Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dear School,

I no longer find you charming and think we should reconsider our relationship. Just give me the damn piece of paper that says I have learned some shit and we can go our separate ways.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Careers In Air Guitar

I forgot the best part of the Gorge concert: rockin' ASL signers!

Throughout the entire show there were two women, taking turns, at the end of the stage who not only signed the words to the songs for all the deaf concertgoers (and can there really be that many?) but they also played air guitar, air drums and air keyboards during all the instrumental breaks. And not just a little tame air guitar...they were vigorous air guitar playing professionals. Their job seemed to consist more of rocking out then for helping the hearing impaired get the insightful lyrics to "China Grove. Well, one ASL girl was rocking out more than the other. The other one kind of looked like she was either Joe Cocker or she was having an epileptic fit; which is kind of the same thing I guess. I am sure there were some super-baked people in the audience who just thought they were either part of the band playing bizarre instruments or the world's least sexy go-go dancers.

The funniest thing though was that between the Allman Brothers and their almost wordless set filled with 15 minute rambling jams and The Dead with their many, many long instrumental breaks these women spent almost eight hours just playing imaginary instruments. No actually sign language involved. That might be either the coolest job in the world or it would make you feel like a world class tool.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Truckin' To the Gorge

I survived! Saturday was the Doobie Brothers/Allman Brothers/The Dead show at The Gorge that, being a fabulous girlfriend, I agreed to go to with Kevin. Kevin is a huge Dead fan so I knew this would be a big deal for him. Once I resigned myself to my fate I actually had a pretty dang good time.

The Doobie Brothers were kind of fun. I didn't realize just how many of their songs that I knew. The Allman Brothers were dull. Every song bled into another and they seemed to be going through the motions. Beer was $9 a can.

The Dead are truly talented musicians. The only problem I have with them is exactly what makes them special to their fans: extended jams. Long, long jams. Jams that last 15 minutes or more. I get bored and lose focus and the melody and rhythm of the song is completely lost. The worst part was something known as "Drums and Space" by the Deadheads. Kevin thought I would do alright for the rest of the show but he figured he would lose me here. He was correct. "Drums and Space" is apparently the highlight of every Dead show for the Deadheads. At every concert, there is a part where everyone leaves the stage except the two drummers who improvise some, actually pretty amazing, drumming. Then other members of the group come back one by one and proceed to noodle around and make random sounds that may or may not be music while the sound effects guy plays weird noises. Not horrible for a few minutes I guess but it goes on and on and on and on. I wanted to claw my eyes out. Other than that, I enjoyed their set. I didn't know one song they played except a cover of "Into the Mystic" but still had fun. The Dead apparently aren't the kind of band that plays greatest hits.

People watching was a blast. To quote Cary Grant: "Cliches are only cliches because they are true."

This show also exemplified reason number 24 to legalize marijuana. If it were legal then there could be a designated smoking area where all the pot smokers could go to light up and we wouldn't have to breathe it in and smell that rank smell for 8 1/2 hours. Of course, at this concert I don't know where they would put a third of the audience. I'll tell you though...the McDonald's food that we HAD TO HAVE at 2:00 a.m. on our way to the hotel was the best tasting McDonald's food ever.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rodents, Ritzenhein and ?

A few random things from Eugene weekend that I didn't get to put in my already too long post.

  • See that thing up there? We thought it was a beaver when we saw it sitting on the sidewalk on our way to dinner. Then it turned around and we saw its ginormous rat tail. This is a nutria. I have heard about them but have never seen one before. They are large aquatic rat-like critters that can grow to be about 20 lbs. I am pretty sure they had to be the inspiration for the R.O.U.S. in The Princess Bride. Kevin got this shot of our cute little friend the next day.

  • We got to hear two-time Olympian and Eugene local, Dathan Ritzenhein speak at the race expo. He is part of the bright young future of American distance running and it was pretty cool to get to see him. He just got back from the London marathon where he clocked a time of 2:09:59 and was deeply disappointed. I would be dancing in the street if that were my half-marathon time. He also mentioned he logs about 125-130 miles per week. At that point, that is about what I had logged for the year. *sigh*

  • Standing at the finish chute waiting for my brother to finish we were treated to numerous bloody nipple sightings by the marathoners. The most impressive one was a guy in a bright white shirt with the two most perfect, bright red, nickel sized circles on his chest with the large accompanying blood streaks down the front of the shirt. Much more impressive than any of the others. Then he passed us. On his back was another perfect bright red nickel sized circle with the same blood streak. Uh-huh...on his BACK. Third nipple? Large mole? Gunshot wound?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It Was 1989. That's My Excuse.

In honor of prom season, Pieces of Me threw out a challenge to everyone to post their prom pictures. To protect the innocent I cropped out the others in the photo. It is too bad because the whole picture is so dang cute.

A little background is in order. I graduated high school a semester early and didn't actually feel the need to go to my prom. I was done and out of there. However, my friend Gayle probably watched Pretty in Pink too many times and decided I needed to go to my prom or my life would be missing something. So, I went with Gayle as my date. I clearly didn't take this very seriously as is evidenced by my lack of fancy dress or hair. This was a cute (for 1989) stretchy cotton two piece tank dress with flouncy ruffled skirt that I think I picked up for about $10 on a clearance rack. For our prom dinner, Gayle and I went through the drive-thru of a McDonalds. Prom was at the Tacoma Dome and I don't really remember much about it. I remember someone throwing up in the bathroom and some dancing but not much else. Profoundly unmemorable but I am glad Gayle talked me into going because now I don't feel like I missed out on an "important" rite of passage. Our prom theme song was "Hold Onto the Night" by Richard Marx. Hated it then; still hate it. I wanted "Welcome to the Jungle".

The thing that is great about the rest of this photo is that it is the least prom-y picture I have ever seen. It is a group shot of six of us: me, Gayle (groovy floral dress she made), my friends Liane (dressy casual in rocking fuchsia tights and flats) and Dan (with big white cravat and flip-flops), our wonderful Spanish teacher who was chaperoning and we invited into the picture with us, and a friend who dressed as the Dread Pirate Roberts complete with a black head scarf and a real sword. I am pretty sure showing up to prom with a sword would not only get you kicked out of prom but probably expelled these days. He bore a striking resemblance to Cary Elwes so it kind of worked. The other thing I am proud of is that of all the people I went to high school with I still see Liane, Dan and Gayle and can count them as friends.

Post your prom pictures people!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eugene Half-Marathon Race Report

Forgive me Blogger, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last posting and there is a race report to give. Let's get to it. It's long but it has been two whole weeks. I have words backed up in me.

Race Day! Alarm goes off at 5:00. I am crabby. I had a horrible night's sleep. I saw every hour on the damn clock. I am too tired to even drink a Diet Coke and that is really saying something for me. We leave the hotel, drive downtown, get on the shuttle and get to the start line at 6:15. Lots of time to mill around and wake up a little while standing around in a light rain. I am having a hard time shaking the grumpy off. Kevin, being the great boyfriend that he is, got up with us at that ungodly hour to hang out, be our personal bag check guy, take race photos and cheer us on. It meant a lot to me that he went through all of that for me.

Me and the boys pre-race

This year the marathon had pace teams from Clif Bar there. I notice the balloons of the 5:00 hour pace team. Half of that, of course, would be a 2:30 half-marathon and I think to myself: "That's my time goal. I can't run with them but I can keep them in sight I will be fine. Don't lose sight of those balloons. That's my 12:00 minute pace right there." Last year I ran a 12:01 pace and the Galloway training run went so well there was a tiny thought in the back of my mind that I might actually be able to PR even with the lousy training. Keep in mind that it was early and I was tired. Thinking is not my strong suit under these conditions. Last year I almost put my mp3 player in the urinal of a port-a-potty because I thought they were providing us with cubby holes to put our belongings while we did our business. So I went out with the plan of keeping those balloons in sight and maybe still PR.

The uber-crabbiness won't quite leave until I get in the starting corral. The gun has gone off and I see the bobbing heads of people waaaaay ahead of me starting down the road. At that moment a big ol' grin appears on my face and I think "THIS is why I do this." Standing at the start line before a race is a thrill I haven't gotten over yet. I start the race happy.

Cold and wet waiting for the start

I have the Garmin set to the 3:1 run/walk ratio and I start that way right off the bat. I hate walking that early in a race but I know that if I want to finish remotely strong that this is what I will have to do. Run/walk, run/walk, run/walk. I have become a slave to the beeps coming from my wrist. Garmin says RUN; I run. Garmin says WALK; I walk. Garmin says JUMP; I say "Might as well jump" because I am old like that. The balloons are in sight but with each walk break they get a little further away. I reel them in a little on the runs but can't catch them. It doesn't feel like I am that slow. I think to myself that I can't be running more than a 12:00 minute pace right now but I must be because there go the balloons. By the four mile mark I reaffirm my earlier decision that I am not even going to look at the distance or pace on the Garmin and merely obey the beeps and enjoy the course.

The temps are perfect for running, about 48 degrees, a little mist on the course but no real rain. The miles start accumulating. The hip twinges every now and again but no real problems. At mile eight there is a scream-tunnel section packed with people screaming your name (it's on the bibs) and high-fiving you and generally making you feel like a rock star. Those few seconds really gave me a needed energy boost.

Mile 9

Run/walk, run/walk, run/walk...see Kevin at mile nine. He tells me I am doing great which I don't believe because my balloon people are long gone and can't he tell how slow I am going? He still makes me feel good and actually manages to take race pictures of me where I don't look like I am going to vomit. Good man.

Head across the beautiful Willamette River into Alton Baker park and enjoy some quiet peaceful miles. Quiet peaceful miles that I am starting to feel. The calves are tightening. The hip has become fairly painful about mile 9.5. I find myself wincing and changing my stride a little bit. My stomach is rumbling and I keep thinking about the pancake feed at the finish (thanks Krusteaz!) and how I would really like those pancakes now. Can't stop now. Across the Autzen footbridge and back to the U of O campus and the finish line. The Galloway method says that if you are feeling good you can throw off the run/walk the last mile or two and just run. I did not feel good. I ran/walked until about 1/3 of the mile before the finish line. Turned the corner near Hayward field and saw the FINISH sign in the distance. Once you become a runner the phrase "the finish line is in sight" takes on a whole, new, warm fuzzy feeling. There is so much energy from the crowd and other runners in the finish shoot, I kick with what I have (not much) and cross. Garmin says 2:38 with a 12:00 pace. Garmin also says 13.2 miles so I know the official pace will be more than that. The official pace is 12:06 per mile and a 2:38 chip time.

The finish chute

But how can that be, I ask myself? The balloons!? The 5:00 pace balloons left me in the dust. Something must be wrong. And then it occurred to me. A 5:00 hour pace is not 12:00 minute miles. In fact, it is slightly sub 11:30. I was doing math in my head while exhausted and possibly cost myself a PR. If I hadn't given up looking at the Garmin I would have known what my average pace was and maybe I could have sped up here or there on the course. Maybe I could have reeled in another 78 seconds to beat my last year's time. Truthfully, I didn't have much left in the tank at the finish so I don't know if I could have done it. But dammit, I think I could have.

When you factor in my whopping 7.5 mile a week average, I am pretty pleased with my time. I went out and did it and enjoyed the race. I got my medal, my pancakes and some good memories.

Todd and I reliving the race

More importantly, Todd and Matt had good races too. Todd had a PR (of course he never ran this distance; skipping ahead to the marathon a few years back) with a 1:51. He is the most naturally gifted runner I know. He definitely trains but if he got really serious about his training he would be so dang fast.

"Where is Matt? Shouldn't he be here by now?"

Cheering on the gimp

The big inspiration was my big bro. He had gone into this race with a goal of 3:45 which would have smashed his last year PR of 3:53. He was trained and ready to go. The PR was a slam-dunk; the time goal doable but a stretch goal. Kevin, Todd and I waited for him at the finish. 3:45 rolls around; no Matt. 3:53; no Matt. Uh-oh, something has gone wrong. Clock keeps ticking and then we spot him lurching and limping but still running with a grimace on his face to the finish. Just under 4:00 hours. Turns out his hamstring went wonky on him around mile eight and then got really bad around mile 13. But he persevered and finished in a time that most people would be giddy with. I don't know if a lot of people would soldier on for 18.2 more miles with a bad hamstring. I know he was disappointed with his performance. He trained ridiculously hard for four months for that morning. However, I hope time will show him that, in some ways, this was a greater victory than his other two marathons and he should be very proud of his time.

Once again, these guys put on a great race. They are so organized. Plenty of port-a-potties, plenty of water and Gatorade on the course, shuttles worked well, tasty finish line goodies, wonderful volunteer support. A well-run race in a beautiful little town. I am done with this distance for the time-being. It is too much for me to train properly for with everything else going on in my life right now. I am going to focus on building a stronger base and getting some speed in the shorter distances. I plan on toeing the line again for the half-marathon; just not sure when.