people would cheer us on. Nice day out, and so the seawall and beach trails were filled with Vancouver peoples, in their holiday attire. Some people thought we were The Amazing Race or a scavenger race—we heard this--with our vests, sweats, and hurried walks. We finished to the cheers of no one, in perfect fatass style.

There was a great party in North Vancouver afterwards, which we found after getting a bit lost (again), and then we grabbed some Chinese food before heading back to the border. No waits on either side. Also of note---a spectacular sunset, many shades of red, as sometimes happens with cold northern skies.

More pics here.

"Tacoma Rich"

Frozen lake in Stanley Park-my first stop

Inushuk statue

Seawall in Stanley Park

Vancouver skyline

Seawall below Burrard Bridge, Stanley Park in distance

Late sunset-the pic doesn't do it justice