he was old years beyond his time, no thanks to the world and the white port wine

It strikes me that one is unlikely to gain the lofty status of wine snob when drinking out of a brown paper bag and a sock monkey.


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what’s half a kilo among friends?

I’m toodling along in the forest. Yes, I toodle when I run. Don’t judge.

It’s a small race in a lovely park. Pine trees everywhere. Super muddy singletrack, a little grass, a few jeep roads. Perfect course. Sunny day. Warm. Happy. Garmin buzzes as I go through the first mile at 13:08. Just about right. I turn my brain back on autopilot. I go along for another third of a mile. And then.

The 1 mile sign.

It’s at 1.3 miles. I’ve run a lot of races where the mile markers were off because the actual split was at an intersection or a weird spot where it made the marker impossible, but not here. This is just off. WAY off. Oh, well. A fluke.

I shut the brain off again (my brain doesn’t particularly care for running and tends to take race days off.) A mile of sloshing later, the Garmin buzzes at the 2 mile split. 12:48. Again, just about right. I had hoped for 12’s going in, but as soon as I saw the terrain I knew this would be more of a 13 adventure. All’s well. Until.

At exactly 2.3 miles,the 2 mile sign arrives. The distance from sign to sign is precisely a mile. Clearly, the race director has a sense of humor.

And so it goes for 10.3 miles. The course is basically flat (Houston is not known for its mountains). It feels sort of like Rocky except there aren’t as  many roots. I manage to find one, of course, for a very unspectacular crash that hurts nothing except one finger. And I have nine others. No harm.

It’s no big deal mentally. Garmin buzz, lull, mile marker. Garmin buzz, lull, mile marker. All subsequent mile markers are correct if you add the original 0.3 miles.  I guess it’s good to know early on that it’s a 10.3 mile race. And really, who cares?

Back in the old days, before there was GU and GPS and GRE and motorized transportation, I suspect race directors just made up distances. We ran a 50k at South Mountain in Phoenix that was out and back on a 14 mile trail. I guess the South Mountain 28 didn’t have the same cache. The Bloody Basin 100 started in a convenient parking lot and the turnaround was an enormous power line in the middle of nowhere that made for an easy to locate landmark. Nobody questioned the odds of that being exactly 50 miles. The Mt. Ord Marathon started in a little dirt parking lot, went to the top of Mt. Ord, back to the bottom down another trail, back halfway up and then back to the little parking lot. What are the odds that it happened to be exactly 42.195 kilometers? All we knew was that it hurt a lot, and running through knee-deep snow wasn’t that much fun, whatever the distance was.

But now we know the truth about race courses. The truth is, they’re often not exact at all. The other truth is, I still don’t much care. Running is fun. Worrying is not. I’d rather stick with that first one.

I’m about a quarter mile from the finish when I see Mo standing alongside the trail. I tell her the course is three-tenths of a mile long, hoping she’ll cheerfully offer to give me a piggyback ride for the last quarter. She does not.

“Ah, that explains it,” she says. A few minutes earlier, a woman had come by on a rant about how mad she was and no way in hell was she going to run the extra distance. Mo didn’t know what she was talking about, but the bonus 0.3 revelation explained it.

I shift into my Incredible Sprint and finish the race. They have barbecue, homemade beer and blue Gatorade. Two out of three. We eat, and I bask in the OK-ness of finishing with no disasters. 13:14 overall pace and no bonk. Maybe a little bit of confidence in the plan and the upcoming schedule.

But it keeps bugging me. Why? Every mile marker after the first mile was spot on. Why would they have missed the first one so badly, ensuring that all the splits were wrong as well? I watch one of the 50k guys go by as he begins the second loop. And then it hits me.

They’re running a 10 mile race, a 20 miler, and a 50k on the same loop. The 50k, being The More Serious Race, gets priority. It’s a 10.3 mile loop so that three loops works out to be precisely 31.1 miles. Um, or 30.9 miles. Did I mention running isn’t an exact science?

Poor 20 milers got a 20.6 mile course. No extra charge.

Maybe that’s the moral, in a South Park Cartman Preaching kind of way. Don’t get hung up on exact distances. Get hung up on sunny, warm days in the woods, splashing through mud puddles and listening to wary birds as you spend a couple of hours being a kid all over again. It’s a trail run. There are no world records at stake. Distance is a state of mind. Have fun.

I gotta take Mo on that Mt. Ord run someday. Whatever distance it turns out to be …


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the quotable mo sheppo, part 6

Mo, on a too-long shift of driving down an endless stretch of highway at night as we come home from the race:

“Wow. Look at that moon! It’s amazing! Oh, never mind. It’s just a Shell service station.”

We switched out soon afterward.

Sometimes I forget how sneaky Mo is …

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i win

It all seemed so simple. I needed a 10-mile race for the wlmtp. Gumbo has a new baby. They’re both in Houston. Done and done.

It’s 80 bucks for 10 miles. If my Jenster math is correct, that’s $37.50 per 1k. But what price to see little Caroline before they send her off to Jenster Math Camp? This was going to be easy.

Fast forward a month. It’s Friday morning. The race is Saturday. Mo decided last night that the steering wheel of our vehicle is about to fall off. The solution: A 7 a.m. visit to the Toyota place. No problem.

Mo describes the technical problem to

the guy. Makes a funny noise. He nods his head knowingly. We wait. And wait. And wait and wait and wait and wait.

And then, we wait. And leave.

As we’re driving home, the guy calls. He wants us to come back to discuss. This sounds to me like the old joke where your cat’s dead HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT you should start out with your cat’s up on the roof and then your cat fell off the roof and then your cat’s hurt and then your cat’s dead, followed by I need to tell you about your grandmother she’s up on the roof.

The guy has a piece of paper and a calculator. He asks how much money we have. We tell him maybe a couple thousand bucks. Which is EXACTLY how much this is going to cost. The good news: No more worries about having to retire. The bad news: The car won’t be ready until the Fourth of July.

The drive home is quiet. I’m totally bummed about missing the race.  80 bucks down the drain. And 2,000 bucks for a bunch of stuff that may or may not fix the car.

Still, it’s only a $2,080 race. Not so bad. Plus we stop for a pre-race Egg McMuffin, Jenny’s meal of choice. So $2,086. And I think they have a free beer. Except we don’t have a car.

And then.

Mo says what the hell, we can take your car.

The thing to know is that my car is an 88 Honda that’s held together mostly with duct tape and other stuff found in my running bag. It’s barely safe to drive 4 miles a day, much less 200 miles to Houston. But Mo knows that look in my eyes and figures we’re going to die eventually anyhow, so what the hell.

Erring on the side of safety, I go for an oil change. It’s been 25 years, so I figure I’m due. The guy rings me up for 38 bucks. Still, it’s just 2,124 bucks. And I think they have free barbecue at the finish. The guy hands me my receipt and says, by the way your front tires are splitting. You will die in the next half hour if you don’t replace them.

I do the mental math. Yes, it will take more than 30 minutes to get to Houston. I go to the tire place.

The guy there looks at my car. “YOU HAVE A HONEY BADGER” Apparently the 88 Honda is known to be a fabulous race car conversion among a certain faction who enjoyed the fast & furious movies till the cute guy bought the farm. He asks what I have under the hood. An engine, I think, I reply. Yes, I exclusively watch the Hallmark channel and run in a skirt. Don’t judge. He says I should upgrade to aluminum wheels. I decline. He mutters and sells me a set of granny tires. I try to peel out as I leave the parking lot, but my car maxes out at 30 mph and it takes about an hour to get up to that speed. 380 bucks. A steal. And the race is only costing 2,504 bucks.

It’s been a bad day. I stop for a Coke slushy. Which turns out to be a Coke sludgy. The slush monkey machine has taken the day off. I opt instead for the family size Hershey bar, because, well, it’s chocolate. And it’s chocolate. I might have mentioned that one already. Total: 2,506 bucks.

I go home, prop my feet up, and bask in the knowledge I will not have to eat the entry fee. Victory is mine. Sometimes it just pays to be frugal.

Bring on the race.

Yes, I realize I’ll probably sleep through the alarm and miss the whole thing …

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life is pain. anyone who says differently is selling something

“Who am I? Why am I here?”
– James Stockdale

I recently turned up in fine form on a running forum I once frequented, except it wasn’t me. Actually, it was way better. Which made me wonder. Who am I?

The internet is an odd place. You invent yourself, embellishing the good parts (yes, I was on the copter with Brian Williams) and leaving out the bad (yes, I wore a bow tie in a business fraternity portrait.) I suppose the real me is somewhere in the middle. But where?

I likely really am a runner, given the neverending series of shoe photos. I most likely live in a place that’s almost like living in Texas. And I would appear to be associated with the tattered remains of what used to be referred to as “journalism.”

But that’s about it.

It struck me that the person taking on my persona could actually pull it off quite easily. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, the name is just a franchise. Anyone with a passing knowledge of me could step into the role. Just throw in weird stuff that makes no sense, add a Medium Chocolate Frosty reference and you’re there.

We all want to live forever, or at least till the U.S. normalizes relations with Cuba. Or the Cubs. Isn’t this the way to do it? Aren’t we on the sixth or seventh incarnation of Heloise?

The prophet Ben Folds said it best:

life barrels on like a runaway train
Where the passengers change, but they don’t change anything
You get off someone else can get on

Oddly enough, I had a dream a couple of days ago that Justin BeeBee was stealing the margarine franchise. I awoke startled, and redoubled my efforts to defeat him. But what if? Who really cares? Mild Sauce sagely pointed out that we read blogs for entertainment, not because we care about the person. Dance, monkey.

Who am I? Why am I here?  I’ve been doing this so long. I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.

Maybe I should consider piracy.

We’re sorry Mr. Jones
We’re sorry Mr. Jones
We’re sorry Mr. Jones
It’s time.


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things i wish i had said, part 48

“Never expect it to feel easy. The tornado is coming. You don’t train to avoid destruction; you train to remain calm in the face of it.”

— lauren fleshman

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One day at a bus station


Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going to rain today

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles
With frozen smiles to chase love away
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going to rain today

Lonely, lonely
Tin can at my feet
Think I’ll kick it down the street
That’s the way to treat a friend

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going to rain today

— the prophet randy Newman

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