Sunday, July 02, 2017

Runcommuting in Portland

I didn't know what to expect when I went to Portland, beyond the obvious.  I mean, I knew people were friendly, but also there's the whole hippie, uber-progressive, "take fluoride out of drinking water because it affects my chakras" thing.  


On the OTHER hand, if you take drive just 10 minutes out of Portland, it gets SUPER RedState, which can be tough when Twitter and "The News" every day makes you want to scream at those same people, ARE YOU FUCKING HAPPY NOW WTF WERE YOU THINKING?!


So generally, I didn't know WHAT to expect from day to day life.

I also didn't adjust to WORK life in Portland.  I went from a Capitol Hill life of living/working "sofa king" close to where I earned my shoe money -- to a situation where I had to roust out of bed at 5am daily JUST to ensure I could even work out.

It's that simple.  If I'm going to work, I need time to work out, ideally beforehand.

It should have been easy -- my building is seriously SUPER nice.  It's a state-of-the-art work location and not only has reserved parking for me, there is also a full gym/locker room.  Weights, aerobics/yoga room, plus treadmills and cardio machines.

I get that treadmills can work for people.  I do.  But I have a rough history with them.

This is why I paid for installation when I owned one.

It meant that I would lift weights more, and not run as much, almost out of self-preservation.

This is almost more appropriate because of the body shape.

Between the minimal running, the (cold) rain, and having to get up so early, my fall and winter went like this:

Actual footage of me watching movies while snowed in this past winter.

Maybe that's too short.  It went like THIS:

1.  Finished training for new job.  Started it (not saying squat about it, except that I'll admit it's pretty cool when people stand up just because you're entering or leaving).

2.  Watched the Nationals do their mostly-annual appearance in the playoffs . . .

(while it rained outside)

3.   . . . followed quickly by their always-reliable first-round exit.

(while it rained outside, and got cold)

4.  Got up at INSANE hours to drive to my work, just so I could run (on a treadmill).

(while it rained harder outside, was colder)

5.  Or lift weights.


6.  Or both.

(same plus THANK YOU time change now I'll never see the sun!)

7.  Wondered if it would ever stop raining.

8.  It did.

9.  Because it was replaced by like 3 feet of snow (followed by more rain).

Ok, fine, I get it.  I know it rains in the PacNW.  But HOLY SHIT.

Cue the "Boy, that escalated quickly" meme.

I mean, I knew what I EXPECTED to see when I got to Portland.


But the rain was just really something this past winter.  I wasn't going to adapt unless I was part mermaid.

Sorry, I meant "Aquatic Dweller."

Anyway, this winter was SOME FUCKING BULLSHIT.  It took a toll on me.


Then I'd see myself in the mirror.

By the time I hit a rather big birthday I was desperate.  I took the FitBit plunge.  Because yet ANOTHER social media profile just seemed like a GREAT idea.

It was either get a FitBit or get a ManBun.  You don't see a lot of ManBunnies with FitBits in PDX, I've found.

So I got my FitBit, and about the time of my birthday, I found myself living WAY closer to my work.  Like 5.x miles away.  Like, "Holy fuck, I can run to or from work every day . . . "

(Thinking . . . plotting . . . I NEED OFF A GODDAMN TREADMILL)

Then, I really started to do it.  I started Runcommuting.  I got better at it.  I got better at planning for it.  I started to drive to work Monday morning, with a car just LOADED with work clothes for the week, then run home that night.  I'll wake up Tuesday, and run BACK to work. Lather, rinse, repeat.  For some (Friday) mornings, I might run to work, and take Uber home.


By April, I'd hit my first 100+ mile month in, well, many months.  Over the course of about 3 months, I dropped 15 pounds.  According to my doctor, I dropped 20 pounds, but I think that's incorrect, 15 is more accurate.

This Runcommute is kinda fun.  I've made some mental notes as I do the miles:

Mile 0 - 1:

This portion of the commute takes me quickly into the CBD of my neighborhood, filled with little shops.

I really don't get the business plan of a place that sells "dyes for your aura."

The small bakery is already open, as are a few(!) of the coffeeshops.  I'm eyed curiously by dogwalkers, commuting drivers, and coffeeshop people already on laptops as I make my way to a busy road.  Bus drivers will STILL slow down as they see me running after them, thinking I'm about to flag them down, as if I've missed my ride.  I run on past them, probably followed by a little cloud of Smug.


Mile 1 - 2

Now I'm off the busy road, and smack in the middle of a quiet neighborhood.  I'll soon cut through a park, and on many mornings, I run by a young couple who sit on the "stoop" of their duplex (it's like two or three stairs). They sit there, canoodling, and having coffee together at like 7-ish a.m.  True to form, we haven't acknowledged each other.  #DCrepresent

About this, but they're still in jammies.  Same smiles though.
Mile 2-3:

Now I'm approaching the halfway point of my commute, and this is easily the sketchiest section.  It's on a much-more-major road for about 2/3 of a mile, and the stuff I pass by ranges from a two-bit car dealership, a strip club, and a pretty good microbrewery.

The strip club goes out of their way to post really over-the-top notes on its display sign.

But on the bright side, they have a payphone there.

That's like the TAMEST one I've seen.  One time they had a sign up saying, "Stop by for the (woman's sex organ) beauty pageant."  Not even speculating on what the talent portion of THAT event would involve, but I bet the interpretive dance would be pretty weird.

*jizz hands*

So, yeah.  Classy stretch.  Along the way I pass a "Burgerville," which, at like 7:30am is ALREADY apparently firing up the ol' grill.  It hits me even harder when I'm doing a "run home" day and I pass by this place, as it reeks of burgers and fries . . . .


Mile 3-4:

Early on in this mile, I catch a streetlight almost every morning.  So at that point, I'm hanging with a BUNCH of bike commuters, a few of whom have started to recognize me as something of a "regular."  They're not at all as I pictured them.

Who am I to goof on anyone who bike commutes?  Biking terrifies me.
I mean, they don't stop for Stop signs, but who on a bike does?

Headed back into another neighborhood now.  This one is by far WAY more eclectic and hip.  It's also full of some NOT SMART PEOPLE.

Perhaps . . . I'm being too harsh.  Or not.  This stretch takes me into a very exclusive neighborhood, and I often see lots of people out walking their dogs.

On like 10 foot leads.  

Taking the whole sidewalk.

Not in control of their dogs.

Living in DC for many MANY years, you know how many dog encounters I had?

Somewhere, Eric the Actor is angry.  Props if you get this joke btw, I love you.

I have had a LOT of dog incidents since being in Portland.

Memo - your dog isn't a citizen.  It is, or should be, on a LEASH.  It should be UNDER YOUR CONTROLLLLLLLLLLWTF GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAY


People of Portland.  Hi.  I spent a fucking decade dealing with tourists in DC who walk on the left, and walk like 8 abreast.  I will run through a fucking WALL to still be right.  

Lecturing you the whole way, too.

So yeah, mile 3-4, as pretty as it is, is no picnic.

That brings me to the happiest stretch:
Mile 4-5.x:

For much of this stretch, it's uphill.  After a bit, I can see my building in the distance.  It's really gratifying, and kind of drives home (ha!) to me how far I've come, as I make my way to work, with just the sounds of my own footsteps and breathing as a soundtrack.

Passing (another) Burgerville now, along with more bars and eclectic PDX shops.

I will admit - one of the shops has a framed, original Star Wars poster which does look pretty cool. 

But, finally, I am at my building.  The various guards know me at this point (and most of them are still in general disbelief that I have the job I do), but they often ask how the run was, if I like the non-rainy weather, and if I'm planning to turn around and run home that same day.

They were also REALLY interested in when I was getting rid of my DC plates and DC driver's license.  That got taken care of, legally, right on time, albeit maybe a bit under the wire.  But, it's done.  I am now an Oregon resident.  I often say, in my heart, I'm just a Washingtonian who lives in Oregon now.  Regardless, I am now a Portlandian.

And I, for one, am sick of all you East Coasters moving to my hip city!!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My 40s in review

In somewhat chronological order, my 40s in review:

Gained my second marathon finisher's medal, lost motivation to train.
Became a father again, when I gained a son.
Lost a ton of sleep.
Gained a ton of weight.
Went through the motions for a time, both at work, and by running.
Trained up for a marathon for realz, but just missed my sub-4 hour goal.
Lost my mind and went to Disney for all the Dopey races over a single weekend.
Did some triathlons on a lark, including 3 in one month, because why start small?
Gained confidence, lost a lot of weight.
Ignored my health, got hurt. Lost my mojo.
Gained an appreciation for Marzen-style German beers.
Gained a ton of weight again. 
Went to over a year's worth of PT sessions.
Came back and lost weight slowly.
Got better at running, lost the desire for triathlons.
Kept my wetsuit.
(Re)Gained a fanatic love of baseball, particularly the Nationals.
Gained a ticket to see the Book of Mormon on Broadway (original cast!)
Lost the ability to pick up my daughter and carry her on my shoulders.
Gained the ability to curse in front of her.
Went to Hawaii. Like, a lot.
Lost my Thyroid's usefulness.
Gained a prescription for a Thyroid substitute. 
Got better at my job.
Got better at a lot, including losing weight.
Got under 4 hours in a marathon.
Almost lost something ridiculously important to me.
Got it back.
Lost my father. Didn't know. Didn't care. Then I did. Then I didn't.
Got close enough to whales to (literally) touch them.
Decided I hate all things seafood.
My son taught me that sometimes it's ok to deviate from the directions in a Lego set.
Ran my first ultra, 50 miles, because why start small?
Lost my appreciation for all things dairy.
Ran more ultras.
Lost friends.
Got better ones.
Saw my first no-hitter in person.
Lost all hope I'd ever see the Nats make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
Got so confident in my job that I got a little tired of it.
Thought, "What if I issued decisions in Court, rather than defended them there?"
Thought that was a ridiculous, overconfident, and needlessly-fanciful idea.
Went for it anyway, because why not.
Held my dog in my own home, in his bed, in my lap, in a sunbeam, when he lost his life.
Ignored another injury.
Gained weight.
Lost my mind.
Gained a new job.
Left the city I'd known as my home for (literally) more than half my life.
Crossed the US (and the Atlantic) way more than I thought I would.
Gained an Oregon driver's license (and probably perjured myself for the "weight" entry)
(probably got it wrong for the height one, too).
Got my stuff back, including, of all things, my wetsuit.
Got a FitBit.
Got this written before I turned 50.
I'm starting my 50s with the goal to get even healthier.
Because, if my 40s taught me anything, why set a small goal?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Leesburg 20K Race Report

I wasn't in a good mood for much of this summer, with my running severely limited to shorter distances. Thanks #PITAChat

Not that I was bitter.

Now August was winding down, and I was preparing to move to the west coast at the end of the month.  It was time to begin a Very Different Life than what I've experienced for some time.  Not feeling like myself as a runner was having side effects on my mood.

Because I'm into symbolism and marking important events, I REALLY wanted to do a kind of "farewell to DC" race, but just couldn't make it work with all my various goodbye trips. Plus goodbye happy hours, goodbye luncheons.  Goodbye time for racing.

So many Goodbye Speeches

In the meantime, I'd marked my LAST Nats game as a DC resident, my LAST time running the Mall, my LAST time on the Mount Vernon Trail . . . etc.  Between my penchant for marking "lasts," and all the goodbyes, they were having quite an effect on me.

Looking back, the wallowing probably wasn't doing much good for my well being.

I was packing in the symbolism.  I had to.  Because I wouldn't even BE in DC all of August.  was going to be in Philadelphia to see an old buddy before I headed to the west coast. As a couple of Gen Xers, we figured a boozy weekend might be fun before I headed out.  NO, NOT THAT KIND OF WEEKEND.

All of a sudden, early in race week, I got a message -- he's having a baby soon (well, his wife is), so he felt he had to bail.  Ok, fair enough.  Out of all people *I* ought to get making sacrifices and choices for children.

What then, to do??

I didn't even have to think about it -- the Leesburg 20K, set for August 21, 2016. It was perfect. It was a low-key, good distance race.  It was in DC, at least in the exurbs.  Ok, fine, it felt like the moon, but it was a DC (area!) race and I could do it!

I just hadn't trained.  20K is 12.4 miles.  I hadn't run farther than 6 miles with the literal pain in my ass.  In fact, most training runs were just over 4 miles.  BUT DID I MENTION I WANTED A SEND-OFF RACE??

Safe to say SHE has a pain in her ass now too.

Fuck it, I'm in. Let's run! I registered online, and was already giddy at the prospect of a farewell run. Plus, Leesburg is where my daughter moved to back in 2013 (that's related to SOME of the personal/legal/family drama I experienced that year).

My daughter is my partner in crime. We go see movies together, assuming the movie is animated, or has a superhero, or a hobbit. This race would take me right by her high school, so that was a nice touch, too.

The day before the race, instead of resting, I took her to see "The Secret Life of Pets," at her request.  It meant that I had to drive an hour out to Leesburg from Capitol Hill to be with her.  We did dinner, dessert, and the movie. It was worth the haul out there, even if I'd have to make the same round trip in about 12 hours.

It was a sweet movie.  Not great, but sweet.  But, towards the end, this song plays as a little montage of pet owners come home to their beloved pets.  And there I am, in the dark, like a fuckin' dork . . .  Crying.  

This little scene isn't THAT tear-inducing.  What happened was that right then it hit me -- I worried it was the last time I'd sit next to her in a theater.  Because, you know, I was rather Primed for Symbolism.  The lyrics were sweet, and when the lights came up, she turned to me with a big smile, and everything was still routine.

I dropped her off with her mom, and headed back to DC, stopping for powerbars in a supermarket (needed breakfast in a few hours before the race!), and FUCK if this damn song wasn't being piped in at the DC "UnSafeway."

I of course teared up, but you can't show weakness in a place like that. You'll be cold cuts.  But the song was now in my head.  I suspected it would be for the race too.  I got home, and between dinner, the movie, dessert, the LONG drive home, and Safeway, I realized . . . it was WAY fuckin' late.

I did the math on how much sleep I'd get:

Uh oh.

Race morning:

I made the trip (back) out to Leesburg.  I just BARELY got parking on the very top level of the parking deck by the start (protip for this race:  yes, they do have parking nearby, but that thing fills up FAST).  I then got in the hay-uge line to pickup my shirt/bib (and race pin!).  

After barely making it to the start line, I told myself that, no matter what, I had to treat this race as a long run with a bunch of friends, and just have Zero Competitiveness.  My ass would thank me.

If only my booty were as small as hers.  And as young.  And shat gold records.

I forget what a nice small feel Potomac River Running races are.  The Leesburg 20K is a well-attended race, but it just isn't so large that you feel you're in an absolute mob.  I knew that within a mile or so, we'd be well-lengthened out.

What, you'd prefer more of Bert and Ernie at a glory hole?

BANG! Off went the gun, and off we went.

I figured for this race, I'd have to run by feel.  If my booty started to hurt (which it typically would do after 3-4 miles), I'd be in deep trouble, and would have to walk/run the course.  So it seemed to me that slower was smarter.  

Based on the summer I'd had, that wouldn't be a problem.

Mile 1:  10:30ish

The first mile was crowded, but despite that I went faster than I wanted, for having NO idea what would happen to my body doing double the distance I'd been training at lately.  So of course, I sped up.  

Makes about as much sense.

Mile 2:  10:16.

"Well, this is BULLSHIT," I thought to myself as I ran.  I had a vision of what mile 7 would be like, with 5 more miles to go.

So.  Enough of THAT shit.

Dialing it back had a rather . . . humbling effect on me.  People were passing me like there were only 2 miles or so to go, instead of, you know, more than TEN miles.


Interesting.  Humbling.  Ouch.

I made my way into an initial clearing, just trying to keep good spirits.  My farewell race!   Happy!  New life ahead!  Totally not going to finish last!  Maybe.

I like this pic because it looks like I'm leading, and distracts from the trivia that
I weigh more than the combined total of every other runner in this picture.

Starting about the 4th mile, there was a pretty significant (relatively speaking) climb, and just kind of sustained through mile 5.  I was still holding back, although (who I am kidding?) that climb was NOT fun.  But I kept smiling.

Those "Lovely Day" lyrics were creeping back into my head.

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face

Fuck.  Another climb.  Head down, short steps, lean forward.

When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Sing it, Bill.

We passed an exit sign with my daughter's new home street on it.  Ugh.  I'm going to miss her so much.  But this isn't the end of our relationship just because I'm taking steps not to ruin other lives.  She's in her senior year.  She's looking at colleges.  She'll still be my partner in (movie) crime, right?

Then I look at you
And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day

Yes she will.

Press on.  We were over the hill, and now I could make up some time on the downhill.


Fuck, you know what?  I'm not sure anything hurts THAT badly.  This isn't going that badly.  I'm smiling, thanking volunteers, and generally just having . . . fun.

George Takei approves

We came to the turnaround.  I was now in a position where I was closer to being finished than from the start.  We headed back.

Of course, it meant that the hill I'd just climbed and then ran down needed to be RE-climbed again.

Whatever.  I did my thing, grinding my way back up the hill.  I decided that about the point we went back DOWN, I'd try and reevaluate pace.

That put me around mile 9.  So, I'd decided to increase "speed" back to the mid-10 minutes per mile again, just to see how my body would react.  

I was now starting to pass some familiar faces/bodies as I picked up the pace.  Negative splits are for realz.  Mile 10 featured a slight slowdown for water/Gu, but no biggie.  I went right back to my "faster" (ha) pace, and the last 4 miles were just enjoyable.  I had the same PITA soreness I'd come to expect, but nothing debilitating.  Plus, hell, I was approaching mile 11 after having not really gone beyond 6 for the summer.  I SHOULD be a touch sore from the effort!

Anyway.  I pressed on.

Mile 11 was almost as fast as mile 2.  Humph.  So THAT race plan worked, at least.  

Good thing the "plan" was to get my ass kicked and finish at the back of the pack.

Finally, mercifully, because I really was feeling myself start to fade from miles 11-12, we'd made our way off the W&OD path, and back onto city streets to finish.  I actually think I saw a few folks I know from Instagram (not Twitter, of all things!), and also made some new friends via the pics.  Ok, fine, I picked up a few IG followers because NARCISSIST.

Boom.  Finished.  12.4 miles, just over 12.5 on my watch (tangents, smangents).  Negative split for pacing.  And if I'm going to finish out a course as a DC local, this was the race to do it.  Even if it was on the moon.

Time for a quick IG post from the parking deck, and then back to DC.  I needed to finish logistics (read:  sleep, eat take-out Chinese food, and convince myself that this was a good move, long term).

Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Bottom 30%

Sex:  Bottom 21%

AG:  Bottom 21%

Ask me if I care (spoiler alert:  I do, but also I don't).  I got to have a meaningful goodbye.

And now it's time for some hellos.

PDX, here I come.