My streak

My streak began exactly 16 years ago. August 12, 2002.

We were in Flagstaff, a respite from the relentless Phoenix heat. I felt good. In fact, I felt absolutely perfect. It went by quickly. The first day of the streak is always the easiest.

But then.

We came back to Phoenix, and the streak continued. Hot days, monsoon days, even kids with chicken pox.

We moved to Texas. The streak continued.

We moved back to Phoenix. And so did the streak.

The key? I think it’s about finding the one thing you absolutely love. Dr. Sheehan said it must be play. If you’re not playing, find something else.

16 years. 5,840 days. There have been many, many glorious ones, and a few days I just wanted to quit. Days I didn’t want to get out of bed, and days I hoped would never end. But that’s the thing about a streak. You do what you must to keep it going. And if you’re doing it right, you love every minute.

Mo was always reluctant to get married. She was skeptical about things lasting. But this one has. I’m so lucky that 16 years ago today she stood on the steps of a little courthouse and said I Do. Or possibly adieu. She’s a jokester and I speak limited French. Here’s to another 16 years or so.

And yeah, I ran today. 4 miles slow. HR was happier. 16 miles for the week, right on schedule for oblivion. But I take off two days a week. One streak is enough …


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the old days

Things change, the old cliché
If we knew now what we knew yesterday
Oh, we couldn’t give it away
— the prophet aimee mann

Back in the old days, I would have gone out today to run 3 miles. I had no technology, just a simple Casio.

I would have gone out too fast in the first mile. It would feel OK, but I wouldn’t have much left. In the second mile I would just try to hang on. The last mile would be a pitiful death march. I would then sit in the shade for a while and go home.

But that was then.

Today, I went out today to run 3 miles (13:26-146). I have a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor. The Garmin told me my heart rate was way too high, but I was trying to run a specific pace, so I went out too fast in the first mile. It felt OK, but I didn’t have much left. In the second mile, the Garmin was yelling at me that my HR was silly. I just tried to hang on. In the last mile, I strolled a lot, trying to get the HR down to a level at which I thought I wouldn’t croak, which I really didn’t want to do because there was a guy doing mile repeats in lane 1, and a cardiac event would interrupt his workout. So the last mile became a pitiful death march. I then sat in the shade for a while and went home.

I have no idea how I used to run before I had a Garmin …

On the bright side, no trees were killed to make today’s shoes.

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i am a murderer

He wore Italian shoes
Like that’s supposed to mean something
— the prophet larkin

Today’s my First Official Rest Day ©, so I’m walking with Mo at the track. We’re surveying the damage to the trees after the chainsaw guys came through, and it’s not so good.

The Blackbird Tree has been reduced to a skinny twig with a couple of leafy branches on top, a sad little guy who could easily play the starring role in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. The tree on the other side is gone altogether, with only a stump remaining where a majestic giant had towered just a few days earlier.

I lament how sad it is when trees die.

And then.

I realize I ordered new running shoes earlier this week. Which is no big deal, except they’re made from (and I don’t even think I’m making this up) Magical Eucalyptus Tree Fiber. That’s right — I’VE KILLED A TREE FOR THESE SHOES!!!

I should have know something was terribly wrong when the mascot for a shoe company has no feet.


At least he appears to feel embarrassed about it.

On the bright side, they come with three colors of laces. I will console my sorrow in a rainbow of happiness. Yes, I am Easily Amused.

I have reservations * already. Every time I show Mo a picture of them, she starts laughing and says something about how we will never be seen together when I’m wearing them. Sometimes it’s hard to live with someone who has good taste.

On top of that, I suspect that although they are billed as such, they are “running” shoes only in the sense that you can run in Doc Martens if something large is chasing you. Which Mo likely will do now as a sign of social protest over my shoes. They appear to consist of nothing, and yet manage to weigh in at a ridiculously heavy 10 ounces. Oh, well. What do you expect for 95 bucks (OK, an extra $10 for the laces. Totally worth it.)

Sorry, Mr. Tree. Maybe you’ll come back reincarnated as a newspaper designer and you can give me unreasonable headline counts.

I did the math today on the schedule and realized it’s totally, ridiculously impossible. Which makes it suddenly appealing. Onward thru the fog, Oat Willie!

I must get a chicken. I hope it’s not made from trees …

* patio table at carlsbad tavern, 8 p.m. Bring your own air conditioner.

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don juan is where you find him

all your life
you were only waiting
for this moment to arise
— the prophet mccartney

I go to the track fearful for the trees. My fears were not unfounded.

Both trees that provide the track with a bit of shade, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, were hit hard by last night’s storms. They provided a little oasis where the fast guys would bring yoga mats and water bottles and lounge between torture sessions. And now they’re both gone. I think the trees will survive, but the branches that provided the cover on the track were wiped out. I suppose it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying “Stop goofing off, you slackers.” Mother Nature has been kinda grumpy lately.

It’s an OK day, in a sad sort of way, running past the old friends again and again. 3 miles, 40:24 (13:25-135), which I’m pretty happy with. But as I’m looking at the tree, I realize I haven’t seen David Torrence in a while.

Longtime readers will recall that I last saw him in that very spot, sitting in the shade between repeats with a yoga table and a guy who I think was a reporter. He was a world-class middle distance runner, until he died the next day.

But then he came back as a blackbird. He sat on the fence every day in the shade of the tree. The track is on an Indian reservation. Who’s to say? All religions are a little goofy if you stare at them too long. He could have come back. Stranger things have happened. I would direct you to the 2016 election.

But I haven’t thought about him for a while, and I realize I haven’t seen him lately. What happened? Is he OK? It’s been an amazingly harsh summer, between the 120 degree heat and the 60 mph wind. I worry about him. And then coming around the near turn, I see it.

There’s a blackbird feather in Lane 8. I’m 2 miles in, and this is the first time I saw it.

It’s a little spooky. Is it a sign? Is he telling me something?

It’s not hot enough today to hallucinate. It’s just a feather, I tell myself, not a signal from beyond. Maybe? Nah. Just a feather.

I pick it up and stash it in my pocket. I bring it home and place it in my log book. I think back to the people I have lost and hope they’re living happy lives somehow, somewhere in another place we don’t understand.

I think back to his stride, that effortless swoosh of a world-class runner. The way he would fly off the fence every lap, go just far enough away, and then come back as soon as I passed. Over and over. He was a fine running partner.

I hope there’s a heaven for birds. And distance runners. And trees.

And maybe there will even be room for me …

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but no sightings of flying monkeys

A monsoon storm roars into our neighborhood. The wind is knocking down trees. Stuff is rolling around on the roof, which may or may not be coming off. The rain is torrential. The National Weather Service alerts are going off on my phone like a slot machine in the Vegas airport. The electricity is flickering ominously. Mo is hiding in the kitchen. The cat won’t be seen for a week. It’s relentless, pounding us with wave after wave of calamity. We’re goners for sure. I can think of only one thing:

The temperature should be really nice for tomorrow morning’s run.

I am a Bad Person.

Today was OK. 3 miles, 42:45 (14:12-120.) I uncorked a 13:10 on the third mile once I weaseled my way onto the track, possibly an A qualifying standard for the Olympic team. The big worry: The beloved tree that gives the only reliable shade on the track was hurt by yesterday’s storm. A couple of major branches were down. What has today’s storm done to it? Oh, well. Anything for a 13:10 …

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shoes, part 2

If you spend a bunch of years running, you gradually learn what works for you. No matter how many good things you read about one shoe or how much someone else likes another, it’s all a matter of what works best on your feet.

After spending exactly $328,650,92.45 (plus shipping) over the years, I’m left with these shoes. Each is pretty close to perfect for my running.

The shoes in my current rotation are:

▮ One pair on New Balance 110s. This is one of my favorite shoes forever, long since discontinued. I pull them out when I need rock plates. And what’s the point of life if you never need rock plates?

▮ Four pairs of NB Zantes in various versions. This has become my go-to shoe. The perfect combination of lightness and comfort is diminished only by a name that makes it sound like the Marx Brothers’ less successful brother.

▮ One pair of Hoka Clifton 3s. Because everyone needs a pair of orange clown shoes. Besides, Moose is an ambassador.

▮ One pair of New Balance 1400s. I hoped these would work as Piranhas. I run in them every now and then hoping. It never works.

▮ Two pairs of Asics Piranhas. Three, if you count the old ones I wear as Real People shoes. Four, if you count the one shoe that must have another one around here somewhere but beats the hell out of me where it is. Five, if you count the beloved shoes sealed in the Tupperware container. WARNING: DO NOT take them out of the Tupperware container.

I have an unlimited supply of shoes. Now if I could only run …

TODAY’S RUN: 3 miles, 43:36 (14:26-126). The track is off limits during football season, so I tossed balls that had gone over the fence back to the field goal kickers and gave the guy testing the scoreboard the thumbs-up. I think I’m on the team now. Problem solved. Looking forward to my first concussion.

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bring back the Magic Carpet

If it’s bad enough for him
you know it’s bad enough for me
Hemingway’s whiskey
— the prophet guy clark

I’m having a dream. This is not unusual, since I’m asleep. But it is unusual because I find myself in Tucson.

I’m apparently taking an English class at the University of Arizona. It’s a night class. To get to it, I park in a dingy covered parking garage and get in a dingy elevator. Dingy appears to be a theme in the dream.

I step out on the seventh floor. It’s a dimly lit food court of some sort. A stand is selling enormous hamburgers. Like you would need a dolly to carry one. I opt for a Coca-Cola, thinking all the great arteests leaned on caffeine. It comes in an extremely vertical bottle. A skyscraper with a straw. I reluctantly carry it to my class.

The classroom is at the end of a foreboding hallway. Inside, maybe 10 or 12 hipsters are hunched over tables in the dark, drawing feverishly. Apparently today’s English lesson is “doodling.” I’m not sure what this has to do with English, but I dutifully pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and get to work.

A twenty-something teacher with round black frames and a jaunty beret walks over. She motions to a stack of plastic cups and gestures that I should pour my Coke into one. I do so, then return to drawing.

I am sketching a runner. A dog is standing by the side of the trail. I haven’t decided yet whether he’s friendly or not.

The teacher walks over once more and picks it up. She shines a tiny pocket flashlight on it. Her brows furrow. She frowns.

She says simply: “This is not the way Hemingway would have drawn it.” She puts it down and walks away. I take another drink of Coke and sigh.

And then I wake up.

“I love sleep,” Hemingway said. “My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” I know what he means all too well.

I can do this, dammit. I can.

Or maybe I’m just dreaming …

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