Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hood to Coast 2017: Second Leg

I started this story, and I feel like I have to finish it. I feel like enough has happened that it's not a spoiler to say that I live through this run. I am alive.

Leg 18 begins at the St Helens High School parking lot and leads out onto a long, featureless stretch of highway. After dark, we are required to carry a flashlight, and to wear a reflective vest and flashers or face immediate team disqualification. I am so adorned. I wait for our runner 5. I bounce on my toes a couple of times to test my readiness. We high five each other as our runner rounds the corner. Runner 5 passes me the baton within the cones of the exchange, and I take off out the parking lot and down to the lonely highway.

I see an occasional runner twinkling away. Mostly it's just me: my bouncing safety flashers and weak flashlight beam metronome set against the red and white lights of traffic. My footfalls are jarring. I breath, jarred, and settle uneasily into pace down the miles of yawning highway. At an indiscriminate point, the route turns left into a poorly lit suburb.

The suburb is a relief after the highway. I come closest to joy, running, running, thinking this is fine.

But the thin lights of the neighborhood are not enough. They get thinner and farther and farther apart. I stumble on a dark rise of pavement, twist my ankle, and barely don't fall. I am not pitched over this rolling ankle into a gully of blackberry brambles on the curve where the road leads back out of the suburb.  I straighten, shake it off, and run past a lone volunteer directing runners by flashlight out toward darker and darker country roads. I can not see their face. They do not say a word.

These are hilly country roads, thin gravel shoulders, ditches, and shitty, splintered, falling down fences. Are they though? Is this a hill though? What do I know. It's too dark. There is lots of brush and tall grass shadow shapes. They imprint in my swirling visual cortex. I remember grinding up the hill to the crickets and frogs screaming, maybe owls hooting? and wolves howling? It seems improbable but I probe my memory and feel quite fucking certain there were wolves. I'm running like there are wolves.

I remember the song of every second of this run...  the sturm and drang of this dark wild night... of will run headward into failure. I have failed to be, to train, to become, to do, anything, right. Never again... I'll never do this again. I'm never going to do this again. I am awful. It is miserable. Nothing feels good. Nothing is good. Wolves take me. I am here to die on this road where I have no business running in the middle of the dark night. Yet by force I run and I run and I run.

Until the run, like all runs, ends. The end comes slower than I'd hoped. I see a hint of lights in the dark. Red lights. The first volunteer is a vortex. She tells me how close I am just a little ways out, but her words are a chasm of elastic space/time. I'm pulled out from the center, down, flattened, stumping along the accordion road drawing a singular note of disharmony. It just keeps goooooing and fucking going and going and going and fuck, it's still going. There is another volunteer. She calls out the team number on my bib. And some people. Someone closer to the people calls out the bib number again. More people. Lights, dark, flashers, flags, dark, lights, dark, lots of reflective shit flashing. I'm done. I have failed my way to the exchange. I pass off the baton. I am hot, sweaty, and gratified. It is quickly wicked away by the cold damp mist and thundering disinterest of the teeming exchange.

Van 2 is off running. Through the dark flattened-grass field we find our way back to Van 1, and in an act of unspeakable ironic cruelty, drive back to the very exchange where I took the baton bracelet and began my last run.

We pay a couple bucks each for a tiny towel and access to the high school's locker room. The shower heads are high-pressure, low-volume and the tepid water feels like needles on my skin. They are set to blast just under my clavicle; a height that is so perfectly inconvenient it feels calculated and sadistic. I rinse away the sweat and salt. I contort under the shower head to wash my hair, sideways, backwards, tired, and strained. I feel like I've lost a layer of my skin by the time I'm quick and done. My dry clothes feel rough. My bones are cold. I am acutely aware that I need electrolytes. I know all the symptoms of imbalance.

Out in the main hall, the PTA is selling breakfast to all the Van 1 teams. It is after 11pm, but it is sweet, cheery, and bright. They give us large warm servings on paper plates: eggs, pancakes, sausage, butter, syrup, hot chocolate, orange juice, coffee...  I am so goddamned spirited about this plate of food, but after I eat a second bite I get weak. I keep trying but I can't eat. I just need electrolytes.  My teammate looks me over.  You need electrolytes, she says. Then we lament my plate of food together.  Our eyes are so hungry, but she is full and I can not eat. We try. We nibble. We can't.

Back in the van, I pull on wool socks, a down jacket, sweatpants, a hat, and wrap myself in a Rumpl travel blanket. I drink electrolytes. I drink more. More still. I'm cold. My clothes feel rough. I sleep, kinda. The van rumbles back through the same roads I just ran and on... to the next van exchange where we'll wait in light slumber for the final Van 2 runner. I'm cold. Cold, cold. cold.  cold.

Ehhgh, I think over and over. I hover into light non-restorative sleep, stirred occasionally by a faint tremor from my cold weary bones.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hood to Coast 2017: First Leg

I am the last runner in Van 1. I’ll be Legs 6, 18, and 30. My first leg is 7.1 miles, easing down the last transition from the mountain into the town of Sandy. I’ve run these legs before and I don’t like this one. Leg 6 is a net -408 elevation, seemingly easy, but it is long, dry, and highway-bound ugly. As you encroach from the mountain into town, its outposts and inposts seem to suggest you are there, almost there, almost there, almost… but you are not fucking there. You are miles from there. You might have surged a little bit to get there, but there you go, you’re still not there.  I've done this before.  

I am anxious through all five of our other Van 1 runners. I am not excited. I am not certain I can complete my leg. The lower part of my Achilles tendon on the inside of my left heel is very tight, and I feel it strain every time I push off. I've known this was a problem. I am certain it will tear. Every foot fall of my 7-mile run, I compensate, making micro-adjustments to how I land, how I thrust, how my ankles rotate, how I bear weight on my hips, on my knees, on both sides of my body. It is exhausting. I can feel the realignment work its way up to the tendons, straining at the top of my quads. I have 10.5 more miles after this, if I even make it through this fucking leg. Let’s just make it through this fucking leg.  

I roll deep into Sandy and come across the first in a string of volunteers.  I hadn't let myself hope, but now I know I'm close:  

"Right at the light, you're almost there"

At the light:

"Stay on the shoulder, just couple hundred yards, almost there"

I runstumble on the graveled shoulder to a cross walk:

"Just across the street, almost there"


"Just down this path to that arch, almost there"

Down the path, under the arch:

"Through that tunnel, take a right.  Almost there!"

Through the fucking tunnel:

"Cross over to that path along the pile of skulls, so close!"

Cross to the path.  Nearby I see lots of relay participants.  I must be close.

"Run along the backstop, don't make eye contact. Almost there!" 

Stagger past the backstop:

"Up this bark-chipy path, around the clubhouse... sooo close!"

Each foot sinks deeper. Hope is extinguished. I never get there. I die, exhaling hot, dry slivers.   

But then I'm there, at the exchange.  I give the bracelet to Runner 7 from Van 2. The Van 1 crew pat me on the back, we load into the van, and drive to someone's house.  We shower, eat, and lay still with our eyes closed. I wouldn't call it sleep. In a few short hours, we’re back on the road.  


Monday, May 08, 2017

A thing for sunshine

The vibe here is low and slow -- windows open, back door propped, flies in and out on a breeze -- we've stepped aside this weekend.  The world goes on.  It's not easy to cultivate respite from the world. Alllll my attempts fail.  But Clark had surgery Friday, for a deviated septum, so we're in an authority imposed retreat.  It really works. I want to hire someone to come over with a clipboard and a vest to tell me sternly that I'm in a time out.   That this and that are not my concern.   That animal pain and animal comfort are the extent of my influence.  That photosynthesizing is paramount.  

Luckily the sun is out.  After this long cold wet dark season, sitting in the sun is a matter of survival. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Finally, a thing like spring

It reached 80ยบ today and was undeniably, objectively, the nicest day of the year. I worked here, then there, and then came home and spent the afternoon sitting on the couch working on STUFF while drifting dog hair tickled across my feet. I felt stiffly bored and humorless, couched deep in my clutter, while outside the Objectively Beautiful Day squandered about, breezing through trees.

But tonight, I’ve got this feeling I’d forgotten or left somewhere a long time ago. I feel like the break-in to a satisfying sad song, like when the tempo surges. It’s such a small thing. All the windows and doors are open. I’ve swept and mopped away the poofs of dog hair. The lights are moody and low. I'm listening to old music, stuff that is seriously sad as fuck, but in a good way because these songs are all said and done. It’s the things that are unsaid and unfinished that cause me grief, but they aren’t here right now.  

It’s my third night in a row retiring with a hot cup of thera-flu in a masquerade of lemon and honey. My only cold of the year hit me last week -- Wednesday night, 8:37pm to be precise. I actually felt the fetal pathogen implant in my sinuses.  It gestated overnight as a single point of pain. Thursday, it spread through my face cavity, down my throat and finally exploded into my lungs and out the top of my head. Thursday night I shivered and sweated into the blankets. I stayed home Friday from my daughter's class field trip, to her very deep and teary disappointment. I slept until noon, then ached around, petting dogs and nudging my coffee cup, shifting in and out of being alive on pulse.

I’m slowly coming into focus again. Chemically induced narco-sleep is helping. Sunshine would probably help. Tomorrow I’ll try to find some.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

I meant to post before the clock ran out on 2016, but maybe it's better this way.  It was a nasty year, we all agree, and maybe it's better left unacknowledged. 2016, you don't exist here. It's good to put you away, 2016, while yet knowing nothing has actually changed as we turn into 2017.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

I have a paper due, and it's probably too late to get any substantive help... but, help.

Can someone help me out here?? French psychologist Jacques Lacan has this idea that infants go through a critical developmental stage when they first recognize the figure in the mirror as themselves. In theory, this unified image of the self is an "ideal" -- something toward which they will wage a sisyphean struggle for the rest of their lives.

What about pre-mirror societies?  What about mirrorless homes?  Or homes there the mirror does not reach the ground and they don't have this critical mirror-moment until their ego is already developed? Why is the mirrored self "ideal?" So a child recognizes themself in the mirror, aaaaannd they have been looking at the human form and identifying with it since their eyes could focus. So, why is the self in the mirror so ideal that above and beyond any previous engagement with the human form it informs the trajectory of their life from that moment forward??

I ask because a number of other theories build on Lacan's ideas and I'm calling total bullshit on all of it because I don't get it. This is some flimsy shit. Seriously, what am I missing?

Friday, October 31, 2014

One small gratitude

My current food obsession is spicy chili crisp piled on hard boiled eggs.  I love this humble man and his hot, oily peppers. It also happens that no one else in my family is remotely interested in eating chili on eggs so life is pretty much great.

I know this is trivial, but it's something.  I'm making an effort to revive Deconstructionist.  It is the longest running commitment in my entire life, except for well, running.  I have now been running for longer than I smoked.  The house I live in is the longest I've ever dwelt in one place since ever.  It's like I'm finally growing up.


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