Running Through Sadness

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ATX Half

I’ve been running the Brushy Creek Regional Trail for the last four weeks.  Just on weekends as that’s all I have time for.  I target twelve miles by not turning around until I’ve run six.  On more than half my runs, today included, I walk in the final three miles.  An optimistic strategy that I don’t recommend to swimmers in the ocean.

My legs aren’t fatigued.  I am.  Just emotionally drained.  They say it’s mind over matter, and it is.

I try to start back up again and find myself running every other quarter mile.  Conveniently, the BCRT has stone mile markers every quarter mile.  It’s a fair argument that I’m not currently in shape to be attempting twelve mile runs, and that’s okay.  Walking is just as good.  It’s nice to get out.

As you see in the photo above, I recently completed the Austin Half Marathon without walking.  The 9:30 mile pace wasn’t up to my standards.  In shape, I run an 8:00 mile pace for a full marathon.  Still, that run felt really good.

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Mom is on hospice and I’m in Round Rock helping my brother care for her.  I wouldn’t call either of us ideal care givers.  Sorry mom, we’re your boys.

I’ve followed my facebook friends’ similar stories.  My high school friends are all in the same position.  So are many of my friends back at home.  But it’s not about us.  It’s about our ailing parents.

I can’t imagine what mom is going through.  I see it, every day.  I don’t like seeing it – as I said before, it’s emotionally draining.  A part of me is dying with her.  I feel it in my runs where I end up walking.  But I’m glad to be part of it.  To give back.  She raised seven children, much of it as a single, working parent.  I’ve been impressed with her my entire life.

Born in 1933, mom represents the silent generation.  Known for their heads-down work ethic, I’ll never compare.  I hope I’m as strong at the end of my time.  She should be bed-bound by now but continues to shuffle around the house, squeezing the blood out of my wrist as she holds on.  I literally feel her tenacity.  Every day I can spend with her will reinforce my memories.

My wife traveled to be with her when I had to travel for work.  I felt so guilty enjoying my respite.  The king-sized, Marriott bed felt like a vacation compared to my twin bed here where my feet hang off the end.  My sister who lives in the area will begin to help as her FMLA is approved next week.  It’s a family affair.  It’s sad.  And I have to stop writing because I’m starting to cry.

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The ATX Half

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They serve chips n queso after the Austin Half Marathon.  If the 95% humidity didn’t give it away already, that’s how you know this run is in Texas.  This food and drink was in the VIP tent.  I’m a gentleman runner.

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My Imogene Pass running t-shirt struck up a lot of shout-outs throughout the course.  One young lady actually rubbed my back as she passed me and commented on the IPR.  That might have got her fired in the workplace.  I was already a little freaked out about the coronavirus amidst sixteen thousand runners.

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I’m not in the best shape to run a half.  After my experience in Aspen last summer, I expected to maybe walk the last two or three miles, but I felt comfortable the entire course – even on the hills in the final three miles.

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My brother-in-law played with the Rite Flyers at the six mile point along Cesar Chavez.  I’ve run this half before, and the full marathon maybe four times.  Tough course, but one of my favorite runs.

Digital Tracking

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Just when you thought you were safe, talking to people…

It’s possible to pair public information about yourself with private information about yourself – to de-anonymize the data with a strong level of confidence.  And if you can do this yourself, so can others, to your personal data.  If anyone can find some studies that prove me right, post links in the comments.  Otherwise, it makes for a better story if you simply assume I’m right, as you read the rest of this blog post.

As evidence, I offer you this graphic of my pages-read stat from Amazon.  It shows two pages read on Tuesday and three read on Thursday.  First thing about those numbers is that they are atypical.

Typically, my pages-read stats are zero for longer stretches of time.  Then, when they are not at zero, they hover around 25 or around 100.  Apparently, Kindle Unlimited readers average 25 pages read in a day, on the days they read.  Maybe some also average 100 pages read, or maybe there’s yet another reason for that lesser cluster.  I don’t know.

I do know who that reader is, because I talked to him on both those days.  He told me what he read.  Good ‘ole HUMINT.  The benefit of my super low stats, is that I can easily correlate what he told me with what I see in my stats.  I know that every move on this trend line is my collaborator reading my book.  Imagine the fun I could have.

I could post his progress online, in this blog, for the digital world to see.  I’m correlating two sources of his digital footprint, one gathered from a public conversation, the other obtained from somewhere else his tracks are being published, seemingly anonymously – Amazon Books.

I was able to de-anonymize my Amazon author stats out of the law of small numbers, in my case, typically zero, then only two and three, and because the reader told me he was reading pages.  Because I know these stats are his, I can assume pages read in subsequent days where I don’t talk to him, will be his.  Net, net, I will know his reading pace.  I’ll know if he finishes the book, with further correlation with what I know to be the book length.

I don’t think he’s overly concerned.  I showed him what I was doing.  His response?  “Privacy is a thing of the past.”

 

Winter Secret

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I think the park rangers were a few weeks late in posting this sign, but it’s still helpful advice nonetheless.  The trail was less muddy this weekend, but there were some ice patches that could take you out.

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It was a weekend for good signs.  This one is posted at the Westside Tavern, advertising their spin on a White Russian – normally milk (White), Bailey’s and vodka (Russian).  Reminded me of the signs at El Arroyo’s in Austin.

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The sign that most caught my attention this weekend was that it’s winter.  I’ll get outside to run when I can but what I need more than anything right now is consistency, so I plan to mostly run indoors on my elliptical.  It’s not a Peloton, but it was a gift for my wife – before buying workout gear for your wife was cool.

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I’ve put enough miles on this thing that I believe I’ve figured out how it actually calculates miles.  It appears to be based on RPMs.  If I maintain 60 RPMs, I complete 5 miles in 60 minutes for 5 MPH, or 12 minute miles.  That can’t be anywhere near accurate, but I don’t care about the stats.  I can tell if I’m pushing myself, and I can do that, low impact, on this machine.  It’s going to be my go-to workout this winter.

I Used to Run

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Trails with safety chains are real trails.  Brit and I ran along this southern half of the Greenbelt, Wednesday.  We ran the northern half, Tuesday.  We ran on Town Lake, Thursday and Friday.  We joined the downtown Fleet Feet running team this morning at 6:30 am and experienced an awesome sunrise over the calm water.  This week in Austin might make me a real runner again.

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My son-in-law’s college track buddy Dan introduced us to the Fleet Feet running team.  They meet up every Friday.  This is Dan in the red shirt standing alongside Eric at the 360 Greenbelt trailhead.  It felt good to run with the Fleet Feet team.  At best, they were half my age and some were fairly elite, but I didn’t feel out-of-place.  Runners are always such nice people.

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I’m still a good twenty pounds over weight and super slow when I run on my own.  I don’t wear a watch but figure I run a ten minute mile pace or slower.  I surprised myself today with a nine minute pace.  Running with others is good for speed.  Running with Brit is helping me to run faster.

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Running six out of the last seven days might give me the momentum to become a regular runner again.  I’d like that, although I need to work on my stamina.  The 6:30 am start time was rough.  Brit snapped this photo of me at 10 am.

Zilker Park

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I ran my all-time favorite trail this morning – the Greenbelt that follows Barton Creek for seven miles upstream from Zilker Park.  Ryan, Brittany and I ran up three miles before turning around for a six miler, while Eric and Dan got in eight miles.

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Deep in the heart of a city with a million people, we saw less than a half dozen other runners and bikers on the trail.  The 45° might have been too cold for most Texans.  One biker was dressed up for the North Pole.  I could have used my gloves for the first mile, but it warmed up nicely.

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I used to run the Greenbelt almost daily when I last lived in Austin.  Eric found a stretch today where Lance holds the fastest time on Strava.  His college running buddy Dan recently ran a sub three-hour marathon.  The two of them have a shot at beating Lance, so I’m guessing we’ll return later in the week.

The Gift of Glove

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I returned to the mud and ice on the East Boulder Trail this morning.  Early, before too much trail mud had thawed.  It had been two weeks since I last survived this trail.  Sitting by itself, on the makeshift shelf of the trailhead sign, was the running glove I’d lost to this trail two weeks earlier, on one of my falls.

When the trail gives back like that, right at the start, I know I’m going to have a great run.  I was pretty bummed when I discovered I’d lost it.  Wonder how long it sat there on that sign.  As long as two weeks.

I didn’t fall today but trail conditions remain treacherous.  Nice temps though this weekend.  Finally.

Ironic that winter is starting on such a nice day, after having wintered the coldest, snowiest fall I’ve seen in over twenty-five years.  I’m looking forward to some nice running weather for the holidays.

 

The Trail Conspiracy

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Chuys

Brittany likes to dine at classy restaurants, the night before she runs a half marathon.  We all have our routines.  And it was her birthday.

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This is a pic taken at the start of the race.  By the looks of things, she appears to be in last place.

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That’s Brit’s friend Megan, running in the black top.  She’s known Megan for most of her twenty-eight years.

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You just know they’re pushing each other.

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Good friends finish together.  Brittany said after her kick, she felt alright, her legs were sore but she was able to sprint a bit.

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This is what my run looked like today.  On the speed spectrum, I ran massively slow, but the random treachery of the ground conspiring with the weather made it one helluva workout.  Which path would you choose running down this hill?

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The course asked many such decisions of me today.  Like life, I didn’t always make good ones.  Eventually, all safe paths ended, making all decisions look poor in retrospect.  Sometimes my only choice was between suffocating mud, and a knee-high glacier.  Sometimes there were no choices and the endings were still either mud or snow.  By picking up my head more, especially on uphill climbs, I learned to read the trail more in advance.  My strategy was to crowdsource the best route by setting my aim along the thin brown line.

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Post-holing, ankle-deep, through fields of snow was exhausting, but I was there for the workout.  I forgot sunscreen, and the sun glare off the snow was intense, so I kept my run short to avoid sunburn in the 45° weather.  I fell twice on the return, once after post-holing to my knee.  I fell forward and my face slammed into a pile of mud and ice.  I ran half the distance that Brit did, but it was a great run.

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Brittany might be running faster than me just now.  I know Eric is.  But I’ve been running too.  I can’t remember the last time I fell trail running.  I would say that today, the trail won, but I’ll be back there running tomorrow.

 

 

 

Writing Naked

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Here’s a photo of me after my eight mile run today, because this is still a running blog dammit.  With that said, this post might be more about writing.  Naked.

For me, the two hobbies are tightly linked.  I write my stories in my head while I’m running.  I mean, what do you think about when you’re running?  I write stories.

A number of people asked me if I wrote down the speech I gave at my daughter’s wedding this summer, because I didn’t read from a piece a paper and they thought it sounded “from the heart”.  I feel like I wrote it down.  The weekend before, I wrote it down in my head during a long drive to Aspen.  So to a degree, it was rehearsed.

I hope my writing sounds from the heart.  I hope it sounds real.  Honest.

I published a book earlier this year, but I won’t be stuffing it in anyone’s stocking this Christmas.  Despite being a product manager, spending half my days practicing product marketing, I sort of suck at self-promotion.  Clearly, I know how to do it.  You can see I’m wearing my favorite self-promo shirt in this photo, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.

My goal is to develop writing skills, and self-publishing competence, over the course of years as I approach retirement.  I don’t need to be immediately successful.  I hope to be better once I have the time to truly focus on writing.  My skills advanced considerably from my first book to my second.  I’ll be happy to maintain that pace.

The writing in my second novel was much tighter.  My editor on my first book told me I was the King of fragmented sentences.  I did write some awkward sentences.  She added semi-colons to a number of them.  Initially, I accepted those edits, but I went back later and rejected half of them.  I discovered that I have a certain writing style that I’d like to keep.  I have a habit of writing one long sentence, followed by a shorter sentence, followed by a single-word sentence.

It’s not a constant cadence, but a regular rhythm.  I speak like this too.  Sometimes.

Once I discovered my pattern, I decided that I liked it.  It’s my personal style.  I’m not going to shy away from it, even if it’s wrong.  It’s my personal poetry.

I do need to gain more confidence in self promotion if I’m going to continue self publishing.  It’s strange because when I’m writing, I’m full of confidence.  I have preferences that might appear tame.  I write what is called “closed-door” sex scenes, but I do write about intimacy.  That’s not because I’m shy, it’s because that’s what I prefer to read.  At least, in my genre of tech thrillers.

Autobiographical fiction became popular during the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.  Many people still say that all fiction is autobiographical.  I don’t think about that while I’m writing.  It’s after publishing, when friends start to question me on some of my characters, that I realize, holy shit, this might be a memoir.  And I become insecure, wanting it to sell to the anonymous public, but I stop promoting it to friends.

I’m going to have to get over that if I want to become a writer.  It’s not writing if it’s not naked.  Genuine.

I can try to put on a robe afterward, but the marketing phase of publishing is not the time to become shy.  Still, if you’re on my Christmas list this year, don’t expect one of my own books.  I’d be remiss, and totally suck at self-promotion, if I didn’t implore you to gift one to yourself.  And at a time when we all reflect on our gratitude for all everyone has given us, thank you for reading my books and my blog, and for not critiquing my fragmented sentences.

In a Fall’s Winter

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The feeling is ephemeral and can only be felt in a fall’s winter.  The trail under my feet was packed snow.  The sun glare refracting off the snow rendered my hat useless, but I smile when I glint into light, so most everyone waved at me today.

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Karen and I survived Halloween another year.  It was cold with the temps quickly dropping below freezing after the sun went down.  Karen was haunted by all sorts of horrific creatures throughout the night, but Scooby Doo was close by to keep her safe.

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The East Boulder Trail wasn’t all snowpack.  There were spots of pure mud.  I’d steer wide, but that wasn’t always possible.  On the return, I was running atop a thin ridge covered in a few inches of fresh powder when my inside foot planted on a slope of mud.  I caught most of myself with my hands in a push-up landing, but my face hit the powdery snow full on.  It was cold, but after six miles, I was warm.  As I returned to my feet, I looked up to see the Indian Peaks covered in a soft, white blanket.  That’s how I felt on my trail, cozy with the sun and snow.  It felt good.  Only in the fall’s winter.

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Running Errands

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Selfies are good for knowing when it’s  time to get a haircut.  I can barely remember what life was like before we had digital mirrors.  My girls wouldn’t know.  I suspect they’d watch a youtube video to figure things out, like I imagine they do when they need to address and mail a letter.  Ellie asked me to take a package to the post office for her today.  Like they card you at the post office.

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Had an awesome run today.  My thoughts focused on my current novel, which is how writers get shit done.  Ran eight miles and added a good thousand words to the story today.  You can find Ellie at the post office.

An October Run

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My running trail dies every year, a slow decay as the sun’s rays angle lower on the horizon.  The air is cooler, the sun softer.  Colors are more varied, yet demure.  Rich in maturity.

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On my return, as I run up the water tower hill, I see fresh snow on the Indian Peaks.  My legs respond with vigor.  My lungs are fuller.  There is no better time to run than in a Colorado October.

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After seeing everyone’s HOCO photos this weekend, it occurred to me I forgot to post one of Ellie from a couple of weekends past.

 

Argentine Trail

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The word Argentina is derived from the word silver, which in Latin is Argentum.  This is also why Ag references silver on the periodic table.  Argentina was initially called Terra Argentea for the land of silver.  But the Argentine Trail that rises out of Silver Plume was a trail of gold today, buried under the golden aspen trees that grace the forest along I-70.  If not for the history of silver mining in the area, I’d recommend renaming it Aurum Trail – gold is Au on the periodic table.

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Jen, one of my running mates, joined me on the trail today, along with her husband and kids.  We ran this, mostly to see the aspens, but also because it’s a fairly gentle grade, rising 900 feet over three miles.  Of course, it starts at close to 9200 feet.  And Jen shot off from the trailhead like a rocket, so I had to beg her to walk a few times on the way up.  My cardio is not up to Jen’s level.

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We made it to the top, which is called Pavilion Point, where a fireplace is all that remains of an old miner’s home.  Despite the elevation, this trail is very runnable.  The grade is so gentle because it used to support a narrow-gauge railroad that hauled the silver down into Silver Plume.

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I’d be remiss not to add a senior photo of Ellie Rose, that her good friend Chase took of her in the fall colors.  I would argue it’s Ellie Rose who makes the fall colors look good, but it’s just a great time to get outside.

Fall Weekends

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The grasses that hem in my trail run have turned brown.  The air has cooled.  Signs of nature’s seasonal shutdown abound.  It’s effect on me is far from melancholy.  I perk up in late September.

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Perhaps remnants of the school cycle still kindle my biorhythms.  Thinking of school takes me back to Round Rock, where I attended high school at a time when they only had one instead of six.  Maybe I’m thinking of it because I was recently there, having brunch with my sister Nan on Main Street.  If it looks like everyone in that photo is staring at their phone, they were engaged in a Pokémon GO event.

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I was in Round Rock to spend time with my Mom.  She’s in the fall of her life seasons.  Thinking of that does make me melancholy, but as you see, she can still put on a smile.  It’s the funniest thing, when she smiles for the camera, she begins laughing.  It’s like the camera tickles her.  We gave her a photo album of Brit’s wedding for her 86th birthday.

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Mount of the Holy Cross

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Kirby Cosmos

Rob and I met up at Kirby’s Cosmos BBQ, Friday in Minturn, a few miles past Vail.  We later dispersed-camped in the Holy Cross Wilderness.

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We woke early and hit the trail at 6:30 am, when there was enough sunlight to hike without headlamps.  We first drank coffee under the moon and stars, unfiltered from the light pollution of cities in the clear 35° air.

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Saturday’s objective was to summit Mount of the Holy Cross, a fourteener south of Vail.  The twelve mile, roundtrip trail started at the Half Moon Trailhead.  It consisted of two hills, the first was a thousand foot climb, the second was a three thousand foot ascent.  The aspen were just turning bright yellow.

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We passed by two tired women descending almost as slowly as we were climbing. This section of trail resembled a steep staircase.  One of them called out, “It’s easier in the rocks.”  Most everything above tree line was a boulder field.  I can’t explain why she said it, or what she meant by it.  When is hiking through the rocks ever easier?

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Near the end of the hike, we saw a couple of hikers stopped on the trail ahead of us, apparently talking.  As they saw us approach, they departed, going separate directions.  The one hiking toward us turned back around and shouted to the other, “You should also look into the Ten Commandments.”

As he neared us, I saw that much of his outfit, including hat, sunglasses, scarf and shirt, were all sporting a red, white and blue striped pattern.  And he might have been wearing make-up.  Very eye-catching.  He looked as if the clown in Stephen King’s It made babies with Uncle Sam.  There was something off with this guy.  He was either going to start preaching the Bible to us, or shred us with an AK-47, but he passed without incident.

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Hikers, in their trail reports, generally describe this as an exhausting hike.  It was.  It was six miles of vertical in each direction, with about 5500 feet of elevation gain, and took us close to nine hours.  There’s camping at the trailhead, but an even better camping spot along a creek after the first hill.  That would make reaching the peak before sunrise more doable.  Incredibly beautiful views and a memorable hike.