Now my grandfather was a sailor, he blew in off the water.
My father was a farmer and I, his only daughter.
Took up with a no good millworking man from Massachusetts
who dies from too much whiskey and leaves me these three faces to feed.

I was listening to James Taylor’s song “Millworker” last night. It’s a lovely snapshot of a woman’s plight in a factory job as she watches her life slip past. There are times at work when I sing it all night.

Millwork ain’t easy, millwork ain’t hard,
millwork it ain’t nothing but an awful boring job.
I’m waiting for a daydream to take me through the morning
and put me in my coffee break where I can have a sandwich and remember.

It’s not that work’s awful. It’s just the realization over the years that I’m not going to change the world; I’m not going to make a difference. I’m just cutting down some trees and filling in blank spots around ads. And I guess that’s OK. Because I can still run.

But even running has become a bit of a grind these days. Maybe because I keep getting slower. Maybe because I’ve lost touch with the mojojojo. I don’t know.

it’s me and my machine for the rest of the morning,
for the rest of the afternoon and the rest of my life.

But then yesterday made me think. My friend Gumbo posted this:

“No matter how old I get or how pregnant I am, there will always be joy in running through puddles.”

Now my mind begins to wander to the days back on the farm.
I can see my father smiling at me, swinging on his arm.
I can hear my granddad’s stories of the storms out on Lake Erie
where vessels and cargoes and fortunes and sailors’ lives were lost.

Maybe I just need to work more at making runs fun. I just don’t remember how. Maybe running at the farm? Is there a trail run around Lake Erie?

Yes, but it’s my life has been wasted, and I have been the fool
to let this manufacturer use my body for a tool.
I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands,
swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance

It’s not that running’s awful. It’s just the realization over the years that I’m not going to change the running world; I’m not making a difference. I’m just using up some shoes and filling in blank spots around my life. And I guess that’s OK. Because I can still run. I guess that’s enough.

I really wish it would rain today. I need a puddle.

So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
and never meet the man whose name is on the label.

It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
and the rest of the afternoon, gone for the rest of my life.

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Moose is a guy in Italy I sort of know, if hanging out with someone on the interwebz counts as sort of knowing him. If there’s a World’s Coolest Guy contest, he’s going to at least make it to the swimsuit competition at the end of the show, although he will refuse to wear the white Speedo.

He lives with the Countess FiFi and pretends to be a chemist of some sort. But mostly he runs. Ridiculous, mind-boggling, crazy-climb ultramarathons.

Which brings us to the Tor des Géants. It’s a 330km race with about 14 miles of elevation gain. Look up at the sky. Draw a line 14 miles up. That’s where he went. The cutoff time is 150 hours. Pause there. 150 hours? To me, that’s a red flag for “DON’T DO THIS RACE YOU IDIOT IT’S TOO HARD WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING!!!!” Lots of events throw out the “world’s hardest race” label. These guys don’t need to. It’s a Beast.

Which, of course, is undoubtedly the reason he did it. And spectacularly well.

If you know Moose, you know he’s always smiling no matter how much he’s suffering, and his photos tend to have snowcapped mountains or some other postcard setting behind him, and all of his running compadres are disturbingly attractive in that vaguely European sense. So you get used to Moose photos being amazing in an “oh, these aren’t real people this is a shot staged by some Italian fitness magazine” sort of way.

But with this image, the contest for Greatest Finish Line Photo Ever is over.


Why do I run? Why do I go out day after day to log pointless miles in an endless quest to get somewhere I don’t even know exists? Because of that feeling of giving your absolute maximum effort, and going beyond that, and then going beyond that, and then some more, and then a little bit extra, and then dying, and then being born again, and dying, and coming back as a ghost, and hitting incredibly lows followed by spectacular highs and and then even greater lows and more soaring highs and then finding the meaning of life out on some singletrack and then losing it somewhere between aid stations and then finding it again in the bottom of your pack and finally oh my god finally seeing that finish line and knowing your life will never be the same if you can just live long enough to cross it. And then lifting your arms and looking to the heavens. And then it’s over and you get to sit down.

That’s why Moose runs. That’s why I run. That’s why we all run.

Well done, Davide. Today’s run is for you. My legs will be running at 0 feet of elevation. But my head will be in the clouds.

p.s. Someone asked him what he was thinking as he crossed the finish line. His response: “First thought … let me think … “I really need a tinkle.”

Life is all about priorities …

Posted in running | Tagged | 5 Comments

science to the spirit’s rescue, indeed


I remember the old days. I would put on my shoes, head out the door and run. Sometimes to a destination or with a purpose, but usually just a random celebration of life to feel the breeze and inhale the morning and revel in the glorious slow ache that comes over the body during an hour of what Dr. Sheehan called finding something in me that was just perfect.

What a chump.

Today I ran exactly 4.00 miles. My stride length was .073. My cadence was 165 strides per minute, with a max of 183. My average heart rate was 137, with 20 minutes above 144 bpm. Four sets of five minutes with 1 minute recoveries. 54 feet of elevation gain ranging in elevation from 3 feet to 31 feet. 531 calories burned. Splits, average pace, barometric pressure, Super Lotto bonus number, weight, number of miles on Oggi Tartufo? They’re all there. Just gotta figure out how to monitor my gum chewing at aerobic threshold. There’s probably a $79 add-on module that will do it.

Maybe today was a lovely day to run. Might have been a breeze. Could have been something in me that was perfect. Don’t know. Too busy monitoring my mediocrity to notice.

But my numbers went up! It means I’m having more fun.

Maybe my garmin will break soon …

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i would have tripped him, but i was scared of the dog

I was dropped like a rock by a 4-year-old.

Today was the first time in about four months that I was able to use the term “high 70s” without referring to the humidity. That day after a thunderstorm, rare wind from the north, bone-chilling 79 degree weather that makes for a perfect run.

I’m back on another silly training plan for three days or so when I lose interest, so I was running on HR. Is there anything more pleasant than an easy run on a cool day that isn’t sold at Wendy’s in a medium cup? Magic.


Coming up The Only Hill In Corpus Christi, I began walking to keep the heart rate in the easy zone. I hear him coming from behind. Pat pat pat pat pat bark pat pat pat pat pat bark.

Glancing over my shoulder, it’s a kid with a medium-size dog on a leash. Mom is up ahead. He’s heading up the hill at an incredibly high pace. Or maybe I’m just slow.

Sure, the dog is pulling him along. But all’s fair in love and crushing old guys’ spirits.

He blasts by me and never lets up till the top of the hill. If you see a brown-haired guy with a dog in the 2024 Olympic marathon, you’ll know where he came from.

I don’t know how training will go. My heart’s just not up for long stuff anymore, so  maybe focusing on a half marathon will work. Or just giving up. Yeah, maybe that one.

Maybe I can stick with it for 16 weeks without a monkey flying out of my butt. We’ll see where the road leads me.

Or maybe I just need a dog.

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pop candy

“Hearing bands that never got played on the radio, reading books banned by our school library, seeing films that had been dubbed from tape to tape to tape — those electric jolts of discovery woke me up. The more stuff I found, loved and shared, the more I understood the best things in life usually don’t have a fan club, and art that doesn’t elicit emotion probably isn’t worth my time.”

– Whitney Matheson, USA Today pop culture blogger who was laid off after 15 years without getting to say goodbye to her readers. This is from her farewell blog post that she posted on her own website afterward.

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when fortune cookies go bad, part 2

 This monkey’s gone to heaven
This monkey’s gone to heaven
This monkey’s gone to heaven
This monkey’s gone to heaven

– the prophet black francis


Basically my fortune cookie is telling me “go bother someone else instead.”

Now if only I had a friend.

Mostly, I want a fortune cookie that tells me practical stuff. Like, if you’re running and drop dead in the Baptist church parking lot, do you automatically go to heaven? If so, do you pause your garmin and continue the run there, or do you have to start over? And just what are the age-group categories in heaven? Is there like a 3,500-3,504? And the post-race raffle must have incredible odds. Will my Garmin even work there at all? And am I stuck with whatever running shoes I’m wearing at the time? Because these kind of smell funny and I’d hate to stink up the joint. And IS there a heaven for balloons, my friend? Is there a place to which they go? How can a tiny song that you last heard at a folk festival 30 years ago still be floating around in your head? I think that I shall never know.

THESE are the sorts of things I want my fortune cookie to tell me. Not “um, go ask your mother.” Thanks a lot, panda express. Invaluable indeed. I hope I get a monkey in heaven and he clears all this up. And I hope he has a balloon.

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when i first went there, it wasn’t even that grand

nice grand canyon lodge reservation guy: One last question. How did you hear about us?

me: You’re the Grand Canyon.

ngclrg: No, the lodges.

me: Beats me. I’ve been going there for 30 years.

ngclrg: Magazine ad? Internet? Friend told you? Other?

me: I have no idea.

ngclrg: No idea? (“no idea” apparently is not on the list.)

ngclrg, me: looooooooooooong silence. A blank must be filled in here.

me: I guess Internet premonition.

ngclrg: (brightens) Internet! Great. Thanks for your call!

me: sigh.

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