Archive for October, 2015

tarp removed, area cleaned

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

removed tarp

I’ve been moving an old brown tarp around the area near the cabin as a non-chemical way to get rid of grass and scrub growing in the gravel. I lay it over the growth that I want to eradicate, put some boards on it to hold it in place, then go about my other chores for a few months until the work is done.

I had put the tarp on a patch of grass behind the cabin, probably back in June. The process works best during the growing season, and had I been a bit more diligent, I might have cleared up two places during the past growing season. But I didn’t.

But the long sojourn in that one spot did kill off the grass, as you can see from my photo above. I’ve found that once I’ve done this to a spot, the grass and scrub don’t come back as strongly, or maybe as soon, as they grew in the past. There are still a lot of places in the gravel where I could move the tarp, but maybe a constant rotation, coming back to where I started to do them all again, will be the best way to keep the grass and scrub under control.

After I moved the tarp I, of course, had to rake all of the leaves that had accumulated behind the cabin. The photo below shows the pristine state I achieved, if only for a moment.


This is the season for the leaves to fall. I’m sure by now, only a few days later, this spot is full of them again.

worse than ticks!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015


Libby is conscientious about making sure the dogs have their flea and tick medicine regularly so that they are not tormented by those pests after our trips to the woods. While I was busy at the cabin with some chore, Libby had gone down to the lake to see if she could spot some fish patrolling the shoreline. She soon returned asking “What is worse than ticks?”

Poor Queequeg had managed to frolic through some scrub (it’s all tall to him) and strip it clean of its burrs. He had thousands of these things in his ruff and tail and underside. It was pretty much the first thing he did when we got there on Saturday. He didn’t care.

There wasn’t much we could do with him. We do keep a comb and brush for the dogs at the cabin, and Libby made some effort to clean him a little, but a serious, more thorough picking was going to have to wait until the next day (after our overnight) when he could have a bath and grooming in the basement at home in faraway suburbia.

Despite our insistence that he would not be allowed to sleep in our beds that night in the cabin, he, of course, did. The bedcovers were dotted with many of these burrs that he had managed to download during the night.

When we got him home on Sunday, the first task, after unpacking the truck, was to schelpp him down to the basement sink for a going over with shampoo and cream rinse and combing and brushing and blow drying. He looks fabulous now, but he doesn’t care.

find the feeder

Monday, October 26th, 2015

found feeder

It is not uncommon to get to Roundrock and discover that the bird feeder is on the ground below its pole just below the cabin. It’s possible that a strong wind could worry an empty feeder over the lip of the hook it hangs from, but I suspect a more likely culprit is a raccoon or opossum who climbs the pole and, in its efforts to get at the seed inside, knocks the feeder free. And there on the ground, I suppose, it’s much easier to get at the seed.

When we were out to Roundrock last weekend, the feeder was not on its pole, but nor was it on the ground below it. This was uncommon. I began my search in the scrub around it and in the open, grassy area directly below the cabin. And that was where I did find it, but it was well away from the pole. In fact, the empty feeder was halfway down to the lake. I don’t think a wind could have launched it that far, especially with no other signs of wind-borne disturbance around. Given the feeder’s shape, it may have rolled down the hill toward the lake, but even that seems a stretch.

In any case, the feeder came to rest at the edge of the cut grass; the taller grass I couldn’t persuade myself to whip on an earlier visit had stopped it from going further, perhaps all the way into the lake. (Though that’s even less likely since the water has, sadly, receded considerably and the lake is farther away than normally.)

Retrieved, the feeder was soon filled and hanging on its hook before the cabin. And soon after that the titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees were visiting it, each in turn.

Kansas City Marathon 2015 recap ~ part three

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015


“Run, Grandpa, Run!!!”

Kenneth Johnson

As I had been running, I had been eating my GU every three miles. I had eight packs of GU pinned to the inside of the waistband of my shorts, and they were easy to tear free and suck empty while still on the run. (And unlike apparently everyone else, I held on to my empty GU packs until I reached the trash boxes at the water stations.) I also got both Gatorade and water at every water station, which were about two miles apart. I was trying to run smart, controlling the variables I could.

Once I made it through the cut off and knew I could stay on the full marathon course, the pressure to perform eased. We were running along Brush Creek at this point and would cross it on a bridge not far ahead. On the other side of the river I could see the runners ahead of me, going west as I was going east. When I got to that point I wanted to look back across the river and get a sense of how many (if any) runners were behind me. A third, unspoken goal of my run was not to be the last runner in. That happened to me on the first 10K I had run, and while a finish is a finish, it’s disappointing to get to the after party and find half of the vendors and other booths closed up.

After I had crossed Brush Creek and was headed west, I did get a few glimpses of the runners behind me. The pack was significantly thinned then, and in the gaps between the buildings and the trees, I would see one or two runners (who were sometimes walking), so I didn’t really get a good sense about whether there were many people behind me or just a few.

Several things happened in the next mile. I decided to take my first walking break. I knew I was making good time (for my ability and for meeting the absolute maximum allowed on the course), and I also knew that I needed to conserve my energy for the remaining 18 or so miles ahead of me and my legs. I didn’t walk for long, and it wasn’t too long after I’d begun running again that the lead marathon runner was coming my way, with his police motorcycle escort. I had about 18 miles still to go. He had six. And he didn’t look like he was breaking a sweat! I cheered him, but he was focused. Soon after this the course crossed Brush Creek again, and I saw Libby again. I had run about two miles since I’d last seen her, but since it was an out-and-back stretch, she only had to walk about two blocks to be waiting for me. Also with her was my son-in-law’s sister, Chelsea. I hadn’t known she was running the marathon, and she had only learned I was the day before when she was chatting with my daughter (her sister-in-law, if you’re following along). Since I was running again, I didn’t stop to visit but waived away the goody bag and trotted ahead. Chelsea stayed to chat with Libby for a while, but I knew she would catch up with me and eventually pass me since she trains better and she is, of course, nearly half my age. In less than a half mile, she did catch up with me, and we trotted along together for a while, exchanging small talk. I told her not to slow down for me, but she assured me she was running at her normal pace.

We were still running along Brush Creek, and I could look across it to see the runners ahead of me since this was another out-and-back stretch. With the loss of the half marathoners, and with all of us being back-of-the-pack runners, we were strung out. I could see a few runners across the river and through the trees, and I expected to see about the same when I was over there and looked back at where I had been. Somewhere in here, I took another walking break, which allowed Chelsea to get ahead of me. I knew I couldn’t keep pace with her for the rest of the marathon (we weren’t even half way yet), so I didn’t feel bad about being left behind, so to speak. But when I started running again, I would soon catch up with her. Perhaps I was pushing my pace too much because I had to do a lot of walking in this stretch. Then I would catch up with Chelsea. Then walk again. When we were across Brush Creek and I looked at where I had been, I didn’t see very many runners at all. Sure, they could be spread out miles and miles behind, but I began to wonder if it might be possible that I would be the last runner in. All along, people were passing me. Not a lot, and not frequently. But certainly dozens were now that I was on the full course. How many did that leave behind me?

I didn’t need to worry about that, however, because I was coming upon the third big hill of the course. Since the pack was thinned and I had pretty much the whole road to myself (except for the Mercedes SUV of one of the residents in the mansions we were running beside who apparently could at no other time of the day drive right down the middle of our course) I decided to try a hill tactic I thought might work. I started zigzagging up the hill. While this adds a little more distance to the run, it actually makes the hill before you less steep. Or at least it feels that way, and so much of running is mental. I managed to catch up with Chelsea again, which I would repeat a few more times before she got ahead and stayed ahead. But the hill was wearing me down, despite my tactic (which I think did help). My body was no longer dismayed but was actually alarmed at the sustained demand on it. I was feeling seriously fatigued and though I tried not to, all I could think about was how much road there was ahead of me. Somewhere along here (after Chelsea was long gone) I crossed the 13.1 distance; I was half way done. This was not heartening. I was dead on my feet, and I still had to do again what I had just done.

Fortunately, the hill climbing was behind me (at least for the next eight miles). What I faced for a long while was more or less flat ground, with some rises and falls but no difficult elevation gains. Even so, I had miles to go, and I knew I had to walk some if I was going to run some. Actually, I wasn’t very sure I could run at all by this point. This may have been a fueling problem, but I don’t think it was. Rather, I was in pain, and it was getting worse. My knees were starting to give me the same pain they had on the Portland Marathon. Fortunately, this had come much later in the route than before, but the pain was there. My hips were also very angry with me. I’m pretty sure that was a muscle problem rather than a bone-in-joint problem. When I walked, I would take very long strides, and this helped ease the pain. I hurt in places I didn’t even know were places. I was beginning to consider the possibility that I would be the last runner in. Because of the walking interspersed with running, my pace had plummeted. And if I continued in this way for the next dozen or so miles, everyone would pass me.

There wasn’t anything else I could do. I ran for as long as I could, trying to convince myself I was nothing more than a pair of legs, feeling the pull and release of the muscles and trying not to feel anything else. And I would concentrate on the three feet before my two feet, doing no more than covering that distance before I tried to consider the next three feet. It helped some, but walking helped as well. I think by this point I was walking as much distance as I was running. I wasn’t happy about this, but it was the best I could manage.

Part of the course at this point was what I had run twice before in the Rock the Parkway half marathons I had completed. Those were good runs, which disheartened me since here I was on that same stretch of road and doing miserably. But not long after this the course reached its farthest point from the start/finish, the Waldo section of Kansas City. A turn on 75th Street marked my return run. This helped a little. I was more than half way, and I was running toward the finish. I had a mere ten miles to go.

I had packed six ibuprofen in the tiny pocket of my skimpy running shorts, intending to take no more than four of them and save the last two for any suffering runner I happened upon. By the turnaround point on 75th Street, I was dry swallowing the fifth and sixth pills, trotting eagerly toward the water station not far ahead to wash them down. (I had take three ibuprofen before the run, so my total at this point was nine pills — don’t tell my doctor son!)

While there were a few hiccups at the water stations — generally people stopping to chat and standing right in the way — my passage through them was mostly good. They were usually staffed by teenagers who, I suppose, were on the local cross country teams or otherwise getting community service hours. Even at the back of the pack, many, many hours after the first runners had bolted past them, these kids had smiling faces and encouraging words, and hands outstretched with cups of Gatorade and water.

And, they had plenty of cups of Gatorade and water on the tables behind them. They looked like they were ready for hundreds of runners still to come. I didn’t turn around to look, fearful that I would see no one behind me, meaning they were too far back for me to see or that there was no one behind me. The fact that the water stations were still fully staffed and fully provisioned suggested to me I wasn’t in last place. That helped push away for a while the certainty that I was going to come in last.

I still hurt though. I ran as much as I could and walked as much as I needed. At this point I was on the course of the Trolley Run I’ve done three times. The entire Trolley Run course is covered by just a part of the marathon. Fortunately, this was a downhill run of four miles. I was grateful for that. It allowed me to cover more distance at a run, even with the pain. I was probably a bit delirious by this point. I passed a woman on her right and warned her I was about to pass her on her left. I got it wrong and managed to apologize as I pushed on. (Note: I passed someone at this point.) I also had to be careful when I reached into my shorts for a pack of GU that I didn’t grab the wrong dangling thing and try to tear it free.

At the bottom of this four-mile downhill I once again came to Brush Creek and ran east along the same bit of pavement I had run more than ten miles before. I was eating up the miles, much of it at a run, and when I got to mile 20, I ruefully noted that I only had to run a 10K to be finished.

I crossed Brush Creek for the fourth and last time that morning and wove my way into the Hyde Park neighborhood of Kansas City. Resplendent old homes, green parks, children and adults at play. All lost on me as I fought the agony and the pain to keep going. Ahead, and not very far, was the last serious hill of the course. Mile 23 marked the start of it. At mile 23 you can tell yourself you only have three miles left to go, a mere 5K, and look how much mileage you’ve already got behind you! But throw in a hill at this point, a mile-long hill, and such encouraging thoughts dissolve instantly. I was trudging up this hill, running as much of it as I could, when something truly encouraging did happen.

Libby was waiting for me! I hadn’t seen her since about mile 9, a dozen miles before, nearly a half marathon before. And there she was. I stopped running and walked, and she stepped in beside me. And I ate one of the candy bars she carried in the goody bag. It was awful. The chocolate had gone frosty white. I could barely taste it. But it, and seeing Libby, the sweetness, were what I needed. Libby had a bit of a drive to get back to the start area and then get from the parking lot — whichever was available — to the finish arch. She feared (foolishly) that I would get there before she did and was eager to get on her way. So we parted, and I started running again. I managed to run more distance, despite the ongoing pain in my hips and knees, and I prudently walked where I needed to.

Beginning at mile 24, on The Paseo, we had a long straightaway on mostly flat ground, resulting a mile later in a mile stretch going downhill. It was a gift for us weary runners. At the bottom of that hill, in the 18th and Vine Jazz District, we turned left on a flat street for the final mile in. This happened to be part of the Rock the Crossroads 5K I had run two summers before (miserably hot), and I mixed my running with walking, hoping to conserve whatever energy was left in me so that I could run up to and across the finish line like an actual runner.

From about mile 14, I have been exchanging places with another runner. I would catch up with and pass him, then I would walk and he would pass me. It went on this way the entire remaining distance. As I made the last turn and faced the quarter mile left to the finish arch (so impossibly far ahead) I saw this man once again. He was also impossibly far ahead, and I had no illusions that I would pass him. I merely put my head down and ran as well as I could through the pain. But when I looked up, I found I was right behind the man. If we kept our paces, I would pass him in the last twenty feet and finish ahead of him. I would not be the last runner in after all.

He must have had a similar thought because when he realized I was beside him, he dug deep and “shot” ahead. I didn’t have anything left, and I needed that just to finish at all. So he beat me, and I consoled myself with the charitable notion that I had given him a reason to run harder and not come in last.

I ran across the mats and under the finish arch then turned off my watch. Transitioning from running to walking had been a painful and uncertain, stumbling business for the last 15 miles, and now that I was finally finished, I think I just about gave up altogether. One of the attendants in the finish chute hurried over to me and asked if I needed help, needed an arm to lean on, or anything like that. All I needed at that point was chocolate milk. And Libby. I took the medal — they actually hung it around my neck, which was nice and fully earned. Then I wrapped myself in the foil blanket they provided because it was breezy. Libby hurried up to me at this point and we found a break in the fencing of the finish chute to head over to the after party area. Given the time it took me to finish, the crowds had dispersed. I collected the little ticket that gave my official time. We asked where the chocolate milk was. It turned out to be near where we had been in the chute, impossibly far away, but somehow I managed to stagger over there and drink four cartons. As I stood there, the crew was already packing away the food and other treats on the table before me. I realize they can’t stick around all day, but I paid as much as every other runner who competed that day, and I was a little miffed that I was barely getting leftovers.

But I had just finished my second marathon. It wasn’t the brilliant performance I had dreamed of, it wasn’t even very good, but despite the walking, my average pace was decent enuf, and I knew the pain would go away. Eventually. Plus, I had beat my Portland time by more than 25 minutes. So I got a PR. And despite what I assured myself from about mile 10 onward, I was already thinking about the next marathon I would run and how I could do better. (Start training now!)

It turned out, when I looked up the official numbers online later, that there were 156 other runners behind me on the marathon course. Given that coming in last in my age group many times and last overall one time, this is something I feel proud of.

So the medal hangs on my wall beside the one I got in Portland last year and beside three empty hooks. I need to fill those three hooks and then fill all five of them one more time.

But first, rest.

Kansas City Marathon 2015 recap ~ part two

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

KC Marathon bling

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Haruki Murakami

The marathon started and ended at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City. Crown Center is a hotel and urban shopping mall complex that is also the headquarters for Hallmark Cards. We got down there about an hour and a half before the official start time and drove around various still-empty parking lots, trying to decide the best one for giving Libby access to non-blocked off streets so she could drive to various points on the course to cheer.

We marched our way through the pre-dawn darkness toward the mall and comparative indoor warmth as the minutes ticked away. There were a few dozen people gathered in the food court as we claimed a table. I chose to use the bathroom, which is always prudent, and then returned to the table to watch people gather. I saw some faces I knew, and it turned out there were many people I knew who were running the half marathon that morning, a few more running the full. Time dragged as I thought about and then resisted getting myself a bagel. With about a half hour before gun time, I thought I would use the bathroom one last time. The line was easily 200 people long, so I went up to the next floor where the line for the men’s room was only about 50 people long. And I waited. From there, I had about a ten-minute walk to the starting area, and I had decided to leave the line if I had to so I could be there on time. As it turned out, I was done and on my way with 14 minutes left. (The line was longer then than when I had arrived. And the line for the women’s restroom was even longer.) I found Libby and we headed out into the morning chill to merge with the mass of humanity (nearly 9,000 I later learned), she on the sidelines and me in the corral.

I was not especially cold since I had my throwaway jacket on. I got this thing at the thrift store for a few bucks more than a year ago. The idea is that you wear such a thing to keep warm as you’re standing around at the start, then as you get going and warm up, you take it off and throw it to the curb where it is collected and donated to the thrift store, whereupon you could very easily buy it again. I have not been able to successfully throw away my throwaway. The few times I have worn it to races, I’ve always shed it just as I’m coming up to Libby or someone else in my support crew, and the jacket comes home with me again to wait for the next chilly run.

The first mile of the course took us into downtown proper, looping around the Sprint Center, a glossy, space-age arena that someone described as a giant baked potato. This mile was a gentle uphill, which meant when we made the turn we had a gentle downhill of about a mile. I was doing fine, running at a reasonable pace that would not burn up my energy too soon (since I had a full marathon distance to manage). My first goal of the morning was to get to the split where the half marathoners go one way (toward the finish) and we full marathoners go another (toward miles of away-from-the-finish). I had little doubt I would reach the split within the time required; if I didn’t, I would be shunted to the half-marathon course rather than be allowed to run the full. But I wanted to stay on task and get there, so while I measured my pace, I also pushed myself to keep going.

There seemed to be a false start; I heard the second countdown (the first was for the wheelchair racers), but the crowd did not move. I was not near the front, but I could see the course beyond the starting arch, and there were no runners on it. I don’t supposed they were giving more time to the people waiting to use the bathroom. Time passed and then something must have changed, for the herd began moving forward. I turned on my new running watch, but it took longer to find a satellite than I expected — I’ve heard this can be the case in areas with tall buildings — and I hadn’t engaged it until almost a block after I had crossed the starting mats. I could have worried that this would give me a shorter distance than the actual course distance, but I had a race to run and didn’t give it a bother.

The first mile of the course took us into downtown proper, looping around the Sprint Center, a glossy, space-age arena that someone described as a giant baked potato. This mile was a gentle uphill, which meant when we made the turn we had a gentle downhill of about a mile. I was doing fine, running at a reasonable pace that would not burn up my energy too soon (since I had a full marathon distance to manage). My first goal of the morning was to get to the split where the half marathoners go one way (toward the finish) and we full marathoners go another (toward miles of away-from-the-finish). I had little doubt I would reach the split within the time required; if I didn’t, I would be shunted to the half-marathon course rather than be allowed to run the full. But I wanted to stay on task and get there, so while I measured my pace, I also pushed myself to keep going.

That gentle downhill ended at the base of Hospital Hill. This is a long, relatively steep hill that passes between Crown Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital (where Libby and I had volunteered for more than ten years). There is even a half marathon in town that is named for this hill. I was determined to run up the hill. And so I did. My body began asking me what I thought I was doing at this point, but it wasn’t screaming so much as acting surprised at the demands on it. I hushed it, knowing there would be a relief at the top as we ran down a corresponding hill, losing all of the elevation gain we had made, before facing the second big hill of the morning.

I got up Hospital Hill without much trouble, made the turn, and then applied the brakes so I wouldn’t be pelting down the hill on the other side too fast. Not only is running downhill fast a prescription for falling (at least for a less-than-nimble runner like myself), but it deceptively eats up a lot of energy. You think gravity is doing all of the work, but it ain’t. At this point, I passed Libby’s car. The lot had filled in the time since we had left it there, and she was hemmed in by runners on the course, but I hoped that when she was ready to drive away, the pack passing the area would have thinned enuf for her to squeeze by (which is allowed as long as you don’t interfere with the runners). She wasn’t there, of course, because she was waiting for me at mile three, atop the next hill.

The course took us to the Liberty Memorial, which sits on a promontory that overlooks the city. I had run up here two years before, though by a different route, when I did the Kansas City Half Marathon. I doubted I could do it then, yet I did, so I believed I could do it again. Plus I had that cut-off time I had to make. So I trudged up the hill and got to the flat promenade at the top, eyes peeled for Libby. By this time I could feel the sweat raising on my skin, and though the sun hadn’t risen high enuf to reach us poor runners except in occasional patches, I thought it was time to throw away my throwaway. I suspected I would be chilly for a while without it, but if I shed it then, I could hand it off to Libby (assuming she was there). Otherwise, if I wanted to give it to her later, I would have another four miles of its friendship. I spotted her across the promenade, and she spotted me soon after. Our first meeting of the morning. I began peeling off my jacket and immediately felt the chill of the morning on my sweaty skin and skimpy, plastic clothes. I was dressed then the same as I would have been for an August run.

Libby had a bag of supplies for me if I needed them: lip balm, Vaseline, cortisone cream, vitamin I, candy bars, an extra shirt, an extra hat, a running jacket, more safety pins, more small bandaids for personal places, and so on. As I ran up to her, throwing my throwaway to the curb in a dramatic way, she asked if I needed anything, but I didn’t and told her I was feeling strong and doing well. (Which was true despite those two wicked hills in the first three miles of the course.) I saw a lot of runners wearing green bibs (mine was orange) who were standing around, walking around, chatting with their squads, and otherwise not running, and I wondered at first why this was the case. Then I realized that they had participated in the 5K, which would have reached its 3.1 mile distance there atop the promontory. Good for them. They faced the same two wicked hills as the rest of us and earned their bragging rights. But their departure also thinned the pack some, which is always good.

So, onward. The first thing I faced after leaving the Liberty Memorial was . . . another hill. I knew this was coming, and I was determined to run it, so I did. All the while I was passing people and being passed by people. It was much too early in the race to gauge my endurance based on my placement among the other runners so I just focused on myself. Soon after this hill, we were on gritty Main Street, running past tattoo parlors, vaping parlors, empty store fronts, bars, old buildings converted to warehouses, run down apartment buildings, and all sorts of sights that don’t make the list of touristy things in town. We were only on Main for a mile, and I suspect they took us along here solely so they could make the turn onto Westport Road and lead us into the oldest part of Kansas City. Westport Road is actually a stretch of the Santa Fe Trail. It’s a funky part of town, with some of the oldest standing buildings in the city. When I had run the half marathon two years before, it was along here that I first felt the twinges in my knees that were to bedevil me through the second half. I was mindful of this and was pleased to discover that my knees were doing just fine, as was the rest of me.

The route through Westport was only a mile with a gentle downhill followed by a gentle uphill, then we turned south for a nice, long downhill stretch leading into the Plaza area of Kansas City, the swanky shopping and dining district and the second place where I expected to find Libby. It happens that as we wove through and around the Plaza, we were covering much of the same course as the Plaza 10K I had run a few weeks before. I had done well then, so I felt confident going over this same ground again.

Two things happened at this point. I did see Libby, just where we had planned (again, no need for supplies from the goody bag, though someone did take a picture of us “running” together). And I turned over my running odometer to 1,000 miles for the year. I didn’t take note of it at the time, but it was another goal achieved.

And the next goal lay about a half mile ahead. The cut off for the half marathon/full marathon split was waiting for me. I had been running continuously, and feeling pretty strong all the while, but my body was begging for a break. I had to get through the cut off before I would consider that, so I pressed on. And there it was. Most of the runners were drifting to the left side of the road then because most of the runners were doing the half marathon. Suddenly I had all of the space I needed to weave around cracks and manhole covers and such. And I had a comparatively empty road ahead of me. While that was helpful, it was also a little unnerving. I felt more on my own then than I had before. When I ran the Portland Marathon last year, I had my son with me, and he kept me buoyed. Here I was solo, relying on my own mental resources to keep going, knowing I had a long way to go it alone.

It turned out I had reached the cut off with plenty of time. My plan to run continuously in order to reach it had worked. (Keep in mind I am not a fast runner. This was a serious challenge for me.)

All that remained then was to run the remaining nineteen or so miles!

Kansas City Marathon 2015 recap ~ part one

Monday, October 19th, 2015

KC Marathon kit

“Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

Yogi Berra

You could say that I have been preparing for this race my entire running life. Or you could say that I didn’t prepare for this race at all. Both would be correct.

You’ll recall that I had run the Portland Marathon last year. (Look here and here and here.) Something like half of one percent of Americans have run a marathon, which put me in an “elite” group when I completed Portland. But I never considered that good enuf. For too many people, running a marathon is just an item on their bucket list, like writing a novel or traveling to Mars. I didn’t want to be part of that group as well, those people who are merely checking off disparate goals as a way of collecting them. I wanted running to become a way of life for me, and to do that, I needed to show (myself) that I had the wherewithal to run more than one marathon. (The goal I want to check off is ten marathons, and if there is sufficient insanity in my fevered brain, I think I can even achieve it.) Curiously, I can’t find a statistic on the percentage who have run at least two marathons.

My training for this biggest endurance event of my life was spotty and inadequate. I didn’t run nearly the miles nor the distance that any reputable training plan calls for. The longest training run I had done for this marathon — and only once — was 15 miles, and that was months ago. I had a silly notion that got in my way. I wanted to have accumulated 974 miles for the year by race day so that I would complete 1,000 miles during the marathon, preferably in the last miles of the marathon. I had done this two years ago when I was leading up to my first half marathon and then again last year before my first full marathon. But I didn’t pace myself properly this year — August was an especially high-mileage month — and with only a week before the marathon I had already run 994 miles. There was no way I could have my 1,000 mile goal met during the marathon and do the proper distance training at the proper time before the marathon. So while my friends were doing their 20-mile runs to complete their training, I was measuring out 6-mile runs that always ended at the bagel shop. Whether my silly devotion to my silly odometer goal would hurt me or not I would find out on race day.

I should acknowledge right here that my friends who trained properly are all much better runners than I, with the ability to turn in fast completion times, continuous runs, and happy faces at the end. I would be satisfied with completing the distance before the maximum time limit when the course is closed, with walking more than a little, and with agony as my constant companion. Perhaps for my remaining eight marathons I’ll train better and perform better. I’ve already decided I am not going to set myself the thousand-mile goal next year that I have for the last three years. (At least not formally.)

Three weeks ago, I came down with a head cold severe enuf to make me miss a day of work, which is something that never happens. I believe I caught it from my grandson in New York, who sent it to me by way of Libby who had just returned from visiting him. The cold was bad enuf that my doctor put me on a course of antibiotics, which would end well before the marathon but that could have “gastro-intestinal side effects” for weeks after. (Didn’t happen.) By unfortunate coincidence, my flu shot was scheduled for just two days before the marathon. I was assured that there would be no impact on my running performance (such as it is under the best circumstances), but all the next day I grew anxious about every sniffle and sneeze that visited me. The entire week before the marathon, the woman two cubicles over was coughing and sneezing constantly, and I avoided her as much as I could but worried nonetheless.

My own body may have been conspiring against me without outside help though. For most of a year I’ve had a pain in the back of my right thigh. It would only happen when I sat for a long time, such as driving or sitting at a desk, and it would go away almost instantly as soon as I stood and took a few steps. The condition seemed to be subsiding, as shown by a drive to and from St. Louis two weeks ago when I had nary a complaint. Yet for the last week my left thigh has been giving me this same pain. Was this some kind of perverse joke my body was playing on me? Added to that was an unexpected pain shooting up the inside of my right calf, starting at the ankle. It only hurt when I walked, and it would sometimes go away after a few steps. Other times it wouldn’t be there at all, only to stab me unexpectedly while I was otherwise walking like a normal person. Neither of these seemed like they would affect my actual running (though . . . 26.2 miles can make just about anything go wrong) and I treated them with doses of vitamin I (ibuprofen).

Yet I was doing some things to prepare. Each day for more than a week before, I drank at least one bottle of Gatorade to elevate my electrolyte levels. (I have no idea what I’m talking about.) And I indulged in carb loading in the days running up to the run, stuffing my face with pasta. And, of course, the bagels were ever present. I’d also bought myself a new pair of running shoes a few weeks ago and got the proper break-in mileage on them. There’s nothing like a new pair of running shoes! I stocked up on GU energy gels. I felt prepared mentally, convincing myself that I had done this thing once before; I could do it again. I gave myself permission to walk if I needed to (and there are some wicked hills on the course). I only had two goals with this marathon: I needed to reach the cut-off point at mile 7.5 within the designated time limit so they would let me remain on the full marathon course, which wouldn’t be a problem if my training runs were any indication. And I wanted to complete the full course within the maximum overall time allowed. I had done that in Portland with stabbing knees, so I was confident I could do it in Kansas City, perhaps even with a better finish time.

Three days before the race I got my hair cut, both to be streamlined and to drop the extra weight. I had trimmed my toenails and my fingernails. I had even trimmed my eyebrows! (Really! I have this one hair in my left eyebrow that grows insanely fast and curls down before my eye, snagging my eyelashes. There is nothing worse that having an eyebrow hair snagging your eyelashes — really, nothing is worse.)

I had a light dinner the night before and was early to bed. I slept surprisingly well and woke before my usual freakish hour (2:30 a.m.). When I let the dogs out, the temperature was 47 degrees, which was much better than the 39 degrees that was forecast. I always dread the “cold” even though I know that once I get going I either warm up enuf or I have other things to manage and don’t care about the cold. But 47 degrees isn’t cold, and at 52 percent humidity, the conditions were just about ideal for running. My legs felt great as I stumbled around the dark house. I flossed and brushed thoroughly. I ate a banana and a bagel. And I dressed in my kit slowly, as I always do before a big run, mostly to make sure I have everything I need but also to take some time to be contemplative and focused.

All that was left was to drive downtown and get ready to run.

Skywatch Friday ~ Ozark sky

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Ozark sky

This was Sunday’s sky, when I was last out to my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. We had a beautiful, sunny day, and though the temperature did reach into the 80s, we didn’t swim in the lake. I suspected that the water was pretty cold given the cooler temps of late.

We had hoped that we might be able to enjoy the turning of the leaves, but since Roundrock is 100 miles or so south of my home in suburban Kansas City, the trees are still clinging to their leaves and the notion that fall may never come this time.

This patch of sky is looking up from the road through the trees down the south-facing slope. I’ve used this angle a few times before; I like how the trees frame the sky.

Well, wish me luck or fleet feet or whatever.

watching grass grow

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015


One of the non-chores I wanted to be sure to take up while at Roundrock recently was to see the lavish growth of the fescue I had seeded several weeks before on the dam and spillways. I had made a frantic, solo dash out there then so that I could get the seed down before the inevitable rains. As far as I can tell, not much rain fell in the ensuing weeks.

What you see above is exemplary of what I found on Sunday. Pretty much no growth at all from the seeds, but whatever rain fell seems to have washed the seeds into little collectives. Compare this to what I have left behind when I had seeded:


Notice also how the green coating on the seeds seems to have washed off. I had understood that the coating was to help the seeds retain water, but if it washes off, that doesn’t seem to be working. (You can even see a green stain on a rock in the top photo that I’m assuming came off the seeds. There were plenty of vividly green rocks in the spillway.)

Obviously, this job takes patience.

seasonal stuff starts

Monday, October 12th, 2015

back of cabin

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be away so long. Really I didn’t mean to be away at all, but it happens, I guess.

Anyway, Libby and I (and the dogs) made a trip down to Roundrock yesterday to enjoy a perfect fall day. We had no chores on our agenda, and we vigorously went about them. Mostly we stayed closed to the cabin since we haven’t had a hard freeze yet, so we didn’t want to get buggy. (I have this little run coming up in a few days, and the last thing I would want is incessantly itchy ankles. I’m sure you understand.)

The lake was down a couple more feet since my last visit, but that’s expected. There hasn’t been rain in the area for a long time, so the lake hasn’t gotten a good recharge. It’s still plenty deep to overwinter the fish, but I would love to see a few big storms pass through and make it deeper. Fingers crossed.

As you can see above, the seasonal chore of clearing out the leaves that accumulate behind the cabin has become real. I don’t like leaves against the cabin for a few reasons. One, they can give critters a place to hide and perhaps find a way in. Two, they are a fire hazard against a wooden cabin. And three, it they get wet, the can make the lower “logs” grow mold. So this time of year, whenever I go out to Roundrock, I’ll spend a little of my time with a rake in hand to correct this little problem.

Those planks you see on the left are resting on a brown tarp. I had put the tarp there months and months ago to kill the grass that was growing there. (I also don’t like scrub growing close to the cabin.) I’m pretty sure there is no plant life alive under there now, but as I raked past it yesterday, I noticed a little cavity dug out of the gravel near the edge of the tarp. I think some critter is probably living under there, so my plan is actually bringing critters closer to the cabin.

I would have moved the tarp (there are plenty of places in the graveled area that could use a little plant retardant), but that wasn’t on my list of chores that I didn’t have anyway. Maybe next visit.