Trail Snake

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This is a first.  I stepped on a bull snake on the trail today.  I was running through the trail along the creek near the softball field at 83rd and Niwot Road.  The grass falls over the trail so that the dirt is only about 20% visible.  I stepped on him with my right foot, he snapped up his head, which I whacked with my left ankle.  Subsequently, I screeched like a little girl.  As much as I know rattle snakes don’t lay across the trail like that, bull snakes look a lot like rattlers.  Some ladies were standing a few yards away.  They were possibly more frightened than me.  They convinced me to roll down my anklet sock to ensure I wasn’t bitten.  I wasn’t.  Got in twelve miles today though.  Awesome run.

Critique

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critique

Everyone’s a critic.  No really, in this critique group I recently joined, the eight other members are all critics.  That’s how it works.  I shared my first draft with a few friends initially, and that feedback was useful.  I was told to expect friends to be a poor choice because they will typically provide nothing but positive feedback in an attempt to motivate.  My friends must not be typical.  I received some decent feedback on improvement.  Still, it’s a different kind of feedback coming from these other writers.  And very useful as well.  I can see how participating in critique groups is essential for writers who self publish.  It serves as a replacement for paying an editor.

I’m going to assume though that I don’t know what I don’t know, and acquire editor services anyway.  I meet with one Tuesday afternoon.  I’ve been reading a number of self published books, for no other reason other than to judge quality.  It shows when writers skip the editing process.  I’ve learned in my own career, anything good is never done alone.  Good product takes a team.  A mix of skills, each bringing their unique qualities.  The woman I’ll talk to Tuesday can perform multiple editing services.  I’ll see what I can afford out-of-pocket.  The publisher would pay for editing in the traditional publishing route-to-market.

I was advised by a writer friend to not feel overly obligated to accept all criticism.  I’m not. None of the writers in my critique group are in my techno thriller genre.  They don’t get the overly technical descriptions and suggest I delete them.  I’ve already dumbed down much of the writing for this reason from the initial feedback from friends, but I’m not going to remove anymore text.  I believe readers of techno thrillers enjoy that content.  If you think about Tom Clancy, he doesn’t say a guy is holding a gun.  He describes the make and model, the year it was produced.  Maybe even the production run it came from along with all the known glitches.  That’s the techno part.  I’ll admit, when I buy some new electronics, I like to read the manual.  Some of us just like that stuff.

I have to say, all this writing is taking away from my running.  The Boulder Marathon was run this morning.  For the first time in maybe six years, I’m not in shape to run a marathon.  I could have run the half but drove my in-laws to DIA instead.  Such awesome fall weather, I’ll get out later today to run some miles.  Ran the East Boulder Trail yesterday with Brit.  Ellie might be too tired to run with me.  She got in after midnight from her first homecoming dance.  She told Brittany after getting home that her friends “had so much fun and danced their asses off.”

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Zion

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Half way between California and Colorado is Zion. So Brit and I booked a night at the Cable Mountain Lodge near the entrance to the park.  We rose before the sun to squeeze in a hike through the Narrows.  The first mile was paved.

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The trail disappeared with the sidewalk.

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Surely, the trail will pick back up around the next curve in the canyon.

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Brit wades deeper.  The trail guide did say something about expecting to get wet.

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And to guard against hypothermia.  The sun is slow to warm up the canyon.

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We hiked up the Virgin River for maybe a quarter mile.  The cold, deep water didn’t turn us back.  The canyon walls drew us in like sirens to the rocks.

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But we had to get home to Colorado by nightfall.  We’ll return for sure to Zion when we’re not just passing through.

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We skipped the high speed Interstate for Hwy 9 through the park, connecting later with highways 89 and 12, traversing Escalade, Boulder, the Dixie National Forest and Capitol Reef National Park.  A virtual lifetime of vistas.  Barely out of Zion, just past the tunnels, we saw a rock that had to be climbed.

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Brit preferred walking the sandstone barefoot to her sandals.

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She finally made it to the top, after me.

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Brit celebrated her climb with a namaste.

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I just did my best to keep my balance.  I don’t have words to describe the splendor of our remaining drive through Utah.  We saw flaming orange aspen in the Dixie Forest and petroglyphs in the cliffs of the Capitol Reef rocks.  If you get a chance to drive between Colorado and California, do yourself a favor and skip the Interstate. Take the scenic byway.

Rock n Roll

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I rolled through the hills of Arroyo Verde Park, for a decent five mile run Saturday morning.  The park, about a half mile from my house, was full of dogs and their owners at the grassy bottom, but contained an awesome soft, dirt trail that undulated around the rim.  Great park and trail system.

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Brit and I found a wonderful french-themed restaurant after my run, Cafe Nouveau, where we had Beignets with bacon and maple syrup for breakfast.

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We arrived early for Brit’s pre-performance rehearsal, so we checked out this horror-themed taproom named Phantom Carriage.  A real find in Carson, near the StubHub Arena.

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At 8pm, Brit rocked LA at a concert benefitting children’s education.  I was given a VIP pass, and to be fair, I played roadie hauling the band’s equipment.  Got to see Rachel Platten perform, and later, Kevin Costner with his country band, Modern West.

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The band is Pete Pidgeon, who is pictured here playing lead guitar.  Brit knows him from Denver.  The funniest thing is that the other backup singer is another Mahoney, Jesse Mahoney.  Eddie Money’s daughter.  Nice girl.  Brit had another friend, Alexa, hang out with us, a super sweetheart.  Brit made some good friends in LA and gained valuable acting experience.  We drive home today, shooting for Zion by nightfall.

Ventura

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I flew out to California Friday to drive Brit back home.  She picked me up at LAX and we drove to my cousin Dick’s house in Ventura to where she has been staying.  House sitting actually since Dick and Cheryl have been RVing throughout Colorado the entire time.

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We arrived in Ventura just in time for lunch at the Lure Fish House and Oyster Bar.  I drank a local IPA with my oysters and ahi tuna sandwich, Firestone Union Jack.  It boasts the west coast IPA style, similar to Colorado, which is aggressively hopped.

girl-scout

Brit was excited to relate her previous two evenings of filming as an extra in a popular TV show.  She applied by uploading photos, to the casting director, of herself in various Halloween costumes that she put together from Target and a local thrift store.  The gig was to be a trick-or-treater.  They liked her girl scout outfit well enough that she got the role.  Their costume department paired it with a scandalously short skirt that has Brittany questioning the meaning of a family show.

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We ended the day with a sunset dinner at the Aloha Steakhouse on the beach.  iPhone 6, no filter above.  We sat at a window overlooking the ocean and the Ventura Pier.  I started with a Figuroa Mountain Hoppy Poppy IPA, before settling on a cab sav to pair with my ribeye.  Actually, I ended the day here.  Brit went on from dinner to rehearse for a gig tomorrow with Eddie Money’s daughter, Jesse.  They’ll be signing together at the We Are LA Festival tomorrow evening.

Cross Country at Sunset

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Ellie won’t be happy with me publishing this photo of her all sweaty and gross after her 5K cross country race.  Too bad,  I’m a proud dad after finally watching her race.  This afternoon was the St. Vrain Valley District Cross Country Meet at Sunset Golf Course.  Really pretty course on a perfect 72° day.

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This photo above is my favorite pic, out of the hundred or so pics I took.  Three girls in unison, same stride, all airborne.  Ellie ran the entire course with her friend Alison, bib # 3476.

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Ellie ran a solid eleven minute pace for the three miles.  First time for her to run in spikes. Her calves will be sore tomorrow.  I had a total blast watching her run.

Writer’s Workshop

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This weekend has been all about me.  I invested in myself by attending a three day conference on the process of writing and publishing a novel.  I did this because I intend to write and publish a novel.  My progress to date is that I wrote a first draft.  I distributed copies to friends I thought could contribute useful feedback and whom might enjoy being part of the process.  And I attended this conference to learn about the process I’ll need to follow.  Next step is to begin writing my second draft.

The first day of sessions was intense.  I felt like I was dropped into a masters level college English class, mid-semester.  This industry speaks its own language.  Plotters, pantsers and query letters.  R&R.  Open door sex vs closed door sex.  Genres I never knew existed.  Paranormal Erotica.  The lady I met who writes this genre wears blue lipstick and graduated with a degree in religious studies.  We talked about just how difficult it is to find and buy blue lipstick.  MAC Cosmetics is currently out of stock but Ultra carries a brand called Hello Sailor.  Everything is foreign to me for now, but I’ll learn.  I attended sessions the first day with a focus on character development and writing with a point of view, either literary or persona.  The Emotion in Fiction session by Angie Hodapp, of the Nelson Literary Agency, was my first four hours.  Her class alone was worth the price of admission.

On the second day, I studied story weaving, plots and subplots by Monica Poole.  Balancing protagonists and antagonists.  Writing the endings and how to foreshadow along the way.  I’m less interested in spending time on the publishing process relative to writing but gave that subject attention as well.  My friend Wendy prepped me to pitch to an agent, which I did in the afternoon.  I spent ten minutes presenting an elevator pitch of my techno thriller to Amy Stapp, a book editor at Tor and fellow runner.  Pitching my story for publication is putting myself a little ahead of my focus, which is currently just on writing this novel, but it’s an opportunity and I didn’t want to pass it up.

I did a couple of things right.  I explained my genre and the storyline.  I missed detailing my main character and his arc.  This is funny if you knew just how weak my character development is currently.  Worse, my hero isn’t even part of the climax because I lost interest in him and focused on a secondary protagonist.  I knew I was doing this at the time and have a plan to write my hero back  into the climax on my second draft, but he currently has an incomplete arc.  Second thing I need to add to my pitch is to compare my work to an author and book.  She asked me this and I had a strong enough response, because Wendy prepped me for this earlier, that she was impressed.  Easy enough to add next time.

I don’t struggle writing dialog, but attended a class on it Sunday anyway and learned some useful tips.  The lecturer was John Blair, a college professor at my alma mater, Texas State.  As I said earlier, I avoided most sessions oriented to publishing, but by the third day my interest in understanding the difference between traditional and independent publishing grew.  Independent publishing can be much more than simply clicking a button on Amazon to upload a file.  At its most complex, the Indie publisher is their own general contractor, paying for all the services that would normally come from a publishing house.  My feelings on the subject have evolved as my understanding has grown this weekend.  I expect I might publish independently because for one, I can do some of the technical work myself and two, writing about cyberwar requires speed-to-market before my attacks become stale.

My final session was two more hours on character development, which is where I focused most of my time these three days.  In this particular session, Developing Dynamic Characters by Heather Webb, I finally learned what character arc is.  And because it was a workshop leveraging our works-in-progress, I nearly scoped out all of my second draft.  Again, this class alone was totally worth the price of the entire workshop.

I’m a little bummed that I’ve yet to see Ellie run a cross country race.  Missed this weekend for the writer’s workshop.  Even though she’s a complete newbie to the sport, Ellie seems to enjoy the workouts.  It’s pretty competitive, with over 30 girl athletes.  The girls team began the season ranked 8th in the state.  She has a couple of races under her belt now and is showing improvement.  I’m so impressed that she pushes herself to the verge of dry heaving during her final kick – a sign of effort – and it doesn’t deter her from crossing the finish line.  I enjoy running so much, sometimes I forget how brutal it can be to race all out like that.

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I can’t help but draw parallels between my completely neophyte experience at a writers convention and Ellie taking on a new sport.  Kids are naturally brave, if ignorant of the pending pain.  I enjoy writing so much that I’ve been willing to put myself out there, opening myself up for criticism or asking the stupid questions in a session.  I’m not sure what I expect the reward to be but subconsciously I’ve already accepted the risk as worthwhile.

My plan with this is to treat writing as a hobby for the next ten or fifteen years.  Become a better writer and learn the publishing process.  I’ve been blogging for ten years and on social media even longer.  I’ve seen my skills improve over that time and think it’s fair to expect a similar arc with writing novels.  Based on what I learned this weekend on publishing, with a little bit of luck, I might be able to expect earning a five figure, annual income in my retirement years.  I could retire on that.  But I have to start now, the money doesn’t flow in on day one.  And yes, I’m thinking now about retirement.

This workshop came at the perfect time, just after completing my first draft.  Combined with some feedback from initial reviewers, I feel like this book is as good as done.  Except of course, rewrites will take time.  But everything I need to do is already in my head.  Came up with a new twist for my ending during a run this afternoon.  I’m so over-the-top excited right now, I honestly feel like I’m on my way to becoming a writer.  Part of the reason my racing times slowed down this year is because I’ve run less in order to spend time writing.  It’s my new hobby for sure.  This blog will always be a runner’s story, but my personal arc has hit a plot shift.  I might not reach my writing denouement until retirement, but I’m now going down that path.

Cari got Married

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In a church built by Swedish Evangelicals on the east bank of the Mississippi in 1917, Cari and Erik had the perfect wedding Sunday.  Brit sang Photograph by Ed Sheeran and her cousin Brook sang opera style in French – this is a short video below.

My sister Sandy is Cari’s mom, pictured below being seated by her son Spencer.

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Long story short, Cari got married as you can see in this video below.

Weddings are such the time for family reunions.  I got to see all four of my sisters.  And all their kids.  Even all the grandchildren.  Pictured below are my sisters Kathy, Sandy, Deb and Nancy.

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My girls represented clan Mahoney, looking pretty in the hotel lobby.

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I’m not the only one who thought Cari and Erik made the perfect couple.  All the speeches confirmed these two are made for each other.  Even more special, I saw the same perfection everywhere I looked.  One brother-in-law bought a second home in Costa Rica and spends a good portion of the year living there, because the climate is good for my sister’s health.  That’s devotion.  Another brother-in-law lights up like a beacon whenever I ask a question about his wife, my sister, and will talk for hours on every detail of her life.  He’s still deeply in love after over thirty years.  Below are Deb and her husband, Kim.

Deb n Kim

There are just so many happy members of my family, my parents must have done something right.  The photo below contains two sons, four daughters, six grand daughters, and three great grandchildren from my parents’ marriage.  Plus one daughter-in-law and a couple of son-in-laws.

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My parents’ wedding photo, from the previous millennium, was on display on the signing book table.  My dad was 21 and my mom just turned 18, five days before her wedding.

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I hope the best for Cari and Erik.  Their wedding was a joyous start.  These photos don’t tell half the story of what a wonderful wedding weekend it was and of all the love on display.

confetti B&W

Rehearsal Dinner

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rehearsal dinner

My sister Sandy’s oldest child, Cari is a special niece.  She spent eight summers in a row with my family in Colorado, through high school and college, serving as nanny to my youngest daughter Ellie.  She is my daughter number three.  She’s pictured here with her fiancé Erik, at the rehearsal dinner.

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The rehearsal dinner was held at Stella’s Fish Cafe in Uptown Minneapolis.  I’m pictured here with my oldest sister Kathy, in a rooftop reunion.  First time for us to see each other in thirty years.

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Weddings are a fine occasion to get dressed up…and to get amorous.

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The girls both bought their dresses hours earlier at Target.  Brit could only stuff so much into her purse, which was all she carried on her $100 Spirit Airlines flight from California.  Ellie didn’t know she would need a separate dress for the rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding.

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Hanging out now waiting for the big show at the Grace University Lutheran Church.  Brit is practicing in the hotel room, the song she will sing before the wedding.  Ellie and I are going to run on the Marriott treadmills, and maybe hit the hot tub.  Then we’ll all get dressed up again, for the wedding this afternoon.

The Long Road to Minneapolis

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After living less than an hour south of the great state of Wyoming for nearly thirty years, I finally made the drive Thursday, on my way to a wedding in Minneapolis.  I found the landscape quite scenic as I drove through Cheyenne and across the southeast corner of the state.

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After Wyoming, I drove through South Dakota.  I’ve now visited every state west of the Mississippi except for Alaska.  The girls are pictured here at the evening show for Mount Rushmore.  I can tell you that Orlando has nothing on Rapid City.  This place invented tourism.  We saw what we had time for.

Wall Drug Store

Doubt I’ve ever played the tourist more than in South Dakota.  We ate lunch at Wall Drug.  This place is definitely a must see, but don’t feel obligated to eat lunch there.  Poor Brittiboo got stiffed by Zoltar on her fortune card.

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From Wall, we veered off I-90 and took the long road to Sioux Falls, through the Bad Lands.  If you never knew, this is where wind comes from.

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Really cool 35 mile drive for $15.  You’ll learn how to use the panorama-mode on your camera out here.  The girls set records on their Instagram likes.

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We totally beat the crowds, with school starting back up, there were very few families.  Mostly retirees in RVs.  The windy road through the Bad Lands has a couple dozen or so turnouts and trailheads to take photos.

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We made it as far as Sioux Falls.  Tomorrow we meet up with my family in Minneapolis for my niece, Cari’s wedding.  Great road trip so far.

Tennessee Pass

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Dick n Ed

My cousin Dick has been driving around the Western Slope in his fifth-wheel RV the last couple of weeks with his wife Cheryl, and we decided to hookup at Tennessee Pass this weekend.

Dick

It didn’t occur to me that asking a 79 year old to hike 1.3 miles at nearly 11,000 feet, to camp out in a yurt, might be a bit much.  He joined the Marines at 15 to drive an M47 Sherman Tank, I figured he could do it.  He hiked back and forth several times in fact, to retrieve the bread, mustard and Argentinian Malbec from his RV, parked back at the Nordic Center.

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Dick was born in Davenport, Iowa, same as me, but his mom Ethyl, my Grandma’s sister, moved to San Diego when he was a kid.  He met Cheryl there, who grew up at China Lake.  She tells a funny story about the worst Chinese restaurant ever at China Lake.

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They live in Ventura, California, about three miles from the beach, but 300 feet up a bluff with views of the bay and Santa Cruz Island.  Brittany is staying there now, through August and September, to attend acting classes and auditions.

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I joined Dick and Cheryl on Friday, but Karen and Ellie drove up Saturday, so that Ellie wouldn’t miss her first high school cross country race Friday afternoon.  This is Ellie and me on a hike this morning with Mount Elbert in the background.

Ten Pass Cookhouse

We got the idea to camp at the yurts from our neighbors who camped here two weekends earlier.  You park and check in at the Cooper Ski Resort Nordic Center, about nine miles north of Leadville on Hwy 24.  They haul up your bags while you hike 1.3 miles through the peaceful forest.  The trail passes the cookhouse after one mile.  This is where we had dinner.

cookhouse view

As rustic as this experience is, the cookhouse is clearly the best restaurant within thirty miles of Leadville.  Ellie and I had the lamb, Karen and Cheryl the elk tenderloin, the best meal, and Dick ate the pheasant.

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We had to hike a quarter mile to dinner and back, but others drove in and hiked the full mile to dine here and enjoy the sunset.  A true destination restaurant.

TP Cookhouse

We dined inside but are pictured here enjoying drinks and the views of Mount Elbert, Mount Massive, and the Holy Cross Wilderness Area before dinner.  We caught up on family history and learned details about Dick and Cheryl’s family, whom live so far off in California.  We might visit them soon to drive Brittany home in another month.

 

 

 

 

Anchor Leg

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team final

Running last on a twenty-plus hour relay is less than ideal for a number of reasons.  My other two runs were in the dark.  I couldn’t eat lunch.  The sun was directly overhead at noon, nullifying much of the shade the forest trees would have otherwise provided.  But what a kick to run the anchor leg.  Whereas half the team is typically asleep in the tent or quaffing beers back at camp while one runner launches and another finishes, the whole team showed up to send me off.  And, as pictured above, they all joined me for the glorious finish.  I got rockstar treatment.

The totally unexpected benefit though is the pressure to perform.  I consider it a benefit because it works.  I ran my first two loops comfortably.  No big crowds to perform for at 10pm and 6am.  And while I’m in good shape overall, I don’t have quite the speed I had the  previous two years.  Too busy with work this year, and running less miles training with Ellie over the summer.  So I didn’t expect to have a particularly strong run my final loop.

But my 3rd loop was the big one.  Over six miles, 1300 feet of altitude gain up a ski hill, reaching 9800 feet in elevation before crashing back down to the resort.  The other loops didn’t require motivation.  This leg demanded it.  Everyone, Barb especially, pressured me at the start to run a specific time.  “You have to beat 1:13.”  An hour and thirteen minutes.  “You can do 1:12.”  “Sub 1:10!”  I was honestly shooting for 1:20, and would have been happy with anything under 90 minutes.  Their faith in me motivated me to try for a strong run.

My goal running up was to maintain a steady pace and avoid walking as much as possible.  The course was a single track hiking trail on the ascent.  I maintained the perfect pace, never succumbing to oxygen debt and only walking through a handful of stupidly steep switchbacks.  I passed about eight other runners and was never challenged from behind.  My plan was to make it to the top, and then consider racing down if my legs had anything left.

The course on the descent was a mountain bike trail.  Wide banks, non-stop, with an occasional straight section where it was safe to let my legs fly.  I definitely took advantage of the straight trails.  I was more guarded on the curves but committed to them when they looked like more dirt than rocks.  The rocks were deadly.  And some of the banks were difficult to run unless they were run at full speed.  Think of a race car on a banked track.  If you don’t run into them with enough momentum, you fall into the rocky rut.

It wasn’t clear to me if I was running fast enough for the times projected by my mates, I didn’t wear a watch.  I ran out of steam about a half mile before the finish, but the top three miles were so much fun.  I crossed the finish line, with the entire team following me the last few yards, in 1:05.  Sixty-five minutes.  I’ve had a bit of a disappointing racing year, with times slower than previous years.  This made up for that.  The pressure presented to me at the start was worth it.

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Angel Fire

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Jen 3Jen started us out Friday in the Angel Fire Ragnar Trail Relay with a 3.5 mile run on the green loop.  As soon as she begins her run, the wind picks up and the skies open up with rain.

Rychie

The rain stops as she hands off to Rychie for the 4.5 mile yellow loop.  We have perfect weather until we leave Saturday afternoon, twenty-four hours later.

Jill

Jill is our third runner, pictured here starting out on the 6.2 mile red loop.  Jill came up early with her husband Stu and three kids, Julian 6, Stella 8, and Tessa 10, to setup camp for us.

Keith

Keith begins the series of men following the women with the green loop again, as we rinse and repeat green, yellow and red eight times.

Steve

Steve follows Keith on the yellow loop.  He organized our Running Dead relay team for this trail race.  Steve grew up in New Mexico and doesn’t need much of an excuse to visit.

Stu

Stu follows Steve.  His goal for his three runs is to beat his wife, Jill’s time.  I think he’s successful, but not by much.

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I can’t get a running photo of Brian, because I always have to take the baton from him.  Here he is though, apparently biting his finisher medal.

team finish

I’m the eighth and final runner.  My first two runs are in the dark, 10pm and 5:45am.  I finish with the long red loop at 1pm, the entire team crossing the line with me.

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Running through the night might not appeal to everyone, but we had a seriously fun time.  Because it was Jill’s birthday, and we were in New Mexico, there were lots of tequila shots.   The team is waking up now Sunday morning, eating oatmeal and peaches.  The plan is to eat lunch at one of Steve’s favorite Mexican food restaurants in Taos on our way home.

Pre-Season is Over

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indian peaksEllie is finishing up pre-season running the East Boulder Trail.  These hills aren’t for the faint-of-heart.  And the shadeless heat isn’t for the uninitiated.  We ran three miles out here last weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.  This weekend, we kicked it up a notch to five miles.  Monday afternoon, I hand over what’s left of her legs to the NHS Cross Country Team to train for reals.

east boulder trail

Ellie really impressed me today by running the entire way back without walking.  This course is tougher on the return.  The final hill, up to the water tower behind the Heatherwood neighborhood, is a quarter mile climb.  It’s truly brutal.  I bet her an Intajuice she couldn’t do it.  She proved me wrong.  She’s ready for next week.

Writing Progress

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I completed an initial draft of the book I started six months ago.  I can argue it’s a complete story, but as I start to understand the writing process, it might be more accurate to refer to it as an outline or a shell.  At 101,000 words, it’s a pretty big outline, but I suspect it won’t look anything like it does now by the final version.

I know where the major holes are and I’ve enlisted some friends to help me fill them in with either technical accuracy or stories of their own.  From initial feedback, I’m learning that accuracy is an interesting topic when writing fiction.  Does my book really have to be accurate at all?  It’s fiction.  It was clear to me while writing that stories and dialog have to be accurate enough to make sense.  It was easy enough for me to google subjects as I wrote to obtain correct details.  Can someone really fly half way around the world and arrive when I say they do?  All I have to do is query flight schedules.  Is it important to get that right?  It is to the reader who knows it’s wrong.

The difficult part of writing accurately, for me, was when I included subject areas I know little about and googling isn’t so easy.  For example, if I’m writing a scene in a restaurant kitchen, how important is it to reference the correct titles of Chef and Sous Chef, etc. and to use the industry language when they speak to each other?  It won’t matter too much to readers who don’t work in a kitchen, but I’ll lose all credibility from readers who do.  And if scenes like that are a large part of my story, that niche audience might be important.  What I’ve done to mitigate these deficiencies in my story is to reach out to friends who are experts and ask for their feedback.

From reading author forwards in books, where they credit their sources, I think this is the right approach.  I’ve reached out to an initial group of friends for such feedback.  I’m not familiar with that process, but it’s not unlike starting a new project at work where I need to talk to people to learn what it is they do.  I’ve been advised on a process where I should seek out two rounds of critique from writers, and then reach out to a third group as a reading focal group, updating drafts in between.  I don’t consider myself to be breaking that convention because I think my current outreach is really part of sourcing accuracy for the initial story, which is why my first draft is really still just a shell.  I could have stopped writing every time I needed help and talked to people then.  I chose to complete my draft and then consult with friends afterward.  Six of one, half dozen of the other.

In seeking people for collaboration, I experienced some hesitation.  Nervousness over the potential embarrassment that my story is goofy or inane.  I got over it with the belief that the pending feedback won’t be criticism so much as collaboration.  It’s still difficult to ask to be critiqued, but if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that collaboration leads to a better product.  And it’s more important to me in this project to have a better book than to be able to claim 100% authorship.  Which leads to another thought.

How do authors, who clearly rely upon interviews for their entire content, feel like they deserve 100% of the royalties?  Some authors are really just regurgitating other people’s stories.  And I myself am hoping to obtain actual content, to a degree, from my friends.  This is perhaps a question in ethics to a degree, but I’m mostly thinking of it in terms of the level of satisfaction I’ll have afterward, that it’s my story.  If after three or four drafts, my genre has changed from thriller to young adult, it might be hard to still claim as my story.

Then there’s part of me where I do want to include some stories from my friends.  I would find that fun.  I relate experiences in this book from the past two decades of my career.  Shoot, I even retell some of the same jokes.  I’m actually not as creative as you might expect of a writer.  Same thing with my blog, I’m not always making stuff up.  And this story has plenty of space left to add additional stories.  The storyline itself is of course a story, but each character is an opportunity to tell yet another story, and I’ve only fleshed out about half of them.  This is why I expect future drafts to be dramatically different.  Trust me, some of my friends are storytellers too.

I’m discovering what a process this is.  I’ve enjoyed it so far.  I hope it doesn’t take me another six months to complete the book, but it very well might.  I’ll attend my first writer’s workshop in a month.  I hope to have a second draft before then based on the current feedback I’ve requested from friends.  If I seek an agent in that workshop, which I’m not certain I’ll be ready for, I’ll need to submit my first ten pages.  Maybe I will be ready for that.  Time will tell.  Sharing my progress for anyone who’s interested.