Monday, January 19, 2015

... Ready to Hope

When I started running longer distance again last fall, I loosely targeted Brazen's Summit Rock Half-Marathon in the Santa Cruz Mountains in December. The race date coincided with a neighborhood half that I would've otherwise supported (Walnut Creek Half), but its course was underwhelming (up and down the same major throughfares we use everyday).  

But we wants adventure, my precious. To Summit Rock! To dirt trails and dappled sunlight under redwood forest! This was the finish:

The best/worst feeling. This one was tough. To finish, all routes descended a technical single-track that was covered with forest debris from the Great 2014 HellaStorm that past the day before. It was cold and it was wet. And if you took your attention off the trail for a moment, you were a goner. 

In this pic, my left calf was cramping up and the only way I could finish was to keep it extended, limping across the line. I was so tore up, I didn't even notice the guy next to me.

Anyhow. I don't know what I was thinking when I started trail running in late fall with the weather worsening. It's tough to get up for a long training run when it's in the 30s or 40s and the sun stays low on the horizon. But these scenes make it worth it:

 Shell Ridge

Eagle Peak from above Deer Flat, Mt. Diablo

Mt. Diablo and Las Trampas Ridge from Rocky Ridge

 Pt. Pinole eucalyptus grove

Mt. Tam from Pt. Pinole

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ready to Suffer ...

I would run from sun-up to sun-down if I could.

There are too many smiles in this pic (courtesy of Brazen Racing). I did a pair of Thanksgiving runs hosted by Brazen, a 10K in Point Pinole (above) and a 5K at Quarry Lakes in Fremont. While not among the most spectacular locales in the Bay Area, they still provide a "I-can't-believe-we-live-here" moment.

As a Bay Area transplant, part of the draw of trail running for me is experiencing the natural beauty of the region. (It'd be paradise if the beaches were warmer!) Point Pinole, above, is however almost entirely invasive eucalyptus, giving a weird feeling as if you'd run through a worm-hole and transported to the opposite side of the planet. Imagine if the place was coastal cypress and redwood.

Quarry Lakes below has potential. When the young conifers mature, this place will be quite lovely. Quarry Lakes is also host to Brazen's Western Pacific Marathon (full marathon option available) in May. I think I just might. I don't know if any other flat trail marathon exists so close to home.

Anyhow, I placed 9th in my age division for the Quarry Lakes 5K. I hadn't run for "speed" since junior high school. It felt good to let loose a bit and run over threshold outside of intervals on the gym treadmill. In the future, maybe when the timing and course are right (and I'm injury-free), I'll try more speed work and fast 5Ks. For now, my main goals are 1) a series of hilly trail half-marathons and 2) the full marathon in May.

I've been gushing lately about Brazen Racing's events. They are run so well while still maintaining an indie-like vibe. The events I've attended have had a distinctly East Bay flavor; laid-back with a welcome diverse group of runners; ethnic, age, fitness levels, etc. By all the past race shirts you see at the events, it's clear they have a large, dedicated following. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird: Books, 3Q2014

While Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was assigned reading in high school -- and I do remember having read it, or at least parts of it -- upon re-read, wow! If I'd paid better attention in my formative years, I might've fashioned myself after Atticus Finch.

In school, I think I remember this portion of the reading list concentrating on themes of place and time; how language and characterization (and plot) help to tell the historicity of a story.

Being a father to two young children, To Kill a Mockingbird has that much more cultural relevance (although its place and time is set in the pre-Civil Rights Deep South). I can see Scout and Jem and their crew in my own kids and their friends; their sense of wonder and the return to wildness of long summers.

And of Atticus' damned moral certitude. The ethical man is doomed to tragedy. As rich as the characters and writing are, what raises To Kill a Mockingbird above afternoon-special fare is its ever-present sense of foreboding.

Some sh-- is going to hit the fan. You know it from the opening sentence. You just don't know what it is. How bad it'll be. Lee suspends that uneasiness while at the same time balancing the stories of childhood, then slowly tips the scale as the kids grow from childhood to pre-adolescence; shades of grey and brown added to their worldview.

Atticus, their father, a widower, is imperfect. Downright negligent to his children's upbringing in some ways.

While the story is set in pre-Civil Rights Alabama, the parallels to current events are obvious (namely, the Evans, Grant, etc., killings).

To Kill a Mockingbird is an allegory of American society and its maturation of justice, equal rights and human respect. It isn't pretty. The victories on paper and realities don't make an even upward slope. There are peaks and valleys.

Amid all of this, our lives go on despite the clear societal failures after all we've come to know. Today, are we being true to our ideals? Are we Atticus, driven by the hope of our ideals and, for some, providence? Or are we the mob, the Bob Ewells of the world, swept up by fear and willful ignorance?

The best of literature makes you think in these terms. Takes your gaze from the pages in front of you, and with a deep breath, up to the person nearby. Let's think not just of ourselves, but of our children, and our children's children. Will our actions today help make a better, more just, world for them?


At this writing, I'm about a quarter in on the 1200-page unabridged monolith that is the Count of Monte Cristo. I mention it because the book's length will drop my book-completion rate a bit -- if causing an up-tick in enjoyment level.

Books read, third-quarter of 2014:

In Order of Enjoyment
To Kill a Mockingbird, H. Lee
Moon Palace, P. Auster
The Fall, A. Camus
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, H. Murakami
Of Mice and Men, J. Steinbeck
Ask the Dust, J. Fante

Managed Expectations
The Old Man and the Sea, E. Hemingway
Team Yankee, H. Coyle
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, G. Garcia-Marquez
Red Storm Rising, T. Clancy
The Little Prince, A. de Saint-Exupery
The Lover, M. Duras
The Things They Carried, T. O'Brien