I do not know what is happening.


16
Mar 18

No wendigos allowed

Here is today’s podcast. And if you’re hungry before you listen, we’ll either solve that problem or give you some ideas. It seems there’s a new kind of meat that may be making its way into your grocery shopping list. I doubt, very seriously, that it will happen, but it is fun to contemplate, as you will soon see.

I went for a run after work, sneaking in a quick four miles around the neighborhood before our dinner with friends. And I told them about this episode. Everyone agrees it is an unusual one, even the guy sitting at the table next to us.

We were at an upscale fancy kind of place, our friend who suggested it promised the best burgers in town. And that’s always one of those things you should follow up on. Because it would be a shame to not know where the best burger in town is, first of all. Plus, the previously nominated best burger in town was merely pretty decent. There was nothing wrong with it, but we went the one time and haven’t been back in 15 months, for whatever reason.

But this place, maybe we’d go back. The burgers were certainly good, if a bit overpriced. But you’re paying, you see, for the pleasure of sitting quite close to the next table over. And those people are paying for that same privilege. So it only seemed right that I should talk about recording a podcast where we discussed what is called clean human meat.

The guy at the next table was a little put off by this. Probably because I was talking about it. Definitely because I was talking about it with a little volume. Hey, these podcasts don’t publicize themselves, you know.

Anyway, we probably stayed at that places for about three hours, on the strength of burgers and fish. And everyone had a lovely meal and time. Our dinner dates work in the library and the art museum, so they have plenty of interesting things to tell us about. And we decided in the course of all of that that there are movies we all haven’t seen, but should.

How do you know which movies those are? It seems like we’d all need the input of someone else on this. But who knows all of the movies you’ve seen? No one, really. So it is down to self reporting. And so we decided on a methodology — because this is what you do on a Friday night in a college town. After much debate and thought, we figured we would self-nominate five films each from the Oscar nominated Best Screenplay and Best Film categories dating back to 1980. So you have to go over those and find five movies per. Mine were:

Her
Grand Budapest Hotel
Lady Bird
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
The Savages

Elizabeth
In The Bedroom
The Theory of Everything
Get Out
The Post

Next, someone is going to gather all of those in a spreadsheet and we’re going to start watching the common overlaps. There will be popcorn and merriment and, I’m sure, endless critiques.

There will be no human meat.

Happy weekend!

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11
Aug 17

I could have used some water out by the river

I did that thing today where you look out of the window of your ninth-floor hotel room and see a nice little park below and think That’s where I’ll jog today. So it was a good thing when I packed my running shoes the night before last, really.

So I put on said shoes and the appropriate clothing and went out to the park. I figured I would do a few laps until I got in my three miles. It’d be a bit repetitious, but I’m in a park in a city I’ve only just arrived in and how badly can you get lost or otherwise out of sorts?

First I ran to the right. I quickly found I ran out of sidewalk space. OK, that’s one boundary. So I turned around, retraced a few steps and set off across the length of the park. The sidewalk in this park didn’t cover one route. There were turns and forks and the like. I managed to take all of the correct turns and, soon, I was down by the river, whereby I remembered my geography. I’m in Omaha, which is in eastern Nebraska. Which means this must be the Missouri River and that, over there, is Iowa.

Down on the river’s edge I met another jogger who told me how to get to the pedestrian bridge and then I ran to Iowa. This is the view on the bridge, over the Missouri. Nebraska is on your right, Iowa on the left:

By now I figure that I have to run at least a little ways into Iowa to make this count, so I did a mile. Here’s some evidence of that:

And at this point I figure, things feel pretty good, I’ll just keep running in the midday sun and make this a 10K. That’s 6.2 miles to you and me. I did that right about here, where the thought occurred to me that, this part of Iowa and Nebraska, looks like a lot of places I’ve seen:

So I’m on this really nice, but ultimately very quite trail, when I see, in the distance and around the bend, the top of a bridge that might be worth checking out. So I figured me and my sweaty shadow would just keep jogging:

I am in Council Bluffs, Iowa at this point. And the rules are, there are no rules:

Finally I round the bend and see the bridge. This is the Illinois Central Missouri railroad bridge. The original Omaha bridge was built in 1893, but what we see today dates to 1908:

And this is a double swing bridge. Each of the rotating spans are 521 feet long. I’m standing on the railroad tracks in Iowa looking back into Nebraska here. The Iowa side of the bridge remains open these days for river navigation. That’s why it is sideways:

The river through here was dredged in the 1940s, and a fire in the 1970s meant the eastern side, the Iowa side, couldn’t operate under its own power. They opened and closed the bridge with a bulldozer and cable after that. Here are some of the gears that would move the Iowa portion:

The bridge was shut down in 1980, but the tracks could be pressed back into service if necessary. Here is a panorama of the Iowa side of the bridge. Click to open the full-sized version in another window.

And this, standing in Iowa and looking west, is the Nebraska side of the bridge and shoreline:

And then, of course, I had to run back to Nebraska. Here’s my view from near the center of that pedestrian bridge I crossed over, this time looking upstream. Nebraska is on your left and Iowa is on your right:

And, finally, the last piece of evidence of my two-state run, the actual map:

I’ve run across a state line before, but that was in a triathlon and by design, not on a 10K impulse. I do not know what is happening.


6
Mar 17

We ran a marathon yesterday

This isn’t something you just do on a whim. There are many things in life that you do on a whim, but a marathon, to me at least, is not one. No, this required a training plan, careful attention to laying it out and then the studious care to follow at least some of it, until you get tired of that and just kind of find yourself waiting for the thing to be here and then wonder how you’ll hold up, right up until the first 14 or so miles.

And that run-on sentence was pretty indicative of my training. We started in November, just as I was getting over a two-week head cold and the weather turned. We started precisely then, in fact. And I followed along with the big parts of the workouts as my schedule and ambition allowed. I made it up to the 18-mile run, anyway, and then had no energy the next week for the 20-miler and then got sick and then it was time to taper in advance of the big run, which was yesterday.

And so there it was, at 6:30 a.m. in California, on a morning that saw the forecasts call for more rain and cold the closer we got, getting off of a school bus just as the rain stopped.

The race director welcomed us, another individual offered an invocation of sorts and a local man worked his way through the national anthem. All of this time we intrepid runners stood shivering, trying to stay loose, or get loose. And I refused to think about the 26.2 miles in front of me by, instead, being happy I didn’t have to swim first. At least, I smiled to myself, I wasn’t going to drown out here.

We found ourselves here because The Yankee has a group of fitness friends and they occasionally take a ladies trip to some run or triathlon of some sort. And this time the boys got invited. So there were four women, all lovely people, and two guys. And only the one of us, me, running. I’m not saying I got tricked into this. Not at all. I am saying that when I volunteered to run a marathon with my wife — in solidarity, as you do — in October or November this seemed like a more chivalrous idea. And I assumed there’d be some guys from this group running, too. But that’s OK, some 3,000 other people were taking part, we’ve already divvied up the glory enough.

So we set off under the starting line inflatable at 7 a.m. It was in the low 30s. We were due to run a significant part of the Napa Valley, which is beautiful country and is surrounded on both sides by big hills and small mountains. And in some of those you could see the snow falling. The snow stayed up in the hills, at least. The snow did. But we’ll get to that.

Because we were running on a road and because part of the course was closed to motorists, but not all of it was, people couldn’t run with headphones. That’s not my habit, but many people use them, and the absence of their music or podcasts or ambient tree frog noise recordings could make for a long, boring morning. So people run with friends or, as I learned in the Napa Valley Marathon, they make friends along the way. There’s something of a “We’re all in this together vibe” in my part of the race, which is to say, near the back.

A nice older man from down around Oakland ran with me from mile six or so until mile 14. We had a perfectly entertaining chat, and somehow I can now jog at a reasonable pace and keep up my end of a brief conversation. (The people that can do that mystify me, and that they can annoys me. But suddenly here I was, doing it, too.) He told me all about the marathons he’s run, one in Utah he hopes to do one day to qualify for Boston and he told me about his daughter’s road races. All the while he kept complaining about how this run was hurting him, so many hills and so early in the season and so on. Things he was certainly saying just for my benefit. I didn’t ask his name, or even think to look at his race number so I could look him up later. I just assumed it would come up. Then I took a little stop at the mile-14 aid station and never saw him again. And, in some part of my mind, in the quiet and lonely miles that followed, I reckoned I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this man I’d been running with was a ghost. Or, maybe, if I made it to the finish line I’d see some creaky old man in a wheelchair point a bony finger at me and wink, just a bit. And then I would realize that this man’s younger spirit was who I was running with. And that I was also in a 1980s television show.

You think up weird stuff when you’re out there sucking wind for too long by yourself, is what I’m saying.

Let’s talk about what fell from the sky. Sometime after I lost my not-at-all non-corporeal running buddy sleet descended from the clouds above. Now, I learned several years ago that walking around in sleet is an utterly demoralizing thing. Running in sleet, however, was kind of grimly humorous. See, one of the ladies in our group had been kind enough to pick up a few cheap sweatshirts for us to use early and discard without having to lose any expensive cold-weather running gear that we hadn’t packed for this trip anyway. It was a thoughtful gesture and my sweatshirt was so nice that I didn’t want to abandon it at an aid station. Besides, once I get warm I’m warm. So long as I keep moving and keep my heart rate up I’m fine. This even works in genuinely cold weather, as I learned in a training run earlier this year when my sweaty hair froze together on a seven-mile jog. But in this run I’d get warm, and then cold, and then warm again, and then cold again. And then the sleet came. We’ll come back to the meteorological happenings.

This race was offered as a good race for the beginning marathoner. You climbed, the literature said, only 99 feet over 26.2 miles and it had a net decent overall. That’s what the propaganda said. That’s what the lies said. Running, you learn pretty early on, is full of lies. The most basic, the worst one and the most frequently uttered lie is “Almost there!” But that’s a story for another day.

It was a fine run, and the scenery was lovely. I took a selfie, and then a guy happened along and offered to take one that wasn’t as good:

That’s an important spot because every step after that was going to be a new personal best. This was how I calculated the day: I knew I could work my way up to 18 miles. And at 18 I could use this glow of a new personal best for at least two miles. Well, after that, its just six more miles, a simple 10K. I can run a 10K with no trouble.

Can I do that after having already run three other 10Ks? That’s the question.

Well, the one thing the propaganda had right was that it is a lovely course, and not bad for beginners. You finally run out of the hills, for the most part, around mile seven. But the problem was the angle of the roads. You found yourself weaving all over both lanes just looking for some flat place to shuffle in the curved banking of the road. Dear California Department of Transportation and the Unified Union of Napa Valley Road Unionists, please give my poor, already-tired feet some place flat to land. That staggering from left to right (the first half of the course was on a closed course and these twisting roads lasted almost that long) was probably how I added the extra half-mile to my run. Because, no, 26.2 miles wasn’t enough for me.

The views though:

And that is after the road had flattened out, when the sun finally peeked out, I’d almost given out and the views were thinning out. So, if you must run a marathon, you could do worse than the Napa Valley Marathon.

I never caught back up with the ghostly friend I’d made. Mostly because the orange slices at the mile-14 aid station were just too good. You know how that goes, you’re approaching some stage of out-of-your-mind hunger and everything is amazing. I stood there scarfing down these slices of oranges a kid is cutting right in front of me and I’m saying things like “Is this orange on some special diet? I bet this orange is juicing! Is there EPO in this? You cut such a good orange! What do you mean this is just a navel orange? I, sir, have had navel oranges in my day and those things are dry, drab slabs of boring fruit flesh compared to what you have so thoughtfully offered me today. I commend you, and the parents who brought you here today, and my family shall sing songs to your produce wizardy generations hence!”

I can’t imagine how the guy I was running with managed to get away from me.

But, around mile 20, just about the time I took the scenic picture above, right as I was bored thinking about how every step was now a new personal best, I caught up with Cristina:

I passed her, she passed me, I passed her again and, for a moment I thought it was going to be like that to the end, which would have been no fun at all. But Cristina, you see, was really suffering. Her knee was hurting — I looked at her times after the race and she had been hustling — and she was really limping it back in.

I happened to be carrying some Ibuprofen for just such an occasion and offered some to her. She asked what dosage they were and I knew I had a friend. So I decided to run with her a bit, because you could see the pain on her face and I thought maybe I could distract her for a while. Soon after, we passed her husband and a few friends who were cheering her on. She waved at them and said, “He gave me Ibuprofen!” She was running on grit.

Which meant I was invested. So I spent two or three miles trying to say every inane and long-winded thing I could think of to keep her mind off of her leg. Cristina told me she was a nurse and that she thought she might have torn her meniscus midway through the day. She had just had a child and her husband works in the oil industry and she really wanted me to drop her and press on. But I refused. I gently goaded her on, not that she needed it much, because she was determined to not get on the support van, no matter how badly her knee hurt, and her knee hurt. She wanted me to run on without her, but I’d walk a few paces with her instead and then start jogging again, so she would, too. “You’re from Texas,” I said, “and I’m from the South, so you’ll appreciate this, but we’re going to the line together and you’re finishing first.”

She’d run and then she’d have to walk and she would ask me to go on, but I wasn’t interested. We passed a few people and she’d walk and then she’d look at her watch and she’d shuffle and run some more.

And then, at the 25-mile sign, she got a surge of energy and the pain went away and she ran, she just about flew, and that was awesome. And then it started hailing on us.

Hail. Really quite big hail. Of a size that, you’d see it falling around you and think, “That’s going to sting in a minute when it hits me.” And then you think, “You know, back home, when it hails this time of year you shouldn’t be outside.” And then you’d think, “That’s an awful lot of hail on the road. This is going to become a slippery hazard in a minute.” And by then you’re bracing for some big chunks of ice to hit you and hurt. And one hit the bill of my cap, but I didn’t feel any more pieces hit me in the last mile. And it hailed a great deal.

Cristina finished strong and gave me a hug and I said something about how she did a great job getting through it. I wish I remembered precisely what I said, because you want that to be meaningful, but I was also wondering whether I could continue to stand up. I’ll have to look her up later and ask about her knee.

Meanwhile, also running, the coolest person in the marathon:

We’d run together for the first few miles and then we got separated in a big clutch of people. I expected to outpace her by a small amount anyway, so I continued on. She said she didn’t lose sight of me until around the 10th mile, which must have meant a great bunch of splits for her. I was running below my training averages for the first 20 miles, at least. Anyway, I’d just gathered my wits about me in time to see her finish, which was easily the best part of my day.

I think she said at one point “I never want to do that again.” If that holds up that’s fine, she pretty well crushed the thing her first time out.

So, naturally, we’ll soon begin training for a full triathlon which is anchored by, yep, a full marathon.

That’s the course we ran. Oh, one of her training friends broke the four-hour mark, which is a sign of impressive accomplishment in the marathon. Another said she realized it wasn’t a day to press and proceeded to have a lovely run which, to me at least, is the point. And the other was looking for a Boston Marathon qualifying time. She hurt her foot a bit, so she missed out on that. (This time.) But get this, she hurt her foot, stayed in a medical tent for 20 minutes and still set a new personal record. That is, hands down, even more impressive to me, than hitting a qualifying time. So everyone, you see, was successful. And now everyone is sore and pleased with themselves.

I had a cheeseburger for lunch yesterday and a salad for dinner. I ran a marathon that morning.

I do not know what is happening.


24
Dec 16

A Christmas Eve jog

We ran 12.64 miles today. We did that on Christmas Eve, and I do not know what is happening. But it was in the low 60s, because we’re back in Alabama for a few days. We ran to the dam, and then we ran over it. I remember being nervous about riding over it as a kid, and then driving over it when I was young, so narrow is the road. But there’s now a nearby bridge that took much of the traffic off the dam and so it seems like no big deal to jog along on the sidewalk, which is about as wide one of the two very narrow lanes.

I ran over that. I do not know what is happening.

There are five turbines inside the dam, taking the flood waters upstream and generating hydroelectric power, 663 megawatts a day. Those turbines can produce what is equivalent to 35,000 horsepower. That’s the most powerful set of turbines in the TVA system, and an impressive degree of efficiency for something developed in 1848.

There are 49 spillways in the dam, and the signs say that if you collected the water from just one gate for an hour you could feel the Astrodome. The lock on the side is the highest one in the country to the east of the Rockies. More than 3,000 commercial and private boats go through each year.


19
Dec 16

It still counts

It doesn’t matter if it was a training run, or criminally slow. It does, somehow, count, that it was quite chilly and very foggy.

What’s important here is that another half-marathon was put into the books. A half-marathon was completed at an arbitrarily important birthday. (I do not know what is happening.)

(Today, meanwhile, it is 2 degrees. Two. Dos. Zwei. Deux.)

No individual mile splits were good, but that’s not important right now.