running with elves

As it turns out, elves is NOT the plural of elvis, so there were no jumpsuits or paste-on sideburns at the Running With Elves 5K today. But there WERE lots of Santa hats and dogs in goggles. What more could you ask?

Brutally cold, below 50. How do humans exist in such bitter conditions? It was a frustrating race. Slowest of the three road runs I’ve done. How is that possible? Patience, I guess. It will come. In hindsight, chicken fried steak may not have been the best pre-race meal. Who knew? 42:00.

The best part of the race came afterward. They had one of those raffles they have to delay your retreat to the car heater. But this was better than most, because if your number was called, you could pick anything on the table. In a “this never happens to me” moment, my number was called. I could choose four free race entries, two bags filled with gel, Starbucks gift cards, an inflatable Mickey Mouse, a couple of mystery gift wrapped boxes, and a huge jar of gummy bears.

As I surveyed the stuff, I saw him standing next to the table. Little kid, maybe 4 or 5. Sort of an almost mohawk. He was staring at the table the way kids do around Christmas. I asked the RD if I could give my ticket to him. He shrugged and said sure. The kid’s face lit up and he grabbed the gummy bears (4-year-olds have no respect for a free cup of coffee). He was really, really happy. So was I.

In the grand scheme of things, my time in a run doesn’t matter at all. What matters is smiling at the elvi with their dogs in matching costumes. The holiday runners spanning three or four or seven generations. The crazy-fast guy wailing along with a candy cane dangling from his lips. The female teen who is an absolute rocket in a backward trucker hat, totally unaware how impressive her run was. The woman in the elf hat who beamed as she came across the 5k finish line in 59 and change, barely beating the cutoff. The kids who did the fun run, all proudly displaying their No. 1 race bibs. And a kid with a jar of gummy bears nearly as big as him.

A pretty great morning. Who needs Elvis …

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life in six easy steps

life is easier when it comes with instructions.

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I am just a cowboy, lonesome on the trail

Roll me over and let me go
riding in the rodeo.
— the prophet Philip Parris Lynott

It’s not my first rodeo.

Zappo’s facebook feed sends me a marathon plan. I figure if you can’t trust Zappo, who CAN you trust, although he was the least funny of the Marx Brothers. After singing “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” to myself and the cat, who is not impressed in the least, it occurs to me. This Is A Sign.

Whiskey Row is in early May, maybe 20 weeks or so. The plan is for 16, allowing for a decent ramp-up before it formally begins and I am required to run in a tux. I go to the trash file and pull up the old marathon training plan. I change the dates, count back, clean the mileage and type in the new plan. Time for a new rodeo at last!

It works out incredibly well. There’s a weekly speed day that falls on Saturday, so the quest for the perfect 5K can go on while still getting in marathon mileage. It alternates between four and five days, which I suspect I need as my body limps into the sunset.

I tweak the details for a while and let it sit till the morning. Pulling it up with my morning coffee in last night’s wine glass, I am impressed. This could work. Every other week’s long run is on a steady climb to mimic the race, either South Mountain or Mt. Ord, both of which are easily accessed on my day off. Specificity of training. Always, specificity of training.

The mileage isn’t too ambitious, but enough to get me by. I have enough races in the bank that it’s not mentally daunting. And it’s Whiskey Row, my favorite race in the world. This was Meant To Be.

I throw on the Zantes and head to the waterfall course, rejuvenated by this new goal. There’s an SRP party at the start/finish line. They have bagels. I assume I will be invited for the traditional post-run buffet. It’s all coming together.

I hit the start button for the First Day of My Training and take off down the dirt path paralleling the canal. As I settle into my pace, I remember the one thing missing from my plan:

I can’t run.

I fade into the trot/walk cadence, with much more walk than trot. I can’t breathe. A large monkey rides on my back. I have no accordion. The monkey heart simply won’t work; my legs don’t turn over. Primus fails to jump start the run. If Les Claypool can’t make you run, you can’t run.

I shuffle through my 5k. Although I’m pushing threshold pace the entire distance, it’s barely a walk. They offer me no bagel at the finish line.

I go home and move the training plan back to the trash file. I promise myself I won’t do this again.

Till the next time.

Roll me over, and set me free
the cowboy’s life is the life for me

It’s not my first rodeo. It’s not my rodeo at all.

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now if i could jog my memory

One of the best things about being a journalist is that you can bring change, end atrocities, right wrongs in the world.

#Metoo? Worthy, but so depressing. Nuclear war? See previous response. Criticize Pearls Before Swine? Not clever enough to come up with the appropriate scathing pun.

No, today I faced the most grievous error possible in the world, and made it right.

Out for a jaunt when it’s below 60 degrees? Both feet off the ground? You, my good man, are no jogger. You are a runner. All is right in the universe. My work here is done.

Off to save the starving polar bears. Or maybe Larry the Croc …

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if you finish, you urn a medal

I’m not the most marketing-savvy person around, but I’m not so sure about this choice of sponsors.

On the other hand, I suppose it’s a good incentive to run. Just watch out for that last rite turn. Here’s hoping they don’t get any business from the race …

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everything that helps you sleep

If I could do what I want I’d become an electrician
I’d climb inside my head and I’d rearrange the wires in my brain
— the prophet julien baker

Sometimes it’s too much. And not enough.

I’m recovering from a weird overnight oxygen test. They want to know if my sleep was different than usual. Well, yes, now that you mention it. I was undergoing a weird oxygen test. Duh. I had this dream that the thing hooked up to me allowed the people to see my dream. But my dream was about this oxygen test thing, so basically in my dream they were watching me have an oxygen test in my dream. With this dream going on, how is normal sleep possible? And after 61 years of sleeping in a way I thought was normal, is somebody going to tell me now that I’m doing it all wrong? This is why Mo never goes to doctors.

The Christmas lights from yesterday’s run still twinkle in my mind. I had this grand idea to time trial a 5K under the theory that it’s silly to go to races when you can do the same thing with a Garmin. I went as hard as I could, and ended up substantially slower than the last two races. How is that even possible? Maybe partly because it was dark and I didn’t want to trip. But mostly I guess it reaffirms the idea that you push harder when people are around you. I still don’t understand how that’s possible. I guess more research awaits.

I run on the little downtown Mesa loop while Mo is at pottery class. It’s quite sparkly this month, all twinkly lights and frosted windows. I’m running the half-mile loop, so I can’t shake her.

She’s sitting on a bench at the corner of the Mesa Arts Center. which cost $95 million to build. I’m guessing she has about 85 cents.

I’ve seen her a few times here in the same spot. Is there a shelter in the neighborhood? It’s getting cold. Where does she go?

She has a roller suitcase and a Macy’s bag. She wouldn’t look that out of place going through security at the airport. Except I guess that’s all she owns in the world. A blanket sits next to her on the bench, next to a large straw hat. She doesn’t have the weathered look of the guys who have been here a long time. She doesn’t hang with the pack over by the Subway; she’s always here alone. So alone.

As I go by the first time, I veer wide. Never adopt lost puppies, I keep telling myself. You can’t save the world. I settle into what I’m hoping is race pace, push and recover. Push and recover. It feels awful. That’s a good thing, I guess. It’s hard to tell these days.

The second time by, she’s putting on her hat. She adjusts it just so, in a proud sort of way that indicates she still cares. So many homeless folks have lost that. My heart breaks for a millionth time.

I see the Scooby Doo van at the car place has a bow on the front. It’s for sale? Mental note to drop hints to Mo. The elderly lady at the piano store is missing. Did she retire? Did she finally get held up? How can these people be buying pianos when a homeless woman is shivering on the next block?

On the fourth lap, I say hello and give her the shy guy wave. She says hello back, and that’s that. I want to sit down next to her on the bench and talk. How did she get here? Where is she going? What can I do to help? I keep running.

A pack of homeless guys is hanging at the Subway, which has put up a no trespassing sign to keep them out of the patio. But one has bought a cup of coffee, so technically they’re paying customers. A tricky business, loitering. One of them has a small dog, which I speculate is more of a financial move than companionship. Who can resist giving money to a guy with a dog? As opposed to a woman with a suitcase and a straw hat.

I think about her during the next lap. I have 25 bucks in my wallet in the car. I can grab it as I go around. But is that weird to go up to someone on a bench and say “Hey here’s some money!” Is that intrusive? What if she’s Jesus? I’m wearing the old running shorts with a hole in the crotch. How awkward would that be?

I decide, what the hell, I’ll do it on the next loop. I curse the running gods as the fatigue kicks in with the faster pace. I run hard, walk, recover, run hard, trying to keep the heart race as close as I can to max without dying. An old man on a kid’s bike comes by me. “Sprinter,” he says with a smile. “Nah. Muerto,” I tell him and shrug. He laughs. It’s all relative, I suppose.

And then as I come by the corner of the arts center on the fifth lap, she’s gone. I watch for her along the course, but there’s no sign. Oh, well. I drive over to McDonald’s to warm up. It’s full of homeless guys nursing their cups of coffee. With a two-day stubble, a dirty t-shirt and my old Zantes, I fit right in. But the employees aren’t judging. A nice woman asks the old guy next to me if she can refill his coffee. He nods enthusiastically. I make a mental note not to hate corporations quite so much for a day or so.

I pick up Mo, and we drive over to the Mormon Temple so she can see the extravaganza. As we drive back down Main, I tell her about the woman. “Let’s find her and give her some money!” Mo declares. This is why we got married.

But, of course, she has vanished, off to what I pretend is a warm place to spend the night. Maybe she’ll find her way back, right? It can happen, can’t it?

I am annoyed that my time trial was so much slower than race pace. How is that possible? I am annoyed that it seems more important to me than doing something for someone in need. How is that possible?

So many lost puppies in the world. You can’t save them all. But how can you walk away from one?

If I could do what I want, I’d become an electrician. My head needs some re-wiring. How does The Prophet Julien Baker always know what I’m thinking?

I bought tickets yesterday for her show next week. Maybe a pilgrimage could do me good.

Life. It’s all relative.

Sometimes it’s too much.

And sometimes not enough …

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but no bill murray sightings

They wore goofy hats and unapologetically festive costumes. They laughed and ran and cheered each other’s little victories. It was everything running should be. God bless us, every one.

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