my life as a hipster dog

The track was closed today because the track is always closed. That’s not new. What IS new is that the dog park was closed because of the Great Storm of 2019. But fear not — the dogs just moved the party over to the running course.

The loop is four-tenths of a mile, just enough time for a dog to see you coming and pick up a full head of steam. I’m not sure dogs pick up steam in their heads, but whatever. I can’t spell colloquialism.

FYI, dog owners: Saying “no!” doesn’t really do much when your unleashed, range-free dog is competing with two others in a spirited game of Eat The Runner. Luckily, I resorted to my go-to dog defense: Jumping up on a bench and screaming like a little girl. As always, an apology to little girls everywhere, who are much braver than me.

Fortunately, the dogs lost interest before the owners could reach me to quote the famous “Pink Panther” line, “My dog does not bite (insert french accent here).”

This led to a fun game of “Let’s Wrap Our Leashes Around The Old Guy’s Legs.” Upside: That meant some good citizens had their dogs on leashes. What a concept. Downside: some people also had ME on leashes. Did I mention I sorta hated this run?

But the showstopper was the Hipster Couple’s dog. I think he was dressed for tomorrow’s Academy Awards, or possibly today’s Razzies. The best thing about being a dog is not realizing how silly you look. Which I’m sure is what most people think about my daily running attire. I should probably work on my Hipster Running Wardrobe.

Two miles, 38 headaches, and a solemn vow to say screw it and jump the fence at the track tomorrow, where there are no dogs, and no hipsters. I hope I can find a gold sweater before then …

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weather or not

Though the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting
with 10 miles behind me and 10,000 more to go …
— the prophet james taylor

Mo and I talk a lot about moving to Flagstaff or Seattle. Maybe Portland. Sure, it’s cold, we say. But it’s just a matter of wearing layers. No problem.

I’m standing at the track today. It’s terribly, terribly cold. Sub-50s. It’s been raining for two days, but there’s finally a break. I go to the track.

I am stunned by the mountains in the background. “You gotta go see the McDowells,” Mo told me on the phone as she drove to work. Now I see why. They are covered in a white frosting. We’re in the midst of the biggest snowstorm in the state’s history, bringing 3 feet of snow to northern Arizona and snow levels down to somewhere around the top row of the bleachers at the track. The mountains have been covered by heavy clouds up until this afternoon, but now they’re glimmering in a breathtaking backdrop for the college. It’s amazing.

I think about what it would be to live someplace with snow. The change in seasons, the bracing cold of winter. Having lived in the desert most of my life, it seems like a nice change. I’m in. Let’s do it.

I stand in the bleachers, ready to jump the fence and run. But I can’t. It’s so cold and wet and ugly. I have no idea how people can survive in these conditions. Maybe they wear long pants or something. I screw up enough courage to last three crummy miles. And then I unscrew it and run back to the warmth of the car. Running is supposed to be fun. Running in the cold is the opposite of fun.

Maybe it’s just not meant to be, this cold weather thing. I embrace triple digits. I hate being cold and wet. I always have. I don’t know how to make that work. 10 miles behind me and 10,000 more to go.

I get out of the car and take one last look at the mountains, bright with newly fallen snow. They’re beautiful.

We should really move to Flagstaff. Maybe in July. Just a matter of wearing layers. No problem …

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radiant shimmering light

Snapshots from a rainy day:

» I pull on my wool shirt, my fleece jacket, my marmot rain jacket, my neoprene booties, some shoes I don’t mind getting soaked, and head out into the elements. Rain and wind be damned; I’m running. I arrive at the track. It’s closed. I go to Chaparral. It’s open. I step out of the car. It’s freezing. I drive home. A solid 8-miler. All driving.

» I go to the neighborhood grocery store. Mo needs half and half for her coffee. Of all the people I’ve known in my life, Mo is my favorite by far. But don’t screw up the cream for her coffee. As I’m walking out, a guy is standing at the doorway. He has a beautiful dog; he’s standing right next to a large sign that says “NO DOGS ALLOWED.” He asks an employee if he could watch him for just a minute because he desperately needs to get something. The guy says he can’t. I tell him I can do it. He’s very grateful and says the dog won’t be a problem. He has no idea.

My new best friend jumps up on the bench next to the door and gets comfy, an eye toward the aisle his friend is headed down. I sit down next to him and scritch his ears. Instant pals. As we wait, I am barraged by compliments from people walking in who think he’s mine. “Great dog.” “Wow, he’s handsome.” “Look at those eyes!” I acknowledge the compliments, making a mental note that this would be a great babe magnet one day when I eventually screw up Mo’s cream.

A guy walks in, looks over, and is transfixed. “Is that an Australian shepherd?” he asks. I tell him I’m not sure. “Does he have a tail?” he asks. I tell him I don’t know. “How old is he?” Again, I say I don’t know. This guy clearly has a thing for Aussy Sheps (that’s what we dog people call them) and is a bit concerned I know nothing about my own dog. He used to have one, he says. Best dog he ever had. I nod knowingly.

That’s when the owner comes back and my ruse ends. He thanks me and I wander out of the store. Looking over my shoulder, I see the other guy is tailing him out of the store, still asking questions. I decide the talking to strangers dilemma clearly outweighs the babe magnet thing. I go home to my cat, who doesn’t even look up to acknowledge my return.

» My five-day fast lasts exactly 28 hours, when I get a collect call from a macadamia cookie at Subway, asking me to pick it up. It’s so cold and dreary outside that eating seems like a fine diversion. As I’m finishing my meal, a homeless woman comes in. It’s pouring rain outside with a whipping wind. She has her life in eight bags, some decent cloth ones and some precarious plastic grocery bags. The Subway guy looks up. I’m expecting him to view her with disdain, but instead his face lights up. “Hi! The usual?” he asks her. Yes, she says, shaking the water off. He runs through the soups of the day and gets a container that looks suspiciously too large. Sub of the day? he asks. She nods.

As she is going through the veggies, I think about offering to pay for it. But it seems so demeaning, making the assumption someone needs help. I hope the Subway guy gives her a deal. I jnow he gave her respect. I hope she finds a dry, warm place tonight.

» I go to the civic center library. It’s the kind of amazing library you’d expect in an affluent area like ours. Big, comfy leather chairs, lots of nooks and crannies, the perfect place to spend a rainy day when you have no place else to go.

I search through the new books, pulling one off the shelf and sitting down to read the first 10 pages or so. I figure you can tell if you want to read the book by then. If you can’t put it down at this point, it comes home with you. When I look at my phone, I realize I’ve been there for an hour. I settle on a book about a poor artist who gets sucked into the marketing of social media. I think I’ll like it.

And then I decide to take the plunge. Mo, reluctantly loaning me her library card today, mentioned that maybe I’d like to get my own at some point. So that’s what I do.

The guy at the front desk surveys me. I haven’t shaved in a week. I’m wearing my work clothes, that being a Mo T-shirt with Klondike bar chocolate slopped down the front, ancient Gramicci shorts I haven’t washed since I started working at home, and purple high-top sneakers. He’s been watching me from his perch and surely thinks I’m among the homeless clientele. But he’s a really nice guy and helps me even though he seems skeptical that the address on my license is actually my address. He does not offer me soup in an oversized cup. I hope I find a dry, warm place tonight. As I leave, eight firefighters are trying to help a homeless guy who is somewhere between a medical emergency and a fistfight. Library trips are always a reminder.

» I finally break down and go to the apartments’ little fitness center, where I throw down a totally uninspired mile in the purple shoes. ITBS still assures me it’s in no rush to move along. I had hoped the crappy weather might encourage it to move along, but it’s feeling like we’ll be roommates for a while. This is EXACTLY what happens any time you sign up for a race.

» I come home and listen to Dead Hot and think about life. It’s all so random. A couple  killed this morning on the road we drive a lot because a guy tried to sneak through a yellow light. People trapped in Payson with nowhere to stay because the 87 closed after the Great Snowstorm of 2019. The smell of Ben-Gay wafting through the room even though my brain knows it has no effect on ITBS. The joy of eating a Klondike bar after 24 hours of nothing. The magic of curling up under a blanket with a good book and a cup of sleepytime tea, the cat showing no signs of giving up the chair or Mo’s coat.

“Maybe there’s a reason for exactly how we are,” the prophet Brent Babb said. “Oh, well, you never can tell.” I gave up trying to find a reason a long, long time ago.

“Maybe there’s no reason,” the prophet Babb said. “Maybe we just are.” The guy was a prophet and nobody knew. I hope he finds a dry, warm place tonight.

And that’s the story of my life. A new chapter begins tomorrow. Another round of blues. More snapshots …

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anne who?

And then, after 20 years as a law-abiding citizen, I jumped the fence at the track.

It started out innocently enough. Walking up, I could see the only gate open yesterday was now locked, so no track today. But as I’m about to turn around, a guy who had just jumped the fence waves from inside and says hi.

It’s funny, because I was thinking this morning about how silly rules are. Two new studies say you must not drink diet coke and you must do 41 pushups a day or you will surely die. I do, and I don’t, for many decades now, and I’m still here. Sometimes you break the rules and live your life. The Sheehan Experiment of One.

Mostly, you can never let another guy think you’re a chicken. Even though you are.

So I take the leap.

The guy is super fast — that’s him pictured above. There are basically two types of runners: Those who come to the track with a coach in a floppy hat with a stopwatch, and those who don’t. This guy is that first kind.

No idea who he is, but he has great music going and warms up wearing green socks, so he’s OK by me. His coach is wearing brown corduroy pants, so I’m guessing they might not be from around here. You don’t survive long in the desert in corduroy.

He’s running 400s with recoveries after a long warmup. Not quite in gazelle mode yet, but I have to leave before he kicks things into high gear.

There’s something inspiring about sharing the track with someone that fast. I run a 10:03 first mile and my fastest 5k yet in the Year of Fleshman. I walk an extra lap just to admire him floating past.

And then I realize.

I totally broke the law, going over the locked fence and hopping on the track illegally. And nothing happened.

If i had told 20-year-old Gary that drinking two diet cokes a day, avoiding pushups religiously and breaking and entering would allow him at age 62 to run on a glorious day with an elite guy, he would’ve signed up in a second. Me too.

Anarchy is underrated.

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a leap of faith

One of the challenges with a community college track is its limited budget. The peeps in charge of the track can’t afford some of the advanced features found at the Big University Tracks.

Case in point: the hurdles. Our track is lacking those Fancy Pants Super-Expensive Big City Hurdles. But that doesn’t slow things down here. Haters gonna hate; hurdlers gonna hurdle.

The solution: Construction barricades!!!They’re almost the same color and close enough to the same height, allowing the determined runner to hurdle on a budget. Dan O’Brien, Olympic decathlon gold medalist, has been known to grace this track many times, so it must work.

Downside: The hurdles are a bit less forgiving should you clip one. I assume that’s why the orange cones are between them. The spacing is also off a bit, but what doesn’t kill you will only make you severely injured, right?

Other downside: Getting swallowed up by the potholes in the parking lot now that they’re no longer marked. Oh, well. Nobody said running was easy. Maybe Galloway did, but he makes stuff up.

OK day today. I was a DNF at the Third Friday Art Walk last night, tripping on a sidewalk crack and taking a nasty spill, but today felt better than I thought it would. Bunch of people out for Saturday prime time. Fun.

Everyone has hurdles to overcome on their way to the finish. I just wish mine didn’t cause so many face.

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allbirds are not created equal

As an Internet Influencer ©, with almost a dozen followers (at least three of them actual people), i take my responsibility seriously in presenting new products. And I can honestly say the Allbird Tree Toppers are one of them. Or possibly two.

I will say up front that they sent me the shoes for free, plus $115 for shipping and handling, but that in no way influences my review. Which is this.

I like them. They’re sort of purple, which doesn’t really go with anything, but then neither do I. They’re high-toppish, which serves no apparent purpose, so I assume I’m making a fashion statement. That statement being “look at the weird guy in purple high-toppish shoes.”

And they’re Allbirds, so they’re environmentally friendly. I figure the planet could use all the friends it can get these days.

But have they made me a better runner? Maybe. I wore them yesterday while working, and today’s run was significantly faster even though I was wearing my usual New Balance Beacons. Coincidence? Or the cosmic power of laces recycled from plastic bottles? Or maybe just because I didn’t run yesterday. Damn New Jersey early snow deadlines.

So there you have it. Allbird Tree Toppers. Run faster. Save the planet. Look like Barney the Dinosaur. Taco Tuesday. Hot dog bun. My sister’s a nun.

Whew. Being an Internet Influencer © is a lot of work.

The End.

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but no springsteen

It’s easy to forget that the best thing about running is the people you meet along the way, those fellow misfits who accidentally become your friend and come storming onto the track after your morning run for one last hurrah.

I’m not a person who makes many friends. That’s OK. The ones I have are just right.

See you next time. Blueberry cream pop IPA is on me.

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